Title: Not Everything's Black and White
Author: Sam Singing Wolf
Rated: very mild R for violence and language
Summary: The West Wing/A Diagnosis Murder crossover story. PresidentBartlet
and his staff visit Los Angeles during his reelection campaign.
Category: Angst, Drama, Action
Notes: This is not your usual The West Wing fic. This would never happen in
an episode. Suffice it to say, I know this story is based on a very
improbable premise, but that's why it's fiction. Hope you enjoy it!
Feedback: Feedback, constructive criticism are more than welcome. Please!
I live for it! Also, this is my first The West Wing fic. Let me know how I
Leo McGarry looked up at the knock on the door of his hotel room.
Jed Bartlet, President of the United States, opened the door. Leo stood
"Hey, Leo. Want to go for a walk?"
The Chief of Staff blinked. "You're kidding."
"Sir, it's ten o'clock at night."
The president nodded.
"We're in Los Angeles."
Jed cocked his head to one side.
"The Secret Service is gonna be pissed if we do."
"Yep." Jed raised his eyebrows. "So, want to go for a walk?"
Jed stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets. "Ah, it's good to be out in
the fresh air."
"Okay, semi-fresh air."
"Okay, polluted air, but we're doing something about that, right?"
Leo threw him an exasperated look. Even after more than forty years of being
his closest friend, Jed Bartlet could still get on his nerves. "Would you
listen to me for a minute?"
Jed glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, a slight, mischievous smile
on his lips.
Leo sighed. "We need to talk."
His sigh was echoed and the smile disappeared. "I know."
"The National Multiple Sclerosis Society wants you to give a speech."
"About being the President and having MS."
"I don't think it's a good idea on a reelection campaign. I think it'll draw
too much attention to your health, and not enough to the issues."
"Yeah. Listen, Leo… I think I should. You know, there's a lot of people
out there with MS. Some of them doing their jobs, some who will never be
able to work again. Now that people know I have this thing, I feel like I
can do something for them."
"But the other 99% of Americans don't like to be reminded that their
President is sick, even if it's in remission."
"Mr. President, I-" He broke off, startled by a car pulling up near them. It
was a black sedan, and looked like one of theirs, but something didn't seem
right. The Secret Service Agents on their protection detail, previously
ignored, swarmed around them. Something was definitely wrong.
The doors flew open and the sound of automatic weapons fire filled the night.
A second later, an explosion buffeted them.
Leo turned to Jed, trying to get between him and the shooters. Never mind
that the agents were already there. He wanted to protect his President, his
best friend. Agents were falling; Jed was on the ground, pinned under one of
He had barely registered that fact when another agent pulled him down. He
wondered why they weren't getting them out of there. He struggled to look
up, to find the limo that had been following. It was on fire. The
explosion. There was nothing left but twisted, burning metal. There was
nowhere for them to go.
The agent covering him jerked and went limp. Leo pushed himself out from
under him, reaching for the 10mm pistol in the agent's slack grasp. Just as
his fingers brushed the warm metal, hands grabbed him, dragging him away.
"Leo!" Jed shouted. Leo twisted around, seeing Jed also being pulled toward
the waiting car. But not by agents. Every one of the protection detail was
lying on the sidewalk, either dead or dying. He could see several of their
attackers down also.
The terrorists threw Jed into the back seat of the car, with Leo following a
second later. Two gunmen piled in with them, the door slammed, and then they
were driving off, leaving their dead behind.
"Hi Dad, it's me. No, I'm on my way to the hospital. I'm on my cell phone."
Steve smiled. "No, Dad. I'm at a stoplight. Do you want a ride home? I
thought we could go out to a late dinner." Traffic on the police radio
caught his attention. He leaned over to turn it up.
"Shots fired. Repeat, shots fired near 185th and San Juan Boulevard.
Complainant reports multiple gun shots and automatic weapon's fire. All
units in the area, please respond."
"Sorry, Dad. I think I'm going to be late. Got a call just a few blocks
away. I'll call you later." A pause. "I love you too, Dad."
Steve hung up the phone and put the cherry light out the window and onto the
roof of his truck. Flipping on the siren, he headed to the scene.
"Lt. Steve Sloan, LAPD." He showed his badge to the uniformed officer who
had beaten him there.
The young man looked up from where he knelt beside a body. He nodded and let
out a breath. "Yes Sir. I- I'm glad you're here, Lieutenant."
Steve nodded. He tried to give him a reassuring look, but all he managed was
grim. There was blood everywhere. At first count, by the light of the
burning car, he saw seven men down.
A second look showed two more a little farther away. "You get all the
weapons?" He asked as he knelt beside a second victim. He was alive, but
unconscious. He pressed a handkerchief to the chest wound.
"Yes, sir, I think so. I was going to leave them for the crime scene unit,
but when I realized that some of them were still alive-"
"Ambulances on the way?"
"Yes, sir. They're coming from St. Joseph's and Community General. Those
were the two nearest, and with so many…"
Steve let the officer trail off. He was looking at the victims. Six of them
were wearing black suits and ties, the other three more casual clothing. A
horrible suspicion began to form and his stomach knotted. "You check for
ID?" he asked as his right hand felt inside the man's jacket pockets.
"N- no… Not yet, I-"
Whatever else he was going to say was drowned out by sirens as three other
police cars and two ambulances approached.
Steve wasn't listening anyway. He was staring at the identification in his
hand, his mouth dry. There wasn't a cop in LA County who didn't know why
there would be so many Secret Service Agents in one place here, tonight. He
looked around, already on his feet. He looked at each face, searching.
"Was there anyone else?"
Steve whirled on the young officer. "Was there anyone else? Did you find
any other bodies?"
Steve turned to look at the burning limousine. "Oh, God…"
Dr. Mark Sloan looked up from his desk in surprise at the near panic in the
young doctor's voice. "Jesse, what's wrong?"
Jesse was leaning around the doorframe of Mark's office. "Remember those
drills we've been having for the last week?"
Mark took off his glasses with a sigh. "Another one?"
"It's not a drill."
"Oh my God."
His chair fell back, unnoticed, as he ran out of the room. Amanda joined
them on the way to the Emergency Room.
"It's not a drill? Are you sure?" She asked.
Mark nodded, not slowing. "Steve!" He called to his son as he entered the
"Are you all right?" Fear was evident in the doctor's voice. There was
blood on Steve's shirt.
"Yeah, it's not mine." He stepped aside as the first gurney was wheeled in,
a Secret Service agent, IV lines trailing from each hand. A paramedic knelt
between his legs, holding pressure on a chest wound.
For too long, chaos reigned. Steve tried to simply stay out of the way while
he sorted out what the agent had told him in the ambulance, while he was
still conscious. He'd called the FBI and the Secret Service from his cell
phone; they assured him someone was on the way.
Steve turned. A man in a suit, mid-forties, strode in. As tall as he was,
he still wasn't a guy who would stand out in a crowd. "I'm Steve Sloan."
"Special Agent Ron Butterfield, United States Secret Service. I'm told you
spoke to one of my men."
"Yes sir. He's in surgery now."
"I need to know everything he told you."
Steve nodded and motioned toward the doctor's lounge. "It's not much."
Steve filled him in on what little the agent had been able to tell him about
the shooters. Two cars, at least eight men, automatic weapons. Then he told
him about the President.
"He wasn't injured?"
"Agent Taylor didn't think so. He said the Chief of Staff was with him. He
believed he was uninjured as well. Seems like they had this well planned."
Ron didn't comment. He sat in silence for a moment, then rose. "Thank you
for your help, Lieutenant." He gave Steve a long look, taking in the blood
on his clothes. "I mean that. We'll be in touch."
Steve quickly stood. "I'll do whatever I can to help."
Another appraising look. Whatever he saw must have satisfied him. He
nodded. "I'd appreciate that. You'll have local contacts we don't have.
The FBI has agents on the way. We work together in situations like these."
"I don't think there's ever been a situation like this," Steve said grimly.
Ron's gaze was equally grim. He rubbed his left hand as if it pained him.
"No. Not like this."
"Leo! Leo, wake up! Can you hear me?"
Leo moaned and rolled onto his side. Cold, slightly damp concrete kissed his
cheek. He leaned into it, trying to ease some of the pain in his head.
"Leo? Are you all right?"
"I feel like I have the worst hangover since…" He broke off. "Jed?" His
eyes flew open as memory struck. He squinted against the light. "Mr.
He pushed himself to his hands and knees and looked around him. He was in
some kind of prison cell. Jed was on the other side of the bars, staring at
him with intense, worried eyes. "Sir? Are you hurt?"
Jed shrugged. "I'm all right. Thank God you're awake. That bastard hit you
with a pistol."
Leo looked around again. "Jesus," he breathed.
"Why are your hands tied?" He moved closer to the bars, not quite touching
his friend who leaned his shoulder into them. Jed's hands were secured
behind his back.
Jed shrugged again, not meeting Leo's gaze. "Handcuffs. I don't know."
"We have to get out of here."
"Yeah, no kidding."
The door swung open and both men jerked involuntarily. Jed turned to face
their captors. Leo gripped the bars tightly. Their captors were young to
middle aged, from mid-twenties to late fifties. All were white, male, and
had close-cropped haircuts. Several had visible tattoos, but one in
particular was most prominent. A swastika. Leo got a sick feeling in his
"Mr. President." The first man smiled mockingly.
Bartlet stood up straighter and glared at the man. Anger and authority
filled his voice. "What do you want?"
"It didn't take long for you to get back on your feet after Rosslyn, last
year, did it?" The man continued as if the president hadn't spoken. "You and
your people have been busy. Trying to take away our guns, our freedoms! Or
has it been killing babies and letting homosexuals teach our kids?"
"God forbid we should make certain people have equal rights."
"You don't get it, do you?" The leader stopped just inches from Jed and
leaned over him. "This country was founded as a White Christian Nation!
That's the way it was meant to be!"
"That's bull-" A hand cracked across Jed's face.
"You show him, Tom!" The others shouted encouragement.
"You're in my territory, now, Bartlet. You don't speak unless I tell you,"
he growled. He grabbed Jed's arm and pulled him to the center of the room.
He turned him roughly, so that he was facing a scarred, pitted wall. Leo,
to his left, shifted uneasily.
"On your knees."
Jed raised an eyebrow and looked Tom in the eye. "Right," he said dryly.
Another man pulled a gun from a holster at his side and pointed it at Leo.
Jed's eyes widened as he looked from the gunman to Leo and back to Tom, who
smiled slightly. "On your knees, now, or he dies."
The President of the United States slowly knelt.
Tom stared down at him. Jed met his gaze evenly, his posture proud and
The terrorist moved to Jed's right. He opened a sheet of paper and read
aloud. "President Josiah Bartlet, the Knights of the Holy Order of the White
Cross have found you guilty in a trial by absentia of the following crimes
against the White Christian Nation of the United States of America:
Discriminating against the White race with affirmative action laws,
propagating the moral degradation of society by encouraging homosexuals in
their foul sins, of soiling the White Race by allowing a Negro to court your
daughter, the wrongful incarceration of David Barnes, John Cook, Lance
Weaver, Cyril Plummer, Albert Beal and Henry Farnam who are imprisoned under
the Hate Crimes Act, of defiling our government by hiring and appointing
Negroes, Jews, Asians, Latinos and other inferior races, of defiling our land
by allowing immigrants not of White European decent," he paused. "And the
murder of Leonard Bullard, Edmund Dobbin, Elliot Thurston and Donald Boxer,
who died at the hands of the FBI, ATF or while wrongfully imprisoned under
the Hate Crimes Act. We, the patriot citizens of the United States of
America, find you guilty of these charges and sentence you to death."
Leo had listened to the charges, his outrage growing with each word.
Afterward, the room was silent for a long moment.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Leo almost shouted. "You're insane."
Tom ignored him. He looked down at Jed with contempt. "I've been chosen to
carry out your sentence," he said with malicious pleasure. "The method has
been decided. A quick death would be too good for you and so your sentence
will be carried out over the next three days. Do you have anything to say
Jed looked up at him. His blue eyes were intense, steely and full of
righteous passion. "You call yourself patriots. This country was founded on
certain principles. Principles of freedom and equality." His gaze moved
over each man. "And not just for Christians or white people or men. Those
were the ideals. Yes, I'll admit it took time. They made mistakes. They
gave some more freedom than others, and some none at all. But things
changed. They're still changing. I thank God for that."
The room was silent for a moment. Then Tom snorted derisively. "He can
still make pretty speeches even without his writers," he said. "Who knew?"
His fist shot out and connected with Jed's temple, knocking the President to
the floor. "Speech time's over, Bartlet."
Another man lifted Jed back to his knees and held his shoulder as Tom hit him
again. And again. The others were solemn, as though they were watching a
grave ceremony. The only sounds were the crack of fist on flesh and Leo's
shouts. Leo's heart almost broke when he saw how hard the President was
trying to keep silent.
Leo cursed, threatened and finally pleaded for them to stop. It was as if he
weren't even in the room. He gripped the bars tighter as he watched as his
best friend began to slump in his tormentors' grasp.
Jed's stubborn silence seemed to only make Tom angrier. The blows fell
heavier, blood ran from the President's mouth and nose, and from a cut on his
cheek to leave bright red spots on his white shirt.
Finally, after an eternity, Tom stopped. He entwined his fingers in Jed's
hair and yanked his head back.
"You make me sick," he ground out from between clenched teeth. Jed's eyes
rolled back in his head, he was barely conscious. "You act so high and
mighty, Mr. President, but you let a filthy nigger fuck your daughter." He
shoved him away roughly and stared at him for a moment. The President didn't
even flinch as he hit the floor, nor did he move after. "That's enough for
now. Put him in with the other one. We've got things to do before morning."
"Good morning." Steve held out his badge to the Secret Service agent at the
door. "I'm here to see CJ Cregg."
Before the agent could question him, a woman's voice interrupted. "Steve!"
The tall blond woman rushed toward him, smiling. But he could see that it
didn't quite reach her eyes. "It's okay," CJ said to the agent. "He's with
She grabbed Steve's hand and pulled him into the room. "I saw your name on
the report," she said.
"Yeah, I heard your briefing."
"Ron says you're going to be helping out. Is that why you're here?"
Steve put his hand on her shoulder and pulled her to a stop. She turned to
face him fully, her eyes surprised. He studied those eyes he had looked into
so many times before. They were red and tired looking.
"No. I came to see you. How are you? Really."
She stared at him for a long moment. "I- Busy. Really busy. We- nobody
knows quite what to do. I mean, when the President was shot at Rosslyn, we
at least knew where he was. But this… Vice President Hoynes flew back to
the White House. He doesn't want us there, he has his own staff. But I
still handle the press, and I'd rather do that here. I want to be here when
they find him. I *need* to be."
Steve took her hand. "I know. Listen, I know you're busy. This is hell. I
doubt you're even going to go back to your hotel to sleep, I know you. But,
I'm here for you, okay? Remember that."
She finally smiled, a real smile. "You always were. God, when I was working
for that studio, you'd listen to me bitch about it for hours. I hated
Hollywood people so much."
"You did your fair share of listening too." He paused. "I've missed you,
"Me too." She glanced away, then back as if his blue eyes drew her gaze
against her will. "So, you married with six kids now?" She asked with forced
He responded with a chuckle. "Six kids? In three years, huh? I'd have to
be pretty busy, for that." He shook his head. "No. and not married,
"Yeah, I know. It'd have made national news if you had, I guess."
"Not really." CJ tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.
"CJ!" A man's shout came from behind her.
"Yeah, I'm coming!" She shouted back. "I'm sorry. I've got to do a thing."
"Okay. I just wanted to let you know… If you need anything…"
She smiled and kissed his cheek. "Thanks. I'll call you, I promise."
"Okay. I'm going to go talk to Agent Butterfield while I'm here."
"Keep your shirt on, Toby!"
Steve stifled a laugh. "You'd better go."
"Yeah." She smiled, just a little. "Thanks for coming. It means a lot to
He watched her walk away, then turned and headed back out the door.
Sam glared at his empty coffee cup. He needed to stay working, but he needed
the caffeine more. He hadn't yet been to sleep when the news about the
President had turned their temporary offices upside-down. Add that onto a
nineteen-hour day, and he was a little cranky without high doses of caffeine.
Intravenously, if he could get it.
He levered himself out of his chair with a sigh. The work could wait. It
was mostly to keep him busy anyway. Being the President's speechwriter, he
didn't have much of his own work to do under the circumstances. But it kept
him from going crazy with worry. Over the past three years Jed Bartlet had
become like a second father to him. Certainly a better one than his own
father, who, he had recently learned, had been cheating on his mother for the
last two decades. Sam was still trying to sort out his feelings about that
And Leo. Leo was the one who protected them, watched over them and guided
them all through the murky waters of professional politics. This whole thing
was like an unending nightmare. And he had the horrible feeling that it was
going to get worse.
The coffee in the lobby was hot and fresh, due to the simple fact that the
staff was going through it far too quickly to allow it to cool. He filled
his cup gratefully and slowly walked back to his makeshift office. He missed
his real office. He missed the White House and Leo's stern mentoring and the
President's lectures on the history of eggplant. He smiled. Or whatever
inane bit of trivia the President felt like quizzing them on any given day.
He wandered back into his office. In the center of his desk, lying neatly
atop his portable computer, was a small package. Curious, he picked it up
and examined the front. It was addressed: Josh Lyman, Deputy Chief of Staff.
It had no return address.
"Josh?" He called. No one answered. A second look at the package revealed
it had already been opened, probably by Josh who must have left it there for
him. He tipped it and videotape slid out. He raised his eyebrows.
He'd had a VCR and television brought in last night, continually tuned to
CNN. Now he slid the tape in and grabbed the remote, starting the tape.
He slumped in his chair, picking up his coffee cup. As the image on the
screen changed from Andrea Thompson to a featureless, concrete room, it's two
visible occupants drawing the eye and attention; the cup fell from nerveless
"Oh, God." Sam froze, his gaze riveted to the screen. "Oh my God."
The first muffled sound of pain jolted him out of his shock. He leapt out of
his chair and stopped the tape, frantically stabbing the eject button.
"Kathy!" He shouted. "Kathy!"
His secretary appeared in the doorway. "What-"
He held up the tape. "Where did this come from?" He was distantly aware that
he was still shouting. "Who brought this?"
"Some delivery guy. A messenger. He was looking for Josh, but Josh was in a
meeting with…" She trailed off as she finally took in the stricken expression
on his face. "Sam?"
"Some delivery guy." Sam repeated grimly. He strode over to her with sudden
quickness and grabbed her wrist. "Come with me."
Ignoring her questions and the looks from the other staffers around them, he
practically dragged her down the hall to the office the Secret Service was
using as their command post.
"Tell them everything," he said, without preamble. He turned to the Special
Agent In-Charge. "Ron?"
Agent Butterfield nodded. He turned to a tall blond man in casual clothes
and gestured for him to accompany them. They followed Sam back out into the
hall as the younger man headed back toward his office.
"What's this about?"
"The President." Sam didn't elaborate and Ron didn't press. "Who's this?"
"Detective Steve Sloan, LAPD." Steve spoke up.
Sam nodded. They paused briefly by Toby's office where the Communications
Director was speaking in hushed tones with CJ. "Toby, CJ," he said. Nothing
more. His tone of voice spoke volumes. Toby stood and they followed.
"Donna!" He called to the blond assistant. "Find Josh right away. Get him
over to my office. Doesn't matter what he's doing, get him here now."
Donna nodded and hurried off.
They waited in uncomfortable silence. Steve and CJ exchanged glances and he
moved to stand near her. Without seeming to mean to, the back of his hand
brushed hers. She looked at him gratefully.
Donna worked quickly. Josh arrived mere minutes later and each looked at Sam
Without a word, he slipped the tape back into the VCR and started it.
Startled exclamations then stunned silence were the only reactions.
Outwardly, Ron didn't react at all, except for perhaps a change in his eyes.
If possible, they became even colder and more resolute.
They watched in horror as their President, their *friend*, was viciously
beaten before their eyes. When the tape ended with Jed Bartlet lying
unconscious and bleeding on the floor, Sam looked around the room at his
Josh looked like he was having trouble catching his breath. His face had
paled alarmingly. Sam moved to his side, offering silent support.
CJ had her hand over her mouth and her eyes were bright with unshed tears.
Steve moved closer to her, dropping all pretense of formality and putting his
arm around her shoulders. Toby stood alone, staring blankly down at the
floor, his shoulders slumped. His hands shook visibly.
"I'll take the tape to have it examined." Ron's even voice broke the stunned
silence. He stood. He took the tape and abruptly strode out of the room.
Donna appeared in the doorway, her eyes wide and frightened. "Josh! Turn on
"Don't you knock?" Josh snapped, adrenaline still running high. .
"Josh! It's the President!"
The four exchanged horrified looks. Josh lunged for the remote and quickly
changed the connection back to cable TV and CNN.
The horror each of them were feeling was magnified as they saw the same
footage they had just seen being aired on worldwide news. The news anchor
was reporting in a shaken voice that they had just received a videotape from
an anonymous source.
The stunned silence in Sam's office was echoed outside its door.
Sam looked up, his expression dismayed. "Mrs. Bartlet," he breathed. The
First Lady was in her hotel room, awaiting news. He prayed she wasn't
Josh met his eyes. "Oh, God."
Abby slipped her arm out from beneath her youngest daughter's head, trying
not to wake her as she rose from the couch. Zoey had finally fallen asleep
after the two of them had talked and cried until they were emotionally spent.
It had been Spring Break for Zoey, and she had left Georgetown University to
join her parents for this trip.
"Mom?" Her voice cracked.
"Shh, baby. Go back to sleep."
Zoey sat up and ran a hand through her hair. "No, it's okay. What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just wanted to go get a drink of water.
"Okay." She reached for the blanket that had slid to the floor. When she
looked up, she automatically glanced at the television, hoping for more news.
The sound was turned down low, but she heard her father's name.
"Mom," she called. "They're talking about Daddy." She reached for the
remote and turned up the volume.
The shot cut away from the news anchor and to the videotaped scene in the
"Oh, God." Zoey's hands gripped the blanket tightly. "That can't be real."
Abby's hand flew to her mouth, stifling a cry. "Jed…"
Leo leaned back against the wall and gently lifted Jed's head into his lap.
"Sir? Mr. President?" He paused, studying the still, battered face. "Jed?"
His voice lowered to a shaky whisper as he brushed the President's damp hair
off his forehead. "Come on, old friend. Wake up. God, this is so wrong.
This should never have happened. Not here."
"Then where?" Jed asked in a groggy voice, his eyes still closed. "'Cause I
really can't think of a good place."
"Mr. President! Are you all ri-" He broke off. "Never mind. That was a
stupid question. Just try to lie still."
"Yeah." He slowly opened his eyes. "It wasn't a horrible nightmare caused
by eating to many crab puffs at the reception, huh?"
Jed sighed. "Are you all right?
"Leo, I think it's okay for you to call me Jed, under the circumstances."
"No sir. I think, under these circumstances, you need to be reminded who you
Another sigh. "Yeah. I just…"
"So… What's next?"
"What do we do now? Obviously we can't just sit here and wait for them to
come back to use me as a punching bag again. I have to tell you, Leo, that I
won't be filing this under Things I Really Want To Experience Twice. We've
got to do something."
"What do you suggest?"
"Okay, I'm going to ignore the sarcasm, there. How many are there, do you
"I saw eleven."
"Okay." He was silent for a moment. "Nothing's coming to mind. Nothing
that's not incredibly stupid and wouldn't be doomed to failure, that is."
"You've been giving this a lot of thought, haven't you?"
"You were unconscious for a while."
Jed looked up at Leo. "How are you doing, really?"
"Better than you."
"I don't mean physically. I was thinking of your tour in Vietnam."
Leo swallowed but didn't answer.
"Don't." His voice was sharper than he'd intended. "I- I'm okay. Just…
They sat in silence for another few minutes.
"I was in that POW camp for almost six months."
Jed gazed at him with sympathetic eyes. "You were shot down."
"But you were rescued."
"Somedays I didn't think that was ever going to happen."
"It did, Leo. It did."
Leo took the bit of cloth he'd torn from his sleeve and dabbed at the cut on
the President's cheek. "Is your vision blurry?"
"Are you lying?"
"You've got to stop talking to my wife."
Jed closed his eyes. "Yes."
"Probably a concussion."
"Are you having any trouble breathing?"
"Are you having any trouble breathing?"
"Not really. Just hurts."
"All right." Leo gently brushed his hands over Jed's hair in slow rhythmic
motions. The President slowly relaxed in his friend's arms as the pain and
fatigue overtook him. "All right," Leo repeated.
Steve threw the phone back into its cradle. "Dammit!" He shouted.
His partner looked up from her own desk. "Steve?"
"No one knows anything. I've talked to everyone I can think of. Anyone who
might have heard something."
He wiped his hand over his face. "I hope so." He pushed his chair back and
stood. "I'm going to go try to find some of the people I couldn't reach by
phone. If anyone calls, give them my cell number, okay?"
"Sure. You want company?"
He shook his head. "No, thanks. I'll call you." He strode out of the
bullpen, heading for the elevators. Cheryl watched him for a moment before
returning to her own work.
Steve slammed the truck door and pounded his fist on the steering wheel. If
he heard the words "I don't know," out of one more of his snitches, he
thought he might shoot him, just out of frustration. He took a deep breath
and started the truck.
Disheartened by so many dead ends, and unsure of where to go next, the
vehicle seemed to make its own way back to Community General.
Mark looked up from his desk, startled. "Steve!" He scrutinized his son.
"Have you slept?"
"Since when?" Steve asked dryly. He slumped into a chair.
"That's what I thought." He paused. "Have you seen the news lately?"
"President Bartlet? Yeah." He stared down at his hands and made a conscious
effort to unclench his fists. He took a deep breath. "Dad, I'm not getting
anywhere on this. It's like they disappeared from the face of the earth."
Mark took off his glasses and rubbed tired eyes. "No leads, then."
Steve shook his head. "None."
"It's not like you're the only one, Steve. Every law enforcement agency is
working on this."
"The Secret Service must be going crazy by now."
"Are any of the agents conscious yet?"
"Not yet. Two are in ICU, one is back in surgery. Complications."
Steve nodded wearily. They both sat in silence for a long moment.
"I went to see CJ Cregg this morning."
Mark brightened. "Really?" His smile quickly faded. "How's she holding
He sighed. "You know CJ. She puts on a good front, but I know this is
hitting her hard. She likes and respects the President a lot."
Mark nodded. "So do we all. But she knows him a lot better than we do."
"Yeah. From the emails she's sent over the last few years, it sounds like
they're pretty close."
"I was sorry to see her leave LA. I know she couldn't pass up the
opportunity she had, but… She's a nice girl."
Steve smiled a little. "Yes she is."
"Are you planning to see her again?"
"I-" His cell phone rang. He held up a hand. "Hang on." He flipped open
the phone before it finished the second ring. "Sloan." He listened for a
moment. "Okay. Yeah. Thanks." He snapped the phone shut as he stood.
"Dad, I gotta go. See you later?"
"Okay. Be careful, Son…" He shook his head. Steve was already out the door.
After a moment's hesitation, Josh knocked on the door to the Bartlet's suite.
"I said, leave me alone, Lilly!" An angry voice shouted from the other side.
Josh swallowed hard. "Dr. Bartlet? It's Josh."
There was a long silence. Then, a soft, "Come in."
He opened the door slowly, tentatively. He let himself in and closed the
door behind him. Better to not leave an open invitation. "Dr. Bartlet?"
"Over here, Josh."
He walked across the sitting room and saw her as he came around the sofa.
Abby was curled in the corner of the sofa, a bourbon glass in one hand, her
face streaked with tears. He shifted his feet and cleared his throat. "I
came to see if you…" He glanced at the silent, dark television. "Were you
"Did I see him on CNN? Yes." Her voice was tight, controlled.
"Abby, I'm so sorry. We didn't know. We got the same tape at the office,
just minutes before CNN aired it. The terrorists must have-"
He shuffled his feet again. Abby sipped her drink and stared at the wall.
Josh glanced around. "Where's Zoey?"
"She went to check on Charlie."
"Oh. I- um, is there anything I can do for you?"
She finally met his gaze and he had to force himself not to close his eyes
against the raw pain he saw there. "Stay with me for a while, Josh.
He nodded wordlessly. Abby got up and poured herself a drink. "Want a
drink?" She asked. Without waiting for an answer, she poured one for him as
She handed him the glass as she passed by, and settled back on the couch.
"Sit down, Josh."
He did, and sipped his drink. "I'm so sorry, Abby. I wish to God there was
something I could do."
"I know." She stared into her drink. "I'm sorry to keep you here. I know
you have things to be doing. It's just that…"
"You need someone, to talk to. I understand. It'd be Leo, if he were here.
He'd sure as hell be better at, you know, this… than me."
"I don't think he's coming back this time," she said quietly, as if he hadn't
"Abby, you don't know that," he admonished. "The President is one of the
strongest people I know. And the most stubborn. Besides, Leo's with him.
Leo won't let him give up. And we won't give up on them."
"No, we won't."
The silence stretched out once again, this time a little less painful for
"He loves you kids, you know."
Josh blinked. "What?"
Abby smiled sadly. "He always wanted sons. Oh, don't get me wrong, he loves
the girls, spoiled them rotten when they were little. But I think deep down,
he always hoped for a son. Then you and Sam, Toby and Charlie… You got to
him. Really got to him. And he looks at CJ just like he does Elizabeth."
"I- I didn't know. I mean, yeah, Charlie, but…"
"After the shooting, you know what the first thing he wanted to know was?"
He shook his head.
"Barely out of anesthesia, in so much pain, and all he wanted was to see you.
I told him when he woke up, that you'd been shot." She took a deep breath.
"He pleaded, with me, with the doctor, with Leo… The only thing on his mind
was seeing you."
Josh look down at the glass in his hands, trying to blink back tears.
"He called you his son."
He looked back up, eyes wide.
"After Mrs. Landingham's funeral, remember when he asked everyone to leave
"I was so worried about him. He and I had been having problems and with the
MS and reelection decisions… I didn't know what to expect." She took
another long drink. "I went back in. Not into the chapel itself, but in the
foyer, right outside the door." She swallowed. "I won't repeat most of what
he said, that was between him and God and I'm ashamed to have intruded on
that. But he was so angry. And he wanted to know why God had let his son
Josh clenched his hands around his glass to try to stop their trembling. "I
had no idea…" he whispered.
"I know." She reached out and took one of his hands. "I knew how he feels
about you, and the others. And I knew how you all feel about him. That's
why this whole MS thing has been so hard on him. It's hard to keep secrets
from your family."
He sniffed, loudly. "Yeah. I understand."
She squeezed his hand. "I knew you would." She sighed. "Stay for a while?"
"Yes, ma'am. For as long as you need me."
"Mr. President, wake up." Leo's voice was a harsh whisper.
Jed struggled to open his eyes. He recognized the urgency in Leo's voice and
his brain responded to that, if his body tried to refuse. Sight came, and
the room came into blurry focus. He turned his head toward the door. They
"Well, look who's awake." Tom said to the men standing behind him. He
looked down. "Good morning, Mr. President. I know the room isn't what
you're used to, but I hope you've been comfortable."
Jed shifted slightly on the concrete floor; his body had stiffened incredibly
overnight. His head still rested on Leo's legs and he felt Leo's hand
tighten on his shoulder. He shrugged as well as he could, his wrists still
cuffed behind him and his arms had long since gone numb. "Well, if you bring
us some coffee and a car, I'm sure we can overlook the accommodations this
Tom laughed. "No, I don't think I will. But it is time for you to come with
me. Get up."
Leo gently slid out from under Jed even as the President was struggling to
rise to a sitting position. "The hell he will," he growled.
"Shut up, old man."
Leo stood. "He's not going anywhere with you."
"Leo…" The warning was clear in Jed's voice.
Tom drew his gun. He held it casually, not quite pointing it at Leo. "Come
with me, Bartlet, or I shoot him."
Jed pressed his shoulder against the wall to pull himself to his feet. He
stepped forward, moving around Leo.
"Mr. President," Leo said sharply. He put his arm in front of Jed.
Jed turned to face him. "It's going to happen anyway, Leo. I won't let you
be hurt in the process."
"And I'm just supposed to let you go? Forget it!"
Jed stared at his best friend with soft eyes. He smiled slightly. "It'll be
"It won't." Leo's voice was almost a whisper.
"Yeah, it will." He nodded firmly. "Whatever happens."
They stared at each other for a long moment. Tom snorted. "Very touching.
Come on, Bartlet."
Jed nodded at Leo and walked toward Tom.
"No!" Leo shouted and lunged toward the terrorist.
Tom staggered back a step in surprise, then raised his weapon. He swung, and
it connected solidly with Leo's temple. The Chief of Staff fell heavily to
"You bastard!" Jed dropped his shoulder and rushed the other man, forgetting
in his anger the other two with him. They grabbed him roughly by the arms
and dragged him out of the cell, slamming the barred door behind them.
Steve opened the door to the bar and waited a moment for his eyes to adjust
to the dim lighting. It was too late for lunch, and too early for dinner, so
the only patrons were the few lonely hangers-on at the bar. And one young
man sitting alone in the corner. He walked toward him.
"Hi. Mind if I sit down?"
"Are you Sloan?"
Steve nodded and sat across from the other man. "And you are?"
"Stan." He gave Steve a searching look. "A friend of mine says I can trust
"Yeah, you gave him a break a couple of years ago, hooked him up with some
Steve nodded again. That could be any number of young men, juveniles who
were basically good kids but facing trouble if they didn't get help. "So,
why'd you call me?"
"I heard you were on this case." He glanced around the room. "I know where
the President is."
Steve took a deep, calming breath. "How do you know?"
Stan sighed. "My dad's one of them that took him."
Steve raised his eyebrows.
"Man, my mom and dad used to tell me that white people were superior to all
other races. That black people were lazy, stupid criminals, Indians were
just red niggers, Jews were all greedy and Asians were taking over America.
They believed all of it. So did I."
Stan shrugged. "I went to college. I tried to hold onto my hate, but it's
hard when you see those people are all human. At the end of my freshman
year, my best friend told me he was gay. We'd been through everything
together. I was supposed to hate him now?" He shook his head. "I learned
more at that school than I ever thought I would."
"Where are they?" Steve asked quietly.
"I heard them talking about the President when I went home last week. I
didn't think anything of it," he said defensively. "But they mentioned a
warehouse the Order bought last year. I'd be willing to bet that's where
they took them." He stared down at his hands for a moment, then slid a piece
of paper over to Steve. "That's the address."
Steve put a hand on the young man's shoulder. "You did the right thing."
Stan nodded, but wouldn't look at him. "They're my parents."
There was nothing he could say to that. Steve just tightened his hand on his
shoulder, trying to offer what comfort he could. "How can I reach you?"
He pointed at the paper. "My cell phone number's on the back. But, I want to
stay out of this."
"Okay." Steve nodded, but he doubted that would be possible. "Thanks for your
"I just hope I'm right."
Steve cut off Ron in the middle of his greeting. "This is Sloan. I've got
"19425 NW Lombard. It's a warehouse. My source thinks they're there. I'm
on my way now."
"Wait for us. Don't do anything until we get there."
"Right." Steve climbed into his truck, shifting the cell phone on his
shoulder as he started the engine. "I'll stay back. You want me to call the
"No. I've got the FBI on another line, they've got everything arranged with
the Hostage Rescue Team."
"Okay." He snapped the phone shut and slammed the truck into gear.
Jed turned his head, but couldn't avoid the blow. He felt like he's been
hanging there for hours, his wrists cuffed to a bare pipe running along the
ceiling. His arms had long since gone numb, a welcome relief from the
agonizing pain he'd felt as the cuffs bit deep and his shoulders felt as
though they were going to be dislocated.
Another blow impacted his chest, drawing a gasp of pain. Unfortunately, his
badly abused ribs were not numb. Though he'd never experienced it before, he
was fairly certain several were cracked. He longed to slip back into
unconsciousness, but the pain kept tugging at him, pulling him back.
So far, he didn't think any of the injuries were life threatening. But he
knew, were there to be any serious internal bleeding, he wouldn't know until
it was too late. One strike blurred into another until he was aware of
nothing but a haze of pain. So when they stopped, it took him several
minutes to become aware of it. He slowly began to try to turn his attention
outward, to see what there was beyond the pain.
Silence. He tried to force his eyes open, surprise to find it was much
harder to accomplish than it had been in the past. His lids felt heavy… no,
they were stuck. He tried harder. They came open, his lashes sticky with
blood. He blinked. He must have a cut on his forehead. He wondered when
He looked around, moving only his eyes. That hurt enough without moving his
head. He tried to bring the room into focus. There. Everything was clear,
but double. He blinked again. No better. He shrugged mentally. At least
he could see. And he saw…
Leo. Leo was sitting on the floor on the other side of the bars, his
shoulder leaning against them. Viewing his profile, Jed thought his old
friend looked as though he had aged a lifetime since last night. Or was it
the night before. He couldn't remember.
He opened his mouth to call to him, but nothing came out. He swallowed dryly
and tried again. "Leo." Barely a hoarse whisper.
It was enough. Leo jerked, and turned his head. "Mr. President!"
Jed winced at the sight before him. Blood coated the side of Leo's face and
matted his hair. "You okay?" he whispered.
Leo nodded, his mouth slightly open. "Don't try to talk. They said they're
coming back. Maybe if they think you're still unconscious, they'll let you
The moment stretched on. Jed watched Leo through his lashes and Leo stared
back. Finally, when Jed thought he either had to speak or pass out again,
the door opened.
Tom walked in with two others. They unlocked the cuffs and brought him down.
Jed moaned in pain as sensation came back to his arms. His captors laughed.
The two men each took an arm and dragged him back to the cell. Jed hung limp
ly between them. He glanced to the side and saw a gun in the waistband of
one of the men's pants. It was so close. Gathering his strength, and his
courage, he pulled his right arm free and made a grab for the gun. He was
almost as surprised as the other man when he found it in his hand.
Time slowed. He raised it, struggling to stay on his feet and aim at the
same time. Before he could demand that Tom unlock the cell, pain exploded in
his side and he fell to his knees. The other one, the one on his left had
struck a blow to his already cracked ribs. The sound of bone breaking was
audible. He felt the pistol being pulled away and rough hands grab his arms.
The cage door opened, and they threw him inside.
He felt Leo's arms around him as he fell, and gentle hands lower him to the
floor. He struggled to drag air into lungs that were on fire, tried to ride
out the pain that crashed over him in waves. Finally, it receded, and time
resumed its normal pace.
Steve glanced back over his shoulder at the sound of footsteps behind him.
He saw Agent Butterfield approaching from the other end of the alley where he
had set up surveillance. He looked back at the warehouse. There was still
"Anything?" Ron asked when he reached the detective.
Steve shook his head. "It's been completely quiet. Is everyone set?"
"Almost." The agent touched the speaker at his ear. They waited a long,
tense moment. "HRT is in place. They're moving in. Let's go."
"Well, that was stupid," Tom said.
Jed couldn't find it in himself to disagree. He looked up at Tom from his
prone position on the floor. The terrorist moved to stand behind Leo, who
still knelt next to him.
Tom held out a hand. One of the others pulled a revolver from his jacket
pocket and gave it to him. Tom stared down at Jed.
"Really stupid." He placed the muzzle against the back of Leo's head.
Jed's eyes widened and fear filled him. "Oh, God… No…" He met Leo's eyes.
"There are always consequences for your actions, Mr. President."
"Well, that was stupid," Tom said.
Jed couldn't find it in himself to disagree. He looked up at Tom from his
prone position on the floor. The terrorist moved to stand behind Leo, who
still knelt next to him.
Tom held out a hand. One of the others pulled a revolver from his jacket
pocket and gave it to him. Tom stared down at Jed.
"Really stupid." He placed the muzzle against the back of Leo's head.
Jed's eyes widened and fear filled him. "Oh, God… No…" He met Leo's eyes.
"There are always consequences for your actions, Mr. President."
"Please… don't." Jed tried to sit up, but the pain and Leo's hand on his
shoulder kept him down.
Tom cocked his head. "Consequences, Bartlet."
He pulled the trigger.
The door flew open, striking the wall. The sound echoed through the
warehouse. Shouts of "Federal Agents!" followed hard behind.
Steve moved in directly behind Ron, gun drawn. Agents were pouring in every
door and window, skylight and vent. There would be no escape for the
kidnappers. They all swept inward, covering every foot of space, still
calling out their warnings.
Steve stopped and looked at Ron as he lowered his gun. The bleakness in his
eyes was echoed in those of every other man and woman there.
The warehouse was empty.
Leo's body jerked forward.
"No!" Jed shouted hoarsely. Fear and adrenaline overcame his pain and he sat
up, his arms wrapping around his friend. "God, no…"
In that second, Jed raised his eyes to stare at Tom. Fury, and something so
fierce as to be indefinable, blazed in them so brightly that the terrorist
took an involuntary step back and his arrogance dissipated. Momentary fear
flashed in his eyes.
Jed became aware of a gentle pressure on his chest.
He pulled back to look at Leo, his anger forgotten. "Leo?" He stared at his
dear friend. "Oh, God… Leo?"
Bright blue eyes looked back at him. "I'm all right." He drew a shaky
breath. "I'm okay."
The terrorists left the cell. Tom called to them as he locked the door.
"Next time, the gun will be loaded." The outer door clicked shut and they
Jed didn't take his eyes off Leo. "Oh, God. I thought…"
"Yeah, me too."
Jed pulled him back into his arms and Leo returned the embrace carefully.
Neither spoke, but when they pulled away, both men's eyes were bright with
Leo cleared his throat, but didn't look away. He was long past the time when
he would be ashamed of showing his emotions. Especially to this man. "Sir,
you should lay back down."
The adrenaline that had kept him upright drained away and Jed sagged. He
nodded wearily. Gently, Leo lowered him to the floor.
Jed gritted his teeth. "Damn. I feel like hell."
"Well, you look like hell, so that would about cover it."
"You know how to flatter a guy."
"Shh. Don't talk."
"That's a hell of a thing to say to a politician, Leo."
"Seriously, Mr. President. You need to rest."
Jed's eyes fluttered closed as he nodded. The silence held for a few moments
as Leo rested his hand on the President's arm comfortingly.
"No, Leo… I can't breath like this." He tried to hold back a cough as he
struggled to sit up. His eyes were wide with alarm.
Leo moved quickly, sliding his arm under Jed's shoulders and lifting him
slightly. He maneuvered so that he was leaning against the wall once again
and Jed's head and torso were resting in his lap.
Jed took a shallow breath. "Yeah."
Jed let his eyes drift closed again as Leo's hand resumed it's rhythmic
stroking of his hair.
He turned from his conversation with Ron at the entrance to the office. The
hope in CJ's voice was mirrored in her eyes. He didn't have to say a word.
Their eyes met, and the hope in her eyes dimmed, and her jaw tightened with
repressed emotion. She turned and went into her office.
"Ron, if there's nothing else?"
The agent shook his head. "I'm going to run that number you gave me. Maybe
this kid can still lead us somewhere."
He walked away, still feeling the agents' anger and frustration behind him.
He shared it. And though he knew it wasn't directed at him, he still felt
responsible. He poked his head into CJ's office.
She looked up from her desk. "Hi."
He stuffed his hands in his pockets. "We'll keep trying."
"I know." She looked back down and shuffled some papers around.
Steve closed the door. He moved over to stand beside her desk and leaned
against it. "CJ."
"Yeah." She didn't look up from the papers in front of her.
"It's me. I'm not one of your coworkers and I'm not the press. You don't
have to be strong every second. Let me in."
"You're not. You're hurting and you're afraid. It's okay. I understand."
She finally looked up. "I know you do." She held out a hand to him.
He took it. In his own, her hand looked small and delicate. He almost
smiled as he remembered how much she had liked that when they were dating.
She said that at nearly six feet tall, she towered over most men. With him,
she had felt womanly and protected. He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles.
He wanted to make her feel safe again.
"It's late, CJ. I'm not even going to ask when the last time you slept was."
"Good, because I wouldn't tell you."
"Because you know I'd yell."
She managed a wan smile. "Somehow I doubt you've gotten anymore sleep than I
"Yeah well, I'm a man," he goaded. It was an old joke between them.
"Therefore you couldn't possibly know better," she immediately responded.
They shared a smile. She sighed. "I'll go to the hotel and get some sleep.
It's just across the street." She narrowed her eyes at him. "On one
He cocked his head to one side. "And what's that?"
"Come with me?"
He gave her a long look then squeezed her hand. "All you had to do was ask."
Josh stood in Sam's doorway until the Deputy Communications Director looked
up at him. When their eyes met, he just shook his head.
Sam's shoulders sagged. "Does Mrs. Bartlet know?" he asked in a tired voice.
"No. We didn't tell her. Just in case it turned out to be nothing."
"Good thing," Sam said bitterly. "Damn it! The two most powerful men in the
country and nobody's seen them? How does this happen?"
Josh sighed. "Yeah."
"What do we do? We can't just sit here."
"I'm going to go get some coffee. Want to come?"
Sam shoved the legal pad on his desk away. "Yeah."
Steve snapped his cell phone closed. "Damn."
CJ looked over her shoulder at him. "What is it?" Her hair brushed his
chin. The sofa in her hotel suite was just big enough for the two of them to
stretch out if she leaned on his chest. Neither of them minded.
"The phone number the guy gave me was a fake."
"So now what?"
"The Secret Service is running some checks. And they're coordinating with
the LAPD. Someone'll call if anything turns up."
"Okay." She sipped her tea, grimacing a little at the taste. "What did you
put in here again?"
"Brandy. There was a bottle in your wet bar."
"Oh." She stared into the cup. "It's not bad."
"You needed something to help you relax."
She glanced at the brandy snifter in his hand. "How come mine has to be in
"Because you're a girl," he teased, leaning his head down, unthinking, to
kiss the top of her head.
"Who could kick your butt."
"True." He smiled into her hair. "I know you like it that way."
"You remembered." She sounded surprised.
"Yeah," he said softly.
CJ leaned her head back suddenly, surprising him. She looked up at him. For
the first time since the kidnapping, she allowed her guard to lower
completely. Her eyes filled with tears she finally let fall.
He wrapped his arms around her and let her cry silently against his chest.
Neither of them spoke. When he felt her push gently against him, he leaned
back to look at her.
Without a word he raised a hand to gently wipe at the tears with his thumb.
He set his glass down, then set hers beside it as well. With both hands
free, he held her face between them and stared down at her. Slowly, he
lowered his head to capture her lips in a soft, gentle kiss.
The moment ended before either of them wanted it to. CJ shifted so that she
didn't have to twist her body to face him. "Stay," she said simply.
His eyes searched hers. "Are you sure? You're pretty upset…"
She nodded. "I don't want to be alone. And…" she trailed off.
"I know." Their old relationship, built on mutual respect, trust and love
had evolved into a deep friendship. But the old feelings were there, and
more so, they needed each other. They needed someone to hold, and be held in
return. He stood, easily lifting her in his arms. CJ smiled in delight.
Another thing she had always loved.
He strode into the bedroom and laid her on the bed, almost reverently. He
stood there for a moment, admiring the beautiful woman before him, before
"You should be resting."
"It hurts too much. Talk to me."
Leo clenched his jaw. Jed sounded so disoriented. He wished he could take
away his pain. "What do you want to talk about?"
"I don't know. Anything."
Leo thought for a moment. "Zoey's birthday is next week, isn't it? What did
you get her?"
"A new laptop computer. Charlie said she wanted one with all this stuff on
it. Pentium 64 or something."
"Yeah. Those computers are pretty amazing nowadays."
"Should've stuck with the abacus. Those Chinese really knew what they were
"Yeah, Sam mentioned it to me on the plane. Something about impressing his
date. I don't know."
"Your medication…. How long has it been? Do we have to worry about, you know…
"Symptoms of the MS?"
Jed was quiet. Leo looked down at him, a cold feeling settling in the pit of
his stomach. "It's happening already, isn't it?"
"Blurred, double vision. I thought that was just the concussion, but I'm
having trouble moving my legs now too."
"You got hit in the back pretty hard…"
Leo stared at the bars of their prison and leaned his head against the stone
wall. He could feel the pained tension in Jed's body. More frightening, he
could feel the slight tremors and heat radiating from his friend's form.
Abby's words when he first found out about the MS echoed in his mind. *A
fever could be life threatening.* As if they didn't have enough to worry
about, or enough things that could kill them.
"I'm sorry, Jed. I wish…" Leo's arms wrapped protectively more fully around
The President was silent for several minutes. When he spoke, his voice was
quiet. "You don't think we're getting out of here, do you?"
Leo started. "Of course I do. We are not giving up."
"You called me Jed. You wouldn't have done that if…"
Leo sighed. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." He swallowed. "Please, Leo. Call me Jed."
Leo closed his eyes and prayed.
"CJ…" Steve tickled her ear with a strand of her hair. She swatted at his
hand and burrowed her face deeper into her pillow. "Want some coffee?"
He trailed a finger along her spine and watched as goosebumps raised on her
"Mmmm…" She jumped as he smacked her bottom lightly. "Hey!"
He grinned and climbed out of bed.
CJ sipped her coffee. "Much, thanks." She leaned her shoulder against his
arm. "I'm glad you stayed."
"Me too." He glanced at his watch.
"Steve, it's five am. What's your hurry?"
"I need to check in. I'm going to run home first to get a change of clothes.
Want to come with me? Dad would love to see you."
"Sure. I don't need to be in until 6:30." She hesitated. "Steve, are you
He nodded, but didn't look at her.
"It wasn't your fault."
He took a breath. "I should have… I don't know. I just wish they'd been
there. I've got to find that guy today."
"We're almost out of time."
Jed looked up at Leo and smiled slightly. He had managed to sleep, or at
least be unconscious for a while, until his body had painfully awakened him.
But Leo, after staying awake to keep watch, was finally asleep. His head
rested against the wall, his left arm cradled Jed's shoulders protectively,
his right laid across the President's abdomen as he lay in his lap.
He stifled a cough. Not only would it hurt like hell, but it would almost
certainly wake Leo. The guy had been a mother hen his whole life and this
situation had really brought it out in him. Not that Jed could blame him.
They were both being more than a little over protective of each other.
He clenched his jaw and swallowed. It didn't help. He coughed, grimacing.
He tried to catch his breath. It was even harder to do than before. He
glanced up at Leo, but his friend hadn't moved.
Jed tensed. A moment before, he was worried about waking Leo, but now, when
he didn't wake, he was worried. The head injury, a concussion…
"Leo?" he whispered.
Not even a flicker of an eyelid.
"Leo?" A little louder now, his voice rough and hoarse.
Leo's eyes opened slowly, and Jed was disturbed by the dazed look in them.
Then his expression sharpened as he seemed to remember where he was. He
blinked several times. "Jed?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry. I woke you. I was worried."
Leo cleared his throat. "I'm okay." He looked closer at Jed but didn't ask.
Jed sighed. "Okay." He was quiet for a long moment. "So, what'd you get
"Zoey. For her birthday."
"Front row tickets to the Faith Hill concert."
"She'll like that."
"Yeah. Margaret heard her talking to Charlie about it. She said she
couldn't get tickets."
Jed looked surprised, the conversation finally getting his attention. "She
could have asked me. I think I probably could have gotten her a seat."
"I think she just wanted to be a girl at a concert."
Leo sighed and leaned his head back against the wall.
"She-" Jed broke off as another fit of coughing gripped him. Leo lifted him
a little higher against his chest. Finally, the cough subsided. "I'm okay,"
he whispered. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
He looked up at Leo, surprised at the pain in his voice. "What?" He
followed Leo's gaze to his hand. There was blood there. At first, it meant
nothing to him. The wounds on his wrists had left streaks of dried blood on
his hands and arms. And the cuts on his swollen lips from earlier… Then he
realized. This was fresh. It was there when he coughed. The broken rib,
the trouble breathing. He swallowed and closed his eyes briefly.
"Leo. Don't worry about it. It's probably just-" The look on Leo's face
silenced him. He knew, all too well. Jed glanced at the tiny window near the
ceiling in the outer room. It was nearly dawn. They would be back soon, he
could feel it. "We should get some rest."
Leo nodded wordlessly. He helped Jed shift to try to find a slightly more
comfortable position, then closed his eyes.
Three days. It felt like a lifetime.
Sam jerked awake. His foot slid off his desk to the floor and the rest of
him nearly joined it. "What?" He looked around. "Oh, hi Josh." His brain
kicked in. "News?" he asked as he pushed himself to his feet.
Josh held up a videotape. "We got another one."
Sam closed his eyes. "Oh God."
"Get Toby. I'll find CJ."
"She left to get some sleep. She's at the hotel."
"I'll call her." His eyes looked haunted. "If this is… If…" He cleared
his throat. "If CNN has it too, the public is gonna freak."
"Like they aren't already."
The President awoke to the feel of rough hands dragging him to his feet. He
tried to bite back a cry of pain and was only partially successful. He heard
Leo's protest cut off and twisted his neck to look over his shoulder to find
his friend. Another man had his forearm pressed against Leo's throat. Jed
was dragged out of the cell and again, the barred door slammed shut between
Jed struggled, determined to not give up. He knew, just as Leo did, how this
was going to end. But it didn't mean he had to give up.
They pulled him back to the center of the room and shoved him to the floor.
He fell heavily, every muscle crying out in agony.
He pushed himself to his hands and knees. A booted foot struck his ribs. He
nearly blacked out from the pain as he lay on his side, gasping for breath.
The same boot came down on his wrist and everyone in the room could hear the
bones snap. He cried out, his voice mingling with Leo's.
One blow blurred into another until he no longer even had the strength to
react in any way. He lie there, in too much pain to completely lose
consciousness, but too insentient to be considered aware.
Leo couldn't take his eyes off his best friend. He wanted to look away, but
just couldn't. Jed was dying, of that he was certain. And those bastards
were doing nothing but hurrying it along and making it more painful in the
He felt as if each blow was tearing a little piece out of his soul. He
remembered so clearly the horrors of the POW camp in Vietnam. He had watched
fellow servicemen be tortured and killed in front of him. He'd thought he
was going to rot in that place.
He hadn't had much in the way of close family ties. His mother was gone and
his father certainly had no love for his only son. His sister Josie hated
the war. When he received his commission in the Navy, they'd exchanged angry
words. But Jed Bartlet, the geeky economics major he'd become so close with,
he had written to him faithfully. Leo had so looked forward to those
letters, and wrote back frequently when he'd been on board Constellation.
Sometimes it seemed like his relationship with Jed had been the only thing
that kept him going. Duty and patriotism are strong motivators, but not much
in the way of comfort. With no real familial support, he had taken refuge in
his friendship. In a way, Jed had been a kindred spirit. He knew the pain
of an uncaring father and he was as passionate to change the world.
Now, to see him in this place, it was like seeing his worst nightmare come
Steve listened to the voice on his cell phone for a moment. He glanced at
CJ, then back at the street. "Man, if you're yanking my chain again… Okay.
Okay, I'll check it out. Give me your number. Stan? Hello?"
He snapped the phone shut. "Damn." He tossed it on the seat.
"What? Was that the guy? Where are we going?"
"I'm going to check out a location he gave me. You're going to your office."
"Are you going to call Ron?"
"Not yet. I want to take a look, first. This guy wasn't exactly reliable
"I want to go with you."
"Steve, I'll just wait in the truck while you look around. I promise not to
get in the way. Besides, we're almost to Malibu. Where ever you're going,
I'll bet it'd take too long to take me back first."
He sighed. "All right. But you stay in the truck."
"Those bastards. Those goddamn bastards."
Josh had his head in his hands. He'd never heard Sam sound so angry, yet
lost at the same time. Not even when he found out about his father. Not even
when he found out about the MS.
"They're not dead yet, Sam" Toby's rough voice cut in.
"Yeah, but that's only because these guys choose to torture the President
instead. It's not like we're anywhere with this. That," he waved a hand at
the VCR, "Probably happened yesterday. We don't know what might have
happened since then. We don't know what's happening now."
"Yes, we do. They said three days. We have until tonight."
"So they're not dead. They probably just wish they were."
"Sam!" Josh finally looked up.
"You think this is going to end well? Come on. Look at what they're doing
to him. He was hanging from the ceiling like…" His voice broke. "And Leo.
God. The Secret Service, the FBI, they're nowhere. It's over." His coffee
mug shattered against the wall.
Neither Josh nor Toby tried to stop him as he strode out. Josh watched
coffee run in tiny brown rivulets down the wall, staining the paint.
"Where's CJ?" Toby asked.
"She'd already left the hotel when I called. She's on her way."
"You try her cell phone?"
"No. I didn't want to tell her over the phone. She'll be here any minute."
Steve shut the truck door and leaned in the window. "Remember, stay here."
CJ nodded. "Be careful. Good luck."
He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile and walked toward the
building. It looked like many others in the area, built in the seventies for
the booming animal research business. Recent years had seen animal rights
activist shut down many of these facilities, and the rest moved out into
newer, more modern areas.
He walked around the edge of the building. It seemed quiet. He ground his
teeth together. What was it with this guy, Stan? Was he trying to slow the
search by distracting them until the three days were up? He found a window
that had been left open slightly. He raised his eyebrows. It was probably
He peeked in. It was indeed, nothing. It was too small for him to crawl in
through. He continued around the building.
A tiny basement window along the ground caught his eye. He crouched down
next to it, then leaned over to see in. To his surprise, the room was
brightly lit. What he saw made the experienced homicide detective's breath
catch in his throat and his heart to lurch. He shook off his shock and
pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.
"Steve? Where are you? What's going on?"
"They're here. I want you to get out of here, now. I'm going to call Ron
Bu-" He broke off and closed his eyes at a distinctive clicking sound. He
ground his teeth together.
"What was that noise?" CJ asked. "Steve?"
"Drop the gun or you're dead."
He lowered his gun and set it on the ground. At the same time, he dropped
the cell phone into his hand and turned it off.
The muzzle of the gun pressed against the back of his neck. "Let's go."
"Steve?" CJ was trying not to panic. She looked down at the screen on the
cell phone and saw she had lost the signal from Steve. Dropping the phone,
she looked around frantically for a weapon. She yanked open the glove box.
She leaned over and looked under the seat. Nothing. She looked up and saw
the keys still in the ignition.
With a quick glance around, she slid into the driver's seat and started the
engine. Then she froze. "Damn."
She grabbed up her cell phone and dialed a number.
"This is CJ. Put me through to Ron Butterfield. Now."
Steve stumbled slightly as he was pushed through the door. He took in the
ten or so men holding handguns but the still form on the floor held his gaze.
The President was bleeding from multiple cuts and abrasions on his head and
body and his right wrist was twisted at an unnatural angle. He took an
involuntary step toward him.
Two men grabbed his arms and held tight. Another searched him roughly. He
took his backup pistol and his badge. He passed off the wallet to another
man who glanced down at the badge.
"Lieutenant Steve Sloan," he said. He stared at him, then motioned toward
the unmoving figure at their feet. "This who you were looking for?"
"Where are the others?"
Steve smiled at him. "Third Ranger Division is right outside. I'd be
handing over my guns if I were you."
The leader snorted. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
One of the others spoke up. "Tom, what if he's telling the truth? He can't
be here alone. The feds are probably out there."
"Then we'll be martyrs."
He sounded supremely confident, but some of the others glanced at each other
"I don't think your men are quite as willing to die as you are," Steve said
Tom ignored him. "Put him in the cell. We need to finish this." He looked
back at Steve. "I'm sure you'll enjoy watching."
He gestured and the other men pushed him forward. The man opened the cell
door where Leo McGarry was watching them intently. They shoved him inside.
CJ glanced around nervously. She really didn't want to do this. She wiped
sweaty palms on her slacks. Taking a deep breath, she put the truck into
She froze. "Damn." Reaching back, she grabbed the seat belt and pulled it
across her body, jammed it into the clip. Placing both hands firmly on the
steering wheel, she muttered, "God, you guys had better be out of the way."
She stomped her foot down on the accelerator. The huge Dodge hurled forward.
She resisted the urge to close her eyes. The front of the building loomed
in front of her, then disappeared as glass and wood frame shattered all
around her. Her head whipped forward but the seatbelt held her in place.
The airbag exploded outward and for a moment, she could see nothing at all.
Steve looked up along with everyone else. It sounded like the building was
crashing down above them.
"It's happening!" Tom shouted. "Get up there, now!"
The others rushed to obey. There was confusion tinged with panic in their
movements. Steve watched as they flooded out of the room, up the stairs. He
glanced around. They had left their leader alone.
Without hesitation, Steve attacked. He lowered his shoulder and barreled
into Tom, striking him just below the ribs. The other man doubled over in
pain and was pushed back against the wall. Steve grabbed his wrist and
twisted. The gun fell to the floor with a clatter on the concrete.
Tom swung, and Steve ducked. He struck back, hearing with satisfaction the
bones in the other man's face crunch under his fist. The terrorist leader
fell heavily to the floor and didn't move.
Steve stepped back, the pain in his hand barely felt. He turned his eyes to
the Chief of Staff. Scooping up a pistol, he held it out to the older man.
"You know how to use this?"
Leo took it confidently. "Yeah."
Steve nodded and hurried to the President. He knelt beside him, Leo standing
protectively at his back. Steve clenched his jaw. Jed was unmoving, but
barely hanging onto consciousness by will alone.
The detective nodded to him. "We're getting you out of here, Mr. President."
He slid his arms under the smaller man, lifting him as he rose to his feet.
Jed let out an involuntary moan as the pain flared. His head fell back over
Steve's arm and for a moment, their eyes met. Steve swallowed as he met the
President's pained, yet determined gaze. Then Jed's eyes rolled back then
fluttered shut. Steve looked at Leo and jerked his head toward the stairs.
Leo would have to lead. Steve didn't like it, but he had no choice.
Leo took a step forward. Steve started to follow, when a noise behind him
made him turn. Tom had struggled to his feet, blood masking his hate-twisted
features. The terrorist raised a gun.
Steve twisted his body, trying to shield the helpless man in his arms.
Gunfire, seemingly louder than usual, echoed in his ears. Sharp pain
radiating up his thighs surprised him and he realized distantly that he was
on his knees. Then the real pain made itself known.
His back felt on fire. He looked down and his eyes locked with the
President's. He opened his mouth, intending to say "I'm sorry," but nothing
came out. He fell forward, No longer aware of anything, not even the
President of the United States lying beneath him.
Leo felt the gun recoil in his hands. The acrid odor of gunpowder filled his
nostrils and he saw the bright red stain blossom on Tom's chest. He knew he
should feel something, some regret, as the man fell to the floor, but he felt
nothing. Except, if he was honest with himself, a grim satisfaction at
seeing such a monster die.
"Where are they?"
"I don't see anybody!"
CJ crouched behind a partition, trying to make herself as small as possible
while the men searched the area. They swarmed around Steve's rather battered
truck, and outside through the large hole she'd left in the front wall. She
prayed the calvary would show up soon. And hoped Steve wouldn't kill her
when he saw what she did to his truck.
A part of a wall crashed down in front of her and she stifled a cry. She
began to rethink her actions, wondering if crashing into the building had
really been the best choice. And what was happening downstairs? Where were
the President and Leo? Was Steve with them? She raged over not knowing.
God, were they even alive?
A gunshot, maybe two, they were so close together, sounded from downstairs.
She jumped, her eyes widening in sudden panic.
Several of the terrorists headed toward the stairs. They turned back when
A young man with a tattoo of a swastika in the middle of his forehead stared
down at CJ, his gun aimed directly at her. He smiled.
"Well, look what we have here." He laughed. "It's just you, is it? You
don't look like-"
Whatever he was going to say was cut off abruptly as the room was flooded
with federal agents, guns drawn and looking for all the world like angels to
CJ. A few shots were exchanged, but most surrendered quickly, including the
one who had been threatening CJ. He had held his ground for a moment, until
he turned his head to see Ron staring him in the face, the agent's eyes
blazing with cold fury. The man lowered his gun without being told.
CJ jumped to her feet. "Ron! They're downstairs!"
He ran in that direction and CJ followed.
CJ froze in horror. Leo had his arm around Steve, who was on his knees,
struggling to rise, the President in his arms. The back of the detective's
shirt was stained with blood still pouring from a ragged hole in his back.
President Bartlet was pale and unmoving.
She heard shouts for paramedics as if from a great distance. Her entire
focus was on the three men before her. She ran to them, oblivious to the
Secret Service agents in the way. She didn't know who to turn to first.
Ron gently took the President from Steve. A look of understanding and
gratitude passed between the two men. He placed Jed on the floor and didn't
move from his side until the paramedics arrived. Leo didn't leave him even
CJ watched the EMTs work frantically, two of them finally coaxing Steve onto
a stretcher. She knelt beside him. When their eyes met, she nearly wept at
the pain she saw there.
"Hey," he rasped. "It's okay."
She nodded, not trusting her voice.
He touched his fingers to the back of her hand. "Thanks."
She squeezed his hand tightly. A medic laid his hand on her arm.
"We have to take him now."
She nodded again and stepped back, watching as they took the three men out of
this place that she knew would give her nightmares for the rest of her life.
Mark stopped outside the trauma room door and took a deep breath. He let it out slowly, erasing any signs of fear or distress from his features. Another pause, then he opened the door.
He took in the scene quickly. Three nurses busied themselves setting up IVs and removing the patient's clothing. He swallowed his horror at the sight of the man's bruised body. He moved to stand beside the bed and put his hand on Jesse's shoulder. The young doctor looked up at him gratefully and stepped back.
"Has he been conscious?" Mark asked as he began his examination.
Jesse nodded. "Just for a minute. He seemed disoriented."
"What about-" He turned as a voice interrupted him.
"How is he?"
Mark turned. "Dr. Bartlet." He waved her over. "I've just begun my examination."
Abbey looked down at her husband and her professional mask cracked. "Oh, God…"
Mark touched her arm, his eyes warm and compassionate. "Dr. Bartlet, I think it would probably be better if you waited outside. Dr. Travis or I will let you know as soon as we have any information for you."
Her eyes flashed and for a moment he thought she was going to argue. But it seemed her better judgement took over as she realized it was the sensible thing to do. She nodded and reached out to brush her fingertips over Jed's temple lightly. The tears that had been threatening since she entered the room fell, though she didn't seem to notice.
Their eyes met and she froze. There was no recognition in his gaze.
He blinked in confusion. He opened his mouth as if to speak, then his eyes fluttered closed.
Abbey choked back a sob.
Mark's hand settled on her shoulder and squeezed gently. For a moment, she stood there, gazing down at her husband and absorbed the silent comfort from the man behind her. Steeling herself, she nodded again, firmly, and stepped back. "I'll be right outside." Mark gave her a reassuring smile. When the door closed behind her, he returned to his physical examination of the President's injuries. After a minute, he stopped, his hands resting lightly on Jed's chest. He turned to Jesse. "You ordered x-rays?"
"They took them right before you came in. We should have them any second now."
The older doctor nodded. "I need to see them. Prep him for surgery and call Dr. Morris."
Jesse was already moving.
Mark looked back down at his patient. "Everything's going to be just fine, Mr. President. You're going to be all right."
Though the President's eyes were open again, Mark didn't think he heard him, or understood if he did. Because he only whispered one word.
Mark returned the chart to its slot and picked up another. He read it as he entered another exam room. The Secret Service agent standing outside opened it for him without hesitation.
He smiled at the man on the bed; not surprised to see he had a visitor. "Mr. McGarry, Dr. Bartlet," he greeted. "How are you feeling, sir?"
"I'm fine. How's the president?"
Mark nodded to himself. It was clear where this man's priorities were. "We've taken the President into surgery." He continued before the questions could be asked. "He suffered four broken ribs in addition to his other injuries. One rib separated and created a puncture in his right lung. Luckily, it appears that the bone itself held in place and kept air from escaping into his chest cavity. There is blood in the lung, but it could have been worse. If the wound hadn't sealed it could have caused enough pressure to collapse the lung. Dr. Morris is our best surgeon and Dr. Tate, our head of pulmonary respiration is assisting. We should know more in an hour or so."
Abbey had her hands clasped tightly in her lap. "What about the MS?"
"He's definitely had a relapse. We've given him IV Solumedrol. He'll likely have to have several infusions to hopefully induce remission again."
Abbey nodded. "What about Prednisone?"
"I'd like to see how he responds to the Solumedrol, first. I'd rather not put him on Prednisone if I can help it. It's a good drug that has its uses, but I don't like to use it if I don't have to. And in his condition, I'm afraid it could be dangerous if we needed to change the dose. I've been working closely with our head of the Neurology department."
Leo spoke up. "Wait a minute. You said 'hopefully' induce remission. I thought his type of MS always went into remission after a relapse."
Mark shook his head. "Not always. His chances are good, given his history, but it could take time. Longer than you're used to. This was not a minor relapse."
Abbey gripped Leo's hand. "Thank you, Dr…" She tilted her head. "I don't think I got your name."
"Mark Sloan." He moved to stand closer to Leo. "And now, Mr. McGarry, I would really like to get a little more information than 'I'm fine.'" He smiled to soften the rebuke. "We've given you a saline IV for the dehydration, Motrin and Compazine. Are you still nauseous? Any pain?" He leaned over and shone a penlight in the other man's eyes.
"No." Leo tried not to wince away from the light. "The officer that found us. How is he?"
Mark pulled back, his blue eyes darkening. He looked away. "He's in surgery." He picked up Leo's chart and stared at it. He didn't see the look Abbey and Leo exchanged.
"Dr. Sloan?" Leo's voice was still rough and hoarse.
Mark looked up, his expression pleasant, his eyes haunted.
"What's the prognosis?"
"I-I don't know. I should have more information soon."
Leo narrowed his eyes. "Doctor…" He paused. "Sloan. The detective said his name was Sloan."
Mark swallowed. "He's my son." The quiet words were heavy with pain.
Leo stared at him for a long moment. Then he cleared his throat. "Tom was trying to shoot the President. Your son saved him."
Mark nodded. "And I'm so proud of him. I just wish…"
Abbey took his hand. "I know. I know exactly what you mean."
Mark looked at her. She smiled sadly. "I feel like Jed is risking his life every day, just by being who he is. Sometimes, I want to try to make him stop, to change him, but I know I can't. And at the same time, I love him for it. All of it."
"Even for the thing things that might take him away from you?"
She smiled sadly. "I guess those are the things I admire the most."
"Thank you." He squeezed her hand tightly, then let go. Taking a deep breath, he turned back to Leo. He gave him a stern look. "Now, Mr. McGarry, are you going to let me do my job, or do I have to turn your care over to Dr. Bartlet?"
Leo nodded agreeably, but his expression was distracted. His attention was back with his best friend.
"CJ?" Mark held a cup of coffee in each hand. He handed one to CJ and sat beside her. "How are you doing, honey?"
"Mark!" She put down the cup and put her arms around the older man, drawing him into a hug. He returned the embrace. She pulled back. "Is there any news?"
"You know the President's in surgery." She nodded. "He seems to be doing well, considering the extent of his injuries. All we can do is wait. The First Lady is in with Mr. McGarry. More than anything, he needs someone to talk to and for the President to be okay, I think."
"He's still in surgery. The bullet struck his left kidney and he's lost a lot of blood."
"Is he going to make it?"
Mark shook his head. "I hope so."
"God." She picked up her coffee cup and held it tightly, as if she could absorb its warmth into her soul. She sighed. "This week has been such a nightmare. I keep seeing the President in that room, what they were doing to him… and now Steve." Tears began to fall, but she didn't seem to notice.
Mark slipped an arm around her shoulders. "I know. CJ, I-"
Mark and CJ looked up. Mark stood. "Dr. Morris. Is there news?"
The other doctor nodded and looked at CJ questioningly. Mark quickly introduced them. "How is he?"
"The President made it through the surgery well. We've moved him into an observation unit in the ICU for now. I'm going to want to leave him there until we can be sure he is out of the woods. He should be awake by morning."
"Thank God," CJ breathed. Mark squeezed her hand. "Is the First Lady with him?"
"Yes. She wanted to sit with him until he woke."
"Donna, I can't." Josh resisted the urge to throw the cell phone into the wall of the quiet hospital lounge. "Tell him it's going to have to wait. If he doesn't like it, he can-"
"Josh, I said it's taken care of." Donna's voice was only slightly distorted by static. "Don't worry about it."
"Oh." He ran a hand through his hair and blew out a breath. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." She was silent a moment. "How is he?"
"Still in surgery. We're waiting."
"I'll be down there as soon as I can." She sounded calm, but Josh could hear the tears in her voice.
"Okay." He glanced at the window into the hallway. "The surgeon just went by. I'm going to go see if there's news."
He nodded. "Hurry down here." He snapped the phone shut and rushed out into the hall. He rounded the corner quickly and narrowly missed running into Sam.
"Hey!" He stopped his momentum with his hands on the other man's shoulders. "You chase off the press?"
"No." Sam sighed. "I answered the questions I could but they wouldn't go away. So I called Ron. They're back a couple blocks now."
"Good. Have you seen Toby? I just saw the surgeon go by."
Sam shook his head. The two men hurried after the doctor. "He was pacing the halls when I left. I'm sure he's back with CJ by now." He glanced at Josh. "You think he's okay?"
"He'd better be."
"Jed? Jed, can you hear me?"
He slowly opened his eyes.
He blinked dry eyes. "Abbey?"
She leaned closer to put herself in his field of vision. "I'm right here, Jed."
"I'm in the hospital?"
She brushed a hand over his hair. "Yeah, honey. You're in the hospital."
"Leo?" His voice cracked.
"He's here. He's okay." She smiled. "He's pretty anxious to see you."
"When can I see him?"
"You just got out of surgery, Jed. Give it a while."
"Abbey-" He broke off in a painful, yet weak cough.
"Later. You can see him later. You need to rest."
He shook his head, trying to catch his breath.
"I'm calling the nurse." Abbey stood, ignoring Jed's negating wave. She pressed the call button and within moments a nurse appeared.
"The doctor's being paged." She removed the nasal canula and replaced it with a mask. "Take slow, even breaths, sir."
Dr. Morris entered and Abbey stepped back, her gaze fixed on her husband. It was going to be a long night.
She looked up to see Leo standing in the doorway. He leaned heavily on the IV pole beside him. "Leo," she said wearily. "Come sit down." She waved a hand at the seat on the other side of the bed.
"How is he?" He asked quietly as he settled into the chair.
She sighed. "He woke up a while ago, but they had to give him a sedative. He was in a lot of pain."
Leo grimaced. He looked down, his gaze taking in his best friend. He was so grateful to see him here, alive. But just looking at him made his heart lurch painfully. Even in sleep, Jed's face was tense with pain. The features so familiar to millions were barely recognizable through the swelling and bruises. His gaze drifted downward. Jed's hospital gown was pulled down around his shoulders and upper chest to allow for the wires and electrodes needed to monitor his heart; and pushed up at the bottom where a large tube entered his chest just below his ribs to drain fluid from his left lung. A blanket covered his lower body, but Leo knew that even his legs were covered with bruises made by steel-toed boots mercilessly striking unprotected flesh. He swallowed against the nausea that rose in his throat as the memories threatened to overwhelm him.
"Leo." Abbey reached across her husband to offer a comforting hand.
He grasped the fingers momentarily, then withdrew. "I'm okay."
She shook her head. "You're not. None of us are. But we will be. All of us." She looked back down at Jed.
Leo nodded and rubbed a hand over his face. "Yeah."
They sat in companionable silence, united in their love for the man between them, until they both drifted into uneasy sleep.
Leo jerked awake at the pain-filled whisper. Jed flailed weakly in the bed, his eyes still tightly closed.
"Oh, God… Don't…"
Leo reached out, his left hand gently gripping Jed's fingers as his right brushed over the other man's forehead. He saw Abbey was doing the same, whispering softly comforting words.
He didn't seem to hear her. "No!" he cried out, his back arching off the bed. Abbey looked helplessly at Leo.
Leo leaned closer. "Jed, it's okay. You're safe." His fingers combed through the thick hair. "It's okay."
Jed's body slowly relaxed. "Leo…" he whispered.
"I'm here. We're safe."
Jed sighed in his sleep. Abbey stared at Leo, her eyes wide with fear and worry.
He shook his head. "It was bad," he said simply.
Abbey's eyes filled with tears and she looked away.
Leo sat straighter in his chair, resolved to protect his friend from the memories of the reality that he hadn't protected him from.
"Mark." Jesse shook the other man's shoulder.
Mark's eyes snapped open. He sat up, wide-awake. "Steve?"
"He made it though the surgery. We're moving him to ICU."
He let out a breath. "Thank God. Were you able to save the kidney?"
Jesse sat down next to the older man. "We were able to repair it. That's mostly what took so long."
Mark placed his hand on the other man's arm. "Thanks, Jesse. How's he doing?"
"He lost a lot of blood. We're giving him one more transfusion tonight." He smiled encouragingly. "It looks good, Mark. Steve's strong and healthy. We'll know more when he wakes up, of course. But I think he's going to be all right."
Mark wiped a hand over his eyes. "I need to see him, Jess."
"ICU is going to page me as soon as he's settled in. We'll go down together." He rubbed his hand over his jaw. "How's the President?"
"He came out of surgery a couple of hours ago. He's doing better."
Jesse nodded. "That's good to hear." He paused. "When I saw what they did to him…"
"I know." Mark shook his head. "It's a miracle he survived. He's going to have a long road ahead of him. He and his Chief of Staff. The physical wounds will heal, but the emotional ones… Those will take a lot longer."
Jed glanced at the clock beside his bed then stared at the wall. He wished the room had a window so he could see the sun rise.
He turned his head and smiled at the nurse who was busying herself adjusting his IV. She returned it, shyly. She headed for the door, then paused.
"Is there anything you need, Mr. President?"
"Is my wife out there?"
"Yes, sir. She was here while you were sleeping. She went to check on Mr. McGarry a little while ago. She's waiting to come back in."
"That's the only thing I need."
"Yes, sir." She hesitated again, her hand on the door. "Mr. President, I just want you to know, we're all very proud of you."
Jed gave her a self-depreciating look. "I didn't exactly do much."
The nurse flushed. "You were so brave, the way you…" She trailed off. "We're all really proud." She ducked out the door before he could respond.
He puzzled over her remark, wondering what people could possibly be proud of. That he survived? That he was dumb enough to get caught? That he got five agents killed? Five good men and women. He sighed and rubbed his forehead with his left hand. IV lines caught on the bed rail and he swore, tugged at them gently before giving up and dropping his arm back to the bed.
"Abbey!" Jed tried to sit up straighter on the reclined bed, and froze as pain shot through him. He tried to cover it quickly by tugging at his IV lines again.
"Jed, don't." Abbey gently untangled the lines then slid into the chair beside him.
"I hate this." He waved vaguely to indicate all of the tubes and wires. "I had more mobility when I was being held prisoner."
Abbey winced. "It won't be for long."
"When are they going to take this thing out?" He touched the chest tube.
"In a day or two. When your lung stops draining fluid." She reached out and brushed his hair back from his forehead. "How do you feel?"
"Like I went fifteen rounds with Mike Tyson."
"You kind of look like it too." She smiled sympathetically. She let her hand drift down to his cheek gently touching the bruised, swollen flesh. She looked closer at the cut over his eye. "The stitches look good."
"He's doing good. I stayed with him while you were in surgery. He has a concussion and was pretty dehydrated. He's worried about you."
"I want to see him."
"Jed, you just got out of surgery. This isn't like Rosslyn. This is very serious. You could have died."
"Getting shot wasn't serious?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
He sighed. "I really want to see him."
"I know. Dr. Sloan is going to let him come here later today."
"He just wants him to rest a little longer. He was in here last night while you were sleeping and he needed to sleep in a bed. But I think he's getting tired of listening to him complain about not seeing you, too." She smiled.
"He was here?"
"You were asleep."
"Okay." He took a careful breath. He looked down, lifted the sheet on either side of him.
"What're you looking for?"
She pulled on a black cord and handed him the control button for his morphine IV. "Is the pain bad?"
"Nah…" He pressed the button. And pressed it again. And again.
"It only works once every seven minutes, Jed."
He stared down at it. "Oh." He sighed again. "I hate it. It wears off when I fall asleep so the pain wakes me up."
She twined her fingers in his. "It's the only way to regulate it so you don't get too much. Morphine can be addictive."
"Right now, I don't really care."
"I know," she said sympathetically.
"He's here. I'm sure he'll be in later."
Her tone was too casual. He narrowed his eyes. "Abbey… What's wrong? Is he all right?"
"Jed, would you worry about yourself for a change?"
"What's wrong with Charlie?"
Abbey sighed. "He feels guilty. He saw the-"
She broke off. He narrowed his eyes. "What," he said flatly. Saw the what?"
"It's nothing, Jed." She fussed with his pillows, the IV lines. "That morphine should be working. You should try to rest."
She sighed again and slumped in her seat. "You're going to find out soon enough, I suppose." She looked around the room, drawing out the moment, before meeting his eyes. "There were videotapes. They sent one a day, to CNN and to us." She drew in a deep, shuddering breath.
"God, Abbey, I'm so sorry."
She stood. "You're sorry! Damn it, Jed! Like it's your fault! They tortured you. They almost killed you. If the price we had to pay was to sit and watch, it was nothing compared to what those bastards did to you!"
He reached out his hand and was surprised when she grabbed at it almost desperately. He pulled her into a gentle embrace.
"You're going to hurt yourself," she rebuked him, without conviction.
For a long moment, they just held each other, and it was enough. Finally, she pulled back. "You really should rest. You're exhausted."
He nodded. "Go see Charlie, would you? Talk to him. Tell him I want to see him."
"Okay." Her fingers brushed his cheek in the lightest of touches and she leaned over to kiss him. "I love you."
His eyes were shining with emotion as he looked up at her. "I love you, too." He watched her intently until the door closed behind her. He laid his head back with a sigh and closed his eyes.
A few moments later, they snapped open again. He looked around and shifted uncomfortably. He wished he were at home, in his own bed, with his wife beside him. He wished he could see Leo.
It was too quiet. Hospitals were supposed to be noisy. He wondered who was outside, in the hall. He opened his mouth to call the agent, then realized how ridiculous that would sound. He squirmed a little more and clicked the button again.
The door opened and Josh looked in. "Mr. President?"
Jed smiled. "Josh! Come in." He waved him in.
Josh returned his smile. "How are you feeling, sir?"
Josh stopped in mid-step. "I'm sorry," he said, half turning to go. "I should go."
"No!" Jed said a little more forcefully than he'd intended. Josh looked at him in surprise. "I mean, I could use the company. Sit down."
Josh nodded and sat slowly. He looked down, his eyes drawn to the tubes. Remembered pain made his chest ache. He looked back up. "Sir…"
Jed swallowed. "I didn't feel like being alone."
"Yeah." They sat in silence. Josh nodded toward the button in Jed's hand. "Morphine?"
"Doesn't work long enough, does it?"
Jed snorted. "No. I can't sleep." He shook his head and scowled at himself. "How is everybody?"
"They're good. CJ's still a little shaky. She drove a truck into the building."
Jed stared at him, his quick mind dulled somewhat by the morphine. "She drove a truck… Oh. Really?"
"Yes sir. Ron told me. She called him then figured you guys needed a distraction until he got there."
"What was she doing there?"
"She was with Lt. Sloan. I think they know each other from when she lived out here."
"He was the officer that found us."
"I'd like to talk to him. To thank him."
Josh rubbed his forehead. "You don't know?"
"He was shot."
"Oh, man." Jed sighed. "Damn. I thought I remembered hearing shots. I saw him, for a moment. He… Damn." He stared at the wall. "How is he?"
"He's in ICU." He took a breath. "The bullet hit him in the back."
Josh stood. "I should go. I'm sure you need to rest."
Jed held out his right hand, heavy with the brace the orthopedic surgeon had put on it. "Josh… Stay. Please. You're right. I am tired. But…"
For a long minute, Josh just stared down at the floor. He shuffled his feet. "Sir, you know all about my problems with PTSD from the shooting. What I went through was a picnic compared to what happened to you and Leo. You guys went through hell." He took a deep breath. "I don't know if I'm overstepping my bounds here, sir. But I care about you. I want to help."
"I don't know what I'm feeling right now." Jed stared down at his hands. Dark, ugly bruises radiated out from under the brace on his right hand. His left wrist was wrapped in a soft bandage, but he could still feel the cuff's bite. "I just-- I'm scared. I don't like feeling this way."
Josh sat back down beside him and leaned forward. "I know what you mean. I hated being in that hospital, I couldn't wait to get home. I felt so…" he searched for the right word. He shrugged. "Vulnerable, I guess."
"Yeah." Jed's eyes were still locked on his hands.
Josh reached out and put his hand on the President's arm. "We're here for you, sir. Whatever you need."
Finally, Jed smiled, a little. "You guys always have been, even when I didn't deserve it."
"You always have, Mr. President." Josh swallowed hard. He leaned back in his chair but didn't move his hand. "I'll just hang out for a while. Zoey brought some good magazines."
Jed met his eyes. "Thanks."
Josh just smiled. He watched as Jed's eyes closed and his breathing evened. When he was sure the President was asleep, he slipped the control button out of his hand and watched as the timer reached the seven-minute mark, indicating another dose could be administered. He pressed the button and waited.
Mark leaned forward in his chair as Steve stirred restlessly. "Steve?" He
touched his son's cheek. Steve turned his face toward his father. His face
tightened in pain, but his eyes didn't open.
Mark let out a breath. "I'm right here, son."
Steve's eyes opened slowly. He struggled to focus. "What's going on?"
"You were shot. You're in the ICU."
He lay there a moment, staring at nothing. He took a deep breath and
grimaced before nodding. "The President?"
"He'll be okay. He's recovering."
"CJ?" He frowned. "I heard . . . something from upstairs . . . "
"She's fine." Mark smiled. He thought it would be best to tell him what
happened with his truck later. "She's worried about you. We'll move you
out of the ICU in the morning if you keep improving. She'll be in to see you
"Good." Steve closed his eyes.
Mark placed his hand on his arm. "You get some rest, you're exhausted. I'll
be right here."
Steve nodded sleepily. "Thanks, Dad," he whispered.
Mark swallowed hard. It had been so close. Again. His heart clenched
painfully at the thought. He thanked God his son was still with him. And
prayed nothing like this would happen again.
Mark started. He though Steve had been asleep. "I'm right here," he said
"I love you."
His voice was so quiet Mark barely heard him. But he did, and tears sprang
to his eyes. "I love you too, son." He leaned forward and brushed Steve's
hair back, kissed his forehead. "I love you, too."
Jed looked away from the television program he hadn't been watching.
"Charlie! Come in!"
Charlie entered slowly and closed the door behind him. He glanced around and
shoved his hands into his pockets. "Can I get you anything, sir?"
"No, no. Come on, sit down." He waved a hand toward a chair. "I've been
hoping you'd stop by."
"Dr. Bartlet said you wanted to see me, sir." He sat. "How are you
"Better, thanks." Jed stared at the young man for a long moment, trying,
unsucessfully, to get Charlie to meet his eyes. "Are you okay?"
He looked up. Jed gazed back at him, his eyes soft. "It wasn't your fault,
"Sir, I heard what they said. I know it was because I'm dating Zoey."
"Charlie, they did it because they hate. They hate anyone not like them.
That's not your fault. If you heard that, you heard all of the other
justifications they made. It didn't happen because of you."
Charlie just shook his head and stared at his hands.
Jed reached out and laid his hand over Charlie's and squeezed gently. The
young man looked back up, his eyes filled with tears. "I thought I was going
to lose you, too. I couldn't stand that. I never really knew my dad. Mom's
gone, Mrs. Landingham . . . " He blinked several times. "I just . . . I
was so scared when I saw . . . "
Jed squeezed his hand again. "I know."
Charlie ducked his head, looking embarrassed. "I'm sorry, sir. I didn't
mean to . . . "
"It's okay, Charlie. I just wish to God none of you had to see that." He
shifted uncomfortably and slipped his hand out of Charlie's. "I don't know
how to make it better."
"You don't have to, sir. We'll be okay. We just want you to be okay, too."
Jed tried to smile reassuringly, but knew it was anything but. He didn't
know if any of them would ever be okay again.
CJ smiled as Steve's eyes fluttered open. She placed her hand on his
shoulder and rubbed gently. "Hey gorgeous."
Steve turned his head toward her, wincing as he did so. He looked at her,
trying to focus. He blinked several times.
"CJ…" His voice was rough.
"How're you feeling?"
He gave a breath of a laugh.
She winced in sympathy. "I'm sorry. That was a stupid question." Then she
scowled at him. "Not that what you did was smart."
His eyes widened. He was clearly struggling to keep up. "What? What'd I
"Leo told me what you did. He told me that guy Tom was going to shoot the
President. He said you put yourself between them. That that's how you got
"Oh? That's all you have to say?"
"What was I supposed to do?"
CJ sighed. "I know. I just-- I thought you were going to die, Steve."
"Nah. Not me."
"I hate your job."
"I noticed that." He raised his hand weakly. She grasped it and held tight.
Their eyes met and he smiled a little uncertainly.
CJ rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand. Careful not to hurt him, she
leaned over him and brushed her lips over his.
"Hey, you two. This is a public place."
CJ pulled back and looked over her shoulder. "Mr. President!" She jumped to
Jed waved her back down as the nurse wheeled his chair into the room. "Sit.
I just came to say hello." He pointed a finger at Steve. "And you, don't
even think of moving an inch."
"Yes sir." Steve slowly rested his head back on the pillow. He glanced at
CJ a little uncertainly.
CJ cleared her throat. "It's good to see you up, Mr. President."
"It's good to be up." He touched her arm. "Thanks for your help. What you
did took a lot of guts."
She shook her head. "I was scared to death."
He smiled. "Me too." He looked at Steve. "You, on the other hand…"
"--was terrified." Steve finished. "Mr. President, I'm so sorry I didn't get
there sooner. I wish-"
"Lieutenant Sloan-- Steve. Listen to me. You saved our lives. Leo and I
would be dead if it weren't for you and CJ. And you lying there in that bed…
" His eyes darkened. "God. You were shot because of me. I've had Secret
Service agents surrounding me 24 hours a day for the past three years and
I'll never get used to having people willing to risk their lives for me. And
I have no words to express the depths of my feelings. There are no words."
He leaned forward carefully and grasped the younger man's hand. "It's not
enough, but thank you." He squeezed his hand. "Thank you."
Steve nodded, at a loss for words.
Jed must have noticed his discomfort because he grinned. "So. I suppose
I'll be getting a bill for your truck." He leaned back in the wheelchair and
folded his hands. "That's okay, though. I'll just take it out of CJ's pay."
Steve blinked. "My truck?" He looked at CJ.
CJ looked at Jed. He grinned and looked back at Steve. "I've got to go back
to my room now. I'm sure we'll see each other again. I expect you to come
visit us at the White House." He waved a hand at the nurse who turned his
chair to wheel him out of the room before Steve could absorb the unexpected
invitation. "You kids behave," he called behind him.
Steve, still a little groggy and more than a little confused, watched him go.
He looked back at CJ, his tired mind reeling. But when he opened his mouth,
the first question that came out was, "What happened to my truck?"
"Get in here, would you? Quit lurking in my doorway."
Leo smiled, mildly chagrined. "I was afraid you were sleeping."
Jed's answering smile faded. "No. I wasn't." He was still tired from his
visit with the police detective, but sleep wouldn't come.
Leo nodded. "I know what you mean." He sighed and sat next to the bed.
"Are you getting any sleep?"
"Some." Jed looked down at his hands. "Not so much now that they stopped
the sedatives. The dreams started after that."
He looked back up. "You too?"
Jed drew in a shaky breath. "When's it going to end?"
Leo just shook his head. "Have you told anyone?"
"No." Jed's voice was quiet. "They'd just want to give me more sleeping
pills. I need to get past this."
"When we get back, you could talk to Stanley."
Jed rolled his eyes. "Oh, god."
"Mr. President, this is the kind of thing he specializes in. This is what he
does. What happened to us . . . "
"I know. He's a trauma specialist. Leo, I don't want to talk to a
psychiatrist about this. I don't want to talk to anyone about it!"
Leo's hand slipped inside Jed's. "You're going to have to. You know that."
Jed's intense blue eyes met Leo's. "Will you? Did you, when . . . "
"When I got home from 'Nam? Yes. I was a wreck. I slept too little, drank
too much, and was no good to anyone."
"I remember you wouldn't talk to me."
"Yeah. The Air Force finally sent me to a doctor. It helped. It really
Jed's eyes narrowed. "Really? Or are you just trying to convince me to see
The corner of Leo's mouth quirked up in a small smile. "Maybe. But it did
help a little."
"Okay." Jed sighed. "And you're going to talk to him too."
Jed snorted. "Okay."
The silence stretched out between them, both finding comfort in the mere
presence of the other.
"What's wrong with your eyes?" Leo finally spoke.
Jed looked at him, a surprised and innocent expression crossing his features.
"You keep blinking hard. And squinting."
"Are you having trouble seeing?" Leo's voice was almost steady.
"Why don't I believe you?"
Jed ignored the question. "I can go today, right? That's what Dr. Sloan
"He said you could go if you're under the supervision of Admiral Hackett and
Abbey. And if he feels you're well enough to travel."
Jed slid to the edge of the bed and carefully swung his legs over the side.
"It's Air Force One, Leo. It's not like I'm flying the plane."
"What are you doing?"
"What's it look like?" He placed his feet on the floor and pulled his robe
tighter around him.
"It looks like you're about to do something really stupid. Stay in bed."
Jed pushed himself to his feet. "Too late."
Leo stood quickly and stepped closer. He reached out, but stopped just short
of touching his friend. "Sir…"
Jed stood still for a moment. He looked up a Leo with a triumphant smile.
"See? No problem."
Leo nodded uncertainly. "You okay?"
"Sure. I just want to walk around a little. Get used to being up."
"I wish you wouldn't do this. At least wait for Dr. Sloan or a nurse or
"To do what? Come on, Leo." He stepped forward, trying not to wince.
Another step. He swayed and a tremor ran through his body. "Leo…"
Leo wrapped his arms around Jed's chest just as the President fell sideways,
his arms flailing in an effort to catch himself. Leo staggered and barely
kept his footing. Jed grunted in pain at the pressure on his chest.
The door opened. Mark hurried in, Abbey directly behind him.
"What happened?" Abbey asked. Mark moved to Jed's other side and grasped his
upper arm gently.
Jed shook his head. He couldn't answer. He focused on trying to breathe.
"He got dizzy, I think," Leo answered. He and Mark carefully maneuvered Jed
over to the bed.
"You think? What the hell was he doing out of bed?" Her voice raised. Jed
recoiled from her tone and ducked his head involuntarily. Abbey blanched
when he pulled away from her.
Leo let go of Jed when he was sure he was stable, but kept his hand on his
shoulder. "Hey," he said softly.
Jed nodded and took a slow breath. "It's okay."
Mark stepped back and looked into the President's eyes. "You could have
fallen, Mr. President. You should have called for a nurse."
"I just wanted to walk around the room. I wasn't planning on running a
Mark nodded. "You're going to need a cane until you get your equilibrium
back. I've asked for one to be sent down for you before you leave."
"I don't want a cane."
"Jed," Abbey admonished, but kept her voice low and soothing. She rubbed her
hand lightly over his back, then brought it up to rest on his shoulder.
"It's better than a wheelchair."
He sighed. "I know." He placed his left hand over hers.
Mark cleared his throat. "I'd rather not let you leave right now, Mr.
President," he shook his head and held up a hand at the sharp look Jed gave
him. "-But, I understand the circumstances. You're going to have to take it
easy for a few weeks, keep to a restricted work schedule. You're going to
have to have daily checkups." He glanced at Abbey, who nodded. "Admiral
Hackett will be continuing your Solumedrol infusions." He picked up the
chart he'd dropped when he'd entered the room. "The brace on your wrist is
going to need daily care. We've got it wrapped now, but two of the traction
pins holding the bones in place are attached to this bar here." He touched a
metal bar outside the bandages. "The entry sites where the pins go in will
have to be cleaned twice a day."
Jed grumbled and resisted the urge to scratch at the offensive device. "How
long does it have to stay in?"
"A few weeks. I know it's irritating now, but when it's healed straight and
you have full use of that hand, you'll be glad you had it." He waited a
moment until the President nodded, however grudgingly. "Now, about getting
around on your own…" Jed glared at him. "I know. Mr. President, your body
has been through an incredible trauma, even if you had been in perfect health
before this. We've got you on a blood thinner-"
"Why?" Jed interrupted.
"The severity of the bruising creates a serious concern that blood clots
"So you see how a fall could be a problem."
"Only if I cut myself, right?"
Mark shook his head. "No. If internal bleeding occurred, it could be fatal
all on it's own."
"Oh." Jed felt, rather than saw, Leo flinch. He didn't, couldn't quite look
at him. He glanced at Abbey. "I'll behave."
She smiled faintly. "You'd better."
"So I can go?"
Mark glance down at the chart again, then back at his patient. He shook his
head. "If you were anyone else, I'd say no. But under the circumstances of
your situation and the care you'll be receiving on your way home, I'll agree
Jed nodded gratefully. "Thank you, Doctor."
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. I only wish it had been under
"Me too." He let out a breath and looked at Mark with sorrow. "I'm so
sorry your son was hurt. I talked to him earlier. He's a good man. You
should be very proud."
Mark smiled. "I am. I wish he'd learn to duck a little better, but…"
Jed laughed and a genuine smile lit his eyes.
"It was kind of you to visit him. I know it meant a lot to him."
"It was absolutely the least I could do, Doctor. That young man saved both
our lives. Please remind him that he's supposed to come visit us sometime.
You're included in that invitation, of course."
Mark raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Thank you, Mr. President."
Jed gave him a conspiratorial look. "We need to get him and CJ hooked up."
Mark laughed. "I always hoped they'd make it permanent, but you know kids."
Jed sighed. "Do I." He looked up as the door opened and Charlie stepped in.
"Excuse me, Mr. President. You asked me to let you know when the car was
here. Everything is ready when you are." He had an aluminum cane hooked
over his forearm and was pushing a wheelchair.
Jed sighed. "Thanks, Charlie." He looked at Mark. "I guess it's time to
let you get things back to normal around here." He smiled. "Bring Steve to
the White House. Between the two of us, he and CJ won't have a chance."
Mark returned the smile. "I'll do that." He held out his left hand and Jed
shook it firmly, despite his weakness. "It was good to meet you, Mr.
President. I hope next time it will be under much better circumstances."
"Thank you again, Doctor. I'm in your debt."
Mark waved his thanks away and stepped out the door.
"We'll be right out, Charlie. Could you wait outside for a minute?"
Charlie nodded. "Yes sir." He placed the cane across the arms of the
wheelchair and followed the doctor out the door.
Jed looked up, his gaze finding Leo and Abbey. "This isn't going to be
Abbey stepped closer to him and carded her fingers through the hair at his
temple. "It'll be okay, Jed. Just remember that you're not alone. We're
here for you."
He nodded and unconsciously leaned into her touch. Leo's hand settled back
on his shoulder, it's heavy warmth offering as much comfort and security as
Abbey's loving caress. He closed his eyes with a deep sigh. "I don't know
what I do without you two."
Leo squeezed his shoulder. "Let's just make sure none of us ever have to
find out." His eyes met Abbey's over Jed's head and she nodded.
Jed nodded, unknowingly echoing Abbey's gesture. He opened his eyes and sat
up straighter, ready to be the President again.
"Let's go home."