Thought I'd try a little action/adventure/angst story. Not sure
where it's going yet, but if you hang in there with me, I'll try to
take it somewhere good!

POV: Abbey
Spoilers: None, yet
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. I just like to
play with them sometimes.


Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 1/?
A West Wing Story


She sat in his cabin on the backup Air Force One, or whatever they
called it when someone besides the President traveled in it, in his
chair, looking out his window. Her nails had been bitten down almost
to the quick, an old habit she thought she had long outgrown. C.J.
sat across from her, trying not to stare, trying not to ask too often
if she was all right, if she needed anything. Bless her, but right
now she needed nothing except to get this bird on the ground.

"He's alive," Leo had told her. "He's alive." And at the moment
that was good enough. But not now. Not anymore. She wanted more.
She wanted him to be fine, to be great, to be…alive. Okay. If that
was all she was getting, that was okay…better than the alternative…
for the moment. And what a terrifying and horrible moment that was.


It had been broadcast live around the world and still no one was sure
if it was planned specifically for him or just a matter of terrible
timing. Her mind tried to block out the chaotic scenes of the camera
bouncing back and forth between billowing dust and fire and torn
bodies. Shutting her eyes did not help, but neither did opening
them. She saw him over and over, a quick glimpse of the dark suited
figure thrown back out of camera view, into the screaming crowds,
pieces of steel and stone raining over them and among them. The
camera fell, its lens capturing, at an odd angle, settling dust,
running feet and legs, blaring sirens. Then it was righted, whether
by its original operator or someone picking up the banner, so to
speak, and carrying news of the tragedy to a stunned world.

The footage, broadcast instantly to satellites and back to earth,
showed more carnage and devastation. In her career, she had seen
gruesome things before, wreck victims, gunshot wounds, even one
pitiful teenager beaten almost to death with a lead pipe, but never
in all her medical experience had she seen so many body parts strewn
across a supposedly civilized town, so much blood splattered on cars
and walls and people.

When the first mind-numbing moments faded, she gained enough clarity
to edge toward the screen, begging the camera to move, to find him,
to show him to her. She had to see him, even if what she saw was
unbearable. She had to know. But the scenes stayed frustratingly
unfamiliar or unrecognizable. She thought for a moment she had
spotted him bending over a prone figure, dragging a bloodied body
from the rubble, but surely she had been mistaken, projecting what
she desperately wanted to see. The secret service would have been
all over him by then. Then the picture pivoted dizzily and focused
on a mass of people, mostly wearing suits or shreds of suits. They
hovered close together and she had no doubt as to whom they hovered
over. As the camera drew closer, one of them pulled away from the
group and placed his hand up, shaking his head and yelling for the
camera to move back, move back! Reluctantly, it did, and she groaned
audibly at the lack of information. This was wrong. She shouldn't be
watching this on CNN. She should be there, with him.

Damn it! She had spoken with him only an hour before, had heard the
triumph in his voice, the lilt in his tone as he described the
understanding they had forged, the treated that seemed imminent. And
his joy was not just for himself, but truly for the world and the
peace he felt they had brought to such a troubled place. One more
stop, he said, one more stop. A personal stop, she knew. A special
place, a holy place. One more stop, then he was on his way home,
reminding her that he had a stopover in Paris to meet with
representatives of the European Union. If she had gone with him,
they could have had a special evening in the City of Lights. But she
begged off, had genuinely been too busy to accompany him. And now…
now…they might never have such an evening again.

Lily had been with her, had known immediately something was wrong,
had watched in horror with her as the unbelievable scene unfolded.
She wasn't sure when C.J. entered. Someone must have let her in, but
she didn't know who. The normally composed Press Secretary was a bit
disheveled, hair disarrayed, eyes wide and teary.

"Mrs. Bartlet?" she asked quietly, already seeing for herself that
the television was on.

She did not answer, but kept her eyes fixed on the screen, scanning
the sickening news flashes that ran across the bottom: "Bethlehem
Bombing…Bartlet's Condition Uncertain…Will America Retaliate…" Her
brain noted absently that Lily motioned C.J. inside the East Wing
office.

She tried again. "Abbey?"

This time she heard her name, heard the question in her friend's
voice. She turned toward her, eyes stunned, mouth open. Still, she
did not speak.

The taller woman moved closer. "It's Leo."

Her nod indicated the blinking light on the First Lady's desk phone.
She wanted to pick it up, desperately had to know what was happening,
but at the same time she couldn't, couldn't receive the news she
dreaded hearing, couldn't face the fateful words.

"Abbey?"

She turned and nodded vaguely. Lily had to lift the receiver from
the hook and hand it to her. Leo was yelling to someone in the
background, sirens screamed behind him. "Leo?" she said, quietly,
too quietly. He didn't hear her. "Leo?" Louder this time.

"Abbey! Abbey, thank God. Listen, he's alive."

Oh dear God. Dear God. Alive! At least that. Thank you for that.
While her heart screamed in relief, she somehow remained outwardly
calm.

"I coming," she announced.

"Abbey, you can't—"

"I'm coming, so you just make whatever arrangements you have to. I'm
coming."

The momentary silence told her Leo knew better than to argue with a
frightened and heartsick First Lady. "All right," he finally
conceded. "I'll have them prepare 29000 for you."

"29000?"

"The other AF-One."

Oh. Okay. Whatever it takes. "How is he?" she forced, not really
sure she wanted to know. Please let it be good. Please.

"He's…hell, Abbey, I'm not a doctor. I don't know. They say it's
serious, but—"

Serious. Oh God. Her heart jumped into her throat and she pushed it
back down into her chest. "Leo, what are his injuries?"

Static cut through his voice for a moment and when he came back, she
feared she had missed vital information. "…but can't say now…line
not secure…try to stabilize at Shaare Zedek Medical…then maybe move…"

The line clicked dead and she simply sat, staring across her office,
phone still in her hand. Lily eased it from her and replaced it onto
the cradle. C.J. stared, eyes betraying the fear of news that might
be too terrible to comprehend. With one fortifying breath, Abbey
turned to the other two women, squared her shoulders and brought
herself to her fullest height.

"I'm going to Israel. And don't bother to argue." Despite the
danger, neither of her listeners attempted even a perfunctory
protest. It wouldn't have done them a bit of good, anyway.


As the nauseating memories faded enough to allow her a tear-free
breath, she let her eyes focus on the cotton cloud banks that hung
outside the plane window, wondering why the hell she had ever agreed
to let him to run for anything, much less President of the United
States. Wondering if this was it, if this would be a completion of
the fate that had been cheated at Rosslyn.

Wondering if he was conscious…wondering how much pain he was in…
wondering if he was scared…

Wondering if she would ever see her husband alive again.

*********************************************************************************************************
POV: C.J.
Spoilers: a little of "The Portland Trip"
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine, but I wish they were.



Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 2/?
A West Wing Story


This was just impossible. Impossible. Surely she was not sitting
here unable to drag her gaze away from the First Lady, traveling on
an airplane whose fuselage boldly proclaimed to the world THE UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA. An airplane that was usually designated Air Force
One. But not today. Not now. The occupant that determined the use
of that call sign was not aboard.

But his wife was.

C.J. Cregg forced her eyes away from Abbey Bartlet, knowing the First
Lady needed her space, knowing she didn't want someone staring at her
constantly, monitoring her every sigh. But the press secretary found
it difficult to rest her gaze anywhere else. She scanned the clouds
outside the pressurized compartment without really seeing them. Her
mind was back twelve hours, back to that sickening moment when their
world was blown apart.


"C.J.!"

Toby's uncharacteristically panicked voice alerted her instantly that
something had gone terribly wrong. She was just finishing notes for
a 2:00 p.m. press conference, announcing the amazingly successful
peace talks between Israel and Palestine, hinting at an agreement to
provide Palestinians with a land of their own and perhaps finally put
an end to centuries of conflict between the two peoples, dating back
to Biblical times. These announcements usually ended with behind-the-
scenes high-fives from Bartlet's senior staff, which, on occasionally
magical moments, were joined by the President himself. Of course,
that would be difficult with him still in Israel, but C.J. knew this
would have been one of those moments. The exhausting days of
negotiations played out like a well-edited script, and C.J. was
already mentally planning their response to the certainty of Jed
Bartlet's second Nobel Prize.

"C.J., get in here, now!"

In only a few strides she had swung into the room, staring open-
mouthed for an incredulous minute, attempting, without success, to
grasp the meaning behind the chaotic scenes they all witnessed. No
one could move, no one could breath. They stood there, throats dry,
hearts sick, thinking that surely this was not happening.

Something finally cut through to her, a sense of responsibility
possibly, to her President and her country. Or maybe she just
couldn't watch anymore. Whatever it was, it prompted her to break
away from the horrible show before them and kick into gear.

Pointing at Toby, she snapped, "Get Leo on the phone. Or Charlie, or
Ron, or anybody. Anybody who's there, who went with him. Get them
now!"

"I'm on it," he replied, propelled into action by her crisp
assumption of control.

She turned and her eyes fell on Carol, whose own eyes were wide and
shimmering. "Where are Josh and Sam?"

Before her secretary could even open her mouth to answer, she
continued. "Get them here from wherever they are. If Leo's—" Now
she faltered a bit, but sucked in a breath and continued before she
lost it. "If Leo's unable to…make decisions, Josh'll need to take
over that area."

She grimaced at her own assessment. She had not mentioned the
President in that. They had all seen the picture, had known the
President was right in the eye of the blast, had started to work
under the logical assumption that, if he were still alive, he would
not be in any condition to make decisions. She hated herself for
condemning him already as a casualty, but practicality dictated her
decisions now. Later, she would reflect on what those decisions cost
her.

Something else occurred to her. Something so obvious she almost
laughed that she had not thought of it first. Again to Carol, she
said, "The Vice-President. I'm sure the secret service has already
accosted him. Tell him we're here to help him. Josh's on his—"

Almost as if it had been planned, the Deputy Chief of Staff burst
into the media room. His hair, always a little wild anyway, flew in
every direction, his tie had flipped over his shoulder and lay across
his upper back. Breathless, he choked out, "Oh my God, C.J.! Oh my
God!"

But she was proud that his next comment had been, "What steps have
you taken? Have you called Hoynes? How about Fitzwallace or Nancy
McNally?"

Damn! Fitzwallace and McNally, of course. How could she forget
them? "Hoynes, yes. The others, no. Carol—"

"Got it," her assistant responded, already moving away again.

Now she took a quick moment to look into Josh's eyes. The haunted
shadow probably mirrored her own. "Leo?" she asked, almost in a
whisper.

Josh's head shook slightly. "Haven't heard, yet."

"Butterfield?"

Another head shake.

"CNN?" Now the tone dropped into bitter sarcasm.

Josh nodded, an ironic smile on his face. "They seem to be the only
ones that know what's happening. Our NBC affiliate is still showing
Jerry Springer."

She gritted her teeth in frustration. "Well, then let's get them!
Maybe they can tell us what the hell's going on!"

"I got him!" Carol's voice carried down the hallway ahead of her.

"Who?" C.J. called back.

"Leo!" Now the assistant was with them, pointing toward the nearest
phone with its flashing light and strange tone that always sounded to
her like the siren of a French police car.

Gritting her teeth at the possible horror that awaited her on the
other end, she managed a loud "Leo?"

"C.J.?"

"Yeah!"

"C.J.?" He called again over the chaos in the background.

"I'm here, Leo! What's happening? How's the President?" Please
don't say he's dead. Please don't say it.

"Where's Hoynes?"

Oh God. "On his way to the situation room. Josh is headed that way,
too." As she spoke, she watched the Deputy Chief of Staff start to
turn.

"Let me speak to Josh."

Motioning him back, she handed over the phone and waited while he
listened to Leo's instructions. When he finished, he didn't say a
word, merely returned the phone to her and dashed out of the room.

"Leo?" she tried, hoping he was still hanging on the line.

"C.J.? C.J., where's the First Lady? Where's Abbey?"

Closing her eyes against the sudden thought that Abbey would have to
be told, she answered, "In the East Wing."

"Get her."

"Okay. I'll transfer you now. Hang on, Leo." Please hang on.

It had to be the hardest thing she had ever done, walking into Abbey
Bartlet's office like that, knowing the phone call she was directing
to her might be bearing news of her husband's death. Her first
thought was that the First Lady didn't know. She sat so calmly and
quietly. Then she saw the television and realized. Abbey wasn't
calm, she was stunned.

Lily looked up and C.J. saw the pain there, pain for her boss, for
her country, for the world. Her eyes related the concern she felt
for Abbey Bartlet.

Steeling herself, C.J. stepped forward. "Mrs. Bartlet?"

No answer. Did she really expect one? Try again.

"Abbey?" Okay, a personal connection. The haunted look in her
friend's eyes tore at her and it took all her control not to fall to
her knees and embrace the First Lady of the United States.

"It's Leo," she said simply, indicating the blinking phone, but it
still took Lily to pick up the receiver.

She watched Abbey's face carefully, trying to discern what the Chief
of Staff was telling her, trying to see if she needed to catch her
after all.

"I'm coming," the First Lady said, and it was a final declaration.

C.J. listened as a brief argument ensued, then almost smiled when
Abbey asked what the President's injuries were. Thank you! That
meant he was alive! Thank you! When Lily finally hung the phone up
for her, the First Lady took a breath and stood, her body screaming
with a determination that only Abbey Bartlet could muster.

"I'm going to Israel," she announced. "And don't bother to argue."

"Yes, m'am." Wouldn't think of it.


Now as the blue-white streaks eased past her unfocused gaze, C.J.
thought back to the times she had flown on Air Force One with the
President. It was after one infamous cross country trip she decided
that never again would she malign the Fighting Irish, having suffered
the humiliation of wearing a Notre Damn hat and regaling the Press
Corps with a "brisk" rendition of the fight song. Never again. From
now on, Notre Dame was the greatest college, football team,
cathedral, whatever, in the universe. She was Esmerelda to his
Quasimodo. Visions of Charles Laughton swinging from the bells
popped into her brain. Wait…that probably wasn't a good analogy, but
he would never again hear a negative word about his alma mater from
her lips. She knew when she was beaten.

The smile that had crept onto her face faded quickly as she
remembered the current circumstances and she wondered what they would
find when they arrived in Israel. The latest news had the
President's condition as serious. Her briefings before they left had
been vague, since Hoynes and Josh decided to keep details quiet, and
she didn't know if that was for national security or for the peace of
mind of the country. Was it better not to know too much, or better
to know that your President was dying? And was he? She stole one
more peek at the First Lady, who barely held her emotions in check.
C.J. easily saw the terrible fear on her face, noted the red eyes and
the dried streaks of tears, and her heart ached for that very visible
pain.

A touch on her shoulder turned her. Lily gave her a weak smile and
said to both of them, "We're landing in twenty minutes. I thought
you'd want to know."

Abbey nodded, but didn't shift her attention from the clouds.

As she buckled her seat belt, C.J. reflected on the few details she
did have. The President was seriously injured. Had been in surgery
to stop bleeding from internal injuries, and he also had some kind of
head wound. It certainly didn't sound promising. Even Abbey had
caught her breath at the latest update from Leo.

The press secretary looked down on the drifting clouds and closed her
eyes, falling back on almost-forgotten Catholic training to give her
the instrument of prayer. And she prayed now, harder than she ever
had before.

************************************************************************************************

POV: Charlie
Spoilers: ITSOTG (sort of)
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These aren't my characters, but I like to pretend they
are.



Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 3/?
A West Wing Story

Charlie Young drew his head up, working to ignore the pain of a
dislocated elbow and swollen cheek. The guilt had begun to wash over
him a few hours ago, when Leo wandered back into the trauma room and
told him about the President.

He had struggled to his feet despite painful injuries, wanting to
stand for some reason, wanting to show Jed Bartlet respect even when
he wasn't there himself. Leo tried to wave him down, but he refused
to sit until he heard the news.

"He's…he's…it's not real good, Charlie," the Chief of Staff managed,
voice hoarse with emotion. "He's losing blood internally, so they've
taken him back into surgery."

Leo McGarry looked haggard. Charlie took note of the older man's
bruises and fresh stitches. None of them had escaped injury, but his
brain screamed at the injustice of the President's being the worst.
Hadn't he paid his dues? He'd already been in harm's way once,
because of Charlie, who felt it would have been fitting if he had
taken the hit for his boss this time. But he hadn't. His mind
stretched back to the beginning of the journey, a journey for which
Jed Bartlet held high hopes, a journey, which, until a few hours ago,
had shown every indication of meeting their grandest visions.


One of the worse duties Charlie Young had, as personal aide to the
President, was interrupting his moments with the First Lady.
Whenever those involved knocking on their bedroom door, Charlie knew
he would take the punishment later. This time, he felt relatively
safe, since they were in the Oval Office saying goodbye. …relatively
safe…

Cautiously, he eased open the door from the outer office and stuck in
his head, his tone apologetic. "Mister President?"

Ah, damn. He had interrupted a kiss. Well, not exactly interrupted
it, because neither the President nor the First Lady bothered to stop
at the sound of his voice. But he probably put a damper on the
moment. Taking their time to finish, they finally pulled apart a
little and the President answered, not shifting his gaze from her
face.

"Yeah, Charlie?"

"The limo is ready."

He noted the body language of the two. Sometimes it was stiff,
angry. Sometimes weary, resigned. Today it was loose, warm, and
they kept their hands entwined, their bodies touching.

"You sure?" the President asked her quietly, his voice clearly
disappointed.

"Yeah. Lily's got me scheduled for three appearances and a speech to
the League of Women Voters. Getting out of one, maybe…but all four…"

He sighed. "Yeah."

They embraced again and the color of the President's voice changed
from violet melancholy to a teasing rose. "I'm in Paris on the way
back," he crooned softly. "The place for romance. If you come with
me, I'll—" He stopped, his glance catching Charlie's and leaned in
closer to her ear to whisper the rest of his promise. Whatever it
was – and Charlie had a pretty good idea – it drew a low moan from
the First Lady and earned the President another long kiss.

Okay, this was getting away from him. With a nervous cough, he said
to them, if they were even listening anymore, "I'll just be out here."

As the door closed, the President muttered vaguely, "I'm coming."
Charlie assumed that meant he was on his way from the office, but he
couldn't be too certain when Abbey Bartlet was involved.



"Mister Young?"

He jerked from his memories to encounter the series face of an olive-
skinned, black haired intern, clipboard under her arm.

"Uh…yeah?" He tried to clear his head, but a mere shake produced a
throbbing in his face.

"X-rays show no broken bones, but you'll be quite swollen and tender
for a few days, perhaps even weeks." Her rich voice only hinted at
an accent. She spoke excellent English. "I have some samples of
pain medicine. You'll need it with that elbow. Is there anything I
can do to make you more comfortable?"

Take me back in time so I can throw myself in front of Josiah
Bartlet, otherwise…

"No. I'm okay here. Mister McGarry knows…well, I wouldn't want him
to come out with news and me not be here."

She nodded, understanding, and moved to the next ambulatory patient,
one of the secret service men who had pounced on the President after
the attack. The sight of him dragged Charlie's thoughts to that
moment.



It was the last stop, one not actually scheduled, but the President
had inquired about going, and Charlie wasn't surprised, was even
anxious to go himself, to make a pilgrimage of sorts, as he had heard
of other people doing.

And the experience began in triumph, the three leaders basking in
their success, crowds screaming their names in glory. He had not
seen the President so pumped since…well, it was entirely possible he
had never seen the President so pumped. Israeli and Palestinian
police flanked the group as it pushed through the ancient streets of
Bethlehem. Even the Jewish citizens seemed eager to see the U.S.
President visit the historic birthplace. Hands thrust out to be
shaken, cameras snapped and whirred, catching each smile, each wave.

Charlie saw the President laugh and nod at a comment from the Israeli
ambassador. Then his brain stopped working for a minute and he had
no sensations at all. When it managed to again accept the messages
sent from the rest of his body, he found himself face down against
rough stone, the metallic tang of blood in his mouth, his left arm
bent the opposite way it should be.

But that was secondary. Leaning against something, another human
being he realized with a nauseating kick, he pushed to his feet and
looked for the President.

"Jed!" The fear in Leo McGarry's voice echoed off the buildings.
The Chief of Staff was standing, dust-covered and bleeding from at
least a dozen gashes on his face and hands. He moved forward,
stumbling over rubble that remained hidden in the settling debris.

"Jed!"

"Leo!" Charlie called out just as he got a glimpse of whom they
needed. The familiar figure was also standing, thank God, several
yards away, bent over, arms extended. The aide saw him straighten
and realized he had a firm grasp on a child, male or female he
couldn't tell. The President stepped back, pulling the youth from
the rubble, and moved on. Again, he bent, pushing away debris,
dragging another body from the rocks and brick.

"Mister President!" He and Leo called at the same time. No
response. No acknowledgment. Charlie forgot his own pain, wiped
blood from his lip and headed toward his boss. But he saw Ron
Butterfield, hand pressing against his side, reach him first. At the
touch on his shoulder, Jed Bartlet turned.

Then Charlie couldn't keep from yelling out as the President's knees
buckled and he fell into Ron's arms. Grunting, the agent tried to
support him, but his own injuries obviously would not allow it. In
three broad steps, Charlie was there, wrapping his good arm around
the President's waist, jut as Leo flung another arm about his
shoulders.

They eased him to the ground and immediately the uninjured secret
service agents, as well as police, swarmed, creating a barricade
around the most powerful man in the world. The glimpse Charlie had
gotten, though, wasn't good at all. One side of Jed Bartlet's head
was plastered with blood. His suit coat hung in shreds and the white
shirt underneath dripped with sticky red, as well.

"O God," he prayed automatically. "Please be with him. Please be
with him."


Now he prayed the same prayer outside the trauma room at Shaare Zedek
Medical Center in Jerusalem. Prayed for God to be with Jed Bartlet –
and with Abbey Bartlet. If the President died, Charlie knew how
devastating it would be to the country and to the world. But he also
knew the tragedy that it would be to his wife. They were one. And
the loss of one would force the other to live on incomplete.

The First Lady was on her way, Leo had said. When she arrived,
Charlie desperately hoped she would still be complete. Closing his
eyes, he waited for her, and prayed.
****************************************************************************************
POV: Leo
Spoilers: "A Proportional Response," "We Killed Yamamoto," "Posse
Comitatus," and "100,000 Airplanes"
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. I just like putting them
in these situations.



Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 4/10
A West Wing Story


Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!

Leo McGarry leaned his forehead against the doorframe outside the
surgical suite, wincing when the pushed too hard against an aching
bruise. This was real. Unfortunately, all of this was real.

And he was usually a realist, himself, focusing on the practical
aspect of everything. Maybe that was why he had been drawn to Jed
Bartlet in the first place. To his idealism, his occasional Utopian
philosophy. He had pulled Jed in on the proportional response to the
downed Air Force jet. He had convinced him that killing Shareef was
the practical thing to do. He had shot down his vision of curing
cancer within ten years as being unrealistic, impractical.

At least he hadn't quelled his dream of bringing peace to the Middle
East. But maybe someone else had done that for him, either by
creating such chaos again that talks broke down…or…by killing the
chief moderator.

He wished he had Jed's optimism, some touch of hope. He yearned for
it. His best friend lay opened up on an operating table just a few
yards away. And that made him heartsick, nauseated with the very
thought of what had happened. But the pragmatist in him realized
that it wasn't just his friend in there. It was the man who had
negotiated a history-making peace. It was the leader who had a
vision for his country and his world. It was the President of the
United States of America.

Leo fought back the panic that pushed at him. Someone had to keep
his head. Someone had to stay in contact with Hoynes and Fitzwallace
and McNally. And he had done that, as Chief of Staff to Josiah
Bartlet. But he had also thrown up in the streets of Bethlehem, as
the friend of Jed Bartlet. Against his will, the scenes forced their
way back into his mind, surreal images of blood and debris and horror.



From the moment that his eyes located Jed through the choking dust,
he didn't waver, didn't consider any possible ensuing danger, didn't
care what happened to him. He moved, falling over rocks, ripping
open fresh gashes in his hands. Charlie was with him, just as
focused, even with a very obviously mauled arm. But they were a step
too late. He watched as Jed collapsed, knees bending, head falling
back, hair matted with blood that ran down his face into his eyes,
mixing with more blood that seeped through his shirt. Oh God! Oh
God! This was not good. This was very bad.

He saw Ron falter, realized he couldn't take Jed's weight by himself
and reached to help. Charlie caught one side; he caught the other.
They eased him to the ground where they stood, knowing that they
couldn't move him, even if they had wanted to. A human wall formed
around them, agents shouting commands at cameras and panicked
citizens. He looked down at his friend, praying that he still saw
the chest rise, praying that help arrived quickly.

Please, Jed! Hang on! I've got you! Hang on! Ron looked at him,
empathy evident in his pained features, and Leo realized he had
probably said that aloud.

He took Jed's head in his lap, unconcerned about the blood that
immediately soaked his pants. His face was ashen, his head covered
in blood, so much that Leo couldn't even find the wound right away.
But it was there, a serious gash than ran across the left side of his
head almost from the temple to an inch past the ear. His eyes were
closed now, his breathing rattled, tortured. Leo shifted so that he
sat up more and that seemed to ease the gasps a little. Please,
someone come. Please! And then the sirens screamed toward them, and
his own vision became clouded, the shock ran through his body and
hands drew him away, took control of the situation.

"Help him!" he thought he said, but he wasn't sure. Suddenly, he
felt sick, his stomach lurched and he braced a hand against a
battered wall and vomited. More hands directed him to an ambulance,
administered some sort of medication, and his head cleared a bit.
When he finally came to fully, someone told him they had already
taken Jed to Jerusalem, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, a hospital
experienced in treating the injuries that had become all too frequent
from bombings in this country. The President's wounds were serious,
was all he could get out of anybody and, despite his impulse to rush
to be with Jed, he knew his first duty was to his country.
Miraculously, his cell phone had escaped damage and he drew a deep
breath as his shaking fingers made an attempt to get a line through
to the White House.




Now he waited, having done all he could to help Hoynes make decisions
that would stabilize the country, and the world – for now, at least –
having delivered the painful news to Abbey that it was serious, and
that he really didn't know a damn thing else, having waited for
details that would give him some glimmer of hope.

Bleeding internally. That wasn't good. Of course, neither was
bleeding externally, and Jed was doing that, too. Both together had
to be really bad. When he arrived, he had fought his way through the
bustling trauma center, trying to locate anyone who might need to
know, or be reminded of the M.S. complication. Jed would be under,
and maybe that was the least of their worries, but he needed to tell
them, anyway. It turned out, they had already prepared for that.
After all, the President had made his announcement on national, as
well as international, television. The world knew.

Running a hand through his hair, he pushed away from his brace
against the doorframe and dropped into a plastic-covered chair. He
really should check on Charlie again, or, hell, bring him back here.
Who cared what hospital rules were? Just as he contemplated making
that move, a voice called for him.

"Mister McGarry?"

He turned and found himself facing a green-clad man, his scrubs
splattered with blood, his face lined with fatigue.

Oh God. What? What are you going to tell me?

"Mister McGarry. It's about the President…"

**************************************************************************************
POV: Ron Butterfield
Spoilers: ITSOTG
Rating: G
Disclaimer: No character in this installment is my original creation.



Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons 5/10
A West Wing Story


Ron Butterfield was in pain, not that that was anything unusual. He
had been in pain before; it was all part of the job. But this pain
didn't originate from his bruised side or sliced back. It came from
his heart, a place he wasn't accustomed to dealing with. In his line
of work, you had to be hardened, to accept the very real possibility
of losing men and women in the line of fire. And that meant personal
feelings were dangerous.

Ron was a veteran with the Secret Service, twenty years experience
behind him, his first assignment – running beside Ronald Reagan's
limousine. But it was for the administration of Josiah Bartlet that
he assumed the position of head of POTUS detail. That meant
organizing and ensuring the preparation and execution of all
protection that involved the President and his family. Sometimes
that even extended to staff members, as well. He placed himself as
chief protector of "Eagle," knowing that brought the highest risk,
but not willing to delegate it to anyone else.

With other Presidents, it had been a job, something he did out of
loyalty to his country. But something changed with Jed Bartlet.
Maybe it was the closer proximity he had to the President. Or maybe
it was the responsibility he felt as head of security. But if he
really tried to determine the cause, he would have to admit that a
great deal of it rested with the man himself, with the earnest
sincerity, with the humor, with the charm, with the compassion that
he had seen in the President from the beginning of his administration.

At Rossyln, it was in the worry of a father for his daughter. And it
was in the genuine concern of a protectee for his protector.
Absently, Ron flexed his fingers and watched the faded scar tighten.

"…This guy's got about seven broken bones in his hand if someone
wants to give him an asprin or somethin'…"

Yes. With Jed Bartlet it was different.

Pacing the institutional tiles of the hospital, he ran back over the
events of the past hours, trying to find a clue, trying to pinpoint a
moment when they could have stopped the tragedy.



The trip to Israel was a nightmare for the service to begin with.
Just being in that volatile part of the world created havoc in the
department. Plans and back-up plans and back-up back-up plans piled
up in paper stacks and on computer screens. Every possible scenario
was explored, every possible misstep evaluated. Coordination with
Israeli and Palestinian police bounced back and forth across the
Atlantic. Nevertheless, Ron had to face the fact that, regardless of
the completeness of plans, the thoroughness of preparation, if
someone was truly determined to kill the President of the United
States, there was no completely foolproof method of protection. Not
for a President like Jed Bartlet, who was a people's President, who
wanted to be out in the crowd, who insisted on that human touch. It
had almost killed him once, and now Ron hoped that it had not
succeeded on the second try.

Almost there. For a week they had made it. Not one incident,
nothing even close to a problem had occurred. Then the President
said he'd like to visit the Bethlehem site that Biblical scholars and
historians set as the birthplace of Jesus. They should have
predicted this. Jed Bartlet was a religious man, a devout Catholic
and surely did not want to miss such a meaningful opportunity.

Still, things seemed to go well. Crowds adored him, turned out by
the thousands to catch a glimpse, Jews, Christians, Muslims – it
didn't seem to matter. It was a totally unexpected and amazing
sight. An American President cheered through the streets of
Bethlehem. All they needed, Ron observed, were palm branches to wave.

There had been no warning, no indication at all. One minute screams
of joy, the next screams of terror. As soon as he rose, he knew he
was hit. Sharp pain ran across his back and under his arm, but he
ignored it as best he could and set his eyes to scanning the area,
looking for the one man who was his responsibility, the one man on
whose well-being the peace of two nations might hinge, the one man he
served out of both professional and personal loyalty for the first
time in his career.

It didn't take long. As soon as he heard the dual cry from Charlie
and Leo, he saw him, somehow dragging people from the debris,
apparently oblivious to his own terrifying appearance. Ron was
closer, moved immediately, hoping to persuade the President to get
out of the area, to leave the rescues to others. Maybe he would have
to persuade him bodily, knowing Jed Bartlet's stubbornness. But as
soon as he reached him and looked into the stunned blue eyes, he
realized no such force would be necessary. The President was out on
his feet. And then he wasn't even on his feet, falling into Ron as
his surge of strength vanished.

To his own disgust, Ron couldn't hold him; his own injuries betrayed
him and his body failed to follow his brain's orders. The President
was slipping, sliding to the ground, until another strong arm
suddenly appeared and grabbed him. Then Leo joined Charlie and all
three of them managed to break Jed Bartlet's fall. Despite his
personal desire to stay with the President, Ron met his duties,
thrust himself back into the job of protection, even then, especially
then.

Push the crowd back! Get those people away! Move the cameras back!
Move them! Get an ambulance over here!

Then, at the hospital, he stationed his men and women strategically,
placed himself in the viewing room to observe the procedures on the
President, finally stumbling out only when the doctors had done all
they could.



Now he waited to speak with Leo McGarry, to learn as many details as
possible, to report on the initial investigation that his department
had already begun, in cooperation with Israeli authorities and the
FBI.

And he was in pain.

"Ron."

Twisting a little too quickly, he fought down a grimace and greeted
the chief of staff, who looked pretty rough himself, bruised, and
cut, and soaked with the President's blood.

"Mister McGarry," he acknowledged formally.

Leo sighed. "I just spoke with a Doctor Hilweg, the attending
physician. He and our own medical team were the ones you observed in
surgery."

Ron forced himself to wait for the news as Leo took a maddening pause.

The older man squinted in fatigue, then continued. "He made it
through. Internal injuries, head wound. It…it doesn't look so good,
Ron, but he's still alive."

Ron easily saw the pain on the features of this man, who, he reminded
himself, was not only the President's chief of staff, but also his
best friend.

"They said the next few hours will tell."

Their eyes met and Ron allowed his own to accept the terrible sadness
he saw mirrored in the other man's. Leo continued, more
softly, "I've spoken…I've spoken with Hoynes, Fitzwallace, and Nancy
McNally…and…Abbey. C.J.'s with her and they are on their way."

What? "Leo, the danger—"

"I know. But you think I could keep Abigail Bartlet away from him
now?"

No. Ron knew that no one could do that.

Now Leo seemed to look at him more closely. "You gotten any
treatment? You look like you need some."

Ron nodded, but that was not exactly true. His treatment consisted
of stuffing a towel down his shirt to absorb the blood and wrapping
an ace bandage about his ribs. Later he would take the time for real
medical attention. Later, when he knew…

After Leo left to await the President's arrival from recovery, Ron
stood alone for a moment before he returned to his continuing monitor
of security, even here, even now. His side ached; his back burned.

But that wasn't where it hurt the most. Not by a long shot.

****************************************************************************
POV: Abbey
Spoilers: None, unless you're living in the rainforest and haven't
seen "He Shall From Time to Time," or any of the second and third
seasons.
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Despite what I wish, these characters are not mine.



Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 6/10
A West Wing Story


The motorcade screamed to a whining stop in front of the Shaare Zedek
Medical Center in Jerusalem. An abundance of secret service swarmed
around the black limousine, flags still whipping from the front
fenders. American Marines stood heavy guard outside the doors and
for blocks around the building. As she stepped from the back seat,
she took note of the barrage of flashes that suddenly exploded from
all around, but her focus was not on the press or the reporters
shouting questions in all languages from behind the barricades. Her
focus was completely inside that building, through those doors, in
the special unit they told her they had created just for him.

The familiar antiseptic odor greeted her, but she barely noticed it.
Didn't even really notice when C.J. fell behind to field inquiries
from the insistent press. Instead her eyes immediately caught the
young man who stood as she approached, his eyes watering, his face
betraying guilt and pain and sorrow.

"Mrs. Bartlet," he greeted softly, accepting her rare hug.

"Charlie," she managed. "Charlie, how are you?" She took note of
his injured arm, his swollen face.

"I'll be all right, M'am. I'm glad you're here."

Bracing herself, she asked, "How is he?"

"I don't know, really. Leo hasn't been out in a while, and—"

Before he could finish, a slender dark haired man approached. He
obviously intended to speak with her, so she made the appropriate
assumptions, extending her hand automatically as they met.

"Doctor Bartlet," he greeted and she was surprised and grateful for
the professional recognition despite the voluntary forfeiture of her
license.

"Yes, Doctor…"

"Hilweg. Sander Hilweg." His voice was unusual, his accent not
Israeli, but she didn't take the time to analyze it.

No time to exchange pleasantries either. "Tell me."

The doctor's lips tightened momentarily and her breath paused in her
lungs and throat, unable to go up or down until he told her exactly
what had happened to Jed.

"He's alive."

She allowed some of the air to escape in a sigh, let her heart beat
on for a little while longer. He was alive still.

"Perhaps we should talk back here," he suggested, guiding her away
from the main trauma area.

With a flashing thought of the loyal young man who waited, she called
back, "I'll send someone to tell, you, Charlie. I promise."

He smiled slightly. "Thank you, M'am."

The room they entered was small, probably designed for discussions
such as they were about to have. The doctor got right to
business. "It's serious, but maybe we got lucky…"

Got lucky! She pounced on those words of hope and listened as he
counted off the damage.

"…considering the force of the blast and his proximity to it. Okay,
he's got a pretty good concussion and a substantial laceration on the
upper left side of his head. Twenty-two stitches, but the scar will
be under his hair."

She smiled at the doctor's kind concern for Jed's appearance. As if
that mattered to her at the moment.

"We are a little concerned about the effect on his vision. He took a
powerful blow. Didn't crack the cranium, though."

Thank God he's so hardheaded, she decided, with more sincerity than
sarcasm.

"Left side of his torso with deep contusions and lacerations,
severely bruised sternum, four fractured ribs, two ribs completely
broken. When he arrived at the trauma room, his breathing was
labored and he gave indications of internal damage. Most likely one
of the ribs had penetrated a lung, and we were possibly looking at a
ruptured spleen. Both conditions were verified in surgery. We
repaired the lung, as well as internal lacerations, and removed his
spleen. Superficial injuries include numerous cuts and contusions
over his chest and upper arms, a few that required stitches."

Abbey drew from every piece of professional fašade she had not to
break down into uncontrolled sobs at the seemingly unending tally.
Almost any one of them would be considered serious and possibly life
threatening. But all of them together… She clenched her jaw, using
the tightness to keep her emotions from erupting right there.

"There was apparently someone between him and the direct line of the
blast." He sighed. "Probably a child, since most of the debris went
up. His legs are barely touched."

Abbey tried to suppress the pain of that revelation, too, but she
couldn't. Oh, dear God. Tears welled in her eyes, several escaping
and trailing down her cheeks. She didn't bother to wipe them away.

Understanding her reaction, the doctor continued gently. "I believe
he probably did the worst damage to himself after the blast."

Even with the added turmoil, she couldn't suppress an ironic smile at
this last bit of news. Typical of Jed. "What?"

"I don't think the lung was compromised until he got back up. This
probably caused the fractured ribs to break through—"

"Got back up? What was he doing up?"

The doctor smiled slightly. "Apparently, Doctor Bartlet, he was
rescuing people."

She digested this information with a mixture of pride and
irritation. Damned fool. Then, frowning, she realized she needed to
ask one more thing. "What about…what about the…" Grit your teeth
and just say it, damn it. "…the M.S.?"

She would always appreciate the doctor's matter-of-fact tone. "Well,
we're keeping a close watch on that. The anesthesiologist took
precautions during surgery. There are some minor signs, but we've
already spoken with his personal physician."

She flinched at the mention of his "person physician," knowing it was
no longer she.

"Because of the severity of his injuries, we've chosen to administer
daily Betaseron injections as opposed to switching to Prednisone or
Solu-Medrol, since they have a tendency to impede healing. In
addition, even though I know he'll be in extreme pain, we want to get
him off the pump as soon as possible. I'm sure you're aware of the
dangers of extended use of morphine-based pain killers on M.S.
patients."

She nodded, satisfied with the line of treatment so far, trying to
assume the role of physician over wife. It wasn't working.

"Of course, we're also keeping IVs going and filling him with
antibiotics to discourage infection. As long as we can keep his
fever down, we've got a chance of avoiding a major relapse."

A sudden yearning to take over, to make sure everything possible was
being done for her husband flashed through her, but she fought it
down, knowing this man was obviously good or he wouldn't have been
chosen to be in charge of care for the President of the United
States. Concern over his last comment about a very real complication
pushed her on. "Fever?"

"It's hovering around 101, but you realize, of course, that's
understandable, even expected, with his injuries."

She nodded as he related the steps they had taken. And she smiled
when he handed her the chart for her perusal. The gesture touched
her, brought more tears to her eyes, which, of course, given what she
had been through in the past fifteen hours was not too difficult.
Her emotions lay exposed and raw. With effort, she gathered enough
control to meet his eyes without falling apart, then read the
findings, which echoed exactly what he had told her. Jed's vital
signs didn't look great, but at least they were stable. Temperature
101.3. Not good, but not horrible.

"I'm sure you want to see him, now," the doctor was saying.

Hell yes. Get out of my way. "Thank you," she answered calmly.

Apparently, an entire wing had been cleared for their unexpected
patient. She hoped the poor sick people inconvenienced by this were
not in too bad a shape. Her agents followed her closely, passing a
seriously beefed up "Eagle" detail, some of whom had come with her on
29000. At the door, she paused, catching her breath and attempting
to prepare herself for the unavoidable pain of seeing him. At a nod
from her, the agent stepped aside and opened the door. The room was
large, probably an entire ward during normal business, but the sole
bed to the right held its only patient. Her professional eye took in
the working machines, beeping in the right places, and registering
minimally satisfying statistics. Leo turned, as if he sensed her,
and she almost lost it right there.

Without a word, he took her hands in his and kissed her cheek,
drawing her into his arms. For a moment, they held onto each other,
sharing the pain but also the relief of knowing that he was alive.
When she drew back she studied him, taking in the discolored left eye
and several stitched areas across his forehead, chin, and jaw. Then
her eyes fell to the massive dark stain spreading from his abdomen
down to his knees.

"Leo?"

His face betrayed regret when he looked down and realized what she
saw. "Oh, Abbey. I'm sorry."

"Leo, my God. Are you all right?"

"Abbey," he said gently, squeezing her hands. "It's not my blood."

Then whose…

Suddenly his meaning hit her and her knees weakened. As much blood
as she had seen in her life, as much as she had worn herself, it was
different when it was from someone you loved. When it was Jed's
blood. And there was so much. Oh God.

Leo caught her arm, tried to ease her into a chair, but she shook her
head, pushing away and moving slowly to the bed, to the figure in it,
to the battered body of her husband. Oh, Jed.

Steeling herself, she eased up to his right side, careful not to jar
the rail. Her eyes ran over him, counting each bruise, each cut. A
wide white strip wound around his head, his hair springing over the
top. His upper body was bare, allowing for more bandages to wrap his
ribcage, bulky over the left side where the initial damage was, and
the incision where they had repaired and inflated his lung. He would
have detested all of the tubes that ran in and out of his body, but
at the moment, it didn't matter. The dotting of perspiration on his
upper lip bothered her.

"Oh, Jed," she whispered. "What have you gotten yourself into now?"

Unable to keep from it, she ran gentle fingers over the deep bruise
on his cheek, the swollen lip, the sliced brow, the smattering of
black stitches that looked vaguely like caterpillars, the discolored
splotch spreading across the middle of his chest. Despite the
efforts of the medical staff, flecks of blood still stuck to him, in
his hair, under his jaw, on his shoulder. Stepping across the ward
to a sink, she ran warm water onto a bath rag and leaned over his
bed, gently wiping away as much of the horrible evidence as she could.

She didn't notice when Leo left, didn't hear the door or his
footsteps, didn't notice the agents by the window, the agents inside
the room by the door. She didn't notice anything except the steady
beep of the monitor and the slow breathing of her husband. She
didn't even remember pulling up a chair. Maybe Leo had done that.
But now she sat in it, holding his limp hand in hers, running her
fingers across the blonde hairs and the bold veins, feeling the blood
pump, praying that it continued to pump.

She didn't have to push his hair back from his face. The bandage did
that for her, but she brushed her fingers through it anyway and
kissed his lips gently.

"I'm here, Babe. It's okay now. I'm here."

************************************************************************************
POV: Jed/Abbey
Spoilers:
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Jed Bartlet is not mine (but boy, do I wish…). Neither
is anyone else in this story, except for Dr. Hilweg.


Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 7/10
A West Wing Story



Receding muffled waves sloshed through his brain, washing across the
fleeting glimpses of comprehension. Each time they passed he tried
to grab hold, to hang on to the momentary clarity, but it slithered
out of his weak grasp. Sometimes distorted voices rippled through
the waves, some he recognized, some he didn't, but none lingered long
enough for him to identify the invisible speakers. Occasionally his
mind rebelled against the twisted visions of people running and
debris hurling in lethal paths all around. He tried to stop it, to
help them, to protect them, but couldn't get to them all. There were
so many, all reaching out to him for help. He cried out in warning,
in direction, in encouragement, and soon he knew that he cried out in
pain, too. Always the visions ended with a sudden blackness, which
lasted for a while but inevitably gave way to the next cycle of
nauseating waves.



"Mister President?"

Through a long tunnel he heard the voice and tried to focus all his
energy on moving toward it, swimming in the jelly-like substance that
seemed to fill his brain.

"Mister President, can you hear me?"

With a singular lunge, he caught and held on enough to analyze the
speaker. An accent of some sort. Good Lord, surely he had not gone
off and gotten himself captured! What an idiotic thing to do. What
a disaster! But the voice seemed kind enough. Now he became more
aware that the voice was muttering to himself in…German? Last he
checked, Germany was an ally, so unless he had been warped back to
World War Two by some time anomaly, he figured he was not in enemy
hands. All right, try something new. Talking back, perhaps.

When in Rome…or Berlin… "Wo…bin Ich?" His voice was scratchy, weak,
but intelligible.

The tone in the response revealed clearly impressed
surprise. "Sprechen sie Deutsch?"

That's what I was shooting for, anyway. "Ja," he managed to mumble.

"Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Herr President."

Jerusalem? What the hell was a German doctor doing in Jerusalem? Or
did that somehow make sense? Nevermind. Move on. "Wie heisst…du?"
Oops, that was the informal version, but he couldn't quite get his
mind to focus on precise cases and etiquette. Still, he was pleased
that that much had come back to him. German was one of his four
languages, but he hadn't really used it in several years. He hoped
he remembered all of his nouns correctly. Dim memories of calling
Abbey a cheese in French fluttered through his mind.

"Doktor Hilweg. Sander Hilweg." The voice paused, then returned,
its tone casual. "Wie geht es Ihnen?"

How do I feel? Like I just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane
and Rob Ritchie packed my chute. What was the German word for
lousy? His mind supplied, "Nicht gut," which wasn't quite right, but
it didn't matter, because the words wouldn't form on his lips anyway.

"Mister President," the voice returned, a touch of amusement in its
tone, "I'm getting nasty looks from some other people here. I think
they suspect us of some sort of conspiracy. Mind if we change back
to English?"

English? Oh, well, if you want… "Sure."

"Okay. Now, I want you to open your eyes."

They're not open? All right. Do my best. He tried to imagine
himself opening his eyes, tried to follow the simple process of
lifting the lids, but his body refused to help. Finally, after
concerted effort, he managed to ease them to slits, grimacing at the
glaring light that bombarded the action. Blinding pain shot through
his skull and his eyes shut involuntarily.

"Lights down!" he heard the doctor order. "I'm sorry, Mister
President. Try again, please."

Reluctantly, he did. This time the glare was gone and he could make
out blurred figures above him, their outlines similar to the pastel
blotches of an impressionist painting. He blinked a couple of times
to clear his vision, but it didn't help. Instead, he tried to
concentrate on one of the blobs before him. The first one he saw
probably belonged to the voice that had dragged him from his
ubiquitous floating.

"Sir, what do you see?"

"Um." Looks like Monet or maybe Picasso, even though he was really a
Cubist—

"Mister President?" A little more forceful this time.

Leave me alone. Just let me groan in peace.

Another voice entered his brain, this one familiar, secure,
warm. "Mister President?"

Now he smiled, even though he wasn't sure it actually reached his
lips. Rousing his energy for this voice, he grunted out the
word. "Leo."

"Yeah. Yeah. I'm here. Just take it easy. Man, it's good to hear
your voice."

Gee, Leo seemed awfully happy, for Leo, anyway. Leo? Mister
President? His brain finally deciphered some of the information that
had been fed into it in the past five minutes. Oh, hell. I'm the
President. Take it easy? Can't. Can't now. What happened? Have to
do something.

"What…" But he couldn't get it out, was fading quickly, the darkness
closing back in on him.

"I'll tell you later," Leo assured him.

"No. Not…later. Now." He'd hang on. He had to know. Something
had happened. Something bad. He must have been involved. He really
did feel like he had fallen out of an airplane, or at least what he
figured that would feel like if you actually survived. God, he hurt
all over, especially his head and his left side. Okay, and his chest
didn't feel so great, either. He wished Leo would lift the anvil off
it.

With a sigh, his friend and chief of staff glanced at the doctor,
whose unfocused head nodded, then gave a few bits of information to
his commander-in-chief. "There was apparently a bomb at the site.
We're still not sure if it was planted there specifically for you, or
if it was…well…a stray that detonated at a really crappy time. You
took shrapnel and were thrown from the blast."

Bomb? Site? Thrown…oh, yeah. Now those nightmare visions made more
sense. He remembered others, too, though. "Who…else?" He stopped
to draw a deeper breath, but choked it off when his side and chest
exploded in pain. Damn! Okay, don't do that again. Had to
communicate better, but his body was betraying him, dragging him back
down. "Dead?"

Leo had moved into his view now, another blur really, but a
comforting one. "Three secret service dead, five injured. Ron
caught debris in his back and side and is cut up and bruised pretty
good, but he's all right. Several in the crowd killed and wounded.
I don't know that count. But…"

The hesitation drew his fading attention. "…the Israeli ambassador
is dead."

God. His eyes shut against the pain of that information. Then
something horrible occurred to him. They flew open again. "You?"

"Sir?"

"You…okay?"

"Fine." He heard the smile in the voice. Thank God. "A few cuts
and bruises. That's all."

"Charlie?"

"He'll be fine, too."

Okay. Okay. He made an attempt to grasp Leo's arm, to reassure him
that everything was all right, to make sure for himself his friend
was fine. But he didn't seem to be able to move. Something was
holding him down. Now he tried to turn his head to look. Fire
flashed from his eyes back through his brain and he heard himself
groan even though he had not planned to at all. Firm hands steadied
his head.

"Easy, Mister President," warned the doctor. "Don't try to move. We
want to keep your upper body immobilized a little longer. I'm going
to let your morphine pump take over in a minute and you just need to
let it work."

No! Can't be under any longer. Need to run the country. Who's…
who's in charge? "Leo!" I need to see Leo.

"I'm here, Sir."

"Leo, who's—"

"Don't worry. It's okay. Hoynes is in the White House. Josh and
Toby are with him, and Fitzwallace and McNally are in the situation
room. I talk with them every hour or so."

Okay. Not great, but okay. Now his thoughts started to clear a
little. He was in the streets of Bethlehem, shaking hands of beaming
Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, his Israeli tour a resounding
success, peace treaty imminent. One last visit to the historical
birthplace of Jesus before he concluded. One last visit. The
Israeli ambassador had just turned to him, smiling, and commented on
how excited everyone seemed to be to have him there.

…You can't say Dallas doesn't love you today, Mister President…

Then he saw only debris and blood and heard shouts and cries of
anguish. He stumbled among the torn bodies, clasping hands, digging
through rubble. He heard himself calling out directions, remembered
grabbing the arm of a child and pulling him from under a wall of
bricks. Then we was down, tried to get back up, to help, needed to
help, but he had no strength to fight it. Couldn't see. Something
in his eyes. Couldn't breathe. His body burned all over. Get Leo.
Tell Leo. Call Washington. Get Hoynes…get Hoynes… Who knows what
happened? The world. The world saw it…had to see it…cameras were
following…Abbey. Oh God, Abbey saw it.

"Abbey," he gasped.

Leo took his hand, gripping it in comfort. "Abbey's been here. We
made her take a break, but I've sent Charlie to get her. They'll be
back any minute."

"How…long?"

"How long what?"

He swallowed, trying to drag enough energy to his lips to speak a
little longer. "How…long since…explosion?"

Leo seemed to hesitate briefly, but answered, "Day before yesterday.
About forty-two hours or so."

Oh God. What was happening with the peace treaty? What had this
done to it? He fought to ask Leo, struggled to raise himself in the
bed, despite the doctor's warning, but the black tunnel had almost
engulfed him now, pushing the colorful blobs far away. As he tried
to mumble a response, it fell short of intelligibility. Instead, he
could only surrender to the darkness and let go, hearing, as he faded
out, the doctor's comments to Leo.

"I'll speak to Doctor Bartlet when she gets here. Certainly his
regaining consciousness is a major step. If we can keep any…
complications at bay, I think he has a chance."

Well, good. It's always a bonus to get blown up and still have a
chance.





Abbey Bartlet stood next to the bedrail, her body weary of the chair
and antsy for Jed to come around again. She had returned less than a
minute after he drifted off from his initial awakening. And even
though Dr. Hilweg assured her things were looking better, she yearned
to see for herself, had to hear his voice and look into his eyes.
That had been five hours ago and she was sure he would come to any
minute.

But he remained stubbornly asleep. Typical. Doing the opposite of
what she wanted. No, she realized, that wasn't totally fair. She
had to include herself in that category, too. Maybe if she had come
with him, if she had been here… But she knew it would have changed
nothing, except place another person in danger.

Oh, Jed. You're really pissing me off, you know? Wake up already.

Sighing, she closed her eyes and muttered, "What am going to do with
you, Jethro?"

"Don't…call me…that…"

With a jerk, her head rose, her heart leaped, and her hands reached
over the rail, grasping his tightly.

"Jed!"

"…'s better…"

His eyes had not opened, but he still managed to greet her
appropriately. "Hey, Babe." It was not even a whisper and she
wasn't totally sure she had heard it until she saw the slight smile.

Squeezing his hand, she leaned forward to brush her lips against
his. "Hey yourself. How do you feel?"

"…hurts…"

She bit her lip and winced, looking away for a moment. "I know,
Sweetheart. I know. I'll be here."

She couldn't tell him, yet. Couldn't break it to him that this was
nothing compared to what he would go through before long. Dr. Hilweg
had mentioned that he wanted to begin withdrawing the morphine
tomorrow morning. And, even though she agreed with him and knew it
was the best decision in the long run, she dreaded it for Jed. God,
she dreaded it for him. When she brought her gaze back up, she saw
that his eyes had opened just barely.

"God…you look…sexy," he mumbled, and she laughed and cried at the
same time. He was so predictable, so wonderfully predictable.

His eyes closed again, but he still continued to speak. "…shouldn't
have come…dangerous…"

"Well," she returned, forcing herself to keep the tone
light, "remember the night you left? You promised me a romantic
evening in Paris on the way back if I came with you."

The second smile almost reached his lips. "…said `no' though..."

"A girl can change her mind, can't she?"

She cringed at the thinness of his usually rich, strong
voice. "Always, Sweet…Knees…"

Brushing at his hair, she dropped her hand to run the back of it over
his jaw, frowning at the beads of perspiration on his face. "You're
all right, Baby. Just rest now." But the increased flush of his
cheeks and the warmth there punched at her stomach. Please, she
prayed, please don't let this happen, too. Isn't the other enough?

He managed to rally for a moment. "Abbey?"

She bent over him to catch the weak tone. "Yeah? I'm here. What is
it?"

Again, the smile shadowed his lips. "Go with me…to Paris. I could…
jump you…under the Eiffel…Tower…"

Shaking her head, she chuckled, despite her fears. So
predicable. "Sure, Pumpkin," she agreed. "We'll do that. But we're
not in France, yet, so you go to sleep now, okay?"

"…'kay…" The even, heavy breathing told her he had slipped off again
for a while. Let him go. It won't be long before sleep will be
impossible.

As she fell back into the chair, the pressure of suppressed emotions
finally defeated her and she broke down, face in her hands, great
gasping sobs shaking her whole body, trying to cleanse itself of the
poisonous agony of the past three days. She didn't hear the door
open, wasn't aware of anyone else with her until Leo's voice,
bordering on panic, broke through to her.

"Abbey! Abbey, what is it? What's happened?"

Behind him, the rush of more feet clattered across the floor, and
when she looked up a dozen green and white figures hovered in Code
Blue mode around Jed.

"No!" she shot out, standing and reaching out simultaneously. "No!
He's all right. He just…came to for a while and…" Trailing off, she
ducked her head at the hot flush of embarrassment. Everyone in the
room relaxed with a collective sigh, their sympathetic expressions
inadvertently causing her more chagrin.

"I'm sorry, Leo. I just—"

"Oh dear God, Abbey. It's not like you don't deserve to let go. I'm
sorry I burst in like that. I heard you and thought—" He broke off
and she was grateful for that. She didn't want even to contemplate
the rest of his sentence.

Quietly, the medical staff slipped from the room, leaving them to
their privacy, leaving her to her healing. After a moment, Leo
dragged another chair over and motioned for her to sit. When she
did, he eased next to her and pulled her into his chest, whispering
soothing reassurances, rubbing her back, letting her tears soak his
fresh shirt. She had no idea how long they stayed in that position,
but in those moments, or maybe even hours, she had never felt so
close to her husband's best friend. And she was reminded, for the
first time in months, why Jed loved him so much.

************************************************************************************
POV: Leo
Spoilers: None
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Only Dr. Hilweg is mine. The others belong to A.S. I'm
glad I can borrow them, though.

Thanks, again, in this installment to Linda for technical assistance
regarding M.S. medications.


Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 8/10
A West Wing Story


"What do you mean you're not ready to make a judgment, yet? You've
had five days, for cryin' out loud!"

Leo's McGarry thin frame paced in agitation in the room Ron
Butterfield had secured for him at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. It
was his escape from the tension of one painful situation into another
equally difficult one. Now, frustration boiled up into his face,
clenching his jaw and furrowing his brow.

"Damn it, Nancy," he bit out, "we've got to make a decision. We've
got to know, soon."

As usual, Nancy McNally's voice did not waver, did not vacillate even
one note. "I know, Leo. I know. But we've got to be sure."

"I know." All right. Drop it for now. Move on. "How's Hoynes
doing?"

"Okay."

"Nancy—"

"Leo, he's doing fine. A good job."

"Yeah. Listen, when do you think—"

"Give me ten more hours and I think we can give you a 85 percent
reliability rate." It was something he had noticed about her
frequently, her ability to anticipate the next question. Sometimes
it irritated him, but Jed seemed to revel in the quickly paced
conversations they enjoyed.

As if she heard his thoughts even then, she asked, "How is he?"

Trying to suppress a sigh, Leo closed his eyes, knowing she couldn't
see that gesture of pessimism, at least. "It's tough, Nancy."

Only exhaustion and stress allowed that bit of candor, but once done,
he felt relief, felt the stream open up just a bit. "They took him
off morphine yesterday and he's coming around more, but that just
leads to…"

He bit his lip at the vision of clear agony on his friend's flushed
face earlier that day, flinched at the tight eyes, the locked jaw,
the pinched brow. Leo couldn't imagine what kind of pain he must be
enduring now and wished there were some way he could take it on
himself, wished sincerely that he could trade places with Jed Bartlet
just for a little while, just to get him through this.

"Leo?"

He had almost forgotten about Nancy. "It's tough," he repeated and
sensed even through the secure channel that she understood completely.

"Yeah. Tell him we're with him, won't you? And the First Lady, too."

Now Leo smiled a little. "They know. But I'll tell them."

"Leo?"

"Yeah?"

"Hoynes is doing okay."

"Yeah."

"All right. I'll update you within two hours."

As the phone line clicked dead, he reflected on their desperate
search to discover exactly what happened, to prevent the total
collapse of their hard-won peace efforts, to keep the world from
falling apart. Nancy was right; Hoynes had done well, had reassured
the nation that things were under control, even as the survival of
its President remained uncertain, even as rumors of American,
Israeli, and Palestinian retaliation ping-ponged from satellites to
televisions all around the world. No one had yet stepped forward to
claim responsibility. The Palestinian government flatly denied any
knowledge or involvement, as expected. Leo had gotten to the
Israelis as quickly as possible to stifle any impulse to cast blame,
and to his great surprise, was acknowledged, at least for the moment.

FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Israeli Intelligence, working both together
and separately, stayed busy around the clock combing through debris,
sifting through rubble in an attempt to locate clues to the blast.
The world waited. Waited for the next move. Waited for someone to
blink.

And waited impatiently for word on Josiah Bartlet. The block around
Shaare Zedek teemed with reporters from around the globe, jostling
for any glimpse of First Family members or Bartlet staffers. Except
for her arrival, Abbey Bartlet had not made an appearance at all, but
Leo knew even the reporters didn't expect that. Still, they hungered
for news, for any tidbit, and occasionally Leo fed them C.J. to keep
them at bay.

Stepping past the agent that continuously guarded the secure room, he
glanced up at an overhead television, noting the subtitles across the
bottom of the screen. At front center stood the press secretary,
calm as usual, shoulders relaxed, voice steady. God, she was good,
Leo reminded himself, filing a mental note to tell her.

"As I said, the President's condition has been upgraded from serious
to stable. He is no longer under the influence of the morphine pump,
but handling the pain from his injuries…on his own."

Leo winced. That was too close to the truth. The only medication
Dr. Hilweg had allowed Jed was Naproxen, which made him so sick to
his stomach that it defeated the purpose. So they offered Tylenol,
plain old over-the-counter Tylenol. And it worked about as well as
they had expected. If it was giving Jed any relief at all, Leo was
just glad he couldn't see him without it.

"Yes, the President is aware of the situation and aware of Vice-
President Hoynes' actions. Vice-President Hoynes has full authority
to act under the President's directives, which is exactly what he is
doing."

From listening to C.J., the public would assume that, although Jed
Bartlet's injuries certainly were not minor, he was already well on
his way to recovery.

"The President is now speaking regularly with the Vice-President and
making the final decisions."

Again, Leo tightened his lips. This was certainly an optimistic
statement, if not closer to an outright lie. True, Jed was no longer
under the influence of mind-altering painkillers, but now the
severity of the pain itself acted as an almost-as-powerful deterrent
from logical and coherent thought.

Forcing back the occasional rush of panic that had burned through him
since the explosion, he realized he needed to go back, needed to
relieve Abbey for awhile. Ever since her emotional collapse, she had
draped the strong curtain of wife and First Lady about her, had
calmly handled each bit of news, good or bad.

Most of it, thank goodness, was good: ribs beginning to heal, lung
functioning well. They had removed the bandage from around his head
and declared the wicked gash progressing as expected. Even his eyes
had cleared somewhat, although he still complained about double
vision. The chief of staff chuckled at Jed's comment, while still
under the influence of the morphine, that he didn't really mind
seeing two of C.J. and Abbey, but he thought it cruel and unusual
that he was forced to look at two Leos. Recently, though, the
President's easy humor had been conspicuously absent.

One reason was the pain, but the other reason, the ominous
uncertainty looming over them, was ten times worse.

Stepping into the room, he felt the tension, sensed the crackle of
frustration snapping all around the bed. Jed Bartlet sat on the
edge, his eyes dark, his teeth gritted, sweat running freely down his
face. Abbey leaned over him, hand on his back, murmuring low tones
of encouragement and support. Leo considered stepping back out,
letting them deal with this in privacy, but, hell, with four secret
service agents in the room, he figured he wasn't really intruding too
much. He watched for a minute, allowing Jed to become accustomed to
the new position.

Finally free from almost all invading tubes, the President had first
requested, then actually ordered the doctor to allow him pajama
bottoms to replace the ignominious hospital gown. Successful, he now
perched in that attire, Abbey by his side to steady him,
contemplating actually standing on his feet for the first time since
Leo had watched him collapse into Ron's arms five days ago.

"You are the most stubborn jackass," Abbey was saying, her voice both
irritated and anxious. "You're not ready, yet. Give the drugs a
chance to get completely out of your system."

Leo knew, then, what fear was behind Abbey's scolding. The reason
Dr. Hilweg had taken Jed off the painkillers so soon, the logic
behind allowing the President to face such severe pain on his own.
It was because of the weakness. It was the M.S.

Moving closer, he cleared his throat, attempting an upbeat tone,
trying to distract a stubborn man from his single focus. "Hey!
Leaving already? I just got here."

Abbey's eyes shot a grateful look his way before they returned to
rest on her husband, who did not respond, but shifted slowly to brace
his arms against the mattress. It was obvious he intended to stand,
regardless of anyone else's experienced opinion.

Giving up any pretense now of not understanding the situation, Leo
stepped quickly to his friend's side. "What are you doing there,
Mister President?" he asked pointedly.

Forced to acknowledge his presence, Jed managed to grind out, "Either
move…or help."

Okay. Not much of a choice. Try delay tactics. "I'll help, sure.
But why don't we wait for Doctor Hilweg? Let him be here, too."

He dodged the dagger that shot from Jed's cool eyes then watched as
the patient nodded acquiescence.

That was easy, he thought, until Abbey said, "I've already called for
him."

Ah. No wonder. For a while they remained in that position, no one
talking, the only noise from the heart monitor still attached to
Jed's chest, and the pained breaths he took.

Finally, Leo heard the door swing open and looked up to see the
requested physician. Dr. Sander Hilweg smiled cheerfully, as if
totally oblivious to the tense scenario set before him. "Good
morning, Doctor Bartlet, Mr. McGarry," he greeted pleasantly, then
turned his full attention to his troublesome patient. "Herr
President," he acknowledged, having adopted that reference after
their first bilingual, and rather hazy, conversation.

Leo heard only a grunt in response.

"So you want to get up?"

Abbey answered for him. "You'll find he's the most stubborn patient
you have had, Doctor." But her eyes softened as she added, "And
determined. Yes, he wants to get up."

Leo noticed the agreement pass between the two physicians, and saw
Abbey's gratitude at being included, even unofficially.

"Mister President," Hilweg began, his warm tones cooling slightly
with the seriousness of his statements. "I would advise you to wait
at least another day before you attempt to stand."

Jed's head turned, his eyes still glaring. Clearly he was not
pleased with the doctor's suggestion.

"As we discussed, the reason for taking you off the morphine was
because of its weakening effect on patients with M.S. We felt the
sooner you came off, the better."

Still, Jed did not respond. Leo sensed a battle brewing.

"If you try to stand now, and fail, it could still be because the
drugs are not completely out of your system. Or…it could be the M.S."

The Presidential jaw bunched, worked in anger and frustration. Leo
knew that frustration, could literally feel it leaping from his
friend.

Again, Dr. Hilweg made the attempt. "Let's just give it—"

"No." The tone was flat, tight, unapproachable. "Let's try…now."

Resigned glances shot among the three and Leo sympathized with the
anxiety on the German doctor's face, while at the same time he
suppressed a grin. He could have told him this battle was not his to
win, at least not yet. Whether he stood tall or fell flat on his
face, Jed Bartlet was going to try. It didn't really matter what his
doctor thought.

"All right," Hilweg sighed, voice betraying defeat for the first time
since Leo had met him. "Mister McGarry, we'll need your help. You
take the left side and I'll get the right."

Leo braced, carefully holding Jed by the elbow, ready to catch him if
necessary. Dr. Hilweg moved to the right. Abbey hovered behind.
Pushing off from the edge, Jed allowed the weight of his body to
shift downward, asking his unused muscles to perform again. For a
moment, he swayed under his own power and Leo felt the joy push at
his throat.

Then it happened. Jed's legs buckled, his body dropped, and it took
all Leo's and Dr. Hilweg's strength to keep him from collapsing onto
the floor. Grabbing his arms, they dragged him into the nearby
chair, both grimacing against the agonized cry torn from his throat
with the rough handling. Abbey was there immediately, wiping his
face, her tone soothing, even if her words were not.

"Stubborn son of a — You couldn't take anyone's word for it, huh?
Now…" She stopped and bit her lip, running a trembling hand over his
jaw, through the hair at his right temple.

"Mister President?" Hilweg asked quietly.

Jed took a steadying breath, a little too deeply, and winced, then
brought his gaze up to meet the doctor's. His brow lifted. Leo
figured he couldn't split his energy between speaking and managing
the pain, so he elected to remain silent. Probably preferable to
being vocal and screaming.

"This does not necessarily mean…" Hilweg sighed heavily, obviously
comprehending how the President would interpret this
development. "Do not assume this means a relapse. Let's wait on
that, all right?" But Leo heard the doubt even in the doctor's tone,
and knew Jed heard it, too.

After a moment, the President nodded, but his expression showed
dejection, almost a surrender to the inevitable. It scared Leo. It
scared him more than anything else had scared him.

"All right," the Hilweg echoed. "Why don't you sit there for
awhile? Get used to being up. I'll have the nurse come in with some
broth. Do you think you could sip a little?"

Again, Jed nodded, but without enthusiasm. Leo knew he had not had
anything except intravenous fluids since the explosion, could tell he
had lost weight. It showed in his face more than anywhere else.

As the doctor left, a nurse entered to check on vital signs, to
straighten the monitor and IV lines. Leo walked Abbey into the hall,
taking a deep breath.

"How are the girls?" he asked, unwilling to begin the conversation
with a deeper, more painful question.

She seemed grateful. "Okay. I call them twice a day. Liz wanted to
come. Well, the others, too, but she was really adamant."

"Is she?" He hoped his voice didn't betray the fear at that idea,
but he prayed Abbey told him no.

Thank God, she was shaking her head. "Jed refused to let her." She
smiled. "Liz said she was coming anyway, but she won't. Not since
Jed said no."

The walked in silence down the hallway, past the guards, to the
windows, looking out over the milling crowds of press, gawkers, and
genuinely concerned people. From behind them, a television anchorman
babbled on, flooding the airwaves with every trivial bit of
information he had, and not really saying anything new at all. Abbey
watched the scene for a moment, then turned to Leo, jaw set, eyes
hard.

"Come on."

What? Jogging to catch up with her, he asked, "What are you doing?"

She didn't answer, but swung around the corner, gathering secret
service as she went. When a surprised C.J. fell in with them, she
pulled her close and whispered a few things. Before he knew it, they
had stepped out into the bright outside light and the First Lady of
the United States, clad in a sweater and jeans, stood at the vast
array of microphones. A few stunned reporters jumped up. Others
followed as they comprehended this magnificent moment of serendipity.

C.J. announced that there was a statement to be made, then said
clearly, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the First Lady."

Statement? What statement? No one wrote a statement. But his panic
vanished with one look at her face.

Abbey approached the microphones, head high, face composed. "I would
first like to express my condolences and my husbands' to those people
who lost family and friends in this horrendous attack. They were
innocents. They had come only to celebrate peace, not to suffer
war. I would also like to express my thanks and my family's thanks
for your prayers and your support during this time." She allowed a
gentle smile to cross her face. "The President is doing better. As
a matter of fact, he got up a little while ago and is gaining
strength each hour."

Okay. That's technically true.

At her pause, questions shot from all about the crowd.

"Mrs. Bartlet! Can you give us a medical update? Run through the
injuries…Is the President's M.S. affected…How much pain is he in…?"

Leo watched as Dr. Abigail Bartlet pursed her lips, took a deep
breath, and answered, "I'll need to let Doctor Hilweg address those
issues at the next press conference. He is the President's attending
physician and as such will be in the best position to make those
observations."

Oh, Abbey. How hard that was. How proud I am of you.

Now she looked directly into the camera identified with the familiar
CNN logo. "The President wants me to tell you that we will prevail
over this. That he will be fine. That he is even now planning to do
everything he can to ensure that peace is the rule rather than the
exception in this world. He wants me to tell you he knows we are
strong, as American citizens and as world citizens. And he wants me
to tell you he will be speaking with you himself as soon as possible."

Edith Wilson strikes again, he thought. You did good, Abbey. You
did good.

And with that she nodded and backed away, pulling her entourage with
her, leaving the hungry reporters baited for more. As he walked with
her, their eyes met and he smiled, nodding. She nodded back, mutual
agreement between them.

Unable to control the M.S., unable to control Jed's pain, she had at
least taken control over something. Had shown the world that things
were all right. That everything was going to be all right.

He wanted to believe it. Oh, how he wanted to believe it.

When they exited onto the special presidential unit, Ron Butterfield
stepped from the secure room. "Mister McGarry?"

He looked up and raised his brow in acknowledgement.

"Ms. McNally needs to talk with you."

******************************************************************************
POV: Abbey
Spoilers: "Two Cathedrals," "H.Con 172," "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen"
Rating: PG-13/R? (maybe a little)
Disclaimer: Not mine.


Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 9/10
A West Wing Story


Abbey Bartlet twisted her neck around, hearing the crack of
vertebrae, feeling some of the tension release with each snap. With
gritty eyes, she looked across the bed at her husband, who had once
again been hauled into the chair, changing positions, trying to coax
his uncooperative muscles into action. She knew what Dr. Hilweg had
said. She had told herself the same thing, but when Jed couldn't
stand yesterday, she saw the pain on his face. Not just physical
pain, but the pain of failure, the pain of realization that this
could be it, this could be the moment they hoped never would come.
That when he stood on that Bethlehem street moments after the
explosion, it would be the last time he ever stood. God, she
couldn't face that, now. Knew he couldn't.

She had watched him fight his way through incredible pain with barely
a whimper. Had winced herself when the nurses changed his dressings
and she caught glimpses of the wicked wounds. Had held the
wastebasket as he vomited first from the Naproxen, then from the pain
itself. Surely he had earned the right not to have to deal with the
M.S., too. Surely he had.

Leo had been by, then left, and she felt the tears burn as she
remembered his gentle praise about the impromptu press conference.
She wasn't sure what had made her do that. Didn't know what her
motive initially was, but now she was glad. Her words had comforted
a nation and helped secure at least temporary stability for the
world. Leo had told her that, said that she had done a good job.
She succeeded at something, at least, even if it wasn't making Jed
walk, or taking away his pain. She couldn't do that, but she could
speak for him. So she had.

Now she watched him carefully, eyes scanning the unshaven jaw,
appraising each twitch, each grimace, each drop of sweat that rolled
down his cheek. Wondering what he was feeling, wondering if he
really had given up like it seemed. No amount of cajoling or teasing
had brought about a smile earlier. He barely responded at all. And
that scared her, that dull, unmotivated blankness. Jed Bartlet was
not like that. Jed Bartlet was a passionate man. That's why she
married him. Passionate about literature, passionate about
economics, passionate about politics, passionate about the Church,
passionate about people, passionate about his children…and passionate
about her.

She closed her eyes and tried to remember the last time they had made
love before his trip. It must have been probably three or fours days
prior to his leaving, maybe even more, a rare moment in a chaotic
week. But he had surprised her, had managed a romantic candlelit
dinner with wine and Mel Torme crooning in the background. The snare
was carefully set, and if she followed him into the snare, she went
willingly, just as eager as he was to be caught.

She had lain in his arms, had kissed his chest, had trailed her hair
down his body, awakening those passions. His response was heated as
he drew her to him, as he moved inside her, as he brought her to
exquisite climax before allowing himself to join her. That was in
another time, another world. The world had changed, now. Changed
forever. Just as Rosslyn changed it, so did Bethlehem, maybe even
more so.

Did it seem particularly special now as she wondered how many more
times he could do that to her? She told him it didn't matter. It
wouldn't affect her love for him at all if this disease progressed to
the point that she knew he feared the most. The point at which he
couldn't make love to her. And she meant it. Still, the thought of
never having him inside her again, of never feeling the fullness of
his thrusts, the heat of his release, that thought cut through her
and she knew it had to be slicing him apart, as well.

Of course, just because he might not be able to walk now, or even
ever, didn't mean he would be impotent. She knew that, but it was
the beginning, perhaps, the first step that led to his
disintegration.

Shut up! she scolded herself. Shut the hell up and focus on right
now, on today. He's alive. That's more than you knew for certain a
week ago. He's alive.

"Jed?"

His eyes, which seemed focused as much on the floor as anywhere else,
didn't shift, didn't even blink acknowledgement of her call. She
tried again.

"Jed?"

"Hm?" A short, reluctant answer, what she had been getting most of
the time since yesterday.

"Leo said he'd come by later to update you on their findings. Said
he had a surprise for you. That sounds good, doesn't it?"

Maybe a nod. She wasn't sure.

This withdrawn, silent man was a stranger to her, an alien. She
didn't know him, and she sure didn't know what to do with him. He
had abandoned the fight, had relinquished his claim on the race, on
breaking the victory ribbon. And it tore her apart more thoroughly
than watching him struggle with the pain, because with that she knew
he could do it, knew he would eventually overcome it.

Okay, she couldn't just sit there and watch the most vibrant man she
had ever known waste away physically and mentally. Something had to
be done. Using her own pain and trauma of the past week, she balled
up her emotions, reared back, and hurled them.

"Damn you, Josiah Bartlet!" she spat, her voice jarring the secret
service agents by the doors and windows. But she ignored their
startled stares. "Damn your cowardly hide."

That hurt. God, that hurt to say to him after all he had been
through, after the courage he had shown. But she blustered on,
committed now. It had gotten his attention, that was for sure. He
raised his head to look at her, eyes squinted in pain and confusion,
head cocked as if he was not certain he had heard her right.

"Abbey?" The hurt there, the betrayal almost destroyed her resolve,
but she hung on, gritted her teeth and continued.

"Are you just going to sit there for the rest of your life? Just let
it happen, welcome it? I thought maybe you'd at least try for me,
for your wife who's seen you through almost thirty-five years of
marriage, three children, six campaigns. But now I see how much I
count, how much effort you'll put out for me." She snapped out the
words, knowing if she stopped she would certainly not be able to
finish.

His jaw dropped now, shock replacing the blank mask. "Abbey, I—"

"And just forget about your responsibilities to your country, to the
world. It doesn't matter. Hoynes seems to be doing fine on his
own." Ouch. That was a low blow and she saw from his narrowed eyes
that it hit square on target.

"If you've given up," she plunged on, "if you figure it's too hard to
fight this, then I don't know you. God, Jed, I don't even want to
know you."

He paled suddenly, a sick greenish flush crossing his face and she
almost reached for the wastebasket again. His eyes shifted from
her. He stared at empty space and she could tell he was somewhere
else, some other time, some other place. Wherever it was, it had
affected him strongly. At last she had reached him.

When he finally spoke, his voice was barely audible. "Abbey, what…
what are you talking about? What are you saying?"

Now she gave up, couldn't do it anymore, swung around the bed to
kneel in front of him, to take his hands in hers, to look up into the
eyes of the man she loved with all her heart.

"I'm talking about Josiah Bartlet. I'm talking about the strongest
man I know, a man who doesn't give up, even when he's the dark horse
candidate behind 48 points in the polls, even when he's facing
Congressional censure, even when he's dealing with a disease he
doesn't deserve." She allowed herself a shadowy smile. "Even when
he's been blown up."

He looked up, and even though he didn't mirror the smile, she saw a
flicker of amusement in his eyes.

"I'm talking about the President of the United States. I'm saying it
doesn't matter, Jed. Nothing matters but right now, and right now
I've lost you. This is not the Jed Bartlet I know. I've lost you
and I want you back." Tears streamed down her face, splashed gently
on their hands and she saw them form in his eyes, too.

"Oh, Abbey," he groaned softly. "I…I'm…I'm…" But he couldn't say
it, she realized. He was scared. He was scared to try again, scared
to find out for certain.

"I know," she assured him. "I'll be here. I'll be with you, Jed, no
matter what. No matter what."

He tried to lean forward to kiss her, but the ribs protested and his
motion broke off abruptly with a hiss. So she met him, took his
mouth gently with hers, letting it be a soft caress, a sweet, loving
touch. And they sat there for a long time, foreheads together, hands
entwined, eyes closed, oblivious to the secret service, who seemed to
breathe a little easier now.

A discreet knock drew them both from the meditative state, and Abbey
rose to see Leo standing at the door, several people hovering behind
him. To her shock, she recognized both the western-suited Israeli
Prime Minister and the scraggly, robed Palestinian leader. If Jed
was shocked, he either couldn't or wouldn't spare the effort to show
it. Instead, he lifted his chin toward the robe thrown across the
end of the bed. Draping it around his bare shoulders, she stepped
back and nodded toward the unusual party as it moved deeper into the
room, noting that the unobtrusive presence of Dr. Hilweg also joined
them. Was he here to witness a VIP meeting? Or was he here to be
near his patient, just in case…

The heavy accent of the gaunt Arab actually sounded sad and
regretful. "Mister President, I have come for several reasons. The
first is to personally express my deep sorrow over this terrible
event. My people have been grieved that you suffered injury in your
valiant effort to bring peace." Despite his apparent sincerity,
Abbey found herself fighting down deep-seeded suspicion.

The Israeli ruler stepped forward now, his English a little less
affected. "I, too, offer regret over the incident, for both of
you." He acknowledged her with a tight nod. "It pains me most that
it happened in my country, at a place especially important to you."

Well, this was certainly amazing, these two coming here together, but
Abbey still could not determine their intent. True concern? A
united front? An appeasement so America wouldn't bomb them back to
Biblical times?

Then things changed. The leader shifted to his right and Abbey saw a
small woman emerge, wrapped in the confining, head-to-toe garb of her
culture. Unaware that she had even been there before, the First
Lady's eyes flickered to Ron Butterfield, standing resolutely behind
them, but the agent showed no alarm.

"Mister President," the Palestinian leader was saying, "this is Alyia
Khadirim. She is a Muslim, a Palestinian. She and her son came to
see you walk through the streets. Came to help you visit the shrine
to your god."

She watched her husband, whose eyes now flashed with interest, whose
shoulders had squared again. But something about the situation
alerted her, something about the woman. It didn't take long to be
revealed.

"Her son was killed in the explosion."

She saw Jed's eyes close, watched the jaw muscles work furiously to
contain his reaction, and she knew what he had realized, what her
instincts had told her a few moments ago. This was the child.

The leader continued. "She has come, Mister President, to tell you
that she is not sorry you came to our land. She wants to thank you
for your efforts, for risking your life, but she asks one thing.
That you not let her son's life be wasted. That you make sure the
peace comes." He turned to the Israeli minister. "Of all of us she
asks this. Of all of us."

Abbey wiped the tears that welled again and saw trails running down
the President's cheeks. She caught her breath as she watched his
face change. Her mouth opened at the determination spreading clearly
across his strong features, and her jaw dropped as she watched his
arms brace against the chair and push up. Dr. Hilweg moved a step
toward him, but caught himself and waited. Oh, God. Please…

Slowly, teeth gritted against the pain, he raised his body, waving
away the suddenly offered hands of six other people. My God! she
thought. He's doing it. Please let him do it!

Shaking with the effort, the President of the United States stood
before them, swaying and sweating, but standing alone, unassisted.
Looking straight at the woman, he said, voice clear and strong, "I
promise. Your son will not have died in vain."

Even before the translation, she comprehended, her sad smile breaking
through. She touched her forehead almost to her knees, then rose and
stood behind the other men.

Abbey yearned to move to him, to hold him up, but she didn't budge,
knew he didn't want her to, now. This was the mother of the boy.
The boy who had inadvertently save Jed's life, who had been lucky
enough to be allowed close to the President, had even gotten a smile
and hair tousling from the most powerful man in the world before his
small body shielded that man from the deadly blast.

She saw Jed's resolve, now, saw the weight his promise carried, knew
that the momentary weakness, both physical and emotional, was over.
This was the Jed Bartlet she knew. This was the Jed Bartlet she
loved. This was the Jed Bartlet she needed.

Leo stepped forward now, the faint smile on his lips out of place
with the most recent events, but it was a smile of hope for them
all. "Mister President, with your permission, I have something to
add to this."

His muscles still somehow holding him, Jed nodded consent to continue.

"Initial investigations are complete."

Oh, God. Abbey's heart surged upward into her throat. She swallowed
in an effort to push it back down.

Silence fell on the room before he went on. "With ninety percent
reliability, our intelligence, in cooperation with Israeli
intelligence…" He waved a hand of acknowledgement toward the Prime
Minister. "…indicates that the bomb was actually an unexploded shell
from at least a year ago. It was detonated accidentally, most
probably a result of the massive crowds following the President's
party."

They stared at him. No one spoke. No one moved. Abbey ran his
words over in her brain. Accidentally. Accidentally. Not…

"It was an accident," Leo clarified. "Not an assassination attempt.
Not a statement against the treaty. An accident."

Abbey watched as the two leaders turned to each other, eyes meeting
for perhaps the first time in true compassion, and nodded. Then they
turned to Jed, who had finally allowed a small show of weakness by
pressing one hand against his side and bracing on the end of the bed
with the other.

Still no one spoke, but their eyes held onto each other, conveyed
messages beyond words, emotions beyond verbal expression. An
accident. A terrible, tragic accident, but an accident.

So it was over, really, except for the healing. And she felt that
corner had been turned, as well. The worries of the future were
still in the future. Her husband was here today, nursing wounds that
would heal, once again fighting off the looming enemy. Once again
victorious, both personally and globally.

Her gaze caught that of Dr. Hilweg and she saw the clear delight on
his face as Jed took a step forward, pain obvious, but muscles
supporting him, and extended a hand toward his fellow world leaders.

No, he would not give up. He would regroup, gather his troops, use
the accident to further the cause, make it stronger than it would
have been before.

And after that, they would go home. And he would recover. Fully.

She let her eyes fall on him again, standing, his jaw set, his eyes
determined. Too bad they couldn't stop in Paris on the way back.

**************************************************************************
POV: Jed
Spoilers: None
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Everyone except Dr. Hilweg belongs to A.S.


Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 10/10
A West Wing Story



"I feel, Mister President, that I must emphasize once again my strong
recommendation that you reconsider."

President Josiah Bartlet didn't look at the head of his secret
service detail, but kept his eyes focused on the passing scenes
through the limousine window. Why did it seem all of the Middle East
was brown? Sure, occasionally they passed an olive tree. And in the
downtown areas steel structures stood out garishly against the
monotone clay. But in general, he had always found it to be cast in
earth tones, even down to the clothing of its inhabitants.

Except for that day. That day the browns and tans gave way to gory
splashes of red. He preferred it brown.

Uneasily, he shifted, trying to keep his face blank, to avoid
broadcasting to the other passengers how much it hurt just to
breathe. But from the drawn brows on the faces of his wife and chief
of staff, he figured he hadn't been very successful.

"Duly logged and noted, Agent Butterfield," he acknowledged, moving
his eyes quickly back to the window to escape the glare from his
wife's dark eyes. "And I give you permission to kill me yourself if
I get blown up again." Now he let a faint smile touch his lips at
the morbid humor.

Glancing up fondly, he knew Ron would never dream of returning the
smile. Still, he expected at least a glimmer in the eyes.
Apparently, the agent was not amused. Okay. Nevermind.

Again, he watched the land between Jerusalem and Bethlehem fly by,
thankful that finally he was seeing only one of everything. That had
just happened that morning actually, a morning for a lot of firsts
since the accident. His first real shower – if he didn't count
being clad in saran wrap. His first chewable meal – soft-chew,
anyway. His first shave.

Now that was a treat. Mainly because his barber had been one Abigail
Bartlet, who, armed with a bowl of hot water and a straight razor,
had propped him up in the chair and eagerly gone to work to rid him
of 13 days' growth of beard. Thank goodness she wasn't harboring any
grudges at the moment.

He still could feel the erotic scrape of the blade, the sensual touch
of her hand as she ran it along his skin, could still smell her
perfume as she bent over him. Despite the ever-present pain, he'd
been rather pleased with his body's response, but disappointed that
he couldn't act on the visible physical reaction. Even though the
secret service agents had surely seen him in just about every
condition imaginable in the past two weeks, there was one particular
condition he'd just as soon keep between his wife and him. But Abbey
had seen, and given him one of those looks that scolded and promised
at the same time. Of course, medically it was out of the question.
Still…

Careful, he told himself as the memory stirred dangerous sensations.
Remember where you are. For a brief, regrettable moment, he
straightened to draw in a deep breath. Pain shot from his ribs,
stabbing directly through his body, effectively destroying any
concerns he might have had about becoming aroused in the limo.

"Son of a bitch!" The curse was out before he could stop it, gaining
him the immediate attention of every single passenger.

"Jed?"

That was Abbey, he pinpointed through the red haze in front of his
eyes. He managed to hold up a hand, indicating that he would be okay
after a moment. Just needed a little time to wait it out.
Impatience buzzing around him, he focused only on pushing the pain
back down.

Even after almost two weeks, every move he made was accompanied by
pain of some sort. Burning pain, aching pain, lancing pain,
throbbing pain. It seemed to get worse, but he knew that was only an
illusion, only a result of making himself do more, pushing his body
to perform, to do things it really didn't want to do. But he had
to. There was no other option. Finally, as the sensation faded to
manageability, he gritted his teeth and breathed out gingerly.

"Uh, anybody got an asprin?"

He managed not to wince too much at the scowl on Abbey's
face. "Josiah Bartlet," she fussed, but he heard the concern behind
the irritation. "Didn't you take the Tylenol the nurse brought you
before you left the hospital?"

Well, no. Like that's been doing me a damned bit of good. Sugar
pills would be more helpful. At that moment, however, he was
reconsidering the possibility that his assessment might have been in
error. Still, stand your ground. Show no weakness.

"Abbey, you know that stuff is useless. Doesn't do a damn thing."

"It was Tylenol with codeine, Jed. Dr. Hilweg figured it would be
okay just for this occasion."

He grimaced. "Now you tell me."

After a moment, Leo suggested, "There's probably some in the
ambulance."

Jed sighed, a very shallow sigh. "I'm not going to stop the whole
damn motorcade to get some EMT to give me an asprin. Forget it." He
eased back, trying not to be too obvious as he wiped the sweat from
his forehead. Worried faces watched him closely.

From across the car, C.J. leaned forward. "I, uh, I have some Midol,
Mister President."

Now he knew he saw that smile on Ron's face, if only for a second.
What a choice. But the pounding in his side had moved up into his
chest and was stretching its miserable influence toward his head.

"Okay."

"Jed!"

"Abbey, I don't care at this point what she has."

"But Midol is—"

"I know what Midol is. It's a pain killer, right?"

"Among other things."

"I don't need the other things, just the pain killer." He grinned,
the first real grin since the accident. "Plus, I'll look thinner on
television because I won't be retaining water."

His disappointment over Abbey's refusal to respond was more than made
up for by C.J.'s expression. And he considered the crack of a smile
on Charlie's face to be a special bonus. Sincere about his
willingness to down the Midol, he reached out a hand, but it was
intercepted by his wife, still shaking her head, and now waving a
small plastic bag in front of him.

"Is this what you need?" she asked.

"What the hell—"

"You are the most stubborn man I have ever seen," she explained. "I
figured you'd ditch the painkillers." Her voice softened. "But it's
really hurting now, huh?"

Yes, it was, but he sure as hell wouldn't admit it. He almost made a
joke about her withholding drugs from a patient, but the very
reference darkened his eyes and stopped his tongue. She saw the
expression and misread it for an increase in the pain, because she
gave up trying to make her point.

"You are an evil woman, Abigail Bartlet," he observed.

She ignored him. "Next time, don't be such an ass."

"I would really prefer there not be a next time." He was quite
content with being blown up only once.

Shaking out two into her hand, she explained, "Doctor Hilweg sent
these. Apparently, he's gotten to know you pretty well in two
weeks. These should take effect enough to give you some relief. But
don't make that speech too long; you'll be woozy."

Okay. Decision time. To take or not to take? Visions of doubling
over in pain as the world watched shot through his mind and he popped
them in his mouth, chasing them down with the bottle of water Charlie
had handed him.

"I'm fine," he assured the five pairs of eyes staring at him. "Look,
let's run through plan one more time, okay?"

His distraction worked, at least for everyone but Abbey and he hadn't
figured she would fall for it anyway. Ron nodded, happy to be
proactive as much as possible. Leo, Charlie, and C.J. leaned in to
listen.

"We'll be retracing the last few steps you took, Mister President,"
the agent explained, his expression leaving no doubt about his
disagreement with the entire idea. "The area has been scanned
completely. Safety precautions executed, security posted all around."

Jed frowned, not liking this show of protection, but realizing the
necessity of it, especially now, especially this second time around.

"The Prime Minister and Palestinian leader will have already
arrived. All three of you—" Here he broke off, unable to contain
himself. "Mister President, having all three of you together is just
like painting big bulls eyes on your backs. Anyone who is determined
to—"

"Anyone who is determined to kill me, Ron, can do it, regardless of
the safety precautions we take. You know that." Rosslyn had shown
them that quite clearly.

Ron's eyes admitted that he was right. Still, the agent dared to
suggest, "Agreed, Mister President, but you don't have to pose for
him."

Ouch! That was unlike Ron, overstepping his bounds that way, but Jed
could read the motivation behind it. Agent Butterfield would never
admit it, but he truly cared for his protectee and his protectee knew
it. So instead, Jed simply nodded.

"I understand, Ron. Continue, please."



As they neared the city, the crowds began to file in beside the road,
first in tens, then hundreds, then thousands of people, clad in the
most eclectic clothing imaginable, long robes, white short-sleeved
shirts, business suits, army uniforms, T-shirts and jeans. Jed
stared at them, feeling the burden of their turmoil, hearing the
desperation of their pleas. By the time they reached their
destination, the police had erected low barriers, creating a space at
the very spot of the disaster. A long table draped with a rich, navy
cloth, sat in the midst of the rubble. A mass of cameras and
reporters teemed in an area designated for them and policed by a
healthy show of uniforms.

Jed took as deep a breath as he dared, noting with some satisfaction
that the constant pain had at least dulled a bit. Working "without a
net," as Sam and Toby would say, he ran through the few comments he
planned to make after the signing ceremony, then nodded to Ron.

"Okay?" Abbey asked, her question containing many meanings.

"Okay," he replied. And he was. At least for now.

When the door opened and he eased out, he thought at first that
perhaps the Israeli Air Force had arranged for a fly-by in honor of
the occasion, but the roar did not dim with passing planes. Instead
it grew louder at his emergence from the vehicle and he finally
realized with a start that it was coming from the people, a blanket
of cheering that deafened them all. Leo was saying something, and
smiling, but he couldn't hear, couldn't discern the words. It didn't
matter. He grasped the sentiment, if not the exact syntax. They
were cheering him. They were screaming for him. Amazing.
Absolutely amazing.

He tried not to favor his tender left side, tried to walk as casually
as possible, knowing that he wasn't pulling it off with much
success. Lifting his right hand, he tossed a wave to them and nodded
his acknowledgement. The roars, if possible, increased.

Then it hit him, the concussion of an explosion, the surprise of
finding himself crumpled against a jagged rock, smoke swirling, dust
raining, people screaming. Shock ran through him again, clutched at
him, choked him. Oh God! Not now. Not now.

Closing his eyes briefly, he reopened them to see the outstretched
hands of his fellow statesmen, ready to greet, and, he suspected,
help him onto the platform. The moment passed, the flashback
disappeared. Ron moved closer, not touching, but still lending his
strength. He breathed in and out to regain control, took each step
carefully, then stood with them, six hands clasped together amid the
firecracker report of camera shutters.

They approached the ornate document that rested on the table.
Palestine first, then Israel, then the United States. As he took the
sun-warmed pen in his hand, he paused for a moment, lingering over
the words, over the promises, and he considered the price that had
already been paid over the years toward this peace, the price he,
himself, had paid.

And the price that small boy had paid.

And he said a prayer right then for those who yearned for peace, for
those willing to step toward it. Then, he touched the tip to the
paper and watched as the ink flowed boldly onto it, proclaiming that
Josiah Bartlet was part of this, that Josiah Bartlet, President of
the United States of America was making a stand along with these
other brave leaders.

When he stood straight again, he had to take a moment to wait out the
swirling in his head. Thankfully, it calmed and he turned his
attention to the Israeli prime minister, who stepped to the
microphone and declared his country's commitment to the historic
treaty. Jed felt his body retreating from the scene, saw it from far
away, through a long tunnel and clenched his teeth in an effort to
stay focused. Surprisingly, it was the prime minister who drew him
back in with his closing statement.

"I turn to an American of the past to recognize an American of
today. Hubert Humphrey, statesman and vice-president, said that `the
pursuit of peace resembles the building of a great cathedral. It is
the work of a generation. In concept it requires a master-architect;
in execution, the labors of many.' Our generation has begun
construction on this cathedral."

His arm swept back to include Jed in his remarks, bringing color to
the President's cheeks. "We have the master-architect."

Finally, he turned back to the crowd, arms up in appeal to everyone
present and to the watching world. "Now the execution requires all
of us to labor."

Heavy applause rewarded him and Jed nodded his thanks as the
Palestinian leader stood and spoke, also praising the efforts of
those who brokered the peace. Again, the tunnel tried to close in on
him, but he clawed his way to the sunlight and hung on. Finally, it
was his turn.

As he stepped to the crowded array of microphones, he fought back the
wave of dizziness that washed over him, remembering Abbey's warning
about a long speech. The pain had lessened, but his head swam with
the effects of the Tylenol. But he could last it out, at least long
enough to tell them what he came to say.

Waiting out the applause, he began, voice low and calm. "Three weeks
ago I came to this land. This land of Abraham. This land of Isaac
and this land of Ishmael. I came here not as a Christian among Jews
and Muslims. Not as an American among Israelis and Palestinians. I
came here as a human being among human beings. We are all here as
human beings among human beings.

"And we met, and we talked, and we agreed. We agreed that to live
together as human beings there are certain things we do and things we
don't do. In 1945, at the Yalta Conference, Franklin Roosevelt said
that `peace can endure only so long as humanity really insists upon
it, and is willing to work for it and sacrifice for it.' Well, my
friends, we insist on peace and we stand ready to work for it and to
sacrifice for it."

Aware of the sweat that beaded on his brow, he resisted the urge to
wipe it off, unwilling to show any weakness that might bring doubt on
his own resolve. Instead, he gripped the podium tightly and
continued, avoiding the alarm he knew would see in Abbey's eyes if he
dared to look her way.

"Thirteen days ago that infant peace, barely removed from the womb,
was tested by a relic from a bygone conflict, from a war that is now
past. That relic could have destroyed the infant, but it did not.
This newborn peace is growing stronger each moment we let it live.
Let that relic be the end of the old. Let the burst of pain and
suffering signal the last of the pain and suffering that we inflict
on each other, on our fellow human beings."

Now he drew upon his oratorical gifts to reach them, to stretch up to
the satellites and into the homes of the world, to bring them with
him. He controlled the pitch, the timbre, the rhythm so that they
followed him, dived with him, danced with him, flew with him. They
were his now and he knew it, determined to make their loyalty worth
the effort.

"For uncounted years we have buried fellow humans before their
time." He paused, hoping the trembling in his legs went unnoticed,
praying that it would remain absent in his voice. Willing his
strength to hold out just a while longer, he pushed the power into
his words.

"It has been said that `in peace the sons bury their fathers, but in
war the fathers bury their sons'."

Now his eyes meet those of the audience, Arabs and Jews, Christians
and Muslims. These were his words, not Sam's, not Toby's, but his
words from deep inside. With all the passion he had, all the duty he
felt for humanity, he carried the people with him to the climax.

"Shall we bury fathers or sons?"

He looked hard into the eyes before him, into dark eyes and light
eyes, into young eyes and old eyes, into eyes of hate and eyes of
hope.

"I say to you today, my fellow human beings, I say we bury fathers.
I say sons bury fathers, and daughters bury mothers at the end of
life, at the time of the journey into our eternal destinies. Not at
the youth of life, or even the prime of life."

The passion in his heart flowed upward through his voice. "Let the
sons bury their fathers. Let the sons bury their fathers because we
live in peace."

Finally, a long pause and the last emphasis. "Because we live in
peace."

Head buzzing now, he stepped back from the platform. The erupting
roar of the crowd seemed far away again, the wild, enthusiasm dulled
by its distance from his consciousness. Still, he felt the hands in
his, saw the smiles, the adoration on the faces, the tears on the
cheeks, heard the praise, the congratulations. The walk to the
limousine went by in a blur, and he was vaguely aware of hands
helping him in, of voices giving orders.

He opened his eyes, unable to remember closing them, and realized
that he leaned back on the seat, his coat off, his shirt unbuttoned
halfway down. The low vibration told him they were already under
way. Abbey's face loomed closest, but behind her hovered the anxious
expressions of C.J., Leo, Charlie, and Ron.

Well, hell.

"Jed?"

Yeah. I'm all right. I'll just sit up now. A gentle pressure on
his chest. Ouch. Still tender.

"Just lie there, Jed, until we get back to the hospital. You'll be
fine."

He looked at Leo, whose face was flushed with both triumph and
concern. His old friend nodded and pursed his
lips. "Congratulations, Mister President," he said, and that was all
Jed needed to hear from him. It told him enough.

"Way to go, Sir," C.J. added.

Behind her, Ron's expression did not change. Except for the clear
admiration shining in his eyes, and that meant more to Jed than any
words he could have uttered.

Now Abbey leaned in, her lips brushing his ear intimately. "You did
good, Babe. You did real good."

At his whisper of her name she shook her head, comprehending his
unspoken question, just as he had known she would. "It's not—It's
not— You just pushed too hard. You just pushed too much, Jethro."

C.J.'s surprised snicker broke the seriousness and he mustered enough
energy to mutter, "Okay, Claudia, you'll pay for that."

"Yes, Sir," she answered, without even a shade of remorse.

Abbey continued, the smile in her voice obvious. "You just rest,
now. We're going home."

Home. Okay. That sounded good. Really good. As he let the drugs
take control of his body, he thought about what had transpired in
three short weeks.

Peace. An impossible peace made possible.

At least he sincerely hoped it was. And he believed it was, had to
believe it was. The hope in those faces before him made him believe.

As the tunnel finally closed in on him, he lifted his hand toward
Abbey and she took it, grasped it firmly. He felt the hot tears burn
his eyes, but fought back the emotional display. Not here. Not in
front of everyone. Here he was the President of the United States.
Here he was the world leader who would probably join the
infinitesimal ranks of multiple Nobel Prize winners. So, no, he
would not let the emotions take over now. Not here.

But maybe later. Maybe just with Abbey.







"The pursuit of peace resembles the building of a great cathedral.
It is the work of a generation. In concept, it requires a master-
architect; in execution, the labors of many."

Hubert H. Humphrey
February 17, 1965, New York City


"Peace can endure only so long as humanity really insists upon it,
and is willing to work for it and sacrifice for it. Twenty-five
years ago American fighting men looked to the statesmen of the world
to finish the work of peace for which they fought and suffered; we
failed them, we failed them then, we cannot fail them again and
expect the world to survive again."

Franklin D. Roosevelt
March 1, 1945
Yalta


"In peace the sons bury their fathers, but in war the fathers bury
their sons."

Croesus, Lydian king to Persian King Cambyses
Quoted in Francis Bacon's Apophthegms No. 149



There is an Epilogue to this story posted in the NC-17 Section.