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!
Spoilers: None, yet
Disclaimer: None of these
characters belong to me. I just like to
play with them
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 1/?
A West Wing
She sat in his cabin on the backup Air Force One, or whatever
called it when someone besides the President traveled in it, in his
chair, looking out his window. Her nails had been bitten down almost
the quick, an old habit she thought she had long outgrown. C.J.
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
for the moment. And what a terrifying and horrible moment
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
timing. Her mind tried to block out the chaotic scenes of the
bouncing back and forth between billowing dust and fire and torn
bodies. Shutting her eyes did not help, but neither did opening
She saw him over and over, a quick glimpse of the dark suited
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
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
teenager beaten almost to death with a lead pipe, but never
in all her
medical experience had she seen so many body parts strewn
supposedly civilized town, so much blood splattered on cars
and walls and
When the first mind-numbing moments faded, she gained enough
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
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
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
reminding her that he had a stopover in Paris to meet with
representatives of the European Union. If she had gone with him,
could have had a special evening in the City of Lights. But she
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
She wasn't sure when C.J. entered. Someone must have let her
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
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
noted absently that Lily motioned C.J. inside the East Wing
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
but at the same time she couldn't, couldn't receive the news
dreaded hearing, couldn't face the fateful
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
background, sirens screamed behind him. "Leo?" she said, quietly,
too quietly. He didn't hear her. "Leo?" Louder this time.
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
"I coming," she
"Abbey, you can't—"
"I'm coming, so you just make
whatever arrangements you have to. I'm
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
"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. Oh God. Her heart jumped
into her throat and she pushed it
back down into her chest. "Leo, what are
Static cut through his voice for a moment and when he came
feared she had missed vital information. "…but can't say now…line
not secure…try to stabilize at Shaare Zedek Medical…then maybe
The line clicked dead and she simply sat, staring across her
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
too terrible to comprehend. With one fortifying breath, Abbey
turned to the
other two women, squared her shoulders and brought
herself to her fullest
"I'm going to Israel. And don't bother to argue." Despite the
danger, neither of her listeners attempted even a perfunctory
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
wondering if he was scared…
Wondering if she would ever see her
Spoilers: a little of "The Portland Trip"
Not mine, but I wish they were.
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons?
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,
an airplane whose fuselage boldly proclaimed to the world THE
STATES OF AMERICA. An airplane that was usually designated Air Force
One. But not today. Not now. The occupant that determined the use
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.
Toby's uncharacteristically panicked voice alerted her instantly that
something had gone terribly wrong. She was just finishing notes for
2:00 p.m. press conference, announcing the amazingly successful
between Israel and Palestine, hinting at an agreement to
Palestinians with a land of their own and perhaps finally put
an end to
centuries of conflict between the two peoples, dating back
times. These announcements usually ended with behind-the-
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
Bartlet's second Nobel Prize.
"C.J., get in here, now!"
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
possibly, to her President and her country. Or maybe she just
couldn't watch anymore. Whatever it was, it prompted her to break
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
"I'm on it," he
replied, propelled into action by her crisp
She turned and her eyes fell on Carol, whose own eyes were wide
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
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
Something else occurred to her. Something so obvious she almost
laughed that she had not thought of it first. Again to Carol, she
"The Vice-President. I'm sure the secret service has already
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
But she was proud that his next comment
had been, "What steps have
you taken? Have you called Hoynes? How about
Fitzwallace or Nancy
Damn! Fitzwallace and McNally, of
course. How could she forget
them? "Hoynes, yes. The others, no.
"Got it," her assistant responded, already moving away
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
Josh's head shook slightly. "Haven't heard,
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
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
Gritting her teeth at the possible horror that awaited her on the
other end, she managed a loud
"C.J.?" He called again over the
chaos in the background.
"I'm here, Leo! What's happening? How's the
don't say he's dead. Please don't say it.
Oh God. "On his way to the situation room. Josh is headed that
too." As she spoke, she watched the Deputy Chief of Staff start to
"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
"C.J.? C.J., where's the First Lady? Where's Abbey?"
her eyes against the sudden thought that Abbey would have to
be told, she
answered, "In the East Wing."
"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
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
"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
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
"I'm coming," the First Lady said, and it was a
C.J. listened as a brief argument ensued, then almost
Abbey asked what the President's injuries were. Thank you! That
meant he was alive! Thank you! When Lily finally hung the phone up
her, the First Lady took a breath and stood, her body screaming
determination that only Abbey Bartlet could muster.
"I'm going to
Israel," she announced. "And don't bother to argue."
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
that never again would she malign the Fighting Irish, having
the humiliation of wearing a Notre Damn hat and regaling the Press
Corps with a "brisk" rendition of the fight song. Never again. From
on, Notre Dame was the greatest college, football team,
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.
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
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.
easily saw the terrible fear on her face, noted the red eyes and
streaks of tears, and her heart ached for that very visible
touch on her shoulder turned her. Lily gave her a weak smile and
both of them, "We're landing in twenty minutes. I thought
you'd want to
Abbey nodded, but didn't shift her attention from the
As she buckled her seat belt, C.J. reflected on the few details
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
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
Spoilers: ITSOTG (sort of)
Disclaimer: These aren't
my characters, but I like to pretend they
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.
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
"He's…he's…it's not real good, Charlie," the Chief of Staff
voice hoarse with emotion. "He's losing blood internally, so
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
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
Bartlet held high hopes, a journey, which, until a few hours ago,
every indication of meeting their grandest visions.
One of the worse
duties Charlie Young had, as personal aide to the
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
Cautiously, he eased open
the door from the outer office and stuck in
his head, his tone apologetic.
Ah, damn. He had interrupted a kiss. Well, not
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
moment. Taking their time to finish, they finally pulled apart a
little and the President answered, not shifting his gaze from her
"The limo is ready."
the body language of the two. Sometimes it was stiff,
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
"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."
embraced again and the color of the President's voice changed
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
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
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
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?"
me back in time so I can throw myself in front of Josiah
"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
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.
experience began in triumph, the three leaders basking in
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
Charlie saw the President laugh and nod at a comment from the
ambassador. Then his brain stopped working for a minute and he had
no sensations at all. When it managed to again accept the messages
from the rest of his body, he found himself face down against
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
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
stumbling over rubble that remained hidden in the settling
"Leo!" Charlie called out just as he got a glimpse
of whom they
needed. The familiar figure was also standing, thank God,
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
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
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
They eased him to the ground and immediately
the uninjured secret
service agents, as well as police, swarmed, creating a
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
plastered with blood. His suit coat hung in shreds and the white
underneath dripped with sticky red, as well.
"O God," he prayed
automatically. "Please be with him. Please be
prayed the same prayer outside the trauma room at Shaare Zedek
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
Charlie desperately hoped she would still be complete. Closing his
eyes, he waited for her, and
Spoilers: "A Proportional Response," "We Killed Yamamoto," "Posse
Comitatus," and "100,000 Airplanes"
characters are not mine. I just like putting them
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 4/10
A West Wing
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
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
practical thing to do. He had shot down his vision of curing
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
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
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
for his country and his world. It was the President of the
United States of
Leo fought back the panic that pushed at him. Someone had to
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
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
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
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
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.
Jed's head in his lap, unconcerned about the blood that
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.
someone come. Please! And then the sirens screamed toward them, and
his own vision became clouded, the shock ran through his body and
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
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,
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.
waited, having done all he could to help Hoynes make decisions
stabilize the country, and the world – for now, at least –
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,
bleeding externally, and Jed was doing that, too. Both together
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
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
Running a hand through his hair, he pushed away from his
against the doorframe and dropped into a plastic-covered chair. He
really should check on Charlie again, or, hell, bring him back here.
cared what hospital rules were? Just as he contemplated making
that move, a
voice called for him.
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
"Mister McGarry. It's about the
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
of losing men and women in the line of fire. And that meant
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
organizing and ensuring the preparation and execution of all
protection that involved the President and his family. Sometimes
even extended to staff members, as well. He placed himself as
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
Maybe it was the closer proximity he had to the President. Or
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
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'…"
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
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
in paper stacks and on computer screens. Every possible scenario
explored, every possible misstep evaluated. Coordination with
Palestinian police bounced back and forth across the
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
for a President like Jed Bartlet, who was a people's
wanted to be out in the crowd, who insisted on that human
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
said he'd like to visit the Bethlehem site that Biblical scholars
historians set as the birthplace of Jesus. They should have
predicted this. Jed Bartlet was a religious man, a devout Catholic
surely did not want to miss such a meaningful opportunity.
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
There had been no warning, no indication at all. One minute
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
well-being the peace of two nations might hinge, the one man he
of both professional and personal loyalty for the first
time in his
It didn't take long. As soon as he heard the dual cry from
and Leo, he saw him, somehow dragging people from the debris,
apparently oblivious to his own terrifying appearance. Ron was
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
thrust himself back into the job of protection, even then,
Push the crowd back! Get those people away! Move the
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
stumbling out only when the doctors had done all
Now he waited to speak with Leo McGarry, to learn as many
possible, to report on the initial investigation that his
had already begun, in cooperation with Israeli authorities and
And he was in pain.
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
"Mister McGarry," he acknowledged formally.
sighed. "I just spoke with a Doctor Hilweg, the attending
physician. He and
our own medical team were the ones you observed in
forced himself to wait for the news as Leo took a maddening pause.
older man squinted in fatigue, then continued. "He made it
injuries, head wound. It…it doesn't look so good,
Ron, but he's still
Ron easily saw the pain on the features of this man, who, he
himself, was not only the President's chief of staff, but also his
"They said the next few hours will tell."
eyes met and Ron allowed his own to accept the terrible sadness
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—"
But you think I could keep Abigail Bartlet away from him
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."
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
stood alone for a moment before he returned to his continuing
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
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
Disclaimer: Despite what I wish, these characters
are not mine.
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 6/10
A West Wing
The motorcade screamed to a whining stop in front of the Shaare
Medical Center in Jerusalem. An abundance of secret service swarmed
around the black limousine, flags still whipping from the front
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
The familiar antiseptic odor greeted her, but she barely noticed
Didn't even really notice when C.J. fell behind to field inquiries
from the insistent press. Instead her eyes immediately caught the
man who stood as she approached, his eyes watering, his face
and pain and sorrow.
"Mrs. Bartlet," he greeted softly, accepting her
"Charlie," she managed. "Charlie, how are you?" She took note
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?"
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
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
what had happened to Jed.
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.
flashing thought of the loyal young man who waited, she called
send someone to tell, you, Charlie. I promise."
He smiled slightly.
"Thank you, M'am."
The room they entered was small, probably designed for
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
"…considering the force of the blast and his proximity to it.
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
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
Didn't crack the cranium, though."
Thank God he's so hardheaded, she
decided, with more sincerity than
"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
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?"
don't think the lung was compromised until he got back up. This
caused the fractured ribs to break through—"
"Got back up? What was he
The doctor smiled slightly. "Apparently, Doctor Bartlet, he
She digested this information with a mixture of
irritation. Damned fool. Then, frowning, she realized she needed
ask one more thing. "What about…what about the…" Grit your teeth
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."
flinched at the mention of his "person physician," knowing it was
"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
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.
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
fever down, we've got a chance of avoiding a major
A sudden yearning to take over, to make sure everything
being done for her husband flashed through her, but she fought
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
Concern over his last comment about a very real complication
pushed her on.
"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
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
patient. She hoped the poor sick people inconvenienced by
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
prepare herself for the unavoidable pain of seeing him. At a nod
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
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.
she drew back she studied him, taking in the discolored left eye
stitched areas across his forehead, chin, and jaw. Then
her eyes fell to the
massive dark stain spreading from his abdomen
down to his
His face betrayed regret when he looked down and
realized what she
saw. "Oh, Abbey. I'm sorry."
"Leo, my God. Are you
"Abbey," he said gently, squeezing her hands. "It's not my
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
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.
Steeling herself, she eased up to his right side, careful not
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
His upper body was bare, allowing for more bandages to wrap his
bulky over the left side where the initial damage was, and
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
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
stitches that looked vaguely like caterpillars, the discolored
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
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
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
She didn't have to push his hair back from his face. The bandage
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
Disclaimer: Jed Bartlet is not mine
(but boy, do I wish…). Neither
is anyone else in this story, except for Dr.
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 7/10
A West Wing
Receding muffled waves sloshed through his brain, washing
fleeting glimpses of comprehension. Each time they passed he
to grab hold, to hang on to the momentary clarity, but it slithered
out of his weak grasp. Sometimes distorted voices rippled through
waves, some he recognized, some he didn't, but none lingered long
him to identify the invisible speakers. Occasionally his
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
lasted for a while but inevitably gave way to the next
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
"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
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.
Rome…or Berlin… "Wo…bin Ich?" His voice was scratchy, weak,
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
Oops, that was the informal version, but he couldn't quite get
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
remembered all of his nouns correctly. Dim memories of calling
cheese in French fluttered through his mind.
"Doktor Hilweg. Sander
Hilweg." The voice paused, then returned,
its tone casual. "Wie geht es
How do I feel? Like I just jumped out of a perfectly good
and Rob Ritchie packed my chute. What was the German word for
lousy? His mind supplied, "Nicht gut," which wasn't quite right, but
didn't matter, because the words wouldn't form on his lips
"Mister President," the voice returned, a touch of amusement in
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
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
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
skull and his eyes shut involuntarily.
"Lights down!" he heard the doctor
order. "I'm sorry, Mister
President. Try again, please."
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
"Sir, what do you see?"
like Monet or maybe Picasso, even though he was really a
"Mister President?" A little more forceful this
Leave me alone. Just let me groan in peace.
entered his brain, this one familiar, secure,
Now he smiled, even though he wasn't sure it actually reached
lips. Rousing his energy for this voice, he grunted out the
"Yeah. Yeah. I'm here. Just take it easy. Man, it's good to hear
Gee, Leo seemed awfully happy, for Leo, anyway. Leo?
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
"What…" But he couldn't get it out, was fading quickly, the
closing back in on him.
"I'll tell you later," Leo assured
"No. Not…later. Now." He'd hang on. He had to know. Something
had happened. Something bad. He must have been involved. He really
feel like he had fallen out of an airplane, or at least what he
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
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
"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
Bomb? Site? Thrown…oh, yeah. Now those nightmare visions made
sense. He remembered others, too, though. "Who…else?" He stopped
draw a deeper breath, but choked it off when his side and chest
pain. Damn! Okay, don't do that again. Had to
communicate better, but his
body was betraying him, dragging him back
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…"
drew his fading attention. "…the Israeli ambassador
His eyes shut against the pain of that information. Then
occurred to him. They flew open again.
"Fine." He heard the smile in the
voice. Thank God. "A few cuts
and bruises. That's
"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
groan even though he had not planned to at all. Firm hands steadied
"Easy, Mister President," warned the doctor. "Don't try to
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
No! Can't be under any longer. Need to run the country.
who's in charge? "Leo!" I need to see Leo.
"Don't worry. It's okay. Hoynes is in the
White House. Josh and
Toby are with him, and Fitzwallace and McNally are in
room. I talk with them every hour or so."
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
how excited everyone seemed to be to have him
…You can't say Dallas doesn't love you today, Mister
Then he saw only debris and blood and heard shouts and cries
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
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
"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."
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
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
despite the doctor's warning, but the black tunnel had almost
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
"I'll speak to Doctor Bartlet when she gets here. Certainly his
regaining consciousness is a major step. If we can keep
complications at bay, I think he has a chance."
Well, good. It's
always a bonus to get blown up and still have a
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.
though Dr. Hilweg assured her things were looking better, she
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
But he remained stubbornly asleep. Typical. Doing the
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
him, if she had been here… But she knew it would have changed
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
With a jerk, her head rose, her heart leaped, and her hands
over the rail, grasping his tightly.
His eyes had not opened, but he still managed to greet her
appropriately. "Hey, Babe." It was not even a whisper and she
totally sure she had heard it until she saw the slight smile.
his hand, she leaned forward to brush her lips against
his. "Hey yourself.
How do you feel?"
She bit her lip and winced, looking
away for a moment. "I know,
Sweetheart. I know. I'll be here."
couldn't tell him, yet. Couldn't break it to him that this was
compared to what he would go through before long. Dr. Hilweg
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.
eyes closed again, but he still continued to speak. "…shouldn't
"Well," she returned, forcing herself to keep the tone
light, "remember the night you left? You promised me a romantic
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,
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.
prayed, please don't let this happen, too. Isn't the other
He managed to rally for a moment. "Abbey?"
She bent over
him to catch the weak tone. "Yeah? I'm here. What is
smile shadowed his lips. "Go with me…to Paris. I could…
jump you…under the
Shaking her head, she chuckled, despite her fears. So
predicable. "Sure, Pumpkin," she agreed. "We'll do that. But we're
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
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
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
inadvertently causing her more chagrin.
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
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
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,
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
Disclaimer: Only Dr. Hilweg is mine. The
others belong to A.S. I'm
glad I can borrow them, though.
again, in this installment to Linda for technical assistance
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 8/10
A West Wing
"What do you mean you're not ready to make a judgment, yet?
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.
Nancy," he bit out, "we've got to make a decision. We've
got to know,
As usual, Nancy McNally's voice did not waver, did not vacillate
one note. "I know, Leo. I know. But we've got to be sure."
know." All right. Drop it for now. Move on. "How's Hoynes
"Leo, he's doing fine. A good
"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
it irritated him, but Jed seemed to revel in the quickly
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
Only exhaustion and stress allowed that bit of candor,
but once done,
he felt relief, felt the stream open up just a bit. "They
off morphine yesterday and he's coming around more, but that just
He bit his lip at the vision of clear agony on his
face earlier that day, flinched at the tight eyes, the
the pinched brow. Leo couldn't imagine what kind of pain he must
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
He had almost forgotten about Nancy. "It's tough," he
sensed even through the secure channel that she understood
"Yeah. Tell him we're with him, won't you? And the First
Now Leo smiled a little. "They know. But I'll tell
"Hoynes is doing
"All right. I'll update you within two
As the phone line clicked dead, he reflected on their desperate
search to discover exactly what happened, to prevent the total
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
claim responsibility. The Palestinian government flatly denied
knowledge or involvement, as expected. Leo had gotten to the
Israelis as quickly as possible to stifle any impulse to cast blame,
to his great surprise, was acknowledged, at least for the moment.
CIA, Secret Service, Israeli Intelligence, working both together
separately, stayed busy around the clock combing through debris,
through rubble in an attempt to locate clues to the blast.
The world waited.
Waited for the next move. Waited for someone to
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
"As I said, the President's condition has been upgraded from
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.
President is aware of the situation and aware of Vice-
actions. Vice-President Hoynes has full authority
to act under the
President's directives, which is exactly what he is
listening to C.J., the public would assume that, although Jed
injuries certainly were not minor, he was already well on
his way to
"The President is now speaking regularly with the
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
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
Abbey for awhile. Ever since her emotional collapse, she had
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
had cleared somewhat, although he still complained about double
vision. The chief of staff chuckled at Jed's comment, while still
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
One reason was the pain, but the other reason, the
uncertainty looming over them, was ten times worse.
into the room, he felt the tension, sensed the crackle of
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
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
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
Leo knew, then, what fear was behind Abbey's scolding. The
Dr. Hilweg had taken Jed off the painkillers so soon, the logic
behind allowing the President to face such severe pain on his own.
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
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
Forced to acknowledge his presence, Jed managed to grind out,
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,
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
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
Finally, Leo heard the door swing open and looked up to see the
requested physician. Dr. Sander Hilweg smiled cheerfully, as if
oblivious to the tense scenario set before him. "Good
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,
Leo heard only a grunt in response.
"So you want to
Abbey answered for him. "You'll find he's the most stubborn
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,
"Mister President," Hilweg began, his warm tones
with the seriousness of his statements. "I would advise you
at least another day before you attempt to stand."
turned, his eyes still glaring. Clearly he was not
pleased with the doctor's
"As we discussed, the reason for taking you off the morphine
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
knew that frustration, could literally feel it leaping from
Again, Dr. Hilweg made the attempt. "Let's just give
"No." The tone was flat, tight, unapproachable. "Let's
Resigned glances shot among the three and Leo sympathized with
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
Jed Bartlet was going to try. It didn't really matter what his
"All right," Hilweg sighed, voice betraying defeat for the first
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
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
chair, both grimacing against the agonized cry torn from his throat
with the rough handling. Abbey was there immediately, wiping his
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
"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.
not necessarily mean…" Hilweg sighed heavily, obviously
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
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
"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
She seemed grateful. "Okay. I call them twice a day. Liz wanted
come. Well, the others, too, but she was really adamant."
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
Jed said no."
The walked in silence down the hallway, past the
guards, to the
windows, looking out over the milling crowds of press,
genuinely concerned people. From behind them, a television
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
What? Jogging to catch up with her, he asked,
"What are you doing?"
She didn't answer, but swung around the corner,
service as she went. When a surprised C.J. fell in with
pulled her close and whispered a few things. Before he knew it,
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
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
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
for your prayers and your support during this time." She
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
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
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
Oh, Abbey. How hard that was. How proud I am of
Now she looked directly into the camera identified with the familiar
CNN logo. "The President wants me to tell you that we will prevail
this. That he will be fine. That he is even now planning to do
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
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.
control the M.S., unable to control Jed's pain, she had at
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
He looked up and raised his brow in
"Ms. McNally needs to talk with
Spoilers: "Two Cathedrals," "H.Con 172," "In the Shadow of Two
Rating: PG-13/R? (maybe a little)
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 9/10
A West Wing
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
uncooperative muscles into action. She knew what Dr. Hilweg had
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
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
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
a nation and helped secure at least temporary stability for
world. Leo had told her that, said that she had done a good job.
succeeded at something, at least, even if it wasn't making Jed
taking away his pain. She couldn't do that, but she could
speak for him. So
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
had given up like it seemed. No amount of cajoling or teasing
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,
economics, passionate about politics, passionate about the
passionate about people, passionate about his children…and
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
week. But he had surprised her, had managed a romantic candlelit
dinner with wine and Mel Torme crooning in the background. The snare
carefully set, and if she followed him into the snare, she went
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.
forever. Just as Rosslyn changed it, so did Bethlehem, maybe even
Did it seem particularly special now as she wondered how
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
having him inside her again, of never feeling the fullness of
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
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
week ago. He's alive.
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
"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.
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
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
done. Using her own pain and trauma of the past week, she balled
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
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,
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
"Are you just going to sit there for the rest of your life?
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
how much effort you'll put out for me." She snapped out the
if she stopped she would certainly not be able to
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.
you've given up," she plunged on, "if you figure it's too hard to
this, then I don't know you. God, Jed, I don't even want to
He paled suddenly, a sick greenish flush crossing his face and she
almost reached for the wastebasket again. His eyes shifted from
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
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
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
He tried to lean forward to kiss her, but the ribs protested and
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
Prime Minister and the scraggly, robed Palestinian
leader. If Jed
was shocked, he either couldn't or wouldn't spare the effort
it. Instead, he lifted his chin toward the robe thrown across the
end of the bed. Draping it around his bare shoulders, she stepped
and nodded toward the unusual party as it moved deeper into the
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
The heavy accent of the gaunt Arab actually sounded sad and
regretful. "Mister President, I have come for several reasons. The
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
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
happened in my country, at a place especially important to you."
this was certainly amazing, these two coming here together, but
could not determine their intent. True concern? A
united front? An
appeasement so America wouldn't bomb them back to
Then things changed. The leader shifted to his right and Abbey saw
small woman emerge, wrapped in the confining, head-to-toe garb of her
culture. Unaware that she had even been there before, the First
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
to your god."
She watched her husband, whose eyes now flashed
with interest, whose
shoulders had squared again. But something about the
alerted her, something about the woman. It didn't take long to be
"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
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
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
face change. Her mouth opened at the determination spreading
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
him, but caught himself and waited. Oh, God. Please…
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,
Looking straight at the woman, he said, voice clear and strong,
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.
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
loved. This was the Jed Bartlet she needed.
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.
investigations are complete."
Oh, God. Abbey's heart surged upward into
her throat. She swallowed
in an effort to push it back down.
fell on the room before he went on. "With ninety percent
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
probably a result of the massive crowds following the
They stared at him. No one spoke. No one moved.
Abbey ran his
words over in her brain. Accidentally. Accidentally.
"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
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
Disclaimer: Everyone except Dr. Hilweg
belongs to A.S.
Shall We Bury Fathers or Sons? 10/10
A West Wing
"I feel, Mister President, that I must emphasize once again
recommendation that you reconsider."
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
monotone clay. But in general, he had always found it to be cast
earth tones, even down to the clothing of its inhabitants.
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
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.
Again, he watched the land between Jerusalem and Bethlehem fly
thankful that finally he was seeing only one of everything. That had
just happened that morning actually, a morning for a lot of firsts
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,
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
He still could feel the erotic scrape of the blade, the sensual
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
rather pleased with his body's response, but disappointed that
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
Careful, he told himself as the memory stirred
Remember where you are. For a brief, regrettable
straightened to draw in a deep breath. Pain shot from his ribs,
stabbing directly through his body, effectively destroying any
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.
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
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
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.
anybody got an asprin?"
He managed not to wince too much at the scowl on
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
error. Still, stand your ground. Show no weakness.
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
He grimaced. "Now you tell me."
After a moment, Leo
suggested, "There's probably some in the
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
From across the car, C.J. leaned forward. "I, uh, I have
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
"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
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
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
plastic bag in front of him.
"Is this what you need?" she
"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
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
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?"
distraction worked, at least for everyone but Abbey and he hadn't
she would fall for it anyway. Ron nodded, happy to be
proactive as much as
possible. Leo, Charlie, and C.J. leaned in to
retracing the last few steps you took, Mister President,"
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
arrived. All three of you—" Here he broke off, unable to
himself. "Mister President, having all three of you together is just
like painting big bulls eyes on your backs. Anyone who is determined
"Anyone who is determined to kill me, Ron, can do it, regardless
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
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.
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
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
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
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
occasion, but the roar did not dim with passing planes. Instead
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.
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,
Then it hit him, the concussion of an explosion, the surprise
finding himself crumpled against a jagged rock, smoke swirling, dust
raining, people screaming. Shock ran through him again, clutched at
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,
disappeared. Ron moved closer, not touching, but still lending
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
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
and watched as the ink flowed boldly onto it, proclaiming that
Bartlet was part of this, that Josiah Bartlet, President of
States of America was making a stand along with these
When he stood straight again, he had to take a moment to wait
swirling in his head. Thankfully, it calmed and he turned his
attention to the Israeli prime minister, who stepped to the
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
"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
work of a generation. In concept it requires a master-architect;
execution, the labors of many.' Our generation has begun
His arm swept back to include Jed in his remarks,
bringing color to
the President's cheeks. "We have the
Finally, he turned back to the crowd, arms up in
appeal to everyone
present and to the watching world. "Now the execution
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,
was his turn.
As he stepped to the crowded array of microphones,
he fought back the
wave of dizziness that washed over him, remembering
about a long speech. The pain had lessened, but his head
the effects of the Tylenol. But he could last it out, at least
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.
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
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
"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.
strength to hold out just a while longer, he pushed the power
"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?"
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
"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.
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
Head buzzing now, he stepped back from the
platform. The erupting
roar of the crowd seemed far away again, the wild,
by its distance from his consciousness. Still, he felt the
his, saw the smiles, the adoration on the faces, the tears on the
cheeks, heard the praise, the congratulations. The walk to the
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
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.
Yeah. I'm all right. I'll just sit up now. A gentle
his chest. Ouch. Still tender.
"Just lie there, Jed,
until we get back to the hospital. You'll be
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
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
admiration shining in his eyes, and that meant more to Jed than
words he could have uttered.
Now Abbey leaned in, her lips
brushing his ear intimately. "You did
good, Babe. You did real
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
You just pushed too hard. You just pushed too much, Jethro."
surprised snicker broke the seriousness and he mustered enough
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.
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
his eyes, but fought back the emotional display. Not here. Not in
front of everyone. Here he was the President of the United States.
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
"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
Hubert H. Humphrey
February 17, 1965, New York
"Peace can endure only so long as humanity really insists upon
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
finish the work of peace for which they fought and suffered; we
we failed them then, we cannot fail them again and
expect the world to
Franklin D. Roosevelt
"In peace the sons bury their fathers, but in war the
Croesus, Lydian king to Persian King
Quoted in Francis Bacon's Apophthegms No. 149
is an Epilogue to this story posted in the NC-17 Section.