Accidentally in Love

by: Skye

Character(s): Jed Bartlet, Abbey Bartlet, Leo McGarry
Pairing(s): Jed/Abbey
Category(s): Drama, Romance, Pre-WH
Rating: TEEN
Summary: On the anniversary of the day they met, Jed and Abbey convey the story to a few members of the staff. It is 1967, and they met for the first time aboard Leo McGarryís yaht, sailing to Marthaís Vineyard, but thereís trouble along the way.

Chapter One

At 11pm, Jed Bartlet walked into the Residence and strode past the agents,† through to his bedroom. He found his wife looking serene sitting on the couch reading Tender Is the Night.

"Hey," He greeted her.

"Hey." She smiled, but didnít look up from her book.

Jed took off his jacket and began to loosen his tie.

"Long day?" She asked, still focusing on the page she was reading.

"Yeah. Sorry I couldnít make dinner. Really I am."

"Itís ok," Abbey replied, in a surprisingly pleasant tone that caught Jed off guard.

He sat on the chair across from her and started to take off his shoes.

"Youíre very cheerful this evening, for a woman whoís just been stood up by her date."

"Eh, ya learn to live with it when youíre married to the most powerful man in the world."

He smiled, pulling off the shoe on his right foot.

"Kind of thrilling, actually," she continued, looking back down at the book.

†"Iíll bet." He took off his other shoe and leaned back in his chair to look at her.

"Mmm hmm."

"Havenít you read that book already?" Jed asked.

"A few times."

"You donít get tired of it?"

"Since when does anyone get tired of F. Scott Fitzgerald?"

"Point well taken."

She continued reading for a moment, then grinned to herself, set her bookmark, and closed the book.

"I donít suppose you remember what today is," Abbey said, coolly.

††††††† Jed racked his brain frantically. He really didnít think his back could stand sleeping on the couch tonight. Was it their anniversary? No, heíd never forget that. Her birthday? God, he hoped not, for his own safety. His birthday? Itíd happened before...

When she saw Jed worriedly trying to come up with an answer, she laughed and decided to answer for him.

"Itís the anniversary..."

Damn, Jed thought. I thought for sure...

"...of the day we met."

"Of the day---oh! Well...thank God for that!" Jed exclaimed with relief.

"What? Why?" Abbey asked, with confusion.

"No reason." He smiled innocently. "Why arenít you mad that I forgot?" He regretted reminding her directly after heíd said it.

"Iíve just been thinking of more important things," she replied.

"Like what?"

"Jed!"

"Oh. Right. Me too."

"No, you havenít. You didnít even remember."

"Thatís because it was hanging out in the back of my mind allllll the livelong day."

He was trying to save himself, and Abbey could see right through it as she always could.

"Uh huh."

"Which part, in particular, were you thinking about?" Jed questioned, moving over to sit beside her on the couch.

"All of it," Abbey said, smiling nostalgically. "Beginning to end. The entire weekend."

~~~~~

Jed never wanted to go on the trip. He thought for sure it was a bad idea and nothing good could ever come of it. But his best friend had asked him to and he didnít want to let him down.

Leo McGarryís parents had recently bought a brand-new yaht, complete with all the neccesities and superfluous luxeries. He thought it would be a nice idea to take it out "for a spin" while his parents were out of town for the weekend. Heíd even hired a captain so they wouldnít have to worry about it.The plan was to leave from the coast on Friday, sail to Marthaís Vineyard, and return home Monday morning. At first, Jed was excited about the trip. Even though he had a lot of studying to do despite the fact that it was spring break, he knew his stress level required him a vacation. And what better way than a weekend just hanging out with his best friend of whom heíd seen very little since winter break?

However, Jedís preconceptions of what the trip would be like were soon shattered when he found out that it wouldnít be just him and Leo taking the voyage. Leo had neglected to inform Jed that this was a couples trip. Leo was bringing along his latest flame, a girl named Jenny. He had also invited another friend of his and his girlfriend. Jed was at a loss. He hadnít had a girlfriend since he began college a year and a half earlier. As he was studying to become a priest, he didnít see the point in taunting himself or giving himself the chance to fall in love. At that point in his life, nothing mattered but God and serving him the best way he knew how, and women did not fit into that criteria.

While at first Jed was angry with Leo for putting him into such an awkward position, he got over it. He wasnít one to hold a grudge or let down his best friend. Jed decided to bring his cousin Amanda. He wasnít about to bring a girl he was interested in- he had worked too hard staying celibate to throw it all away on a whim. Plus, he really wasnít interested in anybody.†

On Friday morning, Jedís alarm clock woke him up at 4:30 a.m. He didnít mind waking up early, it was something he usually did anyway- though never quite that early. By 5:30, Leo was outside Jedís parentsí house honking his car horn. He had Jenny in the car with him, so Jed put his bags in the trunk and hopped into the back seat.

"This had better be a damned exciting trip, Leo, I swear," Jed said.

"Awe, come on, Jed. Relax. Live a little."

Jed sighed. Jenny turned around and smiled brightly at him.

"Iím glad you came," she said.

"Thanks, Jenny, itís good to see you too," Jed answered, congenially. He liked Jenny a lot and thought she and Leo were a perfect match.

"So, how do we get to Amandaís from here?"

Jed, Leo, Jenny, and Amanda arrived at the docks by 6am and loaded their stuff onto the McGarry family yaht, which was much bigger and luxurious than Jed had initially imagined.

"Your parents really went all out on this one, Leo," Jed commented, in awe.

"And thank God theyíve left town and put us in charge! This is gonna be the vacation of a lifetime, my friend," Leo replied.

While Jenny and Amanda walked around the docks chatting, Leo and Jed sat on the edge of the dock with their legs dangling over the edge.

"So whoís this friend weíre waiting for?" Jed questioned.

"I think youíre really gonna like him, buddy. Heís a great guy."

"Whatís his name?"

"Ron Erlich."

"Mmm. Erlich. Never heard of him," Jed answered.

"Not yet you havenít, but someday heís gonna be President, Iím tellin ya."

Jed laughed.

"Canít wait to meet him then." He paused. "I guess heís bringing a girl too?"

"Yep, heís bringing his girlfriend. Sheís a great kid. Iím not sure just how well you two will get along though," Leo added.

"Whyís that?"

"Eh, Iím thinking you guys will clash a little. I just donít think sheís your type, thatís all."

"Leo, I donít have a type. Iím a priest."

"A priest in training," Leo corrected him.

"Whatever. I have a priestís mindset and thatís all that matters."

"Well, with an attitude like that youíre definitely not gonna get any action on this trip."

Jed laughed.

"Amandaís my cousin and Jennyís your girl. Who were you figuring on me getting Ďactioní with? Ronís girl?"

"Hey, it was just a joke." Leo looked over toward the far end of the dock. "Look, thereís Ron."

Jed and Leo both stood and watched as a tall, well-built man came walking toward them with his arm around a tiny, fine-featured girl who looked no more than 5í2 in height. They immediately looked like the ultimate odd couple. In a fantasy world, he would have been the giant to her munchkin.

Leo called out to Jenny and Amanda, who came running over as well.

"Ron! How the hell are ya, man?" Leo exclaimed, hugging him.

"Canít complain. Yourself?"

"Just fine. Hiya, Munchy."

"Hey, Leo," she replied, sighing as if out of breath.

Leo called her Munchy on account of her munchkin-like appearance whenever she stood alongside Ron.

"Sorry weíre late," Ron said. "But some guy went into cardiac arrest on the train ride down here and Ms. Wannabe Doctor over here insisted on accompanying him to the hospital, even after the paramedics arrived."

"It was a learning opportunity, Ron! Iíve told you. I have to learn to to deal with crises at unexpected moments!" The girl disputed, frustrated.

†Jed turned to look at the girl by Ronís side. He had seen her as she walked up to them, but it was like he was seeing her for the first time now.

"But youíre not even in med school yet, honey," Ron said.

"Well, I will be, and I want to gather all the freelance experience I can get and I donít want to hear another word about this."

"Freelance experience. Ha. Do you hear this girl talk?" Ron laughed, cynically.

The girl rolled her eyes and crossed her arms across her chest. Jed hadnít expected such a big argumentive spirit to come out of such a small body. He was mesmerized.

"Uh, you guys both remember Jenny," Leo said, in an attempt to change the subject tactfully.

They both consented and greeted her.

"And this here is Jed Bartlet," Leo announced.

"Great to meet ya, Jed. Iíve heard a lot about you," Ron said, shaking Jedís hand.

"Wish I could say the same about you," Jed replied, laughing.

"Oh, and this is Jedís cousin Amanda," Leo added quickly.

"Whatsamatter, Bartlet, couldnít find anyone outside of the gene pool to bring along?" Ron joked.

"Jedís studying to be a priest, Ron, I told you that. Oh. Iím sorry. Jed, Amanda, this is Miss Abigail," Leo said, grinning at the girl who stood beside Ron. In the way that Jed liked Jenny, Leo adored Abbey. He found her charming, in an offbeat sort of way that was very endearing.

"Itís nice to meet you," Amanda said.

"Likewise," Abbey replied, politely, not looking at Amanda, but at her cousin, with a curious look on her face.

"Jed? Jed." Leo jabbed him in the ribs with his elbow when he realized that Jed had been spacing out, staring blankly at Abbey for over a minute now.

"Huh? Oh, sorry. Great to meet you, um..."

"Abbey," she said, quickly.

"Abbey," he repeated, as if it were a prayer.

She smiled brightly at him, as the rest of the crew shared confused glances throughout the awkward silence. Noticing there was something peculiar going on between them, Leo broke the silence.

"Jedís going to become a priest, Abbey," he reminded her, fervently.

"Oh...well...well, I think thatís great," she said, with only a little enthusiasm.

"You do?" Jed asked, with surprise.

"I do."

"I do too. Well, sort of..."

Before Jed could continue, Leo cut him off.

"Letís all man ship, shall we?"

Leo could tell something was happening, but he pretended he couldnít see. All he knew was that he had to keep his best friend on track, help him stay on the road to his dream- the priesthood.

Chapter Two

All six passengers began walking down the dock towards the yaht, each couple walking one behind the other. When they got on the ship, Leo showed them all to their rooms. There were three bedrooms inside the yaht. One with a double bed, one with two twin beds, and one with bunkbeds.

Leo and Jenny claimed the room with the double bed. Seeing as how the boat itself belonged to Leoís family, they took precedence over the other guests.

"Iím really glad weíre doing this," Jenny announced to Leo when they got into their room and had started unpacking their things.

Leo was distracted by what he had just seen, but tried to focus back on his girlfriend.

"Me too," he replied, grinning ecstatically at her. She was satisfied.

"Hey," he added. "Did you notice anything...odd back there on the dock?"

"Mmm, no. I donít think so. Why? Did you?"

"Donít worry about it, sweetheart," Leo said, avoiding the answer to her question.

"I really like Amanda, Leo. Sheís very sweet. I just feel awful for poor Jed."

"Why?"

"Well, heís around two couples...couples in the romantic sense. Heís only got his cousin."

"Thatís the life Jed has chosen to live, Jen. God only knows why," Leo answered. "No pun intended."

"And Iím excited Ron and Abbey are along. Theyíre such...troublemakers. They kind of give me a thrill."

Leo but smiled at her in response.

"I think Abbey and Jed are going to get on well. Jed and Ron may not be quite so lucky though," Jenny continued.

Leo laughed at the irony; heíd told Jed the exact opposite. He was certain he knew them best, so he was doubtful of Jennyís words.

"You think so?"

"Yes! I think Ronís too competitive for Jed," Jenny explained.

"You donít think Abbeyís competitive? Youíve got to be kidding."

"Well...she is, but in a different sense. Abbeyís just outspoken..."

"Outspokenís understating it..."

"...and very independent. Strong-willed and what have you. Ronís just plain animalistic about competition. Doesnít matter what he plays or what he gets out of it, as long as he wins."

"You should be a psychiatrist, Jenny, youíve got them all worked out," Leo said.

She grinned with complete satisfaction.

"They seem nice," Amanda said to Jed while they unpacked their suitcases in the room with the bunkbeds. †

"Mmm hmm."

"Heís very handsome. Pity heís already been spoken for. Ron, I mean."

"Whatís wrong with Leo?" Jed asked, laughing.

"Jed..."

"Ok." He smiled. "Thanks for coming with me, Mandy."

"Youíre welcome. You know, sheís very pretty too," Amanda stated, anxiously awaiting his reaction. Like Leo, she had noticed it too.

"Who, Jenny? Sure she is," Jed replied, absentmindedly.

"No, Ronís girlfriend. Abigail."

"Yeah? I havenít really given her a good look yet, I guess."

"Please, Jed, you were staring at her the entire time we were standing on the dock," Amanda countered, with amusement.

"Ha!"

"Oh, ha what, Jed? You were. Why do you think Leo was so anxious to move on from the conversation and get everyone on the boat? It was awkward."

"Youíre reading too much into this, Amanda. Sheís a very pretty girl, thatís all."

"You just told me you hadnít Ďgiven her a good look yetí and thus couldnít agree that was she a Ďvery pretty girl. í"

"Amanda."

"Jed."

"Remind me just how weíre blood-related," Jed said. "Because Iíd really like to have that blood removed."

"Look, itís no big deal. Just admit it. Admit you were attracted to her," Amanda demanded.

"I was not attracted to her! Iím attracted to God and no one else."

Amanda burst out laughing uncontrollably.

"Now youíre just lying to yourself, bucko. And Iím pretty sure you couldnít be any cornier."

"Amanda, Iím not lying!"

"Then youíre in denial."

"Ya know, I thought you were nice," Jed complained.

"I am. Thatís why Iím saying this to you. Come on, Jed, stop and think a bit. Maybe priesthood just isnít the right way to go for you."

"What, because Iím attracted to one girl?"

"Ha! You are attracted to her!"

"That was just mean, Amanda. Letís play fair here."

Amandaís laughter subsided and her smile was replaced by a look of concern.

"Josiah Bartlet, I need you to hear me. I know you want to go into the God business because itís tradition in our family. I know that in the Bartlet clan, youíre either married or youíre in the church. But I just canít imagine you sitting behind a dark screen in a confessional absolving people of their sins. I see you out there in the real world, doing something about it."

Jed listened to her, seriously this time, considering her words carefully.

"Just promise me youíll think about it, Jed."

"I will, Mandy, but Iím telling you that..."

"Thatís all I ask." She cut him off before he could say what she knew he wanted to.

Across the way, in the room with the twin beds, Ron and Abbey were having a far-from-boring conversation of their own whilst unpacking their things.

"I canít wait till we get to the Vineyard. I havenít been there in years," Ron said, opening his suitcase.

His normally very verbal girlfriend said nothing, she only stood in front of her suitcase on her bed and re-folded all of her clothes.

"Abbey."

"What?"

"You stopped listening to me. And you stopped talking. In short, youíre scaring me."

"Sorry. I guess the whole train ordeal has me a little on the spacey side."

Ron laughed.

"Speaking of spacey, that Jed Bartlet is quite a character, eh?"

"Mmm. Quite."

"Itís always funny to me when people space out."

Abbey looked at him as if he was crazy. Who says that kind of thing? She wondered. He carried on.

"Although Iím not so sure I like the fact that he spaced out while staring at you."

"Oh, come on, Ron. You said yourself he was just spacing out, absentmindedly. It wasnít like he was hitting on me or anything. Heís a man of God, for Godís...ahem, goodnessí sake."

"Heís not a man of God yet, Abbey," Ron said, suspiciously.

"Ron, seriously. You need to give this up. You know how I feel about jealous guys. Itís a..."

"Major turnoff, I know, I know. Youíre right. I have nothing to worry about."

"Thatís right," Abbey replied, firmly.

"I donít have to worry about anyone taking my girl from me," he said as a cunning smile crept over his face.

"Not now, Ron," she said, trying to hold in her girlish giggles.

"Why not now..." Said Ron, slowly meandering toward her.

"Because weíre on a boat!" But she couldnít help laughing.

"Thereís a first time for everything."

They fell back onto her bed as Abbey laughed uncontrollably. Ron joined her in her laughter.

"Honey, if you donít stop laughing, weíre not gonna get anywhere!" Ron exclaimed, causing them both to laugh even harder.

At that moment, Jed opened the door, almost jumping back when he saw them. They stopped the laughter immediately and Ron slid off from on top of her.

"Whatís up, man?" Ron questioned, congenially.

"Um...Leo told me to tell you† guys that weíre about to pull back the rope."

Abbey, who was in a very giggly mood at this point, laughed and said, "Ok, what does that mean? I have no idea what that means!"

"Uh. Just means weíre about to leave shore," Jed answered, feeling more than incredibly awkward.

"Oh." She threw her head back and laughed even more at her own stupidity.

"Ok," Jed said, tentatively, backing out of the room.

Once he was gone, Ron said, "I think we scared Pope Bartlet out of his wits, for the love of celibacy!"

Although something inside Abbey felt bad for their unwitting intruder, she continued her laughter in the best way she knew how. For Ronís sake.

Within a few minutes, everyone was on deck watching as the yaht sailed gracefully away from the dock.

"Itís so exciting, isnít it?" Jenny said.

"It really is," Amanda answered, looking out on the water.

"I feel weíre like weíre about to embark on something really exciting. Something special," Jenny continued.

"Something weíll never forget," Amanda agreed.

"I hope so," Leo said, squeezing Jennyís hand.

"Iím inclined to agree with you guys," Abbey said, and Ron put his arm around her.

Jed suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. All at once, he was struck with a thought. Was this it? The rest of his life? Would he have to spend his entire life plagued by this horrible feeling? They said God would be the only friend heíd ever need. But the fact of the matter was, God couldnít keep you warm at night. It was then that Jed realized this.

Chapter Three

An hour later, everyone was lounging on front deck in their bathing suits basking in the glow of the sun, which was extra warm for that time of year. Except for Jed, that is. He was sitting alone on the smaller deck in the rear of the yaht. He needed some time to think about his outrageous revelation. They had all been talking about Lyndon B. Johnson and his recent activities. It was a heated conversation, but they all found ways to laugh about it.

"Hey!" Amanda exclaimed out of nowhere, sitting upright. "Where did Jed get to?"

"Uh, I think I saw him go to the back deck," Ron answered.

"I think Iíll go check on him," Amanda said.

"Heís not five, Amanda," Abbey said, taking a sip from her martini glass.

"Iíll go," Leo volunteered. "I bet I know whatís keeping him."

"Bible study?" Ron questioned, sarcastically.

"Ron," Abbey said, as if she were about to scold him, but then she just laughed.

Leo got up and left his friends to go check on Jed.

"Hey."

"Oh, hey, Leo."

"What are you doing back here? The partyís up there."

"I was just thinking," Jed answered, pensively.

"About?"

"My future."

"Thatís pretty deep thinking for a carefree vacation, Jed."

"It just occurred to me."

"What did?" Leo asked.

"That I might not have thought everything through."

"Thought what through?"

"The priesthood," Jed answered.

"Wait a second, whoa. Youíre reconsidering all of this?"

"Well, not reconsidering it...just thinking about it."

"I thought you were completely adament," Leo argued.

"I am. Was. Am. I donít know. Thatís why Iím over here thinking."

"What do you think about Abbey?"

"Whoa. Where did that come from?"

"Answer the question," Leo demanded.

"Sheís nice. Very nice," Jed answered.

"Thatís it?"

"I donít really know her, Leo. In fact, I barely just met her. My gosh, why is everyone asking me about her? We exchanged a few words, right in front of all of you. She has a serious boyfriend, Iím joining the church. What is so fascinating to everyone?"

"If itís not so fascinating, why are you getting so defensive?"

"Because this is stupid! We didnít do anything and everyoneís getting on my case."

"Donít pretend you didnít feel something, Jed. The rest of us did and we were only bystanders."

"Ok, so I felt something! Weíre obviously meant to be friends," Jed conceded.

Leo just looked at him incredulously.

"Jed, youíre kidding yourself. If you donít think that..."

Suddenly, Abbey appeared. Like the rest of them, she was wearing her bathing suit and also a wrap. She had her sunglasses on, but pulled them up to rest on the top of her head and hold her dark hair back when she arrived. Jed was speechless at the sight of her. Not only did she take him (both of them actually) completely by surprise with her presence, her appearance wasnít exactly of average quality either.

"Hi," she said, smiling broadly.

"Hey, Abbey," Leo said casually. Jed said nothing. He was reduced to staring, just as he had when theyíd first been introduced. "Jed."

"What? Oh. Hi, Abbey," Jed greeted her.

"I, um, just came to make sure everything was all right."

"Everythingís fine, Abbey, thanks," Leo answered.

She turned to walk away, then turned back around and smiled sheepishly.

"Truth is, theyíre boring me to tears back there," she admitted.

"Talking about what?" Leo asked.

"The war. Theyíre war mongors, the lot of them. I canít stand it."

Leo hopped up.

"War talk! Canít miss this." With that, Leo was gone. He was always a sucker for the military and found everything about war incredibly exchilarating.

Abbey and Jed laughed, looked awkwardly at each other, and then Abbey sat down beside him.

"I guess Iím just an extremely liberal pacifist, but I canít even be around war discussions," she told him.

Jed nodded.

"What about you? Do you enjoy a good war as much as the next man?"

"Um, well, no, actually. Iím a pacifist too."

"Well, thank God. Crap. Goodness, thank goodness. I gotta stop doing that."

Jed laughed.

"Itís ok, you donít have to do that," he said, although he was flattered that she was so considerate of his situation.

"I have to. I feel weird. But hey, nice to see thereís another male pacifist in America besides Bob Dylan."

"Heís a hard act to follow though," Jed answered.

"That he is. And no one knows better than me."

He looked at her quizzically, probing her to clarify her previous statement.

"Youíre going to laugh," she warned him.

"Try me."

"Youíre going to hate me."

"Never."

"Youíre going to want to jump ship."

"What, and let Bob Dylan run the Male Pacifist Society of America all by himself?"

"Well, ok, but you canít tell anyone. No one," she ordered.

"No one. Not even Ron?"

"No one," Abbey repeated.

"Ok, ok," he conceded, laughing.

Abbey took a deep breath and braced herself.

"I used to be a Bob Dylan groupy."

His jaw dropped. There was nothing she could have said that could have shocked him more.

"See? You hate me."

He shook his head, still unable to speak.

"You want to jump ship."

He started to shake his head, then nodded. They both laughed.

"I told you youíd laugh."

"Youíre laughing too!"

"Iím allowed to laugh. Itís my lurid past after all," she protested.

"This is true. I canít believe you were a groupy."

"It wasnít for long. A few months maybe. Not even."

"And Ron doesnít know?"

"No! And donít you even think about telling him."

"Oook, I wonít. I just...wow, canít believe it."

"Ron would have a coronary," Abbey said.

"Heck, I almost had a coronary and I only just met you!"

"I was young and impressionable," Abbey said, wistfully.

"Youíre still young and impressionable."

"Thatís what they say."

There was a short silence as they looked at each other, until Abbey spoke again.

"Ya know, itís really remarkable."

"What is?"

"That weíre able to talk and have a conversation so easily," she explained.

Jed nodded in agreement.

"It took Ron weeks before he could put together a coherent sentence around me."

Jed laughed.

"You mean he can now? Because judging from what I saw..."

"Hey, come on. Ronís a good guy, for all intents and purposes. And he loves me. Thatís what he says at least."

"...and Brutus is an honorable man," Jed noted, referencing the irony of the play Julius Caesar.

"I know, I know, but really. He does. I think so."

"Well, I hope for your sake that he does."

"Yeah," Abbey said quietly, looking down. "Well, I better get back."

"Donít go. Please."

She was surprised. Pleasantly surprised.

"All right."

"I...I want to talk to you."

"You do?!"

"Of course I do," Jed answered, matter-of-factly.

"Wow. No oneís ever said anything so awkward and corny to me before. Thank you." She grinned.

"Well, I just..."

"You donít have to explain. I was just kidding."

"How did you get so good with words?" He asked.

"Practice. I talk a lot. In case you havenít guessed that already."

"I like hearing you talk."

"Again with the corny."

"Itís just that youíre interesting when youíre going on..."

She held her hand up in front of him and he fell silent.

"Maybe not so much for you with the talking."

They locked eyes for a moment, then Abbey leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. When she moved back into her original position, she smiled as if sheíd just accomplished something major. He was stunned. And shocked. He wanted more, and he hated himself for feeling that way.

"So," she said, cheerfully. "Whatís your position on nuclear warfare?"

"Abbey, I canít talk to you about nuclear warfare after..."

"Come on, Jed. Nuclear warfare. Letís have a crossfire. Right now."

"Youíre crazy, you know that?"

"Yes, I do. Now. How do you feel about..."

"Stop, stop, hold on. Why are you changing the subject?" He asked, fervently.

"Because I donít know why I did that," she answered, quickly, not looking at him. "Because Iím embarassed and thatís the way I handle humiliation. I move on, I pretend it didnít happen, I change the subject. So can we please just..."

She was cut off again.

"Why are you embarassed?"

"Because I kissed you."

"Hardly. You kisssed me on the cheek."

"It doesnít matter. I have a boyfriend. And youíre Pope Bartlet."

"What?"

"Nothing, forget I said that. Damn you, Ron."

"Damn him for what?" Jed questioned, determined to get as much out of her as possible.

"Damn him for being my boyfriend and damn him for calling you Pope Bartlet and making it stick in my mind!" She exclaimed. "And oh my God, I just said damn in front of a man of the bible three times. Four now."

"Itís ok, Abbey..."

"And I just took the Lordís name in vain while trying to apologize for saying damn. Oh God. I did it again!!!"

"Whoa whoa whoa, calm down. Itís ok," Jed said, reassuringly.

"Whatís ok?"

"Itís ok that you took the Lordís name in vain, itís ok that you said damn, and itís ok that you kissed me."

"It is?" She asked, timidly.

"Yes. It is."

"Well, what do we do now?"

"I donít know the answer to that one."

"Ok..."

"Youíre the one who made the first move, you tell me," Jed said.

"I donít know! This is crazy."

"Youíre crazy."

"You are!"

"Weíre really getting somewhere now," he said.

She laughed reluctantly, a whine in her voice.

"Ok, letís just forget this even happened," Abbey suggested.

"You know thatís not gonna work."

"I think weíre making this a bigger deal than it is."

"Maybe we are. But that doesnít change the fact that both weíre nervous wrecks right now," Jed pointed out.

"Right. Well. Letís just go back to to the front deck and continue on with our lives. Itís not like we did anything wrong. Weíre just being dramatic."

"Youíre right. Come on."

Chapter Four

"Youíre kidding me. You just kissed him out of nowhere?!" Sam exclaimed, looking at Abbey.

The senior staff had joined the Bartlets in the Residence, inadvertently of course. They came to talk to the President about an important matter, all of them together for moral support, and got sucked in by the First Lady and got hooked on the story she and Jed were telling them about how they first got together. Now, they were leaning in, listening intently to every word of the story. They all, especially CJ, loved hearing about the Presidentís past, particularly when it involved the First Lady.

"Sam, would you just let the First Lady talk please?" Toby said, annoyed. He was thoroughly engrossed in the story, and no one expected him of all people to get so into it.

"I kissed him on the cheek, Sam," Abbey replied.

"Still! Out of nowhere!" Sam laughed at the thought. "You kissed a priest, Mrs. Bartlet."

"Hey, hey, hey, I was not a priest yet," Jed corrected.

"I guess I did kiss a priest. Well, that just changes things entirely."

"Please go on, maíam," C. J. begged.

"Yes, go on!" Donna implored.

"Youíre such girls," Josh said. They shot him back an evil look and he immediately backed down.

"If you guys would all shut up, they could continue," Leo said.

"Leo, you only like this story cuz youíre in it," Josh countered.

"Maybe. But itís still a good story."

"Ya know, one thing I wasnít aware of was that you knew the First Lady before the President did, Leo," CJ pointed out.

"We try to forget that bit, CJ," the President said.

"And Leo didnít think they would get along," Donna said, sighing. "Itís so romantic."

Josh rolled his eyes.

"And so the story goes..."

~~~

Three hours later, Abbey was resting in her room. She was exhausted and couldnít put her finger on why. But she had a hunch it had something to do with the goings-on in her mind of late. Though she wanted to, she couldnít fall asleep and she† couldnít make her mind wander. It was focused on only one thing.

Then there was a knock on there door, a loud knock which startled her.

"Hey, Abbey?"

It was Leo.

"Come in," she called.

He opened the door.

"How ya doin?"

"Oh, Iím fine. Just tired."

"You look distraught," Leo insisted.

"Nope. Just tired, Leo."

"Ok. Well, I just wanted to tell you that weíll be at the Vineyard in an hour. We were gonna go out to dinner someone near the docks, so wear something nice."

"Will do. Thanks."

He nodded and left the room. He was replaced, however, by Jenny and Amanda came running in the room, squealiing as they closed the door behind them.

"Whoa. Whatís going on?" Abbey asked.

Amanda and Jenny jumped onto the other bed, excitedly.

"What happened?"

"With what?"

"With Jed!" Jenny exclaimed.

"What are you talking about?"

"You and Jed. You were gone for at least half an hour," Amanda stated.

"We were just talking, what do you think?"

"We know you just talked, Abbey, but what did you talk about?" Jenny questioned.

"Um, politics. Nuclear warfare, in fact," she answered.

"You didnít!"

"Yes, we did."

"Oh, Abbey," Jenny sighed.

"What?!"

"You donít see it, do you?"

"See what?"

"Jed. Heís totally gaga for you."

"Heís gaga for God, girls, now go away."

"Why?" Amanda inquired.

"Because I have to get dressed for dinner. And so do you."

"Whatís so important about dinner?" Jenny wondered.

"Youíll see."

When Ron came into his room, he saw Abbey sitting on her bed putting on a pair of stiletto heels. She was wearing a slinky, backless black cocktail dress and her hair was put up with a few lone strands loose.

"Jesus God."

She turned around.

"Oh, hi! Whereíve you been?" She asked.

"I have no idea but apparently I was missing a whole lot," he answered.

"Uh uh. Stay back. I want to look perfect and stay that way. I wonít have you messing me up," Abbey protested.

"Youíre so beautiful."

"Ron."

"You are. You put Jenny and Amanda to shame."

"Ron, please. Itís not a competition."

"It should be," he said.

She wasnít sure why, but something about him began to repulse her. She used to love it when he told her she was beautiful and now it was making her physically sick.

"Why wonít you let me touch you?" Ron asked, quietly.

Abbey was taken aback by the question.

"What? No. I just want to look perfect for tonight."

"Why? Got a hot date?"

"Shut up, Ron. Could you be any cruder?" Abbey said, looking at him with disgust.

"Is it so horrible to tell my† girlfriend that sheís beautiful?"

"No." She felt bad. "Iím sorry. I donít know whatís the matter with me."

He sighed. ††††

"Itís all right, honey. Letís just get out there, ok? Leo says weíre docking soon."

She smiled.

"Ok."

They all waited on the deck of the yaht as it pulled into the harbor at Marthaís Vineyard. The sun was setting and the view was incredible. They stared at the sight before them with awe.

"Weíre acting like weíve never been the Marthaís Vineyard before," Ron commented, laughing.

"Thatís true. I mean, who here hasnít spent at least one summer here in their lifetime?" Amanda asked.

Nobody responded.

"I guess we all have then."

"Iíve actually only been here once or twice," Jenny stated.

"My cousins live here, so Iíve spent a fair share of time in these parts," Ron added.

"My parents make me come here with them every year for Labor Day weekend. They have a huge annual cook-out," Leo said.

"I used to spend every summer here with my sisters and my grandmother," Abbey said.

Jed seemed startled when he looked at her.

"So did I!"

"Oh, thatís right, Jed. I forgot your parents made you go stay with Uncle George every year. Lucky I got out of that one," Said Amanda.

But Jed wasnít paying attention...again. He had lost control of his eyes to Abbey. . . again. However, this time his mind was full of flashbacks and he struggled come back to earth.

"Jed, youíre doing it again," Leo whispered to him, noting Ronís angered expression.

Abbey looked at him curiously, and he snapped out of it.

"Are you ok?" She asked, with concern.

"Uh." He blinked, still not completely together. "Yeah. Fine. Thank you."

Ron glanced at Abbey, with an angry expression on his face still. She shot him back an even angrier glance, signaling for him to back down.

As the boat pulled up next to the dock, its passengers all stood silently, as if a wall divided all of them. And then there were two. Only two, who felt more connected to each other than anyone, with no indications as to why, and no hopes for the future as far as they could see.

Chapter Five

They walked around the coast of the island for about an hour, just shopping and taking pictures, basking in the glow of their time together. They felt like highschoolers on spring break who had taken a road trip to Miami. Except this was much more sophisticated. They were in college now and had taken a yaht to Marthaís Vineyard.

Jenny, Amanda, and Abbey couldnít keep their hands off their respective cameras. It seemed to the guys that a camera was always flashing at some point. They stood on the boardwalk, with bright lights and a lighthouse behind them, and went picture crazy. Jed found himself again mesmorized as he watched Abbey model mockingly for the Jenny and Amandaís cameras. As he watched, his thoughts kept quickly flashing back to about five years earlier, on that very beach.

Afterwards, they headed to a small bistro nearby which overlooked the ocean. It was dark by then and the moonlight lit up the patio of the restaurant where they all sat.

"This is so amazing. Would you just look at that view?" Jenny marveled, taking numerous snapshots with her camera.

"Come on, Jenny, put the camera away now. This is a restaurant," Leo requested.

She sighed and did as she was told.

††††††† "Oh, God. This is bringing me so far back! All those summers with my grandmother when I was a kid. The carefree days of summer vacation," Abbey said, her eyes glazing over at the memory.

Jed had to kick himself to keep from responding.

"Had some crazy times, eh?" Leo surmised, raising an eyebrow.

"I was a kid, Leo!" She exclaimed, laughing.

"Oh yeah, and when did you stop visiting here in the summer?"

Abbey looked down with a sort of amused embarassment and answered, "When I was 18."

"That was, like, a year ago! You werenít a kid then."

"So what kind of stuff did you do here all summer, Abbey?" Amanda questioned with interest.

"Just what youíd expect. Spent the entire time here at the beach with my friends. Ugh, I got so sunburnt every year. But I never cared."

"What about you, Jed? What did you do when you were here?" Jenny asked him, noticing he hadnít joined the conversation yet.

"Oh...um...well, basically the same," he answered, stuttering. "Nothing exciting."

"I remember one year, when my parents had their annual cook-out here, Ron and I..." Leo began.

Ron held his hand up and signaled for the waitress, jokingly.

"Iím gonna need a beer for this one!" He commented, laughing.

Two hours, four bottles of champagne, five beers, and two vodkas later...

"We really need to do this more often!" A drunken Leo exclaimed, pouring himself more champagne.

"Here, here!"

Jenny, Amanda, and Ron, all equally as drunk as their friend, raised their glasses in hearty agreement. Leo refilled their glasses. Abbey and Jed, neither of whom had consumed more than one glass of champagne throughout the entire evening, sat quietly across from each other, both feeling slightly uneasy about the conditions of their friends.

"I got it!" Ron cried, out of nowhere. "Letís go to Junkyís!"

"Whatís Junkyís?" Jenny asked.

"Itís bar down the street," Leo clarified. "We gotta play some pool!"

"Yeah, man!" Ron agreed. "Show the ladies how itís done!"

Jenny and Amanda, clearly very tipsy with no attempts to hide it, were all in favor of the excursion.

"Jed? Abbey?" Leo said, extending the invitation their way.

Abbey cleared her throat uneasily before she answered.

"Uh, no. I think Iím gonna pass on this one."

"Awe, come on, honey. We could win a lot of dough outta this. Iím a master at pool," Ron said, trying to persuade her.

"No, Iím...just no." She didnít bother to explain. The state they all were in, Abbey knew, would prevent them from comprehending reasoning or rationalization of any kind.

"Well, we canít leave you here by yourself, Abbey!" Jenny said, in a high-pitched voice.

"Thatís right. Sheís right. Iím not leaving you here alone. I may be drunk, but Iím not gonna risk anything happening to you," Ron agreed.

"No, itís fine. Iíll be fine. Iíll just walk the beach for a little while then head back to the boat. No harm done," Abbey insisted, fervently. In fact, she wouldnít have minded some time without Ron just then.

"No, Iím not gonna leave you by yourself. Point blank."

"Iíll stay!" Jed volunteered, trying to mask his enthusiasm.

"There we go!" Leo said. "Jedíll stay with Abbey. All is well."

"I donít know...Abbey?" Ron looked to her for approval.

"Oh, itís fine with me," she replied. Then she smiled kindly at Jed. "Thatís really generous of you, Jed."

"Well...bars arenít really my thing to be honest."

"Then itís settled!" Said Leo. "Letís go."

Leo, Jenny, Ron, and Amanda all stood from their chairs, all of them swaying and almost tipping over. Not only were the incredibly drunk, but none of them had stood on their own two feet in hours. They said their goodbyes to Abbey and Jed and rushed off to Junkyís fast as their alcohol-weakened bodies would take them.

Jed and Abbey still at the table, looking at each other, unsure of what to do next.

"You know, I would really like to go off on an tangent talking about how pathetic they are but...we didnít exactly do anything to deter them. So I guess weíre about as much to blame," Abbey said.

"True."

"Thanks for staying with me. I know Ron would have literally dragged me along if you hadnít volunteered. Heís so paranoid like that."

"And heís not paranoid leaving you alone with another guy?" Jed asked.

Abbey laughed.

"Youíre studying theology, Jed! Why should he be worried?" She wanted to tell him that, in truth, Ron really was suspicious of Jedís intentions, despite his potential future. He was just too drunk now to realize what was happening.

Jed nodded, emotionless. She was right. Why should he be worried? He looked around to noticed a few couples out of the dance floor and was struck by an idea.

"Hey, do you wanna dance?" He inquired.

She looked surprised, and then smiled.

"Why not?"

They both stood and walked out onto the floor. She took his hand and he put his free hand on her waist and they began to sway, looking like any other couple out there. Neither of them spoke for a few minutes. It didnít seem as if there were any words that were apt enough for the situation.

"Wow," she said, smiling. "You havenít stepped on my feet once. You may be the only guy Iíve ever danced with who has accomplished such a feat."

"Well, Iím concentrating."

She grinned. He really was, she noticed with amusement.

After another moment of silence, he spoke.

"Ya know, Abbey, Iíve been meaning to talk to you about something all night."

"Oh no. Not about what happened back on the boat...?"

"No, no. Not that," he answered.

"What then?" She asked with curiousity.

"Well, itís about you spending your summers here. And me...also spending my summers here."

Abbey laughed at the awkwardness of his sentence. Somehow she remembered Leo telling her that Jed was quite the wordsmith...but it turned out he was only verbally talented in front of large groups of people, not in one on one situations.

"Yes?"

"Um...did you used to go to the far end of the beach, the rocky end, by yourself and just read?" He felt beyond ridiculous asking her that, but he was just so sure.

She was taken aback.

"Well...yeah. How did you know that?"

"I knew it," he whispered to himself. "I canít believe it."

"What? You canít believe what?!"

"Youíre Sweet Knees," he told her, disbelief plain in his voice.

"Iím what?"

"Sweet Knees. Ok, this is going to be hard to explain. And embarassing."

"Well, for goodnessí sake, tell me. Iím shaken."

"Ok. Well, every summer starting when I was twelve, I starting seeing this girl when I came to the Vineyard. She seemed to always be where I was. After awhile, I just started noticing her everywhere and noticing everything about her. It was like...like she wasnít even real. I went through a point where I truly didnít think she existed, that she was only a figment of my imagination, my own conjured up image of the perfect girl. And I used to watch her every summer until I was eighteen and went to college."

Abbey eyes were widened and watery.

"And?" She asked, quietly, as they continued dancing.

"And...that girl, whom I eventually dubbed Sweet Knees ...is you."

She was stunned and, simply, speechless. Sheíd had admirerers before, but none quite like this.

"Why...why Sweet Knees?" Abbey asked quietly, stammering profusely.

"Well, itís hard to explain, but she...you...had these fantastic-looking knees. I never knew why I noticed them or why they were fantastic but...they stood out."

Abbey glanced down at her knees and blushed, suddenly wishing sheíd worn a longer dress so she wouldnít have to look at them.

"I...wow." Was all she could manage to say.

"Iím sorry, I know I sound like some crazy, obsessed stalker, but Iím really..."

"No, you donít. Not at all."

"Then whatís the matter?" Jed asked, concerned.

"Itís just...just that. . . well, thatís just the most romantic thing Iíve ever heard anybody say."†

Chapter Six

"Awwwwwww!" Donna squealed, girlishly.

"Oh my God, look at CJ!" Sam exclaimed, pointing to CJ who had tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Whatís the matter, CJ?" Abbey asked with concern. She couldnít recall the last time sheíd seen CJ cry. None of them could.

"Nothing itís just...thatís so beautiful."

"Oh, honey, donít worry. Things get more complicated and less romantic as the story goes on," Abbey told her.

"What! The entire thing was romantic, Abigail! What are you saying, Sweet Knees, that I was too much of a bad boy for you?" Jed raised an eyebrow at his wife.

"Oh yeah, Pope Bartlet. You were a real rebel. Rebel with a bible in hand."

"At least he wasnít a groupy, Mrs. Bartlet," Sam added, facetiously.

"Oh, he only benefited from me being a groupy, Sam. I taught him everything I learned when..." Abbey responded.

"Ah! Stop!" Sam put his hands over his ears.

"Whatever you do, Mrs. Bartlet, do not finish that sentence," Toby said.

The staff prefered to think of the couple the old-fashioned way...separate beds and all. Leo laughed at their naÔve ways. He had lived with the First Couple, so to speak, for nearly forty years. They had no idea...

"So you did know the First Lady before Leo!" Josh said to the President, quickly trying to change the subject.

"Hey, we were just trying to keep ya on your toes," Jed said.

"I would have never imagined..." Toby began, thoughfully.

"What? That I stalked the First Lady then finally gave up and decided to become a priest?" Jed laughed.

"Well, that fate had to do with your courtship," Toby finished. "Never would have guessed."

"Oh, Toby, fate had so much to do it with," Abbey said.

~

He laughed quietly, out of sheer relief. He had no idea how she was going to react when he told her all obout his flashbacks, etc. . They continued dancing silently for another moment. When the song ended, Abbeyís wild spirit repossessed her. She picked up her purse from the table, grabbed Jedís hand, and led him away from the restaurant.

"Where are we going?" He asked.

"If this were five years ago, summer, where would I be going at 11:35pm, aka right now?" She asked, with conviction.

Suddenly it clicked.

"The end of the beach," he replied.

She grinned.

"Bingo."

She dragged him across the busy streets and onto the beach.

"Wow. Iíve waited about six years to be able to walk down this beach with you. God truly works in mysterious ways," Jed said.

Abbey cringed at the mention of God. It reminded her about his chosen career (and really his life) path. The thought of which caused her physical pain. It was the only thing keeping him away from her. Unless you counted Ron, which she didnít.

"Well, you were nice enough to babysit for me, so this is the least I can do."

"Hey, babysitting you has been fun so far. No complaints here."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," he replied.

"Why the priesthood?"

Oh yeah. The priesthood. Being with her had almost made him forget.

"Itís tradition in my family. Youíre either in the church or youíre married."

"So why the church and not marriage?" Abbey asked, as they walked slowly down the beach.

"Well, by the time I had to choose a major, I hadnít found anyone I wanted to marry and never thought Iíd find someone that I loved enough to actually spend my entire life with, day after day. Thatís no small thing with me. I took that as a sign and so I went with theology over economics."

"Hmm. What happens if some day, maybe twenty years from now, when youíre already a priest...what happens if you find someone then?" She inquired.

"I...I donít know. The thought had never occurred to me."

She nodded, and they continued walking.

"Abbey."

"Hmm?"

"What about you? Youíre studying to be a doctor?"

"Oh. Yeah, Iím pre-med at Amherst," Abbey replied.

"Great school."

"Yeah, it is. I love it."

"Iím impressed that youíre pre-med," he said.

"Why? Because Iím a woman?"

"Well...partly, yes. But I gotta say, I admire anyone who wants to be a doctor."

"Whyís that?"

"Because I could never do it. It takes a very strong person to be a doctor, I imagine. With a strong stomach to boot."

"I suppose youíre right."

"So why do you want to be a doctor?" Jed asked.

"An insatiable, overwhelming need to help people."

"Wow. I really do admire that."

"Plus, Iím a total control freak, and the thought of controling whether a person lives or dies gives me a thrill unlike any other," she explained.

They stopped walking. He looked at her seriously and said something that even shocked him.

"You are so completely unique from all the world, Abigail."

She laughed, uneasily.

"You should see me when Iím at my worst."

"I wouldnít mind it," he answered, truthfully. She was taken aback by his answer, and the surprising honesty the emanated from it

"Itís hard to believe weíve only just met this morning," Abbey commented, still feeling uneasy about where the conversation was going.

"Yeah. Feels like weíve been on this trip for ages already and it hasnít even been a whole day."†

"I feel like weíre halfway across the world, but weíre really only miles from home."

"Thatís the beauty of Marthaís Vineyard. It makes you feel like youíre vacationing across the ocean, but youíve hardly even left home," Jed agreed.

The wind was starting up pick up, but the air was still so warm, even without the sun. It was after midnight now, but neither of them were in the least bit tired.

"Do you mind if we sit down?" She asked.

"Nope. Not at all."

She positioned herself down on the sand and he sat next to her. They were just close enough to the water that they could breathe in the fresh, sea air but far enough away that they tide wouldnít reach them.

"I miss coming here every summer," Abbey said.

"Didnít you say you came here last summer?"

"Yes, but..."

"Then you technically havenít had a summer away from here yet," Jed pointed out, laughing at her.

"Well, it feels like I have."

He turned and smiled at her; she smiled back. Their gazes lingered for a moment, then they both quickly turned back to looked at the ocean awkwardly.

"So why arenít you going to come this summer?" Jed asked.

"Why arenít you?"

"Iím too old, I guess."

"Ditto then."

"Thatís not why," he said.

"How do you know?"

"Iím very perceptive."

"Well, youíre right. My grandmother died in November. Sheís the one I used to..."

"I know. Iím so sorry about that, Abbey," Jed offered.

"Thanks."

"She was a real nice lady."

"You knew her?" Abbey asked, shocked.

"Sure. Well, only from afar. She was with you a lot when you were here, so I saw both of you much of the time."

She laughed.

"Maybe you are a stalker."

"No, I just..."

"Iím kidding. I donít think youíre a stalker, Jed."

"Ok."

"Itís weird for me, thinking that you used to...know me, but I had no idea. Iím trying to remember some of the embarassing things you must have seen me do," Abbey admitted.

"Well, there was that time you dropped your book in the ocean..."

"Ahh! No!"

"...and then you dove in after it and fished around for about five minutes."

"I was hoping you hadnít been around for that."

"Must have been a good book," he said.

"Peyton Place."

"There ya go. Thatís worth searching the Atlantic for."

"I canít believe you saw that." She was turning red, something that rarely happen to a girl with such confidence.

"Oh, yeah. That was masterpiece theater right there," Jed said, grinning as she blushed.

She sighed.

"Now Iím just plain embarassed."

"Donít be. You kept me in a good mood for days after that."

"So you enjoy reveling in the adversity of others?" Abbey asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

"Sure do." He winked at her.

"What a great man of the cloth youíll make," she commented, sarcastically.

"Donít have to tell me twice."

Abbey could tell that Jed was starting to become more comfortable in her presence. At first, he had been very nervous, shy, and terse. Now he was relaxed and not afraid to be honest with her. And it made her enjoy his company even more, despite herself.

"How long do you think theyíll be at Junkyís?" Abbey questioned.

"If I know Leo, a long time. And Jenny may look innocent, but Iíve known her to be quite the barfly at times. Theyíll be gone for hours. Till the wee hours of the morning, Iím willing to bet."

"Oh." She looked down.

"Why?"

"Just wondering."

"Abbey. Do you consider me a friend by now?" Jed asked her.

"Well, yeah, I guess?"

"Then tell me what youíre really thinking."

"What makes you assume Iíve got ulterior motives, Bartlet?"

"Because youíve got that look of clandestinity in your eyes. The same look you had back on the yaht before you told me about your lurid past."

"Oh..."

"Youíre very easy to read, ya know."

She burst out laughing.

"Youíre kidding right?"

"No, maíam."

"Everyone says Iím impossible to read. That I mask my true feelings better than anyone."

"Well, either theyíre all wrong or itís just me," Jed replied. "I personally think itís just me," he added, confidently.

"Youíd like to think that, wouldnít you?"

"I would. Now. Tell me what youíre really thinking."

"Well..." she hesitated. "I was thinking we could go visit my grandmotherís old house. Itís empty now and I havenít seen it since she died and...I guess Iím just feeling nostalgic."

Jed hopped up and held out his hand to her.

"Letís go."

"Really?"

"You† bet."

She took hold of his hand and he pulled her up from the ground. They stood close together, face to face, for a moment. Then she giggled and started to walk toward her grandmotherís house.

Chapter Seven

Jed and Abbey practically ran through downtown Marthaís Vineyard on their way to her grandmotherís house. She didnít know why exactly, but she was excited. There was something about an empty house that sparked such a feeling of mystery and potential. At first, she thought it would make her sad to be in her grandmotherís house after her passing, but she didnít feel that anymore. Maybe it was the company she was in, but Abbey was feeling better than she had in a long time.

When the house came into their view, they slowed their pace and meandered over.

"Wow," she whispered, to herself.

"Does it look different?" Jed asked.

"No. It looks exactly the same. But then, it hasnít been that long."

"Well, come on then. Letís go in," he said, continuing toward the house.

"I feel like weíre on some sort of adventure!" She said, excitedly.

"We are." He smiled. "Letís just hope it doesnít lead to trouble."

"Oh, live a little, Altar Boy."

She ran ahead of him, up the stairs of the porch, to the front door of the house.

"Well? Are you† gonna go in?" Jed questioned when he caught up with her.

She shot him back a defensive look.

"Of course Iím gonna go in. What do you think I am? Chicken?"

"Are you?"

"No!"

"Ok then. Go in," he said.

Abbey tentatively put her hand on the doorknob, but before she could turn it, the door opened suddenly. She jumped back, startled. She and Jed stood waiting for the door to fully open, for the person behind it to be revealed to them.

Abbey didnít know who she expected to be behind the door, but she certainly wasnít bargaining for who was there. She was a small, old lady, maybe eighty years old. The lady looked up at Jed and Abbey with confusion and alarm plain in her eyes before she smiled warmly.

"Hello," she said.

"Weíre so sorry to bother you at this late..." Abbey began.

"Oh, donít apologize. Iím practically nocturnal." The lady winked at them. "What can I do for you kids?"

"Well, uh, this used to be my grandmotherís house," Abbey explained, nervously.

The woman looked surprised.

"Youíre Eliza Bennettís granddaughter?!"

"Yes, maíam. I am."

"Well, for goodnessí sake, come inside!" She beckoned.

Abbey looked at Jed, shrugged, and followed the woman inside.

"Itís real nice of you to invite us in, maíam," Jed said, politely.

Abbey grinned at him. She loved that he was so cordial and well-mannered. Her mother would certainly be proud.

"Nonsense. Sit down, sit down."

Abbey and Jed sat on the couch and the woman sat in an armchair across from them, a thoughtful expression on her face.

"So. Youíre Eliza Bennettís granddaughter. Iím Laurel Patton. Itís a great pleasure to meet you, really."

"Well, thanks. Likewise," Abbey smiled, self-deprecatingly. "Iím guessing you knew my grandmother?"

"Oh yes. Eliza was an old friend of mine. When I heard about her passing and about this old house being abandoned...I had to come. I couldnít stand the thought of† this place being sold to a stranger. She treasured this place."

Abbey nodded, thoughtfully.

"I used to spend every summer here with her."

"Ah, yes. Now which one are you? Julia Marie, Abigail Anne, or Michelle Lynn?"

Jed snickered quietly.

"Did your grandmother have a thing for middle names?" He asked Abbey in a whisper.

"Shh." She waved him off. "Abigail Anne. Abigail Anne Bennett."

"I could have guessed."

"Why?"

"Eliza spoke of you often. More often than your sisters, I should say. ĎAbigail, the pretty one. Abigail, the smart one. Abigail, the feisty one. Abigail, the special one. í"

Abbey looked down with embarassment.

"My grandmother liked to exaggerate, Mrs. Patton."

"Oh, I donít know about that. Seems to be pretty accurate from what I can see," Laurel said, smiling. "What do you think, young man?"

"Oh, I quite agree," Jed answered, with a slight smirk on his face.

"And what is your name?"

"Middle name and all?" Jed asked, only half-joking.

"Why not," Laurel replied, shrugging. Part of her was pleased that the young man was so perceptive.

"Iím Josiah Edward Bartlet, maíam. Jed."

"Jed," Laurel repeated, as if she were considering its validity.

"Yes, maíam."

"Well. Let me get us some tea." Laurel didnít wait for their reactions, she just stood and went into the kitchen.

Once she was out of earshot, Jed said, "I take it you have no idea who this woman is."

"None whatsoever. But sheís nice."

"Yeah, sheís a real peach. But I find it a little disturbing that she remembered your middles namesí. And your first names, to be honest."

"Give her a chance. What did I tell you?"

"I know, I know, live a little," Jed replied.

"Right. Itís an adventure, remember?"

"Uh huh."

"I do feel kind of uncomfortable though."

"Hey," Jed said.

"What?"

"Live a little."

"Oh, that was cheap, Altar Boy."

Just then, Laurel returned to the room carrying a tray with three cups of tea on it. She handed them each one, then sat back down in her chair.

"So. How long have you two been together?" Laurel asked, innocently. There was a part of her that knew Abbey and Jed werenít together, but she figured it would raise controversy- of the best kind- if she inquired anyway.

Abbey and Jed looked at each other awkwardly.

"Oh, um, weíre not dating," Abbey answered, timidly.

"Youíre not? Really?!"

"Really," Jed replied, sheepishly.

††††††† "You sound like a couple," Laurel commented, averting her eyes. "Donít think I couldnít hear you from the kitchen. You have that. . . banter going for you. Like Tracy and Hepburn."

Abbey giggled, uneasily.

"We only just met today, Mrs. Patton."

"I find that very hard to believe, Miss Bennett."

"Itís true. We met this morning," Jed clarified.

"Must have been an auspicious meeting. You two seem to have hit it off quite famously."

"Well..."

"And you do realize that with your coloring and heights...youíre essentially a perfect match?"

They didnít respond. What could they say? They had been talked into a corner with no means of escape. It was almost as if Laurel Patton was willing them to be together. Yet it seemed so impossible...

An hour later, Jed and Abbey decided they had better leave. It was nearing 2am and they said they wouldnít dream of keeping Mrs. Patton awake any longer. The three of them headed toward the door.

"Jed. Iíd just like to have a quick word with you before you go. Youíll excuse us, Abigail?"

Abbey nodded, albeit doubtfully. Mrs. Patton took Jed aside to the next room as Abbey sat outside on the porch.

"A priest, you say?" Mrs. Patton raised an eyebrow at him.

"Uh...well, yes, maíam." He wasnít sure where Laurel was going with this but he was sure he wasnít going to like it.

"Never."

"What?"

"Youíll never be a priest, honey," Mrs. Patton said, simply.

Jed was taken aback.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because Iíve seen the way you look at her. Looks like that donít make it in the church, kid."

"Look at who? Abbey?" Jed asked.

"Yes, Abbey. Who else?"

"I donít know, Mrs. Patton, but I assure you..."

"Donít assure me. Iím not the one who needs to be reassured. You† can keep telling yourself you want to go and be a man of God...but itís not going to happen."

"Youíve known me for an hour and a half!"

††††††† Jed really didnít know how to handle this situation. He didnít want to be rude and argue with Mrs. Patton, but she was just being so damn smug about it!

"And in that hour and a half, you havenít been able to take your eyes off her once," Laurel answered, confidently.

Damnit. Sheíd noticed that too? He was hoping it was all in his head.

"We...weíre friends. I was listening to her. Itís only polite to look at a person when they speak."

"You werenít looking at me whenever I was speaking, Jed. You were looking at her."

"Iím sorry, I..."

"Donít apologize. I didnít mind. Thereís nothing I enjoy watching than young love."

"Young love? Mrs. Patton, youíre getting the wrong..."

"No, Iím not."

Now Jed was just frustrated. This woman was relentless. Why did she want him and Abbey to be together so badly anyway?

"Can I ask you how you can be so sure about all of this?" Jed questioned, pointedly.

"Because I was married to a former theology major myself. For fifty-seven years."

"You...you were?"

††††††† "I was indeed. He died last year. Cancer. But I think that makes me an authority on this, son. Donít you?" She asked, returning the warmth and kindness, rather than the determined pushiness, to her voice.

"I..."

"Jed, I know the looks. I know the body language. I know the conversation. Iíve been there. Iíve seen it. Fifty-nine years ago, I was Abigail Bennett. And my husband...was you. And in fifty-some years, youíll be us."

"But...but...how can you be so sure itís going to be the same for us?"

"If I were to ask you right now what your feelings for her are, what would you say?"

"Platonic."

"Jed. This is me youíre talking to. Iím not one of your friends, Iím not your mother, Iím not your priest, and Iím not Abbeyís little gentleman friend. Youíve got nothing to prove. Now. If I were to ask you right now what your feelings for her are, what would you say?" Laurel repeated, more fervently this time.

"I..."

"Say it."

"I want to give up everything for her." He was shocked. Nothing could have prepared him to hear that come out of his own mouth.

Laurel smiled.

"Go on."

"I would rather serve her than serve God."

No. Had he really just said that? No!

Laurel was grinning now.

"Describe her to me."

"Wonderful, smart, independent, kind, genuine, stunningly beautiful, caring..."

"Stop," Laurel said.

"What."

"Do you know what you have to do now?"

"No," Jed answered, truthfully.

"Good."

"What?! Why?"

"Because it will be a thousand times more meaningful, not to mention effective, if it comes to you out of the blue, an epiphany," she explained.

"But I canít just..."

"You CAN just."

"But I donít know how she feels about me."

"I do."

"How can you tell?" Jed asked.

"Because she knew you couldnít keep your eyes off her and she loved it."

"How can you tell THAT?"

"She was grinning at most inopportune times. Grinning because just the thought that you were staring at her give her chills," Laurel stated, smiling that the remembrance.

"But how do you know that?"

"How do YOU not?"

Jed nodded, as if he finally understood. Then he looked back at the little old lady standing expectantly in front of him.

"Thank you, Mrs. Patton." And he meant it. Truly.

She looked incredibly satisfied.

"Youíre very welcome. Now go on."

"Ok," he turned away, then stopped.

"But Iíve only known her a day."

She shook her head.

"Two days. Itís two in the morning on Saturday. You met her on Friday."

"And that makes a difference?"

"Everything makes a difference when youíre in love."

Chapter Eight

"So. A strange old lady is responsible for the thirty-five year marriage of the President and First Lady. If only Danny Concannon were here," Sam said, almost in disbelief.

"What a story he could write about this," Toby agreed.

"Letís leave Danny Concannon out of this, shall we?" CJ asked.

"Mrs. Bartlet, this is a beautiful story," Donna said. "I had no idea."

"Oh, thereís much more to the story, Donna," Said Leo.

"You mean it gets better?" CJ questioned, incredulously.

"Oh yeah."

"I gotta say, Iím impressed," Josh said. "One thing though. I always knew you were a nerd, Mr. President, but I never had you pegged as a passive pansy."

"Jesus, Josh. Just because he wasnít trying to get into her pants every five seconds, like say, you would be, doesnít make him a passive pansy," CJ exclaimed, defensively.

"The President is a gentleman," Donna agreed, turning her nose to the air.

"A gentleman, indeed," Abbey said. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

Jed laughed.

"A gentleman still!" Jed insisted.

"Yes, sir!" the staff agreed heartily, all of them wanting to keep their jobs intact.

Then Leo said, "What happens next, though, might surprise you."††††††

Abigail stood abruptly when Jed emerged from the house with a slight, thoughtful smile on his face. Laurel Patton stood at the doorway.

"I hope youíll come visit me again," Laurel said.

"Oh, yes, maíam. Next vacation to the Vineyard," Jed replied.

"Thanks so much for having us," Abbey said.

"Pleasure was mine, honey. Now go on. Itís late and I donít want you walking around out there longer than you have to. Get back to to that canoe of yours."

Jed laughed.

"Itís a yaht, Mrs. Patton."

"Same thing."

"No, actually you could fit about a couple hundred canoes inside it."

"Go."

"Right."

Jed smiled at Mrs. Patton, then turned to face Abbey. She looked confused and oddly worried. And she wasnít too keen on the fact that Mrs. Patton had taken Jed aside and spoken to him without her. She couldnít even imagine what theyíd been talking about.

"Goodnight, Mrs. Patton," Abbey said.

"Night, honey."

Jed reached out and took Abbeyís hand. A chill ran down her spine and she was certain her whole body had shaken at his touch. Not only that, but she was beyond astonished that he had made a move like that. She knew the gesture wasnít exactly a declaration of love, but it was a start.

Once she regained her composure, she smiled cordially, he lead her off the porch, and they began their walk toward the docks.

"Nice old lady," Jed said.

"Yeah."

He was still holding her hand, and she couldnít concentrate on anything else.

"Very insightful."

"You think so?" She replied, distracted.

"Mmm hmm."

Then she decided to take the plunge.

"So. What were you two talking about?" Abbey asked.

"Us? Nothing."

"Come on, you were gone for like five minutes. You couldnít have been talking about the weather."

"What I meant was nothing of importance," Jed answered.

"I want to know."

"Well, thatís just too bad, kid. Itís top secret information." He squeezed her hand and she smiled, even though she was distraught.

When they arrived at the docks, it had just turned 3am. They expected Leo, Ron, Jenny, and Amanda to return within the next few hours or so. Junkyís Bar was open all night and they didnít doubt that their friends would take advantage of that.

They reached the boat, Jed still holding her hand in his, and turned to face each other.

"Itís been quite a night!" Abbey commented.

"It has indeed," he replied.

"Met some interesting characters."

"That we did."

"Shared some fascinating conversational exchanges."

"Without question."

"Probably learned a thing or two about life along the way." She was being borderline mocking now, and his debonair, nonchalant responses only egged her on.

"I doubt it not."

"And, of course, watched our friends, and significant others, intoxicate themselves into oblivion whilst we but shifted uncomfortably in our chairs and practiced our best interpretation of the Jackie Kennedy smile and nod effect."

"Naturally so."

"Parting is such sweet sorrow," Abbey said sarcastically, with a cynical laugh.

"That we must say goodbye till it be morrow," Jed replied.

"Very nice, Romeo."

"Yes, I believe it goes something like that," he stated, although it was said with great confidence.

Abbey laughed, titled her head, and looked up like she was considering this.

"Ehh...something like that."

"So. Shall we embark?"

She let go of his hand so she could walk in front of him onto the boat, and he spotted her. Once on the boat, they walked over to the front deck, laughing about something or other.

But they stopped short, jaws dropped, at the sight that awaited them on deck.

Chapter Nine

"Where the HELL have you been?!" Ron shouted, jumping up from his chair.

"My God, we were about to send out a search party!" Leo added, looking distraught.

Jenny was passed out, laying across a few lounge chairs. Amanda was leaning her head back, holding ice over her forehead. She barely noticed their entrance.

"We...we didnít think youíd be back until much later," Abbey explained, stuttering- something she rarely did.

"Much later?! Whatís later than 3am?!" Ron countered.

"Itís not her fault, Ron," Jed managed to say.

"Jed..." Abbey tried to stop him from taking the blame.

"Dude," Ron said to Jed. "Youíre pretty much the WORST babysitter EVER!"

Still drunk apparently.

"Ron, itís not his fault either," Abbey insisted.

"THEN WHO THE HELLíS FAULT IS IT?!"

They were all taken aback by the increased volume of his voice. Jenny immediately woke, and Amanda removed the ice from her head to look up.

"You know what? I donít care. I donít care! Letís go, Abbey."

He took her by the arm and started to drag her off to their room, as Jed watched helplessly.

Still being pulled by Ron, Abbey turned her head to glance at Jed. And she gave him a look of pain, remorse, curiousity, and understanding all wrapped into one emotional combination- a look which made it perfectly, painstakingly clear to Jed what his next move had to be.

A few minutes later, everyone had retired to their respective rooms. In the first room, Jenny was already fast asleep. Leo lay beside her, wide awake. He wasnít sure if it was because his mind was racing from the events of the day, not to mention the abnormal behavior of his two best friends. Or if his insomnia was simply due to the amount of alcohol heíd consumed. Either way, he longed for sleep and he certainly wasnít getting any.

Abbey sat in front of the small vanity, brushing her hair, her mind somewhere else. Ron was pacing anxiously around the room, feeling a mixture of anger, confusion, and even a little helplessness. Finally, he decided to convert his angry energy into something constructive. He walked over to one of the beds and started to push it toward the other one. He and Abbey had planned earlier to do this, and he was even more determined now than before. When the beds proved too heavy to move himself, he decided to call for back-up.

"Hey, Abbey, help me push the beds together."

She didnít reply, she just continued brushing her hair.

"Abbey."

"What."

"Come on, help me push these beds together," he said.

"No."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because you look like an asshole hunched over the bed pushing it like that. I can see the vein in your forehead protruding."

"What the hell kind of reason is that?"

"Youíre an asshole, you look like an asshole. Why would I want to diminish any of that?" She replied, nonchalantly.

"Now see here, Abbey..." He stood and pointed a finger at her.

"Donít you point your finger at me, Ron. Your behavior tonight was unacceptable and quite frankly, brutish. And you think I want to sleep any closer to you that Iím already forced to? Forget it."

"Youíre the one who was out all night with another guy!" Ron accused.

"Only because you made me!"

"Come on, Abbey, that was your plan all along and you know it."

"Do I look like a Cassius to you? Iím not a conspirator. I didnít plan anything. We didnít plan anything. You wanted to go off barhopping and I didnít. You left me tonight, Ron. Not the other way around," Abbey replied.

"Well, you didnít have to stay out until three in the goddamn morning, Abigail."

"And you didnít have to get drunk off your ass and leave me all alone with a stranger."

She immediately regretted refering to Jed Bartlet as a stranger. She didnít think of him that way. But maybe if Ron did, it would alleviate some of this anger and tension.

"You could have come right back to the yaht, Abbey. God only knows what the two of you were doing all night."

"Oh? And what do you think we were doing?"

There was no right answer to this question and Ron knew it. She had backed him into a corner.

"I...I...how should I know what the hell you were doing? I wasnít with you, remember?"

"I asked you what you thought," Abbey replied, calmly, knowing sheíd won. "Or donít you think anymore?"

"Jesus, Abbey, you are so goddamn difficult sometimes, you know that?"

"I do know that. And it seems to me that you canít handle it."

"Iím going to sleep, Abbey."

"Fine! Change the subject, back down, you always do."

"Abbey..."

"Itís ok. It just means I win. And you know how I love to win."

"Abbey..."

"Goodnight, Ron!" She said, a mock-cheeriness in her voice, as she flung the door open and left the room.

Abbey slept on a long lounge chair that night, feeling the need to breathe in the fresh, sea air. She needed tranquility, and she found it there.

Amanda sat on her bed, the top bunk, awake. She figured it was just because of all the alcohol sheíd consumed that night.

"Jed?" She called tentatively into the night, not knowing if her cousin was still awake or not.

"Hmm?"

"Youíre awake."

"I am," he replied.

"Why?"

"I might ask you the same thing."

"Iím drunk. Whatís your excuse?" Amanda asked.

"Thinking."

"Ah. What about?"

"Stuff."

"Abbey stuff?"

"Amanda."

"Sorry."

"You might not have been completely off there though," he said.

"What?!" She asked, excitedly.

Jed smiled. He couldnít see her, as he was on the bottom bunk, but he knew an expression of shock and excitement had appeared on her face.

"Goodnight, Amanda."

"Jed!"

"Sleep tight."

"You canít leave me hanging like that, Jed!"

"Why not? Youíre on the top bunk. Thereís room."

"Come on!"

"Donít let the bedbugs bite."

"Jed!"

He didnít respond.

"Dammit," she muttered under her breath, then succumbed to the sleep she so sought after.

But he knew. And he was ready.

Chapter Ten

The next morning, everyone was up by 10am. There were currents of tension flowing between each and every person on the yaht. They ate a contintental breakfast onboard, almost in silence. Nobody was sure what to say, and all of them for different reasons. Leo because the thought of his two best friends at war made him uneasy, Jenny because she honestly couldnít remember a thing that happened the night before, Amanda because she couldnít stop thinking about the short conversation she and Jed had had late last night, Ron because he was angry at the world after all that had happened, Abbey because she was afraid that anything she said could and would be used against her, and Jed because he was trying to figure out exactly how to execute his plan.

Leo McGarry was frustrated. This vacation was not going as planned. He had meant for it to be a fun, carefree weekend and it had turned out exactly the opposite. He hoped to bring his two best friends, Jed and Ron, together so they could be like the Three Muskateers. Or the Three Stooges, in their case. Instead, he had driven them apart. He knew something else was going on- something unspoken. It killed him being in the dark. And heíd had enough.

"All right. Thatís it. Six college kids on spring break in Marthaís Vineyard moping around on a yaht. Itís not right and I wonít have it."

They all looked at Leo, but didnít respond.

"Now. You are gonna get your asses off of this boat, even if I have to drag each and every one of you."

"And what, pray tell, are we going to do?" Jenny questioned.

Leo hesitated, thinking.

"We are going to spend the day at the beach."

It had taken some time, but they are eventually relaxed once they got settled on the beach. Leo and Ron were playing cards, and the girls were lounging, reading magazines, and gossiping like teenagers. Jed sat quietly, reading his bible. His plan was going to require a higher power in order to work. Plus, he felt like he needed to feel Godís stamp of approval on said plan.

"Ron, why donít you see if Jed wants to play with us?" Leo whispered.

"Why donít you?" Ron replied, annoyed.

"He thinks youíre mad at him. If you..."

"I am mad at him, Leo! Because of goddamn Pope Bartlet over there, my girlfriend isnít speaking to me!" Ron exclaimed.

"You know just as well as I do that Abbey not speaking to you has nothing to do with Jed. You acted like an ass last night, Ron. Of course sheís pissed at you. Abbey donít take no crap!"

"I know. I just...donít know how to reach her anymore."

"Since when?"

"Since yesterday morning."

"Come on, Ron. Sheís just adjusting to being free from the stress at school and such..."

"Thatís not why."

"Why then?" Leo asked.

"Well, Iím not positive, but I think sheís interested in another guy. I guess thatís why Iíve been lashing out at Jed. I mean, I know itís not him sheís interested in, but just seeing her with another guy. Any guy."

"You think Abbeyís involved with someone else?" Questioned Leo, with concern.

"Sheís a very beautiful girl, Leo. Whenever I take her out I have to deal with all the people staring and gawking at her. It drives me up the wall."

Leo laughed.

"I understand that. After all, Iíve seen her legs."

He was trying to lighten the mood, but it only made Ron more tense and paranoid.

"Where did you see her legs?"

Leo looked over at Abbey laying nearby with Jenny and Amanda, all of them in their bathing suits.

"Right there."

"Oh. Ok."

"Chill out, buddy. Abbeyís not cheating on you. Sheís got morals," Leo said.

"I donít know. Sheís wild and unpredictable."

"But thatís why you love her. Right?"

"Yes. Thatís why I love her."

"Leo." Jed appeared, standing behind Ron. "Can I talk to you for a minute? Alone."

"Uh, sure." Leo stood and they moseyed over to a quiet part of the beach, out of ear shot.

"Whatís going on, Jed?"

"I need to talk to you about something."

"So I gathered. Be my guest."

"Because youíre my best friend, youíre the first one to know about this," Jed said.

"Oh, jeez. What?"

"Iím dropping my theology major."

"What? Youíre kidding!" Leo exclaimed, thoroughly shocked.

"Iím serious, Leo. Iím changing to Economics."

Leo fought the urge to tease him about his strange and utterly geeky love for numbers because the situation was much to serious for that.

"I donít understand. I thought you were completely set on this!"

"I told you yesterday I was having doubts," Jed argued.

"Well, yeah but I didnít take you seriously! Youíre almost two whole years into this, Jed. How can you change now?"

"I donít know, but I just have to stop this before itís too late."

"Before whatís too late? Who died and made you Superman, Jed? Huh?!"

Leo was angry and even he didnít know why.

"Leo..."

"Iím not kidding around here, Jed! I want to know why. Why you are doing this?"

"I would have thought youíd be happy to have me back. I know youíve always been uncomfortable with the priest thing. Why are you† getting so upset about this?"

"Because I donít understand why youíre giving up your dream. Maybe I wasnít comfortable with it, but I accepted it† because it was what you wanted, Jed! I supported you because thatís what best friends do. I canít sit around idly watching you throw your entire life away," Leo exclaimed.

"Leo, I appreciate your concern, but..."

"Why are you doing this, Jed?"

"Itís just not right for me," Jed replied.

"Iím not screwing around here, Jed. Tell me why youíre doing this."

"Leo, I just told you, I..."

"WHY?!" Leo shouted.

"Because Iím in love with Abbey!" Jed shouted back, matching Leoís furor and surprising himself at his tone.

Leo was speechless. He began rubbing his temples as he felt a migraine coming on. He was really, truly hoping this wasnít going to be the reason, but somehow...it didnít surprise him deep down.

"Oh, Jesus."

"I didnít know how else to handle the situation," Jed said, quietly this time. "But I knew that I couldnít go on like this, I couldnít keep heading in the direction I was heading. Not knowing she was out there somewhere."

"Jed, you have donít to explain."

"Yes, I do. I donít know how or why this happened to me, but I do know itís not gonna go away. I know itís only been two days but sometimes thatís all it takes. I mean, you† gotta understand, Leo. I wouldnít be doing this if I wasnít absolutely sure. I wouldnít throw my entire career away if I even so much as thought this might be a fluke. But this is real," Jed explained.

"But, Jed...did you stop to think about what would happen if she didnít reciprocate these feelings? Itís not like sheís single or anything."

"I know she feels the same."

"How do you know that?"

"Iíve spent more time with her over these past two days than any one of you here, including her so-called boyfriend. Iím damn near positive that I got to know her better over this weekend than Ron ever will," Jed said.

"And youíre sure sheís not gonna break your heart?"

"Not if I can help it."

"What about Ron?" Leo asked.

"What about him? You saw the way he treated us last night. The way he treated her. Iím not letting her put up with that for the rest of her life. She deserves better."

"You mean she deserves you."

"Well...no."

"What?" Leo questioned, with confusion.

"She deserves better than me. But thereís no one out there whoís worthy of her, so why not me?"

"Why not you? Iíll tell you why not you. Because Ron is not going to give her up without a fight," Leo said, firmly. He knew Ron. It was true.

"Then Iím ready to break out my boxing gloves at any moment."

While Leo was truly touched by his best friendís determination, he wanted to make sure he was prepared.

"Iím serious, Jed. Heís not just going to let her go."

"I donít blame him. But I swear to God, Leo, if I just let her go, I will never forgive myself. Ever. Even if she refuses me, knock wood, I have to tell her how I feel."

Leo shook his head, bewildered, exhasperated, and nervous.

"All right."

"All right?"

"Yes. You do what you need to do. Iíll stand by you," Leo stated.

"Thank you. You donít know how much it means to me to have your blessing."

They hugged. Jed was ecstatic. Leoís heart sunk with worry. And for the first time in months, he prayed. He prayed and asked God to, just this once, help him out. Just this once, do what he asked. Dear God, donít let her break his heart. And donít let Ron break his neck.

Chapter Eleven

The rest of the day on the beach was more fun than they thougt it would be. Jed had finally relaxed. He felt better knowing he had Leoís support. Itís always better when someone has your back. Leo, however, was more nervous than ever after their conversation. He was completely on edge, watching and waiting for Jed to do something. But nothing happened. While Jed hadnít filled Leo in on his plan, Leo figured he was going to do something drastic. But Jedís plan was more subtle than that, and if Leo had known that, he would have had a much more relaxed afternoon.

Leo watched Abbey as she laughed with Jenny and Amanda. She was so naÔve, he thought. She had no idea what Jed was going to do...but then again, Leo himself had no idea either.

By 6pm, they decided that if they didnít eat soon they were all going to shrivel up and die. Thus, they headed back to the yaht to change, after deciding to dine at a place very similar to the bistro theyíd dined at the evening before.

Amanda emerged from the bathroom, all refreshened up, and headed back into the room she shared with her cousin. He startled her by shutting the door quickly when she walked in.

"Hey! What gives?!" She exclaimed.

"Shh!"

"Jed, what are you...?"

"Sit down."

He pushed her down onto the bed and stood in front of her.

"What?"

"Donít have a coronary when I tell you this," Jed said.

"Tell me WHAT?"

"You were right."

"Well, of COURSE I was right. Wait...what was I right about again?" Amanda asked.

"You were right about me. And Abbey."

Her eyes widened and a huge grin spread across her face.

"Really?!"

He nodded.

"Oh, Jed! Thatís great! Iím so happy."

"But thatís not the point."

"Ok. Spill," she said.

"I need you to help me out tonight."

"You got it. What do you want me to do?"

"Well, this restaurant...thereíll be dancing," he said.

"Uh huh..."

"I need you to ask Ron to dance."

She giggled.

"Gladly."

"Well. That was easier than I thought," Jed admitted.

"Wait a second, oh cousin of mine. Iím gonna need an explanation. Exactly why am I doing this?"

"So I can dance with Abbey!" He replied, matter of factly.

"You† canít dance with her otherwise?"

"Ron needs to be safely out of the way."

"Did I miss something? Are you planning a kidnapping or something?" Amanda asked, sardonically.

"I just donít want him to interfere."

"With what?!"

"With my plan!"

"Ok, youíre starting to freak me out just a little bit," Amanda said.

"Just do it, Amanda. Please?"

"I told you I would, Jed. I just donít want you to go and do something stupid."

"When have you known me to do something stupid?" He questioned, knowingly.

Amanda just stared at him.

"Do you really have to ask?"

"All right, Iíve had just about enough of this conversation."

Amanda laughed.

"You do what you gotta do, cuz. Iíll ask Ron to dance and you can take it from there. Just. . . promise me you wonít kidnap her and tie her to a tree in the woods or something."

Jed grinned.

"Iím not promising anything."

While she was applying her makeup, Abbey heard a knock at her door.

"Come in!" She called.

Amanda opened the door and ran inside, shutting it behind her.

"What are you doing?" Amanda questioned, pointedly.

"What?"

"That color is entirely too bland," she replied, gesturing toward the eyeshadow in Abbeyís hand.

"I like it, it goes with my..."

"No! Here."

Amanda took the eyeshadow from her hand and replaced it with a much darker color that stood out.

"Why would I wear that one? It doesnít go with my outfit at all," Abbey protested.

"Ugh! And you donít have nearly enough eyeliner on."

"I have plenty of eyeliner on!"

"And arenít you gonna wear mascara? You have to wear mascara," Amanda said.

"Amanda. What are you doing?"

"Giving you a mini-makeover, what does it look like?"

"Thank you, but thatís really quite unneccesary. I do fine on my own."

"You have to look perfect tonight, Abbey," Amanda told her.

"Whatís so importtant about tonight?"

"Nothing."

"What, Amanda?" Abbey demanded.

"Youíll see. Just take my advice."

As they walked along the boardwalk on their way to the restaurant, Jed pulled Amanda aside.

"What did you do?!" He asked, fervently.

"Nothing. Whatís the matter?"

"Abbey."

"Oh. I just encouraged her to wear her makeup a little differently. And wear a little extra. Can you see the difference?"

"Well, yeah, but...why?"

"Because I wanted her to look her best tonight. You know. For your plan," Amanda replied.

"She doesnít need your help, Amanda. In fact, she doesnít need makeup to begin with," Jed said.

"Oy," Amanda said, rolling her eyes. "You really have fallen for this gal, havenít you?"

"What, are you Jewish now?"

"Hey, if you can give up being a priest, I can give up being Catholic." She grinned.

"Youíre funny."

"Arenít I?"

"Hilarious."

When they got to the restaurant, Jed pulled Leo over this time, while the rest of the gang went to sit down.

"I need you to help me out," Jed said.

"Oh, no. I knew this was coming."

"Itís nothing major. But itís gonna set off my whole plan."

"Here you go with this plan again. You know itís probably going to backfire again. I donít know exactly what your plan IS, but itís gonna blow up in your face."

"Thanks, pal. Thatís encouraging. Now. Hereís what I need you to do."

"Better not be anything thatíll get me into trouble," Leo said.

"With who?"

"With anyone. Itís been hard enough to get everyone to relax after what happened last night."

"I just need you to dance with Jenny," Jed told him.

"Well, I was gonna do that anyway."

"When I tell you to."

"What?"

"We can have a signal or something," he said.

"What are you, James Bond now?" Leo said, sarcastically.

"Iím serious. I need you to start the dance off."

"The what?"

"Well, not a dance off, per se. Just get people dancing. Amandaís going to dance with Ron after you and Jenny start us off," Jed explained.

"Wait. Amanda is gonna dance with Ron? Did I miss something?"

"Nope. You didnít miss a thing."

"Then Iím confused."

"Just do it, Leo."

"All right, whatever you say. Whatís the signal? You gonna say Ďshaken, not stirredí or something?"

"Wow. You and Amanda are just so incredibly witty tonight." Jed rolled his eyes.

"We have a gift."

"Iíll just drop my fork or something," Jed said.

"Why would anyone plan to drop their fork?"

"The signal!"

"Oh, right. The signal. Ok. Youíre on."

The trap was set. The wheels were officially moving. The plan was officially in motion.

Chapter Twelve

"Mr. President, I canít believe you had to conspire to win over the First Lady," Donna said.

"I had to fight for her. She was quite a catch back then, Donna," Jed replied.

"Back then?!" Abbey exclaimed.

"...and to this day," Jed added, to his wifeís satisfaction.

"It all seems a little over the top," Sam said.

"If you were a woman, Sam, youíd love it. Women love to be fussed over," Abbey said.

"Itís true. Iíd fall madly in love with anyone who conspired for my love," Donna said, wistfully.

Josh rolled his eyes at her.

"Do you hear yourself?" Josh asked her.

"Damn right I do. And you should try it sometime. Maybe you wouldnít sound like such a jackass all the time."

Abbey and CJ clapped and whistled.

"Nice one," CJ commented.

"Well done, girlfriend!" Abbey cried, grinning.

"I, for one, would really like to hear the rest of the story," Toby said, calmly.

~

By the time everyone had finished their meals, they were all feeling good and ready to shoot the breeze for a few hours. The only person who was slightly on edge was Leo. Leo was just waiting for something bad to happen. He knew Jedís plan was fairly simple, but he also knew that sometimes itís the simplest of plans that tend to fail.

Jed stood up.

"Iíll be right back."

He discreetly walked over to the deejay. He was certain no one in his party had noticed where he had gone.

"Hi there. I, um, was wondering if I could make a request. The next song just play whatever you want. But after..." Jed gave him his song request.

"Ok, so you want me to play just any ole song first?"

"Yes. Please. I mean, if you could."

"Yeah, sure. You got it."

"Thank you so much."

Jed turned and went back to his seat, then sat down again.

"Everything all right?" Abbey asked.

"Oh, yeah. Everythingís great."

The next song began to play. Halfway through the song, Jed jabbed Leo in the ribs lightly and nodded. Leo looked at him with confusion before quickly realizing that this was the signal. Suddenly he couldnít remember what he was supposed to do when he gave him the signal. Jed nodded in Jennyís direction.

"Oh!" Leo turned to Jenny. "You wanna dance, Jen?"

She grinned and, as expected, accepted the offer. Then, Jed turned and looked at Amanda.

"Oh, me too?"

Jed shushed her, but nodded. A bright, sly smile immediately appeared on her face as she turned to face Ron.

"Hey, Ron, how would you feel about a dance?"

Ron was surprised, and a bit frazzle by the question. He looked at Abbey for approval.

"I donít care what you do, asshole," she said, turning her head the other way.

Inside, however, she was hoping he would go dance with Amanda.

Just to spite her, Ron said, with a big, phony smile on his face, "Iíd love to, Amanda."

They stood and joined Leo and Jenny on the dance floor. As the song came to an end, Jed knew it was now or never. He and Abbey were the only ones left at the table now. And they had been sitting in awkward silence. The reflective look on her face told him she was daydreaming. She just looked so beautiful. He knew it was time.

"Abbey..." He began.

She snapped out of her daydream and looked at him. He stood and held his hand out to her.

"May I have this dance?"

His eyes widened with surprise. His plan. . . gone. SHE had just asked HIM to dance. She sure knew how to keep him on his toes.

Before he could answer, she took his hand and lead him out on the dance floor. He was stunned by her. He couldnít believe she had made the first move like that. But then he thought about it again, and remember the morning before, the day theyíd first met. That morning too, she had made the first move when she kissed him on the cheek. He should have seen it coming. She was like no one else.

Then, the song he requested began playing. All night long he had been racking his brain for the ideal song with which to steal her heart. Thatís the way he saw it. The song had to be perfect. It had to describe them. It had to make her feel like this was right. Otherwise, he would loose her forever. The song he had finally chosen was ĎI Canít Help Falling in Loveí by Elvis Presley.

It was the right song.

**

Ok, Bartlet, this is it. If you donít get this right now, itís all over and youíll never† get a chance like this again. Youíll become a priest and spend all of your remaining days hiding in church, giving sermons once a week, miserably remembering the one chance you had to change your life. Miserably recalling the faint memory of the one girl who could have changed your life.

"Abbey." His voice brought her out of yet another daydream as they danced.

"Hmm?"

"What are you thinking?"

"Iím not thinking anything, thatís the beauty of this moment. Donít ruin it."

Donít ruin it? He had to ruin it! If he didnít speak to her...surely he would lose her. Or would he lose if he DID speak?

"Women are so confusing," he whispered.

Abbey lifted her head from its resting spot on his shoulder, a look of amusement plain on her face. Oh, no. Had he said that outloud? Oh, no. Oh, God...

"Really," she said.

"What? No...I..."

She shrugged.

"Youíre right. Women are confusing. Thanks for noticing, we so enjoy being enigmas."

"Abbey, I didnít mean..."

"For the love of God, stop apologizing and making excuses for yourself. I donít know where you get that from."

"Yeah, well, you try impressing a father who doesnít like you, who never liked you, and beats the crap out of you when you donít apologize."

Oh, no. Not again. Why was it that he never managed to say the right thing in front of her?

"Jed..."

"No, donít say anything, Iím sorry. I shouldnít have said anything."

"Again with the apologizing. You really have to cut that out."

"Or else what?" He challenged.

"Or else this evening isnít going to turn out the way you planned."

His eyes widened.

"What?!"

"You think Iím not onto your little scheme, Pope Bartlet, but youíre wrong. It seems you have misjudged me. Iím a very smart girl, you know, and I happen to be very perceptive."

He tried to speak, but the words wouldnít come out. This was probably lucky.

"You think that one dance with you is going to make me realize how bad a boyfriend Ron is. You think that if you pick the right song, itís going to make my knees go weak and keep me coming back for more. You think that if you play your cards right, you can make me forget everything that means anything to me. Well, let me tell you something, buddy. Iím not exactly a wide-eyed doe lost in the woods. I have ambitions, see. There is no way in hell Iím going to give it all up on account of one ridiculous weekend in Marthaís Vineyard! And anyway, what the hell makes you think that..."

Before she could finish her sentence, Jed suddenly leaned in and kissed her. Their feet stopped all movement and they stood still in the middle of the dance floor, completely unaware of their surroundings. Jed had never felt more determined, and even as Abbey tried to struggle at first, she soon found herself surrendering entirely to his touch. However, their moment was shattered when Ron grabbed hold of Jedís shoulders and pulling him off of his girlfriend.

"Ron!" Abbey cried.

"Donít worry," Ron said, his tone angry and cruel. "Itís not him Iím after now."

He grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the restaurant, and all the way back to the yaht. Jed stood watching with Leo, Jenny, and Amanda, all of them stunned by the events that had just taken place.

"What do you think heís gonna do?" Jenny whispered to Leo.

"Heís not going to hurt her, is he?" Amanda asked.

"Nah, Ron would never hit a girl. Heís angry, no doubts there, but heís all talk. I reckon Abbeyís in for one helluva lecture tonight," Leo answered.

They all turned to look at a very astonished Jed.

"That was smooth, buddy," Leo commented.

"Yeah, Iím like 007," Jed said, not looking at them. "Letís go."

**

When they returned to the yaht, they knew Ron and Abbey had beat them to it for they could hear them screaming at each other from inside their room. Leo, Jenny, Amanda, and Jed waited on the deck, out of ear shot, to see what would happen next. About an hour later, Ron emerged from the room and joined them on the deck, frustrated and frazzled.

"Ron?" Leo said.

"Tell the captain we gotta go."

Leo nodded.

"Ok."

He got up in search of the yahtís captain. Meanwhile, Amanda noticed Ron narrowing his eyes at Jed. Amanda jabbed her cousin in the ribs, and he looked up at Ron as well.

"Ron, look, I..." Jed began.

"Yeah, I donít want to hear it. Itís done now. Abbey and I are going back to Boston and thatís that."

His heart sunk.

"Sheís going back with you?"

"Damn right she is. Soon as this yaht docks, weíre taking the first train to Boston."

"She wants to go?"

"Look here, Bartlet, sheís my girlfriend. She made a mistake, she didnít want to hurt you. Sheís just thoughtful like that. Doesnít mean sheís ready to run away and elope with you or anything," Ron said.

"I...I didnít think it did, I just..."

"Ok, Iíve had enough of this. Iíll talk to you all later."

He stood and went back under, to his room.

"I have to get her back," Jed whispered to himself.

"What? Jed, donít tell me youíre going to..."

"Amanda, Iíve made it this far. Iím not backing down now."

"Oh, good lord, will this never end? Sheís going back with him, Jed. Sheís made her decision. Donít force her into loving you."

"Thatís not what Iím doing. Thatís what Ronís doing, and Iím not going to let him," Jed insisted.

Chapter Thirteen

††††††† The yaht arrived back at the shore early the next morning. Everyone gathered their luggage together and loaded it into Leoís car, except Ron and Abbey. Leo, Jenny, Jed, and Amanda decided to walk Ron and Abbey to the train station so they could catch the next train to Boston. The walk with virtutally silent, as was the wait on the track. Finally, the train pulled up. Abbey turned to Leo, ruefully.

"Leo, Iím so sorry we had to cut the trip short, I know how much you were looking forward to..."

"Itís ok, Abbey." Then he leaned in and whispered in her ear, "It wasnít your fault anyway."

She nodded.

"Thanks. Jenny, Amanda..."

The three women all hugged, tearfully.

"Leo, Iím sorry about this," Ron said, giving his friend a hug.

"Donít worry about it, all right?"

†"Yeah. Thanks."

When it came time for Abbey to turn to Jed, she could only give him an apologetic look, she could not speak, nor could he. Ron quickly interuppted their silent exchange.

"Jed. Good meeting you," Ron said, deepening his voice.

"Yeah, you too."

At least Jed was being honest. If it hadnít been for Ron, he would never have met Abbey.

"Come on, Abbey."

He took her bags and hopped on the train. Abbey followed slowly, regretfully, behind him. He helped her onto the train, then began loading their luggage above the seats. Abbey stood at the doorway of the train, her eyes locked with Jedís.

"Abbey." Ronís nagging voice.

She tried to move, tried to walk away, but she couldnít. Her legs were locked in place, as were her eyes. Ron shrugged it off and continued to fuss with the bags, his back to her. Leo, Jenny, and Amanda stood a few feet behind Jed, watching with intrigue. Abbey noticed the glimmer of determination that appeared in Jedís eyes, and began breathing faster, her heart pounding in her chest.

"Do something," she whispered, barely audibly. "Please do something."

When a smile appeared on his face, she knew everything was going to be all right. He had it under control.

"Abbey, Iím gonna go find seats," Ron called out to her.

"Mmm, ok," she replied, distractedly, her eyes not leaving Jedís.

In what seemed to Abbey like one fluid motion, Jed hopped onto the step by the door, just below her. She held her breath, waiting for his next move. With one hand gripping the railing, he placed an arm around her waist and pulled her into him, kissing her ardently. Leo, Jenny, and Amanda all gasped and stared at them with sheer astonishment. The kiss continued as the train began to move. If either of them was alarmed, they didnít show it. Keeping his arm tightly around her waist, he moved on foot down onto the track, then the other. He released the railing from his hand, and pulled her down with him, holding her above ground, his lips never leaving hers.

Noticing the train had started moving, Ron ran over to the door where Abbey had been standing. The sight on the track before him stopped his heart, his eyes widening. The train continued to move, further and further away from the couple, until finally, they were out of sight.

When the never-ending kiss finally broke, Jed was still holding her above ground. She smiled, breathlessly, and whispered against his lips, "What about my bags?"

Jed looked down and laughed.

"Damn. I hadnít worked those into my plan."

"So you had a plan all along, did you?"

He slowly let her fall, his arms still around her, until her feet touched the ground and she could stand on her own.

"Winning you over isnít easy, Abigail."

"You mean snatching me away from my boyfriend isnít easy."

"That too. And you mean ex-boyfriend," Jed said.

"Ex-boyfriend," Abbey agreed.

"Uh...guys?" Leoís voice was cautious.

Keeping their eyes only on each other, they both replied, "Yeah..."

"Are you ready to go now?"

Jed and Abbey both laughed, finally turning to look at him.

"Thatís all you have to say, McGarry?" Abbey said.

"Thatís all I want to say right now."

Jed smiled.

"Ok. Letís go."

They walked out of the train station, towards the car. Jed slipped his arm around Abbeyís waist, and she grinned at him.

"You did good," she said.

"You think so?"

"I think so."

"You know what I think?" Jed questioned.

"What do you think?"

"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

**

THE END

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