Author's Notes: I'd better start with the warning first: this is a pretty serious and angsty fic. I don't want to give the story away, but be warned: you might find the events in the first two sections or the last one disturbing.

To take the edge off that, I finally gave in, listened to Mistletoe's ceaseless pleading, and wrote two endings for it. The first is the one I thought the story really wanted; the second is there for everyone—including me—who might find the first too hard to take. Don't expect either one to deliver anything even close to happy, romantic fluff, though. There's romance earlier on, but this is really another kind of story altogether.

I first posted this on JDFF in June 2006. The show was over. Matt Santos had won the election, Josh and Donna were together at last, and except for the loss of Leo, all was well with the world, at least as far as "The West Wing" was concerned.

I'd wondered for a long time, though, what might have happened if Bob Russell had won the Democratic nomination and even (riding on the coattails of Bartlet's popularity, with Vinick weakened by some of the same things we saw on the show) the White House. That's what this story is about.

It really begins at the Democratic Convention, which I've put in Los Angeles, although the first scene takes place a few weeks later in Washington, D.C. I'm assuming that the events in "Isaac and Ishmael," which we're told were not intended to fit into the rest of the series, haven't taken place in this world: there's been no 9/11 during the Bartlet (or any other) administration when this story begins. And I should probably also point out that the bill I've called the Patriot Act here is different in a number of ways from the legislation known by that title in our world, though I imagine its provisions won't sound entirely unfamiliar. Nothing in this story is intended to be an exact replica of anything in real life, but readers who don't like allusions to real-life events in their fanfic probably won't care for this—as I expect they've already figured out.

Many thanks are due to Mistletoe, who talked me through this blow by blow, even when she thought she'd hate it, and to Aim and Sandra, for reading and making helpful comments. This story is for them, and for everyone who thinks that how you vote does matter.

Patriot Acts

By Chai

Our fathers bled at Valley Forge, the snow was red with blood.

Their faith was worn at Valley Forge, their faith was brotherhood.

Wasn't that a time, wasn't that a time?

A time to try the souls of men, wasn't that a terrible time?

Brave men who fought at Gettysburg now lie in soldiers' graves

But there they stemmed the rebel tide and there their faith was saved.

Wasn't that a time, wasn't that a time?

A time to try the souls of men, wasn't that a terrible time?

The wars are long, the peace is frail, the madmen come again,

There is no freedom in a land where fear and hate prevail.

Isn't this a time, isn't this a time?

A time to try the souls of men . . .

("Wasn't That a Time?"—The Weavers, also sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary)

Part I—Breakdown

(Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: July 25, 2006, 9:45 p.m.)

The light was too bright; it hurt his eyes. He squeezed them shut again. He was floating on a dark, fuzzy sea. The darkness was better than the light, easier, more comfortable, though he knew there was pain there, just under the surface of the waves, washing under him, washing over him. He didn't really mind; he could deal with that kind of pain. It was the light he didn't want to deal with. If he opened his eyes there was light that was too bright and hurt. It was better down here in the darkness, floating on this dark, fuzzy sea, in this half-numbed pain that he could feel washing under him and over him but didn't mind because it was dark and fuzzy and better than the light that was too bright, that hurt his eyes . . . .




Please, no.

"Come on, Josh. Wake up. Talk to us."

No, no, no.

"It's okay, Josh. You're going to be okay."

God damn it, he'd fucked it up.

"It's okay. You're going to be okay."

It was so not okay.

He'd fucked it up. Fucked everything up.


(Los Angeles: The Democratic National Convention: July 12, 2006)

"Thanks for all you did, Josh."

"I'm sorry, Congressman."

"And the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States, BOB RUSSELL!"

"It's all right, Josh. It was a good ride. We'll do it again sometime."

"I'm really sorry, sir."


"And the nominee for Vice-President, ERIC BAKER!"



(Los Angeles, the Convention hotel: July 13, 2006)


"Come on, Josh."

"You heard me, Will. I said no."

"Come on, Josh. We won, you lost. Deal with it."

"I am dealing with it."

"You went pretty negative in your campaigning, you know. I had to really spin it to the Vice-President to get him to okay inviting you in."

"Sorry you wasted your time."

"If you let it go now, I don't know if I'll be able to sell it to him later, when you've gotten over this, whatever-it-is, and want to come on board."

"I'm not going to want to come on board."

"Josh, he's a Democrat! We're all Democrats. The party chose him; he's the nominee. That's all that should matter here."

"He isn't up to the job, Will. Maybe you don't realize that. Maybe you don't realize what the job involves."

"I've got a pretty good idea."

"Really? 'Cause you don't seem to have. He's a lightweight, a nothing. How you can even think about putting him in the Oval, behind Jed Bartlet's desk . . . ."

"They can't all be Jed Bartlets, Josh. They can't all be Nobel Prize-winning New England intellectuals. It was a miracle we got one man like that in—"


"You, then. A miracle you got one man like that in. You can't expect the party to produce a whole string of others to take his place."

"It could still do a whole lot better than Bingo Bob Russell, Will. It needs to do better. We have to do better."

"Well, maybe you should have found a more viable candidate than a three-term Congressman nobody'd ever heard of before, Josh. I don't care how honorable or how articulate your guy might be, he didn't make the cut. We've got to run Russell."

"Because you ran him."

"He was going to be the candidate no matter what I did; he's the Vice-President."

"He should never have been the Vice-President. You know that."

"He's the Vice-President because the President made him the Vice-President, Josh! Your guy. Your guys—Bartlet and Leo. I went to work for him because I figured there had to be something there they'd seen, something worth fighting for."

"You ever see it?"

"Your guys did."

"The President wasn't himself when he made that call, Will, you know that. Leo wasn't himself. It was after Zoey was kidnapped, after the President stepped down and we had the Speaker running the country; everything was crazy. We were being pressured by the right; Leo didn't think we could afford to take on a long confirmation battle for a different candidate. It was a bad call. We shouldn't have to live with the results of that for another four, maybe eight years."

"He's not that bad, Josh."

"Isn't he?"

"He's a good Democrat."

"He's more like a good Republican half the time. Why do you think they backed him for the Vice-Presidency?"

"Better that than an actual Republican."

"I'm not so sure. At least then we'd know what we were dealing with. And Vinick would make a better Democrat than Russell does in some ways; he's a good man."

"Vinick? Don't tell me you're supporting Arnie Vinick now."

"No, of course I'm not. I just can't support Bob Russell."

"He's a good man, Josh. Not brilliant, I'll grant you that, but he can have brilliant people around him to make the decisions for him."

"Meaning you?"

"Jesus, Josh, it's you I'm trying to get on board here."

"I don't need the flattery, Will. I know what I can do and what I can't. It's one thing to advise the President, and another thing to be the President. I'll never run for that office; I'd never trust myself to make the kind of decisions he's going to have to make. The kind of decisions you're going to have to make for him, if he's as pliable as you're saying. And are you sure he's really going to be that pliable? Are you really going to be able to pull his strings and get him to do what you want him to do, when you want him to do it?"

"I'm not planning to be a puppet-master, Josh!"

"Then what are you planning to be? A circus-master? Because that's what this Presidency will be, without a strong hand to steer it. Only there'll be a strong hand; it will come from somewhere. It always does. There's no such thing as a power vacuum in Washington, let alone in that office. The White House is power; that office ispower—the highest power in the country, the single most influential power in the world. It will suck someone to it who will pull your man's strings if you're not up to pulling them yourself. And if, in fact, he doesn't cut loose and start exercising the power for himself."

"Josh, I'm putting up with this because I know you're exhausted; it was a tough campaign, you lost it, and you can't stand losing. But you don't know what you're talking about. Bob Russell's not what you're saying; he's no genius, but he's a decent man and a decent Democrat, Josh."

"Is he? You think I don't know what he got his wife to do to Ellie Bartlet that time?"

"It wasn't anything Hoynes wouldn't have done."

"Yes it was. Hoynes can play the game better than anyone, but he has limits. He has principles. And he's never been in the pocket of the right."

"Too bad he didn't get the nomination, then. Oh, but he couldn't, could he? Because he couldn't keep his pants zipped; he had to go after the pretty young interns and the babbling socialites. Nice set of principles and limits there. Yeah, he'd have been a good choice, all right."

"Fuck off, Will. He's done more good for this country than you or your performing monkey will ever do."

"Okay, Josh. We're not doing this now. When you get over your ego-maniacal snit and realize you actually want to do something for the next four months or the next four years besides sit on your ass on the sidelines throwing spitballs while you watch us on t.v., give me a call. I'll see what I can do then."


"Or if I'm too busy, call Donna. The Vice-President likes her; she might be able to talk him around."

"This isn't about Donna, Will."

"Are you sure, Josh?"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"You don't have a problem joining a campaign where your former secretary is a major player now?"

"She was my assistant, not my secretary, and no, I don't."

"Really? You're not very convincing, you know."

"I have a problem joining Bob Russell's campaign, Will. I have a problem with Donna's joining Bob Russell's campaign. I have a problem with the idea of Bob Russell as President of the United States."

"She's a very talented woman, Josh. A beautiful woman, too. Looks good in a power suit. Looks good on t.v."

"She used to have ideals."

"Now she has a career. I think she likes her career. I think she likes her new job a whole lot better than her old one. She likes being able to afford those power suits. She likes being on t.v. But mostly I think she just likes being listened to and taken seriously. By me—her boss. By our staff. By the Vice-President. It really makes me wonder how a man like you could let all that talent go to waste all those years. It should make you wonder too, Josh, maybe question how smart you really are, shake up those cast-iron judgments of yours a bit. Get your head out of your ass for a change."

"Go fuck yourself, Will."

"I don't have to fuck myself, Josh. I can get a woman to do it for me."


"Jesus, Josh, I didn't mean Do—"

"OUT! JUST GET THE FUCK OUT! And if you think I'm ever joining your campaign to put that cardboard cutout in the Oval Office, you have cardboard between your ears, you have your cock and balls for brains, and I'm guessing that equipment's hardly up for the task it's meant for, let alone having to do double duty in your skull!"


"Get OUT!"

"We'll win it without you, then. And when I'm C.O.S. and Donna's Press Secretary, you'll be hustling votes for Matt Santos for Mayor down in Galveston, or wherever he's from."

"Fuck you, Will."

"You too, Josh. Have fun by yourself. 'Cause if you don't want to join us, that's where you're going to be."

"He shouldn't be President, Will."

"He will be, if there's anything Donna and I can do to make it happen."


(Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: July 17, 2006, 1:45 a.m.)

"I didn't serve you well, Congressman. I can't think of a single thing I did . . . ."

"Bob Russell!"

"This job isn't going anywhere for me, Josh!"

"You should be with me. You're with the wrong campaign."

"I'm not sure about Santos for Vice-President."

"This job isn't going anywhere . . ."

"You should be . . ."

"Bob Russell!"

"I can't think of a single thing I did . . . ."


(Georgetown, July 19, 2006, 2:30 a.m.)

"Bob Russell!"

"I'm not sure about Santos for Vice-President."

"Eric Baker!"

"Too much voltage at the bottom of the ticket."

I can't think of a single thing . . . .

"Gets people wishing the names were reversed."

Can't think of a single thing I did . . . .

"How'd you get so smart about this?"

"Bob Russell! Eric Baker!"

"Vote for Russell-Baker!"

"I had a good teacher, Josh."


"I meant Will."

Can't think of a single, god-damned, fucking thing I did . . . .


(Georgetown, July 21, 2006, 3:30 a.m.)

I can't think . . .

"What's this?"

"It's your diplomatic passport."

I haven't served you well. . . .

Your ticket and your passport.

I can't think of a single thing I've done to serve you . . .

"There was an explosion."


"In the car."


"Significant blood loss."


"There was an explosion. She was in the car."


"She didn't make it. Oh, Josh, darling, she didn't make it, she didn't make it out. Oh, sweetheart. Oh, my sweet darling girl."


"She died, Josh. She's gone. She didn't make it. She didn't make it out of the house."


I can't think . . . .


(July 23, 2006, 4:30 a.m.)


I can't think of anything . . . .


I can't think of anything . . . .

"Dance with me."


"Dance with me!"

"Your father's dead, Josh. Pulmonary embolism."

"Pulmonary embolism. It's a-" "Blood clot."


"There was an explosion."


"Significant bleeding."


Dire . . . .

"Pulmonary embolism. Brain damage."

"Gaza. Here's your ticket and your passport."

Bleeding. Burning. I can't think of a single thing . . . .

"I don't need a doctor."

"Are you a doctor?"


"She was the one who noticed first."


"If you were hurt."


"I wouldn't stop for a beer." "I wouldn't stop for red lights."

I can't think of a single thing I've done to serve you . . . .


"You told him those stories?"


"Those are endearing stories. I like those stories."


"Those stories would make me like you."


Like you, like you, like you, lo—

Bleeding. Bleeding. Burning . . . .


(Georgetown, July 24, 2:10 p.m.)

"You're a handsome and powerful man." "What do you want?"

Handsome and powerful. . .

"You used to love it when I . . ."

"I'm making C.J. Chief of Staff."

Yeah, handsome and powerful . . .

"C.J.'s direct order . . ."

"Not going to China."

"To avoid crushing your fragile ego, I'm trying not to say 'C.J.'s direct order.'"

"You used to love it when I couldn't dress myself without you."

"I used to love peppermint ice-cream, too . . ."


(Georgetown, July 25, 4:15 a.m.)

"There was an explosion. Bleeding, significant bleeding."

Burning. Bleeding. Significant bleeding, severe bleeding.

"Brain damage."

"Pulmonary embolism."

"Brain damage."

"She didn't make it out, Josh. She didn't make it out. She didn't make it . . ."

Bleeding. Burning.

"I haven't served you well; I can't think of anything I did—"

"She didn't make it. She didn't make it out."

"Gaza. Here's your ticket and your passport."

Like you. Like you. Like you.

Fucked it up. Fucked everything up.


(Georgetown, July 25, 3:25 p.m.)

"The delegates from California cast their votes for Bob Russell."


"I like white wine."


"The delegates from Florida cast their votes for Bob Russell."

Stupid fuck-up.

"C.J.'s direct order."


"I'm not going to China."

Stupid fuck-up.

"The delegates from Pennsylvania cast their votes for Bob Russell."

God-damned, stupid fuck-up.

"The delegates from Wisconsin cast their votes for Bob Russell."

"I used to like peppermint ice cream, too."

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

"There'll be a temp from the pool tomorrow."

"An explosion. In Gaza. The Codel."

"Here's your ticket and your passport."

"The delegates from Wisconsin cast their votes for Bob Russell."

Stupid, god-damned, fucking fuck-up.

"I meant Will."

"The delegates from Wisconsin . . ."

"I meant Will."

"The delegates from Wisconsin. . . ."

"I meant . . ."

"Bleeding. Significant bleeding."

"Dire . . ."

" . . . cast their votes . . ."

"Here's your ticket and your passport."

Jerk. Asshole. God-damned stupid fucking fuck-up.

" . . . for Bob Russell!"

"Your ticket and your passport."

"Could you just . . . "

"Bleeding. Significant bleeding."

"Could you just stop . . . "

"Pulmonary embolism."

"Stop being . . ."

"Brain damage . . ."

"Bleeding . . ."

"Your ticket and your passport."

"The delegates from Wisconsin . . ."

"Could you just stop being, you know, YOU for a minute?"



Stop being you.

"Significant bleeding."


Stop being you. Stop being you.

Significant bleeding. Severe bleeding. Dire.

Fuck-up, fuck-up, fuck-up.

Stop being you. Stop being you. Stop being you.

Bleeding. Bleeding. Severe bleeding.

Bleed, you jerk. Bleed, asshole. Bleed, fuck-up.

It burns when it goes in.

Burning. . . .

Bleeding. . . .


(Georgetown University Hospital , July 25, 2006, 9:45 p.m.)




Please, no.

"Come on, Josh. Wake up. Talk to us."

No, no, no.

"It's okay, Josh. You're going to be okay."

God damn it, I fucked it up.

"It's okay. You're going to be okay."

No. No. No.


(Georgetown University Hospital , July 26, 2006, 7:04 a.m.)

"You did a pretty good job there, you know?"

So how did I fuck it up?

"It wouldn't have taken much longer."

Well, goddamn.

"Good thing the economy in the Philippines is so bad."


"Trained nurses cleaning houses for a living."


"No money . . . No jobs . . . Thousands of miles . . . kids . . . better life . . . ."


"Pretty lucky timing."

Pretty stupid timing.


She cleans in the morning, doesn't she?

I wasn't that stupid, was I?

"Forgetting her shopping bag and coming back for it right then."


"You're a pretty lucky guy."



"Trained nurses cleaning houses for a living."

Why didn't I do something about that while I had the chance?


(Georgetown University Hospital , July 26, 2006, 9:05 a.m.)


"Hey, Leo."



"What the fuck, kid?"


"I'm sorry, son. I didn't think . . . I didn't realize . . . What in God's name happened?"

"I'm not sure."

"Jesus, Josh, you did a brilliant job with your candidate. It's not your fault he didn't make it; he was nobody, you brought him out of nowhere, with no money; it was a huge accomplishment. I thought you knew that. The DNC's been pounding on your door all week, trying to get you to come help with Russell. I was going to call you myself. I just thought . . . . I was just giving you a few days to regroup and cool off."

"Cool off?"

"I figured you were pissed with me for not backing your guy at the end."

"I wasn't pissed with you, Leo."

"Maybe you should have been."

"Not with you."

"With the President?"

"Leo! No."

"Just with yourself, then."

"Pretty much."

"I should have known. Jesus, Josh, can't you ever cut yourself a break?"

"That's what I was trying to do, Leo."

"Damn it, kid, don't do that."


"I hope that arm hurts like hell."

"It's starting to."

"Good. Maybe that'll teach you not to do this again."


(Georgetown University Hospital , July 26, 2006, 5:30 p.m.)

"Does my mom know?"

"Not yet."

"Well, that's one good thing."


"Leo, please."

"You've got to tell her, Josh."

"Leo, please."

"Okay, kid, okay—don't get upset. You'll have to tell her, you know, but you can wait a bit, until you're ready. I won't jump the gun on you."

"How come she hasn't heard?"

"The hospital called me. Apparently I'm still your first-contact person on all your cards."

"Yeah, I guess I never got around to changing that stuff. But—hasn't it hit the press yet?"

"No. You got lucky—quiet afternoon, everyone on your street was out. Or if they weren't, they've decided to mind their own business. There hasn't been a word about it."

"You're kidding."

"Nope. You got lucky in a few ways, you know, Josh. I was talking to your cleaning lady there earlier. She's quite a woman. Trained nurse, from the Philippines."

"So I heard."

"It's a pretty screwed-up world, isn't it? There she is, almost qualified, three years of college, top marks, couldn't afford to finish, can't get a job there because there aren't any, so she comes here to scrub floors for a living. What a waste, huh?"

"Yeah. I'll say."

"I don't like waste, Josh."

"Me either."

"Wasted talent, wasted potential, wasted lives."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm just saying, don't let it happen again."


"You've got to do better than try."

"I'll do my best, Leo. I can't promise anything more than that."

"Well, your best is one of the best there is, Josh, so I'll take that for a promise. So, here's the deal. I'm booking you into a place I know about. There are good people there—the best. You'll talk to them, do what they tell you to do. Everything they tell you to do. You'll cooperate, you'll be honest with them—really honest—and you'll take as much time over this as you need to. We rushed things too much the last time. We're not letting this happen again."

"It wasn't like last time."

"No, it was worse."

"I'm sorry."

"Josh. Stop blaming yourself. That's what this was all about, wasn't it?"

"I don't know. I don't really know what happened, what it was about."

"Well, that's what you're going to find out. Now, what about the others?"

"What others?"

"C.J., Toby, Sam—your friends. Do you want me to call them for you, want to talk to them?"

"Not right now."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"What about Donna?"

"God, Leo. No. Not her. Please, not her."


"Anyone but her."

"Damn it. I thought—"




"Damn it, it's a screwed-up world, isn't it, kid?"

"Don't, Leo."

"Okay. I'll keep my mouth shut. And you'll work on getting better. Really better."


"So you can go back to making the world a less screwed-up place."

"Yeah. I'll try."

"Then I think you'll succeed, Josh. You usually do, when you put your mind to it."


(Russell Campaign Offices, Chicago, Illinois: July 28, 2006, 1:05 p.m.)

"Have you heard anything yet, Will?"

"About what, Donna?"

"About—Josh. Has he called you yet?"

"No. I don't think he's going to. He was pretty clear about it when I talked to him."

"You called again, didn't you?"

"I'm not going to beg, Donna."

"I've called. A couple of times."

"You need to stop that. We're not begging Josh Lyman to come and bail us out. We don't need him to bail us out; we've done just fine on our own."

"It's not that, Will. I'm just—I haven't heard back from him. Nobody seems to have heard from him."

"Leo has."

"He has?"

"Yeah, I talked to him this morning."

"And? What did he say?"

"He said to drop it, that Josh wasn't interested right now and we need to focus on the campaign. If he changes his mind, he can call us. Whether we take him or not's another question; if he's such an egomaniac he can't swallow his pride and work for the candidate the party chose. . . ."

"He's—really good at this, Will."

"So are we."


"Yes, Donna. We."

"That's nice. Thank you."

"That's true."



"Leo had talked to Josh?"

"He seemed to have, yeah."

"He's okay, then?"

"Far as I know. Why, what are you worried about?"

"Oh—nothing. Nothing, of course. No, of course, I'm not worried, really. Just surprised."

"Don't be. He's just sulking because he didn't win."

"You think so?"

"Anybody with an ego like Josh's will rebound pretty fast, Donna."

"Yes. Yes, of course."

"It's made of rubber and steel, isn't it?"

"It can seem that way."

"He's a pain in the ass to work with, anyway. You know that better than anyone. We're really better off without him."