Toby looks out of the sedan’s window as the social worker drives him to his new foster home. The social worker, whose name he refuses to remember out of spite, had said something about Toby being lucky to get a couple of rich bleeding hearts, and that he should be grateful for the opportunity, and that if he screwed this up, he would be put in the worst group home the social worker could find. Toby had smirked at him, knowing that it would infuriate the man.
Toby is fourteen years old and angry at the world. He has a lot to say and no desire to say it tactfully. If these new foster parents want to use him as a way to score points in the social papers, they have another thing coming.
The social worker took one turn, and then another, and they’re driving down a smoothly paved road to an honest to God plantation-style mansion.
“Jesus Christ,” the social worker mutters resentfully. Toby sneers. He wonders if there’s a synagogue nearby or if he’s going to have to pretend to convert. Maybe they’re in a cult or something, and he’s going to be sacrificed to their alien goddess. Put out of his misery.
Maybe they’re cannibals.
The front door opens as Toby and the social worker climbs the front steps. A man stands there, his mouth fixed in a smile. He looks like every white bread politician Toby has ever seen on TV, polo shirts and all. “Sorry it’s just me right now,” he says regretfully. “Abbey is at the clinic, and the girls are at school.”
“Understandable, Mr. Bartlet,” the social worker says, oozing sleaze. Toby curls his lip in disgust. “Your family is very busy.”
“Is that going to be too much of a problem?” Bartlet asks, motioning for them to step in. “We have staff, and our youngest has a nanny for when we’re not here. And my friend Leo is in and out often enough that he and his daughter should be paying us rent.”
“No problem, Mr. Bartlet,” the social worker oozes. Bartlet looks vaguely uncomfortable at the blatant sucking up, but he hides it well.
“So,” he says, changing the subject and rubbing his hands together. “I’m Jed. Who’re you?” He smiles at Toby expectantly. Toby pauses, considering the man. He’s slathered in Rich East Coast charm, but there’s genuine intelligence in his eyes. His wife, whoever she is, works at a clinic, and from the size and age of their house, probably runs it. And has her name on the door.
“He says his name is Toby, but we don’t know if that’s true or not,” the social worker says, speaking before Toby could say anything. Toby scowls at him and shuts down. The man has been doing this the entire two weeks Toby has been in the system, and he’s sick of it. “We don’t know his last name, if he even has one. He’s a runaway.” He pulls out Toby’s file, and ruffles through it through it for show. “He’s nonviolent, but belligerent.” He snaps the file closed and looks at Bartlet earnestly. “If you want to have a younger child, or, you know, different child, I can put him in a home and find--”
Different child. Different as in not so obviously Jewish. Toby’s hands curled into fists.
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” Bartlet growls, his eyes narrowed. Calm to furious in less than three seconds. “Leave the file. Get the hell out of my house.”
“Out!” Bartlet explodes. His rage is like a furnace, heating up the whole building. “Get out, or so help me God, I will grab the antique gun from the dining room and see if it still works!”
The social worker stumbles backwards until he’s out of the door and down the stairs. Jed Bartlet watches with hard eyes as the man gets in the sedan and tears off.
Bartlet sighs, rubbing his hand through his hair. “I probably shouldn’t have done that.”
“He’s an ass,” Toby says. “I’ve been wanting to knock him down since I met him.”
Bartlet grins. “Glad to be of service.” He sticks out his hand for Toby to shake. “I’m Jed.”
He shakes the man’s hand. “Call me Toby. What are you going to do about the CPS?”
“Ah, to hell with them,” Bartlet dismisses. “I’m gonna get that ass fired whenever I can schedule in some time.”
Toby raises an eyebrow. “Can you do that?” he asks skeptically.
“Toby, my ancestor signed the Declaration of Independence,” Bartlet tells him with a mischievous grin. “I think you’ll find that I can get away with quite a lot.”
“I’m sure being rich doesn’t hurt,” Toby observes.
“Not at all,” Bartlet says with a wink. “Now, are you hungry? I spent all morning pacing about your arrival, and I forgot to eat.” He pauses for a moment, his brain and logic catches up with him. “Unless you’d like me to call and have someone from the Social Services down here. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. Perhaps there’s someone else you’d like to contact as well…?”
Toby considers the way Bartlet threw his idiot social worker out the minute the man displayed a hint of anti-Semitism. Toby’s fourteen, but he’s also big for his age, and he’s used to defending himself. He can survive on his own. And here Jed Bartlet is, offering him a meal and a phone call, should he want it.
“I think,” Toby says slowly, “that I’ll stay for a while. Just so that I can make sure you follow through on your promise to get that asshole fired. And then we’ll see.”
Bartlet’s face lights up. “Excellent!” He closes the door and steers Toby back towards a magnificent kitchen. “Now, we don’t have a regular cook, just a part-time staff, so I’ll get a chance to show off my wonderful sandwich making skills! A treat for us both.”
“I’m sure,” Toby says dryly, which makes Bartlet laugh.
This could work out.