Title: “A House Divided” Part Three
Author: Marie Rossiter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spoilers: Everything up to “17 People”
Summary: A deeply divided House of Representatives is not what’s bothering President Bartlet...
POV: Alternating: FLOTUS and POTUS
Feedback: Please Please Please!!! I’d love to hear it! This is my first shot, so I could use all the feedback I can.
You would think by now that I would be accustomed to travel. I do it so much that I should just keep a suitcase packed in the closet—it would save some time. Yet, despite all of my visits across the country and across the world, I am not a great traveler. Oh, I enjoy the destinations, just not the actual trip there. Plane rides bore me to tears. To be honest, I get lonely because the one person that I want to enjoy my destinations with is rarely with me at the time. He’s too busy running the country and being the leader of the free world. Some people have the lamest excuses....
It doesn’t matter where I go: my favorite place is home. New Hampshire centers me; it allows me to put things into focus. There is something about New England that just says “home”. Maybe it’s the tradition of family and the beauty of its landscape. I don’t know. This is where my family was created. So, I guess it’s natural to feel a certain pull from this place.
However, this time New Hampshire has let me down. Nothing has been brought into focus. If anything, things are less clear than ever. I head back to Washington filled with confusion and frustration, which wasn’t my plan. I had hoped to have the answers to our problems. I would figure out the perfect argument to convince my pigheaded husband to abandon his bid for re-election.
That argument has eluded me.
Don’t get me wrong; there is no way that I want Jed to run for a second term. I have made my feelings more than obvious about the issue. Usually, I simply have to put on my “doctor hat”, rant and rave a little and I get my point across. That hasn’t happened in this case.
Jed thinks he’s invincible. I don’t know if the Presidential power trip has gone straight to his head, but he simply does not realize the toll that this job is taking on him.
I see it, and not only because I’m a physician, but mostly because I am his wife. Wives see things that few (if any) doctors can. Jed either cannot see these things because of his denial or the fact that he’s simply chose to ignore them and try to “beat the odds”.
But Jed is not playing cards with the boys in the residence. He’s playing with his life.
He doesn’t understand this fact. He has made a commitment to serve the American people. His dedication and love for public service are just two of the many things I adore about my husband. My pride for his work is unequalled.
However, Jed made a commitment to our family and me. He’s a husband, a father and a grandfather. Those commitments should take precedence.
He made a promise to me: one term only. We made a deal. It was not my intention to squash his passion, but simply to keep him with us longer.
Am I being selfish? You bet your ass I am. I’ll fight to the end for my husband.
Even if I have to fight my husband for my husband....
I suppose I should back to the office and see if I can get anything accomplished. Mostly, I need to try to find Leo. We have a lot to discuss. Hopefully this time, we won’t be screaming at one another.
Charlie must have seen Leo storm back through the West Wing and his radar picked up that our meeting didn’t go so well. Charlie seems to have a sense of when things aren’t right—and he thinks it is his job to fix it. Unfortunately, there are some things that he can’t repair.
“Charlie, walk with me. I’m on my way back to the office.”
As we walk, I see many sets of eyes staring at me. Some people move quickly out of the way. Jesus. Nothing is kept sacred around here.
“Why is everyone..?”
“Well, Mr. President, apparently a number of people heard your discussion with Mr. McGarry.”
Duh. Well, that should keep tongues wagging around here for a while. With my luck, I’ll soon see headlines: President and Chief of Staff Come to Blows in the White House. I wonder who they say won that battle?
“Oh. Charlie, what does my afternoon look like?”
Charlie rattles off item after item. My head is swimming. I can’t deal with this now.
By the time we reach the Oval Office, I’m working up to a major headache.
“Charlie, is there any way that we can…”
“I’ve taken the liberty to clear the next half hour in your schedule. I rescheduled the budget meeting to this afternoon at 4:45.” Thank God for Charlie. He knows exactly what is necessary. There are times that I swear that he’s inside my head and is reading my thoughts. I suppose that should frighten me a bit. Some days, it does. Today, however, I am grateful to have him by my side.
“Thank you, Charlie. Have you had your lunch, yet?”
“No, sir. Just as I was getting ready to leave,” he pauses for a moment and continues, “something came up.”
I smile slightly at this. “You mean, someone suddenly came through like a hurricane, right Charlie?”
“Well, Charlie, I’m about to go directly into the eye of the storm.” I head towards the door that connects the Oval Office and Leo’s office.
“Mr. President?” Charlie calls out to me.
Another slight hesitation. “Are you all right, sir?”
I think what I love most about Charlie is his deep concern for me—not just as his boss or the President, but as a person. “I’m fine, Charlie. Thanks for asking. I’ll see you in about a half an hour.”
“Thank you, sir.”
I open the door and go through the short corridor that links the two offices. Leo is sitting at his desk, head in hands. There are piles of work everywhere. I stand in the doorway and just take a moment look at my best friend and I know that I am the cause of his pain. This man deserves better than what I have given him.
I guess Leo senses my presence, because he looks up at me.
“Hey.” A Nobel Prize winner and that’s all I can manage to say.
Leo stands up. “Hello, Mr. President.” He’s all business. But, I’m not here to talk to my Chief of Staff, I’m here to talk to my best friend.
“Leo, I think we need to talk. I promise, no temper tantrums or throwing things around the room.”
“That’s a relief, sir.”
This is going to be harder than I thought.
There is a silence in the room that almost feels like it is smothering me.
“Leo, I want to apologize for acting like a jackass.”
He looks right at me and says nothing for a moment. Then, “Yeah, well, you’d think I’d be used to it by now.” He cracks a smile. Relief starts to flood over me.
“Jed, I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”
“So, what is going on?”
“What isn’t going on, Leo? It’s the damn education package, the likelihood that my private health issues are going to become the sticks that our opponents, the press and more than likely the American people are going to beat me with, the re-election crap…”
“It’s Abbey, isn’t it?” Leo is always direct. He’s another one who can pull the words right out of my head. This has never frightened me, though. This is what I depend on.
He gets the words out of my brain that I can’t handle at the time.
“She’ll be home tonight.”
“This is a good thing, right?”
“I don’t know, Leo. I just don’t know.”
I’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.
go on to the next part