PAIRING: Mandy POV, Mandy/Lilli, Mandy/Abbey
RATING: PG15 for mature themes and angst, and a few colorful words
NOTES: I love a challenge. My second answer to the Wing Swing Challenge. I picked Mandy and the lovely ladies paired her up with Abbey. Yeah, I know, made me a little dizzy at first as well, but then Mandy started talking. This one's a little angsty, so be forewarned.
NOTES II: Notes on the title: In mythology and legend, Leucosia was the "white being" or "white goddess," and in the Italian version of the story she was one of Calliope's daughters, a siren, allegedly luring unsuspecting sailors to their deaths with her song: never convicted, much reviled.
NOTES III: Multitudes of thank yous to Manda, Cal, Greg, and Artemis who suffered through the first drafts as I played around in tenses and maudlin plot twists and stream of consciousness.
FEEDBACK: Feedback welcome at email@example.com
SPOILERS: Nothing overt, veiled references to Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics, but let's say end of Season Two to be safe.
ARCHIVE: Wing Swing and List Archives, fine. Everyone else, please ask. And, as always, this and all my other pieces are at http://www.ashesofoldlovers.net
SUMMARY: We're all victims of our own reconstructionist view of the world.
Leucosia by Suki
One reviewer called her book "a collegial and intimate look at one of our most beloved and underappreciated First Ladies." A few vociferous critics charged that she ignored her subject's flaws in favor of a good story, and her complicities and foibles in favor of a pretty fallacy. Many harped on her refusal to name some of her sources and her propensity for long and complicated sentences. Many, many people wrote to express their gratitude and joy at having been let behind the public facade of Abigail Anne Bartlet. All missed that it was a love letter, and an apology, twenty-five years too late.
Mandy catches a reflection of herself in the window above the sink as she fills the copper kettle for tea, and wonders when she got so old, her hair nearly totally grey, her eyes corralled by tiny lines. She doesn't remember looking nearly this old yesterday. Seated on the couch once again, facing out toward the ocean she knows is there but can not see in the dark of night, she stares at the pristine cover of the book in front of her, her book: Abbey Bartlet's smiling, sexy face staring back at her, trapped in time, and her mind wanders back, as it often does when she can't sleep.
The first time Mandy saw her she was angry as hell: face flushed, eyes flashing, her words short and exploding in bursts like gunfire. Her hands slashed through the air punctuating her statements, and Mandy envied her ability to command the room while barely raising her voice. The candidate stood still, accepting her anger and frustration, almost absorbing it. Two men cowered off to the side, seemingly embarrassed by the intimacy of her outburst, not yet familiar with the nuances and negotiations characterizing the marriage of then-Governor and Dr. Bartlet. Watching her, listening to her voice rise and fall, laced with sarcasm and wit, Mandy felt her body heat and quiver, and the lust was born in the moment she turned those flashing eyes and agile hands in Mandy's direction, not asking her opinion so much as demanding her attention. In that instant Mandy put aside her concerns about joining a national campaign that didn't seem to have any money and even less name recognition or chance of success. She always did like a challenge, and while the affection and respect came later, much later, the desire was there from the start.
In those first few months, before CJ and Janet and Tricia and Pam, and even largely before Mrs. Landingham joined on full time, it was just Dr. Bartlet and her to represent the estrogen factor above the assistant level. The "Boys" who had the candidate's ear were concerned about the campaign's female image and Mandy's demeanor and appearance were commented on almost as often as the candidate's wife: Mandy's hair too short, her clothes too ambiguous, her language too harsh. They wanted someone who exuded warmth, and even in her early days, Mandy was never mistaken for warm. She would sit in staff and they would comment on her pants suits or boots, or wonder aloud why they had chosen as their sole female senior staffer a woman who refused to wear a skirt unless absolutely necessary. She took the comments and the veiled references to her attitude and sexuality because she knew that the current men in charge wouldn't last if the campaign was going to make a serious run. She knew enough of Leo McGarry to trust his instincts and his sense of presence, and had observed Toby Ziegler long enough to know he was good, if not yet in control, but the others were worthless and not worth her time.
The early days were uncomfortable for her, caught between nagging isolation and uncomfortable proximity in her dual campaign roles. She was hired as the Media Director, which was a prestigious step slightly up from her last posts. However, there wasn't much money to buy any media in the beginning and she was the only woman on senior staff then, so she wore the dual hats of Media Director and body- woman for Dr. Bartlet. She attended more Junior League, Garden Club, PTA, and DAR meetings and teas than she'd care to admit alongside the lovely and complicated candidate's wife. In any other campaign Mandy would have been infuriated by the suggestion that she shadow the candidate's wife given her position and how hard she had to fight to break through to a senior staff position on a national campaign, fledgling or otherwise, but this was an opportunity to be alone with Dr. Bartlet, who intrigued her, and who Mandy couldn't resist getting to know better. And it kept her out of the office and out of danger of sticking her foot in her mouth until the dead weight of the candidate's cronies could be trimmed away. She limited her interaction to Toby and Leo as much as possible, both accepting her without question or requested modification, and she was able to juggle her media duties with minimal effort while on the road with Dr. Bartlet given their limited finances and limited attention.
Dr. Bartlet was only campaigning a few days a week, and largely just attending fundraisers and small meetings as a chance to get her feet wet and test her reception, but she and Mandy had a system that made the days worthwhile. Many of those campaign days fell on Fridays, and they would plot a shelter or hospital or small business or child- care center to visit off the schedule instead of lunch where Dr. Bartlet could meet women who rarely got the attention of a national campaign, yet alone a Governor's wife. Mandy knew even then that Dr. Bartlet never thought they would win, and the adventure seemed pointless to her at times, but she found these meaningful moments in the mix to justify the time and expense, and she was most herself off the schedule and away from the scrutiny. Mandy would stand off to the side watching, mesmerized by her ability to tear down the walls between her and her audience with a smile. Her hands would linger in the tousled hair of the children while she listened to their mothers talk about survival, and she would shake every hand as she left, lingering far longer than even Mandy sometimes thought necessary.
During those long drives they would talk and debate and laugh, sometimes about real issues and the people they were meeting, sometimes about nothing more than the song on the radio, and once in a while the debate would reach a stalemate and they'd travel several miles in silence. And there were nights when they would find themselves trading drinks and stories while waiting for the candidate or the staff. Sometimes at the end of a long day or an even longer night, Mandy would lean her head back and close her eyes as she listened to the velvet voice of Abigail Bartlet, and once in a while she'd wake up sometime later with Abbey's hand stroking her hair, almost in time with her breath.
She was always Dr. Bartlet during the day, but at night, and in these quiet moments, a foreign intimacy between them, she was always Abbey, and over time, Mandy began to think of her as Abbey all the time, a dangerous progression. Mandy had been with women before, and men for that matter, but what she felt for Abbey Bartlet was more elemental and needy. She made Mandy want things she knew she could never have. And the need made her cautious.
After Josh came onboard, he and Mandy would clash over almost everything, including the off-schedule visits she and Abbey continued to take. And when the campaign got a call one Friday night about the women's health clinic they had visited that afternoon off the schedule, asking if this signaled an intention to bring abortion front and center, Mandy was deemed a bad influence and replaced as Abbey's traveling companion with Pam, whom they could trust to stick to the schedule. Shortly thereafter the money started trickling in, the campaign started to gain some attention, and Mandy was needed to fulfill her true job full-time again. Once she was relieved of shadow duty, she missed the time alone with Abbey and the chance to observe her outside of her defined roles, but it was probably well timed. She has often wondered if maybe she wasn't as careful with her stares as she thought, and Leo or Toby suspected her infatuation, because the silences between Abbey and her had become more frequent, their touches more casual, and Mandy was losing the ability to control her feelings around her.
She dreamed of Abbey, and she knew she stared at her, especially her hands, and the risk of discovery made the infatuation exciting and dangerous. Mandy made a vow to keep her distance after a very uncomfortable silence one night when she was huddled on the front porch swing of the farm with Abbey, a half drunk bottle of brandy between them, the clouds of breath mingling between them until Mandy pulled her face away and reminded herself to breathe. Soon thereafter she began going in search of Josh at the end of every day. She and Josh had met a few times previously, Washington politics being a small town in many ways, but they had never worked together, and the constant aggression of conflict easily translated into sexual tension and then just sex. They both needed an outlet and neither wanted a distraction.
And the vow to keep her distance from Abbey held for a while, until right before the election, when they all became a little desperate and less than careful. Two days before the election Mandy once again found herself deep in the moment with Abbey, sprawled out on a couch, waiting for everyone to return from the field and the office. The easy chatter had turned to companionable silence and then a lazy leaning against each other, heads titled in, drunk on exhaustion and emotion. Mandy had turned her head to find Abbey watching her, a small smile on her face, and the air between them was once again filled with things unsaid. From her many imaginings and fantasies, Mandy could almost feel Abbey's lips on hers, her hands in Mandy's hair, her elegant fingers inside her, and the awkward drunken silence that filled the small spaces between them singed where it touched, making them both a little more unhinged. Mandy leaned subtly toward her and Abbey mirrored her movement until her hair touched Mandy's cheek, but just before their lips touched Abbey pulled sharply back and away, and Mandy felt like the air had been sucked out of the room and out of her lungs. They avoided each other for the next two days, but Mandy would catch Abbey staring at her when she didn't think Mandy could see her, her look less than lustful and almost scared. And she knew that she couldn't be around Abbey, day in and day out, without eventually giving herself away. She left before noon on the day after their great victory, not waiting for the offer she wasn't sure she was strong enough to decline.
The kettle whistles behind her and she is dragged back to the present, rushing to silence the shrill sound as it echoes through the empty house. As she is dragging the tea bag out of her mug, she flips a few pages deeper into the book before closing it and pushing it away. She pulls the stack of photos onto her lap and skips through them one by one. She researched the book off and on for almost ten years, at times in earnest, at times as comforting hobby, and during that time she amassed hundreds of photographs of Abbey. She smiles at one of Abbey from college, the earnest and almost innocent look ruined by the mischievous twinkle in her eye. She moves quickly past one of Abbey and Lilli from the second Inauguration, the similarity in their looks making her slightly queasy, and unsettling despite her knowledge that they were never more than colleagues. When one of her and Abbey together rises to the top of the stack, she carefully puts her mug down with shaking hands and then cautiously touches the edges of the picture, almost as if it will disintegrate if she holds it fully in her hand. She doesn't really remember when it was taken, but from the easy intimacy between them and their hair styles, she can tell it was early on in the campaign. They are oblivious to the camera and amused with themselves and each other, and the look Abbey is giving her almost makes her believe the lust was mutual. Although Mandy has always cherished this picture, she didn't dare put it in the book for fear of exposing herself to prying eyes. There is no denying Mandy's affection and longing in the look on her younger face.
Mandy had studied her from a far for years, and then, when she couldn't see Abbey regularly, she began to study her from inside out, starting with Abigail Anne Ryan, the middle daughter born to Elizabeth and Peter Ryan, tracing the footsteps of the girl who would be queen. She was cautious to fly under the radar, to