Title: The Longest Moments
Author: Caz
Rating: R? Maybe a little lower.
Summary: Set in Season 2, a little piece from 3 points of view based on the question ‘how does the nation find out about Jed’s MS?’ and a lot of focus, at least on Abbey’s part, about the issue of a Jed/Leo relationship. This is NOT your usual ‘Abbey knows and is completely happy about it even participates in threesomes with a strap-on’ fic.
Spoilers: Ironic as it is having not seen this far yet, spoilers include ‘He Shall, From Time to Time’, ‘What Kind of Day has it Been’ and ITSoTG, although I stress, this is NOT a season finale fic…
Warnings: Um, none, surprisingly enough. Well, talk of a consensual m/m relationship but nothing graphic, maybe the odd naughty word. Nothing to write home to Ma about.
Disclaimer: Oh, woe is me for alack, I own them not. Hail to the Sorkin, the Sorkin, the Sorkin, Hail to the Sorkin, the Sorkin Man. And after the lawsuit for that tribute, I know I’ll be too broke to pay off any others.
Dedicated to: Priya. Whether you know it or not, this is ALL your fault
girl!

The Longest Moments by Caz

Abbey’s POV
Has anyone ever asked you what the longest moment in your life has been?
I’ve asked myself that question repeatedly of late, wondering if time has
slowed since we began this crazy ride to and through the White House. The
moments sure as hell seem longer in here than they ever did out there. Out
there. Huh. Hard to remember that once upon a time we were ‘normal’ people
leading fairly normal lives, that we were ‘out there’ too. Amazing how
things change. I remember the night I first realised that even when the
Bartlet Administration was over, we’d never be able to go back to what we
were, not really.
Not that long ago I asked Leo the very same question I’ve been asking
myself. I think that’s what prompted this. He was out on the walkway that
connects the residence and the Oval Office, and from the look on his face it
was safe to say it had been another long day in the White House. It’s funny
because at the time, I thought nothing of the look he gave me when I voiced
the obscure and completely unforeseen question. The way his eyes darkened
slightly with emotion, the soft edge to his voice. His answer was not quite
the one I thought he’d give either, it was certainly in my list of top ten
possible choices but…I don’t know. If I’d asked what his longest moment in
the life of the administration had been, then perhaps yes, seeing Jed’s limo
racing away from the White House instead of towards it after the Newseum
shooting would have been a favourite. But I was talking about his personal
life, a personal life that includes his father’s suicide, the Vietnam War,
drink and drug addiction AND his and Jenny’s recent separation. It's hard to
admit, but in some respects I seriously underestimated their relationship.
Now of course it all makes sense, so much has come to light over the past
few weeks; but then it had to really, given the circumstances.
The past five weeks have just been a collection of long moments, some highly
uncomfortable, strung together in such a way that has fooled everybody into
thinking we’re still working by the normal clock and calendar. In reality,
there have been no individual days and no individual nights, simply long
moments merging into one another, and believe me when I say I more than look
forward to the instant I can slip into bed and make this one end. Looks like
my ‘Mr. President’ is ahead of me. Despite all his valiant efforts to catch
the end of the game, he’s starting to drift off on the couch. And I’m glad
because Lord, he looks whipped. All three of us do - Leo, Jed and myself.
Jed’s handled this so much better than I thought he would, I know it’s been
one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do. He’s had his moments of
course, as only Jed can, and one or two have taken the tag team of both Leo
and I to calm him down, to stop him from tearing some unfortunately
over-solicitous staffer’s head off. Then we’ve had more than our fair share
of…disputes of our own to deal with too.
What bothered me most was the simple fact that I thought I knew them - a
safe assumption to make, one would think, given I’ve been married to one of
them for 33 years and I count the other as a very close friend. But then
again, my mother always told me there was no such thing as a safe assumption
in this world. I rang both Zoey and Elizabeth this morning and told them the
same thing.
I’m not angry. Not really. I was and they both know it, but more importantly
they both know and fully appreciate why I wanted to shishkabob them on the
spot with the fountain pen I was holding at the time. I wanted to walk away,
Jed and I made a promise once that we would never walk away angry though,
and that is something I will hold myself to until I die. If it had been our
house in New Hampshire I would have wanted to slam the front door - it’s a
most satisfying sound, I speak from the experience of having three daughters
- but we had it out in the residence that night, must have talked and argued
until at least four am. Leo had looked to Jed for instruction, unsure
whether to stay or go, speak or keep quiet; I think he thought our marriage
was on the line and anything could tip the balance too far. In the end he
left before I’d had time to digest the development. I know Jed said
something to him as he went and I know he phoned him from the study when it
was all over, before he slipped into our room. Talk about a sleepless night.
I’m glad Leo went when he did. There were things Jed and I needed to discuss
on our own, questions to be posed and answers to be given that I needed to
hear whether I wanted to or not. Psychologists call it negative capability.
Right then and there I called it soul shattering. The frightening thing was
it sounded so rational. I understood what Jed was saying to me, knew that
our love was still intact, and that’s why I’m still here and we’re still
married. You don’t throw thirty-three years of marriage out the window like
that. He’s never lied to me before. He’ll never lie to me again. I have his
word on it, and from Jed that’s enough.
So no, I’m not angry, not anymore. But I can’t say I’m happy about it either
and I can’t say it doesn’t matter. It does. Just not enough to disown them,
to abandon them, although it’s safe to say that things were a little - cool
- between Leo and I for a few days. We maintained appearances if we happened
to meet each other in the corridor or if either of us was visiting Jed in
the Oval Office, but conversation was strained. I couldn’t look at him in
the same way and I’m fairly certain he had a hard time meeting my admittedly
hard gaze. We had to pull together when the story broke however. Living in
denial is fantastic until your bubble bursts, or in this case popped, and
you’re forced to face the thing you’ve been hiding from.
Jed needed us both to get him through it, to keep him on an even keel and to
rein his temper in. Every so often it was to keep the staff out of his way,
and when we failed to do that, we were needed to smooth ruffled feathers -
and staffers - until he had calmed down enough to make his own apologies. It
has to be noted that Mrs. Landingham has a wonderful knack for judging when
his mood is shifting, the woman needs a pay rise dealing with this
president. In that respect, it’s probably the best thing that could have
happened. And it has to be said that Leo was a godsend. I just couldn’t
watch when he comforted him, that was all…I think we’ve worked things out
now. We’re almost back to what passes for normal round here, between the
three of us at least. As near to normal as we ever can be again.
Leo's POV
Does it sound naïve to say I'd never thought she'd find out? I
certainly never thought it'd come out like that at least. Come out.
Now there's a double entendre for you; Jed and I have been living in
our home made closet so long we couldn't find the door handle even if
we wanted to. She's not happy about it, I know that, and I figure Jed
would say the same thing if I asked him, but see we haven't really
discussed what happened, not since he called me that sleepless night
five weeks ago. It was a call I was at the same time dreading and
desperate to take - when I left, the look on her face...for a moment
I thought it was over between them, that Abbey would leave him on the
spot. It's quite a revelation to face, the fact that your husband of
thirty three years has been sleeping with his best friend for longer
still.
'Happy'? That's the wrong word. I couldn't expect her to be 'happy'
about it, I don't expect acceptance of it either, no more than I'd
expect her to accept Jed sleeping with another woman for the duration
of their marriage. Whichever way you look at it we were having an
affair, one that has had a lot of issues with acceptance itself. Two
devout, well, one devout and one lapsed catholic, embarking on a
relationship that went against everything we'd ever been taught was
good and righteous? It just happened, it wasn't planned, not even the
slightest idea that this might be where we'd eventually end up - and
I'm not talking about the White House here. The morning after the
night before we first woke up together was memorable only because we
could barely look at each other, let alone talk about what had
happened. The second time we blamed it on alcohol. I don't remember
much of the reasoning behind the third time other than to say that I
have a vague recollection of Jed being angry with me for something.
By the time we actually made love, that was encounter number six,
well, I'd stopped trying to rationalise it. I'd stopped trying to
condemn it. To say it took Jed a little longer would be an
understatement.
Maybe I found it easier to accept because I separated the two issues:
being gay and loving another man. The military, my service in 'Nam,
was another matter, but we were young and I had the luxury of
choosing not to think about that wherever possible. See, I'm not gay.
I had not, prior to the night we first stumbled into his bed, and
haven't since, ever wanted to take another man, never even thought
about it. But I do love Jed. Sure, he's stubborn, difficult and he
never shuts up (not even in bed), not to mention equal parts total
nerd and absolute klutz, but I guess that's part of why I love him.
If you were looking for a nominee for great men of the century, I'd
be the first to put his name forward.
I did love Jenny, just as I know that Jed loves Abbey dearly, that
he's as in love with her now as he was thirty years ago. But there's
also the love that we share: the one we very rarely speak of and so
rarely express in the ways we used to. I haven't felt as guilty about
hiding our relationship as I did that night, in years. In the short
run it's a non-issue, Abbey and I silently agreed that we'd pull
together for Jed and deal with everything else at a later date. In
the long run...well, let's just say that it'll be one hell of a
dinner topic.
Part of me wishes we had dealt with it already, it'd be one less
thing to occupy my thoughts, but as with everything that happens
under this roof, nothing ever goes to plan. At first I thought I'd
heard the question wrong. CJ, bless her, swept it under the carpet
with the best non-committal answer she could come up with on the spot
- some joke about Jed's back - but my mouth went dry all the same.
We'd always known it would only take one question before the truth
would have to come out, whether Jed liked it or not. And there was
the one question. CJ, is there any truth in the anonymous quote
released this morning stating that the President suffers from a
serious Neurological disorder?...I stayed in the briefing room until
the end of the session, Lord knows what the rumour mill might have
come up with if I'd disappeared at the point the question was asked.
Probably the truth in this case, or something very close to it at
least. My first thought was the fact that I'd have to tell him it had
come up. My second was that it'd be a good idea to tell Abbey first.
Whatever I was going to do, I knew I had to do it before anyone who
had seen the briefing raised the issue.
Second only to seeing the Presidential limo heading the wrong way
after the shooting, the days that followed were some of the longest
moments of my life. Abbey went with me to the Oval Office, his usual
humour dying on his lips when faced with our grim expressions. It had
to come out, we both told him as much, there was no way we could flat
out deny there was any truth in the statement and I think the thought
terrified him. It was around then that I realised the real reason I'd
never been told he had MS until he collapsed. He was in denial. Major
denial. Funny, it seems obvious now, particularly when I think of
what he said to me - 'I wanted to be President'...you could almost
see the rug being pulled out from under him.
We were right of course. Before an hour had passed, CJ stuck her head
around the door in search of me, told me she was fielding a lot of
questions, that there was some sort of 'reliable' source behind the
anonymous quote. When we eventually found out, days later, who and
why...this is the reason we have the secret service - to stop the
Chief of Staff from winding up behind bars for assault. Anyway...CJ
just kind of looked at the three of us, starting with Jed and ending
on me, fixing me with a gaze that once more made me feel like I
should have all the answers. But I didn't. This was the President's
call, it was his personal life...his administration...a few more long
uncomfortable moments passed before he slowly nodded in resignation,
told me to get the senior staff together in the Oval Office, told CJ
to hold off saying anything at all until after his impromptu meeting,
then turned his back on all of us to stare out of the window, hands
clasped loosely behind him. After decades of living our secret, of
living in a world where our choice might have gotten us killed, you'd
think it wouldn't hurt anymore...but nothing hurt me more that day
than knowing that as always, the only comfort I could offer was my
silent, unwavering support.
Jed’s POV
Anywhere but here. That was my only thought, that I wanted to be anywhere
but in the White House and anyone but the President of the United States.
Nothing against the position you understand, it has it’s perks, I just
didn’t want to face what I knew was already coming through the door. Abbey
wandered over to my side, reached for my hand and just held it, trying to
offer me strength maybe, reassurance? Lord knows I needed it. I also needed
something else at that moment, but my other rock had, as always, been forced
onto the sidelines. I knew he’d be back shortly but it wasn’t the same, not
when all I wanted was to be held in the arms of the people I trusted above
all others, above even myself.
I must have voiced out loud some of what I was thinking, I know I was
wondering if Abbey would stay - yes, granted, a stupid fear given the woman
we’re talking about I know - must have murmured it under my breath because
the next thing I know she’s standing in front of me with both of my hands in
hers, telling me that she wouldn’t leave me. She wasn’t just talking about
this meeting with the others either and I knew it. It helped.
I don’t know how long we simply stood together, but by the time she released
me Leo was back, closing our connecting doors behind him before moving to
stand by my desk.
Abbey knew.
I don’t know how or why, but she knew that right then I wanted him by my
side, I wanted the comfort he could offer - not just as my lover but as my
oldest, closest friend. I don’t know what precisely passed between them as
she turned away from me to look at Leo, I didn’t turn away from the window
to see but I can guess; yet more of the silent communication that had been
going on between them since Abbey found out about our relationship. Although
hopefully a lot less hostile. Thinking about it since, I’m not sure if
having these two able to communicate like this is such a good idea - who
knows what they might get up to behind my back. I know first hand how
cunning they can be, I have the photos from my surprise fortieth birthday
party to back that one up…
Suffice to say, the gentle touch on my shoulder was a more than welcome
gesture as he covered the last few steps to rest beside me. I know Abbey
turned away when he gently placed one hand on the back of my neck, when she
saw the way his thumb gently caressed the nape. But it was comfort, nothing
more, and it wasn’t the first time she had seen a gesture like this between
us. But it was the first time she witnessed such an act knowing there was so
much more, that under different circumstances it would have been a gesture
of intimacy…if I was ever in doubt that my wife is an amazing woman, the
last few weeks and all she’s had to contend with in them, has reaffirmed
that belief. Neither Leo nor I said anything as we stood there, we didn’t
need to as we waited for the knock on the door that would let me know that
my private time was up, both the privacy of that moment with my loves and of
my condition.
Condition.
I can’t even say the words and the worst part is I don’t know why. My
attacks have been relatively few and far between, thank God, although that
probably has a lot more to do with the Betaseron shots and Abbey’s mothering
than the progression of the disease itself. If you exclude my little State
of the Union performance, I’ve only ever gone down in public the once -
what, six years ago? - and even then I knew it was going to happen, I was
able to warn Abbey. It has changed my life, but not to the extent it so
easily could have done, that I know it does to so many others, I’ve been so
lucky to date…yet, I still can’t seem to accept this. I don’t want to accept
this. Go figure. Yes, I, Josiah Bartlet of New Hampshire, the 43rd President
of the United States of America, am in denial. Even now. Anybody who has
access to either the newspapers, radio or TV now knows I have MS and I’m the
one who doesn’t want to deal with what that does and could mean. For the
future. For my loved ones. Besides which, I hate being fussed over.
Sam knocked first and then they filtered in over a course of two or three
minutes, I think Mrs. Landingham was the last person to join us, and I waved
them all into seats with the closest thing to a smile I could muster. They
knew something was up, well, most of them did, and those that hadn’t
realised when the meeting had been called, realised when they saw both Abbey
and Leo flanking me protectively. I don’t know how many people were there in
total - CJ, Josh, Sam, Toby, Charlie, Mrs. Landingham at least, and I think
Ainsley might have been there too, I don’t know…it’s hard to remember, the
only thing I wanted to do was get it over with. But I didn’t know where to
start, so I threw out the first bit of inane trivia I could think of and
developed it from there. I think it went well given the circumstances, they
tell me it did. It was the longest moment in my life.
~~~~~~**~~~~~~
"…now I know some of you are aware of an issue that came up this morning in
the press briefing, the matter of an anonymous quote. For those of you that
aren’t, one of the press corps asked CJ if there was any truth to a
statement stating I suffered from a neurological disorder…" Jed paused,
glanced at his staff over the top of his glasses, saw the looks of
realisation on some faces, ignorance on others. He felt Abbey squeeze his
hand in reassurance, Leo’s comforting presence to his left and taking a deep
breath, knew that this was where the words had to go. "Almost eight years
ago now, before I even met some of you, I was diagnosed with Multiple
Sclerosis."
He tried not to look too hard at the reactions, didn’t want to see pity or
horror or any of the other things that might be present, emotions and
responses he’d seen in others he had told, family mainly. "I have a form
known as Relapsing-Remitting MS, meaning I don’t suffer from it all the time
but have occasional attacks or flare ups that can be brought on by a number
of things, primarily inordinate levels of stress and or fever. My life
expectancy is normal. I’m sure you remember my little flu-induced State of
the Union incident last year…" a few nods but nothing more from the usually
vocal people assembled. "I’m telling you because I’ve been informed that I
can’t categorically deny the suggestion…"
~~~~~~**~~~~~~
I know some of them went to Abbey to talk about it, to gain awareness -
amazing how many people don’t have a clue about diseases such as these.
They’ve tried not to fuss, I know they’ve tried, and my short temper hasn’t
helped any, but I don’t think they’re going to hold it against me, at least
I hope not - Mrs. Landingham with a grudge is not an idea I’d like to
consider. I think I was probably at my worst in the days following my
national press conference - I made the announcement myself, Toby helped me
pen the speech, but the majority of it was my own words and I ad-libbed
quite a bit - particularly around the D section - if only to piss him off
and provoke some of his more usual cutting remarks. At this point I would
just like to say that Toby being nice is scary on so many levels. It had to
stop.
And all of this just because a man couldn’t hold his liquor well and didn’t
realise that when my wife tells you something about her husband, The
President, that only 15 other people in the world know, you don’t share that
knowledge no matter what. Abbey is not a woman to tangle with. I speak from
experience. The anaesthetist was probably lying face down in a motel
somewhere within 24 hours, Secret Service agents scaring the hell out of him
on her orders…it wouldn’t surprise me actually. Either that or Leo got there
first.
Leo.
Abbey left for Wisconsin this morning, her first trip away from the
immediate DC area since all this began. We’ve reached an understanding of
sorts, about Leo and I that is. I never thought I’d see the day where the
residence was an option for us, but he’s here and operating under a policy
he knows quite well - Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s not ideal, all three of us
know that, but right now this second as we lie here on the couch watching
the game together, I really don’t care. I’m not sure if he’ll stay the
night, but even if he does, right now all we need from each other is
contact. We’re both too tired for much else. I think maybe he’s talking to
me, his lips are moving at least, although I don’t have a clue what he’s
saying. Now he’s just staring down at me with a soft, patient grin,
muttering something about President’s not paying attention to their Chief of
Staff under his breath. I could stay right here forever, there is security
in our relationship, and I know that whatever happens, my longest moments
will never be quite as long.

~The End ~

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