Jed sat in the study attached to the Oval Office. He was ostensibly reading a brief, however, he looked completely lost in thought when Leo entered the room.
"Hey boss," Leo said, "You've been hiding out in here for over an hour. Something bugging you?"
"Yeah," Jed sighed. "This whole Qumar thing bugs the hell out of me."
"Well, it had to be done," Leo stated simply. Jed looked up sharply. The tone of Leo's voice had held a hint of, here we go again in it, and this was a tone that he was really starting to loathe.
"Is that all you have to say on the subject?"
"What more is there to say? It's a done deal."
"I know it's a done deal, Leo. I made it a done deal. But everytime I make one of these deals with countries like Qumar, I feel like I am making a pact with the devil."
"The women around here are giving you the evil eye again, aren't they?"
"If they aren't, they should be. Dammit Leo, I have a wife and four daughters. YOU have a daughter. Don't you feel that somehow we are condoning this type of behavior on their part?"
"No. It's just a deal, Mr. President. Missiles for money, and more importantly, a place to land and refuel our planes."
"Yeah," Jed said, knowing that Leo wouldn't understand his moral dilemma. He rarely did. Oh he understood the dilemma, just not why he was having one. Leo was not a bad person or an immoral one, it was just that it was so easy for him, so cut and dry. His world was black and white and he never had to wade his way through the murky difficult gray areas that Jed often found himself lost in. To Leo the end always justified the means, and once he made a decision, he never looked back.
For Jed that was simply impossible. In striving to do the right thing, he would spend days contemplating and wondering if what he had done was the right thing to do, or if there had been a better way, an alternative. And when he knew that it wasn't the right thing, the guilt needled and ate at him. And deep down in his gut, where the truth always lay, he knew the deal with Qumar was wrong.
Jed was late getting back to the residence for dinner and was surprised to find Abbey in the dining room eating all alone. She usually waited for him when he was late.
"How was your day today?" He asked, kissing the top of her head before moving to his place across from her.
"Fine," she said coolly and took a sip from her wineglass. Jed sat and began to serve himself from the platters on the table. He kept glancing up at his usually talkative wife who was simply pushing the food around on her plate.
"OK," he sighed, throwing his napkin down on his plate. "You're pissed at me."
"I'm not pissed at you," she said, looking down into the wine she was swirling in her glass. "Disappointed, hurt, and, yeah, maybe I am pissed."
"You saw CJ today, didn't you?"
"She came to my office. She was upset. We had lunch."
"Damn," he groaned. He had hoped to soften the blow by telling her himself. By lunching with CJ he was sure they had fed off each other's outrage, and now he was going to pay the price. An Abbey full of righteous anger was a sight to behold.
"Let's just say it's been a hell of a day in the Bartlet administration for the women's movement. First of all, I got a letter from Amy Gardner about the way they are putting the word 'forced' in front of prostitution in the treaty. It's ridiculous. ALL prostitution is forced."
"Not all, Abbey. Some of these women make a conscious choice to become prostitutes."
"They may choose it, but it is circumstances that FORCE them into the choice. Do you honestly believe that any women grows up dreaming to make a lot of money by selling her body?"
"Maybe not, but I don't think Sam's call girl friend felt she was being forced to sell herself. She needed money for school and she chose the way to make it."
"Do you hear yourself? Are you actually condoning this?"
"Of course not. In my opinion, prostitution is morally abhorrent. But in some countries it is legal and we have to respect that."
"Jed, did you read about those 13 year old Thai girls whose parents SOLD them to somebody right here in Maryland? SOLD them as sex slaves. They hung themselves. Jesus, those girls are Annie's age. How would you feel..."
"Abbey, that was absolutely horrific and that guy was arrested. It IS illegal here."
"Jed, they were CHILDREN. Children who chose to die rather than continue on as the slave to some man's depraved sexual appetites."
"Abbey, we do happen to be FOR the treaty," Jed said quietly.
"I know, I know. I just need to vent. It's so damn frustrating. Even with this treaty, this stuff will still go on."
"It's a little step. I know it's hard to accept but that's the way politics works, in little steps."
"I hate little steps" she muttered.
"I don't like them too much myself. But I always seem to get myself into trouble when I try to take those big ones," he gave her a rueful gaze.
"Or when you make wonderful little deals with countries who oppress women?"
"I knew this was coming," he sighed. "We needed the air base, Abbey. Strategically we needed it."
"So we just overlook the fact that women there are executed without a trial for adultery and beaten by their fathers or husbands if they are raped. You have FOUR daughters. How could you do that?"
"You don't have to be my fucking conscience, Abbey!" he exploded. "Do you think this hasn't eaten me up with guilt all day? I had to do something as President today that I consider morally WRONG. I did it because my military told me it was what we needed to keep stability in the Middle East. It was something that I had to do as Commander-in-Chief and that I never would have done as a husband and a father of four girls." He strode away from the table to stand staring out the window, looking up at the stars as if for absolution. After a few moments he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," Abbey said softly. "I didn't mean to make things more difficult for you. It's just..."
Jed turned to see her struggling to keep her composure.
"I know what these women are going through," she said in a small choked voice. "I was raped, Jed, and I can't help but think what that would have been like if you had beaten the hell out of me and thrown me out of our home instead of holding me in your arms and comforting me."
"I'm sorry, Abbey," he pulled her into his arms, holding her head to his chest and stroking her soft hair. "Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize for my whole damn gender. What is it that makes men so fucking violent? Why do they hit children, rape women, sell their kids into prostitution, and buy those 13 years olds to serve their own perverted desires?"
"Jed, come on. Not all men are like that. You aren't" she kissed his chin. "And none of the men I know are like that. Besides, some of those people selling their daughters into prostitution were women, and there are plenty of women who beat their children. Except for rape, violence is a human problem. It is not gender specific."
"I really wish I hadn't had to make that deal, Abbey."
"I know. But look, it's done and it's over. Just don't ever expect me to go on any diplomatic trips to Qumar."
"I wouldn't worry about it," Jed chuckled. "I don't think they'll be inviting us anytime too soon."
"Go finish your supper," she smiled.
"Yeah, we're OK."
It was 10 in the evening and Abbey had been gone for three days, and for the third night in a row, Jed was sitting in the rocking chair struggling to give one of his screaming children a bottle. This time it was Nicholas crying in his father's arms. Weaning had never been easy and Jed knew that it was best for the mother not to be involved, but he was beginning to wonder if these two were ever going to give up and accept the formula from a bottle rather than their mother's breast.
"You are just as stubborn as your mother," Jed grumbled as he tried to force the nipple between his red-faced son's lips. Nicky moved his head from side to side trying not to allow that nipple into his mouth.
"I suspect that Abbey would say that stubbornness is inherited from you," Leo chuckled from the doorway.
"Either way, at least they come by it honestly," Jed sighed. "What's up?"
"I wasn't sure if you were coming back down or not so I thought I'd run a few things by you before you went to bed."
"Oh, here you guys are," Josh said from the doorway. "They're down here in the nursery," he called back down the hall. Soon CJ, Sam, and Toby had joined Josh in the doorway.
"Hey, why do you guys only feel the need to do this when Abbey is gone?" Jed asked.
"Maybe because we take our lives into our own hands if we interrupt you when Mrs. Bartlet is home," Sam admitted.
"Damn right you do," Jed nodded. He was trying desperately to soothe his son who was pushing his bottle away and screaming with defiant anger at his father. The senior staff stood speechless and at a total loss over how to proceed.
"What the heck does he want?" Josh asked, watching as Jed squeezed some drops of the formula on Nicky's lip.
"He wants me to breast feed him," Jed snapped with irritation. Except for Nicholas, the entire room went quiet for a few beats and then everyone burst into laughter.
"I'm not an expert or anything," Sam said with a sly smile. "But I think that may be physically impossible."
"You think?" Jed asked drolly.
"I thought Mrs. Bartlet was going to nurse them until their first birthday," CJ said. "What changed her mind?"
"This," Jed said as he moved Nicholas to a sitting position and lifted his top lip to expose the pearly white tips of teeth in his pink gums. No words were necessary at all.
"Ouch," Josh grimaced.
"Ditto," Toby muttered.
"Any more questions?" Jed asked sarcastically.
"Why don't we all go and leave the President and Nicholas in peace?" Leo said, getting to his feet.
"You can't take the crying anymore, can you?" Jed lifted a brow at his friend.
"Nope," Leo grinned, "I'll leave the Daddy business to you." He shut the door behind him as they all departed. As soon as the door shut, Jed's attention moved back to his son.
"OK, young man," he said sternly. "That is quite enough of this carrying on. This may not taste as good as your mother's milk, but it is perfectly good formula. Babies all over the world drink formula and so can you." Nicholas calmed slightly and reached his hand out to touch Jed's lips. Jed smiled and kissed his chubby hand. "I did warn you right after you came home from the hospital that you were going to have to learn how to share. Now that time is here. You've had those breasts for almost nine months and now it is Daddy's turn again." Nicky's cries had subsided while his father talked, but once Jed stopped, he resumed in full force. "You just keep crying and being stubborn," Jed warned him, "but I'll tell you right now that I can be just as stubborn and I'm not giving up on giving you this bottle. You're dealing with the master of stubbornness now."
As Jed put the baby to his shoulder rocking back and forth, he made a mental note to apologize to Abbey for giving her a hard time about continuing to cave in and give Nicholas the breast when she had first tried to wean him. Because. despite what he had just told his son, at this point if he had a breast he'd take it out and give it to him.
The incessant ringing of the phone jarred Jed out of his deep sleep. It seemed as if he had only been sleeping for a couple hours and he was going to kill whoever was on the other line.
"'Lo" he grumbled sleepily into the receiver. "This better be important."
"Well, if that's the way you're gonna be, I'll call back another time," Abbey teased.
"No, no, no," Jed said, brightening at the sound of his wife's voice.
"What are you doing anyway? You can't still be sleeping, it's after seven."
"Actually I was. I was sleeping all curled up with this sweet, beautiful blond."
"She slept with you?" Abbey smiled into the receiver.
"She and her brother. I guess they figured this bed is too big for one person, and with Mom gone, Dad might be a little lonely."
"And were they right?"
"You know they were."
"Did I really wake you?" Abbey asked suspiciously. "You never sleep this late."
"I do when I'm up all night."
"Oh Jed," she said with disappointment. "It's not going well?"
"I got Aislinn to take half a bottle last night but your son is fighting me tooth and nail."
"Well, don't wear yourself out. Get help from Izzy."
"Are you kidding? If he reacts this way with me, he'd probably have some kind of fit with her. At least he is used to being in my arms at night. Izzy takes care of everything during the day. How are you doing?"
"I'm a little sore but it's getting better. Oh Jed, I miss them so much."
"Abbey, don't cry," he pleaded.
"I'm not crying," she insisted.
"Yes, you are," he argued. "You know I hate it..."
"When I cry," she finished the sentence for him. "I know," she sniffed, "I just can't help but feel that they must be wondering if I've deserted them or something."
"You haven't deserted them, sweets. Besides, we talked about this. It's called tough love."
"Fuck tough love, Jed. I want to cuddle my babies."
"I know," he chuckled. "It's only a few more days though. And I can assure you that when you return, both will be accepting the bottle beautifully."
"I'm going to hold you to that, Cookie. Well, I have to go. Lily is at my door. I have to give a speech at the University and now I have to re-do my eye make-up. Kiss the kids for me. I love you."
"Right back at you babe."
A few nights later Jed was singing away in the shower feeling pretty damn proud of himself. Isabelle had a terrible head cold and he had sent her off to bed with a bottle of Nyquil. He had then bathed and dressed the babies for bed all on his own, and had even gotten both of them to drink a whole bottle. They were both now sleeping soundly and he was going to throw on some sweats, grab a beer, and kick back to watch the Celtics.
The third period of the game was just starting when he heard a loud, piercing, pain filled cry from the baby monitor. He nearly threw his beer down on the nightstand, causing it to fall and spill as leapt to his feet to race down the hall barefooted and in sweats. He flung the door to the nursery open and ran in with several agents hot on his tail. Aislinn was sitting in her crib crying, her face scrunched with pain.
"What is it, Sunshine?" Jed frowned with worry. He leaned down over the rail and lifted his daughter into his arms. "Did you hurt yourself, honey?" He began to examine her all over looking for any cuts or anything to indicate why she was crying like this.
"Sir, is something wrong?" The agent named Jim asked.
"I don't know. This doesn't sound like..." At that moment Aislinn gave a small hiccup and proceeded to throw up all over her father's shoulder. "Oh God," Jed gasped, holding the baby away from him which only caused her to cry harder."It's OK, sweetie, Daddy isn't mad at you." His need to comfort his daughter was now warring with his intense need to vomit. He could feel his stomach clenching and fought not to retch.
"Do NOT laugh," Jed said, turning to look at the agents. "Come help me." He handed the baby to Lori, who tried not to show her distaste at handling the soiled infant. He quickly shrugged out of the now smelly stained T-shirt. Aislinn had begun to cry harder in Lori's arms but seemed to calm when Jed took her back.
With the agents outside and back on duty, he took Aislinn's dirty sleeper off and washed her. He felt her forehead but couldn't tell if she was hot from crying or a fever, so he reached for the ear thermometer that hung in a bag on the side of the changing table. He placed it in Aislinn's ear, waiting for the electronic reading but nothing registered. He shook it and tried again. Damn, the batteries were dead. Now what, he wondered. He glanced back down and saw the old fashioned rectal thermometer they had had to use back when the girls were babies. He felt a shiver of apprehension and almost went to wake Isabelle despite her illness, but his pride would not allow him to do so. He had helped Abbey do this often enough and he should be able to do it. He dipped the thermometer into the jar of Vaseline and looked down into Aislinn's watery blue eyes.
"Daddy is not a pro at this, Sunshine, so please, for the love of God, do not wiggle."
Abbey had been flying all night in order to get back to Washington and have a few hours of relaxation before a Women in the Arts luncheon. Even though it was early she was surprised to see Jed's agents still outside the bedroom door. She nodded to them with a smile and entered the still dark bedroom. As she moved to open the drapes and allow in the early morning sunshine, she tripped over a ball. She looked down at the offending object puzzled as to why it was in the middle of their bedroom floor. She opened the heavy drapes, then turned back around, her eyes widening with shock. It looked like a tornado had hit the bedroom. Empty baby bottles lay all over the nightstand along with a bottle of beer that had obviously been knocked over and had dripped all night onto the carpet below. Dirty diapers were rolled up in the trash and stuffed animals and baby clothes lay strewn all over the floor. The room smelled sour and stale.
Abbey shook her head with exasperation. She couldn't believe that Jed had been able to make this much of a mess in one night, for she knew the staff must have cleaned up from the other days. She felt anger begin to rise within her and that was when her gaze fell to their big bed. Jed lay half under the covers in gray sweats and a T-shirt, his hair rumpled with sleep. Aislinn lay in her pink sleeper sound asleep on his chest, his hand on her back and Nicholas was snuggled up under his arm, his face buried into Jed's ribs. Jed had propped a bunch of pillows along the edge of the bed so the babies wouldn't roll off. Abbey let her anger out in one breath and smiled tenderly at the sight the three of them made in her bed. She moved toward them, her heart swelling with aching sweet love. She leaned over the barricade of pillows, smoothing Jed's hair back off his forehead.
"Jed," she whispered softly. "Jed, wake up, Baby."
Jed felt something tickling his face and reached a hand to brush it away. However, the scent of lily of the valley registered deep in his brain. It was the scent that meant Abbey. He opened his eyes to see her smiling down at him, her hair tracing lightly over his cheeks causing the tickling sensation he had felt.
"So I see," he reached a hand behind her neck and pulled her face down for a long kiss. He continued to kiss her until Aislinn began to squirm and kick at her mother.
"I'm sorry, sweetie," Abbey kissed Aislinn's forehead. "Did Daddy make me squish you?" She picked the baby up off Jed's chest, smiling at the wet spot on his T-shirt where she had drooled. Aislinn snuggled sleepily into her mother's neck and Abbey inhaled deeply the milky, baby powder scent of her daughter. God, how she had missed this. "So," she turned back to Jed, "you want to tell me about the tornado that went through here last night?"
"It's not so bad," Jed said sheepishly.
"Tell me you didn't let them sleep with you in here every night."
"Of course not," he said, affronted. "Just a couple. I actually got them both on the bottle, but last night Ash got sick and threw up all over me and herself. I figured I'd have her sleep in here with me and I didn't want her to wake up when I had to get up with Nicky so I brought him with us." He began picking up the dirty clothes and throwing them in the hamper.
"She got sick?" Abbey said frowning. "Does she have a temperature? Go get me my bag and I'll check her out. You should have called me when..."
"Abbey," Jed placed a hand on her shoulder. "She's fine. I took her temperature and it was a little elevated so I gave her some baby Tylenol. She threw up a couple more times in here, but her temperature went down and she's been fine since around two."
"Why didn't Izzy help you out?" Abbey demanded.
"She's got a terrible cold so I sent her to bed. Besides, Ashy was sick. I wanted her in here with me. The kids and I did just fine, General Bartlet."
"Jed, you said you took her temperature, but I distinctly remember the ear thermometer's battery died," her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Just how did you take her temperature?"
"There's more than one way to skin a cat," he grinned at her. "The old fashioned way worked just fine."
Abbey looked up at her husband with wide eyed amusement "My, my, Josiah, you are full of surprises, aren't you?"
"Gotta keep one step ahead of you, cupcake."
A few days later, while Air Force One cruised thousands of feet in the air, Lori watched the President and First Lady come out of the private area where they had been with their two elder daughters, Leo McGarry, and their babies. They moved into the back compartment and began to schmooze with the press for a while. They were on their way to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving. For the longest time the Service hadn't been sure which place to secure. First it had been New Hampshire, then Camp David, then they were going to stay in the White House and now they were on their way to their first destination, which had obviously always been the preferred one.
She shivered with excitement when she thought of the plan she and Marcus had come up with to pay Mrs. Fancy Pants Bartlet back for all her treachery. Lori had been stunned to find out what the First Lady had done to Marcus all those years ago. According to him, she had been a big wig doctor and initiated a flirtation with him when he was an orderly, which had become an all out affair. Then, one night when they made plans to stay in Boston together, her husband showed up and caught them in the act. Dr. Bartlet had cried rape and Marcus hadn't had a chance. Abbey Bartlet was an important doctor, her husband a New Hampshire state senator, of course the jury had found him guilty.
She watched Abbey laughing at something the red-haired Danny Concannon had said and a self satisfied smile worked its way to her lips. You won't be smiling for long Dr. Bartlet she thought, not after what we have planned for you.