|Castles in the Air
Author: Nomad1 PM
Tenth in the 'Further to Fly' series. The State of the Union looms...Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Jed B. - Chapters: 21 - Words: 35,412 - Reviews: 44 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 06-06-04 - Published: 05-17-04 - Status: Complete - id: 1865811
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Spoilers: This story goes AU somewhere around late season
three, but backstory established in the season four episodes "Debate
Camp" and "Holy Night" is also fair game.
Disclaimer: The characters and concepts used within belong to Aaron Sorkin; I'm just borrowing for non-profit purposes.
And if she asks you why, you can tell her that I told you
That I'm tired of castles in the air
I've got a dream that I want the world to share
And castle walls just lead me to despair
- Castles in the Air, Don McLean
The babble of many voices filled the car, fuzzing between clarity and static as the radio roamed from station to station. As rain drummed continuously on the windshield, the news story of the moment took shape between blasts of music and commercials.
"-spoke to the Washington Post-"
"-in the build up to the-"
"-sensational interview, in which-"
"-State of the Union in only-"
"-Vice President John Hoynes admitted to-"
"-personal problems, and asked that-"
"-for the sake of his family, and-"
"-word yet on whether he still intends to run for the Democratic nomination in 2006. As the impact of these shock revelations is felt around Washington, just days before the State of the Union, only one question is left on everybody's lips - will John Hoynes relinquish the Vice Presidency?"
CJ snapped the radio off with a flick of the wrist, and sighed as she paused to examine her hair in the mirror. Two days to the State of the Union, and the frenzy of media speculation was growing, not dying away.
The Vice President's confession of infidelity was dominating the news cycle, and where there was any space it was too often given over to speculation about the president's state of health. To add insult to injury, the only positive coverage the administration was currently getting was on the entirely trivial subject of the president's new kitten.
It was a terrible start to the year. It was an absolutely appalling atmosphere for delivering the State of the Union. It was... pretty much business as usual, actually.
She straightened her blouse and got out of the car.
Sam bounded into the office like a puppy just let off the leash, projecting a highly annoying aura of youth and cheerfulness. Toby glowered at him, less than thrilled to have the quiet of the morning disturbed by an energetic deputy.
It failed to have the desired effect. "Hey, Toby," Sam smiled. "How's Andy? Did she pin you down to a date yet?"
Toby grunted noncommittally. In his - surprisingly, successful - campaign to get his ex-wife to agree to be married to him again, he'd failed to consider one minor technical detail. In order to pass from a state of being divorced back into a state of being married, there would, in fact, have to be a wedding at some stage.
He was not fond of weddings. Especially when they happened to be his own. Fortunately, Andy was no more enamoured of the idea of a formal dress and relative-filled extravaganza than he was; they would have a small, simple ceremony to confirm their decision, and that would be that. Deciding that had been the easy part. Being able to find matching gaps in their schedules - and wriggle through them quickly enough to get it over with before friends and coworkers could catch on and turn it into a big event - was proving to be considerably harder.
"Hi, Sam," Bonnie greeted with a smile on her way across the bullpen. Toby snagged her on the way back.
"Is everything ready for the State of the Union?"
"Preparations are a go," she said confidently.
"Give me a list," he ordered.
"Okay." Bonnie rolled her eyes. "We have cherry pie, apple pie-" She suddenly broke off and tensed up.
"Blueberry?" Sam asked, with an anxious look.
"We have no blueberry pie," Toby surmised, grimacing.
Sam's eyes widened. "Bonnie-"
"On it," she said briskly, and turned to call across the bullpen. "Ginger!"
"Pie run?" Ginger guessed instantly.
"We need to get the interns out looking for blueberry," Bonnie confirmed.
"Real blueberry," Sam called helpfully. "From that little place on-"
"Roger that. Pie retrieval unit?" Several interns hopped up, looking decidedly scared. "Code blueberry. Go, go, go." They hurried out. Toby shot them an extra glare as they departed, just to impress on them the importance of their mission.
It was going to be a long two and half days.
Leo knocked to announce his arrival, and walked into the Oval Office. The president was sitting at the desk with the kitten curled in his lap; he swivelled his chair towards the Chief of Staff, and smirked. "Greetings, Mr. Bond."
Leo pointed a finger at him accusingly. "Okay, you stop that right now."
The president affected a pout. "Aw, you have no sense of fun." He stood up, releasing the kitten to roam with stiff-backed indignity across the top of his desk. "What's up?"
Leo glanced at the tiny creature, already treating the office - and its occupant - as its own exclusive territory. "You know, I'm still not sure you're allowed to have that thing in here."
"He hasn't been any trouble," Jed shrugged with a lazy hand gesture. "I mean, apart from that time he tried to crawl into the phone."
"Yeah, I have to say that when I asked you to emphasize how pleased we were over the trade agreement, the whole purring thing was not exactly what I had in mind."
"He just likes to be able to see what I'm doing."
He rolled his eyes. "Fine. Give him a few weeks to learn the ropes, and then we'll let him have your job."
"Fine with me," the president said casually, but there was an underlying note of warmth in his voice. It was a welcome change from the slightly bitter twist that had permeated his sarcastic asides of late.
"How are you doing?" Leo asked more seriously.
His old friend lowered an eyebrow threateningly. "Much better when people stop asking me that."
"Your doctors gave you the all-clear?" He had to keep nudging despite the obvious irritation, because Lord knew Jed wouldn't volunteer anything unprompted.
The glower he got for that was more than proof of it. "Leo, there was never anything more wrong with me than a common cold."
"This close to the State of the Union, nothing's common."
"I'll be fine."
He conceded, and changed the subject. "When's Abbey getting back in?"
"Thursday morning." From the slightly slumped set of his shoulders, that was nowhere near soon enough for his liking. "She'll be here for the speech, at least."
"Zoey's gonna be well enough to come?" The president's youngest daughter had also been afflicted by that common cold, and by all accounts had suffered even worse from it. More worrying even than the president's fragile health, perhaps, considering she was nearly six months pregnant.
"She's feeling better," Jed reassured him. "Charlie is another matter." He shook his head in dismay. "He's been chasing her around every hour of the day, trying to stop her overexerting herself. You know what she's like."
"Like you, you mean?" he accused sardonically.
"I shall pretend I didn't hear that." Jed rubbed his face. "I hope this boy Josh has found works out," he sighed sincerely.
The young secretary Ashley Bowers had been an unfortunate casualty of Hoynes's exploding scandal, caught in a tangle of ethics and loyalties when the Congresswoman he was working for was drawn into the cover-up. Josh, with his propensity for trying to fix everything, had hit upon the idea of interviewing him for a position as an aide to Charlie. How Charlie felt about that was possibly up for debate, but there was no denying that if he wanted to keep his job and be a hands-on father for more than ten minutes a day, something was going to have to give.
"Has Charlie met him yet?" Leo wondered.
"I don't think so. Josh is interviewing him today?"
"This morning. And if all goes to plan, you can talk with him tomorrow."
Jed laughed, a light huff of cynical amusement. "If all goes to plan?"
Leo raised an eyebrow. "I'm told that it does sometimes."
"There's a first time for everything, I suppose," the president smiled.
Satisfied that his leader was, at least for now, in better health and a better frame of mind, Leo took his leave and returned to the office.