Author's Note: This story takes place about a year after A Family Matter in my Bartlet History series. Please enjoy and review!
"So my advisor thinks I'm practically a shoe-in!" Jed said with an excited smile.
Abbey looked up from the book she was trying to read while her boyfriend spoke to her with unbridled enthusiasm. "What was that?"
"You weren't even listening to me at all, were you?"
She sighed. "Jed, you've been talking about grad school for weeks now. Masters in Economics. I know. Have you decided where to apply yet?"
"Yes, sweetheart. That's what I was just saying. I think I want to go to the London School of Economics. It's the best program in the world, and Professor Graham said I would most likely get in with my grades and a good letter of recommendation. I'll apply to schools here, too. Harvard and Yale and Dartmouth and such, but gosh, can you imagine me getting into LSE?"
Abbey felt her heart pound in her chest and a lump form in her throat. "London sounds wonderful. And if that's what you want to do, you should do it. I have no doubt that you'll get in."
Jed looked over at her with concern. "Are you okay, honey?"
"Of course," she replied matter-of-factly. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"I dunno. You just seemed strange there for a minute."
"I'm just anxious to get home, that's all. It's a long flight," she replied with a forced smile. Anything to reassure him.
Jed returned her smile. He took her hand in his and lifted it to his lips. "We'll land soon. And then I have to let you go."
Abbey's nose wrinkled in contentment. "Just for a few days. My parents are expecting you for Christmas dinner, after all."
"And I'll be there. I'm looking forward to it. Jon's been a real pain the last few times I've been back home. He's a senior now and thinks he knows everything."
"I'm sure you were the same way when you were his age," Abbey said knowingly.
"Yeah, but when I did it, I was a delight. He's my brother, so when he does it, it's annoying as hell."
Abbey kissed his cheek. "You sure you don't want me to come up? Everyone is much more pleasant when I'm around."
"No, I won't subject you to the Bartlet insanity, babe. I'll see you on Christmas Day after my mother and I go to Mass in the morning."
"We're having ham for dinner. My mother and I will probably be cooking after we get home from Mass, so whenever you make it over will be fine."
They spent the rest of the flight to Boston chatting about their various holiday plans. When the plane landed, Jed took the bus to New Hampshire and Abbey waited for her sister to pick her up to take her to their home in the suburbs.
It would be three days before Abbey got to see Jed again. And the separation did not make her heart grow fonder. In fact, it made her downright bitter. She was in a rotten mood leading up to Christmas.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, Abbey's mother stopped being understanding about her daughter's bad mood. The four Barringtons were decorating the tree when Louise took Abbey aside.
"Alright, what's the matter with you, Abigail?" she asked pointedly. "You're quiet and snippy with everyone."
Abbey sat down at the kitchen table and put her face in her hands. "I'm just mad, Mom."
"Mad at what?"
She sighed. "Mad at me, really."
Louise sat down beside Abbey. "You're going to have to give me a little more than that, dear."
"Jed told me on the plane that he wants to do his Masters in London. And at first I was afraid that he would go there and leave me behind. But being afraid of that made me mad at him. And being mad at him made me mad at myself, because I have no right to be mad at him for anything, let alone wanting to go to the best Economics school in the world."
"Abbey, you don't know that he will end up going to London. And even if he does, who's to say he won't want you to go with him?"
"I'm applying to medical school after the new year, Mom. I can't get my degree in England."
Louise put her arm around her daughter and kissed her hair. "You don't know what the future holds for you. You and Jed will work it out, whatever comes your way. That boy adores you, and I know you love him. You two will be fine."
Abbey smiled. "Thanks, Mom. I think we should go help Dad and Kate with the tree."
The mother and daughter stood up and walked back to the living room arm and arm. "Knowing your dad, he's probably micromanaging Kate to death, telling her precisely where each piece of tinsel should go."
And sure enough, Dr. Barrington was doing just that. Poor Kate looked at Abbey with a look of pain in her eyes. Louise distracted her husband by asking him to get some eggnog for everyone. They finished the tree happily. Abbey's problems, while not forgotten, were temporarily put out of her mind so she could enjoy the holiday with her family.
Meanwhile, Jed was having a wonderful time in New Hampshire. The whole family had gathered at the old Bartlet farm. Jed loved that farm; he was always happier there than anywhere else. He hoped to live there one day with a family of his own. But right now, he had a very good reason to be spending Christmas Eve with his grandfather.
Jed went into his namesake's den late in the evening.
"Jed," his grandfather greeted. "Come sit down, son. Would you like a cigar?"
"Sure," Jed replied with a smile. He lit up the Cuban his grandfather gave him and smiled, feeling like the mature adult he was.
The senior Josiah looked fondly at his grandson. Jed was brilliant and kind and strong, yet often unhappy. But Jed was looking happier in the last year or so than ever before. "What can I do for you, Jed? I'm sure you're not here with me for a purely social purpose."
"I did want to ask you something. Something very important."
"Go right ahead."
Jed paused for a moment. "I wanted to know if I could have Grandmother's ring. My girlfriend, Abbey…she's the one, I'm sure of it. And I want to ask her to marry me."
Josiah slowly leaned forward, his old body protesting at the movement. "You love her?"
"More than anything."
"You'll be a good husband? Faithful? A good provider?"
"I will," Jed promised.
Josiah nodded. "You're my eldest grandson, Jed. And I'm very proud of everything you've become. And I hope that this woman of yours will make a good wife and a good mother to your children."
"I know she will," Jed assured him.
Josiah stood up and went to the far wall. He moved an old oil painting of a ship aside, revealing a safe. He spun the dial and opened it. Inside, along with a stack of papers and various packages, was a small box. Josiah took it out and handed it to his grandson. "I wasn't sure I'd get to give this to you, since you seemed so sure you wanted to be a priest."
"Abbey changed all that."
"Frankly, I'm glad. Because now I can give you the engagement ring that's been passed down in the Bartlet family for generations. And assuming your Abbey says yes, I'll be proud to give you this farm one day. When you're ready to take it on."
Jed's eyes widened. "Really?!"
"Of course. Your father runs the school in Exeter, so he can't use it. The rest your aunts and uncles all have homes elsewhere. And you're the oldest grandchild, so it's your birthright to have the farm. It comes with the name Josiah Bartlet, I guess," he said with a proud smile.
Jed didn't know what to say. He opened the box to see the family ring. It was bigger than he remembered seeing on his grandmother's finger many years before. But it was stunningly beautiful. The square diamond was set in a delicate, intricate white gold setting. The ring was old but in perfect condition. It harkened back to days long past, of elegance in an earlier time. The complex beauty of the ring reminded him of Abbey. It was perfect.
"I hope she'll like it," the elder Josiah commented.
"She's gonna love it. Thank you, Grandfather. I can't thank you enough."
The next day after Mass, Jed drove his Chevy Impala from New Hampshire to the Barrington home in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He spent the entire hour in the car practicing the exact words he wanted to say to Abbey. He wanted to get everything just right. Jed tried every single variation he could think of to say how much he loved her, how his life changed the moment he met her, how he never wanted to spend a day without her, how their future together was the life he wanted to build, and how he wanted them to build that life together. All in all, he was too excited and nervous to really make any firm decisions on what he actually was going to say. If nothing else, he would tell her he loved her. The rest he would prove to her every day for the rest of their lives.
Abbey's foul mood had returned overnight. The priest's Christmas sermon had been all about the miracle of Christ's birth, the importance of carrying forward kindness and fortitude in one's own life. And it got Abbey thinking that kindness and fortitude did not easily go hand in hand. She knew that she had to talk to Jed when he came over. They had to discuss their future. She couldn't go to Harvard if he went to London, assuming he wanted her to come with him anyway. Should she maintain her own dreams of Harvard and force him to choose between her and his own ambitions? Or should she place her love and support for him over her own desires? She couldn't wait for Jed to arrive. Maybe being with him would help her decide, because as she sat there in church, she honestly didn't know which was the right choice.
They stayed late after Mass because Louise had to talk to the priest about the Sunday School class she taught. Later, when her father drove them back home from church, Abbey practically jumped out of the car when she saw Jed parked in front of the house. She hadn't expected him to beat them home.
Jed had been leaning up against his car for almost ten minutes, somewhat regretting not bringing a scarf. Abbey was probably going to scold him, but Jed was quite proud of his New Hampshire sense of cold. Massachusetts was too far south to make him properly cold. But standing in the snow waiting for his girlfriend to get home hadn't been part of the plan. He saw Dr. Barrington's black station wagon pull up to the driveway and he grinned. Jed put his hand in the pocket of his coat and touched the small box waiting to be given to his Abbey.
"Jed!" Abbey exclaimed as she got out of the car.
"Hey there," he replied happily as she ran into his arms. He hadn't, however, expected her to leap at him and plant her lips on his. Jed really had no choice to do anything other than to catch her, hold her tight, and kiss her deeply.
"Abigail!" a sharp voice shouted.
Jed loosened his grip and let Abbey regain her footing and composure. Dr. Barrington was not pleased with the display. And Jed suddenly had the sinking realization that he was going to have a very awkward conversation sometime later that night.
"Look, Dad. Jed's here," Abbey said with a smirk.
Dr. Barrington chuckled. "I can see that, Abbey. Nice to see you again, Jed."
Jed shook his hand. "Nice to see you, sir. Merry Christmas."
"And a very merry Christmas to you as well. You've got a little…" Dr. Barrington pointed to the smeared lipstick on Jed's mouth. He embarrassedly wiped it away the best he could.
Everyone went into the house to begin the holiday festivities. Jed put the gifts he had brought underneath the beautifully decorated tree in the living room and noticed a gold-wrapped package address to him with a small heart. He grinned, excited for whatever Abbey might have gotten for him. He also hoped she would like the gift he had gotten for her, though he was less concerned with that and rather with the more important parcel in his pocket.
In the kitchen, Abbey was using all her possible self-control to keep herself from fighting with her mother.
"Kate is setting up the guest room. And I have to say, Abigail, that display in the driveway made me very glad that the guest room is downstairs and your room is upstairs," Louise said pointedly.
Abbey rolled her eyes. "I understand your concern, mother, but it's very unfounded."
"Are you trying to tell me that you and Jed haven't been intimate?"
With an uncomfortable shudder, Abbey replied, "What you saw in the driveway was about the extent of our intimacy. I'll remind you that when Jed and I met, he had ambitions of becoming a priest. We go to church every week. And that's all I'm going to say about it."
"Well I do hope you'll remember in the future that you're a good Catholic girl and to not let temptation get the better of you. He's a good looking young man and you're a beautiful girl."
Abbey pursed her lips from saying anything too inappropriate. If her mother only knew… "Yes, mother. I'll be a good girl." She said nothing about Jed, because really, it was Abbey who was more likely to corrupt Jed, rather than the other way around.
Kate came into the kitchen. "Are we having lunch or what? Jed put his stuff in the guest room. And he put presents under the tree. Can we open presents first?"
"I think that's a good idea, Katie. Because otherwise Jed is going to be bothering me about his present the rest of the afternoon," Abbey noted.
Louise could see that she would be outvoted. "Alright, fine. Go find your father and get settled in the living room."
The Barringtons, plus Jed, went around the room opening their gifts. Abbey received a beautiful leather-bound notebook from her parents and the Revolver album by The Beatles from her sister. Jed's family had gotten her a collection of poetry by Margaret Atwood, who Abbey had mentioned liking on her last visit to New Hampshire. After such thoughtful and appreciated gifts, Abbey had high expectations for Jed's gift. He always gave her such wonderful gifts. For her last birthday he had presented her with an exquisite gold chain that she almost always wore around her neck. It had been particularly meaningful because the note had read, One link for every reason I love you. And like our love, this chain forms an infinite circle that will never end, but rather will shine forevermore. In anticipation of an equally heartfelt present, Abbey touched her fingers to the necklace and smiled to herself.
But Abbey was let down. She opened the box to find a red cashmere sweater. It was beautiful, certainly, but it didn't have the same kind of gravitas that she had expected.
Jed saw the flash of disappointment in her eyes when she opened his gift. But she hid it well. She immediately looked over to him with a big smile and thanked him.
Just you wait, sweetheart, Jed said to himself. He had no doubt that he would be able to redeem himself this Christmas.
Jed then opened his gifts. The Barringtons collectively gave him a rare copy of the writings of Thomas Aquinas. He looked forward to reading though it later. But Abbey's gift had been much, much better. He opened it and couldn't believe his eyes.
"Oh Abbey…this isn't…is it?" he stuttered.
Kate leaned over to look. "It's a box," she noted disparagingly.
"Not just any box," Abbey said with a giddy grin. "That is a cigar box that once belonged to James Madison. It's pictured in one of his presidential portraits," she explained.
Jed was still in shock. "But how did you ever find it?"
"Remember when I went to D.C. with Dad over the summer? I found it in a little thrift shop near Dupont Circle. And since you love that portrait so much, I recognized it immediately and bought it. Do you like it?"
"Like it? Abbey, I can't believe it. This is the best gift anyone's ever given me. Thank you, honey," he gushed, giving her a kiss on the cheek. Her parents were right there, after all.
Louise smiled, watching Jed and Abbey together. They were such a wonderful couple. They obviously loved each other very much. "Alright everyone, clean up the wrapping paper and put all your presents away. Lunch will be ready in half an hour."
The rest of the day was spent with the family all together. Jed and Abbey didn't get to spend a moment alone together. Jed did, however, get a chance to talk to Dr. Barrington privately. Just after dinner, while helping clear the table, Jed asked him for a moment alone. Dr. Barrington took the young man into his study.
"I have to say, Jed, I think I know what this is about."
"I think so. But you go ahead. You strike me as the type of man who has something of a speech planned," Dr. Barrington said with a smile.
Jed returned the smile. "Yes, sir. Well I guess I want to start by telling you that I love your daughter more than anything in the world. The last year that we've been together has been the best I've ever had. She's changed my life, and I would like to spend the rest of my life showing her how much I adore her and how important she is. I'd like to ask Abbey to marry me."
Dr. Barrington nodded. "I thought you might. I'm a little surprised it took you this long, son," he teased.
"I didn't want to pressure her into anything. She's got a lot of plans. She's brilliant and wonderful and I want to give her everything she could ever want in the world."
"Settle down there, Jed. I believe you. And if Abbey wants to marry you—and I can't imagine that she'd say anything other than yes—then you've got my blessing. Just promise me that you'll support her and keep her happy."
"Until my dying breath," Jed promised.
Jed went to sleep that night in the Barringtons' guest room in giddy excitement for the next day. He spent quite a long time examining his gifts before bed, running his hands along every surface of Madison's cigar box. And he read nearly half of the Thomas Aquinas before drifting off to sleep.
Abbey woke up very early the next morning, before anyone else in the house. She changed out of her pajamas, wrapped herself in a robe, and snuck downstairs. As quietly as she could, she crept into the guest room, careful to close the door silently behind her. Abbey removed the robe, leaving her in just the red sweater Jed had given her for Christmas and pair of red lace panties. She bit her lip to keep from giggling as she climbed onto the bed and on top of Jed, straddling him over the bed sheets. She leaned over and kissed him softly to wake him up.
Jed felt the weight on him and the feathery touch on his lips. His eyes opened to the sight of sparkling green and amber gazing down at him. "Hi," he said, his voice hoarse from sleep.
"Hi," she whispered back. Abbey tangled her fingers in his hair and kissed him deeply.
Jed was certainly awake now. He divested the sheets from his arms so he could grasp her body as they kissed. He wasn't expecting, however, to encounter her bare thighs. Her soft, creamy, perfect thighs. Abbey had fantastic legs, but he didn't think he'd be greeted by them so early in the morning. In her parents' house. "Abbey!" he exclaimed.
Abbey sat up, still on top of him, so he could see her full ensemble. "Don't you like the sweater, babe?"
Jed took a moment to absorb the whole sight. Abbey's long dark hair was falling into her face and around her shoulders. Her upper body was clad in the soft red cashmere sweater he had bought for her. It clung to every curve of her perfect body. He could tell she wasn't wearing a bra. She was sitting on him in the most provocative manner, her fantastic legs splayed out on either side of his body.
Abbey watched him take in her appearance. His blue eyes were wide and dark with desire. She smiled happily, her nose wrinkling with joy. "So? Do you like it?"
"I love it," he choked out. He ran his hands up and down her waist and hips and thighs, before settling them on her bottom and pulling her toward him. As they kissed again, he clawed at the lace under his fingers.
Outside the bedroom, the front door of the house opened with a creak and closed again with a bang. In surprise, Abbey leapt aside, nearly falling off the bed.
"Abbey!" Jed yelped in surprise.
"SHH!" she hissed, grabbing her robe and putting it on quickly. "Oh my god, my mother is gonna kill me. After I just promised her…" Abbey whispered to herself.
"Just promised her what?" Jed asked quietly, taking deep breaths to calm his body down.
"That I would be a good girl and keep my hands to myself."
Jed chuckled. "I don't think your hands were the issue here, honey. It was more your legs," he said, gazing at the sliver of skin visible beneath the hem of her robe.
Abbey grinned with pride. "Dad's out getting the paper. Go greet him when he comes back in so I can sneak back up."
"I think I'm gonna need a minute before I can go talk to your father, Abb."
"Don't apologize. I'm just sorry we got interrupted," he replied with a smirk.
She stifled a giggle. "You just keep this in mind for Confession on Sunday," she warned.
"I will if you will."
Abbey realized in that moment that if she was going to have any fun in her life, she'd probably have to stop going to church so often. Something told her that Jed would agree, especially once she finally got him into bed. A year was quite a long time.
Jed's body finally calmed down enough for him to get out of bed. Abbey watched him closely, admiring his strong arms and chest in his tshirt and the way his pajama pants fit him. He put a robe around him and found a pair of slippers, kissed her one last time, and left the bedroom.
Abbey waited by the door, listening for when Jed and her father's voices sounded far enough away for her to make her escape. She darted out of the room and up the stairs. Unfortunately, she ran into her sister on the landing.
"Did you just come from where I think you came from?" Kate asked, eyebrows raised and a knowing smirk on her lips.
"If you say anything, I'll tell Mom and Dad what you've got in the top drawer of your dresser."
"How do you know?" Kate asked with fear in her eyes, wondering who else knew about the small bag of pot she had hidden.
"Katie, were you really too young to pay attention to the kind of crap I did when I was your age? Do you really have to ask how I know things?"
Kate sighed angrily. "Fine. I won't say anything if you won't."
Abbey nodded and walked past her with a proud grin. She quickly changed into something appropriate for the day, brushed her hair, and joined the family downstairs for breakfast.
Later on, Dr. Barrington had to go into his office to see a few patients. Kate had a project to work on for school, and Louise wanted to clean the house after the mess they had made from Christmas the day before. Jed suggested that he and Abbey take a walk to the park down the block.
He got his coat and checked to make sure the ring box was still in the pocket. It was. Jed felt his heart begin to race in anticipation. They set out with their arms around one another.
"I'm glad we've finally got some time alone."
"Me too. Although our alone time this morning was nice."
"I'm glad you enjoyed. I've wanted to do that every time you've stayed here, but I never seem to wake up before everyone else."
He pressed a kiss to her temple. "Hopefully in the near future we can wake up that way every day. And I can fall asleep with you in my arms." Jed gave her waist a squeeze in demonstration.
Abbey tried to smile, but it came off as more of a grimace. The mention of the future reminded her of how upset she had been the last few days. Even with Jed right beside her, all of her anxieties came flooding back.
Jed saw the look on her face and felt her body tense up. "What's wrong?"
"Jed, we need to talk. About our future."
"I'm glad you think so, because that's why I wanted to get you alone. We should have a conversation about our future. We've got one more semester before graduation."
Abbey interrupted, "And what are we going to do? You've been talking about grad school for Economics, and that's wonderful and all, but London? I'm going to be in Cambridge. And if you want to go to the London School, you should go."
"No, that's fine, Jed. You should do anything and everything you want with your life. You can do great things, and you should go to the best school there is. And I'm happy for you. I really am. We can write letters and I'll fly over during breaks, I guess…"
"Abbey! If I go to London, of course I want you to come with me!"
Even though that's what she had wanted him to say, it brought up an entirely new issue. "That's all well and good, but what the hell am I supposed to do in London!?"
All her shouting was starting to scare him a little. This isn't how he had imagined doing this at all. They were standing in the middle of a park and arguing. It began to snow lightly. Abbey was still yelling about London and Harvard and his ambitions and her ambitions, and Jed just panicked. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring box, holding it open.
Abbey was dumbstruck. Her mouth gaped stupidly as she glanced from the beautiful ring he was holding to his nervous expression and back to the ring. "Wha…" was all she could muster.
Jed swallowed hard and cleared his throat. "I love you. And I want to be with you for the rest of our lives. You are everything to me. You've changed my life and you keep changing it every day. I want to be your husband and love you and raise a family with you and be by your side through thick and thin. I don't care if we go to London or Harvard or Timbuktu, because it doesn't matter where I am as long as I have you." He got down on one knee and looked up at her. Snow had started sticking to her hair. She looked beautiful. "Abigail Ann Barrington, I love you more than I ever thought humanly possible. Will you marry me?"
Abbey just stared at him, feeling the sting of tears in her eyes. She nodded vigorously and took the glove off her left hand so he could place the ring on her finger.
"Is that a yes?" he teased as he took his grandmother's ring out of the box and put it on her hand, where it would remain for the rest of her life.
"Yes it is, Jethro," she answered, admiring the extremely beautiful engagement ring.
"Don't call me that."
"I'm your fiancée. I'll call you whatever I want." Abbey bent down to kiss him. But Jed lost his balance in the snow and they tumbled down in each other's arms. The cold and wet was soaking through their coats, but neither of them cared one bit. Getting engaged has that effect.