Linda came up with this idea several months ago and has allowed me to play with it. Hope you enjoy it.
POV: Jed Spoilers: U.S. Poet Laureate Rating: PG-13 Disclaimer: Not ours. They're AS's. We're having fun with them, though.

They Can't Take That Away 1/10 A West Wing Story

by MAHC and WWNeurosturgeon

Josiah Bartlet didn't remember ever being cold in his life, not really cold. Leo was forever berating him for his New Hampshire acclamation to freezing weather. As he stood under the heavy overcast sky, amid the swirling snowflakes, sans coat, only in his shirtsleeves, he heard yet again the exasperated exclamation of his longtime friend.

"Good God. Don't you every worry about getting pneumonia or something?"

He didn't turn. No need to. They had danced this waltz before. "Nah. This is just brisk."

Leo snorted. "Well, come on, Frosty. The world is waiting."


"Abbey's waiting."

Now he did turn. "Oh no. No, no. She can't claim that. I've been out here thirty minutes while she finished her hair or her dress or some other damn thing to make her beautiful." It was entirely possible that he had spent the majority of his married life waiting for Abbey to get dressed.

Leo smiled. "And she is beautiful."

The simple observation disarmed him, stopped him cold at the beginning of his rant. A softness touched his eyes and he smiled, too.

"Yeah," he agreed," she is." Shaking the melting flakes from his hair, he stepped back into the warmth of the Oval Office.

As he passed his desk, his glance caught the calendar. Charlie always had it turned to the correct date by the time he made it to the office. Usually, he ignored it, but today he allowed his gaze to linger.

January 20.

Inauguration Day.

The historian in him noted that it had not always been so. The Twentieth Amendment changed it. The majority of his predecessors had taken their oaths on March 4, but to diminish the effects of a Lame Duck president, which he thankfully was not, it had been moved up so that only about two months passed in transition from one chief executive to another.

Inauguration Day. His last, he thought with a sudden pang. The last one. And he would make it memorable if he could - savor each moment, each scene, each handshake. He would do his part, as well. The oath lay in its entirety in his head. The Chief Justice would not have to prompt him once. He would say it without pause, without break.

"You ready?" Leo asked, watching him with a curious expression that floated somewhere between elation and melancholy. They felt the same way. A great day - but the last one.


His morning coat lay on the back of a chair and he flipped it over his head and shrugged into it, tugging down the vest. Leo fell into step beside him, neither man speaking, as they strode back outside and down the colonnade to the Residence. He suppressed a smirk as his friend pulled his overcoat more tightly around his neck. The wind bit at his own ears, pierced the relatively light cover of his clothes. Nippy, he admitted silently, but never aloud. He couldn't give Leo the satisfaction.

"Twenty-eight degrees," the chief of staff muttered, hand at his throat, clutching the lapels together. "We could've been doing this in March - at least closer to spring thaw."

With effort, he refrained from running into a detailed explanation of the reason for changing Inauguration Day. Leo knew as well as he did why. So, as a present to his friend, he kept his mouth shut, and Leo would never know what sacrifice he had made.

"Hello, Mister President." Abbey's voice greeted him at the doors to the portico, and even before he saw her, his body remembered the way she had said those words on Election Night.

Okay, think about something else. Not the time - or place - for that.

This time, of course, her tone was different, totally devoid of the seductive teasing - well almost. Abbey's voice was never totally devoid of seduction, even when she called him jackass. Sometimes especially when she called him jackass.

Maybe she'd call him "Mister President" again later, the way she had done it on Election Night.

"Doctor Bartlet," he acknowledged and he saw from her lifted brow that she heard the subtle come-on in his tone, as well.

She wore a navy suit, tailored perfectly to accent her attributes - and there were many - short skirt that showed off those killer legs. And her ubiquitous heels gave her a little more height - perfect for a kiss, which he took, surprising her.

"You look great," he whispered at her ear as he withdrew.

Leo cleared his throat and stepped back to give them a little privacy.

"You don't look so bad yourself," she returned, smoothing a hand down his chest and brushing at the charcoal fabric. "As a matter of fact, you are devilishly handsome."

"Devilishly?" He grinned. "I'll show you how devilish I can be later this evening."

She purred. Dear God, she actually purred. He glanced toward Leo to see if he had heard, but the chief of staff studiously ignored them. Good. Because that purr was for her commander-in-chief's ears only.

"Mister President?" This time, the title was completely different - thank goodness. Ron Butterfield approached from outside, bringing in a blast of frigid air as he entered. Leo grunted. "Are you ready, sir?" asked the agent.

After receiving an affirmative smile from Abbey, he nodded, waving away the heavy overcoat held ready for him by his protector. Whatever Ron's opinion of his refusal, the agent kept to himself. Even Abbey allowed him this gesture, knowing, as he did, that for MS hot temperatures were more likely to cause problems than cold. Besides, he truly did not feel as if he needed the coat. As Leo had noted on numerous occasions, he was freakishly strange that way. Nevertheless, Abbey had reminded him about the untimely demise of William Henry Harrison and his brief month in office, stuck down by pneumonia after he waxed a little too long on a two-hour inauguration speech. Best not to push his luck. Toby, Will, and he had limited themselves to twenty minutes, long enough to make the point, short enough to keep interest - and his health.

And so the festivities began. From the moment they stepped into the limousine, despite his struggle to savor each moment, to commit the details of the day to memory, time raced along. The singing of the National Anthem by Renee Fleming, the literary selection by Tabatha Fortes, the oath, with Abbey holding the bible Father Cavanaugh had presented him on his first communion. And he followed through with his pledge. The Chief Justice simply nodded for him to begin. He took it from there. Not one stumble. Not one hesitation.

"I, Josiah Bartlet, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Deep breath, determined jaw. "So help me God."

Wild applause and cheers echoed off the hallowed walls of the Capitol. Then came the speech that Toby and Will had labored over, that he had marked up and down and finally accepted as gold. Reminding himself of Franklin Roosevelt's advice on speechmaking, he stepped to the podium.

Be sincere, be brief, be seated -

"Today has been a day of celebration. Celebration of a nation, of a people. Celebration of an idea, of a philosophy. Celebration of a past, of a present, and of a future.

"But more than a celebration, it has been a day that reminds us why the United States is the greatest nation on earth. We are idealists. We have hope. We look into the future and see the best we can see. Woodrow Wilson noted that people sometimes called him an idealist. His response to that was to say that that was the way he knew he was an American."

As he spoke, he pulled the words with him, let them float about the crowd, through the cameras. He weaved the noble thoughts into a tapestry of ideas and plans and philosophies, created by all of them, but delivered by him alone. And they went with him, carried by the power of his voice, the sincerity in his heart, the confidence in his eyes.

Finally, he reached the end. "Abraham Lincoln said, 'No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.' I am honored that you have allowed me to serve you, to govern this great country. Together we look to the future, to the bright hope that is there. Together we will soar toward that hope, that future, for ourselves, for our children, for their children, and for the children of the world. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America."

The ovation lasted on and on until finally, after numerous nods of appreciation and an emotional gesture of his fist over his heart, he withdrew, still hearing the cheers. The moment was a high, but they still had far to go.

They walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Ron had pushed him to ride, almost threatened, but he wouldn't budge on this. He wanted to do it - to show the faithful, loyal citizens who had given him a landslide that their confidence had not been misplaced, that he was capable of carrying out their mandates, that he would not falter - emotionally or physically - as their President. So they walked, he and Abbey hand-in-hand. Liz, Ellie, Zoey, Annie, flanked by an army of secret service agents, a compromise for Ron. Snipers swept the area, perched on the roofs of every building between the Capitol and the White House. But they walked, and as they did, the clouds gave way to brilliant sunlight, glinting off the pure white snow. A portent? A foretelling of a bright four years? He chose to believe so.

He squeezed Abbey's hand, leaned in to kiss her without breaking stride. The crowds lining the street screamed in appreciation and encouragement, drawing grins from their President and First Lady. And he felt good, damned good. Not until they neared the White House gates did he notice the twinge in his thigh, the brief swimming sensation in his head.

Oh hell. Not now. Not now.

With effort, he forced back the weakness, surprised when it retreated without much protest. He would deal with that later, address the implications of the moment at another time. Today was for celebrating. He'd think about the other tomorrow. Just like Scarlett, he decided with a sour chuckle.

But he had not been quick enough in masking the brief falter. Abbey turned to him. "What?"

He shook his head, not ready to burden her, not willing to spoil her mood. "Nothing," he said, voice elevated to be heard over the cheers. "I was just thinking what a sexy First Lady you are."

She smirked and looked around to see if anyone had heard. "Jed!"

"Well, it's true. Think of all the First Ladies. Can you name me one who was sexier than you are?"

Shaking her head, she laughed and resumed her random waves to the gawkers and well-wishers alike. "Can you name me one who was sexy at all?"

"Edith Roosevelt."

"Attractive, yes, but sexy - "

"Theodore must have thought so," he claimed. "They had five kids."


He grinned at the horror on her face when she realized she had opened the door for trivia. "Theodore Junior, Archie, Ethel, Quentin, and - " Well, damn it. He used to know them. Had just read the latest biography of the flamboyant man.

"Alice?" Abbey supplied, looking a little smug.

But he gave her smug back. "His daughter, not hers."

"It doesn't matter -"

But it did. "Wait a minute. I'll get it."

"Jed, it's okay -"

"No!" He said it much harsher than he meant to and Abbey looked at him in shock. Realizing they were still the focus of the crowds, he forced a smile back on his face. "I just - it's right on the tip - " His fingers snapped suddenly. "Kermit! Kermit. I knew I knew it."

Abbey watched him warily and he sensed a suspicion from her that was probably not unfounded.

"Okay," she finally conceded reluctantly. "Although I don't think naming her child Kermit was too sexy."

He ignored her. "Jackie Kennedy." That was an easy one. He should have thought of her first.

"Okay." Not as reluctant, this time.

"Grace Coolidge." He had seen a painting somewhere, the Smithsonian, maybe - her official portrait - and was struck by the beauty.

"Grace Coolidge?"

"Sure. And Dolley Madison was supposed to be pretty hot, herself."

From the look she gave him he was relatively certain that, had they not been surrounded by thousands of people - and on international television as well - she would have slapped his arm. He was a little surprised she didn't do it anyway. "That's - that's almost sacrilegious, Jed Bartlet."

But he only grinned, completely satisfied with her response. It wasn't often he could play her like that. "She stood up to the British - kept them from taking George Washington's portrait."

"And that makes her sexy?"

He shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe. Shows she was fiery, anyway." Now he leered at her, at least as much as he could leer with the world watching. "And you know how I like fiery women."

Her retort was cut off, as he had planned, since they had entered the grounds, now, met by John Hoynes and his wife. Did they call the Vice President's wife the "Second Lady" he wondered suddenly. Certainly didn't seem very dignified.

Hoynes extended his hand and he took it. Their relationship had improved in the past few months. No one would call them friends, by any stretch of the imagination, but they had reached a mutual attitude of respect - and occasionally - of camaraderie.

Hoynes' revelation that he drank in college and still considered himself an alcoholic had given Jed new insight into his "back up." A greater sense of the man's character. And it was a pleasant shift in opinion.

"Mister President," the tall Texan greeted.

Jed returned the shake. "John. Beautiful day."

"Yes, sir. It certainly is."

They both knew they referred to more than just the weather.
It seemed only a few minutes had passed before he looked outside and saw the festive lights of the city, celebrating with them, beckoning the honorees, and the VIPs, and the just plain old Americans who had splurged on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see a President inaugurated. He stood at the window of their bedroom, already changed into his white tie and tails, waiting, as usual, for Abbey to finish. They had to hit the balls - and there were no less than ten at which the First Couple would make an appearance.

He sighed. All he really wanted to do now was slide himself into the bed that tempted him only a few feet away. The Inaugural ceremony, the walk from the Capitol in freezing temperatures, and the subsequent photo sessions and meetings had drained his energy reserves. Not as if he didn't spend just as much time every day on the job. But this was different. He had to be "up" every minute, had to be at the top of his game each second. No time to put his feet up, no time to grumble about this or that, no time to trade barbs with Debbie Fiderer or even Leo. And as minor as that seemed, those moments gave him the breaks he needed to make it through.

He tried to push back the fatigue that pressed down on his shoulders, tried to break through it, even, before Abbey came in and saw. She could read him. Despite his brush off that afternoon, he knew she sensed something was up, knew she wouldn't let him by with it, not for long, anyway. Sighing, he tested his body, willing it not to betray him. The twinge was gone, the dizziness absent. Okay. That was good. Maybe it really was nothing. Maybe it had just been a momentary stumble that anyone could have under such pressure and stress.

Feeling a little lighter, he turned, just as his wife emerged from the bathroom. And he felt weak again, but not from any illness. God, she was beautiful. He ran his eyes down her body. The simple burgundy gown allowed her natural elegance to dominate, accented by only a strand of pearls and matching earrings. He had given them to her on one of their anniversaries, couldn't remember which one exactly.

"Hey, gorgeous," he smiled, allowing the quick flush of desire he felt to color his voice.

"Why, Mister President," she noted warmly, "is that the Constitution in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

Guilty. He didn't need to look down. Knew the flush of desire had affected more than just his voice. "I think, Doctor Bartlet," he said, stepping closer, "that there are numerous laws supported by the Constitution that I would like to break with you right now."

"Really?" She was touching him, her skilled hands sliding up to brush the hair at his temple, to caress his neck, his jaw. "You still have the 'elastic clause'."

"Hmm?" He was having trouble concentrating.

The sexy tone of her voice seemed strange as she whispered the location of her reference. "Article One, Section Eight - " Now she flicked her tongue over his lips. "Clause Eighteen. To do whatever is 'necessary and proper - '"

His patience had ended and he pulled her hard against him, his hands on her hips. "It's that 'proper' part that's going to get me in trouble," he growled just before he took her mouth with his, pushing his tongue between them.

She groaned, letting her body arch into him, rubbing her pelvis against his erection, now full and aching. He lost all reason, his brain dismissing any obligations they might have - any duties to appear at a ball. America could wait. But as he shifted to guide her toward the bed, she slipped from his grasp and stood, no longer touching him, her breath still coming fast, but her eyes halting the escalating passion.

He felt his body lurch toward her. "Abbey?" Please, don't stop now. I don't think I can stop.

"You're okay," she observed.

What? What the hell - "I will be in a few minutes, Hot Pants," he said, voice strained. "Come back over here."

She looked as if that was just what she wanted to do, but she didn't move. "This afternoon. What happened?"

Oh hell. Please don't say that's why you did this, to check me out. "What are you talking about?" The innocent game worked sometimes.

She glared at him.

But not tonight, apparently.

"During the walk. What happened? Were you dizzy?" Now her eyes flashed, demanded the truth.

Well, damn it. He wondered if he still had a chance for sex if he confessed. "Just for a second," he admitted. "But it passed. Could have been anything."

"Um hmm." Not buying it.

"Really." Hell, this was putting a damper on his hopes. He stepped toward her to take her hands in his. She remained stubbornly separated, despite that. "Abbey, I promise, it was nothing."

"How do you feel now?"

"Frustrated," he declared, but she didn't fall for the misdirection, so he tried to put every ounce of sincerity he could into his face. "I'm fine, Abbey, really. No dizziness, no twinge - " Damn it. He hadn't meant to say that.

Sure enough, she pounced, pulling her hands away and dragging her eyebrows together. "Twinge? Where? Your thigh?"

He nodded. No need to deny it now. "Just a little one. But it was gone almost immediately, I swear. And hasn't come back."

"Jed - "

"Abbey," he coaxed, "it's nothing. I would know. I would tell you."

"That is debatable," she sighed, but he sensed her acquiescence and took the momentary weakness on her part to press for victory.

Drawing her to him, pressing their bodies together, he showed her that he had not completely lost his arousal. "See? No problems, here. What do you say, Sweet Knees? A little appetizer before the main course?"

Smirking, she allowed him to rub against her. "We're already late as it is. If you had been ready - "

"Me? Are you - "

But she stopped his outraged response with her mouth and he didn't mind losing at all that way. The kiss was slow and hot and he couldn't stop the groan that sounded low in his throat when she pulled away. His mind clouded, his judgment faltered. All he could think of was the feel of her beneath him, of those legs wrapped around him. His head swam, his body almost shook with need, but she didn't let him embrace her again.

"Hold that thought," she whispered, letting her hand brush the hardness at his groin. "How many balls are there?"

"Uh - What?"

"Tonight. How many dances?"

Oh. "Ten, I think." He tried to pull her back.

She resisted. "How long?"


"How long do we have to stay at each?"

Again, he made an attempt to hold her. "At least ten seconds."

Nodding, she took his hand and urged him toward the door. "All right, then. We'll continue this later."

Oh God. He wasn't sure he could walk out of there. Knew he couldn't right then. But she was right. They were late. Damn it. There was no time. Still, he knew he would be hard pressed - so to speak - to keep his mind, and his eyes, and his hands, off her the rest of the evening.

He surrendered only because of the hope she gave him. "Promise?" he grinned when his brain began to clear.

Her eyes did, indeed, hold promise. "Oh yeah."

Still, he had no genuine confidence that he would make it and wished she'd let him coax her into bed. They could be fashionably late. He wondered if they had to make all ten balls -

Somehow, they managed to wave, mingle, dance, and generally schmooz their way through nine parties without his making a fool of himself. But not without concerted effort on his part to ignore the striking vision of his wife. He saw both men and women watching her, suppressed jealousy at the appreciation in the eyes of senators, and representatives, and Washington's elite. He pacified himself with the assurance that she would be purring only for him tonight.

The tenth ball. The last one. Almost home. And his feet would be glad. They entered to the traditional "Hail to the Chief," the guests clapping furiously. He had really looked forward to this one, wished it had been the only one he had to attend. His eye caught the reason for his anticipation. Across the room, standing respectfully along with everyone else, was the world's premier cellist.

YoYo Ma bowed courteously, smiling at Abbey and him. He let his eyes move from the master musician to the master instrument and felt the combating feelings in his gut. A Stradavarius cello, one of only fifty made by the genius known for his violins. Impressive in itself, but that wasn't all. This particular instrument had been owned by Jacqueline duPre', a British cellist who, after a very promising early career, had to give up playing at the age of 28, having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She died at 42. It was a hard reminder of the potential of the disease, but he appreciated the message sent by her instrument, the beauty that it produced.

And, of course, the music was incredible. Inspiring, touching, magical. All on a night that had already provided enough magic for Walt Disney, himself.

Later, the dancing began, and Jed found himself extending a hand toward his wife, the entire ballroom watching as they kicked off the evening to one of Abbey's favorite Gershwin tunes, "They Can't Take That Away From Me."

He sang along with the band, slaughtering the words, as usual, but she didn't seem to mind. He loved the feel of her in his arms, loved they way their bodies just seemed to fit, loved the warm desire that always rushed through him when they danced. He'd have to be careful tonight, though. It would be even more difficult to keep that desire between just the two of them after she had gotten him started earlier.

"Not even Jackie Kennedy?" she asked mystically.

It took a moment for him to connect the line of thought, but when he did, he smiled and shook his head. "Not even Jackie Kennedy. You are by far the sexiest First Lady there has ever been."

"You just want to get lucky tonight," she accused, but her eyes smiled.

"Babe, I've already been lucky tonight just getting to hold you." He hoped that hadn't sounded corny, because he really meant it.

Apparently it didn't. Her eyes shone now. "All right, Jethro," she said, trying to bring the conversation back into less emotional territory. "You can stop now. You've got me."

"Really? Because I think we could blow this joint right n - "

The stumble was light, not really noticeable by anyone else, but it took him by surprise. What really bothered him was the abrupt sweeping weakness that followed. He worked to keep moving, to make it to the end of the song, but knew Abbey had felt it.

"Jed?" Her voice was low, but the panic bled through anyway. "Jed, what's wrong?"

He swallowed, hoping to force it back like he had earlier, but this time his body didn't cooperate. All right. Sit. Sit before you fall. Find a chair. "Abbey, I need - I need to - "

She knew already, grasped his arm as casually as possible, smiling all the while to their fellow dancers. Try not to look alarmed, she seemed to be telling herself as they made it off the floor and to a corner of the room.

"Can you lean against the pillar?" she was asking. "Or do you need a chair?"

Could he lean? Maybe. That would certainly look better. He'd try. Nodding, he forced a smile and let the marble take some of his weight. Okay. Better. At least he was staying upright. He hoped no one could see the sweat pouring down his face, hoped they took the flush of his cheeks as the excitement of the day, or wind-burn from the outdoor festivities.

Abbey stepped away to find him a glass of water and he felt a sudden regret that he had ruined her evening. He almost had her convinced it was nothing. Almost had himself convinced. And now -

As the final notes of the song drifted away, he considered the irony of the title. "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Could they? Not easily, he knew that.

He saw Abbey returning, and the fear on her face kicked at him, tore through his tenuous control. Somehow, he managed to keep standing. Somehow, he managed not to scream at the injustice, or even the lousy timing. Somehow, he managed to give her a nod of reassurance, even though he didn't feel reassuring at all. But he would not be the cause of pain for her - he would not.

Whether this was fatigue from a long, hard day - or whether it was something worse, something he didn't want to contemplate at the moment, it would not beat him. Not now.

If he could just get away for a few minutes, just sit for a while and catch his breath. Maybe they could slip out unobtrusively, unnoticed - just for a minute.

"Well, Mister President, this is some par - Good Lord, are you okay?"

Damn. So much for that plan.

With sheer stubbornness, he managed to raise his head enough to find himself meeting the horrified gaze of his Chief of Staff.

"Hey, Leo," he mumbled before his body abandoned him completely and from a strangely surreal distance he saw himself sliding slowly down the pillar.