As Long As There Are Stars
Spoilers: Minor up to "Night Five".
Disclaimer: Things I do not own: (1) Jed; (2) Abbey; (3) nearly enough period knowledge to justify tackling this story. Title comes from the Beach Boys song "God Only Knows".
"Hey." Ben prodded the other boy in the shoulder, and he came awake with a start.
"Oh, hey..." Jed sat up and stretched self-consciously. "I fell asleep?"
"No, you were a dynamic example of professional customer service." Ben cracked a grin. "Shop's closed, go home," he ordered, not unkindly.
Jed stood up, staggering a little. "Sorry, it's just..."
"Hitting the books all night?"
"Something like that." He sighed. "I've been trying to juggle my classes, but... I'm just not gonna be able to change my major how I want without basically scrapping a whole year of college."
His coworker frowned sympathetically. "So what're you gonna do?"
"Well, Dr. Weber thinks I should major in American Studies - I can do that with some of the classes I've got and still cram in some of the extra stuff - minor in theology, and then go on to do the economics for another separate degree."
Ben raised an eyebrow. "Whoa, you want to completely double your college time?" He shook his head. "Hey, your funeral."
"Hey, I like college," Jed retorted. "But no, not at Notre Dame... Dr. Weber's talking about the London School of Economics."
He sucked in an admiring whistle that had only a faint patina of sarcasm. "London, England?"
Jed gave him a look. "No, Ben, London, Albania."
Ben thumped him lightly on the shoulder. "Well, hey, go for it, Jethro!"
"Don't call me that." Jed bit his lower lip. "I want to, it's just..."
The older boy smiled knowingly. "Don't want to leave your girlfriend?"
Jed's head snapped up, startled, but he didn't actually deny the suggestion. Instead, he lowered his head again and sighed, scuffling his shoe against the floor. "We're not exactly... you know."
"Not exactly what?" Ben wondered, carrying a stack of books back to the counter. "Going at it like bunnies? 'Cause I've got to say, some of those steamy looks-"
"Dating," Jed said hurriedly, trying to contain his blush and not quite succeeding at it. "Not exactly dating."
Ben gave him a disbelieving look and sat down behind the counter, resting his chin on his folded arms. "I thought she kissed you?"
"She did. On the, on the lips."
He quirked a wry grin. "Well, if she'd kissed you anywhere else, I'd think you'd know that you were dating." He threw his hands up off Jed's glare. "Okay, okay! Seriously, man, she kissed you. I don't think it's an ambiguous signal."
"It was the night she broke up with Ron," Jed reminded him. "It was only a week ago. She needs... she needs time. I want to let her have some space."
Ben held his gaze for a long, impassive moment, then stood up, sighing explosively. "Jed? You're weird." He patted the younger boy on the shoulder. "Sweet... but weird." He steered him towards the door. "Now go on, get out of here. Get some sleep, get your head together... and for God's sake, ask that poor girl out before one or both of you explodes."
"Abigail? Are you all right in there?"
"I'm fine, mom."
Her daughter's voice was muffled, and Mary pushed open the door cautiously. Abbey was half crawled into her closet, looking for something.
"Now, what's all this banging and crashing going on in here?" she asked, with an affectionate pretence at sternness.
Abbey backed out clutching a leather-bound folder, and coughed as she brushed strands of hair from her face with the back of her hand. "I was looking for these."
"Well, it might help if you cleaned in here once in a while, young lady."
Abbey smiled briefly, but then gazed down at the photo album she'd retrieved with a troubled expression. "What am I supposed to do with these?" she wondered, sounding slightly lost. She flipped through a few pages, revealing photographs of her and Ron... Abbey's eighteenth birthday, Ron's sister's wedding, some random weekend hanging out in Ron's front yard...
"I believe burning in a trashcan is the traditionally favoured method," Mary offered. "Toasting marshmallows optional."
Abbey grinned quickly at that, then sighed and hugged her knees. "I don't... I it's not like I hate Ron or anything. I don't want to burn his pictures. It's not like we had a big fight or anything, we just..." She brushed dust from the binding of the photo album. "It's just... sad."
Mary smiled kindly at her daughter, and pulled her into a hug. "I know, honey. I know."
"So anyway, Dr. Tyler said- Jed, hello? Earth to Jed?"
"Excuse me, I gotta-" Jed barely registered his classmate's words as he suddenly spotted her across the road, coming out of the library with her friends. He quickly dashed across to join her, peripherally aware of the hum of slightly amused conversation that sprang up behind him.
"-girl with the-?"
This last query was delivered in a tone of faint bemusement that Jed could fully identify with. Him, Jed Bartlet, and this elegant, poised, stunningly beautiful girl? Surely not.
Surely not. And yet... She'd kissed him.
"Abbey!" He was a shade too out of breath when he reached her, and came out sounding perhaps a little too eager. She didn't seem to mind, turning and giving him a sunny smile.
"Jed." Her two friends eyed him more closely at this, and he wondered what she'd told them about him. And whether they were mentally comparing him to Ron Ehrlich, and considering staging some sort of intervention to set her down and ask her if she'd lost her mind.
"Hey," he said, shoving his hands a little nervously into his pockets.
"Hey," she replied, hugging her books against her chest.
The two girls exchanged a dry look. "We'll be at Kathy's house, if you want to come catch up with us."
Abbey made a vague 'mmm' sound, and didn't watch them go. She and Jed just grinned at each other for a moment, caught in a strange mix of awkwardness and comfortableness. Finally they both blurted words at the same time.
"I haven't seen you around for-"
"You haven't been-"
They both stopped, and she continued, with an apologetic smile. "You haven't been down at the bookstore much. Did you-?"
"Oh, I, uh, I traded shifts," he explained. "I've been down at the college at lot, trying to, uh, trying to get my courses sorted out."
"I thought you were doing economics," she frowned, sitting down beside him on the steps. He sat down too, and rubbed his face.
"So did I, but I've been talking to Dr. Weber, and there's just no way I can get all the classes I need without adding an extra year to my degree."
She put down her books. "So are you gonna do that now?"
He pulled a face. "I can't! My dad's already crazy at me for wanting to switch majors, God knows what he'd do if it turns out that I've wasted a year."
"So what are you gonna do?"
"I'm gonna major in American Studies, I guess, and keep the theology as a minor so I don't lose all the classes I've already taken." He fiddled with his fingers. "And maybe... maybe go on and do the economics after, somewhere else." He didn't know why he didn't mention London.
Abbey gave him a cautious smile. "I think you should do it."
"Yeah!" she insisted firmly. "You're so smart, you should be taking, like, fifteen degrees."
"I don't think I want to do that," he noted dryly.
"Oh, you so do," Abbey said pointedly. He raised his hands and shrugged, smiling.
"Okay, you caught me. I'm an incurable geek."
"It's all part of your charm." His cheeks reddened. "And so is that thing where you keep on blushing all the time."
He gritted his teeth, willing the blush to recede and not at all succeeding. "It's a curse."
"It's cute." His head shot up to look at her, startled, and she gave a slight shrug and a gentle smile.
This was probably a good point to tell her she was pretty cute herself. Damn, damn, damn... Blanking... Hopelessly blanking... What happened to those verbal SAT scores...?
Way too long in silence, Jed. Do something. Do it now.
Aware of something rather like a drum beat in his ears that was possibly his pulse, he leaned forward, and kissed her.
Kissing girls, in a romantic manner, was not something he was used to. In fact, if you were going to get technical and restrict it to kisses directly on the lips where he was the initiator rather than the somewhat surprised kissee, it was safe to say it was pretty much brand new to him.
As new experiences went... he'd definitely tried worse.
He pulled back, and smiled tentatively. She smiled back, and took his hand. "You want to go get coffee or shakes or something?"
He blinked. "Okay."
And it turned out to be as simple as that.