Disclaimer: This is an original story based upon the characters of West Wing. No profit will be made from this story and no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is my first venture into West Wing fan fiction. I became hooked on the show last spring and it is now one of my favorites. I hope I know the characters well enough by now to do them justice. This is something that came to mind when I was thinking about the relationship between Jed and C.J. It is set in the future. There are no spoilers in this story at all. I don't know anything you don't. Anyway, with that having been said, enjoy!
The Bartlett family kitchen had always been the center of the household. The living room, with it's large plush coaches and velvet-like rug was the show room—the room where the dignitaries sat, where the china cupboard containing Jed's great great grandmother's china was kept, and where there were absolutely positively without question, no children allowed unless family was visiting.
The kitchen however, was the place of mayhem. It was here that the family gathered for meals, here where Jed played checkers with his daughters on the nights when Abbey was working late. It was in the kitchen that Abbey made chocolate chip pancakes every Sunday morning, and all family councils were held around the kitchen table. It was no wonder then that Jed and Abbey Bartlett spent most of their time in the kitchen now. One of the white shelves that had once been dedicated to Liz's pottery creations was full of Jed's books, and the one right below that had Abbey's medical journals. They had both been at the table, studying the things they loved most when C.J. had called.
If C.J. had been in the room, she would have been touched at the look of delight that came into Jed's face when Abbey mouthed "C.J." in response to him asking who it was. She would have smiled at the way the two of them put the phone in the middle of the table after Abbey had turned on the speaker phone—for the two still felt parental towards the staff that had surpassed the bonds of friendship and had become family. Any call from one of their "kids," got them excited.
"C.J., you're on speaker phone now," Abbey said as she placed the phone in between them.
"Hello Mr. President," C.J. said, with the tender inflection in her voice she always had when she was talking to her former boss.
"How are you kid?" Jed asked, and Abbey smiled at him from across the table—having heard the slight tremor in his voice. She knew better than anyone how much he missed the old days. She knew how much he missed working on a day to day basis with Leo, Josh, Toby, Charlie and the others. He cared deeply about all of them—but C.J. held a place in his heart that was different then any of the others.
"I'm doing fine Sir, just fine. How are you?" she replied. Jed rolled his eyes—he obviously knew what was coming.
"Yes C.J., I take my pills every day, I walk outdoors every day and I play chess—every day."
There was a brief pause. "Is that true Abbey?" C.J. asked.
"Claudia Jean…" Jed protested.
"Oh here we go with the full name," she laughed. He had always loved that laugh. "Using the full name will not get you out of this!"
"Yes, C.J., it's all true." Abbey said laughing. "So…what is up with you? How's Santa Monica?"
"It's great," C.J. replied. "I love it here. California feels more home than Ohio ever did."
"Anything new?" Jed asked.
"Um…you could kind of say that," C.J. replied with a sly tone in her voice. Both Jed and Abbey looked at each other with curious expressions.
"Has she told you about this?" Jed mouthed across the table.
Abbey shrugged and shook her head
"Are you there?" C.J. asked, breaking up their silent conversation.
"We're here," Abbey replied. "What's up?"
"Well…" C.J. said, "First I'll let you take a trip down memory lane."
Again, Jed and Abbey looked at each other curiously.
"Now you're on speaker phone," she said giggling. "Say hello to our mystery guest.
"Hello…" Jed and Abbey said simultaneously.
"Good morning Mr. President, Mrs. Bartlett," said a familiar voice.
"Danny!" Jed mouthed as though he was shouting across the phone. Abbey smiled and put a finger to her lips.
"Danny, it's good to hear your voice," Abbey said into the phone. "How are you?"
"Mrs. Bartlett, I am fantastic," he said confidently. Jed's eyes got very big.
"Danny—what are you doing with yourself these days?" Jed asked, trying to get some more information out of him.
"Well Sir…I've just been transferred out here to California,"
"Really?" Abbey the matchmaker said with a slyness to her voice.
"Actually Sir," Danny said. "C.J. wanted me to talk to you this morning. We've been seeing each other again for about a month now and well…Sir, I'm in love with C.J., I have been since the first day I was working on the press detail. I asked her to marry me last night and she said "not yet." She wanted me to call you Sir. She wanted me to call you and get your blessing."
Abbey reached for a tissue on the counter and dabbed at her eyes. Jed was speechless.
"Some one please say something?" C.J.'s voice came over the phone.
"We're so happy for you Sweetie." Abbey said, her voice shaking.
"Thank you Abbey," C.J. said and her voice was noticeabley shaking as well.
"…Sir?" Jed swallowed hard.
"Daniel, you take good care of her. You have my blessing. You have my permission, you have all the happiness in the world I can wish."
"Thank you Sir," Danny said. "I will take care of her, I promise."
Jed slowly got up from the table and let the girls continue their chat which had turned to plans for the wedding. His eye caught a picture of C.J. and him on their last day in the White House. He picked it up and looked at it. Those were good times. He found himself remembering back to one certain day—about three months before they had left office.
She was late—forty-five minutes late and she hadn't called in. It wasn't like her at all. He tried to smile at the Treasury Secretary, who had been waiting for a half hour for their meeting to begin. "I'm sure she will be here any minute," he said, trying to put off the knowing worry he was beginning to feel. Ever since Mrs. Landingham had died, ever since Leo's heartattack, he had worried when one of his staff wasn't where they were supposed to be.
He picked up the phone and called down to her office. Margaret answered and said there had been no sign of her. Margaret had been trying her on her cell for the past fifteen minutes and there was no answer. Now he was really starting to worry. He sat down, trying to make small talk with the secretary, when suddenly she was there—obviously out of breath, but like always, poised and ready to get to work. He tried to catch her eyes, to give her a "you okay?" look, but she was avoiding him. Whatever it was, she just wanted to get to work. The meeting was productive, and she was on the ball the whole time, but Jed had not worked with her for this long without knowing the subtle hints that something was really wrong. The meeting ended, and both Jed and C.J. stood, shaking the secretary's hand. As soon as he was out of the room, Jed turned to C.J. "Are you okay?" he asked, and she tried to hide it, tried to cover the pain she was in—but he knew her better than that.
"Um…" she said, and bit her lower lip in a futile effort to keep the tears away. "The nursing home called this morning. Just as I was about to leave for work…my dad…"she started and then had to stop to compose herself, "He passed away last night."
"Oh C.J.," Jed said, placing a hand on her arm, "I'm so sorry," She smiled gratefully at him, "I mean…it's not like I wasn't expecting it. He's had it so hard these past few years, it was really a blessing for him…I just, wasn't ready yet," she broke down crying then, and Jed put his arms around her. "I know, I know," he said assuringly. She broke the hug and he led her over to one of his couches.
"I don't know that much about your father. Tell me about him," he said and C.J. again gave him a grateful smile. For an hour she talked about her dad, the trips to the amusement parks, the tough time they'd had after her mom died, how her dad had learned how to make her favorite breakfast, how she would go over to his room at the high school during lunch and they'd talk. It seemed to be therapeutic for her, and Jed just listened, putting up his hand to anyone that came in to interrupt.
After awhile she stood up, drying her tears. "Thank you Mr. President, this meant a lot to me. I better get back to work."
"Okay," he said, putting a hand on her back and leading her to the door. "Are you sure you're going to be okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I have a flight booked for Dayton tonight."
"Okay, I'll be praying for you today,"
"Thank you Sir,"
He opened the door for her and she was about to walk in to her office when suddenly she turned and looked at him. He was not surprised at her look, after all, he had seen it once before—a long time ago in an airport. He could see the same vulnerability, the same longing…the same unspoken question. And once again in silence, Jed Bartlett answered the call. Placing a hand on her arm and giving it a tight squeeze, and giving her the same look he had given Josh years ago, Claudia Jean became his daughter.
The weeks ahead were not easy for her, there were many times late at night that he could hear her crying in her office. Sometimes he would offer a listening ear, sometimes he would leave her alone—he had no desire to replace her father, and he knew that sometimes, she needed to be alone with her grief and memories of him.
A month after her father died, it was her birthday. He knew it would be a tough day for her, so before she got there, he took the flowers he had ordered the night before—a big bouquet of daisies—her favorite. He took the card he had written and propped it against the vase, hoping he hadn't overstepped his bounds. He waited in his office, and listened for sounds of her coming in. Finally, he heard her come in and he sat down at his desk. A few minutes later there was a soft knock at the door.
"Come in," he said. She walked in, and there were tears in her eyes. She held her card against her heart and mouthed, "Thank you,"
He smiled back at her.
She kept that card on her shelf until the end of her stay. She told him later that when she was missing her father, she would take down his card and read the words inside,
"To Claudia Jean, my fourth daughter."