"What are you thinking about?"
Jed continued to gaze out of the plane window. "Tomorrow," he said quietly.
After a few seconds, Abbey shot him a mischievous look. "So – what's next?"
Jed still didn't look at her, but a slight smile curved the corners of his mouth. Tomorrow was not going to be anything like Abbey was expecting.
"Jed, the girls really wanted to be there at the farm tonight, you know," Abbey was saying. "It was their idea – the whole family together."
"Okay." Now he didn't dare look at her, in case the look in his eyes gave him away. She knew him too well.
"And you are not gonna be snippy with them," she warned him. "This is their surprise."
Jed held up his hands. "Abbey, I can honestly promise you that I am not gonna be snippy with ANYONE tonight."
"Not even Doug or Vic?"
"Not even Doug or Vic."
"Well, that'll be a first!"
Jed leaned back against his seat. "It IS a first – it's the first night of the rest of our lives."
Abbey studied him carefully. "You're hiding something, gumdrop. I can tell."
For the first time he allowed himself to look round at her and shot her a mock-injured glance. "Am I so transparent?"
"To me, yes."
"I'm glad you weren't one of the Chiefs of Staff then – or Speaker of the House! If Jeff Haffley had known even half of what I was thinking about him–"
"Stop changing the subject." Abbey glanced at her watch and then leaned forward to look out of the window. She frowned. "Jed, we should be about five minutes from landing but we haven't dropped any height and we're still over the sea. So just where is this plane taking us?"
"You'll find out," he replied casually.
"For heavens' sake, Jed, this is Air Force One! You can't just hijack it!"
"Technically, it isn't Air Force One – it's only called that when the President is aboard, so it's just SAM 28000 right now. And it isn't a hijack, I cleared it with Matt Santos – since he certainly won't be needing it for the next twenty four hours. He'll be far too busy in the Oval."
"But the girls are waiting–"
"No, they're not. I asked Charlie to call Zoey to let them know that we wouldn't be there tonight."
"You asked Charlie to call – why, you scheming, manipulative–"
Jed grinned. "He did seem quite pleased to have a chance to talk to her again!"
Abbey opened her mouth to say more but closed it again with a small sigh. Now was not the right time to start a discussion about Zoey and Charlie. Besides, there was a more pressing question. "So where ARE we going?"
"I told you – you'll find out!"
"Jed!" she said in exasperation.
Jed shook his head and stretched out his hand to take hers. "Nope, I want to surprise you." His blue eyes looked straight into hers as he said softly, "Abbey, for the last eight years – no, even longer than that – we've been surrounded by people almost every minute of every day. I'm not sure what life holds for us from now on – but I guess that even a former President and First Lady won't be able to slip into a life of anonymity. And that's why I wanted some time out – just a few days maybe – for some of that anonymity, for some real peace and quiet. Just the two of us."
As Abbey held his gaze, her eyes suddenly felt moist. He looked tired, and the past eight years had aged him. Not just the stress of the job that had demanded so much of him, but the insidious effects of the MS too. There had been times when she had been so desperately afraid that it was all going to be too much, that she was going to lose him. But he had made it, he was still here. "Okay, just the two of us," she whispered with a catch in her voice.
Jed's hand tightened on hers. "You know that I couldn't have done any of this without you–" He stopped as there was a knock on the cabin door and then gave a short laugh. "Well, maybe not 'just the two of us' for a while!" he said ruefully. "Come in!" he called out.
It was the Captain. "Sorry to disturb you, sir – but I thought that Mrs Bartlet would probably have realised by now that we're not going to be landing in New Hampshire. Sorry about the subterfuge, Mrs Bartlet, but the President insisted that it was to be a secret."
"Former President!" Jed corrected him with a laugh. "What's our flying time, Mike?"
The Captain raised his eyebrows and Jed gave him an almost imperceptible nod. "Five hours 46, sir," he answered.
"Fine – and you've sorted out–?"
"Yes, sir, they know it's a private visit, no officials, no press, no publicity."
"Mike, just where ARE we going?" Abbey asked. "Nearly six hours flying time – and I guess we're flying east – so that means Europe somewhere, am I right?"
After a quick glance at Jed, who shook his head slightly, the Captain looked back at Abbey. "I'm sorry, Mrs Bartlet, I'm not permitted to divulge that information."
Jed laughed. "What he means is that I said I would personally decapitate anyone who even breathed a hint of it."
Mike grinned. "Yes, that's true! So shall I send the steward in for your dinner order, sir?'
Jed glanced at Abbey. "You hungry?"
"Yes, I am actually – I didn't get chance to eat much at the Capitol at lunchtime, with all the farewells and everything else going on."
"Okay then – thanks, Mike."
"So," Abbey said, as the door closed behind the Captain, "Europe?"
Jed gave a slight inclination of his head in acknowledgement. "And that's all you are permitted to know."
"Hmm," mused Abbey, "London maybe? – a nostalgic trip to our apartment there?"
"Flat," Jed corrected her. "They call 'em flats in London, remember? – and I bet that flat was demolished years ago. If it wasn't, it ought to have been!"
"Okay, not London then," Abbey continued, "and anyway, there's no peace and quiet there!" She thought for a moment. "Maybe Paris then? So that you can be the man who accompanied Abigail Bartlet to Paris?"
Jed laughed. "JFK already screwed us with that one! And you can stop probing right now, because I'm saying nothing."
Abbey put her hand on his knee and slowly started sliding it higher. "Bet I could get you to tell me–"
With another laugh, Jed lifted her hand and held it tightly in his. "That's cheating!"
"You mean I can't persuade you to join the Mile High Club again?" Abbey teased.
Jed chuckled. "Only if we can have Ron Butterfield standing outside the door, showing his gun to anyone who gets within ten feet of the door! There is no way that I want a repeat of–"
He didn't have to go on. Abbey felt herself colouring at the memory, "Oh lord, yes – the time Leo and Josh walked in on us."
"I don't know who was more embarrassed – us or them."
"They certainly made a very quick exit!"
Jed thought back. "Did we actually manage to finish after that interruption?"
Abbey started laughing. "Only after you'd pushed a chair against the door!"
Jed laughed too. "Yeah, I remember now."
"CJ told me that Ron stopped her at the door one time."
"Well, he didn't actually produce the gun, but he refused to let her near the door. She told him she wanted to see you urgently about something, and Ron said very politely, "I'm sorry, Ms Cregg, but no-one is going in there right now." And she said that she went bright red and said "Oh – okay – yeah – right."
"So she knew?"
"Oh, come on, Jed, get real! The whole staff knew when we were – er – having some recreation!"
Jed threw her an expressive glance. "Maybe we'll get more privacy now."
Abbey moved her leg so that it was brushing against his. "The only people on this plane are the Secret Service and the crew," she said teasingly.
"Yeah, and if we start anything now, what's the betting that the steward will walk in that door?" But still he brought her hand up to his lips and kissed her palm softly, so that she had to draw in a quick breath. At the same time there was a knock on the door, and Jed laughed. "See what I mean?"
He was still chuckling as the steward came in to take their dinner order and left Abbey to choose from the dinner menu.
After the steward had taken the order, Abbey looked round at him with a wry smile. "OK, so I guess the Mile High Club will have to wait until after dinner now. But just be grateful that at least we don't have to go to all those inaugural balls tonight before we can go to bed!"
Jed pulled a face. "How many was it? Nine, ten? It felt like a hundred! And how many different ball gowns did you have?"
Abbey's eyes suddenly widened in alarm. "Jed – clothes! I haven't any clothes!"
"Calm down, did you really think I'd forget that you need at least three different outfits per day? There are four big bags somewhere on this plane – correction, three big bags – your clothes, one small bag – my clothes!"
Abbey looked at him suspiciously. "You didn't pack them, did you? Oh lord, you did – that means nothing will match, and I'll probably have to find the nearest lingerie shop to buy up their entire stock of panties."
"I wasn't reckoning on you wearing any panties at all actually – hey!" he finished as she slapped his knee. "What was that for?"
"Stop having erotic thoughts – we've got a six hour flight ahead of us."
Jed looked at her under his eyelashes. "What about the Mile High Club?"
Abbey returned the seductive look as she stood up. "Well, maybe if you eat up all your vegetables at dinner, I might just rustle up a tasty dessert – but now I need to go freshen up."
"And then please just check that they're not serving up any green beans at dinner!" Jed called after her with a laugh.