Please see Chapter 1 for general info and disclaimers.
Jenn stepped past Charlie and into the Oval Office feeling as if she was seven again and was about to enter the Principal's Office after slugging Tommy Freedman for calling her mother crazy. Six pairs of eyes immediately swung in her direction, which almost caused her to shriek in alarm. She offered a lopsided smile and a small wave as a gesture of welcome. "Hi, everyone," she said with a shaky voice.
Josh watched this timid version of Jenn tiptoe into the room and was shocked. It was almost as if an entirely different person had returned from the TV studio. What had happened to the girl with the untrusting eyes and the sharp tongue that accompanied her invisible armor?
Jed smiled a little too brightly and rushed to Jenn's side a little too quickly to pull off the nonchalant demeanor he'd been aiming for. "Hey. It may have taken us a few tries, but it looks like we're finally going to get this meeting off the ground. Why don't you have a seat?"
Jenn took a step forward, but then hesitated. "Um, before this meeting begins, I'd just like to say that I'm, uh, really sorry about my behavior on Full Circle. I know all of you spent a lot of time and energy putting together that list and preparing me for my appearance only to have me let you down when I lost my temper, so I'm really sorry about all that. I know I was supposed to keep my cool, but I just… I'm sorry." She started biting on a fingernail and dropped her head in shame. "And I guess I'll be making a public apology to Matt soon, too."
Surprised and yet also pleased by the unexpected act of contrition, the senior staff members exchanged silent glances before C.J. stepped forward, a section of the current Washington Post in her hand. "Someone's going to being making an apology, Jenn, but that someone isn't going to be you."
"You should read this," C.J. told her as she held out the newspaper.
Jenn accepted the newspaper with a look of puzzlement and began reading an editorial essay entitled 'Shameless' that had been circled in red pen. Her eyes grew larger and larger as the writer skewered Matt Durkin, the show's directors, and the show's producers for scraping the bottom of the morality barrel when they decided they would try to bring down a President by attacking his unsuspecting daughter. Her eyes widened even more when she looked back up to the byline to see who the author was. "Rhinehart. Isn't he a Republican?"
"Yeah, he is," Josh said. "More specifically, he's the Republican Senior Senator from South Carolina."
"And he's been on my case since my first day in office," Jed added. "He's accused me of being soft on everything under the sky."
"Then why would he write this letter?" Jenn asked in confusion.
"Because there are still some decent men left in this world who know it's wrong to get a man by going through his family."
"So what? This letter makes everything okay? We're all in the clear now?" Jenn appeared to still be in shock.
"Not entirely," C.J. replied. "We still have a bit of ground to cover, but this letter definitely helped move public opinion back in our direction. Plus, I know from several of my sources that we can expect similar letters to appear in numerous newspapers across the country tomorrow. While unintentional, that little outburst of yours on Full Circle has sparked quite a reaction…one that's in our favor."
"And as icing on the cake, I think our esteemed Mr. Durkin will soon find himself out of a job," Sam declared, not even attempting to hide his pleased smile as his eyes twinkled vindictively. "He's going to learn the unpleasant lesson that advertisers don't tend to back a host whose own viewers now vilify him."
"So that's it then? Nothing's going to blow up in our faces? The world's not going to stop spinning? Wow," Jenn muttered, amazed by this unexpected turn in events. "And to think I was convinced I'd messed up."
"Oh, you did," Toby asserted harshly as he rubbed his forehead.
Jenn gazed at the man who seemed to have developed a natural disdain towards her and smiled. "Thank you, Toby. You're, as always, your usual mind-bogglingly supportive self."
At her slaughter of the English language, Toby shot a pained look to Jed and Leo and griped, "Mr. President…"
Taking note of the exchange, Jenn asked, "Am I missing something?"
Jed took a deep breath and then proclaimed, "Jenn, I'd like to make you an offer."
"Okay. Of what?"
"Of employment. How would you feel about coming to work here as our Deputy Director of Speechwriting?"
While Jed hadn't known what his daughter's reaction would be, he was entirely caught off-guard when he saw her smile fall into a frown. "What?" she demanded as her sunny disposition bristled.
Now well aware of how quickly Jenn's moods could shift, Jed glanced at his staff and requested, "May I have a moment alone with Jenn, please?"
Leo and the senior staff obligingly retreated from the Oval Office, grateful that they weren't currently in the President's shoes. Once left alone with his daughter, Jed moved over to one of the couches and motioned for Jenn to join him there. "You know, I never got a chance to ask you, are you okay?"
Jenn resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her father's inexplicable propensity to ask her that question. "I'm fine," she insisted as she sat beside him on the couch. She turned to inspect Jed's face and took a few seconds to try and read his expression. "You didn't need to offer me a job in order to get me to stay," she finally said in a low voice.
"Then what are you doing?" She hadn't meant to ask the question so sharply, but Jed had already flinched from the harshness in her tone, so it was too late to take the question back. "I mean, I appreciate the offer, but…it's a ridiculous idea. I don't know anything about politics and… Deputy Director of Speechwriting? I've never written a speech in my life. I wouldn't even know how to begin."
Jed lifted his head at her last lament and shot up to his feet so abruptly that Jenn unconsciously flinched at the sudden movement. "I think there's something you should read," he informed her as he strode to his desk and opened a few folders before locating the document he wanted. "Here. It's the speech I'm planning to give in New York on Tuesday."
Jenn placed the section of the Sunday Post she'd been holding on to the empty seat cushion to her left and accepted the pieces of paper Jed held out to her. She glanced down at the lines of black words that filled the first page without actually reading any of them. "What does this—" she tried to protest before being interrupted by Jed.
"Just read it," he persisted, growing impatient.
Sighing loudly, she began reading the document and almost immediately recognized its familiarity. "I can't believe he kept my changes," she whispered in disbelief. The beginnings of a pleased smile played on her lips.
"Toby kept your changes because they were good," Jed said to her as he sat back down beside her. "He told me as much."
Having an idea on where he was going with his thought process, Jenn decided to stop the madness before Jed went any further with his argument. "I didn't write this speech, though. Sam did."
"Yes, Sam did write it," Jed conceded, "but you're the one who gave it life. That speech is why I think you need to be a part of this administration. Now, Toby and Sam, they excel at this stuff, and while you're not quite at their level yet, I think you're pretty high up there. And I'm not just saying that because I'm your father."
Jenn laughed and looked back down at the paper in her hands. "This is the final draft?" she asked.
"Well, I'll probably ad-lib a couple paragraphs when I deliver the speech because I know how that drives Toby and Sam crazy, but yeah, that's the final copy. No more changes are going to be made to it."
"Amazing," she muttered. As much as she wished Toby's acceptance of her revisions didn't affect her one way or the other, Jenn couldn't help feeling honored. Jed smiled broadly as he gazed at his daughter's enraptured face. His plan was working. But then she suddenly snapped out of her reverie and shook her head. "Okay, this is nice and all, but it doesn't change anything. You still can't hire me. It's still a bad idea."
Jed groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Did I ever tell you that I'm planning on running for reelection?"
Confused as to what bearing his reelection plans had on their current conversation, Jenn mumbled in annoyance, "Yeah, I guess I assumed as much."
"Well, good. Then let me tell you a story." Anyone familiar with the President would have immediately known that those seven words were his or her cue to make a mad dash for the door. But Jenn, who still lacked this wisdom, sat back and waited somewhat patiently for Jed to begin preaching. "When a man runs for public office, he's only as good as the people standing behind him. This is especially true when you're running to be the next President of the United States. When I made my first bid for this job, I got lucky because I had Leo behind me and he was able to rally together a great group of people who believed in me and my ideals."
When Jed paused to take a breath, Jenn asserted, "While that's great, I don't see—"
"Hang on. I'm not done yet. When one runs for re-election, things are usually easier because people don't tend to like change. So, unless you've managed to screw over the majority of your voters, you're more likely to get elected into an office when you're running as the incumbent than as the challenger. That's all great news for me except for the fact that I'm now known as the President who has MS and an illegitimate daughter. And while neither of those two issues bothers me, they do bring me back to square one, which is being a man who's dependent on the people standing behind him. Now, I'm proud of the people behind me and I'm honored that they still want me to be the person standing in front of them. But I currently see an opportunity for me to make that group stronger, and I don't want to let that opportunity pass me by. Believe it or not, you, Jenn, can be a wonderful asset to us. So, you want to know why I've made you this job offer? It's because I'm a selfish old man who really wants stick around here for another four years."
Jenn covered her mouth with her hands as she was momentarily rendered speechless. Eve though Jed's slightly verbose speech had moved her tremendously, she still remained ambiguous as to whether she should accept the job offer. "I don't know…"
"C'mon, Jenn," Jed cajoled. "I think we both know this is a great opportunity. And there'll be no strings attached. If working here doesn't turn out the way you thought it would, then you can leave. No hard feelings. Of course, this also means that I'm going to reserve the right to fire you if you get on my nerves."
Jenn chuckled but failed at erasing the uneasiness from her face. "But what about the others? Won't they feel like I'm crashing the party?"
"Not at all. I've already asked them for their opinions, and they were all very enthusiastic about having you work here."
"Really?" Jenn contested with a raised an eyebrow.
"I swear," Jed replied solemnly.
"And if I were to accept this offer, who would I be working under? I don't think I've met the Director of Speechwriting yet."
"Yeah, that's cause we don't have one. They're all just titles, Jenn. You'd mainly be supervised by Toby."
"Oh, great," Jenn mumbled under her breath.
After allowing a decent amount of 'thinking time' to pass, Jed asked, "So…what do you say?"
Jenn hesitated and looked off into the distance. It felt almost like déja-vu for it had only been a few short days ago that she had found herself making a similar life-altering decision. "Well…I guess I'd be crazy if I didn't say that…I'd be honored to join your team, Mr. President."
Jed's face lit up. Bringing his head close to hers, he asked, "I don't suppose there's any chance you'll start calling me dad any time soon, is there?"
"Tell you what, if you work on not asking me if I'm okay every time you see me, then I'll work on calling you dad. Deal?"
Just as Jenn was about to reach out and initiate her first hug with Jed, he suddenly lurched upwards and shouted, "Charlie!"
The door soon opened. "Mr. President?" Charlie asked.
"Tell everyone they can come back in."
As Leo and the senior staff filed back into the room, Jed declared, "All right, everyone, I only have one more announcement to make before I'm going to send you all home to get some rest. Which means no working for the rest of the day, Leo." He paused long enough for people to turn towards his Chief of Staff and smile. "Okay, I'd like to introduce you all to our new Deputy Director of Speechwriting."
Leo, who, while appearing neutral, had actually been praying that Jenn would take the job, breathed a gigantic sigh of relief and rushed towards her with outstretched arms. As C.J. watched Leo and Jenn embrace, she felt tears springing to her eyes.
"Why, Claudia Jean, are those tears I see in your eyes?" Toby teased as he moved over to her side.
"Oh, shut up," she muttered as she blinked her eyes and sniffled.
"I had no idea you were such a softie."
"Give me a break, Toby." She watched Sam join Leo and Jenn and took notice of how happy the three of them looked. "I know we make flubs around here all the time, but…when you see things like that, you can't help but feel proud to be working here and to have played a part in doing something…right."
"Well, it's nice to know this administration has its priorities in order," Toby replied sarcastically.
"Toby," C.J. cautioned.
"What?" But as Toby stared at the group that had formed on top of the Presidential Seal on the carpet – a group that now included everyone but C.J. and himself – he had to agree with her: something did feel right about what had just transpired in the Oval Office.