Disclaimer: Not mine
AN: Thanks for all the lovely reviews. They are always appreciated.
I am following the 2012 U.S. Republican Primary schedule as the timeline in this story. You can find it on Wikipedia.
Fitzgerald clicked the hotel television off and slammed the remote control down on the dresser.
It was hours after a disastrous interview that had already spawned multiple wince-worthy sound bites.
It should have been an easy interview with a nobody reporter that Fitzgerald was throwing a bone to so he could boast that he wasn't just in the pocket of "big" media. Instead, Gideon, the mousy kid who looked like he'd barely graduated journalism school, dug into Fitzgerald's past and produced something that even Cyrus was surprised to discover.
After wins in Florida, Nevada, Maine, Michigan and Washington and losses in Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota, Arizona and Wyoming, both the Benedict and Grant campaigns were racing full speed toward Super Tuesday. If Grant could win huge on March 6th then he could make a convincing case to donors that he was the one to go head-to-head with Democratic Senator Ted Franklin in November.
But now that was in jeopardy.
Boy Scout reporter Gideon discovered that Fitzgerald used to be president of the board of Earltine Properties. That part was no secret. Fitz touted his stint and revitalization of the company as an advantage when it came to governing, especially economic governance as Earltine moved out of the red and firmly into the black under his leadership. What was a secret to Fitzgerald was that he was listed as board president on important documents three years after he'd left. Two years after his departure, Earltine was immersed in a minor slumlord scheme. Earltine bought properties, barely fixed them up, leased them for exorbitant amounts and then ignored tenants when they complained about roaches and falling structures. But that had been after Chuck Rogers had taken over. There was no connection to Fitzgerald.
Gideon had asked Fitz about his time there. While the question caught him off guard, he'd confidently spoken well of his hands-on approach to company governance. That was until Gideon produced documents Fitz's name on them when the company was embroiled in a lawsuit from several tenants. So far, Fitzgerald's stammered response was making waves across the twenty-four hour networks.
He walked over to the minibar and removed a tiny bottle of Scotch. He could literally see the panic on Cyrus' face as Fitz removed his microphone in a huff. Was this the fatalistic gaffe that would topple his campaign? And why, through all of this, could he not help but wonder what Olivia Pope would do if she were here.
Gone nearly a month, Fitz tried calling her a week ago. He had practiced his speech. He would be "professional". He would not touch her or corner her or do any of the things that he so desperately wanted to do, if only she would come back to the campaign and be his fixer. Instead of reaching the calming, confident voice he was accustomed to, he heard the automated woman telling him that she was sorry, but the number he had dialed was no longer in service. He asked Cyrus for information, but even the kingpin of their operation didn't know where she was. It was like she dropped off the political radar like a survivalist off the grid.
Grant downed the miniature Scotch and flung himself across the bed. He and Mellie weren't even pretending to feign a relationship anymore. Oh, sure, they attended events together, they smiled, they posed for the cameras holding hands, but their behind the scenes façade had fallen away quickly. It was good this wasn't a year in which family values were paramount to voters. With the harsh economic times, people were willing to tolerate a little coldness between their potential First couple, if it meant jobs and financial security.
Although she'd not quite pieced it together, he knew that Mellie accurately gathered that he was the reason for Olivia's speedy departure. Mellie liked Olivia if only for the fact that Olivia seemed to have all the keys to getting Mellie the title of First Lady, and she wanted to be First Lady almost as badly as Fitz wanted to run away and be with Olivia.
Fitzgerald smoothed a hand across his forehead. He could feel the beginnings of a headache working its way through his brain. He could only imagine what Cyrus was doing. After the interview, Cyrus shook his head at Fitz's offer to help. Fitz knew that this would be a time of speaking with his lawyers about the lawsuit he'd never been informed of, trying to get to the bottom of why the company still had his name on their papers, the legality of such actions and, if push came to shove, digging up nasty information on the reporter to discredit him and then bully the company into releasing a statement denouncing his name on their records. Even Fitzgerald knew the last option would be hard to accomplish. The story had gone national and now every amateur detective with a computer was peering into his financial and legal records.
If only Olivia Pope were here.
He stood from the bed, rummaged through the leather satchel his mother gave him when he graduated from Harvard, located a plastic container of ibuprofen and downed twin pills with the remainder of his bottled water from dinner.
"Anything new?" Fitzgerald asked Cyrus.
They were in the Virginia campaign headquarters, holed up in Cyrus' office, trying to figure out their next steps in this blooming scandal. The office, a room with sunlight slinking between the mini-blinds, hanging plotted plants and lots of mahogany colored furniture, barely looked like the strategic room it was.
Cyrus sighed. "No. Earltine says they don't know why your name is on the papers. I spoke to Travis Tanner, your old lawyer before he moved out of state, and he said he knows nothing about a lawsuit. I did get a lovely call from a lady at the SEC who wants to clarify your position at Earltine Properties for the three years that they attached your name to their records with no acknowledgment from you. This is a disaster, Fitzgerald."
Grant leaned back in his chair. Already the Benedict campaign was pouncing. Benedict's lead strategist, Hershel Edwards, hit all the morning talk shows asking why Fitzgerald was hiding such an important secret from the American people and what that meant to his credibility as a leader.
"What do we do?"
"We need to bring in the big guns."
"No. We don't fight this dirty." Fitzgerald raised a hand to keep Cyrus from interrupting him. "If we lose we lose. "
Fitzgerald closed his eyes. "We lose with honor, Cyrus."
"What is this I hear about you throwing in the towel?"
"I'm not in the mood, Mellie."
They were getting ready for a closed-door fundraiser where only elite donors would be present. Cyrus spun this little information like the weaver he was. Instead of an "embattled Fitzgerald Grant attending a fundraiser" headline it was a "confident Senator Grant attending a fundraiser" story making the rounds. It wouldn't hold off the media for long, but for the night Fitzgerald could breeze by reporters looking like the clear frontrunner.
"You're the one who came to me and the kids begging us to give this a chance. We made a decision as a family and you don't get to give up on this just because things are a little difficult." She applied a coat of fresh lipstick as she spoke.
"How do you propose that we fix this? We're getting no answers and you know Cyrus. If anyone can get answers to the hard questions, it's Cyrus. "
He shrugged into his suit jacket and watched her blot her lips.
She looked at him with blazing dark eyes. "We don't give up."
The night sky was full of city lights obscuring the stars. Fitzgerald leaned against the windowsill of his campaign office. He wondered about the bustling traffic below. The fundraiser went well. He'd hobnobbed the wealthy Koch brothers, Robert Downey Jr. and Harold Simmons with ease. He and Mellie looked like the king and queen of a ball.
The problems didn't start until they left the hall, entered the limousine and Mellie asked him what he was going to do about the growing problem of Earltine Properties. Fitzgerald wasn't like some politicians. He didn't rely on Mellie's opinion for making decisions outside of the ones that would influence their immediate family so he was not interested in any unsolicited advice. It wasn't that she wasn't smart enough. If he was honest, she was smarter than he was any day. She'd trumped his grades at Harvard. No, the problem was that Mellie gathered information and then went over to the dark side to produce results. She was a more charming Cyrus. He only needed one Cyrus Beene in his life and he preferred the one that was honest about his willingness to do anything possible to win.
After their heated argument, Mellie went to the hotel and he headed to the office to cool down. The kids were in town on a weekend break and the last thing they needed to see was more tension between their mother and him.
He sipped a bit of Scotch from his glass and sighed. He was three glasses of Scotch beyond tipsy.
"I don't think the American people will elect someone they suspect of being an alcoholic. It worked for W., but he had over ten years sobriety behind him."
Fitzgerald turned around at the voice. He looked down at the amber liquid. Maybe he was too drunk? He'd never had hallucinations while drinking before though. He looked up again and she was still there.
"Olivia?" he whispered.
She stood in a tailored gray Giorgio Armani suit clutching a black Prada bag in front of her waist with her hair swept off her face.
She raised a brow at him and replied, "Senator Grant."
AN: I wanted Olivia to sit most of this chapter out, but the next chapter she will be back in action.