XII

CJ stepped out before the assembled press. Some of them refused to meet her eyes - others just had the hungry look of reporters with a story in sight. In good times, the press were allies, even friends. But at times of crisis like this, they ceased to be the friendly pack of journalists she had under her thumb, and became mercenaries, ready to cut down anyone and anything in pursuit of the scoop.

She forestalled their questions with a hand. "Miss Gerrold will be here to meet us any moment now. I think we should probably leave the questions until then."

Sure enough, a moment later the doors opened and Felicity Gerrold was escorted in. She looked far more composed than the last time they'd seen her, being hauled off by the Secret Service.

"Miss Gerrold," CJ nodded politely. The woman responded with a sneer.

"I see you finally deigned to face me. Why isn't the president here? Afraid to face the truth?" Cameras flashed and pencils scribbled.

"No he isn't, I think you'll find, because unlike the rest of the country, the president knows what the truth actually is."

"That my sister was seduced, used and abandoned," she hissed angrily.

"Yes she was," acknowledged CJ. "But not by him."

She looked at the press. "As it happens, Miss Gerrold here has a legitimate grudge with the Bartlet family. It's just unfortunate that she's chosen to pursue it in a very unreasonable way."

Gerrold was opening her mouth to protest, but CJ trampled right over her as she'd learned to do with truculent reporters. "I can now reveal that Miss Gerrold has been attempting to pin the president with the sins of a man who's been dead too long to take the blame himself. You people have been making a very big deal of how much resemblance there is between the president and Daniel Gerrold. Well, that's really no surprise."

She smiled softly, savouring the moment. "After all... they share the same father."

CJ was greeted with something she'd always wanted to achieve - an entirely silenced press corps. They all gaped at her, knocked sideways by the bombshell.

Felicity Gerrold's face drained of blood, but she quickly recovered. "Lies!" she insisted shakily. "It's all lies!"

"Actually, no," said the president's voice. "I would say that sounds pretty much like the truth to me."

They all turned - and discovered that the president's voice wasn't coming from the president.

Daniel Gerrold slid his hands into his pockets, and shrugged self-consciously. "Sorry I took my time getting here. It was kind of a long flight."


Abbey stood in the doorway to the Oval Office, hesitant in a way she couldn't remember being with her husband, since... well, maybe not since their wedding night, or since the first time she'd gone to him to tell him she was pregnant. That feeling that everything had changed, and could they still go back, if they wanted to?

For a soul-destroying second, her husband was still, silhouetted against the windows. And then he held his hands out to her, and smiled.

She ran to his arms, buried her head against his chest. "Jed, I'm so sorry," she said, voice already choked with tears. How could he ever forgive her? How could she forgive herself?

I doubted you. Oh, Jed, how could I ever have doubted you?

But when she looked up into his eyes, they were as warm and gentle as ever. "I love you," he said simply.

And all the words, the apologies she'd been meaning to force out, suddenly didn't seem so important. "I love you," she said instead. And really, didn't that say everything that needed to be said?

She laid her head against his chest again, and they stood that way for a long time.

There was a knock at the door and they both turned. Charlie dipped his head at them apologetically. "Mr. President?"

"CJ's finished with the press?" he asked, releasing his wife with an apologetic kiss.

"Yes, sir."

"And Felicity Gerrold changed her story?"

"Yes, sir." Charlie smiled, but the president's expression was more difficult to read. It was hard to say if he was relieved by this new development or not.

"Okay, Charlie." He nodded to himself.

"Uh, Mr. President?" Charlie gestured to the door behind him. "There's someone here to see you."

The president frowned in puzzlement, and the young man shuffled shyly inside. Abbey let out a small gasp at the sight of him, and turned it into a nervous laugh.

He ducked his head. "Uh... pleased to meet you, Mr. President. I'm, uh, I'm Daniel Gerrold."

The president suddenly broke into a genuine smile, his first real beam in a long time. He stepped forward, hand extended. "Come in! Take a seat on the couch, son. And I think, under the circumstances, you'd probably better call me Jed."

Abbey watched the two of them together as they settled side by side on the couch, and smiled.

End