A/N: I told myself I wasn't going to write a death!fic- and yet here I am. It is sad, but I tried to make it upbeat and optimistic as well.
The key songs for this are 'See You Again' by Carrie Underwood, which was the original inspiration for this, and 'Hear You Me' by Jimmy Eat World because it made me think of Charlie, which led to his scene at the cemetery.
Feedback is always wonderful!
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of The West Wing; I merely supplied a few more grandchildren for Abbey and Jed.
Said goodbye, turned around
And you were gone, gone, gone
Faded into the setting sun,
She lost him fifteen years after they returned to Manchester.
The first ten years were glorious; invigorating, energizing, full of life. The last five were harder; episodes came more frequently, Jed was sick more, he slept longer and later. The final month was the hardest; the MS episode that struck in April paralyzed his legs, and he rarely left the bed.
When she closed her eyes she could still see the vibrant, happy Jed that she'd had for almost fifty years; the husband who took her on romantic, spur-of-the-moment camping trips and the man who managed to surprise her even with his job as the President.
In those fifteen years after office they'd watched their girls grow; they'd watched Elizabeth divorce Doug, they'd watched Ellie's daughter Bonnie grow up with siblings Eddie and Alice, and they'd held Zoey and Charlie's wedding ceremony at the farm. They'd watched as Liz had followed in Jed's footsteps and become a Congresswoman for New Hampshire, and as Ellie made a medical discovery that changed lives. They'd watched as Zoey and Charlie's daughter Piper was baptized; they'd seen the devastation of a miscarriage hit Liz in her new marriage to NCIS officer Tony DiNozzo.
The voice had been faint, but still held the quality that made it solely Jed Bartlet's. Abbey had turned, coming over to lay beside him, stroking the snow white hair that fell into the cobalt blue eyes that had grown filmy with age.
"Hey handsome," she'd said softly, smiling as she leaned forward to press her lips to his cheek. Jed had tried to respond and she had shushed him quietly, touching his cheek with gentle fingers. He had coughed, the sound making her heart hurt as she had tried to soothe him.
"Hurts," he'd rasped, and Abbey had swallowed back the tears as she tried to comfort him.
"I know it does, sweetheart," she had whispered, fingers stroking his chest lightly, feeling the tension in his chest and hearing the fluid that had started to pool there. His heartbeat had been slow; his speech had started to become sluggish. Her heart had constricted at the realization; she hadn't been prepared to lose him, not yet- not ever.
She'd carefully slid off the bed, going over to her bag, searching for her stethoscope to listen more closely to his lungs. A raspy voice behind her had spoken again, and she'd turned, instrument in hand and tears in her eyes.
"Love- you," Jed had rasped, just before another breath-stealing cough overtaking his body. He had struggled to catch another breath, and the tears had run down Abbey's cheeks as she had tried to soothe him. His eyes had been closed, and only a handful more ragged breaths had passed through his lungs before they stopped completely. Abbey had held her own breath for a few more moments, eyes squeezed shut as she let the fact that she was alone register.
Her husband had died, but it was more than that; her best friend, her lover, her other half- her soul mate had died. She had the girls and the grandkids, yes, but they all had their own lives now. Jed had been her everything- and now he was gone.
Abbey was broken from her reliving of Jed's death by Zoey's voice; her youngest was cradling the newest addition to the Young clan in her arms, Josette (nicknamed Josie), dressed all in black. Abbey's heart twisted again; they had a funeral to go to.
"Mom, Charlie said you're more than welcome to ride with us to the cemetery," Zoey said softly, adjusting Josie in her arms, her green eyes soft. "Piper said she'd hold your hand and everything."
Abbey allowed a small smile at her three year old granddaughter's offer; she had her mother's compassion and her father's smile.
"Tell Piper she can sit next to me in the church," Abbey said, running a hand lightly over her gray-streaked brunnette hair. "I already promised Alice I'd ride with her, Eddie, and Bonnie."
Zoey nodded, leaning forward carefully and hugging her mom, Josie nestled safely between them. Abbey pressed a kiss to her youngest daughter's temple, allowing her to burrow her head into Abbey's neck for a moment.
"Mommy!" Piper's familiar call sounded then, and Zoey sighed, pulling back and kissing her mom's cheek.
"Duty calls," she said, and Abbey nodded, watching her daughter walk away. An ache filled her chest, a hollow feeling she knew would never truly leave.
She walked out of the kitchen, finding all three of her daughters and their families there; Liz and Tony, with Annie, Gus, and their only child together, Isabella, and Ellie and Vic, with Bonnie, Eddie, and Alice, and finally Zoey and Charlie, with Piper and Josie.
Everyone was there for Jed, and she knew at the church waited their extended family; CJ and Danny, with their two kids, Josh and Donna and their gaggle of blonde haired children, Sam and Ainsley, newly married after losing their previous spouses to cancer. Toby was there with Andy and Molly and Huck, and Mallory would be there with her husband and sons. Will Bailey and Kate Harper would be there, their newly renewed wedding bands glinting on their fingers- from the service Jed had presided over only six months ago.
And, as Jed was a former President, there would be many important faces; former President Santos, the men and current woman President would be there, along with a collection of other people Jed had made contact with over the years. Abbey simply wanted to get through the ceremony without crying; the idea of living without Jed made her ache- she missed him so much every day.
Living without her husband was something she hadn't had to do for over fifty years.
I'll see you again, oh
This is not where it ends
I will carry you with me, oh
Till I see you again
She never stopped living; as much as existence without Jed was less vibrant and appealing, she knew it wasn't her time yet. She was in her early seventies, still healthy, and she knew she was attractive. But Jed had been her one and only- the idea of ever dating again held no appeal to her. She knew Jed was waiting for her, and that was enough.
"Grandma, what's your favorite memory of Grandpa?" Alice asked one day as they walked around the farm. Abbey looked down at her nine year old granddaughter, smoothing back her soft blonde hair. Eddie, Piper, and Isabella perked up at the question as well, and Abbey couldn't help but smile a sad, soft smile at them.
"It was when we were first married, before any of your mothers were born," Abbey started, settling down in the grass of the field, the grandkids surrounding her. "It was our first Christmas, and it had been snowing for days. He took me outside, and right at midnight on Christmas Eve, we made snow angels."
Abbey closed her eyes, remembering that first Christmas with her new husband; freshly twenty years old, the gold band on her finger a symbol of the love she shared with the wild-haired, vibrant economics major that looked at her like she was his whole world- and she was. Neither knew she was pregnant with Liz at the time; that knowledge wouldn't come until Valentine's Day.
Jed had looked so handsome with his hair covered in snow, his blue eyes twinkling in the darkness, right there in the front yard of their tiny, one-bedroom house. Jed had taught her what love truly was- and he'd held all of her heart for all those years.
"Do you miss him?" Piper asked, peeking through her tiny fingers as she lay on her stomach in the tall grass. Abbey tapped the little girl's nose, smiling sadly.
"Oh I miss him very much, sweetheart," she said, looking out across the pond, at the bright blue sky. "But he's always with me. Right here."
She tapped her heart with her finger, then repeated the motion on each of her grandchildren's chests.
"He's in your heart," she said, pressing her palm against her chest, feeling the steady beating there. "He never really leaves, ever."
Piper and Alice looked down at their chests in awe, and, as they were a little older, Eddie and Isabella smiled sadly with their grandmother, understanding what she meant.
"Mommy said Josie was named after Grandpa," Piper said, and Abbey nodded, smoothing back the ruly strawberry blonde curls from the girl's big blue eyes.
"Your mommy and daddy decided to name your little sister after your grandpa; his first name was Josiah," Abbey said, smiling at the memory of Jed's face when Charlie and Zoey had told them what they'd named their youngest daughter. It had been only three months before he died.
"Grandpa's in Heaven, right Grandma?" Isabella asked, peering at her grandmother with large hazel eyes inherited from her dad. Abbey nodded, running her hand over the blades of grass swaying in the wind.
That was where Jed waited for her.
What would you think of me now,
so lucky, so strong, so proud?
I never said thank you for that,
now I'll never have a chance.
May angels lead you in
She visited Jed's grave every Sunday. Always after church, before she went home to make a cup of tea and sit on the porch, and watch the sun.
As she made her way to the gravesite one Sunday two years after his death, though, she found it already occupied by their son-in-law.
"Josie is walking all over the place now," Charlie Young said, and Abbey could hear the tears in his voice, though she couldn't tell from her angle if he was allowing them to fall. "She takes after you and Zoey; strong-willed, almost to the point of being hot-headed."
Abbey smiled at that; Zoey had definitely taken after Jed in that aspect, though she didn't deny she had her fiery moments as well.
"Piper just started kindergarten, and she can write her name now," Charlie shared, and Abbey smiled; she'd received many pictures with her granddaughter's large, block-lettered name on the bottom.
There was a pause, and Abbey saw Charlie square his shoulders before speaking.
"I never said thank you for everyting you did for me," he said, and Abbey knew this time that he was crying. "You gave me everything- you supported me. Most importantly, you loved me."
Abbey swallowed against her own tears; the wind cooled her damp cheeks.
"Rest in peace," Charlie said, looking at headstone, swallowing heavily. "Dad."
You are my tomorrow
"It's okay, Mom," Liz whispered, voice thick with tears. Abbey blinked, nodding, feeling at peace. Zoey and Ellie were on the other side of the bed, holding her hands.
Almost exactly seven years after Jed's death, Abbey lay in the same bed, in the same position he had. Breast cancer struck her six years after his funeral, and a year later, the fight was almost over. She was ready to go; she'd been ready for seven years, but now was finally the time.
"We love you," Zoey said, eyes gleaming with tears, cheeks streaked by them. Ellie couldn't speak, just brushed her mom's hair back, swallowing thickly against the tears blocking her throat. Abbey nodded, not able to speak; it took too much effort to breathe without trying to form words.
The familiar voice, the one she hadn't heard in seven years, made her heart lighter.
"Oh I've missed you so much sweetheart," Jed's voice said, and Abbey closed her eyes, sighing. "Leo and I are waiting- whenever you're ready, Abbey."
She sighed again, opening her eyes once more to look at her girls- her three precious baby girls. They were so grown-up; they were ready to be on their own, they were strong. She took a final, deep breath, voice soft and hoarse.
"Love- you," she said, the air leaving her chest and the room growing dimmer. Liz, Ellie, and Zoey's faces began to swim, and she closed her eyes, chest aching. The white light became intense, and she panicked for a moment until-
Jed stood before her, dressed just like the day they'd met- jeans and a dark blue sweater, white-collared shirt and navy tie peeking out through the v-neck of the sweater. His hair was dark and messy, the cowlick falling into his bright blue eyes. His face was young, smooth- he was the vibrant college student again.
Abbey looked down at herself, at the black belted dress, her high-heeled black shoes, the bright pink jacket contrasting sharply with the dress. Her hair was short and curly, falling into her eyes, and she could feel the thick make-up on her cheeks and lips, seeing the thick mascara on her lashes.
It was like they were meeting for the first time all over again, but this time, they had the memories of fifty years between them. She noticed the cigarette in his hand, and bit her lip, cutting her eyes up to him, flirting with him.
"You know smoking's bad for you, right?"
His eyes widened for a moment, and then he looked at her with all the love he had; the way he'd looked at her every day since they'd been married.
"Oh Abbey," he said, coming forward, cupping her cheek in his hand. She leaned into his touch, and the past seven years without him vanished. "I love you so much."
His words were sealed with a kiss, and the weight she'd been carrying since his last breath was lifted.
This was her tomorrow.