p class="MsoNormal"Face to Face/p
p class="MsoNormal" /p
p class="MsoNormal"The Sit Room, a night's restless sleep and then a morning reading reports about national security. It was time to walk and think. No horses to ride at the White House. No chores to do. Exercise seemed useless to him. It had no purpose. If he was moving there had to be a reason beyond just moving. Anyhow, the only exercise he could tolerate was swimming. It was a lonely activity. Kept him from talking and from people talking to him even if Charlie would eventually show up./p
p class="MsoNormal"Without giving it much thought, he made his way to the pool. Trunks were always available in the changing room. Pulling on the navy blue swimsuit with the seal of the President on the bottom of the left leg, he dropped his clothing onto the floor. When he was done with the swim, he'd find the clothing hanging up; clean underclothes and shirt exchanged for the things he'd worn. God forbid that the President of the United States put on wrinkled pants./p
p class="MsoNormal"The Service prepared the pool for him. Lights were turned on as were cameras and microphones. While he could be alone in the pool, he was always watched and that pissed him off. Yeah, he understood but understanding didn't make it any better. It was all shit./p
p class="MsoNormal"He dove into the chilly water and his unusual form took him from one end of the pool to the other where he kicked off and did another length and another and another. No one could call it a pretty crawl stroke but it worked. He was told that his eyes had to be open underwater and that lesson he indeed learned. Not that it made any sense but his father taught him that when a man swims, he keeps his eyes open. There was never any given reason but Jed learned not disagree with the old man and even now, though a grandfather himself, he did what he was told./p
p class="MsoNormal"Time didn't seem to matter. Maybe it was ten minutes since he started but maybe it was an hour. He had no clue and wanted none either. Occasionally, he thought he was getting tired and stopping was a good idea. Then again, occasionally drowning seemed like a good idea. Sense took hold and he forced the cowardice of suicide back into that place in his faith that named the act a mortal sin./p
p class="MsoNormal"Charlie learned early on how to enter the pool area quietly and remain unseen until his boss was ready for help. He knew the President well and saw his body getting more and more fatigued. Might make sleeping a bit easier later on but it could also turn into an MS episode. Knowing that the lesser two evils is still evil, he opted for getting his mentor out of the water./p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"Mr. President!" He had to yell for the President to hear in the wet circumstances. "Excuse me, Mr. President! You should be getting out of the water."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Jed made his way to pool's edge. Shaking water from the hair that now fell well over his eyes, he took several breaths as if he needed air. In truth, he did. Without saying anything to his Body Man, he dragged himself to the steps at the corner of the pool. Railings were quite useful nowadays since his MS, while still Relapsing/Remitting, recovery took longer and he felt the increasing weakness./p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"Get me a towel, Charlie."/p
p class="MsoNormal"It was already in his hand and he made his way to the steps. "You need a hand, sir?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Wet hands grabbed the railing and he climbed slowly up the few steps out of the pool. "I need a towel." It was handed over and his hair got first dibs./p
p class="MsoNormal"Charlie made an observation. "You know, sir, you need a haircut. It's getting kind of long."/p
p class="MsoNormal"The towel ended up over his damp shoulders. "I'm working on a ponytail. I'm thinking like Willie Nelson. You know braids down the middle of my back."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Charlie realized his boss was in no mood for friendly banter, but he opted to try anyhow. "That would be great. We could get you a guitar with a piece of it scratched out."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Plodding his way toward the changing room, Jed admitted something he'd told virtually no one. "Always wanted to play classical guitar but as much as I love music, I was skipped over on the talent department." They entered the locker room. He kept explaining, "Seems kind of petty of me, I guess. I mean I know I got a lot in the IQ department but it was music that drove my soul. I wasn't any good."/p
p class="MsoNormal"The comment was a surprise to the young man. "Well, sir, you sing a lot and you're not bad. I mean you stay on pitch and all but not everyone is good at everything."/p
p class="MsoNormal"As predicted earlier, his clothes were hung up and clean replacements introduced. The shower was turned on and he looked at his Body Man. "Did you ever wonder why people shower after swimming? I mean, you're clean and all."/p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"It's the chlorine, sir. That stuff isn't great for you, for anyone."/p
p class="MsoNormal"The water started spraying down and the President ducked inside. "Yeah."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Fifteen minutes later, the President and his aide left the locker room and made their way back to the residence. Charlie had to ask. "Are you through in the Oval for today?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"He repeated his word for the day, "Yeah. Ask CJ to come see me in an hour. We have to talk about the press conference. I got to get that over and done with."/p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"Sir, can I help you with that?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"While he wanted something someone anything to take the stress out of the upcoming confrontation, there was nothing for Charlie to do. "Just do your job, son and keep Zoey happy."/p
p class="MsoNormal"The encouragement from the man who despised all his daughters' chosen partners made Charlie fill with pride. "I will, sir."/p
p class="MsoNormal"They reached the door to the living room. A Secret Service agent opened it and the men entered. It just took two seconds to see the room was empty. "Where the hell is my wife?"/p
p class="MsoNormal""I think she's in her office. Want me to get her?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"He grabbed two fingers of Scotch, poured in a bit of water and sat down with the TV remote in his hand. "Charlie, go home. I'm here for the rest of the day. We have an early meeting tomorrow morning."/p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"Sir, you still want CJ to come up?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"A heavy sigh preceded, "No." Then he stopped, "Wait, yes. Give me an hour or so. I want to find Abbey first."/p
p class="MsoNormal"A nod of his head and a "Yes, sir," gave him leave./p
p class="MsoNormal"Channel surfing found Jed latching onto a game between Notre Dame and who cares. Scotch in hand and an empty room brought his attention to head games instead of Notre Dame's obvious upcoming victory. He closed his eyes and tried again to figure out the fantasy of bleeding hands./p
p class="MsoNormal"Bleeding hands. His father never cut his hands. He'd gotten a fair number of cuts and bruises on his hands but they were from farm work, usually from using tools too big for his little boy body. There was this one garden spade that could rough up his palms quite a bit but that was all he recalled and he couldn't recall doing too much digging./p
p class="MsoNormal"He downed the rest of the scotch in one huge gulp knowing he'd be sorry about it later. However, getting drunk sounded good. Pouring a second glass, he sat across from the TV and decided for Abbey to show on her own rather than search for her. The way his moods had been, he knew she'd be looking for him anyhow. That second scotch didn't last long either. His debate regarding a third glass was interrupted by his wife noisily entering./p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"Relaxing a bit, are we?" She plopped down on the sofa across from him./p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"Trying to." He stood up a little clumsily and moved toward the alcohol. "Want a drink? I'm on my third glass here. I can see why Leo thought drinking was a positive activity. Numb can be good."/p
p class="MsoNormal"She got up and grabbed the glass from his hand. "Two scotches is your limit. You are not a good drinker. You get scrambled very easily." Abbey took his shoulders and turned him around. "Back to the chair, pumpkin."/p
p class="MsoNormal"As he followed her directions, it occurred to him to ask, "I'm more used to jackass and Jethro, but why did you pick pumpkin for a nickname for me?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Her hands fell to his rear end. "Because you have a nice round pumpkin butt. A lot of men have no ass, but yours is really nice."/p
p class="MsoNormal"The combination of alcohol and her answer flushed his face. "You can't be serious."/p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"Oh, yes, I can." She got him to sit and she took her place back on the sofa. "So, what are you trying to forget now?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"They were only words and simple words at that. She said them to try and help him open up about his thoughts but it felt like another blow. His head dropped a little but only Abbey would have noticed the slight shift in posture. "I'm sorry, Jed. That came out wrong. When you double down on scotch, you're trying to forget something but you know full well that it will still be there when you're sober." He said nothing while completely understanding the truth she was telling him. "Can I tell you what I think is going on?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"He half-smiled. "I'm a game show, aren't I? Can you guess what's on the President's mind today? If you can, would you please let him know?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"She paid his remarks no attention at all. "You have to make a decision and stick to it. You're going back and forth. 'Should I tell everyone the ungodly truth? Should I keep quiet? Should I just try to forget everything? What will my legacy be as President?'"/p
p class="MsoNormal"His head turned fiercely toward her. "I'm not concerned with my legacy."/p
p class="MsoNormal""Bullshit. You're not just the President. You're Josiah Bartlet. You were named for a Founding Father of this country. You are concerned with legacy."/p
p class="MsoNormal"The truth bit him hard. "Yeah, well, your ancestors were pirates."/p
p class="MsoNormal"That debate would not be taking place. "Josiah three-t Bartlett put his life on the line for his country. You think he did it to create a legacy that you'd have to live up to? He would honor the truth despite the pain of it all. His legacy won't live on in you if you decide to hide away and you know that. What is keeping you from doing what you know is right?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"He figured she had to understand by now. It puzzled him. Still, if she had to be that honest, then he did, too. "Believe me, I am so grateful that you have no frame of reference but . . ." Anger gripped his body and his eyes went stone cold. "Try to imagine the depth of shame I own. He hit me all the time but he also came close to killing me and then he sold me. How can someone with that history think he should be President of the United States? People had trouble with the MS stuff. They'll crucify me for this."/p
p class="MsoNormal"span style="mso-spacerun: yes;" /span"What are you concerned about? What the public thinks or what your father thinks? I'm tired, Jed and if I'm tired you must be near death with exhaustion. Make the decision you need, not three-t Josiah, or your damned father."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Anger simply grew harder in his eyes and it scared both of them. Like a scolded child, he poured himself more scotch, pulled a pack of cigarettes from the end table drawer and walked toward the door./p
p class="MsoNormal"She followed right at his heels, grabbed the glass and the cigs from his hands. "You're not running away from me. Make a decision and I'll stick with you regardless of my idea of wrong or right. We can live with the ramifications but this endless 'should I shouldn't I' crap has to stop."/p
p class="MsoNormal"His hands started shaking. "You really don't get it. I just thought you'd figure it out. You're smart and I know you love me. I'm pretty transparent to you but you really don't get it."/p
p class="MsoNormal"Now her anger was growing and the edge of her understanding was being trounced on. "What? What don't I get?"/p
p class="MsoNormal"Jed faced his wife and his gaze pierced her heart. "This complicates the idea of my father raping the boys at school. The only thing my father ever said I was good for was fucking. Get it now?" There was no recognition on her face. "My father fucked me and not just once and not just alone with him and I went along with it."/p
p class="MsoNormal"He took back the scotch and the cigs and left Abbey alone to try and make sense of what she just heard. Tears fell with no sound as she prayed, "Please God, let there be no more to this. Please."/p