Working Title: John's Quest

By: Abra de Winter

Pairing: John Hoynes/Ellie Bartlet - Romance

Rating: PG

Beta By: dot

Disclaimer: The characters are from the NBC, WB, Bravo, A John Wells Prod., TV show, 'The West Wing'.They are the creation of Aaron Sorkin.

Feedback: yes, please!

Chapter I

He staggered a little walking out of the bar. He pressed his bruised hand on his swollen lip and decided to postpone checking his ribs until he got in his car.

Why was he there?

A recovering alcoholic involved in a bar fight. However low he had fallen from the political scene, the press was definitely going to run the story if they got wind of it. Not to mention that the White House would love nothing more than seeing his name trashed after his suicidally stupid idea of writing a disclosure book.

John Hoynes lay back in the driver seat and closed his eyes thinking about all the things that could go horribly wrong after that fight.

He had every reason to be in a bar, God damn it!

Some months ago, he had lost the vice presidency and implicitly the party's nomination because his lover decided to get back at him publicly for being dumped in his feeble attempt to save his marriage. That had hurt like hell and he had desperately wanted to drink. The need was so intense that all he could do to stop himself was hang around the house until he got on Suzanne's nerves.

Despite the pain and the public ridicule, he did not give in to temptation. He did not drink. Instead, he took the first serious job offer that came his way. He worked hard, learning again to be just another high-priced corporate lawyer, burying his frustration in tons of legal papers and extinguishing his thirst by walking hundreds of miles through courts and legal offices.

Of course people kept talking beside his back, but at least to his face they were keeping an acceptable level of courtesy. He could ask for nothing more. Life had acquired a rhythm, an appearance of normality, when Suzanne had made herself heard. His wife made it clear that she had not sacrificed her youth promoting a spotless image to be married an ordinary lawyer.

For the first time in their twenty years of marriage, John listened to his wife and understood that she had fashioned herself and their family to become the First Family. Memories came flooding… Her concealed disappointment when he lost the nomination to the insignificant schoolteacher from New Hampshire… Her stifled doubts about his affairs... Her determination to win… Her silence following his failures…

The realisation that she would love him a lot more if he were the President of the United States made him do the most irresponsible thing he had done in over two decades.

Ten days earlier a ghost from his past had visited him. C.J. Cregg had come to dissuade him from writing the book. His pathetic attempt of full disclosure. It shocked him to hear C.J.'s interpretation of their night together. She thought she was just another one in a long line of women that passed through his bed.

"Lots of them, right? Because the way you came on to me...way too smooth, way too practiced..."

He could not tell her. She wouldn't believe him anyway. So he acted like the jerk she believed him to be. He apologized.

"C.J., that was ten years ago, I am sorry…"

If she lived ten years with the certainty that she had been just another one night stand, he had no way to change her mind. Yes, he had been smooth. He came on to her with the intensity given by overpowering desire. He had done everything perfect, not out of practice, but out of need. He was running for Senate for the first time and he risked his career to have her. When she left his room that morning, adamantly pretending nothing had happened, his heart shrunk two sizes.

There had been affairs after her, but he had been careful not to get emotionally involved ever again. He had been careful until he met Helen Baldwin. Helen, who reminded him of the C.J. he had had for one night. Helen, who was so much like his wife when they were first married. Helen, who had destroyed him.

Ten days ago he had come home, late as usual. He had told Suzanne, over a cup of tea and a sandwich, that he had changed his mind about writing the autobiography. There wasn't going to be any book. There wasn't going to be a political comeback. There wasn't going to be a fight to get the Democrat nomination.

Eight days earlier, Suzanne had packed and moved back to Texas with their son.

Earlier that day, at noon, he had been served with the divorce papers.

Was there any wonder he was in a bar?

He had run out of his office, barely able to ask his assistant to postpone all his appointments for the day. He used his last ounce of lucidity to drive to a neighbourhood where he was unlikely to be recognized. Southeast D.C. was not a safe choice for people like John Hoynes. Drugs, guns and gangs were the trademark of the neighbourhood.

Two hours later he was still sober. For two hours he had stared at the same glass of whisky, had drunk the bar's entire supply of orange juice, and had been blind to all female presence in the area.

Where had it gone wrong?

He couldn't really say.

All he remembered was a big guy coming towards him. A big drunk guy. The giant accused him of flirting with his girlfriend. Fifteen minutes later, John Hoynes was the last man standing. The offended boyfriend and his assorted entourage were sorting themselves out of the debris. John gave the bartender enough money to cover the damages and walked out, praying that no one had recognised him in the shadowy bar.

He was at the door when he felt that his lip was bleeding and his ribs were hurting.

He needed to see a doctor.

The press had sources in every hospital in the city.

Who could keep a medical condition secret?

He had been driving aimlessly for a while when the answer came out of nowhere.

The solution was so radical that he had a hard time believing it was actually safe.

Who could keep a secret?

A Bartlet.

Ellie Bartlet asked her secret service bodyguard to repeat.

"Mr. John Hoynes is here to see you, Dr. Bartlet. He says it's an emergency. Shall I let him in?"