"Flashlight in the Dark"
Author's Note: This is my first time trying a Jed/Abbey fic. Be gentle. =)
A man wanders into the seat of power. He's supposed to be there; the Secret Service agents wish him a good evening. But he does not hear.
His friend reacted just as the man had predicted it would happen. Shock. Fear. Disbelief. And rage. A sort of rage that now feels justified.
But a part of him rebels. Why could this happen? It couldn't happen. He's the Answer. The antithesis of 'the lesser of who cares.'"
But he's also a friend. A father, and a husband.
Wordlessly he begins to pace.
He was so scared when the diagnosis came back, but she was there. She's always been there. From the moment he tumbled onto her feet as a scared twenty-year old kid, she's put him in front of everything. Isn't it time he put her in front of everything?
But dammit, he says to himself as he turns, he doesn't want to do it! This is the last job he'll ever have, he tells himself. The last time he'll make a difference in millions of peoples' lives. He's not doing it for the history, or for the prestige, and this alone makes him unique; makes him different from the lesser of who cares. He is more than everyone who cares.
He has tried so hard. He has preached and taught and tried to pass on his knowledge to his children, real and adopted. After all, he has tried for two years. Seems like ninety.
He has lost his focus; he sees that now. He saw it the moment his friend spoke the words coup d'etat. He is frightened, but not for himself. Is the country to be dragged down because of his human error? Occupants of his office often forget; they are only human.
His gaze falls on the faces staring at him from the desk. If he must be the sacrificial lamb, he will fall for them. Their well being should be restored with his fall, not taken down with him.
She is his reminder, but she is not there. She is in Manchester, nursing a similar pain. Betrayal.
One might think her pain is worse. After all, her husband made her a promise. But his pain is the worst, because no one betrayed him but himself. Somehow all the idealism has gone out of the job he holds as the cherished ideal. It's his body that is pushing him to this point. And it's not fair.
She is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. It's something she does often; it's a way of lulling herself to sleep. She focuses on the blank white above her, trying to clear her mind. Normally it is very peaceful, but tonight it is fraught with everything she has tried so hard to put away. And tonight the bed is very empty.
It all started with his friend. The state of the union address had been a gauntlet thrown down not just to his opponents, but to her. Though it was inadvertant, his friend had shaped the rift.
She has put him above everything for so long. Isn't it time that he put her above everything?
Cause dammit, he promised! He looked her in the eye and promised! Told her he wouldn't endanger his mind or his health. But as she lays in bed she knows he is slipping away, and a disturbing comprehension comes to her: does she care?
She can't sleep anymore. She gets up and starts to pace about the room. Like a wraith she floats from corner to corner. And there are corners in this room.
She asks the question again, letting it float through her mind, in all its glorious obscenity. Does she care? He has put millions of strangers above his family for so long. Her medical practice. Her daughters' lives. They are all subservient, and for what? Being tossed to the pack of ravenous wolves?
Her husband is a good man. Fundamentally. He is kind, sweet, caring, just, funny, and gentle. They laugh in bed. But he has made less than good decisions. Will there be a difference? This is not high school, trying doesn't fucking count.
She stops as a phantom pool of light makes its way across the silent floor. It searches the hem of her nightgown like a spider, a flash of luminosity against her darkness.
It makes her think of all he has done. Will any of it remain when he is gone? Will he be just a memory, or will there be a two-ton cross in silent witness? Will they drape a white cloth about it when he passes?
He has brought this on himself, she rages as she crosses the room again. Himself.
He is his own betrayer. The smiler with the knife beneath his own cloak.
But how his friend Barabbas must be laughing now.
He will be damned, he decides, if he will go without a fight. He can already feel the demon assault on his fortifications. Evil triumphs when good men do nothing, so he has to move. His friend was right.
Why did he ever think he was a good man? Is he still? He may not be the lesser of who cares, but he is the greater of two fools. He has ruined everything. His friends' work is meaningless. The false idols come down. If evil triumphs when good men do nothing, then he must do nothing, for his own goodness or lack thereof. The thief is set free, and he will be cast adrift on the sea of his own fucking memories.
The ghosts are coming fast now. The men of Colombia haunt him as he reaches again for the photo frame, never stopping. Can't stop. If good men do nothing evil flourishes. Eerie breezes float across his cheek as he remembers them and thinks of her.
He will be the sacrifice. He will fall, and his friend will content himself with the knowledge that reason was on his side.
No one is perfect. But he is supposed to be. He feels like he's playing God, standing there in that dark room. Thousands, millions are in his hands. He has lied to them; he has administered the poison. And she was his willing accomplice, because she wanted it almost as badly as he did. Or he used to think so.
Now he's not sure what she wants.
He feels as though he's had an affair. In a way he has; it was easy and seductive to jump. And every moment they are apart is another moment that he wants it; wants her.
They both do penance. She by exile, he by flagellation. She will not come to the correspondents' dinner; what the hell does he think she is, stupid?
And she cannot countenance further betrayal. His friend has killed them both. But he has made them see the only path; the only way. It is not a way out but a way further in. Paradoxically this will guarantee release.
She continues to stride around the room, but stops at the window, and stares out at the landscape. The earth is scarred, she thinks, like her heart. Whatever his intentions he has made a shambles of her spirit.
She knows he will be the sacrifice. He will take the fall for the good of his friends and for her good. But she does not think it will help. Like the blob of light it is a temporary, ephemeral thing. His name will be maligned for centuries, and hers along with it.
It isn't fair, what she has had to go through. But nothing is fair. He was tempted, she thinks, and he fell. Evil is most evil when it is being good, after all.
There is a slap in the face: she is just as guilty. She wanted it. The power, the fame and opportunity to make a difference. Outside. But inside she has made just as many mistakes, just not public ones. She still bears the scars on her heart. She was tempted, and she fell.
She can't keep the tears in anymore and they fall as she moves faster and faster, with more purpose than before. For him, for their daughters, for herself, and for those people that put such faith in them. Who, she wonders, is the bigger loser in this war?
The beam of light slowly fades away with her tears. She is alone.
They had absolute power.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It is uppermost in their minds as the exile house closes down for the night.
The seat of power is now silent.
Except for the relentless sound of pacing in each room.