"Last Beautiful Girl"
Category: Jed/Abbey, series
Rating: PG-13, language
Spoilers: 18th & Potomac, Two Cathedrals
Disclaimers: Not mine, Sorkin's. I'm just borrowing them, and matchbox twenty's wonderful, insightful music. Please don't sue, this is done out of love.
Feedback: samwest5@hotmail.com
Summary: Bartlet meditates on the two most important women in his life. (Mad Season #3)

Now every fool in town would have left by now
I can't replace all the wasted days
And the memory of your face...
The one that you broke won't take you back
If you were the last beautiful girl in the world...

Sometimes I don't know why I ever married that woman.

No. That's not true. I take that back.

See, Abigail? People can take things back.

Ah, hell. What can I say? Abigail McCall was – and still is, by the way – the most beautiful girl in the world. She dazzled me. She was sitting there on the bench on the corner of St. Mary's college, and gauche, gawky me had to go trip, land in her lap and scatter her notes all over the common. I was madly in love.

D'you know, Mrs. Landingham hated Abbey at first? It's God's own truth. Called her a strumpet. I will never forget what she said to me. Right there in my father's own office. "She's no good, Jed. She's too stubborn by half. Two of you in the same relationship is a bad thing. And she doesn't act like a lady; she acts like a strumpet. One of these days she'll get you into trouble."

Little did she know that the trouble would be almost entirely of my own making.

It's wrong to blame Abbey for any of this. Political fuck-ups happen. But this... honestly, how could I have been so na´ve as to think this would never become an issue? And how stupid could I have been as to make that damned deal?

It was wrong of me to make the deal. But it's wrong of Abbey to expect me to keep it now. I understand that she's worried about my health. But for Christ's sake. Doesn't she understand after all these years that if I walk away now I'll leave with nothing? We haven't accomplished a quarter of what I wanted to. I know that if we get half I'll be lucky. But to feel like any measure of a man I can't leave with this.

Abbey has a tendency to be either amazingly altruistic or completely self-centered. This is one of those rare occasions where those two sides of her are obscured. She's being self-centered, because she wants what's best for her. She's never liked Washington, and she feels like she's stuck in my shadow. But she's being altruistic as well because she's worried about me, and even aside from the M.S. she doesn't want me going through a long, drawn-out party battle. I just wish she'd open her mind a bit, and maybe notice that if I have to walk through fire naked I will to get back to this office.

The thing is that the one woman who would understand how I feel is Mrs. Landingham. Lord have mercy, I miss her already. My office feels empty. And she didn't even work directly in my office. She's been my conscience for thirty years.

I have to keep telling myself I'm not crazy, but I do remember what she said to me in the Oval. "If you don't want to run because you think it's too hard, or you're gonna lose, then God, Jed, I don't even want to know you."

Those words meant everything to me.

Abbey is my wife. I love her. But Mrs. Landingham, as Leo put it, was a real old dame. And he wasn't being sexist. He meant she was a lady of the old school. She was old-fashioned, but she was smart and feisty, and knew what she wanted. There was nothing between Mrs. Landingham and me. Just thirty years of respect and admiration.

And if I didn't know better, I'd say Abbey was jealous.

It's impossible for me to be objective right now. I've got a campaign to think about, and the day-to-day Presidential stuff, not to mention mourning my secretary and missing my wife and daughters. But still. There was something about Abbey in the limo, on the way to the funeral. Bringing up the driver, vehicular manslaughter, stuff like that. I can take one of two interpretations of that. She was trying to light a fire under my ass, or she was being malicious. And given that I haven't been her favorite person lately, I'd have to say that being malicious might have been her intent.

It really isn't fair. After all I've been through. After all *we've* been through. It's like I said. Are these really the acts of a loving God? A just God? A wise God? I do feel sort of bad about my tirade in the National Cathedral. Now. I sure as hell didn't then. But whether it was exhaustion or Mrs. Landingham, I feel bad now. It's our right as humans to question God. To maybe even take Him to task. But it's not my right to blame every problem in my life on God.

Sometimes, though, I have to wonder. What sort of cosmic sadist is God that He lets things like this happen? I mean, look back. Josh. The MS. Leo's drinking problem. The way I look at it is this. Either God is not all good – which I don't believe – or God is not all-powerful. My first reaction is, what the hell kind of deity isn't all-powerful? But then my better voices shout me down. Maybe God isn't all powerful because He wants to be closer to us as humans. Lord knows we're far from perfect. But if He isn't all-powerful he's picked a lousy few times to abdicate authority.

I feel very alone right now. Mrs. Landingham might have been stodgy and stubborn, but so am I. She knew how I felt on a lot of issues. Abbey might be closed-minded and self-centered, but if she's self-centered, so am I. And we have years behind us that testify to an ability to work all this out.

I hope Abbey works all this out for herself. And I hope Mrs. Landingham's happy, wherever she is. Abbey is my wife, and there are so many great things about her. We've laughed, cried, won elections... I could go on. But it's like Leo said. Mrs. Landingham was of a dying breed. She was a great lady, and I will always miss her. She really was the last beautiful girl in the world.

Tell me one more time how you're sorry about the way
This all went down – you needed to find your space...
Won't be the first heart that you break
It won't be the last, beautiful girl...



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