Title: Empty Shouting
Disclaimer: They belong to Aaron Sorkin except for the ones that you
don't recognize. They belong to me.
Rating: R for language
Notes: The characters are out of character in this one. Just wanna warn ya.
Spoilers: Ellie; SGTE, SGTJ
Dedication: To Lin, for she bore with me, mentoring and beta-ing this
for me. And to everyone who has read my stories and replied back to me with such great words. Thank you.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," she mumbled under her breath.
Her roommate didn't look up from her book. "You were summoned by your father and you can't *believe* that you're doing what you're doing? El, get your head out of your ass and look around you. You're frightened of the left winged bastard."
Clearing her throat, Eleanor Bartlet crossed her arms. "Only I get to call my father a left winged bastard."
"No, your favorite thing to say is 'my father, the President of the United States, the left winged sonuvabitch'," Meghan Gull smirked, standing and stretching. Placing a hand on her stomach and looking into a full length mirror sideways, she grinning at her reflection. "I'm so sexy."
"Yeah, and all the guys just can't seem to stop putting their hands on you."
Shrugging, Meghan told her, "Too bad I don't swing that way, huh?" Laughing, she coughed and looked at a figure in the doorway, "What's up mi chica?"
Placing her hands on the doorframe, the redhead at the door smiled at the two and said, "There's a car here for ya Els."
Picking up her duffle bag, Ellie sighed. "Spring break and where am I going? Cancun? Florida? Mexico? No, I'm going to the fuckin' White House to be with my *parents* of all people. Thank God for hot Secret Service Agents."
"Eh." Meghan shrugged. As Ellie walked out, she scurried to the door and called after her, "Don't forget to send a postcard!"
"And lastly, Eleanor will be coming to stay with the First Family over her spring break. I do believe this is the first time that the President's middle daughter has stayed a full week in the Residence with the Family." Seeing a hand shoot up, C.J. nodded and adjusted her glasses. "Yeah Chris?"
"Why the sudden change of heart?"
"The President asked her to come." Seeing that there were no more questions, C.J. gave a delighted smile. "Well, that's a full lid. See you all here bright and early Monday morning. Night."
Feeling Danny behind her, she waited until she was safely in her office before turning around and asking, "What?"
"Why exactly is Ellie coming?"
"Weren't you listening? The President asked her to come," she told him, sitting down and glaring.
Taking a seat himself, Danny stared point blank at the Press Secretary. "C.J., don't act like I'm stupid. I wrote a book on the First Lady. I remember the long nights of the campaign. And I'm sure you do. All those times you had to cover for why the reporters heard shouts from the other room." Sighing, Danny stood and went for the door. "Ellie and the President don't get along; at all. Everyone knows that. Hell, Ellie and the *First Lady* don't even get along." Shaking his head, he gave her a weak smile and walked out.
Picking up a pen, she started to play with it before setting it down, getting up and walking out of her office.
Pouring a glass of red wine, Ellie picked up one of the many magazines that she brought with her and went into a sitting room, waiting for her parents and sister to walk in.
It wasn't long, about half a glass shy of being done, that she heard her family from the end of the hallway. Willing herself not to look up, Ellie found the picture of the Liz Claiborne clothes to be more exciting than seeing her family.
"Els!" ZoŽ cried. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, so she doesn't know?" Ellie murmured, finally looking up with questioning eyes to her parents. "Seems plausible."
Glaring at her daughter, Abigail Bartlet shook her head in a warning. "We thought you were going to be here tomorrow."
"Well, surprise." Throwing her hands out weakly, she pulled them back in, adjusted her legs deeper into the chair, took a sip of wine and went back to the magazine, ingnoring her family once again.
Running both her hands through her hair, she felt a piece of it fall in front of her eyes as she closed her eyes and put her hands on her face.
'Saturday morning, could be on the beach, but I'm stuck here with my family.' Turning around, Ellie smiled wanly at her niece. "Hey Annie."
"Eleanor, what'cha doin'?" the girl repeated, bouncing into the room and onto the bed.
'Great, knows me so well, she doesn't even need to call me aunt,' she thought bitterly. "Thinking."
"Honey, what are *you* doing here?" Ellie asked as sweetly as possible.
"Well, Grandma Abbey asked me to come and get you. Breakfast," she ended with a smile. "So, c'mon. They're not going to start until you get there."
With a knowing smile, Ellie stood and nodded partly. 'Ah, so that's all. She just wants to eat.'
Like old times, ZoŽ and Elizabeth sat next to their father, one on the left, one on the right, while Ellie took the empty seat. Not looking up from the newspaper, Jed took a sip of coffee and told her, "Thanks for joining us Eleanor."
"Hey, no problem Dad," she said, taking her napkin and placing it on her lap. "Oh, pancakes." Helping herself to some, she didn't look at her family members as they began to awkwardly serve themselves.
"Sausage, Annie?" Jed asked his granddaughter, holding the plate out to her.
"No thanks. I've turned vegetarian." The girl smiled with all her teeth and went on eating her pancakes.
"Ellie," Abbey spoke up.
Looking up, the young woman raised an eyebrow in question, mouth full of food.
"Would you like to take a walk after breakfast? I'll show you the grounds."
Swallowing hard, she nodded. "Sure." Keeping her confusion hidden, she blinked rapidly. "Right after breakfast?"
"Well, no. I have a few things that need to be taken care of, but after that, yes."
Glancing at her grandmother with gleeful eyes, Annie asked, "Can I come too?"
Smiling brightly, but shaking her head, Abbey told her, "I want to catch up with your aunt. Privately."
"Oh." Slumping in her chair, Annie sighed heavily and then looked over at her eldest aunt, a cross look on her face.
Choking on her food and then suddenly feeling sick, Ellie asked weakly, "May I be excused?"
Rolling his eyes, Jed waved his hand. "Yeah."
Taking her plate and placing a few more items of food upon it, she walked out, Elizabeth's voice carrying, "Annie, sit *up*. There is no slouching at this table."
Wandering absently through the halls of the west wing, Ellie ran her hands over the cool wood. It was two hours after the breakfast and her mother still had yet to come and get her so they could go on their walk.
An agent trailed behind her, looking straight ahead at her back.
"Do you really need to follow me in the White House?" she wondered, not looking back.
"Your father has strict rules that I follow you everywhere for your protection."
Spinning around, Ellie cocked her head. "Tell me, and be honest, are you doing this 'cause it's your job or are you my Secret Service Agent 'cause my father wants you to spy on me?"
"Ma'am, even if the President held me at gunpoint, I still wouldn't tell him what you do in your spare time."
Taken aback, Ellie let out a laugh. "Man, you have no idea how refreshing it is to hear you say that."
Turning her head in the sound of the voice, she smiled politely. "Hello Mr. Lyman."
Sighing defeatedly, Josh just smiled. "You're looking good."
"What are you doing down here?"
"Taking a one-person tour of restricted areas."
Tapping her chin, she asked, "You okay?"
"Why do you ask?"
"You look kinda...tired."
"You could say that," Josh mumbled.
Leaning on a desk, Eleanor wondered, "Do you know where I can get really cheap postcards? My roommate really wants one."
"Yeah, she's got a thing for 'em."
Shrugging, he told her, "There's a drug store not too far from here."
Snapping her fingers, she smiled. "Great. Henry, let's go." Standing straighter, she nodded to Josh. "Nice seeing you again, Mr. Lyman." Whistling, she put her hands in her jean's pockets and walked down the hallway, away from the west wing.
Going to the check out lane, Ellie put her items on the counter and got out her wallet, whistling.
"That'll a three-fifty," the cashier told her.
Handing her a five, Ellie smiled at Henry, who was waiting.
"You look familiar, do I know you from somewhere?" the cashier asked, handing Ellie her change.
"I shop here often," she lied through her teeth, wanting to go.
"No, that's not it." The girl tapped her chin. "Hey, I know! Aren't you in my Pysch class?"
Snapping her fingers, Ellie nodded. "Yeah, that's it." Gathering her bag to her chest, she pointed. "Listen, I don't mean to be rude, but I really gotta book it and all..."
"Yeah, yeah." Waving, the cashier called out, "Don't forget to read chapters fifteen to eighteen."
Walking out the door briskly, Ellie didn't even stop when she saw her picture on the front page of the Washington Post.
Putting her bag on the table, Ellie looked around and then at the clock. It was four in the afternoon. Knowing she wasn't gone all that long, she went in search for her mother to see if she wanted to do that walk now.
Sitting in an overstuffed chair, she crossed her legs and tapped one on the floor, looking around her at all the family pictures. There were a few with her in, but most had either her sisters, parents or niece in them.
Getting impatient, she stood and started pacing back and forth. This wasn't what she wanted to do with her afternoon; wait for someone. Going to a window, she blinked slightly as she watched her mother play with Annie.
Rushing down the stairs and opening a door, she stood there, shocked and hurt.
Hearing her daughter, Abbey looked up, keeping her smile. "Ellie! Why don't you join us."
With a thick tongue, Ellie couldn't find her voice. Standing there, she breathed in deeply, trying to see past the tears that were forming. "No thank you."
Taking a step back, she turned on her heel and brushed past Henry. "If anyone asks..." she stopped and shook her head. "Never mind, if they really want me, they'll find me."
Fidgeting with her watch, Ellie felt unwanted tears stream down her face as she sat on her bed, abandonment settling in her stomach.
Letting out a sob, she doubled over, head barely touching her knees and put one hand on her belly and the other on her forehead.
Sniffling, the sobs grew louder and she slid from the bed to the floor, knees bunched up. Pounding the floor below her, she shook her head, hand still on her forehead.
Above the sobs, she heard her name being called out by her mother's voice.
Crawling to the open door, she closed it hard and sat with her back to the heavy wood. Pounding on the other side and her name being called and then yelled made the sobs come faster and harder.
Coughing and crying at the same time, she sniffled harder, wishing she had some kleenex at hand. But that was in the bathroom and she didn't feel like getting up, going to the bathroom and having her mother find the door unlocked and come in on her.
Her father's voice was suddenly there, screaming it sounded like, to let them in.
Finding her voice, she screamed back, "No!" before feeling the door being opened. Scrambling to her feet, she fell onto the bed, but braced herself before hitting the mattress.
"Damn it Eleanor Marie, look at me," her father seethed.
Not turning around, she felt her face grow numb from the tears and began coughing. Her sobs grew quieter, but her chest and shoulders still heaved. Hiccuping, Ellie moved one hand to her chest and breathed in deeply, trying to calm herself.
"Look. At. Me." Jed's tone was deathly.
But it was her mother's that annoyed her. "Go wash up dear." It was too sweet, too soothing.
Turning around, she stared at her parents, letting her hair fall in tangles around her face. "Damn it, no." Pointing to Abbey, she growled, "You didn't come."
"Honey." Abbey advanced at her, only to see her daughter take a step back. "I was busy."
"Yeah," she sneered. "Busy playing with Annie? Busy with the rest of the family? Right. Whatever. I'm through with believing everything that comes out of your mouth." Letting out a hiccup, she took in a shaky breath left over from her tears. "It's over. I'm sick and tired of being the one that's left out. The one that has to be there for the functions, but when everything is over with, shipped back to the corner until I'm needed to be made pretty again."
"Damn it young lady, that's enough!" Jed boomed, waving his arms around. "What do you mean, sent to the corner? How could we send you to the corner if you're never here!"
As the two stunned adults watched, Ellie walked unsteadily to the bathroom, went down to her knees, put the toilet seat up and vomited.
Gasping, Abbey tried to go to her, but felt herself motionless. "Eleanor."
Resting her back to the wall, Ellie wiped her mouth and then stood, running some cold water. Cupping her hands, she let the water pool in them and brought the sweet liquid to her rancid mouth, swishing it around, and then spitting it out.
"You don't care."
"How the hell would you know if we cared if you're never here," Jed growled, repeating the words. "We try more than you'll ever know. Don't you think your mother and I want you to come and get into our lives a little more?"
Clutching the sink, she tilted her head so she was looking at them. "When were you ever there for *me*? When was it that Liz or ZoŽ didn't come first? At the functions, it was always what they were doing in school, not what I was doing. Shit. I even took up medicine to get in your good graces, Mom. But no. When I went to John Hopkins, it was a skippy. When ZoŽ got into Georgetown, it was a hurrah! Let's go to her dorm and see how she's living. Let's make a bigger deal about her. Ellie's on the Honor Roll? Oh, who cares? Elizabeth dropped out of college and is having a baby!"
Setting his lips in a straight line, her father glared at her. "Are you trying to tell us that we're not paying attention to you?"
"And to think, you actually run the country." Shaking her head, Ellie walked out of the bathroom and put on her shoes. "Thank God you have help with that."
"Where are you going?" Abbey murmured.
"I need a cigarette."
"You're not going anywhere."
Raising an eyebrow, she stopped in mid-stride. "You're suddenly giving a damn, Dad?"
"I have always cared about you," he hissed, locking his eyes with her's.
"Man, you really showed that while I was growing up, didn't ya?"
"Go the family room."
"Like hell I will."
Gripping her arm, the first time he had ever physically went after her, Jed growled, "Sitting room now. We're going to have a talk."
Her edge didn't wear down. "Oh wow. You mean we're actually going to have a family talk? My oh my, how wonderful it will be to listen how I've screwed up this family once more and how we're all going to have to come together as a family unit and work through my fuck ups." Wrenching her arm free, she yelled, "Henry!"
The Agent stood at the open door. "Ma'am?"
"We're going out tonight."
"Of course ma'am, I'll get a car."
Abbey walked forward, her hand on her daughter's arm. "Were are you going?"
"Don't know, Ma, but I'll find out soon enough." Dipping her head, she grabbed her long coat and put it on as she walked past her sisters standing in the hallway, gaping.
Pointing to her, Liz wondered, "You're actually going to let her just walk away?"
Snapping his head in her direction, Jed snarled, "And you have a better idea?"
Standing as she watched the figure walk through the crowded restaurant, Ellie smiled weakly. "I didn't pull you away from anything, did I?"
Sam shook his head. "What's up?"
"Can I stay at your place tonight?" she wondered, setting her elbows on the table.
Watching the waiter put down his drink, Sam shook his head. "No."
"What...? Sam," she cried. Her chin began to tremble again. "God! First my parents, now you. Who else is going to kick me out?"
"I'm not..." he lowered his voice. "I'm not kicking you out, Eleanor. Listen, you *have* to work this shit out with your parents, okay? And sleeping on my couch like last time isn't going to make it better."
"It'll at least give us some cooling down time," she mumbled.
Sitting back, he sighed. "Did you try C.J.?"
Nodding, Ellie bit her lip. "She said kinda the same thing you did." Glancing upwards, she shook her head and said, "You two are more like parents to me then my own."
Snorting, Sam shook his head slowly. "Don't let them here you say that."
"Whatever." She shrugged. "I'm going back to Baltimore tomorrow. See if a few of my friends are still there and if they wanna do somethin'."
Leaning in, his eyes on her, Sam said, "Listen kid, I know you want to go home. I know by the look on your face that you got into a serious shouting match with your parents, but look, if you don't face these demons now, you never will. They're your parents; they love you. You know that, I know you do." Touching her arm, he shook his head. "You can't run."
Biting her lip, she nodded. "I know." Standing, she nodded to Henry. "Oh, and Sam?"
"Maybe you should take your own advice. I'm sure your father needs more than one phone call right now."
~*~ Bartlet Campaign Headquarters August 4, 1999
Gripping her bag closer to her chest, Eleanor Bartlet felt a low growl go through her. She hadn't eaten since breakfast and it was long past lunch. Sighing heavily, she pushed open one of the heavy glass doors and walked through, only to be smacked in the vicinity of her eye by a hand.
"Oh, God, I'm so sorry," a tall woman gasped, a hand on her mouth.
"Hey, it's cool," Ellie murmured, putting a finger below her eye. Tears began to well up and she willed herself not to cry. It didn't hurt, anyway. She was just becoming too emotional.
Setting down the stack of papers, the woman peered closer at her. "Hey, you're not okay. C'mere, sit, I'll get you some water."
"It's really..." but the words stopped on the tip of her tongue and Ellie sighed.
Walking back with the cup of water, she bent down. "Are you a volunteer?"
Taken aback, Ellie began to laugh into the cup. "No. I'm Eleanor Bartlet."
"Great," the woman mumbled. "First day here and I'm already screwing it up."
"It's cool. I'm sure nobody else knows who I am anyway." Spotting a man, she tried to make herself smaller. "Well, except for him."
Turning around, the woman pointed. "Leo?"
"Uh-hmm. Who are you, by the way?"
"Oh! C.J. Cregg."
"And it's your first day?"
"Yeah, Toby asked me to come along for the ride and being soaked and all, I said yes." Seeing her raised eyebrow, C.J. waved a hand. "Long story. If you ever wanna go to lunch and be bored to death with the story, tell me and I'll take ya."
Brushing some hair from her eyes, Ellie wondered, "Where's my father?"
Sam Seaborn turned his head to look at them and nodded. "Yeah?"
"Where's the Governor?"
"Out. With the family campaigning." Giving Ellie a quizical look, he asked, "Aren't you part of the family."
Rolling her eyes, she mumbled, "Yeah."
Picking up her papers, C.J. told her, "Well, listen, if you want to get that lunch with me today, just give me a few minutes to bring this to my desk and I'll take you out."
Smiling, Ellie told her, "I'd like that."
"Y'all are being so nice to me," Ellie whispered as they walked to the back booth in the restaurant.
Shrugging, Sam absently guided C.J. by putting a hand on her back. "We try."
"Why did you get get in so late?" C.J. wondered, picking up a menu.
"Ah, I see," she nodded. "You know what you're getting?"
"Yeah," Sam told her, shifting his eyes around the menu. "Where's the drinks?"
Flipping the thing around, she pointed and said, "Here."
Taking them in, Ellie watched carefully. Blinking back silent tears, she smiled through the haze. "Do you have any idea what time they might be back?"
"Your dad likes to take the whole afternoon sometimes," Sam told her. Stealing a glance at C.J., he winced. "It's pretty much touch and go with him."
"I..." she stopped, took a breath, nodded and went again. "I know that."
Over the crowd of people, the trio heard someone yell, "Look Toby! What'd I tell ya? They decided to come here."
"Yeah, and all you had to do to find this out was ask Carol," the bearded man rolled his eyes.
Giggling as she took a bite of her french fry, Ellie wondered, "Who are they?"
Startled by the question, C.J. and Sam glanced at each other again.
"Well," C.J. began. "The loud one is Josh Lyman and the other one is..."
"The "other" one, Claudia? That's how you introduce me even though I *got* you this job?" Shaking his head and then the young woman's hand, he told her, "My name's Toby Ziegler."
"Oh, yes, my father talked about you once...or twice...sorry, there are times that I zone out on him," she told him, blinking once. "It's nice to finally meet you."
"Whatta 'bout me?" Josh whined, taking a seat next to C.J.
Letting some hair fall across her face as she stared at him, C.J. wondered, "What about you Josh?"
"Hasn't Bartlet ever talked about me?"
Staring at him and tapping her chin, Ellie nibbled her lip, thinking hard. "Come to think of it, Mr. Lyman, no, he hasn't."
White House April 8, 2001
Checking her watch once more, she cursed under her breath. It was late, or was it early?, and she knew that if her parents heard her come in at such in hour, two in the morning, there'd be hell to pay.
Stopping in her tracks, she clenched her fists to her sides. "Dad."
"Nice to know that you actually came home."
Feeling him come a little closer, she closed her eyes and nodded. "Yeah, well, it's a comfortable bed that you got there."
"Where did you go?"
"Had a drink with Sam, went for a walk, then a drive, went for some more drinks with a few friends that I didn't know I had until tonight and then came home." Spinning on her heeled boot, Ellie nibbled her lip. "Daddy, you shouldn't be up."
The caution in her voice struck him as odd and Jed Bartlet took a few steps back. "You're probably right." Before he left, he called after her, "I want to talk to you later."
"For real?" she asked, an edge creeping in her voice. "Or are you going to blow me off too so that you can have some "bonding" time with Charlie?"
Setting his mouth in a straight line, he nodded curtly. "For real. Right after breakfast, we'll go for a ride and then a walk."
Laying in bed, she rolled over on her side and stared out the window. Closing her eyes she could practically see the room that she and her parents had their first fight on the campaign trail in...
Ellie stood in the middle of the room, watching her father pace around her. "Why the hell didn't you call?"
"I *did*," she told him softly. "But your phone was turned off."
"Still doesn't explain why you didn't come and look for us."
"No one knew where you all were!" She hollered and didn't bother to lower her voice. "Jesus Dad, you go around thinking that I'm a fricken mind reader or something? I'm not. What, I'm supposed to get off the plane, put my fingers to my head and say, 'Okay, where's Daddy know?' I don't think so."
"Eleanor," Abbey hissed, walking into the room. "Lower your voice. Your sister is trying to get some rest."
"Which is what you should be doing right now," Jed told his daughter, crossing his arms.
"I said, where? Where am I supposed to sleep? All of the rooms here are being used, and the couches are all loveseats, so there's no way in hell that I'm sleeping on *that*."
Shrugging, Abbey told her, "You can sleep with your sister for now."
"There's only one bed," Ellie reminded them. Then seeing their looks, she shook her head and waved her hands. "Oh no. Uh-uh. There is no way in hell that I'm sleepin' on the floor of all places my first night here. Maybe, just maybe, if I knew that that was the plan, it would be a different story, but the way y'all were talking, how you *wanted* me here, it seemed like you had a room ready for me and all."
There was a staring contest of sorts between she and her parents. Finally, she threw her hands up, picked up her bag and opened the door.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"To find an extra bed."
Stopping outside Sam's room-she knew it was his, for she asked the receptionist-she knocked hesitantly. When the door opened, she smiled weakly. "Hi."
"Mr. Seaborn, I know this might sound odd, but do you mind if I shack up with you for tonight? I tried Miss Cregg, but she has a Donna Moss in her room right now and doesn't have any beds left."
Letting her in, he blinked. "Why aren't you with your family?"
"We...umm...well...we had a fight," she told him. "And, I guess I should just get this out in the open, it's probably the first of many. So, I guess this is a good time as any to let you in on that."
"The first of many?" he echoed.
Shrugging, she let out a heavy sigh. "Yeah, me and my family, we don't get along all that well." Clapping her hands together, she asked, wide eyed, "So, can I shack up with you?"
White House April 8, 2001
"Coffee?" a butler wondered.
Snapping her eyes up from the book, Ellie shook her head. "Oh, no thank you. I don't like it."
Nodding politely, the butler walked away and stood erect as the President walked into the room.
"Eleanor, get your shoes on."
Standing up quickly, she did so, following him out of the Residence. "I thought we were going *after* breakfast."
"Change of plans." Turning his head, her father wondered, "Fine by you?"
Nodding, she swallowed hard and followed him outside and to a black car.
"Get in, we're going to have ourselves a little chat."
Empty Shouting - 2