So, this one I blame on tzikeh, with a side helping for Dorinda. It's West Wing, for one thing, and it's Jed&Leo, for another, which. Well. Blame taken care of, thanks go to the aforementioned Dorinda and torch for reading over and making several very good suggestions. Very much inspired in tone by Incurable, by LC. Go read it, if you haven't. After you read this one. *g*

Tzikeh? *mwah* This one's for you. Happy After Birthday. I hope you like it. I think you will.

By Any Other Name

It was harder without him. Not harder to do the right things, because even if he wasn't right there, he was still never far away.

Just...harder to get through the day knowing he wasn't right next door, to do all the things Leo knew had to be done, to be the person that the President expected him to be. That Leo needed to be for him. The Speaker was doing fine, showing no tendency to go power mad and try and stage a party coup. An intelligent man, but an intelligence of a far different caliber than the President's.

And when had he stopped using Jed's name, even in the privacy of his own mind? Maybe when he realized it was safer that way. Jed. Right now, he was simply Jed. Jed. He'd have to be careful not to get used to it again, because this would all end, and things would go back to normal, God willing.

It was enough to drive a man to drink, if a man could drink. If a man weren't relied upon. If a man hadn't been saved.

He and Abbey were in the residence, and Leo could only imagine what they were going through, how he'd feel if it were his daughter (as if it weren't bad enough that it was Zoey, someone he'd known all her life) -- only he couldn't, since somebody had to keep moving, had to keep making the decisions and make sure that the rest of the staff kept going smoothly through the motions, all of them still shocked and quiet. Strangely, disturbingly quiet. There wasn't enough to distract him from his own thoughts, so he just didn't think, except about those things that were safe.

"Is there anything?" Leo hadn't noticed him at the door, which was a sign of how abnormal things were. In the normal course of things, he never had to wait to get Leo's attention. Leo looked at him, saw the lines on his face, aging him overnight, looked for any signs of tremor, anything that might indicate--

"Nothing." You know I'd tell you as soon as anything. And he did know, of course, but that didn't stop him hoping that maybe just this once... "How's Abbey doing?"

"She's sleeping, finally. The girls are with her. She wanted me to take something to help me sleep, but she's not in a fit state to force the issue, thank God. I don't want to sleep." He sat down on Leo's couch. "Don't let me get in the way."

"You're never in the way, sir."

He smiled wanly. "It's me, Leo, plain old Jed. You apparently didn't notice, but I seem to have misplaced my presidency." The tone in his voice was warm and wry and dangerous, inviting, but not in any way that anyone else would have heard. Not even Jed himself.
"You really should try and sleep. I'll send someone to wake you if anything--"

Jed waved a hand. "Don't you start. I'll sleep when sleep comes. Right now, I try and all I can do is think about what may have happened--"

"Don't-- Can I do anything? Do you want to play a game of chess, or something? I'm sure Toby's still around, I can--"

"Sit down, Leo. I don't want Toby, and I don't want to play chess. He'd probably win, and then he'd feel guilty for taking advantage of me when I'm weak." He waved Leo back into his chair. "You're doing everything I need you to do, I know that. I just--" He leaned back in the couch, looking defeated in a way Leo hadn't seen in...ever. Leo fisted his hand on his thigh, feeling more helpless than he'd felt in a very long time, more helpless than when Jenny left, than when he'd failed Jed on the campaign, than... He hadn't felt this way since Jed had picked him up and believed in him, and here he was, believing in him again, believing that if he could, Leo would go find Zoey himself, anything to get that look off Jed's face.

Jed sat up, hands on his knees, looking around the office blankly. "I better get back. If I'm not there when Abbey wakes up, she'll send one of the girls to find me." His gaze sharpened, turning back to Leo. "I know you'll find her."

"I will, sir." Leo swallowed hard. "Jed."

the end
Please send feedback to: elynross