Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1509
Character(s): Jed Bartlet, Abbey Bartlet
Episode(s): 1-07 The State Dinner
Crossover Shows: - No Show -
Summary: Jed and Abbey speak after losing the small ship in the hurricane.
Abbey silently closed the door behind her retreating husband, nodding to the ever present agents that they were in for the night. They had just come from the conference room where they both learned that the young man on the ship to shore radio had been lost as well all 68 members of the Hickory’s crew. The hurricane had hid the small supply ship from the bigger cruisers and carrier and the worst possible thing had occurred—the carrier had apparently run over the smaller ship. The captain said, although not confirmed when they left, that was the most logical reason for radio silence. One minute Jed had been talking with seaman third class Harold Lewis and the next minute—nothing.
As she turned back to him, he took off his coat, undid his formal tie, and threw open the doors to the Truman balcony even though the storm was still raging through Washington.
“Jed! Don’t go out there. Can’t you see we’re having one hell of a storm?”
Not responding, Jed proceeded out to the balcony, instantly getting soaked to the bone in the driving rain and wind. He reached into his pants packet, removed a cigarette from a pack, lighting it with his hand temporarily blocking the wind from the lighter’s flame.
Abbey waited patiently, thinking that he would soon come to his senses and return to the dry comfort of their room and her arms.
However, after waiting a few minutes, she realized that he was staying right where he was. She glanced at the scowl on his face, the glowing cigarette in his hand, his hunched shoulders, his shirt soaked as the storm continued its endless upheaval. She knew he held himself responsible for each and every death. He had supported the decision to move the fleet out of harbor, knowing that they would do better in the open sea during a hurricane.
But that wasn’t the only thing on his mind either. What else was bothering him she did not know but whatever it was he either couldn’t, or wouldn’t share with her.
Abbey walked over to the open door and urged her husband inside. “Jed,” she said softly. “Come out of the rain. You’ll going to catch pneumonia if you stay out there.”
No response. His expression didn’t change. He remained frozen to the same location, the wind and rain still pounding his body.
“Jed!” This time Abbey yelled, trying to make herself heard over the whistling wind. “Come in here. You’re getting soaked.”
She approached him from the rear, gently putting a hand on his shoulder. She hoped touch would bring him back from wherever he was. “Jed, please. Come in now.”
The touch worked. Slowly he turned to her, finally registering that she was talking.
“Please come in. You’re getting soaked and you’ll catch a cold if you don’t get warm.”
The initial blank stare turned into recognition. “Okay.” He threw the cigarette down and toed it into the concrete of the balcony.
Abbey turned and quickly grabbed some towels from the bathroom as he made his way inside. When she returned, Jed had sat down in one of the arm chairs, still quiet and distant.
“Come on. Let’s get you out these wet clothes and into a warm shower.” He didn’t resist Abbey’s words and soon was standing in the comforting water of a hot shower. Her dress was getting soaked but she stayed in the bathroom, encouraging her husband to stay under the water as long as possible.
After a few minutes, still silent, he turned the water off and wrapped a large fluffy towel around his waist. He silently walked out to their bed, where he grabbed the sweat pants that Abbey had laid out earlier. Sliding them on, he turned down the covers and slid between the sheets. She quickly removed her clothes and pulling a nearby cotton sleeping gown over her head, joined her husband in bed.
She turned out the lights and placed her head on his shoulder, trying to give him comfort. Jed was the only person she truly had ever loved. Yes, she loved her parents. She loved her children. But the love she and Jed shared was way beyond any other love on earth. And he needed her love right now.
Quietly, “Jed, talk to me. You’ll feel better.” Abbey knew that he probably would remain silent but she had to try.
She waited patiently for a response. But also knowing that usually when he got in this kind of mood, it might be hours or days before he would open up.
So that is why she was shocked when he quietly responded. “I killed those people. It was my decision that killed those people.”
Abbey sighed. She knew it had been eating at him ever since the captain had told them the probable fate. Now maybe they would have a chance to talk it through.
“No, you didn’t. The storm was the problem and the best choice possible was getting the fleet out to sea. That’s standard procedure during a storm like we’re having now. It’s not your fault.”
“Yes, it is. My decision caused those deaths. Their families, their children, their loved ones will never see them again. And it’s all my fault.”
Abbey lightly brushed her fingers across his face, not real surprised that she felt his tears. “Jed,” she responded softly. “There were standard operating procedures. No one knew that the storm would change course and hit the fleet directly. And you can only imagine what conditions were like out there. There was no way the supply ship could get out of the way in time. Every ship in that group was sailing blind.”
She waited to see if he was going to have a response to her words. When he didn’t, she continued. “I don’t have the words to comfort you. It was a horrible accident. That’s all it was. Circumstances were beyond mortal control. And you have to quit beating yourself up about it.”
“Jed, what did I tell you in the office tonight? Do you remember?”
He paused to think. That seemed so long ago. “Yeah, you told me that I don’t have the power to fix everything.”
“Anything else?” She was relieved that he was at least responding to her now.
Jed turned to look into his wife’s face in the dim light coming through the curtains. A small smile crossed his face. “You said that I have a big brain and a big heart. And a big ego. Maybe the size of Texas.”
“I said Montana, but go on.”
“Okay. I have a big heart and a big brain and a big ego. And I don’t have the power to fix everything.”
Abbey snuggled a bit closer. “Yeah. And I like to watch you try. This is just one of those things you can’t fix. It happened. It’s sad. And I’m sure there will be a big investigation. But you didn’t cause this, Jed. You didn’t and you have to accept that. They were following standard procedures and they ran into the angry face of Mother Nature. Remember the weekend a few years ago, when we got caught in one those sudden North Atlantic thunderstorms on the Abigail Ann?”
“The time when Joe Thomas fell overboard and drowned?”
“Yeah. That time. It wasn’t your fault then and it isn’t your fault now. These things happen. And you have to accept it. You couldn’t prevent Joe from going overboard. We had a rogue wave wash over the boat and he didn’t have a life jacket on even through you had given him one before we left port. You couldn’t control that outcome and you can’t control this. Do you understand that?”
“Guess you’re right. It was out of my control. I can’t be all and do all, now can I?”
“Well I know you would like to try and do it all at times but this is not one of them.” She leaned over and planted a gentle kiss on his lips. Jed smiled and reached out to pull her closer.
“I love you, Abigail. You always seem to know what I need. And tonight I need to hear just those words.” He returned her gentle kiss.
“I love you too, Jethro. Now, what else is bothering you?”
Jed’s smile disappeared. He was thinking about the FBI negotiator that was in critical condition. “I really can’t discuss it. But I feel better anyway. Now, come closer and let’s get some sleep. We’ll need it to face tomorrow.”
With arms around each other, they each dropped off to gentle sleep, knowing even through tough times they would always have each other.