NOTES & DISCLAIMERS: Not mine. Not even close. Immense thanks to Luna, Jae and Jess. Tip o' tha hat to Dr. Helen who rocks. Title and summary from the Hole song Twenty Years in the Dakota.

TWENTY YEARS IN THE DAKOTA

1998

She waits for the delivery. She knows what she's doing and right now, she taps her nails against the table in the hotel room and waits. She looks up at the door opening, but it's CJ and Ellie, and she looks down to school her face in a less impatient expression.

"Abbey," CJ says warmly. "Abbey, did you really see the Beatles at Shea Stadium?" Ellie looks up at Abbey and grins, then ducks her head.

"I did. I did see the Beatles at Shea Stadium. I didn't hear a thing but screaming, but I did see them." Abbey doesn't have to fake the smile.

Ellie sits perched on the bed, kicking her feet like a three year old. "Tell her, Mom. Tell her about the amazing day when you saw the Beatles."

"It wasn't that amazing. It was crowded and everyone was screaming, and it was, really, the worst concert I've ever been to."

CJ shakes her head and laughs. "It was the Beatles, Abbey! John, Paul, George and Ringo! The Beatles, for goodness' sake. What was the best concert you ever attended, Jesus and the twelve disciples?"

Abbey rolls her eyes. "The best concert I ever attended was Jimbo and the Liars."

Ellie knows the story and she rolls her eyes like her mother and goes into the bathroom. She closes the door. CJ raises an eyebrow. "I've never heard of the Jimbo and the Liars. They were amazing?"

"They were an awful. An awful, awful rock band that couldn't play their instruments and probably took too many drugs to realize it."

CJ knows she's walking into it, but she still says, "So. Why was it the best concert you ever attended to?"

"I met Jed there." Abbey smiles at CJ and then looks down at her hands. She taps her fingernails again. She looks down and sees a tiny chip in her manicure on the middle fingernail of her left hand. She frowns.

CJ starts to say something, still amused by the whole exchange but then someone Abbey doesn't recognize comes with what Abbey's been waiting for. She hustles CJ out and looks for Jed. She walks out holding the package from the clinic. When Ellie comes out of the bathroom, the room is empty.

*

The next morning, Abbey comes into the meeting as it wraps up. Jed snaps and talks only to Leo. Abbey sits behind him and watches the professionals look at their hands and clench their jaws. Jed drags Leo out to another office. Toby leaves and Josh just clears his throat. Sam taps his pen on a yellow pad and says nothing. CJ takes off her glasses and tucks them into her pocket. "Hey," she says with a small smile. "Did you guys know Abbey saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium?"

Josh grins. "Mrs. Bartlet, I had no idea."

Abbey thinks: it's Dr. Bartlet. A year ago, she was Dr. Bartlet to medical students and interns who were convinced that they floated two inches above the floor because they went to Harvard. They called her Dr. Bartlet and slumped to the ground after she first spoke to them. She taps her fingers on the chair. "You should call me Abbey, Josh. And I did indeed see them. As I told CJ, I couldn't hear a thing besides all the girls screaming."

Josh smiles and leans back. "Ah, the Beatles. Sam, you might have heard of them. That band Paul McCartney was in before Wings."

Sam doesn't smile. "I remember the Beatles, Josh." Sam stands up and walks to the door. The corners of his mouth briefly twitch in a semblance of a smile.

"I know, I know." Josh glances at Sam's downcast face and sighs. "But still, the Beatles. Before Yoko broke them up. The glory days." Sam looks down and leaves, muttering something under his breath Abbey doesn't try to hear.

CJ leans forward. "Now, why would you say that, Josh? Yoko didn't break up the Beatles. The Beatles broke up the Beatles. You can't just blame the woman here."

Josh rolls his eyes and snickers. "I am not blaming all women here, I am not pinning this thing on your entire gender. But I feel pretty comfortable blaming Yoko for the end of the Beatles."

Abbey raises an eyebrow. "She was never a member of the Beatles, Josh, how could she break them up? I think it had more to do with the actual Beatles, not Yoko Ono."

Josh shakes his head. "Fine, she didn't break up the Beatles. She contributed to it, though." He laughs and leaves.

CJ sighs. "You have to do that a lot?"

Abbey leans back in her chair. "Defend Yoko Ono? No, I don't have to do that a lot. I've never met her, but I don't like her. Not because she broke up the Beatles, mind you, because she didn't. But she was an artist before they married, and she never did a single thing on her own after she married John Lennon."

Abbey hates hotels. When they campaigned in New Hampshire, she had never stayed in hotels. She didn't even have to take time off from the hospital.

CJ grins and looks down. "I meant ... I didn't mean defend Yoko Ono." CJ puts her glasses on and looks down at her notes. "We have things for you today - an interview, a thing with the television station, appearances with the Governor."

Abbey nods. "Good thing I stopped by then."

CJ looks down and rubs her forehead. "I would have found you after the meeting."

*

Abbey comes back from the interviews and dresses in her room for the appearance. She used to wear a lab coat, she thinks, idly, and comfortable heels. She always wears heels because professors at college and medical school looked down at her for enough reasons without her giving them the advantage of her height, too. She has to change into another tailored suit and dress her hair in a different style.

She's reaching for her earrings when the phone rings. It's Lizzie, and Abbey gratefully settles into a chair. Lizzie starts talking about her classes, her graduate classes in education and things she's read.

"Mom, I thought of you. There was a study we were looking at about income differentials based on gender and race."

"Which sounds more like something that would remind you of your father, honey, why in heaven's name did you think of me?"

Lizzie laughs, and Abbey can hear herself and Jed in the sound. "We were talking about pioneers. In some industries, where we were looking at income breakdowns by degree among the cohorts - listen to me and my academic language! Cohorts! Anyway, there's very few, say, black women with PhDs in most industries, and they generally earn more than white women or black men and the professor said that they were pioneers. That they had so much to overcome ... they were generally extraordinary people. They were pioneers, like you, Mom."

Abbey snorts softly. "I never felt like a pioneer. I don't remember it being hard, you know." Abbey crosses her legs at her ankles and looks at the sterile room. This, she thinks, is hard. "I knew I could do it. And I had your father there, too."

Lizzie laughs again and Abbey smiles. She reminds herself to call Ellie tomorrow morning. After the injection, she thinks, so Jed can talk to her, too. Lizzie talks about Annie and then asks Abbey about her day.

"Well, the same. Your father spoke eloquently and impressed all twenty people who showed up." Abbey sighs. "Though, it's getting better. We have a great staff. It would be nice, however, if they realized I am not the campaign doctor."

Lizzie laughs again. "But you are for Dad!"

"That's your father. Today, Josh comes up to me because he has the sniffles. Can I give him an antibiotic?"

Lizzie giggles. "And you said no. And then lectured him on the over-use of antibiotics, right?"

"I didn't so much lecture as suggest that Laurie Garrett has a book about antibiotics and their overuse that even a layman could understand."

"And sent him on his way? Mom, Mom ..." Lizzie winds up the call so Abbey can dress and put on make-up and be a wife.

*

In the morning, she sits in another sterile hotel room and waits for the reporter from the Washington Post. She reads the Annals of Thoracic Surgery and takes notes in the margins on one of the studies. She wonders how long it will be before she will be able to start the paper she wants to do on the girl from Cincinnati she operated on last year. In her bag she has the New England Journal of Medicine and a British journal, Thorax, waiting to be read. At least, she thinks, at least she won't fall behind on her reading.

The reporter comes in and introduces himself as Danny Concannon. She smiles and shakes his hand. He points at the journal she's put aside. "Light reading, Mrs. Bartlet?"

She doesn't wince. "Call me Abbey, please."

He doesn't. He calls her "ma'am" or "Dr. Bartlet" with a sheepish smile. He starts with the usual softball questions about the rigors of campaigning, about Jed. She lies politely about campaigning and speaks with enthusiasm about Jed. It's easy. Jed is easy to talk about with enthusiasm. She smiles and leans forward a little and tells all the right anecdotes.

Danny eases into the more political questions and questions about her work. She smiles and keeps her hands in her lap, her legs crossed at the ankles.

"Senator Hoynes is clearly in the lead, Dr. Bartlet, how worried are you that you'll be back to being a doctor full-time by the end of March?"

"I love practicing medicine but I certainly hope to have a good reason to take a few years off."

They finish quickly. "Dr. Bartlet, it was a real pleasure talking to you. I hope we get to do this again." Danny stands and shakes her hand again.

"A pleasure meeting you, too, Danny. I'm sure we'll talk again."

She calls CJ and then goes back to reading journals for the half hour before her next appearance.

*

She dresses in a different room that seems to have the same exact furniture as the last three hotel rooms. Jed paces.

"Jed."

"Abbey, it will be fine." He scowls and leans against the table.

"Thanks for the reassurance, but what specific 'it' do you think you're referring to?" She starts brushing her hair, looking at her reflection and away from him.

"Whatever 'it' you're referring to when you say my name that way." He walks up behind her and she can see his faintly worried and faintly guilty expression in the mirror.

She turns around and straightens his tie. "Jed," she says again.

He takes her hands in his. "I talked to Ellie today, like you told me to."

She smiles. "Good."

"And I think I've done everything else you told me to do, and since you know all, ergo, everything will be fine." He smiles back at her. She remembers the same smile from when he came up to her at the concert more than thirty years ago, the same beautiful eyes and soft expression. When she met him, he stuttered and looked even younger than his eighteen years. Now he doesn't stutter and he looks almost presidential.

"You have a good staff, Jed. They're smart and committed and you should listen to them."

He kisses her hands and smirks. "I do. Now, let's go."

She looks down at her heels. She straightens her skirt and checks her hair. She follows him out.

*

She stands with Leo, waiting in the back of another meeting room. "And they keep calling me Mrs. Bartlet." Leo looks at her. She frowns at him. "It's Dr. Bartlet."

Leo looks down at his watch. "You're not being a doctor now."

"Jed's not the Governor anymore either, Leo, and everyone still calls Governor Bartlet. My license hasn't been revoked."

Leo sighs. They both listen to Jed answer a question about corporate taxes and cite Marbury v. Madison as he explains the foundations of tax law. Leo sighs again. "Abbey, don't worry about it."

"Right. Because those years of medical school, interning and residency don't matter..." She purses her lips and grips her bag. "It should actually be the Drs. Bartlet, you know."

Leo snorts. "I'll make sure CJ gets that change right away, Abbey. Like we don't have enough problems, I will definitely make sure that we're now referring to the two of you by your proper titles. Let's remind everyone you're both ivory tower academics who don't know anything about the real world."

"Neither of us are ivory tower academics and you know it. But I am a doctor."

Leo sighs and looks at her. "Abbey, I know that. But this is a campaign."

She looks at him, sees he's slightly stooped. His eyes flick back to Jed every few seconds. "I know that, too, Leo," she says softly. "A campaign for the Presidency." Abbey can't find Jenny anywhere in the room and she wonders when Jenny returned to DC this time.

"We're going to win."

Leo says it with such certainty, Abbey believes it for the first time.

She thinks about the papers she won't write in the next four years. She wonders how long and whether the betaseron can hold off the next attack. She thinks about Ellie and Zoey. She remembers she needs to call Lizzie about her test on Monday. "We're going to win," she says.

Leo squeezes her forearm. "Abbey, you're doing great. You're a big part of this." Leo starts to walk over to CJ and the rest of the staff, to get all this wound up.

"I know," Abbey says. She sighs and follows him.

*

She sits in a restaurant and talks to a woman reporter from Ladies' Home Journal or Redbook or something she's only ever scanned in waiting rooms. The reporter calls her Abbey and wants to know all about Jed. She asks questions about juggling her work at the hospital and raising the girls.

"So thoracic medicine is focused on the chest, right?" The woman looks down at her notebook and makes a checkmark.

Abbey just nods. She thinks of explaining a lung resection and decides against that plan. She's already had to spell out thoracic twice. The interview is so dull, in her head she reviews the latest articles she read about MS. The woman strikes her as bland and condescending at the same time, like her magazine. They wrap up quickly and the woman lingers to gossip. She starts talking about one of the other candidates' wives, a woman with no children who works for a law firm in her home state. "I wonder," the woman says idly, "if there was something there. Like maybe she always wanted kids and you know, couldn't have them or something."

Abbey smiles politely and invents another appointment to get rid of her. She rides back to tonight's hotel in a cab where the driver blasts rock radio for the entire trip. He's about Ellie's age, the youngest cab driver she's ever seen, she thinks. He looks up at her in the rearview mirror at a red light and says, "You like Nirvana?"

Abbey tries not to laugh. "I'm not familiar with their music, no, but I've heard of them."

The driver nods and says, "Great band. Best ever." Abbey nods again and gives him a generous tip when they get to the hotel.

She finds CJ on the balcony of their main suite, sneaking a cigarette. "Don't make me nag you and Jed, CJ," Abbey says dryly.

CJ turns around guiltily and stubs it out. "I really have quit. No nagging needed, I swear."

Abbey just raises an eyebrow. She waits a moments and then tells CJ about the interview, about the gossip from the reporter.

CJ frowns after Abbey repeats the comment about the candidate's wife with no children. She shakes her head and doesn't say anything else about it. "Okay. Let's go back inside." Their heels click on the concrete floor of the balcony as they walk back in.

*

Josh is drunk. It's late and everyone is in the hotel bar. Josh leans his back against the bar and stares at the table where Sam, CJ and Toby sit. "Ma'am, the thing is, Yoko Ono? She really did break up the Beatles. She whispered her lies into John Lennon's ear and he said buh-bye Paul. Buh-bye George, bye, bye, bye Ringo."

Abbey laughs. "Her lies? She whispered what lies to him, Josh? I'm very interested."

Josh looks down. He grins wider. "That he just needed her. She wanted him all to herself. She spotted herself a famous Beatle and said, famous Beatle! I want that!"

Abbey sips her drink. "They did okay, Josh, had a son, raised a son, married for years and years. Besides, I think I read an interview with Paul McCartney where he said he quit the band first. Do you hate Linda McCartney, too?"

Josh looks up as Sam walks toward them. "Don't hate Linda McCartney. Don't hate Yoko Ono, I just think she broke up the Beatles. And you will not use your feminine wiles on me to convince me otherwise!" Josh shoots a glance at her to make sure she's not offended. Abbey just smiles and rolls her eyes.

Sam nods politely to Abbey. "Ma'am. Josh, you ready to go? We should go."

Josh nods and throws an arm around Sam. "Let's go! Exciting places ahead of us! Right, Sam?"

Sam winces for a moment, at the weight of Josh against him or something else, Abbey doesn't know for sure. Then Sam smiles and says, "Yeah. Exciting places. Like taking you to your room." They stagger out of the bar.

Abbey walks to the table where Toby and CJ sit. Toby stands and pulls out a chair for her. "Ma'am," he says quietly.

CJ smiles down at her drink. "Leo was saying something about maybe making sure we call you Dr. Bartlet in the releases."

Toby rubs his forehead. Abbey sighs. "You don't have to. We don't have to."

CJ looks up at her. "Are you sure? You're a doctor. You're a surgeon, you teach at Harvard. It's not a courtesy title."

Toby clears his throat. "CJ. It's not like we're revoking her license and saying she can't practice medicine."

Abbey takes a small sip of her drink. She remembers the injection from this morning -- she's always been proud of her skills at inserting needles for IVs and drawing blood. She won't ever stop taking care of Jed, she knows that.

"CJ. It's fine," Abbey says quietly. "I've also been Mrs. Bartlet for thirty years. Let's make it simple."

CJ sighs. She finishes her drink with one long swallow. "It doesn't have to be. But fine, fine. Simple it is." CJ rubs her neck, plays with her necklace. "Something should be simple in this campaign."

"We're going to win." Abbey says with a smile. "And I will be Dr. Bartlet again, but not now. It's fine. We're going to win." She thinks of Leo's certainty and the idiot reporter. She promises herself that she will speak to Danny Concannon again. She says, "I believe in Jed and I believe in all of you. We're going to win it all."

She pats CJ on the shoulder and walks out the bar, heels clicking on the wood floor. She walks up to the room where Jed waits. She thinks about four years and puts aside thoughts of her papers unwritten. She walks to Jed.

THE END.

Back to Stories

Send feedback to k. All files copyright 2001 k. Whoo!