Work Header

Who Knows Where The Time Goes? A 1000 Dreams-West Wing story by Rielle

Work Text:

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?* a TWW dream/tale by Rielle

Rating: R [perhaps] due to references to consensual same sex relationships.

Archive: Of course, just let me know where so I can throw a party! J

"Across the morning sky, all the birds are leaving.

Ah how do they know, its time for them to go?

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving,

I do not count the time.

Who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?"*

by Sandy Denny, as recorded by Judy Collins on her album of the same name.

Washington, D.C. 1999, approx. [following TOTTD]

They were gathering in the Rose Garden in a surprisingly large number, Jessy thought, despite the 20 degree winters day with a wind chill of whatever it was, coming off the Chesapeake. These shivering, grimacing reporters, Senators and such were clearly none of them New England born and bred as she was. They were forewarned, and so piled on sweaters and scarves and gloves. But most of them still gasped at the cold air as they stepped outside for this ceremony.

Jessy Bartlet herself was far more used to a crisp climate like this, and prided herself on wearing no more than an open sweater coat and a scarf her partner crocheted over her favorite flannel shirt and Wranglers.

Not that anyone will be taking fashion notes on what Jed Bartlets second daughter wore today. She considered. Not unless theres someone here from PlanetOut! Laughing to herself at the idea of taking up a few column inches on their News! page, Jessy shook her head.

This wasnt her show today. It couldnt and shouldnt be seen that way.

In no way, shape or form could President Josiah Bartlet be seen to be signing legislation for the sake of one of his children, or for any of his own children. That wasnt the way things worked here inside the Beltway. Just last night, when the limo brought Jessy here from Andrews and the Guvnor hugged her hello, hed felt a need to reiterate that. Hed begun to belabor this point, as if she were still a rebellious wild-child who wanted everything she did understood and everything others did explained.

"I understand." shed insisted, laughing. "Ive understood each of the five or six times youve explained it, Father. You didnt co-sponsor this bill with all those big-deal Dems for me. You didnt put your people to work to help it pass because of me and Sally. You did it because it was finally time. And you did it because, after that poor kid was murdered in The End of Nowhere, Minnesota last year, the mood of the country and of the Congress was finally right for this kind of law. But Im no less proud that you did. And that youre going to sign it. Now, about that Misdefinition of Marriage Act or whatever it is, and, as were on the subject, about Dont Ask "

"Jessamyn," Jed Bartlet canted his head at his second eldest and pretended to frown. "arent you learning anything in law school?"

"Absolutely. Last week I learned something I expect will stand me in good stead for years to come. Two things you never want to see how theyre made laws and sausages. Thank you, Will Rogers!" Jessy laughed.

"I could have sworn that was Mark Twain!" her father exclaimed. "Lets go look it up."

"Guvnor, please? Lets dont and say we did? I do research like that all day, every day till my eyes ache, and then I go to class!"

"Hastings!" the President began, sending off the first shot in a well-worn debate. Hellava place to go to law school, if you ask me! You might as well have gone to Stanford, if you were going to cross the country for your Law degree! Come to think of it, why arent you going to Stanford?"

"Well, for one thing, Stanfords too darned expensive and Im doing this on my own dime, you may recall. Secondly, its all the way down the peninsula from the City. And lastly, Im not sure Stanford still has a law school. Anyway, I didnt ask you what school I should go to, Guvnor. And Im not going to now. Besides, who knows how long it would have been before I met Sally if I hadnt moved out to Noe Valley. And if I hadnt met her " Jessy shuddered, and then grinned at her fathers non-response-response. "It would be the same as if youd never met Momma-Doc at Notre Dame."

"I seriously doubt that." Jed tried and failed to frown at her. "The Vatican still isnt allowing for the ordination of women to the priesthood. I think theres some movement towards allowing them as deacons, though. Do you feel a vocation?"

"Not even the least, teeniest, tiniest bit." Jessy groaned. "Wheres Zoey? I thought she and Charlie might meet me at Andrews." As usual, after mentioning her partner, Jessy waited a moment to see if her father would pick up the cue.

"Sally couldnt come east with you for a couple days?" Jed asked, looking awkward as he always did when mentioning Jessys partner. Then he smiled the brilliant, almost-innocent smile that at least in part won him three terms in Congress, two as Governor and now, the White House.

"Nope. Shes up to her ears in writing and rehearsing. She has orals, or whatever they call them in three weeks."

"Well, Zoey seems to have made other plans, tonight. Your mothers inside, nursing a cold. Flying around hither and thither of late got her system down. Cmon upstairs and cheer her up. She hates staying in one place as much as you do."

"Insanity is hereditary, you know." Jessy cracked, grinning.

"You get it from your kids." Bartlet finished, laughing as he led her towards the Residence.

Jessy Bartlet spent the rest of her evening teasing and laughing with Dr.

Abigail Bartlet, m.d. who, as usual made the worst of patients.

"Jessys had her flu shot, Jed." the first physician called out, as her middle daughter tried to hand her some fruit juice. Abbey ignored the glass, instead waving her husband away from her bedside. "I know. I was out in San Francisco last fall, just in time to make sure she and Sally got theirs. Turned out there was a bigger supply available than the early reports said, or I would have done the job myself. I only have your word for it that you had yours, because I wasnt here jabbing it into your arm!"

"Are you calling the President of the United States a liar?" Jed demanded from the doorway. "Under certain circumstances throughout our history, that has been considered an act of treason, maam!"

"Nevertheless," Abbey warned. "you keep out of here! Go sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom, if it isnt too crowded. You have an outdoor ceremony tomorrow, one which our brilliant and busiest daughter has flown east to attend. And it wouldnt do for you to collapse in the Rose Garden in front of the entire Press Corps. It wouldnt do at all."

"Im pretty sure I had the Lincoln booked for tonight." Jed joked

"Some deep pockets Hollywood types wanted it for an orgy. But as always, my dear Doctor Bartlet, your wish is my command."

"I wish!" Abbey shot after him as he left the room. "Well, thats a first."

"It will be another if you take the advice you always give me when Im down with the flu." Jessy answered. "Catch up on your rest and push fluids!"

Finally, Abbey took the glass and sipped at the contents. Making a face, she handed it back again.

"Its full of vitamin C, Mother. Its sugar free, organic orange-kiwi-papaya juice! I brought it just for you, when I heard you were under the weather. Jessy grinned. "Drink it down, theres a good grrrl."

"Not this one, no thanks. It tastes like watered down warmed over prune juice!" Abbey complained. "Seriously, Jessy. Ill be just fine. This is some kind of 48 hour bug I caught on the way home from my talk to Emilys List."

"Pity Lord John M isnt with us just now. Im sure hed be prescribing boiled, grated anise root, with a twist of lime and a strong shot of whisky." her second daughter smiled. "He is waay kewl, you know, Mum."

"Im a physician, I dont need his Lordship to prescribe for me! And his Lordship is waay too old and, Id think, not at all your cup of tea, my darling number 2 daughter! Has your partner heard about this yen you have for older, British, male types?"

"No, she hasnt, cos I dont have one. And as far as Lord M is concerned, unless I miss my guess, Im not his cuppa, either. All that hand-kissing and supposed skirt chasing he does, I think its part of his cover! I think its part of his really, really deep cover."

"Dya think?" Abigail Bartlet began to giggle. Then she stopped short and did her best, Jessy considered, to look dismayed. "Omigawd. All these years I thought hed like to seduce me when, instead Damn! Im well and truly used to people absolutely loving your father, Jessy. But this is something that never occurred to me!"

"Well, Mother, youre the one who told us how the Guvnor was waay too scrumptious, when you met, for you to let him take Holy Orders!"

"Oh, honey! Jed Bartlet was so gorgeous hed knock you flat on your you know what." Abbey agreed, grinning. "Just go look in the mirror, Jessy. Youve got his eyes and his eyelashes. Youve even got that adorable cow-lick of his." After reluctantly taking back the glass for another sip of fruit juice, Abbey seemed to study Jessy for a moment.

"Fortunately though, youve got my figure, girl. So does Zoey."

"Very fortunately." Jessy grinned. "Poor Lizzie, flat as a flitter. Whats new with her and Annie?"

"Well, theyre both back to their classes, this week. I was on the phone with them last night. "Annies taking World History and loves it, some more Math and tolerates it, is what Liz Now youve got me calling her that! She really hates it, Jess."

"Shes teaching full time this year?" Jessy asked, deftly shifting the subject.

"No, actually. She cut back a bit when her grant came through. Shes so darned independent, as if we couldnt pay her tuition and Zoeys and maybe even yours! We raised you all to be so tough, so strong."

Abbey frowned. "Maybe too strong."

"Doctor-Mother, we all made the same deal with you and the Guvnor."

Jessy reminded the First Lady. "You helped us each majorly to make our way through college. But Liz Elizabeth knew exactly what she wanted to do after that. On the other hand, I hadnt even a clue, besides getting out of New England for awhile and Zoey-baby wasnt even out of grade school at the time We all agreed that none of us offspring would ask for or get your help for graduate school unless we ran into some kind of a problem getting it ourselves. Well, fortunately, we havent, yet. And unfortunately, youre not going to be out in the Rose Garden tomorrow." Once more, Jessy shifted the conversation, taking back a lighter tone.

"That means I get to rifle your closet for something really gaudy to wear to the bill signing! Whats new in here?"

"Nothing, darling, unless youve decided to totally cross-dress. Thats your fathers walk-in. Mines on the other side of the room. Besides, I thought youd be in the uniform, for sure. Yknow, cropped hair under a newsboy cap, solid color, 1 pocket T-shirt, under madras flannel shirt, tucked into stone-washed Levis, the whole thing camouflaged by that gawdawful sweater coat youve practically worn out! Oh and ankle boots! Jessy, you missed our big snowfall, so theres no point in wearing those! Now, if you want me to check, I heard Sam Seaborn has some really adorable Noreasters he might loan you for the occasion."

"Its Wranglers." Jessy sighed, correcting an long time misconception. from behind an armful of bright, madly mismatched tops. jackets and slacks. "Not Levis. Not even 501s"

"Hmmm? Oh, okay." Abbey shrugged. Then she focused on the first hanger her daughter held out and protested. "Jessamyn Cathryn Rose Bartlet, dont you dare mash my new silk suit that way!"

"I wouldnt dream of it, dearest. But please, you cant be thinking of wearing this color! It would make you look jaundiced!" the chastised offspring shook her head, examining the jewel-toned purple silk with admiration.

"Would you be so kind as to bring it over here, Ms Bartlet?" Abbey demanded, and when Jessy complied with her wishes, the First Lady laughed. "Youre right. I didnt buy that for me. I ordered it for you, my dear. The last time we talked, you said you didnt know what you were going to wear when Sally is inducted into her Professional Society. Oh and there were some pumps stored with the suit. Unless of course, youre planning to wear your Doc Martens!"

"Why ever not?" Jessy laughed and hugged Abbey briefly, in thanks. "You look just plain worn out, Doctor-Mother." she said, imitating Abbeys bedside manner to a T. "Im going to go pester the Guvnor., or baby-daughter, if shes back. Is Zoey managing to have fun at Georgetown?"

"I think so. She was really enjoying herself at first and then Well, then all hell broke loose for awhile Talk with her."

"I promise. If you promise to get some rest." Jessy held out her hand and Abbey grinned, shaking it.

"Done and done." they said together. Then Jessy left the First Lady to her stack of briefing books, and whatever rest she could get.

Wandering downstairs, through corridors that were amazingly quiet and empty, considering this was the White House and it was only 1:26 in the morning, Jessy found her father exactly where shed expected to, sitting at the working island in the kitchen, hunkered over Fitzgeralds translation of The Iliad, and a fiercely forbidden roast beef sandwich.

Neither the book, which she knew he loved, nor the meal, which she knew neither Abbey, nor Mrs. Landingham would have let the President anywhere near, surprised Jessy. And neither did the presence of his long time friend, Leo McGarry, but Jessy had the feeling shed surprised them. Ignoring that, she immediately crossed the room to hug her fathers Chief of Staff warmly and give him a peck on the cheek.

"Whats this? Whats this?" Jed tried to roar in mock outrage, but laughed instead, as McGarry returned her embrace. "Leo, dont you have enough on your plate just now? Am I going to have to find some CEO to hire you out of here cos youre having a secret affair with my second-born? What will I tell Mallory? And how will I ever explain this to the press? Not to mention the fact that everyone thinks shes queer for girls."

"Excuse me, Guvnor." Jessy grinned. " Please, dont mention it. Everyone who was paying attention to the tabloids the way theyre supposed to, while you were running for President, knows that Im a total butch-dyke. Luckily, it seems, no one cares about that kind of thing, anymore. The fact that I cherish and admire this man hasnt been a secret since I was 18 years old! You know darned well hes the one who helped me come out He said: Secrets are poisonous, Jess. Theyll kill you, sooner or later. Theyll come out of the holes you try to stuff them into and bite, just when you think youre well and truly rid of them."

"Leo," Jed turned to his friend, "you said that to my daughter?"

"Yes, sir." McGarry shrugged glancing first at Jessy, who nodded, and then at Jed, who was looking mildly chagrined.

"Wait." Jessy peered at the Chief of Staff. "You call him sir even when theres no one else around?" she demanded.

"Well for one thing, Squirt," McGarry shook his head at her. "theres never no one else around. His detail is chowing down in the pantry, so they can keep up with him, even as we speak. For another, whatever I call your father is none of your business. Thirdly, better keep your mitts off that stack of kosher dills. Theyre the only vegetable your father has eaten today."

"Now theres the sound bite!" Jed interjected, grinning. "Tomorrows early White House news: Unnamed sources in the kitchen at 1600 report that kosher dill pickles, which very likely are not kosher, and may or may not have any acquaintance with dill, but which are definitely pickled cucumbers, are the only vegetables President Bartlet eats on a regular basis. If you think the screams heard over Reagans assessment of ketchup as a vegetable were bad Of course, cucumber futures, if there are such a thing, will rise dramatically!"

"And about what your #2 daughter quoted me as saying, Mr. President." Leo went on, "In my own defense I can only state that it seemed like a good thing to say at the time."

"It was." Father and daughter Bartlets said together, as Jessy snatched half of Jeds sandwich and all three laughed.

Then Jessy reconsidered, and offered half of her half of the sandwich to the Chief of Staff, who deftly cut it in two and accepted the share. Comfortable with the silence that fell between them as they devoured the forbidden edibles, Jessy recalled even more of what Leo had said to her years ago, when shed told him her arguments with Jed and Abbey were none of his business.

Manchester, NH, 1992:

"Usually Id agree, Squirt." Leo said, taking a seat across from her on the sun porch of the Bartlet home. He was the last person she expected to emerge from the storm shuttered house after an especially bad fight with her parents. But instead of Abbey, coming out to rile her further or smooth her feathers, and instead of Jed, striding out, ready and willing to reenter the fray until hed won their latest debate, here was their long time friend. Jessy felt prickly, restless and emotionally bruised as she almost always did when having a disagreement with her family.

She didnt want anyones help or advice right now, she just wanted to stew awhile until she managed to cool down. "But if youre going to hit on my only daughter, I kinda think it is my business."

"I never hit on Mallie!" Jessy protested in a stage whisper, jumping up defensively, feeling her whole face and neck grow hot. "Shes one of my best friends! Shes one of my _only_ friends! Jeeesh! I told Mal she looked very kewl in that emerald green-kinda-wrap-around-sari-thing she had going the other night. She did. It was a good color for her! Ghu! I never thought shed tell you!"

"Mallory and I have a new strategy-thing going these days, Jess. We call it no secrets." McGarry told her, with a half smile that told her he was being serious, as he hadnt been a moment before. "Its working pretty well, so far. You might want to try it."

"With who, the Baby-brat?" Jessy demanded. Or maybe I should confide with Lizzie? Oh shur! Like she hasnt got enough on her plate! Or I should talk about the bees n bees and birds n birds with Momma-Doc-sorry-pumpkin-Ive-got-to-catch-a-plane-for-Lima-or-Juneau-or-Katmandu? With the Guvnor? Leo, hed go postal! Hed go furkin ballistic! Are you serious?"

McGarry nodded. "About this? Yes, Jessy, very serious. Oh and, Mal didnt rat you out. She stopped by to have lunch and she was confused. She thinks maybe youre confused, too. So we talked. I think it helped. I think it might help you."

"No furkin way!" Jessy exclaimed, pacing the porch, now. "If I even hinted to my darling parental units that I might or might not be confused about Jeeesh! Momma-Doc would insist I cant make such decisions yet, when I havent made any decisions, yet. And then shed have me under 24/7 watch, based on statistics alone! And my Father would Oh, Jeeesh! Leo, I cant have this talk with the man who stood god-father when they tried to wash my brains out over the baptismal font!"

"Yes, you can, Squirt, if thats what you really need to do." Leo answered. "Thats part of what I promised to do, take their role if God forbid they couldnt. But theyre still with us, Jessy. You still have time to talk to them about whatever you want. Im only saying, dont throw away your chances. They arent boomerangs. They dont come back again."

Glaring at him, Jessy crashed back onto her favorite lounge for sheer emphasis. "Hypothetical? What if Id rather talk to you, first, anyway?"

Now he genuinely grinned, warmly enough to make up for the wan New England morning. "What are you asking me for, lawyer-client privilege? We could do that. But I bill out pretty high in the private sector. You may have heard. What kinda retainer are you offering?"

"And I could tell you more than youd ever possibly want to know. Especially about what Mallie thinks Im confused about." Jessy retorted. "But then Id have to kill you. And Ive only got a few hundred in savings right now, cos I just made another repay on the van loan. Thats why Im still livin here, you know. How much of a retainer do you want?"

"Just a verbal contract, Jessy."

"Oh heres where you get all lawyery and tricky!" she exclaimed.

"It cant be a trick if each side understands the words used in the same way. Hows this: Ill listen to, and keep privileged whatever you plan to say to your parents afterwards if and only if you give me your word you will say it to them, soon afterwards. Otherwise, no deal. Did you understand all of that, Ms. Bartlet?"

Jessy leaned back against the lounge, and frowning in thought, half covered her face. Then Leo paled for a moment, staring at her, and she reached for him and then for a glass of lemonade beside her on the wide, chaise lounge arm.

"For Petes sake, Leo. Are you okay?" she demanded, after he took a gulp.

"Im fine. It just startled me for a minute. You have no idea, dyou, Squirt?"

"No idea what?"

"How much you look like Jed. It was scary, there, for a minute. Now, that contract?"

"I have a question, first."

"Of course." Leo was acting very much in lawyer-mode, she thought, and that suited Jessy just fine.

"Its only about details."

"It always is." he smiled.

"How much umm detail. Well, youve known them for a hundred years, Leo How explicit do you think Ill need to be?" Jessy worried.

"Not the whole nine yards, Jess, not quite yet. And theyre pretty tough as parental units go. They managed very well with Elizabeth and Annie, dont you think? And youre ahead of me, in a sense. Youve known them all your life."

"Fair point. Ill go easy on them then. And on you. Done?" she held her hand out to her fathers long time friend, who took it in his and shook warmly.

"Done and done." McGarry answered. "Go ahead."

Jessy looked at her parents friend, sitting on the opposite lounge from her, seeming totally calm and collected, as he almost always did.

"So, my talking to you now is like a rehearsal, for talking to them." she said, nodding at the house, to indicate she meant Abbey and Jed Bartlet.

"Yeah. That seems like a good way to put it." Leo agreed. "But we have a contract now. And Im a pretty tough customer, myself. Dont back out on your part.

"Well, okay. But you cant tell _anyone_, right?" Jessy demanded.

"Not anyone, not even on pain of contempt of court. Okay?"

"Okay. Well, I guess I should clarify Of course, Mal and I are buds, we always have been. But the other night, she came with you, instead of "

"Mallory came with me instead of Jenny. Jenny had one of her migraines, Jess. Stop stalling." Leo urged.

"Well, I saw Mallie walk in and she " Jessy found she couldnt look Mallorys father in the eye as she went on. "looked gorgeous. She

surprised me. I didnt even know she was coming to the concert. She always says she doesnt really like opera you and Jenny do, she doesnt. But all of a sudden, I heard myself thinking Who came with Leo? Shes beautiful! Omigawd, its Mallie! Omigawd, Im standing here, staring at my best friend in the whole, whole world and thinking she looks gorgeous, spectacular, totally awesome, and absolutely yummy."

McGarry let out a burst of laughter at that last remark, then plainly schooled his face and voice to nonchalance again and nodded.

"Everything you said." he replied. "Except that last, Id have to agree. My kid cleans up real good."

"taint funny, McGarry!" Jessy shot back, as her face heated up again.

"I was furkin totally embarrassed! I didnt know what to do or what to say. I wanted to get the heck outa there, but the Guvnor or Momma-Doc wouldve wanted to know why, what was the matter, did I feel sick? Sick is exactly what I felt like! So, I made it like a joke I went up to her, and laughed and said Darlin you look mahvlous! And did that kind of air-kiss thing celebs do. Mallie laughed, and I thought, Ohthankgawd, shes not taking me seriously! I can breathe again! I mean, were buds! Its not like Id want to jump her Sorry, dont mean to gross you out."

"You didnt. Im not sure you could, Jess. But youre doing fine, Squirt. Go on." McGarry urged.

"Yknow, Leo. This is pretty rough. Maybe I should take back my retainer. I dont know " Jessy found talking about things that had been stirring around inside her brain almost as hard as keeping them in.

Leo shook his head no. "Secrets are poisonous, Jess. Theyll kill you, sooner or later. Theyll come out of the holes you try to stuff them into and bite, just when you think youre well and truly rid of them."

White House kitchen, the Present:

"And then you two had a preview of that odd kind of birds n birds and bees n bees chat Jessy came to Abbey and me with?" Jed Bartlet asked

his best friend and his second eldest.

"Uh-huh." they chorused, closely watching for his reaction.

"Well that explains a lot." he then suggested.

"Explains what, Father-dearest?" Jessy demanded to know.

"How smoothly the whole thing went, and how easily we all worked through yknow, everything." Bartlet smiled benignly over the remains of his sandwich.

"Smoothly and easily? Is that what you call Mother going quiet and leaving the room every time we talked for a week and you tearing up like a newly bereft orphan every time you looked at me for a month?" Jessy could feel a laugh rise in her throat, but she refused to give it voice. Swallowing hard, she merely shook her head at the Leader of the Free World.

"Pretty much." he replied. "Jessy, you knew wed have trouble getting used to the idea, even the possibility of the idea that one of our own would face the kind of fears and hatred so many people still have towards lesbians and bisexual and gay people. But you have faced that, going across this country to campaign for me, with compassion and courage and charm. Im prouder of you than I can say, for that, Jessy. Now youre trying to make your own life, out of the damned limelight, out of the way more than half way across the damned country, but you must know, Jessamyn, not out of our hearts. Never that. And you know what I think, right here, right now? I think everything that Elizabeth and Annie and you and Sally have gone through since I began campaigning, since I was elected is exactly what gives Abbey and me the courage we need to face whatever Zoey does in her life. I hope so, anyway."

"I hope so, too, Commander." Jessy cracked, knowing he disliked the title, but needing a lighter tone. "Now, give me that last dill spear and no one will get hurt!"

"Better do as she asks, sir. She drives a hard bargain." Leo laughed. "Gnite you two Bartlets. Its 4 am, Im going home!"