This is not--never--what she signed up for but it's everything she agreed to in exchange for a ring, and a name, and a partnership that will last a lifetime, so she bucks up.
Jed does not buck up. Nor does he shut up. Typical.
"Alright," she says. "Enough, there, Jethro."
Naturally that does nothing to settle him down. He keeps on talking, working through every possible permutation of what they've just learned. This symptom, that one, and he will not let anything come between him and his one, overarching goal.
She watches him, reports and films clutched tightly in her hands. She's careful to not crumple them--force of habit--but inside that's all she wants to do. At least Jed's facing it, however angrily, while all it seems she can do is sit there and wish none of this had ever happened.
If he were her patient she'd know what to do. Present the information calmly, recommend treatments and support groups, even give a few soothing words to his family. But she's his family and she is not feeling soothed. She's so busy kicking herself for her inadequacies that she doesn't notice he's stopped his ranting and is standing directly in front of her chair.
"How you doing there, sweet cheeks?"
She looks up, startled. "How are you doing, Jed?"
"I bet," she says.
"What are we going to do about this, Abigail?"
"Well," she begins, then stops. She looks away from Jed at the papers in her lap and, after taking a deep breath, shuffles them briskly. She hooks one fingertip over the bridge of her glasses and pulls them lower on her nose so she can read the tiny printing on Jed's thoracic-spine MRI. It's a delay, she realizes that, this tidying of the medical business, but it's also the best way she knows to help. "We know what it is now, and that's important."
He cuts the air with his hand and both of them pretend to not focus on the tremors. "Bah. We know there's no cure. That's pretty important to me."
"No cure," she affirms. "But plenty of things we can do. We can treat the symptoms--pain medication, steroids during an exacerbation, all sorts of things to make your life easier--"
"No canes, Abbey. Not ever. I can't look weak."
"Canes, wheelchairs, or Leo McGarry carrying you piggyback." She ignores his scowl. "Was FDR weak, Jed? Was he any less a person for all his illness and disability?" His mouth is open to interrupt her and she speaks right over him. "Do you think your daughters will think you're weak for getting up every single day with this illness? Do you think I will?"
"I think the American people will," he says quietly. "And I think they won't vote for a weak President."
"Well screw the American people!"
"I would, love-of-my-life," he says, eyes twinkling, "but we took vows."
She can't help it, she rolls her eyes at his exaggerated leer and smiles at him. "Do you plan on taking this seriously?"
"I am. I can't appear weak, Abigail. And, however wrong, this will make people think I'm weak."
"We can teach them differently."
He gently rests his hand on her shoulder. She can't feel the tremors she knows are there. This close she doesn't notice anything different between this Jed--the sick Jed, the Jed who has lesions on his brain and spinal cord--and the Jed from before those first pains in his thigh. And that's his point.
"You don't want to tell anyone, do you?"
"The girls," he says. "The family. The people who need to know."
"One term," she says. "If you win--"
"When I win."
"--when you win. One term. No re-election, Jed. I'm not kidding."
He kisses her cheek. "I know you aren't. You've got your stern face on. I recognize it from when the girls have dates."
She bats at his arm. "You're the one who makes faces at the girls' dates."
"Do young men today even know what neckties are?" He takes her hands in his and twirls her underneath his arm before cradling her against his chest. She breathes in his cologne and deliberately rumples his tie. "One term, Abbey. We work toward it, we get it, and when it's over I take my bow and we're done."
Her mind is already whirling, thinking of who to swear to secrecy and how, all in the cause of an election that's years away. No, she corrects herself, all in the cause of Jed, who really will be the best man for the job, and who she couldn't budge from his path even if she wanted to. For better, for worse, for sickness, for health, for committing fraud on a grand scale. Not at all what she signed up for but everything she has, and she wouldn't have it any other way.