“--here live at the White House, and President Hanover has not been seen since the articles of impeachment were brought up last night. Press Secretary Bill Franklin has said that he won’t be issuing any--”
"--we now go to John Oliver at the Capitol Building for some--"
“--No indication from either party leader as to what will happen next, Brian. We’re hearing that Massachusetts Representative and Majority Whip John Adams will be speaking in a few hours, but as to what--”
“--Well, Jon, the only thing more surprising than the articles being voted on is that they were brought out of committee at all, since Adams is well known on Capitol Hill as the World’s Angriest Little Teapot. He frequently gets all steamed up, then shouts, whereupon it is necessary for someone to tip him over and pour--”
“--history of the world, Katie, and that’s what, in all honesty, has everyone here in Washington biting their nails. The impeachment process should--”
“--Benjamin Franklin has been sequestered in his offices along with several top advisors, and there’s a rumor going around that several Republican representatives have joined what was, until recently, considered John Adams’s lonely cause.”
"--dammit, Clarabelle, I love you and I don't care who knows it! We'll tell the world--"
Adams frowns, looking down at the remote control as if it's personally responsible for the fact that Lifetime Original Movies, and not C-SPAN 3, has appeared in the channel lineup. “Has someone been tampering with the channel listings again?” he demands to the room at large.
Tom, slumped in one of Franklin's obscenely comfortable couches (and refusing to think about how many interns have probably been seduced on said couches) wonders if it’s worth the trouble to try taking the damn thing away from Adams. It’s been nearly nine hours since the three of them had presented the House with the Articles of Impeachment, and as much as he's a believer in this cause, listening to Adams talk even more is last on his list of desires at present.
“It’s my television, John,” Dr. Franklin reminds him, looking up from his iPhone. He's been tweeting the whole shitshow, from what Tom can tell. “And you’re not allowed to press any buttons other than volume up or volume down, if you’ll remember our agreement. Turn it back to the Daily Show.”
“Why do you have Lifetime on here?” Adams demands, but Tom notices he obediently goes back to channel 632, where John Oliver is still talking about Adams’s more nursery-rhythmic qualities. Adams swears and mutes the TV.
“I find 'The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story' to be both heartwarming and inspirational,” Dr. Franklin replies.
“All right,” Adams says, tossing the remote onto the couch next to Tom and waving at the sea of reporters being shown in greenscreen behind John Olliver, “Which one of us will go up on camera? Someone’s got to face the lions in the circus pit.”
"You're the man with the plan," Dr. Franklin observes. Tom bites back a smile at that; Franklin has probably planned at least ten steps ahead of himself and almost three steps ahead of Adams. "Why don't you go? I have a chair you can use to fend them off. And a whip!" he adds brightly, scrabbling in his bottom drawer.
"Good God," Adam moans, rubbing his face. "Anyway, it can't be me. The press hates me, ever since the divorce."
"Since well before the divorce, surely," Franklin says.
Adams makes a face. Governor Smith-Adams had gotten the majority stake in public sympathy, though it seemed that the biggest reaction was shock that they'd lasted as long as they had. "A politician married to a doting wife, or husband - they can last a lifetime," John Dickinson had observed one night in the Republican lounge. "But a politician married to another politician? You might as well share a bed with a stick of lit dynamite."
From what Tom had observed, the problem seemed to stem largely from a lack of any bed-sharing; Adams was stuck in Washington and Governor Smith-Adams was running Massachusetts, and although they had a handful of kids at some point, their love life had devolved to snarky emails that the Governor blind copied to Franklin - who promptly shared them with anyone and everyone on the Hill. Tom found out about the divorce from Roll Call and wasn't even the tiniest bit surprised.
"You could do it," Adams points out to Franklin.
"They hate me more," Franklin says, smug. The senior senator from Pennsylvania has made it his life's goal to make every major reporter look like an idiot on national television, with the end result that (from what Tom's heard) cub reporters get sacrificed like virgins to a volcano god whenever anyone really, desperately needs a quote. He's made Larry King cry on-air. Twice.
Adams rounds on Tom. "That leaves you, Jefferson."
"You're forgetting, Mr. Adams," Tom says sweetly, "That I don't want to."
"This isn't about wanting, dammit! This is your duty. We've got to make sure people understand what's happening -- moreover, why it's happening."
Dr. Franklin leans back in his armchair. "I think the criminal allegations against Fat George make that fairly clear, don't they?"
Which is true enough. President Hanover has been steadily losing his iron grip on the country in the last two years, despite winning reelection last year by a landslide. In part, that's what triggered Adams's one-man armed conflict; the election had been so overwhelming, and so far outside expectation, that Adams ordered investigation after investigation into the President's activities. Not even Hanover could put him off forever.
And now a grand jury has just indicted Hanover on over thirty counts of voter fraud; if anything, this impeachment is the sideshow, not the main event. But still-- "I'm not an orator like you, Mr. Adams," Tom tries. Which is also true, though it's hard to think of anyone who's an orator like Adams.
"You're perfectly adequate," Adams says. "Besides, you wrote the damn thing."
Tom wrote the Articles for three days straight, very nearly; at first angrily, scoring off each criminal act like the personal offenses they were, but in the end, he was simply tired, and the last paragraph is blurry, difficult to access in his perfect recall. Tom opens his mouth to try another protest.
"Jefferson, if you don't go out there, I will," Adams threatens, and since everyone remembers the last time Adams almost beaned Anderson Cooper over the head with his own microphone, Tom climbs reluctantly to his feet.
"Point me in the direction of the nearest lion," he says. "And bring me the chair."
"Don't forget the whip," Dr. Franklin calls after him as he trudges out the door.
John watches Tom go, wondering for the fifty-thousandth time how he doesn't hit his head on the lintle. He turns back to Franklin. "Do you think he's ready for this?" he asks.
"Are any of us ready?" Franklin replies, pouring himself another drink. "Anyway, it's a little late for philosophy, John. Alea, as they say, iacta est."
"Don't quote latin at me, Franklin, I've already got a headache."
Franklin just laughs. "Go home, John. Get some sleep - we'll need it tomorrow. Tomorrow the whole world crashes down on us."
John climbs to his feet with a minimum of difficulty. "I remember when Hanover won the first election," he says. "I thought, this is it, he'll cause the end of our country as we know it."
"And you were right. Congratulations," Franklin says. He sounds suspiciously sincere.
"No," John says, "No, I wasn't. Hanover hasn't ended our country as we know it. We have."
"Well now I don't care if you get some sleep or not," Franklin says. "Just get out of my office."
It takes some doing to get from the Russell building back to his musty office in the Rayburn undetected, but John's good at evasion even though he doesn't often employ that particular talent. He spends the walk swearing at his iPhone with its sluggish loading time, trying to find which blog is saying what about the story so far, texting Tom talking points that he's probably ignoring, and impatiently dismissing all of the text messages he's been getting from Abby since midafternoon. John scrolls through his messages and pauses; there's an exchange with Abigail, dated a few days before:
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: This weekend
OK I'm definite about the fact that we don't have debtor's prisons. See you in a few days,
then. Let me know and I'll send a car to pick you up, since you're too penniless to afford one
yourself and I'd hate to see you struggle with public transportation on top of all the other
indignities. Nabby got you a tie again; I'm sorry in advance for how hideous it is.
>Subject: Re: Re: Re: This weekend
>I do know that - I also know that trains weren't invented until the 1800s, dear. I
>also know exactly how much in child support I pay and if the kids want presents
>and "life liberty and justice for all" and their father not to go to debtor's prison,
>I'm taking the train.
>>Subject: Re: Re: This weekend
>>Train ticket? You know you're not actually one of the founding fathers and
>>that we've developed considerable technological advances in transportation
>>in the last 200 years right?
>>>Subject: Re: This weekend
>>>Quincy's been texting me that question with the exact same
>>>amount of snark. I'm deeply suspicious. I'll be there - buying a
>>>train ticket as we speak.
>>>>Subject: This weekend
>>>>My minions never did hear from you about Christmas Eve
>>>>- will you be making an appearance, or shall I let your
>>>>children know that life liberty justice for all etc. is going
>>>>to get their presents this year? Just curious.
He stops in the middle of the sidewalk - he'd actually forgotten to buy the ticket, caught up in the complication of Hanover's grand jury indictment while writing up the articles of impeachment. He supposes it doesn't matter, now, but he can't swallow down the sick feeling in the back of his throat as he shuts off his phone.
The press conference is -- to put it mildly -- a shitshow. After Ben kicks Adams out of his office he locks the door and watches the coverage, watches Tom Jefferson squint against the harsh lights of the camera crews as he answers question after question after question.
Tom has no doubt been charming reporters since he was at William & Mary, but he's been careful in his political career so far, and he's never suffered the kind of clashes that make him wince whenever Ben invites him and John and a half-dozen other old goats to watch the CSPAN weekly highlight reel. Ben knows how much John's lack of war service gnaws at him, but Ben's always thought of them as campaigners in their own ways - warriors no less than General Washington, for all their risks and wounds don't show.
But Tom looks on that kind of life with a visceral horror - he's a gentleman of the south, one of the true aristocrats that've thrown up a couple of politicians in every generation since the War of Northern Aggression. To this day it's still shocking as hell to Ben that Tom ever signed up for this.
But when Tom walks down the steps of the capitol and Ben sees the -- Christ Almighty -- fifty reporters swarming around him, shouting and thrusting cameras or microphones at him, Ben thinks maybe Tom's not so surprising after all. The anger in his voice, in his eyes, as he answers question after question about the impeachment -- Tom is offended, deeply, by what his president has done. And that's what will kill Fat George and get him ousted: not the media or public opinion or even the law, but the anger of a few men moved to it, a few men driven there.
By the time Tom retreats back inside, to the safety of his own office, he's got seventeen text messages from Adams and one from his wife. He deletes all of them except Martha's.
The hallways are still crowded, even at this hour; John is half-proud and half-worried that this is so normal, that the men and women working for the legislative branch seem to live on their nerves and Five-Hour Energy drinks. He nods at a few vaguely familiar faces - he couldn't say if they were lackeys to his colleagues or baby Congressmen, they seem to be getting younger every session.
His office, when he gets to it, is open and full-to-bursting with staff, most of whom he's sure he never hired. Charles is running it all with the zen-like expression he only employs when he is well and truly ready to kill someone; he glances up when John comes in and thrusts a half-dozen papers at him. "Sign these, and don't go in your office until you have," he orders.
"Why, what's in my office?" he asks, but he's too tired to be curious; he should've gone home directly, should have listened to Franklin, a terrible thought. He drags his pen out from his breast pocket and scratches out his name near where the stickers tell him to; it's possible these are release forms to his bank accounts, and the idea doesn't even faze him.
"Who," Charles tells him, and all but shoves him toward the door as he snatches the papers back. John manages not to run nose-first into the door, but it's surprisingly difficult.
"John really, of all the times to perfect the art of ignoring an argument," he hears as soon as he opens the door.
For a moment John can't speak. Abigail's got her hair done differently; he's seen it on TV and didn't think the new severe bob suited her, but in person it looks softer, the edges curling up disobediently. It's still the same color that he loved to twist around his finger, tugging gently as she laughed and swatted his hand away.
"I take it you're responsible for at least fifty percent of the overcrowding in my front office, then," he says; he doesn't even have to clear his throat. "Did you charter a plane to get here and deliver your scolding in person?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Abigail says, standing up from where she's been leaning back in his chair. "I had extra Delta Skymiles, I didn't waste a dime of taxpayer money."
"That's not what I -- it's good to see you, Abigail," John tries, because suddenly the idea of having a fight, any fight, with her is almost frightening. He hasn't stood in the same room with Abigail for almost seven months, and all he wants to do is stand there and never leave.
She opens her mouth and pauses, then says, "You look tired, John."
"I called for the impeachment of the President of the United States this afternoon," John points out. "It's all been a little busy."
That gets a laugh out of her, the surprised half-giggle that had made him fall in love with her almost fifteen years ago. "Come on," she says. "Let's go home."
"Home - I can't go back to Boston in the middle of the night," John says. "Besides, you shipped all my clothes here. And my desk."
"I mostly shipped that desk to get it out of the den, it's hideously ugly," Abigail says. She sounds almost fond. "I meant your home, here in Washington." She crosses the doom and puts her arm through his.
"Why are you here?" he asks, wishing that it didn't sound as soft and lost as he felt. "You didn't have to -- why did you come?"
"Because I don't love America half so well as I love you, John," Abigail says, and drops a kiss, soft, on his cheek. "Now, let's go. No arguing."