Dedication to the Josiah Bartlet Presidential Library
Manchester, New Hampshire.
The room was full of people, all sitting quietly and listening to the former President of the United States while he delivered his speech. In the first row sat his wife, his daughters and their families. Right behind them was his former Senior Staff, with the current President and the First Lady. The rest of the large room was filled with former White House Staff and representatives of Congress and the Senate, as well as the Governor of New Hampshire and other VIPs.
Jed Bartlet, in his speech, recalled some of the important moments of his Administration: goals they had accomplished, things that they didn't, funny moments, sad ones, but almost everyone on the room teared up when he dedicated a few beautiful words to his dear friend and Chief of Staff Leo McGarry.
When he finished, everybody stood up and began to clap, loudly. His family joined him to congratulate him while the rest continued clapping. Then, he approached the microphone again.
"Thank you very much. Now, let's have a tour before we go have some lunch. Feel free to go wherever you want. Use the opportunity because this will be open to the public on Monday." Bartlet said to the crowd.
People began to leave the room to explore but his former Staff remained behind. Jed and Abbey moved near them. First, they talked for a few minutes with President and Mrs. Santos and, when they left, they went to the group of people standing in the middle of the room.
"How was it?" He asked, joking.
"Nice speech, sir." Will Bailey told him.
"Did you have to remember everyone that Roberto Benigni pushed me into the pool?" CJ asked him.
"It was funny!" Josh exclaimed.
"You weren't the one wearing a wet and very expensive dress for the rest of the night, mi amour."
"And I missed that?" Danny asked. "Damn." He said, making everybody laugh.
"Shut up, Fish Boy." CJ told him, elbowing him lightly on the side.
"We missed you last night." Abbey commented.
"My last meeting ended later than I expected and we missed our flight." CJ explained. "We tried to take the next one but it was full."
"Don't worry, we'll have time to catch up later." Jed told her. "Come on, follow me. I want to show you something. It's still closed and they won't open the room until I tell them so." He said. "I wanted you to show it to you first."
Everybody followed him. They left the room and walked down a long empty corridor until they arrived to a closed door. The sign indicating what was in the room was covered so no one knew what they would find inside. Jed opened the door and stepped inside. "Welcome to the past." He told them.
Slowly, they got into the room, an exact replica of the Oval Office, with the same furniture and all. They stood in the room, silent and with their mouths wide open, amazed at the sight. While the former President stood behind his old desk, the rest looked around. Josh and Toby went to see the shelves with all the President books, CJ sat down on the armchair she always used during the meetings while Danny stood next to her, Charlie went along with Sam to look at the pictures hanging in the wall. Will and Kate stood still astonished while Abbey looked at all of them with a big smile on her face.
"There's more." Jed said, walking to another closed door. They followed him. He opened it and walked in. Next to the Oval, there was Leo's office, as he had it before CJ filled his position as Chief of Staff. "When CJ finally decided to change the furniture, I asked them to keep it so I could replicate the office here."
"It's awesome." Sam said.
In the room, there was a wall full of photographs, all taken in the original office, of different moments and meetings from the nearly six years Leo was there. They went to examine them, remembering those moments with joy but also sadness in their hearts. While some of them stood in front of that wall, pointing to their little moments of the past showing in those pictures, Danny walked around the room. Then, he saw a different photo, one that was hanging alone, larger than the rest, over Leo's desk. In it, the Senior Staff and the President were sitting playing poker: Jed Bartlet seemed to be explaining something while Leo had an exasperated look on his face, Toby was smoking a cigar while CJ, sitting next to him, was laughing at something along with Josh and Sam.
"Those were the good years." A voice said behind Danny, startling him.
"Yeah." Danny answered. "But I like better the current ones, Josh."
"You had to wait a long time." Josh said, understanding his friend's thoughts.
"I did." Danny told him. "I know she was happy doing her job, those years were some of the best of her life, but something was missing and we both knew it. It's been worth the wait."
"How is she?" Sam asked, joining the conversation.
"Great, busy with AJ and the job, we both are, but happy and as relaxed as I've ever seen her." Danny answered, smiling.
"She's a whole new woman." Toby said, having heard him.
"Has she forgiven us?" Josh inquired.
"Ask her, Josh." Danny told him, surprising them. Grinning at their stunned faces, Danny explained. "She has, a long time ago, and she misses you all even if she doesn't admit it. So, take the first step, you owe her."
"We do." Sam admitted.
Bartlet clapped his hands to gain their attention. "There's another room I want to show you. Follow me." They returned to the Oval Office and walked to another closed door. "All of you were key points in my years at the White House and I wanted to acknowledge that: there are specific corners of the Library dedicated to everyone of you." He explained. "But, as I did with Leo, I wanted to acknowledge another special person, the one who stood by me until the end. "Jed said, looking directly at CJ. "So..." He opened the door. "Welcome to the second Chief of Staff office of the building." Taking her arm, Jed walked with CJ inside the room, followed by the rest.
"I don't know what to say." CJ told him, touched, while a few tears ran down her face.
"You deserve it." He explained, hugging her tightly.
"Thank you." She whispered.
"Thank YOU, Claudia Jean." He whispered back.
After the formal lunch held at the Library, those who were staying at the Bartlet's Farm took their cars to go there for a few hours before they had to drive back to Manchester after dinner.
Everybody changed into comfortable clothes and headed back to the living room. Then, they separated into different groups. While the kids where playing outside under the watchful eyes of Donna and Ainsley, the men sat down to talk about current politics along with Kate and Andy. CJ thought of joining them but the offer of a cold drink and some girl talk won over so she went with Abbey, Debbie, Zoe and Liz to the kitchen.
An hour later, after they conversation went from old anecdotes to their current lives, a head appeared at the door.
"Claudia Jean!" Josh said loudly, startling her.
"It's poker time!" He answered, exited.
CJ groaned, making the rest of the women laugh out loud. Josh got into the kitchen and grabbed her arm, forcing her to get down her stool.
"Are you coming, Debbie?" CJ asked the other woman while Josh tried to drag her out of the room.
"No, thank you. I'll let you all keep your money this time."
Josh continued tugging her until they reached the rest of the players. The table was ready and everybody was waiting for them.
"I got her!" Josh exclaimed.
"He dragged me here!" CJ exclaimed back.
"Congratulations on the hard work, Josh." Toby said, mocking him.
"I aim to please." Josh replied, grinning.
They sat down and the game began. After a few rounds, Jed Bartlet was winning, as always. There was some small talk going around but they were mostly concentrated on the game until an old recurrent thing started.
"Which is the only word in the English language that has four sets of double letters in a row?" Bartlet asked. The rest of the table groaned out loud. They looked at each other, amazed, before they began to laugh.
Toby extended his arm, palm up, and Sam, Josh, Will, Kate and Danny all gave him a ten-dollar bill.
"What?" Jed asked, confused.
"Toby said that you wouldn't be able to resist asking some of your trivia during the game." Danny explained. "We said that you could. Obviously, he won." He said, pointing his finger to a grinning Toby.
"You fell for that, Fish Boy?" CJ teased Danny. "We all know he can't resist it."
"We thought he would had run out of trivia by now." Sam said, defending their bet.
"He's retired and has internet, Spanky." CJ replied.
"He's still in the room, you know?" Jed spoke, breaking their little friendly dispute.
"Sorry, sir." They all said at the same time.
"Well." Bartlet exclaimed. "Which is the only word in the English language that has four sets of double letters in a row." He asked again.
"Balloonneer." Toby quickly answered.
"Spoilsport." The former President murmured. "Another one." He said, louder that time. "Which is only word that can be used as five different parts of speech?"
And that got them thinking. Jed observed them, proud of himself, while they thought hard about his question. "I'll give you another one, this one for our speechwriters. Which is the longest word you can type using only your left hand?" Nobody answered. "Well, let's go on with out game while you think."
"Come on!" Josh said. "You're already winning. Why use your strategy for distracting us?" He asked his former boss.
"It's funny." Jed simply answered. "CJ, deal the cards."
Just at that precise moment Donna entered the room, with a little girl perched on her hip, and went directly to where CJ was sitting. Annie tugged lightly her mother's hair, trying to gain her attention.
"Mama!" AJ happily exclaimed. "Hi!"
CJ turned around in her chair to look at her daughter. "Hi pumpkin." She said, ruffling the child's hair. "I thought you were playing outside."
"She was asking for you. I think she's getting tired." Donna explained while CJ took her daughter and sat her down on her lap.
"She skipped her nap today." Danny said after kissing AJ's cheek and making her laugh. "Thanks Donna." He smiled at her.
They played a few more hands while they all thought about the questions. Out of the blue, Danny exclaimed. "Desegregated!"
"What?" CJ, who sat next to him, asked startled at his outburst.
"The longest word you can type with your left hand! Desegregated!" Danny said, proud.
"Kudos to our dear journalist. This was a hard one." Bartlet congratulated him.
"Thank you." Danny said, smiling.
CJ grabbed his chin, making him turn around to look at her, and gave him a peck on the lips. Annie clapped with her little hands while Josh whistled loudly, thing that made him earn an slap at the back of his head, courtesy of CJ.
"What are you, five?" She asked him.
"You're mean, Claudia Jean."
"Whatever you say, mi amour."
Before they could continue, Abbey entered the living room from the kitchen.
"People!" She said out loud to gain their attention. "We have to get moving or we'll be late for dinner. Play the last round and go get yourselves ready."
"That's it!" Sam bursted out loud.
"What?" Abbey asked confused.
"The word that can be used as five different parts of speech." Sam explained. "Round!"
"Noun, verb, adjective, preposition and adverb." Toby said.
"Well done." Jed told them.
"You should limit his internet time, Abbey." Josh said. "He's making us suffer."
"I'm sure you deserve it, Josh." Abbey replied.
They finished their game and went to their respective rooms to get ready. Thirty minutes later, all men were already downstairs and ready to go. In the next few minutes, one by one, the women also arrived. When everybody was ready, and after a quick tall with the babysitters, they left the house and got into the cars that would take them to Manchester.
The local bar, the one they went during both campaigns, was closed for the night. Inside, the former President of the United States, the former First Lady and former White House Senior Staff were enjoying a wonderful dinner. After desserts were served, Jed got up from his chair and grabbed his champagne glass and cleared his throat. Everybody stopped talking and fixed their eyes on the man standing up.
"Well, first of all, let me thank you again for being here. It means a lot to me. To us." He said, looking at his wife. "We began as an small group, just Leo, Josh, Toby, CJ, Sam and me. As the years went by we gained more members on our particular dysfunctional family." He continued, stopping for a moment while everyone laughed. "After giving up a few years or your lives for our country, I'm glad to see that everything went great. Look at Josh." Jed said, pointing at him. "The solitary man. Politics was his life. He was my Deputy Chief of Staff for seven years. He ran a successful campaign and an unknown man became the next President of the United States. He is, now, his Chief of Staff. Politics still run his life but he found time to marry a wonderful woman and have a family. So, to Josh, Donna and little Noah!"
"Hear, hear!" Everybody said.
"Sam." Jed continued, looking at him. "Our idealistic guy, my Deputy Communications Director who left the White House to run for Congress. He almost succeeded but a Democrat has never won on that district. Yet, he tried anyway. He returned to the private sector until his best friend came by, again, to drag him back to Washington. Now, he's the Deputy Chief of Staff, has a wonderful wife. We love her even if she's a Republican." He joked. "And has two wonderful kids. To Sam, Ainsley, Leslie and Leo!"
"Will, the shy man who went from Deputy Communications Director to Vice-President's Chief of Staff to Congressman and his fiancee Kate, Deputy Nacional Security Advisor during my administration and the current one. I'm waiting for the wedding invitation guys." He told them, grinning.
"Soon." Kate said.
"And Charlie! Oh, young Charlie. Not so young anymore. The boy who was tricked into being my personal aide, who then became the Deputy Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff. Now, he's a lawyer on his way to join an important cause and still dating my youngest daughter. A man who has grown up. Don't you think it's time to propose?" He asked him while the rest laughed. "Then, we have Toby. Now I'm married, now I am not. But, after a lot of years and arguments, he's still with Andy and they are proud parents to a set of very energetic twins. We had our own set of arguments and problems but, at the end, everything ended well. So, to Toby, Andy, Huck and Molly!"
"And the last one of our group, our very tall dear lady. Claudia Jean, my Press Secretary for six years, the one who had to clean all our messes. Does anybody remember the secret plan to fight inflation?" He asked the group. Everyone looked at Josh, laughing, while he tried to hide behind Donna. "We all knew she had a crush on Danny and he had one on her. He gave her a fish!"
"It was Josh's fault!" Danny exclaimed, interrupting him.
"It doesn't surprise me." Jed joked. "They waited, and waited, and waited ... How long did you wait?" He asked CJ.
"Almost eight years." She answered.
"Eight years! But they finally made it. When Leo had the heart attack, she accepted the huge responsibility of becoming my Chief of Staff, at a time when everything was going pretty bad. She took the challenge and succeeded, she passes the test with flying colors. Now, she's trying to make the world a better place while she shares her life with our beloved reporter and, together, they're raising a wonderful little girl who calls me Grandpa. CJ, we're glad to have you back." He said, looking directly at her. She quickly understood what he meant and nodded at him. "So, to CJ, Danny and AJ!"
Jed sat down and accepted, gratefully, the kiss on the cheek that his wife gave him. He squeezed her hand and gave her a loving smile. Then, he looked at his extended family. They were all looking at each other, sharing knowing glances. Finally, after a few seconds of hesitation, Sam stood up.
"This afternoon, during the dedication, we talked a lot about those years at the White House." Sam began. "It's been three years since it ended. Some of us left before, some stayed until the end, but we all said something that surprised us. You're still the President. In our heads, you're THE President, you'll always be. It was a gift, an honor, to serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. So, thank you for giving us the opportunity to do something great. So, to Jed Bartlet!" Sam finished, raising his glass.
"To Jed Bartlet!" Everybody said, mimicking his action.
"And to Abbey and her Ouija board!" Josh shouted.
They all stood up and clinked their glasses.
Some time later, the party was in full swing. The tables were pushed aside, leaving a big space in the room that became a dance floor. Music sounded through the speakers, drinks went from hand to hand. Some of them danced, the others stood in smaller groups talking and laughing.
CJ and Danny were slowly dancing, their bodies close, taking advantage of the slow melodic song playing in the background.
"Are you happy that we came?" Danny asked her.
"I am." She genuinely answered, resting her head on his shoulder. "I missed them, and I didn't realize how much until today."
"Me too." CJ replied. "I love you, Fish Boy."
"I love you too, Claudia." He said before kissing her.
They stopped moving and continued sharing a long tender kiss. But they were interrupted, as always, by Josh.
"Claudia Jean!" He shouted as he approached them with two glasses on his hands. He gave one to CJ and put his arm around her waist. "Am I interrupting?"
"I'm gonna kill you before the weekend ends. Mark my words, Joshua."
"They're putting together the karaoke machine. Come sing with me!" He happily asked.
"No way." CJ quickly replied after taking a long sip from her drink.
"Come on, CJ!"
"I'm not drunk enough."
"Pleaaaaaaase." Josh begged. "Pretty please?" He asked, pouting.
"Live a little, Claudia." Danny said, mocking her.
"You're all gonna regret this." She said, passing her drink to her husband and following Josh to the stage.
Joe, the owner of the bar, grabbed the microphone. "Hello, everyone! The Karaoke is now ready!" He stopped talking until they finished cheering. "Our first brave participants are Josh Lyman and CJ Concannon. They're gonna sing 'Ain't no mountain high enough'!"
Everybody clapped while CJ and Josh took the stage. They grabbed the microphones and the firsts notes from the song began to play. Josh, ready to fool around, looked at CJ and began to sing.
"Listen, baby." He sang, pointing his finger at her. "Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, baby."
CJ, trying to contain her laughter, continued. "If you need me call me, no matter where you are, no matter how far."
"Don't worry baby." He added.
"Just call my name, I'll be there in a hurry, you don't have to worry." CJ followed.
"'Cause baby." They sang together. "Ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you babe."
Then, Josh walked behind CJ, put his arm around her waist and stood next to her. "Remember the day I set you free. I told you, you could always count on me, girl. And from that day on, I made a vow, I'll be there when you want me. Some way, some how." He grabbed CJ's hand and spun her around.
"'Cause baby. Ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you, babe." They sang.
"Oh, no darling." Josh continued.
"No wind. No rain." CJ sang. "No winters cold can stop me baby."
"No, no baby." He replied.
"'Cause you're my love." CJ sang back.
"If you're ever in trouble, I'll be there on the double. Just send for me." He followed.
"Oh baby." She sang with him.
CJ walked around him while she sang, running her free hand along his shoulders. "My love is alive, way down in my heart, although we are miles apart."
Josh grabbed her hand and pulled her to him. "If you ever need a helping hand, I'll be there on the double just as fast as I can." He sang, looking directly at her eyes.
Laughing, they turned to look at their public for the final part.
"Don't you know that ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you babe."
They ended the song, left the mikes on the machine, and fell into a friendly emotional hug. Everybody clapped and cheered, some of them even whistled. They got down the stage and walked to where Danny stood. He handed CJ's drink back to her and kissed her tenderly on the lips.
"Great show." He said, smiling. "You did well. I loved it."
"It was fun." CJ answered before taking a long sip from her drink.
"How was I?" Josh asked, jokingly.
"You were great too, Josh." Danny laughed.
"Do you mind if I steal her for a few more minutes?" Josh asked Danny.
"You can ask me, Joshua." CJ told him, pinching his arm.
"Ouch!" He yelped while rubbing his arm.. "Sorry. Would you come with me for a few minutes, Claudia Jean?"
"Of course." She answered, grinning at him. "I'll be right back." She told Danny after a quick peck on the lips.
While Donna and Ainsley took the stage to sing another song, Josh took CJ out of the bar. There, leaning against the wall, were Sam and Toby. They approached the two men and stood in front of them. Toby handed her a cigarette and a lighter as he said to Josh. "I thought you would destroy my eardrums with your singing. You surprised me."
"I'm a man full of surprises, Toby. After all these years you should know it by now." Josh mocked him.
"What are we doing here?" CJ asked, taking a drag from her cigarette.
"We have something for you." Sam answered, grabbing the bag that was next to him and that CJ hadn't noticed before. "
"Really?" She exclaimed, surprised. Then, a second later, she frowned. "Are you gonna make me cry?"
"Provably." Sam admitted shyly.
"Oh, Lord." CJ said, closing her eyes. Her spin boys looked at each other trying to decide who had to go first. CJ, noticing their silence, opened her eyes and stared at them. Josh, grinning, elbowed Sam who, a bit scared, elbowed Toby. He gave them a death glare but cleared his throat and began to talk.
"Well ... It seems I'll be the first one to speak." Toby said. "I know we talked about everything that happened, we had our share of screaming and yelling, and you forgave me, think of what I'll be forever grateful. But, anyway ..." He stopped for a few second to put his words in order. "Ten years ago we created a team, a family. We promised, that night, between dancing and too much alcohol, to always be there for each other, to go together until the end. We didn't but you did."
"Toby..." CJ interrupted him, her voice warning him,
"We broke our promise." Sam stated.
"And our friendship got lost in the way." Josh continued. "We ended at each other throats, forgetting what linked us, what made what we had so special."
"You held the fort, alone. You put this country's interests, the President's, before your own." Toby told her. "And we never said thank you."
"Or sorry." Josh added.
"As Josh said, we had something special. A family. Toby, the older grumpy brother. Josh, the silly and messy one." Sam said.
"Sam, the youngest one but full of ideas and projects." Josh interrupted.
"And you, CJ." Sam continued. "The only sister, the one who took care of us, cleaned our messes. The one who we all love with all our hearts."
"Ok, guys. Stop." CJ pleaded, drying her tears while she threw her cigarette.
"We just want everything to be alright again between us, CJ." Josh explained. "So, together, we decided that you should have the mug."
"What?" She asked, surprised. "We gave it to you, Josh. You put another man in the Oval Office. The award was for you."
"You should have it, Claudia Jean." Josh told her. "It's a tradition we've been doing for a long time. The mug went from one to the other, as a prize for our respective successes. We all had our share, but the final achievement, the one we're all proud about, is that you stood there until the last day. So, the wonderful battered White House mug is for you."
Sam opened the bag he was holding and handed the blue mug to CJ before kissing her cheek. CJ quickly engulfed him in a tight emotional hug. She released him and did the same with Josh and Toby.
"You guys can be sweet sometimes." CJ joked while she removed the few tears that remained on her face.
"We have something else." Toby told her.
"No more tears, please, or we'll all end crying and it will destroy our manly reputation."
"You never had that, Joshua." CJ said.
"True, but nobody else has to know it." He replied, smiling sweetly at her.
Toby grabbed the bag from Sam's hands and took out a wrapped bundle. He handed it to CJ. "With a little help from our former President, we were able to have this done today."
CJ, excited, carefully opened the gift. There, in a beautiful frame, was the picture of all the 'family' taken early that day. In another one, was a picture of the four of them with Jed Bartlet, posing for the shot in from of the Library, with their arms intertwined and happily sharing a wide smile.
"Thank you." CJ told them, profoundly touched.
"You deserve it." Sam said.
Together, they finished their drinks and smoked another cigarette (Toby his cigar), before going back inside. They quickly mingled with the rest of their friends, as if nothing important had happened outside. After a few more songs sang at the karaoke, and some dances, the night was coming to its end. When the last song ended, Jed took the stage and grabbed one of the mikes.
"Well, I think it's time we close the lid. You all are responsible people who have kids and have to go home to them." He joked, making everybody laugh. "Thank you all for coming. The doors of our home are always open for you." Bartlet told the crowd. They all clapped. Jed had to wait to the noise to come down before he could continue. "During the first campaign, a tradition of sorts was born and we've done it every time we'd accomplished something important. So, I invite everybody to join in and enjoy the show."
The firsts notes of The Jackal began to sound though the speakers. Everybody turned to look at CJ.
"Oh, no, no, no, no." She said, raising her hands in a vain attempt to stop them.
"Come on, CJ!" Somebody shouted from the back.
"Don't mess with tradition, Claudia Jean." Jed told her.
The crowd made space for her in the middle while they stood forming a perfect circle around her. After taking a few deep breaths, she joined the singer from the song.
"Like a Friday afternoon martini, Chillin' at a quarter after 5. Twist of lime, Coke on the side. The brother loved the high life. Had a Ph.D. in street stride. They called him 'The Jackal' .... "