It was 12:00 o'clock at the white house which meant it was lunch time. It was not a quiet time in the least but it was to a certain degree less busy. Cyrus Beene did not like the stillness or the silence. He did not like the time alone in his own head. He liked the rush of this and that, the pull of work and the push of patriotism that validated everything in the end.
Mellie was out to lunch with Olivia Pope, the wife and mistress out to dine. The president was discussing military protocol with the secretary of defense. He was supposed to be digging up dirt on Sally Langston or strategizing for re-election.
He was not supposed to be staring at his digital picture frame and thinking about his marriage. Chief of staff of the United States of America and right hand to the president. That was what he was. He was not a sentimental man; he had no qualms about hiring hit men or having vicious rumors spread or blatantly lying to protect his nation.
The picture changed to the one of James lying on his side with Ella. He tried to quash it all down. Hell, he was alone in his office at lunch time its not like anyone was apt to barge in. He leaned over and grabbed the picture frame and just cradled it in his arms for a moment.
Cyrus Beene was the devil in a suit. His morality had only one facet, the only person that he hadn’t pulled the trigger on to save the president or the republic. He weighed it all out in his head and he knew it wasn’t going to last, not now anyway. He felt the sting in the back of his eyes. He closed them. He would not cry. He would not think. He would work.
He opened his eyes. The picture in the the little frame was of their wedding day; hands clasped together and eyes bright with promise. It all welled up again with more aggression. The tide would not release without the tears. They began to flow with an intense vigor, his face scrunched up into a little ball and his chest heaved. Alone in a large office in the white house at lunch, Cyrus Beene cried.
A knock rapped on the door. Cyrus reached for a tissue and quickly wiped away the evidence of his emotional incompetence. “Cy, its Mellie may I come in”
She strutted into his office with large confident strides and plopped into the chair across from him. She began rambling without looking up.
“ And then I poured the wine and she asked me what was going on as if I might have lunch with my husbands whore for a multitude of reasons. So I gave her the list and” A pause. Mellie looked at the tissue in the waste basket. Then her gaze traveled up to meet Cyrus’s red rimmed eyes.
“Cyrus Beene you need to pull yourself together. This is not the 'I have an unfaithful spouse sob fest', we are the heads of the grant re-election campaign. You can not do this, not now”
“I have a pollen allergy you assumptive twit and I don’t need to know every little sarcastic detail from your wonderful little lunch. Now kindly exit my office so I may return to working on things of actual importance Madame First Lady”
Mellie’s face softened and she leaned in and grabbed his hand. “Cyrus, just talk to me about it, maybe that will help get it all out so you can focus.”
He lunged forward out of his chair
“NOTHING WILL HELP. I WENT TO FAR THIS TIME. HE SEES THE MONSTER IN ME, HE SEES IT AND HE WILL NEVER UNSEE IT.” The screams just ripped out of his throat and his face reddened to that mottley shade of pink that it always did when he was angry. He slumped back down and the rest squirmed out of him in a small exasperated voice.
“He’s going to leave me soon. I don’t even know why he’s staying. I’m a corporeal satan. Maybe he's still here because of the scary speech I gave him or the job at the press core or Ella. But, none of it will last, Mellie. He’ll get custody it even if I hire an armada of lawyers because I am a workaholic and an unfeeling man with no taste for babies. He’ll get custody. He’ll find a better job because he is a damn good reporter, he is one of the best damn reporters in this town and he knows it and he will leave me.” There was a long breath and a pause.
“And then Mellie, I will be all alone with my anger and my work and nothing to tether me down to the world of the sane or mundane. I will be utterly alone and I will have nothing not even a name in the history books or a long lived marriage to show for my time here.”
Mellie reached over and pried the picture frame from Cyrus's hands. She placed it back in the corner of his desk and pulled out a file from one of his drawers and shoved it into his hands.
“Look at that file, Cyrus. Read it reread it and do not look up. Do not think about your marriage, do not think about your future. Think about your job and the president and the re-election campaign. When you finish thinking about this file take out another one or go yell at someone about the polls. Do not stop and if it gets quiet and empty then work harder. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“Good, because this is not quitting time, this is fighting time and we are the president's warriors. We are going to make it through this and one day when we are old and have no one, we will at the very least have our memories of greatness; the time we ran this country and won the election.”
She turned on her heels and left without another word. He glanced at the picture frame for another moment and something possessed him to speak. He whispered ever so quietly
“I love him so much it burns.”
Then he turned to the file in his hands and set off to work. It was 1:00 o’clock and the white house was alive and buzzing.
James was sitting in his office with a coffee. It was black with three sugars and a sprinkle of cinnamon. He was an obscure man to be sure, he loved powerful older men and he had chosen a profession which alienated him from nearly all of them. He had worked at many papers, at the BNC, at the white house. He had followed campaigns and investigated on the merest whiff of a juicy story. He was a reporter.
He sat in his office and his coffee grew cold. He was listening to tapes from the day before, tapes from the bug he put in his husband's picture frame. A bug he put there because their marriage was over which was because he had a monster for a husband. A monster who whored him out and he had taken the bait because he was angry. He had fucked Daniel Douglas and been fucked by Daniel Douglas. His marriage was over and he needed the leverage to leave with his baby daughter so he listened to the tapes. He thought he was on to something because the office had been strangely quiet for a few minutes during lunch and Cyrus must have been concentrating on something very seriously to make such little sound.
Then he heard something very strange indeed. He heard a low intake of breath and a sniffle. He heard breath whooshing quietly and quickly and then he heard the picture frame being swept up and moved. The mic was closer to Cyrus now and his breath was heavier. This was it, Cyrus had found the bug and was going to find James and have him killed. He was dead, he was a very dead man.
But nothing happened for a few more minutes just the soft swish of the picture frame moving and erratic breath. Cyrus must have been holding the picture frame and rocking with it or something. That was very unlike his husband. Then something snapped and Cyrus began to wail and his sobs were extremely audible meaning he was crying hard. It was not so loud that someone outside the office might hear but it was as close as one got when crying in a professional setting. Why was he crying? What could possible have offset this man. He had no standards, no ethics, no limits and most definitely no emotions about anything except running the white house and even then he only really exhibited anger in response to bad news. This must be really bad, like national crisis or public embarrassment of the century bad because his husband did not cry.
There was a knock on the door and a few shuffling noises, presumably something to do with tissues. He heard Mellie's voice going on about some lunch with Olivia Pope and something about a whore but it was a hell of a garbled sentence. Then she paused probably noticed something and was telling Cyrus to pull himself together and not think about his marriage. Which of course was the most ludicrous idea in all of time and space. There was no way Cyrus Beene sobbed in the white house over his marriage. They argued and Cyrus screamed about how nothing would ever be right and it was all about James. Cyrus Beene was screaming about him, sobbing about him to the first lady.
“ He’ll get custody. … He’ll find a better job…he is a damn good reporter... he will leave me… I will be utterly alone and I will have nothing”
That couldn’t be his husband. His husband did not cry about his marriage, he did not cry about love and being alone and not having stability. He was an insane emotionless monster who needed someone with him for fear of a cold bed, nothing more emotionally involved then that. Those soft sniffles and those racking sobs, his husband did not cry. The only time he’d ever shed a tear was, well it was when James said yes to his proposal. It was only one tear and it was a silent tear but it was a tear all the same.
That was his husband sobbing. That manic workaholic, the man with so few values he stole the white house and debased the democratic system of the United States of America was crying. He was crying over their marriage.
He heard the picture frame move and then he heard Mellie’s firm and demanding speech. He heard papers shuffling and he heard her heels clack out of the room. He was about to stop listening because surely that speech would have completely snapped his husband out of whatever moral crisis he was having. But he heard a small sigh and then a whisper
“I love him so much it burns.”
I love him so much it burns, I love him so much it burns, I love him so much it burns, I love him so much it burns.
His husband loved him so much it burned. His evil monster of a husband. His amoral douchebag of a husband who pimped and manipulated everyone around him. That man loved him so much it burned.
That night when they were both in bed and it was silent and dark; he listened to every sigh and sniffle and intake of breath waiting for a tell that those tapes had been an act. He heard streams of breath let out through bitten lips and the kind of silence reserved by those who could not risk to speak for the chance that everything would spill out. He read cues and dug out the truth for a living and this was the worst twist of events because it god damn hurt. He knew he should turn over and close his eyes and focus on all the horrible things that had gotten them to this point, but the mind was a strange place.
He thought about their first kiss in the back of the national library. It was after a private interview and Cyrus’s gaze had lingered on him to long and too many times for him to be imagining it so he leaned in. Cyrus had stiffened like a rock but his lips had been soft, and then Cyrus just melted into it. He had tasted like coffee and spearmint gum and it was a delightful albeit slightly nauseating mixture.
Then he thought about there first date. Cyrus had taken him to a small french restaurant on the pretense of an interview. The lighting was soft and romantic and he had ordered the most expensive wine on the menu and held his hand under the table. They talked about the most random things possible, the new painting in the west wing, the best season to plant sunflowers and how much to water them. They talked about their gardens and there was the subtle implication of our garden in the foreseeable future.
He thought about their garden now with tomatoes, mint, basil and every rose on god's green earth. He thought about their daughter's baptism. He thought about how Cyrus loved him so much it burned. He thought and he thought and then he stopped thinking.
Despite all the bullshit and the games and the lies and the tricks, he turned over and put his arms around his husband and pulled him close. He held him and he felt the way Cyrus’s chest trembled and the way his breath released. He nuzzled his head into the crook of Cyrus’s shoulder and squeezed his arms tighter and Cyrus was still with shock. His husband was a monster, a burly little monster who was balding, tired and getting a bit old.
It was all bullshit, all of it. Reason being that at the end of the day, at the end of every day he felt the burn too. He felt that love so fierce and bitter that it burned right through all of it. They slept together that night, really together and really asleep for the first time in months. They blazed together through it all.