Author’s Note: Thanks very much to my Beta, Letomo. The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. Speech:
“Who’s on first.” Thought:
*What’s on second.
#I-don’t-know’s on third.
# I own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor The West Wing. Its been a while for one of these… First Daughters One in five children live in the most abject, dangerous, hopeless, backbreaking, gut wrenching, poverty, one in five, and they're children. If fidelity to freedom and democracy is the code of our civic religion then surely, the code of our humanity is faithful service to that unwritten commandment that says "We shall give our children better than we ourselves had." I voted against the bill 'cause I didn't want it to be hard for people to buy milk. I stopped some money from flowing into your pocket. If that angers you, if you resent me, I completely respect that, but if you expect anything different from the President of the United States, I suggest you vote for somebody else. Thanks very much. Hope you enjoyed the chicken. Governor Jed Bartlett, Nashua Speech, First Presidential Election Campaign Las Vegas, Nevada, Friday December 13th 1985
Abigail Bartlett did not like multiple day medical conferences. She felt that a lot of what went on at them was a waste of time and resources and might just as easily be shared in a single day. The sponsored trips might be relaxing, but every time a medical company touted its own wares or downplayed the dangers of the medication they had devised, or pooh-poo the ever increasing costs versus efficacy, Abbey would have to control herself or she would stand up and give the man (it usually was a man, women were still much underrepresented at these shindigs) a piece of her not inconsiderable mind.
And it was even worse when one of her colleagues would lose sight of ethics, necessity or reality and go off on a wild goose chase of research.
But they were the place to network, to gain research grants in some cases, to hear what was going on, no matter how distorted by the researchers' desire to interpret the data as they wished. So she smiled and shook hands and greeted with a smiled men who she gladly would have kicked in the groin, oath or no. They were peddlers of death, not healers of people.
And so she had come to Las Vegas. And was currently wearing a smile that was more a grimace as a sales agent tried to interest her in a new heart arrhythmia medication that was '100% safe for use!'
Abbey sighed, hoping to hell that Jed and their youngest two girls were not getting in trouble back home. Which considering the date, was probably not much of a chance.
OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF Manchester, New Hampshire, Bartlett Family home, Friday, December 13th
Jed Bartlett was not a happy man. His wife was away to a conference and he'd found out a few hours after she left that the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee had arranged a meeting with the President and Board of the Federal Reserve for that weekend instead for the one after. *No doubt wants to be seen to ‘do something’ while others laze about. The man can’t be trusted as far as I can throw him,*
Jed thought. And that was to put it mildly, very inconvenient.
He had to find a way to juggle this duty with the fact that he had his three daughters to take care of. Ordinarily that would not have been a problem. He could have planted them around the table, opened a few boxes of toys, found a book for Ellie, cooked them Chilli, pancakes for breakfast and taken them to a family restaurant. It would have been fun. He had been looking forward to it, even. It annoyed him greatly that due to the inefficiency of the organisers of the economic meeting it had been moved ahead. And as a leading Minority member of the Ways and Means Committee, it was beholden upon him to go.
He sighed. He looked at the table where his nine year old daughter Ellie was doing homework, as usual, and Zoey, just over two weeks from her fifth birthday, was jumping up and down trying to climb onto one of the high kitchen chairs. Zoey wasn’t the most agile of his daughters. Still a lot more agile than Jed, though. Liz was in College, of course.
He picked his youngest daughter up and held her in his arms and smiled at her then raised his voice slightly to get the attention of his daughters.
“Okay girls, Daddy has a surprise! We're going to Aunt Millie!”
Ellie tilted her head at him in that way that she'd inherited from Abbey. “Does Aunt Millie know you're about to descend upon her with us?” Ellie loved her godmother dearly, but he also knew her fridge wasn’t capable of bearing the ravenous hordes of Bartletts without due warning. *I need to have a word with her. She sounds like’s she a forty-something College Professor. Which may have to do with the fact that she’s being raised by two forty something college professors. Okay, still need to talk.*
As Jed had been gathering his thoughts for a reply Ellie sniffed. “Hadn’t thought about that, had you, Dad?”
*Yup, definitely her mother's daughter,* “Errr... Not as such, no,” Jed Bartlett often felt that if they elected his second oldest daughter to any Legislation, County, State or National, the Executive would be scrambling for cover more than half the time. *Such a pity she thinks politics are less interesting than medicine.*
“You should call her,” Ellie pointed out. “Or she will be annoyed, and then mom will be annoyed.”
Jed sighed. “Wonderful, my nine year old daughter is telling me what to do.”
Ellie scowled. “Oh, I'll shut up then, shall I?”
Jed smiled. “Just grousing. You're right, I should call.”
“Why we going anyway?” Zoey asked. “I thought we were gonna have Chilli an’ pancakes!”
“Well, you see... errr...” Jed began.
“Politics,” Ellie said darkly. “It’s always politics. He probably needs to get back to Washington.”
Zoey’s lip wobbled.
Jed sighed. *Well, looks like I won't be going to Washington without some major grovelling. Who ever knew balancing a family could be more difficult than the House?*
OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF Chinatown, Boston, Massachusetts, Friday 13th of December 1985
Liz Bartlett was quite happy to be going to college quite some distance away from New Hampshire. The Bartlett name was a little too well known and attention a little to close for Liz's comfort. Her father's burgeoning political career didn't help, nor the continuous mentions of Nobel Prizes. He'd supposedly been short listed twice.
As he started eying a possible run for governor, Liz had made up her mind to get the heck out of Concord and was studying Chinese language and literature at Harvard. Nobody knew or cared about the Bartletts there. There were more interesting Founding Families than them, after all.
China town was a favoured destination for Liz. She felt that the teachers all spoke formal, stilted, unreal Chinese. What she needed was the connection with actual people to give her an understanding of what the language was like for those who truly lived it.
So she wandered across the area, tape recorder in her bag next to the pad of yellow legal paper. She was looking for 'real' conversations, preferably fairly loud ones, so she could record it more clearly. That was how she noticed the altercation.
A woman was yelling at a Chinese shopkeeper while a large Chinese man held her. The woman was Caucasian, like many of the shoppers, but she neither looked, nor sounded, like a tourist. She sounded like a very nasty example of the Boston Southie. The shop was a jewellers and Liz walked closer to see if she could pick up some nice slang about thieves and, well, Caucasians.
The woman wasn’t alone. She had a little girl with her, scared, young, no more than four or five, if that, with huge brown eyes in her pale little face. An elderly Chinese woman gently held onto her hand, keeping her away from her raging mother. The old woman also held the little girl's bag, a worn pink and white rucksack.
The old woman saw Liz and eyed her, hard. As if to see what she was doing there, what she wanted. If she was going to interfere with the evil Chinamen terrorizing the poor white woman.
The girl looked at her too. Her chin started to wobble. Then she started to cry. A police cruiser drew up and two cops came out, comfortable looking men with easy smiles. One was an older man, slightly padded with freckles and reddish hair. The other was younger, but not a rookie, and with a calm presence that showed he knew what he was doing. The older one nodded at the shop owner. “Morning Mr. Wong,” and then at the old woman and beamed with pleasure. “Mrs. Wong! Good to see you out and about again. Now, what seems to be the trouble?”
Mr. Wong shrugged apologetically. “This woman's daughter took some items. Not very expensive, but theft is theft. And her mother distracted me while she did it. Grandmother saw it,” he gestured at the old woman.
The cops looked at each other. The older one, who'd asked the first questions, hunkered down by the little girl. The other one took out a pad and led away the raging mother, ignoring her protests that she wanted to stay with her child.
“Hello m'dear. What's your name?”
“'S Faith,” the girl answered sullenly, rubbing her face with one grubby little fist, forcing the tears away.
“Okay Faith, I'm Sergeant O'Donnell,” he looked at the items in the bag, mostly inexpensive jewellery, gimcracks for any tourists that visited Boston’s Chinatown. “Those are some pretty things. Can you tell me why you took them?”
Faith frowned. “Mom told me to,” the 'Duh' was not spoken, but clear enough.
“I see. You wanted them?” O'Donnell continued his questioning.
Faith looked at her backpack, hanging from the gnarled hands of the old woman. “S-sure.”
“Or did your mom want them for something?” the sergeant's voice was kind but firm.
“I won't get Mom in trouble! I won't! You're mean!” Faith tried to kick at the policeman, but he easily avoided her attacks.
O'Donnell sighed and called out to his partner. “Mitch? Book her.”
The old lady hesitated. “What does happen to girl?” she asked in broken English.
“We'll take her down to the station, and then she'll go to child services, if we need to keep her mother for longer,” O'Donnell told her.
“I'll go with you, and I’ll take the girl,” Liz suddenly spoke up.
Sorry? Who’re you?” O'Donnell turned to her.
“Elizabeth. Liz Bartlett. Look, I'll go with you; I'm a student at Harvard. I-I need to call my parents. They live in New Hampshire, they’ll take her in, I’m sure! She can't go to just a foster home.”
O'Donnell frowned. “Why not?”
“My Dad investigated and for every ten children that go through the system, three are abused or fail to achieve their potential, at least!” Liz argued.
“And who is your dad?” O'Donnell seemed quite amused.
“A former tenured Dartmouth Professor of Economics, currently a New Hampshire US Representative, running for Governor and descended from a Founding Father. Mom's a thoracic surgeon! Please? She can't be much older than my little sister! At least let me try?” Liz pleaded.
Whatever O'Donnell might have said was cut short when Mrs. Wong lifted the girl up and put her in Liz's arms.
Liz almost staggered under the unexpected weight. “You take care! Understand?” the old woman admonished.
Liz nodded. “I will.”
O'Donnell sighed and led her to the car, as Mrs Wong walked beside him, carrying the little backpack.
OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF Boston Police station, Sudbury Street
“Daddy?” Liz spoke into the phone in the booth in the corner of the hall.
“Liz? Everything alright?” Jed Bartlett was instantly worried by his daughter’s tone of voice. She sounded insecure. Liz only sounded insecure under the worst of circumstances.
“With me, yes. Daddy? I need the biggest favour ever…” Liz started *I wish I had Zoey in on this. Zoey can convince Dad to do anything.*
Jed Bartlett had long ago learned to be wary of that tone of voice in any of his daughters. He was just lucky she wasn’t there to make puppy eyes at him, or he probably would be lost already. “What?”
“You see, I was in Chinatown, and there was this girl…” Liz continued.
“I’m not arranging a Green Card or anything like that, Liz,” Jed told her sternly.
“Dad, nothing like that! It’s, her name’s Faith, her mother had her shoplift, and she’s five years old! Five years old, Dad! She’s so frightened and alone and I think she isn’t getting enough food! A-and that report you did?”
“The one about child poverty?” Jed asked heavily.
“Remember how you voted on the New England Dairy Farming Compact?” Liz asked. “All those farmers getting less money?”
“Yeah, I remember. What do the Boston authorities say?” *Thank God Liz isn’t interested in politics either. You know, maybe us poor males ought to give it up and leave it to the women…*
“They say that if we can get her into a good foster family they don’t give a shit where they live,” Liz laughed. “I got that from a senior Child Services Manager.”
“Hmmm. Okay, get his name and get that girl over here. You got money to get here?” Jed asked.
“You’re not going to make trouble for that nice lady, Dad!” Liz threatened.
“Trouble?” Jed laughed, “No honey, I may want to hire her though. Will you be driving or flying?”
“Driving, of course. Car’s gassed up. I’ll call my Professors and explain the situation,” Liz replied. “Dad? Thanks. A-and I know you won’t regret it.”
OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF Bartlett Family House, Manchester New Hampshire, evening of Friday December 13th
Jed Bartlett stood waiting on the porch. Abbey had apparently turned off her pager and was eating one of the interminable dinners that accompanied Medical conferences. And he wasn’t going to spoil her appetite.
He’d call her once they had the child inside, washed and fed. He just hoped she wasn’t some foul-mouthed little monster who was going to murder Zoey.
Liz’s elderly Datsun turned up the drive and slid to a halt on the ice and snow covered ground. She got out and then moved to the rear door. Jed walked up to stand beside her. There was a girl in the back seat, sleeping. Her hair was dark brown and wavy and her face was pale and tear streaked. She looked a little younger than Zoey, which Jed knew she was. She was sleeping, her thumb in her mouth and a back pack held tightly against her chest, an old blanket firmly tucked around her.
Liz looked at her father, her heart in her eyes. “I couldn’t leave her, Dad. I just couldn’t.”
Jed sighed. “I understand, honey. Let’s get her inside."
He opened the door, wincing at the horrible creaking of the hinges. The girl was strapped into the seatbelt and he undid it before gently lifting her out.
She half woke as he did so and Jed cradled her to his chest. *She's way too thin, more skin than bones,*
Jed thought as one of the small hands instinctively fisted in his shirt.
She woke fully as he carried her in the house. Ellie and Zoey were watching, Ellie with that look she had when she wasn't sure about what was happening and wasn't to sure whether she'd like it.
“Wha? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy! Where are you! Mommy!” Faith cried.
Jed quickly carried her into the living room and put her on the couch, where she huddled into a defensive ball, hugging the backpack, glaring around defensively.
Liz hunkered down by her. “Hey Faith, remember me? I'm Liz. We're in New Hampshire now, with my parents. Your mom can't take care of you for a while, so I brought you here.”
“I 'member. Not stupid, you know,” Faith replied scornfully.
Jed coughed and Liz smiled. “I know. Just trying to make sure.”
“So when do I get to go back to Mom?” Faith asked, her eyes looking around the room as if she was searching for a way to escape.
Liz hesitated, then sat down. “I don't know. It may be a while.”
“How long's while?” Faith asked. “A day? A week?”
Jed frowned. “We can find out. But first you need a bath and some food. I made Chilli. I'm Jed Bartlett. You can call me Uncle Jed or Mr. Bartlett, whatever you prefer.”
“Dad's Chilli's the greatest!” Liz encouraged.
“And it’s the only thing he can cook, so get used to getting it whenever Mom's away,” Ellie smirked at her father.
“I can too cook,” Jed held out hand for Faith. “My pancakes are famous.”
“Infamous, I think you'll find, Dad. There's still one stuck to the ceiling of your frat house kitchen at Notre Dame,” Liz teased. “They put a frame around it and everything, you know.”
“And how do you know what goes in inside those hallowed halls, young lady?” Jed demanded to know as Faith suspiciously took his hand and allowed herself to be led away.
“Do you really want to know, Dad?” Liz laughed.
“I shall just hope that my ever rising fame is the cause then, and that guided tours pass by the old place,” Jed replied with dignity.
“Didn't Jamie go to Notre Dame?” Ellie asked mischievously.
“EL-LIE!” Liz mock-growled as her father grimaced. “Not in front of Dad. You'll give him a heart attack.”
Faith was looking from one Bartlett to the next as if she was expecting something to happen, some fight to break out, some shouting to start. Jed led her off to the downstairs bathroom, the one next to the mudroom.
“We've got two more bathrooms upstairs, but this will do for now. Liz?” Jed stepped aside and Liz smiled at Faith.
“C'mon, honey. Lets get you clean.”
OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF Later that evening
“SHE DID WHAT?” Abbey thundered into the phone.
Standing in the doorway that connected the kitchen with what once had been called the back parlour, Jed held the receiver about a foot away from his ear and looked at where his eldest daughter was sitting with the little girl she'd brought home as if she was a puppy.
Liz was spooning desert into Faith's mouth and Ellie was doing the same with Zoey. All seemed to be well and the tremendous shout seemed to have gone unheard.
Not that the girls weren't capable of doing most of the feeding themselves. The older Bartlett girls just seemed to want to do it. Zoey and Faith exchanged resigned glances occasionally as one of the older girls made weird propeller boat noises.
“We're not babies!” Faith finally stated, trying to grab the spoon from Liz. Zoey nodded her agreement and made a spirited dive for the one Ellie held.
Jed smiled, nodded at Liz stepped into the parlour, closing the door to the kitchen. “She argued with the Boston Police until she could bring Faith here. She called me first. And I said yes.”
“Jed...” Abbey growled. “Another child?”
“A foster daughter, yes. From what I understand she'd most likely have ended up in a home, not a family. Liz was completely shattered by the thought, and it will most likely only be for a short time. We can manage,” Jed argued.
“Jed, we have trouble enough keeping up with Zoey,” Abbey groaned. “We'll discuss this later. When I get home,” she slammed the phone down and Jed winced. “That went well. Yeah.”
OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF Monday, December 16th 1985
Abbey Bartlett was furious. She was livid. If she didn't love Jed and Liz so much, she'd skin them alive. One did not just pick up little girls as if they were puppies. She slammed the door to her car shut and pulled out of the airport parking spot fast enough to nearly set her rear tires on fire. She barely slowed when she hit the road, took the corner with a screech of wheels and put her foot on the gas pedal. She only slowed down when she realized that getting killed or arrested was not her goal. Her goal was to get home and yell at Jed and Liz.
She still arrived at the old farm much earlier than would normally have been the case. The earlier flight helped.
She was about to pull into the driveway when she saw that it was blocked by a wall of snow.
“Begone, Redcoat!” A small, unknown voice called out.
“We will fight them on the beeches!” Called out another voice.
In spite of her towering anger Abbey felt her mouth twitch.
“Zoey! That's Winston Churchill!” Ellie corrected with a hiss. “And who're you shouting at... oh... Crap.”
Abbey had to suppress a laugh. Ellie was out in the snow? Her most studious daughter was actually playing? When there were books to be read, piano’s to be played, homework to be done weeks in advance, extra credit to earn?
“Eleanor Bartlett! Language!” A voice scolded. Then apparently the owner of the voice recognized the occupant of the car.
“Abbey! Welcome home!” Jed called out, rising.
“Unca Jed! Don’t get up! The Redcoat will get you!” The unknown voice called in definite Bostonian accents.
“Ah, but this is a very special Redcoat,” Jed soothed. “Not at all like the others.”
“You sure?” The voice asked suspiciously.
“Very. Come and meet her,” Jed held out a hand and Abbey saw a small child rise. She was younger than Zoey, and thinner than she should be. But her cheeks were rosy with the cold and the game and her eyes and her face were determined if reserved. Her hair, as far as it was visible underneath the blue woollen cap, was wavy and dark brown and her eyes were brown as well. They were much, much older than a child’s eyes ought to be.
“You’re the phone shouty lady. Uncle Jed’s wife,” she declared.
Abbey suppressed a wince. “Ah. You heard that.”
“You were real loud,” Faith pointed out. “So I s’pose I gotta leave now?”
“GUYS! The chocolate is ready!” Liz hollered from the porch before seeing her mother, paling and hurrying back inside.
“Benedict Arnold,” Ellie muttered. Then she moved to stand behind Faith.
Abbey frowned slightly. It was a sign of support that she’d not expected from her second oldest. “I don’t know yet what we shall do Faith. First I think we should go inside and have that hot chocolate.”
Zoey whooped and ran inside. Faith looked at Jed, then let go of his hand and did the same.
“MUDROOM!” Abbey called out. Twin peals of laughter sounded and the two girls ran alongside the house to the back.
Ellie looked at her mother. “I like her,” then she turned and ran after the others.
Abbey looked at Jed, who shrugged. “She’s a very likeable little girl.”
OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF OYOLFOYOLF The living room, early evening of the 16th
Jed looked at the very small pile of money on the table in front of him, then at the determined face of the girl opposite and handed over what remained of his liquid possessions. Zoey giggled as Faith carefully counted her cash. “You owe a hundred and fifty more,” she pointed out.
Ellie gave her mother a look while Abbey very carefully was not smiling.
With a sigh Jed mortgaged his final property.
Liz was cooking dinner when her mother came in, closed the door firmly and took up position on one of the kitchen chairs, templed her fingers and sat looking at Liz’s back.
After a few minutes of that Liz gave in and turned around. “Okay. If you want to yell at me, could you do it somewhere Faith can’t hear. She’s been yelled at enough in her life, I think.”
Abbey’s eyes narrowed. “What exactly were you thinking?”
“That she was younger than Zoey. That her mother was making her steal. That she most likely would end up in jail or on the streets, after a childhood in children’s homes and if she was lucky, foster families. You’ve seen her. What would you’ve done?” Liz challenged.
“And who’s gonna pay for it?” Abbey asked.
“I’ll get a job, stop going out, give you all the pay! And once I’ve finished college, and it’s necessary, I’ll take her,” Liz argued. “I would’ve now, if they allowed kids in the dorms!”
Abbey shook her head. “We’ll keep her. I just wanted to hear what responsibility you were willing to take. Be notified that if we need a babysitter, you’re now officially back on call.”
Liz smiled and hugged Abbey. “Thank you. I’m sorry but I was so sure you were gonna send her back…”
Abbey snorted. “After seeing her with Ellie and Zoey? And beating your father at Monopoly?”
Liz looked confused. “We’ve all beaten Dad at Monopoly.”
“Exactly. It’s a family tradition,” Abbey smirked. “She’ll fit right in.”