"Breaking news: the East Wing is reporting that First Lady, Mellie Grant, has given birth to a healthy baby girl. Audrey Rose Grant weighs in at eight pounds, seven ounces. President and Mrs. Grant are thrilled to welcome their newest family addition. Mrs. Grant is set to be released from the hospital in the next few days."
Olivia turned from the TV screens in front of her to where Harrison standing in her doorway.
"You have a visitor."
Olivia lifted and eyebrow but didn't respond as she saw Cyrus standing behind Harrison's shoulder. She took and deep breath and nodded at him.
Cyrus moved around Harrison and stood before Olivia's desk. He looked tired and much older than the last time she'd seen or spoken to him. That'd been nine months ago. Nine very long, very trying months for the both of them it seemed.
"How are you, Liv?"
Olivia tilted her head an observed Cyrus Beene. He was making small talk, which was Cyrus’ tell. He needed something.
"What are you doing here, Cyrus? Shouldn't you be taking care of the west wing while the President is playing doting daddy?"
"Come on, Liv, is that any way to treat an old friend? Since all my calls and emails have gone unanswered, I figured I'd take a chance and stop by again. I can't believe you're actually in this time."
"You told me we're not friends anymore, Cyrus. That's the presumption I'm still operating under. We saved Fitz's presidency, and I moved on. What could you possibly need from me?"
"I don't do apologies well, Liv, you know this about me. You've always been there when we needed you though, and for that I'm grateful. I'm asking for your help again, Liv. He's not doing well. Polling numbers aren’t looking good."
Olivia shrugged. "What does that have to do with me?"
"No, Cyrus. I've held up my end of the deal and Fitz is still President."
"You're the only one who can help."
"Why don't you ask his wife for help? She's very good with schemes."
"We need you, Olivia. He needs you. I need you."
Olivia gave a glib, humorless laugh. "He doesn't need me. You once told me the world’s best politician was playing me. Hell, he told me once I underestimated how good a politician he was and, stupid me, I didn't quite believe him, but now I do."
Olivia shook her head and pointed towards the door. "I don't work for him anymore and I don't answer to you. You've gotten everything out of me that you'll get, so please leave. And don't come back. Oh, and congratulations on the baby. I bet James is thrilled."
Cyrus gave her a pointed look. He removed an envelope out from inside of his jacket pocket and laid it on Olivia's desk without a word, turned, and left her office.
Fitz was furious. It was a typical emotion these days. His staff gave him wide berth and was utterly fearful of his unpredictable behavior. Happy was not an emotion that any of the staff had seen from their President in quite some time.
"Yes, Mr. President?" Mrs. Hanley replied as she walked swiftly into the Oval.
"I had notes for my speech about Sudan on my desk and now they're not here."
"That's because you asked me to type them up, Mr. President," Mrs. Hanley handed Fitz the typed notes, trying very hard to keep a scowl from her face. She'd been on the receiving end of Fitz's ire more times than she could stomach recently.
Ever since Mellie Grant announced to the world that she was pregnant and she and her husband had been caught on tape in flagrante delicto, the President had been unbearable.
Those in the senior staff dreaded days where they had to meet with the President and for once, dreaded walking into the west wing for work every day.
"Can I get you anything else, sir?"
"No," Fitz said shortly walking around his desk, effectively dismissing his secretary.
If Fitz stopped too long during the day, his mind went to Olivia. At night, he couldn't help but think of her, of what might have been had he been able to resign, to divorce Mellie, to be in a relationship with the woman he loves. Whenever he closed his eyes he'd see her surprise as he said he'd divorce his wife. He could feel her lips against his, recall her sweet taste and the feel of her body pressed so tightly to his own. Not a day passed where he didn't think of Olivia, but it obviously wasn't the same for her.
Nine months without tell or tale from Olivia. He'd flatly refused to take part in Mellie's scheme. So, Mellie had taken matters into her own hands and this time had been genuinely pregnant
The door to the Oval opened and Cyrus walked through looking off out and anxious. Fitz looked up briefly and gave a cursory nod in his direction before going back to his notes.
"Mr. President, we need to talk."
"Not now, Cyrus."
"Then when, sir?"
Fitz dropped his pen to the Resolute Desk and turned to look at Cyrus. Even though Fitz was impeccably dressed, he looked haggard and worn. His usually light eyes were heavy with lines, he looked like he hadn't been sleeping at all, and his hair was growing increasingly gray.
"Fine. What is it, Cyrus? Did I pause too long in my last speech? Are my clothes not up to par? Have I not been doting enough to my wife and new baby?"
"None of the above, Mr. President. This is about your general behavior."
"What of it?"
"You're acting like a petulant child--a child that had his favorite toy taken away. We have a country to run, so stop acting like a stuck up kid and start being a leader again. This country needs you and the people in this building are here for you. They're not against you, so stop taking it out on them."
Fitz's chest rose and fell at a rapid pace. Cyrus didn't understand what it felt like to be this empty. He didn't understand how it felt to have to pause and count to ten because the ache was so deep and dark that he struggled not to be pulled under by the pain.
"Get out of my office," Fitz replied in a dark voice. "If you ever presume to tell me to just get over it again, it'll be the last thing you do as Chief of Staff. Get out of my office."
Cyrus clenched his fists and silently rose from the seat beside Fitz's desk. He was getting infinitely tired of being so easily dismissed.
There was still a significant amount of ill will toward the Grant administration from the ‘Billy Chambers Affair.’ Billy's apparent suicide hadn't helped matters either, but people were less inclined to feel sorry for him as they viewed him as the source of the problem and President and Mrs. Grant as the hapless victims thanks to the well-oiled spin machine.
Cyrus sat in his office looking over early polling numbers for the upcoming election and it didn't look good for them and he didn't understand why. Fitz's approval rating was good, but not great, he'd passed some ground breaking legislation even though after midterm elections, the House of Representatives became Democratically controlled, and he'd come out of a scandal smelling like a rose.
So Cyrus just didn't get it. He looked at the seven Democratic nominee hopefuls, each one having served their country for a number of years. The current front-runner had Cyrus more worried than any of them--Daniel Acevedo, the very popular Governor of Florida.
Daniel was more of a progressive than a true democrat. He'd balanced the Florida budget in his first term and still remained extremely popular despite the cuts made to do so. He genuinely cared about education overhaul, as his wife had been a middle and high school teacher. He was in his early fifties, extremely attractive and Hispanic. He was basically a shoe-in for the party nomination.
Cyrus started digging into his past and present and found that he was pretty flawless which both worried and excited him. If he could find something he was sure it would be big enough to drive people in Fitz's direction. Neither Fitz nor Daniel were extremists in their parties. This election would come down to who the people could relate to better and right now, the American people were having a really hard time relating to Fitz.
"When did you stop being 'Grant for the People,' Mr. President?" Cyrus asked out loud to an empty room.
Cyrus paced the length of his office trying to think of some way to get the best fixer he'd ever known back on their side. She was the key to a lot of things, he realized: winning the election, Fitz's overall demeanor and probably his happiness (which was of little concern to Cyrus), and most importantly, tearing down Daniel Acevedo.
But how was he supposed to get her back? She flatly refused to talk to him or Fitz. She'd turned in her hard pass and had kept away from Fitz like he'd originally wanted her to, but now it was taking a toll that couldn't be ignored. There had to be something that he could do to get her back, some way, or scheme---
Cyrus abruptly stopped his pacing and smiled. He knew exactly how to get Olivia back on their side.
It'd been a little over a decade since Fitz or Mellie had a baby. Both Fitz and Mellie were woefully out of practice when it came to anything beyond holding a baby for a photo-op.
Audrey Rose was a colicky baby who generally spent her nights screaming and her days sleeping. This did nothing to help Fitz's lack of sleep. Fitz was more willing to go to her crib and hold her than Mellie. He loved to snuggle with her until she fell asleep. She was a pretty baby with none of his features, which wasn't surprising, as he couldn't claim any credit for her.
Fitz would rock her back and forth while humming a gentle lullaby. She was so soft and delicate. Every time he held her, his heart broke for what could have been, what should have been. If only Olivia hadn't taken his choice away. He would have been able to have this, really have this with her.
"I can take her," Mellie said softly walking over to where Fitz sat.
He shook his head and continued to rock the now placated child. "She's finally asleep, I don't want to wake her."
"You need to sleep, Fitz. This is not good. Your numbers are suffering and--"
"Give it a rest, Mel. Nothing is going to spoil this for you now, you made sure of that. You got what you wanted, so leave me be."
"I did this for us."
"You did this for yourself. I just hope whomever the father is can be discreet."
Mellie's eyes grew cold as she moved closer to Fitz. "Don't you dare lecture me about discretion. Your dick almost cost us everything. I did this for you, not out of vindictive spite."
"And yet I'm sure you enjoyed your revenge."
"Do you think I liked being pregnant and having yet another child for you? I continue to sacrifice everything for you without an ounce of thanks. Your attitude is costing us, all because you don't get to play with your little girlfriend anymore. Grow up and act like a President, Fitz."
Mellie turned from him and left the room in high dudgeon. He wasn't exactly sure where she was going, as this was their room, but didn't concern himself about it too much.
Fitz cradled Audrey closer to his chest. "Your mother's a real bitch, little one. I'm sorry you're going to have to live with that."
Fitz gently stood and after giving her a gentle kiss on the forehead, placed her into the bassinet by the side of their bed.
He didn't want to try to fall back asleep, he'd only be assaulted by the dreams by the most wonderful and happy dreams to wake up to a reality that made his stomach roil
“I need a favor.”
“What is it, Cyrus?”
“We can’t talk about this on the phone. I need you to meet me.”
“It’ll take me a few days to get out there. What’s the job?”
“Too risky to talk about over the phone. Just know you’ll be rewarded handsomely.”
“Okay. Two days.”
“Until then,” Cyrus hung up the phone, a true smile gracing his face for the first time in a long time.