blue flamingos

The Bartlet Girls

Fandom: The West Wing

Category/Rated: Gen, G

Year/Length: 2007/ ~1747 words

Pairing: None

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: President Jed Bartlet has three daughters: Elizabeth, Eleanor and Zoey.

Author's Notes: For [info]tww_minis Ellie round, for [info]thecolourclear who asked for Ellie and her sisters, set in their childhood, exploring the various ways in how it was to grow up with a father in politics -- It'd be really cool if time jumped around a lot, with no random appearances from the rest of the cast.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.



When she was a kid, before she started school, Ellie liked her father's office. He had a little chair that she later realises was an antique, passed down through the family, but there was always a blue cushion on it, and she used to sit there with her toys or her colouring, and watch him work. Sometimes, he'd read her bits of what he was working on, and while she couldn't understand the economics papers he got from his students, or the laws he was thinking about, depending on the time of year – couldn't even distinguish between the two – she liked to listen to his voice.

It was better in the summer, when he was around more, teaching summer school or working on his research. In the winter, when the legislature was in session, they didn't see as much of him, and he was more likely to tell her to be quiet, or sometimes send her out of the office. That was OK, though she wouldn't understand it for years: she'd sit in the hallway against the wall to the office and listen to him talk to himself.



Zoey wasn't even a year old when Liz grabbed Ellie's arm one day and pulled her into Liz's room. She didn't go in there very much – there were always clothes on the floor, and make-up that Ellie didn't think their parents were supposed to know about, plus Liz didn't like her to be in there sometimes. When she's older, Ellie thinks it's because, even at twelve, Liz probably had boyfriends that no-one knew about, or boys who weren't just friends, whatever their parents thought.

Liz shoved her down on the bed, and flung herself down on her stomach next to Ellie. "Dad wants to run for election," she said.

"Election for what?" Ellie asked. They'd had a vote in class to decide on the name of the class hamster, and the teacher had talked a little bit about elections and how people chose the President. "For president?" she asked, just in case.

Liz rolled her eyes. "No, stupid. For Congress."

"Oh," Ellie said. It didn't mean anything.

Liz sighed. "That means he'll be in Washington." When Ellie didn't say anything, she added, "not here."

Ellie thought about her father's office, and the little chair that was sort of hers. She was waiting to be given homework, so she could sit in there and work on it with him. It wouldn't be the same if he wasn't there.

"Oh," she said again.



Liz held Zoey so she could wave when their father left for Washington and Ellie stood close to their mom. He'd promised to come home for the weekend, if he could, but Liz had whispered, when he wasn't listening, "I bet he doesn't."

He didn't. After a while, Ellie had stopped wondering if he would, and instead got used to just talking to him on the phone. Sometimes, he talked to her and Liz together, and they held Zoey between them so she could hear him as well.

"How's school?" he asked. "What are your grades like? Mom said you had a test, Ellie, how did you do?"

They talked about other things as well, like Liz's basketball practise, and the funny things Zoey had done, and he told them stories about Washington.

Ellie started doing her homework at the kitchen table with Liz, but only because Liz could help her if she got stuck, and they weren't allowed to take their snacks into his office.



Ellie was eleven when their father decided he was going to run for Governor of New Hampshire, rather than for another term in the House. She didn't really remember the first House elections, except for how they weren't allowed to go anywhere on their own, which made Liz sulk, a lot, although they gradually became clearer memories as she got older.

The gubernatorial elections were much more memorable.

Zoey was seven by then, and Liz had moved out, got married and had Annie, so only Zoey and Ellie were around. What Ellie remembers most is the arguments: their parents disagreed about how involved their daughters should be in the campaign, and their father's campaign manager disagreed with both of them about the same thing.

Ellie missed Leo, who had run the House campaigns, who always had something in his pockets for them when he came over and didn't yell a lot, but she only asked once why he wasn't there, because her parents got the look that said they were really upset, and she didn't want to be the cause of another fight.

One night, she sat with Zoey on the stairs, just round the bend where they couldn't be seen, and listened to their parents and Andrew, the campaign manager, talk about a party.

"Do you think we'll be allowed to go?" Zoey asked, bright eyed and excited.

"I hope not," Ellie whispered, but she thought she knew the answer anyway.

"It'll be fun! We can get new dresses and stay up late..." Zoey trailed off into a haze of seven-year-old joy.

"And have lots of people ask us lots of questions," Ellie reminded her, but Zoey wasn't listening.

An hour later, when their mom came to tuck them in, she asked, "Do you want to go, Ellie?"

"Zoey does," Ellie told her, because the voice inside her was saying no, but she'd listened to the discussion, and she knew they wanted her to say yes. It would be good for her father's campaign, which wasn't going very well, but they wanted her and Zoey to choose.

"What about you?" her mom asked, smoothing her hand over Ellie's hair.

"I don't mind," Ellie whispered. She felt like she was going to cry, and tried to take a deep breath so she wouldn't. "I'll go if Zoey wants to."

They got asked to more parties, more events, after the first one, and Ellie got good at faking being ill. When that stopped working, she joined three different clubs at school, and used those as excuses instead. No-one asked why she was suddenly so interested in maths; she thought they probably knew.



When Ellie was sixteen, Liz came to stay for the weekend, without Doug or Annie. She said their mom had rung and asked her to come, but hadn't said why.

"Maybe Dad's going to stand down from being Governor," Ellie suggested.

"Maybe," Liz agreed, but she didn't sound very sure. She poured Ellie a glass of apple juice, like Ellie'd seen her do dozens of times with Annie. Ellie drank it quietly, because it seemed like something Liz needed her to do.

When Zoey got back from her language club, their parents sat them down and explained that their father had Multiple Sclerosis.

Liz cried, and held onto Zoey's hand very tightly. Zoey didn't say anything, and Ellie tried to listen to their mom explain, and not ask any of the questions she had inside her head.

Their father didn't say much at all, until he said he'd leave the three of them alone for a little while, and then they could ask their mom any questions they had.

Zoey lay down on the sofa with her head in Liz's lap, and Liz stroked her hair. She'd stopped crying, but she pulled Ellie over to lean against her.

"Does that mean he's going to die?" Zoey asked in a whisper.

"Of course not," Liz said confidently.

Ellie put her hand on Zoey's foot and squeezed it. "Not for a long time," she added. She wondered if she could ask her human biology teacher about it; everyone knew she wanted to be a doctor, so it wouldn't be breaking the secret.



It was Zoey who rang to tell her. "You'll never guess what," she said.

"Probably not," Ellie agreed. Probably another boy asking Zoey out, because while Ellie'd been discovering that maybe she never had a boyfriend for long because of more than her studious nature, Zoey'd been discovering that being pretty, friendly, and able to take on anyone who said your father wasn't a good governor attracted a surprisingly high number of teenage boys.

"Dad's decided he's going to run for President. Well, actually, Leo kind of talked him into it, but he's going to do it."

"OK," Ellie said, leaning back against the counter. She was far enough away from home that nobody knew or cared who her father was, but apparently that still didn't mean she was allowed to live in a dorm. "What does Mom think?"

There was a long pause. "She's really quiet about it," Zoey said softly, not sounding at all like herself. Ellie will remember this conversation, five years later, when all the news channels are talking about whether the President will run again, and she doesn't ask her mom, because she knows something isn't right.

"I'm sure it'll be fine," Ellie said, trying to sound reassuring, and not to think about how much worse a Presidential campaign would be than a gubernatorial one.



Ellie got the invitation in the post and left it on her desk where she could look at it every morning and every evening for three weeks while she tried to decide. Her placement officer at the hospital had offered her the time off when the results were first announced, and she'd said thank you and left as fast as possible.

"You going to go?" Jenna, her service agent, asked one morning, when she caught her staring at it again.

"I don't know," Ellie said. Zoey was going, of course. Liz was probably going as well, though more because Doug wanted to and Annie was pleading than because she wanted to, if Ellie was reading their phone calls right; Liz had got more bitter about their father's absence during their childhood once she'd moved out and had Annie. "Maybe."



When her father was sworn in as President of the United States, Ellie was suturing a cut on a child's forehead after he fell off his bike. She didn't even remember it was happening until she saw it on the TV in the doctors' lounge.

They showed her parents with their arms round each other, then standing with Zoey on one side, and Liz and her family on the other.

Ellie changed the channel, and told herself it looked too cold out there anyway. What she was doing was more important.

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