blue flamingos

Going Home

Fandom: The West Wing

Category/Rated: Gen, G

Year/Length: 2007/ ~1030 words

Pairing: Ellie, Jed

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

Summary: Somewhere we used to live; future-fic

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

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Ellie hasn't been back to New Hampshire in years, but when she gets in the car with Laura after signing the papers, she finds herself driving towards the interstate without even thinking about it.

Laura's quiet as Ellie manoeuvres through the downtown traffic, until they get onto I-95 heading north, and Ellie puts her foot down, blasting past an eighteen wheeler in her little town car. "Are we going to see Aunty Zoey?" she asks.

"No, Aunty Zoey's gone to Italy with Uncle Charlie, remember?" Ellie says. She pulls back into the inside lane and drops back to the speed limit. She really doesn't want to get stopped and give herself the chance to change her mind.

"Oh yeah." She looks out of the window for a minute then turns to Ellie. "Where are we going?"

Ellie shakes her hair back from her face. "I thought I'd take you to see Grandma and Grandpa. We could stay for the weekend."

"Really?" Laura asks. She bounces a little in her seat and Ellie takes her eyes off the road long enough to look at her excited face. It makes something in her chest hurt; Vic was a huge mistake and he hurt her, but she can't regret it with her daughter next to her. "To their house?"

"That's right. You've never been there." She flicks on her turn signal and passes a caravan.

"Nope. What's their house like?"

There's a photo of her, Liz and Zoey outside the house, taken the year before Laura was born, on the mantelpiece in Ellie and Laura's new apartment. It's easy to describe the house from the picture, and she distracts Laura when she starts to ask about the inside.

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They stop for dinner at a tiny roadside diner, where Ellie blends right in in her jeans and sweater, and Laura pouts when Ellie refuses to let her have extra ice cream; then Ellie gets lost coming off the interstate in New Hampshire, so it's after nine when she finally turns into her parents' driveway.

"Are we here?" Laura asks, waking up from her doze against the passenger door.

"Yep," Ellie says, slowing carefully so she won't send gravel flying. There's a light on in the front room, and as she turns off the ignition, another one comes on. "You ready to say hi to Grandma and Grandpa?"

"Yes!" Laura says.

The front door opens as Ellie closes Laura's door behind her, and her mother is standing thee, barefoot in jeans and one of her father's shirts. "Ellie?"

"Yeah, Mom. Laura's here too."

"Hi Grandma!" Laura throws herself into her grandma's arms. "We drove all the way here from New York."

"Really?" her mom asks, looking at Ellie over Laura's head. Ellie smiles, and kind of wishes she was old enough to be hugged like that. "You must be tired. Shall we go and say hello to Grandpa, then maybe you can have some hot chocolate and go to bed."

"Are we staying?" Laura asks. Ellie's never once had that reaction when she suggested bed. It must be a grandparent thing. "We didn't bring anything to sleep in."

"That's OK," Ellie's mom says. "We can find you something."

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It takes another hour to get Laura settled and in bed, Ellie sitting by her side in what used to be a spare room and is now obviously her daughter's, until she falls asleep. The light is still on downstairs, and she can hear the radio playing quietly, knows her parents are waiting for her to go down and explain why she turned up on their doorstep after six years without even calling ahead. Instead, she crosses the corridor and steps into her old room.

It looks just like it did the last time she was there, even the same stuffed rabbit sitting on the pillows. She picks him up and sits in the rocking chair under the window, hugging him close. The house is in the middle of nowhere, and there's nothing to see but stars and a sliver of moon. She doesn't know how she'll explain what she's doing here, when she spent years hating the place; she just wants to be taken care of, even if it's only for a day.

She's not sure how long she's been sitting there, her feet curled under her, when someone knocks softly at the door. "Come in," she calls, assuming it's her mom, but it's her dad who pushes open the door and steps inside.

He's leaning heavily on his cane, but she's used to that: he still gets around OK during the day, but last time he visited, he had to use the cane in the evenings. She still thinks that without it she'd never believe he was sick. He doesn't look it.

"I thought I'd make some tea before bed," he says. "Would you like some?"

"Yeah. Please." Ellie pushes her hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ears. It used to be a conscious thing, after she got married, but now it's habit when she's around her father. She knows he appreciates it, and it doesn't take much from her. "I'm sorry, we're probably keeping you up."

"I don't exactly have an action packed morning, I think I can sleep in." Her dad smiles and she smiles back. They both know he'll be up at six, and so will she.

"Sorry, anyway." She waits for him to leave, but he doesn't. "Thank you for Laura's room."

He brushes it off. "We knew you'd bring her out here eventually. Can't have my youngest grand-daughter sleeping on the sofa bed. You don't have to sleep in here, you can have your other room."

Her other room is the one she slept in for two nights after the presidency ended, lying next to Vic and feeling Laura kick. "I'm fine in here," she says.

"I know." Her dad looks at her for a minute, then holds out his free hand. "Come help me make the tea. I always put too much sugar in yours otherwise."

"I don't mind," Ellie says. She gets up and takes his hand. "I like the way you make it."


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