Madam president, p.36

Madam President, page 36


Madam President

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  He shifted uncomfortably, tempted to say Lauren was nearly as big a pain-in-the-ass patient as Dev. But the man wasn't an idiot. "Chickenpox is always a little more difficult on adults than children, Madam President. That seems to be especially true with this new strain. But I'm sure she'll appreciate that you were concerned. I'll tell her you came by to check on her."

  "No, that won't be necessary. I'll be in to see her as soon as I get changed. I only need five minutes."

  The doctor looked aghast. "Oh, no, Madam President, you can't go in there." The doctor's tone was authoritative and unyielding. "She's still contagious and will be for several more days."

  Dev put her hands on her hips. "I really don't care, doctor. I will be going in there." Her hand shot out, and she grabbed him by the wrist, checking the time on his Rolex. "At about 4:35, as a matter of fact."

  "That goes contrary to my best medical advice as your chief physician. You simply cannot-"

  Blue eyes flashed. "If you try to keep me out," she said, dropping his wrist, "I'll call in the Marines to clear the path."

  The short man gulped audibly, and Dev could see beads of perspiration suddenly begin to dot his bald head. God, she was the most difficult patient he'd ever had! "It's my duty to inform you that it is not in your best medical interests to be around Ms. Strayer, your sons, or Ms. Drysdale for the next several days." He puffed out his chest and stood his ground. "I'm afraid I'll have to insist. I'm certain that Mr. McMillian would back up my-"

  "You can insist until you're blue in the face, doctor! And David McMillian is not the President. I am. And I don't intend to be kept from my family when they need me most. My own father, who is an extremely competent and well-respected physician himself, says that getting this strain of the chickenpox is a crap shoot. I think I've been through enough crap this year, don't you? My chances of catching it are slim. But if it'll make you feel better, I'll wear one of those silly, little masks." Dev pointed the mask still hanging around the doctor's neck.

  "Well, um, yes." He gave a short nod. "That would greatly reduce your chances of infection." He nodded again, wishing he had thought to suggest that to begin with. "Other than staying completely away from them, which is something I can see you won't do," he finished in a rush before Dev could begin arguing with him, "the mask would be best, Madam President." He was mollified for the time being, now that the President was at least starting to see reason. "I'll see that you get one immediately."

  "You do that," she said, already heading back towards her room. "I'm going to put on some blue jeans." And then visit three spunky blondes that I've been missing with all my heart.

  * * *

  True to her word, five minutes later Dev had changed out of her suit and was now wearing jeans, sneakers and a short-sleeved denim shirt. Her mother had talked Frank and Ashley into a visit to the rose garden, luring them away from their prospective checkers match with the promise of ice cream later. The older woman had smiled indulgently at her daughter, knowing she needed a few moments alone with Lauren to say hello. Besides, what kind of people stayed indoors when it was such a beautiful day?

  The boys' nurse was sitting outside their bedroom door, reading a magazine, when Dev approached. The young woman quickly explained that the doctor had given them each a shot earlier, and that it had not only brought down their slight fevers, but put an end to their itching. The only reason they were napping now was that as soon as the medicine began to take effect, and they started to feel better, they had begun wrestling with each other like there was no tomorrow. They were simply worn out.

  Dev's doctor had found the nurse only moments before and grumpily given her a paper mask to pass along to the President. She handed Dev the turquoise-colored mask, and chuckled when the President rolled her eyes but dutifully put it on.

  Devlyn thanked the nurse and quietly crept into the boys' room. They were snuggled together in Aaron's bed, wearing only their underwear. The bedding was in a pool around their feet, their pillows were on the floor, and they were both drooling. God, she wished Lauren were here with her camera. Dev moved quietly over to the bed and perched on its edge. Ashley was right. They were spotted freaks. But they were her spotted freaks. And that made all the difference.

  She softly stroked the top of each fair head before pulling up the sheet and tucking it around them. "Good rest, boys. We'll catch up at supper."

  Dev left instructions with the nurse to let the boys know she was home when they woke up. With butterflies in her belly she made her way to Lauren's room. I should have brought flowers or something. Or candy. She likes chocolate. Damn! Why didn't I bring chocolate? I'm much more charming with the help of chocolate. Dev had almost talked herself into going to get some at this very moment when she found herself standing in front of Lauren's door. A Secret Service agent walked past her with an odd look on his face. But the dark-suited man said nothing.

  She frowned, giving him a look as he walked by. "What's with him?" Then she realized she was still wearing the surgical mask and must look a little odd. "Oh, well," she mumbled, reaching up and knocking lightly on Lauren's door.

  Her knock was greeted by a loud thump as something hit the door.

  Lauren yelled out, "I told you to go away! And don't even think of coming near me with that damned harpoon you call a needle! Don't make me sic Grem and his demon litter on you. They're meaner than they look!"

  Blue eyes went round. "Oh, boy." I'll bet she's been giving the doctor hell. Heh. Good girl. "Laur-" Dev paused and slipped off her mask, stuffing it into her pocket. "Lauren, it's me."


  "Yup. Can I come in?" Dev had just begun to turn the handle when Lauren's voice stopped her.


  Dark eyebrows lifted. "What do you mean no?" she asked impatiently. "I want to see you!"

  "No. Go away!" A pause. The next time Lauren spoke her voice had softened. "I'm not fit to be seen, darlin'. And you might catch it."

  Dev narrowed her eyes at the door, wishing she had X-ray vision. "I don't give a damn what you look like; I want to come in!" She leaned her forehead against the cool wood. "Don't make me order an air strike."

  Lauren chuckled, but sobered quickly. Could this be a trick? "You don't have a needle with you, do you?"

  Dev rolled her eyes. "Gee, I knew I was forgetting something. Ever since I got over that pesky crack habit, I've been fresh out."

  "Very funny. Okay."

  Thank God, Dev thought as she began to turn the knob.

  "You can come in as long as you don't laugh."

  Dev stopped, then bit her lip. I will not laugh. I will not laugh. The President opened the door, took one look at Lauren, and burst out laughing. "Oh, God, I'm sorry."

  Lauren's wavy, shoulder-length hair was sticking up wildly in all directions. She was wearing a pair of old, gray sweats and an oversized T-shirt that swallowed up her compact body, making her look like a little girl. Her skin was slightly pale except for the speckling of bright red dots that covered every inch of exposed skin. One hand was roaming her body, scratching as furiously as her fingers would allow. She was wrapped in a sheet and wearing the absolutely most pathetic face Dev had ever seen. Well, when she walked in it was pathetic. Ever since she'd laughed, Lauren just looked pissed.

  "Kill, Gremlin!" Lauren shouted. "Attack! Eat her!"

  Gremlin was lying on the floor at the foot of Lauren's bed. To his credit, he did look up at the President in response to his mistress' command. Unfortunately, all he could muster was a weak growl and a big yawn. Fatherhood was even more taxing than the activity that got him in that position to begin with.

  Dev took the time to shoot the pooch a disgusted look before smiling sympathetically at her sick friend. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. You just look so adorable, I couldn't help but laugh." The murderous glare in Lauren's eyes let Dev know the writer wasn't buying it, and she sat down on the edge of the tall bed, close to Lauren, but not touching her. "I missed you. I love you," she said softly.
r />   Lauren's gaze immediately softened, and she sighed. "I love you too." She shook her head sadly. "You're going to continue to make it impossible for me to stay angry with you, aren't you?"

  A satisfied smile worked its way across Dev's lips. "Basically." She reached up to smooth back a lock of golden hair only to have Lauren duck out of her way.

  "Devlyn! You can't touch me!"

  "Wanna bet?"

  Lauren blew out an exasperated breath. "I don't want you to get sick."

  Dev shrugged one shoulder. "And I can't not touch you. Not anymore."

  Lauren's heart melted at the words. She looked up into honest eyes and felt herself fall a little bit more in love with this amazing woman. "I'm so glad you're home," she whispered.

  "Me too."

  They stared at each other for a long moment, and Lauren could see something lurking behind Dev's eyes. She knew Dev was upset about the people who had been killed when the FBI raided the Brothers of Freedom compound. David had told her that Dev had taken the deaths of the children especially hard, which didn't surprise Lauren in the least. It was a horrible waste. These months of getting to know and love the Marlowe children had driven that point home.

  With a morbid streak that surprised even Washington insiders, the Press had relentlessly harped on that aspect of events during Dev's tour of the bombing sites. They assigned the blame to Dev and the Attorney General, and the nation followed right along with them. The tall woman appeared to take it all in her stride, patiently answering question after question about every detail of the raid, and every decision she had made concerning it. But even on television, Lauren easily spotted the lines of tension that etched Dev's normally open face, and the wariness in her usually unguarded personality. Especially when a reporter would mention Lisa and Brian Lindsay.

  "Are you okay?" they both asked simultaneously. They smiled.

  "I'm okay, Lauren. It wasn't a fun trip. But it needed to be done. I'm just glad it's over."

  Lauren ached to hug her friend, and felt her frustration building over the fact that she couldn't. Then an idea came to her. She scooted down by Gremlin and picked up a small blanket that had been tossed across the foot of her bed. The shorter woman grabbed it and shook it open.

  "What? Phft! Phft!" Lauren threw the blanket over Dev, covering her upper body completely and cutting off her words. Before she could say anything else she felt strong arms wrap around her and squeeze her tightly. Dev closed her eyes in pleasure, instantly returning the comforting embrace. "Damn, I needed that."

  "So did I."

  Dev frowned at the unusual heat she could feel coming from Lauren. "You have a fever," she pointed out flatly.

  "A little one. Yes." Lauren shifted in Dev's arms as Dev's fingers grazed her back. Ooooo... Jesus, that feels good! She moved again, this time pressing her shoulder into Dev's and wiggling it.

  Dev looked a little alarmed. "Uh, Lauren?"

  Lauren threw her head back. "Ooooooo, yeah."

  The President sucked in a breath, immediately aroused by Lauren's low groan. When Lauren's movements grew more frantic, Dev finally caught a clue. "Oh, no, you don't! I'm not a scratching post." With firm hands she pushed the smaller woman away.

  "Pleeeeeeeease," Lauren begged. "I'm itching everywhere!"

  "No." Dev shook her head from under the blanket before pulling it off. "I can't."

  "Yes, Devlyn," Lauren said seriously. She pinned the President with stone hard, gray eyes. "You can. For the love of God, scratch my back. I need you to scratch it."

  Dev tried not to think about how sexy and cute Lauren looked when she begged. She loved her; she could overlook the bright red dots. "I won't." And I'd die before I put one mark on your beautiful skin. Well, normally beautiful.

  "Puuuuhleeeeez," Lauren whined pathetically. With a loud moan, she flopped backwards on the bed and began moving around like a fish out of water, trying to get to a spot between her shoulder blades.

  "No." Dev rose to her feet. "Get the shot the boys got, and you'll feel better," she explained reasonably.

  "Shot? A needle stabbing into my flesh, and a foreign liquid forced into my body?" Lauren made a face. "Are you insane?"

  "Most likely. But that's not the point." Deciding it was safe to be near Lauren, just not on the bed with her, Dev knelt in front of the bed. Shivering in revulsion as she caught a glimpse of one of the puppies that had wandered out from under the bed, Dev scooted closer. "I just want you to feel better, sweetheart."

  "I want that too, Devlyn. But you know how I feel about needles."

  Dev smiled affectionately. "I know, but it will just be a small one."

  Lauren regarded her skeptically. "How small?"

  "Tiny. Barely noticeable."

  "And it will stop the itching?"

  "Or your money back," Dev finished lamely.

  Lauren's head swayed back and forth as she considered her options. Three more days of itching until she went insane. Or the shot. This was a really tough call.

  "You know," a leer transformed Dev's face, "once you start feeling better, I'd love to scratch an itch of a different kind."

  Dead silence.

  "Call the doctor."

  Sunday, September 12th

  "So?" Dev settled down on a bench in the White House sculpture garden. The afternoon was sunny and crisp. A gentle breeze blew across the lawn, bringing with it the scent of wet grass. Dev raised her arm in a familiar manner, inviting Lauren to snuggle into her. The movement still caused a dull pain in her shoulder muscles, but the President considered the closeness of the position well worth the discomfort. "Are you feeling better? Her eyes lighted on a delicate metal windmill sculpture that moved with every gale. "You look great, Lauren. I'd never even know you'd been sick."

  Lauren didn't care that they were outside, and instead of snuggling next to the tall woman, she laid her head in Dev's lap, stretching out on what was left of the bench. "I feel soooo much better. The doctor gave me a clean bill of health this morning. No more fever, no more itching. I'm even glad I had that shot," she admitted somewhat sheepishly. "It made the last five days bearable."

  Dev gently combed her fingers through Lauren's hair, rolling its heavy strands between her fingertips. "I'm glad you're feeling better." Dev frowned. "I've discovered that I hate it when you're sick, and there's nothing I can do about it."

  "Nothing you can do about it?" Lauren snorted quietly as she absorbed the warm sunshine and Dev's interested gaze with idle pleasure. "Yeah, right. And I suppose everyone has Bethesda's best doctor making house calls for the chickenpox."

  "Well, I..." Dev's face colored, and she looked off into the distance. "I just wanted you to be okay."

  "You're sweet." The writer tangled her fingers with Dev's free hand. "So," she gave the hand she was holding a little tug and let out a slightly nervous breath. "Now that I'm feeling better, and we're allowed to talk about the tough stuff, how are you really doing, Devlyn?"

  Dev remained very still, then shrugged a little. "I'm okay."

  A slender, pale eyebrow arched. "Don't, Devlyn," she said with quiet finality. "After all these months, I know better."

  The President looked down and regarded Lauren seriously. She was met with a direct gaze. "You do, don't you?"

  "Yes." A tiny smile curled red lips. And she gave Dev a playful poke, drawing her out. "So tell me. How are you doing?"

  Dev sighed so deeply it was nearly a groan. "How am I supposed to be doing?" she bit out harshly. "I got innocent women and children killed. I hurt like hell."

  Lauren chose her words carefully. "You didn't get anyone killed."

  "I did!" Dev insisted. "I sent in the FBI. I gave the order." She swallowed hard. "I knew they were in there. I knew those bastards had women and children in there. And, God help me, I did it anyway. Two babies died that morning. The little boy, Brian, was caught in the crossfire and shot in the chest. The little girl, Lisa, died from smoke inhalation when the west wing of the compound caught fire."<
br />
  Dev's chin began to quiver, and Lauren felt her heart break. Lauren sat up and looked at Dev, meeting watery blue eyes with her own. The younger woman gently cupped Dev's cheeks with both hands, dropping a soft kiss on her lips, before slowly gently pulling back, waiting patiently for her to continue.

  Dev swallowed again, nearly undone by Lauren's tenderness. "They found the girl curled up under her bed with her dolls and her backpack." Dev laughed without a trace of humor. "Apparently, she was hiding from the big bad government invasion."

  "Jesus." Lauren closed her eyes and squeezed Dev's hand. The exact cause of death for individual militia members and their families hadn't been released to the Press yet because of the ongoing investigation.

  "They were nearly the same ages as-" Dev stopped, the churning in her guts threatening to send up her last meal.

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