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April 28, 2013
Series: All the Presidents' Men
Title: Dedicated to the Unfinished Work
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: OHF. The American public might prefer their President to appear hale and strong on TV, but they also loved their heroes. 1000 words.
Spoilers: Olympus Has Fallen (2013).
Notes: Title from the Gettysburg Address. Because I had to raise an eyebrow that Mike was the one still visibly wounded in that final press conference, not the man who'd actually been shot; and because I spent a ridiculous amount of time Wiki'ing the question of whether or not there would be an Acting Vice President in such circumstances (answer: there wouldn't).
Benjamin Asher sank to a careful seat on one of the couches in the Oval Office, resisting the urge to press a hand to his aching side. Everyone he was there to meet knew he was still healing, but it was the principle of the thing; call it ego, or presidential theater, but he'd rather not show any sign of weakness. He'd moved his administration back into the West Wing already in order to present a reassuring face to the public, and he was by God not going to sabotage that image by his own actions if he could help it.
Ruth gave him a wry, commiserating smile from the couch across from his. She was still pretty bruised up herself, though not as visibly as Mike had been at the press conference; her makeup artist had done a stellar job. The Secret Service agents ranged around the room exchanged glances, too; they were more numerous than usual, and visibly on-edge despite the lack of apparent threats, but Ben could hardly blame them, given recent events. Virtually all of them were new to the PPD and each other, and while the blood had been washed off, the debris swept up, and the bodies removed, the bullet holes still evident in the walls were a stark reminder of the significance of their job.
Half of them visibly worshiped the ground Mike walked on, too. Ben didn't blame them for that, either. Though he'd kept Mike's name out of his speech that day, the rest of that other bit of presidential theater-- the undisguised gash on Mike's forehead, the reference to heroes serving out of the spotlight, and the respectful, extended handshake while the cameras were still rolling-- had been a blatant and intentional reminder of how much he, and the country, owed the returning SAC of the Detail.
The American public might prefer their President to appear hale and strong on TV, but they also loved their heroes, and Ben was sure that that handshake would play on newsfeeds across the country until the next crisis bumped it from the national consciousness. At the moment, with the funerals for those killed in the attack still continuing and the Washington Monument and Executive Residence both surrounded by scaffolding, it would make the people feel better to have such photogenic evidence of the strength of their country's defenders.
He'd certainly felt that strength for himself, viscerally and without hesitation, down in the PEOC the moment Forbes had told Kang that the intruder on the monitors was Mike Banning. Despite the fact that he'd done his best to banish Mike from his presence-- and his thoughts-- after Maggie's death, Ben had never really doubted the man's dedication or capability. The sight of him had just dragged up too many complicated emotions to deal with while he'd been doing his best to keep everyone but Connor at arm's length, the better to mute his grief and get on with the job.
Of course, Mike must've grieved Maggie, too; Ben could still vividly remember their last exchange, the First Lady teasing the agent with earring options and then telling he and Ben that she loved them both but she'd go with her own choice, thank you. Ben had never let himself dwell on that, before, or even wonder whether Mike missed Connor even a fraction as much as Connor missed him. Maybe Secret Service agents weren't supposed to get that attached to their principals, but Ben had encouraged that particular intimacy, and never thought to regret it until the moment he'd begged his friend to save his wife... and been forced to watch her fall away while he was pulled to safety, instead.
But it could only have hurt so much, it had occurred to Ben at some point down in that bunker, because of how much he'd-- how much they'd all-- cared. When Forbes had said Mike's name; when Kang had smugly accused Mike of failure over the comms, only to end up the one frustrated; when Mike had taken over the video feed to the PEOC, embodying that old saying about rough men standing ready in the night; and when he'd supported Ben with careful hands and guided him out to face the new dawn with a joke so the President would be smiling when the public caught sight of him again... Ben had felt that raw sense of connection in each of those moments, adding to his strength to keep going.
Ben wasn't quite sure yet what that realization would ultimately mean, on a personal level. But asking Lynne to reconfirm Mike as head of the Detail, and making sure he got the honors he deserved, had been the least Ben could publicly do.
The sound of the door closing again disturbed Ben from his thoughts, and the President looked up as Trumbull and the Vice Chairman of the JCS walked into the room. Mike followed right behind them, along with another pair of agents; as long as the office of the Vice President was empty, the Speaker of the House was first in the line of succession, and therefore eligible for Secret Service protection of his own.
Ben rather hoped it would stay that way. Who better to appoint to Charlie's office than the man who'd held the reins of government while he was held hostage? They might not agree on everything, but the man had earned his-- and the country's-- respect. But there were several other vital, newly vacated posts to fill before that one became urgent, and Ben wasn't even sure whether Trumbull would accept.
It would be a question for another day. Along with-- other things Ben hadn't yet had time to consider. He glanced away from his interim national security team to meet Mike's gaze again, then cleared his throat and moved to open the meeting.
"Mr. Speaker, Madam Secretary, Admiral; thank you for joining me this evening. We have a lot of work in front of us...."
© 2013 Jedi Buttercup.