Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
New Year’s Eve, 2019
And New Year’s Day, 2020
Jackson, Capitol County
“One hour to midnight,” Austin murmured to himself. He had donned a dark blue sweater and nice jeans, though any real celebration was supposed to be casual.
“Austin,” Luna began, peeking into his room. “It’s almost time.”
She, Alistair, and Abby had returned home yesterday after an extended visit with the Nightshade grandparents in southern Alabama, not far from the Florida state line.
“I know,” he answered quietly.
After Grandpa McHale’s sudden appointment to the War Department, it was decided that the Congress would be located further east temporarily. For at least a few weeks, Columbia, Tennessee would be a temporary capital. Tonight would be their last in Jackson for a while.
“I don’t want to leave Jackson,” Austin said quietly.
Luna moved to sit beside her son, wrapping an arm around him. “I know.”
“Even though Boston still stands…” Austin trailed off and leaned into his mother’s arms. “Jackson’s kinda become a new home to me.”
Luna nodded, keeping a tight hold around Austin. “Remember that song we’d listen to every year in September? On the eleventh?”
“Where were you the world stopped turning that September day?” he quoted quietly. “Alan Jackson.”
“And where were we the last time we heard it?”
Austin smiled sadly and answered, “Park Street Church. Noon. Pot luck with some of your friends from work that went to church there. I remember that Mr. Madison thought it was a strange tradition.”
Luna allowed herself a quiet laugh. “What about the song do you remember?”
“I… Faith, hope, and love are all gifts. And love is supposed to be the greatest. But I don’t see--”
“Do you love Jackson?” Luna asked.
“I do,” he answered. “More than Boston. More than Nashville when we lived there before... There’s not a place I’d rather be.”
Luna nodded slowly. “I know,” she said quietly. “But think about it. We’ll be back here soon enough. Your grandpa even rented us a house there with some old stuff he had. We’ll be living there only for a few months, tops.”
“...doesn’t mean that isn’t too long.”
Luna sighed. “Emma said that, too.”
“Emma and I are twins. It’s normal for us to feel and think the same way.”
His mother rolled her eyes. “Finish packing, okay? You’ll be riding with Emma, your grandfather, Senator Prestons, and Esa.”
Austin nodded quietly as his mother kissed his forehead and then left his room/
“...I asked you to have a decision of some kind by now, William,” Prestons said as he drove the horses along the dark asphalt road. It was not too long after dawn and a few of the other wagon groups had left already; Smith and McCloy had left a few minutes after midnight, and Speaker Thomspon’s family had left an hour ago. “Sure, your party will vote on a candidate, and I will personally support you, but…”
“I know it isn’t ideal,” Grandpa McHale said quietly so as not to bother other drivers, “but I can’t rush this decision. Normally, geography isn’t important in a VP pick. It is now, especially if something should happen to me. None of us can afford a two-front war if we split even further.”
“He can’t pick me, he can’t pick you, and he hates his nephew,” Esa said. “The South would be reluctant to choose a Yankee. That means someone from Virginia, Kentucky, maybe Ohio.”
Austin and Emma listened, half intrigued, half entertained. Politics were simultaneously evil and enough to satisfy their funny bones, fueling them for just enough time to make it to the next day.
“You could always try Matthew DuBois,” Austin said jokingly. “After all, he and his brother want to kill each other, and he was a Rockefeller Republican, and he’s from Delmarva-- Yankee and Southern lands.”
The three politicians turned around to look at the intern, who merely stared at them in return.
Esa looked at Grandpa McHale and said, “Your grandson is a genius.”
Austin blinked. “...I am?”
“It’ll be painted as nepotism by Smith,” Prestons pointed out. “But other than that… Matt’s not a bad choice at all.”
“Are you three crazy?!” Austin asked bewildered.
“Shush!” whispered Emma harshly. “Not so loud, idiot.”
“Are you three crazy?” Austin repeated more calmly. “Matthew DuBois was a progressive Republican that received most of his popularity from words rather than actions. And he’s only a Congressman.”
“...he was a White House Press Secretary under Wilson during his first term, Austin,” Esa answered. “That was kinda his job.”
“And that’s supposed to--”
“What my other half means to say is that Matt may not be the best choice and that he really didn’t mean it. But, if you three think his joke has any grain of hope, he would appreciate it.“
Esa smiled. “If I ever make a presidential run, I know who I want my press secretary to be.”
“Thank you,” Emma said, quite happy with the Senator’s praise.
“That leaves three more questions,” Grandpa McHale said quietly. “Who will replace me in the Senate? Who will be the new majority leader? Who will be Smith’s VP pick?”
“Can we place bets?” Emma asked.
“Why not?” the old man replied.
“Ginger, Hayes, and McCloy. One week’s wages.”
Esa replied, “Ginger, Hayes, and Francis DuBois. One month’s wages.”
Austin said, “Two months wages on Percy Evans, Francis DuBois, and…” He trailed off and pulled a pen and scrap of paper from his pocket out, scribbling a name down. “I’ll keep this name to myself. I look forward to winning.”