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Sunrise in Santa Monica

Posted on Sun Dec 26th, 2021 @ 10:06pm by President Gabriel Helman & Secretary C.J. Cregg

Mission: So Help Me, God
Location: The Penthouse, Huntley Hotel - Santa Monica, California
Timeline: Saturday, January 14, 2017; 10:30am

Four and a Half hours on a military plane hadn't done much for Gabe's nerves, but he had certainly got some time to catch up on work. The President-Elect spoke on the phone with several transition staffers, sweet talked a few minor hire prospects, and caught up on some TV commentary about the NFL playoffs airing later that day. Once they'd landed, his motorcade moved from Los Angeles International Airport to the Huntley Hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean near Santa Monica Pier. He knew that, somewhere in Washington D.C., his daughter was extremely jealous.

His advance team of Secret Service agents secured The Penthouse, a restaurant on the top floor of the Huntley, and he entered once they were sure no one present had a vendetta against the government, or a Glock. As was protocol, a Navy Steward had joined the cooking staff in the kitchen to learn and mimick their methods and to make the President-Elect’s food, as he was rarely able to eat food not prepared by his staff. He wore a Presidential blue suit made of the special material designed to take pistol shot without too much trouble, and a light blue tie with solid black stripes. As soon as he entered the white room, illuminated by the morning light off the Santa Monica Coast through the large windows, every head in the room turned to him. People remarked at seeing the man who was soon to become the Leader of the Free World, if such a role still existed. His goal, however, was for one person alone.

Claudia Jean Craig had become a well-known name on the world stage in the last decade, as she chaired billion Frank Hollis' charitable organization which had successfully brought food and needed resources to millions of people in 3rd World Africa. She'd been offered a chance at a run for congress, a position as Undersecretary of State for Africa, a role as Senior Counselor to the President, and even the position of Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, but she had refused them all. Why Gabe thought his offer would be any different, he didn't know, but he was sure going to try anyway.

"CJ Craig, good to see you." he said as he approached the now standing woman, shaking her hand firmly and offering his award-winning smile. "You look fantastic, I hope all is well?"

"I'm feeling great, Mr. President-Elect. Congratulations on the victory, by the way. I really wish you hadn't flown all the way out here just for me to disappoint you, sir." she responded, a look of concern on her face.

"The only way you can disappoint me at this point is by not getting breakfast in me soon enough. I'm starving." Gabe responded, lifting his eyebrows and gesturing to the table. "Shall we?"

The two of them sat down across from each other, a squat vase with lovely yellow roses between them. No sooner had their butts touched their seats than a very over-eager waitress made her way over, pen and pad in hand. She was practically beaming; this moment would be her closes glance with people from television. CJ regarded the woman with a slightly annoyed expression and ordered an omelet while Gabe conversed with her a moment managed to learn some quick highlights about her life, signed an autograph for her mother, and ordered eggs over easy with bacon and grits.

CJ now regarded him with disbelief.

"You don't have to put on that superman act with me, Mr. Helman. I've been around the block enough to know how the game is played." she stated flatly.

"What do you mean?" he asked, bringing a glass of water to his lips and sipping, looking at her and waiting for the answer.

"I mean I'm not impressed by you pretending to care about some waitress' mother." she said, a slight grin on her face. "All due respect, sir, I've seen that sort of thing before."

"Oh, I see, you're pulling the old 'politicians love to steal candy from babies' routine, eh?" he asked, smiling. "Again, CJ? I thought we settled this in that Sudanese Village."

"No sir, you settled it in that Sudanese Village. I watched you try to play a drum and stumble over your feet doing some ham-fisted version of their dances." she said, a chuckle escaping her lips. "None of that proves you're the real deal."

"I don't need to prove I'm the real deal, Claudia Jean. I just need to be the real deal." he said, offering a bemused expression and turning his head toward the outside world shown through the window. "You, on the other hand, have rebuffed every government job you've been offered in he last decade. What is it, CJ? Is it because you're rich? Is it because you like the view?"

"Santa Monica does beat D.C. any day." she said, picking up her own water and taking a sip. "But I'm not sure that's it. My question is, why the hell does everyone keep trying?"

"Oh, let's see... you're smart, funny, clever, and very convincing. And if that doesn't do it for you, then we'll take your experience on the international stage, your experience as a former White House Chief of Staff, or even your experience as a former White House Press Secretary."

"Yes, obviously. I know why. I was just being.." she hesitates, rolling her eyes slightly. "But why do YOU want me to come back to Washington? I mean, you're a Republican and I'm a Democrat; you believe in people and I believe in policy; you're pro-life and I worked for freaking Emily's List before I went to work for the Bartlett campaign, for God's sake. Why would you want an old liberal like me?"

Gabe watched her, his brown eyes meeting hers as their plates were sat down in front of them. He grabbed his fork and started to separate his eggs with a smile.

"Americans show a striking amount of agreement on foreign policy issues, CJ." he said with a sense of calm certainty. "Just look at Arnold Vinnick leading foreign policy for Democratic President Santos for proof. Eight years and barely a single hiccup. At least as long as we ignore Iran."

"That's a nightmare and a half, and the whole country agrees. But even if you're right, I have no interest of going back to work in the White House every day."

"I never asked you to work at the White House every day." Gabe said, popping egg into his mouth with a bite of bacon and chewing until the bite was gone. "Damn this food is good. Of course, it better be at these prices."

"Hang on, Mr. Helman, just what are you asking me to do if not to come work at the White House?"

"To come work at the State Department." he answered simply.

"In what role, exactly?"

"Secretary." he answered again. This time the corners of his mouth teased at a grin but never quite made it. CJ blinked.

"Secretary of what?" she asked, not being able to believe what was being said to her.

"Of the State Department, CJ!" he answered, the smile finally coming out. "I want you to be my Secretary of State and to play the leading role in shaping America's foreign policy."

CJ fell silent, her mouth hanging open stupidly even as her food sat untouched. Gabe, on the other hand, continued to munch away with no shame at all, proving his statement that he was quite hungry.

"So, what do you say?" he asked through puffed-out cheeks, looking at her with interest.

"About what?" she asked, her large eyes looking at him with considerable steel, confused looking all the same.

"About the weather, CJ! About my offer." he answered with amused exasperation as he swallowed his food. "What do you say about becoming the Secretary of State and fourth in line to the presidency?"

"I say I need time to think." she said, her eyes finally breaking away from him and dancing around the room. "Danny won't want to move across the country again."

"Let me take care of Danny."

"No," she said, her eyes growing large again. "God, no. I know the inauguration is in less than a week but...I just...I need time."

The President-Elect stuffed too much food into his mouth again and chewed in labored motions of his jaw, his brown cheeks straining to hold it back. For an instant he thought of what his wife would say if she were there. When he spoke again, it was almost unintelligible.

"Okay.." he raised a finger and pointed it at her plate. "You going to eat that, Claudia Jean?"


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