Affairs of State


THOMAS BENTLEY WAS an arrogant, pompous prick. Holding an entire press conference just so he could make a big, extraneous speech on “making the world a better place” was just about the most conceited thing a person could do -- the fact that he expected people to show up was another thing entirely. The worst part was that so many people did.

And that was how one Meredith Garcia found herself at the press conference of a man whose political views she despised, who she'd heard nothing but malice about from one of her best friends, and who she'd hated; his presence didn't make hate seem like a strong enough word.

At that particular moment in time, as she could feel the skin of her feet blistering in the heels she’d shoved them into early that morning, as she was fighting not to be pressed flush against the scratchy blazers of reporters within inches of her every side, as she could feel her thighs beginning to chafe under her pencil skirt, she was seriously regretting her decision to be a political journalist.

Yes, we get it, world peace, reducing poverty, bullshitting your way through a speech you wrote not twenty-four hours ago, she thought, but when can we get to the questions?

She huffed as he continued to his next point, frantically scribbling down his every last word despite the knowledge that every line was drawing her closer to insanity. She had a bottle of wine and a family-size bag of Takis waiting for her in her pantry upon her arrival back at her apartment. However, it wasn't long before she found that the brink of insanity was almost worth it. And it only took seven words.

Secretary Bentley was nearing what sounded akin to a conclusion. While Meredith hadn't perhaps understood the purpose of the public address (if there was one at all), she was itching to get to questions so she could finally gain the material needed for her article. For her first serious article.

But that was when he said it.

"So, with these noble goals in mind, I find that it is in our nation's best interest that I step down from my position as Secretary of State." He cleared his throat, closing his eyes as though gathering his wits before flashing a confident smile, his gaze sweeping through the expanse of the crowd. "I'm stepping down to run for president."

A collective gasp ran over the crowd. Stepping down to run for president?

There was a skip as everyone jotted the words down, a moment marked only by a quiet buzzing of reporters before all hell broke loose, and everyone around Meredith started pushing toward the stage, demanding answers to their countless questions. (All she wanted was not to get trampled.) She clutched her camera tightly and hunched her shoulders to shield herself as Bentley called for order, though he could hardly be heard over the cacophony of a crowd. It didn’t take long the man snapped, for better or for worse. Meredith couldn’t complain; it stopped the journalist beside her who’d begun to storm the stage, and she was already bracing herself for impact.

"Hey!" he yelled, an annoyed expression painting his face, before the cacophony faded, and Meredith finally found herself able to stand straight up without fear of being KOed by another writer channeling their inner MMA star. "No questions will be taken today," --Meredith's eyes widened-- "as we feel that the public should be given time to process the news. However, a full statement will be released from my office later this evening."

That was what elicited the rising discord from the sea of reporters, that time including Meredith.

"What?!" she breathed before pursing her lips. If she'd thought she'd resented the Secretary of State before, it was nothing to how she felt now. A press conference, as defined in all its exactitude, invariably included a period dedicated solely to taking questions from the press. Whatever Mr. Bentley was trying to pull was not that.

She heard him yelling for order, urging the journalists to calm down, but the words seemed to be from a degree of removal; she’d begun to spiral in her thoughts, mind racing as she deliberated how in the world to turn the little she’d gained that afternoon into a real article. And all around her, Bentley’s call for harmony was the furthest thing from what manifested.

"You'll all have time to get a more extensive story throughout my campaign." Somehow, the man didn't look distraught, but simply annoyed as he exited the stage (which was, of course, met with outrage) and climbed into his car.

Meredith wanted to scream. She'd been transferred to D.C. to cover gritty, dramatic, headline politics; it was supposed to be a promotion. But, of course, if she blew the first assignment she was given, she wouldn't exactly be at the top of the list in the future, especially as the race for the presidency began. From her perspective, Thomas Bentley was single-handedly ruining her career as a political journalist. She was thoroughly convinced that he was Beelzebub incarnate.

Despite her fury, as everyone around her rushed the stage, Meredith began trying to push her way out -- if Thomas Bentley said he wasn't taking questions, he meant it, regardless of how many people he’d spent hours inconveniencing with it. As she emerged onto the sidewalk from the mass of bourgie young-adults who reeked of cheap cologne, all she could think of was how the secretary had wasted her beautiful day. She could've been relaxing in her apartment with her roommate. Perhaps her sister could’ve been over, too, if she wasn’t too busy with her kids. The lost possibilities were all she could focus on as she made her way down the street.

She'd worked with her roommate Ella since they both started at the Washington Post, and they'd grown close quickly, not wasting much time before splitting rent on an apartment. Over the years, she'd become nearly as familiar with Ella's sister, Audrey, as well as her husband, Liam. That is, her husband who conveniently happened to be the Secretary of the Treasury. The connection had proved to be both a gratifying and a helpful one, as his connections had pushed her career forward on more than one occasion. However, she couldn't claim that his constant bad-mouthing hadn't soured her opinion of Secretary Bentley.

Meredith wasn't far from the building she and Ella lived in, but in her tall heels with the weather bleak, the walk was considerably unpleasant. As she put in earbuds to drown out the din of the masses, her train of thought was only spiraling closer and closer to Dante’s Inferno of partisan resentment -- she couldn’t pinpoint exactly where her emotions lie; she was torn between needing to scream until her throat was raw and wanting to curl into herself and softly weep. If this was her big, exciting, breakout article, she wasn't feeling too optimistic about the rest of her career.

It was only when the crowd thinned and she turned down an alley, taking a shortcut home, that she was torn from her mental soliloquy. As she turned right, venturing to throw herself onto her couch and bury herself in blankets as soon as possible, a black van turned into the other side of the lane, headed directly towards her at breakneck speed. Her eyes widened, cold panic shooting through her veins, and she stood frozen much like a deer in unfortunately-literal headlights, unable to do more than cover her head and brace for impact in the milliseconds she could only assume she had left.

She didn't hear the car screeching to a halt in front of her. It was ten seconds later when she realized that she wasn't splattered against the pavement, and tentatively, she opened her eyes, brow knit tightly in confusion.

As Meredith saw the motionless van, she sighed, her shoulders relaxing as she bit her lip, as her heart thumped in her chest. Her moment of relief passed nearly as soon as it arrived, the accumulation of anger that the afternoon had left her with now radiating from her in waves. Her eyes narrowed and her upper lip curled as she began walking toward the van, fists tightly clenched as she yanked out her earbuds, stuffed them into her pocket.

"Hey, asshat!" she yelled, "Maybe next time consider not trying to drive down the alleys meant for people to pile their trash in?" She let out a bitter laugh as her face twisted into a sardonic smile. “Actually, my deepest apologies; I retract that. I suppose having no regard for the lives of pedestrians does make you trash, so maybe you do belong here. Forgive my oversight.

By then, she was nearly leaning over the hood of the car, directing her sneer and accusatory glare to whoever sat behind the tinted windshield at the driver's seat. It was then that a door began to open in the periphery of her vision, but she didn't notice, consumed wholly by her furious rant.

"Oh, and what's more--"

A man off to her left cleared his throat, and the sight before her as her gaze snapped to the sound nearly felt like a physical blow. Her words caught in her throat; her eyes grew wide. Thomas Bentley folded his arms across his chest, clad in a burgundy three-piece suit, raising an annoyed eyebrow.

"What, exactly, is more?" He furrowed his dark brow, offering up his mocking interest, and Meredith’s jaw ticked as she narrowed her eyes.

"Of course, it's you. Isn't that just perfect?" she huffed, and he raised his eyebrows, taken aback.

"Excuse me?"

"Please, you can't expect me to be feeling great about you right now," she scoffed, staring daggers into his expression of surprise, "You just held a press conference where you refused to take a single question. In the future, go waste someone else’s time whose career doesn’t depend on it.

"I just gave you the week’s biggest news to report on. You should be thankin' me." His jaw hung slack as she shook her head in indignation.

"Don’t flatter yourself; the fact that you’re resigning from office doesn’t mean that speech had even a fragment of substance. Instead, now all we know is that Thomas Bentley wants world peace and enjoys kissing babies!"

"I was layin' out goals for the world when I'm elected!"

"'When'? When you're elected?" She scoffed. "Please. You won't get the nomination."

"I--" Thomas scowled, cutting himself off before he could retaliate. He took a deep breath. "Look, can you just move? I've gotta be at the capitol of our country, and I don't have time to be arguin' with you."

Meredith raised her eyebrows, plastering on an expression of contrived surprise. "Oh? The capitol? Y'know, I seem to remember you issuing a very public resignation, like, less than an hour ago, no?"

He sighed. "C'mon, ma'am, I'm not kidding."

"I'll move," --His face lit up, and she crossed her arms-- "if you give me an interview."

He let out a soft groan, pinching the bridge of his nose. Finally, he shrugged. "Fine. Whatever."

"See, this is exactly what I--" Meredith stopped herself short, her eyebrows shooting up as she processed his words. "Wait, really?"

"I mean, you're not goin' anywhere." A grin flitted across his face, and he added, "And I mean, I could always have Secret Service move you outta the way, but I don't think that'd be great for public relations."

She smiled despite herself, pursing her lips in a weak effort to smother it. "Alright, Mr. Secretary. If nothing else, I appreciate that."

"Oh, so now you're bein' nice to me?"

"You are giving me what I want."

"I'm a man of the people, Miss... ?" He raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“... Just Meredith," she supplied with a soft smile.

"Then call me Thomas."

She nodded, withdrawing her notepad with a cheeky smile playing at her lips. "Well, who knew it'd be this easy to get on a first-name basis with the Secretary of State?"

"Are you gonna interview me or not, Meredith?" He raised a playful eyebrow, and she rolled her eyes.

"I can assure you, I'm not letting an exclusive go." She flipped to an empty page in her notepad, clicked her pen, and pulled out her phone before hesitating. "Do you mind if I record this?"

"So, I'm an exclusive now?" His smirk only grew, and she had to suppress a laugh.

"If you'll let me record this, you're whatever you want to be."

"Have at it, sweetheart." He leaned back on the hood of the van, arms crossed with a smile that was smug without a cause. She smiled as she tucked her phone into her pocket, having pressed record, and began asking questions.

"So, when exactly does your resignation go into effect?" She looked up at him with a raised eyebrow, ready to start writing.

"Well, that was the public announcement, but it's been known in the capitol for a month now. Just now, that was me officially issuin' my one month’s notice, 'cause it's a little harder to fill a federal government position than it is to fill a desk job." He chuckled lightly at his own words, but cleared his throat when Meredith looked less than impressed.

"Alright, and if elected, what policies of the current administration would you see to protecting?"

“Well, our relationship with France has been rocky at times, but I think our maritime alliance is gonna continue to serve us well, considerin’ how isolationism has been spreadin’ overseas, and…”

As he began to drone on about foreign policy, the pair went on like that for several more minutes, Meredith's pen scratching furiously on her paper as Thomas just stood there, occasionally raking a bored hand through his hair. And soon, she was out of questions, and soon, he had no more answers to give.

"Well thank you, Secretary Bentley," she said, tucking her notebook and pen back into her purse and ending the recording on her phone. "I'll get out of your way, now."

He raised a teasing eyebrow. "Didn't I ask you to call me Thomas?"

She rolled her eyes. "Forgive me, but I’m not used to being on a first-name basis with Republican presidential candidates."

"Better get used to it." He shot her a quick wink, pushing himself off the hood of the car before walking back around to the door. "Nice meetin' you, Meredith."

She hummed her agreement, wearing a knowing smile. “We’ll see whether you’re singing a different tune by the time you see my article.

“That a threat?

“Just thinking out loud.” She shrugged, hardly sparing him a glance where he stood by the passenger seat of the car, appearing amused. “If you’re that concerned about it, maybe your next close call with manslaughter shouldn’t involve a journalist.

“Can’t make any promises. I do seem to have a hard time avoidin’ the press.

She was glad he couldn’t see the egoistic smile she wore at hearing the skepticism that drenched his tone as she walked off. “Then maybe this won’t be the last you see of me, Thomas.

She looked back over her shoulder to see the bemused look he wore, eyes narrowed in the slightest, arms folded as he leaned against the side of the van. Of all the ways to cheat death, she decided this one wasn’t so bad.


"OH MY GOD, Ella, I'm freaking out." Meredith rushed into her apartment with her heart pounding, all her movements erratic as she dropped her bag, nearly tripped as she ran to her laptop. Her roommate's eyes widened as she met her where she stood.

"What? What happened?" When Meredith ignored her, she grabbed her arms, pulling her to a stop. "Talk to me."

She took a deep breath. "I just got the first interview with Thomas Bentley after he announced he was running for president, and I need to get the article out within the hour."

Ella's eyes widened. "Oh god, what? How did you-- I only saw the live broadcast, but he didn't take any questions, did he?"

Meredith shrugged, ego pervading her smile. "Perks of the Secretary of State almost hitting you with his car, I guess."

By then, Ella's eyes were bugged out. "He what?!"

"Well, technically it was his driver’s fault, but still." Meredith finally found where her laptop had been charging and surged toward it, breaking from her roommate’s grasp. Ella could only watch in horror as she frantically slammed the power button, urging the computer to go faster as she emptied the contents of her bag onto the kitchen counter.

As the computer turned on, they both let out sighs of relief, though for different reasons. Ella was just glad Meredith hadn’t quite Hulk-smashed her keyboard.

The remainder of the night was a blur, with Meredith hardly aware of the time that flew by as Ella nearly had to force-feed her any sort of dinner (it was ultimately several individually-packaged bags of chips and a few glasses of gas-station alcohol, really) and Meredith proceeding to push just a few yards past the medically-advised limit of coffee in her bloodstream, just to the point where she was shaking, her fingers a blur as they glided across the keys of her laptop.

The article was finished by 7:30 pm, hardly proofread in her eager haste, and forwarded to her editor the moment the last word was typed. Meredith's eyes widened as she sent the email, and she proceeded to close the laptop, taking a deep breath as a grin played at her lips.

"Guess who just sent in her article!" she sang, jumping up from her seat as Ella glanced back from the living room. She snorted.

"Finally. Maybe now I can stop hearing Thomas Bentley's voice played on repeat from your phone."

Meredith only shrugged. "Internalizing what was said is part of the creative process, Ella."

She rolled her eyes. "Alright, whatever. Just go eat some actual dinner, and do your very best not to pass out from the caffeine in your system."

"No promises." Meredith walked over to the fridge, rolling her shoulders after she pulled the doors open. "Damn, I feel like I could run a marathon."

"But it might be just a bit better for you to take a nap," Ella interrupted, and Meredith pursed her lips.

"I mean, either way," she agreed, and they shared an amused grin. "Alright, now I've just gotta wait for my editor to read it, and I'm golden."

"Or, you have to make several edits and accept thorough draft feedback, and then you're golden," Ella pointed out, and Meredith rolled her eyes, running a hand through her hair as she rummaged through the fridge.

"Always a cynic." Her eyes widened slightly, and a moment later, she withdrew a bottle of champagne. "Hey, can we crack this open to celebrate my first exclusive?"

"Hmm?" Ella craned her neck back from the couch and smiled when she saw what her friend was holding. "I mean, sure, but I think you'd be obligated to invite Liam and Audrey over."

Meredith scowled. "You're right; you're right."

The pair had been gifted the bottle by Ella's sister and her husband, but only on the condition that they opened it only when it really merited the celebration (it's an excellent vintage bubbly; 1920 was a long time ago, as Liam had lectured them) and that Liam and Audrey were there. It was a strange choice of housewarming gift, but Ella and Meredith appreciated it nonetheless. But in that regard, there was nothing left to do with the evening except drop herself onto the couch and wait for the green light to publish (in extreme apprehension, of course).

And Meredith was far from aware of the fuse she'd just lit.


@Mere_Grcia: My new article is up now, direct from the Washington Post! First-hand news not only about the future of our government but about the 2020 presidential race.

The First Steps Into the Race

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@ThomasBentley: Just so you don't have to read the article, here's a spoiler: I'm running for president 🎉

Replying to @ThomasBentley:

@Mere_Grcia: why can't you just let me do my job

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@ThomasBentley: Where's the fun in that?

Replying to @ThomasBentley:

@Mere_Grcia: The fun is that people read the article I worked hard on?

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@ThomasBentley: So should I assume I can't count on your vote?

Replying to @ThomasBentley:

@Mere_Grcia: why are you like this

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@LiamHaber: See this is what I've been telling you

Replying to @LiamHaber:

@Mere_Grcia: can't you stay out of this

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@LiamHaber: Ok but where's the fun in that

Replying to @LiamHaber:

@Mere_Grcia: God, you're just like him

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@EllaSadek: 👀 that's serious shade, considering who you're talking to

Replying to @EllaSadek:

@ThomasBentley: Call him out

Replying to @ThomasBentley:

@Mere_Grcia: You're a politician, why are you part of this

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@Thomas_Bentley: This is called public relations, last I checked

Replying to @Thomas_Bentley:

@Mere_Grcia: this started with you telling people not to read my article; you're awful at public relations

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@Thomas_Bentley: I was just saving people time. I haven't even been elected yet and I'm already taking steps for the public interest

Replying to @Thomas_Bentley:

@Mere_Grcia: Spoiler alert: Thomas Bentley's election will cause unemployment rates to spike because he thinks he's better than everyone at their jobs

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@EllaSadek: that's tough shit right there 🐸☕

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@LiamHaber: mere can i pls sponsor you just for that

Replying to @Mere_Grcia:

@Thomas_Bentley: yeah, I'm definitely counting on your vote :)

Replying to @Thomas_Bentley:

@Mere_Grcia: leave


@Thomas_Bentley started following you.


AFTER THAT FRIDAY, her life itself quickly began to escalate.

Her 79 twitter followers became 150, which soon became 300, and it wasn't long before she hit 1000. Her inbox was flooded with messages about her article (something which had never used to happen before). She had blown up---to the extent that a political journalist could, of course. But regardless, she was a hit. So the scattered congratulations and pats on the back she received when she arrived at work that Monday shouldn't have come as a shock. She’d nearly grown accustomed to it by the end of the day. What did come as a shock, though, was her boss approaching her as she was finishing up in the afternoon.

"Garcia, you did some good work on the Bentley article."

She looked up from her laptop to see Ashley, her editor, standing in front of her at the entrance to her office, hands folded across her chest and a small, proud smile resting on her lips. Meredith matched her stance, giving a self-satisfied grin. "Why, thank you. Maybe there are advantages to nearly being hit by the Secretary of State's car." Meredith shrugged, and Ashley pushed herself off the doorframe, walking further into the office with an eyebrow raised.

"You're kidding, right? Are you-- Can you explain?" she asked, and Meredith just grinned at her.

"A lady never tells," she taunted, though her tone erased any possibility that it might not have been in jest. Ashley rolled her eyes as she reached her desk.

"You've gotta be kidding me," she said, "And to think, I was coming in here to give you quite the enviable long-term assignment."

She perked up at that, eyes widening as she looked up to her from her desk chair. "Wait, seriously? What is it?"

"A lady never tells," Ashley mocked her in an overly-dramatic voice, and Meredith just scowled.

"Oh, c'mon, I don't talk like that," she complained, "Don't be like this."

"Just following suit," Ashley shot her a wink, and she rolled her eyes. "Anyway, the first article you published in D.C. was an exclusive with the Secretary of State announcing that he was running for president. That was the first time people saw your name around here. So, their knee-jerk reaction next time they see it will be to believe what you're saying, especially if you're talking about the same thing." Meredith raised an eyebrow, and Ashley grinned. "What I'm saying, Meredith, is that, because this is how you started your career, people trust you, especially about the presidential race, especially about Secretary Bentley."

"I like the sound of that," Meredith said, and Ashley laughed.

"So do I. Trust me when I say it's good for business."

"I can imagine." Meredith hesitated, flipping her pen about her thumb, her brow furrowed, before asking, "So what, then? What's this 'enviable assignment’?"

"I want you to cover the Bentley campaign through to the election." Meredith's eyes widened, and Ashley was quick to continue, "Now before you say anything, I want to elaborate. This would be a primary assignment. You'd have to build a network exclusively for information on the campaign. You'd have to spend your time digging up dirt on Bentley and staying updated on his campaign, ideally from near to the source. Essentially, you'll have to structure your life around paying attention to his."

Meredith wrinkled her nose in displeasure at this; she agreed with neither his rhetoric nor his policy, so being paid to think about him every waking moment wasn't the most appealing idea.

"But on the other hand, you'll quickly become the person that sources reach out to with pertinent information, your name will become known in our field, and you'll be able to get… well, just about whatever role you want as a journalist after the election, assuming you do the job well. It'd be something of a shortcut to the top.

Meredith sighed, her eyes wide, and pursed her lips. "Sounds like... a lot. It'd be a lot."

"I know," Ashley said, "but I want you to consider it. It'd be good for the Post as well as for you."

She let out a dry chuckle, raking a hand through her hair and looking back up at Ashley. "It would be good for me, wouldn't it?" Meredith said softly, a small smile resting on her lips. Ashley nodded.

"It'd be more than good."

Meredith pressed her lips into a thin line, dropping her gaze to the floor wordlessly. Ashley folded her arms. She recognized Meredith's blank expression--as stunned as she herself had been when promoted to manager of the Washington sector. She knew she'd need time.

"Just... think on it. You have until Friday," she said softly, tapping on Meredith's desk as she turned to leave.


"SO HOW LONG did she give you to decide?" Ella stuffed another chopstick-full of takeout noodles into her mouth as Audrey struggled to get Netflix running on their TV. Meredith sighed.

"Only the next four days. I have to tell her on Friday."

"You shouldn't do it. Can you imagine having to spend a whole year dealing with that dick?" Liam asked, scrunching up his nose as he entered, popcorn and glasses in hand. Audrey shot him a glare as Meredith groaned.

"Language!" she hissed, and Liam rolled his eyes.

"C'mon, Ben's with the sitter," he whined, "It's, like, not that deep."

"That doesn't mean you should make it a habit of cursing about Bentley! Our son is impressionable," she huffed, whacking his knee as he reached the couch. He pursed his lips.

"Also, for the last time, Liam, you hating him isn’t an argument for me not to do this." Meredith yanked the dumplings out of his hands, angrily stuffing the entirety of one into her mouth as she glared at him. "Anyway, ar'n't you a politician? Ishn't talking about your coworkersh like that, like, illegal?"

"You're lucky we understood any of that with how much food you're eating." Audrey sat down next to Meredith, stealing the takeout container from her lap as Meredith whined in protest. Liam scoffed.

"I can talk about that asshole any way I want. He's resigning, anyway." Liam took a seat next to Audrey, absentmindedly draping an arm over her shoulders. "Besides, you hate him just as much as I do; don't even pretend."

"Hate's a strong word for it," she protested, "How could I hate him? I don't even know him."

"Sure, but you hate what he stands for," Liam said reasonably. Meredith huffed.

He was far from wrong; that was the exact thing that’d left her with such heavy reservations, but she couldn't give him the satisfaction of saying it. At that point, Ella rolled her eyes, chucking a chopstick at him.

"Can you think about the positives for half a second?" she asked, turning to Meredith, "This would be such a good career move for you--"

"But at what cost?" Liam interjected.

"Don’t start," Audrey scolded, whacking his chest lightly.

"And almost anyone else would jump at an opportunity like this. I know I would," Ella continued, ignoring him, "And Liam could get you great connections and sources for your articles. Your networking is just about done for you."

Liam narrowed his eyes at that. "I am so not going to--"

"Yes, you are." Audrey narrowed her eyes right back. Liam scowled.

"Anyway," Ella continued, "I think you should do it. Don't let Bentley's horrible personality get in the way of your success."

Meredith scrunched up her nose. "I dunno; his horrible personality is a pretty big factor."

"Meredith, just know that I support your decision either way. It's your career, not these two's," Audrey said, giving Meredith a comforting smile as she reached over to squeeze her hand. Meredith met her expression with a soft smile of her own, though it didn't quite meet her eyes.

"Thanks, Aud," she sighed, "I just feel like, y'know... I might regret it if I take the job, but I'll always wonder if I don't."

"There's no good option, honey; we know," Ella said sympathetically, "But look at the pros and cons, alright? What's the worst that happens if you take the job, hm?" She raised her eyebrows, and Meredith pursed her lips, holding back a scowl.

"I spend over a year miserable while tracking Bentley's every move," she grumbled. Audrey sighed.

"And what's the realistic worst outcome?" she asked, "Because first, you really oughta think about whether this is honestly something that's gonna hold your interest for over a year."

Ella nodded her agreement, her lips pursed at Meredith's sullen expression. "If you think you're gonna be miserable, then, by all means, don't do it. But if the assignment sounds like it could be appealing..." She shrugged. "I think it's worth it." Meredith sighed, raking a hand through her hair. Ella's words were reasonable; they always were. And really, did she think she'd be miserable?

"For what it's worth," Liam added, interrupting her train of thought, "I still think it's a bad idea. Bentley's trouble; you don't wanna spend that much time around him and his life." Audrey whacked him, eyes wide and scolding, and Meredith huffed. "Thanks, Liam, real productive," she said bitterly, as both her friends glared at him. He held his hands up in defense, eyes wide.

"Hey, I'm just saying!" he protested, "If you take it, you have to be careful with him, alright? If he doesn't like what you report, I wouldn't put it past him to pull some underhanded bullshit."

Meredith scoffed, raising her eyebrows at Liam in disbelief. "What's he gonna do, set a hitman on me? Make me 'mysteriously disappear'?"

"I'm just saying!" he defended, and they all shared a laugh, Ella rolling her eyes at Liam.

Meredith sighed, gave him a patronizing smile and patted his knee. "Alright, I'll keep it in mind." He scowled in response.

"But really, Meredith, Ella's right," Audrey said, circling back, "You really need to think about whether you'll enjoy covering this. ‘Cause if you won't, the career benefits shouldn't be the biggest factor, okay?"

She drew in a shaky breath, nodding. Would she enjoy it? She wasn't sure, and really, she had no way to be. But she couldn't deny the thrill that ran down her spine when he broke the news, when she had run into him, when she was writing the article, every time she thought of it. Was that enough to know?

She wasn't sure. She couldn't have been; she couldn't have known everything it would spiral into, how tangled her life would become into his. But she knew very well that, even so, there wouldn't be a single dull moment if she took the assignment. The past few days had already served to prove that.

She hoped that it would turn out to be enough.


"I'LL TAKE THE project," Meredith announced on Friday as she marched up to her boss's desk, surprisingly confident for having spent all week tearing her hair out over the decision. Ashley raised her eyebrows, not overly surprised, but entirely pleased.

"Oh really?" she asked, her expression only showing hints of conceit. "And just what made you decide that?"

Meredith gave a small smile, shrugged. "Couldn't throw away an opportunity like this on the off-chance that I got bored with Bentley," she said, "Wouldn't be worth it."

Ashley grinned up at her. "Well, Meredith, I'm glad you think so. And I agree with you, for what it's worth."

"Good. Makes me feel like I'm making the right decision." She matched Ashley's expression, committing herself to optimism.

"And even so," Ashley added, folding her hands atop her desk. "You will not be getting bored over the time between now and the inauguration. I promise."

Meredith cocked a brow. "You sound like you speak from experience." Ashley only shrugged, a sigh escaping her lips.

"Yeah, I've had a few projects not too far off from this in my day," she admitted, "And the one thing they always are is interesting. Especially with politics."

"So I should strap in for a wild two years?" Meredith quipped, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. Ashley grinned.

"Just know that you won't be surviving it standing up."

Next chapter