Christmas in New Jersey had relaxed Malloy, lifted the dark circles under his eyes, and put the spring back in his step. Now, only a few days into the New Year, and he'd just worked through the night again. Much of that was spent in the Situation Room with some of his closest advisors, discussing circumstances in the Middle East that had thankfully subsided. Not resolved - Malloy was beginning to wonder if any of the country's problems would be resolved - but at least the tense atmosphere (and the weaponry) had been diffused.
Late morning in the Oval Office: After an hour's break around dawn to shower and change, after countless meetings, the President finally had a few minutes to himself. Since the morning meeting, much of the Senior Staff had steered clear of the Oval. President Malloy wasn't in a bad mood, not yet -- the usual calm exterior was firmly in place -- but the potential was there. Most people were staying away until the chance of a storm dissolved itself.CHSDramaQueen:
Val found herself in almost the opposite position. The holidays had worn her down and dragged her spirit as they had for the third year in a row. Nothing was harder than that first holiday. However, her cheeriness since those past couple of weeks had been feigned only because she was normally chipper otherwise and was now expected of her. She couldn't let herself get caught because what could she say in reply to the obvious ensuing questions?
For now, she kept busying with her work, loving every second of being buried in it. It was times of high stress that drove her to work harder and go the extra mile.
That very extra mile lead her feet to the Oval Office. Val greeted the President's secretary, personal aide, and other assistants, and waited as patiently as she could for him to be available. Instantly, she hated the wait. It gave her room to think. To distract herself, she studied the filled folders for the seventh time that hour to kill the time.PresidentMalloy:
The President finished a briefing book he'd been reading the evening before, prior to the Sit Room call. Not the way he would've liked to start off this break, but it was important. Once that was done, he was about to lean back in his chair and pick up the newspaper when he was informed that Val was waiting for him outside.
Though tempted to ask her to come back later, he thought better of it. After all, it wasn't Val's fault he spent the night in the Sit Room. Nor did he honestly want to take out his irritation or fatigue on the staff and their assistants. He'd been close to snapping at them during Senior Staff that morning, really very unlike him. Most of the time. Unlike him when he had enough sleep, which was less and less lately. Hm.
Pushing these thoughts aside, Malloy pushed the button on the intercom, spoke to his secretary. "Send her in."CHSDramaQueen:
Val silently thanked God she was sent in. She cleared her throat, lifted her head, and straightened her posture, then entered the Oval. She kept her eyes fixed around the Presidet and not on him. She was afraid she'd somehow be intimidated by him and show some cracks. She needed to take her precautions and stand her ground.
"Good morning Mr. President." Val quietly cleared her throat. She would have launched straight into business, but she knew better than to speak before the President. The carelessness of that action would be a dead giveaway.PresidentMalloy:
"Good morning, Val," he replied, his voice also quiet. Unlike Val, though, he focused his pale blue eyes directly on her. There were the circles beneath them again; he didn't have to look in the mirror to know they were there. Evelyn's going to kill me for last night, he thought vaguely, before turning his full attention to Val.
He regarded her, and though he wasn't sure why, something seemed amiss. He hoped his touchy attitude from the morning hadn't trickled down to his staff, causing Billy to be short to his hardworking assistant. Pulling off his reading glasses, he gestured to a chair in front of his desk. "Have a seat, please." Malloy even mustered up a slight smile for her.CHSDramaQueen:
Val felt a professional protest prickle her tongue. She wanted to keep standing and possibly hand him the files. But as soon as it was felt, she held her tongue and sat down, figuring to herself that it was for the best. She just might end up pacing the room.
She sat and crossed her legs tightly. Val felt her foot starting to bounce hr leg, so she immediately halted it and put on a sheepish, broad smile towards the President, playing it off. She busied her eyes with looking over the file an eighth time.
"Billy sent me here to brief you on his end of the research thus far as he continues his quest for more information..." She inwardly scolded herself for being slightly wordier than usual. Val found herself again--as she always did--and started rattling off important stats and facts.PresidentMalloy:
Malloy leaned forward, elbows on his desk and hands steepled. One part of his mind was busy taking in the information she was reporting; another part was wondering how quickly the rumor of his bad mood had spread around the office, if Val was so nervous. Even a year into his Presidency and he'd yet to truly fathom the discomfort people felt in the Oval Office, or sometimes just around him.CHSDramaQueen:
Val sort of awoke as she finished and found the air a bit stale and thick. At that point, Val didn't know if she should just go ahead and bury herself deeper in her work, or else take a five to ten minute break to collect herself. Both options had their pros and cons--each being of equal weight--but a break sounded mighty enticing to her right about then.
Of course, it would be only after the President would dismiss her. She'd never dream of leaving without his bidding no matter what. He was a man she respected, regardless that he was her top boss and the leader of the free world.PresidentMalloy:
He followed the briefing with interest. The information Billy -- and probably Val -- had compiled was fascinating, and well-compiled. He told her so, and followed up with a few suggestions, things Billy should look into before they came to a decision. Malloy was just about finished, ready to let her go, when he broke off mid-sentence and stifled a yawn behind his closed fist.
After a pause, he gave a rueful grin, which made him look a lot more like the pleasant and calm Ben Malloy who got along so well with his staff. "I'm sorry, Val," he said apologetically, "It's not you, or Billy's report. It's just been... a long day so far."CHSDramaQueen:
Yawns, by nature, were contagious. And one must never trifile with Mother Nature. Val yawned a little into the back of her two relaxed fingers. "Oh, I know," She smiled, "It has been a bit on the long side." The whole past month was, not just the day. It'll get better, it always did. She knew that. She just wished for it to speed up a bit was all.PresidentMalloy:
He nodded. "Well, I suppose I should let you leave the dungeon now," the President joked lightly. "I'm sure you have things to do, and I'm going to--" He was about to pick up the newspaper when his intercom buzzed again and his secretary informed him that the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Defense was here to see him. "--have a meeting with the Defense Department," he finished with a smile that was distinctly more rueful than grin.CHSDramaQueen:
Now formally dismissed, Val got up, smoothing her clothes and dusting them of invisible lint. Still smiling, "Thank you Mr. President. I hope you have a good rest of the day."PresidentMalloy:
"You, too." The President picked up the newspaper and tucked it into the bottom drawer of his desk, began assuming a neutral facade for his next meeting.
Before she left the room, though, he stopped her with, "Oh, and Val? Make sure Billy, y'know, eats something today." He rolled his eyes, spoke to the ceiling, "God forbid I have a staff that follows my examples of sleeplessness and starvation so closely! Every time I turn around, they're sleeping in their offices and exist only on coffee." And with a final grin, waving her out, Malloy slammed his calm exterior back into place, prepared to take a serious meeting with the Deputy Secretary of the DoD. At least now he was in a slightly better mood than he'd been before his 'break.'