Washington is retiring. After only one term. Nathaniel Sackett explains this calmly, but Abe looks like he’s about to explode, and Ben looks hurt. Robert, on the other hand, feels nauseous.
Because he doesn’t know what comes next. The rising star of the other party, John André, looks likely to win the nomination of his party, and there is no rising star in Washington’s party, after Arnold's betrayal. Abe could always bounce back, and Ben will likely run for some kind of office after this (and maybe even become President someday), but Robert? Robert’s just the Press Secretary. It’s against his ethics to work for a lobbying firm, and he can’t see himself at a thinktank.
When James finds out about this, his eyes will light up. He might dance around the room. Ever since the assassination attempt, James has been pleading with Robert to leave. It’s too dangerous he says. They don’t respect you there anyhow, he says. You could do better.
Robert could do better, but he feels a loyalty to the White House, and to Washington, and to Ben, Sackett and Abe. (Maybe not Abe.) Sackett said when Robert came onboard that it would change his life forever, and he was right. He just wants to serve, to be a patriot. How can he do that from behind a thinktank desk?
Ben and Abe leave Sackett’s office, bickering, but Robert stays behind. Sackett peers at him from over his glasses.
“What are you going to do?” Robert knows Sackett will probably retire alongside Washington, but it couldn’t hurt to ask. Maybe he could follow Sackett somewhere.
“What are you going to do?” Sackett smiles at Robert, as if he already knows that Robert has no idea.
“Maybe I could go to a thinktank.”
“You’d hate it there. What about Rivington? You two seem to have quite the dynamic. You could go into business together. At the Gazette.”
What? “I’m no journalist.”
“I actually spoke to Rivington. He needs a business partner.” Sackett looks smug.
“Who says I know anything about business?”
“You’re the one who looked over our books on the campaign, fixed them up. I love Abe, but he’s no good with accounting.”
Robert smiles a little at that.
So he catches James at the press room after the conference which is filled with questions about the rumors about Washington leaving. Robert can’t confirm it yet, so he evades them.
One of them notably doesn’t ask a single question: James. Robert’s grateful to him for that, even if he’s not sure James is doing his job properly. And besides, James loves gossip and a good rumor.
“James.” Robert wants to bring James close for this conversation, but they aren’t in his office. They stand a distance apart, but Robert can still smell James’s loud cologne despite that. “I heard you need a business partner.”
James’s eyes light up, of course. “So the rumor is true.”
“This is purely hypothetical. And we’ve been talking about my leaving--”
“You would never leave unless you had to.”
“Y...you don’t know that.”
James closes the gap between them. “I’d love to talk to you about this opportunity. Tomorrow, my place?”
Robert looks around, sees no one and smirks a little in James’s direction. “How about tonight?’
“Oh, I have a deadline.” But James is smirking, too. And Robert can’t help himself. He pulls James in for a kiss.
A throat clears from the other side of the room. Robert whips around, startled. It’s Sackett, frowning. “Rivington. Robert.”
James steps in front of Robert, and Robert feels strangely protected. “We were just talking about that business opportunity I mentioned.”
“Rivington, you two have been canoodling around this White House for nearly two years now. The walls have eyes here.” Sackett’s frown turns into a smug smile, and he turns and walks away. Robert feels himself letting out a long held-in breath.
“Are you okay?” James whispers.
“I’ve been better. Your place. Tonight. Damn your deadline.” Robert puts a hand on James’s shoulder and squeezes it.
If he’s going to jump off a cliff, at least he’ll be side to side with a friend.
More than a friend.