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Five Families Who Watched the Inauguration of the 44th American President

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1. The Pembletons, Washington, D.C.

Frank Jr. is complaining about the cold and the fact that he can't see anything. He wishes they'd stayed home in Baltimore to watch it on TV. And it's his sister Olivia, not his mom and dad, who tell him to be quiet and pay attention. "If it helps you keep warm, then dance, but do it quietly."

The jumbotron is so far away on the other side of the Reflecting Pool that Frank Sr. can just barely recognize the two beautiful Black children on the screen, but his own beautiful children are right here in front of him, close enough to reach out and rub his son's arms, to smile at his daughter and see her smile back. He's never felt so lucky to have them, even if they are sniping at each other.

His baby girl is twelve, just two years older than Malia. She's smarter than most of the adults Frank knows, but she still won't be old enough to vote in 2012. That hurts her parents, but she isn't too concerned. She was in the booth with her mom on November 4th, and she says she'll go with him next time. "Don't worry, Daddy," she said that night, when for the first time in her life she saw him cry, "I'll vote for the next African-American president."

Just like that, she said it, smiling, with no doubt in her mind that there will be a next time. She seems to feel all the hope and all the pride that he and Mary feel, and none of the fear. Last week in school they talked about Martin Luther King, as they do every year, and she knows what he stood for and what it cost him, but she didn't live it. In her childhood there's been violence and even war, but she doesn't remember seeing her leaders gunned down. She doesn't even remember those first years of her life, when her mother feared for Frank's life every day he went to work.

Last week in school they talked about heroes. Everyone had to talk about someone, and Olivia Pembleton talked about her dad. She said, "He used to have a job keeping the city safe, and now he has a different job, but he still keeps my family safe."

He wants that to be true, wants it so much he's squeezing Frank Jr. without noticing, so hard the boy yelps, prompting more scolding from his sister. Frank makes himself let go, and he takes Mary's hand and holds it gently. They bow their heads and he says a silent prayer for the safety of his family, for the safety of the next First Family, and for a world in peace.

2. Casey and Zeke, New York, New York

"Forty-three times, you idiot," Casey says between clenched teeth. "Forty-four presidents means forty-three peaceful transfers of power."

"It'll be over in a minute," Zeke says. "The rest of it –"


Casey had been tearing up a minute ago, watching the crowd on TV, hearing them chant the next president's name. Now he's hunched forward and stiff, correcting the pastor's math and grammar because he's too angry to think about the deeper stuff.

"It's not that bad," Zeke tries again, and he tries to rub some of the tension out of Casey's shoulders, but Casey swats him away. "I mean, he's a Christian, he's talking about God. It's not like he's up there talking about gay marriage –"

"He shouldn't be up there at all."

"Hey, I'm not arguing with you. It's just politics, and most of the country agrees with this guy. We'll have gay marriage in our lifetime, we both know that, but it's not like we're gonna see a gay president any time soon.

"Yes we will," says Casey, looking determined enough to stop an alien invasion, a war, or an economic crisis with one hand behind his back. "If I have anything to say about it, yes we fucking will."

"Amen to that," says Zeke. Then the pastor is gone, and the crowd is back to chanting, and Casey's face and frame soften. He lets Zeke take his hand.

3. The Joneses, London, England

For months Martha's been hearing people – mostly Americans but British people too – saying, "I never thought I'd live to see this day." Being at home this evening, being with Mum and Dad and Tish, is special for her because these are the only people left – besides Jack Harkness, and he's seen far too many Important Historical Moments to appreciate the gravity of just this one – who know how close they all came to not seeing it at all. It's not just that they almost died, or that the election could easily have gone another way (and the US could have made as bad a choice as last time, or as bad a choice as the UK made with Harold Saxon). It's that they lived to see a world gone so horribly wrong, with so much of humanity lost, she didn't think even time travel would be enough to get them back on track.

But it worked. Because of Martha Jones and her family, the plan worked, and here they were watching another country's pride, and knowing it never would have happened without them.

And no one but them knows it.

She told Tom, eventually. After he proposed to her and before she said yes, she had to tell him, and she thinks he believed her, more or less. He has trouble believing the facts of it, but he knows it as her truth, and he loves her, so it works.

There are people at work who know, but they know it in an intellectual way, because they've read files. Most of the people there don't know, but they respect her work and her position, and she likes it, likes getting things done, even though she doesn't get to tell anyone what she does now either.

But there are days, there are generals, there are harsh words and dismissive looks that send her back to the uncertainty of age thirteen, and there are others that send her back to the devastating solitude of 1913. And respecting herself is hard, it's a struggle when it seems that no one else will.

Those are the times she's glad she can always go back to her family, and they know who she is, and they know what she did, and they would love her and respect her even if she hadn't.

The American crowd is chanting their man's African name, his American name, and she knows there are crowds all over the world chanting the same thing.

It's enough to take a girl back.

There was a time, after all, when the whole world – or what was left of it – knew Martha Jones' name. There was a time when the whole world was depending on her, and they all knew it.

There was a time when the whole world could have been calling Martha Jones' name if she'd wanted, but she'd told them another name. And she remembers that now, as her mother murmurs, "I never thought I'd live to see the day." She remembers it every time this new leader says this moment does not belong to him but to all the people who worked for it. She remembers that, even when the whole world knew her name and the Doctor's, it was never about her and it was never about him. It was about believing it together. It was unity. It was hope.

4. A circle of friends, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The first time they went to Amsterdam – once they finally made it there – it felt like a reward, richly deserved after all their trials and tribulations. This time, it's starting to feel just a little bit too easy. This whole trip, Europeans have actually been smiling when they find out where Harold, Kumar, Maria, and Vanessa are from.

"Congratulations!" people say, and the American visitors say thank you.

"Soon the war will end!" they say. "Guantanamo will be closed down!" Harold and Kumar nod pleasantly. "You'll have a president who works hard, reads books, and listens to people who disagree with him!"

The thing is, Kumar thinks, as he passes the bong to his girlfriend and looks at the incredibly intelligent man on the TV in the corner of the coffeeshop, restoring the nation's credibility at this very moment… the thing is, working hard and reading books sucks ass.

"What if I want a president who represents me?" he muses out loud.

"He does, Kumar," says Harold.

"We all voted for him, remember?" says Maria.

"Yeah, but. Wouldn't it be even better if we had a slacker president?"

"We tried that," Harold says patiently, "and his people almost had us killed."

"Okay," Kumar says, "good point." All the same, they did have a nice time together once they met in the privacy of his home. "That's the thing," he says, sitting forward, doing his best to concentrate, which is hard to do when he feels this good. "George Bush was a hypocrite. He was really just like us, but he liked to pretend to be a hardass. But what if we could get some people in our government who weren't afraid to say, you know, we like relaxing with our friends, and we smoke a little weed now and again."

Harold frowns and shakes his head but Vanessa's nodding. "Yeah," she says. "If Holland can do it, why can't we?"

"We should get bike rentals in the parks too!" says Maria.

"Yeah," says Kumar, "and legalize prostitution. None of the others seem to like this idea as much, but Kumar's seized with the moment now, and though Harold reaches for him to try to stop him, he climbs on top of the table and announces, "Ladies and gentlemen of Amsterdam, I'm starting a campaign."

"Sit down!" they yell. Harold hisses the same thing, much quieter, and keeps tugging at his ankles in a way that just makes him laugh.

"At the end of this week, my friends and I are going back to our country, and I am committed to working for the legalization of marijuana in this renewed democracy."

"Shut up!" say the Europeans.

"Can't you see we're trying to listen to your president, you stupid American?" says one of them.

And Kumar grins, delighted. Stupid American, that's more like it. That's what he's used to hearing. Why not just be honest about it? He lets Harold pull him off the table and hugs his friend so he won't fall down. This is the start of something beautiful.

5. The Hawkins-Dawson-Sanders family, New Orleans, Louisiana

The boys watch at school and Nana watches at home, inviting over a few of her friends from church. As shift supervisor, Monica makes the decision to play news radio instead of their usual easy listening. After the oath she and Camille hug and dance and even squeal a little. After the address she makes a quick call to Nana and then wipes away her tears and gets back to her customers.

After a full shift at work she has organic chemistry. It's the first class of the semester so it's not too heavy, but she hasn't had such long days since before the election, and by the time she gets home she's ready to fall into bed. She's in no mood to hear Damon and Micah shouting at each other, and she's not pleased when Nana greets her with, "I think you'd better help them sort this out."

Monica insists on sitting down on the couch first. The TV's on, showing clips of the ceremony she ached from not being able to watch with her own eyes earlier today. At the commercial she turns off the sound and says, "Okay, what's the problem?"

"Damon doesn't understand how your powers work," says Micah.

Monica shrugs. "That's okay. I'm still trying to figure out how my powers work."

Damon hasn't known about their powers for very long, and they're all still trying to figure out what they can do, and what that means for them as a family. They're all still wondering whether Damon's got some special talent that's just waiting to bloom, the way Monica's did last year and Micah's the year before.

"He's being stupid though," says Micah. "He thinks you can do anything anyone on TV does."

"I can," says Monica.

"Right," says Damon, grinning, "so you can do what he did, right? And then we'll all get to go live in the White House!"

Monica groans but she laughs with him too. "This is what you two are fighting over?"

"He shouldn't make fun of it," says Micah.

Monica takes a deep breath. "Okay," she says, "we've talked about this before, right? You know what I can do is mimic any action I see, as long as my body's capable of it." The boys nod. "And you know there's a whole lot more to becoming president then putting your hand on the Bible and saying some words. That's a whole lifetime of hard work, and that's good luck and family and friends and everyone working together to help you."

"Yeah," says Micah, and Damon nods, no longer smiling.

"Now," Monica continues, "does that mean I can't do it? Does that mean you can't do it, Micah? Or you, Damon? With or without superpowers?"

"Hell no," says Nana. "My grandchildren can do anything they set their minds to."

"Say it with me," says Monica.

And they know it's corny, but they don't even care. They take hands, all four of them, and shout it together: "Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can!"