DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Seriously, the cast of The West Wing belong to Warner Bros. and I'm only borrowing them for some free daydreaming that I wrote down).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The eighth in a series of stories introducing Kate Harper and establishing her as 'one of the gang'. Post ep missing scene for Episode s5 ep 20 'No Exit'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com

Decorated Action
By ncruuk


Standing on the sidewalk having paid the cab, CJ considered the brownstone that, if the scribbled address she had been given last night was correct, was the place that Commander Kate Harper was electing to call home in the District. It certainly wasn't an apartment concluded CJ when she noticed the lack of entry-phone system suggesting this was still a complete brownstone and not one that had been subdivided.

"Kate? It's CJ," announced CJ when Kate answered her cell phone, the door knocker exactly as Kate had described – one large solid lump of rust.

"I'll come let you in," said Kate, already moving rapidly down the stairs.

"Actually, I was wondering – should I go to the deli down the street and buy us some lunch before we get covered in paint? I still owe you for Chinese," suggested CJ, remembering seeing an interesting looking store as her cab had turned into the street.

"I wouldn't do that," said Kate cautiously as she opened the front door and cancelled her cell phone connection, only to grin sheepishly when she realised she'd made CJ jump, "…sorry to startle you."

"You're forgiven – the deli no good?" asked CJ curious but politely refraining from pointing out that it was already too late for Kate to not be covered in paint.

"Apparently it's excellent, famous even," commented Kate, stepping aside so that CJ could cross the threshold and enter her home.

"Famous for what?"

"Pimento olives and their slavish devotion to C-Span," explained Kate as she shut the front door, missing CJ's wince, "apparently their food is wonderful but they have C-Span playing continuously and like to keep their photo wall up to date with all their customers who've been on it," said Kate, watching with interest as CJ's previously amused expression had been replaced with something rather pained.

"A lucky escape then."

"I might just get away with it," agreed Kate, knowing CJ, as the face of the Bartlett White House, would be the equivalent of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Jesus all appearing at once.

"Not for long – you'll end up in shot with the President at some point," assured CJ, deciding not to mention the request Nancy McNally had made that would see CJ arranging just that at some point in the next three weeks. Kate's days of total anonymity in the District were soon to be over.

"Great…" Kate's weary sarcasm as she realised the significance of a Presidential photo-call was quickly replaced with uncertainty and what CJ was starting to decide was a rather adorable head cant, "… you're not mad?"


"At me not letting you go to the deli."

"No, the opposite!" confirmed CJ, dumping her bag on the floor, "this is exactly a look I want the Press getting hold of," she continued, gesturing down at her jeans and t-shirt which looked suspiciously like what she had been wearing the night before, only to wince at how shallow she sounded, caring about her appearance. Fortunately, Kate didn't seem to notice.

"Isn't that what you were wearing last night?" Leaning against the hallway wall, Kate chewed her lower lip as she tried to understand CJ's logic.

"It's to do with the different types of Press," began CJ, preparing to launch into Media 101 before checking, "you sure you want to know?" which earned her a rather pointed look from Kate that clearly seemed to indicate for CJ to keep talking. Grinning, CJ obediently resumed her impromptu mini-lecture, "the White House Press Corps are generally, only made up of political journalists, so only care about what I say, not what I'm wearing when I say it. Inside the West Wing therefore, unless there's something like a State Banquet happening, I can wear what I like as long as I'm not in the Briefing Room."

"But I thought you said the White House Press Corps don't care?"

"They don't, but briefings are recorded and broadcast on C-Span," smiling, CJ watched as Kate's face brightened and her head straightened as she began to comprehend, "and C-Span is available to all, including anyone on late night cable news needing quick fodder."

"Making you mainstream, which makes you the story," summarised Kate, understanding.

"Which I try to avoid," confirmed CJ, unexpectedly pleased that Kate had even taken the time to try and understand the balancing act she had to play, nevermind actually grasp the nuances.

"So no snaps on the deli wall in a neighbourhood you don't live in not looking like a Press Secretary?" Kate, now understanding the wider concern CJ had to manage, namely the constant risk of being 'outed' as a tabloid fodder worthy human being that could detract or distract from a story, sought confirmation.

"Ideally no," agreed CJ, smiling.

"I get that…" muttered Kate thoughtfully.

"Oh?" Something in Kate's tone made CJ think that Kate's understanding was perhaps more intuitive and experience based than just following her explanation.

"Bad guys have the strangest TV tastes… quickest way to blow your cover undercover is to be recognised playing another role on TV," said Kate succinctly, unwittingly filling in some gaps for CJ.

"This job will put you on TV…" Now it was CJ's turn to mutter thoughtfully.

"Eventually, yes…"

"You can never go undercover again?" guessed CJ, now understanding why Nancy McNally had made her request – it was going to end Kate's CIA field career.

"No." It was something Kate had realised on about day four of her final CIA de-briefing when the focus shifted from her most recent assignment to her whole career.

"Will you miss it?" asked CJ softly, trying to understand how a job at the White House advising the President, what many considered to be a career peak, could also be a career killer.

"I haven't decided yet…" Kate's response was barely audible, her gaze unfocussed for a moment before she collected herself and focussed on CJ once more as she asked with no hint of forced brightness, "… but Camping?" That was something she couldn't quite reconcile with CJ's media exposure challenge.

"The risk decreases massively outside the Beltway," explained CJ factually, recognising Kate's desire to change the subject before adding wearily before she'd realised she was still talking, "…and I never really expected to actually get to the camping part…" although, given their conversation last night about allowing the administration demands to cancel her plans, it was hardly a great secret she was sharing with Kate.

"So, painting…" said Kate, sensing a change in CJ's mood that she didn't want to linger, "…you sure you want to do it in jeans?"

"I brought gym clothes," said CJ, gesturing towards her bag, "what are we painting?"

"Whatever you feel like," said Kate matter-of-factly as she pushed off the wall and started to lead CJ down the hallway, "you can pick during the nickel tour."

"What are you painting, apart from yourself?" teased CJ as she admired Kate's very toned and tanned legs as she followed her up the stairs.

"My bedroom, and at least you understand why I paint in shorts," explained Kate with a vague gesture towards her outfit of worn US Navy shorts and t-shirt as she set off up the staircase to the second floor.

"This is quite an 'apartment' Commander…"

"I thought I'd try something different," said Kate noncommittally as she turned to enter a room on the second floor landing.

"Different to what?" asked CJ, admiring the view from the large windows and trying not to comment on the lack of furniture, especially once she realised she hadn't actually seen any furnishings as they'd moved up through the very empty house.

"Barracks mostly, you can change in the bathroom," volunteered Kate, gesturing towards the door on the far side of the large room.

"Thanks." It was with some trepidation that CJ crossed the totally unfurnished room, taking care not to step in the paint trays, and headed for the bathroom, wondering what she'd find.

"Wow!" Unfortunately, her inability to contain her immediate reaction, coupled with her sudden stalling in the doorway gave her away.

"Not what you were expecting?" asked Kate as she crossed the room to stand in the doorway with CJ.

"No… this is, I mean, even I could swim in that bathtub!"

"That was the idea," said Kate simply, only to blush when she realised what she'd said, a blush that intensified when she also discovered CJ's head had snapped round to look at her, "…I mean, tall people generally, me specifically could…" she stuttered to a halt when she saw CJ's face soften into a smile of understanding but, most importantly, a total absence of judgment.

"What's going on here Kate?" asked CJ softly, deliberately not moving from her spot in the bathroom doorway so as to allow Kate the space to either stay rooted to the spot or move back into the bedroom as, despite their limited meetings thus far, CJ had already realised that personal space was important for the blonde.

"With what?" Many people would have asked the question aggressively, defensively, as a way of trying to regain control of a seemingly out of control conversation but there was no aggression in Kate's tone or body language as she stood rooted to the spot next to CJ.

"This…" CJ gestured expansively even as she realised she was still being ambiguous, forcing her to clarify, "…this empty house with the heavenly bathroom… the whatever it is that has me spending a guilt free Saturday painting your empty house."

"Ah." Kate paused to consider what she wanted to say and do before finally, reaching a decision, gently placed her hand on CJ's shoulder and suggested, "I can explain the house if you want while you change?" The unexpected physical contact sent tingles down CJ's arm and spine, tingles that she really didn't want to over-analyse so just accepted and enjoyed.

"I'll start changing…" she volunteered, finally entering the bathroom-to-die-for but leaving the door ajar so she could hear Kate who had moved back towards the step ladder that was set up in the corner.

"My career in the Navy has been in Naval Intelligence. I have worked around the world and never had a home of any sort in the US. Many of my postings overseas involved my working for the CIA."

"So you always lived on a Base?" called out CJ, recognising that, as much as Kate appeared to be telling her, it was certainly an over-simplification that didn't warrant challenging as she wasn't going to learn anything further.

"Barracks mostly, the occasional Embassy compound… basically rather like student dorms only most times without the roommate," explained Kate, focussing on the birds sitting in the trees at the bottom of her new garden.

"Not exactly luxurious," commented CJ, her voice muffled as she removed her t-shirt.

"When I was advised I was recalled to Washington and being appointed to the NSC I had to get somewhere to live – this house was available and I've never had a house before," said Kate simply, wondering what CJ's next comment would be.

"It's a big house, which I get – mine in California has lots of space as well," volunteered CJ, hoping to provide some sort of reassurance and not judge Kate. Once her head was clear of her other t-shirt which she had just pulled on she continued, "and I can see that living in Barracks means you don't have any furniture, but why the fabulous bathroom?" she asked as she perched on the bathtub edge to change her jeans for gym shorts.

"The house was almost derelict – I bought it right before my final debriefings started," which is partly how she could afford it thought CJ, although it sounded like Kate's living costs probably hadn't eaten into her savings much until now, "but the roof, wiring, kitchen and bathrooms all had to be re-done," explained Kate, wondering how CJ would interpret that information.

"So you've got great electrics, hot water, roof, bathroom and kitchen but nothing else?" summarised CJ as she returned to the 'bedroom' carrying her bag and sneakers, her jeans and t-shirt replaced with a near identical outfit to Kate's, only hers was emblazoned with UC Berkley not US Navy.

"Pretty much – I could get the realtor to supervise that for me whilst I was being de-briefed."

"How long did that take?" asked CJ as she sat down on the floor and began to pull on her sneakers."

"The renovations or debrief?"


"The renovations took three months," said Kate, prompting CJ to let out a low whistle as she once again looked towards that sumptuous bathroom, "debrief took four."

"Months?" asked CJ, quickly, taking in the half smile that was gracing Kate's face only to see the blonde shrug expansively before repeating what she'd said to Josh yesterday…

"Overseas is a big place. You want to use the brush or the roller?"

"That was fun," said CJ genuinely a couple of hours later when, with a final touch up on the ceiling by the light fitting, Kate had declared the pale cream paint job complete.

"Thank you for the help," said Kate as she started to gather up the paint things.

"You say that like we're finished."

"You want to paint more?" asked Kate, surprised that CJ was prepared to have her weekend monopolised further with home decorating, but then, if she was honest, CJ Cregg had been surprising her since they'd first met.

"You've got a whole house to decorate and furnish," observed CJ, emphasising her point with her paintbrush, making Kate smile.

"You're not going to like me tomorrow if you keep going, even now it's debatable," stated Kate, crossing the room to rescue CJ's paintbrush.

"Why? You hiding some horrible colours for the landing?" teased CJ, deliberately moving the paintbrush out of Kate's immediate reach.

"No, but you will be stiff," pointed out Kate reasonably, patiently trying again to take the paintbrush from CJ, only for CJ to playfully avoid Kate's grasp and 'accidentally' daub a small amount of paint on Kate's neck in the process.

"CJ…" Kate's voice was suddenly lower and richer, almost like a growl.

"Yes Kate?" asked CJ innocently, casually holding the paintbrush at her side like you would a cigarette, trying not to think about what that particular tone of voice did to her insides.

"Give me the paintbrush? Please?" asked Kate lightly, her eyes sparkling with amusement even if the rest of her face was schooled into a perfectly serious expression.

"Make me!" taunted CJ, smiling at the blonde, wondering how much trouble she was about to get herself in but nevertheless trusting Kate totally.

"Seriously?" asked Kate, canting her head to the side as she considered how serious CJ actually was as well as how she might retrieve said paintbrush.

"Completely Commander, show me what my tax dollars got," encouraged CJ as she relaxed her stance slightly, under no illusion that she was going to be able to stop Kate from retrieving the paintbrush and reasonably confident that they were going to end up on the floor.

"Ok then, if you're sure?" asked Kate on final time, satisfied that CJ's agreement was genuine.

"I'm…" Before CJ could say the word 'sure' she was moving, how she wasn't certain, but suddenly, she was lying on Kate, her forearms trapped against Kate's chest by Kate's arm whilst her other hand pointedly removed the paintbrush from CJ's slack fingers. "..sure," finished CJ breathlessly.

"You ok?" asked Kate nervously, relaxing her pressure on CJ's arms to enable the taller woman to move.

"Mmmm…" agreed CJ, not moving a muscle. Instead, she found herself studying Kate's face before looking into rich hazel eyes that were clouded with concern, "…very ok," confirmed CJ, pleased to see those eyes immediately clear and Kate's whole face transform as a tentative smile appeared, her hands drifting down CJ's back, barely brushing her t-shirt to rest on CJ's hips, presumably to offer assistance in standing, unless… "Can I ask you a question?" whispered CJ, conscious how close their faces were, conscious that she could feel Kate's gentle warm breath on her face.

"Sure," agreed Kate easily, trying not to notice how easily their bodies fit together, how right it felt, despite the unglamorous surroundings of dust sheet and hard floor.

"What would you do if I started to kiss you?" The straight-to-the-point question was asked softly, nervously and it was Kate's turn to study brown eyes clouding with fear and concern, clouds that darkened when Kate increased the pressure she applied with her fingertips to CJ's hips until CJ realised she was reaching for the edge of her t-shirt so that suddenly, those gentle, paint smeared fingertips were stroking the soft skin at her waist before Kate whispered,

"Kiss you back?"

"Good to know." Uncertain what to say next, CJ found herself frozen in place on top of Kate, content to study the face of the fascinating blonde, noticing the odd freckle or faded scar that, were it not for the extremely close scrutiny and total absence of make-up, would have never been seen. Even if she had wanted to say something witty or significant, CJ was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate as she began to focus on the caressing pattern that Kate's nimble fingers were ghosting across her lower back, heating her skin and warming her body deep inside in a way that she couldn't remember feeling from such a simple contact before.

"CJ" came the quiet whisper.

"Mmm?" Pulled from her introspection, CJ refocused her gaze on Kate's eyes which were starting to reveal their flecks of green and gold as Kate visibly relaxed into their close embrace.

"Don't forget to breathe," recommended Kate humorously before, in a flurry of contained movement and energy, managed to near simultaneously release the large clip that CJ had been using to hold her hair back and flip them over so that CJ was lying on the floor with Kate hovering over her, her weight braced by her knees and arms, which were now resting on the floor on either side of CJ's head.

"How did…" Startled, CJ began to automatically speak, attempting to talk through her surprise.

"Ssshh," advised Kate softly, shifting her weight fractionally so that she was more balanced before letting her head drop just enough for her lips to graze the tip of CJ's nose, prompting an involuntary hum of satisfaction from CJ which encouraged Kate to continue with another barely there brush of lips on cheek, once again triggering another hum of pleasure which served only to encourage her in their quest. As CJ's eyes closed and she attempted to stretch her neck as if trying to rise up towards Kate, Kate took the implied hint and increased the frequency but not the pressure of her kisses as she thoroughly explored cheek, nose, eyelids, forehead, neck… ghosting feather-light kisses wherever she could reach, taking care however to avoid CJ's oh so tempting lips.

"Kate…" sighed CJ, succumbing to the frustrating torture and preparing to beg for Kate to kiss her properly once she realised that no matter how hard she tried, the blonde managed to skilfully avoid her lips. One thing, however, that she did manage to do, was to persuade her unexpectedly heavy arms up to reach for Kate and so, in a fair impression of turnabout, CJ managed to work her fingers under Kate's t-shirt and start an intimate caress.

"Don't forget to breathe," repeated Kate, pausing long enough in her kisses to get CJ to open her eyes once more before obediently taking a rather pointed breathe. No sooner had she finished inhaling than Kate's lips were suddenly, wonderfully on hers, gentle lips pressing against hers that were testing, touching, tasting with the aid of a darting tongue that gradually encouraged her own lips to open and start returning the exploration. Moments that could have been minutes or hours passed in gentle teasing before suddenly, Kate deepened the kiss, turning up the intensity and creating a fiery passion in CJ that had her instinctively hooking her legs around Kate's, trapping their long limbs together even as hands tangled in long blonde hair that was released from its restraints and tumbled down around their heads, not that they noticed.

Finally, despite Kate's encouraging recommendation to breathe, CJ felt she was about to see stars for the wrong reasons and reluctantly, began to withdraw from the kiss.

"Ok?" asked Kate softly, their faces in shadow now due to her cascading hair that was draped over them, shielding them like a shroud from the rest of the world and their responsibilities.

"Wow…" breathed CJ, not sure what else to say, although asking for another kiss seemed a good, no great idea, especially if she managed to get Kate to blush that delicate pink colour again, "…that was…"

"Wow?" suggested Kate shyly, shifting her knee slightly to enable her to balance herself again without putting her whole weight on CJ.

"I'm speechless," continued CJ, hoping she managed to communicate that it was a good sort of speechless through her eyes and the gentle fingers she was running through Kate's hair in a instinctive counterpoint to the light caress she was still distractedly playing across Kate's hip.

"Wanna go again?" asked Kate shyly as she arched into CJ's caress.

"Love to…" breathed CJ as she tightened her embrace on Kate and attempted to coax her to lie more on her, only for Kate to resist.


"I don't want to hurt you," came the quiet admission from the blonde who knew she was, with the exception of a couple of obvious places, more solidly muscular and therefore heavier than she looked, not to mention the floor wasn't exactly soft.

"Come here," coaxed CJ, dismissing Kate's concerns easily, not in the least bit worried, "I want to feel you," she requested, once again tightening her embrace in encouragement which, this time, was successful and, as hips met and tongues clashed, so too did breasts and bodies as Kate gently lowered herself fully onto CJ and resumed their increasingly passionate kisses.

"Kate?" asked CJ finally, unable to ignore the traitorous aches and grumbles that were increasing the longer she spent lying on the floor despite the ever increasing pleasure she was experiencing as a result of their rather wonderful kisses.

"Hmm?" Kate wasn't really interested in stopping her delicate exploration of CJ's collar bone.

"I think you were right sweetheart," volunteered CJ, daring to risk the endearment given that it was balanced by a compliment.

"You're going stiff?" guessed Kate, grinning shyly at the use of 'sweetheart', once again pushing herself up from CJ's body.

"A bit," admitted CJ nervously, uncertain how Kate would react as it rather meant interrupting a hitherto extremely enjoyable kissing session.

"In that case," decided Kate matter-of-factly as she propelled herself up into a kneeling position, "you need a glass of wine, a hot bath and a neck rub."

"Do you always have a plan, Commander?" asked CJ teasingly, accepting the offered hand and allowing herself to be pulled, somewhat sorely, into a sitting position. Once established in the perpendicular, neither lady even thought of untangling their fingers.

"Actually no, at least, I don't usually, often, ever… that is…" Stumbling over her words, her blush deepening, Kate attempted to find some words to enable her to explain to CJ that she didn't have a military specification seduction plan. Amused, CJ leant forwards and gently pressed her lips to Kate's, effectively silencing the blonde.

"I know you didn't mean it as a seduction Kate, I volunteered to help you paint remember?" said CJ, watching as uncertainty was chased from hazel eyes to be replaced by a degree of calm as Kate stopped panicking about perceived intentions, "although, I'm sure you would also enjoy the glass of wine at the very least?" continued CJ cautiously, watching Kate's face carefully for any indications of anything other than comfortable calmness from the blonde.

"Yes," agreed Kate softly.

"And you know I'm desperate to sample your bathtub," continued CJ, wondering how bold she dared to be without driving Kate away.

"You may of hinted," agreed Kate, recalling many of the unsubtle 'hints' CJ had been dropping about the bathroom whilst they had been painting.

"So, if you don't mind me giving it a go?" asked CJ, running her thumb over Kate's palm in a gentle and hopefully reassuring caress, "I'd love to have a bath with a glass of wine and some company?" suggested CJ feeling bold, hoping she'd pitched her suggestion somewhere near the mark.

"White wine?" offered Kate, smiling with reserved enthusiasm for the idea, totally unclear in her own mind how much 'company' she was comfortable sharing but deciding, for once, to act without any sort of plan.

"Sounds lovely."

"I'll just finish tidying this up then bring a glass in? There's soaps and shampoos in the basket on the side," volunteered Kate, deciding that actually, a small plan couldn't hurt and that, by the time she'd put away the decorating stuff and gone down to the kitchen and poured two glasses of wine, CJ would be 'decent' in the bath tub, covered by a thick layer of bubbles.

"Sounds wonderful… sorry to be a nuisance," said CJ, suddenly aware she was restricting Kate's decorating time and forcing hostess duties on her.

"You," Kate paused to kiss CJ's nose to emphasise her point, "are not," another kiss, this time to cheekbone, "a nuisance," declared Kate firmly, kissing CJ's nose again before grinning and adding, "quite the opposite in fact," before confirming her point with a gentle kiss on the lips, "now, why don't you go run that bath?" suggested Kate, rising smoothly to her feet, pulling a creaking CJ up with her.

"You're making me feel old!" protested CJ, somewhat self-consciously: whilst she wasn't exactly out-of-shape

"Because you're stiff?" asked Kate, the bluntness of the question's phrasing tempered by the gentle tone and tender tucking of a disobedient strand of hair behind CJ's ear.

"I'm older than you…" muttered CJ self-consciously.

"Yes, you're six and I'm about 0.04," agreed Kate, enjoying the look of confusion that appeared on CJ's face at the unexpected comment.

"Huh?" CJ's confusion was endearingly cute.

"You're stiffer than me because you've spent six years in the West Wing and I've spent just under a fortnight."

"Okay…" Whatever Kate's point was, CJ wasn't seeing it.

"Let's just say 'overseas work' prepares the back muscles better for painting than working in the West Wing," explained Kate, wondering if CJ would just accept that Kate wasn't worried about their relative ages.

"Smooth talker," conceded CJ finally, dipping her head down for a playful, teasing kiss.

"I'm taking that as a compliment, now, go run your bath!" instructed Kate kindly as she pointedly stepped away from CJ and set about gathering up paint brushes.

"Yes Ma'am!" joked CJ, tossing Kate a bad impression of a salute that had Kate's fingers itching with a desire to teach CJ how to salute properly before the laughing Press Secretary headed into the bathroom, boldly leaving the door open.

"Knock Knock," said Kate as she walked through the open bathroom door about ten minutes later, chilled wine bottle and two wine glasses in hand.

"You're in here," was all CJ managed to say when she finally realised that Commander Kate Harper, Deputy National Security Advisor to President Bartlett was actually standing, barefoot and in paint smeared gym clothes, holding a bottle of wine, next to the bathtub which she, CJ Cregg, was sitting in, naked.

"Sorry, you wanted your wine after?" asked Kate, glancing back over her shoulder as if needing to visually assess the room's merits for wine drinking, wondering if she had misunderstood CJ's earlier suggestions.

"No! I mean…" flustered, CJ sank deeper into the bathtub until all Kate could see above the foamy bubbles were the Press Secretary's eyes and hair.

"I should go, this is making you nervous," declared Kate, taking a step back and starting to turn to head back to the bedroom.

"Stay!" Implored CJ in a panic, pushing herself back up into a more upright position causing the water to slosh loudly against the sides of the bath, "stay? Please?" she asked again, watching as Kate stayed perfectly still but also perfectly tense.

"I…" Nervous, CJ started playing with the bubbles as she tried to work out what she might be trying to say before realising that there was only one thing to say, and only one way to say it. Kate needed to hear the truth, and it needed to be unvarnished and without spin. "I… say a lot of things, to a lot of people, about a lot of stuff…"

"CJ, if this is where you try to say it was a joke without hurting my feelings, it's fine, I understand, I'll be outside," said Kate quickly, still standing perfectly still, her back facing CJ.

"I do say a lot of things, to a lot of people, about a lot of stuff," repeated CJ confidently, "not all of which is taken seriously when I wanted it to be, some of it taken seriously when I was joking." Kate's already tense shoulders noticeably tensed further, prompting CJ to continue in a rush, seeking to reassure her, "that hasn't happened today… I haven't, for a long time, said to a woman that I find her fascinating, interesting, entertaining and distractingly attractive, mostly because I didn't know one… nevermind said it to a woman who took it seriously, as seriously as I wanted it to be taken…" CJ watched as Kate, whilst not moving, appeared to relax some of her tension, "…but mainly because I was too scared to say it seriously…"

"You don't need to be scared of me CJ." Kate spoke softly and calmly but still did not turn around, sensing that it was perhaps easier for CJ to speak to her back.

"It's not you that scares me," admitted CJ cautiously.

"I can't lie and say the rest of the world will never know," said Kate carefully, understanding exactly what CJ's concerns were, "…but I can tell you I understand that fear and respect that fear and have no desire to court that threat."


"Yes CJ?"

"Turn around?" Obediently, Kate executed a perfect military heel-turn.


"Do you think two can fit in this bathtub?"

"Depends who the second is," replied Kate pragmatically, considering the snowy white shimmering peaks of foam, "and whether I'm worried about soaking my carpet."

"I'll pay for the carpet," declared CJ with determination.

"Here, hold the glasses?" asked Kate, stepping back up to the bath and holding out the wine glasses in such a way that CJ had to scoot forwards.

"Forget about the wine," suggested CJ huskily, not moving, bringing a light blush to Kate's cheeks as she dutifully put the wine bottle and glasses on the floor but within reach of the bathtub occupant.

"Scoot forward though," instructed Kate before adding, "and close your eyes."

"Why?" asked CJ even as she duly obliged and leant forwards into the bubbles, enabling a pool of clear water to rush in behind her, giving Kate a tantalising view of bare back disappearing below the water.

"Further forward," encouraged Kate, ignoring the request for an explanation as she, having pulled off her shorts and underwear, stepped easily into the space that CJ had just vacated, barely disturbing the still moving water.

"Kate…" As CJ tried to chastise the blonde for her secrecy, she heard the soft thump of Kate's t-shirt land vaguely near her discarded shorts.

"You can open your eyes now," instructed Kate teasingly as she crouched down into the water and, in one controlled movement, managed to straighten her legs out either side of CJ before gently placing her hands on CJ's shoulders and began to massage them.

"Don't wanna…" said CJ eventually, her head dropping forwards as she tried to encourage Kate to massage her neck, "…you feel good," she added, not sure if she meant Kate's thighs which were touching her hips where earlier talented fingers had teased her or those same fingers which were working wonders on neck muscles that had probably last relaxed in California, before Bartlett's first Democratic Party nomination.

"Lean back." Kate's suggestion was accompanied by a gentle pressure being applied in encouragement to CJ's shoulders, "…you'll feel even better," she prophesised softly, feeling CJ's hands rest on her knees to stabilise herself as the taller Press Secretary did indeed start leaning back until she was leaning against Kate, her head resting against Kate's shoulder, Kate's breath teasing her ear, her back pressed up against soft breasts and firm stomach, her body generally cradled and supported by warm water and very hot lover.

"Hello," whispered Kate finally, pressing a gentle kiss to CJ's ear.


"You ok?" asked Kate tenderly as she ran her hands across CJ's shoulders and down her arms until she reached CJ's hands, at which point CJ entwined their fingers.

"Very ok," agree CJ, drawing their joined hands together so that they met, underwater, resting against CJ's ribs just below her breasts, trapping CJ in Kate's embrace, "…you?" she asked, concerned that she couldn't see Kate's face but at the same time delighting in the intense intimacy their position enabled.

"Very ok," said Kate, confirming her agreement with another lingering kiss pressed this time to CJ's shoulder.

"Mmm… you're good at that," sighed CJ, unable to stop herself from adding, "…don't stop…"

"You trust me not to leave a mark?" asked Kate, picking up from CJ's little murmurs of delight and encouraging shuffling that she was not going to be denied the opportunity to undertake a lengthy exploration of as much of CJ as she could reach.

"I trust you not to leave a mark where it matters…"

"Your arms are scarred," whispered CJ, gently tracing the very faint lines that she had eventually spotted criss-crossing Kate's forearms.

"Your fingers have pruned."

"About two hot water top-ups ago, and don't change the subject."

"Yes, my arms are scarred," confirmed Kate, wondering if her hitherto successful distraction technique of pressing hot, wet, open mouthed kisses onto CJ's neck would work one more time.

"Not going to work Commander," warned CJ, trapping Kate's wandering hands once more.

"Ok… you know it's classified right?"

"Your body? Damn, I thought I'd just been read into the Programme… don't tell me Secretary Hutchinson's got clearance?" teased CJ mischievously, earning her a playfully pointed nip to her ear and a whispered, 'that's disgusting' in reference to the mention of the Secretary of Defence.

"I don't want to know where 'overseas' that is, but how and when if you can…" CJ trailed off, wondering if what she was asking was even possible.

"My arms were torn up in '97 – they're actually just badly healed scrapes and scratches from vegetation."

"And you knee?" asked CJ, reinforcing her question by stroking said scar.

"'92 – fell off the climbing wall on the Annapolis assault course."

"Really?" CJ was amazed at the surprisingly mundane explanation.

"Really," confirmed Kate seriously, wondering if CJ knew she had been stroking the faint scars on Kate's forearms for the last few minutes.

"Do you have others?" asked CJ quietly.


"Mmm hmm."

"A few," Kate paused, wondering how honest to be about the real extent of her scars, "but not as many as I might."

"I don't follow."

"Identifiable or memorable scars can be dangerous – on a few occasions it was decided to make sure I didn't end up with significant scars wherever possible.

"Plastic surgery like skin grafts?" asked CJ, seeing an element of common sense in the decision even if it did appear to suggest CIA undercover agents were treated more as commodities than people.

"Yeah… don't think about it," said Kate, running her fingers gently across whatever was in reach given the grasp CJ now had on her forearms.

"But you've been shot?" asked CJ, trying to comprehend how different their career paths to the White House had been.



"Yes, and generally roughed up in knife fights," volunteered Kate, recognising that not only would CJ not appreciate being lied to, but that at some point she would hopefully discover the evidence for herself.

"Broken bones?"

"More as an adventurous kid than in the Agency, but yes."

"Okay then."

"Anything else?" asked Kate, surprised at how quickly CJ's questioning had stopped.

"Where do you sleep?" The sudden topic change had Kate blinking in momentary confusion.

"Uh, in my bedroom?" Despite her certainty in the answer, Kate's surprise at the question meant she actually phrased it as a question.

"Where's your bed?" CJ was confident she could anticipate the answer, which wasn't going to be to her liking.

"On order; I sleep on the floor."

"On the floor? You've been advising the President whilst sleeping on the floor?" CJ was amazed.

"Not simultaneously." Kate's dry response earned her a playful slap on the knee, forcing her to attempt to elaborate. "It doesn't rain indoors, there are no bugs or creatures trying to kill me and there is an infinitesimally small chance of someone attempting to wake me up to kidnap me."

"Which makes it 5 star?"

"I'd go with 2 personally, but it's fine, most of the time," admitted Kate quietly.

"Most of the time?"

"Most of the time when I'm not holding a fascinating, interesting, entertaining and distractingly attractive woman in my arms in a bathtub that's almost run out of bubbles."

"Ah. And if your bed had been here already?"

"We'd have left this bath about two top ups ago," said Kate huskily, recalling the rather intensive kissing that they'd been enjoying right about then that had led to Kate's fingers curiously exploring CJ's body, only stopping when Kate had suggested, with CJ's agreement, that they didn't really want their first time together to be in a bathtub.

"I've enjoyed this bath," admitted CJ, tipping her head back so she could just about see Kate.

"Me too," agreed Kate, just about able to kiss CJ's lips.

"And now I'd like to enjoy watching you get out of this bath."

"You just want to ogle my butt," teased Kate, blushing at the thought of deliberately submitting to CJ's intense scrutiny.

"You betcha."

"Ok then," conceded Kate readily.

"Just like that?" CJ had expected to have to work harder for her opportunity.

"Sure," agreed Kate, helping CJ sit up in a more upright position further forward in the bath, enabling the blonde to pull her legs back behind CJ and in one easy movement, stand up and step out of the bath, allowing CJ to scrutinise her glistening naked body. "See something you like?" she teased, before turning and walking over to the stack of towels that was just beyond the shower, enabling CJ to do as much ogling as she wanted. Returning to the side of the bath, still naked but now holding two towels, she sat down on the edge of the bath, enabling her to study CJ's now make-up free face with ease.

"What are you looking at?" asked CJ nervously when she couldn't withstand the silent scrutiny any longer.

"You… you're beautiful," said Kate, concerned to see her lover's face cloud with worry at the compliment, prompting Kate to reach out to thread her fingers through CJ's tousled hair and ask, "what's the matter?"

"Nothing…" CJ's answer sounded weak even to her own ears.

"If you're comparing muscles, I'm looking forward to losing some of mine," said Kate seriously, wondering if she was vaguely near the mark.

"I like your muscles…" whispered CJ, running her hand along Kate's thigh.

"I don't usually work out for 6 hours a day for four months," muttered Kate, wondering if CJ would make the connection to her earlier mention of her CIA debrief and realise why she'd gone to the gym so much.

"So I don't get to keep the six-pack?" asked CJ softly, reaching out to run a finger down Kate's muscled belly.

"It's usually a little softer," admitted Kate, trying not to overreact to the gentle touch but knowing that there was no cover for her traitorous body to hide behind.

"I'm older than you Kate."

"I'm rather more beat up than you," countered Kate, not particularly pleased she'd been spot on with her earlier guess about CJ's worries.

"I know, but it doesn't matter," replied CJ quickly, locking eyes with Kate, searching for any indication Kate was worried about her scars.

"Then can you accept that right now, I want nothing more than to watch you get out of this bath before drying every amazing older inch," Kate emphasised the word 'older' with a cheeky grin and playful tweak of CJ's nose, "of your body and then beg you to put some clothes on so I don't ravish you on the floor."

"You don't want to ravish me?"

"I don't want to ravish you on the floor," corrected Kate as she stood up again, adding, "I don't think you should brief either the Press or the President with carpet burns or splinters."

"Ah, good point," said CJ before, having taken a confidence-building breath, she quickly rose to her feet before she could change her mind.

"Uh…" Kate was speechless – she had already put together a pretty good mental fantasy picture following their earlier painting and their bath, but, with the water cascading from soft curves as she rose, the reality of CJ far exceeded all Kate's mental images.

"You're staring Commander," teased CJ, her turn to blush under scrutiny.

"Yes Ma'am." No point denying the truth, " you're wonderful," she added before stepping back and holding out her hand for CJ to take, enabling the taller woman to step out of the bath, blushing even more as she did so.

"You should put something on, you'll get sick," chastised CJ kindly, wondering for a split second with horror when she'd started channelling Abbey Bartlett as Kate wrapped her in a big fluffy towel, carefully tucking the corner in between her breasts.

"I'm ok."

"Kate, put on a towel," instructed CJ forcefully before adding, "you can't sit in the Situation Room or advise the President with carpet burns and splinters," which, on hearing her own words used against her, made Kate burst out laughing as she obediently reached for the second towel and wrapped it securely around her body.

"Happy now?" she asked, standing teasingly close to CJ.

"Almost," agreed CJ before threading her fingers through Kate's overlong bangs, lifting them off her face and leaning in to kiss Kate thoroughly and passionately, letting Kate feel the effect that their long, leisurely intimate bath had had on her. Finally, when she could fight against her screaming lungs no longer, she reluctantly released Kate's lips.


"I think," said CJ shyly, studying Kate's flushed face carefully, "this is where I suggest you come round to my place for dinner…and you bring your toothbrush."

"I accept," whispered Kate before closing the gap between them and initiating another passionate kiss…

The End

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