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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sequel to Five Times C.J. Cregg Did Not Kiss Abbey Bartlet
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Five Times Abbey Bartlet Did Not Kiss C.J. Cregg
Abbey is standing at the sink washing dishes when C.J. enters the kitchen, her hands full of dirty glasses. She smiles uncertainly but offers to help anyway. They are still so new to each other, and Abbey wonders if they will remember this feeling in five years or even in five months. She also wonders how their relationship will change and is nervous about their impending friendship. It is an uneasiness born from somewhere Abbey hasn't been in a long time, but she doesn't remember it as a dangerous place until their hands brush and the steam curls the ends of C.J.'s hair.
Abbey is standing between Jed and C.J. when the winner of the presidential election is announced. Her husband kisses her first but then turns his attention to the members of his staff. There is yelling and cheering, and Abbey is suddenly wrapped in long arms in an embrace that causes her eyes to drift closed. She knows she could get away with a lot in the excitement, including sampling the taste of the woman with marmalade hair and lake-water eyes, but she knows it would be the flavor of destruction.
She takes a walk in the afternoon, slipping out quietly without an open invitation on her lips. Although she knows the paths around the farm from years of experience, she feels lost until she catches sight of the gangly woman pacing along one of the lesser taken trails. Abbey remains hidden from view, but she suspects C.J. knows she's there. It is in the way C.J. tilts her head and smiles at shadows, moon skinned even with July pressing itself upon them. Abbey could reach out, touch C.J.'s wrist in a platonic gesture so harmless no one would question it, but she keeps her hands to herself because she knows the heat in her fingertips has nothing to do with summer.
When the end finally comes, Abbey's one regret has very little to do with politics. C.J. is standing in the middle of Abbey's East Wing office, the doors shut and the windows covered. The furniture is gone, the room large and the distance between the two women great, made greater by the quotes of romantic poets running through Abbey's mind. She gauges how many steps it would take to put her in front of C.J., how many kisses it would take to dissolve the awkward silence that has settled around them, but she'll never know for her fear keeps her in her place, too afraid that one step forward will only lead to two steps back.
She approaches the library slowly, remembering it was her idea to meet here instead of somewhere less meaningful. Temptation has a way of dissipating under the weight of history, or so she hopes. Still, when she walks inside and catches a glimpse of the somber woman sheltered by the written language, Abbey reconsiders her theory. She makes her presence known, all hesitation slipping behind the presentation of a former First Lady, the well-worn persona as intimidating now as it was during her husband's days of power. It is that memory that keeps her smile friendly and her touch light as she hugs C.J., whispering hellos instead of desires. She is here to ask forgiveness without ever saying the words but not from the woman following her to a private office. She questions her decision until she glances at the presidential picture adorning the wall at C.J.'s back, the twinkle in his eyes the same as she remembers.
As she involves herself in C.J.'s conversation and describes the reason for their meeting, the comfort of their friendship surrounds her, gives her the freedom to laugh and to care. It is only when goodbye looms over them that she allows herself the melancholy of past farewells, but this time she lingers longer than she used to, the rightness of what she is doing keeps her fingers intertwined with the willing woman in front of her. She is content knowing that she even though she has already lost so much, she has not lost everything.
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