DISCLAIMER: The West Wing and all its characters belong to NBC, no infringement intended.
CHALLENGE RESPONSE: Submitted for the Passion & Perfection Xmas Challenge 2005
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Holy Night and Mistletoe
C.J. stared out the window at the falling snow, losing herself in the contradictory images of brilliant white and soulless black. Closing her eyes, she rested her forehead against the cool glass in the vain hope of finding some sort of inner peace. She was lost, caught in a moment of stillness she often craved but rarely needed, and her mind was weary and cruel, evoking moments she did not need to remember but struggled to forget. Her virtue was gone, taken by an unholy love.
In the distance, she heard a door open but did not bother to acknowledge her uninvited guest, knew she was in no danger from anyone in the building. Maybe, she thought, if she ignored the intrusion, it would go away. She was moving too slowly, her progress conflicting with her thinking, and was in no mood for company.
"The White House at Christmas."
C.J. recognized the voice immediately, felt the warmness of the other woman's tone seeping into her skin and the longing of the other woman's presence soaking into her memory. She cursed at the night and opened her eyes to the darkness but kept her back to her intruder.
"It's too quiet," she replied. "I don't remember it ever being this quiet."
Abbey came to stand beside her, both of them seeing beyond the clear pane which held their focus, yet neither looking past the surface of why they were there.
"Only in here."
"Everywhere it seems," C.J. responded before adding softly, "Or maybe it's just me."
"Your demons are clouding your judgment."
C.J. laughed bitterly, the sound rough against her throat and harsh in the ears of the First Lady.
"Is that what you are?" C.J. asked, spinning to face Abbey, anger suddenly replacing sadness. "A demon? Because I would never have described you quite that way."
Neither of them knew what to do with the truth, and C.J. felt the sting of remorse slicing through her body. Turning away from the other woman, C.J. sighed and resumed staring at the night.
"Too many people to meet; too many promises to break; too many demons to fight," she said finally.
"The curse of the office," Abbey offered, her voice wistful, her mind a million miles away. She turned her attention to the window, the shadows casting ghostly images over her face, and C.J. felt the world stand still at the melancholy picture.
"Do you regret what we're doing?" she asked, the question purposely dull yet still a double-sided sword capable of ruining them, cutting them beyond the harm of words. They had been to this place before but had only peered at the edge.
Abbey hesitated, something she rarely did; her power was internal and she wore it too comfortably to falter in her opinions. Only now, faced with the illicit truth, did she pause before speaking her mind. Glancing at the other woman, she came to a conclusion and she shook her head.
"No," she answered. "I sometimes wish I did, if only to ease my guilt, but then I'm reminded how special this experience is and I know " Another sigh. "I know I cannot change what has happened or what will happen. It would be easier if I could, but I've never been one for the easy way."
C.J. smiled, her laughter real and soothing and still too quiet for the admission. "I wish we had an excuse," she said, her voice edging on the bitter again.
At C.J.'s bemused expression, Abbey replied simply, "It's Christmas."
"And Christmas means " C.J. looked up. "No mistletoe," she said dejectedly. Abbey just shrugged.
"Doesn't matter. I'm sure at some point tonight we've both been under a sprig somewhere. It's a very large house after all."
Taking a step forward, the two women came to stand in front of each other. Gently, reverently, Abbey's hand caressed C.J.'s cheek, and C.J. smiled, almost shyly, and bent her head to breathe in Abbey's air. It was the First Lady who moved to touch their lips together, desire controlling discretion. She pushed herself closer, and C.J.'s arms encircled her, pulling them flush until the taller woman could feel the vibrations of Abbey's breathing. It was one kiss, long and soft and passionate and forbidden, and they knew it could not be easily repeated. Pulling apart, they stayed close, mouths barely grazing skin to tantalize and torment and tempt.
"We should go," Abbey finally said, her voice reflecting every emotion. "We'll be missed."
C.J. nodded and took a step back out of Abbey's embrace. "I " She could not speak, could not rely on her most effective weapon, so she said nothing, did nothing as the First Lady slipped into a well-crafted persona, a hint of sorrow settling around them both.
Before moving toward the door, Abbey reached to tuck an errant strand of hair behind C.J.'s ear. Her touch was kind and intimate, and C.J. marveled at how normal the moment felt despite the regret. Capturing Abbey's hand, C.J. kissed the palm and smiled. Abbey understood the gesture; hope registered in her eyes before she pulled away and exited the room. C.J. heard a radio playing, the soft strands of "O'Holy Night" drifting in through the opened door, and she hesitated before straightening to her full height and following.
She was not proud of herself or what they had done, and she knew her Christmas gift could not be shared, would have to be locked away as a secret, only to be taken out and remembered when she was alone. But when those moments of stillness overcame her, she would not try to force forgetfulness. Instead, she would rejoice in the memory of a wish come true. She would enjoy her mortality.
A thrill of hope,
the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks
a new and glorious morn "
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