DISCLAIMER: As per all my work not mine, no money whatsoever, just some writing fun and hopefully reading pleasure
.they are all.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was written for a Fragments of Sappho challenge, the details of which were: FRAGMENT: by the wanton one persuaded
PROMPT: 1. If you're going to attempt a clandestine relationship, would you please try and remember that one of you has black ops training and the other is an expert in public relations; 2. Taking things on trust. There's a movie reference in the fic which, as I was writing it, I was convinced I had mentioned by name but, on re-reading, I discovered I hadn't. It is a classic, and I'm sure most will recognise it as you are reading but if you don't, there are enough flags to ensure it can be found by a quick 'google'. I have deliberately decided to leave out the movie name as I feel it is more 'real'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Ignorance is Trust
"Your champagne Ms Cregg..." murmured the stewardess quietly, lowering the tray enough that CJ Cregg could reach out with her left hand and take the glass.
Sipping the cool, bubbling liquid, CJ eased herself even deeper into the first class seat, a seat that provided enough leg room for even her legs to stretch out before her, unrestricted. In a few minutes, the roar of the engines would increase in pitch as they finally arrived at the end of the runway and CJ's three day respite from the cold and snow (but not the politics and emails) of Washington D.C. would have truly begun. As she turned to look out of the window, she failed to notice the subtle arrival of another stewardess.
"Excuse me, Ms Cregg?" repeated the stewardess, this time loud enough to distract the Chief of Staff from whatever she had found so fascinating beyond the aeroplane window.
"Message from the Captain Ma'am..." explained the stewardess nervously as the plane turned away from the end of the runway, heading for a quiet section of the airport.
"Oh, thanks..." Distractedly, CJ opened the small slip of paper, reading the short coded message, her face never showing a reaction to whatever the message may read.
"Would you like some more champagne Ma'am?" asked the stewardess, shifting back to their standard service strategy for first class passengers when take-off was delayed, as it obviously was, given the fact that she could now see the runway in a distance as the plane continued to trundle to its new, ground-based destination.
"No..." CJ's response was immediate and distracted, although her 'handling skills' immediately kicked back in, "...but thank you. Could I have a glass of sparkling water please?"
"Of course Ma'am." Glad of the opportunity to depart, the stewardess headed for the galley to get CJ a glass of water she would never drink.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Captain Hayes. The more observant of you will have noticed we're just coming onto a stand, still in D.C. Air Traffic Control requested that we turn back to this stand, but I am assured we will be given priority for take-off when we return to the runway, which should be in five minutes or so. In the mean time, I must ask you please to remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened..." As the Captain continued to explain the situation to the passengers, CJ was lost in her thoughts, content that the full situation would become clear to her in due course, glad that she hadn't yet relaxed enough to unpack her carry-on and generally get properly settled in her seat. Soon, she heard the cabin crew efficiently open the main door that earlier they had boarded through, followed by the hushed tones of the Cabin Director as they conversed with whoever had boarded.
"Ready?" asked the tall blonde who, smelling of cold and snow, had suddenly appeared by CJ's seat, pulling CJ from her thoughts.
"Huh?" Startled by the dramatic change from the protocol that the note had suggested she would have to follow, CJ's first instincts were to clutch her bag defensively, before turning to look at the person.
"You got everything CJ?"
"I'll explain in the car..." interrupted Kate Harper, her head canting slightly to one side as she listened in her ear piece, allowing CJ a moment to consider her friend and colleague who was now appearing in the most unlikely of settings.
"I'm getting off?" asked CJ, resigning herself to her vacation plans being ruined once again, at the moment, too depressed about that to want to be bothered to consider what had happened in the last 3 hours that she was suddenly no longer allowed to leave D.C. for the holiday.
"Out the front door..." announced Kate quietly, taking CJ by the elbow and gently guiding her through the first class cabin to the rarely used forward door which was just being opened by a rather cold looking stewardess. Letting go of CJ's elbow, Kate stepped nearer the now open doorway, her body language making CJ intuitively know that now was neither the time to move or speak. Instead, the Chief of Staff found her thoughts wandering again, still not in the direction of what might be causing her rapid and sudden de-planing, nor now about the loss of her vacation in warmer climes, but instead focussing on the fascinating woman who she was currently allowing to manage and order her about, without question, complaint or concern. In fact, thought CJ, she was actually enjoying it just a little bit, especially when Kate leant out of the doorway, her coat dropping open, the only thing stopping her from falling into the snow storm being the strong grasp she had on the door itself...it was sexy....it was SEXY?
"You'll need to wear these..." said Kate suddenly, reaching into her coat pocket and pulling out a small packet of ear plugs.
"Why?" Even as she asked the question, CJ found herself pulling off her gloves and taking the packet, the question just another reflex. Right at this moment, if Kate had told her to strip naked and jump off the plane, she probably would have done - for a woman used to questioning everything and everyone, CJ Cregg was finding Kate Harper very easy to trust right now...and obey. 45 seconds later, the world was sounding muffled to CJ when, Kate's hand once again securely holding her elbow, CJ found herself stepping out of the aeroplane onto what had to be the smallest hydraulic platform Dulles International Airport owned, so small that her bag hung over the side and she could feel every contour of her friend's lean body and more as Kate squeezed up against CJ, partly due to the size of the platform and partly out of a deeply ingrained instinct to shield and protect.
By the time the platform had reached the tarmac, the aeroplane door was closed once more, CJ's presence in the first class cabin already eradicated by a crew eager to resume their journey to warmer places. So focussed was CJ on Kate as she was guided into the lone vehicle waiting by the nose of the plane that she failed to notice the long cavalcade of police vehicles arranged around the wing on the other side of the aeroplane, obviously for the benefit of the other person who was being removed, far less civilly from the plane, than CJ had been.
"You can take out the ear plugs now..." explained Kate once they were inside the car, the driver speeding across the tarmac to the gate which was being opened for them so they could leave the airport. Unsurprisingly, CJ, who was staring out of the window in fascination at the number of police vehicles that were surrounding her aeroplane, seemingly unaware of her departure, didn't hear Kate's instruction. Nor did she feel the blonde when she carefully leaned towards the redhead, skilfully catching the cord of the ear plugs between her fingertips. She did however, feel the sudden removal of the ear plug from her ear when Kate pulled the cord.
"Hey!" she protested, whipping her head around sharply, only to be surprised by how close Kate was.
"You can take your ear plugs out now..." repeated Kate, grinning sheepishly as she held up the offending plug between their faces, causing CJ to focus on it, providing Kate with the distraction she needed to ease herself away from CJ and back into her seat.
"Oh..." Looking apologetic, CJ reached up and carefully removed the other ear plug, before stuffing them in her coat pocket.
"Your suitcase will be sent back from Nassau tomorrow..." explained Kate conversationally, fidgeting in her seat slightly as she instinctively sought to find the most comfortable way of accommodating the gun that was once again nestling in the small of her back.
"My suitcase?" questioned CJ, still struggling to comprehend exactly what had happened in, if her watch was right, the last 5 minutes since she received the note from the Captain.
"Is still on the plane and will be collected in baggage reclaim for you - it will be dropped off at the White House tomorrow."
"Oh..." It was only when their lone car turned out onto the highway and was immediately surrounded by a police escort that CJ identified what her real question was.
"What's going on, and why are you doing this and not my detail?" It was a question that would have a very complex answer, an answer that would take most of the Thanksgiving weekend to explain...
"You're sleeping here?" asked Kate, standing in the doorway of CJ's office.
"Unless you're able to spring me from this place?" retorted CJ, the early morning hour and cancelled vacation plans making her slightly snappy.
"What's wrong with your apartment?" asked Kate, coming further into the office, watching as CJ aggressively stuffed a pillow inside a pillow case, the rug from her couch already laid out ready to be used as a blanket.
"Not secure " At Kate's curious look, CJ offered a truncated explanation of the conspiracy of events that was now leaving her spending Thanksgiving on her office couch. " They wanted to upgrade something, and the holiday weekend with me in the Bahamas was an excellent time, so I gave them the keys and left them to it "
"And it's a snowy holiday weekend so all the hotels are full " added Kate, beginning to understand.
"Not to mention that I have no detail as half are waiting for me in Nassau and the rest are home for the holidays "
"Bolivia, right " confirmed Kate, understanding the real complexity of CJ's situation.
"And even if a hotel had one room tonight, it wouldn't have the three that Ron Butterfield seems to want " groused CJ, not at all convinced that the situation in Bolivia that she'd been forced to miss her vacation over was sufficiently widely known about to justify her sudden need of increased Secret Service protection.
"Ron Butterfield?" questioned Kate, perching on the edge of CJ's desk.
" gave me the option of being flown to Manchester to share the President's Detail or staying here, so I'm staying here for Thanksgiving."
"Ah excuse me." Suddenly, spurred on by an idea, Kate headed back outside the office for a moment before returning again.
"You want to restart this little exchange with me in a better mood?" asked CJ sarcastically, confused by the too-ing and fro-ing.
"What? No "
"So why the sudden need to whisper with my lone agent?" wondered CJ, punching the pillow into shape with far more venom than was strictly necessary.
"So I could get Ron Butterfield in here "
"I don't want to see that man again "
"I do " Before CJ could interrogate Kate's somewhat surprising comment, there was a knock on the door, announcing Special Agent Ron Butterfield's arrival.
"One day you're going to answer all my questions " observed CJ dryly as she watched the snow covered landscape change as their car was driven through the deserted city to wherever it was that Kate was taking her.
"You're going to need to ask them first "
"You only seem to answer the questions that suit you "
"Didn't you?" asked Kate curiously, confusing CJ.
"Didn't I what?"
"Only answer the questions that suited you, when you were Press Secretary?"
"That was different " protested CJ feebly, unwilling to let the point go undefended, but not having any sort of defence against it either, although judging by the long silence that Kate lapsed into, it was obviously good enough for now.
"This afternoon," said Kate finally, some minutes later as they were pulling into their destination, a seemingly anonymous underground parking garage.
"This afternoon what?" asked CJ, their earlier exchange forgotten as instead, she'd become focussed on trying to work out exactly where she'd been whisked to.
"I will answer any question."
"Where are we?"
"Wait here " replied Kate seriously, noticing the half smile that flashed across CJ's face as yet another question went unanswered, before she got out of the car and walked around to CJ's door, opening it once she was satisfied that there was no one else around.
"Thanks Guy " called Kate as CJ got out of the car, before she slammed the heavy door of the bullet-proof Secret Service car and stepped with CJ straight into the waiting elevator, the Chief of Staff clutching her carry-on bag and busy cataloguing everything ready for the time when all her questions could be asked and answered.
"This is your apartment?" asked CJ once they were inside the large apartment, their coats hung up and bags parked neatly just inside the door.
"Yeah there's a spare room through there " gestured Kate, more interested right now in finding her kitchen for something to eat and some coffee to drink she'd been just sitting down to a plate of food in the White House Mess when she'd been forced to get involved with the Bolivia situation. Now, some eight hours later, she was too hungry to sleep and fairly convinced CJ was not yet ready for sleep either, " you want coffee?"
"Please " confirmed CJ, dropping her suit jacket on the end of the couch and following Kate into the kitchen.
"I might have food " continued Kate, opening the fridge to the very reassuring sight of the remnants of a grocery run she'd undertaken two days earlier in anticipation of the holiday weekend: it wasn't gourmet cuisine, but it was enough for two people if supported by take out ordering.
"Coffee's good the Mess found me a plate of dinner " explained CJ, earning her a rather harsh look from Kate who, unlike CJ, hadn't had the opportunity to leave the Situation Room once they'd returned from Dulles and therefore, hadn't had the opportunity to consume anything other than the disappointingly weak coffee a young Army Captain had had the foresight to keep brewing during the night.
"The beef stew thing?" speculated Kate, remembering what she'd left behind when she ran out of the Mess responding to the pager alert that had turned their weekend upside down.
"It smelt better than it tasted " admitted CJ honestly, noticing where Kate was finding coffee mugs.
"I feel better about leaving it behind in the Mess then " came the wry declaration as the kettle boiled.
"You didn't get to eat?"
"No just as I was about to, I went to the Sit Room, then I had to get you off your plane "
"Why did you do it?" asked CJ, accepting the mug of coffee, instinctively knowing that it would be made just how she liked it somehow, and CJ wasn't sure if it was Carol or Margaret who had cracked under pressure, Kate had managed to discover exactly how she liked her coffee as opposed to how she drank coffee when in need of the caffeine hit.
"You needed to brief the President " replied Kate, leaning back against the counter, only to once again feel the hard, unyielding shape of the gun in the small of her back, causing her to shift her position slightly.
"You're asking me why I got you off the plane and not the Secret Service?"
"Do you want a sandwich?" asked Kate, putting her mug down and opening the fridge, her need for food not quelled with the sip of too-hot coffee she'd just taken.
"You're a very frustrating woman " declared CJ in exasperation, although the hint of a grin that accompanied her words suggested she wasn't entirely serious.
"Which you like " observed Kate calmly, selecting the ingredients she needed to make her snack, " and you didn't answer my question "
"If that's what you're putting in it, I'll pass thanks " decided CJ, not sure that cheese and coffee at this hour would do much for her sleep patterns, although she did appreciate the offer.
"You've seen my file " began Kate conversationally, reaching out to her right for a knife from the magnetic rack on the wall as she reached to her left for a chopping board, resulting in her jacket pulling tight against her back, enabling CJ to see the outline of the gun the Chief of Staff had instinctively known would still be there after she'd thought she'd felt it as they descended from the aeroplane earlier.
"I've seen a very big pile of blacked out paper " corrected CJ, still smarting somewhat from that early discovery that, even for the Chief of Staff, there were still things that she would forever be out of the loop for.
"I used to work for the CIA."
"I think I knew that "
"I was an agent " clarified Kate, finishing with her sandwich making, a small plate now neatly stacked with cheese sandwiches.
"Like Agent Charles?" asked CJ, naming the tactical advisor they'd had with them in the Sit Room earlier.
"More like Agent X " amended Kate calmly, leading CJ back towards the living area, feeling the need to sit down somewhere comfortable.
"Oh " For a moment, CJ was dumbstruck as she processed the significance of Kate's calm explanation: 'Agent X' was the undercover CIA agent whose kidnap and potential torture had required CJ be 'recalled' from her much anticipated vacation. Unsurprisingly, Kate made no effort to fill the silence, content to eat her sandwiches at a steady pace whilst she waited for CJ to continue.
"Is that why Ron let me come home with you? Because you're a CIA Agent?" asked CJ finally, deciding to start with the more manageable issues before working up to the really big questions, like what the hell happened at the airport?
"The combination of my current job and what I used to do means this apartment is very secure, secure enough to satisfy Ron Butterfield's requirements in this kind of situation " explained Kate, wondering if CJ would notice that she hadn't exactly answered the question she'd been asked.
"That's not what I asked "
"Yes?" CJ was confused by her friend's sudden response.
"The real answer to your question is yes, that is why Ron let you stay here."
"Those cameras outside your door, they're not watched by the super are they?"
"Sure although the super is an agent at Langley " admitted Kate, before putting the last of her sandwich in her mouth, feeling much better now she'd consumed something more solid than coffee, " do you mind if I sleep?" asked Kate bluntly, noticing it was nearly 4am and that she'd been up close to 24 hours now.
"What? No " agreed CJ, taking another sip of coffee before the real significance of Kate's question occurred to her, " oh, of course " Putting her coffee mug by the sink, CJ retraced her steps back to where she'd put her bag and coat, " where's the bathroom?"
"The spare room's en suite," explained Kate, rinsing out the mugs and starting to shut down the apartment for what remained of the night.
"Thank you " said CJ sincerely, now holding her things, preparing to cross the threshold into the spare room, studying Kate's nervousness as the blonde stood in the centre of the living room, obviously waiting for CJ to retire for the night before she finished her evening routine of 'shutting down' her home. Recognising her friend's discomfort with the attention CJ was placing on the act of generosity, all too aware of the earlier promise that questions would be answered in the afternoon, CJ once again found herself letting her natural curiosity fade with questions unasked and uncertainties and confusion unresolved. Instead, she found herself accepting her situation, content to focus on the mundane logistical details of her sudden 'sleepover'.
"What time should I wake up?"
"When you want to."
"Don't set an alarm "
"Good night CJ." Smiling, Kate turned away from CJ and, as she crossed to what CJ presumed was her own bedroom, the enigmatic ex, or maybe not quite so ex, CIA agent plunged the room into darkness, the only illumination now provided from the light pouring from CJ's bedroom, making it impossible for CJ to tell exactly where her friend was. Unfazed by the darkness, CJ found herself pausing a moment longer, absorbing the 'feel' of the apartment, its sounds and smells, shadows and stillness, before turning into her room.
"Good night Kate."
"Kate!" Startled, CJ turned away from the kitchen window, only just managing to avoid throwing her coffee down herself.
"Sorry is that for me?" she asked, focussing on the mug of still steaming coffee sitting on the counter.
"No, it's for the lover I smuggled in last night after lights out " retorted CJ sharply, obviously slightly cranky about something. Canting her head, Kate considered her friend and colleague for a moment before, as she reached out for the mug, observing,
"There's a spare toothbrush in the drawer in the bathroom."
"What?" CJ reacted to the statement from Kate without thinking to review what she'd snapped, her sarcasm already forgotten as her equilibrium recovered itself from being surprised.
"Did you sleep well?" The polite, formal sounding enquiry, asked in such a calm, deliberate fashion, by someone who CJ rarely associated with casual small talk, caught CJ almost as unaware as Kate's initial arrival, with the serious question eliciting a surprisingly frank and honest answer from the former Press Secretary.
"Better than I have in years."
"Ah " Frowning, sensing that the answer deserved more than a verbal shrug, Kate elaborated, " Good," before seeking comfort in the distraction of her coffee, which she sipped thoughtfully.
"I haven't slept this late in ages " mused CJ, deciding to take off her glasses she had two options, either face a blurry world due to her glasses not being on her nose or face a steamy world due to her glasses being on her nose and covered in a layer of condensed steam. The third option, which was to see the world clearly, was not a viable possibility on account of the steaming coffee mug she wanted to clutch to her face as she inhaled the warmth and aroma of what was possibly her greatest addiction.
"Or that long," suggested Kate, deciding that CJ looked remarkably well after her seven hours of sleep for many, the thought of waking up on Thanksgiving morning after only seven hours of sleep would be tantamount to a disaster but for a member of the Senior Staff, the thought of seven hours continuous and uninterrupted sleep was often a fantasy.
"What about you?"
"What about me what?"
"How did you sleep?"
"As normal." In the highly skilled game of question dodging, it seemed that CJ's position as unchallengeable Queen and Champion of the West Wing could be under threat from Kate, who relied it seemed on the subversive strategy of answering questions with a literal yet unsatisfying superficial response that only generated more questions which, CJ was beginning to realise, were not worth asking as they too would remain unanswered.
"You went to the gym?" asked CJ, attempting to decipher a more substantial answer to her previous question.
"Not exactly. I have some equipment in the spare room."
"I was in the spare room "
"The other spare room."
"Shouldn't you shower or something?" asked CJ, gesturing towards Kate in her first acknowledgement of her friend's appearance, which as far as the traitorous inner voice of CJ which was allowed to notice such things was concerned, was incredibly sexy, but the more practical inner voices that were channelling Abigail Bartlett were worrying about her friend standing around in the kitchen in November wearing sweat soaked shorts and a t-shirt.
"Probably " agreed Kate, unhurriedly continuing to enjoy her coffee as if she had the whole day free to shower in, reminding CJ how different her own day's plans should have been.
"Hey, don't you have plans or something? I mean, for the weekend?" she asked, suddenly concerned that her sudden change of plans had disrupted her friend.
"Yes I have plans but your staying here doesn't disrupt them " explained Kate, amused by the sudden look of horror that flashed across CJ's face, " I haven't got any relatives coming to visit "
"Crazy friends?" asked CJ nervously.
"She's already in my kitchen."
"That was my plan " explained Kate, gesturing to the brown cardboard shipping package sitting on the counter.
"DVDs I was going to watch some movies "
"I can't believe you've never seen this movie " said CJ, curling up in one of Kate's armchairs as the DVD worked its way through the obligatory copyright and trailer information ahead of the actual film.
"You say that like it's a crime "
"In my old job it would have been tantamount to treason "
"Press Secretary?" Kate was confused.
"Before Bartlett I worked for Triton-Day "
"Not who, what: it's a big media relations company in Hollywood."
"So you watched a lot of movies?" asked Kate, intrigued.
"Actually, not really at least, not new releases, and even then it was for work how do we advertise this movie, what can we get this guy promoting, that sort of thing; but I did occasionally watch classics " Noticing Kate had hit the play button, CJ trailed off, not sure if Kate belonged to the 'Jed Bartlett School of Running Commentary' or not.
"What is so special about this movie then?"
"Why did you buy it?"
"Because I'd heard of it and the actress," admitted Kate, " and I like the song "
"You like Jazz?" asked CJ, surprised. Somehow, she wouldn't have picked jazz as the musical genre Kate would favour although, now she thought about it, she couldn't come up with a compelling reason why Kate shouldn't like it
"Yes." As if on cue, the silence that had settled between the friends was now being filled by that instantly recognisable melody as the film began and both ladies settled down in their respective armchairs to watch it, one with nostalgic delight and the other with genuine wonder and curiosity.
"So why was it so important?" asked Kate as the closing credits began to roll.
"What?" Blinking, CJ struggled to work out either what Kate was talking about or a time previously when she'd asked 'what?' as frequently as she was doing this weekend: she couldn't come up with an answer to either.
"Why was watching that film to the point of memorisation so important at your old job?" repeated Kate, making CJ blush when she realised Kate had noticed her mouthing some of the more well known sections of dialogue.
"Because it's a classic "
"That's not an answer " challenged Kate, puzzled.
"There are many expositions that seek to qualify and explain that statement in the context of this movie " began CJ, instinctively slipping back into her former role as a movie spin queen, only to be interrupted by Kate,
"Why do you have the patience to watch it to the point of memorisation?"
"Because it's " The stock answer about it being a 'classic' was halfway out of CJ's mouth before she caught herself, the wry grin the only clue that what she was about to say wasn't what she'd initially planned to say, before she continued on a different theme, conscious that this topic, like any other she'd discussed with Kate over the last few months, was one that required serious consideration " an incredible collaboration of some of the finest exponents of their aspect of the movie business almost."
"Almost?" queried Kate, reaching for the discarded DVD box.
"I'm not a fan of Audrey Hepburn as a singer."
"But wasn't she in a musical My Fair Lady?"
"She was dubbed."
"Marni Nixon did all the singing for Hepburn to mime to."
"Ah so these finest exponents are the director?"
"Yes, Blake Edwards he also did the Pink Panther movies "
"I have one of those " said Kate, although it was clear from her frown she hadn't enjoyed it.
"You didn't like it?"
"I didn't get it "
"The detective? He's supposed to be an idiot " explained CJ, having a hunch Kate might have missed that vital point.
"Ah so the director is special " confirmed Kate, bringing them back to their original topic.
"Very, as is Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of the character it's an iconic representation of the period Truman Capote had captured in what many believed to be the most deftly written short story although he never quite approved of it "
"The film the book is not as accessible to the wider movie going population as the movie might imply " explained CJ, beginning to enjoy herself, inwardly marvelling at how easily she could recall all the details.
"That's true for most movies " mused Kate, obviously reflecting on something.
"Not a fan of James Bond then?" speculated CJ, remembering Kate's sudden appearance on her plane yesterday and the admission about her past as a CIA agent.
"I don't mind those they're amusing "
"They don't take themselves too seriously " agreed CJ, recalling the gadgets and endless stream of beautiful women, not to mention the complete reluctance to rely on any form or disguise or alias which, even with her minuscule experience of the world of espionage, seemed a little implausible.
"No one shows the waiting."
"You mean the directors?"
"The film plots everything happens too quickly."
"Is there much waiting in espionage?" asked CJ slightly facetiously, mindful of how much of a rush they had been in yesterday whilst they attempted to resolve their Bolivian difficulty.
"Did you do much waiting?" asked CJ, recalling Kate's promise the day before that she'd answer all of CJ's questions the following afternoon.
"Will you answer my questions now?" asked CJ, used to Kate's precise answers, unfazed by the one sided conversation she was having to carry.
"As many as I can," agreed Kate, shifting in her seat so she could turn to face CJ, evidently prepared to give the Chief of Staff her full, undivided attention.
"Oh " Now she was actually presented with the opportunity to ask all her questions, CJ found her mind blank, with nothing coming to mind. Normally, it would mean she'd try to stall, dissemble on a theme of vague relevance until inspiration struck or seek clarification of some obscure point, but right now the need to cover her blankness didn't seem important, " now?"
"I thought you had questions?" asked Kate, clearly surprised.
"I do did " confused, CJ trailed off as she tried to articulate what she was thinking, or, more accurately, what she wasn't thinking. Many, when faced with an obviously perplexed and near-speechless CJ would have started questioning, seeking to fill the unusual silence as they sought to understand the problem, forcing CJ to find answers quickly: Kate wasn't many she was perfectly content to wait for CJ to find the explanation in her own time.
"I don't like not being in the loop " began CJ finally, pushing to her feet, pulling off her glasses as she did so. She'd spent too long standing behind a podium, looking down the barrel of a mass of cameras as she fought to keep control of the story that she now thought better quite literally on her feet. It was as if the world made more sense to her when she was viewing it from six feet up, elevated slightly above the normal plane of view, " I've never liked not being in the loop at Triton I was fired after a director whined to my boss and I was angry not because I'd lost my job but because I'd been out of the loop, not known that the jackass was talking to my boss " Frowning slightly, as she tried to understand what CJ's sudden topic selection meant, Kate shifted her position so that she was more able to look at CJ now she was standing on the far side of the room. In contrast, though, to probably everyone else that CJ knew of in D.C. the blonde made no effort to break her silence, she was content to wait.
"I understand now why they kept me out of the loop when I was on the podium I didn't like it then and I don't like that they did it but I understand why they did it, why I do it now to the others why you do it to me " This time, CJ noticed the reaction she triggered in Kate most would have missed it, the slow, calming blink as the blonde canted her head, as if favouring an ear in order that she might absorb what was happening better. It was the only clue that what CJ had said had triggered an emotional reaction in her friend, a friend who was otherwise content to stay silent, waiting for CJ's thoughts to finish ordering themselves.
"I'm not always good with the big issue, the wider picture, the future plan " continued CJ, her mind filling with memories of some her more passionate frustrations, " I get caught up on the details of the past and present don't look at the future " This time, as CJ trailed off, Kate did interrupt, breaking the silence with a single instruction.
"Give me an example." Surprised, CJ glanced at Kate before focussing on the small glass coaster sitting on the coffee table which had earlier been the spot where Kate's coffee mug had sat.
"Qumar the women of Qumar "
"The re-letting of the Base," identified Kate, remembering the situation, startling CJ.
"It was before you were in the West Wing "
"I was involved "
"With the negotiation?"
"No. I was in Qumar, but not for the negotiation."
"What were you there for?" asked CJ, coming back to sit on the edge of her chair making her on the same level as Kate, enabling her to make eye contact without the height discrepancy.
"CIA Intelligence "
"Shareef?" asked CJ suddenly, remembering the end of the Qumar situation with the assassination of the Defence Minister and not the beginning, as she had been previously.
"Do you want me to tell you?" asked Kate honestly, sensing that her answer might be the very thing that CJ had been trying to avoid knowing.
"No " replied CJ eventually, having thought about it for some time: there were many reasons she could think of why the CIA would have intelligence agents in Qumar at that time, some less obvious than Shareef but those were the ones she would cling to.
"You get frustrated when you realise you're not being told things but you don't want to ask me what it is you are not being told because you're nervous of how you'll deal with my answers," observed Kate quietly, understanding CJ's dilemma better than CJ.
"Yes " CJ's response was made in a barely audible whisper from behind the curtain of her hair as she bowed her head and studied a point in the middle distance, somewhere between her knee and ankle.
"You're scared that if you ask me questions about my past, you'll end up caught up in those details and be unable to cope with that."
"Kate " The sorrowful tone which CJ almost sobbed her name cut deeper into Kate than any knife or bullet ever had.
"Come here CJ " compelled Kate quietly, coaxing her confused friend from her own armchair to the end of the couch where Kate was sat.
"I'm sorry "
"Why?" It was the simplest question Kate had probably ever asked CJ and the one that CJ found the most impossible to answer.
"I I don't know "
"You're confused about me " observed Kate, tentatively reaching out to place a hand on CJ's knee, attempting to offer assurance if CJ was receptive.
"Yes " admitted CJ quietly, placing her own hand over Kate's, holding it firmly against her leg.
"But you trust me?"
"Completely." In contrast to some of her earlier answers, this one spilled from CJ immediately and in a firm, confident tone.
"You don't really understand why you're not angry I don't tell you things "
"No, I don't " agreed CJ, tracing the outline of Kate's fingers with her own as she clasped their joined hands against her leg.
"But you trust me."
"More than anyone else " agreed CJ immediately, thinking of all the moments when this slightly odd, hyper-alert blonde had told her something or done something that CJ had accepted or obeyed without question, be it in the Sit Room or leaving that airplane
"You don't like guns " continued Kate quietly, starting to gently rub her fingertips over CJ's leg in a gentle counter-point to the rhythm that CJ was creating with her own fingers.
"No, I don't "
"Yet you know I must have used them know I still can use them "
"You had one here, yesterday, under your jacket I saw its shape when you made your sandwich "
"How did you feel about it?"
"OK " CJ trailed off and she felt a hint of heat in her cheeks as she remembered her first reaction to the realisation that Kate was 'packing heat' as the slang went, prompting her to seize her courage and volunteer another piece of herself, " I noticed it before on the aeroplane "
"You did?" asked Kate, surprised that CJ had managed not to comment about it.
"When you leaned out of the door, your coat it dropped open "
"And you saw the gun "
"Yes and felt it, on the platform " admitted CJ quietly, staring at their joined fingers.
"I'm sorry " said Kate quietly, thinking the revelation had made CJ uncomfortable.
"No it wasn't that " corrected CJ quickly, understanding what Kate was thinking, " that's not what I was remembering "
"What were you remembering?"
"How sexy you looked "
"Oh " Suddenly, Kate's fingers stilled, making CJ infer that her friend had reacted negatively to the surprising revelation. Panicking, her mind suddenly providing her with all manner of snapshots of images and reasons why she thought Kate would freeze Don't Ask, Don't Tell her wedding to the now ex-husband attractive men gravitating towards her at functions CJ started to babble, filling the space with empty words that meant nothing yet sounded like something until they were stopped, stopped by Kate's lips, lips that tentatively pressed against them, nervously increasing pressure until CJ's own lips stilled, only to become re-animated when they felt the gentle swipe of a tongue, a tongue that wasn't her own, but was Kate's, tenderly and carefully exploring CJ's lips, an exploration CJ found herself instinctively returning .
"Kate " Unsurprisingly, when they parted, it was CJ who made the first move to break the silence.
"You kissed me "
"I kissed you back."
"I want to kiss you again " admitted CJ carefully, shyly.
"Ok " agreed Kate, threading her left hand through CJ's hair, a gesture CJ took as permission to lean in and taste those lips again
"There's a coffee on your desk " announced Margaret as she rose to her feet, CJ's distinct stride echoing through the corridor, signalling her approach and forewarning her secretary.
"Really? Thank you Margaret " declared CJ breezily, heading towards her desk, noticing the extra-large Starbucks cup, suggesting that this was more than a caffeine hit, but actually an enjoyable drinking experience.
"You're not mad " observed the red-headed woman, surprised.
"What? No why should I be mad?"
"Because you never got to the beach?"
"I had a good Thanksgiving " reasoned CJ, tossing her coat on the couch, a couch she hadn't had to sleep on.
"But you didn't get your vacation " insisted Margaret, thoroughly confused by her Boss' behaviour, having already been warned by Debbie that CJ's vacation plans had been ruined.
"No, but I had a good Thanksgiving " repeated CJ, smiling at her confused aide, unwilling to enlighten the woman, " so the coffee can just be enjoyed for itself, and not as a pacifier but thank you for the thought Margaret."
"Ok then " Nodding her head, as if that would bring clarity to the otherwise confusing situation, Margaret prepared to head out of the office, saying as she did, "Leo said he'd be by in five minutes, after he'd said hello to the President."
"Thanks Margaret " responded CJ automatically, her attention already grabbed by whatever the top file had been on her desk.
"Leo!" Genuinely delighted, CJ looked up from her work to see her friend and former boss standing in the doorway that separated her office from the Oval.
"I heard about Thanksgiving " he said, coming into the office and returning CJ's offered embrace before sitting down in a chair, marvelling as he always did how different CJ made the office feel to when it had been his, enjoying how it didn't make him feel like he was missing something that was once his.
"You did?" There was a flicker of something flash across CJ's face, something Leo noticed but was unable to place.
"You sleep on the couch?" he asked, all too familiar with that turn of events.
"No I managed to have a good Thanksgiving, despite " CJ paused as she tried to settle on a word that would describe her Wednesday night, " world events."
"It looks good on you " declared Leo, grinning humorously, pieces suddenly fitting for him.
"What does?" asked CJ, wondering what he was seeing.
"Being at peace "
"Leo " CJ was confused, and not entirely sure where her good friend was leading her.
"Seriously CJ she's good for you "
"I don't know what you're talking about Leo " CJ tried to keep the panic out of her voice, but wasn't sure how successful it was.
"Kate Harper she's good for you "
"How do you know?"
"Your eyes you're trusting the world again trusting it not to hurt you " he said simply, finally remembering where he'd seem what he noticed in her eyes before. They're regained their light, the light CJ had had in the beginning, before the suspicion and fear had crept in suspicion that she wasn't trusted or included, fear that there was someone watching her, waiting for her, wanting to 'get' at her. She'd found her protector, her supporter, her challenger the one she'd been searching for all this time.
"Like I said, she's good for you..." repeated Leo, genuinely happy for her, happy that she'd finally got what she so richly deserved and had so nearly had once before.
"You're not going to lecture me?" asked CJ, surprised.
"Not going to tell me how risky this is?"
"Not going to tell me how it could damage the Party and President?" she asked, remembering a conversation years before when they'd been worried about her relationship (or, as it turned out, lack of a relationship) with Danny.
"Because I've been persuaded that there are some things in life that are more important than the Democratic Party and Jed Bartlett " teased Leo.
"Let me guess, the First Lady?"
"Her picks were exercise and green vegetables but I like yours more "
"What do I do Leo?" asked CJ seriously, the mention of Jed's name reminded her quite how tricky a situation she and Kate could find themselves in.
"Do what feels right and you'll figure it out "
"I want to see her " confessed CJ, recalling the reluctance with which she had left Kate's apartment the night before when her Detail had finally declared it safe for her to return to their protection in her apartment, " but I don't want to hurt the President " she confessed, thinking how far that man had taken her, taken the country in the last few years, and how hard they'd all fought for the world to recognise and remember that.
"You haven't thus far "
"But no one knows about us "
"Do you want them to?"
"What's the problem then?" asked Leo, genuinely surprised at CJ's confusion.
"Are you seriously suggesting we have a secret relationship?"
"Those only work in the movies Leo "
"Or when one half of the couple has had the best black ops training in the world and the other's an expert in public relations and media spin compared to some of the stuff the two of you will have done, keeping D.C. out of the loop on this can only be easy "
"Some of that stuff's come out Leo " reminded CJ, thinking of Shareef.
"Yeah, but that wasn't down to you or Kate it was because the rest of us weren't so sharp "
"You know about that?"
"Only because I asked "
"And she told you?"
"No she tell you?" asked Leo, curious.
"She offered but I decided not to ask "
"Because I'm trusting her Leo I'm trusting my world again " admitted CJ, breaking out into a smile as she realised how true those words really were, and how truly great it felt to admit them
"Good for you kid, good for you "
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