DISCLAIMER: The television series and its characters do not belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: We're moving along now. This installment is my least favorite. Thanks, as always, to rysler and janevok, who are both patient and sweet.
SERIES: The eighth part of the Repetition series following Broken Record, Habit, Deja Vu, Deja Vu Again, Consistent, Another, Over, Again, In Addition and After.
SPOILERS: "Long Goodbye" (4.13) and "Angel Maintenance" (4.19)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Say It Again
The secretary outside Abbey's office Annie? Angela? Alice? barely acknowledged C.J. when the lanky woman walked into the First Lady's outer sanctum. The woman Ally glanced at the calendar on her desk before nodding her head at C.J.'s yet to be asked question.
"She's only got about 20 minutes," Ally said distractedly, almost ignoring the imposing figure standing before her desk. The press secretary hesitated before dismissing how common the scenario had become and disappeared into Abbey's office to stem any of her other apprehensive thoughts.
Closing the door behind her, C.J. rested her back against it and avoided the eyes she could feel roaming over her body. She knew if she looked up she would see surprise, confusion, and maybe a touch of concern floating through Abbey's gaze. But C.J. did not want to answer the questions she would observe there, at least not yet, so she waited. She allowed the silence to grow until she was comfortable enough to relax in her own skin.
"We haven't had the chance to talk since you returned from Dayton. How's your father?" Abbey asked as if on cue, her tone sociable, easy on C.J.'s nerves, yet oddly intimate. She turned back to her writing.
C.J. took a risk and glanced up, watching as the First Lady continued to work and wondered briefly how a person could ignore her and make her feel included simultaneously. The press secretary smiled. It had been weeks since she and Abbey had been in the same state at the same time. Their phone calls were a game of tag, neither of them alone long enough to have a conversation. When C.J. finally allowed herself to really look at the other woman, she felt the familiar ache of desire Abbey's presence always produced in her. She had to find her voice before she could reply to the question.
"He's...he's not going to get any better, but right now, he's mostly okay," she answered as honestly as she could, grateful when the other woman only nodded.
C.J. knew Abbey wanted to ask the medical questions which would tell the doctor the truth about the younger woman's father, but C.J. also knew Abbey would find other ways to get the information she wanted. For now, C.J. wanted to bask in Abbey's comfort, not her knowledge.
"You've had a busy few weeks. I'm glad you're safely back on the ground," Abbey said, finally putting down her pen and looking up to meet C.J.'s eyes. "I'm happy to see you."
"It's good to be seen." Especially by you, she added silently, her nervousness and trepidation completely vanishing. "How have you been?"
"Traveling the country. Being responsible. The normal," she responded, standing and making her way to the door, locking it before reaching for C.J.'s hand, pulling the taller woman toward the couch. "Of which I am tired of doing. I need a break." C.J. followed willingly, a smile forming at the determined tone and gentle insistence in the First Lady's stance. "I know it's unusual," she continued, "but humor me."
C.J. was set to question her until Abbey's intention became clear. Dropping to sit on the leather cushions, C.J. was in awe when Abbey sat down next to her, relaxing against her.
C.J. smirked as she put her arms around the other woman, pulling her even closer, ignoring the strangeness of the move and focusing on the elation. Abbey closed her eyes as she rested in C.J.'s arms, unaccustomed to being so comfortable but enjoying the feeling.
They were quiet for a long moment, each lost in thought, each trying desperately not to think.
"I've been spending too much time here," C.J. said, her lips tickling Abbey's temple. "Your secretary is too used to me coming in and out."
"She doesn't ask questions, only accepts what she's told."
"Is it wise of you to assume that? She's being led to believe we're in meetings when there's nothing for us to meet about."
Abbey shrugged, an atypical response to such a serious question. Finally, she added, "We're in government. There's always something to meet about. Besides, she has no reason to believe otherwise."
"Are we getting sloppy?" C.J. questioned, the significance of such a subject causing her to tense. Abbey sighed, sitting up and turning to look C.J. in the eyes.
"Yes," she answered truthfully, surprise lighting C.J.'s expression immediately. "C.J., I wish...I wish it didn't matter."
"But we both know it does."
"We've known it all along," Abbey replied quietly, warily.
C.J. sighed, straightening in her seat before leaning forward to balance her elbows on her knees, focusing her attention on her clasped hands.
"No," C.J. said, shaking her head. "I came here today to tell you something, not to have a discussion about our re..." C.J. choked on the word, meeting Abbey's gaze in a moment of sought after strength. They both knew their relationship was wrong, that one day they would have to address their futures, but the implications of what they were doing never had to be mentioned. They were well aware of the harm they were causing, not just to themselves but to people they truly cared for. In the silence, their fears and remorse almost became too much, and C.J. broke the connection, tearing her eyes from the guilt-ridden brown ones staring at her. She began to pace, words spilling from her lips as if she couldn't stop them, gradually at first before she lost herself in what she was saying.
"I was sitting on this plane, trying to convince these people who are paid to be skeptical, that there was nothing to worry about, that we were going to be fine. Yet, all I could really think about were the 'what ifs.' What if we didn't survive? What if I never got to say goodbye to my father? What if I never got to see you again?" She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "My dad, my family, the guys - they all know I love them. They know how lucky I feel for having them in my life, but you don't. How could you? We've spent the majority of our time together avoiding any kind of discussion concerning our feelings, just like we're doing right now."
C.J. turned, finally giving her attention to the First Lady once again. "Abbey, I...I try not to think about you, to remember that we shouldn't be doing this, but then I'm with you again and I can't walk away. I don't want to walk away." C.J. paused, and Abbey could see her gathering her thoughts, could see her grasping for words. "There's got to be a reason why...a reason why I put my career and my morals and my life on the line. There has to be a reason." She turned away from Abbey and forced herself to continue. "Sitting on that plane, feeling like the sky was falling, I realized what it is." She laughed, the mood instantly morphing into something lighter, Abbey knowing immediately it was a life-alternating moment. "I know it's clichéd, but I...I guess what I'm trying to say is..."
C.J. blushed, her eyes becoming downcast, her smile, despite her previous confidence, shy and self-conscious. It was a new look for the normally eloquent press secretary, and Abbey was enchanted, delighted at the honesty reflected in C.J.'s posture, at the trust exposed in every motion.
"I can't qualify it, but I know I love you." Her words were soft but certain, an underlining strength which forced Abbey to believe what she was saying. "You can take it however you want to, but I needed you to know."
Abbey knew C.J. loved her, had known for years the younger woman had feelings for her beyond those of professional respect or personal admiration. But to hear the words...Abbey never thought she would. Now that she had, she didn't know what to do.
"C.J., I.." They began speaking at once. The First Lady sighed, and then she laughed, standing and walking toward the gangly woman who had made her way to the middle of the room. Reaching her, Abbey put her arms around C.J., squeezing her tightly against her, smiling into C.J.'s collarbone as C.J. tentatively put her arms around her. "Just hold me."
"I never want to let go," C.J. whispered, her grasp tightening to validate her words.
It wasn't until Abbey felt the pinpricks of tears behind her closed eyes that she pulled away from C.J.'s embrace.
"I'm too old to be doing this," she said, bitter laughter tainting her voice. "I shouldn't be falling in love with someone new at my age."
"That doesn't sound like the Abbey I know," C.J. said.
"She's still on her break," Abbey retorted, a smile softening her words. "Speaking of which, break is almost over. The world is waiting for us."
"There's always something waiting, but you're right. I need to go."
Abbey just nodded, still lost in her struggle to switch roles. C.J. was nearly to the door before Abbey noticed the taller woman had moved.
"C.J." The press secretary stopped and turned toward the First Lady, whose desperation was visible only in her eyes. "Say it again," Abbey said. "Just in case."
C.J. smiled, gently and shyly, and Abbey knew she could easily become addicted to the delicate demeanor, knew she would probably never hear the words again after they parted ways.
"I love you."
With the simple phrase echoing through the room, C.J. opened the door and was gone. It wasn't until Abbey's next appointment arrived that she realized she had admitted she loved C.J., but the concept did not fill her with the fear she thought it would. Instead, Abbey smiled, secretly pleased she was still the woman she had been before she became the First Lady of the United States.
Sequel Come Back
Return to The West Wing Fiction
Return to Main Page