DISCLAIMER: We've heard it all before but in case someone wasn't listening, they don't belong to me. I wish they did but they don't. I'm just borrowing them so they can have a little fun outside of the politics of D.C.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is after TFGKY (2.20) and Manchester (3.2/3.3) but before Dead Irish Writers (3.16).
SERIES/SEQUEL: The third part of the Repetition series following Broken Record and Habit.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
I enter the ballroom behind a bickering Josh and Donna, their voices immediately fading into the
background. The lights shine brightly and the music seems louder than it should but I ignore both.
Glancing around, I notice that Toby is already at the bar and Leo is nowhere in sight. I unexpectedly feel a presence at my side; a gentle touch on my arm makes me turn and flash a smile.
"C.J., as always, you look stunning."
"I know," I say flippantly. "But thank you, Spanky, you look pretty good yourself." I turn my attention back to the party and realize I don't even know what this one is for and have to rack my brain before suddenly remembering. I suppose the reason behind it doesn't actually matter; they all have the same purpose.
Luckily, tonight I'm sandwiched between Leo and Toby at the dinner table, which means I didn't have to memorize anyone's biography. But a part of my job is to smile at people I don't really like and to listen to stories I don't really want to hear. Since I'm good at my job, I excuse myself from Sam and begin to mingle in the crowd, greeting everyone the same, yet a little differently.
Applause signifies the arrival of the president, the first lady on his arm and the chief-of-staff at his side. The room falls silent as he waves to the crowd then says a few words of welcome to the guests. I fail to hear him; instead, all of my senses focus on the woman next to him. She's smiling pleasantly, her hair swept up in a twist with a few stray ringlets caressing her neck. The burgundy gown highlights her figure to perfection. Suddenly, the music resumes and the trio go in separate directions. I lose sight of her as the crowd that was gathered around them starts to disperse. I scan the room for a moment before being caught up, once again, in the game of politics. Apparently, Josh and a Congressman are not agreeing and I'm summoned to play peacemaker.
Awhile later, after settling numerous arguments between Josh and a host of other politicians, I pass him off to Donna. Searching the ballroom, I find her. Abbey. I take a moment to wonder briefly when I stopped thinking of her as the first lady and started once again thinking of her in terms of first names. As I watch, she slips quietly through the French doors onto the balcony. I hesitantly follow her, hoping to go unnoticed, and very gently step into the night air. All of my uncertainty vanishes as soon as I see her. The moonlit sky is her backdrop, her profile illuminated by the stars, and even though she is turned away from me, I know she's smiling. I take a deep breath to calm my racing heart before moving a few steps forward.
"Penny," I say conversationally. She doesn't face me but chuckles almost soundlessly.
"They're not worth much, are they?" she asks in the same tone.
"Don't tell Sam that. He fought very hard to save that particular variety of currency." Changing the subject, I come to stand beside her. "I didn't think you were supposed to be here tonight."
"Sorry you had to find out through channels. It was a last minute decision."
"Anything to do with why we're standing out in the cold?" She shakes her head then glances at me for the first time tonight.
"I just needed air." She turns away from me again. "That's all." I nod then allow the silence to settle over us, knowing she'll speak when she's ready. She laughs suddenly then whispers, "Déjà vu."
"Excuse me?" I ask, surprised at what I think I hear her say.
"Lately, it seems we only have real conversations under the cover of night." Before I get the chance to respond, she faces me and continues. "Do you realize that we haven't had a decent talk during daylight hours in almost a year? Before then we talked every day."
"Things are different. We're different. Time is..." I let my flimsy attempt at an excuse trail off.
"Why are you bringing this up now?"
"No reason." Once again, silence pervades upon us. Then just as quickly as she confronted me, she turns away and switches topics. "I enjoy stargazing. I used to stand on the roof of whatever hospital I would be on call at and watch the sky. It was peaceful and soothing, the opposite of what was usually going on inside."
"They're stable. That's what I've always loved about them." I turn my gaze upward but only briefly before returning my eyes to her. Of its own accord, my hand reaches out to touch her arm. She gasps when my cold fingers make contact with her soft skin, but her hand comes to rest on mine before she interlaces our fingers. A long moment passes as I drink in the feel of her and the warmth radiating from her body. Finally, she releases my hand and faces me again.
"We should go in before they come looking for us." I nod then meet her eyes.
"I know it's part of the problem," I tell her gently as I motion around us, "but I'm always here."
"I know and you're right. It is a part of the problem." She shakes her head sadly. "I wish it weren't but, for now, there's not much either of us can do about it." She smiles tenderly before walking away. "C'mon. We don't want you to get sick. You're not an easy person to deal with when you're sick. Almost as bad as Josh," she teases as the Secret Service agent waiting just inside opens the French doors. The first lady waves me in and I meet her eyes briefly and return her smile before entering the ballroom for the second time tonight. I hear the doors close and turn to face her but she's gone, already swallowed by the party and politics surrounding us.
Sequel Deja Vu Again
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