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: Italics indicate a flashback -- VERY IMPORTANT!!! This is after Dead Irish Writers (3.16) but before Enemies Foreign and Domestic (3.20). The flashbacks are after TFGKY (2.20).
SERIES/SEQUEL: The sixth part of the Repetition series following Broken Record, Habit, Deja Vu, Deja Vu Again and Consistent.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Okay, that's it for now. See you all a bit later. Try not to miss me too much."
C.J. closes her briefing book and exits the pressroom. Carol hands her a stack of messages that C.J. begins to flip through as they walk toward the communications bullpen.
"That went well," Carol teases.
"Yeah, but I do need more information on the new amendment to the animal rights bill. I have a feeling that Mark is not going to leave that one alone."
Never missing a step, Carol jots downs the request in her ever present notebook.
C.J. continues casually, "Was the first lady looking for me?"
"Not that I know," Carol answers, a bit surprised by the question. "Should I call the..."
"No," C.J. interrupts. "No, it's not important."
"Alright," Carol says dismissingly. "Oh, Ron Erhlich did stop by. He said to tell you hello."
At the mention of Erhlich's name, C.J. stops walking and turns her full attention to her assistant.
"That's all he said?" she asks as she mentally berates herself for her inner panic, the second time that day.
"Were you expecting something more?"
"No, I suppose not."
"I didn't even know the two of you were more than casual acquaintances," Carol responds as they start walking again.
"We're not." Disappearing into her office, she calls over her shoulder, "Hold my calls until the president leaves. There's something I need to do," before closing herself inside.
Once locked away in her office, C.J. slumps into her desk chair. She remembers a time a little less than a year ago when she did the same thing. She also remembers that the argument she and Abbey had that night led her to do something incredibly stupid.
"You guys are like Butch and Sundance peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder filled rapids 300 feet below thinking you better not jump 'cause there's a chance you might drown. The president has this disease and has been lying about it and you're concerned that the polling might make us look bad? It's the fall that's going to kill you."
"You said, 'It's the fall that's gonna kill you,'" Josh explained. "You meant us." C.J. started to walk away from him, but he only followed her. "Where're you going, C.J.?"
"I'm going home."
"No, I meant..."
"I know what you meant. I want to sleep for a while. I'm going home."
"You know, uh, Donna got a hold of this fax that was sent to the press office from the O.S.F. at NASA."
"What, something falling out of the sky?"
"We get that fax once a week."
"Yeah, but Donna doesn't know that. She thinks it's an emergency."
"And you didn't want to tell her?"
"No, 'cause the other way you get a day's worth of entertainment without leaving the office. She doesn't know that these things fall out of the sky all the time... once every ten days, as a matter of fact. Since the first year we started putting man-made objects in space, 17,000 have come back and remarkably, not one person has been hit," Josh said, and then paused. "So I suppose there's an argument to be made that we're due."
"Yeah. You picked me right up there, Josh," C.J. retorted as she crossed the street.
As she walked away from Josh, C.J. knew she couldn't go home. The thoughts of resigning, Abbey, and the MS swirling around her mind would drive her insane in her silent townhouse. She made a slight detour and headed to a near-by bar. A drink, she thought, just one drink and I'll leave. Entering the smoke-filled room, she found a seat at the bar and ordered a Grasshopper but stopped the bartender and changed her order to something much stronger.
She heard someone sit down next to her and knew she should recognize the voice that requested a whiskey sour. Turning slightly, she glanced in the general direction of the door, taking a peek at the man beside her in the same moment. Her wish that she was wrong was instantly crushed when she caught the eyes of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ron Erhlich, staring back at her.
For a brief second, she held onto the hope that he would not recognize her, but as soon as the thought passed through her mind, she knew it was useless. He smiled a perfectly friendly smile and made an off-handed comment about her choice of alcohol. She responded by gulping the last of her drink. He laughed and ordered her another. C.J. accepted it, already enjoying the heat from the first shot, and forced her mind to stop making connections between this man and Abbey. Silently cursing herself, she swore that she was going to quit referring to the first lady by her given name.
She turned her attention to the handsome man beside her. Maybe, she thought, maybe if I keep drinking and focus on someone else, my entire world will stop revolving around all the wrong things in my life. As she threw back her second tequila shot and listened to the easy laugh of the man buying, she thought she could see someone else's face other than Abbey's in her dreams that night.
"Abbey, I'm surprised to see you up here. Is there something wrong?" Jed asks as she walks into the Oval Office. He greets her at the door and gives her a hug.
"No, nothing's wrong. I just wanted to see you for a few minutes before you left."
"You could come with me," he tells her. "We could spend time together on the plane."
"I've spent enough time on planes as of late. Besides, I have to work out my schedule with C.J. while you're away."
"Why C.J.?" the president asks as he guides his wife to sit down.
"Because most everyone else is going with you," she answers and takes a seat on the couch. "I'm supposed to make so many campaign stops in only certain locations or something like that. I wasn't paying much attention when Bruno made the request."
There was a light rap on the door before Charlie stuck his head into the room.
"Excuse me, sir, but the motorcade is ready."
"Thank you, Charlie." He looks at Abbey apologetically. "I'm sorry. You could still change your mind, you know. I could order C.J. to go with us."
"Don't be cruel. She needs a break and so do I."
"Mr. President," a voice calls from just inside the door. They both turn their attention to the new arrival.
"Speak of the devil," Jed teases as he stands. "My wife tells me that you're the reason she's not going with me on this trip."
"She just needed an excuse, sir. I figured I could help her out," C.J. replies in her dry manner as she catches Abbey's eyes.
"Like I need an excuse," the first lady says only half jokingly.
"Ladies, I'm standing right here."
"Sir," Leo says as he enters the office. "You need to be in the car on the way to the airport." He turns to the women on either side of the president. "Ma'am," he greets before addressing C.J. "Did you inform him about the changes in the press seating arrangements?"
"I was about to, but I think he was going to threaten me so I was waiting."
"Why would I need to know about the press seating arrangements? Let them sit wherever they want."
"We just didn't want you to be surprised when you look out over the front row and don't see anyone you recognize," C.J. responds.
"Sir," Charlie says as he once again appears in the doorway.
"I'm coming, I'm coming. I will see you as soon as I get back," he tells Abbey as he kisses her on the cheek. "I have been duly warned about the press," he directs to C.J. and to Leo he says, "Let's go."
"Walk with me," Leo requests of C.J. as he follows the president out the French doors. The press secretary offers Abbey a warm smile before getting in step with the chief-of-staff.
Abbey remains in the Oval office as she watches the trio flanked by SSA disappear.
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