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C.J. was not surprised to open her apartment door and find Abigail Bartlet standing on the other side. She knew it would happen sooner or later. One of them had to seek the other one out. So, instead of feigning shock, C.J. merely stepped aside and allowed Abbey into her personal space.
"It looks different in the sunlight," C.J. said as Abbey followed her into the sparse living room. "Until recently, I hadn't spent enough time here during the day to know my way around."
"You've been busy," Abbey said, looking at the boxes stacked close to the walls, a double meaning to her words and a sadness C.J. was not prepared for.
Nervously, C.J. motioned to the sofa. Both women sat down, one on each end of the couch.
"I didn't think I'd see you again so soon."
"We really didn't get to talk much at the party a few nights ago. I thought we owed each other a little more than no explanations."
C.J. was surprised by that. "I never thought an explanation was needed."
Silence settled around them, conversation weak from lack of practice. Abbey was right. In the past ten years, they had rarely talked. Their history was based on discussions and sex.
Finally, C.J. sighed. "Abbey, if you came here to say goodbye, I wish you would just do it. Idle chitchat fits neither one of us."
Abbey laughed. "No, I guess it doesn't. Still, I've always considered you a friend. It seems strange not to know more about each other than what's printed on a bio sheet."
"We do know more," C.J. said, remembering all too well the taste of Abbey. "The problem may be we know too much."
Abbey nodded. "Maybe so, but I do wish we had spent more time just talking."
"About what? Policy? Medicine? Children?"
"Two of which you know nothing about, C.J., so don't be contemptuous with me."
"Our lives, our pasts, our dreams, anything other than discussing what dresses I'll wear to the inauguration parties or what the news cycle is saying about my hair." Abbey laughed humorlessly. "C.J., we've been sleeping together for ten years, but the only time we have a conversation is when we're in the same room with a hundred other people and several dozen cameras forcing us to behave like civilized women rather than lovers. Because, C.J., no matter what else we call it or what we've told ourselves it is, we are lovers and we are having an affair."
"Were," C.J. said after a long moment.
"We were lovers. We were having an affair. Three months ago you said we had to stop."
Abbey smirked. "Still, it would have been nice if we'd had a conversation about our lives at some point during that ten-year period when we were still an are."
C.J. giggled, and then she grinned. "Considering how surreal this conversation is, I'm pretty sure it's a good thing we did very little talking during our time together."
"You sound like we'll never see each other again."
"We will, but we won't be the same people."
"How will we be different?"
"You're about to go back to being a wife to one man instead of a nation. That will change you. By the time we see each other again, you won't be the same woman standing in front of me now."
"I'm not the same woman you met ten years ago either."
"Neither am I."
Abbey met C.J.'s eyes. "I know. Would you go back?"
"How could I?"
Abbey nodded, but then, after a long pause, she said, "I should say goodbye. We're leaving directly from the ceremony, so we probably won't have another opportunity."
Abbey stood, and C.J. followed suit, ducking her head to catch Abbey's eyes.
"I'm sure I'll see you soon."
"I'm sure," Abbey said with a smile. "Jed is already talking about having a chili night."
C.J.'s answering smile was wistful. "We haven't had one of those in a long time. It would be nice to get everyone together. Even Sam could come."
"We could make more memories."
"I kind of like the ones we have," C.J. said, reaching out to gently skim Abbey's arm, the skin warm under her finger. It was a soft touch, quickly ended.
C.J. cringed at the sadness and frustration in Abbey's tone. "We could have it in a couple of months. Give everyone time to settle into their new lives. Josh, Sam, and Donna will need time to get their administration started."
"Did you know Josh and Donna are finally a couple? It took them long enough."
"C.J., you're babbling."
"I have to keep talking because if I don't, I might do something stupid."
"Like what? Kiss me goodbye? I think we're past that level of stupidity by now, don't you?" Abbey sighed. "C.J., it's okay."
"No, it's not." C.J.'s voice was thick. "Suddenly, I don't want you to go. I...I've never wanted you to go."
"I know," Abbey said. "I've always known."
C.J.'s shock was evident, and Abbey smiled to belay the confession. This time, Abbey reached out and, taking C.J.'s hand in her own, she interlaced their fingers.
"Why..." C.J. took a deep breath. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"Why would I? C.J., we just argued about never talking. Do you think it would have been easier if I had told you I knew you were in love with me?"
"I guess not," C.J. said, meeting Abbey's gaze. "I was. I couldn't stop myself."
"Are we back to the past tense?" Abbey said, trying to maintain her smile.
C.J. sighed and looked away. "No."
"I know," Abbey said gently.
"This is why we never talked, Abbey. You always knew what I could never say."
"Not all of it."
"Would it have changed anything?" C.J. asked.
"Honestly," Abbey answered. "No." After a long silence, Abbey said, "I should go."
C.J. glanced at her. "Stay with me."
Abbey closed her eyes. "You know I can't. You're cruel to ask."
C.J. nodded. She knew the question was unfair, but she also knew she would regret forever if she hadn't asked it. She had used the same reasoning when their affair started, and C.J. would never regret that.
"Not forever, then, just for a few hours," she said. "Let's...Give me that at least."
"We've both given so much already, C.J."
"I'm not asking you for a declaration, Abbey. I won't but give me this."
C.J. knew they were still taking a chance, but they both realized it was something they needed to do. The Secret Service agents were hovering, as always, outside C.J.'s front door and Danny could stop by at any moment, but C.J. kissed Abbey, once then twice and again until Abbey kissed her back.
As their kisses deepened, Abbey relaxed into C.J.'s body, and C.J.'s hands slipped under Abbey's sweater, pushing the smaller woman's body further into her own.
"C.J.," Abbey whispered when they parted, but instead of answering, C.J. kissed her ear softly. Abbey began unbuttoning C.J.'s blouse, her fingers trembling and C.J.'s breath tickling her neck.
"We have to..."
Abbey nodded as she pushed C.J.'s shirt from her shoulders, the material falling to the floor as they moved in tandem toward C.J.'s bedroom.
Once there, C.J. kissed Abbey again before pulling the cotton sweater over Abbey's head. Abbey retaliated by unbuckling C.J.'s jeans, slipping her own pants off as C.J. collapsed onto the bed, her bra tossed across the room.
Grasping Abbey's hand, C.J. pulled the First Lady on top of her, smiling as Abbey's hair caressed C.J.'s collarbone, the motion replicated by Abbey's lips. C.J. moaned and closed her eyes. Tangling her fingers in Abbey's auburn locks, she pulled Abbey up to crash their mouths together. Rolling them over, C.J. hovered above Abbey for a long moment, and Abbey brushed C.J.'s hair from her face.
"You still don't want a declaration?" she asked.
"I can't afford one," C.J. answered, and then she trailed her lips down Abbey's chest, stopping to take off the thin material covering Abbey's breast before tasting the skin hidden beneath. She switched to give the other breast the same attention, Abbey's hands in her hand distracting her. Finally satisfied with the taunt skin, she moved down Abbey's body, reaching her destination with a soft sigh.
"C.J.," Abbey breathed. "C.J."
Her name became a mantra, with Abbey's voice straining against C.J.'s assault, C.J.'s tongue hot as it worked its way through the last of Abbey's defenses. When Abbey finally came, her body tight and infused with warmth, C.J. slowly made her way up to rest her head on Abbey's collarbone, offering the only security either of them could have with each other.
As she calmed, Abbey allowed her fingers to trace the curve of C.J.'s spine, causing tingling sensations to run through C.J.'s bones.
Abbey's touch was light, but C.J. had to force herself to relax. Closing her eyes, she allowed memories of previous encounters to soak into her consciousness. Back then, when they made love, C.J. never thought of the consequences. She knew there would be a second chance to experience their created joy, and they were careful too careful not to be caught. They wanted to be together too much for minor slipups.
When Abbey moved, pushing C.J. onto the comforter, C.J. tensed in anticipation, Abbey's mouth on C.J.'s skin soothing away the last of C.J.'s reservations.
"I want," C.J. said. "I want to tell you."
"Shhh," Abbey whispered into C.J.'s ear. "There are words I can't afford to hear either." And then, Abbey slid down C.J.'s body, her tongue finding C.J.'s left nipple with ease, and her fingers teased C.J.'s clit before filling C.J.'s body. C.J. allowed the sensations to wash over her, her own hands going to Abbey's head to guide Abbey's mouth.
As perspiration covered them both, Abbey thrust hard into C.J., causing the younger woman to lift her hips to meet the movement before releasing her pent-up energy with a low cry. They both grew motionless for a few long moments until Abbey gently withdrew her fingers, the action sending a twinge through C.J.'s still sensitive body.
Abbey settled in C.J.'s embrace, resting with her head over C.J.'s heart. C.J. hugged her close, happy to believe the lie for a little while longer. C.J. smiled at the soreness of her body and allowed herself to drift with the sound of Abbey's breathing lulling her to contentment.
Through a drowsy haze, C.J. felt Abbey shift from her arms and watched through hooded eyes and darkness as Abbey silently dressed. When Abbey was ready to go, she sat on the edge of the bed and ran her fingers gently through C.J.'s hair. C.J. never moved and concentrated, instead, on steadying her breathing. Finally, Abbey stood, placed a soft kiss on C.J.'s forehead, and walked out. C.J. squeezed her eyes tightly closed, not wanting to see Abbey walk away.
And that was when C.J. knew she would have to settle, and she would have to frequently remind herself she would have a good life even if it wasn't the life she wanted. Then again, she didn't really know what it was she wanted. A fairy tale, she supposed, where she could remember only the good times of her life and forget the guilt and shame of dismissing her morals.
Still, when C.J. heard the front door closing, her tears could not be shrugged away despite all her reasoning. As she pulled Abbey's pillow closer, C.J. Cregg, for the first time, wished she was still the person she had been eleven years ago.
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