DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me, except, maybe, Clarita.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Inspired by Gabrielle's dance scene in the Xena Season Two episode, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and also by a fanfiction story titled "A Sloe Comfortable Screw" by Lilla. Huge thanks to Brenda, Mighty Editor Goddess, and to Jo R. and Amanda for helping me get this story to the point you see it now. Thanks also to Kansas for allowing me to name my bar "Clarita's." My place may not be the same as hers, but I liked the name and she thought of it first. And please don't hassle me about who's gay and who's not. This is fanfiction.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Wonderful Thing
CJ could hear the pounding beat of the dance floor and the Saturday-night mob of voices upstairs, but she was not interested in dancing, or in doing anything more than contemplating the glass of ruby wine in front of her.
CJ knew it might be just a little unsafe for her to be in this particular bar, but she'd had enough of Josh and Toby that day to last her the next two lifetimes, and she'd had to disappear to a place she knew would not only be absent of men, but whose occupants would be decidedly pissed if a man attempted entry.
She snorted at the mental image of Josh trying to get past Martha, then quickly amended her thought. Josh would probably have much less trouble than Toby getting by the large, no-nonsense woman who sat on a tall stool at the door, and would be thoroughly dumsquizzled as to whether he should be upset by it, or flattered.
Oh har, Claudia Jean, she thought, suppressing the urge to laugh out loud at the scenario she was picturing, you slay yourself. She returned to the thoughts at hand.
Clarita (owner of the bar that sported her name) was, thank God, discreet when it came to certain of her clientele, and had led CJ to an empty table in a dim corner the instant she saw her walk in. Clarita would never pretend that CJ wasn't a celebrity of sorts or that people wouldn't recognize her, but at the same time she knew all of her customers pretty well and trusted them. Clarita's was a refuge for women, not breaking news.
"Madam Press Secretary," Clarita addressed her sotto voce, "how are you this evening?"
"Hey, Clarita. Tired."
"The Idiot Boys making you wish you'd hadn't broken that glass ceiling again?"
CJ gave her a weary smile before folding her tall frame into a chair. "Something like that, yeah." She curled her legs beneath the chair and leaned forward, resting her arms on the table.
"Pinot Noir or a grasshopper?"
"Pinot Noir is fine. Thanks."
So here CJ was, draining her second glass of wine and considering asking Annie, the bartender who took over for Clarita at 10:00, for a bottle. The music above her changed to something with less of a pounding beat, and at that moment the door to the bar opened and a lone woman stepped in. Martha gave her a serious once-over, but that was it.
CJ, on the other hand, sucked in a breath. While there was nothing particularly striking about this newcomer, there was certainly something about her that spoke to feelings CJ was better at suppressing than at acting on, and she absently wondered if the woman had any idea she cast off such pheromones. Probably not. CJ continued to study her as she stood with her back to the wall, leaning against the ancient cigarette machine.
The stranger was blonde, on the thin side, thirtysomething, and wearing military wannabe fatigues: an unadorned sand-colored t-shirt, desert camo pants, and black boots. It occurred to CJ that the woman looked rather like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, and it was then the truth hit her: That's no wannabe, that's the real thing. No wonder she looks petrified. "Don't ask, don't tell" was a far-from-perfect solution to a very volatile issue.
CJ looked toward the bar for Annie, but the bartender was busy serving a tray of drinks at the far end. So CJ made a decision she normally might not have, but for the two glasses of wine, which had given her an odd sort of maternal courage, if not a sisterly one. She stood and made her way to where the woman was standing.
"Hi. You look like you could, you know, maybe use a pair of sunglasses and a big floppy hat. I'd like to help, but I've only got the one set." She jabbed her thumb back towards her table.
The woman, who had been looking deeper into the bar, whipped her head around and met CJ's greeting with an up-close-and-personal deer look, but quickly relaxed enough to smile, some of the fear leaving her eyes, clearly recognizing CJ. "CJ Cregg." She looked down at her boots for a second, and then tilted her head back up to CJ. "I'm that obvious, huh?"
CJ could swear she got a whiff of the elusive chemical. "A little. Listen, why don't you come sit down before you fall down? We can discuss our respective reasons for being here, okay?"
CJ was rewarded with tiny smile. "That sounds good. Lead the way."
Sitting across from CJ with a cold bottle of beer, the stranger introduced herself with a brighter smile, blissfully unaware of the affect she could have on people. "Samantha Carter, United States Air Force, but people call me Sam."
"Claudia Jean Cregg, White House Press Secretary, but people call me CJ and you already knew that. I'll go first on respective reasons. I'm here because the Old Boys Network got to be too much for me today and I had to get away. What say you?"
Samantha sat back in her chair and this time broke out in a wide grin. "How about 'I'm here because the Old Boys Network got to be too much for me today and I had to get away?'" The women shared a laugh.
CJ asked, "Do you work in the District?"
Sam's eyes went down to the table and then quickly back up. "Um, no, actually. I'm in town for a conference on theoretical astrophysics."
"Wow, and how d'you spell that?" CJ feigned pencil and paper and Sam chuckled appropriately. Then CJ asked what she thought was a relatively benign question. "Where're you based?"
That her question might not have been as benign as all that was immediately evident. Sam went completely still, hesitating a little too long before answering, as if she were weighing options. "Colorado. The Cheyenne Mountain Complex."
Okay, then. Danny called that place Area 51, and CJ could no more stop her next question than she could breathe in space. "What do you do there?"
"Analysis of deep-space radar telemetry."
CJ stared at Sam, keeping disbelief carefully from her face. Nothing had changed about Sam's demeanor when she named her profession, but CJ was nobody's fool. She could spot a lie at fifty paces, and a deliberate one at an even shorter distance. Studying Sam, whose face remained as blank as her own, CJ knew there'd be no point in trying to get her to say anything more, and couldn't really see a compelling reason why she should bother.
The fact that Samantha Carter had disclosed the uncommon place where she worked was disclosure enough, but she was obviously well trained in hiding whatever military secrets resided at Cheyenne Mountain, and it was equally as obvious Sam knew that CJ knew that. Time to move on. They were in a lesbian bar, for cryin' out loud, not the Sit Room.
Which led CJ to her next, much safer, question. Absently waving her hand to indicate the premises, she asked, "How the hell'd you find this place?"
Sam shrugged and relaxed, her tiny smile back in place. "Saw a flyer in the hotel lobby."
CJ held up a finger, closed her eyes and quoted from memory, "'A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. Need to get away from the daily grind of This Man's World? Clarita's.' On lavender paper, with a little hand-drawn map and a teeny-tiny triangle-shaped rainbow in the corner?"
"You nailed it." Sam's smile grew, and the tension that had been threatening to come between them was gone.
The music above them changed again to something with a very heavy bass, the kind you could feel in your chest. Samantha rolled her eyes upward. "I think that's the main reason I don't come to bars, period."
CJ nodded in agreement. "Can I get you another beer?" Without waiting for an answer, CJ tried to catch Annie's eye behind the bar, but before she could get her attention, Samantha spoke.
"Hey, you always this bossy?"
Without missing a beat, CJ quipped, "Heavens-to-Murgatroyd, no. On good days, I'm much worse."
CJ felt an unusual sense of satisfaction at Sam's sincere, deep-throated laughter. That sensation faded abruptly at Sam's next question.
"Wanna go upstairs?"
CJ hesitated, not certain of the context of the question. Obviously, Sam must have realized how she sounded, because she immediately backpedaled and CJ saw Sam's cheeks flush.
"Oh, no, CJ, I'm sorry." Shaking her head, Sam reached out and covered CJ's wrist. "Here I just told you that was the reason why I didn't come to bars, and now I'm. . . well, okay, I'm not. . .I mean, I won't. . .I mean, I didn't mean to. . ." She stuttered to a halt, pulled her hand back, waited a beat, and tried again. "Um, can we just go upstairs and watch people dancing? I'm sorry."
An odd mix of relief and disappointment rippled through CJ, which she dismissed as nothing more than too much wine - and then gave herself hell for having a laugh at Josh's expense over the very same thing. What goes around, comes around, Claudia Jean. "No apology necessary. Believe me, I'm not, I won't, and I didn't, either." In a credit to her profession, CJ deftly severed that line of talk, pushed her chair out and stood. "C'mon, let's go upstairs." She motioned toward the staircase in the rear. Samantha stood, picked up her nearly-empty beer, and walked ahead of CJ, across the room to the narrow steps.
As they walked, CJ noticed they were about the same height, with her wearing flats and Sam's thick-soled boots. Didn't happen often enough in her world, that anyone was as tall as she, and it pleased her.
Upstairs it was hot, loud, and very crowded, but it looked like the women were having a great time. CJ and Samantha squeezed into a small open spot near the end of the short bar and stood watching the women on the dance floor.
CJ leaned over, pointed to Sam's bottle, and yelled in her ear, "How about that beer?"
Samantha nodded, put the bottle to her lips, drank the last of it and handed it to CJ. CJ put the empty bottle on the bar and raised her hand to get the bartender's attention. It was Clarita, upstairs now for the second half of the night. Clarita caught the signal and came over. Since talking was tough, CJ motioned to the beer bottle and then to an empty wine glass. Clarita nodded in understanding and quickly filled her order.
After setting the drinks down, Clarita leaned over the bar and motioned to CJ, who leaned in towards her. With the skill of experienced bartenders the world over, Clarita managed to speak in a normal volume near CJ's ear, "I'll run you a tab, CJ, and get you the next time you come in." She didn't extend this kind of credit to everyone, but she knew the White House Press Secretary wouldn't stick her with a tab.
And besides, Clarita didn't want anything to get in the way of the Press Secretary's getting lucky tonight - though she knew actually saying that to CJ would send her running. Clarita knew that CJ favored her bar because it was the only place she could come without Josh or Toby following after her.
Clarita also knew (and she knew CJ knew) that they weren't all straight in the White House and that some of the female staffers were regulars here. But when it came right down to it, being spotted by a White House staffer never mattered as much to CJ as just being able to get away from the guys who may or may not have included Josiah Bartlet.
Since the subject of human sexuality or anyone's sexual preference never really came up between she and CJ, Clarita had never been one hundred percent certain of CJ's preference, though she figured her for straight. However, Clarita - being the well-adjusted dyke she was was of the opinion that every woman who came into her bar had the potential to love another woman, no matter what gender they preferred, and she didn't believe CJ Cregg was any different in that respect. After all, one lesbian experience didn't a lesbian make but that didn't mean it couldn't be enjoyable, no matter who you were. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking on her part, or simply the nature of her job.
But she didn't think so.
Then there was CJ's companion this evening, an unfamiliar but adorable face, who looked like she had read the Lesbian Handbook from cover to cover, several times, which was why Clarita was more hopeful than usual.
CJ finished her third glass of wine quicker than she should have, and her head was beginning to spin. She had eaten dinner before coming to the bar, but it obviously wasn't enough to counter the effects of the alcohol. The room's temperature didn't help.
She stole a look at Samantha, who seemed unaffected and was moving slightly to the beat of the music. As CJ watched, a petite but severe-looking redhead came up on the other side of Samantha and leaned toward her ear. CJ saw Samantha shake her head, but the redhead didn't give up. She leaned in again, and this time whatever she said took a lot longer. Finally Sam nodded and then turned to CJ, holding out her bottle, mouthing "Hold this?"
CJ took the bottle and watched the two women move onto the dance floor. It wasn't long before CJ couldn't see them anymore. Once again she was struck with a mix of relief and disappointment. She turned her head to the bar in time to see a very strange look cross Clarita's face. Caught, Clarita just shrugged and then pointed to CJ's empty glass, raising an eyebrow. CJ nodded and put the glass on the bar, setting Sam's beer down beside it. Clarita returned with a refill and a basket of pretzels. A bar stool opened in front of her and CJ gratefully took it, picking up her glass, noting the wet ring left on the napkin beneath it.
CJ drained half the glass in one swallow and then picked up a pretzel, fooling with it, tapping it lightly against the bar. Perhaps it would be better, she thought morosely, scratching salt crystals off the pretzel, to stop coming to bars entirely. Even in her younger days, she'd never had much fun in bars, and the recent years only lent an added hopelessness to it.
It wasn't like she was an easy pick-up (like she'd ever been that), but since she had come to work at the pleasure of the President, bars had become the place where you went to get drunk, and once that happened, you called a cab and went home. End of story. She tossed her now salt-free pretzel back into the basket.
Light-headed now to the point of being nearly call-a-cab drunk, CJ figured she was at the end of this particular story and was actually reaching for her cell phone, when she felt an overheated hand on her shoulder. She looked up to see Samantha beside her, smiling.
CJ looked beyond Sam, but didn't see the redhead anywhere. She raised up on the bar stool. "Where's your friend?"
Samantha shrugged and leaned into CJ's ear. "She's gone. She just wanted to dance." Sam placed her hand again on CJ's wrist. "You know, CJ, I know what I poorly expressed earlier, but I think maybe. . .well. . .um. . .wanna dance?"
CJ blinked and then brought herself up short. Clueless, she thought, I am so clueless sometimes. Sitting here feeling oh so sorry for myself because I never have any fun in bars. Josh would probably slap me upside the head. Get over yourself, Claudia Jean, he'd say, and dance with the woman. Out loud, she simply said, "Yes."
The dance floor was packed and dark, with many couples wrapped in one another's arms and moving sensually to the low, rumbling beat. CJ glanced around and then at Samantha, unsure how to begin. Who was supposed to lead? Her confusion was quickly cleared up when Samantha turned CJ around and spooned up behind her, bringing her arms up around CJ's waist.
In this position, it was easy to sway to the beat of the music, and soon they were moving fluidly as one. CJ felt enrobed in the music, and decided the feeling was not at all unpleasant.
She could have blamed it on the wine, but somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew it wasn't just the wine.
Now their feet were barely moving, but the rest of their bodies were touching at nearly every point it was possible to touch without falling over. CJ felt her body begin to respond to the friction, unsurprised by her reaction, but unsure if she should allow it to continue. Now she did blame the wine, because she was having big trouble focusing on anything but the woman pressing against her.
CJ was still trying to puzzle it out when Samantha's hand found the top of the zipper on CJ's pants and began to tug gently on it, forcing a mighty exhale from CJ.
Dropping her head back, and making a feeble attempt to stop Sam, CJ whispered hoarsely into her ear. "Huh. . .uh. . .Sam, you sure that's such a good idea?" Instead of hearing an answer, CJ felt her zipper slowly rasp open, and the vibration touched off a spark of desire that escalated quickly into something much, much more. Ambushed by her own body, and nearly unable to stay upright, CJ knew if Sam touched her, even through the panties, she would come right there on the dance floor.
Which was exactly what Sam did.
And exactly what CJ did.
"Oh. . .oh, Jesus!" CJ choked and jerked, and felt a warm wetness flood her panties. And me without a pantiliner, she thought wildly, with a heavy sigh that bordered on hysteria.
She felt arms tighten around her, grateful for the extra support, and heard Sam snicker behind her.
"So, lady, come here often?"
Even in her current state, CJ couldn't help but laugh, which made her completely unready for the next thing Sam did.
Turning CJ in her arms, Sam leaned forward and placed her lips on CJ's as naturally as if they had been partners for years.
As the exquisite sparking fired up again somewhere below CJ's navel, about two hundred reasons why she ought not be doing this skidded through her head, but the only thing that stuck was the feel of Samantha Carter's hand as it slid gently into her hair and around to the back of her neck, urging her closer.
CJ surrendered then, to her instincts, to the insistent tongue, and to the full pleasure of the moment. When the music changed again, neither woman noticed.
Behind the bar, Clarita smiled.
Life is full of wonder.
Love is never wrong.
-- Melissa Etheridge, "Silent Legacy," 1993
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