AUTHOR: Suki
TITLE: Bright Star (sequel to Dream Houses)
PAIRING: Ellie/OFC, CJ/OFC, Ellie/CJ(but not really)
RATING: NC-17 for mature themes, sexual situations and language F
EEDBACK: Love, love, love feedback. Constructive as well as what you may have liked is appreciated at suki@ashesofoldlovers.net
SPOILERS: Minor one to In the Shadow of Two Gunmen I/II, but let's say end of Season Two to be safe.
DISCLAIMERS: For what it's worth....The West Wing and it's characters are the property of Aaron B. Sorkin, Warner Brothers, NBC et al. No copyright infringement for profit is intended. If you recognize them from TV, they are not mine. Everyone else, especially Kira, Sarah, and Britt are figments of my imagination and I am very possessive about them. Please do not use them without asking my permission.
ARCHIVE: Please ask first. And, as always, this and my other pieces will be archived at http://www.ashesofoldlovers.net
SERIES: Series as yet untitled. Previous Installments: Worlds Collide Dancing Love Means Never Having to Say You're Hungry Dream Houses
NOTES: Special thanks to Manda for helping me find my jumbled and obscured literary reference through the haze of my subconscious mind. The title refers to a poem by John Keats (set out at the end of this piece) which many believe he wrote for his fiancee, Fanny Brawne, whom he called fair star.
TEASER: Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath.

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Bright Star by Suki

"I'm just saying, if you are going to make me a decadent breakfast, I think you should let me work up an appetite for it," Kira says, her arms already wrapped around CJ from behind as she throws her leg over CJ's hip. CJ smiles ruefully as she tries to untangle Kira's arms with one hand.

"Kira," CJ warns as she leans away from the woman wrapping herself around her, her other hand on the edge of the mattress for leverage as Kira begins to nip and suck on the back of her shoulder.

"We need to work off some of the calories?" Kira asks with faux innocence against CJ's skin, as she grabs CJ's hand at her waist and holds it so that now CJ has to let go of the edge of the bed if she wants to struggle for her hand back.

"Kira," CJ groans. "I really need to get up and--"

"CJ, it's 7:30 a.m., on a Saturday, you do not need to be up yet," Kira laughs as she maneuvers her leg higher around CJ's hip, causing her to press closer against CJ's back. "I promise, once we get up, I will not try to drag you back to bed--"

"Like you usually do?" CJ asks with a sigh.

"-yeah, like I usually do... because I never get tired of you without clothes," Kira says in a sultry voice as she gently bites CJ's shoulder. "But I promise, give me an hour now, and I won't try to drag you back to bed once we are dressed."

CJ sighs dramatically. "You promise?" CJ asks, already smiling and letting up the tension in her fingers on the edge of the bed.

"Cross my heart and hope to die," Kira says laughing, and CJ's hand lets go abruptly and she falls back against Kira at the final word.

CJ takes a deep breath and sinks in on herself, her voice rough. "I hate it when you joke about--"

"--I'm sorry," Kira whispers. "I am so sorry. I forgot," Kira says, sliding one arm up CJ's ribs until it rests just under the swell of her right breast and stroking CJ's hair with the other. CJ lets her head fall back onto Kira's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Star," Kira says again, brushing her lips against CJ's temple.

CJ relaxes into the embrace and rests her hand on Kira's arm across her ribs. "You don't get to do that," she says authoritatively. "You wanted new rules last week? One of mine is you do not get to joke about dying. I won't do it. I can't be the one who has to play both sides: read the articles and pick you up and- -"

"--CJ, I wasn't thinking. It's just a saying, I didn't mean--"

"--I work in words. They mean everything to me. And my new rule is you do not get to joke about this. I can't take it," CJ says, allowing Kira to stroke her hair and kiss her neck.

"I won't joke about it," Kira says apologetically.

"Ok," CJ says softly, her voice almost childlike. "Ok," she says again, a slight tremor in her voice as she closes her eyes, her lashes damp.

They lay there in silence for a moment, CJ sighing into Kira's embrace, her shoulders relaxing as Kira strokes her hair and shifts slightly against her back.

"I promise," Kira says again, brushing her lips against CJ's ear. "I'm not going anywhere."

"You can't promise me that," CJ says softly, a tear now streaking down her cheek. "You can't make a promise--"

"I can. I am doing everything, *everything*...Claudia, I am so much luckier than most of the women in my situation. I know. I know that I am susceptible. I have a mammogram every year, we run my blood work twice a year to look for any tells, MRI, PET scans, ultrasounds... We are careful to look specifically for ovarian cancer cause it's harder to see early. I am doing everything I know how to do to make sure that I am on the cutting edge of detection and treatment trends, including my own research. I promised Katie that I would never get complacent and I promised you that I would never give up. I am not going anywhere," Kira says urgently, pulling CJ closer as she cries openly, the tears marking her cheeks.

"I couldn't take it," CJ says almost, inaudible under her tears. "Even when we were barely speaking, I couldn't have survived it. Every a year," she says, her voice a little stronger, "I know your mammogram schedule, and every year I wait anxiously for a few days: waiting for you to call and say they have found something, that I'm going to lose you. I used to think about what I would do, how fast I could pack and get to you. Whether I would regret being away from you if...I can't even think about it without feeling sick. I won't let you--"

Kira pulls her closer. "Claudia, I lost my sister, my mother, a cousin, two aunts and probably many of other women in the branches of my family tree to cancer. After Katie got diagnosed, and it was...everywhere, so fast...I had the genetic screening so that we could be ready, give me every chance. I promised her that I would do everything I could to give myself every chance. And I am. And with you...I am not going anywhere. At least not without one hell of a fight," Kira says fiercely against CJ's shoulder.

CJ wipes at her eyes and frowns. "And I hate that you only call me `Claudia' when we talk about death and when we fight," CJ says sullenly.

Kira laughs softly and looks to the ceiling. "So we have switched topics...and those aren't the only times I call you `Claudia'," Kira says as she kisses CJ's shoulder again.

CJ rolls over and burrows into Kira's embrace, her face in the crook of her neck. "Yeah, but I don't mind when you call me `Claudia' when we're in bed," CJ says, her voice muffled against Kira's neck. Kira strokes CJ's hair. "We're in bed now," Kira teases.

CJ looks up with a warning look usually reserved for the `lost boys of the West Wing'. "Not what I meant," CJ says.

Kira smiles and drops a soft kiss against the tip of CJ's nose. "I know. I just love when you give me that look. So, is this Rule Two? Only `Claudia' when we're amorous?" Kira asks, her hand sliding down to CJ's hip and pulling her a little closer.

"Yeah," CJ says, nuzzling her face against Kira's breasts.

"Any others?" Kira asks indulgently.

"Not right now," CJ says, her voice rising in inflection as she smiles and then gently kisses Kira, reaching up to run her fingers through Kira's wavy auburn hair. "I do love you, you know. Even when you piss me off, I still love you," she says softly.

"I love you, too," Kira says, a small smile painting her face and causing her eyes to crinkle at the corners. "And I am not going anywhere," she says strongly.

"Ok," CJ says, wrapping her arms around Kira's waist and gently stroking her hip as she holds her.

Kira takes a deep breath and leans her face against the top of CJ's head. "I didn't want you to watch me die...and it hurt too much to think about you're leaving."

"So you left me instead?" CJ says, her voice disbelieving. "Without even letting me react...poof, you pack up and move across the country? Refuse to talk to me for more than a year?"

"Yes," Kira says with a sigh. "But I thought it was only a matter of a few years. Katie was 32, my mom was 39...at the time I never thought I'd see 40, yet alone 42."

"You're almost 43," CJ says, leaning back and smiling.

"Yeah," Kira says pridefully. "I want everything with you," she says roughly as she leans forward to kiss CJ, her lips demanding and the kiss deep. CJ welcomes the invasion of Kira's tongue, opening her mouth on contact and moaning softly as Kira teases her and their tongues tangle between pressed lips.

"I know." CJ licks her lips as they pull apart and smiles softly. "You're not going to push me away again?" CJ asks with a raised eyebrow.

Kira holds her stare and then shakes her head. "No. For better or worse, I'm staying until you get tired of me."

"Well, then at least I'll know before you leave," CJ says, her voice only half teasing. After a beat, she sighs and leans her face against Kira's shoulder. "I would have come with you, you know. To Baltimore, if you had told me about the research, I would have come with you," CJ says softly. "I know," Kira responds, her throat tight. "That's why I had to just leave. I couldn't drag you across the country and away from everything when I didn't know how it was going to go."

"I would have liked the opportunity to decide for myself."

"I know," Kira says with a sigh. "After Rosslyn... I drove your parents crazy. Your mom kept telling me to come get you, drag you out of that building and make sure you were really ok."

CJ grimaces and her mouth quirks into an almost smile. "I know, they yelled at me for not taking your calls."

"I decided then that ten minutes or ten years, I'd take what I could get with you," Kira says, pulling CJ closer and kissing her hard.

"And no more `fair star' letters?" CJ asks quietly.

Kira smiles and runs her fingers through CJ's hair. "No, no more `fair star' letters. And Keats was pretty cruel to his `fair star.' I would never hurt you on purpose."

"Yeah, and Fanny was a flirt, but I always felt bad for her. He hurt her more by staying away. Those damn letters were aching to read, even despite the cruel parts. And Bright Star..." CJ says, her voice trailing off with a sigh. "Every time you called me `star' while you were pulling away was like being slapped," CJ says, her voice quivering.

"But you know I started calling you `star' before I knew about the genes, before Katie was even diagnosed..."

"I know," CJ says, sighing. "But when you started writing those damn letters it was a little hard to take."

"I'm sorry I shut you out," Kira says, stroking CJ's back.

"No more apologies, ok? I think we've hit our quota for sappy moments." CJ says, grinning.

"OK," Kira says, smiling and brushing a soft kiss against CJ's temple. "Can I make love to you now? Show you just how healthy I am?" Kira teases, caressing CJ's side and the side of her breast. She smiles softly and leans closer to CJ, whispering the words she often quoted in the dark. "Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast, to feel for ever its soft fall and swell."

CJ rolls onto her back at Kira's urging and sighs as Kira continues to caress her breast, her fingers gently grazing around CJ's nipple in tender strokes. After a few moments, Kira smiles a crooked and slightly sad smile down at her.

"What?" CJ asks, her brows furrowing.

"I've thought about just having the prophylactic mastectomy," Kira says with a shrug, fully cupping CJ's breast and watching her fingers massage her soft flesh. "Just do it now, you know? Before there is any time for anything to grow?"

CJ leans up on her side, causing Kira to roll to her side so they are facing each other as equals on the pillows again. "You're serious?" She asks, cautious and concerned.

"Yeah, I've thought about it... But I can't bring myself to do it," she says with a small smile. "I like them," Kira says with a grin, glancing at her own full breasts even as she continues to cup CJ's in her hand.

"Well, I like them, too," CJ says, leaning over to drop a soft kiss on Kira's just peaking left nipple, "a lot, in fact." She pulls her face back to Kira and then brushes a gentle kiss against Kira's slightly parted lips. "But I love *you*. And if you decided to do it, I'd be right there, every step, and I might even find I love you more," CJ says seriously, brushing Kira's hair off her face as Kira begins to cry, letting out what she was holding in to seem brave. "I am not going anywhere either, no matter how crazy you get," CJ says, kissing Kira's neck and running her hands down over Kira's back.

After several minutes, Kira raises her face and captures CJ's lips in a deep kiss, thrusting her tongue into CJ's mouth and pushing her onto her back. With her eyes closed, CJ can feel her slide over her to press down on her body, Kira's hand and knees pushing her thighs apart as their tongues parry and tangle. When Kira breaks the kiss, she holds her gaze, green on ice blue, as she slides her fingers between CJ's legs, beginning to stroke her and push her thighs wider. When CJ reaches for Kira's thigh, trying to pull her to the side so she can touch her as well, Kira shifts lower and away.

"No, Claudia, let me do this. Let me just touch you," Kira says, shaking her head, her eyes bright. "Just relax and let me love you."

CJ pauses for a moment and then nods almost unperceptively before planting a sweet and gentle kiss on Kira's lips and then laying back and just touching the auburn hair surrounding Kira's face between her fingers as Kira slides two fingers into her body. CJ keeps her eyes on Kira's even as she feels her fingers continuing to gently thrust inside her. She can feel Kira's her thumb sliding across her clit and her lips sucking softly at her nipples, and as she begins to tense and shift below the beautiful woman she has loved since she was nineteen years old, she feels the tightening in her chest which tells her she is going to cry. Her eyes close tightly to stop the tears and she arches into Kira's touch, praying for a release that will banish the tears and the tension in her body. Kira moves lower, her hair sliding from between CJ's fingers and trailing along her ribs and stomach as she moves. The first touch of her lips and tongue against CJ's wet sex causes her to arch higher, to grip the sheets and breath deep, to trust in the sensations. When her breathing becomes shallow and a little harsh, Kira moves quickly back up CJ's body, softly whispering how much she loves `her Claudia' against her neck as she adds a third finger and pushes CJ over the edge into a gentle orgasm, her body arching slightly higher and then undulating under Kira in waves. Kira sucks softly at her shoulder, as CJ takes a few deep breaths, allowing her body to cool down from climax.

"You're going to leave a mark," CJ warns, her voice rasping from underneath the arm over her eyes.

"Yeah, but this one won't show. I let up on your neck so I wouldn't, but your shoulder shouldn't be seen by anyone but me," Kira says with determination, continuing to suck at her skin.

"Ok," CJ sighs, bringing Kira's fingers to her lips to nip at her fingertips, tasting herself on Kira's skin. "Just let me know when you are done branding me so we can go have breakfast."

"Wohkay," Kira says from against her shoulder, as CJ grins and runs her fingers through the auburn curls against her neck.

~*~*~*~*~*~

There is a strange buzzing in her ears and these bursts of light behind her eyes, sort of white over a haze of dull red. Through the rushing in her ears she can feel more than hear Britt's ragged breath against her hip next to her, and she smiles, knowing already the look on Britt's face without even looking. Without opening her eyes, she turns her head, and takes a deep breath, surprised to smell both their scents in her hair, probably from sticky fingers and straying locks caught against eager mouths.

Britt is tracing something against her abdomen with slightly slick fingers, and as Ellie concentrates on the pattern, she understands it is deliberate. "What are you writing," Ellie asks, tapping her fingers against Britt's hip near her cheek.

"Concentrate," Britt laughs, sliding her palm across her stomach as if to wipe her prior writing away. Her finger starts moving again, this time more slowly. Ellie maps the strokes and swirls against the red behind her eyes and smiles as she recognizes the shape of "S-B-M- +-E-B" surrounded by a sweeping heart.

"You are missing a letter," Ellie says, reaching up and twining her fingers with Britt's other hand.

"What's your middle name?"

"Lillia," Ellie says.

"Eleanore Lillia Bartlet," Britt says thoughtfully. "Can I call you Lilly? Or maybe you want to try for Sabrina again?" Britt asks, laughter under her words.

"You can call me whatever you want," Ellie says slowly, turning and rotating so that her head is nearer the headboard again, snuggling into Britt's waiting arms, face immediately sliding into the crook of Britt's neck.

Ellie feels soft lips brush against her temple, and then Britt's face nestle into her hair. She looks up and allows Britt to kiss her, her lips immediately parting to accept her tongue. They kiss gently, their lips gripping the other's in slow motion, pulling and tugging tenderly before their tongues slide out to tease in turn, then deep to possess. After several minutes, Ellie pulls back and traces the layered blond hair that frames Britt's face and falls to her chin with he finger. When she lowers her face and snuggles against the blond hair at Britt's shoulder she takes a deep, contented breath and smiles at their mixed scents in Britt's hair as well. She can feel herself drifting again, her body becoming weightless and her senses heightened to just the feel of Britt's lips and fingers in her hair.

"Sweetheart, I hate to do this, but I have to get up," Britt says, nudging Ellie's shoulder.

Ellie opens her eyes, slightly disoriented to find herself almost on top of Britt. "What time is it?" Ellie asks, her eyes still half closed.

"9:32," Britt says, pushing Ellie's hair off her face and shifting to disentangle their legs. "I let you sleep as long as I could, but I have to be at the bar for a employee meeting at 11:15 a.m."

"Then I could have slept for another half hour at least," Ellie sighs.

"Yes, but then I would have had to shower alone," Britt says with a grin, pulling the blanket and sheet off of Ellie, who shivers in the chill.

Ellie considers the thought for a moment and then rolls onto her back, her arms flung wide as Britt gets up. She smiles, watching the blond walk across the room and rummage in her closet. Britt turns around and tosses a long sleeve tee shirt and a pair of faded jeans onto the bed, before crossing to pull open a drawer. Ellie laughs as a pair of white cotton panties and a sheer pink bra sail over Britt's shoulder and onto the end of the bed.

"You coming?" Britt asks, rolling her eyes as Ellie grins and waggles her eyebrows at her in the obvious retort. "Come on, shower time," Britt says walking over and tugging Ellie's hand, stumbling down the hall with her like a wayward child.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I'm telling you, you need more sugar," Kira insists as CJ shifts to block her from the bowl she is working over.

"Kira!" CJ shrieks as Kira reaches around her to dump more sugar in the bowl of whipping cream, as CJ dodges away from her. "It does not need more sugar. The cider is sweet. The whipped cream should balance it. What is it with you and sugar?"

"If it's not sweet enough I am going to pout," Kira says laughing. "And I may go back on my earlier pledge and start a different kind of nagging."

"No chance, Ace. I am already going to be the last one in. As it is I am going to get seriously teased, but if I am not in by noon, I am going to have to answer all kinds of treacherous questions," CJ warns. "So, if you want crepes, you'd best let me get cooking," CJ says with a grin, nudging Kira toward the counter with her hip.

"Ok, I'll sit here and drink my coffee and leaf through your newspapers," Kira teases.

"Do not touch my papers," CJ warns with the spatula she is wielding like a sword.

Kira laughs and makes a production about unfolding the Washington Post.

"I am serious. I like to read them in a particular order...Kira," CJ says, putting down the spatula and pulling the pan off the stove as she lunges over the counter for her paper. Kira turns and laughs as she holds it away.

"This is really upsetting you," Kira laughs, the realization amusing her. "You've always been a little particular about the Sunday paper: op ed, then flair, then books, the arts, then news and so on, but this job has made you obsessive, you know that?" Kira laughs, as she moves across the living room with CJ advancing.

"Kira, no kidding, you will ruin my whole day if you mess with my papers," CJ says, her hands on her hips across the coffee table from Kira.

"You're serious," Kira says, lowering her arms and looking at CJ in disbelief.

Before CJ can respond, the phone rings and she moves across the room to look at the caller ID. She glances briefly at Kira before grabbing the phone.

"Hello?" CJ says, hoping for a happy voice.

"Hey, CJ," Ellie says.

"It's a little early for you to be up on a Saturday," CJ says, looking at Kira and mouthing "Ellie" as Kira nods.

"Tell her I say hello," Kira says over her shoulder as she wanders back into the kitchen, refilling her coffee and grabbing the whipped cream bowl and cider based syrup, and settling down at the table.

"Yeah, well...Is that Kira?" Ellie asks, as she starts kicks off her shoes.

"Yes. Did you have dinner with the bartender last night?" CJ asks, grimacing as Kira dips a finger into the cider and then into the whipped cream before licking her finger thoughtfully, grinning like a child.

"Did she?" Kira asks without looking up.

"Yes...and it turns out she's not a bartender," Ellie says, kicking her pants off as she flops down on her bed.

"I don't understand. Does she just like hanging out behind the bar?" CJ asks, sitting down across from Kira, but turning her face so she doesn't have to watch Kira lick the syrupy cider off her fingers.

"What don't you understand?" Kira asks.

"No, she's--" Ellie starts to respond.

"Ellie, hold on," CJ says in frustration. "Kira, I'll relay information as I get it if you would stop interrupting," CJ says, reaching over and pulling the cider away with a pointed look. "Ok, now what do you mean she's not the bartender?" CJ asks, looking at Kira and nodding her relay of information by her question.

Kira smiles and nods her appreciation and then leans forward to wait for the answer.

"Turns out she *owns* the bar," Ellie says, shrugging out of her blouse and smirking at the love bite on the inside of her right breast.

"She owns the place?" CJ asks, intrigued.

"The bartender? " Kira asks, and then laughs out loud. "Wait, they went to Fools' Gold, right?" Kira asks, motioning toward the phone.

"I don't know..." CJ says, slightly frustrated trying to balance both conversations. "Ellie, what's the --"

"Yeah, we went to Fools' Gold," Ellie says, having heard Kira's question.

CJ nods at Kira who laughs harder. "Ellie is going out with Britt?" Kira asks loudly.

"Yeah, how does Kira know Britt?" Ellie asks before CJ can even process the question. CJ looks quizzically at Kira and waves her hand. "Yeah, apparently, but who's Britt?"

"The Bartender," Kira and Ellie say at the same time.

"How do *you* know her? CJ says, looking at Kira as Ellie laughs softly over the phone.

"Jealous?" Ellie and Kira both say: Ellie laughing, Kira with a raised eyebrow.

"Did she have fun?" Kira asks, shaking her head.

CJ looks at Kira for a moment and then back toward the phone. "So, dinner was good?" CJ asks, still looking at Kira out of the corner of her eye.

"Yeah, dinner was good," Ellie says, the grin evident in her voice, "but breakfast was better."

"Breakfast...so you..." CJ starts, and loses her train of thought as she looks at Kira again. Kira laughs and grabs the phone.

"Ellie, hi, so you had a good time?" Kira asks, as CJ thrusts her hand through her hair worriedly.

"I had a phenomenal, amazing, life-altering time," Ellie sighs dramatically as she flops back on the bed. "Amazing," she says again.

CJ watches as Kira nods, now reaching for the syrupy-cider again. "So are you two seeing each other now?" Kira asks, licking the syrup off her finger and shifting the phone, turning away when CJ begins to tap her fingers worriedly on the table.

"I hope so," Ellie says. "I really like her," she admits softly.

"And?" Kira asks, moving so that CJ can't nudge her arm for the phone.

Ellie sighs and rubs her stomach, remembering their initials traced by a gentle finger. "She said it felt serious, and that she wouldn't be seeing anyone else unless we didn't work out. She freaked at first when I told her who I am, but she came out and got me when I tried to leave...and she said we'll work it out. Even when the agents went into Rambo-mode, she just focused on me. It was so amazing," Ellie sighs.

"I am so happy for you. And I assume I don't have to ask how the sex was, " Kira laughs, as CJ slaps her hand.

Ellie laughs and shakes her head on her end of the line. "No, you don't have to ask. So how do you know Britt?"

"Little girl, who do you think started Thursday nights out?" Kira laughs. "We were in that bar on opening night, and at least every other Thursday since. When CJ told me you had been kissed senseless by one of the bartenders, it never occurred to me it was Britt because she *never* picks up the customers. It's sort of a self- imposed rule with her." Kira looks over at CJ and she bites her lip with exaggeration at CJ's displeased look and crossed arms.

"That's what she told me," Ellie says, her pleasure at Kira's words evident. "So...you seem to know her pretty well?" Ellie says after a moment.

"Not like you do, kid," Kira laughs. "I kissed her once, and it was nice, but nothing beyond that," she says matter-of-factly.

CJ holds out her hand and snaps her fingers, raising an eyebrow when Kira turns to look at her. "Ellie, I am so glad you had a good time last night, and I am happy for both of you. Bring Britt with you to dinner next weekend if you want. We'll make room," Kira says, smiling at CJ. "Now, I think CJ wants the phone back. I'll be at the academic building on Tuesday and Wednesday. Come on by if you feel like grabbing lunch."

"Thanks, Kira," Ellie says.

Once CJ takes the phone back, she holds Kira's intentionally- challenging stare as she talks. "So, I gather you had a good time on your first date with a woman, stayed for breakfast, and now have a girlfriend," CJ says, her voice a little caustic.

Ellie sits up and huffs a little. "CJ, I thought you'd be happy for me. She's great, and I'd really like you to meet her," Ellie says.

CJ smiles softly and pushes her hair out of her face. "I am. I am happy for you. I just worry about you. Take it slow, ok?" CJ says, smiling crookedly at Kira, as Kira shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

Ellie laughs. "CJ, it already feels pretty serious. But I promise to be as careful as I can," Ellie says with a sigh.

"Bring her with you if you can next week. I want to meet her," CJ says in her Press Secretary voice.

"Maybe you should just have the agents pick her up for interrogation," Ellie says sarcastically.

"Don't tempt me," CJ says, nodding as Kira mouths "be nice" as she gets up to walk over to CJ. "Ok, well, I am happy for you. So, ok," CJ says, smiling as Kira wraps her arms around her shoulders from behind, resting her head against CJ's upper back.

"You going to be around tomorrow?" Ellie asks.

"Yeah, I should be, why?" CJ asks, stroking Kira's hand now stroking CJ's breast.

"I am having brunch with my parents and thought I'd stop by," Ellie says.

"You're going to rock their world at Sunday brunch?" CJ asks with disbelief.

"No, I don't think so," Ellie laughs. "My Dad only has a couple hours before he has to get ready to leave for California on Monday, and I think that even if this goes well, it will take more than a few hours for him to deal with it, so...No, I will save that for when I am back in a couple weeks over break."

"Good call. Stop by after brunch," CJ says.

"See you tomorrow," Ellie says.

"See you tomorrow," CJ replies, hanging up the phone and tugging Kira around and onto her lap.

"So, she's kissed you, too?" CJ says, wrapping her arms around Kira's waist. "Ellie said she was beautiful, and I think I heard a couple of `amazings' from her, so...is she?" CJ asks, her tone intentionally teasing but her fingers too deliberate to be teasing.

Kira winds her arms around CJ's neck and leans forward to kiss her softly. "Jealous?" Kira asks between tender kisses dropped on CJ's lips, too quick to deepen.

"And if I am a little?" CJ asks, catching her lips for a little longer.

"Because she kissed me, or because she kissed Ellie?' Kira asks.

CJ pulls back and shakes her head, confused by Kira's question. "You can't be serious," CJ says. "You know that Ellie is like... my little sister," CJ says with a dismissive wave of her hand.

"No," Kira says, her eyebrow raised, "she is like a woman who you have decided to *treat* like a little sister, but who stuck her tongue down your throat the first chance she got... in my house."

"Kira, I can't believe you are jealous." CJ says, her voice rising.

"Star, admit it. A little part of you liked having her panting after you," Kira says, poking her finger against CJ's chest.

"I did not," CJ says, starting to stand up until Kira tightens her arms and leans forward, forcing CJ back in the chair.

"Oh, yes you did. You loved that she had a crush on you. I'm not saying you would have acted on it, but admit it. You liked that she wanted you."

"I did not," CJ says again.

"CJ...come on," Kira says laughing, leaning back to look at CJ.

CJ holds her stare and then smiles in spite of herself, ducking her head. "Maybe a little. But it's not like I am going to date her, Ace. Ellie has been a little lost since I met her. It's flattering to have played any part in her little discovery."

"I know," Kira says softly, lowering her face to brush her lips against CJ's. "And I don't blame her for having a crush on you. I just like knowing you are all mine," Kira says, kissing along CJ's jaw toward her ear.

"And Britt?" CJ asks, tipping Kira's chin up. "What kind of name is that anyway?" CJ asks with a shake of her head.

Kira chuckles and pulls her closer. "You think it might be short for something, Claudia Jean? And yes, I kissed her, once, right after the bar opened, so...like four years ago. We used to sit in a corner and commiserate over our lousy love lives."

CJ raises an eyebrow and waits for Kira to continue.

"CJ, she once said that I should just tatoo your name on my ass already, considering that I already belonged to you," Kira says, rolling her eyes.

CJ smiles and caresses Kira's rear as she leans forward and kisses her neck. "I could deal with that."

"Yeah, but which name?" Kira laughs as she brushes her lips against CJ's ear. "Claudia? "Star? CJ?" Kira says between kisses, stopping as she sucks CJ's earlobe between her teeth and nibbles gently.

"Oh, no, you don't. I have to go to the office, Kira," CJ moans as Kira dips her tongue into her ear. "Or?" Kira says, her hands wandering down to caress CJ's breasts through the cotton blouse and shell, her talented fingers already causing CJ's nipples to tighten through three layers of fabric.

CJ groans and takes a deep breath, feeling her body reacting to Kira's touch. "Or I am going to end up in the Oval Office explaining how my date went...the date I had to beg my way out of the office for and everyone knows about," CJ says, tugging at Kira's hair, trying to disentangle them.

Kira's head snaps up and she grins. "The Oval Office? The President will ask you about our date?" Kira asks laughing,

CJ rolls her eyes and smiles ruefully as her cheeks flush. "Well, yes...if the guys haven't gotten it out of their systems first, one of them will make a comment in staff and I will get grilled somewhere where I can't easily avoid the questions," CJ says, shaking her hair out of her face. "So, I need to go to the office now, so that they can tire of teasing me before staff," CJ says, smiling and tucking Kira's hair behind her ear. "Ok?"

"Well...as much as I would like to stay right here...ok," Kira says with a sigh. "I'm on call tonight. Want to have dinner tomorrow night?" Kira asks as she starts to climb off CJ's lap.

CJ pulls her down again and kisses Kira hard, sliding her tongue possessively into her mouth and stroking her back with knowing hands. When she pulls back, Kira's cheeks are flushed and her breathing a little quick. "Here?" CJ asks hopefully.

"Yeah, here," Kira says sighing. "I can leave when you leave for work and get back to Baltimore in plenty of time for class."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

CJ is still smiling when she walks purposefully into the West Wing, humming the tune she had been listening to in the car, her sunglasses still in place. When she passes through the bullpen, Ginger looks up and smiles at her, and Sam grins openly when she continues on past his office, unable to hide her smile. "So much for cool and serene," CJ thinks.

She drops her bag and quickly sorts through her voicemail and email messages, noting that staff is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. As she is replying to Josh's email regarding the latest secondary education funding report, Toby taps on her doorframe and steps over the threshold when she smiles in greeting.

"So, Josh thinks we should look into a program that would reward inner-city students who maintain a 3.0 highschool GPA with college scholarships. Got any problems with that?" CJ asks smirking, knowing Toby will hit on the primary problems she has already written but will likely have a few more.

Toby looks at the carpet while he shoves his hands in his pockets. "Beyond the equal protection issues, there would be standardization, classification and maintenance problems, not to mention the sheer lack of funding," Toby says.

"So, bad idea?" CJ says sarcastically.

"Good evening?" Toby asks, looking up but keeping his face down.

CJ looks at Toby for a moment and then nods, smiling. "Yes, it was a wonderful evening. Thank you for asking," CJ says quietly, smiling more when Toby half nods his approval.

"Kira's well?" He asks softly after clearing his throat.

CJ bites her lip and waits for him to look up. "Yes, she's great."

"Good," Toby says almost inaudibly, looking her fully in the eye and nodding. "You two going to make it work this time?" He asks seriously.

"I hope so," CJ says, nodding and looking at her hands before looking back up at him, her eyes determined.

"Gonna bring her around sometime soon and let everyone meet her?" He asks with a small smile.

"We'll see. I think we still have a few things to work out first, but..."

"You should bring her to the next event in the Residence," Toby says a little louder. "It's time."

CJ gets up and walks over to him, pulling Toby into a hug and resting her head on his shoulder. "You really are sweet sometimes," she whispers.

"Shut up," he says softly, his voice rising in inflection as he returns her hug and smiles unseen. "If I had to lose you to someone, I was always glad it was Kira Lloyd."

"It never would have worked, you know," CJ says, hiding her own smile. "We would have killed each other with the fighting. And it wasn't just Kira, you were already pining away for Andi, even then. Look on the bright side, if we can make this work, there may be hope for you two yet."

"Shut up...again," Toby says, his voice lighter as he squeezes her tight and then releases her. "Don't screw it up this time," he warns.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," CJ says sarcastically, walking over to her desk for her notebook for staff.

"Hey," Toby says, catching her hand. "I'm serious. Whatever it takes, make it work this time. Hang on with both hands if you have to," he says, his voice rough with emotion.

CJ takes a deep breath and swallows to hide the tears she feels behind her eyes. "I will," she says, her voice tight. She squeezes his hand and waits until he looks up. "You should call her, Toby. Have dinner, or lunch, or just, you know, talk to her, but call her," CJ says, rubbing her finger across his wedding ring.

"Yeah," he says softly, looking down at his wedding ring from Andi, then he takes a breath and straightens up, wearing his gruff facade again. "Yeah, we should head to the Oval before Josh starts babbling about that stupid tuition plan."

"Ok," CJ says, letting go of his hand and following him out of her office.

As they enter the Oval Office, Josh and Sam both look up, smiling broadly at her, and CJ rolls her eyes, trying to ignore the amused looks on the faces of the President and Chief of Staff.

"Good morning, Toby, CJ," The President says, trying to hide his smile.

"Good morning, Mr. President," CJ and Toby both say: Toby now openly grinning and CJ blushing under the scrutiny.

"So, I thought we'd start a little early today. My staff is always in the building by noon on Saturday. You people have no personal lives," the President says with a wave of his hand and furrowed eyebrows. "So, imagine my surprise when I called down and you weren't in yet, CJ," The President says, putting down the report and taking off his reading glasses. "So, I raised my concerns with Leo, and then with Josh and Sam, and we were considering consulting with Ron, thinking maybe something untoward had happened, when Josh was kind enough to inform me that there was no reason for concern," he concludes, looking up and smiling at CJ with a raised eyebrow.

CJ stands there, her lips skewed to the side, waiting for the punch line at her expense, mentally considering the retribution she will rain down on Josh. "Yes, sir?" She asks with caution.

The President looks appraisingly at her and then smiles as he slides his glasses back on and reaches for the report.

"Ok, well, let's get started," he says, smiling once more at CJ before looking at Leo, ignoring Josh's indignant and disappointed look.

As the meeting ends, Josh and Sam both waggle their eyebrows at CJ and she gives them the look which is meant to warn them they are treading on thin ice.

"CJ, hold up a minute, please," the President says, as the men all continue out the doors.

CJ pivots on her heel, accepting Toby's supportive look as he files out. She turns and faces the President again, standing there nervously, gripping her notebook to keep from dropping it.

"Yes, Sir?" She asks, hoping her voice sounds normal.

"She's a doctor?" He asks, grinning slightly and without preamble.

"Yes, Sir," she says, smiling at the absurdity of the situation, discussing her personal life in the Oval Office, trying to concentrate on not blushing while she remembers her lover's reaction to just this scenario.

The President nods and looks down, dropping the file he had been holding as if he just realized he still had it in his hand. "Abbey will be thrilled," he says, rolling his eyes. "What's her name?"

"Kira Lloyd, and yes, I am sure Abbey will be pleased," CJ says, feeling herself blush as she shifts her feet.

"CJ, I am not going to pry, but let us know if you need anything from us. You know that when this becomes public there will be mail, right?" He asks taking off his glasses again.

"Yes," CJ says, although she hadn't really thought through the logistics of hate mail yet, and the thought makes her stomach lurch a little.

"Well, make sure Carol talks to someone downstairs about new precautions if anything, and I mean anything, gets through. And you may want to consider some security measures for Dr. Lloyd, as well, just for a while. Talk to Ron if it becomes a concern and we'll work something out. You handle the Press as you see fit, but I think it would be wise if you discussed it with Leo and the guys so everyone is on the same page, ok?" The President asks.

"Yes, Sir," CJ says, blushing and glancing down at her hands.

"Ok, well then, I guess you better get to work to make up for sleeping in, or not, this morning," he says, smirking at her discomfort and the emphasis on the `or not'.

"Yes, Mr. President," she says, smiling indulgently as she turns and heads toward the door.

"CJ?" The President calls out before she reaches the door. When CJ turns, he half nods his head and smiles openly. "CJ, please bring her to the next function in the Residence if she is available," the President says looking at her intently. "I'd like to meet her if she is going to be a part of your life."

"Yes, Mr. President," CJ says, standing up a little straighter and smiling in return and with gratitude.

~TBC~ suki@ashesofoldlovers.net

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