TITLE: Hotels in the Dark
AUTHOR: Ellen Milholland
EMAIL/URL: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.bluelikethat.com/imagine.html
SPOILERS: None. Set between 17 People and TFGKY, sometime.
SUMMARY: "It was hotels in the middle of the night, and now it'll be something else. You always knew what this was."
NOTE: An attempt to explain CJ and Abbey's behavior in TFGKY.
Hotels in the Dark by Ellen Milholland
CJ's glasses are low on her nose, and her fingers are all smudged with ink. She is leaning over a thick, paper-clipped pile of print-outs, her nose close to the page, while the luminescent face of the clock on her desk says that it's twenty past midnight.
It's been hard to get much work done, lately. For the past few days, Toby's been impossible, angry, hard, and then suddenly calm, almost kind. His apparent schizophrenia has put everyone on edge, and so CJ has found that the only time she can actually get work done is when she is alone.
The lights are low, and there are twenty sugar-free candy wrappers strewn across her desk amidst the pens, and pencils, and post-its. Her hair is pulled back with a wide tortoise clip, and her arms are bare to her shoulders.
She yawns, blinks hard, wills herself to stay awake, if only for the sake of the coherency of her morning briefing. The country is depending on her here, she reasons, though it is hard to believe this when images of her warm bed and thick, cotton sheets slip through her mind.
She sets her forehead down on the papers in defeat and sighs. "Damn," she mutters, as she realizes that there are forty pages on her desk that won't be read before daybreak. There's a knock at the door, and she yells, "Come in!" without raising her head. She'll just send the person away, she decides, and then she'll gather her things and go sleep for a few hours. Or twenty, maybe.
"CJ," comes the low, smooth voice, and she jerks upright. All the blood rushes from her head, and her ears ring for a moment.
"Ma'am, what are you doing here?" She measures her words carefully.
"My, my, CJ. You know how to make a girl feel welcome."
CJ half-smiles. Her head hurts, and she unwraps another candy, lemon, slides it into her mouth. "I'm sorry, Abbey. It's been an incredibly, amazingly long day."
"Toby?" Abbey slips the rest of the way into CJ's office, gently closes the door behind her, but she is watching CJ's mouth. It's strange, because the first thing that CJ notices are Abbey's shoes, dark and shining in the thin light. And her ankles, and her shins, and her knees, peeking out from below her navy suit. And...
CJ shakes her head, looks back down at her papers and adjusts the paperclip. "Yeah, Toby. Gruffer than usual." She sucks hard on the little candy.
"Well, I suppose he has his reasons," she says with a voice that implies she knows the reason very well. CJ finds herself standing, slowly, moving around her desk to lean against the edge.
"I mean... Yeah, CJ."
"You're not gonna tell me are you? Because he wouldn't tell me, and I can't figure out why the hell he's insisting on lying to me like this."
"I'm not going to tell you, CJ, no. I'm sorry."
CJ lets out a hissing sigh. "Well, it's alright. You know, not like I need to stay informed or anything. Really. The stuff about Austria, really keeping me busy and all."
"CJ, I'd tell you. Hell, I'll tell you when the time comes."
CJ dips her head. "You promise?"
Abbey laughs, leans back from her hips, her pelvis forward. "I'd like to, but around here, you never know."
"You're leaving soon, aren't you?"
"In the morning."
"Why'd you come here, Abbey?" CJ asks abruptly. "It's after midnight. You should be in bed."
The flicker of a smile passes across Abbey's face. "Yes."
CJ swallows. "Ma'am..."
"You know I love the power-rush, but could you stick to Abbey?"
CJ almost smiles. "Yeah, sorry."
"I wanted to see you."
"You wanted to torment me about the thing."
"The Toby thing?"
"I'm not tormenting you," Abbey says, but there's a little laughter in her voice. She steps away from the door and puts a hand on her hip. "I really wanted to know how you were."
"I haven't seen you in a while."
"You've been busy."
"You could put it that way, yes." She takes another step forward, and then CJ's stepping forward, too, and they're standing near to one another in the darkened office. "And I've missed you."
"What's there to miss, Abbey?"
"I've been..." Abbey takes a step past her, and CJ's left looking at the closed door. She turns slowly, takes a step back towards the door. "I've just had a lot of time to think about things."
"What sort of things?"
"Oh, ancient things. Like eating dinner at a restaurant without the agents. Like taking commercial airlines and riding coach. Like eating something and not having to worry about whether someone had tampered with it."
CJ nods slowly. "Yeah, but I doubt you miss the plane thing."
"And I've thought about you," Abbey says, as if she hadn't heard.
CJ flushes, backs up towards the door. "Abbey, you must've been drinking, because..."
"No, I've just been doing a lot of contemplating."
CJ bites her lip, and then says, "The shit's going to hit the fan, isn't it?"
Abbey nods. "Yes, and soon."
"Who's gonna take the fall?" CJ asks as Abbey takes a step towards her.
Abbey considers for a moment. "Me, maybe. Possibly Leo. You."
CJ looks away over Abbey's shoulder. "Yeah, saw that one coming from a mile away."
"I wish I could protect you from this, CJ."
"If wishes were horses, Abbey."
"Where's everything gone?" Abbey asks plaintively.
"Oh, you know. Scandals, and budgets, and bills, and vetoes, and getting elected, and speeches, and getting old and cynical."
"All I can think of is how passionate we all used to get. How we would get so energized before something big..."
"This is big?" CJ asks slowly.
"Big, yes. Energizing... No." Abbey takes another step forward. They are standing too close, and CJ knows it, and her head is still spinning a little.
"Abbey, I'm really tired, and if you step just a little closer then I'm not totally sure I can be held accountable for--"
Abbey takes a step forward, and they are nearly touching. Abbey brushes her fingers against CJ's hand. "I keep thinking that for just a moment, I want things to be like they were once."
CJ knows that she's not talking about USAir or Italian restaurants. "We snuck around hotels in the middle of the night, Abbey. I'm not exactly known for relishing clandestine affairs."
"But things were simple enough, weren't they?" Abbey asks, and there's a high note of hysteria somewhere under her words.
"I suppose so," CJ replies, and then Abbey's fingers are intertwining with her own. "Abbey," she warns.
"Just for this one second, CJ. Please, just for this once..."
Abbey's raising CJ's hand, and then CJ's elbow is bent and her hand is against the door. Abbey is holding her fingers fiercely and pressing up against her so slightly.
"Abbey, you know..."
"Please, CJ." Her mouth is close to CJ's ear, and with her free hand, she's brushing the younger woman's hair away from her face, touching her cheek.
"Yeah, okay," CJ says slowly, and she's stroking Abbey's hand with her thumb, and letting Abbey touch her cheekbones.
"CJ, if this hurts you..." Her breath is hot against CJ's ear.
"Then, you know, we'll figure something out." CJ's voice is a little ragged around the edges.
"Oh, I never wanted it to happen like this..." Abbey says, and her lips are brushing CJ's. They're almost kissing, and their shins touch.
"It was hotels in the middle of the night, and now it'll be something else. You always knew what this was," CJ says slowly, but she's touching Abbey's hip.
"And this was never love, but maybe sometimes it was kissing, Abbey."
"I'm not sure where everything went wrong, CJ."
"It was St. Louis, and you were wearing ivory-colored satin," CJ says slowly, and her voice betrays her.
"You were in golden chiffon, and your earrings were golden sapphires."
"Your lipstick was the color of plums but smelled like currants," CJ says, and their skin is hot where they touch.
"You smelled like baby powder," Abbey says, her voice rough.
"There was a ruby at the hollow of your throat."
"CJ," Abbey says, and it's enough, and they are kissing, lightly and tentatively. And then Abbey's tongue is brushing CJ's, and they are clutching desperately at the other's hands, above CJ's head, against the door.
And there is a long moment where time stops, and there is nothing more than the heat of skin meeting skin and hot breaths mingling. Nothing more than the inside of CJ's cheeks, and the roof of Abbey's mouth, and the pads of their fingers pressing into one another.
And then Abbey's stepping back, as if startled, and CJ's smoothing her skirt against her legs, and they can't meet each other's eyes. CJ's moving back towards her desk, and Abbey's stepping towards the door.
Her hand's on the knob, but then she turns back to look at CJ, who is biting her lip too hard. "It might've only been hotels in the dark, CJ. But it was real enough, right?"
"Yeah," CJ sighs, "It was real. And that's the worst part."
Abbey nods slowly. "I'm sorry I interrupted you. Go home and get some sleep."
CJ nods. "I miss you, too, you know."
Abbey smiles wearily. "Don't even say that, CJ. It's not worth it. Too much is about to happen for missing."
"You'll be there when they tell me?"
"I'll try my damnedest."
"Thank you," CJ says, and Abbey slips from her office. The little burning in her throat and in her chest, it's real. And that, she knows, is the worst part.
-- end. Feedback adored.