AUTHOR: Suki
TITLE: The Dinner Party (sequel to Troublesome Questions)
PAIRING: CJ/OFC, Ellie/CJ(but not really)
RATING: NC-17 for mature themes, sexual situations and language
FEEDBACK: Love, love, love feedback. Constructive as well as what you may have liked is appreciated at suki@ashesofoldlovers.net
SPOILERS: Specific spoiler for In The Shadow of Two Gunmen I/II, and 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, Britt, and the ladies at dinner 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: Worlds Collide ~ yes, I finally named it :} Worlds Collide Dancing Love Means Never Having to Say You're Hungry Dream Houses Bright Star Troublesome Questions
NOTES: Sorry for the delay on this installment, real life and a little writers' block got in the way.
DEDICATION: For George, thank you for your patience, friendship and wisdom. My smile still has not faded.
TEASER: This is the first time we are doing anything officially, as a couple.

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The Dinner Party by Suki

"So, remind me again, who is Tricia bringing?" CJ asks, as she brushes her hair in front of the bathroom mirror.

"Her name is Janet. When Tricia's regular hairdresser, Debbie, moved, Janet started cutting Tricia's hair. They've been flirting for months and Tricia finally got up the nerve to ask her out couple weeks ago," Kira says, fastening her earring as she walks over to the bathroom door. "Was that Paula on the phone before?"

CJ smiles as she pushes at her bangs, trying to get them to fall the way she wants. "Yes, she wanted to see what we were having for dinner. Apparently Anna has gotten both ravenous and fussy in the last week, and she was trying to decide whether to make her eat something before they come over just in case," CJ laughs.

"Paula has been griping, but she is so excited about this baby. I've never seen her like this," Kira says, as her voice drifts in from the bedroom.

"And Jill and Stacy made up?" CJ asks.

"Yeah, those two can never stay mad at each other, but I would think they'll be all lovey-dovey tonight," Kira says, and CJ can hear her rummaging through the closet.

"Are you changing again?" CJ asks, the sarcasm showing in her voice.

"Shut up," Kira says, and CJ shake her head and leans toward the mirror to put on her mascara. She hears Kira's steps and knows she is standing in front of the bathroom doorway, waiting for CJ to look up.

"Does this look ok?" Kira asks with a doubting look, smoothing down her salmon colored sweater and then tugging at the long black knit skirt.

CJ stops and looks at Kira, and then smirks as she balances one hand on her hip and motions with the hand holding the mascara brush. "Turn around," CJ says, biting her lip as Kira actually turns around, her arms slightly out at her sides, like a small child carefully imitating a favorite ballet. CJ has to bend slightly and not look to keep from laughing out loud and when she looks up, Kira is glaring at her with her arms crossed across her chest.

"Oh yeah, you are a riot," Kira says, and then points the tip of her tongue at her upper lip. "Are you done?"

CJ turns, laughing again before she turns back and forces a straight face. "I'm sorry, Ace, but that was so cute. You did a little pirouette there," CJ says, wiping at her eyes. "Come here," she says, shaking her head. "You look great."

Kira walks over to her reluctantly and stops right in front of CJ, her arms once again crossed across her chest. "Would it kill you to be serious about this? This is important to me," Kira says, pulling away slightly from CJ's hand on her arm.

"Kira," CJ laughs, putting her hand back on Kira's crossed arms. "I don't understand. You entertain in your home more than any other person I know with the exception of maybe the President and First Lady. Why is tonight so special?" CJ asks, shaking her head.

Kira looks down at CJ's hand on her arm and her shoulders tense. CJ watches her face and then she closes her eyes for a moment and tips Kira's chin up so she has to look at her. "Because it's *us* entertaining in your home?" CJ asks softly and slowly.

Kira looks away and then back at CJ. "I wish it were *our* home, but barring that, yes it's important to me," Kira says tensely, looking straight into CJ's eyes now. "This is the first time we are doing anything officially, as a couple, since we..."

"Got back together?" CJ asks, finishing Kira's thought when she trails off.

Kira nods and her cheeks flush slightly as she looks down at her arms. "I know, I know I am being incredibly--"

"–sweet," CJ says quietly. "Incredibly sweet. If entertaining, as a couple," CJ says, rolling her eyes, "is important to you, then it's important to me. And as soon as we can work everything out..." CJ says, bobbing her shoulders.

"You serious?" Kira asks, putting her hands on CJ's waist. "You want to move in together? What happened to needing time and not wanting to draw any unnecessary attention and--"

"–yeah, well, I don't like sleeping without you," CJ says, resting her arms on Kira's shoulders and tugging gently on the back of her hair.

"So you just miss my body?" Kira teases.

"Of course, you have a problem with that?" CJ asks, smiling and leaning down toward Kira's face. "None whatsoever," Kira says, leaning toward CJ. "Just so I get to use you for sex whenever I want, as well," Kira says against CJ's mouth.

CJ leans into the kiss but heeds Kira's hand against her cheek, holding her still so that Kira can tease at her lips. CJ submits to Kira's shallow and teasing kisses, her hands fluttering against Kira's hips, needing more but knowing Kira wants to control this. Kira kisses around the bottom edge of CJ's bottom lip, nipping at her skin and running her tongue along the ridge where lip meets face, and then presses her lips firmly against CJ's. Kira smile softly as CJ whimpers against her lips, shifting on her feet, struggling to stay passive, wanting more. When Kira nudges her lips apart, CJ breathes deep, waiting for Kira to deepen the kiss, needing Kira to deepen the kiss.

"Kir--" CJ starts but is cut off as Kira finally slides her tongue into CJ's willing mouth. CJ grips Kira's hips, turning her head, moaning deep in her throat as she tangles her tongue with Kira's. She sighs into the kiss, torn between relief at finally being allowed to deepen it and desperation, knowing Kira will pull away before she can do more than kiss her. Her fingers dance against Kira's hips, feeling the softness of her skirt and the elastic of her panties underneath, wanting to touch the silky skin below that. She pulls her lips away to breathe and try to rein in her raging emotions, and Kira drops lazy kisses around her lips and jaw. Before CJ can register what Kira is doing, she quickly divests CJ of her pewter- colored blouse, draping it over the towel rack without breaking the kiss, and then traces the edge of CJ's black lace bra with her finger tips.

"Oh, God, Kira...this is so unfair," she gasps, as Kira tugs the strap over her shoulder and down her arm.

"You don't want this, Claudia?" Kira asks with a smirk as she lowers her mouth to the inside slope of CJ's breast. Kira drags her tongue across her breast until she reaches her areola, and then she swirls her tongue around the dusky skin several times, tightening her movements and CJ's nipple. When Kira closes her lips around her nipple, CJ arches toward her and thrusts her hand into Kira's hair, urging her closer. Kira slides her hands along CJ's sides and then up her back until she reaches the black lace bra, which she deftly unhooks and pulls forward, sucking hard at CJ's breast. Kira lifts her face as she drops the bra to the ground between them, and smiles mischievously at CJ's tight nipples and flushed skin. She braces CJ's body with firm hands on her hips, and then drops soft, slightly damp kisses along her collarbone and the top swells of her breasts, before nuzzling her face between them, taking a deep breath and then exhaling against CJ's left nipple as she sucks it roughly into her mouth.

"Damn, Kira," CJ groans, pushing her hips against Kira's hands, knowing she can only push so much before Kira will dig her fingers into her skin to hold her still, and sucking in air as Kira teases at her right nipple with gentle fingers even as her lips and tongue torment her left. "Ace, you're killing me, God," CJ groans as Kira moves back to CJ's right nipple, lapping over it with her tongue and then blowing a breath across the hardened tip.

"Patience, baby," Kira whispers as she quickly unfastens and unzips CJ's Bordeaux-colored slacks and pushes them over her hips. CJ grips the bathroom counter and sucks in her breath when Kira's fingers swirl across her abdomen right above the elastic of her black lace panties, knowing from Kira's calling her "baby" how hard she will push her control.

"Tease," CJ breathes in accusation as her head tilts back and she uses her other hand to grip Kira's shoulder.

"Oh, and you like it," Kira laughs as her fingers slide inside the waistband of CJ's panties and down toward her sex. "Spread you legs, baby," Kira orders as her hand slides lower. CJ obeys and tightens her grip on Kira's shoulder when her gentle fingers part her folds and slide against her clit. "That's it. You are so wet," Kira says softly as she swirls her fingers around CJ's clit.

CJ's head falls forward and she leans into Kira, her hair falling across Kira's face as her legs start to tremble and her breathing quickens with the pace of Kira's fingers. "Please... please," CJ pleads, pushing closer to Kira and her head dipping lower.

"I know," Kira whispers, slipping her hand lower and teasing at her center. CJ gasps and thrusts her hips toward Kira's fingers, continuing to repeat her pleas is rhythm to her movements against Kira's hand. "You're close, but you need more, right? Tell me what you want," Kira says, her tone rough.

"Kira," CJ groans, her knuckles white on the edge of the counter. "Please."

"Tell me what you want," Kira says steadily. "Come on, baby. Tell me."

"God... please...stop teasing... I need..."

"What," Kira says, moving closer and slipping the tip of her finger inside her.

"More, please...more, Kira...deeper...please, finish..." CJ begs.

"God, you're hot," Kira whispers as she slides two fingers deep inside her and then pulls out and adds a third before beginning to thrust hard inside her. "Come for me, Claudia," she commands after a few hard thrusts. "Come for me now."

CJ tries to breathe, to hold off the waves of release already building, not wanting to come on command, but Kira's hand is insistent and talented and the struggle only intensifies the clenching of her muscles around Kira's fingers. "God, oh, God, oh, God," CJ pants as her body takes over and she comes hard on Kira's order, her knees buckling and thighs trembling as the waves wash through her. "Oh, God, Kira, I'm going to... fuck, fall, " CJ moans.

"I've got you, baby," Kira says, wrapping her arm around CJ's waist and pulling her against her to balance her weight.

"No... seriously... can't stand," CJ says between breaths.

"Ok," Kira laughs. "Ok, then lean," Kira says, turning CJ and guiding her back to the counter so she can lean back. When her ass makes contact with the cool counter, CJ loosens her grip on Kira's arms, and leans her head against her shoulder, turning her face against her neck. "You ok?" Kira asks gently, pushing CJ's hair off her face and brushing a gentle kiss against her temple.

"Hell, yes," CJ laughs against Kira's shoulder. "Just can't move."

"Well, Star, you're going to have to, because our guests will be here in about twenty minutes," Kira says, rubbing CJ's back.

"You have to change," CJ says after a deep breath.

"I thought you said I looked good?" Kira says, slightly disappointed.

"You did," CJ says, pulling her face back and straightening her back. "You looked great, but now you have my makeup all over your shoulder," CJ says, dropping a soft kiss onto Kira's lips.

Kira tucks her chin in and looks down at her shoulder, sighing and pushing her hair off her face. "Damn, it took me a half hour to find this. Now what am I going to wear?" Kira sighs.

"You are so cute," CJ says, leaning in for another quick kiss. "What about your green sweater? The one with the nice neck?" CJ says, touching Kira's collarbone with her fingertips.

"Ok," Kira sighs, siding her arms around CJ's waist and kissing her softly. "I love when you do that, you know," Kira says with a smile.

"What, tell you what to wear?" CJ asks, her eyes crinkling in amusement.

"No, come when I tell you to," Kira says, smirking and squeezing CJ's ass through her black lace panties, still pulled slightly down in the front.

"You are going to be insufferable tonight, aren't you?" CJ sighs.

"Me, never," Kira smirks.

"Oh, you are so going to be strutting around," CJ laughs, slapping Kira's arm playfully. "Now, as much as I like standing here like this with your hands on my ass," CJ says, pushing gently against Kira's hip resting against her's, "you need to go change and I need to fix my makeup, and change my underwear," CJ says, blushing.

"Don't," Kira says seriously, reaching down and adjusting the waistband of CJ's underwear. "Leave these on," she says, as she touches the side seam and smiles. "We might as well both be a little slick," she says evilly.

"Go change," CJ says, flushing and pushing at Kira's hip, before she turns and looks for her pants on the floor. Kira nudges her out of the way so she can wash her hands, and laughs at the lipstick and mascara on her neck above the neckline of her sweater.

Fifteen minutes later, Kira is in the kitchen pulling out the appetizers as CJ opens the wine and places the bottles on the counter.

"Ok, the oven is preheating and I'll put the chicken in after everyone get's here. The broccoli, asparagus, and orzo salad are all ready, that just leaves the bread and stuffed mushrooms which I'll heat right before. We're in good shape," Kira says, walking out of the kitchen, and accepting a glass of wine from CJ.

"I'm going to put some music on," CJ says, brushing her lips across Kira's.

"No Puccini unless you want Dana to get all riled up over Shelley," Kira warns.

"Is she still upset? Really? I thought she would have been over her by now," CJ says, loading the CD changer.

"Oh, no, she's been in denial that Shelley not coming back, and now she's all angry and hurt," Kira laughs.

"And we invited her to dinner because?" CJ asks, raising her eyebrow. "I mean, Dana is hard to take when she is happy and content. Hurt, she's going to be all butched out and angry."

"Yeah, well, Katherine should keep her busy. They always play off each other well," Kira says. The buzzer in the kitchen sounds and Kira puts down her wine, her eyes lit like a child's as she goes back into the kitchen to check on the appetizers. The doorbell rings, and CJ smiles, putting down her drink and preparing to answer the door. "CJ," Kira says from the kitchen.

"I've got it," CJ chuckles. "Hello, welcome," CJ says, leaning over to kiss Anna's cheek, smiling with delight at Anna's pronounced pregnancy, and then turning to hug Paula. "Anna, look at you," she says, laughing.

"Hey, CJ, it's good to see you," Anna says, shaking her head and rubbing her hand across her belly.

"You look great, CJ," Paula says, handing CJ their coats and holding out a bottle of wine.

"Thanks, you look tired," CJ laughs, laughing harder as both Paula and Anna nod, and Anna blushes.

"I am," Paula says, smiling and touching Anna's back. "But not long now."

"And then you will be getting no sleep as opposed to little sleep," Kira says, walking out of the kitchen and laying a tray of hot appetizers on the livingroom table.

"So they tell us," Anna laughs.

"Come on in. Please, sit down. Can I get you anything to drink?" Kira asks, ushering them into the livingroom. "How have you been feeling?" Kira asks, resting her hand on Anna's stomach as CJ gets them both something to drink.

"Other than the fact that I am seriously uncomfortable, fine," Anna laughs as Paula shakes her head in agreement.

"Well, do me a favor and tell CJ about all the wonderful parts and minimize these little uncomfortable details, ok?" Kira says, grinning as she looks at CJ out of the corner of her eye.

"I heard that, Ace," CJ says as the doorbell rings. "That's my cue," she says, waving toward the door like Vanna White.

"Hello all, welcome," CJ says, ushering Stacy, Jill, and Katherine into the apartment.

"Hi, CJ, great blouse," Stacy says, leaning up to brush a kiss across CJ's cheek.

"Thank you, come on in. Paula and Anna are in the living room." The doorbell rings before CJ can move beyond the front door and she smiles, waving the others in as she answers the door.

"Hey, mama, let me touch that belly," Jill says, heading straight for Anna. "Hi, Kira," Jill says grinning and stroking Anna's stomach.

"Hey, CJ," Ellie says, stepping into the apartment.

"Hello, honey," CJ says, giving Ellie a hug and then taking her coat. "Nice sweater," CJ says, touching the sleeve of the deep blue cardigan and matching tank.

"Thank you," Ellie says with pride, pushing her hair off her face. "You look nice and relaxed," Ellie teases. "Playing hostess?"

"Shut up, or I will torture you later," CJ says, tapping Ellie's shoulder.

"Is that a promise?" Ellie asks, laughing as CJ looks down at her. Before CJ and Ellie move beyond the front door, the bell rings again. CJ opens the door to find a lovely red-head and a slightly younger coffee-skinned friend at the door.

"Hello, Tricia," CJ says, hugging the red-head. The younger woman stands rooted in place staring at CJ. "Hi, I'm CJ. You must be Janet," CJ says, smiling and extending her hand.

After a moment, Janet seems to flinch and then she holds out her hand, smiling. "I'm sorry, but, I wasn't expecting CJ Cregg to answer the door," the younger woman says. "It's so nice to meet you," she gushes, shaking CJ's hand vigorously.

Tricia smiles, her eyes dancing with amusement and a little indulgent pride at her girlfriend. "Sorry, I always forget who you are," Tricia says, and then laughs softly. "You know what I mean," Tricia says, rolling her eyes.

"It's ok," CJ laughs. "I like that. In here, I'm just CJ," CJ says, smiling. "Let me introduce you to a friend of mine," CJ says, taking Tricia's and Janet's coats. "Tricia, Janet, this is Ellie. Ellie, this is Tricia and Janet. Tricia is the head chef at Café Mauro."

"Hi, it's nice to meet you both," Ellie says, holding out her hand.

As they both greet Ellie, CJ lets out a small sigh of relief that neither seems to recognize her. She has been largely out of the spotlight and it's unlikely anyone but the press and the serious news junkies would recognize her, but still, CJ worries every day that she'll lose this precious anonymity that has allowed her to find herself without the glare of cameras and the sneers of the profane.

"Come on in," CJ says, leading the into the other room.

Kira calls Ellie over and reintroduces her to Paula and Anna, and then greets Tricia and Janet. As she walks past CJ to get more appetizers, her fingers trail along the small of her back, and CJ smiles, knowing Kira is pleased their first official function as a couple seems to be a hit.

As Kira emerges with another platter, the bell rings and CJ roll her eyes as she goes to greet their final guest. She re-enters the livingroom with a woman just an inch or so shorter than Kira, with short dark hair, dark eyes and serious leather boots.

"Dana, I think you know everyone except Janet," CJ says motioning toward Tricia's friend, "and Ellie," CJ says, motioning toward Ellie, sitting next to Paula on the couch.

"Hey, all," Dana says, looking around the room. "My God, Anna, look at you," Dana says, taking a seat near her and staring at her stomach. "And you did this on purpose?" She asks, accepting a glass of wine from CJ.

"Good to see you, too, Dana," Paula says sarcastically.

"I was sorry to hear about you and Shelley," Anna says. "I know you all had been together for a while."

"Yeah, well, it's fine," Dana says, shrugging but drinking half the glass of wine in one deep sip. "Living together was a mistake." Dana turns and looks at Ellie and smiles, pausing with her glass halfway to her mouth. "So, Ellie was it?" Dana asks and then finishes her wine.

"Yes," Ellie laughs, pushing her hair off her face.

"How did you get involved with this crew?" Dana asks, openly appraising the young woman sitting on the couch near her.

"I've known CJ's for a couple years and I'm in medical school at Johns Hopkins, so I know Kira, as well," Ellie says, sipping her wine.

"A doctor, huh? What kind do you want to be?" Dana asks, as Anna and Paula get drawn into a conversation with Katherine and CJ.

"Well, I still have a few rotations to try, but I'm leaning toward oncology," Ellie says.

"Cancer doctor, right?" Dana asks, taking Ellie glass and refilling it as she refills her own from the bottle on the coffee table.

"Essentially, yes, study and treatment of malignant tumors," Ellie says, blushing as Dana's eyes roam over her body and then focus on her hands.

"Like Kira, interesting. Hhmmm, sounds like you have it all under control," she says, letting her hand brush against Ellie's knee.

"To some extent, yes," Ellie says, glancing over her shoulder and noticing CJ's watching them. The knowledge thrills her a little and she turns back to Dana, smiling larger at the knowledge that CJ is paying attention. Despite the fact that CJ and Kira are so very together, and that she really feels very strongly for Britt, Ellie can't help but feel a little delight at CJ's protectiveness.

Jill and Stacy join Dana and Ellie, and Dana puts a little distance between her and Ellie, but not by much. Every so often her hand touches Ellie's arm or knee as they all talk, not obvious enough to draw Stacy's or Jill's attention, but too lingering to be accidental. After a few minutes, CJ joins Kira in the kitchen to help her to finish dinner.

"So?" Kira asks, pulling the platters out of the refrigerator and dressing the food on the serving plates.

"I think it's a hit, Ace," CJ says, tucking Kira's hair behind her ear. "I like Janet. Did you know she speaks like five languages? She's funny, as well. I think she could be good for Tricia."

"Yeah, and Tricia looks so smitten," Kira says, smiling at CJ as she grabs a potholder to check the chicken. As she pulls the pan from the oven and balances it on the stove, Kira looks over at CJ, fiddling with the towel by the sink, obviously rolling some thought around her mouth. "Something on your mind there, Star?"

CJ looks out into the living room and then back at Kira. "Dana seems rather focused on Ellie," CJ says, shaking her head.

"Yeah?" Kira says, as she begins transferring chicken to a serving platter.

"Yeah, I don't like it," CJ says, drumming her fingers on the counter.

"Why?" Kira asks, smirking.

"Why?" CJ ask, exasperated. "Kira, Dana's a barracuda. And she is zeroing in on Ellie, who has no idea what--"

"-- CJ, Ellie may be new to being a lesbian, but she's been a woman for a while, and a damn cute one, bad fashion sense or not, and I am sure she is used to dealing with getting hit on," Kira says, shaking her head.

"Well, not like this she's not. I'm going to talk with her after dinner," CJ says, nodding her head.

"Leave it alone," Kira warns.

"I'm not doing anything," CJ says.

"I'm just saying, she's an adult. Leave her alone," Kira says, raising an eyebrow in warning. "Now, will you please help me get everyone to the table?"

CJ sighs loudly and smiles at Kira. "Yes, master," CJ teases.

"Wiseass," Kira laughs.

"Ok, all, we're almost ready, so can I get anyone anything else to drink?" CJ asks, ushering the guests to the table.

"CJ, the table looks beautiful," Katherine says, looking at the table, dressed with a deep burgundy tablecloth and napkins, gleaming silver, crystal glasses and votives making the table dance in candle- light. The obsidian glass dishes and bowls glow in the dim light.

"Yes, it does," CJ says with a bright smile as she looks at Kira walking toward the table with the chicken. "But it's all Kira. I just followed directions," CJ says with a grin.

"Oh, don't let her fool you. She had quite a skilled hand in making sure the table would be special tonight," Kira says, looking pointedly at CJ and then motioning for everyone to take their seats.

CJ feels herself blushing despite her earlier bravado, and she smiles widely at Kira as their guests lapse into talk, raising an eyebrow and glancing at the table as she strokes the rim of her wine glass with her index finger. Kira lifts her glass in salute and they each take a sip of the rich, red wine, their cheeks flushed and eyes dancing.

"Kira, this is fabulous," Anna says, taking another bite of the chicken.

"Thank you. It's really a simple recipe," Kira says, shrugging and smiling.

"I hope you understand that nothing has tasted good to her in two weeks, Kira, except for french fries and ice-cream. So, I am going to need this recipe, please," Paula teases, reaching for Anna's hand.

"Is that true?" Katherine asks, reaching for the orzo salad again, and smiling at Kira as she takes more.

"Yes, unfortunately," Anna says, rubbing her stomach.

"Well, another check in the `is it worth it' column," Dana says, raising an eyebrow.

"It is totally worth it," Anna says with a smile.

"How long now?" Jill asks, accepting more wine from CJ, who is walking around the table refilling glasses.

"Just over three weeks," Anna says looking at Paula.

"But she'll probably be late," Paula says, leaning away from Anna's teasing slap.

"So, you know you're having a girl?" Ellie asks, smiling up at CJ as CJ refills her glass.

"Yes," Anna says, looking at Paula. "And we're going to call her Hannah."

"That's wonderful," Stacy sighs.

When CJ refills Kira's glass, she takes CJ's free hand for a moment and squeezes it, and CJ brushes her fingers against Kira's hair as she walks around her.

Dinner continues with laughter and gossip and friendship. Jill and Stacy recount Ellie's first night out dancing in tag team fashion, making the younger woman blush deeply, but nod and shrug indulgently. Kira and Anna recount CJ's first political campaign while still at Berkley, and CJ describes Anna's squeamishness about blood in her first year of med school as Anna rubs her stomach and adds even more personal details of her traumas as a med student. Dana and Katherine tease each other about both being single again, and recount some of their misadventures on the bar scene. CJ watches carefully as Dana seems to look toward Ellie and play toward her laughter.

"So, you two have been together since you were in college?" Janet asks, motioning between CJ and Kira.

Everyone at the table chuckles, as Kira laughs and shakes her head and CJ raises an eyebrow. They trade looks before Kira clears her throat and put her glass down. "Not exactly. We were together for about six years, and then off and on for a while," Kira says, with a shrug.

"And then she moved here, and left me heartbroken," CJ says with a mock frown as she stands and starts to clear some of the plates away.

"And then she followed me," Kira says with a teasing smile. "Oh, she claims it was the job, but I know it was just for me. The silly job was just an excuse."

The guests laugh harder as CJ looks pointedly at Kira, and CJ waves them into the livingroom as they carry the serving plates still containing food into the kitchen. As Kira puts on the coffee, CJ slides her hands around Kira's waist and kisses her neck. "I have to admit I thought about it: you and I less than an hour away from each other," CJ says against Kira's neck.

Kira pivots in CJ's embrace and places her hands on CJ's arms right above her elbows. "I thought about it, too," Kira says, dropping a soft kiss on CJ's lips. "Now, go entertain our guests while I put this stuff away."

"I'd rather entertain you," CJ says, kissing Kira's neck.

"Go," Kira says, pushing her toward the door with a smile.

"Geeze, you're bossy tonight. If this is what entertaining does to you--"

"–you're going to want to entertain every weekend because you love it when I take over?" Kira asks with a raised eyebrow and knowing smile. CJ blushes under her look and leaves the kitchen without responding.

When CJ walks back into the livingroom, she glances around, noticing Ellie, Dana and Katherine aren't in the room. She sits down next to Stacy but her eyes dart toward the sun porch every few minutes. Katherine wanders back into the livingroom a few minutes later, rubbing her arms for warmth.

"It is freezing out there," she says, sitting down next to Jill.

CJ goes back into the kitchen a few minute later, under the guise of seeing if Kira needs any help with coffee and dessert, but she stands against the counter, glancing at the sun porch continually.

"CJ, cut it out," Kira warns.

"What?" CJ says, reaching for the dessert plates.

"Stop obsessing over Ellie and Dana," Kira says, looking hard at CJ and then taking the plates.

"I'm not obsessing. I just--"

"--Don't like anyone messing with Ellie. I know," Kira says, dropping the serving spoon in the sink with a clatter.

"Kira, it's not like I'm--"

"–CJ."

"Kira," CJ rolls her eyes.

While they are staring each other down, Dana and Ellie step back in from the sun porch, and CJ bites the inside of her lip at Dana's hand on Ellie's back as they bypass the kitchen and walk down the hall toward the livingroom.

"Stop glaring," Kira says, putting the platter of lemon tarts on the counter.

"I'm not glaring," CJ says through clenched teeth.

After dessert and coffee, as the guests are starting to leave, CJ interrupts Dana's and Ellie's conversation and practically drags Ellie out to the sun porch, ignoring Kira's look of disapproval.

"Aw, CJ, if you wanted to revisit the scene of our first kiss, all you had to do was ask nicely," Ellie says, wrapping her arms around herself in the chill. "You didn't have to glare at me all night."

"I wasn't glaring at you," CJ says with a sigh, ignoring Ellie's teasing.

"Glaring at Dana?" Ellie asks with a smirk.

CJ takes a deep breath and exhales loudly. "Ellie, don't encourage Dana."

"I'm not, CJ," Ellie laughs. "Not that it's any of your business."

"Ellie,"CJ sighs, sitting down on the wicker loveseat, "Dana can be a little aggressive, and she's on the prowl, so, just don't play with her when she's like this," CJ says, brushing her hair off her face.

Ellie laughs and sits down next to CJ. "CJ, I may be new to dating women, but I'm not new to dating. I've been hit on by some pretty persistent men and I handled it. This is not so different," Ellie says, waving her hand.

"It is very different, Ellie," CJ sighs, covering her eyes for a moment "The dynamic is all different. If you don't know that then--"

"-- don't talk to me like I am a child, CJ," Ellie says, her voice soft but strong. " I realize we have this sisters thing going, but please try and remember that I am an adult, and I don't answer to you," Ellie says, looking hard at CJ, her eyes darker and slightly squinted, just like her mother's in anger. "And I know what I am doing," Ellie sighs, her face softening. "I don't mean to be ungrateful, because I'm not, but, CJ, I really can handle myself."

CJ smirks softly at Ellie shaking her head. "You're really ok with her?" CJ asks.

Ellie rolls her eyes. "CJ, she's aggressive, not mean or ill- intentioned. Yes, her hands wander, but I told her I am seeing someone, and she was fine," Ellie says with a grin.

"But you were out here for almost a half hour," CJ says, waving her hand around the room.

"Yeah, we talked about her ex-girlfriend, my newness to dating, you and Kira," Ellie smiles. "You know, instead of worrying about her hitting on me, you should be in there making sure she knows how serious you are about Kira," Ellie says, inclining her head toward the livingroom with a mischievous grin.

CJ flushes and shakes her head. "Kira told me to leave it alone," she says with a sigh.

"You should listen to her more. She's a smart woman," Ellie says, looking down at her hands.

"From your lips to God's ears," Kira says from the doorway. "Sorry, I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but everyone's getting ready to leave," Kira says, shrugging her shoulders. "And besides, I wanted to make sure you both understood I would not be as understanding about any kissing this time."

Ellie blushes to her toes as CJ shakes her head at Kira. They get up from the loveseat together, and CJ runs her fingers over Ellie's hair, pulling her toward her for a moment. Ellie walks through the door and into the kitchen before CJ, who leans over to drop a chaste kiss against Kira's lips before they follow her into the livingroom to say goodnight to their guests. CJ bites the inside of her cheek as Dana hugs Kira goodbye, and raises an eyebrow as Ellie smirks at her.

After CJ says goodnight to Ellie and locks the door behind her, she wanders into the kitchen to find Kira loading the dishwasher, and picks at a lemon tart as she watches.

"So, you were right," CJ says, looking up as she leans on the counter.

"Oh, Star, you're going to have to do better than that. I am right about a great many things," Kira says, shaking her head.

"Well, yes, you are. And incredibly gracious and forgiving as well," CJ says with an intentionally serious expression, shaking her hair out of her eyes. "But I was referring to Dana and Ellie."

"Ellie could handle it, right?" Kira says more than asks.

"Yes, she could. And she was a little irritated I felt the need to say anything."

"And she told you that Dana is harmless?" Kira says, her eyebrow raised in challenge.

"To Ellie, maybe, but I am not letting her near you again," CJ says, walking around the counter and tugging on Kira's hand to pull her close. "Can we do this tomorrow? I really want to take you to bed," CJ says, her voice low and husky.

"CJ, what `everything' do you think we still need to work out before we move in together?" Kira asks, her fingers in CJ's hair, holding her face steady.

"Well, to start with, we both have jobs that require us to be on call. They're not going to want me outside the District, and you need to be within fifteen minutes of the hospital, don't you?" CJ asks, gently rubbing Kira's back through the soft sweater.

"Ideally, I shouldn't be more that twenty minutes away, but I have tenure. I can negotiate flexibility. Maybe cutting back the days I am on call to two a week and occasional weekends. And nothing stops me from just keeping an apartment or crashing at the hospital when I have to, and living in DC most of the time. But if I move to DC, we are going to need a bigger place," Kira says. "And I'd want to be closer to Baltimore after."

CJ nods, her forehead still creased in concern.

"CJ, what else is bothering you?" Kira asks, pulling out of her arms.

CJ rubs her face and then takes a deep breath. CJ takes Kira's hand and leads her out of the kitchen and into the livingroom so they can sit down. Once seated on the couch, still holding Kira's hand, she looks at her and speaks quietly and calmly. "Kira, do you have any concept of how living with me is going to turn your life upside down? The scrutiny we are both going to be under? The publicity and the attention?" CJ says, shaking her head. "This will bring out the worst in so many people, Kira."

Kira sucks in a deep breath and pulls her hand away. "Yes, CJ, I am familiar with prejudice. Unlike you, I have been completely out for my entire career," Kira says, an edge of anger and betrayal in her words. "If I recall, this is why you didn't want to live together in LA."

"No, Kira, that was about fear for my career, I admit it. I was younger and not nearly as brave as I am now. But this, this is about fear for my life, and your's," CJ says, reaching for Kira's hand again and sighing in frustration when she crosses her arms across her chest away from CJ's touch. "Kira, there's going to be hate mail and pundits calling us immoral and perverted on the evening news and morning talk shows. They are going to troll through our history and pull pictures from when were first together, and the times we've been apart. There are those who will call for my termination and you are going to lose patients, and maybe even colleagues. Our pictures are going to be in Star and People and Newsweek, and photographers are going to follow us everywhere for a while," CJ says, laying her hand on Kira's thigh, not wanting to lose the physical connection despite Kira's reluctance. "Both our routines are going to need to change. You are going to have to have a security detail for a while."

"Absolutely not," Kira says pulling away and hurtling off the couch to pace. "I have never hidden in fear, and I am not about to start now, Claudia. You can hide all you want but I am not giving up my freedom."

"Kira, it'll just be fore a while, until the heat dies down. I can't worry about you--"

"-- what do you know about it?" Kira asks harshly. "You have always kept this a secret, refusing to deal with the consequences of being out. Have I lost patients and opportunities because of being out? Yes. Have colleagues lost so much more, including their lives because they were out? Yes. You've never had to deal with the slurs and the cold shoulders and the subtle and not so subtle manifestations of modern gay-bashing," Kira says, her voice rough with the emotion of long fought battles.

CJ clenches her hands and then walks over to the telephone on the corner table.

"Who are you calling?" Kira asks, the frustration evident in her tone.

"Josh Lyman, so he can tell you how well I understand modern day manifestations of hate," CJ says harshly, her voice tight.

"CJ," Kira says, thrusting her hands through her wavy auburn hair. "It's not the same--"

"-- Damn right it's not the same thing. No one has ever shot at you. No one has ever tried to kill you for loving someone they don't think you should," CJ says, her breathing becoming labored as she tries to fight the tears threatening to fall. "Kira, they shot at Charlie Young for having the gall to date Zoey Bartlet: not marry, not live with, date. And we almost lost Josh, and the President, because they were nearby. And it took me months, *months* to not flinch at slammed doors and breaking glass, and you of all people should understand the nightmares," CJ hisses. "Don't tell me I don't understand hate, Kira. You have no idea what you are talking about."

"CJ, no one is going to try to shoot either of us," Kira says, trying to soothe her.

"No, you're right, because statistics show they prefer rape, strangling and mutilation for lesbians," CJ says, her voice falsely calm. "You don't believe me? I'll bring home the statistics."

Kira flinches at the knowledge that CJ has actually researched hate crimes against lesbians, and then walks over to her to try and calm her fears. "CJ, you work in the White House, surrounded by the Secret Service, you'll be fine," Kira says, finally reaching CJ and gently tucking her hair behind her ears, trying to calm her.

"Kira," CJ breathes, touching her hair with shaking hands, "I'm not worried about me: I'll be too well secured. I'm worried about you, with your morning jogs and cute little convertible, methodical routine, open hospital and campus. You are so vulnerable," CJ whispers.

"CJ, I can take care of myself," Kira says, smiling and wiping away CJ's tears with her thumbs. "I'll be careful."

"You'll need protection," CJ says, shaking her head between Kira's hands. "At least in the beginning, you'll need to be under protection of some sort."

"Like, bodyguards?" Kira asks, her voice incredulous.

"Yes, preferably secret service trained," CJ says.

"No," Kira says calmly after a pause. "I won't hide."

"It's not hiding, Kira. It's protecting yourself."

"It would feel like hiding."

"I don't care," CJ says strongly, her hands on Kira's shoulders. "They won't be able to get at me, Kira, not easily. And I can't leave you every day, wondering even as I am being chauffeured to work, whether today will be the day they come after you because they can't get to me," CJ says, her voice breaking. "If we are going to do this, be together, you are going to have to submit to the protection, at least for a while."

"And if I say no?" Kira asks, holding CJ's stare.

"Then I'll leave," CJ says, her voice cracking. "I'll leave so fast it'll make your head spin. Because I have not prayed for your health every day only to endanger your life by proximity to the chaos that is mine. And even if we are careful, and don't move in together, eventually this is going to get out, and then we'll be having this conversation all over again."

"You're serious," Kira whispers. "You'd actually leave, wouldn't you?"

"If I was putting you in danger, yes," CJ says brokenly. "If I thought quitting the job would get rid of the threat, I'd consider it, but it won't. I'll still be recognizable. I still couldn't be sure you'd be safe," CJ says, shaking her head. "Kira, I love you. I want to be with you, all the time. But you need to know, my life is a circus and you would be drawn right in. I just don't want to lose you."

"You won't," Kira says, pulling her closer. "Claudia, we'll work it out. We don't have to decide this tonight. Let's just go to bed, ok?" Kira asks, touching CJ's cheek.

Standing beside Kira's bed, CJ allows Kira to gently undress her, and once they are both under the covers, they hold each other close, kissing softly and rocking against each other. Gone is the desperation and drive of earlier, replaced by a tender need to be sure of each other's warmth and feel and breath. Later, wrapped around each other in the dark, they sleep peacefully, breathing as one. CJ dreams about flying glass as Kira dreams about a blue-eyed child.

~TBC~

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