TITLE: On the Importance of Proper Accessories
FEEDBACK: Yes, please, at penumbra at clinched dot net.
SPOILERS: Privateers (4-18)
SERIES: This is sequel-ish to my previous story "Power Hath".
DISCLAIMERS: Not mine. Don't sue.
SUMMARY: What she is doing would be generally considered insane, but then again, her life is insane in general.
NOTES: As it was with the previous one, this story was mostly inspired by Abbey's singular ability to pull of clothing in shades of red (i.e. the ensemble in "Privateers") that I can't wear thanks to the 15 generations of inbreeding in the Scandinavian gene pool that produced my white ass. Written September 2003.
On The Importance of Proper Accessories by Penumbra
CJ rests her forehead on her desk. Her subconscious mind nags her that she's going to leave a make-up stain on the blotter, but she decides that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter that much. The White House can afford to spring for a new pea-green blotter for her. Maybe a second-hand one from the President, who has a handsome saddle-leather one in chocolate brown.
"Daughters of revolutionaries tiring you out?"
Her head jerks off the blotter. "Mrs. Bartlet." Seen through her fishbowl, the shape of the First Lady is distorted and Gail keeps swimming across her upper chest, so CJ sits up straighter.
Leaning against her doorjamb, resplendent in her fiery red suit and eyes two glasses of champagne old, Abigail Bartlet folds her arms across her chest and regards her. Her gaze ups the temperature in the room and CJ catches herself before she will run a finger under her collar.
"Actually, I was contemplating on stealing the President's blotter, ma'am."
That gets CJ a raised eyebrow. "Oh?"
"It would match my briefcase."
"I see." Droll, with a ghost of a smile on the First Lady's lips. "Well, knock yourself out. Never let it be said I stood in the way of proper accessorising."
Abbey steps into her office and CJ's gaze travels down. Her eyes linger on Abbey's defined calves, because they can.
"Well, they tired me out. Even the Francis Scott Key key couldn't amuse me through the evening." Abbey takes one of her uncomfortable visitor chairs and crosses her legs. Slowly, and not accidentally so. "So I thought I'd come here and torment you."
"Punishment by proxy? Me instead of Lady Frothsworth Hooter-Tooter?"
"If you want to look at it that way, yes."
The First Lady, when she smiles, has a dangerous, capricious air about her. She is giving CJ that smile now and it manages to both annoy and excite her. It's the smile that conveys, in no uncertain terms, that she is in the mood and probably not wearing any underwear under all her Balenciaga and perfume. It is their familiar dance: frustrating and erotic par none.
"Abbey." She gives a pointed look towards the staffers milling outside her door.
Abbey disregards her; instead, she merely taps the toe of her very pointed shoe against CJ's desk and turns the smile into its more feral version. Of the two of them, she is the obvious predator, with perfect teeth and in crimson clothes that fit like a second skin.
"I said 'torment', not 'fuck me against the door', Claudia Jean."
And what can one say to that? Never mind that the First Lady of the United States used the f-word in the hallowed West Wing, in the words there is the not-very-implied hint that should CJ not fuck her against the door or some other convenient surface within the next few minutes or so, there would be hell to pay.
"Of course, I'd very much prefer option B right now."
Abbey's pondering addendum does not help any. CJ sits back with a sigh and narrows her eyes as she thinks.
"Given the choice?"
"Given the choice." Abbey's tone suggests there is no choice at all.
"As much as I'd like to do exactly that, there are obstacles." CJ pauses for another pointed look towards the staff bullpen and to lick her lips, which are suddenly very dry. Try as she might otherwise, Abbey has always had an effect on her, from day one. It's the voice, assured and thorough and all-around throaty.
"Clothes shopping must be hell for you." Abbey sets her elbow on the armrest, cheek on fist.
"I'm sorry, what?" Brilliant. CJ 'snappy comeback' Gregg, Press Secretary extraordinaire.
"With your legs," Abbey extrapolates on her non sequitur. "Lovely legs as they are."
"Right now, though, I'm more inclined to think about the many quality beds with 310-count Egyptian cotton sheets we have upstairs, and my head between them."
"Your head between quality sheets, ma'am?"
"My head between your high-quality legs."
CJ is peeved for once again falling into the dangling modifier trap. Abigail Bartlet is so very good with them, although CJ makes the excuse of most of her blood being located far from her brain -- to be precise, between her legs, where it seems the First Lady also wanted to be. At that mental image, CJ shifts discreetly to ease the pressure on her crotch, which has taken to throbbing all of a sudden. She is not discreet enough for Abbey who, with a knowing look, runs her index finger along her blood red lips, and stands up. In reflex, so does CJ.
"I should be done in half an hour."
CJ stands for a while there, watching Abbey disappear towards the East Room. CJ feels like swaying or maybe bringing out some other nervous gesture, but she settles on sitting down and risking a new make-up stain on the blotter.
Her life is insane. Oy.
As she walks the quiet corridors, CJ tries to figure out how exactly she ended up doing more for the presidential family than saving their asses in the realm of public relations. She recalls having tea on the South Lawn and then things had somehow progressed on to her having the First Lady's hand down her pants. That was some months ago and since then, the First Lady's hand has been down her pants and up her skirt a whole lot of times.
Not that she's complaining, CJ telepathically reassures the bust of George Washington she sees in the hallway. The First Lady's hand and other body parts are very welcome in her pants, skirts, dresses, and bras, considering how well they perform there, although CJ is sure there's a sordid joke to be had on the absurdity of her love life thereof. The plaster Washington doesn't feel like sharing it, though, and CJ gives him a glare as she passes.
It has been linen closets and empty offices and backs of limousines kind of an illicit affair, and while CJ knows it'll grow old at some point, it has yet failed to do so. What she is doing would be generally considered insane, but then again, her life is insane in general.
"Ma'am." The Secret Serviceman keeps his blank mien. "Second door to your right, please."
"Thank you." She flashes her best PR smile, but the man doesn't even blink. Ah well. They are starting to feel like furniture to her anyway. Particularly unwieldy hall trees, she muses, or maybe those cheap Ikea wardrobes.
The guest bedroom is blue with moonlight, the furniture indistinct shapes in shadows. Sitting in an oversized wingback chair, Abbey has one foot up on the matching ottoman while the other rests on the parquet. There is no colour on her except the fiery highlights of her hair and the glint of her painted lips.
"Abbey?" CJ walks in and closes the door. It takes her eyes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting.
"What're you doing?"
"Catching up with my journals." Abbey takes off her reading glasses and waves the thin volume she has been staring at.
"In the dark."
"The article is on sirolimus-eluting stents. I know the stuff already."
There is quiet desperation in Abbey's voice and it almost breaks CJ's heart. CJ sits down on the ottoman next to Abbey's foot and sighs. Abbey is looking at the window with unseeing eyes, her gaze hard and glittering in the pale moonlight. In the near-dark, sitting down and contemplative, she looks so much smaller than her usual indestructible self. It is a sign of their intimacy that Abbey reveals this side of herself, the human side who has regrets and old wounds she does not allow to heal.
"I know this stuff, CJ."
"I know." It really is breaking her heart. "I'm so sorry, Abbey."
"Yeah." Abbey puts the journal down and when she looks at CJ again, the moment is gone.
CJ rests her hand on Abbey's ankle. Her shoes have deadly heels and her ankle is cold. CJ slides her hand up, over the slick stockings, feeling the muscles in Abbey's shin jump under her touch. Her skin is warmer at the knee, and CJ rubs her thumb over her kneecap.
"Very." There is a delicious undertone to Abbey's voice.
"Can I get you a drink?"
"How do you drink it?" CJ's hand slides up and underneath Abbey's skirt. She bends down and licks her knee, leaving a wet trail on her stocking.
"By the dozen."
"Okay." But CJ makes no move to get up; instead, she continues to slide her hand up, tracing the top edge of Abbey's stocking. Her skin above it is smooth as silk and warm to the touch. CJ exhales. It is suddenly much warmer in the room.
Abbey's look doesn't help any in the temperature department. CJ's eyes are darting between Abbey's face and her hand underneath her skirt.
It is a definite come-hither voice, never mind the actual words because CJ is not paying particular attention to them. She's preoccupied by how Abbey is slithering down in the chair and how that makes her skirt ride up, revealing her hand and the lace at the top edges of the stockings. Her skin above is pale and flawless alabaster.
"Abbey." Breathless now, both hands on Abbey's thighs.
"I said, come here."
The deep, dark voice has always been enough to make CJ weak in the knees. So she kneels down between the ottoman and the chair, and leans in. Abbey's lips taste like bourbon and lime sorbet and Chanel lipstick, and later on, her blood when she bites CJ.
She slides her hands higher on Abbey's thighs, under the skirt again, until her fingers find coarse pubic hair and wetness. Abbey groans into her mouth and the sound is like velvet on her senses. She feels Abbey's clit on her middle finger, and her teeth are sharp as they close around her tongue, drawing blood. CJ jerks back at the copper taste in her mouth and her hand stills.
"You bit me."
"What of it?" Abbey's hands are still on the armrests of the chair and her fingers are clawing holes into the antique upholstery. Her thigh muscles are trembling, and so is her voice. Familiar velvet, impatient.
"If you start maiming me with those heels of yours, I'll stop."
"If you dare stop again, I'll certainly do just that, and worse."
CJ slides her hand further, her wrist at an awkward angle as her fingers rake through tangled curls and slick flesh. Not in the mood for finesse, she catches Abbey by the neck and pulls her in for another kiss as she thrusts two fingers into Abbey. Her surprised moan she swallows and pushes the fingers in as deep as she can, feeling Abbey's muscles clench around her fingers as she sucks on her tongue.
Abbey's whisper is as light as her touch on CJ's chest, her fingers ghosting over the neckline of her shirt.
"Abbey," CJ whispers, mouth on Abbey's cheek, and then bites down on her earlobe around her earring. The gold and diamonds are cold in her mouth but warm quickly, the metal taste mingling with adrenaline and blood.
She wants to tell Abbey how wet she is and how much that turns her on, how painfully sensitive her nipples are under her shirt and bra where Abbey's fingers are touching her, how much she loves Abbey's perfume and the texture of her hair. But she doesn't say any of it because she doesn't want to miss any of the small, pained noises Abbey makes, or the appreciative moan and tremor with which Abbey reacts as she pulls out for a moment and drives back into her with all four fingers.
"Oh, Claudia...hurts." Pain mingles with pleasure in Abbey's voice. She calls her unusual names when they have sex, and she likes pain.
"Too much?" CJ asks but doesn't stop, pushing up harder instead. Abbey's breath is hot on her cheek and her hands come to grip her shoulders.
"God...no. Hurts. Just right. Oh Claudia..."
Abbey's hiss is pained and she is restless on the chair. Her hold on CJ's shoulders is tight and when CJ shifts the angle and rubs the heel of her hand against Abbey's clit, her moan turns into a scream as she comes all over CJ's hand. For a fleeting second, the echo of the scream stays in the room and Abbey grasps CJ's hand, keeping her fingers inside as aftershock shudders through her. There is a look of such pleasure and need on Abbey's face that CJ can't breathe for a moment, but it passes. She kisses Abbey's cheek where her mascara has run and pulls back.
Abbey's eyes are like flint in the moonlight, cold and hard. CJ's hand is still in her, and when Abbey runs her hand up CJ's arm, her breath catches in her throat. She wants to tell Abbey how beautiful she is but does not dare invade the quiet, the shape of their silence familiar and comforting and too precious to break. There is little they don't know of one another, so when Abbey speaks, CJ knows what it means.
"The bed. Now."
It was going to be one of the long nights.
"Can I confess how bizarre I find this?"
"Well, this." CJ's hand movement is vague enough to include the rumpled sheets and their naked bodies tangled in them, Abbey's copy of New England Journal of Medicine wedged between them, the bourbon shot and a half on the bedside table, and the rather tacky velvet curtains of the windows.
"You may confess how bizarre you find this." Abbey takes off her reading glasses and gestures with them in an imitation of CJ's expansive sweep.
"All right. Twilight Zone. Extremely bizarre."
"Bizarre good or bizarre bad?"
CJ puts her hand down on the briefing papers in Abbey's hands. "You accused me of making fuck-me eyes at you." She could dole out the non-sequiturs like a pro, too.
"The day I found out you're pro-Brazil when it comes to bikini wax?"
"If you insist on putting it that way, yeah. You were right."
Abbey puts on her glasses again and looks at CJ over the rim. "So bizarre good."
Giving no answer but a wink, CJ turns on her back. She lets her eyes rest on the white ceiling and the dead of night outside the windows, enjoying the feel of Abbey beside her. Abbey is rustling her briefing papers and CJ feels herself smiling at the small, impatient snort Abbey makes as something in the papers catches her eye.
She knows she loves Abbey, and that it's all right. Sometimes, when they kiss, she smells like the President's cologne, a strange masculinity attached to Abbey's feminine shape. Sometimes CJ thinks the looks the President gives her are too knowing, too full of meaning to be accidental, and those times she finds it hard not to swagger and blush at the same time. She cannot imagine them ever talking about the subject -- So how do you like fucking my wife? She's a wild one, sir. -- but she has a feeling he knows and somehow does not care. She doesn't understand it, neither him not caring nor why she is not bothered about Abbey smelling like him, so she's resolved not to think about it. To make it be all right as long as she can, because lying next to her, Abbey is warm and right now, all she smells of is sex.
Rarely do they get a chance to spend time like this, shoulders and hips touching under the sheets, a comfortable silence between them. CJ knows it's an affair on borrowed time, but she is glad of it regardless. She'll take the good sex, and the rushed breakfasts where she wears nothing but the Washington Post, and the inappropriate thoughts she gets during serious meetings. She'll take it as long as it lasts, enjoying the comforts of banality in their unusual relationship. The end will not be a fizzle -- they are women too headstrong and too much in love with their affair -- but a precautionary measure, regretted by both but inevitable regardless.
"'Pro-Brazil when it comes to bikini waxes'?"
"So it was oblique. Sue me."
"I think it was more obtuse than oblique."
"Nice alliteration, there. Now let me finish my reading. I need to go soon." To bed with Jed, she means, although does not say it. CJ likes to think she wouldn't mind even if Abbey had said it.
Feet aching and razor-sharp presses on her suit, CJ clocks in at two to six. The atmosphere of the quiet foyer seems unreal, or maybe it's just her, she's not sure. Coming to work after going home at 2 a.m. to change so that her clothes would not smell like the First Lady's sex, she is tired, wired, and not a little turned on.
Whistling the theme to Twilight Zone between sips of her scalding coffee and mumbled Good Mornings, CJ does a bit of a hallway dance with Josh before they manage to pass one another.
She turns. "Yeah?" Josh is looking as tired as she feels.
"I didn't see you at the end of the party."
"Yeah, had to..." She fingers her Starbucks with dry hands. Had to fuck the First Lady, so sorry. "I had a thing."
"Yeah." His hair resembles a marsupial burrow. "I have something on Foreign Ops you need to see."
CJ raps her fingernails against her cardboard cup. She makes a mental note to have Carol book her a manicure. "Could you be any more vague?"
"Try harder. Is it something I'll be asked in my 10 a.m.?"
"Joshua Lyman." It's only three minutes into her workday and she's already exasperated. CJ figures it to be her personal record and there is something so deeply wrong about that it makes her eyelid twitch. "You got something. Show me."
"Not before you've had your caffeine." He points at her coffee with the dog-eared folder he was carrying.
"So it's something I'll get cranky over?"
"Cee-jay." Sing-song, no doubt to maximise her annoyance. He dances a few steps away from her.
She shifts her stance and sets her briefcase down. "Josh, I swear I'll beat you into more colours than in a Crayola box if you don't Tell. Me. Now."
"It's nothing. Not going to hurt the bill. It's just a thing." His frown is a mix of amusement and annoyance. "You're looking tired. And prickly."
"I look prickly?" She gives herself an exaggerated once-over before giving him the fish eye. He shrinks minutely before it, belatedly realising one did not insult a woman's appearance without consequences.
"No, your mood is prickly. What's the matter, hot date keeping you up all night?" The tease in Josh's voice is friendly warmth more than anything else, but it doesn't stop her from being annoyed.
"World of sarcasm over here," CJ says back. "Yes. I was doing the pool boy till 3 a.m."
"You don't have a pool."
"Thank you, Edwin P. Hubble. I don't need to have a pool to be doing a pool boy." Willing down her flush, CJ tries to forget that she can still taste Abbey's lipstick. Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean. Okay. "Maybe it was the paper boy. I didn't ask for an occupational history."
"Less doing, more sleep on weekday nights, CJ."
"Unsolicited yet sententious advice. Just what I needed." CJ makes a mental note to glue the pages of his contact book together and then blame Will. Nothing to cheer the day like a mean prank.
"I'll explain the thing in staff."
"Yeah. I'm all a-twitter with excitement."
"All right." He twirls around, fanning himself with his folder. CJ salutes his retreating back with her coffee, picks up her briefcase, and continues her trek towards her office.
"You have staff in twenty."
"Thanks, Carol." CJ fondles her pink phone slips and drops her coffee dregs into Carol's wastebasket. "The wires?"
"On your desk." Carol had seated herself and is talking to her monitor. "I highlighted the foreign aid stuff. Senator Williers made some commentary."
"Commentary?" Except for the one marked with three asterisks on a yellow Post-It, her phone slips have nothing of importance, so she lets them flutter into the wastebasket, too. They soak up some of the remaining coffee.
"Abstinence, marriage incentives good, yadda. Y'know."
"Great." CJ fumbles with her briefcase as she opens her door. "I'll cover that in the 10 a.m. briefing. Get me his greatest hits?"
"Sure thing. I'll have it done by the time you get back from staff." Carol pauses, her keyboard clattering. "Oh, CJ?" Louder, so she can hear it in her office.
"Yeah?" CJ's voice is tinted with the smile she has on. She sets her briefcase down and leans in with her forearms on a pile of papers on her desk.
"Lilly called. You're having tea with Mrs. Bartlet at 2 p.m. I moved the AP guy to 2:30 p.m."
"The First Lady?"
"No other Mrs. Bartlet in town, I'm thinking. Yes, of course the First Lady." Carol appears on her door, leaning against the doorjamb as she studies a pad. "Lilly said, and I quote, 'Mrs. Bartlet wants Claudia to bring the Brazil briefs.'"
CJ disregards Carol's curious look, which she knows to be because she called her Claudia, since Carol is in no position to understand the First Lady's bad pun. "Better make the AP guy my 3 p.m." CJ brushes her fingers over her new blotter. Deep chocolate brown leather in the exact shade of her briefcase.
CJ seats herself with a smile, both hands on the cool leather that smells as good as a new car. Abbey is the only one that she has allowed to call her Claudia. It was the least she could do; CJ is her husband's Press Secretary, not her lover. Not the secret they share.
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