Disclaimer: “The West Wing”, the characters and situations depicted are the property of Warner Bros. Television, John Wells Productions, NBC, etc. They are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. This site is in no way affiliated with "The West Wing", NBC, or any representatives of Allison Janney or Mary McCormack. This site contains stories between two mature, consenting adult females.
Title Notes: The title comes from Song of Songs, Chapter 2, verse 15. The full quote is "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes."
When searching for a title, Shatterpath suggested something with vineyards, since they seem to be a rather striking image in this story. So I searched for quotations with vineyards in them, but found nothing of interest. Then I moved on to searching for vines, and came up with this one. And it seemed perfect.
Ficathon Notes: This was a pinch-hit for celievamp, who had the following requests...
Name/LJ Name: celievamp
Listed fandoms I request: (limit three):
Battlestar Galactica (2003) - Roslin/Six
Doctor Who ("new" Who only: Nine/Ten/Torchwood/Sarah Jane Adventures) - Gwen/Sarah Jane Smith
Stargate SG-1 Sam/Vala
Wildcard fandoms I request: (limit three):
BSG/SG1 - Replicarter/Six or Three or Eight
Farscape - Aeryn/Chiana
West Wing - CJ Cregg/Kate Harper
Author’s Notes: When I got the opportunity to write the pinch-hit for celievamp, I jumped at the chance. I was immediately looking into two pairings: Roslin/Six and CJ/Kate. I actually decided against the Roslin/Six, as I've written many of those in the past. And then I realized that I hadn't written a CJ/Kate before. I'd planned initially to write a piece taking place after the 7th season ep "Requiem," until I realized there wasn't any interaction between CJ and Kate to justify what I'd wanted to do. So I started thinking, and doing some research via Wikipedia on the characters. And then I got my idea. And this is what came of it…
Dedication: My muses, because I'm not as prolific without them…
"For Our Vines Have Tender Grapes"
by A. Magiluna Stormwriter
"Hello?" Her voice is muffled, rough, as if she hasn't had any sleep in days. If the rumors are true
, she probably hasn't. "Somebody there?" "Hi," you finally say, wondering if she'll even know it's you.
"Kate?" There's a bit more coherency to her voice now, and you can't help feeling that giddy sensation that she's recognized your voice so quickly, despite…everything. "What, um, what time is it?"
You glance at the clock, trying to figure out the time zone differences, then just give up on it. "Probably the middle of the night for you. I'm sorry, CJ, go back to bed. You need your rest. I shouldn't have called."
There's a soft sound of whimpering on the other end of the line, and you feel a pang of -- what? -- in your heart. She mumbles something, the sound muffled by what you gather is her hand over the receiver in her hand, and you can finally determine, by the answer, just who is with her. The realization eases only a portion of the pangs tightening around your heart.
"Kate? Are you still there?" She sounds far more like the person you remember now, and it's easy to let your mind wander back to a time when things were so much easier for all of you.
"Yeah, yeah, I’m here. So, um, how you doing?" What a lame question to ask, considering.
"I've been better. Talia's been fighting a fever brought on by the flu, so she's rather uncomfortable. And of course, there's the whole issue…"
Her voice trails off in that resigned tone you well remember; only this time, it has an unhealthy defeated tinge to it. That's not good. This isn't the CJ Cregg you've known for just over six years now. Doesn't matter that you lost track of each other after everyone moved on from the West Wing. Doesn't matter that while you've been off doing all of those unmentionable things all over the world, she's been in complete and utter turmoil and you couldn't help her.
"Yeah, I finally got my mail and caught up on the past six months of news." You wince at the soft sigh echoing across the line. "I'm sorry."
"No," she says quickly. "Don't be. It's better this way. And maybe one day I'll believe that, too." There's another pause as she murmurs soothing words to her daughter, and you can't help but picture how she must look: the lovely maternal glow that you remember from the last time you'd seen her when she was still pregnant. "Sorry about that," she replies, just a bit sheepish. "Talia tends to be very clingy when she's not feeling well. So, um, how are you doing? Haven't heard from you in ages."
Leave it to CJ to make even the worst events sound commonplace and pragmatic.
"Away on business?" she asks with a low, knowing chuckle that you echo.
"That's a good way to put it. If by business you mean no running water, no real communications with the known world, and the threat of great bodily harm if you're not careful, then you're exactly right."
It's probably more than you should be telling her, but it's certainly nothing that will even come close to the reality of the past eleven months. Once again, you find yourself wondering why you couldn't have stayed Deputy NSA for President Santos. Then you remember being pulled away from that position right after the Bartlet presidential library dedication for intel. You'd been assured of a relatively easy and short assignment: get in, get out, go back to the West Wing. Too bad it hadn't actually worked out that way. And now, a year and a half later, you're finally able to walk away from that particularly bloody coup and rejoin society at large.
"Kate? Are you still there?" CJ's voice is laden with concern, and you feel guilty for causing her more concern than she already has to deal with.
"Yeah, sorry," you apologize, feeling all the more the heel for having nodded in response to her question at first. "I-- My mind wandered for a second there. Guess I'm still not all back from this last assignment." Once again, you glance at the clock and try to figure out the time zone differences. "Listen, CJ, why don't I let you get back to your daughter. I can call you again later."
"No, really, it's okay." If you didn't know any better, you'd swear she's begging. "As long as I'm close by, Talia can sleep. It's fine, really."
You relent. "Okay." Of course, you relent. "So… I'm curious about something."
CJ's low chuckle indicates she knows exactly what you're going to ask. "I would love to tell you what happened, Kate. And you're right, there's more to my divorce than was reported on by the press. But it's nobody's business but mine to tell it. Well, and Danny, too."
You know CJ well enough to read into her rhetoric. There's definitely more than meets the eye. And you'll bet your commission that you probably know what it's about. But you don't want to think about that. It's not pleasant, and she shouldn't have to consider unpleasant things in the middle of the night while her daughter lies sick next to her.
"Okay, so tell me about Talia," you offer, curious about this side of CJ Cregg you'd never expected to see. And just as easily, you fall into the happy lull of her voice, registering the actual words on a deeper subconscious level. It's all about the good times, the happy moments, so you can rejoin the world at large with as little stress as humanly possible.
~ 2 weeks later ~
Pulling up into the driveway, you take in the modest house and its decent sized yard. You're both nonplussed and unsurprised that she's surrounded by vineyards. She always did have a discerning palate for wine, but you'd have guessed she'd be living closer to the bright lights and frantic energy of San Francisco. After all, she's been doing adjunct work over at UC-Berkeley ever since she moved here with Talia.
You take a deep breath and check your hair in the review mirror of your rental once more before getting out of the car. Grabbing the dessert and gift bag as you head up to the door, you find yourself wondering once again why you agreed to do this.
And then the door opens and you're face to face with a CJ Cregg you almost wouldn't recognize. She looks older, more careworn, and yet she's got this almost glow of inner peace that you find yourself drawn to instinctively. The little girl with dishwater blonde hair on her hip stares shyly at you from around the tattered pink bunny she's got clutched tightly to her chest. You think you can see hints of Danny Concannon in her, but mostly you see her mother. Such a beautiful little girl, she'll grow into a real heartbreaker one day.
"Kate!" You're enveloped in a one-armed hug, bringing you closer to the little girl. "You look fabulous! A little thin, but I'm sure some decent food will help with that, right? Come on, I'll show you the house."
You follow behind her willingly, taking in all of the household minutia that herald their owner: the shelves of books, the photograph of the group of them at the Bartlet presidential library dedication, the photograph of Leo McGarry dipping CJ back and kissing the tip of her nose, the knick-knacks. The things that more than make you aware that this is CJ Cregg's house. Particularly if you know her well, which you personally do. Of course, there are also the toys and signs of her daughter's influence in the place, as well.
When you're finally in the kitchen, CJ lets her daughter down to play. You can't help but follow the girl's progress to her little kitchen play area to start "din-din," as she puts it. CJ grins broadly at her daughter, and she pours two cups of coffee and brings them to the counter stools where you're sitting. You fall into a comfortable silence again, just soaking up the calm and comforting stillness of this house.
"So I suppose you're wondering what happened?" CJ finally asks, studying your face over the rim of her cup. "I suppose the easiest way to explain it is that Danny and I just ended up having different ideas on what constituted commitment."
"He cheated on you?" You're actually stunned that the man would do such a thing; he'd been pursuing CJ for longer than you've known her.
That half-sheepish, half-disappointed look crosses her face. "Not quite."
"You didn't cheat on him. Did you?"
"No!" Her adamance is clear. "I may want… I'd never cheat on my partner. Ever."
You nod, reaching over to squeeze her hand sympathetically. "What happened?" Your voice is definitely gentler than you might have planned it, but you don't regret it.
She sighs and fingers the rim of her cup, not letting go of your hand either. "Danny knows," she finally says. "When I knew we were getting serious, I was honest with him." At the look of horror on your face, she squeezes your hand more tightly. "Okay, not completely honest. I'm not stupid, Kate."
"How -- how honest, CJ?" Your voice cracks almost painfully when you try to say the words, and you can't quite meet her gaze, so you stare at her daughter -- Danny's daughter -- instead.
"He knows about Carol. He doesn't know about you."
She's said it. She's acknowledged that one night. Oh hell, you're still denying there was anything more than that one night. She's probably able to acknowledge the whole thing. Then again, she's not military, born and bred. You gulp at your coffee, hoping the burn will dissolve the lump of fear lodged between heart and throat.
"You're sure?" You rasp out.
"I swear it on Talia's life, Kate." You've never seen her looking as serious as she does right now, and that comforts you, oddly enough. "He only knows about Carol because, well, he walked in on us one night. We weren't doing anything necessarily incendiary, but I suppose kissing your former secretary can be taken the wrong way if you're not careful. Thankfully, he was turned on by the idea, and dropped it otherwise."
"Is that what caused your divorce?" In asking the question, you can finally look at her again.
"What? Me sleeping with Carol? No," she says, smiling tightly. "What caused our divorce was that he wanted to expand our sexual horizons and I said no. Well, that and the fact that I just didn't want to live a lie. Yeah, I'm bisexual, but you know what? Guys really aren't my thing. Never have been, if I'm totally honest with myself."
Talia's interruption puts your jangled nerves into a juxtaposed calm that you never expected. You take the solace of silence as CJ putters about getting her daughter's snack. CJ's dropped kind of a large bomb on you, and that whole damned business of 'don't ask, don't tell' is looming in front of you like a damned neon sign on your forehead. The very fact that one of the Washington Post's best reporters has never picked up on the fact that you slept with his ex-wife is both a comfort and a mystery to you.
And you find your mind wandering back to that one particular night, the two of you finding the comfort and solace you needed in the aftermath of Leo's death. Granted, you remember CJ being more distraught than you were, but she'd also known him far longer than you did. But the companionship and need were more than mutual. You'd become relatively close rather quickly, considering how often you worked together in the Sit Room.
The sensation of her warm hand on your shoulder only partially brings you back from your musings of that one night that's lived on in your memories all this time: the feel of her skin against yours; her eyes red and swollen as they followed your every move; the soft whimpers and cries that egged you on to making her realize that life would still go on in the face of her sorrow. You never understood if it was more for her benefit, or yours. Not that it really mattered in the long run.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Her voice cuts gently into your thoughts, but you still can't meet her gaze for a moment.
"Just remembering," you reply in a low voice, offering her a weak smile.
Her echoing smile is indicative of her understanding. "I think about it, too," she finally admits and moves to grab a bottle of wine and two glasses. Your eyes are drawn to her hands as she opens the bottle, tactile memories as real as if they're happening right now. She chuckles softly as she sets a glass in front of you. "You realize that you're not being very subtle right now, Kate."
You feel the flush of -- arousal? embarrassment? -- warming your face, and you can't help glancing over at Talia to see if she's noticed. She hasn't, or so you gather from her singsong cooking ditty. "Yeah, well, sometimes the memories are stronger than others." You know your reason sounds lame.
"Like now?" Is there really that husky timber to her voice? Or are you just imagining it?
You take a fortifying sip of your wine, startled by the exquisite explosion of taste coating your tongue. "Has Will ever said anything to you about our break up?"
CJ drops into her chair and sips at her own wine glass. "No, actually. But then again, I don't really see him all that often." She pauses for a moment, and you can feel her studying your profile. "You two seemed so happy at the library dedication."
You grimace and shake your head. "That was a lifetime ago. When I got called away from the Sit Room one day to talk to my commanding officer, I knew something was wrong. Hell, President Santos knew something was wrong with the request. Turns out there was a mission. It wasn't mandatory, but I was the only one that really had all of the skills necessary to complete it." You chuckle wryly and sip at your wine again. "Will, well he lost it when I told him I was leaving on assignment. The President understood, but he's former military, so he gets it. Will was a reservist, which is laudable, but he doesn't understand the intricacies of a full time career in the military. And he certainly doesn't understand that this is all I've ever done."
"That always did seem a bit odd to me," she muses softly, almost to herself.
"So when the assignment came in, I was honest and told him what I could. He told me to refuse the assignment. Didn't care that there wasn't anyone else to do this one, and that I'd technically laid the ground work years ago. It boiled down to the ultimatum of him or the assignment." You swallow thickly, remembering the spectacular shouting match that situation had created. "The decision really wasn't that difficult to make. Will's got far too many old fashioned ideals in the relationship realm, and it ruffled my feathers on more than one occasion."
"He didn't know, did he?" Her question is soft, indicating she only needs confirmation of her suspicions. You don't disappoint.
"No. He wouldn't have been very thrilled to know about some of my more 'subversive' predilections. It would be a pretty big blow to his congressional career." You shrug and trace the rim of your glass with a fingertip. "Will was a safety net, if I'm totally honest with myself. Granted, I liked him a lot, but…"
The sensation of her hand on yours is a startling comfort. "I know," is all she says. And you believe that she does as the reality of her former marriage really sinks in.
"And now I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life," you finally admit.
"Do with your life?"
"I'm retiring from the Navy. In fact, I've only got about three more weeks until I'm officially done and have to figure out how to be a civilian."
CJ looks delectably adorable as she blinks in complete astonishment. "What happened? Kate, I never said anything. Nobody could possibly know--"
"No, CJ, it's not that," you reassure her. "It's just… After you've been shot at and nearly killed one too many times, you decide that enough's enough."
"You were shot at?" Just the tone of her voice indicates that she's never really associated the atrocities of war and world peacekeeping with you specifically.
"It's part of the job, CJ. But that's beside the point. The undercover mission was incredibly grueling, and I realized I'm just getting too damned old for this shit. Yes, there are undercover ops, both in the military and the CIA, that are older than I am, but we all have our saturation point. This last mission was mine. It was about three months ago that I got my re-up papers. I didn't sign them. In fact, I told my CO that I wasn't going to do it. I'm hitting my twenty this year and I'll get my full pension. I just need out, but I've got no idea what the hell I'm going to do."
"What about going back to the White House as Deputy NSA?"
"Josh and the President would take me back in a heartbeat. Hell, Nancy McNally would take me back in a heartbeat, but I can't guarantee that I won't get called off to another mission like this. That's the problem. I loved working in the West Wing, but I don't think I can do it without my commission. So I'm going to retire a captain and I have no idea what the hell do to next. I just don't think I can be involved with anything that even remotely resembles the military right now. I'm forty-one years old and all I've done my entire life is eat, sleep, and breathe the Navy, even before I joined up."
"Come out to California," CJ abruptly suggests, startling you. "You could stay here while you're getting settled, and I've got more than enough contacts that we can find you something you'd like to do. Or you could write another book."
"You don't think it would be weird to have me underfoot?"
CJ laughs delightedly. "Well, it's not like anyone would think it odd for me to be putting up a friend while she's new in town. Unless…" Her eyebrows rise in curiosity and an unspoken challenge.
You glance over at Talia, who's still blissfully playing at her little Playskool kitchen set. Your eyes travel back to CJ for a moment before studying the vineyards that jut up against her backyard. Unless… There are a lot of things you could tack onto that word, and you ponder every single one of them.
And then you make your decision and act on it before you can change your mind.
~ 8 months later ~
You’re startled by the knock at the door. Groggily grabbing for it, because you're still not awake yet, you're attacked by a small green blur. "Hapa!"
Grinning, you scoop the small girl up and rub noses with her. "Hi, T! How's my favorite birthday girl?"
"Coming down from a massive sugar high and spoiled rotten, but what's new?"
You chuckle and lean over to plant a gentle, nuzzling kiss on CJ's lips. "Stressful time with Danny?" you ask gently, moving to close the door behind her.
"You could say that…" Her tone of voice sounds off, and you're curious as hell as to what's going on. But before you can ask, she holds a finger up. "We have company coming over in a few minutes, so we need to power pick up and get Talia down for her nap."
"Company? Excuse me? Ceej, I haven't even showered yet. I'm still half asleep, for God's sake." And then it hits you. "Don't tell me you're letting Danny come over here."
"No, not Danny," she replies with a cryptic smile as she lifts the suddenly lethargic body of her two-year-old daughter. "But you'll want to shower, so go on. I can get this place picked up. We still have that open bottle of the Madeira, right?"
Confused, you let CJ herd you toward your bedroom. "As far as I know, we do. I don't remember finishing it off yet. Wait a minute! That's for the special company. Who's coming over, CJ?"
"You'll see after you shower and change. Nothing fancy, you'll be fine in some clean sweats and that new t-shirt Talia got you for Halloween."
You feel your eyes narrowing as you try to figure out this little mystery. But as CJ walks away to do as she said, you realize that you're just better off following orders. You can make her pay for the secrecy later on, after your company's gone.
Once in the shower, you can't help but relax into the hot water. You take your time, figuring CJ is pulling your leg and will join you once she's put Talia down for a nap. When the water turns cold and CJ hasn't come in yet, you take that as the sign to end your shower. Quickly toweling off, you slip into the sweats and t-shirt she's requested and head out toward the kitchen. You can hear voices in the living room and chuckle.
"Are you playing that DVD the Bartlets sent for Christmas last year again?"
"Why? Don't you like it?"
Okay, that voice isn't the one you're expecting to hear. Turning the corner into the kitchen, you find yourself face to face with Abbey Bartlet. "Crap! Um, sorry, ma'am. It's not that I don't like it… Um, where's CJ?"
"She had to go pick something up for dinner. I told her we could watch Talia and wait for you. I hope you don't mind."
You shake your head, grabbing for the towel encompassing your hair. "I'm just glad I got dressed before I walked out here." At her amused snicker, you clap your hand over your mouth. "I shouldn't have said that."
Thankfully, Abbey Bartlet merely grins and moves to give you a hug. "You're looking well, Kate. I see the civilian life agrees with you."
You shrug and run your fingers through your hair. "I'm still getting used to it, but yeah, I'm happy. The book's about half done, and T's a joy to care for."
"And then there's her undying affection for CJ." You both turn to see CJ standing in the doorway with a bottle in her hand. "Right?" she asks, flashing you a hopeful, apologetic look.
You grin and lean in to press a kiss to her lips. "You'll pay for this, babe," you murmur as you head back toward the bedroom to finish your hair. When you come back out, you follow the conversation to the living room, where you find CJ sitting on one couch, the Bartlets on the other. And Talia's sprawled in Jed Bartlet's lap, fast asleep, her "bed" not too far behind her.
"Well, Kate, it's about time you made an appearance," the former president says. "I was starting to think you didn't like me very much."
"No, sir, I can't stand you," you deadpan as you settle on the couch next to CJ. Without thinking, you snuggle in close to her, enjoying the intimacy, particularly in front of these two people that you've respected for so long.
"I knew there was something I liked about you," Abbey retorts, patting her husband's cheek. "And you, Jethro, can just go back to napping with Talia."
He rumbles good-naturedly and resettles back in the couch, stroking Talia's back gently as she mumbles in her sleep. The conversation turns light, catching up on each other's lives, until Talia stirs grumpily. Out of habit, CJ gets up to grab her daughter.
"No, Mama," Talia whines, scrubbing at her eyes and squirming. "Hapa! Down!"
CJ opens her mouth to admonish the girl when you lightly clear your throat. Talia blinks and glances sheepishly at you before facing her mother again. "Sorry, Mama. Down please?"
CJ simply grins, presses a kiss to her daughter's forehead, and sets her down. "Go on, sweetie." Talia scrambles over to climb into your lap, kicking and stepping on you in her effort to get closer.
"Hapa!" she sleepily squeals, curling closer into your body. "Miss you."
"I missed you, too, T," you reply, offering another Eskimo kiss, which is returned by several sloppy smacks all over your face. "How about you sit here with me and Mama and take a nap? We'll be here when you wake up, promise."
"'Kay. Love you, Hapa," she mumbles and curls into you again, eyes closing.
"Did she just call you 'Papa,' Kate?" Jed asks as CJ sits next to you, her daughter nestled between your bodies.
"Not quite. She uses a variation on my last name, you know, like she's from New York or something," you reply, putting on the fake New York accent. This causes the couple to chuckle. "Thankfully, she calls Danny 'daddy,' so there's no confusion. He's not thrilled with her name for me, but we've agreed to be polite for her sake."
You can't help leaning into CJ's touch as she gently runs her fingers through your hair. And as you sit there, talking to this couple who, for all intents and purposes, brought you together with this woman that you've come to adore more than anything you'd expected, you realize that you don't even care anymore if people know you're together.
"Life is good," CJ says, bringing you out of that reverie. "I think I'm finally in the place I've always wanted to be: I have a wonderful house, a great teaching job, a beautiful daughter, an incredible and attentive lover, and an ex-husband who has promised he won't say a word that would jeopardize our lives or careers. Who could ask for anything more?"
You smile, not even embarrassed by what CJ's just said. And if anyone ever finds out about the two of you, you'll take that in stride just as you have everything else involving this woman sitting next to you.