Lay Down Your Headby Marguerite
Rating: Hard R for sexual situations, some more intense than others [Archivist's Note: Kicked up to NC-17 on the 'better safe than sorry' principal]
Authors Notes: The song is "Lay Down Your Head" by Jeanne Tesori and Brian Crawley, copyright 1996 & 1998 by That's Music to My Ears, LTD (ASCAP) and Bayfield Music (BMI), used with admiration but without permission. The performance I'm hearing in my head is by Audra McDonald from the album "How Glory Goes," Nonesuch 79580-2, copyright 2000 Nonesuch Records and WEA International.
Anyway. Thank you, Ryo, for your beta, your patience, and your love of He Who Is The Hot.
Lay down your head and sleep, sleep.
She was perceptive. She knew what he thought of her in times of crisis. He saw her as a little lost creature, someone he could wrap up and defend in those rare moments of absolute chivalry, someone who would praise him, encourage him, in this antique endeavor.
Except that he had appeared on her doorstep, dripping with rainwater, watching with his mouth open as she answered the door with a towel around her shoulders and a cup of tea in her hand. So it had been unclear from the start who was going to save whom.
Donna shifted a little. Their bodies made an elongated "s" in her bed. Josh's head was in the valley of her waist, her legs against his chest, his arms wrapped warm and tight around her thighs.
She let had him in without a word, her sad, sad mouth finally remembering how smile while he shook himself off like a wet setter. "You disappeared after the speech."
"It was crazy in there. We weren't with the motorcade so we got swept out with the press," she had answered, handing him the towel and the tea before padding back into the kitchen to pour another cup that she could keep for herself this time. "Put your coat on the back of a chair, not the sofa, and take your shoes off before you catch pneumonia."
"It's a virus, you don't get pneumonia from cold feet."
His feet were too far away to test for coldness now, but she warmed her toes between his thighs. He grumbled something in his sleep and pressed his cheek against her hip. She stroked his hair, still wet from the rain or perhaps the perspiration from their activity.
"What wind blew you hither?" she had asked once she got settled with her own tea and made sure her robe was securely tied.
"That's nice, Donna. Shakespeare in the middle of a storm."
"You haven't answered my question."
Josh had opened his mouth and closed it a couple of times, running his hand over the back of his head and making a disorderly cluster of waves out of his wet hair. "I...we thought he...we didn't know..." He shook his head. "I asked CJ to pinch me when he said it - I thought I was dreaming."
"Damn straight. I think she bruised me."
She had laughed then, the unexpected and unfamiliar sound filling the room and making Josh smile. It was worth it, to see his smile. "So you're drunk and you're here to yell at Rachel's cats?"
"No. Surprisingly, I'm sober."
"I thought you'd all go to the place."
"Nope. I puttered around for a few minutes but I'm wired. I couldn't work. I needed..."
His eyes were soft, vulnerable, with rain darkening his eyelashes and highlighting the planes of his face.
It was beyond crazy, watching the rapid rise and fall of his chest as he struggled for words. She had the power to stop this, to make it all better with a quip, but she didn't want to. Instead she had let him step forward, wrap her in his arms, and press her head to his shoulder with a strong hand.
She had let him hold her because it was something he needed, something that could give him stability and a sense of control in a world spinning on an insane axis. It had started out safe, familial, not anything that could be held against them. But it had progressed with Josh's hands under Donna's robe and her leg pressed against his growing hardness, and now they were asleep in her bed. Definitely something that could be held against them.
She hated sleeping on her side, found it uncomfortable and unbalanced. But tonight wasn't for sleeping; she'd have the rest of her life for that. Tonight was for watching Josh as blue-silver moonlight touched his face.
His face had been lovely, she remembered, when he had tipped up her chin and given her a soft kiss. Each kiss had been different, moving from tentative to comforting to frantic, and she had felt grateful that rain fell from his hair onto her face to cover her tears. He'd leapt backwards, one hand tracing an unknown, tremulous pattern in the air while with the other he had touched his fingertips to his mouth.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. God, Donna, I'm such an asshole, I didn't...I can't begin to..."
"Josh." She had needed to stop the flood of words before they both drowned. Never taking her eyes from his, she had opened her arms and given herself eagerly to their mutual downfall.
Fallen now, a vine wrapped around a rose, they lay in a whirlwind of mussed sheets and tangled limbs. She could still feel him inside her, still remember every inch of his flesh as he joined himself to her, like phantom pain turned somehow joyous. He'd never let go of her hands, always keeping his fingers threaded through hers, even when he had shouted her name to the heavens as his essence filled her. Shouted her name, and the forbidden words, and then repeated them so softly that she had been certain it was a lust-induced hallucination.
But he'd asked her to tell him the same thing, when his fingers were dancing over her oversensitized flesh, when she held his head to her breast and let him feel the hummingbird wings of her heartbeat. "Please, Donna," he had entreated, and she let the words slide out of her as easily as he had slid into her. And when she had come, once, twice, a third time, she told him again.
He was at rest, finally, finally, after their breathing had slowed and their faces had flushed with embarrassment and remembered yearning, and he'd made some mumbled promises he'd never be able to keep, but she knew he'd believed them when he said them.
She felt the tickle of his eyelashes against her waist. Looking down, she saw his eyes, large and luminous and afraid. "It's okay, Josh. Go back to sleep."
Whatever he saw in her expression seemed to reassure him. He said something into her flesh, something that made her smile while tears fell like an unexpected summer storm.
Lay down your head and dream, dream.
They'd long since given up on trying to justify this, and CJ didn't have time in her schedule for anything that wasn't straightforward. Anything that wasn't exactly what it was. They didn't need drinks or conversation or subliminal signals, not after a friendship that had spanned a continent, fifteen years, a marriage, a divorce, and a presidential campaign. It had also spanned his private breakdown, the one no one knew about but her, the one where he woke up every night for three months covered in sweat, screaming that it was blood.
Not after that. They could just look at one another at the end of a particularly Godawful day - and they had plenty of those, especially now - and end up in a sweating, panting pile of body parts.
No, there was more to it than that, CJ, thought as Toby nuzzled her breast in post-coital semiconsciousness. For a man who lived and died by the words he wrote for the rest of the world, Toby had a peculiar inability to express himself except with his ungainly body. She'd seen him rip into a speech that Sam had spent days perfecting, watching Sam withdraw like a whipped puppy, but the moment Toby touched Sam's arm to indicate something he liked, Sam's morose expression would be replaced with sudden, sunny joy. Personally, she'd have kicked his ass for that kind of treatment, but in some part of Sam's complicated psyche he seemed to need frequent dressings-down, perhaps to compensate for the youthful privilege that he wore like an albatross around his neck.
And what did she, Claudia Jean Cregg, White House Press Secretary and the Penultimate Person to Know, need?
She'd made it clear to Toby. Touch me here. Harder. Harder. I won't break.
Even after fifteen years and God knew how many frantic nights, his tenderness came as surprise. Sometimes she suspected that she was barking sexual orders at him to see if he'd finally snap. But he never did. More of a gentleman in bed than out of it, he always bore his weight on his own arms, always kept his beard from leaving marks on her neck or thighs, always managed, by sheer force of intractable will, to have her crying out to him or God or both before he'd allow his own release.
It had driven her especially crazy tonight. "Just once, Toby, couldya just be a caveman?" she'd asked, still panting from one of the orgasms that had rippled through her while he waited and watched with those dark, unreadable eyes.
"I'm too nice?" he'd asked, trying without success to hide his smile in his beard while thrusting deep into her. "You're telling me I'm too nice?"
"Yeah, I know, it probably never happens."
"Not too much, no." He'd rested his forehead on her collarbone, sighing, and watched himself slipping in and out of her, something that had always seemed to fascinate him. Thinking about that always made her eyes fill.
She turned her head and rubbed her damp cheek against the pillow. Her back ached from where she'd strained upwards, taunting him, trying to get him to lose control. All for nothing. Well, not nothing, because Toby reached around and rubbed the tight muscles, his touch expert and soothing. "You're tense," he whispered into the long curve of her neck.
"It was a tense kind of day." She hooked a thumb under his jaw, making him come up for a kiss that tasted like scotch and cigars and despair and everything else that made him Toby.
His eyes were topaz in the muted light. "I'm sorry you're tense, CJ," he murmured. "I'm sorry about all of it, I really am."
"We've been over this and over this..."
"Yeah. I know. But it doesn't make it suck any less."
She smiled and kissed him again, this time with her heart in it. "He's running, Toby. He's going to finish this job. That's more important than the order of being told, or even who told us." It wasn't entirely true; some part of her would always resent the hell out of hearing it from Leo when everyone else had been granted an audience with the President.
And Toby knew that. "Leo feels like crap about how it went down."
"Yeah, well, he can take a number." She shook her head, feeling the ends of her hair catching in Toby's beard. "I don't want to talk about this. Not now." She tightened her embrace, moaning as Toby's hands roamed the length of her body.
"So what do you want to do?" he asked, and she could see the way his smile, the mischievous, cunning one, lit up his entire face.
"Oh, this and that." She stretched, holding on to the headboard for leverage as she felt all her vertebrae align.
"This?" His finger made a tight circle in the wet curls between her thighs.
She arched into his hand. Damn the backache, Toby was too good to waste. "This," she agreed, her voice coming from somewhere deep and dark and dangerous.
"How about...that?" he asked, soberly regarding her as he began kissing his way down her torso.
"Oh, definitely...that." Toby's mouth, that could wound in so many ways in his day-to-day conversation, had an entirely different function when it was against her, pulling her out of her thoughts until all she knew was that her blood hadn't been anywhere near her brain for too long. His scalp was smooth and warm beneath her fingers as she stroked it. He hummed something that was a little like opera and a little like pain, his tongue darting around, not sharp but soft and smooth and wet.
She heard herself whimpering and didn't care.
He did that thing with his tongue, something she didn't think was technically possible and was probably illegal in some southern states, and she screamed his name as the room whirled and grew dark except for the sparkles behind her closed eyelids.
"I love it when you do that." He sounded like fifteen different kinds of smug, smug on a level that even Josh could only dream about.
Toby folded his arms over CJ's belly and rested his chin there, watching her wind down. He adjusted his body enough so that he could plant a noisy kiss in her navel, then resumed his quiet vigil.
"How you doin' down there?" CJ asked, her voice more than a little raw.
"I'll take an IOU."
It was his code phrase, something he said rather than admit that his middle-aged body wasn't going to cooperate the way it had when they was twentysomething and could make love until their flesh was the color of sunrise. She found it peculiarly endearing, like the man himself.
"C'mere, then," she whispered, and he obliged by scaling her long body until he could lie on his back and put her head on his chest. She draped her leg over him because she knew he liked it, and because his body was warm and comforting.
"I suspected that he was sick, Toby."
"Ssh, ssh." He kissed her temple, then tucked her head back under his chin. "None of that matters. None of it."
"The Grand Jury will..."
"The Grand Jury can kiss my ass, CJ." He held her a little more tightly, enough to make her feel secure and balanced.
"I'd like to see that."
His heartbeat was slowing, the thumping gentle and regular. He kissed her again. "CJ?" he asked in a voice thick with sleep.
"I won't let you fall."
And oh, his breath is so warm.
There wasn't a mirror in this miserable, dank room in the bowels of the White House, but there was one window, probably meant for coal delivery in some bygone era, and she could see their reflection in it. The colors were wrenched from the palette by a night that didn't so much fall as collapse, so instead of gold and ebony she only saw her light hair brushing her shoulder, and his dark head contrasted against it.
It would look like something from a bad movie if someone were to walk into her office right now. It would look like two staff members in flagrante, too stupid even to close the door much less lock it. But the funny part - if you absolutely had to find something funny in the midst of what she'd learned, along with the rest of the world, in the last few hours - was that they'd simply fallen asleep in each other's arms.
Fully dressed, no less, except for Ainsley's right shoe, which lay just out of reach of her questing toes.
Sam had lurched into her office looking as if death would've been preferable to whatever state of mind he was in. Ainsley had opened her mouth to rip him to shreds over the whole MS disaster, to tell him in no uncertain terms how much legal, ethical, and moral trouble he was in and that she wanted no part of it, ever. But before she'd had the chance to say any of it, he had just stumbled over to her and thrown himself into her arms.
She'd patted his back, tentatively at first, then rubbing in circles like she would if he were a cranky baby needing to be soothed. That image didn't last long, especially when he'd begun kissing the base of her throat, working his way upwards to her mouth. "Sam," she'd tried to say, but it came out as a moan as she found herself inspecting his impossibly even teeth with her tongue.
"Ainsley," he'd whispered, kissing each eyelid with lips almost too soft to be entirely masculine. "This is stupid. I should go."
His hair had been blue-black with rain, drops still clinging to his finely-boned face, and the pads of his fingers were slightly shriveled against the firm, soft skin of her cheeks.
"Don't go, Sam," she had said, her drawl putting three syllables into his simple, honest name. "It hurts me, too."
He'd slid downward, ending up on his knees with his face pressed against her stomach, and when she cupped his face it was so, so cold. His breath, oddly, had been fever-hot, and she had wondered if she should call a doctor. The only doctor she had been able to think of was the First Lady, who probably wouldn't be a doctor much longer if Ainsley's party had anything to say about it, and that had made her sad enough to lean over and let tears slip down her face and fall into Sam's sodden hair.
The new moisture had gotten his attention. "Ah, don't, Ainsley, I'm sorry."
"Shut up, Sam."
So they had ended up in her one comfortable chair with her on his lap, kissing with sweet innocence until Sam's body succumbed to depression and sleep deprivation and he had relaxed, leaving her to absorb the chill of his body and rework it into living warmth.
The man she served was in deep trouble. Her friends were probably toasting each other right now, placing bets on who would take Josiah Bartlet for a ride in the next election. God only knew what Toby was thinking right now, and she didn't want to imagine the kind of days Josh was going to be putting in, trying to make the disclosure of this horrible disease work in the President's favor. She didn't envy CJ the onerous task of putting a good public face on what should, really, have been a private sorrow.
And Sam. Poor, sweet, misguided Sam, who'd put his faith in greatness only to have it crumble at his feet, what would he do?
She didn't know, but as she felt his body becoming warm and pliant in her arms, she knew that she wouldn't leave him to do it alone.
Lay down your head and sleep, sleep.
Her weight alone hadn't been enough to make the old bed creak, but the addition of his body, slim as it was, too slim for her peace of mind, made the familiar wooden chirping. She heard him laughing above her even as he kept up the pace of his thrusts. "It's nice...not to have...to worry about that..." he groaned, and she kissed him in response.
It had been so long, so long. As gentle as he was, it was still uncomfortable, and familiar as he was, it was still a little foreign. But oh, to feel the concentration in his limbs as he worked his way in and out of her body, to see the gleam in his eyes that had never dimmed in all these years. She would endure fifty times fifty, fifty times a thousand, just to have him joined to her like this.
"Am I hurting you?" he asked in that tender, concerned voice, and she didn't have the heart to say yes because then he would stop, and the world would stop, and her heart would stop.
"No, no. It's just been a while, you know?"
"Yeah, I know." He changed the angle a little and it didn't chafe as much, although she still cursed the curious ravages of time that left her mind in one state and her body in another. But this new angle was nice, more than nice, and with relief she began to feel a cushion of moisture between their bodies.
"Ah, there we go." He smiled down at her, obviously proud of himself, and she smiled back as she tightened around him. "I love it when you do that," he whispered, kissing her again and again.
"I'll keep that in mind." She knew every shudder, every moan, as familiar to her as her own, and she knew that he was going somewhere without her and she wanted to be with him. Never taking her gaze from his face, she trailed one hand down her body to just above the place where they were joined.
He stopped, staring open-mouthed at her. "This is new," he said, not angry, just puzzled and a little lost.
"I've had some practice in the last year or so," was her reply. "You're fine, I just...I just..." She thought she was beyond blushing, but evidently that was one function her aging body decided to leave in place.
His kiss was ferocious, stronger than the ones he'd rained on her face after she had phoned him and asked him to come over. "I think I like it," he said softly as her muscles began to flutter. "Oh, yeah, I like it a lot."
"Good, because I like it too."
It felt so good to laugh with him. They hadn't laughed together in so long, since before any of this had happened, and certainly not in those rare instances when they'd made time for sex. She was still laughing when something else bubbled up inside of her, making her arch upwards and cry out his name.
He didn't last, of course he didn't, not after that, and certainly not after all this time. She was glad when he shuddered above her, silent and intense, and gave her the kind of kiss he only bestowed in the few moments between orgasm and slumber. She couldn't bring herself to resent the way his body just melted into sleep - especially not after she'd seen him, worn and pale and frightened, on the evening news, and had picked up the phone before considering what dangerous territory she was exploring.
She rearranged him a little, turning him onto his side and spooning behind him, putting one hand on his belly and the other in his soft hair. No more combat, no more recrimination, no more self-inflicted pain. For tonight, for as long as he needed her, they could be just the way it had been. And it had been good all those years ago, before fame and prestige and duty had eaten away at them. It would be good again, now that they knew they should just be themselves.
Just Leo and Jenny.
*** END ***