Dance Me On And On
by Oro

i. Like they do in Babylon.

They emerge from chaos, their ego bruised and hair tousled, and they are still shaken up. They are still detached and untrusting at the Inaugural Ball but still dancing and talking like they did before, or drinking and not dancing, just like before. As a group, they are an administration recovering from a crisis; they are 75 words under a picture of fake smiles in tomorrow's newspaper. Individually, they still tend to fall apart.

Toby watches the crowd and hates that he has to be in the midst of everything, unable to differentiate fake happiness from genuine relief, and still wonders if it matters at all. Everybody dances and poses for pictures, and it feels like prom; he hates, because he graduated high school too long ago and yet the associations of it still come back to bite him in the ass.

He watches CJ dance with Will. His amber drink sways in his glass on the way to his lips, like her hips and her legs that move all too seductively for her age and social stature, and something about her glimmers; maybe her dress, or her hair or perhaps a necklace. She catches light and for a moment, his eyes can't take it. She watches him watch her dance with Will, and her look is suddenly darker and more teasing than it had been when she wasn't paying attention to him.

She looks directly at him, and it's like a high-quality soft-core porn movie that gets good reviews because it's `artistic'.

The word `sultry' enters his mind, followed by `inappropriate'; it is like when he was seventeen and connected words to one another like smooth, shiny beads, writing his story in second person throughout the day. He wanted to remember everything then. He wants to remember, tonight, the exact color of CJ's dress when it momentarily blinded him. The next word is `adolescent,' followed by embarrassment.

Inaugural Whiskey slides down his throat and she averts her gaze.


ii. Through the curtains that our kisses have outworn.

He watches her still; on television, as she stands behind the podium and deflects a million irrelevant questions. Sometimes he goes to the actual press briefing room to stand in the back and lean against the wall, hoping not to be noticed, though he always is. He thinks she sees him, even behind a cameraman, even if he watches her on television in his office, because every now and then there's that look or a certain physical gesture he's convinced no one else is meant to see. No one else should see.

She dances through a briefing and he tries to learn the steps, because he wants to remember when a camera flash goes off and she winces. He noticed -- that she winces still, even though she's got years of experience now. It's like it was at the beginning, like the first campaign, and he feels like an old man who reminisces too much. But the steps are never the same and he'll never learn; and maybe she's starting to think that he scrutinizes her behavior with the press. Occasionally she looks at his direction and her tongue slips.

He goes back to his office after briefings, to call Andi. They have this thing now, when he calls, she puts the phone next to the babies and he gets to talk to them and pray they won't grow up to think that their father is, in fact, a telephone. There's something about them, about the daily phone calls that gives him perspective for the rest of the day, or until the next time CJ goes on camera.

It's a daily struggle, but we manage. He got that from the newspaper, though he swore when he was younger never to use another man's words.

He gets tired of imaginary displays of affection, every now and then.

At a point, he stops going to press briefings.


iii. Though every thread is torn.

It's four-thirty in the morning, and he is watching CNN and his children. His mind runs in circles and triangles and other fun geometric shapes that never get him anywhere. He's been having trouble sleeping lately, and trouble focusing, and trouble not staring into space all the damn time.

His hand reaches to touch a child, and another child, and the instinct of having to do everything twice has already settled deep inside him that he doesn't notice it at all anymore, not like he used to. His hands run over noses like Andi's and eyelashes like his. Sleep comes easily to them, naturally, and he finds himself envious.

He finds himself getting up to open the door at four-thirty in the morning, after a soft knock and a tired, somewhat sheepish, "Toby?" from the other side of it. He opens the door after a moment of thinking `disheveled', but CJ is always the opposite of that. Tonight, too. Not `disheveled'; the word is `lonely'.

She says, "Aren't you going to invite me in?" and it feels cheaper or like more of a cliché than it should be.

He can see her examine the apartment the way she always does, and when she speaks again, her eyes are still exploring the living room and her voice is very soft. She says something about being alone tonight, and he tries to listen to what's behind her words, but they lack substance of any kind. She draws closer and he smells desperation, and he doesn't want it to be like that.

Her palms on his chest, her lips tasting like sharp movement, cutting through the air. She dances on his tongue too edgily and he backs away. He looks at her as if she is a stranger, and he feels cheated. Another bad memory to float between the walls of this house, is all he'll be able to think in retrospect later, when he's alone in the house with two babies asleep in a crib and her taste on his tongue.


iv. To your beauty with a burning violin.

He starts writing her as a metaphor to something bigger, greyer, more misunderstood and a lot less complicated than she really is. He writes words into her mouth and she repeats them in a bored, mundane tone, but he doesn't give up. He writes her apology notes that she throws away stubbornly, and he's hurt her more than he thought he had that night.


Another party, or formal event. Dancing and booze and whatnot is served, and Swiss people who talk in French and German and Italian to White House staffers who watch out for what they say in their mostly limited knowledge in these languages. And Toby, sitting at the table that despite its fanciness is still your basic Bar Mitzvah table in his eyes, no matter what anybody says.

He watches her leaning against a wall in the balcony. He joins her and she tells him to go away, asshole, and he stays anyway. They stand in silence and he apologizes: a simple "I'm sorry, CJ," he feels, is all he should say. She nods, because she wasn't listening anyway. The buzz of the people inside is loud enough to drown in.

The look in her eyes reminds him of that night -- before he blew it -- but this time it's mixed with something else. He wants to say `compassion', but he'd probably be wrong in about five different words he could have gone with. He says nothing; just looks at her.

In the dim light, her colors are vibrant but her face is tired, and maybe he's the one who's been dancing away all along. He stops in his tracks to listen to the sound of her voice as it feels the void in his ears.

He says, finally, "I was going to ask if you wanted to dance."


v. To the end of love.

They never did dance that night.

It happens a week later, after a week of giving this relationship thing a try and after beginning to trust each other again. It happens in his living room, and he's so baffled by the gesture that he has no idea what song is on. Something sexy and familiar, and soft, and she moves differently with him than when she danced with Will. She moves like the music, but he isn't listening to it anymore.

They dance, and it's like she never came to his home after a bad night and he never pushed her away when she tried to kiss him.

She guides him in circles on the floor, her bare feet sliding over wood to some rhythm he doesn't realize. She whispers, "don't think," and he tries not to. He tries to fit his own rhythm to hers, his body to hers, but they are never in sync anyway. She looks at him, and he stops trying altogether; he draws her nearer, and they barely move at all.

He touches her face, her hair, the back of her head, sliding his hands across her back, and then gently kisses her. She's still somewhat wary of his touch, but it's okay; there's still time. The awkwardness dissolving from their bodies, they dance about the past and the future, about sexuality and love and everything in between, about the shadows they cast on the floor as they move across the room.

He never thought these things could be quite so intimate.

And for the first time, no word comes to mind.


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