title: Miraculous as Atoms
author: ellen milholland
codes: post-"Dead Irish Poets," cj/sam
disclaimers: standard disclaimers apply. quote care of albert einstein.
summary: "I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it."
note: a short little thing that i would put this within the universe of my own "Center of Gravity" and "Irreparable Things." i wouldn't recommend thinking too hard about the timeline, honestly, but we'll say that "Irreparable Things" happened, say, sometime in the months following 'Manchester' okay? okay.
"I think that a particle must have a separate reality independent of the measurements. That is an electron has spin, location and so forth even when it is not being measured. I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it."
All those hours later, at his apartment, it isn't about physics anymore, but it's still about the origins of a universe, and you both know it.
He's still wearing his tuxedo and the VCR's clock says three AM, but you're not sure whether to trust that because yours still says 12:00 after two years. You hope there's still time for a little sleep before you have to get up, business as usual, hope there's a little more time so you can sit here and watch him. Maybe even more so you can help him out of that tux and see how pretty he is out of it, bare skin finding its way out from under starched collars and neatly pressed pants.
He smells like cigar smoke, and it makes you want a cigarette, except he doesn't like you to smoke in his apartment because he doesn't believe you when you say Febreeze really will get rid of the smell. You think maybe he doesn't want to think of you addicted to anything, anymore, but you can't really help that. You still drink too much, get drunk too easily, and you did it tonight, drank a whole bottle of wine by yourself, but nobody noticed, or at least they didn't say anything. The meetings had worked for the drugs, sure, but you're good at the drinking at least, and good at hiding it.
But Sam knows, and you didn't want to tell him about the little cat speech, but you knew you looked drunk and you knew he would figure it out sooner or later. You told him when he was driving, and his fingers tightened on the steering wheel until his knuckles were brighter white than the headlights. You were ashamed so you turned towards the passenger-side window and almost cried, because you have a tendency to cry when you're drunk. He didn't say anything except, "I'm sorry," and the worst part is you know that he is.
When you pulled up at his apartment, he found a spot on the street, and he parked and came around to open the door for you. You knew your eyes were red, that you looked like hell, but when he held out his hand, he said, "You're so beautiful," and the fact that he meant it made you even more embarrassed. You said, "I'm so sorry," but he just shook his head, as the car locked shut with a beep behind you. He put his hand on the small of your back and walked you up to the door.
His hand was so warm, you never wanted him to move it. You imagined you could feel the distinct whorls of his fingerprints burning themselves into your flesh, but you didn't say that, either. As he unlocked the door, you put your hand on his forearm, and when he looked at you the light made it so you couldn't see his eyes for the glare. You sort of smiled and followed him in, dropping your briefcase near the door and throwing your wrap over the back of his sofa. You stand there in the half-darkness, just a light from the kitchen shining through into his living room, and your dress sparkles.
He stands near the window, and turns around so that there's a thousand shadows playing tag across his face. He opens his mouth to say something, and you feel a little naked for the first time tonight. He says, "Your dress."
"Cost a small fortune."
"It was worth it," he says, his voice down low like scotch.
"It's good you think so, because nobody but, you know, Abbey and Amy and Donna really got to see me in it. And while I value their opinions--"
"CJ," he says, and you look up from that spot on the floor you're suddenly fascinated by. He takes off his jacket slowly, puts it across the back of a chair, goes to unhook his cufflinks, but you stop him.
"Let me--" you start, but you don't finish, you just swish over in your long, glittery dress and help him with his cuffs. You stroke the insides of his wrists, and you're not drunk at all now. You lift his hand, hold it to your chest and close your eyes. This is how you say I Love You without having to use the words.
You say, "I hear you did a good job tonight." It sounds empty, even to you, but you say it anyway. His face is all hurt and triumph in turns. The professor is dying, which is a cliché, but it wasn't a cliché when Sam suddenly realized that he was a politician and that he could act like one. "A very good job."
"It was the least I could do."
"So, can you tell me what a super-colliding superconductor is? Seeing that you're physics-boy now, standing up for the scientists of the world."
His mouth moves a little, almost like a smile but not quite. You undo his tie, start on the top button, and he says, "They smash apart atoms, and they see the Big Bang."
You're on the third or fourth button, and the teeshirt underneath is new and too hard under your fingers. "Sounds like magic to me."
"Not really. Because, you know, it's waiting there, for us to see it. A few billion more, and wham! The origins of life. In technicolor." He holds you by the wrist, kisses your palm. You love him, and he loves you. Neither of you will say it. You step out of your shoes, push his shirt off his shoulders until he's forced to shake it off. He pulls his teeshirt from his pants, pulls it off over his head until the smooth lines of his chest are there for you to touch, cataloguing each muscle from the list in your mind, checking to make sure everything is where you left it.
The origins of life reminds you of lost babies, but you're so tired of crying you just shake it off. You kiss his shoulder, flick your tongue out and taste how he's salty-sweet. He says, "I wanted to dance with you tonight."
"I know," you say.
"We haven't seen much of each other lately," he says, his voice hard. He looks at you until you're sure he sees your bones.
"We've been busy people."
"That, and you've been avoiding me."
He considers something, then says, "You know, the President told me that I'd run for President one day."
"He's right," you say, but you're not sure you really believe it. Sam's smart, Sam's beautiful. But you're not sure he's smart or beautiful enough, and he's never been in the military, so that's a strike against him, but maybe his speeches--
"He didn't say I'd win."
You stop, and you say, "Oh," and then you say it again, because you never remember to notice when other people are falling apart because you're so used to it yourself. You hardly remember what to say at times like these, because he's usually the one doing the comforting. So you stand there, and you hug him, arms around his neck.
His hands on your hips become a bear-hug, an embrace so tight the wind's knocked out of you, but you don't complain, just pull him closer and close your eyes. You can feel his heart beat and his breath against your neck. You like that he's alive for you, even when he's broken.
When he backs away from you, his eyes are shiny but he doesn't say anything else about the presidency, doesn't ask you to be his running mate or his First Lady or his Press Secretary, doesn't say anything like that, but it's all true in the way he kisses you.
You're breathless when you say, "A universe, really? Inside an atom?"
"Not a whole universe, but something a little like one."
You look over his head, over to the window, to the pretty, sparkling night outside. You say, "It really is like this, you know."
"The President beat me at chess," he says, but you think he understands.
"There are women being beaten by men we supply with the clubs," you say. You don't even cry anymore, except sometimes when it's too dark and you're too tired.
"There's a war brewing in Taiwan."
"Twenty Israelis and thirty-six Palestinians died last week." You don't want this to be the world. You don't want to live this life anymore.
He says, "I don't want to live this life anymore."
You manage to say, "Sam, I--" before he cuts you off.
"Yeah," he says, and he slides the zipper down on your dress until he can push the straps off. The fabric settles into a messy pile on the floor, and you're left in your little panties, discreet enough to be worn under that kind of dress. He doesn't want to talk, he just dips his head to your breasts, slides a fingertip down your spine.
Prays to you that way.
You can't fix the world, though, and God knows, you've tried. You wonder when it happened that you became the together one, when he became the dangerous one. When he became afraid of himself, afraid of failure or maybe of success. You think you'll lose the election in November, but you all you do is arch your back. He strokes your thighs, sucks your nipples.
He tells a story on you with his hands. He makes a world for just the two of you behind the deadbolt on his door, makes it ethereal with fluorescent lighting and the sound of pigeons walking on the outside windowsills.
You want to laugh, because it's a love story, and it's so damn twisted, so twisted. Or you want to tell him everything that hurts and everything that doesn't. But you don't, because you don't have to. He's so careful, so very careful, because when you break open, he won't be able to stop it.
You lean against a chair, close your eyes. You open them when he tilts your chin up, and every time you blink, he's there, as terrible and as miraculous as atoms.
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