Madam President, page 17
Lauren smiled softly and whispered, "Don't fight it."
Devlyn's eyes immediately slid closed, and the dark-haired woman let out a slow, deep breath.
Lauren lifted their intertwined fingers, looking at them as though she had forgotten she was holding Devlyn's hand. She pulled up the covers and smoothed them around the taller woman's body, then glanced at the nearly closed door. Do it. You know you've wanted to since you walked into the room. ‘Longer than that', her mind whispered stubbornly.
Refocusing on Devlyn, she tenderly brushed the President's cheek with her knuckles before dropping a soft kiss on the warm skin. "Pleasant dreams, Devlyn. I'll be here when you wake up." Lauren snuggled back into her own side and allowed her eyes to flutter closed. A gentle peace stole over her as she dropped off to sleep.
* * *
Lauren woke well before Dev. She lifted her head and looked at the woman. Instinctively, she raised her hand and checked Dev's forehead for fever. She was relieved to find it cool, not only because she didn't like the thought of Dev being sick, but she wasn't really sure if she could tell whether she had a fever or not.
Lauren moved away slowly, not wanting to wake the President, and retrieved her glasses from the nightstand. Carefully, she climbed out of the bed and started for her own room. She paused briefly to speak the Secret Service agent and the nurse seated outside the room. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Please let her know if she wakes up in the meantime."
The nurse nodded. "Yes, Ms. Strayer."
As Lauren walked away she heard a comment pass between the people she had left behind. "Not sleeping together, my ass."
Lauren turned on her heel and marched up to the Secret Service agent and the nurse. She opened her mouth to deny the rumor, but stopped herself before saying a word. Her mouth clicked closed, and her lips curved into a delighted, borderline shit-eating grin. She winked. "You don't know the half of it." Then her tone cooled. "And you never will. So instead of spending your time gossiping, why not do your jobs before you end up as a security guard at Sears and an orderly at the morgue?” It’s not like I don't know someone there now, she thought wryly.
Squaring her shoulders, she marched back to her room, not quite believing what she'd just done. She took the fastest shower known to man, threw on her sweats, grabbed Grem up for the quickest walk of his little life and returned to her room.
Lauren gathered her notebook and her laptop together and, with a quick nod, started back for Dev's room. Just as her hand touched the knob, Gremlin began to whine. Her shoulders drooped, and she pressed her forehead against the door. "Come on, Grem. Not now. Not today. Please?" she mumbled, turning around. "I'll buy you the biggest, fluffiest dog bed you've ever seen if you just behave today."
The dog was not impressed. He bounded over to his mistress and flipped over on his back, presenting his belly for a good scratching.
Lauren blew out a frustrated breath and glanced at her watch. It was still too early for the kids to be up. "Okay, you can come with me, but you have to promise to behave. Devlyn doesn't feel well. No growling at her."
The dog rolled over happily, his tail wagging furiously.
"You little, snaggle-toothed extortionist," Lauren grumbled. "C'mon. And I mean it. One growl and you're history." She pulled open the door.
A nurse was just exiting Dev's room to rejoin the agent outside the door. Lauren gave them a raised brow before she and Grem disappeared inside. After setting down her things, she moved to the bed to check on the President. Dev whimpered slightly, her head tossed from side to side. She seemed to be having trouble breathing, or she was gagging in her sleep, Lauren couldn't tell which.
"Devlyn?" Lauren peered down at the President's ashen face.
Pale eyes blinked open.
"Hey." Lauren smiled. "What's wrong?" She quickly ran her fingertips over dry lips. "Is your throat sore, or are you thirsty?"
The brunette shook her head wildly and groaned piteously. "Laur... you you'd better..."
Lauren leaned in closer to hear Dev better. "What is it?"
Dev's entire body convulsed, and she leaned forward and heaved, throwing up all over Lauren's chest. Lauren's eyes went impossibly wide as warm, chunky liquid slowly slid down the front of her shirt, pooling in a great blob in her bra. She moaned, her own stomach furiously roiling at the rancid smell. "Oh, God! Ewwwwww!" She pawed at her shirt as Dev leaned forward again, and Gremlin ran out of the room. "No, you don't!" Lauren grabbed a basin from the nightstand next to Dev's bed and thrust it in front of her just in time to catch round two.
After a moment that felt like ten lifetimes, Dev stopped retching and turned red, watery eyes on her friend. "I'm so," she paused, gagging momentarily on the taste of bile, "so sorry."
Lauren moved the basin back under Dev's chin and left it there until she was sure the President was finished.
"I can't believe I did that."
The blonde's skin itched everywhere, and she couldn't believe she'd lasted this long without puking herself. "Are you all right?" she managed, trying to hold her breath.
Devlyn nodded, too mortified and weak to do much else. "Sorry."
"It's okay." Lauren stood up, consciously not looking down at her shirt. "Nurse!" she called to the woman, hoping she'd hear her. She expelled a huge breath when the matronly woman quickly burst through the door. "Please see to the President. I need... I need to... I'll be back after I shower. You'll be okay?" She pushed Dev's bangs back from her eyes. Please say yes. Please say yes.
Even behind Lauren's revulsion, Dev could see her genuine concern. You are something else, Lauren. I could fall in love with somebody like you. "Yeah, I'm feeling much better now." She gave a weak grin. "Save time, use my shower. There are fresh clothes and robes in the closet. Take what you like. I owe you." Dev gestured behind Lauren. "Through that door."
Lauren could tell that Dev was in good hands as two more nurses entered the room and immediately got to work. They could handle getting Dev cleaned up. Which really wouldn't be that hard, considering she'd thrown up all over Lauren, not herself. Lauren needed to get to the bathroom fast.
She stood in the multi-jet shower in Dev's bathroom. If it weren't for the completely disgusting circumstances that had brought her here, she'd be impressed by this bathroom. But for now she was too busy scrubbing herself. She just wanted to get clean. Very clean.
Twenty minutes later she emerged, dressed in a set of Dev's sweats which had to be cuffed several times - towel drying her hair. The clothes were big, but they were comfortable and after the recent turn of events she decided comfortable was good.
Lauren reentered Devlyn's room without being stopped. She stood back and watched as the medical staff tucked Dev back into bed. They took away her toothbrush and a small basin, and propped her up against the headboard, putting several pillows at her back and head. Her bedding and pajamas had been changed, and she was looking much better. Even a hint of her normal color had returned to formerly pale cheeks. Thank goodness.
Lauren approached slowly.
A nurse fluffed the President's pillow one last time. "We've given her a shot for the nausea."
"Better late than never," Lauren mumbled playfully, knowing Dev could hear her. "And thanks for doing it while I was gone." She was serious about that last part.
Soon Dev and Lauren were alone again. "So, have you used the puking thing to get women out of their clothes before?" Lauren teased. Then she took a seat on the bed next to Dev. "Next time, just ask."
Dev blushed fiercely, but quickly recovered. "Don't tease me. I'm not a well woman."
"Oh, trust me, I know. But at least we can find comfort in the fact that Candy is probably barfing all over Casey at this very moment."
Both women smiled broadly at the thought.
"I know something that will make me feel even better than that." Dev's grin turned wicked. "Phone activate."
A soothing, female voice said, "Voice recognition system on. Activation code?"
Pale eyebrows lifted at Dev's far more sophisticated phone set up. She’s leaving it on speaker phone?
"Call David McMillian."
Why do I think David is in trouble?
After six rings David picked up his phone.
"David?" Dev smirked when the only sound she heard was a deep groan. "How you feelin' this morning, pal?"
"I'm dying, Dev," he whined, hoarsely.
"Yeah, me too, you pain in the ass. We got food poisoning from the shrimp last night; the shrimp you insisted the cook get specially for Candy ‘the Slut' Delaney."
Dev could almost imagine David hiding under the covers of his bed. "The doctor says it'll pass in a few days, David. But you know what?"
He shook his head unhappily, then remembered there was no video link on this call. "What?"
"You'll be in your office bright and early Monday morning."
"Yes, Madam President, you bitch."
Lauren burst out laughing and grabbed a spare pillow, pressing it against her face to muffle the sound. Oh, God. Only David could get away with that.
Dev chuckled. "And what will I be doing on Monday, you ask?" Dev continued cruelly. "I'll be taking the day off and spending it in bed. Just me and my body pillow.” And I might be lucky enough to continue enjoying the company of the beautiful, blonde biographer who is in my room right now. I wonder if I can make up enough stories about myself to fill up two days. Then Dev's brain kicked into gear. What am I thinking? I'm a politician for God's sake. No sweat.
David let off a few more choice words that nearly had Lauren in tears.
"See you Monday. Oh, and did I mention that you can take the Secret Service on their run? They get all twitchy without it."
Another loud groan.
Dev laughed wickedly. "Phone call ended. Code: 18758OHIO6236ACA." She turned to Lauren, who was shaking her head and smiling at Dev's antics. She shrugged only somewhat guilty. "Sometimes it's great to be President."
Monday, May 3 rd
DEV WAS WHISTLING as she tucked a newspaper under her arm and gathered up two steaming coffee mugs. She strode out of her office with Liza trailing behind her. "I just need ten minutes alone, Liza."
"Can you live with five?"
"I'll settle for seven."
David met her in the hall. "Madam President?"
"Not now, David. I have a very important meeting."
Rust-colored brows furrowed. "With whom?" David's mind raced. Had he missed an appointment?
Dev flashed him a grin.
The tall man rolled his eyes. "Never mind. That silly smile says it all. How long will you be, Madam President? You have a meeting with the Secretary of Health and..."
"Yeah, I know. Liza has granted me a seven minute parole from my duties as President. Go talk to Jane. She's got the job until I get back."
David shook his head. "Have a good time."
"I intend to." She smirked. Boy, I hope Lauren's in a good mood. She sounded like it when I asked her to meet me.
Dev walked quickly to her destination, waving off the small tribe that was following her. She pushed the door to her destination open with her hip and drew in an appreciative breath. The earliest of the spring roses were blooming in the Rose Garden, and their sweet aroma wafted over Dev.
Lauren was sitting on a bench with her arms across the back and her face turned towards the warm spring sunlight. Though Dev could see only her profile, she could tell that Lauren's eyes were closed but she was awake. She looked contented and happy. A grin tugged at Dev's lips at the sight.
"Morning, Mighty Mouse." Dev couldn't resist teasing the writer with her Secret Service name. She got a different reaction every time she used it.
Lauren's body remained perfectly still as she continued to soak in the morning sun and Dev's good-natured taunt. "It's amazing. I hear the words, but I know no one is talking to me," she drawled calmly. "Because there is no one here by that ridiculous name."
Dev chuckled and took a seat next to Lauren, nudging her over on the bench. "Do you luuuvv me, Lauren?" she asked in a playful voice. When a single, questioning, gray eyeball slowly opened and rolled in her direction, the President offered the blonde woman a cup of steaming coffee, which just happened to be in Lauren's very own red mug. It was prepared with two sugars and cream, just the way she liked it.
Lauren smiled coyly as she took the warm mug. "Thanks. And I love anyone who brings me coffee the way I like it."
Dev grabbed the neatly folded paper from under her arm and made a show of looking at it. "Huh." She set her mug on the bench and scratched her chin. "Looks like they're right then. You are cheap and easy." She handed the paper to the writer. "And cheating on me." Dev pulled a nonexistent knife from her chest. "Why am I always the last to know?" she moaned piteously.
Lauren reached for the paper. Using her hand to block the sun, she scanned the spot where Dev was pointing, which was the social column. "White House live-in, Lauren Strayer, was caught rendezvousing with her new love at Been Gi's last month." Her eyes scanned the rest of the short article, stopping on the small, unflattering photograph of her getting into Casey's car. Lauren wrinkled her nose. "God, I have no taste whatsoever. I'm cheating on you with a morgue attendant named 'Lacey'."
"It would appear so. Yes." Dev braced herself for the pending explosion. But it never came.
"Oh, well," Lauren casually tossed the paper aside and took a sip of coffee, hiding her smile behind the rim of the cup, "if you'd keep your woman satisfied, I wouldn't be forced to look elsewhere for romance."
"Ouch!" Dev clutched her heart. "And just so cold about it, too. Gee, I have all the popularity of the plague. I can't catch a damned break. My live-in lover and my date threw me over for this Casey/Lacey woman. Who knew the morgue had such appeal?" Dev shook her head, sending her dark hair spilling over one shoulder. "Maybe I should try the other team. I'm batting zero with my own."
Lauren burst out laughing. She bumped shoulders with the older woman. "Don't tell me something in the press finally got to you? They've been writing about us for months. And the other team has its faults, too. Trust me."
"I just didn't want you to see this and explode," Dev explained sincerely. "It's just another attempt to get a reaction out of us." She leaned back and tried to act nonchalant about putting her arm over the back of the bench and dropping it down to rest lightly on Lauren's shoulders. I am sooooo pathetic.
Lauren jerked away at the feeling of Dev's arm on her shoulder. "What is it? A bug?" She began slapping where Dev's arm had been, her eyes searching her pale green blouse.
Dev threw her head back and laughed. "Might as well have been, the way my luck is running lately." She sighed and this time, decisively wrapped her arm around Lauren's shoulders, pulling the younger woman closer to her. "No, it wasn't a bug." She grinned devilishly and added a belated, "Mighty Mouse." I should just gather up my courage and ask her out. What's the worst she can say – no? That wouldn't be a big surprise either. I've got nothing to lose. "Uh... Lauren?"
Lauren blushed when she realized what Dev had tried to do and what her response had been. Sorry, Devlyn. And I'm glad it wasn't a bug. She happily snuggled closer. Is she going to? Oh, my God. Lauren crossed her fingers and toes. "Yes, Devlyn?" Ask me before I die!
"I was wondering... I mean... umm..." I am six feet of pure, unadulterated chicken shit. Good thing I don't run the government the way I run my love life. If I had a love life, that is.
Dev cleared her throat and lifted her chin. It was now or never. "Okay. What I wanted to know was-"
Liza opened the door to the rose garden looking slightly harried. She winced, clearly seeing she was interrupting something. "I'm sorry, Madam President..."
Lauren nearly groaned with disappointment, let
Dev's mouth clicked shut, and her head dropped forward. That was not seven minutes!
"There is an emergency phone call for Ms. Strayer."
Friday, May 7th
The loudspeaker crackled, and the school auditorium was alight with excitement, when the school principal nervously announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, students, staff and faculty of Jefferson High School, the President of the United States!"
The high school band fired up 'Hail to the Chief', and Dev grinned at Liza as she stuck her notes in her jacket pocket. She tilted her head toward the drums. "Hey, they're not bad."