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Second Tuesday

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Rachel is already late when she gets to work, and she sprints across the lobby yelling, "Hey, hold the elevator," hoping twenty minutes won't become twenty-five. She's relieved when a hand reaches out to stop the door from closing, but she doesn't slow down until she steps inside.

"Thanks," she says, more breathless than she should be. She blames the change from the cold outside to the stuffy air inside, but she knows the truth: when the election is over, she needs to get back to the gym.

"No problem," Anderson says, and then he flashes her a smile. "Hey."

"Hey," Rachel returns, her smile more an embarrassed twitch than a friendly greeting. She leans against the handrail and glances at the tray of drinks in Anderon's hand. There are four hot cups nestled firmly in their slots and a cold drink balanced in the middle. "One of those for me?"

"Of course." Thoughtfully, Anderson circles the drinks with his finger before pointing to one. "That one, I think," he says, and he holds the tray with both hands so Rachel can pull the cup free from its holder.

"Ah, thank you, sir." Rachel pops the top off the cup, and it doesn't look like Keith's chai or smell like one of Stephen's overly-sweetened lattes, so she blows onto the coffee to cool it down.

Belatedly, Anderson hits the button for Rachel's floor. "Vote yet?"

"Yeah." Rachel takes a sip and immediately regrets it. It burns everything from her lips to her esophagus to, she is pretty sure, the bottom of her stomach. "You?"

"First thing."

They stand in silence just long enough for things to feel awkward.

"Who'd you vote for?" The words tumble out of Anderson's mouth.

Rachel raises her eyebrows and blinks at him, startled less by the forwardness of his question than by the implication that he doesn't already know the answer. So she shrugs with one shoulder and decides to give him a hard time. "I don't vote and tell."

"Ah," Anderson says. He waits a beat. "So, Santorum, then."

"You're good," Rachel says, dragging out the final vowels with a feigned appreciativeness, but she has to take a sip of her coffee to suppress her smile. "You voted for him, too, right?"

"Nah." Anderson shakes his head. "I wrote in Al."

"Kiss-ass."

Anderson shrugs. "With this group? Someone has to be."

Rachel grins.

The elevator begins to slow as it reaches her floor, and Rachel pushes herself away from the wall and adjusts her backpack while she waits for the door to open.

"Thanks again." She raises the cup slightly in a toast of gratitude and turns toward the door as it slides open. "I'll see you at the meeting."

"Hey, wait," Anderson says, catching her by the elbow just before she can step off the elevator.

When she turns back toward him, he yanks another cup out of the carrier. "Give that to Keith, will you?" he says.

"Sure." Rachel holds her hand out, palm up, and once Anderson settles the bottom of the cup into her grip, she smiles at him. "If he's nice to me."

Anderson snorts and rolls his eyes. "Please. He's always nice to you."

Rachel shakes her head and starts slowly stepping back from the elevator. "You haven't worked with him on Election Day." Mid-step, she freezes, her face falling as realization hits. "And I'm sharing an office with him now."

Anderson laughs and nods toward the drink he just placed in her hand. He leans heavily to the side to say around the closing door, "In that case, enjoy your chai."

Rachel scowls down at the chai. "He's lucky I don't like you," she says to the cup, and Rachel is glad she works in an environment where talking to inanimate objects doesn't even warrant a strange look from a producer. It might make it upstairs and become the subject of an on-air gag from Jon or Stephen, but she could live with that.

She sighs. "Can't put this off any longer," she says, turning and heading toward her office, and even she doesn't know if she's talking to herself or the cup.

She's debating which she needs more, sleep or the gym, as she steps into the office, but Keith interrupts her internal debate with a gruff, "You're late."

"I know." Rachel sets the chai on the corner of his desk as she crosses the room to her own, where she drops her backpack. "I brought an excuse, though," she says, unzipping her jacket to reveal the "I voted!" sticker on her sweater.

Keith doesn't even ogle her. He just looks at her over his glasses and says, "Voting precludes being on time for work?"

Rachel sighs and tosses her jacket over the back of her chair. "It was my first time voting in the city," she says as she takes her seat and turns her computer on. "You know how the lines can get at the -- oh, wait."

Keith harrumphs under his breath. "Someone's a wise-ass today."

"Every day, really," Rachel says cheerfully, not even looking up from the log-in screen. "Besides, we're not on for another six hours, and I can't possibly cram any more data into my brain until the exit polls come out. It's not like I was going to do any work."

Keith clicks his mouse button with a flourish and sits back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest with a smug look on his face.

Rachel crosses her arms, too, but accompanies it with suspicous, narrowed eyes. "What?"

"Exit poll data's in your e-mail. Time to get crammin'."

Rachel throws her head back and groans. "Has anyone ever told you that you can really suck the fun out of Election Day?"

-

Democrats and diehards vote early. Rachel knows this, and after spending forty minutes studying and highlighting polling data that reaffirms it, Rachel has had enough. Her back hurts, her fingers are cramped, and the sound of Keith slurping his tea has led her to sketch no fewer than three Rube Goldberg devices -- all of which end with him dangling out the window by his ankles.

She leaves her papers spread across the floor and hauls herself to her feet.

"Where are you going?" Keith asks as she heads for the door.

Rachel stares straight at the door and says, "I just drank twenty ounces of coffee. Where do you think?" She considers it more of a misdirection than a lie.

Keith makes a sound of acknowledgement and lets her get halfway out the door before saying, "Tell Jon and Stephen: eleven-thirty."

"You got it," Rachel says, not missing a step, though she hates when he does that. The problem isn't that he can tell when she's lying; it's that he can be so obnoxious when he calls her on it.

"And I'm not cleaning up your paper temple," he calls after her, but she is already halfway to the elevator and doesn't care -- the papers are part of her second Rube Goldberg blueprint.

She's reaching for the elevator's up button when she changes her mind, turns on her heel, and redirects herself toward the stairs. It's faster, she tells herself, yanking open the door.

"Gym," she mutters as she takes the first step. "Gym, gym, gym." It turns into a mantra, and the way it gets harder to say with each flight just reminds her why she's saying it in the first place.

By the time she makes it up the four floors to Current's inaptly-named second floor, she's glad Jon and Stephen have the office just off the stairs.

"I'm going to kill him," she announces, pushing open their door.

Jon, Stephen, and their entire combined writing staff stare at her.

The nice thing about being overheated from her trek up the stairs is she can't feel the fiery blush rising from her toes to her hairline. She knows it's there, though.

"But what a way to go," Stephen says appreciately.

For a second, Rachel wonders how he saw her sketches. Then she shakes her head to clear out her confusion. "What?"

Stephen grins. "The way you were gasping out 'Jim,' it sounded like--"

"No," she interrupts. "No, you know I -- Keith."

"We do?" Jon asks. "Because I don't think I do. You Keith what now?"

She thinks about clarifying that Keith is the him she plans to kill, but the writers are all looking at her like they've spotted a tree full of low-hanging jokes. "I'm going to go see Anderson," she says, backing out of the room. "Keith says he's pushing you back to eleven-thirty. We're expecting a quick one."

She closes the door -- hard. She can hear chuckling, and she doesn't need to tax her brain to figure out what the joke is.

She sets out for Anderson's office, which is on the other side of the floor. It's the only private office at Current, but Rachel isn't jealous. It seems lonely to her, and she can almost understand Keith's clumsy attempts to rationalize why it doesn't belong to the Chief News Officer.

"Anderson," Rachel singsongs as she lets herself in and closes the door. She collapses into a chair and slouches low in the seat, changing to a grave tone before she continues. "Anderson, I'm moving in."

He looks up over his glasses and his computer. "Did I miss the meeting?"

"On me moving in? No, this was a purely unilateral decision. Keith is slurping his tea again." She knows Anderson will be sympathetic on that point. The only thing Anderson hates more than Keith's slurping is his spoon-clanging.

"Ah." He types something, consults a print-out, and types some more.

It's not the reaction Rachel wanted. She sits up straighter and tries, "So, I was thinking we could be gym buddies."

Anderson stops typing and looks up. "It's not that I mind you being here," he says, his tone striking the perfect balance of annoyed and apologetic, "but I kind of have a lot of work to do before the meeting."

Rachel shrugs. "That's fine," she says. "I'm a very quiet roommate. You won't even know I'm here."

Without comment, Anderson goes back to his typing and print-out consulting.

Rachel stares out the window behind him, checks her watch, and stares out the window a little more. A seagull flies past the window three times and disappears.

Rachel fidgets. First with her fingers, then with things on Anderson's desk.

"Rachel," he says sharply, and she pulls her hands back, holding them up in surrender.

"Sorry," she says, offering him a sheepish smile. "Maybe make it decaf next time?"

He smiles back uneasily. "I hate to do this..."

"I know." She pushes the chair back and stands up. Her back and fingers have stopped hurting, but now her knees do. "I'm leaving. Going back to the slurper."

"I'll see you at the meeting," he says.

Rachel waves as she gently closes the door, sighing heavily once it clicks shut.

Thoroughly dejected, she trudges over to the elevator and presses the down button, snorting when the doors open immediately. It deposits her back on her floor quickly and efficiently, without a single stop.

She walks back to her office and leans against the doorjamb, watching Keith work for a moment before she says, "Am I seriously the only one around here who starts studying before the day of the test?"

Keith looks up, not bothering to hide his smirk. "Struck out?"

Rachel shrugs and pushes herself away from the door. "I got lucky with some guy named Jim," she says, and she cuts Keith off as soon as he opens his mouth. "Please, don't; I already went through this with Jon, Stephen, and the entire writing staff. I'm just saying, I have nothing to do right now. I'm thinking about getting my make-up done five hours early."

Keith raises his eyebrows.

"I know," Rachel says. "But I'm just going to sit here and play solitaire until the meeting, unless you need me for something."

Keith shakes his head. "Not now, but I'm counting on you to have all the answers once we're on the air."

Rachel grins. "So, same as always."

Keith nods. "Same as always."