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Elevator Ride

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"Hey," Liz said, watching Kate stuff papers into her bag, "You got five minutes?"

Kate checked her watch, head tilted to the side like she was thinking, or maybe recalling her schedule. "I've got a flight in a couple of hours, you need something?"

"Yes, ma'am." Liz grinned at Kate until she got a return grin and Kate shaking off her NSA persona. "I thought my friend might like dinner before her flight home."

"You don't have the kids with you?"

"I do, I thought we'd have dinner in the suite. Annie's studying China in school, she wants to quiz you."

Kate made a disgruntled face. "She's kind of scary when she's got a topic she's interested in. I guess there's no hope she doesn't actually find it that interesting?"

"She specifically asked to come out here with me when I told her you'd be here, so no, not a very big hope."

Kate groaned, and leaned into it a little when Liz gave her a side-hug. "And Gus wants to play Scrabble, if you've got time."

"Kiddie Scrabble?"

"Not since he turned eight."

"That's what I was afraid of." Kate leaned around Liz to push the elevator call button, then took a step back, closing her eyes.

"Tired?" Liz asked.

"Hmm. No-one told me campaigning was this exhausting."

Liz nodded to the corner of the hotel lobby, where Julie from Senator Rafferty's campaign team was curled on a couch, clearly fast sleep. "Could be worse."

"I wish I'd seen her before I took a leave of absence to campaign for Dr McNally," Kate grumbled, one hand on the elevator doors for Liz to step inside.

"Be worth it-" Liz started, but someone reached for the door, called, "Hold the elevator."

"Thanks," the woman said, the doors sliding open again, and Amy Gardner stepped into the elevator. "Lizzie."

"Hey, Amy." Liz leaned in for Amy's cheek kiss. "You know Kate Harper, with Dr McNally's campaign?"

"Of course," Amy said, and even Liz, who didn't know her all that well, could see that her smile had gone brittle and a little false. "Commander."

"Amy." Kate turned her head towards Amy, but very obviously didn't meet her eyes.

"Which floor?" Liz asked.

"Seven, please." Amy took a step further into the elevator, turned to face the doors, her arm brushing against Kate's, and shifted her weight so they weren't touching any more. "You're here for Dr McNally?"

Liz doubled-checked who Amy was asking – Amy met her eyes, studiously ignoring Kate next to her. "For a couple of days. I'm mostly running her campaign in New Hampshire."

Kate scoffed a little. "That's not true. Your one of her senior campaign advisors."

"I think I'd have to be with her a bit more for that to be true."

"You're not with the campaign?" Amy asked, obviously surprised.

Liz shook her head. "Difficult to travel on a campaign bus as a single mother of teenagers."

Amy took a breath like she going to argue, then glanced over at Kate and closed it again. "I'm sure she's glad to have you."

The elevator door slid open on the empty corridor of floor five. After a long, awkward pause, it closed again.

"And you?" Liz asked, mostly to break the silence.

"Senator Rafferty invited me in," Amy said.

"She's doing debate prep already?" Liz asked, surprised. The primaries hadn't even gotten started, not really, and it wasn't like Rafferty, making her third run at the Democratic nomination, really needed the help.

"Debate prep, policy direction, you know." Amy gave a sharp, sideways smile to Kate. "I just signed on as her campaign manager."

The elevator pinged again, the doors opening on floor seven. "Well, this is me. Great to see you again, Liz. Commander."

"Bye, Amy."

"Eugh," Kate said as the doors closed and she leaned against the back wall of the elevator.

"You don't like her, or you're worried now you know she's working for Rafferty instead of us?"

"Mostly the latter, but mainly eugh because we just broke up four months ago."

"Really?" Liz asked, not quite able to keep the surprise out of her voice.

Kate rolled her head against the wall to look at Liz. "You knew I was bi, right?"

"I do vaguely remember the tall, dark and lovely female army captain who came everywhere with you for most of last year, yes. I thought Amy was with... Some sort of artist?"

"She was." The elevator doors opened for Liz's floor, letting on three guys in suits as the two of them stepped off. "And then she was with me for a while."

Liz couldn't really see it – Kate and her army captain had made sense, in a semi-closeted military women kind of way, but Amy and Kate just... didn't. Even leaving aside how she wouldn't have guessed Amy got involved with women. "Awkward break-up?"

"Oh, yes. Apparently, feminist activists can't be in relationships with military women. Well, not once it's clear they're not going to come out and be a poster-woman for gays in the military."

That, Liz could imagine. "Amy doesn't get why you don't want to do it?"

"Why I don't want the only thing people remember about me to be that I sleep with women, and I'm sleeping with the woman who opposed every Democratic nomination we've had since she got into politics? No, she couldn't seem to wrap her head around the idea of not wanting to be known for my –" Kate winced. "Sorry, I didn't mean it the way it came out."

Liz shrugged. "I don't really want to be known for who I was sleeping with either, and I was married to him."

Although, to be strictly accurate, she didn't want to be known for who her husband slept with while he was married to her. The first time had been weatherable; she'd stood by her husband for the sake of her kids. Plus, he'd promised. It was the broken promise as much as the humiliation of his fourth affair being tabloid fodder that had made her file for divorce.

Not that her life wasn't so much better without Doug than she'd ever even hoped it might be, and her kids' lives too. Almost enough to make up for the months of media coverage when the story broke the second time, though nothing would make up for how the press harassed her kids, without Dad in the White House to crack the whip until they stopped.

"Awkward to be on opposing Democratic nomination campaigns," she said before they could get into that.

"Thanks for the support," Kate said dryly.

"Well, on the bright side, Rafferty never won yet, and I can't see her managing it against Dr McNally," Liz offered, swiping her key-card.

"Until Rafferty drops out of the race, and Dr McNally hires Amy because she's brilliant."

"Can't have everything," Liz told her. "Kids, look who I brought to dinner."

"Aunty Kate!" Gus threw himself at Kate for a hug, and Kate reached one arm over his head to ruffle Annie's newly short hair.

"You went to China, right?" Annie asked. "You'll talk to me about it? I'll get such a good grade for being able to quote you."

"Would I stand in the way of your good grades?" Kate slung her arm around Gus' shoulders, leading the two of them into the suite.

"Hey," Liz said softly. All three of them turned. "Glad you're all here."

"Mom," the kids drawled in concert, then, "Love you, too," like they always did.

"Same," Kate said, scrunching her nose the way she did when she was kidding.

"You, too," Liz said.