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Rachel listened as her assistant conveyed the message. Keith's dad had taken a turn for the worse. Keith would be off for a least another week. David Shuster in on Monday and Tuesday. Lawrence O'Donnell for Wednesday. Guest hosts after that to be advised.

She wanted to call him immediately, but knew that wasn't her place, even as a friend.

He'd be there with family, friends and probably Katy. She was the one who could hold his hand and be there when the worst happened, if it did. All Rachel could do was pass on the news to those who needed to know and send good thoughts to the whole family.

The Olbermann's had been through so much this year, and she didn't know what would happen if Keith lost his dad so soon after his mother and of course Tim Russert, who'd been his mentor. Keith always came across so strong and powerful on the air, but she'd had learned just how vulnerable he could be. If his father died now, like this, the whole façade could crumble.

Again she remembered, she wasn't the person who should be thinking those thoughts. The most she should be doing was worrying about a friend and colleague, not a lover.

"Are you okay?" her assistant asked. Rachel nodded and waved him off. It shouldn't bother her. She'd gone into this thing knowing what she was doing, or at least thought she had.

Well no, she could admit now, she hadn't had any idea. She'd been flying high on the excitement of the election and Keith's charisma and the idea that together they'd actually helped bring about Obama's victory and the change that would come from it. Power might be the greatest aphrodisiac, but euphoria had to be right up there as well, mixed with a generous dose of hero worship and gratitude.

Keith's special comment about Prop 8 had been so moving that she'd barely been able to do her own broadcast after watching it. When she'd come to his office to thank him both personally and on behalf of all the individuals who wanted, as he'd said, just the right to love and be loved, she'd nearly started crying right then and there.

Being a gentleman, he offered his handkerchief, and being a good friend he offered a hug as well. Without thinking, she took the opportunity to let his vast embrace make her feel safe and cared for.

He bent down a little, maybe to see if she was still crying or to kiss the top of her head. That was the exact moment when she looked up and saw his eyes through his glasses, and realized he wasn't just looking at her like a friend or a colleague. Instead of pulling back or pushing away, she let him continue to look.

"Rach?" he asked, clearly not wanting to cross any boundaries without explicit permission, and maybe as confused by his own feelings as she was by hers.

It had been years since she'd even thought about thinking about a man that way, specifically a professor at Stanford, who was smart enough to see admiration mixed with curiosity and shut the whole thing down before it could even start.

That was when she'd been an anonymous student among many. These days she was "Rachel Maddow: Lesbian Goddess" in some circles, and far more importantly, Susan's girlfriend. They'd never discussed the likelihood of something like this happening with anyone because pretty much from the moment they met, no such likelihood had even existed.

Well now it existed. Keith Olbermann was waiting for her to tell him what to do, whether it was stop or go on.

Whatever was going to happen, it shouldn't be here, but even thinking that meant she'd crossed some line. She looked down, avoiding his gaze for a second, giving herself time to make a decision. Maybe they could do it one time. Just to get it out of her system.

She looked back up and nodded and reached up to put her arms around his neck as he kissed her. Part of her wanted to stop for a second and text Ana Marie. OMG! I'm kissing Keith Olbermann. In his office!!!.

That part soon gave way to the part that wanted it to go on a lot longer and a lot more and really wanted to tell Keith that they had to get out of there, because if someone walked in…

Luckily, the need to breathe kicked in before Kent or anybody else could come looking for her.

"We… should….um…not….can we?"

Rachel hated sounding or feeling so flustered. Just because she was considering cheating on her girlfriend and calling her whole sexual identity into question was no reason to sound like something out of Gossip Girl, assuming that was what a Gossip Girl sounded like. Time to pull herself together and take responsibility for her actions, like a grown woman, and maybe give Keith and herself a chance to take their glasses off before the next kiss, if there was going to be one.

"This could be a problem," she said, understating the case by a factor of a zillion.

"No kidding," he replied.

"You're used to taking chances with your career. With your life. For me, not so much."

He sighed, seeming to assume and accept that the answer was no, maybe even hell, no!

"Sorry, bad idea. Heat of the moment. Let's just pretend it never…"

"No,"she said. "Let's not."

They took a cab to his apartment, where he mixed her an absolutely perfect Martini, showed her some of his most cherished baseball memorabilia. For a few minutes she thought they might just bond over some Yankees/Red Sox memories and call it a night, but eventually she saw him giving her that look again, and felt a completely inappropriate thrill at the idea.

This time she did the kissing, and possibly even some of the pushing towards his bedroom.

For something she had no experience with, Rachel had to admit it wasn't half bad, even the whole "touching a man's penis thing." In fact, that part was pretty damn cool. Maybe she'd have to turn in her "Lesbian Goddess" crown. Getting it out of her system proved to be a lot harder than she'd thought it would. The more she did it, the more of her system it seemed to get into, without ever affecting her feelings for Susan.

Rachel had always wondered how those philandering politicians managed to screw around while still claiming to love their spouses. Now she knew and it made her kind of sick, especially when she got to take so much on-camera pleasure is the public humiliations of Governor Appalachian Trail and of course Senator Have My Parents Pay Off My Lover's Husband.

None of their hypocritical defenses appealed to her, so she tried to spend as little time thinking about it as possible, except when she spent nights at Keith's apartment, hung out in his office listening to stories about working at ESPN, or watching him stuff his face with pastrami at the Carnegie Deli.

She'd actually been having brunch with Keith, eating bagels and reading the New York Times when the call came from Jenna with the word about Keith's dad.

Keith had immediately sprung into action, making phone calls and preparing to meet his sister at the hospital. One of those calls had been to Katy and whether Rachel liked to admit it or not, there was something different about Keith's voice with her.

Since then, things had been different, as in back to the way they'd been before. They still giggled at each other during the toss, when it was appropriate, and she still admired him more than almost anyone she knew in journalism. She sent him supportive emails and told him she was praying for his whole family, which wasn't completely true. Susan was the spiritual one in the family. If anyone could get through the static, it was Susan.

The word through the NBC gossip mill was that Katy had moved in with Keith, simply to keep him fed and dressed so he could split his time between the hospital and work. Katy was probably good at that. Rachel could barely put together a presentable outfit for herself, much less dress anyone else.

What Rachel could do was her job. Making sure the tea-baggers, the birthers and the Palin-ites all knew that the progressive flag was flying high whether Keith was there to wave it or not.

"Good show, babe," Susan said to her on the phone, the night that she called Rick Berman a parasite, knowing exactly how much flack she was likely to get for it.

"Thanks. I just had to do it. I couldn't sit there and listen to that crap without saying something."

It was true. She'd literally been shaking rage at the idea of Berman getting away looking like any kind of good guy.
"You were so completely amazing. I called like twenty people and told them to watch it. I can't wait to watch it again on Tivo. I'll bet Keith is super proud of you."

Rachel wasn't sure if Susan even suspected what had happened, but apparently it didn't take a genius to notice some of Rachel's feelings about Keith, even if it was just the respect and admiration. Rachel decided to take the comment as nothing more than further proof of how lucky she was to have Susan in her life, although she couldn't resist adding one last thought.

"I hope so."