Spoilers: Through The Trail
Author's Notes: This is smacky30's fault. She guilted me into watching Scandal. And I loved it *grumble*. Then she played me so I would write fic. Then she betaed it. See? All her fault. I love her anyway.
Stephen says, “A love of tea is the sign of an evolved human being.”
“Please.” Abby gives him that look, the one that says she hates that she missed her chance and she hates him for the way she feels about him. “Tea is crap.” She curls her fingers around her green coffee mug that reads You read my mug. That’s enough social interaction for one day . “It’s a nouveau riche American fad brought on by soccer moms flirting with edginess. It’s an affectation.”
Olivia isn’t offended; she knows Abby is smacking at Stephen, not at her.
Huck, however, bristles and appears ready to jump to Olivia’s defense even though she doesn’t want or need defending, but Harrison beats him to it without bothering to look up from the file he’s studying. “Gladiators don’t need affectations.”
Herbal, Oolong, Maté, Rooibos.
Less than a half a mile from her apartment, there's a ridiculously expensive shop that sells ridiculously expensive tea. The walls are lined, top to bottom, side to side, with beautiful pots ranging from tall floral English pots with delicate matching cups and saucers to squat, round minimalist pots decorated with the bold stroke of a single Japanese character. There are tables of tea tins and tea balls and tea cozies.
Olivia buys a tea maker that costs more than her first laptop, with more buttons and settings than her stereo system; she reads the instructions from front to back, then spends a whole weekend experimenting with steeping times and brew strengths.
She’s learning to like it, but she thinks she won’t ever love it the way she loves...loved, she mentally corrects herself, coffee.
Days will pass (one time she made it a whole week) before someone hands her a cup of coffee as a peace offering (David or Cyrus), not knowing she’s a tea drinker now, or someone else (Abby or Harrison) shoves a cup into her hands with an apology or at least an apologetic grimace because whoever went on the coffee run forgot the Chai or the Darjeeling or whatever tea she’s trying to learn to love this week
Olivia takes the cup and drinks the coffee, bracing herself for the first sip and the memories the taste brings: mornings and nights in meeting rooms, pancake breakfasts and seemingly endless hours on the campaign bus, running on adrenaline and caffeine. Coffee cup always in hand, excited over every victory, fighting every negative and falling in giddy love.
English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint, Queen of Babylon, Thai Mountain, Golden Monkey.
Nobody asks why; maybe Harrison thinks it’s the caffeine, even though some of the black teas leave her more wired than an espresso. Maybe Stephen thinks she’s evolving or Abby thinks she is developing affectations. Huck just gives her his knowing, mournful look and hands her a mug of Himalayan Splendor.
If anyone knew it would be Huck, but no one knows. She tells Stephen everything, but how can she tell him this?
White Peach, Blackberry Mojito, Anjou Paradise, Kamiya Papaya, French Spice, Blueberry Bliss.
Quinn goes on a coffee run at midnight on a Tuesday while they’re trying to figure a way to minimize the damage to a twice married third term congressman when news that a woman found dead outside of a homeless shelter was his first wife. Of course, Quinn is new and no one has told her, but she’s not stupid, she notices things. She hands Olivia a cup and says in her breathless, too fast speech. “Sorry; they said there was something wrong with their tea---” She pauses minutely as if searching for the word, but gives up almost immediately and finishes lamely, “---thing.” Already handing the other cups around, she keeps talking to Olivia. “But I know you drink coffee sometimes. I hope this is okay.”
Olivia smiles, but it feels like cardboard on her mouth. “It’s fine.” She turns to the rest of them. “Where are we?”
She lets them begin reporting: Abby says the woman was a drug addict and the congressman had paid for rehab a number of times. Stephen’s friend at the Coroner’s office has given him a preliminary opinion of overdose, but has also promised to fast track the autopsy. Huck has the financials for both the congressman and the shelter and can verify his frequent contributions. Harrison has been speaking with her family, and while the mother is bitter and wants to blame, there’s a sister that might make a statement. Stephen and Abby agree to head to the shelter at first light to see what the staff might have to say.
“Good,” Olivia says, confident they have a handle on the situation. She brings the cup to her lips and drinks; the strong, rich coffee rolls across her tongue and she’s sucked back in time two years.
She’s in a dimly lit hotel room pressed between the wall and the muscular heat of Fitzgerald Thomas Grant, III. He’s looking at her like he’s torn between devouring her and worshiping her and she has a feeling she’s looking at him the same way. Then he bends to kiss her and it’s like an electric shock to her soul; his arms are strong, his lips are demanding, his mouth is hot and he tastes...he tastes like coffee.
Olivia has been close to this man for months; she knows the touch of his hand, she knows what he smells like in the morning (no cologne, just a clean scent of shower gel with a hint of spice) and at night (the slightly woodsy smell of reapplied deodorant with a faint lingering smell of sweat beneath that). But she’s never imagined, never dared imagine, what he would taste like.
It’s not surprising; the only person that drinks more coffee on the trail than he does is Olivia herself.
And under the coffee is the taste of Fitz and the taste of him is like coming home. Lips and tongue, passion and love, all there tasting like Fitz and coffee.
It’s all mouths and hands, taste and touch, skin and sheets after that.
But she’s never been able to drink coffee since without thinking of that first taste of him. In the beginning it makes her smile, a giddy little secret. But in the end, it’s painful to remember that first moment, that first taste.
It’s not like she can get away from him; he’s on television, on the radio, Newsweek, Time, The Wall Street Journal, the internet. His motorcades frequently cause traffic jams in front of her office. His policies impact her co-workers, her clients, her daily life.
Plus, every time she takes a drink of coffee, she thinks about the taste of him.
So, she switches to tea.
It’s not much. It is, literally, the least she can do. It doesn’t remove him from the news or the streets or her heart or her head. But it’s a small way to reclaim her soul.
And it works. Mostly.
There’s no way he could know or any reason why he would. But one Wednesday morning an anonymous package is delivered to her office.
Inside, a beautiful teapot made of Borosilicate glass.
Abby, never one to respect anyone’s privacy, has grabbed the insert from the box. “Oh, nice! A---” Her face wrinkles as she tries to get the pronunciation just right. “---Belle Amitie teapot. That means, beautiful friends,” she says with just enough airy assurance that lets Olivia know the translation is on the insert.
Olivia doesn’t answer; she just moves the wrap aside to see four packages of tea resting in the bottom of the box.
Passion Flower, My Bliss, Spice of Life, Capital of Heaven.