TITLE: The Importance of You
When President Bartlet had lost the election after a hard fought campaign the senior staffers had gone their separate ways. Sam has found himself inundated with job offers in prestigious law firms and had finally accepted one in New York. Three years on he was still there, surrounded by young women, living life to the full, making up for the years in the White House. Josh had followed Donna to Wisconsin and they were still as unconventional as ever. He ran the governor's office, she worked as his assistant and somewhere in the intervening years Theo had been born, the blond haired daughter who was the apple of her fathers eye. Leo and Toby had not ventured so far. Leo spent his time between New Hampshire and Washington, still working for his best friend. Toby, disillusioned by his life, had stepped away from politics and turned to words, writing about his time in the White House. CJ had followed her heart and gone back to Dallas with Danny, they'd taken the decision that for their marriage to work they both needed to step away from Washington. Danny was senior editor with the Dallas Morning News, while CJ worked in the senators' office. Finally able to live a normal life, they had been happy for a while.
They had scattered in the wind. Without the White House and each other to fight for they were now the ashes of the Bartlet administration.
Toby sat in his study, staring out of the window, his laptop on, his handscribbled notes scattered over the desk and the morning papers on the floor. He turned and looked at the wall of shelves behind him, in amongst the books were photographs, one of Andi and him on their wedding day, one of Josh, Donna and Theo from Christmas, photos from the campaign, and White House, and finally one of CJ and all of them from her wedding day. He turned back to the laptop, her email taunting him. In the three years since she had left they had kept apart, they had kept in contact but he had turned down the invitations to visit, everything still too painful for him. And now she was coming to Washington, alone and wondered if he could meet her, find her a hotel. Toby knew it was a mistake, last time they had been together they had argued, their biggest fight, but deep down they still needed each other. Yet he found himself hitting reply, telling her he would be there and inviting her to stay.
When you love something you should let it go, if it doesn't come back it was never yours to begin with. Toby had let her go without much of a fight, without telling her how important she was; now he needed to know whether she was ever his, whether she would ever be more than his friend.
It was early afternoon as he paced up and down the airport waiting for her plane to land. He stopped and looked up at the gate as the first passengers made their way through. She saw him before he saw her. He had put on a little weight, his beard and hair a little shorter but he was as rumpled as ever. As CJ walked towards him he saw her and his heart lurched, she stood inches above everyone else and but for her hair a little longer she was still the same. They stood slightly apart staring at each other and CJ bridged the gap, hugging him to her, as he tentatively put his arms around her. When they separated he noted the luggage and mused that he had not asked how long she was staying. As in so much of their relationship neither said a word, as CJ reached out for his hand and let him lead her to his battered Toyota. As they drove through the streets which had once been her home they talked of mundane matters, the mild spring and of friends. He found a parking spot yards from his building and opening her door helped her from the car.
As Toby opened the door and led her into his living room she took everything in. The sofas were well lived in; the flowers on the dining table fresh and the numerous pictures of them in happier times. She was startled by her settled he was, no longer living in the state of clutter and flux she had chided him on when they had been in office. Toby stepped around her and headed further into the apartment, CJ followed, noting the functional kitchen and the lack of a woman's touch, and then he stopped and pushed open a door in front of him. The room was large, one wall taken up with closets, the other with a bed, the rest of the room empty bar a television. CJ realised then that it was his room, she hadn't thought to ask if he had space when he had offered. As if sensing her discomfort he told her to make herself comfortable, and went to make tea.
CJ left her bags where they were and followed. CJ lent against the sink and watched him
in his kitchen, carefully going through the motions of making tea. They were comfortable
with each other; their friendship had been founded on their ability to say everything
without words and to argue like their lives depended on it. CJ took the offered tea as he
placed a hand on the small of her back and led her to the well-worn couch. Seated they
gazed at each other as time ticked by. Finally CJ broke the silence, knowing it was what
As the silence continued CJ looked at Toby for perhaps the first time. She noted the
emptiness in his eyes and the stiffness in the way he held himself. CJ broke the silence.
"maybe I shouldn't stay here. I can stay in a hotel. This is too painful for
CJ had chosen Thai, a lively restaurant off Dupont Circle. They ordered food and
chatted about everything, reliving happy moments in office, campaign stories and news of
their friends. She only mentioned Danny once and that was to tell of their visit to Josh,
and as the evening progressed he found her relaxing, things returning to how they had
always been, helped along by the wine he had ordered. When the bill arrived they argued
over paying, he won, and they argued over whether to call a cab or walk, she won. She put
her arm through his and they strolled back towards his apartment in silence, the natural
silence that came with years of friendship. Suddenly she stopped and let go of his arm,
looking at him eyebrows raised.
CJ changed into her pyjamas, actually an old Yankees tee-shirt and climbed into bed.
Toby still hadn't emerged from the study, and she lay there tossing and turning watching
the minutes tick by. Eventually she got up and padded to the study door, slightly ajar.
She could see him in the lamplight, the open bottle of scotch by his side. Tentatively she
pushed the door and moved behind him.