TITLE: The Importance of You
SHORT SUMMARY: If you love something let it go, if it doesn't return it was never yours to begin with.

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 he wanted.
"I guess you're wondering why I'm here... in Washington?" she added.
"Okay" she bit her lip as she was prone to doing when nervous "I'm
here to find a job. I want to go back into national politics."
Toby waited, realisation she wanted him to be the one to ask the question prompting him on
"Is Danny coming with you?"
"No" It sounded so final to him. "It's over. We stopped talking. I realised what I thought was love wasn't and he realised once the sex was gone there wasn't
a whole lot else."
Toby watched her, saw the dampness in her eyes but said nothing.
"You knew, didn't you? The night before the wedding, all those questions, the
reasons I should stay in Washington. Why the hell didn't you stop me?" The tears were like rivers running down her face.
"It wasn't my place to" he whispered.
"Damn you Toby. You were almost there, everything you said that night makes sense now. Was this how it was with Andi? So raw?"
"Yeah" it was almost inaudible, but she caught the defeat in his voice. Yeah, she knew all about defeat, how it felt to have failed. CJ let the tears fall while Toby sat, thoughts of Andi filling his head.

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 you!"
"No" it was firm and then he soften. "Andi was a long time ago, I let go, moved on. You shouldn't have had to go through that CJ, not alone. I'm your friend, this is where you need to be right now."
CJ snuggled into his outstretched arm, nuzzling her head against his neck.
"I've got an idea. Let's change and go out for dinner." He whispered a few moments later. "You choose where."
CJ smiled and nodded.

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.
"Toby, I haven't been totally honest with you." She paused. "You are the reason I came back to Washington. Danny and I were falling apart and all I could think about was I needed to be here with you."
He gazed up at her, took in the vulnerability in her eyes. "I'm glad you felt you could come to
me. I wish I could have stopped you going through this."
CJ smiled at him "You could have Toby" He looked frustrated she observed. "If you
had told me the truth that night. All those reasons I should stay in Washington, but you couldn't say 'because CJ I need you'."
"That's not fair" he started. "You would have resented me eventually if you had
stayed because I loved you..."he stopped, realisation of what he had said.
"Oh Toby" CJ reached up to gently stroke his beard and kissed him gently on the lips.
Toby pulled away and resumed walking. CJ followed in silence, bewildered by his abruptness. When they reached the apartment Toby wished her goodnight and disappeared into his study.

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.
He had sensed her before she entered and now turned to look up at her. Toby smiled when he saw what she was wearing. "You've still got it!" he observed. "It still looks better on you." He had given it to her one night on the campaign, when she had ended up in his room.
"I always sleep in it, it's like you and the scotch, my safety blanket" CJ placed her hands on his shoulders forcing him to face her. "What happened back there?"
He looked away "I don't want your pity CJ"
"Pity, Toby. You think I kissed you out of pity? When someone you care for tells you they love you it's natural to want to kiss them. I knew you had a crush back then. I didn't realise your feelings went beyond that, I was too wrapped up in Danny and how flattering it was. You were my best friend, and now I've hurt you again." She paused "Why didn't you tell me you loved me?" CJ turned and moved over to the
bookcases. It was then she noticed the photographs of all of them, of her, but her eyes were drawn to one in the centre, she recognised it, Josh had taken it a few months before, Theo curled up in her arms. CJ picked it up and turned to him "How?"
"Donna sent it up, I was supposed to come that weekend but couldn't. She's always sending me photos of Theo." He stated.
"You still have feelings for me Toby don't you?" She stared at him.
"Yeah" he growled "But I can deal with it, you don't need to feel uncomfortable."
CJ placed the photo back and walked towards him. "I don't feel uncomfortable, in fact I feel
happier here now, with you than I have in months. Why did you never ask me how I
felt about you?"
Toby blinked "I couldn't bear for you to let me down gently, not after Andi. By the
time I realised how I felt you had Danny." He sighed.
"Maybe if you had said there wouldn't have been Danny" she picked up the scotch glass and downed the liquid. "And now there is no Danny just you and me, so what do we
do?" she added softly.
His eyes didn't leave her face as she sat across his lap. Nor when she took his face in her hands and kissed him. When he didn't respond her tongue moved between his lips forcing them to part. A moan escaped from within him as he pulled her closer and the kiss deepened, desperately. They parted when the need for breath overcame them but they continue to hold the others gaze.
"CJ, are you sure about this? I don't want you to rush into anything and discover it's a rebound."
She silenced him with her fingers "Toby, I'm 45 years old, we've known each other for
fifteen years, I don't think we are rushing into anything. When I left Washington I realised I was leaving a part of me behind; I didn't realise just how important a part it was until I came back. I didn't realise the importance of you; I cared about Danny but what we've shared means more than he ever did. I'm not going to hurt you Toby, never again. Right now I want you to hold me."
Toby stood and took her outstretched hand, leading her into the bedroom, 'maybe she was his after all' he mused.



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