Diane looked over at Toby, driving to the funeral. "Do you know what you're going to say?"

He kept his eyes fixed straight on the road. "For the eulogy?"

"Yeah."

"I haven't thought about it."

"You're a professional speechwriter."

"That doesn't mean I have any experience with this sort of thing."

"It's really important to you, isn't it?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Fine." She crossed her arms and stared straight ahead, silently insinuating she had more to say about it.

"What?"

"You don't want to talk about it with me."

He knew exactly what she was getting at. "God, Diane!"

She was indignant. "You don't think I should be bothered by it?"

"After you ignore me for years and leave me the second you realize for once I'd done something that actually made me happy -- no, I don't think you can expect to come sweeping back into my life and be the shoulder I cry on, and I don't think you should be bothered when I do lean on someone who is quite possibly the only person who has ever cared about me unconditionally!"

"Your mistress!"

"Oh, let's just be honest about what you're really mad at here, Diane. You aren't mad because I had an affair; you're mad because you lost control over my life. You're mad because I took on a presidential campaign after you ordered me not to. You always wanted to control my life but you stopped being a part of it long before C.J. ever came into the picture! You were looking for a reason to leave me, and that was the perfect excuse for you!"

"You wanted out of it just as much as I did! The only difference is you didn't have the guts to walk out, so you went and had an affair hoping that would be enough to make me leave! You just wanted to have someone to blame, and that was fine by me. But you aren't mad because I left. You're mad because I paid more attention to my job than to you."

"I wanted to try to put our marriage back together."

"Are you saying the divorce was all my fault?"

"You didn't even try, Diane."

"I cannot believe you have managed to convince yourself you were in no way responsible for it!"

"I was reponsible for it! But you were too, damnit!"

"Look--"

"Can't you just admit you were equally responsible for the divorce?"

"Yes! Yes, I was equally responsible for the divorce. I was equally responsible for the mess that was our marriage. But I was equally responsible for the good times too! And I was equally hurt by the end of it. Do you think just because I wanted it over, just because I wanted the pain to stop, that I never cared at all?"

He realized what she was saying was true, and he felt awful. "I'm sorry, Diane. I've been such a jerk."

"Not just to me, either."

*****

"Hey, Josh." C.J. caught up with him in the hall. "What's going on with the bill?"

He looked annoyed by the thought of it. "Last I heard they were attaching more inane amendments to it. Looks like they're not going to get around to the actual vote until Monday now."

"This is ridiculous."

"Yeah, we screwed this one up big time, if you ask me."

"It's a good thing Toby's not around this morning -- he'd have a fit."

He eyed her suspiciously for a moment, remembering seeing them dance the night before. He was about to say something about it, but quickly reconsidered. "Nevermind," he said, walking away.

"Okay."

*****

Toby stood in front of the family and friends he hadn't seen in years and felt every eye upon him questioning him, regarding him a stranger. He imagined they were all thinking He left his father, he refused to come back when he was dying -- how dare he come back now? He still had no idea what he was going to say, but he had to say something.

"Ah, thank you all for being here. I know it would have made my father very happy to see this room filled with the people he loved in life and who loved him. That said, some of you must be wondering what I'm doing here. And to be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea. As I'm sure you know, my father and I never had a great relationship, and in the last few years we haven't even been on speaking terms. I wasn't what he wanted in a son; he certainly wasn't what I needed in a father.

"I know it isn't kind to say, and this might not be the place to say it, but this is a place for truth, and standing up here expounding on how great a man he was, and how much I loved him, and how much I will moss him would be a lie. He was the most selfish, egomaniacal, narrow-minded son of a bitch I have ever known, and I say this even working in the field I do. He never listened to what my dreams were, much less encourage them. I leave home for college, he refuses to pay a cent. I pursue a career in politics, he refuses to acknowledge it as anything more than a hobby. I get a divorce, he refuses to speak to me for the rest of his life. I can't believe you all would sit here in this place that represents everything that is good and remember my father a great man. You all are a bunch of goddamned hypocrites."

He stopped and looked around at the appalled and mortified faces watching him. They couldn't believe what he had done, and neither could he. His eyes welled with tears. "I did lie to you just now. Everything I said about my father was true -- he was not a great man. But he was my father. I did love him, and I will miss him. He was my father. And I -- God, I can't believe it took me so long to see that."

*****

Both were quiet for most of the ride back, stunned and drained from the events of the day. In the end, his family understood. He left feeling he had put at least one old demon to rest.

Finally Diane broke the silence. "What are you thinking?"

"Do you remember how much you used to hate it when I asked you that?"

"Yep."

"I see, this is, what, this is retribution now?"

"You bet."

"Well I'm thinking traffic is obscenely backed up for 3:30 in the afternoon."

"Come on, seriously, Toby."

"You don't want to know."

"Sure I do."

"I don't think you do."

"Let me guess then. You're thinking about C.J."

He sighed. "I just left things in a bad place --"

"You don't have to explain anything to me. I don't own you." She paused for a moment, considering the thought that was running through her head, and finally decided she wanted to know. "Tell me about her."

Toby couldn't believe his ears. " C.J.?"

"Yeah."

"Are you serious?"

"I want to know how you met, what made you fall for her."

"You really want to hear about this?"

"Yeah."

He shook his head at the absurdity of the thought of telling his ex-wife how much the woman he had an affair with meant to him. But he needed to tell somebody, and he wasn't having much luck with the one person who really should hear it.

"Well -- I was attracted to her from the first time I met her, I guess. She just struck me as someone who was so strong, so sure of herself -- it was like she transcended all the women who had triumphed over the idea that politics is a man's game because she refused to acknowledge that it was to begin with. She was tough and compassionate all at once, and she had a wicked sense of humor. We weren't together very long but for awhile there, I had a reason to be happy again. I... I really cared about her a lot."

Watching him talk about her, Diane realized what Toby wouldn't allow himself to. What surprised her was that it actually made her feel good. "You're still in love with her, aren't you?"

He sighed, unsure of his feelings. "All those things I said, I could just ast easily have said about you. I always wondered if on some level I saw in her only a more accessible version of you, one I hadn't already ruined everything with. I'm afraid that loving C.J. is just an extension of loving you."

"I think you're afraid she doesn't love you as much as you love her."

"Well I was always afraid of that with you."

"And you know what? I was afraid of the same thing. If you would just talk to her, Toby, you might find she's thinking the exact same things you are. Of course, you must be afraid of that too."

Toby smiled sheepishly. "Yeah."

"You know, you are a lot more fearful than I ever gave you credit for. Have you ever told her all those things you just told me?"

"No."

"Have you ever thought maybe you should?"

"Sure, I think about it a lot."

"If you love her, will you tell her?"

"Yes. I just don't know what to do with that 'if' yet."

*****

When Toby got to the West Wing late that afternoon C.J. came into his office and found him at his desk. She sat in the chair across from him. "Hey."

"Hello."

"How did it go?"

He looked up from his computer. "C.J., I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"A lot of things."

"Leaving?"

"For one."

She leaned back in her chair. "When did you go?"

"About an hour after you fell asleep."

"That's fine."

"No, it's not."

"Forget about it. How did it go?"

"It was fine. C.J.--"

"Really, how did it go?"

"It was a disaster, all right? Look--"

"You're not going to tell me what happened?"

He was becoming impatient with her avoidance of what she knew he was going to say. "It doesn't matter!"

"It does matter!"

"C.J.!"

She gave in, resigned. "What?"

"What happens next?"

"I don't know."

It was a pointless question. Neither one was prepated to answer, and even if they were they both knew neither one would. Still it was the only thing they could think of: What happens next?

"You were right, again," Toby said.

"What now?"

"We just don't work."

She nodded sadly. "Yeah."

"Yeah."

She held his gaze for a moment, then stood.

"Where are you going?"

She struggled to answer. "Wherever." The look in her eyes said it all: This is too painful; I can't do this anymore.

She left, but immediately chastised herself for it. She wasn't one to walk away from anything without a fight, and she wasn't one to tiptoe around other people's feelings when she had something to say, no matter how upset they were. She returned to his office, purposefully and angrily.

"You know what, you can mope around all you want, refusing to take charge and admit what you really feel, as long as you remember this: that once there was a time when you were happy, and you were happy because of me. You aren't happy now, Toby, but you were. I'm not talking about the occasional smile or joke. You used to walk around with a goofy grin on your face just because there was no reason not to, you used to wake up in the morning and look forward to the day ahead. It was brief but you were happy, and you were happy because of me. And I know that because once there was a time when I was happy and it was because of you." With that, she turned and left again.

He followed her to her office and slammed the door behind him. "Did you really think I forgot all of that?"

"If you didn't you obviously don't care about it anymore."

"Like you're talking charge and admitting your true feelings!"

"No, I'm not, Toby. But I'm not the one who comes to you for support one minute and pushes you away the next. I'm not the one that just kisses you then says there's no way for this to work. And I'm not the one coming to your house in the middle of the night and leaving without a second thought!"

"I told you I was sorry for that. And there was a second thought."

"Always after the fact. After the fact you feel bad about it and seek me out again and it starts all over again."

"Why are you doing this, C.J.?"

"Because I have tried all week to be there for you whenever you needed me -- and I did't even mind it when you pushed me away. It's when you make me need you again and then push me away that I object to, and you know you're doing it! I don't know what you want, Toby, I don't know if this is your way of telling me you want me back or if this is you trying to hang onto me while keeping me at arms length or if you're just being cruel, but you are being so unfair to me. I know you're having a hard time and I want so much to help you, but you can't think you can just walk back into my life and reopen that chapter that I had resolved without owing me some kind of explanation! And I..." She looked away from him, and continued, softer, "I don't want to see you again until you can be honest with me."

He stood there for a long time, trying to find it within him to tell her the truth, or at least come up with a snappy comeback; he found neither, so he left, without a word, leaving her alone again. She fell back onto the couch, burying her head in her hands.

*****

"Claude, are you all right?" Katie asked, back at C.J.'s later that night.

"Yeah. Why?"

"You just seem a little, I don't know -- distant."

"I'm fine. It's just been a long day."

"Liar." Katie smiled at her. "You're thinking about Toby, aren't you?"

"He's driving me absolutely crazy."

"I know he is!"

"I don't mean the good way." C.J. sighed. "I just want to let it go and stop thinking about him, but I can't! And I think I'm punishing him somehow, but this is exactly waht he wants me to do, sit here and not be able to get him out of my head."

"Did something happen today?"

"Nothing that hasn't happened a million times before. Nothing I won't let happen a million times again. I don't know why I keep going back. I know I'm just going to end up heartbroken and alone -- why do I keep going back?"

"Because you're in love with him."

"You know, I really wish you would stop throwing that word around. You're too young to know it and I probably shouldn't burst your bubble now but most people don't get to fall in love. And those who do, most of them don't get to be happy with it."

"Why do the two of you have to make it so complicated? If you want to be with him and he wants to be with you, why does there have to be anything more to it?"

"Because it is complicated, Katie. There are so many problems between us -- that maybe we could never work out. And even if we did, there wouldn't be much left of us standing."

"Love is love, and the rest of it doesn't matter. You get the love part down, you can handle the rest of the crap."

"Well that's very poetic but in this case I think there's just too much crap."

"I know you're wrong, Claude."

"I need to get some air. I'm going to go for a walk."

*****

Toby had been out walking the streets of D.C. for what seemed like hours after leaving the West Wing, sorting through his feelings and agonizing over the mess he had made of every relationship that had ever meant anything to him in his life. He knew that if he could make sense of everything he still had a shot at salvaging one of them, but he couldn't figure out where to begin.

Honesty. The truth. It sounded simple enough. He knew what she expected from him and he knew what he wanted to say. He'd known for so long and wanted to tell her, but everytime he saw her he froze. He was never at a loss for words with anyone in any situation, except when faced with C.J. Cregg and honesty.

There she was, sitting on the steps of the reflecting pool where she had found him just days ago, waiting, accessible and unassuming. He chuckled to himself, seeing her there; it was almost as if they had each known that the other would need them and be there at just that particular moment.

He walked over and sat down next to her.

"I was wondering when you were going to get mad at me."

"I felt awful the second after I did it."

"I had it coming."

"Maybe, but it still didn't feel good."

He reached for her, taking her hand in his, putting his arm around her, holding her close to him. This time, he found no reason to hide from her. He wanted to tell her the truth.

"You know, last night, when you fell asleep in my arms -- it was the most amazing feeling, that you trusted me enough to fall asleep in my arms. It isn't like it never happened before, and it isn't like it never happened with you before, but it felt different. Maybe because of all we've been through. I was just lying there, watching you sleep, thinking about how much you trusted me -- I know that sounds crazy. There was a part of me that wanted to stay, and stay forever if you'd have me, and I want you to know it was a very vocal minority, but everything else in me screamed that I should leave. The truth is I wanted to leave long before I did, or not have come at all. There were so many times I wanted to run away from you, and I know it must seem awful to have left, but it's only because of you that I stayed that long. It just amazed me how much you trusted me, to fall asleep in my arms, trusted me to be there when you woke up, to be there... And I'm sorry I screwed that up."

"You didn't."

"I did."

"No, because you never would have said all that --"

"It's only because of you."

"You didn't screw it up."

"I just wish I said it sooner."

"Yeah."

"I wanted to say that now because there's still so many doubts, and I don't know if I can get over them. But I didn't want you to think -- I mean, I needed you to know that last night, and all of this, means the world to me. And I'm sorry."

"I know."

"I'm sorry about not asking you to come to the funeral with me. I know you wanted to be there and I know it hurt you."

"I just wanted to be there for you."

"And I don't want to seem ungrateful about that. It's just that -- with my whole family there, and everything that happened..."

"I understand that."

"Still, I wanted you to be there."

"I know."

"C.J., I know what I want, but I'm having trouble trusting in it the way you seem to. I worry that I only come to you when I'm lonely. I worry that you're always going to be a reminder to me of the way I hurt Diane and I'd never be able to be happy with you again. I worry that you're a lot like her in a lot of ways and we would end up just like that. And I can't go through that again. I can't learn to trust you and then lose you. I can't survive another broken heart -- I mean, literally, I don't think I could take it, do you know what I mean?"

"I know exactly what you mean."

He started twisting his wedding band. "I worry about why I still wear this. It's been three years and I still wear my ring. And if all this time has gone by and I'm not over it -- will I ever be? I just don't know if it's because of the guilt, or if it's because of -- Diane. She said something to me earlier today, she said that she doesn't own me. But in a way she does, and I don't know when that's going to stop." He looked over at her, concerned. "I don't want to hurt you, C.J."

"I wanted you to be honest with me. This is what I wanted."

"You've been a great friend to me. I know it's much more than that, and you probably understand what that is, but I need to understand it myself. I think I'm close to it, and there is one other thing I want to say to you -- I know I mean it, I know I want to say it and I know you want to hear it, but it isn't fair to you to say it until I've found a way to reconcile all these doubts. I have been so unfair to you, and that ends right here. I don't want to hurt anymore and I don't want you to hurt anymore either and I swear to God, C.J., if I was ever worthy of your trust at all, I'm never going to hurt you again."

 

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