blue flamingos

Moving Forwards, Going Back

Fandom: The West Wing

Category/Rated: Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2006/ ~1265 words

Pairing: None

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: she's not sure Sam knows why she asked him to meet her.

Author's Notes: Written for the [info]tww_minis CJ round, for [info]black_eyedgirl who requested 'CJ leaves DC for newer things as Sam leaves his newer things for DC. A conversation thereof', with no regrets over Danny.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


"Samuel," CJ says when Sam gets close enough to hear her. She checks her watch. "You are... 13 and a half minutes late."

"Yeah." Sam drops his coat over CJ's, unwinds his scarf and pulls off his gloves. She tries not to imagine him in a woolly hat and fails – sometimes Sam just seems too cute to be working for the White House. "It's kind of a busy day at work. I don't know if you noticed, but we swore in a new president yesterday."

CJ mock frowns at him, tilting her head to one side. "You know, I think I did see something about that on CNN."

"We got a few minutes, yeah." Sam holds the deadpan expression for a minute before he breaks and grins at her. CJ grins back. She remembers laughing when she first heard that Josh was asking Sam to come back as Deputy Chief of Staff, but there's something about him now that makes her think Josh knew what he was doing.

Kind of the way she felt when she walked into Leo's office the first time it was her office, and wondered what the President was thinking. She swallows and looks down into her coffee, away from Sam's excitement and the expression she remembers on the President's face when she saw him for the last time in the Oval Office. She's not sure it's quite sunk in yet that she probably won't ever see him in person again.

"CJ?" Sam says, sounding like it's not the first time he's said her name. When she looks up again, he's looking right at her, his face drawn in concern. "You OK?"

CJ waves it away. She's so much better than OK, she doesn't know how to express it: the relief she felt when she turned Santos' offer down, the flutter of excitement whenever she thinks of Danny waiting for her in California, eight years coming and she still doesn't feel ready. "I'm going to California, Sam, with sunshine and warmth. I couldn't be better."

Sam rolls his eyes. "Don't remind me. I'd forgotten how cold Washington in January gets."

"I'll send you a woolly jumper for Christmas," CJ promises. And maybe a hat as well – being Sam, he'd wear it as well, even to work. For a man who always looks as good as he does, he has no sense of style.

"I'll have frozen to death by then," Sam grumbles.

"I'll need that long to knit it," CJ says.

"You can knit?"

"No, but I figure with all the free time I'll have not working 20 hour days in the White House, I can take up some new hobbies." She ignores Sam's sceptical expression: just because she can't choose the right size for pyjamas, doesn't mean she won't be able to knit. Though she can't actually see knitting in her future, not for a long time. Instead, whenever she thinks of it, she sees Danny and the beach, more sun lotion than she ever thought she'd need, and another twenty years of a job she loves with the chance to help people who really need it.

They sip their coffee in silence for a moment. CJ wonders if Sam wonders why she asked to meet him. She remembers when they first took office, when they didn't see the outside of the building in daylight for weeks, and found out they didn't have as many friends as they thought, not ones who'd stick around through that. She's not sure how Sam managed to escape, even if it was thirteen and a half minutes late, or why he did. Maybe he thinks they're saying good bye, though CJ's sure she'll be in Washington again.

"Mallory came to see me yesterday," she says, mostly just to watch the way Sam's head comes up when she does, the deer-in-the-headlights look he always gets at that name.

"How's she doing?" he asks, doing a commendable job of not sounding like someone who's choking on hot coffee.

"Fine." CJ smiles benignly at him. "She says hi, and good luck."

"Great. Thanks." Sam swallows some more coffee and looks away.

"Sam? Is there something you want to share?" CJ's never quite figured out his relationship with Mallory, and she's not entirely sure he ever did either.

"No, it's..." Sam glances up, then down, then back up to meet her eyes. "It's too late now anyway. It would be too weird."

"And you're getting married," CJ prompts gently, though there's been no sign of the infamous fiancée.

"And I'm getting married," Sam repeats, sounding instantly more cheerful. "You'll have to meet her. We'll send you and Danny an invitation to the wedding."

CJ doesn't say that she won't hold her breath: maybe Sam's developed better taste and this one will really happen. "You'd better. California's not too far for me to come back and punish you."

For an instant, Sam looks honestly worried. CJ can't remember the last time that happened. He looks down at his watch and swallows his coffee quickly. "I've got to get back, I've got a meeting with the President in ten minutes."

The words fall off his tongue easily, but there's a kind of stutter in his body language, like he hasn't quite absorbed the identity of the new president yet either. CJ suspects that'll be a long time coming for all of them, even Josh who wanted to get him elected so badly. "Wouldn't want to keep the President waiting," she agrees lightly, standing up when Sam does.

He pulls his scarf and coat on again, stuffing his gloves into his pocket, standing awkwardly in front of her. He's the last goodbye CJ has to say before she catches her plane: Josh in the west wing yesterday, Toby at his apartment a few days before, and now Sam in a coffee shop round the corner from the White House. Her boys, scattered across Washington, when she'd thought for a long time that the four of them would be back in the White House some time, with a new president, one that President Bartlet would have been proud of.

"Take care," she says, leaning forward to hug him.

"You too." Sam returns the hug, holding on for longer than CJ expected. She doesn't want to let go either, but eventually she pushes him gently away from her.

"Go on. You don't want to make a bad impression on your first day."

"Second day," Sam corrects, and steps back. He fiddles with his coat button. "Did you... did you ever wish you were staying in Washington?" he asks, the words coming out too fast.

CJ opens her mouth to tell him that she loved working in the west wing, loved working for the President of the United States of America, even when things were really bad, and she thought they'd never survive. That it was the greatest honour and privilege of her entire life, and that sometimes she wonders if anything else can ever live up to it. That she'll never regret those eight years, but that, to her, the President will always be Jed Bartlet, and that no-one else will ever come close to him.

Taking a breath to say this, though, she really looks at Sam, as eager and passionate as he was when he joined the campaign, even if his innocence is tarnished from four years in the White House and his own campaign failure, and finds that she can't give voice to her thoughts.

Instead, she smiles, pats his arm, and says, with complete honesty, "not for one second."

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