Disclaimer: Belongs to Sorkin and Wells.
Spoilers: Post Admin
Summary: "We're better as friends"
AN: For the CJ challenge at tww_minis. Written for soaked_in_stars, for who requested: Letters (or writing). And booze. She also wanted some Andy. In a nice way.
Thanks and love goes to krazykitkat for handholding and general good-eggedness.
There’s a tiny patch of skin at the very bottom of his fingernail that appears a faded yellow.
She can remember the time when she could smell him before she could see him, when she could almost taste the tobacco as he trailed his finger across her cheek to snag her lip. That time he claimed her parted mouth with his.
His hand is preternaturally still on the glass and now she can see that it’s the glow of sunlight through whisky that colors his finger.
She can remember a time when she could delve through the cheap scotch and cigars to find the essence of Toby. The sweetness, uniquely his, that only a kiss could discover. She’d catch herself watching his face (flushed with feeling), hearing his words (as angry as they were eloquent) and all she could – can still - think of was the addictive taste of him. The thrill of kissing him breathless and wordless - of wanting to be his addiction.
But a kiss is a kiss and no more. Friends, they’ve always been friends.
She lets the liquor seep under her tongue and keeps her dreams to herself.
“We’re better as friends.”
The words are branded in her mind as clearly as she’d seen them on the paper on his desk in that empty New York apartment. She never got the letter, but she knows his penmanship like no other and she always tries to keep a step ahead of rejection. She finds it hard to forget.
That year had been a time of constant motion; one address after another, a day here, a week there. Sometimes just hours in one place. She’d become an adrenaline junkie and playing house with Danny made every nerve sing in the wrong way. Cramp. She had to stretch her legs. Run.
Danny called her yellow.
Much as she hated hurting him, she was sick of herself and her deception, so she spent a day in New York and shattered her hopes for good.
She should have been nicer to the old lady with the key, but the words in her head were not fit to be heard.
Yellow tinged with green.
A gentle wind blows her hair across her face and with a firm hand she stops her napkin escaping on the breeze.
Toby spins his near empty glass and then watches the dregs of liquid gold settle. He lifts it to his lips and drains it.
His face softens and he tilts his head and stares at her, easily holding her gaze and letting the warmth of the sun reflect in his eyes.
It’s hard not to bask.
There’s gray in his beard and it’s a little too long for her taste, but she still thinks just how much she’d like to feel its softness on her cheek. Or her thigh. She shakes her head.
The color on her cheeks refuses to fade and by the time she’s back in control, she’s lost him. She follows his gaze, decides to play it safe again. “Bob’s a nice guy.”
“He is.” Toby sounds sincere.
“It’s been a long time. Five years… six?”
“More than that. She started seeing him around the time… you know, the time of the thing. The pardon.”
She can’t speak for a moment. Time freezes for a heartbeat and a half. “I thought…” she clears her throat and looks towards the couple talking animatedly at the center of a small group just inside the restaurant, “I thought that you and Andy had decided to try again. Then, I mean. I know she’s with Bob now…”
He barks out a laugh. “Oh she’s definitely with Bob.”
She flushes and looks quickly across at him. There’s no bitterness there, she thinks, just honest affection. He’s happy for them. Somehow she missed that happening. Her confusion must show in her face.
The band strike up something soft and swinging.
Toby’s voice is gentle when he speaks and his eyes follow his ex-wife as she dances with her new husband. “We worked better as friends. She knew that way before I did, but she let me find out in my own time – let me make my own mind up. I’ll always be grateful for that.”
She’s waited what seems like a hundred years and now it’s time and she doesn’t know what to say. She says it anyway.
“I came to New York. You weren’t there.” Her voice is suprisingly steady as she meets his eyes, “I didn’t reply to your letter… I didn’t … I was moving about so much, I hardly picked up any mail.”
There’s a moment where the world forgets to turn, when all she can see is his face and all she can hear is the pounding of her own heart.
He blinks. “Mrs Murphy told me you came." He pours them both another drink. "I didn’t write to you.”
There’s sunlight filtering through the blind but it doesn’t wake her. She hasn’t slept. Thoughts of fleeting touches, warm smiles and unspoken promises have kept her awake. Not to mention an incipient hangover. Her arm is bathed in yellow light as she reaches for pen and paper.
She’s never found it easy to start a letter, and although he’s never said in so many words, she's worked with him long enough to know that Toby struggles with a closing paragraph. She silently thanks Andy for having the strength to know when a full stop is needed.
She takes a breath. It’s time to try a new beginning.