Title: Scorched Earth
Author: A.j.
Rating: Bite me MPAA. Parental Guidence suggested.
Notes: West Wing, ep-addition for "Things Fall Apart."

She walks away like she has somewhere to go. She does have somewhere to go. She always did. He just never imagined a time or place where that place had nothing what so ever to do with him.

She is sin in heels, tall and long and beautiful in the dim light of the bar. Because it is habit, he watches her ass move, tracing its curve with familiarity if not possession. She was young when he'd met her - little more than a child actually. No one looking at her now would ever think her anything but a woman fully in control of her life. No one else here can remember her vulnerability. Her naivate. Her light.

Maybe not even her.

Just him.

That makes him feel older than his hairline.

Her parting words had cut deeper than he ever imagined they could. Three words going past sinew and muscle and straight to bone. She is the only person on the planet who is close enough to do that kind of damage. Was the only person he'd ever trusted not to hurt him like this.

He watches her walk away and, for the first time, knows she's really gone.

He thought he knew what having a broken heart was. Was sure that he'd survived it. Had cried before. Had watched his world break in half.

He was wrong.

A broken heart is nothing like any of that. Because a really truly broken heart doesn't hurt after the initial crack.

It's like cauterization. Hard and fast this thing burns through him, leaving nothing behind. Just reality and this bar and the knowledge that he doesn't know this woman he's loved. Not at all. Because the woman he thought he knew would never have said those five words. Would have seen this. Would have seen him.

He doesn't want to cry. He doesn't want to scream or shout or fight. All he wants to do is finish his beer, go back to his room and take a shower. Then, maybe popcorn. Popcorn would be okay.

He doesn't notice that his hands are shaking.