Disclaimer: No matter how many stars I wish one, none of the cast of The West Wing has showed up at my door. The only thing I own is my DVD collection and script books.
A/N: Written for Jane, who refuses to watch the end of 'Posse Comitatus' She also beta'd this for me.
CJ knew something was wrong the moment she walked up to her house. The porch light wasn't on, and she always left it on when she left in the morning. Toby liked to laugh at her, and ask her why she didn't get a timer for her light so she didn't waste so much electricity. She made up some excuse about liking the routine of turning on the light, knowing that it would be shining for her when she got home. The truth was she just never thought of it except at five in the morning. By the time she got into work there were always twenty things that needed her immediate attention, and getting a new light slipped her mind.
So when she walked up the non-illuminated step she was leery. Unlocking the door, she reached for the light-switch, and found that it was off. While it was possible that she had forgotten to turn it on this morning, it was such an ingrained habit that she doubted it. Dropping her briefcase to the floor, she picked up an umbrella- the biggest thing within reach- and clutched it in her hands.
"Spike, I'm home," she called out. "Did you have a good day at the shooting range?"
Turning on every light she passed, CJ made her way to the kitchen, cursing the fact that she had let the battery of her cell phone die. Rounding the corner into the living room she heard a noise. She was just about too swing the umbrella in the vain hope that she hit something besides the furniture, when something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Turning, the umbrella clattered to the floor as a man stepped out of the shadows.
"Hello CJ," her visitor said.
CJ opened her mouth and tried to reply, but all the words of her extensive vocabulary failed her. She could only stand and stare as a thousand questions flitted through her mind. Even the questions were overpowered by the emotions flooding through her. Joy and surprise and anger were the three she could most easily identify. Knees weak, she took a single step to her right and sat on the arm of her couch. For a second she felt as if she is sitting on a park bench wearing a ball-gown.
"How are you here?" she finally managed to ask.
"Your security is deplorable. It took me less then two minutes to get inside." His attempt at humor fell flat, as he knew it would. His smile faded as he stared at her. She was chewing on her lower lip and there was an expression on her face that he couldn't name, but didn't like. Haunted, maybe, was the best word for it. "I wanted to see you."
"I wanted to see you too," she said, her voice low and even, almost free of emotion. "I've wanted to see you for almost a year, but I couldn't. You know why?" Her voice grew louder as she stood up. "Because you were dead."
"I'm sorry." Simon took a step forward, and she could see him clearly now. He looked a little thinner then the last time she had seen him, that cold May night in New York. His cheek bones were more prominent and there were dark circles under his eyes.
"Sorry because you were dead?" But he wasn't dead. He was standing in front of her, looking as real as he ever had.
"I'm sorry because I had to let you think that I was dead." He let his hand fall to her arm and linger there. His hand was warm and CJ wasn't sure if the fact that he is touching her made his presence here more or less real. If this was some cosmic joke and she was dreaming, then she never wanted to wake up.
"Why?" A single question with the weight of a hundred more behind it. Why did he let her think he was dead? Why that night, when they were just starting to get somewhere? Why was he back now? So many questions, but all she could get out was that one word.
"I can't tell you much. My security level..."
"Bull," she interrupted. "You can damn well tell me why you spent most of the past year pretending to be dead. I cried for you, Simon. I locked myself in my house for two days and mourned for you; for us. The least you can do is tell me why."
"I can't tell you all of it. I can let you know that it was an undercover mission. In order to do what I needed to do, it had to appear to the world that I was dead. I couldn't tell anyone." Another step closer and he was caressing the side of her cheek with his hand. "But I didn't know that it was going to happen that night. I thought we had more time, that I would at least get a chance to prepare you."
"How the hell were you going to prepare me if you couldn't tell me anything?" She couldn't think with him touching her. She backed away from him, but forgot the couch was directly behind her. Her knees buckled and she collapsed onto the plush cushions. CJ decided that it was best to stay where she was, and brushed Simon's hand away when he offered to pull her up. Picking up a throw pillow, she clutched it to her chest like some bizarre shield.
"I don't know," Simon sighed. "I can tell you that if I had know that it was going to happen that night, I wouldn't have started anything with you, and I sure as hell wouldn't have kissed you."
"You didn't kiss me. I kissed you." That kiss, along with every detail of that night, was indelibly burned into her brain. she had played that moment over a hundred times, when she was alone in her bed late at night.
"Semantics." He sunk down onto the couch, careful to maintain the space between them.
"I work with people everyday who have top security clearance. How many of them knew that you weren't really dead? Did Leo? Did the President?" It wouldn't be the first time that the people she considered friends had lied to her, but she still fervently hoped that he would tell her none of them had kept this from her.
"Nancy McNally, General Fitzwallace, Ron Butterfield, and a handful of others were the only ones who knew. The President knew about my mission, but he didn't know the identity of the agent involved." It was more then he should have told her, but she needed to know.
"Ron knew? He lead me out of the theater and told me you were dead, listened to my denials, and the whole time he knew?" Relief and hurt warred against each other.
"Yeah, he knew, but-"
"I need a drink." Letting the pillow fall to the floor, Cj stood and headed to the kitchen. There were a couple of bottles of wine in a rack on the corner of her counter, but she bypassed them and opened the cabinet above the stove. She didn't stock much hard alcohol, but there was a bottle of scotch she kept on hand for those times when Toby came over. "Do you want one?" CJ asked. Simon hadn't made a sound, but she knew that he had followed her.
"Sure." He stood framed by the doorway, and CJ could feel him watching her as she moved around the room, getting glasses and filling them first with ice and then with the scotch. She swallowed half a glassful, grimaced, and refilled her glass before replacing the lid. As she handed the second glass to Simon, she was reminded that the last thing she had asked him was to meet her for drinks after the play.
"Shall we make a toast?" she asked mockingly as she rolled the glass between her open hands.
"Here's to being alive again," Simon answered seriously before sipping the scotch.
"For how long?" CJ stared at her glass as she spoke. When she raised her gaze Simon was looking at her quizzically, so she elaborated. "For how long are you alive- back- what ever?"
"For good, CJ." He had given her the space she needed, but now he was done with that. Simon took the glass away from CJ and set it, along with his own, on the counter. Stepping close enough that their shoes touched, he cupped her chin with his fingers and forced her to look into his eyes. "I'm back for good." Closing the space between them, he kissed her lightly on the lips as if sealing his promise.
"For... you're... that's good," CJ stammered, overwhelmed. "For you, I mean. That's good that you're back here and not where ever you were when you weren't here."
"I think so," he agreed as he took a step back. CJ wavered slightly, and he grabbed her arm to steady her.
"That scotch is a little too much. I don't know how Toby drinks that stuff," CJ commented, eyeing the bottle warily. "I think I need to- that is with work in the morning I should-"
"You need sleep," Simon supplied as they walked out of the kitchen and back into the living room. "It's okay. I'm not going to disappear if you close your eyes."
"How do I know that for sure?" she asked even as she muffled a yawn. The last time she let him out of her sight he died, and she's reluctant to even let him leave the room.
"What would make you believe me?"
"Stay here tonight. I don't know what your plans are, but can you do that? I need to see you in day light, to know this isn't a dream."
"I can do that." Simon nodded, as he motioned to the couch. "You have any blankets?"
"Yeah," CJ smiled for the first time. "I do."
A/N 2: The title, Postliminium, is latin for "the right to return home."