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07 June 2008 @ 10:10 am
Yeah, I have to get ready to present myself to the world.  *Ugh*  It's not too steamy yet but I know it will be by the time I go out.  May be hostile when I get back.....fair warning.  I love all of you guys, dont use anything I may say today against me.  Hopefully, I will be fine.  Hot weather makes me insane.  OK, now that that's out of the way.  FIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is the third story in the arc of CJ's health scare. I dont know how many of you have read it but if you are inclined, take a gander today and find the other two in my memories.  Later......I gotta take a shower.

Title: Only One Lifetime
Author: Montiese
Category: Hurt/Comfort/Angst/Drama/Friendship
Characters: CJ, Leo, Greg, Toby, Sam, Jed, Joanie
Pairing: CJ/Greg, CJ/Leo
Rating: YTEEN
Summary: “When you truly need me, call me. I can hear you even if you can't hear me.”
Author’s Note: This is #19 in the To Love Again series.  The title comes from the Celine Dion song, Only One Road and is soooooo fitting for this story.  If you know it, you will see why.

CJ felt the hands go around her eyes; a rush of warmth ran through her body. She swallowed hard and did not bother to guess who it was. Turning so swiftly she nearly lost her balance, CJ came face to face with the man she had only seen in pictures for the past five years. She gasped, opening her mouth to speak his name, but nothing came. He opened his arms and she fell into them. Maybe it was just her imagination but she could hear their wedding song playing across the clouds. He still felt exactly the same…five years apart disappeared in an instant.
“Oh dear God, I've missed you so much.” CJ held him tighter.
“Me too baby.”
When they kissed, it felt as if they were never apart. Leo stroked her face.
“You are truly a sight for sore eyes. You're so beautiful.”
“Are you really here?” CJ asked.
“I am; and so are you.”
“You look so…Leo you look 55. Is that normal?”
“Here we are at our happiest. I guess that’s when I found my heaven.”
CJ smiled, cupping his face. He was glowing, not literally, and there was a twinkle in his hazel eyes. Dressed in a light khaki linen suit and smelling of Drakkar Noir, he looked at ease. For some reason CJ could not see his feet. He was not floating like a specter though; he stood at 5’6 ½” as always. She kissed him again and again, each more passionate than the last. He was here and dammit if she would ever let go.
“Oh Claudia Jean, I've missed you terribly.”
“I can't believe we’re together. I just…Oh my God, am I dead. Leo, did the surgery take a bad turn?”
“Take a walk with me, baby.”
CJ nodded. Their hands still fit perfectly together. Moving through a summer breeze, soon they were in a large park. There were grassy knolls and rolling hills, greens, browns, reds, and other colors brighter than CJ had ever seen. Other people were there with them…parents, lovers, children, even dogs. If CJ would have been with anyone but her late husband, it could have been Central Park on a Saturday.
“This is amazing. Its like…Oz.”
“Oz?” Leo looked at her with a cocked eyebrow.
“The colors are so vivid, but not blinding. Technicolor.”
“I come here to clear my mind. Jed and I play chess out by the lake and Lord John and I golf just over that Hill. He still calls me Gerald.”
“They're here with you?” CJ asked.
“Yeah. Jed is very lonely for Abbey but some of us are able to distract him long enough to make it through. Ah, we’re here.”
“Where?” CJ looked around and put her hand on her chest. It hadn't felt as if they were moving anymore but they stood now on a summit. Below them was a valley. “Oh Leo.”
“I wanted to impress you. Its great, isn’t it?”
CJ wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close.
“You never have to impress me, remember?”
“That’s what makes it the most fun.”
“It is beautiful.” CJ smiled. “Have you seen the grandkids, Leo? They are growing up so fast. I can't believe Leah is three now.”
“I know. Declan does have my smile though Tim really can't see it yet…he is not just saying that. He will though. Charlie’s girls give me a lot of joy. Georgie Jean has the streak in her, just like her mother did.”
“I know.”
Leo leaned to whisper in her ear.
“Wait until you see Leo and Lilith baby; they are amazing.”
“Stephen wanted to name her Lillian.”
“He’s already changed his mind and will tell Tim soon. I watch over them all the time. Charlie and Brendan too, and they are going to be just fine. They really are happy…she’s not doing anything to keep up appearances.”
“Do you watch over me too?”
“Every second of every day.”
“Every second?” CJ colored a bit, turning her face away.
“Well I'm more discreet than I used to be. I don’t watch everything anymore…its not fair to either of us. Greg is a lucky man. He loves you and I know how you feel about him.”
“You don’t have to explain anything.” Leo said. “I told you to love again; I wanted it for you. Its not easy but its right.”
“Is Greg OK? I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. At least you and I had our moment at the end.”
“He’s fine. You're not dead, Claudia Jean.”
“Then where am I?”
“You're in a moment in time. A bit of an unauthorized moment, but I could not resist. There were so many times I wanted to see you but I don’t want to be a troublemaker.”
“I don’t want you in trouble, Leo.”
“Its worth it.” he held her closer and exhaled. “Its been an eternity since I've touched you. I couldn’t let another moment pass. I love you too much.”
“I love you too.”
There was nothing strange to CJ about making out with her dead husband. Leo was right there in her arms; felt like flesh and blood. She felt his fingers on her skin, his lips on hers, and his strong arms around her. Then a cell phone rang.
“A cell phone Leo?” CJ’s tone was incredulous.  “We’re in heaven and you're still carrying a damn cell phone.”
“I never said this was heaven.”
“Well its not the White House, that’s for sure. Where are we?”
“Hold on baby; I have to take this.” He flipped the cell phone open. The man still didn’t have Bluetooth. “Yeah, McGarry.”
They could’ve been back on the Hill or in the Lincoln with Lewis at the wheel. CJ listened as he talked. It didn’t seem to be in English, or it was garbled somehow. He seemed perturbed but resigned. Then Leo held out the phone.
“Jed wants to say hello.” The former Vice-President rolled his eyes. “And he gets on me about rule breaking.”
“Hello.” CJ took the phone.
“Hi Claudia Jean.”
“I don’t have long. Tell Abbey that I can't wait to be with her again…I miss her terribly. Make sure Charlie knows how proud we are of him. I beamed through his entire Inauguration speech. Kiss Zoey for me. I love her to pieces, she is doing better than I ever imagined. Tell her…”
“Jed? Jed, are you there? Hello?” she handed the phone back. “He’s gone.”
“He faded out. I'm surprised he was able to say anything. I have to go baby; I can't hold the door open too much longer. I have some clout but not enough.”
“When will I see you again?” she asked, rushing back into his arms even if only for an instant.
“I don't know.”
“That’s not good enough.” CJ shook her head. “Do you know but won't tell me.”
“It doesn’t work that way. She would never tell me. Firstly, time is different here. Secondly, I would be too distracted counting the moments until our reunion to do what is asked of me.”
“What is asked of you, Leo? What is this place if not heaven? Who is she? Are you safe?”
“Shh shh shh.” He put his finger on her lip. “Someday you will know everything. I am safe, and as happy as I can be without you. I have to go.”
“No!” she exclaimed. “Don't leave me again dammit, not again.”
“I won't be far. I'm never far.” Leo caressed her face.

“Answer me one more thing.”
“What about Greg? When we get here Leo…I'm married to you both. I only have one soul. What will happen to the three of us? I love him very, very much.”
“It will work out; our case is not unique.”
“You will understand when the time comes. Until then it won't mean anything to you.  I have to leave.”
“Don’t go.” She held him tighter. “I've had to let go so many times.”
“I have never left your side, Claudia Jean. Three words can't even touch on the enormity of what I feel for you, everyday. If only you knew what I risking just being here. This kind of behavior is frowned upon. Still, it was my only opportunity to see you without frightening you. We've all been guilty of it once or twice.”
“You would never frighten me. Tell me that you love me.”
“I love you.” Leo caressed her face and wiped her tears. “When you truly need me, call me. I can hear you even if you don’t hear me. You have to go back now. Greg is waiting… everyone is waiting.”
“How will I get back? Leo!”
She was shouting now; he was moving away from her. This time it was more of a spirit. CJ thought she could see through him.
“Joanie will see you safely to where you need to go.”
He held up his hand to wave and then he was gone. A terrible sound came from her diaphragm…the sound of anguish and loss. Not again, she could not bear to lose him again.
“Its alright, Mrs. McGarry.”
A feeling came over her when Joanie took her hand. It was going to be alright, even if Leo was gone again. She smiled at the young girl with eyes like Josh and long, brown hair.
“Hello Joanie. I've heard so much about you.”
“I will take you home. We have to hurry; it’s a long way and there isn’t much time.”
They were moving so quickly. CJ only recognized things in flashes; colors, sounds, smells, faces. She saw her mother and father. They were together again, dancing like she thought they would be. Was it a dream? She wanted to reach out to them…be with them once more as she had with Leo.
“Mom? Daddy? Joanie, wait, wait just a moment!”
“We can't. I'm so sorry.”
CJ began to feel dizzy, then queasy, and finally cold. The beautiful scenery and sunny skies were gone. So was Joanie. She looked around in a petrified state. Where was she and how the hell would she get home?
“Hello? Leo! Leo, help me, where am I?”
She froze, knowing that voice.
“Sam? Sam!”
And there he was, standing in front of her. He didn’t look a day older than he was during the Bartlet Administration. Gone too damn soon, Sam Seaborn was timeless.
“Hey there.”
She ran to him, able to feel his warmth and smile as his arms closed around her.
“This is the end of your journey for now.” he said. “Joanie never likes to say goodbye…she thought you might be more comfortable with me.”
“I have to go back?” CJ asked.
“Yes, you do. Go down the hall and out the door…don’t look back.”
“If I do, I will not turn into a pillar of salt, will I?”
“No.” he laughed. “There will be nothing to see. Right down the hall.” Sam pointed.
“OK. I...tell Leo that I love him Sam. You will see him?”
“Yeah, and I’ll tell him. Go now, you’ve already stayed too long.” He kissed her cheek. “Run.”
CJ nodded, turning and doing what he told her. She ran as fast as she could for the door. She pushed through, blinded for a moment by light. Perhaps it was sunshine.
“CJ, its Elliot. Can you hear me, darling? Just nod if you can.”
CJ nodded, her eyes following the light when he told her to. Everything was blurred but slowly came back into focus. The first face she saw surprised her.
“Tobus?” she spoke in a husky whisper.
“Don’t call me that.” Toby came closer to the hospital bed. He stood next to Elliot. “The Botox worked wonders…you're beautiful.”
“Don’t tease. How...?”
“Charlie called me. She was worried and wanted to blow off some steam. She didn’t know that you and my wife chose to keep me in the dark; I kept that to myself.”
“So sorry; should've told you.”
“Shh. We will argue about that when you get better. You need to go back to sleep.”
“Relax CJ.” Elliot replied. “We will talk in the morning. You're heavily medicated and need your rest.”
CJ closed her eyes again. A part of her hoped to see Leo once more but deep down she knew that had been her moment.
The second time CJ came out of her haze, her mind was clearer. She turned her head to the window and saw the sheets of rain sliding down. Turning again, she saw her husband sitting in a chair with his Nintendo DS. No doubt passing time with those brainteasers Josh had him hooked on. Watching him in heavy concentration, CJ was happy to see him. Leo was right; it wasn’t time. There was life to be lived with Greg. Since what the afterlife held was cryptic at best, CJ planned to enjoy moment they had as man and wife.
“Who’s winning?” she whispered.
Greg looked at her, fumbling with the game but saving it before it crashed on the floor. He put it on the side table, stood, and pushed the chair closer to the bed.
“Hey cookie puss.” He took her hand.
“Hey there.” She smiled. “Toby was here.”
“Yeah. Do you want some water?”
“And Leo.”
“I'm sorry?” he strained to hear her.
“Leo…we were together. Its going to be alright. It'll work Greg. He promised me, even if I didn’t understand. He doesn’t break promises anymore.”
“OK. Drink this baby.”
CJ sipped the room temperature water. She smiled at her husband.
“I'm alright?”
“The surgery was successful. Elliot got the tumor but there will be more tests after you’ve had some time to recover. He talked about radiation.”
“What? Why would I need that if I'm OK?”
“You are not going to worry tonight, I know that. Elliot got the tumor and he will be here in the morning to talk to us. Right now, we’re celebrating a victory.”
CJ nodded, feeling Greg squeeze her hand and then kiss it.
“I have a bald spot.”
“Your hair will cover it. You’re still the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world.”
“You're biased.”
“A tiny bit.”
They were quiet for a while, holding hands and listening to the rain outside.
“Did I dream about Toby?” CJ asked.
“No, he was here. Everyone was here but left so you could rest. You're going to have more flowers and cards than you know what to do with in the morning.”
“Nora, Toby, Donna, Cliff, Josh, Hogan, the kids…Charlie was on the phone from Washington.”
“Sparky? How did they all find out?”
“They're your family, Claudia Jean, you tell me.”
CJ groaned, causing Greg to think something was wrong with her head.
“No, I'm OK. I’ll deal with them in the morning.”
“You'll also call Bill when you're up to it. He called to check on you and say hello. I told him you were under the weather but would call him in a few days.”
“OK honey.”
CJ was exhausted. She closed her eyes as Greg stroked her forehead.
“Rest is the most important thing at the moment. We will deal with the family tomorrow.”
He knew his wife; she would want to be up and moving as soon as possible. The drugs gave Greg the control for the time being.
“Stay with me?” she was dozing.
“All night.”
“But your back…”
“The nurse will come in soon to check your vitals and bring me a rollaway bed. Its not the Ritz but I am not leaving you. I love you, Claudia Jean.”
“Mmm, love you too Gregory Brock.”
“I love you so much.” He whispered, kissing her temple.
“Tell me again.”
“You're spoiled rotten and it’s probably all my fault. Go to sleep baby; I will tell you again in the morning.”
CJ dozed, came to, and finally fell. The nurse came to check her vitals and 20 minutes after an orderly came with the rollaway bed. Sure she was asleep, Greg went down to the mezzanine. Cosi was still open so he ordered a chicken parmigiana sandwich and a cup of tea. He called Nora to report that all was well. He made sure that she fed Buttons and Jack.
He knew she would start a chain of phone calls leading all the way to the Oval Office. Just like the old days. Some things never changed. After a while in his own head, and then talking to Kyle, Greg took the elevator back to CJ’s room. He watched her sleep for a while, knowing how lucky she was to be alright. He was lucky she came back to him. If she and Leo were together Greg knew it must have been excruciating for either one of them to let go. He did not plan on letting go either.
I'm In....: the lair
I Feel....: tiredtired
I Hear....: "Coming Around Again" Carly Simon
Laura: west wing > leo smirkslauraonbway on June 8th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
again, wonderful! i'm such an angst whore. will there be more?
SSA McGeek: Shiksa Goddessmcgarrygirl78 on June 8th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
I think so, though I'm not entirely sure where its going. I know I will continue to write CJ/Greg as a coupling but I dont know where I will take her illness. Claudia Jean can only take so much. Expect at least one more in reference to it, if only to wrap it all up with a bow.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, it means a lot to me as a writer.
temptthewrath on June 12th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
I read it, just like I said I would. I love it. Thank you for the little slice of heaven that is Leo McGarry. ;-)
SSA McGeek: Leo....he's not the CHIEF for nothingmcgarrygirl78 on June 12th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
Actually Leopold is a large slice of heaven. Very large : )