She knocked on the door.
She knocked on the door again. Once. Twice. She stood there waiting for an answer. After a while, she walked back down the steps of the house. Behind her the door swung open. She froze, closed her eyes.
"Kate?" He could pick her out of any crowd. Telltale blonde hair, of course, but not just that. It was something about her, that made him attracted to her. An invisible magnetic field. It was probably her scent, just her own. And, he was probably even more than attracted to her, he felt the pull towards her. She slowly turned around, and sure enough, there she was. He wasn't used to seeing her like this. Hair just loose, pair of jeans. Normal. It made him look... underdressed as he was, wearing shorts and a shirt.
"Hi," she said. He knew this—this awkwardness. They used to have it at work, usually after a rather successful date or sleepover. He walked over to her. He gave her a soft kiss on the cheek, and her breath hitched slightly. She tried to hide it, but never could. Not from him, anyway. He saw past her façade each and every time. He lingered a second longer than usual, breathing in her scent. After all those years, just to remember what it used to be like, to be able to do it every day.
When they pulled away, she forced herself to lie. She wasn't missing him, all the old memories weren't resurrecting. And yet, they were. The harder she tried to suppress them, the harder they came flooding back into her brain. Not all of them were unusual, actually, most of them were simple moments: lying on his couch, ignoring the movie and engrossed deeply in a conversation, the morning after their first time, making out in the middle of the day. And these were the most special to her. She's been married—twice, already—yet never felt this way towards a person, a certain pull. She wasn't sure if he loved her, or if she loved him. Yet, only the good memories came back, none of them bad enough to scare her all the way back to Washington.
He watched her, watched the inner turmoil their small contact had stirred up. And he knew—knew that she was remembering too. All their time together. And he found it a miracle that she didn't run, or go back into her shell, because that's what she'd do to protect her heart from aching. Two failed relationships could do that to a person. But he wouldn't want her any other way. He had dated, after moving to Oregon. And on each and every date—not that they were that much—he found himself comparing the woman, to Kate. He found he couldn't stop doing it, so he'd stopped dating altogether. Had dived head-first into work. And then he had seen her at the opening of the Bartlet Administration Library. She looked happy, as much as it pained to see it, he was glad for her. He was also glad Charlie was standing between them, because that day he was feeling bold. Bold enough that he would, could, kiss her right then and there, in front of Toby and CJ and Danny and Charlie and even Mr. Bartlet. But Charlie stood between them, she made sure of it. And that killed him, so to speak.
They stood there, close to each other, knee-deep into old memories. She remembered the time after he had left. She forced herself not to miss him, not to think about the abandoned feeling she felt.
Except for one night—her birthday. Almost everybody had called, CJ, Annabeth, Donna, everybody, even Toby! Except him. And it hurt much than she cared to admit. She had to give it to him—she said she wasn't going with him, but still. It hurt. That night she couldn't sleep. Out of a drawer she had pulled out a shirt, his shirt. He had forgotten it at her place, when he left. Out of the same drawer she pulled out her old comforter. She sat on the floor, crying, really crying, for the first time in... she couldn't even remember. She had never cried over a man before. She clutched the shirt and comforter close to her, they still smelled like him. After that night, she decided it was obvious he had moved on, so should she. She went on to write a book—a bestseller.
And then she had gotten the invitation to the opening of the Bartlet Administration Library. She almost didn't go, but forced herself to. Other people would be there, and she really needed to see and talk to CJ, so she went. Before the former President had arrived, she chatted a bit with CJ and Danny.
Yet, when she looked up, their gazes locked. And it was nearly her undoing. She had to fight the intense urge to kiss him right then and there. And when Bartlet had arrived she made sure Charlie was standing between them. A sort of protective barrier between them. To kill her urge.
She suddenly snapped out of her trance, and remembered where she was. She gazed up, looked at him. He had aged a bit, but not a lot. He wasn't wearing his glasses. She sort of missed them, it gave a sort of geeky look, she thought he looked cute with them.
He was smiling at her, and she found she couldn't stop the smile that was slowly spreading on her own face.
"Hi," he replied back after a long while.
"Sorry to just... drop by like this. I should've called." She reprimanded herself. It was stupid, what if he was busy, or worse, had someone over... a woman?
"It's okay. I was in need of a break. Come in?" He motioned to the open door behind him. She walked in front of him into the house. She ended up in a hall, with an opening leading to the kitchen, and two closed French doors. At the end there was a staircase. From outside, the house looked a bit bigger than average, but from what she was seeing, it was far from average.
"Want a tour?" he asked. He loved this house, and for an unworldly reason. She nodded. He led her to the kitchen, and she found it had a connecting dining room. It was a high-tech kitchen, she concluded. Although it had granite counter tops, the stainless steel appliances gave it a modern look. After that, they passed through the hall again, this time he opened the set of double French doors, to reveal a living room. It had an old-ish feeling to it, brown leather sofa's, brown rug, and with a fireplace. She was really starting to like this place. Seeing her amazed expression, he felt really good about the house. Next he showed her the bathroom. They went upstairs. Where the staircase led out, there was a huge window, and the view was extraordinary. The place, in her mind, was getting better and better. Upstairs he showed her the study, where on the desk papers were scattered.
"Paperwork is what you pulled me away from," he joked and she smiled. He showed her his bedroom, and two additional bedrooms and two bathrooms.
"Will, this house, it's beautiful," she said to him. They were sitting on his couch. He smiled.
"I know you'd say—yeah. Thanks." He realized his slip-up and so did she.
"What were you gonna say before?" She looked at him. Her gaze penetrated deep into him. He looked back with equal fervor, which surprised her. His gaze so intense, it was like he could see right into her soul.
"I was very close to just getting an apartment in the city. And then the realtor showed me this place. I knew you'd love it." She was the first to look away.
"You bought the house for me?" Her voice was heavy, and she blinked a couple of times to fight away the tears. She couldn't cry. Again, she never cried. Except, nobody had ever done something like this for her.
"Well... yeah," he said back. "At first, I thought you might, I don't know, change your mind. But then, after a while." He shrugged. "I still kept the house." She looked at him and saw the sincerity in his eyes.
"It's not to make you guilty or anything, Kate," he said. She knew he didn't mean it in a bad way. And really, sitting on the couch so very close to him, she couldn't help herself. She slowly pressed a tentative kiss to his lips. When she felt him respond, she deepened it. It wasn't a peck, but it wasn't tongue wrestling either. It was passionate, soft and slow.
Like their relationship used to be. Normal. A word that wouldn't describe either of them, individually. But when they were together, they reached a semblance of normal.
And that's all either of them ever needed.