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It's The Way It Should Be

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Sometime after the Iowa Caucuses, Josh decided that he had to stop being hurt about the way things turned out.

After all, it got him where he was now, right? Leading a scrappy insurgent campaign for a man who's as close to the Real Thing as he can find this election cycle. Maybe he's not quite Jed Bartlet, maybe he doesn't have the egotistical drive to win that the President had, but Matt Santos at least doesn't have any skeletons in his closet like the President did. None that his opposition research found, and Josh knew he was better than anyone at oppo. Of course, the oppo he conducted on Jed Bartlet, both for John Hoynes and later when he was working for the man himself, didn't uncover the MS, but Matt wouldn't lie to him.

He wouldn't.

So it was for the best, the way things turned out. How did he phrase to Leo, that one time? It's the way it should be.

Just look at how things turned out for Donna, right? After she left her old job, she was able to find a new job right away, one where she was able to use all her skills and intellect, and all the things Josh had taught her, and use it to provide counsel and advice to the Vice President of the United States. That was for the best, right? She'd wanted to do more with her career, that's what CJ had told him, and now she had that opportunity. Sure, her candidate was his opponent, and Russell was an empty suit of a candidate, but you go where the job is, especially at the beginning of your career. And Donna had been promoted to spokesperson. That was good, right? It was for the best, and it never would have happened if she hadn't left. It's the way it should be.

Sure, she never actually told him she wanted a job away from him. From the White House, he meant. The White House. Sure, she never seemed to apply anywhere else. And sure, CJ made it sound like both she and Donna thought Josh held her back, even though if she'd actually bothered to come to him, he'd have helped her in any way he could, and the only reason he didn't was that he thought she liked her job. But that was just a misunderstanding, right? And anyway, it led her to the VP's campaign, and CJ told him she really liked working for Russell. Said Donna told her it was the best job she ever had. Said Donna actually felt valuable.

So it was for the best. Really. It was.

And if she hadn't left, he wouldn't have either. He knew that. If she was still at the White House, he'd still be there right with her, being marginalized under CJ and sidelined under her regime. Feeling more and more useless, seeing the looks from CJ and Toby, hiding that they thought he was past his prime and no help to the administration. Hell, he'd probably be right there with Toby, wasting his time feeding advice to that no-hoper Rafferty, while watching Russell and Hoynes fight it out in the Battle of the Useless VPs. He'd be back in that office, doing a job that hadn't felt right to him since that Christmas just after re-election, wasting his time, not being listened to by an administration that thought CJ was a better choice for Chief of Staff than the man who served for seven years as Deputy. If Donna hadn't left, Josh would have stuck it out back there in the West Wing, just like he had for the last three years, enduring humiliation after humiliation, being sidelined after Carrick and passed over for CJ, instead of being out here, running the Santos campaign. He would have stayed there forever just to work with her.

So it was for the best, right? It's the way it should be.

It was for the best that she left him like that, and never exchange a friendly word with him for months. It was for the best that she walked away from their friendship, like it never meant anything to her, like it never even existed. It was for the best. He didn't have to watch over her anymore. She didn't need him – she made that clear. So she didn't need him to put himself on the line for her anymore, to make risky deals with slimy Republican lawyers, to argue with Leo that he couldn't demote her just because she took credit for a nasty quote her latest gomer gave to the press, to fight for her to get a foreign trip on the CODEL, to rush to Germany (his career be damned), to assure himself that she was alive. He didn't need to do any of that anymore. Boy, that would make his life easier.

And she didn't need to watch out for him, to help him run his life, to talk to him, to care for him, to support him, to tell him her useless trivia. She didn't need to listen to him mock her gomers or make cheese jokes at her. She didn't need to put up with him trying to teach her things and doing so ineffective a job at it that Will Bailey seemed to her to be a better teacher. It must make her life so much easier, now that she didn't need to put up with him. She must be so happy now.

It was for the best. It was for the best. It was for the best.

Everything was for the best.

...in this best of all possible worlds. Right, Professor Pangloss? In his mind, he could hear her voice mocking him. He really had to stop that.

Because it was for the best, right? With Donna leaving her job, with her making it clear he had no place in her life anymore, he could get over this ridiculous, inappropriate crush. He could get over these stupid unrequited feelings he had that made Toby look pityingly at him, back when Toby still talked to him. These stupid feelings that had Sam asking him when he was going to do something. He told Sam it would be totally inappropriate, and it wasn't like it was requited, right? It wasn't like she thought the same things about him, comments about not stopping for red lights notwithstanding. Otherwise she wouldn't have kicked him out of the hospital in Germany and kept her latest gomer there. Otherwise she wouldn't have been so cold to him when she came back. Otherwise she wouldn't have left.

He didn't have to have these feelings anymore. He didn't have to fret about her latest boyfriend, and wonder how this one was going to hurt her, or how he'd manage to carry on if this boyfriend was actually decent to her. He could move on. He didn't need to tie himself to a job where he wasn't appreciated just to watch out for her, just to watch her, just to be near her. It was for the best.

He could date! Now that it was clear to him how pointless his feelings had been, he could date. He could meet a nice woman, put all of his energy into her. He hadn't dated for years, not since the second go-round with Amy. He didn't have time now, with the campaign, and he didn't really know any other women, and the only age-appropriate one he'd really talked to in months was Amy, and he wasn't going there again, but he could meet someone, if he wanted to. There wasn't anything holding him back. He could look to a future unblemished by visions of alabaster skin and blonde hair on his pillow. He could be a total rake, if he wanted, not that he would – it held no appeal for him – but at least the option was there. No strings holding him back, now that she was gone. It was for the best.

It was for the best. It was for the best.

Really, he wished she'd have left long ago. No, really. It would have been better for her – her career would have taken off quicker, and who knows where she'd be now? Maybe second in command of a failing nomination campaign, even. But she'd have been free of all these ties holding her back, as CJ put it, so much sooner. And maybe he would have left after Carrick. Or after that failure of the foreign aid bill that Christmas four years ago, when he first thought of it. It would have been better.

But she didn't leave then, and she had now, and he was here, running the Santos campaign. And they were going to win if it killed him, and he was going to go to the White House once more, assuming he could stand it. And sure, even when the primaries were over, he wouldn't be able to hire her, after all the things she said about Matt Santos, after all the quotes and soundbites attacking him, but what did it matter? She wasn't going to come back to him now in any event. So he'd go on, alone, and win, alone, and do it on his own terms, how he wanted.

It was for the best.

It was the way it should be.

And maybe, maybe if he told himself that enough, he'd come to believe it.