Babies- The Less 'Happily Ever After' Ending
Summary: Sequel to Babies Parts 1 and 2
The disclaimer etc. are attached to the original Babies story, but this needs an additional note: I initially outlined this story after 'Debate Camp' and of course it ended with happily ever after for our hero and heroine (although I don't really see Toby as a hero...) but then I thought, these two have so much angst it gets rather irritating to think about, so who knows if they'll end up together? And so I wrote this, in which they don't. But it doesn't really seem any different in the end. See what you think. Let me know which you like better- email@example.com.
*One year later*
CJ, we've scheduled an overnight in California, near you. We'll be there tomorrow night, alright?
They were delighted with the baby, and with her. In the time since Abbey's birth, CJ had drawn immense support from the reaffirmed friendships with her long-time comrades. With her best friend, however, there had been no contact. News of her child had been carefully contained to the White House, to which CJ had not returned. Unwilling to see Toby too soon, she'd forgone even Josh and Amy's wedding, though she'd shared in Donna's heartbreak for many tearful hours over the phone. But now, she was forced to see Toby anyway.
Watching Sam and Josh greet the baby they knew only from pictures was adorable. Then Toby entered, her house and her life, slashing open old wounds with merely a greeting.
"I'll get drinks," she'd whispered, and now she stood in the kitchen, awkward.
"CJ!" She rushed to the doorway at Josh's call.
Her heart beat frantically with a mother's fear until she saw that Abbey stood freely beside the couch, facing Toby, smiling. She took a first step, toward him, another, patent glee in her small face that she could walk like Mama. She nearly fell, but Toby swooped her up, spinning her around, praising her, eliciting delighted giggles.
Tears pricked the backs of CJ's eyes. Josh and Sam looked over, grinning at the moment, and were stunned by the depths of longing in her eyes. Her father studied her too, speculating on Abbey's secret father that CJ had never revealed.
CJ watched Toby's moment with his daughter for another second, then slipped from the room.
Toby cradled the small body against his, feeling the same connection he had in the first minutes after her birth, and smiled as she rubbed her hands against his beard. She was old enough that Sam and Josh were trying to convince her to say their names, but when they got her to say Toby, he was only sad, because it should have been Dada.
In the 12 months since he'd seen CJ, Toby had raised his own babies, two fine little boys, and barely spoken to their mother. The prospect of 18 years at least of the same terrified him, but the boys were worth it. Yet holding Abbey made him wonder. If he had to abandon some of his children- why not-? But he had already made his choice.
Sam and Josh took one of the rental cars back to the hotel, leaving CJ and Toby alone with the sleeping Abbey.
Closing her baby's door behind her, CJ faced Toby for the first time all evening. "You know, it took her eight months to sleep through the night?"
"I didn't." Toby looked stricken.
"You can't come here anymore." It was blunt, but they were both in too much pain.
"She's my daughter, CJ-"
"She's not." He crumbled. "I- We can't do that to her. She doesn't deserve to have her heart broken. And neither do I." CJ trailed off into a whisper.
Toby leaned forward to kiss her, one last goodbye, but CJ rocked back, away from him.
"Goodbye," he said. She nodded, and he left.
She watched him, through the window, driving away, then suddenly sobbed, uncontrollably, sinking to the ground against the wall beyond which her baby slept, heedless of the noise, for a love she would never know again.
It was three more years before CJ saw any of them, at Sam's inauguration. Walking through the hallways to her old office the day before he took his new one, CJ was dismayed to realize that most of the people coming in with Sam were new, and her old friends among the staff were leaving or gone. She wandered into the briefing room and then out, pausing in the doorway. The last time she'd left this room, it had been to run away, but it should have been today. She wouldn't have stayed on with Sam if she'd had to choose between him and Toby, not after eight years apart. This would have been their moment, when she would walk out of the Room for the last time and into his arms, strong and real around her at last. Staring through space and time into another life she might have lived, CJ saw Josh only when he stopped in front of her.
"Hey," he said softly. Her face had grown more expressive since she'd stopped having to hide her feelings from the press, and he could see in her eyes that even what had faded from her heart was still a pin that stuck her unexpectedly when she returned to the familiarity of the White House.
"Hey," she replied. Josh hugged her hard, as he had when they'd last stood there together, and for the moment it could be enough.
From the end of the hall, Toby stared without expression at CJ and Josh, then turned and left with his head down.
At the inauguration the next day, CJ was surprised how comfortable she still felt in the political world, as long as Toby avoided her. She was also surprised at how happy she was, how little she ached to see the triumphs of her friends' careers that excluded her. Mallory stood beside Sam as he gave his speech, and they looked for all the world like the Bartlets, eight years earlier: the husband relying on his wife, who supported him and was perhaps more world-wise than he. CJ had missed Sam's wedding as well as Josh's, but so had the rest of their circle, for he and Mal had eloped after the plans became too complex.
At the front of the crowd, CJ could also see Josh and Amy, Chief of Staff and Toby's Deputy Communications Director, a seemingly perfect political couple now that they were on the same side. It briefly saddened her to wonder if she and Toby could have been like that, but she dismissed the thought, dwelling rather on his words that Sam was speaking. CJ smiled at the thought that here was another President who'd try to rewrite Toby's speeches.
It was that year that Mommy first sent Abbey off to preschool, and thankfully returned to the world of advertising, to reinforce the withering savings that were stretching to cover the expenses of herself, her child and her father. Two years later, CJ began to date again, a few men here and there, and then one of her clients, Jeremy Benden, who loved her and Abbey, and whom she married in the year that Abbey was seven. A year later, when her father died, the family of three moved into a new house, and made a new life.
In all of this, CJ never heard from Toby.
Even so, she could see in tall, dark-haired Abbey signs of the man she had loved so deeply. Barely able to speak of him, she knew Abbey's curiosity was largely unfulfilled by the rare and vague references her mother gave. "Your father was Jewish," once, passing a synagogue, or "Your father played basketball, too," when ten year old Abbey wanted to take up the sport. Another time, amidst hysterical laughter as Abbey grew increasingly frustrated over a report on the stock market, "Your father never understood any of that either." And so they made a life.
June 6, 2021
CJ smiled down at her daughter as she blew the candles out and the room went dark. "Honey, I'm so proud of you."
"That I survived my 18 years here?" Abbey quipped.
"Well, that too..." Jeremy flicked the lights on and grinned at her. CJ's hair was gray and she was beginning to look older despite her towering height that so few women of her generation possessed. Standing next to her mother, Abbey was the only one of her friends who was glad to say she was an inch shorter than her mom. She was still tall, with her mother's face and her father's dark hair, and CJ thanked God sometimes she was not forced to see Toby every time she looked at her daughter.
"Aw, Dad. Hug Mom before she cries." Abbey smiled back at the man who had been the only father she'd known, for the last ten years of her life.
"I think she'd rather you hug her, sweetie."
"I am here, you know," CJ muttered.
"You do sound tearful, Claudia," Jeremy teased. She glared at him over Abbey's head and he grinned wider. "C'mon, Abs, you and your Mom have to go make that reservation. We'll have the cake when you get back. Happy birthday!"
"You're not coming, Dad?" Abbey asked in surprise.
"Nah, you and your Mom have some things to discuss. But don't forget to call me for cake!" He left the room.
"Alright, sweetie, let's go," said CJ, grabbing her sweater from her chair and her keys from the table by the door. "Your birthday feast awaits."
"Mom, what do we have to talk about?" Abbey was nothing if not her mother's suspicious daughter.
"I'll tell you when we get there babe, let's go."
The June breeze blew past them as CJ and Abbey entered the restaurant. They were quickly seated in the dining room, and CJ ordered drinks and dinner through Abbey's protests to be told whatever she was to be told. At last the waitress departed.
CJ gazed at her child, the lovely young woman whose big eyes watched her so trustingly now, uncertain of how to go about revealing secrets that hadn't been spoken of since Abbey's birth.
"What's up Mom?" Abbey finally probed. 'Now or never' CJ sighed mentally, and began.
"Your father has respected my wishes since you were a baby, but he asked a few months ago if I would tell you about him when you turned eighteen, and I thought it was only fair."
"He's alive?" Abbey looked stunned.
"It's just- you never said..."
"I'm sorry," CJ murmured, "I just. Couldn't."
"Why not?" 'Oh, the hard questions', CJ thought.
"I knew your father from when I worked in politics." Abbey nodded. There was much she didn't know about her mother's life, but stories of politics and the White House had been shared with her by the Bartlets and Lymans and Seaborns since her childhood.
"We were very close when we were young, not much older than you, but then I left and he got married. By the time he was in my life again, he was in the middle of a insemination problems and then a divorce. And we were both moving into the West Wing. We thought as soon as we left office, we could be together, but- but it wasn't to be." CJ was still saddened by the memory, and stopped, even as Abbey's eyes begged for more of the story.
"His ex-wife had continued to try to get pregnant, and once he found out she was, they remarried. But before that, the night we all found out, he and I had to face that we'd never be able to love each other the way we did, and rather than face it right away, we..." CJ struggled with the best words to use, "we took our last chance to express our love before it couldn't be anymore." She looked carefully at her daughter, to make sure she understood.
"And you got me?"
"So he'd marry the other woman, and not you?" Abbey was angry on her mother's behalf, and CJ's jaw tightened as she remembered similar arguments she'd made to herself.
"They were married before I found out, and pregnant with twins-"
"I have siblings?" Abbey was startled.
"Yes...I hadn't even really thought about that. I can show you pictures... anyway, I had no idea what to do, and neither did he. You can thank Aunt Abbey you're even alive. Although I can't imagine what would have happened if..." CJ shook her head at how much she had nearly given up. Abbey's eyes were wide in surprise.
"And Grandpa was sick, so I sort of ran away from Washington, and raised you here with that excuse." She waited for Abbey to be able to vocalize her questions.
"What's his name?" the girl asked.
"Whose?" CJ asked, not having expected such a question and then realizing she had never named Abbey's father.
"Toby. Tobias Zachary Ziegler."
"Yes." The two women turned as one to look at the man standing just behind CJ's chair, Abbey to examine the stranger before her and CJ to stare, shocked, at a Toby who was different and yet exactly the same.
"How-" she started.
"Jeremy told me where," he said softly, his eyes flickering between CJ and his daughter. Abbey's eyes were wide with barely restrained questions, many of which were answered when CJ rose and Toby hugged her tightly against him.
CJ was surprised to find that despite how right this felt, holding Toby didn't hurt.
Toby closed his eyes and allowed himself to dream of the time and place where this was allowed. But it was too far distant now, and whatever dreams he'd indulged in when life with Andi got tough, they were gone, and he was startled to find that he was just glad to be holding someone he'd cared for as a friend and lover for many years.
They parted, a peace resting between them that had never been there before, as if their relationship had been maturing without either of them during the intervening years, like a fine wine.
Abbey's eyes upon them drew them apart. Toby turned to face her.
"You're lovely," he said with a smile, then to CJ, "you did do a good job."
"Thank you," Abbey whispered. She didn't know how to feel; it didn't seem that he'd betrayed them willingly or that she had any basis on which to be angry with this man who was her father, yet neither could she address him as a daughter with any sort of emotional connection. "Will you join us for dinner?" she asked, glancing at her mother to be sure it was alright. CJ nodded, her eyes full of tears simply at the moment and not at what it might have been. Toby pulled up a chair and sat, and they were together.
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