title The Dinner 

author Peggy Kemp 

summary CJ/Danny with a bit of Toby/Andrea Life's defining moments 

Disclaimer I do not own them, nor will I ever own them. They belong to Adam Sorkin and the wonderful actors who play them.

THE DINNER 3/3

Toby Ziegler sat in the audience of the symphony auditorium enjoying the presentation of the "Venetian School of Ballet." The performance was good. The music was delightful. It was a piece that brought back pleasant memories of Tobyís childhood in the Soho district of New York. Tobyís father had been a teacher, and his mother had been a writer. Every evening during supper they would put on a record of classical music and discuss world events with their sons. Toby and his brother, David, had learned the concept of words as implements of human interaction at a very young age. Arguments were not permitted in the Ziegler household, but everyone welcomed a good rousing debate.

In the evenings, after the boys were in bed, Isaac Ziegler would put on another record and he and Rachel would continue on with their work. Tobyís mother would write at her desk, and his father would read his books and correct essays in a nearby armchair. Often they would interrupt thought processes to bounce ideas off one another. They had been intellectual equals, and had raised children with a strong appreciation of music, education and intellectual conversation. Toby had often fallen asleep with his parentís voices debating some new concept against the background of this very piece of music.

The dancers in the ballet were very skilled. Ordinarily Toby Ziegler would have been spell-bound. But Toby was paying very little attention to the dancers. His eyes were focussed on the profile of his date, and his thoughts were far away from the "Venetian School of Ballet." Over the past few months Toby Ziegler had started spending an occasional evening with his ex-wife. It had brought back some old feelings and memories, and though his dateís attention was focused on the stage, Tobyís attention was focussed on her.

Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt loved Ballet. As a girl she had dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina. She had taken classes, and showed great promise until puberty set in. Andrea had grown tall. By age 12 she was over 5 ft 5, and destined to grow taller. By the age of 14 her ballet teachers knew that she had no chance to fulfil her dream. They had encouraged her to study dance only for recreation and enjoyment.

Andrea had been devastated, but had focussed her energy on other things. It was then that she began to excel in her studies and her interest in the political arena had come into bloom. She had focussed all the energy that had been spent dancing onto her new passion, not realizing that her parents encouraged it only because they realized the devastation of the destruction of her dream. They did not realize that this new dream would hold even greater passion and fulfilment than would ever have been available to her as ballet dancer. Andrea had a capable mind, an ability to understand political strategy, and an inner drive to make life better for people. Those parts of her would never have been satisfied by the performance of ballet.

As Toby stared, so many pleasant memories came back to his mind. The more time Toby had spent with Andrea over the past couple of months, the more he realized how much he missed her. At first it had been a very on-again off again affair, as both of their jobs took incomprehensible amounts of time and energy. Yet every time he was with her, his heart lifted. Over the past month Toby had spent two or three evenings a week with her, and found himself longing for more. That was an amazing amount of time for Toby Ziegler to spend away from duties of his position in the Whitehouse. It caused Toby to realize that his feelings for Andrea had never changed. He had never stopped loving her. That was why Toby could never face the thought of throwing his wedding ring away. To Toby Ziegler that would have been like throwing his love away. He felt sure that Andrea felt the same way. Tobyís eyes and thoughts were not focussed on the ballet being performed, but on the beauty and character of his date, Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt.

Toby reflected about their marriage. It had broken up over such silly things. He hadnít understood why Andrea wanted to keep her maiden name. Now Toby wondered why such a little thing had bothered him so much. It had been little things piling upon one another that had devastated their marriage. Andrea had loved to go on walks through nature, and to spend time outdoors. Toby didnít. Andrea had worked all hours even when he was waiting for her at home - even when they had made special plans. But Toby had done the same to her. They just hadnít made their marriage the priority. In the end that was what had broken them apart. Both of them were so involved in their careers that their jobs had taken precedence over their relationship with each other. They had both taken the other for granted until it seemed like they were more like roommates than lovers. In the end they had just slipped away from one another.

The day Andrea had asked him for a divorce, Toby had felt that his earth had shattered. Toby had missed Andrea so much. He even missed those picnics in the park that she insisted on having. As Toby looked at her he felt such an awakening in his heart. It seemed like just being close to Andrea brought refreshment to his soul. And Toby needed that refreshment. Maybe if he could have learned to be a bit more flexible things would have worked out better. Maybe he could have even learned to tolerate picnics in the park.

Toby had grown up in Soho, where the city streets were familiar and welcome, and days at the park were dangerous. Even as a young boy he had felt uncomfortable with so much open space. That agoraphobia had been heightened when he had been 6. Shortly after Tobyís 6th birthday the family had gone to Central Park for a day out. Toby and his father had been separated from Rachel and David Ziegler when they had run off through the park chasing a ball. They had been surrounded by a bunch of thugs, and Tobyís father had been mugged and beaten in front of his eyes. Toby had tried to stop the attackers, but had been thrown against a tree so hard he had broken a wrist. That was the last time either Toby or Isaac Ziegler considered a trip to the park an enjoyable interlude.

An idea began to form in the back of Tobyís mind. He could learn to tolerate green open spaces if it meant that there was a chance he could get Andrea back. He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath of Andreaís perfume, and remembering all the good times they had together. Toby made himself a promise to do whatever it took to recapture what they had, even if it meant learning to be flexible and spontaneous. It came from a conviction deep within that Andrea Wyatt was his soul-mate. He opened his eyes again, and focussed on the ballet, reaching over to grasp Andreaís small hand tightly within his own.

Andrea looked down at Tobyís hand covering her own. Then she turned to gaze at Toby, whose eyes were focussed on the stage. She remembered other nights, and other ballets and symphonies the two had gone to over the years. She remembered how joyful he had been as a much younger man. It seemed life had worn Toby down. Andrea shook her head slightly as she realized that the break-up of their marriage had been the one burden that had over-whelmed him. There had been joy in his eyes until the day that she told him she wanted a divorce. In the end she realized that it as not divorce that she wanted - she had just wanted time to concentrate on her job at a time when Toby was vulnerable and needed her support. She hadnít been willing to give it to him, and had let him slip away. As she looked back now she realized that with his parentís death the year before and his alienation from his brother, Toby had just been at a very vulnerable point in his life. She should have been there for him.

Andrea thought that her job had to take priority over her marriage. She had chosen the wrong priority, and made the wrong choice. Andrea knew now that marriage had to be a priority over career. The Congressmen that she really respected were those who were able to make a difference for their constituents while still making time for their family and friends. Family and friends were the support net that Andrea did not realize was so important until she had thrown hers out the window. Once that support was gone it was hard to get back. It had only taken Andrea a few months to realize what a big mistake she had made, but by then Toby had left Washington for Soho. He had not come back until the Bartlet campaign. Dating Toby these past few months had been so wonderful. They were acting the same way they had in the beginning of their relationship. Andrea knew that if there was any chance she wanted this particular person back in her life.

Toby looked over, and caught Andrea staring at him. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Are you enjoying the performance Andee?" he whispered. Andrea nodded. She leaned closer to him. She rested her head against his shoulder as they both turned to observe the final movements of the ballet.

After the show was over Toby helped Andrea on with her coat. Would you like to grab something to eat?" he asked, not wanting the evening to end. "I would love to." She answered. "I hear the Sylvanioís offers a great dessert package for the after theatre crowd. Why donít we head there." Andrea asked. "Hmmm. Iíve only been there once or twice for dinner. Never for desert." Toby mused. Andrea looked disappointed, and Toby realized that his earlier decision to be flexible and spontaneous would have to start now. He would be spontaneous even if it killed him! "That sounds like a great idea!" he said. "Letís do it."

Andrea looked slightly surprised and then laughed. "Just like old times, Toby." She smiled. "We used to do this sort of thing in college all the time. Do you remember when we drove over 2 hours away for dinner and a movie? I wonder when we both grew so old and set in our ways." Toby shook his head. "I donít know, Andee. Sometimes I wish we could set back the clock. There are so many things I would change about the way I did things, including not letting you ever get away." He said, opening the car door for her. Andrea smiled up at him. "I know." She whispered. "Me too."

They got in the car, and drove to Sylvanioís. It had been difficult to find parking, but Toby managed. For a moment he thought he saw CJís car, but realized that there were a lot of cars that looked just like her blue 1996 Saturn. Toby and Andrea entered the restaurant. It was already beginning to fill up with the after-theatre crowd. He looked around a moment later to scan the restaurant, and saw Danny Colcannon across the room. He was holding CJ Creggís hand. Tobyís eyes went wide. He turned to Andrea and said with false brightness. "Thereís CJ. Letís go say hello." He walked across the room. Andrea looked around as the last table filled up, and shook her head. She had hoped to extend the evening with Toby a little longer, but it looked as if they wouldnít be eating here. She followed close behind him, just in time to hear them being invited to sit at the same table as Danny and CJ.

The conversation was enjoyable, and all evening Andrea had caught Toby glancing at her the same way he had when they were first married. It made her feel so warm inside to see Tobyís attention being dragged away from a conversation just by her presence in the room. Danny Concannon and CJ Cregg were good conversationalists, and their take on public events spoke well of their position and career. Over the course of the evening both Andrea and Toby noticed that the glances that Danny gave CJ were far more than friendly. Andrea recognized the same look in Tobyís eyes when he glanced at her. This was an interesting turn of events.

The conversation continued for quite a while, and Andrea really enjoyed it. She saw why Toby thought so highly of CJ. She was an intelligent woman who wasnít afraid to speak her mind. Andrea realized that if given the chance they could be great friends. A few moments later Andrea looked at her watch. "I need to get home, Toby." She said. "I am meeting a constituent for breakfast in the morning." "Oh, you still do that?" Toby said. "Toby! You know that morning is my best time of day." Andrea stated. "Yes," Toby said with a smile. "I remember." Tobyís tone of voice and smile held the treasured fondness of a very pleasant memory. Andrea blushed. She remembered many mornings spent with Toby over breakfast and other things.

Toby turned back to the others just in time to hear Danny ask for a ride back to the Whitehouse. Tobyís eyes narrowed. If this had been a chance thing, why had they not come together, especially if Danny needed to work on a story? There was something more going on here than CJ and Danny let on. Andrea said goodnight, and wished them a pleasant evening as both couples left Sylvanioís.

Tobyís attention focussed on Andrea as her drove her home. Andrea still lived in the town house they had shared when they were married. Toby knew that he had to take a risk tonight. He had to know if this could work. When Toby dropped her off he walked her to her door and looked at her. "Andee" he said softly. "I know that a lot of the break-up was my fault". "Oh Toby" Andrea started. "Andee let me finish." Toby put two fingers across her lips. "Let me finish. These past few months have been wonderful. I have started to fall in love with you all over again." Toby turned away a moment, then turned back. "Dammit Andee, I never fell out of love with you. Do you think we have a chance of getting back together? I need to know this". Toby took a deep breath, and continued. "You KNOW how I feel about you. If there isnít a chance, I need to know. My heart is full of love for you, Andee. I donít want my heart to be broken again. I can walk away now, if you want me to. But I want you to know where I stand."

Andrea looked up at Toby. He caught his breath when he looked into her eyes and saw the depth of love there. He reached out one hand to hers, and carefully moved into her space. "Toby, I think we have a second chance", she said, taking his hand " But I want us both to take the time to think about this. I have meetings solid for the next three days. But I will clear the weekend for you. Do you think you could arrange the same thing. One weekend to spend totally together, like we did in the old days. Before we let our careers take priority over each other. If we can do this - we might have a chance."

Toby looked at her. "Iíll do it!" he said. This was going to be difficult, but he WOULD do it. Toby continued. "This weekend, totally free from work. No cell phones allowed. Iíll bring only my pager for absolute emergencies, and make sure Leo McGarry understands that. "Toby smiled mischievously. "You plan Saturday. Iíll plan Sunday." Toby looked almost cheerful. He said "Iíll be at the townhouse at 7:00 Saturday morning." "Isnít that a bit early?" Andrea said wide-eyed, as she thought about what Toby could be like first thing in the morning. "Not for you." Toby grinned. Letís do this thing right. I will see you in three days. He leaned over to kiss the top of her head. Andrea tilted her face up and caught his lips in a promise of better things to come. "Toby," she said as she entered the door. "Be prepared for sunshine and outdoor places." Toby looked pained, but he nodded. "You plan Saturday." He said, and then he grinned. "But remember I plan Sunday!" He walked down the steps with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face that would have surprised Sam Seaborn had he walked by at that moment. Toby looked almost - happy. He felt happier than he had felt anytime since the divorce three years before. Toby only knew that this time he was going to do things right. He was not going to take Andee for granted.

As Toby drove home he decided to stop by the Whitehouse. As he drove into the parking lot he realized that there were no lights on in the press area. He waited another 5 minutes and saw CJís car swing into the parking lot. She had had more than enough time to drive here from Sylvanioís and drop Danny off. He had dropped Andrea off and they had had a conversation besides. He smiled as he remembered the results of that conversation. He guessed that Danny and CJ had stopped on the way here. From the way that Danny had been looking at CJ during their time at Sylvanioís he assumed that their conversation had followed similar lines as the one he had had with Andrea. He cringed as he saw CJ wave to him as she drove past. He had been seen. Well, he wanted to talk to CJ anyway. He wanted a womanís advice on how he could plan Sunday to re-capture his wifeís heart. If she chose to talk about Danny, so much the better. She wouldnít mind a few probing enquiries, would she? He pushed the thought out of his mind, and drove home, filled with hopes for the weekend. He knew what he wanted. He knew she wanted it too. This time he would do it right.

 

The End

 

 

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