Title: Bad Habits – Part II

Author: Stinger (stangs@prodigy.net)

Spoilers: None. This occurs sometime during the first season before Rosslyn.

Rating: R – Adult Language, Sex

Description: Toby's relationship with Tanner intensifies

Category: Romance/Series

Disclaimer: all WW characters belong to Aaron Sorkin et al. Toby's "shy thing" totally turns me on. Cheers.

Parings: Toby and a new Character

 

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Monday 8:02am West Wing

There's music coming from Toby's office? Ginger and Bonnie stick their heads in and duck back out before they're seen. He's whistling -- and it sounds suspiciously like 'zip a dee doo dah.'

"The end is near" Bonnie warns C.J. as she walks by.

C.J. walks into Toby's office and closes the door. "Okay mi amigo, spill it."

Toby interrupts his whistling to ask "Is there something you wanted?" Still staring at his computer screen.

C.J. walks over and slams the lid down on the laptop he's working on, narrowly missing his hands on the keyboard.

He rolls his chair back from the desk. "You know, I'm pretty sure somewhere in the owner's manual it says you shouldn't slam the top down with more than say, 500 lbs. of force."

"Don't be difficult Toby. This is 'me' you're talking to. Not Josh, not Sam, me. What's up with you?"

C.J. starts ticking items off on her fingers. "You left early on Friday – you missed prep for Meet-the-Press, you show up on MTP with no wedding band, and you don't think those actions require an explanation? All of that is so...." She hesitates looking for the correct words "un-Toby! – Josh has Donna out looking for a priest to perform an exorcism. Now spill it."

"It's personal," he says quietly.

"It's personal? That's it? That's all I get? It's personal?"

"Yes. For now anyway, it's personal."

"Fine" C.J. says exasperated. She turns to go and then says, "You know, it's been eight years. Do you think she knows?"

"Well," he picks up a hand full of papers from his desk, "I've gotten three messages from her office this morning – I think the odds are probably in favor of her having seen it." C.J. nods her head and walks out.

"Ginger! Get me Congresswoman Wyatt's office on the phone!" Toby yells, then opens his computer and starts whistling zip a dee doo dah again.

 

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Tuesday 8:30PM Reagan National Airport

She spends Monday and Tuesday in New York, and Wednesday through Sunday in DC. He's waiting at Reagan National for the USAirways Shuttle to arrive. He had Ginger call and confirm that she was on the 7:30 flight.

He sees her walking toward him. She doesn't see him. That's when he likes to look at her the most, when she doesn't know someone is watching her. She looks different somehow, calmer he thinks. Her curly hair is restrained in a clip behind her head – that must have been some one-handed move there he thinks. Suddenly she focuses on him, and she smiles.

"Well Mr. Ziegler" she says walking up to him "what brings you to the airport on a Tuesday evening? Is this just a coincidence? Or do you have someone on the inside feeding you flight information?"

"I'm taking the 5th." He smiles at her and looks down at the floor, then glances back up at her. She loves it when he does his 'shy thing' with his hands stuffed in his pockets. "Need a ride home?"

"If you're going my way... We need to stop by the drug store first."

"Refill on the Vicodin?" he asks.

"Not exactly." She replies and he takes her bag from her and starts to roll it behind them on their way out.

#########################

They barely make it through the front door of her apartment before their mouths are exploring one another. She pulls him close to her, and he unhooks the sling and slips it off. His hands move instinctively to her breasts – yep, still no bra. He puts his hand on her left breast over her shirt and she lets out a soft moan as she runs her tongue around his ear. The only thing impeding the swift removal of her suit coat is her cast. "I hate this fucking cast" she whispers in his ear as she slips the coat off her arm. "Me too." he whispers back just as he picks her up and carries her into the bedroom. "Don't forget the bag." She reminds him.

He lays her down on the bed and removes her shirt in a couple of pretty expert moves – he's getting rather good at this. He starts to kiss her neck moving his way down to her collarbone before proceeding further south.

"God Toby." She breathes. His beard tickles her. She has her one mobile arm draped over his shoulder moving her fingers though his hair at the base of his neck. It's a little curly in the back – she hadn't noticed that before.

He starts to remove the rest of her clothes but she stops his hands with hers and shakes her head no. He thinks that maybe he's moved to quickly, or assumed too much, and he starts to apologize when she says "you first."

She kneels up on the bed and pulls on his tie, which is still neatly knotted at his neck. It's just loose enough now to slip off over his head and she tosses it on the floor. Next she moves to the buttons on his shirt. "One-handed this is gonna take a while." She says. She starts on the top button while he pulls the shirt out of his pants and starts at the bottom. Their hands meet three buttons from the top and soon enough the button-down shirt is on the floor with his tie. He pulls his undershirt off over his head in one swift move and then there's nothing separating their exposed skin except the air between them.

She pushes him back a little on the bed, so he'll lay down. She leans over him and kisses his neck, just at the point where his beard ends, and moves slowly down from there. She hears him breathing – he inhales sharply as she moves lower on his chest toward the point where his hair disappears inside the waistband of his pants. She stops at that point and looks up at him and smiles. He reaches down and removes the clip in her hair allowing her curls to spring free. She removes his shoes and socks – pretty good for someone with only one operational hand she thinks.

He puts a hand down to her arm and slowly tugs her up so they're lying side by side on her bed. They've said almost nothing since they came into the room – communicating with their eyes and with their touch. Slowly he removes the rest of her clothes, which really don't consist of much – it's pretty hot outside, and then the rest of his own so they are completely naked on the bed, but not under the covers. "Toby, when this cast comes off, I'm gonna do that for you, and a whole lot more." She smiles.

"I'm gonna remember you said that" he whispers as he trails kisses from her collarbone to her navel, before stopping at the altar and saying a prayer.

"Toby" she moans. "Where's the bag?"

He finds the bag from the drug store where he dropped it on the nightstand. Inside are the condoms she picked out for him. He sits on the edge of the bed. "Red, white, or blue?" he asks opening the box.

"I'm feeling pretty hot tonight" she breathes as she moves onto her knees behind him. He sits on the edge of the bed and rolls on a red one.

"I'm gonna do that for you too when this comes off." She says lying back on the bed with her arm stretched out over her head. He moves to her side and lays along the length of her so that they're just barely touching. He runs his hand down her side and across her abdomen and she's pulling him on top of her.

Her eyes have been locked onto his the entire time. She can see each sensation in his face as he experiences it. From the moment he entered her, and started to gently thrust to the moment he heard her say it was okay, and his thrusts become harder and more intense. Until finally the moment he came.

She really tried not to come too soon – talk about role reversal. She's never had a problem with having an orgasm – never had to fake it - if anything she thinks she might come too easily. With Toby she's pretty sure it doesn't matter.

##########################

10:30pm Tuesday Night

"Hungry?" he murmurs into her hair. His arms encircle her as they lay under the covers, on their sides - he's behind her.

"Why? What'd you have in mind?" She asks rolling over to face him.

"Well, if you've got anything here, I could cook something for you." He says quietly as if she might turn him down, in favor of starving instead.

"Know how to make spaghetti?"

"Ah ha! My specialty. I make great spaghetti." He says climbing out of bed searching for his clothes. He finally finds his boxers and his pants and slips them on.

"I'm going to take a bath while you create." She says climbing out too. But instead of looking for clothes, she pads naked into the adjoining bathroom, sits on the edge of the tub, and turns the water on.

He follows her into the bathroom and pulls a towel from the bar as she adds some bubble bath to the water.

"Mr. Bubble?" He smiles.

"Best bubble bath in the free world" she says putting the cap back on. "Way more bubbles than the next leading brand."

"I'll have to remember that" he says as he helps her into the water and arranges her arm to lay on the edge of the tub where he's placed the towel. "I'll come back and wash your back."

Then he walks into the kitchen and starts to work.

20 minutes later she can smell the aroma of spaghetti and opens her eyes. He's standing in the doorway watching her – most of her bubbles are gone now. When he notices she's opened her eyes he steps into the bathroom.

She looks at him. "What are you thinking about? She asks.

"C.J.'s coffee." He says coming over to her and putting his hand out for the soap. He sits on the edge of the tub and she hands him the bar and shifts slightly so he can reach her back.

'What's so interesting about C.J.'s coffee that its got your attention when you're standing in the doorway of a bathroom watching a naked woman in the tub?"

"The color. C.J. takes her coffee with cream and sugar and on most days she can't get the combination right. But when she gets it just right, perfect, it's the color of your skin. That's why I was thinking about C.J.'s coffee. I'm thinking you are the perfect color."

She's still got most of her back to him when she speaks. "When I was six years old there was this boy at the bus stop who used to make fun of me – of my skin. I can't remember what he used to say anymore, but it always made me cry. And I can remember coming home from school one day crying. My mother was there and she asked me what had happened and I wouldn't tell her. I remember thinking that it would hurt my father's feelings if he knew. But I remember crying and saying how I wished I had pink skin like hers. She held me and she let me cry and she cried too. And then when we'd both stopped crying she said flat out that I would never have pink skin. And that there was no sense in wishing for something I could never have."

His hands are still on her back and he stops, and turns her around to look at her face. Her eyes. They are a dark dark brown, almost black.

She continues. "Towards the end...when my mom was in the hospital...they kept her pretty sedated because of the pain. But she would have these lucid moments when she'd look at me and I could just tell that she knew it was me. Well anyway, she was having one of these moments and she asked me if I remembered that day. Believe me, it was a hard day to forget. Anyway, I said yes and she told me that what she really wanted to say that day, was that my skin was beautiful – but that she thought I had really bad hair." And she smiles and laughs a little. "And it was the funniest thing she'd said in so long that both of us started laughing. And we just laughed until we cried..." her voice catches in her throat, and tears well up in her eyes. "That's a good memory. The irony of my name usually, escapes most people."

"Tan" he says nodding his head.

"Yep, not quite white, not quite black – tan."

Toby gets up and helps her stand and grabs a towel and holds it open for her. He wraps her in the towel, and then in his arms.

##########################

8:30 Saturday Morning

Toby stayed at Tanner's house Friday night. They've been together every night since she returned from NY. He's been leaving work earlier than before and now he's behind in reading and prep for the fundraiser in a few weeks. There're going to be a lot of heavy hitters there and he needs to know something about each and every one of them. He's going into work for a couple of hours when the phone rings.

"Tanner, phone." He yells through the closed bathroom door.

"Just let the machine get it." She yells back.

The machine picks up while he's looking around for his car keys.

"Leave a message" - That's all her outgoing message says just 'leave a message' and then comes the beep.

"Hey T.C., Marty here. Listen I've got good news for you. The Times called, you're going to number 12 tomorrow. Also, we need to talk about the interviews. I know what you said – but just a couple could push you all the way to number 1. Just think about it – that's all I'm asking. Oh Happy Birthday – Call me." and he hangs up.

Toby found his keys right after he heard the 'T.C.' part. But he stayed to listen to the whole thing. T.C., T.C. Vaughn. Why does that sound familiar to him? He wracks his brain trying to figure out why that sounds so familiar. Then it hits him. He walks over to her bookshelf, and sure enough, there it is. On the spine, it says T.C. Vaughn. He picks it up and turns to the cover 'Midnight Madness, by T.C. Vaughn.'

He clears his throat and knocks on the bathroom door. "Hmmm Tanner? Can I come in?"

"Geez, Toby - come on in. After what we just finished doing you don't have to act like you just met me." She looks at his face his eyes are kind of pinched up like he's angry about something.

"Uh, that was a guy named Marty on the phone. He left a message." She's looking up at him from the bathtub and her face registers that he knows something. She sits up in the water. He tells her, "The Times called, you're going to be number 12 tomorrow. And he wants to talk about interviews. He also said happy birthday."

"Typical Marty – my birthday was two weeks ago." She says as she climbs out of the water and grabs a towel. She really doesn't want to have this conversation with him right now. It's too complicated - she needs to talk to Mary first. Damn it – she should have called her again, as soon as she got back into town.

Toby pulls the book out from behind his back. "So do you want to tell me what's going on... T.C.?"

"You found that on my shelf?"

"I saw it that first day I was here, I just didn't make the connection until I heard 'Marty' call you T.C. Who's Marty, Tanner?

"Marty's my editor Toby. That's all, just my editor. If he were more, don't you think he would at least get my birthday right? I like to think you'd get my birthday right. Would you Toby?"

"I would if you told me when it is." He said softly. "Why the two names?"

"I like my privacy Toby."

"So having an alias gives you privacy?"

"Don't you need to go to work Toby?"

"I've got time."

"Then let me put some clothes on. I can't have this conversation with you standing here in a towel."

He goes back out into the kitchen and pours two cups of coffee, they both prefer it black, no sugar, and sits down to wait. This can't be good he thinks. What in the hell have I gotten myself into?

She walks into the kitchen and takes her cup of coffee from him, "Thanks. Toby, read the inside back flap on the book. What does it say?"

He opens the book and flips to the back. "It says 'T.C. Vaughn lives in Virginia.'"

"Get it now Toby? There's no picture, no bio, no prior works, no web site, no nothing. Anyone who reads the book doesn't even know if T.C. Vaughn is a man or a woman. I like my privacy. And I don't give interviews – Marty knows that – he must be having one of his little brain seizures where he thinks he can talk me into it. I don't care if the book goes to number one. I don't care if the book doesn't sell a half a million copies. That's not why I wrote it." And she stops right there – she's said too much. Please let's just move on she thinks – please, please, please.

"Why the secret from me?" he asks looking down at the table. "Why didn't you tell me you're a writer when I asked what you do?"

Because you asked me what I do – and what I do is work for the UN Toby. You didn't ask me what my hobbies are, or what I like to do in my spare time – probably because you don't have any spare time. It doesn't really register with you that most people work a 40-hour week. That leaves the rest of the population with some free time" she says smiling.

He looks up at her. "What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?"

She laughs. "Okay Toby, in my spare time I like to play softball. I take golf lessons every Thursday night – I can hit a 7-iron 120 yards by the way. I like to ride my bike into DC on Saturday mornings around the polo fields, I like to read, listen to music, and I write. Obviously items one two and three are on hold now for another three weeks, but the rest I can manage with just one arm." He's sitting at the table in silence. This is killing her. She's trying to make a joke out of it and it's definitely not working. She needs to talk to Mary before this gets out of hand.

"Come on Toby. We've known each other for what, a week? It's impossible to learn everything there is to know about someone in one week."

"Don't give me that look Toby. You're just as private a person as I am."

"Tanner, I don't think..."

She jumps up and cuts him off. "Who's your best friend Toby?"

He looks at her like he doesn't understand the question. "Pardon?"

"You heard me, who's your best friend?"

"C.J. and David."

"Either of them know about me?" She asks.

"No" he says softly looking back down at his cup of coffee on the table. He wants to tell her why. It's not why she thinks. She's not his secret. The idea of her is his secret. How does he explain that?

"See! You keep secrets from your best friend and your brother, and you're mad at me because I didn't tell a total stranger eight days ago that I wrote a book. Jesus Christ Toby!"

She's standing in the doorway of the kitchen when he gets up and walks toward her. She steps back a second, not sure if he's angry enough to strike her or not – a reflex really – but he holds open his arms and she walks into them and he holds her close.

"You're right, you're right. He kisses the top of her head and smoothes her hair. "I'm sorry. I had no right to get angry with you. I just didn't understand why..."

She whispers into his chest, "It's okay, I don't mind being Toby's little secret. Just don't be mad at me anymore...Now, you'd better get going if you're gonna get any work done today." She says giving him a kiss and stepping back.

He moves to the door and picks up his briefcase, stuffs his hands in his pockets searching for his keys. He's about to leave when he turns back around and picks up the book, "mind if I take this to read?"

"Just don't tell Marty that I lost another sale. I think he sells books to his own family" she says and winks at him.

After he leaves, she sits down on the floor of her apartment, pulls her knees up to her chest and rocks back and forth. What am I going to do she wonders. Eventually she gets up and makes a phone call. "Mary, it's Tanner again. Look I really need to see you. I'll be in New York until late Tuesday, do you think you can meet me Wednesday morning next week, maybe for coffee? Call my cell and let me know if that's okay."

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Saturday 11:30 White House

Toby's sitting in his office reading up on the donor list for the upcoming fundraiser. It's in two weeks at the Mayflower Hotel and will net almost a million dollars for the DNC. Early on during cocktails the senior staff will work the room. They'll shake hands and meet the high rollers, give a little face-time to the donors. Then the President and First lady will arrive just before dinner. He'll make a speech, go around the room shaking hands, and then we'll all eat. After dessert the Secret Service will whisk POTUS and FLOTUS out. God how Toby wishes he could be whisked with them. He usually spends most of these types of evenings at the bar, he manages to speak to quite a few donors at the bar – it's really the most strategic point from which to work the room. And besides – after a few drinks he cares less and less about what these people have to say. He picks up the phone, and dials.

After a few rings, there's an answer. "Hi Terry, Toby... Yep just looking over the donor list right now. There are an awful lot of zeroes behind some of these names. Yeah did this guy..." he scans the list looking for the name, "...Meierhoff really put up 60,000? Those are some deep pockets for dems. Yeah, anyway, the reason I'm calling... I need to get one more name on the guest list. No, not as a donor" he smiles thinking about Tanner's adamant non-affiliation complex "just as a guest...my guest. Yeah, Ms. Tanner Vaughn. Thanks Terry, I owe you one."

That was the easy part. Now he just needs to ask her to go.

"Uh hmmm," Sam is standing in the doorway.

"Don't you have a life Sam?"

"I have the same life you have Toby – see that's why we're both here. I'm working on the President's speech for the fundraiser."

"Can I help you?"

"Well not really, but since you're the only one around at the moment would you mind taking a look at what I've got so far?"

After reading Sam's speech, Toby sticks his head into Sam's office. "Sam, the only part I'd change is the part where he mentions the estate tax repeal and the part about mandatory health insurance for small businesses... oh yeah and the bit about OSHA non-compliance.

"Toby, that's the whole speech. Those are our policy initiatives for the next four months."

"I know Sam. The President just can't walk into a room full of people that paid almost a million dollars to the Democratic party and tell them over cocktails that they can't leave their hard-earned millions to their kids without a 50% inheritance tax. Then during the main course tell every small business owner in the room...and I have the donor list, there are going to be 13 of them there, that they're gonna lose their exemption and have to finance 5 billion dollars worth of medical care for their employees over the next seven years. AND THEN with their dessert, tell them that we want to increase OSHA non-compliance fines by 500%. A lot of people in that room will leave with indigestion."

"The speech is scheduled for before dinner, but I see your point." Sam gets up and takes the pages from Toby's hand. "Perhaps this speech should be less about our initiatives, and more about the Orioles. I think we need a baseball team in DC." He sits down at his computer to start over.

Toby smirks. "My work here is done."

Toby leaves in search of C.J. He finds her in the commissary eating yogurt and reading the Washington Post. He grabs a sandwich and a cup of coffee and sits down next to her. "Mind if I join you?"

She looks up from her paper over the top of her reading glasses. "What's on your mind Toby. I didn't think you'd be here today. Don't you have a 'personal' life?"

"Just reading up on the donor list." He waits a couple seconds, not really sure of what he wants to say. "C.J. do I keep secrets?"

"Toby, this is the White House – nobody keeps secrets."

She takes her glasses off and looks at him. "Well, let's see Toby. If you have secrets, that means I don't know about them. And if I don't know about them then the answer to your question is no... Which would really mean yes."

"Never mind." He sighs.

"What's up Toby? What's going on with you?"

He waits a long time to answer. So long that she thinks he isn't going to at all. "I met a woman."

"Ah ha! I knew it!" C.J. slams her hand down on the table. "Josh owes me $20. I said it was a woman, he said it was a nervous breakdown."

"You're taking bets on me?"

"Well Toby, you gotta admit – you've been acting really..." C.J. pauses searching for the right words.

"Un-Toby?" Toby volunteers.

"Exactly."

"This morning she accused me of keeping her a secret. Actually 'accused' is too strong a word. It was more of a rationalization for why I haven't told anyone about her, about us. You see the problem is I think she thinks that it's because she's black, or half black, or whatever."

"Is it? Why haven't you told anyone? Have you told David?"

He shakes his head no. "I don't know how to explain it. Except that it's not her, it's more the idea of her, of being close to a woman again..." he's running his finger around the top edge of his coffee mug in circles staring at it. "After Andi left, hell, after I practically pushed her out the door, I didn't honestly think it would ever happen for me again." He looks up at C.J. "You know the idea that there's one person on earth for everyone. I let my one person walk away. Only now, I'm beginning to think that maybe I didn't lose my one person...that I actually just met my one person."

Toby pushes his chair back and stands up with his coffee and uneaten sandwich. "I'm gonna ask her to the DNC fundraiser at the Mayflower."

"So I'm finally going to get to meet her."

"It would appear so – if she agrees to come."

"Why wouldn't she agree to come?"

Toby pauses to think of the best way to explain this. "She's a private person. I think the fundraiser might just be a little too high-profile for her. You know with the press there covering it."

"Well my friend, you won't know until you ask. Don't let the grass grow under your feet."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I dunno." She says turning back to her newspaper.

#######################

Sunday 11:30pm Toby's Apartment

The lights are out. They're lying in bed. She's about to drift off to sleep, her suitcase in the other room, ready for tomorrow morning's shuttle flight to New York. His hand runs along her body – trying to memorize every detail, every soft spot and indentation. Every curve and every mound of flesh, he can picture in his head as his hands touch her. She's warm, and oh so soft.

"You awake?" he whispers softly in her ear. He can hear her breathing and he can't quite tell if she's fallen asleep yet.

"MMMMmmmmm" she murmurs softly and turns to him. "Not yet."

"I have this thing" he starts. "It's not a real big thing, just a thing...And I was wondering if you'd like to do it with me?"

"Now I'm intrigued," she says. "Could you be more specific? Is this 'thing' legal?" She's teasing him. She doesn't know how hard this is for him.

"In most States." He says trying to be funny right back "It's a DNC fundraiser, next Thursday night, at the Mayflower Hotel. It's no big deal, I just have to be there...and I thought maybe if you weren't busy, you'd like to come with me...be my date. These things can be really boring – and I know you're not...I mean, it won't cost you anything... you don't have to be on the donor list, it's just...The President will be there – his giving a speech about the Orioles, or something like that... " His voice trails off and his hands have moved somewhere else, he's no longer touching her.

"Are you finished?" she asks him?

"Yes."

"I'd love to be your date Toby." She says and leans her head in to kiss him. His hands are moving on her body again, and it looks like sleep will have to wait. Who needs sleep anyway?

#####################

Airforce One Tuesday 11:00pm EDT

Toby's reclining in the forward cabin away from the press. He's about 100 pages into Tanner's book. He smiles to himself. She's a good writer. It takes one to know one.

Donna comes slinking into the cabin nervously looking around and spots Toby. She climbs over him into the next seat and places a blanket over her head in an attempt to disguise herself as a giant blue lump.

"Donna – there are 35 empty seats in this cabin, why do you need the one right next to me?"

"If you see Josh," she whispers, "tell him I jumped out over the North Pole. He's been hounding me since we left Andrews about the LRAC thing and I can't take much more. I need to sleep." She slouches down in the second row of seats using Toby on the aisle as a barrier. She leans over, "What'cha reading?"

He sighs and holds out the book for her to see and she reads "Midnight Madness. Good book." She nods her approval.

"You've read it?" he asks.

"Sure. Why so surprised? I should be more surprised that you're reading it. It doesn't really seem your type."

"How so?"

"Toby did you read the cover description before you bought it?

"Actually, a friend gave it to me." He says quietly thinking about Tanner.

"How far are you into it?" Donna whispers, ducking her head because Josh just walked into the cabin looking for her.

"Page 107." He responds.

"You haven't gotten to the good part yet."

"Donna! There you are!" says Josh hanging over the back of the seat in front of her. I need the latest notes on the Labor Research Advisory Committee meeting. The head of LRAC wants my head on a platter and apparently the reason why is in the notes.

"Yes Joshua." Donna sighs and gets up crawling back over Toby to get out of the row of seats into the aisle.

"Toby returns to page 107 and continues reading.

#######################

10:30am Wednesday Starbucks 17th and K Streets N.W.

Tanner's sitting at a table with Dr. Mary Fitzwallace, Captain, USN - her friend and former shrink. Tanner's drinking a non-fat caramel latte because she hates Starbucks coffee. It's definitely not coffee made to be consumed black with no sugar. It's actually not made to be consumed at all.

"...and then stupid Marty leaves a message for T.C... and he heard it. So I had to explain about the name and the book and why I didn't say anything about it in the first place."

"This has got to be good." Mary says rolling her eyes. "How exactly do you explain having an alias, to your new lover?

"I told him I like my privacy."

"That's an understatement. That's it? He bought that?"

"Well, don't make it sound like it's a lie, I do value my privacy. Besides, I didn't give him much of a choice. I went on the attack. I accused him of keeping our relationship a secret. I couldn't think fast enough. I couldn't tell him that I don't want anyone to know I wrote that book. It was monumentally stupid of me to have it sitting right on my bookshelf."

"Has he read it?" Mary asks taking a cautious sip from her scalding cup of Starbucks crap coffee.

"I doubt it. Not yet anyway. He left for Helsinki yesterday morning. He'll be there until next Wednesday. Even if he intends to read it, I bet it'll take him two months to slog through it. And now he's invited me to this thing – this fundraiser thing – I don't know. I think we could have been perfectly happy if no one knew about us. But now it's gonna all be out in the open for people to dissect and pick apart."

"Are you gonna to tell him? If he reads the book he might have questions."

"Hey – take a walk with me will you? I need a cigarette." They get up and Tanner tosses her coffee in the garbage.

Outside, they start walking up 17th Street toward DuPont Circle. Tanner lights a cigarette and inhales deeply. "I don't know how I can. If I tell him only parts, he'll start asking questions. Questions I can't answer without violating the fucking non-disclosure agreement. Jesus Christ, I'm gonna need another fucking lawyer." She stops on the corner and buys a real cup of coffee from a street vendor. "How can you drink that crap?" she asks pointing to Mary's Starbucks coffee.

"He'll never look at me the same way again." She continues crossing the street. "He deserves to know – he certainly deserves to know it before he reads it in the Washington Post. Sooner or later it'll come out. I think I knew that when I wrote it. Christ Mary, why'd you let me publish it. You should have talked me out of it."

Mary shakes her head. "Tan, you and I both know why you published it."

"Jesus, even if I wanted to tell him, I'm not gonna see him until the fundraiser. I am totally screwed here. I wouldn't even know how to bring it up."

"Listen Tan, you've told me an awful lot about him, and what he deserves. What about you? What do you deserve in all of this? If the relationship is dangerous for you, you need to see that."

"Is that my friend or my shrink talking?" Tanner asks draining her cup of very good street coffee.

"It's your 'frink.'" Mary smiles at her own attempt at humor. "I'm your friend Tanner. And I'm not on the clock."

She turns to look at Mary. "Mary, I deserve him. He makes me happy. I deserve to have him look at me with lust in his eyes – not pity. I deserve to have him make love to me, and think about me, not what happened five years ago when he does. Now how do I get what I deserve when he deserves the truth? This isn't gonna be one of those things that you ignore and it goes away, is it?"

#######################

Thursday Evening the following week – Mayflower Hotel

Tanner checked into the hotel at 5:30 in the afternoon. She spent her lunch hour at Hecht's downtown shopping for the perfect cocktail dress – one that would compliment her cast. Two more days and she'll be rid of that nuisance. Then after work she had a 4:30 appointment at the very chic and expensive Christophe Salon in Georgetown where she had a manicure, a pedicure, and had her hair arranged in a French twist for an obscene amount of money.

She allowed the sales clerk at Hecht's to talk her into something way too daring for her own taste – but she is pretty sure Toby will like it. It's a variation on the 'little black dress' that every woman owns. The hemline is modest, cut to just right above the knee, nothing shocking there. The black fabric of the dress is completely covered in tiny black beads. There must be tens of thousands of them on the dress because there are at least 500 in the bottom of the garment bag she carried the dress into the hotel in and you can't look at it and tell that there are any missing. She's convinced she'll be like Hansel and Gretel tonight leaving a trail of beads where ever she goes.

The daring part of the dress is that it has no back – or almost none. It's completely open until just above the waist. The dress is short-sleeved, and the combination of that and the open back is striking – at least that's what the clerk said. Then the clerk dragged her to the accessories department and picked out a black silk scarf long enough to be tied into a sling. "Pity about that cast" the clerk cooed. "Isn't there anyway you can get that off in time?"

When Tanner complained about not being able to wear a bra with the dress – the sales clerk produced an envelope containing...of all things...a stick-on bra. Tanner shook her head, bought the dress, the scarf, and the stickers and checked into the hotel at 5:30.

Toby was due at the hotel at 6:30 – the fundraiser starts at 7:00. At 6:00, she calls room service and orders a scotch on the the rocks and a vodka tonic. When the bell boy arrives with her drinks she passes him a note and instructs him to deliver it to Mr. Toby Ziegler downstairs in the ballroom. And she gives him a $20 dollar bill for his services.

The bell boy can't help but peak at the message as he descends to the ballroom in the glass enclosed elevator. It's simple and to the point "Rm. 917 Hurry"

He enters the ballroom through the service entrance just as the Secret Service are finishing their sweep of the room with dogs. The room is empty except for three people standing at the bar. He walks over to the bar. "Excuse me, would any of you know a Mr. Toby Ziegler by chance?" Toby steps forward "That would be me." The bell boy hands him the note and says "then this is for you."

Josh and C.J. are standing there watching him as he opens the note and reads it. He gets a smile on his face and turns to them as he puts the note in his inside coat pocket. "If you'll excuse me, I need to go check on something."

"Is everything alright Toby?" Josh asks.

"Yeah, everything's fine." Toby says and starts to walk across the ballroom toward the open door and the awaiting elevator.

He's whistling as he rides up the elevator to the ninth floor. When he gets to her door, he knocks softly. The door swings open, as if by magic, and he steps inside.

He's about to call her name when she appears from behind the door and pushes him up against the wall and leans into him kissing him fiercely. Her tongue is already swirling around his mouth, her hand is on the tie around his neck loosening it and pulling it free. She's wearing a hotel bathrobe, and his hands move immediately to the tie at her waist. He unties it and slips his hands in around her. She's naked except for black panties and the thigh-high black stockings she's wearing.

"God I've missed you" she breathes into his mouth as she's kissing him. She's pressed up against him, he's caught between her and the wall as she slips her hands down to the zipper on his pants. She unzips his slacks and then undoes the belt and then pulls him toward the king size bed in the middle of the room. "Sit." He sits staring at her mostly naked body beneath the open bathrobe. It's only been a week since they've seen each other but if feels so much longer than that. She kneels down on the floor in front of him and pulls his trousers down to his ankles. "Lay back." He obeys, thinking she's going to crawl on top of him and he's been waiting for so long. But instead, she moves up closer to the bed and takes his erection in her mouth.

For the longest time afterward, he can't speak. He's breathing so hard.

"Are you alright?" she asks. She's actually a little worried that maybe she's caused a stroke or a heart attack or something. "Speak to me Toby."

"Oh my god." He breathes. "I've never... that was... where... oh my god." He rolls over and grabs onto her and kisses her passionately, sure that this was a dream and he'll be waking up at any moment alone.

"Welcome back Toby. I've missed you." She says into his ear. "It's almost 7:00 we're going to have to hurry."

"I don't think I can move yet" he says.

"Well you're gonna have to because I need your help to put this ridiculous bra on" she says opening up the envelope from the sales girl. He sits up and pulls his pants back on.

"This is a bra?" he asks taking the sticker thing from her hands.

"Read the envelope, it explains how to put them on" she says. She stands before him and he removes the paper from the adhesive backing on the sticker bra. He presses the sticker onto the outside of her left breast then brings it under and presses the other side to the inside of her breast. He starts to kiss her neck, and move his hands around to the black stockings pushing them down her thighs. She whispers, "Toby, there's no time."

"But I know you want me to..."

"Yes I do, but later, after the party." She says as she hands him the other half of her stick-on bra. He attaches the other half with just as much care as the first. Then she steps back away from the bed.

"She moves to the closet and slips into her new dress, and 4 inch heels. When she comes around the corner from the closet he looks at her and whistles.

"Now that's a dress."

She picks up the black scarf tied like a sling and slips it over her head. "Nothing like accessorizing" she jokes as she grabs her tiny handbag and moves to the door. "Shall we? She asks and he extends his arm to her and escorts her from the room, it's 7:10pm.

 

TBC