Title: Bad Habits - Part III
Author: Stinger (stangs@prodigy.net)
Spoilers: None. This occurs sometime during the first season before Rosslyn.
Rating: R - Adult Language, Sex
Description: Toby finds some secrets aren't that hard to keep
Category: Romance/Series
Disclaimer: all WW characters belong to Aaron Sorkin et al. Toby Rules. Cheers.
Parings: Toby and a new Character

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7:10 PM Mayflower Hotel Ballroom

They enter the ballroom together. There are already over 100 people there with drinks and the noise level is pretty high. She squeezes his arm and turns to him "You look mighty nice in a monkey suit Mr. Ziegler. Now, go work the room."

He raises his eyebrows a little, an unasked question lingers.

"I'll be fine. I'm just gonna do some mingling here with the buyers." She winks at him and before he can say anything, turns and heads over to a white-coated waiter holding a tray of champagne flutes. She's sipping her champagne searching the room for a face she knows will be there. She standing next to the waiter when three men approach him for champagne. She looks at the three of them, there's just something not right about men drinking from champagne flutes - just way too feminine, or phallic - she can't decide which.

"...I'm just saying Josh," a small man says taking a drink from the champagne tray "we can't be expected to pay the full load for this. The Administration needs to understand that they're legislating the small business owner to death in this country. If they repeal the exemption, half of us will go under within three years, way before the full 7-year costs are realized." And he takes a drink of his champagne. He is small, like Ross Perot small, he can't be more than 5-6 or 5-7. In her 4" heels she's exactly his height.

"Mr. Meierhoff, I understand where you're coming from on this. Believe me we've heard it from the small business lobby before. But there are some economic realities here that can't be ignored. US taxpayers pay 4 billion dollars a year into Medicaid." This time Josh takes a drink from the tray.

"Excuse me." Tanner puts her champagne glass down on the waiter's tray and turns back to the group of three which includes Josh, Sam, and Jim Meierhoff. "Mr. Meierhoff is it?" she asks smiling at him and attempting an upside down left-hand handshake.

"Call me Jim." he smiles shaking her hand, "and this is Josh Lyman, and Sam Seaborn." Tanner does the whole weird handshake thing with Josh and Sam. Both of them are staring at her cast with the red, blue, and green balloons on it.

"Well Jim, I take it you're against repealing the small business exemption for employer-provided healthcare?"

"That would be correct Ms?"

"Vaughn, Tanner Vaughn."

"I'm surprised that you're against it Jim. Or at the very least, that you actually avail yourself of the exemption at all. Did you know that 80% of private, non-farm employees in this country are employed by 20% of the firms? The vast majority of firms in this country are considered small businesses employing fewer than 50 workers most of those have fewer than 10, yet large firms have more robust compensation packages and are able to recruit more experienced employees. Over 90% of the employees currently working in the largest 100 US firms report starting jobs in smaller firms, cutting their teeth so to speak in your backyard, before moving on to the bigger fish in the pond. Wouldn't an appeal of the small business exemption simply be legislating a level playing field for small businesses? Offering equal compensation and benefit packages in comparison to the larger firms would help you compete in the market place for more experienced employees and help you retain them longer. Let's face it, half of your business is probably training employees for other businesses. I bet your turnover rate is at least 25% over three years... Look at it as a human capital investment, rather than a billion dollar tax." She takes a sip of her champagne and smiles at the group of three.

She's finished but then thinks to add "Oh, then there's Mr. Lyman's argument about the 4 billion a year in Medicaid costs. Over half of that money is spent covering the children of employed Americans who don't have company provided healthcare. Call me crazy, but I'd rather pay 25 cents more for a pack of gum knowing that sick children can actually go to a doctor. You might want to check with Mr. Lyman here about what the Administration plans to do with the 2 billion savings. If I were you I'd be asking for an alternate to a full repeal. Like keep the exemption for firms with ten or fewer employees, and apply the 750 million annual Medicare savings to subsidize mid-size employer insurance cooperatives. You can't really trust them to do the right thing with all that money, they might try to buy ¾ of a new B-2 Bomber with it." And she winks at Meierhoff. Now she's really finished. It's a little disconcerting for her to be stared at by three men who seem to have nothing to say back to her. Sam is just about to say something when she says "You know I think it's a little warm in here now. Will you gentlemen excuse me?" and walks toward the door to the terrace making a clean getaway.

Jim Meierhoff excuses himself leaving Josh and Sam behind. "Sam, what just happened?"

"I'm not sure, but it was fun to watch." Sam says as he follows Tanner with his eyes out onto the terrace. "Where has she been all my life?"

Evenings in Washington in late May can get kind of chilly. It's about 55 degrees out on the terrace. Tanner's standing over to the side smoking a cigarette when a group of people walk out onto the terrace. In that group are three people she doesn't recognize and one that she does, Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt. 'Oh this really bites' she thinks. Where's Toby? She keeps her back to the group hoping they'll get cold and go back inside soon.

"Chilly night." Andi says walking over to her and pulling a cigarette from her purse. "Can I get a light?"

Tanner passes her the lighter and has a chance to get a closer look while doing it. They couldn't be more different she surmises. Andi's a strikingly pale redhead about 5' 8" with no chest - nothing like Tanner's 5' 3" frame, abundant chest, and much darker skin. At least Toby's not going for type she thinks wryly.

"These things are sooooo boring." Andi offers while taking a drag on her cigarette. She exhales a plume of smoke. "Interesting cast - what happened to your arm?" Tanner lights up another one for herself - this could actually be kind of fun.

"Injured in the line of duty." Tanner says seriously and Andi looks at her quizzically.

"Line of duty huh?"

"Yeah, right field." Andi laughs at that one.

"Can you believe there's not a descent single man in sight. Out of 100 donors, not a one." Andi sighs.

"I don't know about that. There are a couple cuties here tonight. Inside, on the left, next to the potted palm." Tanner nod's her head in Sam's direction.

"Not my type - too idealistic. Thinks he can save the world and everybody in it. Too young too."

"Okay. How about the one next to the guy in the ugly blue coat. His name's Josh. I met him a few minutes ago."

"Too arrogant - and believe me I know arrogant."

"You're not too picky are you?" Tanner looks at her. "What comes between arrogant, and young and idealistic?"

"Middle-aged and pragmatic?" Andi exhales another plume of smoke. "How about you?"

Tanner takes a deep breath. This is it. "I want to be inspired. I like the idealistic type, sometimes the world does need saving. Then again, spoon-feeding the masses has never really been my passion, you can't make people eat what's good for them. So, I guess I'd have to say that I'm looking for an, inspiring, totally sexy, cynic. As a matter of fact, I've already found my guy for the evening. See the one over there, next to the bar." Andi's gaze moves to the bar. There are five men at the bar at the moment. Andi knows two of them.

"The one with the brown tux?"

"Oooooohhh No! I do have some taste." Tanner says laughing.

"Uh huh, smart girl." Andi takes a long drag on her cigarette. "The one next to the brown tux with the really bad hair piece. Geez that thing looks like it's gonna jump off his head and order a drink."

"Strike two."

"Okay, there's only three left and I know them all. I give up. Which one is the man of your dreams?"

"The sexy one. Bald head, dark hair, with a beard drinking scotch with his left hand jammed in his pocket. Look at him. He looks like this is the last place on earth he wants to be right now."

Andi starts choking on smoke. Finally, when she manages to quit coughing, after a couple of slaps on the back from Tanner she stubs out her cigarette with the toe of her shoe, and wheezes out "Toby?"

"Toby? Is that his name?" She likes playing this game. "Toby" she says it over again. "I like it, it suits him I think. You know him?"

"I used to... a long time ago." Andy says softly, staring at him from the terrace.

"Well, what's he like? Fill me in." Tanner probes, to see what the ex-Mrs. Ziegler thinks about him now.

"He's the Director of Communications for the White House for one thing. It's an 80-hour a week job, sometimes more." Andi volunteers. "He's a major player in the party, and as arrogant as they come."

"Do you think he really hates being here as much as he looks like he does?"

"Even more. Toby never liked fund-raising. He's a behind the scene's operator, who doesn't like to mingle, and he doesn't like to compromise when he thinks he's right. Which I might add he thinks he is most of the time. If it's cynical you're looking for honey, I think you've found it. Your other one, what was it, inspiring? I think you'll have to look somewhere else."

"What about 'totally sexy?' That's a requirement too."

"I wouldn't know anymore," Andi says softly.

"What do think he'd do if I just walked up to him and kissed him right now?"

Andi laughs. "You mean right now, right now, at the bar?" Tanner nods her head yes. "I have no idea what he'd do. I knew him a long time ago."

"Seriously, do you think he'd kiss me back, if I kissed him first?"

"No way my new friend. He might have something to say... strike that, he always has something to say, but kiss you back? I don't think it would even occur to him."

"Wanna put some money on that?" Tanner asks her and smiles. "I'll bet you $50 that I can walk up to him, right there at the bar, kiss him, and I can get him to kiss me back. No words, no introductions, just a kiss."

"You're on sister. The look on his face alone will be worth the fifty dollars."

"Okay - meet me in the ladies room in five minutes to pay up." Tanner smiles, stubs out her cigarette, and walks back into the ballroom.

She walks straight over to the bar, and waits a few steps behind Toby until there's a lag in the conversation with brown-tux and toupee boy. Then she steps up behind him, puts her hand on his back at his waist, and when he turns around she reaches her neck up and kisses him. Instinctively he moves his hand around to her bare back and places it there as he leans in and kisses her back. A few seconds later she pulls away, winks at him, and walks off toward the ladies room. Toby stands there watching her as she walks away. Then turns back to the bar and picks up his empty scotch and signals for a drink.

Andi starts for the ladies room.

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

It's almost time for dinner and the President's speech. C.J., Josh, Sam, and Donna are standing next to their table chatting. Josh and Sam are just telling C.J. about the Meierhoff thing when Toby walks up. Donna's scanning the crowd for eligible bachelors. Josh is such a dingy.

"...she's absolutely perfect, the woman of my dreams." Sam finishes. This gets Donna's attention and Toby's just arrived at the table. It's set for six, and Donna counts the group. "We're missing one," she announces. "There're six chairs here and only five people, so we're missing one."

"Sam's in love again?" Toby asks searching the room for Tanner. She hasn't come back from the ladies room yet. One armed, it must take longer for women to do whatever it is that they do.

"Oh you better believe it. She's amazing, but she doesn't appear to be here with anyone."

"So what does this perfect woman look like Sam?" He asks taking a drink of scotch - still searching the ballroom with his eyes, not looking at Sam.

"Well she's wearing this sparkly black dress... and her hair is up in the back in a twisty thingy," Sam spirals his hand around his head... "she has a cast on her right arm" he laughs " with, get this, balloons on it." "And..." Josh continues "she's got an amazing set of..." and he gives the internationally recognized hand signal for big boobs, which causes C.J. to give him a punch in the arm and Donna to step on his toes with her high heels. "Ouch!" Josh whines, "I was just trying to give you a visual image."

Just then Sam sees her. She's over by the entrance, and everyone turns to stare at Tanner as she comes into the room looking for Toby. She's just collected the $50 payoff from Andi in the ladies room. Josh leans over to Toby, "do you think those are real?" he asks referring to the aforementioned boobs. Toby downs the remaining scotch in his glass and sets it down on the table.

"Oh yes Josh, I can assure you, they are real...very very real." He says quietly as he walks away from the table across the room towards her.

"Oh yes." C.J. laughs. "This is gonna be good."

Toby meets Tanner in the middle of the dining room, gives her a kiss on the cheek and escorts her over to the table with his hand on the small of her back.

"Tanner, I'd like you to meet C.J. Cregg, Donna Moss, Josh Lyman, and Sam Seaborn. This is Tanner Vaughn," he clears his throat, "my date."

"Nice to meet you C.J., I've heard a lot about you." Tanner says with the upside down left hand handshake. "Donna, that is a beautiful dress you're wearing. Absolutely gorgeous. Josh, Sam, I believe we met earlier. You were trying to sell something to Mr. Hoffmeier weren't you?"

"Meierhoff" they both volunteer simultaneously.

"Oh that's right, Meierhoff, my mistake." She says smiling. Toby pulls out her chair for her. "Were you successful?"

"I'm not sure 'we' were selling him anything, but you seemed pretty successful." Josh takes a drink from his glass, and Toby's eyebrows go up again.

"Would anyone care to go into detail?" he asks the table. Just then the lights dim and they announce the President of the United States. It's actually very exciting for Tanner to be here. "Later" she whispers, her full attention now on POTUS.

The President's speech lasts approximately 12 minutes, and then dinner is served.

"The details now?" Toby asks her.

"Oh it was nothing Toby. Hoffmeier just happens to be a stuffed-shirt blow-hard with a small business, to go with his other small parts. I only needed to appeal to his ego - he doesn't give a damn about working families without healthcare. You can't play on his heart - not all democrats have one. You need to play on his bottom line. The one thing you need to remember about small business owners is that they all want to be big business owners. They're a step down on the business food chain and they resent the hell out of big business and the breaks they get. I simply pointed out to him that his turnover ratio is three times higher than the Fortune 500 and that one third of his employment cost is training employees to go work for those same firms he resents. Of course I said it a lot nicer than that, and without the insults..."

"But how'd you know that about his company in particular?" Sam asks her curiously.

"I didn't. I made an educated guess given the economic realities. It seemed plausible. Plus I think I remember reading something in the Post a few weeks ago about the Employment Cost Index for small businesses."

Toby leans over and whispers in her ear, "thanks."

"Anytime." She whispers back.

"So Tanner, how'd you break your arm?" Donna asks her starting in on her salad.

"Didn't Toby tell you? He broke it." She says taking a drink of water and smiling at Toby.

Toby signals a waiter, "Scotch rocks - double."

"Oh 'sweetie', you haven't even told them how we met." She says in a mock-sweet voice. He rolls his eyes.

Tanner tells the story with a few clarifications from Toby who wants to be sure they only get the first four hours. Neither of them mention the ring or removal of said ring. The part about her shorts in the bar gets a big laugh from the entire table.

"...So I new he was a perfect gentleman after that." Tanner finishes the story along with her dinner salad when she loses her grip on the fork in her left hand and it clatters to the floor. 'Oops! Lucky I was finished with that one."

"That wasn't completely unexpected." Toby says shaking his head and smiling at her. She slips her left hand, now empty, under the table to his right leg. His hand meets hers and he gives a gentle squeeze. Things are going okay.

"The silver Camry is yours." Josh nods, "now it makes sense."

When dinner is served, Tanner takes a look at the lobster tail on her plate and moans. "At least they took it out of the shell."

Toby leans over and starts to cut her food for her and she whispers in his ear, "You are the best thing that ever happened to me Mr. Ziegler."

The rest of them look on in amusement at Toby cutting her food.

"So Tanner, what did you mean before about us trying to sell Meierhoff something?" Sam asks in between bites.

"Oh come on Sam, you're not really that naïve. Everyone here is either buying or selling something, the trick is to figure out what they want and how to keep them happy without giving away the store. All of these people paid money to be here," she says indicating the whole room with a wave of her fork, "the White House is what they paid for. Oh don't look so shocked Josh. I'm not accusing you of selling the White House - I'm just saying, that these people bought face-time with the Administration through the DNC, and that's what y'all are selling. Or let me be more specific, that's what the DNC is selling."

"Touché." Toby raises his glass. He's always hated these things. Just then Tanner loses her grip on her dinner fork and it flies over her shoulder with a piece of lobster tail still attached.

"Oooohhh, damn it, now that makes me mad. I was really enjoying that." She scans her place setting. The only thing left to eat with is a butter knife and a spoon. Both not really options given the present company.

The rest of the table is staring at her as she contemplates her spoon. Then Toby reaches into the inside pocket of his tuxedo and produces a dinner fork and lays it on the table next to her.

C.J. looks over at Toby. "Toby, do you have dinner forks in your coat pocket?"

He shrugs. "I've had dinner with her before." He smirks taking a bite of his lobster.

"So Tanner, you don't think much of fundraising do you?"

"It's a necessary evil in a society where nothing's free Josh. Don't take it personally, I don't think much of the DNC either."

"I take it you're not a member of the Democratic Party?"

"I'm not a member of any party Sam. Not the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, not the Reform Party, not the Communist Party, not the Nazi Party, not even the Girl Scouts."

That's funny, because what you said to Hoffmeier sounded like a Democrat speaking."

"Meierhoff." She says jokingly.

"Sam, I have an opinion on issues. No one party represents all of my views... So I am a party of one. Some of them might sound suspiciously Democratic, but for every one of those, I have one that's totally right wing to go with it. I said before that not all democrats have hearts, well not all republicans have horns either."

"For instance?" Josh asks. He's actually interested in this.

"Okay. For instance, guns." Tanner says clearing her throat and glancing at Toby. They've had a lot of conversations in the past four weeks, but this issue hasn't come up before. "I think every American has a right to protect themselves, their families, and their homes. And if some murderer, or rapist, or burglar enters my home, I should have the right to blow his fucking brains out. And I shouldn't have to worry about being sent to jail for it."

That statement is a real conversation stopper. Everyone else is looking at her. Toby reaches under the table and puts his hand on her knee. Everything's fine.

"So, you see Sam, not everything is as it appears. That was a delicious dinner. I hope I can eat my dessert with the spoon."

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

12:30AM Room 917 Mayflower Hotel

Toby and Tanner are back in her room. She takes a sip from one of the drinks she ordered earlier from room service that they never drank while he kicks off his shoes and removes his coat and tie.

She flops down on the bed. "I'm too tired to even take off my shoes. My feet are killing me."

Toby sits on he edge of the bed and takes her leg in his hands. He slips his hand down to her foot and eases the heel off, then the rest of the shoe. "Why do women insist on wearing shoes that hurt their feet?" he kisses her calf and moves down to her ankle rubbing her instep with his thumb.

"Because they make my legs look good, and because I'm short and I don't have a choice."

He moves to her other leg and removes the other shoe, rubbing her toes and her instep to soothe them. She reaches into her handbag and pulls out the $50 dollar bill Andi gave her in the ladies room. "You need to give this back to Congresswoman Wyatt when you see her again." And she tosses the bill at him and rolls over on the bed face down.

Toby looks at the $50. "Why do I need to pay Andi $50?"

"Because I took advantage of her out on the terrace this evening and it wasn't fair - I was just having a little fun with her. Now I feel bad about it."

"Care to explain?" he says lying down on his stomach next to her. She turns her head to face him. He reaches over to brush a few stands of curly hair away from her eyes.

"I was out on the terrace tonight and she came out and asked me for a light. I was feeling a little insecure and when she started talking about how boring it was and how there were no decent men there I decided to have a little fun."

"Did this alleged fun have anything to do with me?" he asks her, tracing her lower lip with his index finger.

"It most certainly did. We ended up comparing our taste in men. When she realized that I was referring to you I thought she was gonna pass out the way she started choking on smoke. So, anyway she seemed so incredulous that I asked her what she thought you'd do if I walked up to you and kissed you."

"And she said?"

"She said she really didn't know. I said I could get you to kiss me without saying a word, and she said no way, but I might get a speech since you're never at a loss for words."

He hands her back the $50 dollar bill. "Keep it."

"But it's not fair - I already knew you." She touches his hand with hers as he traces her lips with his finger.

"It's fair. Because when I first met you, if you had kissed me out on the Ellipse, I'd have kissed you back and I had no idea what to say to you. Andi never knew me very well."

"She thinks you're arrogant and cynical."

"She's probably right," he says matter-of-factly.

"I think not. I think you're inspiring."

He looks at her lying with her face pressed to the pillow. "How do you figure that?" he asks.

"Well...you choose to work in the most cynical profession I know, and you do it behind the scenes. Arrogance is the hallmark of politicians. Political operatives like yourself, don't do it for the glory. You do it because you believe you can make a difference. And that, my friend, inspires me."

She opens her mouth slightly and takes his index finger between her lips and begins to gently suck on his finger. He moves his other hand to her back, he wants to feel the warm skin of her bare back.

He kneels up on the bed and straddles her back where he can see it. The arm with the cast is extended out by her shoulder so she can lie on the bed without lying on the arm. He runs his hands across her back to where the sides of her dress start, right at the point where he can see the swell of her breasts pushing out. He touches the sides and leans down to whisper, "rollover."

She rolls over underneath him and he leans down to touch her breasts beneath the fabric of her dress, kissing her neck. "Josh wanted to know if these were real." He says with a smile.

She sits up and he pulls the top of the dress away from her body, off of her arms. "I hope you set him straight." She smiles. "This is really gonna hurt, isn't it?" He is amazingly gentle as he peels away the stick-on bra from her skin.

Her hand is running through Toby's hair, and across his scalp. She feels the warmth of his smooth head in her palm. She kisses the top of his head and runs her tongue along the side to his ear.

"Toby, you're gonna have to make your move pretty soon" she sighs. He climbs off the bed and removes his tuxedo shirt and pants. Just the boxers remain. "Did I tell you you look really good in a tux?" He picks up his pants and fishes a condom out of his wallet. "Uh, Tanner, do you know how much longer we're going to need to use these?" He asks holding it up.

"At least another three weeks. I'll get you another box," she says sitting up. "You know I hear the efficiency rate on those is reduced if you sit on them all day."

"I think that's only if you sit on them all day for years at a time," he responds. He pushes her gently back down on the bed and pulls the dress down over her hips and off. All she has left on are the black panties and stockings he saw earlier in the evening. He removes the black stockings first, then moves to the panties. He hooks his finger at the waistband and pulls them down. She has to lift her hips slightly off the bed for him. Then he removes his boxers and opens the condom wrapper. He rolls it on as quickly as he can wondering if the drop in efficiency is negligible from two hours of sitting on it.

She kneels up on the bed and motions for him to lay back. When he does, she straddles him and using her hand she guides him into her. Her movements are gentle and rhythmic and she likes being in control of it all, speed, force, depth. She can sense him coming by the hold he has on her, and the measured breaths he takes, his whole body shudders during his climax. Soon after, when he feels her coming, he moves his head up to her face so he can watch her, and he holds her close afterward, letting her shaking body return to normal in his arms. He pushes the hair back from her face and looks into her dark brown eyes. "Tanner, I love you" he whispers. She starts to cry, silent tears falling from her eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry. It's too soon, bad timing, I know. Forget I said that."

She shakes her head no. 'No Toby, I'm not gonna forget you said it. I love you."

"Then why are you crying? Did I hurt you?" he asks.

"Toby, you could never hurt me. It's just that... I guess I'm crying because I'm scared and happy at the same time."

He holds her close to his chest and strokes her hair. "You know the night we first met you cried a lot."

'Yes," she whispers in his ear, "but that night I wasn't scared or happy."

#######################
Friday 8:10AM West Wing

Toby's just walking into the West Wing. He's had four hours of sleep and even that isn't enough to make him cranky this morning.

"Good Morning, Ginger." Toby greets them all one by one as he strolls through the bullpen. Bonnie, Kathy, Donna, Carol.

"Nice picture Toby," Leo sticks his head into Toby's office as he's taking off his coat and hanging it on the coat rack by the door.

"What picture?" he asks Leo.

Leo hands him the Washington Post, Style Section, page E3, The Reliable Source. There's a picture of Toby and Tanner at last night's fundraiser with a caption that reads, 'White House Communications Director enjoys DNC fundraiser with lady friend.'

"Lady friend? They actually wrote 'Lady friend'." Toby shakes his head.

"It's a good picture... of her at least" Leo says and then ducks back out of Toby's office. Toby looks at it again. It's actually a good picture of both of them dancing - and neither was aware that it was being taken.

#######################
11:15PM Toby's Office

"Hey Toby," Josh sticks his head into Toby's office. "Dinner at 7:00 right?"

"Mmmmm" Toby mumbles noncommittally.

"Bring Tanner - we've decided we like her."

"What did you do, take a group vote?"

"And we promise we'll be nice. No 'Toby during the campaign' stories, scouts honor."

"Revenge is sweet my friend. Are you sure you want to make that promise?"

"Toby, you doubt my sincerity?" Josh feigns indignance.

"Not yours, C.J.'s" he answers.

"7:00 o'clock." Josh says walking out. "Be there, or be egg-shaped."

Toby picks up the phone and dials her office.

She picks up after the second ring "Tanner Vaughn."

"Hi."

"Hi yourself."

"Have you seen the paper today?"

"How could I miss it - I had six e-mails about it by 9:00 o'clock and Jules taped 'Lady Friend' to the name plate on my office door over my title. I hope you're faring better."

"Somewhat. The press corps asked C.J. for a name to go with the face at this morning's briefing... and she gave it to them."

Tanner pauses before responding. "Too bad. I really didn't mind being your mysterious 'lady friend.' I suppose since we were sitting at the same table she really couldn't tell them she didn't know my name. Don't worry about it. I'm fine with it."

"Listen, some people are going out for dinner tonight. It's just the usual Friday night thing, so if you'd rather not I understand..."

"Just tell me where and when Mr. Ziegler. Oh, and did I happen to mention that you take a very good picture. Now everyone in DC knows how sexy you look in a tux."

He smiles at the compliment, "Somehow I don't think too many people were looking at me in that picture. Old Ebbitt Grille 7:00 o'clock sound okay?"

"I'll be the one at the bar with a cast on my arm."

#######################
Old Ebbitt Grille 7:05PM Friday Night

Tanner shows up about 6:45 and goes into the bar to wait. She's on her second vodka tonic when Toby arrives. He and the rest of the senior staff minus Leo plus Donna walk in together. Toby scans the bar and sees her sitting at the end just at the moment that a man walks up to her and tries to buy her a drink. He says something that makes her laugh. She points to her full drink on the bar and takes out a cigarette. The stranger produces a lighter and lights it for her and she exhales a plume of smoke away from his face. Toby would rather see her blow smoke right in his face, but concedes that he can't have everything.

Their group is being shown to a table at the opposite end of the restaurant. "Josh, I'll be right there, go on ahead," he says making his way toward Tanner and the stranger.

He walks up behind her and touches her on the shoulder, the one closest to the stranger, and she turns around to him. She's perched on the barstool at just the perfect height to lean in and give him a warm kiss hello. The stranger slinks away - good riddance.

He kisses her back, passionately. Seeing her on a barstool all by herself makes him feel kind of sad. He wants her to know that she's not alone, even when he's not around, she's in his heart all the time.

"Mmmmmm Toby. You'd better quit that or we're going to have to leave right now," she breathes into his ear. She looks around, "where is everybody?"

"A table over there," he points his head in the direction the others have gone. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a $10 dollar bill and lays it on the bar. "Okay, I'm ready," she says jumping down from the stool. He picks up her drink and guides her over to their table.

"Nice picture in the Post." Josh says, while tossing a handful of peanuts into his mouth.

"Thanks," Tanner replies "he looks exceptional in a tux doesn't he." She cocks her head at Toby and he shifts in his chair and smiles at her. They order the first of many rounds of drinks.

"Okay Tanner," C.J. starts. "Since you've come to the party a little late, we're gonna have to get a little background information on you up front. Now first thing we need to know, favorite movie."

"Footloose" she volunteers immediately.

"Favorite TV show" asks Donna.

"Survivor."

She was a little worried there at first, but they're just asking for the typical fluff, nothing serious so Tanner's comfortable with the questions.

"Favorite Movie Star" asks Josh.

"Denzel Washington."

"Favorite Musical Group" asks Sam.

"Dave Matthews Band."

What about the rest of you? Not fair that I know nothing about you now." Tanner says.

"Go ahead Toby'" says C.J.

"Oh, I can answer for Toby," volunteers Tanner, "The Godfather Part II, Hardball, Robert DeNiro," then she pauses, "musical group is hard, so I'll just say classical music in general. How'd I do C.J.?"

"You're batting a thousand so far," she says taking a drink of her grasshopper. The rest of them look stunned.

"What? You think all we do is have sex?" She asks, which causes Toby to choke on his drink. "We do happen to have conversations too." She smiles taking a sip of her drink. "Besides, that's all the fluffy stuff you learn on the first date."

"I don't know," pipes us Sam, "Classical music vs. Dave Matthews Band? There's no compatibility there."

"Well, I do confess I don't share Toby's passion for classical music. I can listen to it and enjoy it but the finer nuances escape me so I'll never have the passion he has. Do you hear what they're playing right now? Do you know who this is?

Everyone at the table draws a blank. "It's called 'Drift and Die' by Puddle of Mud." Still blank looks on their faces. "Listen to the lyrics" and she quotes them:

Forgotten thoughts of yesterdaze
Through my eyes I see the past
I don't know I don't know I don't know why
I believe I believe in the truth from inside
Go away go away go away from me
Leave me alone
Ignorance spreads lies how much will money buy
Well I'll take my time as I drift and die

"The lyrics are pure poetry. You may not like the music, but it says something. See, my theory is that Toby has all the words he needs, right here," and she gently touches his forehead with her fingertips, "so he can listen to music without lyrics because it speaks to him in here." And she touches his chest at the point where his heart is. "I on the other hand, listen to music for words that touch me here," and she places her hand over her own heart.

Toby reaches out and takes her hand in his. "Would you like to dance?" He stands up and pulls her chair out for her and leads her over to the tiny dance floor at the other end of the bar. Toby notices the stranger is still here. Geez that guy is really annoying.

He moves close to her and places one hand on the small of her back, and the other in his pants pocket. She has her good arm up on his shoulder. "If you had two good arms, I could do this the right way," he laughs.

"Tomorrow my dear. It comes off tomorrow. Of course then I'll have one skinny arm and one regular arm, and I'll have to wear long-sleeved shirts for a week or two. But then everything's back to normal." She lays her head on his chest, and inhales the clean fresh scent of his shirt.

He kisses the top of her head as they slowly move around the dance floor. "You're amazing," he says. "What you just said about the music..." he trails off.

"You know Toby, one of these days we're gonna have to sit down and have a talk. Not tonight, but soon." He raises his eyebrows at that and looks at her puzzled.

"Soon." she whispers. "Hear what we're dancing to right now?" He nods his head yes. "This could be my theme song Toby."

"What are the words? He breathes into her hair. He has his chin resting on the top of her head.

"I'll tell you the lyrics - but I won't sing - I'm a dreadful singer. This one is by Staind"

"Stained?"

"Yeah, except it's spelled S-T-A-I-N-D."

It's been awhile
Since I could hold my head high
Since I first saw you
Since I could stand on my own two feet again
Since I could call you
But everything I can't remember as fucked up
As it all my seem the consequences
that I've rendered I've stretched
myself beyond my means

"The song's over," she whispers to him. "I'll tell you the rest tonight, if you're still interested."

"Just when I think I've got you all figured out..." he leaves the sentence unfinished.

They walk back to the table hand in hand. Dinner has arrived. Toby calls the waiter over and asks for a couple of extra forks.

Toby and Tanner take a cab back to his place around 1:30 in the morning, stumble into his apartment and collapse on his bed. They both drank too much and have the giggles, even Toby has the giggles.

"I never would have pegged Sam for an Adam Sandler fan." Tanner laughs. "Or suspected that C.J. has a thing for Dustin Hoffman."

#######################
8:10am Sunday Tanner's Apartment

The phone rings and rings and rings. "Hmmm hello" she answers sleepily picking up at the same time as the machine, she hears the 'leave a message' and beep in the background. She thinks it's Toby on the other end. She had her cast removed yesterday and Toby was working all day on the President's speech to the SBA and couldn't make it over to her place last night. She told him when he finished he should go home and get a good night's sleep, she'd see him tomorrow.

"T.C., it's me Marty."

"Hey Marty, what's up? Have I gone to number one overnight?" She asks him sleepily getting out of bed.

"Have you seen this morning's Post?"

"No, you just woke me up." She answers walking into the living room and opening the front door to retrieve the paper.

"Turn to Book World."

"Come on Marty, don't make me go through the motions. Just paraphrase it for me. Gimme the highlights only."

"Just do it Tanner!" He yells. Now she's a little scared, he's never called her Tanner before. She shakes the paper out of it's plastic sleeve and fishes around for the Book World section, it's always folded into the Arts section in the middle of the huge Sunday paper and her fingers aren't working very well at the moment, her own sense of panic setting in.

Her picture, more specifically, another picture of she and Toby dancing at the Fundraiser Thursday night is plastered on the front. The article begins with a recount of the fundraiser and some of the big names there. It moves on to ID Tanner Vaughn in the company of White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler, and then it outs her as also being the author of Midnight Madness, T.C. Vaughn.

The article quotes unnamed sources within the publishing industry as confirming that the novel Midnight Madness rather than being a work of fiction, is in fact autobiographical of Ms. Vaughn's life and career in the early-nineties with the State Department. Marty's saying something about it not being him, he swears it wasn't him. She drops the phone.

Marty knows she's dropped the phone. He heard it. He's yelling for her to pick it back up. She does, in a daze "Oh my God, Toby" and hangs it up.

She rushes back into her bedroom and starts packing her suitcase. While she's packing the phone rings. She lets the machine get it. She can't talk to him right now.

Beep. "Tanner it's Mary. Pick up the phone. I know you're there... Pick up!" She's yelling. "Okay, look I saw the Post. Have you talked to Toby yet? Call me, I mean it. Anytime. I'll be here."

No Mary I haven't talked to Toby yet she thinks, throwing on a t-shirt and shorts, and now I've lost my chance.

She picks up the phone and makes a reservation for the 10:00am shuttle flight to New York. Then she calls a cab.

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

8:30 am Toby's Office

He's been sleeping on the couch since 4:00 am. There's a knock at his door, and C.J. walks in with a copy of the Washington Post. The Sunday papers don't have a lot of real news in them, the news cycle ends on Friday night, so she likes to get up early and read the Sunday paper for pure enjoyment - the first section she reads after the Arts section is Book World.

"Toby wake up" she nudges him with her arm. He's flat on his back with his mouth open. He really looks ridiculous. "Toby! Wake Up!"

He sits up fast on the couch and rubs his hand over his forehead and then across the top of his head. "Jesus C.J., what's the problem? What are you doing here?" He asks checking his watch.

"Secrets, mi amigo, secrets." And she tosses him the Book World section with his face on the cover and exits his office, closing the door behind her.

Toby leans back on the couch. He sees the picture first, God she's beautiful. Then he starts on the article. So far, not so bad, even though she really didn't want anyone to know she was T.C. Vaughn. Then he flips to page three where the story continues. Oh my god. Her book. That can't be true. That means...No, she would have told him. He moves to the phone. Her machine picks up "Leave a message" beep. "Tanner, it's Toby, pick up! We need to have that talk."

In truth, she's not there. Her cab arrived five minutes before C.J. walked into his office.

TBC

 

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