Ninety four million, six hundred and eight thousand seconds.
She figured it somewhere in her head, somewhere in the words her father had taught her as she dialed the number. Her fingers scraped the rough notebook paper, yellow and lined and reeking of him. Give or take a few months, it had been about ninety five million seconds since the last moment he'd touched her. Since that last breath that he'd given wrapped around her name. She hauled a heavy sigh, listening to the click of the phone as it was picked up, laughter in a voice that was too recognizable, yet so far away.
Three years full of seconds without him.
Give or take.
He'd regained every grain of his accent.
She was melting in it.
"Hello? Who's this?"
She wanted to scream him her name. Like she'd screamed his countless times over millions and billions of seconds. The way she'd sighed it out when he'd touched her. The way she had murmured it over lust roughened skin.
She wanted to say her own name, but she had to hear it from him first.
So she counted seconds, the way her father had taught her.
He would know the warmth of her breath anywhere.
He closed his eyes a moment, recalling the last moment where he'd heard that breath, that rumble of a sigh. Her shuddering breath of hurt. Toby rubbed the heel of his palm against his jaw, smirking weakly at his daughter as she sat on the counter, swinging her legs in the cramped New York apartment. There was a Yankees hat tugged down hard over her curls, and her glance was popping at him from somewhere under the curved brim.
He let himself smile for real, counting the moments that he'd ached for that breath.
Millions. Billions. Or if it was according to Molly…quadrazillions.
"CJ?" his chest stilled, "Is that you?"
His seven year old blinked quizzically at him, tapping her fingernails across the countertop far too much like her mother. He winced at it slightly, turning his body towards the doorway, his back to his child. He needed this moment alone with his dream. As if this were only a fantasy wrought by a stillness on the phone. A wrong number that he had misconstrued as fate.
"My father died."
Her whisper was humble and unassuming.
Far too perfect, and yet far too drastic.
He couldn't pretend that 'my father died' meant 'I miss you'.
"Do you want me to come?"
Her breath came singing across the phone, washing across his suddenly tired face. "Of course Toby."
"I have Molly and Huck…" he let their names falter, trying to hide the nervousness she drew up in his skin, the way her very voice tightened his muscles, "I have them for the summer."
He heard her pull away from him, yanking back on purpose.
Her voice was still dazed and washing away with her breath, "Hmmm?"
"I'm sorry." he whispered, his fingers trailing the drawings of trucks on his refrigerator. Huck's name was scrawled lovingly across the bottom of each one, and there wasn't a space that wasn't covered. There were other pictures too. The twins playing tag in Battery Park. Andrea leaning back on a picnic blanket with Molly's head in her lap. Josh and Donna hugging by the Potomac. Too many memories for him to touch as she let off a breathy laugh.
There was a dead sound in the air as the line cut. He felt her finger snap the off button of the phone and he yanked his own receiver away from his ear, slamming it to its cradle. With a shudder of breath Toby drew both hands to his face.
"Daddy?" she was still kicking her sneakered feet from the counter perch. "Who was that?"
He lifted his eyes, fingers roving the photos and drawings until he found the one picture that he savored the most. The photo he'd saved for years, worn on the corners with too many touches. The glossy piece was framed on every side with pictures of his children. His fingertips swept the line of her jaw in the picture, finding the red lips he stilled tasted when he stayed too long in the shower. Studying the sweep of her hips in the ball gown she wore.
Inauguration. An easy memory.
He drew a breath, "A ghost baby...just a ghost."
She giggled for him, "Daddy - ghosts can't use telephones."
"No Mol'," he turned back to her, pulling the photo of Claudia Jean Cregg from his fridge and laying it flat to his chest, "They can't."
She had gotten Margaret's number from Donna, knowing that where ever Leo McGarry strayed - there would be Margaret. She didn't know why she wanted the redhead and the former Chief of Staff there, and really she didn't feel she did. It was more of a need to have them all there. The need to feel safe, if only for a few seconds.
She'd even called Bonnie, remembering all too quickly over the phone why they hadn't kept in touch.
They'd never really liked each other.
Carol was so easy to find, always seven digits away. She'd just returned from a visit to Italy, launching into a story about the Sistine Chapel. She had apparently been lying on the floor of the painted church while CJ sat on her father's tattered, empty bed. She'd whispered of the man's death so softly to her old assistant. Feeling the friend in the other woman suddenly crash into the phone line.
Sam had harassed Ginger into the Senatorial race with him. She was somewhere between campaign manager and public relations. As were Larry and Ed. Josh was still in politics…but had become waylaid somewhere in the sixth month of Donna's pregnancy. They were driving to Dayton. The Bartlets were still running New Hampshire. Charlie was a Boston lawyer. Will was writing exquisitely for the next Democratic Presidential Candidate.
Still vying for Toby's job.
Toby was raising his children, according to a summer schedule, among other things. She heard snippets from the others. Josh had regaled her with pieces of a book that Tobias had been scratching away at. She neglected to tell him that she'd already read the same passages, years before when Toby had been massaging her feet and she'd been lounging in his bed, naked.
Leo had called her; rather Margaret had called her, whispering worry about Toby's New York City drinking habits. She had worried for a week and then thrown the thoughts away. He was editing some now. Teaching a class on Shakespeare at CCNY.
In the end only seven of them showed up. Seven, plus the twins. Josh and Donna…so technically three Lymans, if she were counting fetuses. Leo and Margaret. McGarry looking, somehow - younger than he had during the administration. And Margaret looking suddenly well-rested. William Bailey, shy as always. Carol fussing her way into tragedy, being supportive in the only way she knew how.
And Andrea Wyatt's twins.
The airport was cold, and she sat in the smoking section. Her fingers shook as she tried to light a cigarette, listening idly to the steady hum of the vent vacuum, sucking up the smoke that she was trying to savor. She was trying to still herself, but the only thing she could feel was his sudden presence in the airport. As if someone had walked across her grave. He'd walked on the floor. CJ stood, heels pinching as she stubbed out the cigarette, still unlit, and headed towards the gate she'd been directed to.
She hated the Dayton airport. It was small.
Nothing like Dulles or Kennedy.
It was far too…Dayton'esque for her tastes.
And he still looked far too good to be true.
"It's hot in here."
The first words off his lips were so familiar, so trained to her ear. An easy complaint in a voice that she'd promised to never hear again. A tone that whispered that he was still her lover. But she wasn't so sure it was true anymore. Not with his children tugging on his coat. She wanted to laugh when they tossed her a pure Tobias Ziegler glance, a look of reproach. Because in that moment they looked nothing like the former Congresswoman.
"I'm cold." she murmured slowly, dragging her hands up his lapels comfortably, feeling him pull from his children and wrap her up into his chest like he planned on holding her forever.
He hugged her into a haze of cigars, paper and the promise of relief, "You should be."
She lifted her glance to find his, upset when she found more lust than love.
But maybe she was mistaken.
The first time she was in tears, he'd been inches away. Her hands were shoved hard into her father's mattress, clinging to the fabric of her black dress and the worn comforter. Her stepmother was still downstairs, chatting with her friends, murmuring quietly, waiting for someone to crack.
CJ hated that she was the one to do it.
She also hated that Toby was the one to hold her as she cried.
Because she wanted to be strong for him.
He didn't know why it was suddenly his fault, or why her fists were leaving small marks across his shoulders and chest. Still, he let her do it anyways. He let her break down as he held her. He figured she was damning him for not being there. Condemning him for living on the opposite ocean as she did. Marking him because he'd had children with another woman.
Hating him for not touching her in three years.
"You all leave me." her open hand stung hard across his cheek, but suddenly her fingers flew back up, brushing against his beard, tugging into it as her head dropped to his shoulder and throat.
"I'm not leaving." he whispered quietly, dropping her exquisite length to the bed, laying her flat as she cried. Her fingers were hot, curling into the fabric of his shirt, rubbing against the welts she'd left under the cotton.
"Yes you are." she whispered, her face nuzzling against the all too familiar roughness of his beard. She let her skin blush a sheen of red, burnt under the remembered touch of his face.
He shook his head, hand soothing up and down her stomach, rubbing away the cramps of pain, "I promise I'm not."
Her face dug deeper into the spot on his throat, her tongue flickering once into the dip of his throat that she'd claimed years before. The trace of his moan was a pleasure she'd forgotten all about. She wasn't likely to forget it again.
"You promised," the slight nip he touched off on her jaw cut her sentence in half, "you promised once before."
"Before they were born." his hand was making circuits on her stomach, the movement had her thighs humming.
She blinked up at him, "You've changed Toby."
His tongue forced her lips apart, dragging her into the kiss. His arms wrapped hard around her, forcing himself to breath her hair instead of the dusty laundry scent of her father's favorite blanket. He felt her hug into him, a strong thigh tugging its way between his knees, her hands kneading up into his curls, fingering the slivers of silver she found there.
He drew the kiss away slowly, "So have you."
"Huck says I'm a liar," the girl blinked up at them from the door, watching as Toby flushed red and CJ hauled herself straight on the bed. He stood, stalking easily to the door as the girl sighed.
"Molly, I told you to stay downstairs." he murmured, face a tone of crimson that CJ barely remembered.
Molly blinked him a defiant glance and CJ flinched at the Wyatt likeness, "He says I'm a liar because I remember you."
At the end of the sentence her Tobias-like eyes slid towards CJ, a smirk crowning on her mouth. Molly tugged her baseball cap farther down on her head, lifting her chin so that she could stare accusingly at the woman sitting on the bed.
"But I remember you." The girl backed up, flashing a half smile, "Just wanted you to know."
She was avoiding both of them.
Toby's Molly, and her father's Molly.
It was hard enough hiding from one than both of them at the same time. Still, she had Carol and Donna and even Margaret helping her. Each of them with slips of wine in long stemmed glasses, shoes off on her father's rickety porch. Donna's wine glass was actually filled with grape juice from the ancient fridge, but she was nursing it the way she would alcohol.
Margaret was standing guard; her back leaned properly against the door, barring the invasion of any men or either Molly's. Carol was leaned back on the porch swing, her foot hanging. Donna had claimed a chair and CJ was perched in her most comfortable spot, her legs strewn evenly across the porch ledge. She settled her head back on a pillar, watching the stars sparkle in an antagonistic dance of beauty.
"He used to…" she shook her head, feeling the snapping glances of all three women, "He used to talk about math. All the time..."
They seemed to lean closer, listening as she whispered on a dead man. Her breath was louder than her voice, draining all the color from her skin as she pulled another sip of the cheap wine. She realized quickly as she glanced to Polaris that she wanted Toby. She also knew he was tucking his children to bed in one of the room upstairs.
"My father talked about cars." Carol murmured, "Antique ones. He loved 60's Mustangs."
Margaret offered a quick nod, twirling her glass with slender fingers, "Swing music…jazz. Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller…Sarah Vaughn."
Donna grinned, "Canadians."
It was almost lethargic. Almost, relieving. But in some way it almost made her feel worse, as if she were dragging them farther into a catastrophe. She hadn't just wanted to be strong for Toby. She'd always been strong…for eights years. And now she was faltering.
She glanced up to them slowly, finding support in their eyes.
Realizing that they didn't care how strong she really was.
CJ sighed softly, "And fishing."
"Did you call for comfort," his whisper was just as hazy as his hands, hauling her back against his chest, "or because you missed me?"
She shivered slightly in her father's kitchen, studying the now tidied area, her eyes quickly damp at the feeling of his fingers curling on her hip. His back was suddenly the sturdiest presence she'd felt in weeks. She nudged backs her hips, feeling just how much he missed her.
"Both." she whispered easily, drawing up a hand to rub onto his jaw. Toby kissed into her fingers, feeling their bodies fit in the same way they had years before. Her hips still angled that way against his groin.
"Why didn't you call earlier?" he begged of her gently.
"I didn't want to need you."
She felt him nod into her, his mouth pressing lazy kisses against the hair that sweat had plastered to her neck. Without a thought she turned her head, letting him slide his tongue to the taste he missed. Her fingers drew up and down his beard, rubbing warmth against the stubbled hair.
"I needed you." he offered, tracing sweat lines onto her jaw with his mouth.
"Why didn't you come to California?"
His hands were drawing up and down hers sides, teasing under the edges of her breasts, making her entire chest tingle with the anticipation of familiar fingers.
"Huck - "
He nodded, "Why didn't you come to New York when I asked?"
She turned in his arms, pressing tighter and promising her body to him, "Huck and Molly."
"Not a good enough reason." he nibbled her bottom lip into a kiss, "Why else?"
"Because I loved you too much."
He blinked at her, brown eyes flickering in the low kitchen light. She watched the color in them change to an almost black, drawing her closer to his face as his hands rubbed along her ribs. CJ tucked against him, letting her kisses trail down his throat.
"Still not good enough Claudia Jean."
She sighed against him, "I missed you Toby."
He rocked her to sleep, cuddling her close in the darkened bedroom that she'd once lived in. He flickered glances past the darkened walls, suspecting they were repainted and papered after she left. With a slight stretch Toby put a hand down, pushing the hair off her face, and kissing the fresh skin. He found her crying in her sleep, tears still damp as she whimpered in nightmares.
"Daddy?" the rough whisper made him jump, eyes tossing fast and easy towards the door.
Huck tucked his arms tight across his chest, eyes flickering between his father and the shadows that were out to get him. The boy lifted one hand to rub sleepily into his brown curls.
"I can't sleep here."
Toby offered a quiet smile, waving the boy in, "Come sleep with us."
Huck scrambled his way onto the bed, tucking against his father's other side, fingers curling much the same as CJ's into Toby's t-shirt. He shifted down, letting the boy drop his sleepy face onto his chest, just as her tear-lidded cheek pressed on his shoulder.
"She's still sad daddy?"
Toby nodded, kissing the boy's hair, watching him shyly hide from CJ's line of sight - should she wake up. He squeezed his son tighter, feeling her fingers flex on his side.
"Yeah she is," he whispered softly, feeling her lean closer to him, "But we'll make her better."
"Promise?" Huck yawned into the word, already halfway asleep.
Toby matched silent eyes with the woman he ached for, "I promise."
He was still awake when the both of them slipped into dreams, even when Molly crawled onto the bed and tucked at his feet. He watched the three of them all night, denying sleep for the sight of the three of them together.
The way it was meant to be.
She couldn't feel her feet.
"Does she do this often?" CJ blinked lazily, dragging her eyes to match the warm glance he was washing on her. Toby grinned, dropping his lips low against hers, greeting her with a soft touch to her chin.
"Better you than me."
Both of them moved their eyes, watching the way Molly curled tighter on top of CJ's feet, the bottom of the blanket yanked up over her slender shoulder. CJ snuggled deeper into his heat, her fingers stretching the length of him to ruffle his son's still sleeping curls.
She looped her arms tighter around his chest, resting her face against the mildly damp t-shirt he wore. The smell of his lazy skin just as intoxicating as the dreamy scent of Huck's children's shampoo. Molly shifted higher on her calves, a bony Ziegler jaw nudging CJ's kneecap in sleep. She ignored it, circling fingers on his chest in ownership.
She let her herself fall into him, her body washing against his.
Every muscle and bone relaxed.
Two hundred and six bones in the human body.
And it took him to relax them all.
He loved the way she looked in black.
He hated the way she felt in it.
Her skin was suddenly far colder than it had been earlier in the day. A pale sheen on her face and a coldness to her eyes that had both him and his children backing off rather quickly. Her movements had become hard, muscles steel with the arrival of her brothers and nieces and nephews. She'd driven her eyes past them all, searching the sky outside the church for something of her father.
He could see it in the darkness of her face.
And he wondered at her family.
Not the family she'd been born into, but the one she'd called upon. She'd made nice with her blood relatives. Even broken into a bottle of tears with her younger brother on the porch. Launched into old stories with her aunt. Whispered beauty tips for the funeral with Hogan.
And still she sought the men and women she'd called two days before.
She still sought him out.
"I don't wanna do this."
He tasted her lips, wondering that the lipstick she was wearing was called 'Redemption'.
He found it funny…but she didn't taste like a salvation.
She tasted like fear.
"I know." he cupped her face to his, tasting red lips again, "I'm here."
He kissed at the tears she was losing, her face tipped up to blink them back. He felt her slipping away from him, and he couldn't let it happen again. With a solid hand he stroked his fingers down her throat, pulling her glittering glance back to him.
"You have to do this Claudia Jean," his eyes matched hers, "For your father."
He offered her a tired smile, not letting it reach his eyes or her heart, "You have to let him go."
"How do I let him go now," she blinked, her fingers twirling tight into his, "when he let me go six years ago?"
He knew she meant the disease.
But he couldn't understand how any man should forget her, when he never could.
He held her all day, let her rest in him. The funeral was cold, sterile and blank in the most depressing way. He thought that it had made her cheeks seem a little more shallow, skin a little too pale. She had been mostly silent throughout the daylight hours, and had chosen only to speak after dark, when she was sure her dead father couldn't see her through the night.
"CJ." he settled the thick book to the bed. Her head turned up, body still and tight in the middle of her father's bed.
Molly had quickly moved back to her daughter's house and Toby could feel the anger it flared in his Claudia Jean. As if this was just a job and Molly was quickly washing her hands of it. He was sure that wasn't the case, but that's what CJ was thinking. Those were the thoughts she was rolling over and over in her head.
"Where'd you find this?" she rolled her fingers over the cover of the old photo album, crooking her hand in a way that reminded him of their lovemaking. Her tapered fingers suddenly flattened lovingly on the tattered cover.
"Huck found it in the basement," Toby blinked in embarrassment, "They were exploring - I already yelled at them for it."
She just smiled, a grin that made him think she'd done some of her own exploring in that basement when she was little, "It's really fine."
"It's not their house." he whispered, easily sliding off his shoes. He'd made the effort to not let her out of his sight. Because of that…he caught the wince in her cheeks. The break of happiness in her eyes. There was a quick hurt there.
"It's mine." she whispered.
Toby stared mutedly, breath still, "I thought he was leaving it to one of your brothers."
The voice she gave him was utterly devoid of emotion. Blank and breathless, and everything he'd hoped her voice would never be. He wanted his CJ back. The laughing tone of teasing press releases and snarky briefings. The seduction she'd given him on special occasions. Even the voice of disaster she'd used during tragedy. Anything, if not this whisper of nothing.
"Think about it later." he whispered, sliding onto the bed behind her, slipping between her too thin body and the maple headboard.
His hands reached for her shoulders, a smile on his face when he caught her leaning into the movement. Toby brushed his face into her hair, feeling how much longer it had gotten as he kissed it. Her body melted mildly into his, stretching along the planes of his lap until she was comfortable, the family photo album clutched against her chest.
"How much later?" she asked him.
He didn't answer.
Toby took a long moment to study her, aching to see the woman he thought he still loved. He knew she was in there, somewhere trapped in this six foot body of resistance. Somewhere in the woman he held, was the woman he ached for. He just had to find her.
"Show me these pictures." his lips met her temple, turning her head back to face the book of her past. She just flipped it open in quick reply, shifting as his hands rubbed her sides and hips.
He watched quietly as she pointed out and explained each picture. There were moments where he watched her fight tears, still others where he found safety in her smile. Every picture brushed a new emotion over her face and by the time she'd reached the last few pages she'd plucked her favorites out, leaving them in a pile on his knee. With slow movements he removed his hands from her, drawing his wallet from his pocket and flipping it open, showing her the pictures of the twins.
"Take them." he whispered quietly.
CJ shook her head in the negative, flickering him back a glance and then gazing down at the gap-toothed grin Huck was flashing her. He'd been missing at least two baby teeth in the picture she was holding, and he couldn't have looked more adorable. Molly's picture was brazened with the one thing that CJ wondered about…a Yankees hat. The girl never seemed to take it off. Save for in the car on the way to the funeral. Toby had flicked the brim lightly with his fingers and watched in warmth as the girl pulled it off and tried to smooth her wayward curls.
"I can' t Toby."
In reply he pulled the two pictures out, revealing two more that were just the same only a year later in the children's lives. Huck had his new teeth, but Molly was still wearing the same hat. He added the two wallet sized picture to her pile of still photo family and flipped the picture in his wallet, handing it slowly back to her. She couldn't help but smile, finding a picture that she knew well. It was the two of them, hugging in Illinois, laughing into the primary victory along with Jed Bartlet. Bartlet and Leo had been trimmed out of the picture so it would fit into his wallet, and she found herself staring at the happy faces they were wearing.
"You carry this with you?"
His ruddy cheeks seemed to get a little darker, "Yeah."
CJ just grinned at his glance of confusion, worry on his face when she quickly stood, moving across the room and grabbing her purse. He smirked, knowing what was coming when she pulled out a photo, a little worn but carefully held out. CJ dumped the bag to the floor and crawled onto the bed with him again, facing him this time.
"You're not the only one."
He studied the picture of their first State of the Union, wondering at the sickly look of nervousness he was carrying in the photo. Still, her fingers were tagged tightly around his upper arm, and somehow he found amusement in the photo. Her face was tipped up, looking hard towards him as he glowered at the camera. He could see why she carried this picture.
It showed too much for anyone else to see it.
"CJ." his eyes lifted to find her standing again. She'd shifted off the bed with easy grace, her length sliding away from him and arching in a stretch of defiance. Toby blinked at her, watching as she picked up the book and thumped it to the floor at her feet. He moved to speak against her but she shook her head, eyes frowning his way. Toby stared softly when she pulled off her sweater, tossing it to the floor as well. Her skin was flushing pale under the single lamp in the bedroom. The white lace of her bra brazen and glancing to his eyes.
"Don't do this CJ," he whispered, lifting up on his knees and wincing as the pictures crinkled slightly. "You don't wanna do this."
She shook her head, "Yes I do."
"Right here?" he arched a brow, lifting his hands to her sides as she moved in. Her fingers slipped into his beard and she pressed lazy kisses to his forehead and cheeks. Her movement was reply enough, hands falling down to his shoulders and tugging at his shirt, urging him to move it off. She pushed down slightly, sitting him on the bed.
"Claudia Jean." he hissed slightly when she scraped her fingers nails down the shirt then back up under it.
She just shook her head, "Please Toby."
"I don't want…"
She laughed to him, sliding elegantly into his lap, wrapping her kisses along his throat as her hands skated his shoulders and chest. Her bottom pushed down hard into his lap, making him groan slightly into her movement. His hands dug tight to her skin, feeling the hot expanse that she was leaning into him.
She smirked knowingly, "You do want Toby."
"Not to hurt you." his words fell into her mouth as he nipped a kiss from her. His palms were rounding the lower arch of her back, stroking a comfort she'd nearly forgotten.
Her voice sighed, "Too late."
"Shhh." his hands rubbed along her rib cage, thumbs catching effortlessly against the bottoms of her breasts, catching the fabric and tugging. It was an old movement that she felt him remember with his hands. It was comfortable, easily soothing.
With a solid breath she drew her hands down, this time demanding the shirt from his chest, hauling his arms up and forcing the offending clothing to the floor. Toby glanced up at her, deep eyes dark in mild worry. She just blinked, kissing him chastely before giving him a weak smile. It did nothing to reassure him and she just pushed back instead, watching his eyes slip closed as the photos of her family wrinkled beneath his strong back.
CJ roved her hands down, dropping her mouth to wash lovingly against the expanse of skin she'd claimed years before. She tasted other trespassers, knew other woman had touched him. It made her want to kiss away every stroke that wasn't hers. Toby just shuddered along a response, fingers clasping hard into her hair and whispering words that he'd wished she could hear for three years.
"Mine." she whispered softly, her tongue slipping teasingly against one of his nipples, making his throat hiss slightly.
Her fingertips were narrowing down his hips, tugging on the light spattering of hair that he led to the button of his jeans. His stomach snapped at the touch, making her smirk in complacent victory. She kissed towards the button of his pants, rubbing her fingertips against the baby soft jeans on his thighs. He shuddered easily when her hands lifted, both meeting at his erection, her kisses dragging against his zipper. She felt him shiver in anticipation, the soft exhalation of a groan tripping from his lips. His back arched hard as she moved off him, hands nudging up quickly.
"Claudia." she felt the smile wreak her lips as her name became an exultation from his mouth.
She just smirked, rubbing sturdy fingers harder against his erection, making his hips shudder, "Tobias."
His words echoed her earlier whisper and she let him pull her body up, rolling her fast and hard under his length. CJ tried to meet his body with her hands but he caught her fingertips in his, denying her the right to touch. Toby dropped his mouth, dragging his tongue along the tops of her breasts, sliding between her sweat stained skin and her bra. He was rubbing teasing kisses against her breasts, his hips moving strategically against hers, making her writhe slightly in want.
She felt him press her hands hard into the mattress, one of her pictures clinging to the sweat on the back of her hand. She moaned slightly, watching as he let her fingers go, still his eyes made her stay perfectly still, her hands resting back on the comforter. CJ watched him slide his body down against hers, fingers already snugging off her pants, urging them down off her hips. He frowned slightly at her hips, tripping slow kisses against the dips he loved, displeasure on his face when he saw how skinny she'd become. Her pelvic bone a ready vision against her skin.
"You need to eat more." he whispered, the heat of his voice making her sweat laden hips shiver.
CJ just blinked her eyes up at the ceiling, watching the fan sing in a solid rotation. It's revolutions reminding her of the days. The same movements and circles and wafts of air as she forced through the day. Stopping at the flip of a switch, or a tug. It blinked at her mockingly, waving in a circle as she suddenly called out a moan. His mouth trapped against her body, her clothes hauled all off at some point when she hadn't been paying attention. CJ whimpered slightly, fingers digging at his shoulders, tracing the sweat on his skin, writing her name against his body.
He answered her lavishly, his mouth and hands meeting over and over again at her apex, drawing long moans and noises of pleasure from her throat. Her hips bucked lightly, urging him farther, drawing him tighter into her. Her thighs tightened and she sobbed his name softly.
He whispered his love against her body as she came.
He woke with her body clutching him, fingers drawn tight into his scalp as she racked into a nightmare. Her bare thighs wrapped against his hips, breasts crushed against his chest. Her arms were clinging desperately as she sobbed into the dream of her father's death.
He hated knowing that when she woke she'd realize it wasn't a dream.
It wasn't just a nightmare.
"C'mon baby." Toby let his hand start a smooth run up and down her back, urging her into comfort and out of the vision she'd found in sleep. His kisses sank into her hair, drawing her breath to slow and making her relax again in his touches.
He looked up, finding her eyes. She was trapped somewhere in her emotions, blue eyes glancing crystalline with tears. He tried to kiss them away but found it wasn't worth the effort. There was a flicker of something in her glance that gave him hope. Something warm that had burned bright and hot when he'd kissed her in the night. It was early morning now and he was doing the only thing he could to bring it back.
"Now." she whispered, her fingers tugging lazily at the button of his jeans.
He didn't answer her, just rolled back, letting her control his hips and what was left of his clothes. Toby rolled his shoulders, dislodging a photo from under his left shoulder as she urged his hips up. He watched her pull his pants and boxers away, her eyes brushing his skin lovingly. She glanced at him in a way that no other woman ever had. Unafraid.
She wasn't afraid anymore.
He let her sink her body against his, drawing him inside of her, quickly with no preconceptions. No words of anything. They didn't need them. CJ settled onto him, slowly lifting then pressing back down. He watched her drop her head back, back arched at an angle, making him sit up and push a hand up under her. She moaned out fast and loud at his movement, the shift pressing a different angle into her body. Toby dropped a harsh wince into her collarbone, flicking his tongue against the sweet skin she offered him. He arched up slightly, meeting each thrust she gave him. Her whimpers drew his attention and he lifted his hands, roughly tugging her head to his.
"I'm not," he drew a fast breath as she paused and rolled her hips in a circle, "I'm not leaving."
She glowered at him, fingernails scraping onto his shoulders then up into his curls. Toby pressed his hands between them, rubbing idly at her breasts as they fought with their eyes. He finally won, watching her dip her lips to his in assent. She kissed him with her hurt, arms wrapping his shoulders and head. Toby thrust up, letting them both ride their pleasure out, his tongue tapping against hers in comfort.
She finally believed him.
He could feel it in her body as he rolled her onto the scattered pictures of her broken family.
He left her in his clothes that morning, letting her rest in his boxers and t-shirt. After he'd made some thick coffee he'd grabbed a hold of his children, carrying each one carefully from their temporary bed and into her room. Toby shifted his twins into her bed, watching her snuggle them against her. Huck tingled his fingers into her shirt and Molly just dropped her hand across the woman's cotton covered torso. He watched them in silence, feeling them sleep in comfort. With a steady breath he grabbed the rental's keys and headed for the door.
She felt him leave, her fingers tracing his son's curls.
It was the familiar smell, the odor that reminded him of the White House, writing and CJ Cregg. Toby blinked sleepily, glancing dreary at the racks in the smoke shop. The man behind the counter watched him warily, eyeing something that Toby was pretty sure was porn hidden in Guns & Ammo. He watched Miss September do a backbend as the guy leaned forward, checking out the former Communications director.
Without a word, Toby waved at his cigars, eyes searching the racks for something in his memory. He could just barely recall the smell, let alone the name. The tangy smell of smoke…the cigarettes she had smoked in during the campaign…something natural…herbal even.
"Do you have…god, they were clove or…something." he waved a hand off, passing off a twenty dollar bill to the overweight man who was still eyeing the 'articles' in his Penthouse.
"Yeah." the guy's hand flickered back to the rack behind him, fingers tapping the top row.
Toby nodded, the memory of her bent wrist, flicking ashes out the window of the campaign bus as she laughed. The way she'd passed easy smoke into his mouth as they kissed in the Manchester bar, fingers trading cigarette for cigar and back. He smirked and waved at the boxes on the shelf, "The white box."
The other man had never even glanced up from his paper pornography.
"Brought you a present."
She grinned, watching the kids yell at each other in the back lawn, the twins waving sticks at each other and mouthing something along the lines of 'ahoy', 'parlay', and 'savvy'. She was assuming it was a pirate day. CJ flickered a glance away from the window, tripping her eyes away from the people in the back yard as he passed a box into her had.
"You've brought me addiction in a box." she grinned up, eyes tossing him an amused challenge.
Toby grinned, "You said you missed them the other day."
CJ just shook her head, passing a glance back out to the only people who hadn't left yet. Her youngest brother, Hogan, Margaret and Leo, and Carol were all sacked along the back yard, laughing with Toby's twins.
"No," she grinned, offering him a chaste kiss and moaning softly at the taste of a spent cigar, "I said I missed that."
"What?" he grinned, a real smirk for the first time since they'd arrived.
She ran her fingertip along his bottom lip, "That."
"Ah, I see." he tugged her close, letting their glances settle on the twins. "Well it's a good thing I went out this morning."
"Although I would have liked donuts and coffee too." she pouted playfully, actually feeling good for one second. The first second in, so many.
Toby kissed against her jaw, "There are muffins on the table ya fiend."
"I knew it." She broke out of his grip and broke into the bakery bag, already grabbing his lighter and pocketing the pack of cigarettes he'd bought her.
"I miss them." she whispered softly, letting him walk her out the airport exit.
CJ sighed softly, her fingers stretching against his as his curled her fist in his hand. Toby kissed her head, listening to the plane grind above them, wondering if it was Margaret and Leo's or her brother's. The twins were tagging along, shoving each other back and forth, laughing to prove it was only a battle and not the war.
"Guys." he felt his voice snap softly when they both pouted up at him, eyes dark. "Calm down."
CJ stopped quickly by his rental car, leaning her hands to the car and glancing up. "I miss them already."
Toby just frowned, "I know…they live…"
"In New York." she whispered gently, grabbing the handle and swinging the door open, still refusing his glance.
"You could…" he let it go, watching her blink into the plane dazzled sunshine.
CJ just shook her head, listening to Huck and Molly argue about something in the back seat.
Could she really…
"Live there." he whispered, slamming the car into gear and swinging it from its parking space.
Never really expecting her to answer.
Toby blinked tiredly, still rolling his daughter's pants and attempting to fit everything into the duffle bag she'd exploded upon their arrival. He watched CJ sit softly on the bed that Molly and Huck had been sharing. Her hand slid forward, gripping his fingers still.
She grinned and he counted how many second it took to reach her eyes.
Three seconds suddenly eclipsed three years.
"Ask me again Tobus."
He smirked at the nickname, "Come to New York CJ?"
Her fingertips were running lines up the back of his hand, to his wrist, then back down again. With a steady breath her face dropped, lips curving a kiss to his knuckles. Toby pushed his forehead to her, drinking in the smell of her hair, catching the feel of her pressing up to him. With a slight movement he had her face cupped in his hand, lifting her by the jaw to his mouth. He kissed her, swallowing every breath she offered him.
He pulled away cautiously, "Okay?"
She nodded, fingers tugging onto his "Okay."