Advice From An Unlikely Source
Disclaimer: Nobody in this belongs to me.
Summary: Post Ep for "The Stormy Present"
Author's Note: So this isn't my usual post ep from Josh's POV. That one is still running around in my brain. I was just struck by the friendship between Toby and Donna in the episode and this story just kind of spilled out.
The motorcade had returned hours earlier and Donna had tried to check in with Toby but Josh had sucked her into one final conversation about the Bill of Rights, Connecticut and how many weeks until Spring training started. Finally it was clear to Josh that Donna was no longer paying attention. "Why don't you go, we'll call it an early night."
"Josh, it's after 11."
"Oh," he muttered with a shrug of his shoulders as he tapped at his watch as if that action would cause it to miraculously give the right time.
"You'd better leave too. Don't want to get sucked into another round of Lassiter trivia," teased Donna as she stood up. Josh laughed and gave her a dimpled grin as she turned to leave. Donna packed up her things and picked up her coat. She glanced down at her desk and looked at her notes from the past few days, notes on Owen Lassiter, his wife, the Lassiter Library and all the small details that went along with honoring a fallen President. She had enjoyed the assignment and she enjoyed working with Toby.
Donna and Toby's was an interesting relationship. She held a special place in Toby's heart and he held one in hers. She was one of the few who got to see his softer side. It had been Toby who told her about Josh. He would never forget the look on her face, the disbelief, the lack of understanding and finally the realization of the situation. The look in her eyes was something he would carry with him for the rest of his life, a memory etched on his heart along with the look on Josh's face when he'd found him slumped and bleeding.
Toby would also never forget Donna's reaction to the news of President Bartlet's MS. She was probably the only person to ask how the President was feeling. She wasn't angry like the rest of them had been; she was concerned and
worried about Bartlet as a man not as the President. Toby admired her for that ability. As a result of having told Donna too much bad news Toby was a little protective of her. He saw the way she'd grown so much over the years, the
talents others were beginning to see were ones he'd seen all along.
Donna reached down to close her notebook and turn out her desk lamp. She started to head for the door but she turned instead towards the Communications Bullpen. The blinds on Toby's windows were closed but she could see a faint
light shining under the door. After a second's worth of debate she knocked on the door and waited for him to answer. Not getting any response she tried again a little louder. "Toby, you awake in there?" she called softly after hearing him groan a little.
"No," he muttered bringing a weary smile to her face. She opened the door and slipped inside. Toby was on his couch, shoes off, tie missing and shirt tails half hanging out. Pathetic was the first thing that came to Donna's mind. The second thing that came to her mind was the fact that he really looked like he needed a friend.
"You ok?" asked Donna as she dropped her coat on the arm of the couch and curled up in the chair.
"Just great," slurred Toby. Donna glanced at the coffee table, there was a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels and no glass, not a good sign. She stood back up and pulled a glass out of the bottom drawer of Toby's desk. She poured
herself a couple of fingers worth of JD and settled back down in the chair. They drank in silence for a few minutes. Donna was sipping from the glass and Toby drinking from the bottle, trying not to spill the amber liquid down the
front of him.
"I was drinking, you know, on the plane" confessed Toby, not surprising Donna in the least.
"Kind of figured," said Donna with a grin. "So, how was it?" she finally asked as the reached over to take the cigar out of Toby's hand before he could try and light it.
"Hey," he muttered as he made a half hearted attempt to take the cigar back, giving up just before losing his balance and tumbling onto the floor. "It was...it was sad. I mean, I never met the guy, I didn't agree with much of what he believed in and I think his wife's a complete nut case. But it was sad. The honor guard, the bugler, the flag being folded up, it was sad."
A sarcastic comment died on Donna's lips before she had a chance to say it aloud. She downed the last of her drink and reached over to take the bottle out of Toby's hand. She set it on the desk out of his reach after pouring
herself a little more. With a wave of her hand she got Toby to sit up and give her room on the couch. "What's wrong?" she asked as she patted his hand. Toby turned to look at her and just shrugged his shoulders. She knew he was upset about something but like most of the male members of Bartlet's staff he needed to have his feelings pried out with a crowbar. And at half past midnight Donna didn't know if she had the energy to do that. But she decided to give it one try. "Toby, talk," she said as she nudged him with her elbow.
"It was sad. Nothing more," he whispered as he took the glass out of Donna's hand and drained it in a single gulp.
"Toby, what's wrong?" she asked taking her glass back and putting it on the coffee table. She settled back on the couch, feet on the coffee table, mirroring his posture. "Life is short, don't let things slip away," he whispered in
a tone that was completely and utterly out of character for him. She quickly realized the funeral of Owen Lassiter had little to do with the way Toby was feeling. On impulse she reached over and grabbed his hand, tucking it in hers.
"And what things would I be letting slip away?" she asked, not completely sure where Toby was going. If it were CJ, Margaret or even Leo talking she would have been sure where the conversation was headed but with Toby she wasn't
sure. He didn't seem like the type to pay much attention to the office gossip.
"Don't make me say it," he chuckled as he squeezed her hand. "I may be cynical and grouchy but I'm not blind." Donna nodded, unable to speak at that moment. She couldn't quite wrap her mind around the fact that Toby Ziegler was
basically giving her advice on her relationship with Josh.
"Toby does this have anything to do with Andi," Donna asked, going out on a very short limb. Her answer was what she expected, a sigh and a shrug of the shoulders. Getting Toby to talk was proving to be a bigger task than she was
up to at nearly midnight. Unlike Josh, who got very chatty when he drank Toby just got sullen and withdrawn.
Without conversation or the bottle to keep him occupied Donna watched with vague amusement as Toby struggled to stay awake. They sat there for a while in silence, their hands still loosely clasped and resting on Toby's knee.
Somewhere a clock struck midnight.
"Sleep," Donna whispered as she stood up. She managed to ease Toby back down on the couch and cover him up with the blanket that was draped over the chair. Moving his shoes out of the way and picking up his suit jacket off the
floor she moved to hang it on the coat rack. She shook it out and a picture slipped from the pocket and fluttered to the floor. It was a picture of Toby and the twins. The image showed Toby sitting on the floor, probably at Andi's
house. He had Huck in his arms and Molly resting against his bent knees. The look on his face was pure pride Donna thought to herself as she tucked the photo back into his pocket.
Donna had only seen him with the twins a few times but there was something about the way his whole demeanor changed from gruff to loving in a single moment. It was a side of Toby few people saw and Donna felt honored that she had
seen it and she hoped to see more of it in the future.
With a sigh she turned out the light and reached for the doorknob. On a whim she walked over to the couch and leaned over to drop a kiss on Toby's forehead. "Thanks for everything this week," he whispered, startling her as she
turned to leave.
"I thought you were sleeping," she said as Toby rolled onto his side to give her room to perch on the couch next to him.
"Remember what I said," he whispered. "He really does love you. He's scared, but he loves you." Toby words rendered Donna speechless and more than a little emotional. Toby reached up to wipe away a few stray tears.
"You just remember what you said too," teased Donna as she poked him in the chest for emphasis. Toby nodded and closed his eyes again. Donna pulled the blanket up around him and kissed him again. As she headed for her car she
replayed Toby's words in her mind. She was glad to know she wasn't the only one who was both in love and scared to death.
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