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First off, a little background: I signed up for [livejournal.com profile] raedbard’s Rare Pairs ficathon back in June of 06*. I came up with three sets of characters, which I eventually whittled down to Toby and Annie Bartlet, because I thought it would be neat. The CJ and Andy option sort of got written later on, but I haven’t yet tried Josh and Zoey. Maybe someday.

*The masterlist is here, and I highly recommend it.

This story was originally posted to my own journal in June of ‘06, and the unlocked, non-commentary version can be found here.




"Toby, it's me. Listen, you have to come get the kids."

"Andy? What's wrong?" Toby sets his pen down, and raises a hand to wave off the concerned look CJ gives him. He stands up and heads for the door, motioning for CJ and Sam not to stop talking.

In my head, Toby, Andy, CJ, and Danny have this whole plan about taking care of each other’s kids, if something ever happens to them. It’s a very elaborate plan; one night when Andy was about five months pregnant with the twins, they all sat down and figured it all out, and I’m pretty sure they went as far as having a few papers drawn up by their lawyers, just in case. Their letter in a drawer somewhere, if you will.

"Nothing, Toby, everything's fine. It's just that some of the girls and I want to get drunk and strip for Congressman Skinner, and having the babies here will just be such a drag." Andy finishes with an imitation teenage girl whine, and Toby realizes that his daughter will, in fact, most likely inherit this ability. I have Matt Skinner in here for a couple of reasons: he’s a nice guy, and I think that he and Andy get along (which is why he makes another appearance in a later fic), and he’s very monogamous in his relationship with his boyfriend, so even if Andy really *was* getting drunk and stripping for him, nothing would happen. It frightens him a little. Andy sighs, and Toby can hear the impatience creeping in. "Toby, I have to leave for D.C. in about 20 minutes. Now, please, come and get your children before Dr. Bartlet decides that she wants to babysit while I'm gone."

Let’s just get this out of the way: in my world, Abbey, Jed, and Leo are all de facto grandparents to these kids, right alongside Julie Ziegler, and Andy’s mom and dad. Yes, this mostly comes out of the fact that I miss my maternal grandparents very much, but also, you just *know* that they are good grandparents to Liz and Mallory’s kids.

Toby groans and rubs his temple with the heel of his left hand. "Oh, god, Andy, please, whatever you do, don't let her. Last time, she bought them so many books and stuffed animals, I had to make two trips to get it all home."

"So, you'll be at the main cabin in about 10 minutes, right, Pokey?" I know that some people can’t stand Toby being called by any cute little nicknames, and I think that some of them can be trying, but this one is nice. Plus, it’s canon.

"Absolutely." Toby shuts the phone and drops it back into his pocket. He goes back into the meeting, muttering an apology as he closes the door behind him. He can feel CJ's eyes on him as he begins to gather his papers from the table. He half-turns to Will. "You'll brief me on this later?" Toby’s deliberately not looking at CJ here, and it’s driving her crazy. I normally hate it when CJ's left out of the loop, but I felt it was okay this time.

Will nods, still taking notes on what CJ was saying a moment ago. "Yeah, sure. Is everything-"

"Andy got called back to the Hill."

*****

Toby manages to set up the travel crib in a corner of the (surprisingly empty) living room without incident. The babies fall asleep almost immediately, and Toby sits down with a fresh pad of paper and begins to write. Halfway through his second draft of the President's speech, both Molly and Huck wake up and begin to cry. Loudly.

Toby puts down his pen and moves toward the crib set up at the end of the table. Huck has the edge of the sheet clenched in his tiny fists, and Molly has thrown her pacifier down near her feet. "Hey, come on, now. I thought we agreed that after I read to you, you'd be quiet for a little while."

Huck's cries quickly turn to a whimper, but Molly keeps going. Toby isn't sure which child he should pick up first; he only knows that he can't hold them both at the same time.

"I will never understand how Andrea can do this," he mutters to himself as he rests his arms on the edge of the crib. "I could really use extra arms right about now."

"I can hold one of them for you if you'd like, Mr. Ziegler," a voice says from behind him. Toby straightens, fully aware that he was talking to himself, and turns. I like how Toby’s comfortable with talking to his kids out loud, but how he hasn’t quite gotten into that habit of just not caring if other people hear it. I also really love how Toby doesn’t go for baby-talking; he speaks to Molly and Huck like they are tiny adults and not just babies. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against baby-talk (goodness knows if you put a baby in my arms, I suddenly lose most of my ability to form coherent, grown-up sentences) but I like that’s it’s never really occurred to Toby to speak to his babies differently than he’d speak to anyone else, aside from a slightly quieter tone.

Also, I got some feedback from Em, and part of it was about how she liked that Annie called Toby ‘Mr. Ziegler’. My reasoning for this was twofold: she doesn't know him well enough to call him Toby, and she's also a tiny bit in awe of his skill as a writer. There was actually a whole part that I cut where, after she comes in to help with the kids, Toby goes back to his speech, and Annie sits down with some homework, and she eventually-somewhat shyly-asks Toby if he'd mind looking over an essay she's written. And they trade papers for a few minutes, until Liz comes in and snarks at Annie for "bothering Mr. Ziegler." I just hated Liz too much in that moment, so the thread got snipped.


Annie Bartlet stands just inside the doorway of the room, a backpack slung over one shoulder. She hesitates, one hand fidgeting with a strap on her backpack. Her hair is pulled back into a braid, and it's wet; Toby vaguely remembers Jed mentioning a swim meet that Annie's competing in next week. Jed was angry he wouldn't be able to go, and he'd yelled at Toby when he'd asked about the upcoming Thanksgiving radio address.

The Thanksgiving radio address is just to give this story a time frame, so that (if you care about these things) you know that the twins are about 7 months old. Jed snapping at Toby because he’s upset about other stuff is just a bonus.

Toby nods slightly. "Hello, Annie. Thank you, I could use the help."

Annie smiles and straightens her arm; the backpack drops off her shoulder, landing on the nearest chair with a dull thump. Toby watches, not without some amazement, as Annie leans into the crib and lifts Molly out with ease. She cradles the baby in one arm, and uses the other to rub her back in little circles. Molly's cries taper off almost immediately.

"Hi, Molly," she says. "What's going on?"

Annie doesn’t talk down to the babies, either. I’m not sure if this is because she was standing in the doorway listening to Toby for a minute before she spoke up, or if that’s just how she is, but I like it.

Also, my biggest challenge with Annie was to balance out the fact that she’s very much a Bartlet child: she’s intelligent, well-spoken, and is usually pretty straightforward, but at the same time, she’s still just a girl.


Molly looks up at Annie curiously, seeming to focus on the thin silver barbell through her left eyebrow, and Toby can't help but chuckle. Molly likes shiny things. *g*

Annie turns to him, a questioning look on her face. "Something I said?"

"No, ah, I think she's looking at your, ah..." Toby scratches his eyebrow, and leans down to lift Huck out of the crib. Huck has stopped crying entirely, and fixes his gaze on Toby. Toby scratching his face actually had a purpose here: Toby’s a little out of the loop on body modification these days, so he’s not actually sure of the proper term for Annie’s piercing, but he doesn’t want to say the wrong thing. Instead, he goes for the non-verbal shortcut.

Annie sits down at the table, carefully holding Molly. She's perched on the edge of the table, and Annie has her hands around her, bracing Molly so she can't fall. Molly immediately begins to grab for one of Toby's rubber balls sitting nearby, and emits a triumphant cry when she manages to grasp it between both her hands. That’s an adorable little image, no? (Forget about the fact that Molly’s still too little to have that much fine motor skills, please. I did do actual research on what the kids would be able to do at this age, but, well, some of it got tossed out in favour of The Cute.) "Yeah, I've noticed that people do that a lot around me, now. I don't think anyone's particularly thrilled about it. Well, except a couple of my agents; they keep thinking of ways to fit one of my barbells with a tracking device." Hee. I can picture them trying to do that. After what happened with Zoey, I have no trouble believing that Jed was all, "I want everybody Lo-Jacked," but he’d want to have it done in such a way that it wouldn’t interfere with the daily routine.

"Your parents must have not have been pleased." Toby says.

Annie shrugs. "Dad went with me and signed the consent form. He figures that I'm old enough to do what I want to myself, and that if I don't like it, I can take it out, and it'll heal up fine. Which it will."

"That makes sense. It's less permanent than a tattoo, at least," Toby nods. "And your mom?"

Annie slouches in her chair, her face level with Molly's, and makes a funny face; Toby can see that Annie rolled her eyes. Molly laughs and pats Annie on the cheek with splayed fingers. "My mother still tries to get me to slap a bandage over it when we're in public. She thinks it's "unnatural". The last time she tried giving me that line, I told her if that was the case, she'd have to cover up her nose when we went out, 'cause it certainly wasn't natural." I have nothing against Liz Bartlet, and I love Annabeth Gish, I think she’s gorgeous, but I needed something to remind us that Annie still just is a 15-year-old girl who fights with her mom about normal stuff. Hence, Liz’s nose job.

Annie looks up then, embarrassed; she misses the surprised but amused look on Toby's face. "Don't tell anyone I said that, okay? Mom will absolutely freak if anyone knows about that."

"I didn't hear a thing," Toby says, holding up his pen solemnly. Huck reaches for it, and Toby places it on the far side of the table.

"Thank you," Annie says quietly. She starts to say something else, but Molly cuts her off when she begins to whimper and squirm. Annie picks her up, and grimaces a split second later. "She's soaked. Where's the diaper bag, Mr. Ziegler?"

Huck has worked his fingers into Toby's mouth, so it takes him a moment to respond. "It's over by the-Huck, you have to let me speak, son-it's next to the crib. Here, I'll take her." Huck likes when his daddy talks, so it's only natural that he try to figure out where the talking comes from. *g*

Annie motions for Toby to stay seated, and kneels next to the bag. "It's okay, I don't mind."

"Really?"

Annie sets a clean diaper and a package of wipes on the carpet beside the crib. She pulls a small blanket from a side pocket of the bag and gets it spread out, laying Molly down on it carefully.

"Yeah. You and Congresswoman Wyatt are the only, um," Annie pauses, realizing that she's about to say the wrong thing, "What I mean is, Molly and Huck are really the only kids I'm allowed to babysit. Everyone else, my agents take three weeks vetting and running security drills on their houses." I really like this idea of Annie babysitting for Toby and Andy. Also, she was totally about to call them a couple, because that's how she sees them, divorce be damned.

Toby looks confused. "You've watched the kids before?"

"Only a few times. The last time was when you and Andrea, "Annie breaks off and glances up at Toby as she zips up Molly's sleeper, "Um, Congresswoman Wyatt told me I could call her by her first name."

Toby nods, mostly to himself. That sounds just like Andy, not wanting people to use her title unless they have to. "Of course. The last time you watched the kids?"

"Right. It was a couple weeks ago, when you both went to, I don't know, whatever thing it was that my Grampa asked you to be at." I almost had Annie say it was a 'meeting' that they went to, but I decided that I like her better when she says 'thing'. It's like...she spends just enough time around these guys to pick up on the language. (Thanks to watching The West Wing, I, too, have taken to saying "thing" as shorthand for just about everything, whether it’s a drawer, a truck, or a party dress.)

It takes Toby a moment to realize that Annie means Jed. "Oh, that. That was about Christmas; apparently, he wants several of us to serve dinner at some shelters in D.C." My mom signed herself, Sis and I up to serve Christmas dinner at the nearest Salvation Army shelter when I was 14. It was really kind of awkward, because I didn’t know how to deal with the gratitude I got when all I was doing was scooping out mashed potatoes and making sure there were enough paper napkins. More sobering was when the half dozen girls my age-and younger-came in, and at first, I couldn’t figure how why they needed a free meal, because they were wearing $200 jackets and brand-new everything. At that point, I thought that only grown-ups were sex trade workers.

Annie nods slowly, thinking, as she picks up Molly and sits crosslegged on the floor. Toby can tell she wants to say something, but can't. He rubs Huck's back as he waits.

"My Grampa...he told me what you did for that Marine a few years ago." Annie doesn't look up as she speaks. In an unknowingly sweet gesture, Molly pats at Annie's knee. "I wish I could have been there." For this story, I had to work in the prompts of In Excelsis Deo, balloons, and some Sarah Maclachlan lyrics. Because I had Toby, I knew that I could at least have one line about it, and it would fulfill the prompt requirement. Because I had Annie, and because I assume that she (being the first grandchild, same as I am) would pretty much be her Grampa’s pride and joy, I figured that she’d like to sit and listen to all his stories. As I was writing this story, I re-watched the pilot ep once more; the way Jed spoke about Annie (who was 12 at the time, remember), I got the impression that she's very level-headed, and serious without being stuffy. I wanted to give the impression that she's just about the only family member who will willingly sit and listen to Jed's stories, especially stories about men like Walter Hufnagle.

Also, if anyone's wondering, I myself spell it 'Gramma' and 'Grampa'; I have spelled it this way since I was very small, and will continue to do so probably until the day I die. (A lot of my character stuff-in most of my stories, not just this one-comes directly from my own life, if you haven't noticed yet.)


Toby shifts in his chair. He didn't think President Bartlet would have said anything about that. He realizes, though, that Jed might have told his granddaughter. Toby isn't quite sure how to respond, so he doesn't try.

"Was it sad?" Annie asks as she put the wipes back into the diaper bag. She doesn't look at him while she does so. I wrestled with Annie’s line here for probably a good four hours, because I didn’t want it to sound trite. Thanks to a Yahoo messenger session with Em, I realized that in this case, it’s the exactly right thing to say. It’s direct, to the point, and not overly sappy. Which is what I was trying for in the first place.

Toby thinks for a moment, watching Huck pick at the buttons of his pajama top. They're shaped like tiny balloons, each one a different colour, and they fascinate him. Huck then reaches out to touch one of the buttons on Toby's own shirt. And here’s the balloons, which ended up being buttons after I read that, around this age, the kids would be attracted to bright colours. Plus, I like Huck’s curious, studious nature even now; my original note at this point in the story says, "Green one...*poke*...yellow one...*poke*...red one...*poke*...blue one...*poke*...orange one...*poke*...round, white button on Toby's shirt...*poke*" It’s a terribly cute image to me, and I went with it, what can I say?

"Yes," he says finally. It's the least complicated answer.

As Annie picks Molly up and gets to her feet, Molly points in the direction of the doorway behind Toby, and cries out happily. Annie follows her gaze and grins.

"Hey, baby girl," a voice says. "Are you having fun?"

Toby turns, still holding Huck. Andrea stands in the doorway, removing a dark blue scarf from around her neck. "Andy, I thought you left to hours ago. Why aren't you in D.C.?"

SCARF. This scarf, by the way, is specifically dark blue for a very good reason: I’m madly in love with Bird York’s gorgeous red hair, and I wanted a colour that would contrast it in an equally gorgeous way. Plus, I like blue. *shrug*

Andy crosses the room in long strides. She hasn't removed her coat, and it billows out slightly behind her. "It turns out that D.C. is snowed in, and half of the Beltway is in the middle of a blackout. They canceled our meeting, and I didn't find out until we landed at Andrews."

"Oh." As she nears him, Toby can see the wet patches in her hair where snowflakes have melted. She hates wearing a hat, and as a result, the tips of her ears are pink from the cold.

"So," Andy says while taking Huck out of Toby's arms, "I flew back here. No sense staying alone in the dark eating runny ice cream when you guys are all here where it's warm and the fridge is full."

"Oh, and speaking of food, I saw Mrs. Bartlet as I was coming in, and she told me that dinner's going to be ready in about 15 minutes. I fed the kids right before I left, so they should be okay until we finish dinner. Let's put them down, see if they'll go for another nap." Andy says while already laying Huck on his back in the crib. She turns to Annie, holding her hands out. "Here, I'll take her. Do you still have that cd I lent you? The kids can listen to it as they fall asleep."

Annie nods and goes to her backpack. She rifles through it for a moment, then triumphantly hold up a slim cd case. "Got it."

"You took it to school with you, Annie?" Andy raises an eyebrow, but she's smiling.

Annie just shrugs and turns on the cd player, keeping the volume low. "I like it. It helps me concentrate when I'm doing homework and stuff."

Toby shakes his head slightly. He has no idea what the women are talking about. "I'm sorry, Andrea, but what exactly are you talking about? I don't exactly see what the big deal is over a cd."

Andy only smiles at him a little as she turns to leave the room. "I'm going to go wash up before dinner. Coming, Annie?"

"Yup." Annie picks up her backpack, slings it over her left shoulder, and follows Andy out into the hallway.

Toby stands near the center of the room, watching his children drift off to sleep, transfixed by the sound of piano keys and his ex-wife's voice emanating from the stereo speakers.

Yeah, yeah, I know that could be seen as a silly in-joke, using Bird York’s Have No Fear. But ever since I saw Commencement and 25 (which is, incidentally, around the same time bought Bird’s first album, The Velvet Hour), I’ve had this image in my head of Andy sitting the nursery rocking chair with the kids in her arms, singing quietly to them. And Toby’s leaning in the doorway, completely transfixed by it, falling in love with Andy all over again* but he’s unable to say something, because that would break the spell of the moment. ♥

*I know this goes way off the point of a Toby and Annie fic, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Andy and Toby tried and failed and tried again to have babies, five years after they got divorced. Anyone who says they don’t still love each other is insane, period, full stop.



~end
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