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27 January 2008 @ 12:23 am
A little Angst goes a long way  
I'm still debating how I feel about this story.  I feel like maybe I didnt touch on something, or something like that.  But this is it and when its done, its done.   All feedback is so appreciated. 

Title: Moments of Silence
Author: Montiese
Category: Angst/Drama/Family/Children
Characters: Toby, Ellie, Annie, Huck, Molly, Tori
Pairing: Toby/Ellie
Rating: TEEN
Summary: It was the first time Toby fell asleep alone since he and Ellie were
Author's Note: This is #12 in the Splendor series.

Seeing her whole family walking through the door as she came out of the kitchen surprised Ellie. Toby took the kids to the Brighton Beach Fair for its last day that Sunday. Huck, Molly, little Ellie (who preferred Tori now because that was what her friends in kindergarten called her), and Annie Westin. Annie made the move to New York so she could attend NYU and work towards her Masters in Literature. Ellie offered her the third floor of the brownstone, with its three rooms and bathroom. She could live comfortably up there.
It would be at least a year before Reva could leave San Francisco and join her, if their long distance relationship could handle the strain. Annie was grateful and though Toby refused it about 10 times, she finally slipped a check to her Aunt. Annie could earn her own way in the world. She also knew it could not be cheap to heat and light that big, drafty house. Ellie deposited the money into the couple’s joint expenses account and if Toby noticed its presence, he remained silent.
“Apparently my hand-eye coordination is not completely shot to hell.” He said. “Look what I won for Tori.”
Ellie looked at the large, stuffed dinosaur and all of their faces. They were flushed with joy and she just burst into tears. She brushed by Annie, standing to the right of her husband, and rushed up the stairs. OK, that was anything but normal. Toby passed off the toys to Annie.
“Is mommy OK?” Tori asked.
“I'm going to go right upstairs and see. Annie…”
“How about lunch guys?” Annie jumped right into rescue mode. “We’ll make grilled cheese if you aren’t stuffed from so much cotton candy and funnel cake. C’mon.”
The kids followed her into the kitchen, though Huck turned back to look at his father. Like a mirror’s reflection, Toby saw the concern etched across his ten-year-old face. He went up the stairs and into his bedroom. Ellie busied herself folding laundry. She was still crying; did not seem in any danger of stopping. For a while, he just watched her because he did not know what to say.
“I do not want to talk.”
“I completely respect that but you're crying love. What's the matter?”
“I do not want to talk right now.” she repeated.
He was sure that she had not heard what he said. Anything would have received the same answer. Silence again permeated the room. It was thick and heavy; Toby felt it choking him. He remembered moments like this with Andi. I don’t want to talk moments that stretched into hours, days, months, and eventually forever. 
A long time ago, he promised himself never to compare the two women…it was like apples and onions. Still, if what happened between he and Andi ever happened with Ellie, Toby would not recover. The larger part of him told him not to press her. That lost out to his urge to heal every wound and fill every need for her.
“Sweetheart…” he put his hands on her shoulders, stopping her mid-step with an armful of tee shirts. “Stop.”
“Please.” Her voice and hazel eyes pleaded with him. 
“I want to help if I can.”
“You can't.” she shook her head. “I need you to let go of me.”
“I can't Ellie. I…”
The sharp tone of her voice caught him off guard and she shook him off harder than she needed to. Dropping the tee shirts in a drawer, not the right drawer, Ellie went into the bathroom and closed the door. That was the end of any attempt at conversation. Toby fought the urge to punch the wall. He didn’t know why he even wanted to.
“Is she alright?” Annie whispered when he walked back into the kitchen. Then she remembered to whom she was talking. She had known Toby almost as long as her Aunt had, though in quite a different capacity. “I'm sorry; I don’t mean to be intrusive.”
“No, its fine.” Toby flagged away the comment. “I really don’t know; she was not in the mood to talk. She needs some space so I gave it to her. Thank you for handling the brood.”
The kids sat at the table eating sandwiches and chatting amongst themselves. Though Molly had decided to cut her visits down to once a month, her father noticed she was much more comfortable and pleasant with her new extended family. She even took her stepsister under her wing, encouraging her to love and embrace her new name. Tori didn’t really know what that meant but she did her best to emulate Molly’s worldliness. Yes, a ten year old could seem worldly to someone half that age. For a moment he wondered how Abbey Bartlet would take the news of little Ellie’s emergence from the cocoon as Tori.
“Do you want a sandwich?” Annie asked. “I'm going to make one for myself.”
“No, thank you. Molly, after lunch I need you to double check that everything is packed. You have to catch the 5:00 train.”
“OK dad.”
Toby wandered out of the room, confused and with a headache creeping around the base of his skull. Alone in his study he let his mind wander to what could be bothering Ellie. She was not a tearful woman. With him, she was usually fully in touch with her emotions. If one of the Bartlet family members were in peril, Annie would have gotten the message too. Everything at Hudson was fine as far as he knew…this had to be personal.
It would eat at him and Toby knew there was little he could do about it. He needed to make sure that Molly got to the train station on time. He had to give Huck and Tori dinner tonight. Maybe Annie could make dinner. Toby wanted to crawl into a hole more than anything. Why did he feel so helpless? Why did he feel as if Ellie was gone from him when she was right upstairs in the bedroom they shared?
God, Toby Ziegler hated melodrama. He especially hated it in his own life. He knew there were things about his wife that he did not know. Their present and their future were set to be quite beautiful but Ellie had a past too. She did not talk about it much, just getting comfortable in telling stories that featured Vic. 
In a twist of the irony knife Toby usually found in his back, Ellie had become the Toby in his life…someone he wanted to get to the center of but found it difficult. As much armor layered her as it did him. They were both stripping each other of it little by little but today left him wondering just what he would find under the heavy steel and barbed wire. When Annie poked her head into the room, he realized almost an hour had gone by. Shit, shit, shit! He still needed to double check that Molly packed properly.
“I hate to cramp your style Annie.” He stood from the chair. “I am running behind and dinner…”
“Go, I will take care of it. I don’t have a style anyway; not currently. Go.”
He gave her a small smile. It was all he could muster. At least the problem with Ellie was on the backburner for the time being. 
“You're a lifesaver.” He quickly kissed his new niece’s cheek and left the room.
By 9:45, Toby gave up on his quizzes and stared into space. Huck and Tori (he was still getting used to the name change) were asleep. His first class was not until ten so he would take the kids to school in the morning. He did that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They were both attending The Dalton School, Toby had to walk across live wires to get Huck in on such short notice but he still knew some important folks. His mother approved of the choice, and Huck liked it very much. His freshman class was expecting their Intro to Political Science quizzes back in the morning but they would have to wait.
Ellie only said one thing to him that evening.
“I'm going to give Tori her bath and story tonight.”
She told him at seven o’clock before disappearing back into herself. It was a big house; easy to get lost in. Toby checked Huck’s math homework and busied himself until he found himself alone in their bedroom.
He needed to grade the damn quizzes. Doing his best to focus, Toby managed to read and grade all 30 of them. Then he put the test scores into an Excel spreadsheet on his laptop. That zapped every ounce of his energy. The computer went on the nightstand and the lamp went out. It was the first time Toby fell asleep alone since he and Ellie were married. 
He curled up on his side, fighting the stomachache that threatened to reintroduce him to what little he had for dinner. The Excedrin already worked on his headache. If he were lucky, which the past fifty-seven years on Earth proved to be false, sleep would soon take him under.
“Are you asleep?”
Toby didn’t know how long he had been lying in the dark when her arms slid around him. He was finally able to exhale, slowly feeling every nerve go from harried to relaxed. Instinctually, his hands slid over hers, feeling the cool of her engagement ring and wedding band. It was comforting.
“I was too worried about you to sleep.” He murmured.
“I'm sorry.”
Toby heard the tears in her voice. He turned around and looked at her. For just a moment, he took her face into his hands. Ellie closed her eyes and the tears slid down her cheeks.
“Talk to me sweetheart. I don’t care what it is, I'm here and I'm listening.”
“I love you.” Ellie whispered.
“I love you too.”
“I talked to my doctor this afternoon.”
Toby’s mouth went dry. He tried to catch his breath but something, fear, blocked his windpipe. Oh God, something was wrong. His grip on her tightened; he decided only God himself would tear her from his embrace.
“What’s…?” he could not get the words out.
“I don’t know if you know this but we have never used birth control.”
“Oh. OK.”
“Toby, I want to have a baby.”
“I know.” He nodded.
“Well today my doctor told me that that’s not going to happen.”
“Oh Ellie.” He hugged her close and she let out her tears. “Sweetheart, I know that hurts.”
“It really, really hurts. I just…I'm so sorry.”
“You have nothing to apologize to me for. I will love you no matter what. What did the doctor tell you? Is there any wiggle room?”
“No.” she shook her head.
She pulled away some but Toby was not letting her go too far. Ellie ran her hands over her face, wiping away the tears.
“I had a miscarriage three years ago. It was hard for Vic and I because I was five and a half months pregnant at the time. There was scarring on my uterus but it was a wait and see type situation. I went to my GYN, who referred to a fertility expert.  Dr. McFadden does not think I would be able to carry a baby to full term. Even if I could, she thinks it is a bad idea to attempt. The strain could be detrimental to me and to the baby. One phone call was all it took to dash our hopes.”
“Our hopes are not dashed.”
“Give me just a moment to speak.” He put his finger on her lips. “I know the news is not good. You want to have a baby and the doctor told you that it would be an unhealthy thing to do. So we move on to Plan B. First, I need to say that nothing would ever make me risk your health. We have three beautiful children and each of them is a blessing.”
Ellie nodded, though her heart was not in it. She loved Huck and Molly, and of course, she loved her own child. They didn’t belong to her and Toby together. She knew it was all so silly, and Ellie did not intend to risk her life. Still she could not help but feel like a failure. Ellie Bartlet excelled at everything she put her mind to. There was no chance she would be successful at this.
“You better get some sleep.” She said. “I'm not going to go in tomorrow; I'm just going to take a little time. But you have to get up early.”
“Sleep is the last thing on my mind. I don’t care about sleep, Ellie.”
“Well, it needs to be priority number one. I'm going to be fine…could probably use a good night’s sleep myself. C’mon Toby, I am putting my wifely foot down. I get five passes a year on that remember?”
He was exhausted and she was right about his having to work in the morning. Something about getting that kind of news and just sleeping it off did not seem right. He was still reeling from the revelation. Just admitting it to himself, Toby expected Ellie to give him that knowing smile that women do and announce her pregnancy almost everyday.
“We will talk some more tomorrow, I promise. After class, you can meet me for lunch. How does that sound?”
“Good.” Ellie nodded.
Toby held her and Ellie stroked his chest. Neither one of them slept very much but didn’t talk either. It would be alright; just being in each other’s arms brought a calm neither felt since Toby walked in from the fair. He did not know what would happen tomorrow but his workload would take a backseat to whatever it was.
Toby walked into the Cosi in Morningside Heights. His wife sat at a corner table. She did not pay attention to the sandwich in front of her. Ellie was looking out of the window as if she were waiting for someone.
“Hey there.” He stood over the table.
“Hi,” she smiled, standing and softly kissing his lips. “I was looking for you outside.”
“Sorry I'm late.” He sat across from her and peeled off his raincoat. “Sometimes Mondays can be insane.”
“Well I ordered you a salad.”
“Ah.” Toby eyed it suspiciously. “Thanks.”
Ellie smiled, then laughed.
“Its good for you honey; try to eat some of it. There is grilled chicken, lettuce, cucumbers, and broccoli. That’s lo-cal honey mustard dressing on the side.”
“So I have to eat a salad and then can't even enjoy full-cal dressing?”
He poured the dressing over it and took a bite. It was better than tofu though that was not giving it a ringing endorsement. Everyone who knew him knew that Toby Ziegler was not a salad person. Most of the time he hated it. But his wife was having a bit of a fragile moment so he would eat and shut the hell up.
“I acted foolishly yesterday.” She said.
“When? I don’t know what you mean. You received upsetting news and I think you acted accordingly. If you are worried about my thinking you are foolish then you need not.”
“That sounded like something my father would say. How come I never noticed how alike you two sound?”
“Hey, hey, no insulting your loving husband.”
They both smiled at each other. Ellie’s face once again turned serious. She picked at her sandwich, it looked like turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomatoes on a wheat pita.
“I guess I just feel silly because at one time in my life I never even thought about being a mother. I love my child so much and I wanted to experience that magical feeling again, with you Toby.”
“I know.” He nodded.
“I talked with my mother this morning. We had a long conversation and I feel much better. This may sound crazy but I have always been an overachiever. I've never failed.”
“The viola would disagree I think.” Toby replied.
After a gap of silence, Ellie began to laugh. That made Toby smile. She caressed his hand on top of the table while he ate more salad. Toby would be sure to grab a big pretzel with sweet mustard when he returned to campus.
“Oh my God, the damn viola.” She giggled a little, rolling her eyes. “Let’s not ever return to that experience.”
“Yes ma'am. Ellie, we can adopt a baby. I mean, if you want to. I don’t want to make it seem as if it is unimportant to me, because it is very important. The decision is yours though.”
“My mother suggested the same thing. She said the both of us have so much to offer one of the many needy children in this world. I was worried that your past…I'm sorry honey.”
“You do that a lot, apologize for things you shouldn’t.”
“You told me that it made you love me once.” She said. “Not that that is why I do it.”
“No, it cemented my love for you. But you never have to do it; not with me. I'm still trying to figure out why you do.”
Ellie shrugged though he was sure she knew why. It did not worry Toby that he did not know yet…there was time to find out.
“I don’t have a criminal record.” He continued, drinking some of the sweetened iced tea in front of him. “I was pardoned, so it will not affect our attempt to adopt. We don’t have to talk about any of this today. You need to think about it carefully.”
Her appetite returned some; Ellie managed to eat half of her sandwich. That made Toby feel better. She looked depleted and he knew she hadn't eaten anything yesterday. He did not want her losing any more weight. Ellie was one of those women who could drop weight quickly.
“OK, I just have to wrap my mind around everything and then…” she stopped.
“Yeah. I'm here and you can talk to me or you can just hold onto me.”
Ellie took a deep breath, sipping her water. She wanted to say more but was not able to put the words together. That upset her.
“Annie said she would pick up Huck and Tori from school. I will make dinner tonight. Let’s just be with our kids tonight.”
“That sounds good to me. so, you and your mom had a good talk?”
Abigail Bartlet was her usual caring but straightforward self. She accepted her daughter’s tears and then told her that the world was not ending. There were many ways to have families; it was the 21st century after all. Also, even if it were possible to carry a baby to full term, it might not be in Ellie’s best interest. She was 37 years old and though some women chose to have babies later in life, there was a fair amount of risk to both mother and child.
“Everything happens for a reason Ellie.” Abbey said. “Even the bad things we want to sweep under the rug are lessons for us. You have three children in your life and a man who makes you happier than you thought it was possible to be. I implore you not to let this setback damage that. Even if adoption is not in your future, so many wonderful things are ahead. I'm sure of it.”
“Me too mom.”
The Zieglers were not talking too much right now. They just held hands, exchanging energy over the small table. Toby did not want to go back to Columbia University, he wanted to go home and curl in bed with his wife. He wanted to shut out the world for just a few hours and remind her of how absolutely perfect she was to him. Wrap them both in the slightly ratty comforter Toby owned since Bartlet was President, and hold on tight until all of their nerves melded into one.
“There has to be something I can do to make you feel better.” Toby said. “I feel as if I should be doing something.”
“You are. I am going to be alright. My father says that I bounce back.” she shook her head. “I have you and the kids. Even thinking that I need something more is selfish.”
“Selfishness is a natural human emotion. We all suffer from it at one time or another.” Toby lifted her hand to his lips. “I could beg off work…we could spend some time together. We can do whatever you want.”
“No, you need to be focused. I have to get ready to go back tomorrow. But…”
“What are you thinking about, Dr. Bartlet-Ziegler?”
“I'm thinking of a candlelight dinner on Thursday night. At a beautiful restaurant sitting at a private table. My very handsome husband dressed in a dapper suit engaging me in quiet but fascinating conversation. We’ll sit close, sip wine while you stroke my hair.”
“A date, like the good old days.” Toby smiled. “I like this idea.”
“Then we can go home and you can hold me in your arms. I can caress your back while you kiss my lips. We can just be husband and wife.”
“Did you really think I would be able to focus on work after that?”
Ellie laughed.
“I love you so much Toby.”
“I'm glad, because I love you too. That is why I am going to make you happy.”
“You do make me happy. Yesterday I was upside down…I'm going to turn myself right again.”
Toby leaned across the table and they kissed. The erstwhile Communications Director was not a fan of public displays of affection but he did not give a damn who saw them. It was still possible to end up in the tabloids. He was never going to let that stop him from showing Ellie attention. It was something that came with the territory these days.
“I have to get back.” he stroked her cheek. “I will see you later tonight.”
“OK.” she nodded. “Don’t work too late.”
“I will be home for dinner.”
He kissed her once more before standing and getting into his raincoat. It had been raining steadily since before sunrise; Toby listened to it outside of the window instead of sleeping. This weather was typical of late September in New York. Ellie waved as he walked out and then went back for a few minutes into the caverns of her mind. If they decided to expand their family, adoption was a good idea. She would spend some time reading about it over the next few weeks. She also needed to speak with her GYN about preventing pregnancy so that she and Toby would not have to come face to face with a heartbreaking scenario.
Ellie also planned to call up Dana Weisman’s office and see if she could squeeze her in sometime next week for a little conversation. She felt a twinge of guilt that her husband had no earthly idea that she had a psychiatrist. Ellie probably needed to add that to the list of things to bring up. It had actually been Vic’s idea. Ellie was surprised she did not take offense to the suggestion. Her late husband had a way of always making rational things sound rational.
She saw the shrink regularly for two years before Vic died, on and off after that. Maybe it was time to go back. Over two and a half years ago when Vic died, Ellie Bartlet’s life was rather ordinary. Now she was remarried and the mother of three. She moved from Tribeca to Brooklyn, began to forge a deeper relationship with her family, and enjoyed an invigorated and playful sex life. Her husband was someone she shared pieces of a past with but who still provided mystery and discovery for her. Ellie was sure Toby felt the same way.
Ellie slid into her jacket. Her small purse went on her arm after grabbing her cell phone from inside. Out in the rainy but still warm autumn afternoon, the doctor made a phone call. She left a voicemail. ‘Dana, hello, its Eleanor Bartlet. I know it has been a long time but so much has happened. It will take three visits for us just to catch up. Could you please give me a call; I was hoping to pencil in some time in the evening next week. Thank you so much. Bye.’
On the corner, she hailed a cab to Brooklyn. The kids would probably be there when she returned. They would help with dinner and Ellie would push her issues aside as she listened to stories of their day. Her mother was right…her mother was usually right. There were so many wonderful things ahead of her.
I Feel....: exhaustedexhausted
I Hear....: The hum of the computer
Claire: TWW - Toby Smilingjustdreaming88 on January 27th, 2008 07:49 am (UTC)
I like that they're still learning things about each other but poor Ellie.
SSA McGeek: created by Aaron Sorkinmcgarrygirl78 on January 27th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
I just felt like a baby was not in their future and that was the reason why. I dont know if they will adopt...I see two older kids in their crystal ball but I still dont know.

Edited at 2008-01-27 03:14 pm (UTC)
some bitch who will pop a cap in your ass: ww abbey and her girlsera_raydor on February 2nd, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
OMG!!! You don't know me, but I absolutely love this. I guess you could say I have a love affair with Annie Bartlet-Westin. Always have ever since the first show. Love how you portrayed her in this.

Would absolutely love to see more of it.
SSA McGeek: Take a Walk with Memcgarrygirl78 on February 2nd, 2008 04:17 am (UTC)
Funny, I am starting to fall in love with Annie Westin too. She doesnt figure as heavily in the next story and I dont know what her future in this series is but I would like to explore it. Thank you so much for the feedback.