The West Wing, Andrea Wyatt, take me to a dark room / and hug me to bits
Safe, Andy/Toby, G
The hospital requires brave, but weak, smiles; the plane demands Valium and two glasses of wine.
She ends up taking a cab from the airport because some idiot had sent an SUV, and said idiot will no longer be a Congressional staffer when Monday comes. Andy doesn't relish being doling out punishment, but she left her patience in the blood-stained sands of Palestine.
Every bump in the road causes a hitch in her breathing, and the skin over her knuckles tightens and whitens until she thinks it might tear. But the tension and the pain help her focus, so she can worry about the stiffness in her neck instead of the friends she'll never see again. It helps that it hurts; she deserves to suffer a while longer.
The twins are awake, oblivious in their smiles of welcome and contented nonsense words of love. How could she ever have risked not feeling this again? What was she hoping to achieve under Israel's baking sun that could have compared to the way her heart skips a beat at the grapsing warmth of Molly's hand, or the unruly curls on Huck's head?
Andy's mother doesn't yell or remonstrate, but there's the accusation in her eyes that headstrong little Andrea should worry them all again. It doesn't matter that Andy is six feet tall instead of six years old, her mother looks at her in exactly the same way as she always has.
Their hug is stiff and formal, and really a handshake would have been more fitting. They make it through the requisite small talk, and her mother manages not to run when she finally breaks for the door. It's something, but more likely, it's nothing.
The kids have fallen asleep, comforted by their mother's presence. They've passed out where they landed after all the excitement, limbs splayed at ridiculous angles in their adjacent cots.
The big-kid beds are coming, sooner than Andy would like, and soon they'll realize that boys and girls don't always like each other, and separate bedrooms will become fortresses. She wants to preserve their closeness, to be able to show it to them when they'll need it most. As with so many things, she wants to give them everything she didn't have.
She doesn't linger, because exhaustion is too persuasive. The day has been long, the week impossibly so, and the thought of soft pillows and oblivion is more beautiful than she can contemplate.
Not that she's surprised to find him sitting on her bed in the dark.
Andy doesn't even sigh as she walks past him, flicking the lamp on and exposing them both as much as they can bear in that moment. He looks younger in the soft light, but he's still Toby in his shirt and tie, with lines on his face that he's been frowning for too many years.
No accusation in his eyes, only relief. He reaches for her, taking both of her hands in his, the roughness of his skin grounding her once more.
He's real, and he loves her although it's the one subject he can never find words for. When he pulls her down to the mattress with him, when his arms pull her close, the dam finally breaks.
For the first time in too long, perhaps since the night the twins were conceived, she feels safe. Toby with his sadness, willing to absorb hers, to make it easier for her to carry on when her heart is breaking. They've taken so much from each other over these difficult, impossible years, but she'll never be able to thank him for giving her this.
Safe, Andy/Toby, G (for Awesome Women Ficathon)