Title: Sensory Experience
Disclaimer: West Wing and it's charcters etc are not mine but remain the exclusive property of Aaron Sorkin et al
Summary: The right person can inspire all the senses.
Notes: Set somewhere after 100KA. My first slash and feedback to email@example.com is much appreciated
Sensory Experience by BlackEyedGirl
It didn't take much in the end.
Just coming into your office to see him huddled in the corner of your sofa with those blue eyes wide with fear.
He says something, trying to explain why he's there, and perhaps you say something back. But you could swear to nothing, not while all your attention is focused on watching him. You've always sworn that words are the most important thing to you. Words change the world and you'll never change your mind on that. But right now, with cheeks flushed and his eyes so intent on persuading you, right now the only thing that matters is that look on his face.
He elaborates, in a rush, how he doesn't know why he's here. How he's being ignored and how his speeches have lost substance. How he can't stay this way anymore. And still the words come at you through a fog as you watch his hands move frantically through the reasoning.
Suddenly the most important thing is stopping the panicked movements and the terror flooding his eyes. The fear and loss of meaning that have caused this tension in his posture and the expression that pleads for reassurance.
You try to think of the words but this time the phrases you reach for so desperately elude you. So you sit beside him and wait until his lips stop moving. Catching his eyes you look at him, hoping that somehow this will be enough.
He stares back, question and answer, and slowly moves towards you, refusing to break eye contact.
And it is more than enough.
Toby's not a tactile person.
You've known that since you started working for him and he watched you and Josh's fierce embrace with a mixture of amusement and surprise.
That was part of you; never shy of showing your affection to others. Josh was that way too, and you hadn't found it strange. But you accepted that Toby wasn't like that and gradually stopped expecting these reactions from him to your joint successes. Toby was a words man, and these weren't spent lightly.
Even now, since that night in his office when things had become clear, since you had slowly developed a relationship, since you had announced this to your colleagues and to the world, you still didn't assume that things would all change. But you had counted against the power of Toby's frustration at one Joshua Lyman.
"Just finish it, okay?'
"I'm going home Josh.'
"Two hours, max.'
"I'm going home.'
"Two hours Toby. I've brought you coffee and pie. Just forget we're in the Oval and pretend you're at home.' Josh refrains from further persuasion at the wicked smile that twitches under Toby's beard.
"Pretend I'm at home? In other words ignore the fact that due to your mind-boggling, unthinking, you know, frankly astonishing incompetence, I'm still in the office at 11.50 pm despite planning an early night?
"Yes?' and again you watch Josh's anxiety at Toby's smile with a grin. CJ, Leo and even the President look as unnerved as Josh.
"Fine. Sam, sit.' You obey with a mild glare. He hands you the laptop and sits beside you. A few minutes into the collaborative writing attempt he looks at you in mock innocence.
"Tense?' Looking up, confused, you nod. Realisation dawns when he places hands on your shoulders and begins to rub gently. Moaning quietly you lean into his touch, continuing to type.
"Toby?' This was President Bartlet, in an attempt at vague curiosity.
"Yes sir?' Toby's better at the innocence game and Leo decides to intervene.
"Can you two at least try to keep your hands off each other in the office?' You resolve that this is the right time to join in:
"We're not in the office.' Leo snorts but you continue. "Josh specifically asked Toby to pretend he was at home.'
CJ smirks at Josh and nods. This prompts a glare from Leo and then a sigh.
"Point taken Toby. And for the last time we're all sorry for ruining your night. Now can we get back to the speech?' He nods and makes to move his hands. You grab them and return them to your shoulders.
"If I'm staying here, those are staying there.'
And now it's moved from joking to serious but you're not quite ready to lose this yet. For a moment he pauses, conflicted, and decides to risk it. His fingers trace circles down your neck while you type and settle on your shoulders again without the previous air of self-consciousness.
Somewhere beyond the lazy calm you register that this is progress.
On a campaign you get used to working in different places every day. So the Communications Department, you and Sam especially, are easily uprooted. Nevertheless, you miss your office on these trips. The desk faces the wrong direction and you hate being surprised. Sam keeps trying though.
"Sam.' He aims an almost-pout at you.
"You heard me.'
"No.' you answer easily.
"Reflection in the window?'
"Curtains Sam.' He smiles with a quick blush.
"Cologne.' He shoots you a slightly worried glance.
"You were right behind me. Don't act so paranoid, it's not obvious.'
But that's not quite true. You mean that it's not obvious to anyone but you. And you can't tell him that it's not just the cologne that you smelt. You can describe in perfect detail the things you smell on him as you spin on the chair and pull him in. Underlying everything is soap and that smell of faintly childish cleanliness that's a part of him and his perpetual neatness. Over that is the cologne and the coffee that you watched him practically inhale on Air Force One that evening. And then printers and paper and ink that you suspect the entire office bullpen would smell of if only you weren't too desensitised to notice. The last things you notice confuse you for a moment. There is a hint of something else hanging over him. A slight taste of smoke and alcohol that you know shouldn't be there. It prompts a half-smile when you realise that this is you, cigars and whiskey from a drink together after the flight.
He's marked as yours.
Irritated by your inattention he moves backwards and you pull him towards you again desperately.
You're a marked man too.
Fights with him never ended well for you.
Most of the time Toby won by sheer force of personality. You're too reasonable, too eager to avoid just this problem. And now, once again, an innocuous comment has blown up to full-scale conflict. It started with him hearing someone, probably someone who knew neither of you, questioning how he "got you'. Of course he can't leave this alone. It ends in him exclaiming that you're just "too damn pretty'. You look at him in offence at this; he knows that you hate being talked about that way. And he uses it against you at the first sign that one person in the entire building thinks he's too old, or too mean or has a problem with him being your boss. But now you think that at least you know how he really thinks of you: some immature kid.
You won't storm out or slam the door; you're not encouraging him in this argument. It takes all of your composure to walk calmly out into the bullpen and close the door carefully.
Toby can't manage this. The door is flung open, to the surprise of staffers still in the office this late.
"Sam.' you wonder if anyone else can pick up the undertone in his simple saying of your name. Looking at his expression and hearing his voice the meaning to you is blatant:
"Listen. I didn't mean…you know….'
I'm sorry. Forgive me?
"You need to understand…'
They said it and I wondered if maybe it was true. Because I don't deserve you.
"It doesn't matter' you answer.
Of course I forgive you. I know what you thought. Because I think the same thing.
"It was just that right then….' you continue.
I heard you and thought maybe it was true. I haven't been in this thing as long as you. I still make stupid mistakes and maybe you were sick of it.
I know. But never.
He's finally noticed the people watching him. Walking back to his office, he turns round to look at you.
You walk in after him.
Closing the door he kisses you and it's passion and apology and a plea for forgiveness all with one brush of your lips.
I love you.
Love you too.
He's sitting at one of the tables nursing a glass of something and you're momentarily confused because that's your role. It's two months after you came out to the press and this is the first state dinner since. The reporters that you can, mostly, trust are standing around the walls trying to look unobtrusive. You walk towards him.
"Hmmm?' He's watching the dancing.
"Why don't you ask CJ or Donna?' You hear him sigh.
"I don't want to hear tomorrow about how sad it is that I have to rely on my friends' pity to enjoy the night.'
"They don't think that.'
"CJ and Donna don't. That's still how they'd spin it.' The despondency and resignation in his voice pierces you. Uncertainly you place a hand on his shoulder.
"Dance with me then.' The apprehension in your voice is obvious even to you. For a moment he looks at you in confusion and you turn away. At the sound of a chair being pushed back you look round.
"They're watching us.' You hear the unease and try to make him smile.
"Then lets give them something to look at.' As you lead him onto the dance floor he laughs softly. You notice the sound of camera flashes and hear CJ from across the room:
"Oh for the love of God.' But the concern is tinged with amusement and fondness.
For a while all you take in is the barely audible hitch in his breathing as you hold him against you. Suddenly he smiles and lets out what you would call a giggle if the both of you weren't grown men.
"Why Mr. Ziegler you dance divinely.'
And the sound of his laughter against your shoulder is the sweetest thing you've ever heard.Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page