NOTES: Luna made me. But it really was a pleasure. Thanks to Jess, too, because ... yes. And Shana in general.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine.
FEEDBACK: As "Ben" said, "I love it, baby!"

NUMBER THE DAYS

This guy once said to her, "Holidays are just anniversaries everyone celebrates." It was in Hollywood and he was an idiot. She hates herself for remembering it. She marks days in her head, anniversaries of a sort and most aren't something to celebrate. A pack of cigarettes with the lighter tucked inside, untouched since May 10, three years ago. Pills prescribed for migraines, not opened since July 6, five years ago. That one surprises her. A phone number on a business card with MD after the name, tucked inside her old planner and she hasn't called that number since October 17, six years ago.

When she gets home she's too tired to lower the blinds so she walks back to the kitchen, stands behind the counter as she pulls down her stockings and her skirt and pulls on pajama pants. She leaves the skirt and the pantyhose on the kitchen floor. She's forty, this is her place and hers alone in the ways that matter and she'll leave her clothes wherever she wants.

He's sitting on the couch and hasn't turned on the lights. "Do it out here, the neighbors'll like the show."

"You left at the same time I did, how did you get here first?" She walks out to the living room and pulls at the drawstring on the pants. She plays with the knotted end of the string and then smoothes her hands down her hips. Toby's been here long enough to drink half a glass of scotch.

The TV flickers on once he's found the remote. CNN fills the room and blue light bathes the room. Larry King sucking up to a movie actor. He ignores her question and says, "Today is a special day. I brought you a gift." He lights a cigar and waves at the bottle by his feet, next to the shoes he's already taken off.

He isn't one for sentimental moments. They met August 8, more years ago than she wants to think about. They first had sex January 28, sixteen months after that. She wracks her brain for a moment but she's tired. "A gift?" She sits down next to him and puts her feet up on the end table. "A one week vacation in the Bahamas, right?"

He leans down and then hands her the bottle. "Fine scotch."

It's open. "Scotch. What I always wanted for this special day." First taste of alcohol, January 31, thirty-four years ago. First actual glass, September 7, twenty-four years ago. "Special in so many ways, and, you know, scotch is the best way to celebrate."

"You don't know what day it is." He smirks a little and puffs on his cigar.

"I do know." She looks at the TV, wraps her hand around the bottle. "It's a day and it's special. Special because you bought me this. You bought me this and opened it. And isn't that sweet?"

"How is it special?" He takes the bottle from her hand and pours her a glass.

"I don't actually know." She's smart enough to admit when she doesn't know something. BA awarded June 12, MA December 9, and she passed her orals October 16. She's ABD and she gave up the idea of ever finishing her dissertation June 6, the year she met Toby. She doesn't know the date when she started finding acronyms easier than actual words. She sips her drink and he's right again, it's fine scotch.

He's still watching Larry King, as the actor says, "I knew it was true love the moment I met her." Toby winces at the cliché.

She says, "He's gay." She takes another sip and gestures with her glass at the screen. "I know things, you know, real Hollywood gossip."

He turns to her and raises an eyebrow. She nods earnestly. "He hit on my boyfriend at a party," she says.

Toby doesn't even take the time to say he doesn't care, looks back at the screen and puffs on his cigar again. "You don't know why today is special."

"I don't. Any chance of you telling me before Conan, say?"

He rubs her thigh, hand warm through the soft cotton. "It's impressive, what you've done, what we're celebrating. I'm impressed."

"You bought me scotch." Impressive, she thinks. She's not sure how long they've been together, friends to something else and friends again and now this. Keys to her apartment since January 12, two years ago. Hand on her thigh without hesitation for a year since September 27. But it's a litany of baby steps and quiet touches and she can't think of a specific anniversary he would celebrate with scotch. Another sip and she amends, very fine scotch. He's not the type to celebrate that kind of anniversary anyway.

He switches the channel to the local news. She says, "Is it bigger than a bread box?"

The corners of his mouth quirk. "We're not playing twenty questions here."

"How many questions do I get?"

"You don't need that many if you ask the right one." He's definitely smiling now, leaning back on the couch to watch her face reflected in the light from the TV.

She's too tired. "Just tell me."

He knows her so well, she thinks. He sees the slump of her shoulders, her hands fluttering on the armrest and he rubs her thigh again. "Do you know the average tenure for a White House Press Secretary?"

She shrugs. "Not very long. Quit for more money, fired, forced to resign, we don't last long." Another sip of the scotch and she stretches her legs out on the table and wiggles her toes. "Do you know?"

He shrugs. "I know this. Longest tenure of a White House Press Secretary? Two years, ten months and counting."

She blinks. "That's how long I've -- me? I'm the one?" She laughs. "And you bought me scotch."

"I bought you scotch. So I could drink it." His eyes are bright and his whole face crinkles with the smile as he says it.

"And because I'm a record setting woman. A woman who lasts at the tough jobs. A job that has defeated lesser men and women, and I have conquered." She waves her arm above her head like she's breaking the yellow tape at the end of a marathon and then covers her face with her hands and laughs. "Who knew?"

"Sam. He told me. You outlasted what others could not."

"Becoming the public face of policies I didn't agree with? Dealing with reporters who prefer sound bytes and conflict to analysis and, you know, listening to what we actually say? Being the only woman on the senior staff? Working for the President and the Chief of Staff and, you know, you?"

"Yes. All of those things. You look good doing it, too."

She brings her hands down and watches him smiling at her. The only date she celebrates for them is the day he told her she was too good for her job, August 15, six years ago. She thought first, he's right. And then she thought, he loves me. She leans over and puts her hands on his hips, kisses him. "It's very good scotch."

He says, "I made sure of that. I knew you couldn't drink it all yourself."

THE END.

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