A Man Of Many Words
No, that wouldn’t be it. Sam frowned and twirled the pen around a few more times, tapping it on the desk as he let the sentence play over and over again in his head. It was good. Well, it was good if you liked that sort of thing. It certainly tied in his profession, and that, yes, he was, in fact, a man. He also had many words, so it could work.
He frowned and tapped the desk a little harder with his pen.
Catchy. It was catchy. Catchy was good. In fact, it mattered more that people remembered the title than coming up with a solid, prize-winning…
“Sam. Work,” Toby said sharply, knocking on his door, a thick book tucked under his arm. Sam frowned.
“What is that?”
“It’s the dictionary.”
Oh, he really shouldn’t ask. He was, however, able to swallow the amused grin before it made a full-fledged appearance on his face. “Why are you carrying a dictionary?” he asked. His brain and his common sense were not hard-wired together that particular day, it seemed. Toby smacked it against Sam’s door, causing Sam to jump. “Not that I should care,” he added quickly, his voice a little higher than he’d typically like.
“I’m in a meeting with some Republicans from the Hill,” Toby muttered, running a hand through his hair. “We started out agreeing about the need to preserve some park…some animal, I mean, god only knows what we’re preserving. We could be preserving the engine on my car, but you give it good language, wrap it up nicely, and everyone wants to save it.”
“That bad?” Sam replied sympathetically.
“We start out agreeing, and then I’m in hell and I keep finding myself in a lower hell, until I’m getting accused of being the devil who’s bringing gun control to town. And then I’m the guy who’s abolishing free speech because of prayer in schools!” he shouted, his voice rising with every word. He tapped the front of the dictionary. “Bonnie ran to get me my copy of the constitution. I’ve flagged a couple of pages in here they just might enjoy. I plan to start off with the definition of ‘co-operation’ and see how irony tastes this morning.”
“Toby…” Sam started warily.
“Shouldn’t you…” Toby cut him off, waving his free hand. “Aren’t you supposed to be working?”
Sam presented his hands in a manner he hoped was thoughtful. “Toby, would Danny indulge in a cliché if it was catchy?”
Silence dominated for a moment.
Then, Toby scratched his beard, cast a strange look over Sam and finally found his voice. “I think the answer to that is, do I care?” he asked calmly. “Why are you wasting time thinking about this?”
“It's about the profiles that...” Sam began to explain in a confidential tone, but caught the look of fright that passed over Toby’s face and realized that he was about to launch into forty seconds too much of a forty-five second speech in Toby’s eyes. “…you know what? Never mind.”
Toby seemed pleased. He swayed in the doorway as though about to head off, but kept in place by the need to have the last word. “Don't you have work to do?”
Sam nodded vehemently. “Ginger's getting stats for me.”
“Good. Try, you know...”
And if that didn’t have the scent of a disapproving five-minute lecture lurking all around it. “Toby!” Sam interrupted, trying to chastise as best he could. It seemed to work because Toby gave him a benign smirk and hovered a little further into the hallway as Bonnie approached.
“Try not to make it too terrible,” he added as a parting shot, briskly walking away.
Sam sighed in relief when there was blissful silence, or rather, when there was what passed for blissful silence in his office. He took his pen and wrote a few words for the speech, pausing intermittently to think about other titles that Danny might use. He thought about Canadians, he thought about saving Toby from his meeting, and he thought about what he wanted for lunch.
He did not. He did not spare one single second to think about Josh.
Okay. Maybe he spent about five minutes thinking about Josh. But no more. He wasn’t supposed to be thinking about his personal life. He had speeches to write. He had very important dinner introductory speeches to write that the President could always improvise and he was not thinking about how he had snapped at Josh to ‘go screw yourself’ last night.
Okay, yeah, he was thinking about that.
He was going to stop soon, surely. It just happened that there was a knock at the door first. He opened his mouth to bid Ginger inside so they could go over some of the historical stats in order to get the introduction underway, but when he looked up, it wasn’t Ginger in the door.
“Hi,” Donna said, waving awkwardly.
“You're not Ginger.”
Donna paused a moment and slowly made her way into the office, sitting down quickly in a visitor’s chair and folding her hands into her lap. She snuck tiny looks up at Sam, giving him wide Bambi-eyes and a guilty gaze.
“Well, no one wanted to tell you, and we all thought it would work if I just kept a wig in Josh’s closet, and this way I get paid twice, and no one cares about me leading a double life…”
“What's going on?” Sam cut in kindly, grinning and feeling better than he did five minutes ago. There was something to the way that Donna was still joking around with him that made everything seem lighter than it really was. “Is everything okay?” he asked after a moment.
“Josh is fine,” she said blithely – and apparently reading his mind. Creepy. She waved a hand casually, tossing the question aside. “Listen, I need you to do me a favor though. I need a lawyer.”
“Why, what’s wrong?” Sam replied immediately, furrowing his brow.
“No! Sam, don’t worry!” She frantically waved her hands, a big grin on her face. “Really, it’s nothing bad. I just…there’s a place that I want to move into, but I want a lawyer to help me look over the lease.”
“Josh doesn’t want to do it?” Sam retorted, and just could not stop the bitterness from seeping into Josh’s name. Well, at least it came out wistfully bitter. He could pretend he was some scorned woman if it sounded wistful.
Donna quirked her eyebrow upwards. “Are you saying I should trust Josh with the law?”
“I’ll help,” Sam agreed quickly.
“Great!” Donna exclaimed happily, standing up. She clapped once and put her hands behind her back, swaying slightly, the big grin plastered on her face. Sam looked up at her warily, shrinking slightly in his seat. “Come by my place? I’ve got a copy of the lease. Just come by…oh, nine or whenever Toby lets you out of jail.”
“Okay!” he agreed.
She walked out of the room. Sam leaned forward, writing something in the sidelines about a joke near the beginning.
“Change into something casual!”
Donna had popped her head back in his office. Sam looked up and nodded. She grinned and left his vision again. He paused, shrugging and resigning himself to wear the spare pair of jeans he kept around the office with his sweater…no, not the sweater. Josh had the sweater.
“And bring a bottle of wine. You know…white, or the bottle of chardonnay you secretly hide in the mess.”
He looked up and gave her a blank stare, biting back his curiosity as to how exactly she found out about that bottle. It was the Senior Staff secret stash. C.J. kept some vodka down there, Toby had his scotch, Josh had beer, and Sam had chardonnay. She grinned. “I’m leaving,” she said with the same beaming smile on her face, pointing to the lobby and closing the door before leaving. And then there were the blissful remnants of silence with the fact that the speech, Toby, and the invitation to Donna’s were hanging over his head.
And he still couldn’t figure out what kind of title Danny was going to use for the article.
By some stroke of luck – or rather, his talent for avoidance – Sam was able to avoid Josh all day. He was looking forward to helping Donna out, marking it down as his good deed for the week, and then his eagerness was all directed towards going home and finding blissful peace in his pillow for at least a few hours.
He’d changed and had his chardonnay in hand – unfortunately, of the many things Sam was proud of, his doormat tendencies were not from the self-same source of pride. He knocked on Donna’s door and listened to a few moments of scuffling inside and the sound of loud voices bickering nearby before Donna pulled the door open.
Sam quickly saw that it wasn’t neighbors bickering, but arguing coming from inside Donna’s apartment.
“Oh,” he said. He was a master of the English language. He’d received honorable mentions for being witty, skilled with synonyms, and for having a firm grasp on the intricacies of speech. Loquacious, he’d been called. And all he could pull out of his head was, oh . And then, in further credit to keeping his cool, he got out a strangled, “Josh.”
Josh really didn’t look surprised to see him. In fact, he looked both expectant and…well, he looked good . Obviously Donna had a hand in this, because Josh would never be able to match his shirt and pants that well. Sam was beginning to get the very clear message that he’d been set up. He raised his eyebrow very slowly and allowed Donna to reach forward and grab the bottle from under his arm.
“Josh,” Sam repeated, his voice clearer than it’d been before. He swallowed down a heavy feeling in his throat that could very well have been discomfort. “You’re uh…here.”
“He is,” Donna jumped in before Josh could even open his mouth to answer. She turned so that she was facing Sam dead-on and gave an off-kilter grin. “And you know, it’s funny. My roommate is out of town on a trip, and Josh gave me the key to his place,” she said, holding up a key and twirling it, “because something sounds funny in the radiator and he wants an outsider’s opinion on it.” She grabbed her coat. “So, bye!”
And with a slam of the door, she was gone.
“Something sounds funny in the radiator?” Sam echoed weakly, faintly bemused.
“It sounded better than ‘my mattress feels funny’,” Josh offered with a shrug, a very small smile touching his lips. Sam unconsciously gravitated forward slightly. “So, uh…hi. I maybe sort of manipulated tonight with Donna’s help to get you here and paid for her to stay in a hotel for the night,” he said, grinning now. “Hey, Sam,” he finished warmly, a big grin on his face.
“Hey, Josh,” Sam said, with a smile on his face. He then remembered everything about the past few days, and the smile instantly disappeared. He crossed his arms and watched Josh uncork the bottle. “So, Donna’s being helpful,” he observed.
“We’re not in love,” Josh remarked as he set the table. He said it like you would tell someone to take out the trash, or to make sure there was enough food for the pet. He still wouldn’t look Sam in the eyes when he said it though. “She, by the way, set all this up. Wouldn’t let me help in any way.”
“Well, yeah,” Sam took an awkward step further inside, slowly taking off his coat. “I mean, help from you is destined to make anything fall apart.”
“Hey!” Josh whined. “Hey, Costello, you want to lay off the insults? I mean, we’ve only been here five minutes. Better make sure you have enough for the night. Besides, are you saying that my help in our relationship made it fall apart?”
Sam raised an eyebrow silently.
Josh got an alarmed look that quickly flashed over his face as he froze in place. “You know what? Maybe you just…maybe just don’t answer that one, kay?”
“You do have a bad habit of walking into verbal traps,” Sam observed, taking a seat at the prepared table. Donna had lit a candle and there were salads on the plates. In fact, everything looked like it had been arranged, down to the smallest detail. “She did a lot,” he continued, lifting up the lid on a silver platter to reveal a hot and prepared bowl of fettuccine alfredo.
Josh smiled affectionately. “She likes you.”
“So does that mean she can bring me home and keep me?”
“You took your bitter pills today, didn’t you?” Josh rolled his eyes. “Shut up and eat, that way I can talk without Seaborn’s special batch of caustic retorts.”
“Josh, you can’t just have Donna fix dinner and everything is automatically okay!” Sam snapped back, not ready to give up his defenses just yet. “Just…just talk to me, all right? Don’t give me distractions and dinners and those stupid goofy grins…” and true to his perfect timing, Josh displayed the very grin Sam was speaking of. “…god, Josh, I mean it! Look, we need to…”
“I love you,” Josh interjected.
Sam froze, his eyes widening. Any words that were about to come out of his mouth were immediately lost forever in the deep recesses of his mind, overwhelmed by shock. He blinked once, twice, three times and stared at Josh, making sure that he wasn’t just hearing things. Josh laughed softly and nodded.
“Josh?” Sam finally found his voice, strangled, though it was.
“I think I finally got it a day or two after Danny’s article came out,” he replied. He was still grinning like he was fearless of something. Sam was still reeling, half-feeling like he would fall out of his chair at any moment. “You weren’t speaking to me. Donna and I had worked everything out, and I’m sitting in my office, slaving over the stupid economic export briefings, and I realize that I love you. I love you, Sam.”
“Josh, I thought we agreed we’d be honest with each other,” Sam replied very slowly.
“I love you!” Josh exclaimed again.
“Please…stop saying that,” Sam protested, holding up one hand.
“See, because Sam, I wouldn’t go through this crap in the media for anyone, and I realized that I loved you the moment that I still wanted to get our act together. I mean, I knew there’d be more trouble with the papers, I know there are other things down the road that are going to, you know, suck beyond the telling of it, but I still want to be with you,” Josh explained giddily, leaning forward.
Sam sat in silence, trying desperately not to make a fool out of himself by sending something clattering to the floor.
“Josh, you know how I feel. We both know how I feel about you, so don’t play with my emotions on this one,” he began quietly, looking up after he pried his gaze from off his plate. He felt tired now, and old. “I mean it. Don’t go proclaiming this love just because you’re on a high from vanquishing the Washington Post…”
“C.J.’s ass-kicking was fun to watch,” Josh interrupted to admit.
“I’m serious, Josh. Don’t tell me this unless you mean it,” Sam warned.
The next few seconds felt like an eternity and a half to Sam, and he could hear his heart pounding loudly, his panic swelling up and threatening to spill over. Finally, the spell was somewhat broken when Josh leaned further forward.
“Sam,” he spoke quietly with a gentle grin on his face. He stretched one hand across the table and just lightly rested it above Sam’s heart. “I love you,” he said softly.
And then Sam remembered how to breathe.
“Well,” he began, looking from the food, to Josh’s hand, to Josh himself. His appetite had done its best to completely disappear whether by his stomach being full or by the sheer will of his nerves to completely make his stomach queasy. “I don’t think Donna would want us to uh…”
“I’ve got the key to lock up,” Josh interrupted, on Sam’s wavelength. “And my place…”
“…is close,” Sam finished for him, already getting up. Everything clicked in a matter of seconds and it was like they had never fought, it was like there had never been articles questioning Sam’s ethics or his ability to do his job. He looked at Josh and Josh looked at him, and the Earth stopped moving for a nanosecond. “Let’s go,” Sam said quietly, getting up, grabbing his coat.
Sam couldn’t quite recall the moments between Josh locking the door to Donna’s apartment and reaching the door to Josh’s townhouse, but he was sure they had passed. All he remembered was the warm feel of Josh’s hand on his back – even through his coat, he could feel the light warmth of Josh’s fingertips, which was sure to be impossible. Josh unlocked the door quickly and quietly, and Sam slipped inside to the shadows of the townhouse.
He stopped Josh from turning on a light and trapped him against the wall with his body instead, sealing his lips over Josh’s and pinning Josh’s arm to the wall, lazily dangling above their heads. Sam closed his eyes and pushed further forward against Josh, losing himself in his senses and realizing that if he didn’t move, he might come undone in the foyer, and that was no romance novel. Actually, Sam really needed to stop using words like undone, because he really wasn’t in a romance novel.
“Not in the front hall,” Sam murmured into Josh’s mouth.
Josh pulled away, but instead of pulling them into the bedroom as Sam had been expecting, he started undoing Sam’s tie right there in the front hall. So, it looked like they were right on course for the really bad romance novel portion of the evening. Josh leaned in, trailing his mouth from Sam’s collarbone up to his jaw slowly, speaking in a low voice.
“You know, if we'd stayed at Donna's place, we could have done so many things to make her paranoid,” he murmured mischievously.
Sam tried to focus on making sure his eyes would just stop fluttering. He also tried to be coherent, and those were just two things that weren’t going to happen when Josh was nipping just under Sam’s jaw like that. “You're excessively cruel to that wo…” he bean to accuse, but his voice began to squeak when Josh pushed one thigh in between Sam’s legs. “…man,” he finished with as much dignity as he could.
Josh pulled away just slightly, looking Sam over with a satisfied smirk. “Why, Sam, what was that? Sounded...shriekish,” the last words was stretched out and ascended over at least an octave of sound.
“You really don't play fair,” Sam muttered, clamping his hands around Josh’s biceps and dragging them about two feet closer to the bedroom.
With a little bit of a struggle, he managed to get them another three feet closer to the bed, his clumsiness choosing to kick in at that particular moment. Their legs tangled together in a great mess and thank whatever God watched over Sam, because the bed wasn’t that far and cushioned their fall. Josh laughed into Sam’s shirt, his fingers undoing buttons in no sort of pattern or order. Sam regarded Josh’s shirt and decided that things were really very uneven, and in order to remedy this, he wrestled to get his hands on the hem of Josh’s shirt and gave it a sharp tug, getting it up to Josh’s shoulders.
“Little help here,” Sam requested, his breathing a little erratic. Josh obliged, raising his arms above his head just for a moment, just a few seconds so that Sam could get the shirt off and throw it to the side. Sam grinned, letting the pads of his fingertips fall over Josh’s chest, teasingly lingering on Josh’s stomach, the ‘six-pack-of-beer’ was what Sam liked to call it. “I see things in Josh-land haven’t changed since I’ve been away.”
“Oh my god,” Josh groaned loudly. “Sam, if there was ever a time you needed to shut up, now was it.” Instead of giving Sam a moment to reply, he heatedly pressed their lips together in a furious kiss, slipping his tongue into Sam’s mouth and clinging to Sam’s hips desperately with one hand. Sam gave a moan of surrender, the sound of it slipping right into Josh’s mouth. Josh was fumbling around with his free hand – the thud of crashing objects in Sam’s ears, but he ignored it in favor of pressing his body closer to Josh and finding friction.
Josh’s head slipped away from the kiss when he tilted it to the ceiling and gave a sharp cry, fragmented and combined with a broken, “Sa-am!” His hands were moving faster now, shedding them both of their pants. Sam fidgeted to pull his socks off as Josh leaned over his stomach, opening a drawer and grabbing a bottle of lube, his breathing hard and unsteady. “Sam,” he murmured, “Sam, leave the socks out of this. This is between you and me.”
“Take the socks off, Josh,” Sam ordered, snatching the lube away and holding it out of reach, looking pointedly at the black socks on Josh’s feet.
“God, you’re anal,” Josh muttered.
Sam’s eyebrows shot up involuntarily and the faltering laugh that sputtered off Josh’s lips was worth more than gold. Sam laughed – their laughter mixing and harmonizing – as he fidgeted to reach down and tug off the troublesome socks, neatly placing them on top of the end table, so he wouldn’t forget them later. Cleanliness was next to godliness, after all. Though, really, what with the separation of church and state, Sam really shouldn’t be bringing church into the bedroom, and…
And then they were both naked.
Sam exhaled and closed his eyes when Josh’s fingers began to lightly drift over Sam’s face and then glided down his arm, gently snatching the bottle of lube away from Sam. When Sam opened his eyes, he saw a victory grin.
“You’re mine, California,” Josh whispered into his ear, slick fingers gliding around Sam’s cock and slowly pushing inside of him, evoking a sharp and strangled cry. Sam bit down on a grin, ready to tell Josh how very right he was, but losing all forms of speech the moment that Josh began to slowly push into him. Sam closed his eyes and relinquished himself to the moment, letting out a gentle hum that tickled at his throat and went up and down the scales as Josh thrust into him.
Sam opened his eyes. It was good. No, not good. Good wasn't sufficient. It was nice in the old-fashioned definition of the word. It wasn't mind-numbingly amazing like that one time with the tequila, but it wasn't as embarrassing as the time he and Grace Midland went to the Hilton after prom and Sam just couldn't stay hard.
“You’re thinking too much,” Josh murmured as he thrust inside of Sam, wiping away sweat from his forehead.
“Put a stop to that, would you?” Sam requested breathlessly.
Josh grinned his off-kilter grin – the one that always seemed to mean that mischief was afoot – as he picked up his pace, leaning down and thieving Sam’s breath away with a kiss while his nails dug into Sam’s shoulder, not one thrust dwindling in speed. True to Josh’s silent promise, Sam found himself unable to put together coherent thought as he closed his eyes and gave in to the most wonderful feeling of Josh in him.
And he climaxed with nothing more than a broken, “Josh.”
Sam blinked hazily as he came back to reality some time later, getting up slowly and surveying the room. He spotted his pants and lazily made his way to grab them, turning and envying Josh – who just got to lie in bed like the slugabed he was. “So, does this mean we’re not the broken hearted politicos for the Post?” Sam questioned, his voice sounding pleased and thick.
“We could always pretend to be at odds,” Josh offered, propping himself up with one arm behind his head.
“Too risky,” Sam shook his head. “C.J.’s been threatening to withhold information from me if we don’t start talking. And I need her help. I kind of really suck when it comes to dealing with the press. So, we have to, you know…have discussions in public.”
“Funny. I thought we did some good discussing tonight,” Josh smirked.
“You’re using discussion as a euphemism for sex now?” Sam left the room to grab his shirt, coming back in and buttoning it up while watching Josh slowly succumb to drowsiness and close his eyes. He finished off the top button and stretched slowly. “I hate to make it an early night, but I think I’m going to head back to my place and avoid another starring role in the tabloids.”
“You know you love it,” Josh retorted sleepily.
“Yeah,” Sam rolled his eyes. “I always wanted to be, ‘Washington’s Gay Hot Topic’ when I graduated from Princeton.”
“Don’t lie. You’ve been dreaming about that for years,” Josh snorted.
“Maybe I’ll just leave you to your delusions,” Sam raised an eyebrow and pressed a sloppy kiss on Josh’s forehead before grabbing his coat and heading for the door, a very pleasant feeling lightening his step and his mood. Funny how one night could change things so greatly. He closed Josh’s door and locked up with his key – still on his key ring. Of all of Sam’s destructive tendencies, he was just glad he didn’t have a streak of violence and trashing possessions.
A Modern Day Mr. Smith
Sam paused in his step outside the door. Could that be it? Could that be Danny’s title? He shook his head. Too cliché, he decided while humming Pinafore as he walked down the near-empty streets.
It turned out that Sam wasn’t going to have to wait long. The next morning at the very inhumane hour of seven in the morning, Sam opened the door to his office and jumped when he found Danny sitting on his desk. Sam blinked a few times, holding his styrofoam cup of coffee up to eye-level to inspect it and to check how much he’d leveled off. He really thought the caffeine would kick in by now.
“Danny?” Sam started warily.
“That’s my name!” Danny replied cheerfully.
“Why are you here at seven?” Sam asked the obvious question, putting his briefcase on the desk and happily collapsing into his welcoming and warm chair. He leaned forward to find a post-it note stuck on his desk. On it was scrawled, ‘DANNY. SEVEN AM.’ Sam rolled his eyes. “As always, Cathy has a talent of making sure I know about things at the very last minute. Thank you, Cathy!” Sam shouted out.
“You’re welcome!” It was faint, but he heard it.
“So, you want to get going on the articles, huh?” Sam kicked his feet up.
“That’s the goal,” Danny nodded, already swiftly taking out his pen and paper. “So, let’s just, you know…do this without any awkward statements, accusations, or you know, general Joshisms.”
“I really should defend him, but when you’re right,” Sam shrugged, “you’re right.” As he fiddled with a pencil and waited for the first bomb – question, not bomb. This was a peaceful mediation that was supposed to help save his career from defamation – he realized something, everything clicking together. He’d been so fixated on the titles that he wasn’t seeing all the possibilities. “Danny, have you started Josh’s article?”
“Nope,” Danny jotted something down on the paper. “You’re first up.”
“Don’t start Josh’s.”
“Uh…why?” Danny furrowed his brow.
“You’re going to let me write it,” Sam announced with a grin on his face. He leaned forward as his thoughts steamed forward at a near-sprint, already planning a quick outline for the article, noting a few occasions he’d have to stress, maybe a little sidebar with a timeline on Josh’s projects.
Danny, for lack of better words, seemed stunned.
“Well?” Sam asked eagerly. “What do you say?”
Danny didn’t waste any time with his reaction. He was already looking at Sam like he’d gone insane and had left his loose screws all over the West Wing. “You're kidding,” he deadpanned. He raised an eyebrow expectantly and gave a brief snort of a laugh. “This...you're joking, right? A big White House kind of joke, and any minute now, C.J. will walk out holding Gail and there'll be balloons and we'll have a good laugh?”
Sam shook his head. “No,” he replied plainly.
“You want to...” Danny started, using his hands to make his point and sounding flabbergasted. He held up one hand. “Okay, hold on,” he paused. After a moment, which Sam attributed to Danny collecting his thoughts, he finally spoke. “You want to write Josh's in-depth profile?”
“Yeah,” Sam nodded with a grin.
“Objectively,” Danny added swiftly with a dubious glance.
Sam snorted as he rolled his eyes. “Like you've been striving for that lately.”
Danny didn’t even move. He just sat there, glaring reprovingly before it hit Sam right between the eyes. He cleared his throat and laughed nervously. Danny’s eyebrows were very slowly inching towards his hairline as Sam fidgeted slightly with the cuffs of his shirt.
“I just now realized that comment probably didn't help,” he said, raising one finger, “in fact, it probably hindered me. I can be impartial!” he protested, standing up and pacing around his office. “Danny, come on. You know all I have to do is say the word, just one word to C.J. and I get to do it without your approval because she owns your ass.”
Danny’s eyes went as wide as saucers. “She does not!” he sputtered indignantly. He gave a grunt of frustration and then a look of resignation flickered over his face. “Okay, fine. I guess you don't suck by Post standards.”
Sam raised an eyebrow slowly. “That's a fine vote of confidence in me,” he replied dryly.
“Yeah, go get 'em sport,” Danny said in a deadpan.
Sam held Danny’s gaze for a good minute, gauging the sincerity in his eyes and noted that at least the pen wasn’t furiously scribbling notes on the page. For that much, Sam was already grateful to Danny. Finally, they seemed to break and Danny made a few notes. Sam gave a quick nod.
“So you’re going to let me do this?”
“You’re going to be ghostwriting,” Danny warned. “So you’d better not screw it up in the name of revenge.”
“Don’t worry,” Sam replied blithely. “C.J. and Josh have their revenge all planned out. They’d be really angry if I actually screwed that up. No, I think I’ll just write a decent article and try to see if I can’t make you a little more insecure about your job.” Danny had the good sense to look afraid, which made Sam very pleased. “When’s the due date?” Sam reached over the desk to grab a pen.
“End of the week,” Danny replied while he stood up. “Don’t you have a speech to write for Canada’s big dinner party?”
“And won’t this, oh, tax your creativity?”
“You don’t give me enough credit, Danny,” Sam chided him. He stood and made his way to the door, holding it open for Danny to exit. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve just given myself enough work to give myself a nervous breakdown. I really need to get started on that.”
“From one writer to the next, hyperventilation just isn’t the same without the classic brown paper bag,” Danny offered. He nodded down the hallway. “I’m off to interview Josh and get his information so I can get it to you. We’ll do our interview then. And you’d better believe I’m not letting either of you off the hook just because you think I’m afraid of C.J..”
“You mean, you’re not?” Sam raised his eyebrows in amusement.
“Completely besides the point,” Danny waved it off, giving Sam a quick salute as he walked off. He turned and made his way towards Josh’s office while Sam lost himself in a distracted haze of thoughts. “Hey, I won’t tell Josh!” Danny turned and called out over his shoulder before he turned the corner.
Sam leaned against the door, crossing his arms and reveling in his new and frightening assignment of responsibility, but it gave him the chance to display to the world what only most politically-obsessive people knew; that Josh Lyman had somehow become the Prince of Washington over the past few years. He was still deep in thought when Toby came barreling down the hallway, clutching his briefcase. Sam smiled brilliantly, hoping to infuse his good mood in others.
“Not today, Norman,” Toby muttered under his breath, slamming the door behind him.
Well, maybe not Toby. There were always lost causes.
Sam turned right around and got back to work on the Canada speech – his opus, if you would – and after about forty-five minutes, he realized that maybe he was just shooting a little too high, especially since the only thing he had finished was…okay, so he had the ending done, and the middle, but nothing went together and he had a distinct lack of an opening line. Twirling his pencil, tapping on the keyboard, and even thinking of the corniest jokes he’d ever heard were doing nothing to help his cause. That was the only reason he went to check up on Josh and maybe ask for a little bit of advice, but not joke-advice seeing as the last time that Josh was funny, Sam was the Debate Champion at Princeton.
Of course, Josh would say that he was a constant laugh-getter. No one wanted to tell him that they were all laughing at him was the problem there. He picked up the speech and very carefully made it past the closed blinds of Toby’s office, briskly walking across the lobby to Josh’s office.
“Hey Josh, what’s a good joke to open the dinner with?” Sam skidded to a halt outside of Josh’s door, the rifled papers of the speech in his hand. He figured that he might as well try the long shot. There had been times in the past – you know, maybe one in ten or so – where Josh had actually been funny.
Josh looked up from signing something that Donna was holding from him. He gave it a moment’s deliberation before the mischievous grin appeared on his face and immediately, Sam knew that he wasn’t going to get a productive joke out of the session. Donna rolled her eyes and Sam definitely knew the feeling. It was like trying to pre-empt disaster at the hands of the most stubborn-minded, pig-headed person in all the U.S. of A. – which, coincidentally, was Josh anyway.
“Why,” Josh started slowly, drawing the word out, “did the Canadian cross the border? To make a killing selling prescription drugs. Thank you. I'll be here all week. No. Really. I'll be here all week. These damned budget meetings are like death.”
“One, you have a budget meeting,” Donna commented evenly, tapping her watch. “Two, you aren't funny.”
Sam looked at Josh and he raised his eyebrows dubiously, briefly considering it. After all, prescription drug care was on the plate and a little bit of a tussle with the Canadians might ease the way. “Think the Canadians would laugh at that?”
“My joke?” Josh scoffed, sounding surprised that Sam was even considering this.
Sam shrugged. “Either that or we invent a loan they owe us,” he said nonchalantly.
Josh pointed at him with his pen, nearly hitting Donna in the process. She gracefully avoided the trajectory. “See, I think that'd be funny.” Josh grinned. Donna muttered, ‘you would,’ under her breath, shuffling away at the papers. It was funny. Any other day and Sam would have been jealous with their by-play, but he was still coasting on relationship status solidity from the other night. “The Canadians?”
“Not so much, huh?” Sam said with a frown.
“The quest for the perfect joke continues,” Sam commented absently, wandering off.
He made it back to his desk, turned on the computer, and proceeded to stare blankly at the screen. After a moment of deliberation with himself, Sam grumbled a few choice curses under his breath and opened Google to type in ‘Canadian Jokes’.
No writer ever went without a little help.
By midnight, Sam still hadn’t come up with anything for the introduction. He had brought his things over to Josh’s place to crash and hopefully work. Of course, that whole work side of the equation was sadly lacking. First of all, Sam hadn’t been counting on Josh wanting to actually socialize with him.
In a compromise – mostly so that Josh would shut up with his complaining because there was nothing more counter-productive than a solid half-hour of Joshua Lyman’s whining – Sam had taken his laptop and moved to the bed where he could work with the computer on his lap and his back propped up by pillows. In exchange, Josh had promised to keep his hands to himself.
“What’s wrong?” Josh asked, his voice the spitting image of ‘concerned friend’.
“Josh, what part of ‘I will let you work’ did you not mean?” Sam pried Josh’s fingers from their spider-walk down his chest towards his boxers and looked to the body that was attached to those fingers just in time to receive a full-fledged, cocky Josh Lyman grin.
“All of it?”
“I have to write the dinner speech,” Sam trekked forward, feeling the tiniest hint of regret when Josh’s hand was completely off his body. Josh’s willpower was about as weak as Sam’s was though, because his hand rested lightly on Sam’s chest barely a minute later.
“For?” And if Sam didn’t know any better, he’d say that were a pout. Except, he had more pressing matters to think about at the moment, such as the fact that Josh was slowly stroking his fingers up and down Sam’s chest, the warmth of his fingers seeping through the thin t-shirt.
Sam gulped. “The President,” he answered swiftly, and just that thought alone was enough to cool him off temporarily. He raised an eyebrow. “Unless you transferred me to work for the Prime Minister of England when I wasn't looking.”
Josh frowned. “It was supposed to be a surprise.”
Sam rolled his eyes and tapped away at the keys, focusing on the sentence he was writing. And it is with this great new era that we can work together with our neighbors to the North in creating… and then Josh was moving his fingers again. Sam bit down on his inner cheek. “It's for the State Dinner we're throwing for the visiting Canadian Ambassador, and the Prime Minister of Canada, and a whole bunch of other Canadians, I’d suppose.”
Josh scrambled to sit up, making a steeple of his hands and pressing his index fingers to his lips. “Let me guess. You intercepted plans to invade Minnesota. Wait! To the Sam-mobile, Michigan's in danger! Damn it, Robin, trouble on the 49th parallel!”
Sam stared at him blankly, and Josh just stared right back.
“Okay, maybe we should just compromise that neither of us are funny in any way and you know...just be glad we're geniuses,” Sam offered, saving the speech and very stubbornly making a point of showing that he was not about to close the laptop. Josh seemed to get it, because he rolled his eyes and turned over.
“Fine,” Josh snapped tersely. “You do that whole work thing, and I’ll fulfill the sleeping half of our relationship.”
“There was a sleeping portion to fulfill?”
Josh turned over long enough to smirk at him and grab another pillow from behind Sam’s back. “There is now.” He got comfortable with the pillow and settled into an even breathing pattern. Sam’s fingers hovered above the keys of the laptop and when he was at least slightly sure that Josh was asleep, he closed the speech with a smile and opened up the article he had started.
He looked to Josh and back to the article.
Washington is a sleepless city, filled with vigilantes who make the law…
Sam shook his head and stifled his snort of laughter. He couldn’t remember the last time Josh had been sleepless. It seemed that for every all-nighter Sam pulled, Josh would snatch a few hours on C.J.’s couch or at his desk. He rolled his eyes and let his finger hover over the backspace key before allowing the words to remain in the text. After all, one little white lie couldn’t hurt. Their careers were dedicated to politicians, after all.
Sam checked his watch. Just past one. He’d write the article for another hour or so and then relinquish himself to the sleep he craved so badly.
The fight in Washington is often thankless, useless, and endless. What kind of person would willingly take on an uphill fight that bears such resemblance to Sisyphus’ daily struggle up the hill only to start at the beginning with no progress made? There are very few people in the world that would take on this struggle with open arms. Joshua Lyman is one of them.
Sam nodded. It was a start.
Sam hated Monday’s.
That was completely irrelevant, of course, seeing as how it wasn’t Monday at all, but was a Wednesday. Then again, his pure hatred for Monday’s was so deep that it carried over through Tuesday and trickled into Wednesday, being tricky like that. Plus, of course, he was exhausted.
He could barely keep his focus on his laptop; it had to be a feat of the gods to be able to fixate on the body of the dinner speech, but he managed to do it with few to no casualties. He couldn’t speak for the pencils he’d snapped in half, but at least they’d rest in peace. It didn’t help that he’d stayed up until three AM the night before, working on Josh’s article, but such was the price for good journalism. He kept slipping into dazed patches where he would do nothing but stare at the words on the screen. Sometime later, a knock at the door pushed him out of the haze.
“Ginger,” Sam greeted her with a mustered smile. “Hi, listen…I’m curious. How many times have people sung ‘the movie star’, at you?”
“Choosing to ignore that, Sam,” Ginger nodded in return. “The delegation from Colorado is in the Mural Room and everything kind of went bad really quickly. Donna’s in there and I’m going to go help, if that’s okay with you,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Or I could just page a Canadian and ask for a joke so you can go in.”
Sam tapped his pencil against his desk, pointing it at Ginger. “You know what you have?”
“A room full of angry people who are arguing,” Ginger replied evenly, her expression looking more than a little nervous, intimated, and tired all at once.
“See, I was going to say pluck, but why argue when you're right?” Sam said evenly and quickly. He nodded. “Go ahead.”
“The President wants you in the Oval to discuss SPR,” Ginger said, handing him a sheath of papers as she clicked her pen closed and promptly made her way over to the Mural Room. Sam frowned. He’d wrapped up SPR two weeks ago in Oval Office meetings and the President had said he was happy with where they were. It couldn’t be issues with their side of the package. Didion, maybe? Maybe it was just par for the course and it was an update.
Either way, it meant that Sam had been summoned.
He made his way to the Oval quickly, waiting until Charlie gave him the official President-signal to deem him permissible to enter and when he did, he found Josh already in conversation with Leo and the President.
“Sir,” Sam nodded.
“Sam, good,” President Bartlet greeted him with the usual rich tone and the not-so-usual strained smile. Something wasn’t par for the course; that was for sure. “Listen, Josh has been on and off the phone with Didion. We’re going to have problems.”
“SPR,” Sam shook his head, flipping open his notebook and scribbling down a few notes.
“I got it,” Josh said confidently, his voice drawling a little more than usual, which was a sure sign of Lyman cockiness. “In a week’s time, he’s gonna be eating out of the palm of my hand and we’re back to square one. You know, the square where when you say jump, Mr. President, he doesn’t even say how high, he grabs a trampoline and gets to it.”
“This is why we let Toby and Sam write the speeches,” Leo gave a half-smile, clapping Josh on the back. “If you can have it done in four days, all the better,” he added seriously. Josh nodded and straightened his suit jacket as Leo exchanged a quick look with the President and Sam felt an uneasy sensation run down his spine.
“Is that everything?” Sam found his voice. “I’ve still got the Canada speech. It’s becoming slightly trickier than I expected it to be.”
The President gave a hearty laugh that seemed like one of those genuine old-time laughs that you just didn’t see every day. “You know, I’ve always admired the Canadians. Especially those on the Eastern coast. Those Newfoundlanders, now they know how to fish. I used to fish with my brother when we were younger, but I was terrible at it. I suppose I could never be an honorary Newfoundlander, now could I?”
Josh gave a genuine laugh. “No, sir, I doubt it.”
“Now here’s an interesting thought. Newfoundland was the last province to join the country, and yet, it was the very first of all of them to be discovered. Now how’s that for irony?” The President smiled over his glasses, a piece of paper in his hand.
“I’m sure the Vikings would be laughing right now at the settlers’ mistakes,” Sam offered with a polite smile. Josh seemed to be drifting towards the door and Sam had always been inclined to want to leave the Oval whenever Josh left. No matter how often he’d stood there on his own, it always felt better to have a support system with you to help ward off those strange, last-minute panic vibes.
Just as they were finally turning to leave the Oval, the President’s voice washed over Sam’s ears. “Hey, guys.” That was the voice. This was the bad news. It had to be. The President’s voice was too casual, that’s what scared Sam the most. They were just the Guys again, which meant this was a personal issue.
Sam paused in his step and turned around, frowning all the while. “Sir?” He did have to polish off the speech. He had the majority written, but the conclusion wasn’t as neat as it could be and he had a feeling if he didn’t get it done before he left for the night, it would never be as good as it could be.
The President seemed to be reading his mind. “Listen, we'll make this quick. We’ve been getting some letters.”
“Do you mean...” Josh’s started and seemingly couldn’t finish, every word he had spoken sounding uneasy and hesitant. Sam frowned. When the President said letters, he couldn’t mean…
“Yeah,” the President interrupted Sam’s train of thought, sounding apologetic. “Those kinds of letters. I'm assigning an agent to each of you for outside the building, at least until some of this dies down. That sound okay to you guys?”
Sam found that he was already looking at Josh, as though his default reaction to everything belonged to Josh now. Josh definitely looked off-kilter, and was listing as though he might fall over at any minute. Sam was just having a hard time processing everything and piecing it together so that it could become real in his head.
“Are you sure that's best, sir?” Josh asked, shifting slightly. He looked extremely uncomfortable. He finally tore his gaze away from Sam, and they both looked to the President; Leo hovering behind him like a guardian angel.
Like a guardian angel with perfect timing when it came to interrupting the conversation, of course. “Just until we're sure it's safer,” Leo said reassuringly, holding up one hand. Sam had always regarded the Secret Service agents with not-so-veiled trepidation. They symbolized the danger that threatened the President. It was a danger that was now real to him and Josh.
He paused, and when it looked like Josh wasn’t going to answer – or even look at him – he found his voice. “It sounds fine.”
Sam wasn’t exactly sure how he forced himself to move, but it was as if he’d set his body on autopilot. He maneuvered both himself and Josh out of the office, had reported to Donna that they were taking some time off to talk to Leo about agents. He had given Cathy the same message and he had gotten Josh and himself home, trailed by one of the very same agents that Sam had become used to seeing flank the President.
And then, all hell broke loose the instant he shut the front door.
In his mind, everything splintered apart as reality finally hit him. He didn’t have a single second to vocalize any of his concerns aloud, however, because Josh’s hands were on him immediately, patting him down, touching him all over, getting underneath Sam’s clothes and not breaking body contact once.
“Sam, I just...” Josh started hoarsely, his gaze locking with Sam’s and conveying about three emotions at once. There was panic and there was worry and there was something else there that Sam didn’t want to think about, didn’t want to even consider.
“I know,” Sam said softly into Josh’s feverish kiss.
“Shut up,” Josh commanded, his voice hoarse and fierce as he pulled Sam closer, kissing him hard. “We can talk later. There's time for talking later. Just...shut up now.”
Sam pulled away, but only an infinitesimal space. “I know,” he whispered gently.
For once in his life, Sam managed to be graceful without working too hard to achieve it and managed to tumble both his body and Josh’s into the bedroom, closing the door effectively behind them.
When the door slammed shut, Sam turned off the logical, cogent part of his brain.
Sam didn’t sleep much that night. In fact, it made his list of ‘Top Five Nights With The Crappiest Total Of Sleep…Ever’. Toby and C.J.’s lists of the same caliber were much more daunting, of course. On the one hand, he’d be sore for a day or so with the marks Josh had landed on his body in the sheer desperation and Sam still wasn’t one-hundred percent happy about being trailed around by an oversized puppy dog who knew how to use an AK-47. On the other hand, and his other hand was currently incredibly weighted down with extremely good thoughts, he had absolutely, completely, utterly, and wholly finished the speech for the dinner.
Well…ninety-nine point seven percent. The tiniest bit of that empirical trend on the distribution was what he really had; that wasnothing left to finish but one tiny thing. It was the joke. The joke was killing him. He had a speech, but he had no introduction, no smooth guided-in landing and for the sake of every deity Sam prayed to around speech-time, he could not think of anything suitable. He’d just been praying to his coffee when the situation really hit the fan.
He’d returned back to his office with a refilled cup of God – of the day, of course – and had found his door open. His door, of course, which he had previously locked. He stopped in the middle of the bullpen and stared at the door with his mouth open, one hand digging through his pockets to find the small silver key that opened that door. It was in the breast of his suit pocket, right where he’d put it last.
“Wha…?” Sam frowned. “I locked that,” he said, pointing to the door in confusion. He turned to find Toby hovering in his doorway, holding up a small silver key that was identical to the one in Sam’s possession. “Why do you have…”
“Sam, staff,” Toby cut him off and gave him a warning glare.
Sam frowned. “What's going on?”
Toby gave a world-weary sigh and rested one hand on the side of his face. Suddenly, Sam didn’t want to have asked. Everything was warning him not to know too much about this situation, all from the way Toby was reacting. It was easy to gauge situations by Toby’s behavior, but this time it wasn’t for the better; Toby looked resigned and about to give up.
“Our day just got exponentially worse,” Toby quietly replied. “Leo’s asking for Senior Staff. They were just in the Sit room.”
Sam frowned and froze. He was about to ask Toby what was going on, but before he even had a chance, Toby was off in a sea of people, leaving Sam with his own thoughts of just how bad the situation could be. The situation room never meant good things, but there was typically a sliding scale of terror that they operated on. Sam really hoped this was a false alarm of some sort. He grasped his notebook and began to duck and dodge people on his way to Leo’s office when Leo himself stopped him.
“Sam, we need you, Toby, and C.J. to get briefed as soon as possible. Toby's waiting in my office,” Leo began cordially, but the smile looked strained. Sam wondered just how many fake smiles Leo had put on to earn those kinds of smile-lines. “Why don't you join him?”
“Not Canada, then?” Sam cracked his grave joke, not even managing a smile to rival Leo’s.
“I wish,” Leo sighed. “Go wait with Toby in my office. C.J. and Josh are on their way.”
Sam walked into the middle of office and watched Leo close the door firmly behind him. Judging from the look on his face, this was not going to go well. Sam moved his body as though on autopilot, sitting himself down and feeling cold horror creep into his bones. He took one look at Toby’s face and listened to Toby’s sigh.
This was going to be bad.
Sam rubbed at his temples, staring at the document on his computer. It just didn’t matter anymore. They were…they were, he frowned. What were they again? He checked his notes. Four pilots flying F-18’s separated from their squadron. Possibilities of the malfunction included electrical fire, instrument failure, or…Sam sighed…or being shot down. Today, he hated his job. Because all these things had to happen right about the no fly zone in Iraq, where they weren’t supposed to be in the first place. So now that left him and Toby to write a press release that explained what the hell they were doing where they were.
And of course, all the actual and relevant information was classified on a level that Sam had no access to.
“Got anything?” Toby strolled into the room, folders tucked under his arm.
“I got a joke,” Sam hesitantly began, knowing that there was still a press release to be written, but he couldn’t even fathom putting words together for that right now. “For Canada. So, a Mountie, a Prime Minister, and the President of the United States all walk into a room and some local Joes start asking questions. The Mountie gets asked: ‘What have you done for this country?’ and the Mountie says, ‘I protect it from criminals,’ and the room applauds. The Prime Minister gets up there, same question. He says, ‘I’ve created a budget surplus and maintained peace.’ More applause. So now the President gets up; same question. He just smiles and goes, ‘You’re still here, aren’t you?’” Sam cracked a smile, pushing the piece of paper the joke was on towards Toby.
Toby picked up the paper and gave it a scrutiny that Sam had always envied. “That's good. Funny.”
“Yeah,” Sam agreed quietly.
Neither of them said a word as Toby stared at the paper and Sam stared at his nails.
Sam winced and sighed deeply. “It's just not...” he trailed off, but it seemed like Toby got the gist of what he was trying to say.
“I know,” Toby sighed both words.
“I mean, with everything, it just isn't...it isn't so funny, you know?” he continued, using his hands to demonstrate the point, but it didn’t look so much like Toby needed anything demonstrated for him.
Sam sighed. “I guess we should start writing C.J.'s press brief,” he commented, resigned to this new fate of having to deal with a whole new, all kinds of bad situation that if it were up to him, he would shove under the carpet like last week’s sweeping.
“You know,” Toby began in a grim tone, with a smirk on his face, “maybe we should just slip that joke in her brief. See how that sits with the International Press.”
Sam grinned, despite both himself and the situation. All he could imagine was the looks of at least a dozen reporters staring at C.J. in disbelief after she’d delivered the hammed-up joke that Sam wanted to serve with the dinner for the Canadians. “Now thatwould be funny. Right after C.J. killed us.”
“I heard my name,” C.J. stated evenly from the doorway. “Do I have a press release yet?”
Toby and Sam exchanged a look, quietly discussing this one. From Toby’s raised eyebrow, Sam interpreted that it really was between the two of them, and when Sam thought about it, he still had about two-thirds of an article to write. Sam nodded his chin towards Toby just the smallest bit to indicate that he should do it. Then, Toby nodded and their silent conversation was over.
“Okay, so that was weird,” C.J. broke in.
“You’ll have it soon,” Toby replied swiftly, getting up and jotting something down on a piece of paper. “I assume we’re not wanting to leap out there telling the country that our guys were shot down over enemy territory in a story that could too easily be spun to make us look like the bad guys?”
“We are the bad guys,” C.J. clarified.
“Yeah,” Toby said evenly, brushing past C.J. in his exit.
Every time Sam glanced up, C.J. was still in the middle of a deep scrutiny of him, tapping her fingers up against the frame of his door. Sam was starting to get suspicious. She’d gone at least two minutes without saying anything and when you passed one minute of silence with C.J., it meant trouble.
“So, heard about the guards!” C.J. finally said, out of nowhere.
“Yeah.” Sam got up, speech in hand. Maybe if he walked a little, he could figure something out. Or if worse turned to worse, he could always use the joke he’d shown Toby. “Josh hates them more than I do. I tend to like living. Josh tends to like privacy.” He passed her to head towards the Mess and maybe grab something to eat, but C.J. joined him at the hip almost immediately.
“So, listen…” she started quietly.
“Oh, god,” Sam groaned. “I knew it. What is it?”
“I can’t have a friendly conversation?” C.J. replied innocently. Too innocently – and damn, but she was good at that. “Sam, best buddy, best writer, best…”
“Just ask me,” Sam interrupted.
“I need you to sit down with Danny and speed up these articles,” C.J. switched course so quickly that Sam had to momentarily take the time to be impressed with how quickly she could switch gears. Then…wait. Sam stopped walking long enough to stare at C.J. in horror. A few interns seemed to pile up behind him as they squeezed by nervously, never looking him in the eye. C.J. stood tall and held her ground, and Sam hated her a little for it.
“C.J., you're joking, right?” he scoffed, his eyes wide and bewilderment going through him like adrenaline.
“I'm not,” she said evenly, crossing her arms and glaring at him past her glasses. It seemed that, indeed, the time of the joke had passed.
“C.J.!” Sam protested loudly.
C.J. visibly steeled herself and leaned in. “Listen, Spanky, there has been far more than enough damage done over this already. When I told Josh to fix it, he decided to rake Danny over hot coals of drama and make the situation worse. Because of that, we're going to need you and him to sit down and play nice.”
“C.J., there are pilots sitting unprotected in enemy territory and...” Sam pleaded fervently.
“And I need to put the best spin on this story, Sam! The papers for the coming week are going to split. Iraq will be the main story, but over there with equal coverage on the front-page will be you and Josh. Got it?” she snapped. Sam sighed with great frustration. C.J. was in one of those places where it would be impossible to argue with her and come out alive.
He frowned and turned in the direction he had initially started towards. “I still don't like it,” he muttered with a distinctly childish cut to his words.
“I didn't expect you to,” she said gently, pressing one hand to the small of Sam’s back to get him moving again. Sam stumbled forward with the additional force and went straight for the Mess, needing coffee like he needed oxygen. C.J. turned as soon as they hit the Press Room, where Toby was waiting with the written message.
“Good luck,” Sam quietly said with a smile before heading away from the reporters and the whole situation. He ambled into the Mess to find Josh adding cream to his coffee like he was displeased with it.
“Josh, don’t fight with the coffee,” Sam reprimanded lightly, leaning against the counter and crossing his arms. “Hi,” he grinned. He wished fervently that he could just plant at least the hint of a kiss on the corner of Josh’s lips, but such things were both stupid to do in the White House and impossible with Josh’s intense fear of public affection in front of the kitchen staff. Sam reminded himself to ask about that.
“Did you hear?” Josh muttered, a snide look crossing his face. “Two new letters.” He took a sip of his coffee and winced. “Damn it. Why can’t Donna learn to make me a cup of coffee on a regular basis?” he hissed.
“She does everything else for you,” Sam commented passively, pouring himself a cup of coffee and waiting until the steam had dissipated to pour his milk. He took a long sip before the milk could curdle. “So we're still on a double-date with American's scariest bachelors?”
“Yeah,” Josh sighed, the word conveying the whole weight of the world – which was impressive, even for Josh. Usually he only managed to get the weight of the Western Hemisphere in there. “Hey. I think they're stealing stuff from my place. Or...or lurking around suspiciously and looking to steal.”
“Lurking,” Sam repeated dubiously, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah. All sneaky.” He made a few gestures that caused his coffee to jostle slightly and Sam figured that they’d missed a coffee-shirt incident by about half an inch. Sam exhaled with relief when Josh got his drink under control and offered a dimpled and apologetic grin.
“Josh, the Treasury Department has better things to do than to case your apartment,” Sam explained patiently, watching both Josh and his coffee for him. His own coffee tasted pretty good at the moment, but it wasn’t exactly serving him up a bunch of inspiration.
“You say that now, but just wait until something you like gets stolen,” Josh warned lightly as they ascended the stairs. “Listen, have you talked to C.J. yet, because I think she wants us to speed up the articles.”
“Gossip and news cannot travel that fast,” Sam said, raising one eyebrow incredulously. “I just spoke to C.J. about this, and…”
“She talked to me this morning,” Josh replied. “Which is why Donna called up Danny and which is why Danny’s in your office waiting for you so he can get your article all, you know, done. Aren’t I cute when I’m efficient?” Josh baited.
“You’re not seriously fishing for a compliment because of that?” Sam asked evenly, finishing off his coffee in record time. One day, they were just going to have to hook him up to an I.V. of coffee; it was inevitable. “Josh, can’t you see how trivial this is? This is absolutely the last thing we should be thinking about right now! I mean, god. It’s not like they’re just stranded. There are four of them and they are in enemy territory and we were never supposed to be there,” he whispered, his voice getting more and more stressed. Josh stopped walking and leaned in closer to hear Sam’s words. “And I’m going to sit with Danny and explain what it is I do,” he scoffed. “So, excuse me if I’m not jumping with joy about the privilege of opening up to the press while people’s lives are in danger, god…I hate this job,” he swiftly finished with a burst of venom, not even pausing once as he changed thoughts.
“Sam,” Josh started quietly. “We get through it. Just like every other thing, we get through it.” He placed a hand on Sam’s back to get him moving again and stopped just outside Sam’s office where Sam could see Danny’s distinctive head of hair topping off one of his guest chairs.
Sam sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “We get through it?”
“Fine,” Sam nodded as Josh clapped him on the back. He smiled and ducked into his office, greeting Danny with a somewhat lessened version of his previous smile. He sat at the desk and immediately called up Josh’s article, turning the screen so Danny could read it. He leaned back and tapped on the blotter with his pencil, still thinking about the joke for the speech.
“That’s about half, I’d say,” Danny nodded, looking at Sam with something resembling approval. “So, we’re actually going to do this quickly because I know this is the last thing either of us want to do right now. I’ve got Iraq to cover and you’ve got Iraq to solve.”
“Don’t remind me,” Sam muttered, pulling out a sheet from some of his folders. “There. Transcript, personal information, a list of things I’ve done before becoming Toby’s Deputy and you know everything I’ve done since I’ve been here, and Danny, so help me, but if I see the words call girl…”
“She won’t be mentioned,” Danny cut him off, plucking up the paper with nimble fingers, studying it over.
“Okay,” Sam said briskly. “I’ll just finish it and you’ll get it and…”
“We need it sooner,” Danny interrupted. “There’s a rush on things. You think you can be done this in two days?”
“Do I…have a choice?”
“Not really, no,” Danny shook his head, putting the paper in with his files. He smiled and slid across something over the table. Sam picked it up and when he saw the numbers, he frowned. “It’s a check,” Danny said. “About half what I’m getting for this job. I figure it’ll be fair that way.”
“Hold on a second. Fair? You?” Sam joked. He pushed the check back over the table. “Keep it. I’m just doing it for Josh. I mean, a little bit of extra money couldn’t exactly hurt, but I invested. I think I’ll be okay.”
Danny gave him a crooked smile as he got up and held out his hand. Sam shook it promptly and they shared a quick and awkward laugh before Danny headed for the door, tucking his papers into a briefcase, Sam’s sheet of information still in his hands. Sam rounded the desk and leaned against it.
“Keep up the good work,” Danny advised, closing the door behind him as he left.
Sam paused, tapping on his thigh and checking the clock. He groaned when he saw the time. “Cathy, I’m going for lunch,” he called out and snatched up his overcoat before she could protest, leaving the office if only for the brief time it took to grab a sandwich and more coffee.
He did his best not to run as he left.
The knocking at the door woke him up. Earlier in the night, Josh had dropped by, inciting a quick visit to ‘rejuvenate’ him as he had put it. He hadn’t done so much as drag Sam into the bedroom by his tie, then spent about twenty minutes making some very interesting noises before heading back to the office – the circles under his eyes looking darker and larger than normal. They had indulged in a brief conversation over whether Josh should talk or just indulge in kissing, the result of which was a resounding decision on the side that Josh should very rarely speak during physical acts.
But it was the knock at the door that had dragged Sam from his REM cycle. He made his way to the front foyer and pulled open the door, rubbing at his eyes to find Toby standing there expectantly, clad in what looked like the same suit as before. Briefly, Sam wondered if he was the only one to have gone home.
“Is Josh here?” Toby asked immediately, not making a move to enter.
Sam yawned, getting his words out in the midst of his mouth’s stretch. “He went back to the office hours ago.” He went into the bedroom to slip on a sweater and grab a pair of jeans, checking his pager as he did and noticing that there was no message from Toby, which was strange.
“Your pager isn’t working,” Toby said evenly as Sam came out with his briefcase, slipping into his jacket while managing to somehow keep a hold on the briefcase and dig for his keys in the pocket.
Sam frowned, tapping the small screen, shaking his head even as he did. “I think the batteries are out. What’s going on?”
Toby sighed and Sam frowned a little more – Toby’s sighs were sounding progressively worse lately and with so many balls they were juggling, it really could be anything that was going wrong. Sam pressed his lips together, getting a bad feeling that it had to do with the pilots.
“Possibly Armageddon,” Toby replied casually. “Let's go, I need coffee.”
Sam locked the door behind him and they began their brisk walk down the corridor. “Toby, what’s going on?” Sam asked solemnly, trying to get the truth out of this one before they could pop it on him in the middle of the Oval where his reaction would likely be something to write home about. “I mean, come on, this isn’t the Canada speech kind of thing where we don’t have an opener, and…”
“They’ve been found,” Toby cut him off.
“They’ve been what?”
“Found, Sam. They’ve been tracked, they’ve been picked up on radar, they’ve been found,” Toby said gravely as they walked out of the complex and down the steps – their feet creating echoes in the midst of a brisk night – towards Toby’s car. Sam stopped in his walk when Toby’s words sank in. Toby sighed and doubled back to nod towards the car. “Come on, Sam, we have to go in. There’s a message to craft.”
“They were found,” Sam repeated, horrified. “When, Toby?”
“A half hour ago,” Toby mumbled, scratching the side of his head.
“And their chances?”
“Just…just don’t ask, Sam,” Toby said gruffly, slamming the door behind Sam when he got in the car. He slammed his own door shut and struggled to get the car started, cursing under his breath in about three languages as he did, giving the steering wheel an ineffectual punch when the swearing didn’t seem to be enough. “Oh, for the days when all we worried about were Canada jokes,” he muttered with a sneer, sighing with relief when the car finally started. “Start thinking about euphemisms we can use for ‘four of our guys just got brutally tortured and killed in the Iraqi desert’ why don’t you?”
Sam remained silent the entire trip to the White House and only once did his thoughts ever stray from the situation at hand.
It was when he prayed.
Danny’s knock on his office door at six in the morning was heavier than usual and Sam was barely able to keep his eyes pried open by that point. Word had come trickling in slowly and through whispers and the aggrieved pounding from Toby’s fists against the walls, Sam had found out what was going on in five-minute intervals. Sam inhaled slowly and deeply, tapping away at random keys on his laptop, not spelling anything in particular and certainly not compiling any kinds of thoughts. Not in this mood.
“It was over fast,” Sam said, his voice hollow.
“Hey, we got one guy out,” Danny said with a small shrug.
“And we lost three,” Sam snapped, throwing down his pen. “God, and now I have to help spin this. These men died with honor, with grace, these men died because we couldn’t get them out of there fast enough!” he finished, his voice growing louder and his words growing more clipped. He sighed heavily and pushed a few sheets of paper across the desk. “There. There’s the article. It doesn’t matter anymore, but there’s the article.”
“Yeah,” Danny commented evenly, snatching up the pages and sitting himself down. “I heard you and Josh are being tailed by the Secret Service.”
“Heard? You mean saw our tails?”
“Well, they are hard to miss. Mind if I write about that?”
“Ask the Secret Service,” Sam shrugged.
Danny jotted something in his notebook as Sam massaged his temples. Every minute presented the constant challenge of having to keep his eyes open and every passing minute pushed him further and further towards the losing team. He didn’t want to leave Toby hanging when it came to the press release, but Sam had a feeling that anything he put on paper would resemble the work of a monkey attempting Shakespeare. He let out an audible groan, listening to the rustling of papers without actually watching Danny go through them.
“Looks good,” Danny commented brusquely. “The paper’s going to run the story with the Monday edition. Josh still has no idea you’re doing the writing for his. Listen…you coming to this thing in C.J.’s office? The uh, the vigil thing?”
Sam recalled that C.J. had made quiet noises about having a moment of silence in her office before they attended to other matters at hand. Sam had agreed with the need for one. He wrestled himself awake again and stared at his watch, entranced by the second-hand ticking by. He cleared his throat and tried to shake some alertness into himself. He should be used to this by now. Wars, battles, and death were just a way of life and for them, it was just a matter of print to be manipulated. He should be used to this.
Danny shrugged. “Figured I’d drop by before running this stuff to the editor in the brisk morning light. Don’t you just pine for the days where nine to five actually meant something?”
“I wouldn’t recognize an eight hour day now if it wrote me a death threat,” Sam joked weakly, pushing himself to his feet. “Yeah, let’s go.”
Neither of them said another word as they filed quietly down the less-trafficked halls and arrived at C.J.’s office to find Donna, Toby, C.J., and Josh sitting around the room, variously struck in their own silent thoughts. Sam settled himself, perched on the arm of C.J.’s couch, exchanging the briefest of smiles with Josh while Donna rested her palm flat on Sam’s thigh, a small show of comfort.
“So…this sucks,” C.J. murmured hollowly after a moment.
“Yeah, you’ll get no argument from me,” Josh added vehemently, his voice sounding hoarse and sleep-deprived. “How long we got before the sharks start viscerally tearing at us for blood?” he addressed that to Danny.
“How long do you usually have?” Danny replied evenly, hovering by the door. “Because that’s how long you’re gonna have this time around.”
“Maybe I should just quit,” Josh muttered to himself.
There was another bout of silence; the only sounds taking up the time were the uncomfortable clearing of throats and the occasional shuffle of papers to accompany C.J. tapping her nails on her desk. Sam didn’t look up, didn’t want to really look up because he was trying desperately to switch his mind into the mode where he didn’t care about every single life they lost because he would all too quickly go insane if he did that.
Finally, Toby spoke. “In, uh…in remembrance, I guess. For American heroes, and for a country that tried its best when its best was nowhere near good enough.” He cleared his throat and Sam looked up in time to see a forced smile. “Now, get back to work,” he mumbled quietly.
After a moment, the shuffling didn’t just extend to papers, but pushed to every single moving body in the room, shifting and moving in different directions. Conversation picked up and people branched off to head in different directions. Josh picked up Sam at his side and corralled him towards his office, closing the door behind him when Sam was inside.
“How’s the Canada speech going?” Josh asked, his voice strained.
“Hmm?” Sam looked up, distracted by thoughts still. “Oh. Yeah, it’s done.”
“You got a joke?”
“Well, I took yours and shifted it so that it was presentable. The one about pharmaceutical drugs, you know, ha ha, big funnies, people laugh, no one’s feathers get ruffled,” Sam said, his voice lacking the inflection to show that he actually cared about the subject at hand – which was funny, because he really, really didn’t care about dinner speeches right now.
Sam sighed and sank into one of the guest chairs. Josh hovered by him, always taking one step back whenever he got too close while Sam just focused on breathing and trying to organize his thoughts into coherent order.
“Hey…hey, Sam, you okay?” Josh asked tentatively after a few minutes. “Is this still about the threats, because I thought we talked about them, and I thought we…”
“We’re fine about that,” Sam interrupted, his voice tense. He had a feeling it might just break any moment. “No, Josh. No, I was thinking about what we’re doing here.”
“We’re doing a job.”
“Not just the job,” Sam snapped, his eyes wide and furious now as he looked up and searched Josh’s face for a challenge – but all he got was a receptive and tired expression. “What good are we, Josh? What good do we do when we let those guys get killed, but hey, the deficit’s down a little. Or…or why can’t we even just do both? Why can’t…why can’t we spend a little of that money onrescuing those guys! I’m sure the country will approve and god knows it’d be easier to spin,” Sam finished with a disgusted scoff, giving Josh’s desk a small shove, his posture slouched in defeat. “What good are we?” he muttered to himself, turning away from Josh and uttering quietly.
And for a good long while, Josh didn’t answer.
Finally, Sam felt the lightest of touches brush against his fingers and he turned back to see Josh crouched down beside him, getting his attention by brushing the pads of his fingertips over Sam’s knuckles. His gaze was inclined downwards and Sam wondered if Josh actually had an answer.
“We do the best we can,” Josh exhaled quietly. “Because it could always be worse.”
“Yeah,” Josh said, cracking a half-hearted smile. “And yeah, it sucks, but it’s either that or go crazy. Think you can work like that? You know, stay here and be the foil to my insanity?”
Sam looked at Josh, thinking about F-18 pilots, dinner speeches, tabloids, and death threats and for the briefest of moments, he remembered how mad their lifestyle was, but that moment passed quickly and Sam realized that there really wasn’t anywhere else he needed or wanted to be.
“Just promise me you’ll try to lay off on trying to be funny,” Sam replied after a moment.
“I am funny.”
“People laugh with me!”
“At you, Josh.”
“Laughing with me, at me,” Josh shrugged. “I inspire laughter. I’m a muse.” He grinned his widest grin, dimples and all, directing it towards Sam. “Can I be your muse?”
“With your tendency to whine, all you’d inspire are letters of complaint,” Sam said, getting up and smiling despite the situation – he could always count on Josh to bring a smile to his face, even on the darkest of all days. He leaned forward, pressing a quick kiss to the corner of Josh’s lips. “Thanks,” he relayed quickly before leaving the office and passing Donna on his way out. “Careful,” he warned her. “He’s having one of his ‘he-thinks-he’s-funny’ days.”
“Oh god,” Donna groaned. “I’ll warn the others.”
Sam was bracing himself for Monday. The dinner was the next night, but that wasn’t important. What was important was that the spin for the Iraq situation was looking to be on track and the more important thing was that Danny’s articles were in the paper that day. Sam was in complete anticipation mode, which happened to include his attitude to ‘expect the worst’.
After all, Josh was going to be reading the articles.
He hadn’t even made it to ten in the morning when he heard the reaction. Sam was slightly more worried about the fact of Josh finding out that he’d written his article rather than the quality of his own article. In fact, in all his worry, he’d put aside his copy of the paper to read later for when Hurricane Josh had died down to a quiet bluster. It seemed, sadly, that calming Josh down would take about as long as it usually did. Even through his closed door, he could hear the faint strains of Josh shouting. Sam rolled his eyes and got up to open the door and hover there to listen.
“C.J.!” he was shouting happily. “Did you see this?”
Sam frowned as he regarded Cathy, who was wearing a beatific, too innocent look on her face. He narrowed his eyes and took another step into the bullpen, trying to appear as casual as was possible – and Sam had a feeling he was failing horribly, seeing as how him and casual were consistently on the outs.
“Cathy,” Sam started slowly, getting her attention. “Didn't I tell you specifically not to tell Josh?”
“I specifically did not tell Josh,” she repeated loyally.
“Donna!” Josh was barking with glee, still across the building, but still easily audible. “This article is my life! It's my story! My legend!” he was shouting, the gloating tone to his voice wasn’t just clear, it was ready to his Washington over the head.
Sam realized not soon after. “You told Donna, didn't you?”
“Words were exchanged,” Cathy replied lightly with a teasing smile, only glancing away from her typing once. Sam paused a moment, considering whether he should yell or not and wondering just how quickly this gossip was going to get around, but then again, Josh had a certain tendency to be oblivious to some of the particularly notable pieces of gossip, especially when he was in one of these moods.
Sam retreated back into his office and kept his door open, just in case Josh felt the need to go on more victorious yelling sprees. Sam couldn’t help it, but they filled him with a sort of strange pride to have incited one of Josh’s most intolerable moods – gloating, victorious pride.
Soon later, Donna skittered by his office, her eyes wide and the look on her face was far more than distressed. In fact, it looked like she had abandoned distress about twenty miles back and had since picked up the twin brothers, anxiety and misery.
“My God, Sam, tell him...” she pleaded, taking slow steps into Sam’s office.
“You know, you weren't even supposed to know,” Sam muttered childishly, flipping the page of the brief he was reading. He tried his best to push his immaturity down and only when he could act his age did he put the brief to the side and look up to find Donna sitting in one of the guest chairs, leaning forward with distress written all over her face.
“He's the world's biggest egomaniac.”
Sam glanced down to his reading for a moment. He’d thought this was news. “Like he wasn't before?” he shrugged.
“He's worse,” Donna announced.
“I really doubt that's possible,” Sam laughed, his voice disbelieving. Donna raised one eyebrow slowly and Sam faltered, clearing his throat and tapping the pages of the brief nervously as he considered. Donna didn’t look like she was kidding around and she had to put up with Josh every single day. “You're kidding.”
“I'm not the one who has to go home to him,” Donna said, with no small amount of relief in her voice. She nearly beamed with the happiness at the mention of going home. Sam sat there staring with something akin to horror running through his veins. Sure, Josh was egotistical and arrogant and full of himself, but they’d become used to that. That was their Josh, but this was…
“Legendary!” Josh shouted from somewhere in the building.
“See?” Donna said, with quite the gloating tone. It seemed like she may have been taking lessons from Josh on how to revel in the moment.
“This isn't my fault,” Sam shook his head, trying to deny it away.
“You wrote the article!” Donna accused loudly.
Josh passed by the Communications bullpen, poking his head into Sam’s office with a giddy, childish grin on his face. “Like Adam and Eve. Like Abram! Like King Midas and Hercules! It shall live in print forever!” He laughed happily before moving on to the sound of Toby swearing at him.
“Oh god,” Sam muttered under his breath as he rested his head in his hands. “He's going to be unbearable tonight.”
“Your funeral,” Donna replied lightly. “Why don’t you just tell him you wrote it?”
“Because…” Sam looked up to speak before he had the words and instantly regretted it. Donna was looking at him from the door, and she looked to be expecting an answer. Sam shrugged wildly. “Because he ought to think that the media is warming up to him.”
“You don’t have a reason, huh?”
“Not so much, no.”
Donna grinned at him. “It’s cute. You wrote a really good article, Sam. If he ever finds out, he’ll be proud.”
She left before Sam could warn her that she absolutely shouldn’t, under any circumstances, tell Josh that he’d written the article. He tried to placate himself by reinforcing his almost-sure conviction that she wouldn’t tell Josh the truth, although in a moment of wild panic – just to stop Josh from bragging – anything was possible.
Maybe it would be good, Sam thought as he closed his door, if Josh found out. He’d certainly get his fair share of thanks in true Josh Lyman form. And it seemed that from the look on Donna’s face, Josh was going to find out sometime soon.
Sam braced himself for the wait.
“So,” Josh’s ‘trying-to-be-casual’ voice interrupted Sam’s reverie. He’d been relaxing in Josh’s bed in sweats and a t-shirt, pushing his socked feet down into the warmth of Josh’s covers while trying to get through a novel Toby had shoved at him to pick up some writing styles from so that Sam could craft responses for the author of said-novel, “you read Danny's articles?” Somehow, he’d managed to survive the day of Josh’s victory shouts, but Sam had a feeling that his locked door and day of meetings helped that.
Sam barely looked up from the book, feeling as distracted as he sounded. “Hmm?” he murmured, blinking. “Oh...yeah, his profiles.”
Sam didn’t even have to look up to get an idea of just how wide Josh’s grin was, one glimpse was enough to see the blinding show of teeth. “So...you saw them? Danny's, uh, he got the talent back. Yours is pretty good. I liked how he calls you, 'the man who knows too much'. That was, uh...that was cute.” And it was just so plain obvious that Josh was seeking validation that Sam had to hold out just a little longer.
Finally, Josh’s fidgeting and baiting for attention just got to be too much. “Josh, relax. I saw yours,” Sam reassured him.
“I've so got to send Danny a basket or something. And then we should frame these. With, like...gold,” Josh was ranting dreamily even as Josh’s cell phone began ringing right in Sam’s ear. Josh groaned and then reached over Sam’s chest for the phone, his weight pressing down right on Sam’s lungs, causing him to give a great ‘oof’ sound that wasn’t very manly in eighty percent of most Western cultures.
“S'up?” he began the conversation, still resting upon Sam’s chest. “Yeah, hi, Donna. Did you need...” he trailed off and looked to Sam, who just looked back, putting the book down. “Uh huh...huh. Uh...huh. No, you definitely didn't tell me that. Okay. No, thanks. Ireally don't think you should do that,” he said, slightly panicked. “Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
Josh put the phone back in its holder and removed himself from Sam’s chest, sitting up. Sam turned his attention back to his book.
“Is she okay?” Sam asked, glancing up to find Josh gazing down at him with what could only be called adoration. Sam gave a small grin back up at the warmth radiating from Josh’s grin and wondered exactly what he was getting the first-class treatment for. “Because I mean, it's kind of late for calls, or you know…” he checked his watch and groaned, “…kind of really early. Have I maybe mentioned lately how much our hours suck?”
Josh didn’t even say a word; he just lunged forward and pounced on Sam with a kiss.
“Mmph,” Sam murmured into the kiss, pulling himself away so he could look at Josh with all the right looks of trepidation and confusion coming across in his expressions. “Josh, not that I want you to stop, but is there a reason for...this?” Josh leaned in and tugged Sam’s lower lip with his teeth before pulling away and yet still looking down at Sam like he was prey.
“Now, why wouldn't you just tell me?”
“Uh...okay,” Sam replied, furrowing his brow in confusion. “Josh, I ate the last of your Twinkies.”
Josh smacked him hard in the upper arm. “You wrote my profile?”
“Yeah, that too,” Sam said with a nod and a shrug, a smile hinting around the corners of his lips, but never really coming through to the fore.
“Dude, you are so getting thanked for like, a week,” Josh announced in his grave and serious tone. He smacked the article with the back of his palm. His grin grew a little bit wider as he re-read something on the page. Sam craned his head to the side to see that he was reading the part about Josh sealing the deal on one of the closer votes. “Seriously, mind-blowing sex, Sam. A week.”
“And the Twinkie?”
“We'll have to talk about that later,” Josh replied without missing a beat. “Or, you know, you could make it up to me.” He leered at Sam with a grin, edging just a little bit closer and tossing a few pillows over the side of the bed, abandoning them in an effort to get their bodies closer together.
“So, you liked the article?” Sam grinned, enjoying the look on Josh’s face.
Josh scoffed with the hint of shame creeping into his grin. “I think the entire West Wing knows how much I love it. Maybe the hemisphere,” he mused distractedly.
Sam forced a sympathetic set to his lips and tried to keep his amusement from lightening the expression on his face. “Yeah, Donna's forming a committee to kidnap and hide you away to put us out of our misery.”
“I heard Toby joined this morning.”
“Right after Leo,” Sam confirmed.
“They're all traitors,” Josh dismissed easily.
Sam grinned. “I joined too.”
“And the week of sex becomes three days,” Josh swiftly announced. After a moment, he grinned and poked Sam in the side. “Seriously. Next time, just tell me so I can give you all the Josh-lovin’ you want right up front.”
“I think I’ll tell you if you promise never to use the phrase Josh-lovin’ again,” Sam raised an eyebrow.
“Deal,” Josh replied, the word struggling to emerge from his mouth from beyond a yawn.
It was a few moments later that Josh had fallen asleep, one copy of the articles tucked under his arm. Sam waited until Josh’s breathing had evened out and only then did Sam tuck a bookmark into the novel and slip the newspaper out from under Josh’s arm. It had been such a long day and Sam had been so preoccupied that he hadn’t even had a chance to look at his own ego-enlarging article.
Sam quietly adjusted the paper until he came across the section he wanted and grinned when he saw the words on the page.
A Man Of Many Worlds And Words
That title. That variation of his title that he knew would be used. Sam grinned.
Toby owed him ten bucks.