Author: Jackie Thomas
Date: September 2001
Rating: PG for a bit of cuddling
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Feedback appreciated.
Archive: All yours
Disclaimer: All theirs
Spoilers: This must be series one because Mandy’s there.
Summary: The thing happens, the others find out. CJ’s POV
Clarion by Jackie Thomas
CJ hadn’t believed her source and sent a courier to get an issue of the newspaper to her in the office. When it arrived, just as she did, at 7am she looked at the pictures on the front page.
She took a breath and sat down.
The headline was ‘The Sodom and Gomorrah Whitehouse’
“You gotta love these Fundamentalist rags,” she said distractedly to Gail.
One of the pictures was of Leo addressing the press on his drug and alcohol problem. Old news. The other was, or appeared to be, Josh and Sam. They were, or appeared to be, kissing. Kissing each other that is.
“Josh and Sam are kissing,” she informed the goldfish. “Kissing each other in fact.” The goldfish didn’t seem concerned but then she had never been much interested in staffers indiscretions.
Josh and Sam kissing.
The picture had the quality of a still from CCTV footage, which undoubtedly it was, but a good one, close enough for details. She decided it was a nice picture. Sweet. One that she wouldn’t mind pinning to her board. But it was also, in its own way, utterly shocking. Josh and Sam were outside, in some kind of alleyway, more than likely at the fire exit or side door of some public building. Josh, without his suit jacket on, had his cellphone in one hand as if he had stepped outside to take a call. Sam with his coat on and briefcase in hand seemed to be leaving the meeting or lunch or whatever it was. His lips met Josh’s in the most innocent of goodbye kisses, both had their eyes closed and Sam’s other hand tangled in Josh’s curls. It didn’t leave a lot of room for misinterpretation.
She would have work to do now, she would have to start talking, start managing, but before she began she reflected for a moment, gathered her thoughts. It was close to heartbreaking, to go through this for a second time, so soon after Leo. Josh and Sam were, or at least had been when this picture was taken, more than friends. They hadn’t wanted anyone to know, and within the day everyone would know.
“God I hate the press.” Gail seemed surprised.
She considered how it must be between Josh and Sam, how long they had kept this secret. They had kept it well, she had never guessed. Though it would be fair to say that she had often been aware, or more accurately half-aware, of a shimmer of tension when the two were in a room together. But she had never identified it as sexual, and if she thought about it at all, she put it down to the competitiveness that was the norm in this type of environment. She had never suspected anything more than that. Though with these two men, the testosterone levels had always been tempered by their obvious affection for one another, by an unusual gentleness in the way they related to one another.
“The world makes a bit more sense Gail.” The fish swam in a circle. CJ got to her feet. The picture was genuine and she was going to get yelled at shortly.
Neither Josh nor Sam were in yet but she left messages for them. She collected a grumbling Toby from his office, bagel in hand and interrupted Leo’s crossword half hour. Closing the door of Leo’s office she put the newspaper in front of him. Toby crossed over to read over his shoulder.
“The front page of this morning’s Clarion.”
She watched Leo glance at the front-page pictures, look at her blankly and then execute a perfectly timed double take that in other circumstances would have been comic. Toby’s expression didn’t alter, but the bagel stopped dead on its journey to his mouth.
“This looks real,” Leo said.
“It looks real to me too.”
“I think, you know, it is real.”
“Of course it’s real,” Toby snapped waving the bagel menacingly at the newspaper. “With our luck it couldn’t be anything else.”
The two stared in silence at the picture and then Leo said wonderingly.
“Josh and Sam.” He looked at CJ and leaned right back in his chair in the way he had that made him seem to disappear into it.
“Josh and Sam.” CJ confirmed, with the advantage of several minutes to adjust she could now approximate cool professionalism.
“Josh and Sam?” Leo said again, making it a question.
“Josh and Sam, Josh and Sam,” said Toby taking the newspaper to read the article, such as it was. “Its not like it was ever beyond the realms of possibility.” Leo looked at him surprised.
“It wasn’t? If you’d asked me yesterday…”
“You knew about this Toby?” CJ asked.
Toby shook his head “But there was always something.” Then he shrugged and said with a significant amount of embarrassment. “Also Sam has seemed unaccountably… joyful these last few months.”
Leo looked at him a moment with something close to incomprehension in his expression. Then, evidently searching for more stable ground, he turned to CJ with the inevitable question. “What the hell’s the Clarion and how come you didn’t know about this?”
“Its Christian Right sir, a weekly, tiny circulation mainly in the South. No ones been talking about this, I didn’t have any idea it was happening.” She raised her head slightly. “Sorry Sir,”
Leo looked distracted. “Do you think Sam dumped my daughter for Josh?”
“I don’t think you should pursue that line of thought Leo.” CJ said, surprised that she wasn’t getting a harder time.
“Josh and Sam.” Leo repeated in abstract amazement. “But you know, sometimes I used to wonder about Josh.”
Toby looked up from the paper. “They know about this yet?”
“I left messages for them to come here as soon as they get in.”
“Because the rest of the press will pick up on this soon, if they haven’t already.” He finally dropped the bagel into the bin. “We have to, you know, handle it.”
“Toby…” CJ didn’t know what he was getting at but she knew he was thinking five point drops, middle-America, the floating voters. She glared at him.
“I’m just saying we can’t stand round here with our mouths open.” CJ looked at him, waited for all his thought processes to run their course, waited for him to calm down. Then she said.
“We have to support them, Toby. Leo. I can’t do it any other way.”
“Don’t give me the look CJ,” Toby said edgily. “I agree with that. I’m totally agreeing. For one thing its good politics – we practise what we preach. And for another it’s the right thing to do.”
Leo nodded. “No one’s done anything wrong, no one resigns, no one gets fired, and no one has to talk to the press about who they’re sleeping with.”
The door opened then and Sam came in. “Hi, am I interrupting…? Should I…” he paused in the doorway and looked around at the three solemn faces staring at him. “What? What’s happened?”
Leo nodded at one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Come in Sam, sit down.”
“OK,” he said warily. “But they’re standing up,” he went over to one of the chairs at Leo’s desk. “ I’m just saying.”
Toby pushed the newspaper over to Sam and let him see for himself. When he finally realised what he was looking at he stood up quickly, said “oh God,” and then sat down again. He looked at CJ. “This is out? This newspaper’s out?”
“Its today’s issue, Sam, its out today.”
“Oh God.” He said again.
“Yes Sam, way to conduct a secret affair…” said Toby harshly. What was the matter with him?
Leo leaned forward and picked up his pen. “I’m sorry to ask this and it’s the last thing I’ll ask you…Is it what it appears to be? Is it a genuine picture?”
Sam looked at him and then at CJ and Toby. “Yes. Josh and I have been lovers for five months now.” He stood up again, distracted. “I have to speak to Josh. I have to…” and then he sat down as if he realised that he wasn’t even going to accomplish this one thing.
“You know what,” said CJ, brushing her hand lightly across Sam’s hair. “I’ll go find Josh. I’ll get him…” But she met Josh at the door.
“Hey, you’re looking for me Ceej?” he said coming into the office with a mug of coffee in his hand, looking around and slowly picking up on the atmosphere. “Anyone know why I’ve got 43 messages to call the Gay Times?” Nobody answered and he looked at Sam who handed him the paper. CJ watched Josh’s expression progress from incomprehension to disbelief to horror.
He stepped back and, looking at a spot on the ceiling, he swallowed the first ten things he was going to say in a long gasp for air before settling finally on. “Where did it come from?”
“It was the Sheraton last month,” Sam said. “I remember the…I remember it.”
“Dammit,” Josh breathed. “CJ tell me that someone leaked next week’s issue to us. Tell me that.” CJ shook her head. He closed his eyes, he was making a visible effort to keep his temper. It crossed her mind that he was doing this uncharacteristic thing for Sam’s sake.
Leo stood up quickly. “OK, you two take a moment alone, you can use my office. We’ll see the President before he starts his meetings for the day. Then we figure out a way through this.”
Sam looked up, he glanced at Josh and then said. “I’ll resign sir…”
“No you won’t,” that was Toby who had, until then, been standing with his arms folded looking at his feet.
“Toby, we can’t afford a scandal.”
“I will too if it helps.” Josh said quietly, he was now staring at the back of Sam’s head.
Leo threw down his pen. “No one’s done anything wrong, no one resigns, no one gets fired, and I’m not going to say that again.” Leo was on his way out of the office. “Lets go CJ, Toby.”
They immediately careered into Mandy progressing at great pace with a fax in her hand. She was by no means calm.
“You guys seen this?” There was no need to ask what she had.
“Yeah we got it, who else has, do you know?”
“Everyone will in about half an hour.” Mandy changed direction to walk with them. “Where is he?”
“Mandy, we’re going to talk to the President,” CJ said. “Can you start speaking to staff, tell them what’s going on and not to comment to anyone about anything, there’ll be a briefing later.” But Mandy was only half-listening.
“Where is he?” she asked again as they waited for Leo to speak to Mrs Landingham. “I mean to kill him.” She purposefully rolled the fax into an appropriate weapon and waved it at CJ. “You know, it would have ironed out quite a few of the key conflicts in our relationship if he’d bothered to mention he was, you know, homosexual.”
“Mandy…” CJ said trying to quieten her as she was within Mrs Landingham’s hearing.
“Even my mom said…She said ‘Mandy, there’s no way that man is straight’.”
Toby turned round to her. “Maybe your mom can be the Whitehouse political consultant, because she has all this insight.”
“Its all right for you Toby, you didn’t waste any of your major childbearing years on Josh Lyman.”
“Oh that’s a good point.”
“Boy, was I barking up the wrong tree.” Mandy blinked. “…plus, on top of everything else he now gets to date Sam.”
“Mandy. Go away …”
“To…?” asked Toby
“Do some actual work.” And Mandy disappeared out of the office muttering dark threats. Suddenly she stopped, turned round and came back. “They keep their jobs right?” she said quietly.
“Yes, subject to anything the president says.” CJ replied and Mandy nodded and started to leave.
“I’m still going to kill him though.” And she was gone again.
Leo came over.
“What’s with Mandy? She should come in with us?”
“She’s not quite focussing on the issues yet,” Toby said and Leo made the connection.
“Oh, yeah. This is all going to be quite involved isn’t it?”
CJ started to recognise a pattern. The President on seeing the photograph progressed rapidly from blank disbelief to bemusement to anger. And finally began a thoughtful playing round with the combined names, seeing how they sounded together and then. “Sam I never would have guessed but Josh…yeah, maybe.” He threw down the paper. “So we weather this, its not an issue for this administration. What do you say CJ?”
“The President has no interest in his staff’s relationships as long as they are legal and consenting. Sam and Josh are valued members of the team and we see no reason why they should resign. Unless the guys want us too we don’t confirm anything and they shouldn’t have to decide that today.”
“People are going to start talking about a gay conspiracy in the Whitehouse. Whatever that is. We have to be careful it doesn’t define us. We’re going to have to deal with it.”
“How?” the President asked.
“Sir, I don’t think they should be quite so high profile for a while as far as the media goes.” Leo seemed to be purposefully avoiding meeting CJ’s gaze.
The President nodded. He looked at Toby who signalled his agreement to everything that had been said.
And there it was. The three men with all the experience, good judgement and political acumen. The three men that she respected for their wisdom and good sense had made a decision. A decision with endless consequences for Josh and Sam’s careers and they must have known what they were doing. But it was done, just like that.
“Sir,” CJ said carefully. “Do you know what you’ve just decided to do?”
“We’ll keep an eye on the situation. But you know, CJ, this is politics.”
“Yes sir,” she gathered that she wasn’t going to win this one.
“Where are they?” The President asked, brisk and business-like.
“My office,” Leo said.
Instead of summoning Josh and Sam he went to them through the door in his own office, careful to knock first. A few minutes later he returned and nodded to her that she should go in.
Sam and Josh were still looking dazed. Sam hadn’t moved from the chair he had been sitting in before. Josh sat on the edge of the desk next to him, his arms folded. She sat next to him and explained the strategy to deal with the press. She suggested they take the day off, take some time to decide what they wanted to say and let everything calm down.
“You should go over to my apartment. It’s a slow news day so I’m willing to bet your places will be staked out pretty soon.” Josh and Sam glanced at each other and Josh nodded.
“Does everyone know now?”
Josh ran his fingers through his hair. “I gotta talk to Donna.” He said.
As it turned out Donna was waiting for him with Margaret. The two were talking and when she saw Josh, she ran into his arms, they held each other for a moment and then she let go of him and thumped his arm.
“Ow.” He looked at her in wounded innocence.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She hit him again.
“I don’t know, stop hitting me.”
“Well you should have told me. You’ve been acting weird and secretive for months, I’ve been worried sick. I thought you had a drug habit.”
“A drug habit! Donna!”
“I called a helpline.”
“Oh well at least that explains why you keep looking at my arms…”
“…for trackmarks, they told me to.”
“You know I can’t even take cough medicine without having to sleep for a week, how am I supposed to have an intravenous drug habit for more than half an hour?”
CJ liked this, it was the first thing that had felt normal all day.
“You’re not resigning, are you?” Donna asked anxiously.
“No, it doesn’t look like it,” Josh sighed. “Don’t worry Donna, it’s going to be OK.” Donna nodded and turning to Sam planted a soft kiss on his cheek, he smiled sadly at her.
“Note that,” Josh said to the world in general. “The other person who kept the exact same secret gets a kiss. Can this be noted for the record?”
“You think you got a hard time from me, then you ought to stay out of Mandy’s way.”
“Oh,” said Josh nervously and Sam grinned for the first time.
“Do you want your messages?” Donna asked Josh as they started off for CJ’s office to pick up her keys.
“Yeah you do. Your mother phoned. She had a call from the Gay Times, she’d like you to explain why.”
Josh and Sam both stopped dead.
“Oh god,” said Sam. “We’d better…”
By the time CJ got home it was close to midnight. She was exhausted, she would rather have spent the day shouting at the pressroom about Bartlet starting the third world war than field questions about Josh and Sam’s relationship. It had made her feel complicit and not a little grimy, no matter how much she dismissed and diminished the story.
The light was off in the spare room although the door was ajar and there was a faint glow from the TV which was on low playing the news. She had promised herself a good cry and she sat on the couch and put her hands to her eyes.
“Hey CJ,” Josh called her in a loud whisper. “Come in.”
Josh and Sam were lying on the bed propped up by pillows, they had taken off their jackets, ties and shoes. When she saw them there was finally no holding her tears back. Sam was fast asleep, curling into Josh, his head against his shoulder his arm across his chest. Josh held him with one arm around him. It seemed very natural, she couldn’t imagine why this had never occurred to her before. Josh had the remote in his free hand and he put the TV on mute.
“Don’t cry CJ, you’ll start me off.”
CJ sat on the bed next to him, drawing her knees up to her chin. He passed her a handkerchief. She nodded at Sam. “Is he OK?”
Josh gently pushed Sam’s hair away from his face. “Yeah. He got a bit of a hard time from his folks.”
“What did your mom say?”
“She said I shouldn’t kiss boys in public.”
“Good advice, she knew you’re…?”
“No, but she didn’t seem surprised.”
“Surprisingly few people were Josh.”
“Well, they were surprised about Sam.”
“Oh I see,” he kissed the top of Sam’s head. “Did you see? It was the last item on the news and then only in terms of ‘we’re far too sophisticated to care about this’.”
“Yeah, it’s going away.”
“You know its never going to do that.”
“You just said yourself…”
“From now on there’s never going to be a meeting where someone’s not thinking about it, never going to be a news item involving us that doesn’t mention it. If we were to run for office it’s going to be the number one issue and the subtext to all the others.” He had evidently spent a lot of time thinking about this and not just today. “This is the thing that happened CJ. The thing that happened, and its not ever going to be the same again.”
“You’re overstating it Josh, people can surprise you.”
“Well maybe, but can you imagine an openly gay president? Can you imagine an openly gay governor?”
“No,” CJ had to admit and recalling the rather chilling decision she had heard made earlier in the Oval Office a few more tears escaped her.
“It’s OK. Its almost like I’ve been so afraid of it happening for years and now it has it’s a relief. And I’ve got him and that pretty much makes it all worth it.” CJ gave up trying not to cry and Josh put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her. “Its really OK.”
Sam, waking up, disentangled himself from Josh and blinked at CJ. “This would make a good picture for the Clarion.” He wondered round to the other side of the bed and put his arms around CJ. She cried over him for a while.
“Why are you two so calm?” she asked when she had recovered her voice. “I would have thought you’d be punching holes in walls. Especially you Josh”
“I’ve learnt Zen-like tranquillity from Sam.” Josh said beatifically.
“He spent all morning on the phone yelling at the Clarion…” Sam said smiling fondly at Josh.
“Yeah, I don’t think the Minister had thought of putting his newspaper there before.”
“Then in the afternoon they kept hanging up.”
“Yeah,” she said. “They did the same to Toby.”
“Toby called?” Sam asked surprised.
“Whenever he got a spare moment. He needed someone to threaten with gratuitous violence.”
“You see he doesn’t hate you Sam, I told you.” Josh said.
“No, he just wants the two of you castrated.” CJ yawned. “Leo and the President think there’s a law that says they can do it as well. Plus Mandy volunteered.”
Sam nodded. “They’re taking it well.”
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