Title: The fund for distressed donkeys
Author: Jackie Thomas
Date: December 2002
Email: email@example.com Feedback appreciated
Archive: All yours
Disclaimer: All theirs
Warning: None. Festive fluffiness - an advance apology for the next one which is really miserable.
Summary: Sam is selling kisses for a dollar. Guess the rest
The fund for distressed donkeys by Jackie Thomas
The fund for distressed donkeys.
The coin had landed the reverse of Josh's guess 50 times in a row. Heads when he called tails. Tails when he called heads. The experiment was proving conclusive. He was the unluckiest man in the world.
"Josh!" Donna was at the door of his office, tinsel draped around her shoulders, exuding the same air of urgency she did when he was very late for a meeting.
"I'm the unluckiest man in the world."
"I know. Come on, we have to go."
"Okay." He pocketed the coin and followed her out of the room. Then he realised he didn't have a meeting to go to. It was Christmas Eve and there weren't any meetings. "Where are we going?"
He started down the corridor with her.
"Why? What's going on?"
"You have to kiss Sam."
He stopped walking. "Donna. I know my job description's pretty wide."
"No, for charity. We're all going." And indeed the whole section appeared to be deserted.
"I know it's a long time since he had a girlfriend, but I don't think he classes as a charity case."
"Josh, stop trying to be funny."
"I'm not trying to be funny, I am funny."
"It's a dollar a kiss for the Fund for Distressed Donkeys. Where are you going?"
"Back to work. I've got important things to do. I'm a very important man."
"Gingers doing it too."
He turned. "Why didn't you tell me that?"
"Everyone assumed you'd rather kiss Sam." She beamed at him.
"Donna, you're the one who starts these rumours. That's why everyone assumes this. It's a good thing I'm secure in my sexuality. Now give me five dollars I'm going to kiss Ginger five times to prove it."
They hurried down the corridor. Donna said. "What do you think it is that distresses the donkeys so much?"
"Usual stuff. Price of straw. Is there a God?"
"Pin the tail on the…"
"That even distresses me."
They met CJ and Carol on the way. CJ said "Hi guys. Are you going to Communications? We're going to Communications…"
"Yes," said Donna. "We're getting a kiss from Sam."
"I'm not," said Josh.
"We've got our dollars," CJ announced, showing them a dollar crushed in the palm of her hand. "Hey isn't Christmas great? Aren't donkeys great? Eeyore. The one that went to Bethlehem. The one that kicked me when I was six."
Josh raised his hand to attract attention. "I'm not. I'm not kissing Sam."
There was a party going in Communications. The staff had set out drinks and snacks and all those who had stayed at work after the official functions were there.
Ginger was perched on the end of her desk with a bucket of dollars next to her. There was a crowd around her. Ed and Larry put a dollar each in her bucket and Josh was pleased to see they were being very gentlemanly. Accepting a chaste peck on the cheek from her and then making a performance out of swooning afterwards. He also saw that Bonnie was standing protectively by just in case anyone got too familiar.
Sam was clearly judged not in need of such protection as he was left to roam around unsupervised. He had a bucket for dollars in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, a wilting sprig of mistletoe sprouting from his jacket pocket and a big, dazed smile on his face. Josh personally had doubts about who, of Ginger and Sam, was best able to look after themselves but Sam seemed perfectly happy.
As Sam drifted about most of the women and some of the tipsier men stopped and kissed him and his bucket was filling up with dollars.
"Come on, Sam's free." CJ said, taking Donna and Carol along with her. "Are you coming, Josh?"
"Kidding. I'm kidding."
Josh watched as Donna appeared in front of Sam, waved her dollar, and startled him into spilling his wine on his shirt. She dropped the dollar into the bucket and Sam pulled the mistletoe from his pocket and held it in the air above their heads. Sam closed his eyes and Donna put her hands on either side of his face drawing him in for a long kiss.
Josh definitely had mixed feelings about that.
When they came up for air Sam raised his glass. "To the donkeys," he said.
Now it was Donna's turn to look dazed and she went off to get a drink. Then CJ dropped a dollar in the bucket. "You're totally the love of my life." She said to Sam.
"You don't have to sweet talk me CJ, I'm yours for a dollar."
"Cheap date," she said and CJ and Sam kissed. Josh thought that Sam was enjoying this way too much.
Carol got her kiss next, Nancy was close behind and Josh had to give Sam credit, he gave it his all. They definitely got a dollar's worth of kiss. Then Sam wandered off, mouth smudged with lipstick, in the direction of the drink table to refill his glass of wine. Not for the first time judging by the state of him.
Leo and Toby came in from seeing the President off for the Christmas break. Leo surveyed the scene. "Josh, what's going on here?" He asked.
"Wine, an assortment of salty snacks. You can kiss Sam for a dollar. Hilarity ensues."
"We have to kiss Sam now?" Leo griped. "There must be one hooker in DC who hasn't qualified for the bar?"
"See, I'm laughing already." Josh pointed to the other side of the room. "You can also kiss Ginger for a dollar."
Leo looked more interested. "Really?"
"Yes," said Toby, looking at his fingernails. "What we're actually doing here, is laying the groundwork for some expensive and highly publicised sexual harassment suits."
Leo looked at him suspiciously. "You got a kiss from Ginger already didn't you?"
"And Sam," he said. "They both work for me. I'm entitled."
Josh was appalled. "But you donated to the donkeys?"
Toby smiled enigmatically. "I don't pay for my kisses."
"Oh that's real appropriate," said Leo.
Margaret came in then. "Is it true that Sam and Ginger are kissing people for a dollar?"
"Its for donkey rehab," said Josh. "And Sam's ready, willing and able."
"I think I'll try Ginger," she said and started off towards her.
"You see," said Josh. "You see what happens. The genie's out of the bottle, and now we have sexual confusion and the end of civilisation."
"That doesn't look like confusion to me," said Leo. "We're going to have a really big lawsuit."
They all watched as Margaret put a dollar in Ginger's bucket and they exchanged an affectionate kiss on the lips and a hug. Margaret left shortly afterwards and Josh could have sworn she was blushing.
"Right," said Leo. "I'm getting out of here before I see something, or in fact do something, that'll put me in front of the grand jury for the next six years."
He turned round and came face to face with Sam. He was holding out his bucket and fluttering his eyelashes alluringly. "Its for the donkeys."
"I hope, for your sake, that pouts not for me."
"The donkeys are quite distressed," said Sam intensely.
"I know how they feel."
"Should I get out of the damn way, Leo?"
"That would be advisable."
Sam stepped aside. Beaten but unbowed he followed Toby into his office shaking his bucket. "But you owe me a dollar still, Toby." Josh couldn't help but notice he was practically the only person in the room Sam hadn't tried to kiss. He didn't want to explore why that should bother him.
Josh saw that the crowd around Ginger had died down and she and Bonnie were examining the takings. Feeling a melancholy that he could not exactly define he went over to her.
"Hi, Josh," Ginger said. "You look sad."
"Sad, yeah a little. I'm just thinking how there isn't enough gold in the reserves to justify a kiss from you."
"Oh," said Ginger while Bonnie rolled her eyes. "You can have a kiss for a dollar, Josh. People think its funny but donkeys can get really badly treated. Especially in countries where they're working animals."
Josh dropped some notes into the bucket and gave Ginger a hug.
"Don't be sad, Josh." Ginger spoke so quietly not even Bonnie would hear her. "Sam looks like he's having fun but we know who he'd rather be kissing."
Josh pulled away from her and met her gaze. There was no hint of fun or sarcasm in her eyes. "It's not like that."
"Sure," she said.
Josh went over to the drinks table and poured himself a glass of wine. Probably a bad idea. But he was officially the unluckiest man in the world and everyone thought he was having sex with Sam, or at least wanted to, and that justified a drink.
Plus it was Christmas Eve and he would be working tomorrow. As it turned out he would be on his own. Even Toby and Leo had other plans. CJ was going to her family for a few days and Sam always went away at this time of year.
He sat for a while at one of the desks, sipping wine, and eating peanuts, watching the party gradually break up. Donna and CJ were going to the airport and they hugged him goodbye telling him not to work over Christmas. He walked them as far as the lobby and then headed back to his office.
He found Sam waiting for him there. He was sitting in Josh's chair swivelling gently and clutching his, now empty, bucket.
"I didn't see you leave the party." Josh said.
"I'm quite stealthy." Sam was always a sweet and affectionate drunk. "I've come to give you a kiss," he said. "Donna sent me."
"Did she? What did I tell you about listening to Donna?" Josh sat in the visitor's chair and returned Sam's dopey smile. "Anyway I already gave."
"Not to me. I would have remembered. And also it's Christmas. And Christmas is a time for giving more than you would otherwise give. And I…I am allowed to keep the bucket. Because it's proved quite the babe magnet."
"I don't think that's why they let you keep the bucket."
"It's a lucky bucket." Sam said carefully. He eyed Josh narrowly. "I don't think you're in the Christmas spirit."
Josh pulled a coin out of his pocket. "Can you flip that?"
"Of course," said Sam affronted. "I'm not drunk."
"No, I mean will you, it's an experiment."
Sam took the coin, called `heads', threw it in the air and watched with mild curiosity as it dropped to the floor. It rolled along to Josh's feet – heads up.
"That proves it," he said. "I'm the unluckiest man in the world."
Sam nodded. "I know."
Josh looked at his watch, it was almost five. "Shouldn't you be on a plane or something?"
Sam shook his head.
"A one horse open sleigh?"
"You're not going away for Christmas?"
"Are you sure, Sam?"
"Since I live here." He gestured in the general vicinity of Josh's desk drawer.
"Give me your wallet."
Sam trustingly handed his wallet over. Josh checked it for flight tickets or any other evidence of Sam's plans. He didn't find anything. He handed the wallet back to Sam who smiled triumphantly. "See, no plans. I'm plan free."
He got to his feet. "You know, Josh…" He began.
"Huh?" He looked blankly back at him and then remembered. "Did you know you could adopt a donkey?"
Josh was ninety per cent sure it was a worthy fundraising scheme but you could never tell with Sam. "Have you adopted a donkey, Sam?"
"Many, many donkeys. But you don't get to raise them as your own, or anything. If that's what you're worried about." Sam frowned. "I mean, I'm never home and the apartment's small, they'd get bored and eat the couch, wouldn't they?" Josh shrugged helplessly.
Sam came to a mental decision about that issue and started for the door. "I think I've got to talk to Toby."
"Yeah, he'll like that."
"You're sure I can't sell you a kiss? Because I'm an excellent kisser." He held his mistletoe for inspection. "I have all the necessary equipment."
"I don't doubt it." Josh smiled. "You should go and see Toby now." He watched Sam wander off down the corridor.
He found himself alone in his office and he knew there were a few things he could be working on but he didn't feel like doing any of them. Christmas always hit him like this. Not unhappiness so much as reflection on how his life had progressed over the year. And every year he came to the same conclusion. Career was right on schedule, everything else was a bit pathetic.
After about an hour of dejectedly flipping the coin and guessing wrong every single time he decided to go home. There was no point sitting around the office being improbably unlucky. He could just as easily be unlucky at home watching sport. He pulled on his Mac, picked up his backpack and headed over to say goodbye to Leo.
Leo was on his way out. He reminded Josh he was leaving him in charge of the country over Christmas and he didn't expect to come back and find it broken or with coffee spilt on it.
When Josh left Leo he stopped to wish Happy Christmas to anyone left in Communications. The only sign of life was in Toby's office. Toby was beetling about getting ready to leave and looking unhappy. The reason he was unhappy was clear. Sam was unconscious on the couch with an empty wine bottle at his feet.
"Good you're here, can you be in charge of getting him back on top of the Christmas Tree?"
Josh looked down at Sam's sprawled and bucket-clutching form and smiled. "Okay."
Toby looked at his watch. "Damn. Josh. I've got to go." He hurried off. "You two try not to start any wars with any of the larger countries while we're away."
Josh went next door, shut down Sam's computer and got his coat. He went back to Sam and shook him, at first gently and then with a little more vigour until he woke and gazed blearily up at him.
"Hi," said Sam, letting his eyes close again.
"Time to go." Josh said.
"Come on, we're going home."
He sat down next to Sam, who was speaking so quietly he could hardly hear him. "Why not?"
"You didn't want to kiss me."
Josh sat back. He had only so much resistance. "I never said that."
"Sam, don't." he whispered.
"Donna didn't send me."
"I know, Sam. Lets go home."
Sam nodded and after a moment let Josh stand him on his feet. Josh got him into his coat and they made an unsteady journey to Josh's car. Sam slept throughout the drive to his apartment and Josh listened to the rhythm of his breathing as he drove.
Sam tended to switch to automatic pilot when he was drunk and as soon as they reached his apartment he let himself in and lurched off to the bedroom with Josh close behind. Knowing Sam he would sleep now until morning so Josh took off Sam's coat and jacket and pulled back the covers before letting him lie down. Then he took off Sam's shoes and moved up the bed to undo his tie. He was planning to throw the sheets over him and leave him to sleep it off when Sam, without opening his eyes whispered. "Josh."
"Yeah, Sam. You need something?"
"I need. Something." He was drifting between sleep and wakefulness.
"Go to sleep, you're home."
He started to get up from where he was sitting on the edge of the bed when Sam stopped him.
"Josh." He murmured and opened his eyes. He reached up and pushed his hand through Josh's hair.
"Don't," said Josh before Sam pulled him down into a kiss.
Sam's mouth moved urgently against Josh's. He tasted of alcohol, of somebody's lipstick and of something fundamental and elemental beneath those superficial sensations. Of Sam. Josh responded instinctively, returning the kiss with equal force holding on to Sam as if he were oxygen on an airless planet.
Until his mind finally engaged and he realised what he was doing. He pulled himself away and was on his feet a second later. Sam's eyes were already closing and Josh didn't breathe while he waited to see if he would wake up. He woke a little because he said, while being pulled into a deep, alcoholic sleep, "Josh, stay."
But he was soon unconscious and Josh left immediately, hardly trusting himself to do otherwise. As he walked down to his car he touched his lips and smiled.
The next day, Christmas, the rain poured down on empty streets and Josh went into work. He first stopped to say `hi' to the few who were in the West Wing. Then he went to his own section, which he found silent and empty. He sat at his desk and watched the rain against the window.
He had thought a lot about what happened last night. During long sleepless hours he couldn't bring himself to regret Sam's kiss. He could still recall the taste of it on his lips and he shivered just thinking about it. But there was little chance that Sam would remember what had happened and no chance that either of them would try to take it any further.
So he would keep the kiss safe, just as he would treasure any gift Sam gave him. Everything else would, as always, remain unspoken between them. Talk about bad luck.
"I didn't think you'd actually come to work." Sam was standing in his doorway. He had showered and dressed in jeans and a sweater but he was looking the worse for wear. He was pale, unshaven and his hair was standing up in little spikes indicating that his normal morning power combing routine had been abandoned. He sat down in one of Josh's chairs and looked accusingly at him. "It's Christmas day, Josh."
"Well, I'm Jewish. Plus Leo told me to mind the shop." None of this appeared to impress Sam. "And I've got all this work to do."
"I can see. I mean that window can't stare out of itself."
"Then, why are you here? You look like hell, I thought you'd be out cold all morning."
"I can't open my eyes, but otherwise…" Sam took off his glasses and peered at Josh. "You took me home?"
"Thanks. Did I kiss the whole of the West Wing yesterday?"
"Leo outran you, but basically."
"Had left the building."
He slumped back in the chair. "I'm not sure but I think Ginger sold me a donkey."
Josh smiled. He was certain now that Sam had no memory of what had happened. "So did you sleep all right? Did you dream you kissed a donkey?"
"Don't start me on my dreams. Hey, do you think there's any coffee in this building?"
There was a coffee maker by Donna's desk and Josh made a pot while Sam rested his head against the wall nearby.
"Why didn't you go away for Christmas, you normally do?" Josh asked.
"We can talk about that later."
Josh looked at Sam. "Is everything all right?"
"It could be. It really could." Sam caught Josh's expression and shook his head. "I'm fine."
They drank their coffee and worked together on a draft of a speech. Josh found himself aware of Sam's presence in a far more intense way than he was used to. He was accustomed to a small tug at his heart when his friend was around. So small he scarcely noticed it anymore. This he couldn't ignore. He tried to distract himself by flipping coins. Improbably he guessed right time after time.
Sam looked up when Josh didn't respond to something he had said. "Josh?"
Josh blinked. "Is something happening, Sam?"
Sam put down his pen, looked at Josh and then launched into a bewildering ramble. "Josh, I'm really sorry. It's my fault. I wanted to say some things to you. Things I can't not say anymore. I'm tired of playing around. I'm tired of just… I thought – Christmas. I could say it and then its said and you could throw me out and we could come back to work in two days and pretend it never happened. So in fact, I'll just go and I'd be grateful if you never mentioned it again.
Josh got to his feet. "Sam."
Sam stopped at the door. "Yes."
"You didn't…you didn't say the thing that you wanted to say."
"What?" Sam turned round and faced Josh, clutching his paperwork like a shield. This had at least got his eyes open. He looked like a rabbit caught in headlights.
Josh took the file from his hand and put it down, reached behind Sam to close the door. "Tell me your dream."
"The one you had last night."
"There was one where I was tangoing in a stable."
"Not that one."
Sam looked searchingly at Josh, seemed to notice how close he was standing. He looked away briefly and then said.
"It was a good dream. One of those dreams that stay with you and make the day seem better. It was Christmas Eve. This happened." He put his hand behind Josh's head and, after a pause, kissed him.
This time it was a gentle kiss, more hesitant than last night's drunken passion but still Josh could feel each of his nerve endings tingle.
When it ended Josh kept hold of Sam. Kept his arms tight around him until he was sure his good luck wasn't going to slip away through his fingers.
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