Title: The magician and the dark man
Author: Jackie Thomas
Date: Nov 2001
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Archive: All yours
Disclaimer: All theirs
Spoilers: References to episodes in series one and two but nothing really.
Summary: Josh and Sam get in tune with the universe.
The magician and the dark man by Jackie Thomas
There were ten sets of traffic lights between Josh’s apartment and the White House. Each of them turned red as he approached and stayed that way for what seemed like hours. He cursed in increasing frustration. He was late, his alarm hadn’t gone off and he had overslept.
He flew into his office yelling “Donna! I need my notes for campaign finance, I need Sam, I…” and found her sitting at his desk with a…with a… “What are you doing?” She had a pack of what could only be Tarot Cards spread out on the table in a complicated sequence, some face-up and some face-down and a fat paperback in her hands. “No, don’t start telling me. Where’s Sam? Where are my notes? Donna, why aren’t you…?”
“The notes are right there in front of you. Sam’s on his way. And incidentally you’re early.”
He looked at his watch. “Its 9.15. We should have been there half an hour ago.”
“No Josh, its 8.15, you don’t have to be anywhere for half an hour.”
Josh began to doubt himself. “My watch says 9.00. You know my watch is fifteen minutes slow.”
“That’s a new watch. That’s a completely new watch and its one hour fast. What do you do to them?”
He sank down into the chair opposite Donna. Taking off the watch, he shook it a couple of times then threw it onto the desk. “I’m going to get a sundial and have done with it.”
He dropped his backpack, shouldered off his mac and dragged his laptop across the table. He pushed the start key and sat back to wait for it to shudder to life. It didn’t. It had recently taken to shuddering to life, which was annoying, but that was preferable to this which was no life at all. He watched Donna studying the cards and referring to the book.
“I’m reading cards.”
“Don’t read cards in the White House. Not after the First Lady and the Oujia Board.”
“I’m reading your cards.”
“Mine? Don’t I have to be there before you do that?”
“Nope. Look that’s you.” She pointed at a card in the centre of the spread. “That position there, that’s the signifier card to sum up the questioner. Which is you.”
He prodded the on button on the computer. “I don’t have any questions, I didn’t consent to this.” He pressed the button harder. Nothing happened. “In fact this is completely a violation of my civil rights.” He glanced at the card, which featured a character in the costume of a court jester. “What the hell’s that anyway? It’s the joker. That’s me?”
Donna flicked through the pages of her book. “It’s The Magician. It’s a good card, you should be pleased.”
“Why? Do I get to saw blonde women in half? I could get to like that.” He abandoned the computer with a final bad-tempered prod at the keyboard.
“No, look, The Magician is for originality, dexterity, ingenuity, a determination to see a task through to completion, an ability to influence others and a commanding presence.”
“Really? That sounds about right.”
“Yes Josh you could be all those things if you stopped rushing around yelling.”
He took in more of the spread. “So what are all of these cards?”
“Those ones there are your past. I mean Jeez, no wonder you’re screwed up, look at all of that.” His eye drifted over a landscape of flying swords, lightening bolts and skeletons. He didn’t need the book to figure out what all those represented.
She turned up a few cards on the other side of the spread. “But these are your career path. A King, Seven of Staves, Nine of Cups, those are for success, you’ve even got The World.”
“Cool, I get the world. OK, what’s that one?” He looked hopefully at a card featuring a pretty young queen on a throne surrounded by chalices.”
“That’s the card for what you should do in the immediate future to achieve happiness.” She turned rapidly through the book and then beamed at Josh. “How about that?”
“You should listen to the advice you receive from a fair woman.”
“Give me that.” He took the book and read the meaning for the Queen of Cups. “You fixed this.”
“The cards don’t lie, Josh,” she said taking the book back and turning over two more. “Right, I’m doing your love life now.”
“Don’t do my love life,” he wondered if there were any blank cards in the pack.
“Oh hold on, that can’t be right.” She carefully consulted the book.
“What can’t be right?” Josh anxiously scrutinised the cards. One was of two lovers entwined and that seemed promising enough.
“Its that card there, the Knight. It means there’s a dark man in your future.”
He glared at Donna, glared at the square-jawed Knight and went back to jabbing randomly at his computer. Donna shrugged. “He’s nice though, handsome, creative, intelligent.” She looked up. “Hi Sam.”
Sam had his coat on and briefcase in hand. “Hey Donna, are you doing a reading for Josh? Donna knows all and sees all.”
“I really do.”
“Josh,” said Sam. “I got all the sailing cards and all the writing cards, it was neat.” He perched on the edge of the desk, accidentally knocking the computer. Josh watched, amazed, as it sprang smoothly to life with all the comforting machine noises that it used to make when it was new.
Sam examined the spread. “What are those? The Hanged Man and The Moon. Didn’t I get the exact same ones in that position?”
“Yeah, you did, that’s weird.” Donna, momentarily distracted from the lover situation, took in a picture of a man hanging upside down in a meditative position. “That’s for your relationship with the universe, your current state of mind. The Hanged Man means life in suspension and this one with it, The Moon, means all sorts of obscure events, pitfalls and spooky influences. You two have got to get in tune with the universe, you’re walking negative vibes.”
“We don’t have to take this,” said Sam good-naturedly.
“Yeah, we don’t have to take this.” Josh typed in his password and the computer flashed a particularly incomprehensible error message at him before shutting down completely. “We don’t have to take any notice of this statement of the complete, obvious truth. All right Donna, what do we have to do to tune up the universe? Apart from everything you tell us to, that is.”
“I’ll have to consult the cards again.”
“Right,” Josh got up and started getting his things together. “Do that, I’m sure you haven’t got anything else you’re supposed to be doing.”
“Its customary to cross my palm with silver you know.”
Josh ignored her and looked at Sam. “So, what are you?”
“I’m talented and successful. Apparently.”
“Yes, we all know that Sam. I mean what was your signifier?”
“Some horse guy,” Sam pointed to the card next to The Lovers. “Um, that one…the Knight.”
Donna’s head shot up from the book and stared at them as Sam absentmindedly helped Josh back into his mac.
“I’m The Magician,” said Josh. “That means I’ve got a commanding presence.”
“Is that different from having a big mouth?” Sam enquired innocently. “I got The Magician in my reading. Didn’t I Donna?” She nodded emphatically. “In fact, I have one in my future.”
They disappeared down the corridor together and she covered her mouth with her hand.
Josh’s car wouldn’t start so they took Sam’s. They arrived at the conference with plenty of time to spare having cruised through successive green lights. Sam parked the car while Josh went ahead to check in at reception. But not before he had got his coat caught when the elevator doors closed on him and not before he had crashed into the automatic doors of the reception area, which suddenly failed to be automatic for several seconds.
He signed in for both of them and then looked over his notes while waiting for Sam. He glanced up when the automatic doors slid open but it wasn’t until a few seconds later that Sam arrived. Josh watched mystified as Sam walked through and the doors closed quietly behind him.
Josh spoke at the conference and it went well. Although there were a few problems with the mikes, which they had to switch off whenever Josh started speaking because of all the feedback. Afterwards Sam was held up talking to someone and Josh went ahead.
He managed to get into the elevator despite getting his coat trapped a couple of times and, as the doors started to close again, he saw Sam approaching. The doors slid open to admit him before either of them had hit the door-open button.
“How do you do that Sam?”
“Elevator doors, traffic lights, computers. All mechanical objects just bow to you.”
Sam stared at him and hesitated before saying. “What happened to your mac?”
Josh looked down and saw two dark lines across the edge of his coat. “Elevator gunk, there’s something seriously wrong with this thing.” The truth of this was belied by the smooth journey from second floor to basement parking lot.
Then, when the door handle of Sam’s car came off in Josh’s hand and he looked as though he might cry Sam came round and, evidently trying not to laugh, put a gentle hand on his shoulder saying. “We’ve got time Josh, lets walk back.”
“Okay,” he said and handed Sam the handle. “I’m sorry I broke your car.” .
“Oh, it’s always doing that.”
“Its never done it before has it?”
They left the underground parking lot by the stairs. “Sam, this is getting worse,” said Josh. “Watches, hotel room doors, I’m used to that. But now…my apartment has been in darkness all of this week and no one knows why except that it’s fine when I leave. The power failure on State of the Union, the heating before the Leadership Breakfast.” He instinctively lowered his voice. “And I’m not sure but I think I may have lost Galileo Five. If it keeps on this way I’m going to have to live in a cave in the mountains with only bears for friends.” He stopped mid-rant because Sam was staring at him. “What?”
“Can we go in here for a minute,” said Sam. They were passing a small public park, empty in the damp cool of winter. “I want to show you something.”
Josh followed Sam to a bench by a fountain, dry since summer ended. Sam took his cellphone from his pocket. “Watch this,” he said to Josh and then to the phone. “Ginger.” The phone instantly switched itself on and started dialling.
Ginger answered. “White House Communications.”
“Ginger, its Sam. Just checking in. Josh and I are going to be a bit late back but we’ll be in time for Leo’s meeting. Can you let Donna know?”
“Sure, see you later.”
Josh was confused. “Is that one of those voice-activated...?”
“No Josh, its my old phone. You have to switch it on, you have to press buttons. Except I don’t have to anymore. Give me your phone.”
Josh put his hand in his pocket, he sighed. “It doesn’t work.”
“Pass me it.”
The phone sprang to life in Sam’s hand, its first sign of life in days. He said “Sam” to it and it started dialling. Then Sam’s own phone in his other hand began to ring.
Josh shot to his feet. He knew for a fact his phone couldn’t do that, even when it was functioning. Sam dragged him back down by the sleeve of his coat. “Don’t freak out Josh, I’m already freaking out enough. Look at this.” He waved a hand at the fountain and it immediately started up in a gushing, majestic flow.
“What the hell…?” Josh could only gasp.
“Most of the time I can’t control it. The other day I was walking down the street and all the car alarms went off as I walked passed. At home, every time I go near the vacuum cleaner it follows me across the room.” Sam blinked. “I call it Rover now.”
“…the hell…?” Josh repeated. He went over to examine the fountain as if he could find an explanation in the tumble of the water. As he approached, it stopped dead. He turned to Sam. “No, no, no, this isn’t happening.” He went back and sat down. “Maybe you’re the Messiah.”
“It’s the only explanation. Can you do walking on water?”
“Do Messiahs need Chiefs of Staff? Wait…can you do healing…apart from cellphones?”
Sam gripped Josh’s arm. “I need you to focus here.”
Josh looked at the hand on his arm. “But Sam this is…”
“This is really, really bad. Its getting worse and if…if it keeps up like this I’m going to be in that cave with you.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Josh said firmly, finally responding to Sam’s evident anguish. “So okay Agent Mulder, what’s going on? ”
“I don’t know. I’ve been researching for weeks, since it started happening and I can’t come up with anything. But Josh, this is obviously something to do with the two of us.”
“Yeah, we’re at opposite extremes of something,” he smiled. “And that’s never happened before.”
Sam closed his eyes. “You know, I’ve always been lucky with traffic lights, stuff like that. I used to think it was pretty cool but now, when everything just starts working when I go near it, it’s terrifying.”
“It’ll be okay, Sam. We’ll figure it out.” He put his arm around Sam and they started to make their way out of the park. “And if not, it doesn’t sound too bad.”
“Sharing the cave with you. Yeah?”
Sam nodded seriously. “Yeah, that sounds all right.”
They were back at work in time for a meeting with the rest of the senior staff in Leo’s office. Leo, CJ and Toby were already there when Josh arrived. As he walked into the room Leo’s television and computer switched themselves off and all the lights went out.
“This is happening way too often,” Toby grumbled. “Leo, do you not pay the utility bills?”
Then the handheld fan CJ was using because the building temperature had just mysteriously increased went dead. She flicked the on/off switch a couple of times and then laid it down on the couch next to her.
Then Sam came in and all hell broke loose. The lights started flashing on and off. The television switched itself back on at double the volume and started flicking rapidly through all the channels despite Leo’s attempts to switch it off. The computer chimed in and started rebooting. All the telephones and cellphones in the room started ringing and the handheld fan took flight and began hovering around CJ’s head while she and Toby batted at it with their papers.
Josh and Sam watched in horror.
“We’d better get out of here,” said Josh and they didn’t stop until they were out in the Sculpture Garden. Apart from sending the sprinklers into a state of confusion they were all right out there and they watched the lighting inside the White House return to normal. They sat side by side on a bench not daring to move and soon Donna came rushing out.
“Oh my God Josh, what did you do?”
“Why do you assume it was me?”
“Because you’re the one hiding in the back yard with your best bud.”
“We’re not hiding,” said Sam.
“No, we’re not hiding. We’re just not going to be able to go indoors for a while.”
They saw Leo, Toby and CJ approaching. CJ was picking bits of fan out of her hair.
“Hey, Bert and Ernie,” she said. “What’s going on?”
“Its just this thing that’s happening,” said Josh.
“Are you ready to enlighten us guys?” Leo murmured dangerously. “Because the President would like to know why he’s been attacked by the First Lady’s hairdryer.”
“Well, it’s sort of complicated,” Sam offered.
Donna stared at them a moment and then said. “Josh makes things stop. Sam makes things go. If they’re in the same room together everything goes bananas.”
“Okay, maybe its not that complicated.”
“This was in both your readings,” she said, excitedly taking her cards out of her pocket. “Its to do with the Hanged Man and The Moon and…”
Toby exploded. “Donna, if you’re responsible for casting some sort of spell here, so help me…after the First Lady and the…”
“Its not a spell Toby, its prediction. And if you shut up a minute I’ll show you.”
She gave the cards to Josh to shuffle and then to Sam to cut and placed them in a simple spread on the bench. Josh recognised many of the same cards from his previous reading. The Hanged Man, The Moon, The Magician, The Knight and The Lovers were all there but arranged in different sequences. Finally she looked at the others and said. “Yeah, I thought so.”
“What is it?” Sam asked.
“I know how to fix this.”
Sam and Josh glanced at each other. “How?”
“You have to have sex.”
“Cool,” they said.
“With each other.”
“Donna!” Josh spluttered and the others turned and stared at her.
“You each showed up in the other’s reading this morning as future lovers,” she began.
“We did not!”
“You did. And you each had this identical problem with your lives. This reading is to find out what to do to resolve the problem and the Lovers has come up along with your signifier cards. The Magician and the Dark Knight have to get together. And seeing as you are evidently already together in every way except sexually, it must mean you have to have sex.”
“You’re completely making this up,” Josh said. “And you are so fired.”
“I am not making it up Josh, just look at the cards. You guys should have done this years ago, and because you didn’t you’ve been getting steadily out of sync with the world and the thing with the electrics is just one of the ways it’s showing itself.”
“Right then,” said Leo apparently satisfied with the explanation. “Josh, Sam go and have sex.”
“Well that’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear from the lips of the Chief of Staff,” said CJ.
“I thought they were already having sex,” said Toby. “CJ you told me they were already having sex.”
“Well, I thought they were,” she replied ignoring the looks of dismay on the faces of both Josh and Sam. “What about all that flirting?”
“What the fire-building and stuff?” Donna said. “That would be the unresolved sexual tension.”
“Doesn’t anyone ever do any damn work round here?” Leo growled. “I’m serious, go and do what you have to do, don’t do it in the press room, and if one light bulb blows in this building I’m holding you responsible.”
Josh got to his feet. “Seriously Leo, I don’t want to, you know, disobey you or anything. But do you know what you’re saying…?” Josh could hear his voice raising. “Don’t you think we should try not to assume that having sex with Sam will solve all our problems. Because you know that’s never previously been the case.”
“Hey!” said Sam, wounded.
“Sorry,” said Josh. “I’m just saying. I’m just saying we should look into this a bit further rather than just listen to the bizarre rantings of Mystic Meg here.”
“Josh, in the absence of any better plan I’m telling you to have sex with Sam.” Leo spoke with a note of finality in his voice. “And stay out of my White House until you do.”
He, CJ and Toby began to walk back and Leo turned to yell at Donna who was standing smiling at Josh and Sam. “Leave them alone Donna.”
“But they’re so cute together.”
“I said leave them alone.”
Finally Josh and Sam were left alone. They didn’t speak for a while until Sam said, “So I guess we’re agreed that this thing isn’t anything to do with us not having...?”
“Right,” said Josh sitting back down next to Sam.
“Which means all we have to do is find out the actual reason, sort it out and then presumably Leo won’t be so enthusiastic about us having…”
“Exactly.” They didn’t speak for a while. “Have you come up with anything yet?”
“No,” Josh shook his head. “I’m still stuck on the subject of us having…I can’t actually get passed that.”
“No, me neither.”
“Not that I’m thinking of…”
“No, absolutely not thinking of that.”
Josh turned to Sam, “Except what?”
“If…if you did want to try out the sex…”
“What, you’re saying it might work?”
“No, not that exactly…”
“No, it’s okay, never mind.”
Josh stared at Sam who shivered in the cool of the early evening. Any other time Josh wouldn’t have hesitated to put an arm around him, if only for a moment.
“What are you saying?”
“Right, yes, an explanation.” Sam’s voice was quiet. “I love you Josh. I mean, I’m in love with you. Its possible I’ll never be in love with anyone else. I wouldn’t have said anything but it seems relevant.”
“I didn’t know...I don’t…I’m not…”
Sam was looking at his feet. “I know, no need to turn into Woody Allen, I never meant to embarrass you.”
“No, its…Ah Sam, I have to go.”
Josh went back inside, ignoring the curses when computers died and lights dimmed as he walked by. He couldn’t face Donna so he went out without collecting his coat or bag and found himself walking. He stuck to back roads to avoid disrupting traffic and, though he told himself he wasn’t headed anywhere in particular, when he stopped walking he was at Sam’s apartment. At Sam’s apartment wondering exactly what he was doing there.
He couldn’t ring the doorbell because it wouldn’t work under his touch and disheartened he didn’t knock. He sat on the stoop and leaning his head against the railing he closed his eyes. He could stay here, for a while at least, and think of a dream he sometimes had when a dark man would kiss the side of his neck.
“I knew you were here because all the lights went out.” Sam’s voice, quiet and warm, came from next to him on the step. He didn’t open his eyes but turned himself into Sam’s embrace. The streetlights flickered bright and dark along the side of the road and Sam’s arms were unmoving around him.
“Come in for a while,” said Sam after a long time.
Josh forced himself to look at Sam. He had changed into old jeans and a sweatshirt and looked close to worn out. “Okay,” he said.
They trudged up the stairs together. “I could do with your help actually,” Sam said. “To turn my radio off.”
“It might never go on again.”
“I know. But that’s better than the 24 hour Celine Dion station it seems to have stuck itself on.”
“Oh, God. Have you tried unplugging it?”
“Well yeah, but that doesn’t work anymore.”
Josh stopped. “Sam, you’re a one-man alternative energy source. You could solve the fuel crisis.”
“Not helping, Josh.”
Josh stopped in the doorway of Sam’s apartment and looked around. Sam was obviously in the process of clearing up but the room still looked like it had been picked up and shaken. It was in darkness, lit by a few candles. Furniture was upturned and possessions broken and scattered. The rug was wet under Josh’s feet and broken glass covered the floor. Smoke stained the walls and the air was heavy with the smell of burning. The TV screen had blown out and all the while Celine shouted out the extra-long version of ‘My heart will go on’ accompanied by the bleeping and ringing of various alarms. “What the hell happened here?”
“I missed most of it. But some pipes burst and the shower flooded, the refrigerator managed to both ice itself shut and overheat. The TV and the oven, I guess were going full blast and somehow caught fire. All the light bulbs exploded too. I got back in time to put out one of the fires but the landlord had already broken in and put the other one out when he heard the smoke alarms. I’ve been evicted incidentally.”
“Yeah. Wow. But do you think you could do something about Celine? I think I can cope with almost anything else.”
“Oh, sure, she’s bringing on my PTSD anyway. Hold on.” He went over to the radio and looked at it in a very serious way. A couple of seconds later it wound itself down to silence. “There you go, check out my commanding presence.”
“Thank you,” said Sam in huge relief and slumped onto the sofa.
Josh watched him rubbing an exhausted hand across his eyes and wanted to get him away from this wreckage. But he knew there was nowhere they could go and he came to a decision. “I guess we’d better get on with it then.”
“Get on with…? Oh I see. That’s real romantic, Josh.”
Josh looked at his feet. “It’s the only way I can get through this.”
“I think you’ve missed the point of the story so far.”
Josh sighed. “Have I Sam?”
Sam stood and went over to Josh, he put a hand on his shoulder and kissed the side of his neck. “This was supposed to happen,” he said. Josh shivered and found himself unable to move or respond and Sam stepped backwards out of his space.
The sense of loss was overwhelming and unexpected and it wasn’t a conscious thought that led him to pull Sam back to him and clasp him into a tight embrace. He wouldn’t have let go but Sam finally pulled back and dark blue eyes met his. Josh realised that this was how they had been standing for years, a kiss hanging in the air between them. His hands were moving through Sam’s hair when he closed the gap.
Then when the kiss ended, Josh let his mouth taste Sam’s neck and ear, the corner of his eye, his forehead. He tasted warm and male and like all forbidden things. He pulled Sam’s sweatshirt over his head and the sight of Sam, beautiful and on his way to being naked, caught him unexpected and he lost his nerve. He would have stepped back but Sam stopped him by taking his hand. “Its just me, Josh,” he said and kissed the palm of his hand. Then he slipped Josh’s jacket off and whispered. “It’s just me and you, just like always.” And Josh dropped his head and kissed Sam’s shoulder.
When Sam had, with gentle fingers, taken off Josh’s tie and shirt they faced each other across an unbearable distance. Then Sam touched Josh’s cheek with the back of one finger.
“Josh, look, whatever the Chief of Staff says, I won’t…”
“Don’t stop Sam,” Josh said and Sam smiled and took his hand. He led him into the bedroom and as they entered all the lights began flashing on and off and the clock radio by the bed started up a storm of interference. But Josh was hardly aware of any of it as he watched Sam finish undressing and then begin to undo Josh’s belt and trousers until he was also naked.
Sam pulled them together and whispered. “Josh, the world’s upturning.” Josh kissed him and pushed him down on to the bed.
Afterwards all was darkness and silence and Josh held Sam. He slowly stroked his hair. “Sam,” he said. “I love you, how come I never knew?” Sam answered by kissing Josh’s lips and then going back to resting his head against his shoulder. “You knew, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was waiting around for some supernatural event to get your attention.”
“You’re a supernatural event Sam.”
“No, you’re the magician,” Sam whispered. “I’m just the dark man in your future.”
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