Title: Through Thick and Thin
Author: Jilly Bean
Rating: This part is G
Archive: Sure! Just keep my name attached.
Summary: The world is about to find out about Josh and Sam's relationship.
Notes: The back story is a bit AU, I have Josh and Sam meeting in law school and they've been together ever since. None of the other romantic relationships (read: het) mentioned in the series ever happened. Thanks to Nomi and Ivy for their wonderful beta work! I love your nitpicking Nomi! This plot bunny was inspired by a story I read on the West Wing fanfic list titled "True Colors" by Flip. The idea ofa book being published is the only thing that remains the same.
Through Thick and Thin by Jilly Bean
Lydia Walker was thankful that she was on CJ's list of acquaintances. It made getting through the gates of the White House so much easier. She knew she would have no such luck once she actually came to the West Wing, but she hoped against hope that CJ would be around to grant her admittance.
Lydia swung her jeep into a visitor parking spot and grabbed her umbrella and briefcase from the passenger seat. Opening her door, she popped the umbrella and made a mad dash for the entrance to the grand building. She had been to the White House a few times since her friend had come to work for the Bartlet administration, but the building never ceased to amaze her. Even faced with the reason for her current visit.
Once inside, she strode purposefully to the desk of the receptionist, ignoring the Secret Service agents on either side of the entry way. "Good morning," Lydia said in her most professional tone. "I'm a friend of CJ Cregg's and I need to speak with her immediately."
The receptionist looked unimpressed. "Do you have an appointment?"
"No, but something came up last night that has made it imperative that I speak with her. My name is Lydia Walker; would you please call her assistant Carol and let her know that I am here?"
The receptionist gazed at her for a moment before indicating a row of leather chairs against the left-hand wall, "Have a seat and I'll see what I can do."
Lydia was barely able to contain her relieved sigh. "Thank you." She turned, eyeing the Secret Service a little warily; she was always uncomfortable around them. Taking a seat, she placed her briefcase in her lap and clung to it for dear life. If they couldn't get a hold of Carol, she contemplated how far into the West Wing she could get before the Secret Service shot her dead. Lydia looked down at the heels she was wearing, four inch monsters that were her futile attempt at compensating for her lack of height, and decided against such a foolhardy plan. Carol would remember her. Lydia knew she would. There was no other alternative.
CJ plopped into her chair, grateful the morning briefing was over. There was nothing major going on for once so the press corps had seemed to make it their mission to bore her to tears with a procession of tiresome, pointless and just plain stupid questions.
"CJ, why is the president no longer taking his morning walks?"
"CJ, has President Bartlet decided to get a pet? If so, is he more likely to get a dog or a cat?"
And on and on it had gone for nearly twenty minutes before she had called a halt to the asinine questioning. She realized that she should be grateful, because lord knew that there weren't many briefings that had little to no significance in the grand scheme of things. Two weeks from now when some country in the world decided to invade its neighbor, CJ knew that she would be willing to kill to have a press conference like the one this morning.
Her idle thoughts were interrupted by Carol knocking lightly on her open door, "CJ?"
"Yes, Carol? Please tell me you have something interesting for me to do?"
Carol smiled, "I'm not sure if it's interesting or not, but Lydia Walker is here to see you. She told Sandra that it was very important that she talk to you. Should I go get her?"
CJ nodded, "Thanks, Carol." Lydia was an old college friend and CJ couldn't imagine what Lydia could have to tell her that required a visit to the West Wing. Why couldn't she just call? CJ shrugged and settled back to await the arrival of her friend.
Lydia was about to start biting her nails when she saw Carol emerge from the door that led to the West Wing. Lydia practically fell out of her chair in her attempt to rise to her feet. Carol came over to her, a smile on her face.
"Nice to see you again, Lydia," Carol greeted her, shaking Lydia's hand.
"Nice to see you as well, Carol. Is CJ available?"
Carol smiled, "Yes, you're in luck; she just finished her morning briefing and has about half an hour before her morning meeting with the Senior Staff."
They approached the metal detector that blocked the entrance to the West Wing. Lydia dutifully handed over her briefcase to the Secret Service agent who thoroughly checked its contents before handing it back with a nod. "Your business here today, ma'am?"
"She's here to see CJ, it's okay," Carol answered for her.
The agent nodded again, "And all of those papers?"
"I'm an editor; it's merely a copy of the latest manuscript I'm working on right now," which wasn't a total lie, Lydia reminded herself as her voice quivered nervously.
Apparently the agent was used to such a reaction and indicated that she could follow Carol. This time making no attempt to hold it in, she released a sigh and followed CJ's assistant into the hustle and bustle of the West Wing.
CJ stood when Lydia walked into her office, immediately moving to embrace her friend. "It's good to see you Lydia, have you grown?" CJ joked, knowing Lydia's height, or lack therof, was something of a touchy subject with the other woman.
"Very funny, Amazon woman. All I can say is God bless whoever invented high heels or I'd never be taken seriously."
CJ moved back behind her desk and motioned for Lydia to have a seat across from her. "I highly doubt that, Lydia." Whatever Lydia lacked in height, she more than made up for in sheer force of presence and passion. She reminded CJ of Abbey Bartlet that way. "So what brings you to the White House on this gloriously miserable morning?"
The smile that had been on Lydia's face fell away immediately at CJ's question. "Something came to my attention last night that I think you should be made aware of."
CJ felt her heart rate increase at the serious tone of Lydia's words. "That doesn't sound good, Lydia."
"It isn't," the other woman replied matter-of-factly. "Believe me when I say I came as soon as I realized what it was that I had. I wish I had known about this sooner, CJ, I really do."
At this point, CJ could feel herself begin to sweat. This conversation wasn't getting any better. "Known about what, Lydia?"
With a deep breath, Lydia opened her briefcase and handed CJ a thick stack of papers. "Last night one of the editors that I work with, Louise McHugh, brought this manuscript to my attention. When she began reading it, she realized how damaging this book was going to be when it was released. Since everyone at Capital Publishing knows that you and I are friends, Louise brought it to me." Lydia looked her friend square in the face. "It's being released on Tuesday."
When Lydia stopped talking CJ glanced down at the pages in her hand. She raised her eyebrows at the corny title. "Harvard Love?" she asked incredulously. Her worry decreased slightly. Surely something with such a. . .lame. . . title couldn't be a problem.
"Just read the summary," Lydia commanded in a solemn voice.
Shaking her head, CJ turned to the next page and began to read. As her eyes skimmed further down the page, CJ thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown. This couldn't be. There was no way. No way anyone could know. This all had to be a nightmare. That was it. Any minute now she would wake up, at home, in bed, listening to the rain pelting against the windows.
"It's true, isn't it?" Lydia asked calmly when CJ put down the pages. Her soft words made CJ realize that this was no dream.
CJ nodded. "I don't understand how anyone could have known! How they could have such . . . details! How could this happen?"
"CJ," Lydia leaned forward in chair, "this is libel! They can sue! Whoever wrote this did a terrible job trying to cover themselves! I mean come on! The author barely changed the names, Stan Stillmore and John Wyman? Do they think you guys are stupid? You can probably get an injunction to stop the book from even being released."
"But I think that's the point, Lydia. Whoever wrote this wants there to be no mistake as to who they're talking about. This is a deliberate attempt to destroy their lives!" CJ had to stop for a moment to get her anger under control. How dare anyone try to hurt her friends!
Taking a deep breath, she continued. "Even if we manage to stop the publishing of the book itself, the press will find out. I'm sure whoever wrote this has an extra manuscript or two just lying around waiting to be leaked to a couple of ambitious reporters."
"And that's the problem. I haven't been able to find out who the author is. It's obviously a pen name, but Louise and I spent all night trying to find out who actually wrote this. Needless to say, we didn't have any luck. I was hoping with the White House's resources you guys would have a better shot at finding them than we would."
CJ put her head in her hands. It was amazing how in the world of politics everything could come crashing down around you in a matter of seconds. How was she going to tell Josh and Sam about this?
Lydia reached across the desk and gently took hold of her friend's arm, "I'm sorry, CJ. I really am. I know that you're good friends with Sam and Josh. I did everything I could."
CJ looked up to see the pained expression on Lydia's face, "Oh Lydia, I know you did. You have no idea how grateful I am that you brought this to my attention. I can't imagine what would have happened had we been blind-sided by something like this."
A knock on the door interrupted the conversation. Carol poked her head in, "CJ, staff in ten minutes."
Lydia rose from her seat and CJ followed suit. "Look, CJ, if you need anything else, anything at all, let me know. I'll do whatever I can."
CJ walked around her desk and hugged Lydia again. "You've already done enough. We'll take it from here."
Lydia nodded. "Good luck."
"Thanks, I think we're going to need it."
Lydia shook her head ruefully and headed for the door.
"Can you get Sam and Josh in here ASAP?"
"Why don't you just talk to them at the meeting?"
"This can't wait."
CJ sat behind her desk, wringing her hands as she stared at the manuscript. She knew this was not going to be a pleasant conversation.
CJ's major concern was keeping Josh from killing someone once he found out about the book. The Deputy Chief of Staff had gained something of a reputation around Washington thanks to his highly volatile temper. CJ could only imagine what his response was going to be to this news.
Sam, on the other hand, remained something of a mystery. CJ wasn't sure how he was going to react. Under normal circumstances, Sam was much better at controlling his emotions than Josh. But, then again, these were anything but normal circumstances.
"Hey, CJ. Carol said you wanted to see us before the meeting?"
CJ looked up and saw Josh and Sam standing casually in her doorway. She forced a smile onto her face. "Come on in, guys. Why don't you close the door and have a seat?"
Josh stood aside, motioning for Sam to precede him. Once the younger man was seated, Josh closed the door and propped himself up against the arm of Sam's chair.
"What's so important that you couldn't wait until after the meeting to tell us?"
CJ sighed. "Sometimes my job really sucks."
"CJ, what is it?" Sam asked earnestly.
Not knowing what to say, and berating herself a bit for taking the chicken's way out, CJ merely handed the manuscript to Sam. Despite her best efforts, CJ was unable to keep her fingers from trembling.
Sam took his glasses from his jacket pocket and slipped them on. CJ watched nervously as he began to read.
Several seconds passed as Sam continued to pore over the story. Finally, he looked up. "Is this for real?"
"It's scheduled to be published on Tuesday."
Sam merely nodded and handed the pages to Josh. No one spoke as Josh read over the summary.
A short bark of laughter broke the silence a few moments later. "This is a joke, right?"
"No, Josh. It's not a joke," CJ replied ruefully.
"Come on, CJ. Fess up. I gotta admit; you really had me going there for a minute."
Okay, this was a reaction she had not been expecting. "Josh, look at my face. Is this my joking face?"
Josh's eyes narrowed as CJ watched him scrutinize her features. "You're getting good. That is most definitely not your joking face. When did you guys have time to do this?" Josh turned his attention to Sam.
"What?" Sam looked at Josh with a confused expression. "Why do you think I had anything to do with this?"
"Come on, Sam! Where else would CJ get all these intimate details about our life? I certainly didn't tell her."
"Neither did I!"
"Look! No one told me anything!" CJ intentionally raised her voice before the two men could begin arguing in earnest. "Do you remember my friend, Lydia Walker? She works for Capital Publishing here in D.C. She's been here to visit a few times in the last year or so."
Sam and Josh exchanged glances. "Yeah, we remember her," Josh answered slowly.
"She's the one who gave this to me. She found out about it last night and came here this morning to give me a copy. Lydia wanted us to have an opportunity to see the book before it comes out. Give us a chance to get a game plan together."
"So this isn't a joke?"
"No, Josh. It's no joke." CJ's voice left no room for argument.
"Someone wrote a book about my private life with Sam?"
"Without our permission?"
CJ braced herself for the explosion. "Yes, Josh."
The tension in the room was practically visible as Josh digested this information. CJ could see the muscles in his body begin to tighten.
"Son of a bitch!" Josh leapt to his feet and flipped over the chair that was next to the one Sam was sitting in.
"Josh, calm down. . . ," CJ tried to placate him.
"I will not calm down! Some unscrupulous, immoral bastard has taken the story of how I met the man I love more than life itself and turned it into a lurid tale for mass consumption!" By this point, Josh's face was bright red and his chest was heaving with his labored breaths. "How the hell does something like this happen?"
"I don't know, Josh," CJ replied quietly.
"You don't know? You don't know?! Then what in the hell are we paying you for?"
CJ recoiled as if she had been slapped across the face.
Sam's quiet voice speaking his lover's given name garnered the other man's attention instantly. When Sam looked up into his face, Josh relaxed visibly. It seemed to CJ that there was an entire conversation going on that no one but the two deputies could hear.
Josh released a loud breath and ran both of his hands through his hair. He looked up at CJ reluctantly. "I'm sorry, CJ. That was completely out of line. I didn't mean to take my anger out on you. You did everything you could."
CJ smiled slightly. Though Josh's words had stung, she knew that he hadn't meant them. She couldn't imagine how the two of them must feel. "It's okay, Josh. I understand."
Josh nodded and then looked over at Sam. He approached slowly, kneeling next to the chair and took the younger man's hands into his own. "Babe, you okay?"
Sam looked at Josh for a long time before replying. "I'm not thrilled, Josh, I can tell you that. But I know that we'll get through this somehow."
CJ looked at her watch and stood. "Guys, the meeting is going to start in a minute. Why don't you two stay here for a few minutes and get yourselves together. I'll brief the others on what's going on and then you can come down whenever you're ready."
Josh looked up at CJ from his spot on the floor. "Thanks, Claudia Jean."
CJ smiled, what felt like her first real smile in a long time. "You're welcome, Joshua."
"Thanks, CJ." Sam said, his voice still quiet.
CJ squeezed his shoulder. "We're all behind you. I promise that you won't have to do this alone." She left quietly, more determined than ever to help defend her friends' dignity.
Josh squeezed his eyes shut for a moment as the door clicked softly shut behind CJ. He could feel Sam staring down at him but was afraid to see the emotions that would be playing across his lover's face.
A contented murmur slipped past Josh's lips as he felt Sam's fingers sliding through his hair. Nothing could calm Josh more than the hypnotic glide of Sam's fingers as they caressed his scalp.
"I really do love you, you know," Josh breathed as Sam continued his ministrations.
"Of course I know." Josh smiled at Sam's reply. "Just as you know that I'm madly in love with you."
"Of course you are, I'm irresistible," Josh responded seriously.
Sam laughed. "Egomaniac."
Josh opened his eyes to see Sam grinning at him. That beautiful smile was all the reassurance that Josh would ever need.
As quickly as it appeared, the smile slid from Sam's face. He squeezed Josh's hands tightly as he began to speak. "Josh, I want you to know that no matter what happens, I won't hide from this. I'll defend our relationship to the entire world if need be. I refuse to let anyone think that I'm ashamed of you. What we have is special, and nothing, I mean nothing, is going to change that."
Sam's confident words brought a smile to Josh's lips as he asked, "Through thick and thin?"
Sam's entire face lit up as Josh had known it would. These were the words that they had spoken to each other some eight years before when they had decided to spend the rest of their lives together.
Josh felt his breath catch in his throat as Sam leaned closer. "Through thick and thin," Sam replied. The words caressed Josh's mouth mere moments before Sam's lips followed suit.
Josh returned the kiss with everything he had, parting Sam's lips with his tongue before slipping inside. Josh shivered as his taste buds exploded with Sam's familiar taste, his body crying out for more of the man in his arms.
Sam slid out of the chair and onto the floor directly in front of Josh. They continued to kiss, each joining of lips more intense than the last, until they were drowning in each other. Sam's muffled whimper as their tongues came together again and again inside the younger man's mouth sent a jolt of electricity straight to Josh's groin.
Feeling his control beginning to slip away, Josh pulled Sam's slender frame tight against his body and began to gently lower Sam to the floor. Nothing mattered to Josh at that moment except for Sam. Not that they were in CJ's office in the middle of the day nor that there was a book about to be published that would reveal every detail of their relationship. All Josh cared about was the gorgeous man writhing beneath him. The man that he loved. The man that loved him.
"Josh?" Sam's voice was husky with arousal.
"Mmmm?" Josh was too busy running his hands all over Sam's body to be bothered with something as mundane as speaking coherently.
"As much as I'd like nothing better than to make love with you right now, I don't think that the floor of CJ's office is the place to do it."
Josh groaned in frustration. He glanced down at Sam who looked thoroughly debauched laying on the floor in his rumpled suit with his hair sticking up in several directions. Josh decided that Sam was probably just making a token protest. "CJ's not here," Josh whispered and went back to devouring Sam's kiss-swollen lips.
"Josh. . . Josh!" Sam said emphatically between kisses. And a bit too loudly in Josh's opinion.
"Babe, you're making this awfully difficult," Josh's words were muffled by Sam's neck. He was trying desperately to get Sam's tie and shirt undone, with little success.
Sam finally managed to grab hold of Josh's roaming hands before they could strip him completely. "Joshua! We are not doing this here!"
Josh finally stopped and looked at Sam again. Sam's blue eyes were imploring. Josh heaved a huge sigh. "All right, I'll let you go with your virtue intact."
Sam laughed and raised his head to kiss Josh lightly. "I think it's a little late for that, don't you?"
"Yeah, I wonder who I picked that up from, Mr. Lyman."
Josh kissed Sam again and this time there was only love and tenderness behind the gesture. There would be time for desire later. Josh would make sure of that. "I just want you to know one thing." Sam raised an inquiring eyebrow but said nothing. With a wicked grin, Josh leaned close to Sam's ear and whispered, "When we get home tonight, your ass is mine." Josh pulled back so that he was straddling Sam's slim hips.
"You're so cute when you're horny," Sam teased, reaching up and patting Josh's cheek with his hand.
Josh swatted Sam's hip playfully and then stood. He reached out a hand and helped Sam to his feet. They spent the next few moments making each other look presentable to the public once again.
Josh looked at Sam and was nearly overcome by the intensity of the love he felt for the younger man. Suddenly feeling a bit vulnerable, Josh closed the distance between them and wrapped himself around Sam.
Josh felt Sam's surprise, but it only lasted for a moment before he felt Sam's strong arms enfold him in a comforting embrace.
"We are going to get through this, aren't we, Sam?"
"We'll get through it together, Josh. I promise," Sam reassured him.
Sam kissed the top of Josh's head. "Come on, let's get this meeting over with."
Josh nodded and pulled out of Sam's warm embrace reluctantly. "I love you, Sammy."
Sam smiled. "I love you, too, Josh."
The silence in the Oval Office was deafening. Toby was now skimming through the manuscript while Leo and the President sat fuming in their chairs.
"Whoever wrote this book has an even poorer grasp of the English language than Sam does," Toby commented as he flipped a page.
Leo shot him a look. "Somehow, Toby, I don't think that anyone gives a damn about grammar right now."
Toby looked over at Leo, who was seated in a chair to Toby's left. "I was just saying . . ." he began.
"Don't say anything, Toby. Not one word."
"Geez, and people say I'm the grouchy one," Toby muttered as he turned back to the pages spread out on his lap.
CJ noticed the President shooting Leo a warning look from across the room. The Chief of Staff closed his mouth before uttering another word. Silence returned to the room.
CJ discreetly glanced at the clock on the wall to her right. Fifteen minutes. It had only been fifteen minutes since she had left Sam and Josh in her office. Fifteen minutes since she had explained to Leo, Toby and the President about the upcoming book. CJ decided that fifteen minutes was definitely enough time for an ulcer to begin to form. She wasn't sure if it was enough time for Josh to completely destroy her office.
/Nah, Sam would never let him do it/, she thought to herself. /At least I hope he wouldn't./
The door to the Oval Office swung open, drawing the attention of the room's occupants. Josh entered first. "Sorry we're late," he announced as Sam followed him into the room. Josh closed the door and the two men took their customary seats on the sofa next to CJ. She gave them an encouraging smile, which she was relieved to see them both return. Giving them that time alone had been the smart thing to do, CJ realized.
"Who would have the nerve to do something like this?" Leo demanded as soon as Josh and Sam were situated. His tone was sharp, barely concealing the anger that fueled the words.
Josh looked a little stunned at Leo's vehemence, but visibly relaxed when Sam took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "We have no idea, Leo," Josh replied, obviously making an effort to keep his own voice calm.
"What do you mean you have no idea?" Leo asked incredulously. His eyes shifted from Josh to Sam and then back again.
Josh sat clinging to Sam's hand for dear life as Sam spoke to Leo. "Just that, we don't know how this happened. No one knows about our relationship except for the four of you, Cathy, Donna and our immediate families," Sam was as composed as ever. "The title is too corny for any of you to have written it." Sam's attempt at alleviating some of the tension that filled the room fell flat.
"Sam, Josh," the President began, walking around his desk and taking a seat across from his young staff members, "I need the two of you to sit down and compose a list of anyone and everyone who could have access to this information. Include all of us on the list and be thorough. The Counsel's Office needs someplace to start."
"I just told you everyone who knows," Sam interjected. The President waved him off.
"Those are the people that you have told. I want a list of anyone that those people may have told."
"Counsel's Office?" Josh asked in a confused voice.
It was Leo who answered. "The President has asked Lionel Tribbey to take your case. He's on his way over to take a look at the manuscript and meet with CJ and me. After that, I'll have him find you two to get the list of names and ask any questions he may have."
Sam and Josh exchanged silent glances. It sometimes unnerved CJ how they were able to communicate that way. One of these days she'd get around to asking them if they had telepathic abilities.
"Leo," Sam began, "maybe it would be better if we took a leave of absence. I mean, Josh and I are both lawyers."
The look Leo fixed on Sam would have made any man cower in fear. Any man, that is, except Sam. Notions like that were completely lost on him.
/Water off a duck's back. Must come from working with Toby for so long,/ CJ couldn't help but smile at the thought.
"Shut up, Sam," Leo demanded after glaring for a couple more seconds. "You guys should know by now than an attack on anyone in this room is an attack on all of us.
"If whoever wrote this malicious book," Leo fairly spat out the word, "thinks that this administration is going to stand idly by while two of its own get ripped apart by the court of public opinion, he or she is sadly mistaken.
"When you and Josh told us about your relationship before you joined the campaign, we all made it very clear that it didn't matter to us. We wanted you on our team because we knew you could do the job, we liked your values, your principles and your belief that we could make a difference. Not because of who you were or weren't sleeping with.
"We also promised you that if your relationship ever became public knowledge, we would all stand by you. Now, are you doubting our word?" No one had moved a muscle as Leo spoke. He had the entire room mesmerized, even the President.
Sam replied immediately, "No, it's not that . . ."
"Good, because I'd hate to think that you would insult all of us by thinking we would abandon you at the first sign of trouble." Leo gave Sam and Josh a small smile. "We're all here for you, for whatever you need."
"Thanks, Leo," Sam answered softly.
"Thanks, Leo," Josh's voice was nothing more than a whisper.
"How long before the book hits the press room?" Toby asked CJ.
CJ took a moment to think before responding. "Well, I'm sure Lydia's not going to be the only one at Capital Publishing to recognize the story. If they don't have it yet, they will soon. I give it until tomorrow morning at the latest."
The President nodded. "All right. Josh, Sam, I want the two of you to stay as far away from the press room as possible, just in case. I also think you should head out early. If the book breaks earlier than anticipated, you won't get caught up in the initial firestorm if the press can't find you. Toby or CJ will keep you posted as things develop."
President Bartlet turned to his Chief of Staff. "Leo, I'm sitting in on that meeting with Lionel. I want to know what our options are and how we can go about tracking down this son of a bitch.
"CJ, I want you to start getting ready for damage control. Toby, I'd like you to work out some statements. One for CJ, one for me. I want everyone to know that I'm behind Sam and Josh one hundred percent." Everyone nodded as the President ticked off their names. "Good." The President stood and rubbed his hands together. "Now, what's next?"
"You do realize that we just passed my office, don't you?"
"Yes, Josh, I do indeed realize that we just passed your office."
"Okay, so why are we still walking?"
"Because we're not going to your office."
"Oh." Josh was quiet for a moment. "So where are we going?"
"My office," Sam replied matter-of- factly.
"Oh." Josh glanced over at Sam. "What's wrong with my office?"
"Nothing," Sam was quick to respond. "It's just a bit . . . cluttered."
"Yes, Josh. Cluttered. As in more things are crammed into the space than the space can comfortably accommodate."
"My office isn't cluttered."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it isn't."
"Yes, Josh, it really is."
"No, Sam, it really isn't."
"Sure, Josh, whatever you say."
"Okay, for argument's sake, let's say my office is cluttered, which it isn't by the way. What the hell does that have to do with why we're going to your office to make the list instead of mine?"
"I think better in an uncluttered environment."
Josh favored Sam with an incredulous look as they continued walking through the West Wing. "Since when?"
"Since when what?"
"Since when do you think better in an uncluttered environment?"
"How come I didn't know this?"
"Maybe because you don't know every last detail about me, Josh."
"Well, I should!"
Josh could see Sam fighting back a grin. "Why should you?"
"Sam! We've been together for over eight years! I should know you by now!"
"You do know me."
Josh wanted to rip his hair out. "You just said I didn't!" As much as he loved Sam, it was conversations like these that made Josh want to strangle his lover.
Sam stopped walking and looked Josh in the eye. "I said you didn't know <everything> about me. That's how it should be. If you knew everything, our relationship would get stale."
Josh thought this over for a moment. "So what you're saying is that my not knowing that you think better in an uncluttered environment is a good thing?"
"Because otherwise the relationship would get stale."
Josh crossed his arms and stared at Sam for a few seconds. "You know, Sam, you really frighten me sometimes."
Sam clapped Josh on the shoulder, "I know." With a huge grin on his face, Sam led the way across the Communications bullpen and into his office. Josh followed, shaking his head.
Sam closed the door as Josh plopped himself down in his usual chair . Sam walked behind his desk, booted up his laptop and slipped on his glasses. "Okay, let's get this over with."
"You type and I'll think," Josh suggested.
"Gee, Josh. Do you think I can deal with all that responsibility? I'm pretty sure I can handle typing and thinking at the same time. After all, I get paid to do pretty much that same thing for the President of the United States on a fairly regular basis."
Josh smirked. "Boy, you sure do get grumpy when you're sexually frustrated."
Sam gave him a disbelieving look. "I am not sexually frustrated."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not." Sam turned back to his computer.
Josh shrugged. "Okay, whatever you say. Let's get cracking on this list."
Sam's head popped up, just as Josh had known it would. /Don't know you, my ass./
"Not so fast. Why do you think I'm sexually frustrated?"
"You're all flushed and your pupils are dilated just a bit more than they should be. That plus the fact that you've checked out my ass at least ten times since we left the Oval Office."
Sam snorted. "Don't flatter yourself."
"See? You're grumpy."
"Fine, Josh. I'm completely sexually frustrated and won't be able to accomplish anything until you fuck me within an inch of my life. Can we move on now?"
"Sure, but you're the one that wanted an explanation."
"I'm just saying if you hadn't stopped me in CJ's office, you wouldn't be having this problem right now."
"Josh, there was no way we were having sex in CJ's office or anybody else's office either."
Josh smiled. /He knows me too well./
"Now, I will live until we get home tonight. Can we just do this?"
"'Ha!' What?" Sam looked like he wanted to bang his head against his desk. Josh couldn't help but smile in victory.
"You admit it!"
"That you're sexually frustrated!"
Sam sat quietly for a moment. Josh knew that Sam was mentally reviewing what he had just said. "Damn," came the muttered response.
"What was that?"
"Fine, you win. I can't get enough of your sexy bod."
Josh wasn't sure if Sam meant for his voice to drop a couple of octaves or not, but after that statement the arousal Josh had managed to tamp down earlier came flaring back to life. /Damn him and that voice!/
"Earth to Josh, come in Josh," Sam was waving his hand in front of Josh's eyes.
A truly evil grin spread across Sam's face. "Seems I'm not the only frustrated person in this room." His voice was nothing more than a deep purr. Josh glared at Sam in warning as he felt himself begin to tingle everywhere. Sam merely laughed. "Okay, on with the list."
Josh forced himself to focus on the task at hand as Sam began to type out the obvious names. It only took them a moment to name the Senior Staff, their respective assistants and their families. "Who else?"
"I'm thinking," Sam replied, rhythmically tapping his fingers on his keyboard.
"I think my mother might have told our neighbor. Mrs. Cole is probably her best friend in world."
Sam nodded, "Okay, I'll put her on the list with a question mark next to her name. Anyone else?"
Josh slumped down in his chair and heaved a sigh. /Who else? Who else? Who would know this stuff <and> want to use it against us?/
They sat in silence for a few minutes when Josh saw it. A lightbulb went off in Sam's mind. "What is it, Sammy?"
"It might be nothing."
"Or it could be something. Come on, what is it?"
"Remember I told you that Samantha was seeing that new guy?"
Josh thought back to the last conversation that he and Sam had about Sam's baby sister. It came to him, "Yeah, vaguely. His name was Curt something, wasn't it?"
Sam nodded. "I remember Samantha telling me that she told him about us when he mentioned that his sister was gay," Sam's voice sounded far away to Josh as he was obviously trying to recall the details of the conversation. "I wasn't happy about it at the time, but Samantha assured me that Curt wouldn't say anything. She explained to him about our jobs and how it couldn't get out and Curt told her that he understood all too well. But dammit, Josh, there was something about that conversation that really bugged me and now I can't recall what it was."
"Don't think so hard. It will come to you."
Sam nodded again and focused on the screen in front of him. Josh watched closely and could almost see the wheels turning in Sam's head. It wasn't too much later that the lightbulb went off again. "My God, Josh."
"I remember what bothered me about that conversation."
"Her boyfriend is a freelance magazine writer."
For a moment Josh couldn't breathe. "Call Samantha. I'll go tell the others."
Sam was dialing the phone before Josh was out the door.
CJ lifted her head up to see Carol leaning into her office. "Yeah?" Her voice already sounded tired to her own ears and it wasn't even ten o'clock in the morning yet.
"Mrs. Landingham just called, they're ready for you in the Oval."
"Thanks, Carol;" CJ stood and gathered her note pad and pen before heading out the door. She could feel Carol staring at her back. CJ turned around. "Was there something else?"
"Is everything okay?"
CJ shook her head sadly. "No, Carol. Everything is far from being okay."
Carol nodded, but did not question CJ further. CJ's assistant had a knack for knowing when to keep her mouth shut. It was a trait her boss appreciated tremendously. Particularly today.
CJ resumed her trek to the Oval Office. She made sure to plaster her "I'm-busy-so-don't- even-think-of-stopping-me" look onto her face.
CJ made it through the bullpen, down the hall and to Mrs. Landingham's desk without anyone giving her so much as a second glance. The look appeared to be working particularly well today.
"Good morning, CJ," Mrs. Landingham greeted her politely. "Would you like a cookie?"
"Good morning, Mrs. Landingham. I would love a cookie, thanks." CJ grabbed a cookie and stuffed half of it into her mouth. Nothing like a great big sugar high to make a person feel better.
"Go on in dear; the President and Mr. McGarry are waiting for you."
"Thank you." CJ hurriedly finished chewing and inhaled the other half of the cookie. She tucked her note pad under her arm and brushed the cookie crumbs off of her hands before entering the Oval Office for the second time in less than an hour.
The President and Leo both looked up as she entered. "CJ," Leo nodded as he greeted her. "Any buzz from the press yet?"
CJ made her way over to the two men. "Nothing yet, thankfully. Although, to be perfectly honest, I haven't been near the press room since my briefing this morning."
"Well, the longer it takes for them to get their slimy hands on the story, the longer we have to prepare." Leo was unable to disguise the distaste he felt for the media. Not that CJ could blame him.
"Speaking of preparing," CJ began, "I thought that Lionel Tribbey was going to be at this meeting." She looked from Leo to the President, who was seated behind his desk.
"Lionel will be here," the President assured her. "He got caught up in a meeting on the Hill, but he should be here any moment."
As if on cue, the door opened to reveal Mrs. Landingham. "Sir, Lionel Tribbey is here."
President Bartlet waved his hand, "Send him in, Mrs. Landingham."
A moment later, the tall, imposing figure of Lionel Tribbey strode into the Oval Office. "Good morning, Mr. President." He shook the President's outstretched hand. "Leo, CJ," he nodded to each of them in turn.
"Good of you to make it on such short notice, Lionel," Leo commented as he motioned for them to all take seats.
CJ watched as Lionel gave Leo a look. "Sure," his gaze moved to the President. "Sir, may I suggest that we with dispense with the niceties and get right to whatever it is that you called me in to discuss? As I am never called to the White House unless there is something very wrong, am I correct in assuming that there is a major problem? And if you tell me you've hired another Republican to work in my office I will throw myself off the roof of this building."
CJ had to put a hand over her mouth to hide her smile. Leo looked at her from the other sofa, one corner of his mouth curling up into a hint of a grin.
"I can assure you, Lionel, that I haven't hired another Republican to work for you."
Tribbey relaxed visibly. "Good. Anything else I can handle."
President Bartlet nodded. "Glad to hear it. Leo."
CJ held her breath as Leo handed the manuscript to Tribbey.
"What the hell is this?" He glanced down at the pages Leo had given him. "'Harvard Love'?"
"Just read, Lionel. Let me know if anything about the story strikes you as familiar." Leo's voice was as hard as stone.
Lionel began to mumble to himself as he flipped through the pages. Afer about five minutes, he slammed the manuscript down onto the table in front of him. "Is this real?"
"It's real, Lionel. And it's about to blow up in all of our faces. You're hear to tell us what we can do about it." CJ recognized what she called President Bartlet's "Executive Tone". No one messed with him when he used that tone.
"Okay," Lionel was tapping the fingers of his right hand against his knee. "I need to have some questions answered before I can give you any sound legal advice."
Bartlet nodded. "Ask away, although I don't think we have all the answers you're looking for."
"Fair enough. First question, is this story true? Are Josh and Sam in a committed homosexual relationship?" Lionel looked around the room.
"Yes." CJ answered. "They have been for about eight years now."
Lionel nodded. "Second question, how do we know this isn't a hoax? Some kind of practical joke?"
"CJ?" President Bartlet motioned for her to answer.
CJ looked from the President to Lionel. "A friend of mine works for the company that is publishing the book. It will be out next Tuesday, by the way. She ran across the manuscript last night and recognized the characters. That's when she decided to bring it to my attention. She came by my office first thing this morning."
Lionel seemed to be processing this information. "Okay, do we have any idea who the author or authors are?"
Leo took over, "At this point, no. Josh and Sam are working on a list of possibles as we speak. It's gotta be a short list, Lionel. The only people who knew were the Senior Staff, the President, Josh and Sam's families and Donna and Cathy. Who could they have told?"
Lionel snorted. "Well, one of those people obviously told somebody, Leo, otherwise we wouldn't be in this predicament, now would we?"
Lionel leapt out of his seat and began pacing around the room. He finally fixed his gaze on CJ, who tried not to sink further into her seat. "This is going to get ugly, isn't it?"
She nodded. "Yes, it is. And once it breaks, it's going to get ugly very fast."
"Some 'free country' we live in, isn't it? Two highly intelligent, well-respected men are about to have their lives ripped apart because they happen to be in love with someone of the same sex. People who have never even met them are going to judge them and condemn them just because they are gay. It's times like these that this country disgusts me." Lionel sat back down in his chair and ran his hands through his hair a few times. No one spoke.
A few tense moments later, Lionel seemed to have his anger under control again. He looked up and focused his attention on the President. "Here's what you can do. First of all, you have a cause of action against the publishing company for a major violation of Josh and Sam's right to privacy. I recommend hitting them up for general damages for emotional suffering and special damages to ensure that Sam and Josh get the money they deserve off the sales of this book.
"Here's where it gets interesting. Once you find out who the author is-and if the list is as short as you think it's going to be, it shouldn't be all that hard-you sue them for the same things we're going to nail the publishing company for along with exemplary damages."
CJ was writing fast and furiously trying to keep up with all the legal jargon, planning to get Josh and Sam to go over it with her in detail later, when Leo interrupted Lionel.
"Exemplary damages? Are you insane?"
"No, Leo, I'm not. It won't be hard to prove. Why else would anyone write a book like this?" Lionel motioned to the manuscript lying on the table.
CJ raised her pen tentatively, "Uh, guys? What are exemplary damages?"
Lionel took the seat next to CJ on the sofa. "Exemplary damages are awarded in a case when it is proven that the defendant's motives were malicious in nature and that their intent was to harm the other party, be it physically or mentally."
"And you think this warrants those kinds of damages?" CJ tried not to sound too lost. She hated legal speak. Probably one of the reasons why she wasn't a lawyer.
"Absolutely. I think that whoever wrote this book did so with the intent to destroy Josh and Sam's careers as well as their private lives. If that's not malicious, I don't know what is."
"Lionel," Leo began, "let's just concentrate on finding the author for right now. Once we know who it is, then I think we can make a better judgement as to what their motives were when they decided to write this book."
Lionel gave the other man an incredulous look. "You can't be serious, Leo! This is a hateful thing that is being done to two of your employees! Don't you want these people punished to the full extent of the law?"
"Lionel, it's not that simple to prove malicious intent and you know that. We also have to be careful of the message that our actions send to the public."
"Screw the public, Leo!"
"Enough!" President Bartlet's voice stopped the argument before it had a chance to begin. Leo, CJ and Lionel all watched as he stood and made his way around the desk. "You're right, Lionel. What's being done to Josh and Sam is a hateful thing. And they're not just my employees, they are my friends. I will not stand idly by while someone attempts to destroy them. Not now, not ever. I want you to go after the publishing company and the author with everything we've got."
The President turned to Leo. "As far as our message to the public goes, Leo, I think our actions will speak loud and clear. No one messes with my staff and gets away with it."
The Chief of Staff nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Good." Bartlet's voice left no room for argument.
"Lionel," CJ began, "as far as these exemplary damages go . . ."
She never got a chance to finish her question as Josh came bursting into the room.
Leo gave his deputy a disapproving glare, "Josh, what the hell?"
The young man was clearly out of breath, no doubt having run to the Oval Office from wherever he and Sam had been holed up writing out their list. "Sam and I may have a lead on who wrote the book."
CJ jumped off the sofa. "Who?"
Josh was trying in vain to catch his breath. "The guy Sam's sister has been seeing. She told him about us and it turns out he's a freelance magazine writer. Sam's got Samantha on the phone as we speak."
"CJ, Lionel, go with Josh and keep me posted on anything that develops," Leo commanded.
"His sister's name is Samantha?" Lionel asked in a disbelieving voice as they made their way out of the Oval Office. "I didn't think people actually did that."
CJ smiled as she closed the door behind her.
"Samantha! Phone!" Samantha Seaborn let out a huge sigh at the sound of her roommate's voice bellowing down the hallway. She looked at her painting in frustration, her fan brush held just inches from the canvas. She had been in the zone until Clarice had started yelling. "Tell whoever it is I'm busy!"
Samantha shouted back. Samantha waited, frozen in position, to make sure that Clarice would get rid of the unwanted interruption. No such luck.
"It's your brother! He says he really needs to talk to you!" Clarice was still screaming down the hallway rather than walking into Samantha's studio like any other normal human being would. But then again, Clarice was anything but normal.
"My brother Sam?"
"Of course it's Sam! Unless you have another brother you forgot to tell me about!"
Samantha was stunned, to say the least. She put down her palette and brush, wiped her hands on her coat, and headed into the living room where the nearest phone was located. She couldn't imagine what her brother needed to talk to her about. They hadn't spoken to one another in over two months.
Samantha seated herself on the oversized leather sofa and warily picked up the phone. "Hi, Sam." She heard the click as Clarice hung up the other phone.
"Hey, Samantha. How's it going?"
Samantha couldn't help but smile at the sound of her brother's voice. Though they didn't see eye to eye on many things and didn't talk often, it was still a constant source of comfort to her to know that he was out there. "Pretty good. I sold a painting last week to a gallery in San Fran. I'll be able to pay the bills for a few more months. How's Josh?"
"Congratulations on selling the painting. Josh is fine." Sam stopped talking for a moment. It seemed to Samantha like he was looking for something else to say. "Are you still working part time at the bookstore?"
Samantha felt herself bristle at her brother's words. "Yes, Sam, I am. Not all of us make big bucks working as slaves to the American government. I have bills to pay."
"Actually, slaves don't get paid."
Samantha shook her head as if to clear it. "Excuse me?"
"You said I make big bucks working as the government's slave. If I were the government's slave, I wouldn't be getting paid at all."
Samantha sighed. "You're impossible to argue with, you know that?" She knew better than to pursue this topic with him. They would just go back and forth endlessly, and she knew she couldn't win.
"Of course I am." Samantha could hear the smile in his voice.
"Why'd you call, Sam?"
"Huh?" His confusion was apparent. How he had made it through an Ivy League college and then law school was sometimes beyond Samantha's comprehension.
"You called me, remember? Tore me away from my painting because you told Clarice you had to talk to me. What's up?"
"Oh, yeah, right. I, um, have something of problem here that I think you might be able to shed some light on."
"You have a problem?"
"That you want me to help you with?"
Samantha smiled into the phone. "That's a first. What's the problem?"
She heard Sam take a deep breath before beginning to speak. "A book is going to be published next week. This book is basically the story of my relationship with Josh, from the day we met up until the shooting. It's been disguised as a work of fiction, but there's no denying that it's obviously our story."
"What do you mean 'disguised as a work of fiction'?"
"Someone is doing this without our permission, Samantha. They took our story, changed the names, and are going to publish it next week. Josh and I only found out about it this morning."
"Who would do such a thing?"
"That's what I need you to help me with. The last time we talked, you mentioned that you were seeing that guy, Curt. You also told me that you had told Curt about my relationship with Josh. Remember that?"
"How could I forget, Sam? You screamed at me for like ten minutes."
Sam ignored her. "Do you also remember telling me that he was a freelance magazine writer?"
"Yes, because that's what he does." Samantha didn't like where this conversation was going.
Sam sighed. "Are you still dating this guy, Samantha?"
"Yes, I am."
"When was the last time you saw him?"
It's been a few days. He had to go out of town on business."
"Samantha. . . " Sam's voice trailed off.
Samantha jumped from her seat and began to pace the room, gripping the cordless phone until her knuckles turned white in an attempt to control her anger. "Sam, you had better not be suggesting what I think you're suggesting."
"It makes sense if you think about it."
"Sam! You've never even met him!"
"Samantha, you have to try and see this from my side. Hardly anyone knows about me and Josh for obvious reasons. And don't start on that whole 'I should be proud of who I am' bullshit because you don't know what you're talking about.
"The only person who knows about our relationship, outside of those that Josh and I have told ourselves, is your little boyfriend, who just happens to be a freelance writer. Come on, Samantha. Do I have to spell it out for you?" Sam's voice was a study in barely-controlled anger.
"Screw you, Sam! Curt would never do anything like that!"
"How do you know?"
"Because unlike you, I actually know the man!"
"Yeah? So where is he now?"
"I told you!" Samantha was practically seething at this point. "He's out of town on business."
"Probably cashing in on my life story."
"I don't have to sit here and take this from you, you know."
"I can't believe you're not upset about this! I'm your brother, goddamn it! Don't you care in the least that my entire life is about to be turned upside down? My private life with Josh is going to be all over the media in a couple of days!"
"Of course I care!"
"You have a funny way of showing it." Sam's voice was suddenly quiet. Samantha sat back down. "Dad will have a field day with this."
"He won't say anything, Sam."
Sam snorted. "Please, Samantha. I'm not that naive. He's going to jump at the opportunity to tell the world that he's a good Catholic who basically disowned his gay son who came out to him at the age of eighteen."
"Maybe it was Dad."
"No way. He would have done something during the campaign. Besides, he told me that I didn't even exist to him anymore so I doubt he could be bothered. He doesn't know about Josh anyway. He only knows that I'm gay."
"True. Look, I'm sorry for flipping out on you, but I won't help you go after Curt."
Sam was silent for a couple of moments. "Okay. I understand. Can you at least give me his last name?"
Samantha was wary. "Why?"
"I'd like the counsel's office to at least check his background. We won't bother him unless we find something that could implicate him in authoring the book."
Samantha thought about it. She liked Curt a lot, but this was Sam. Her brother. The only family she had left. She was the only family he had left. "It's McDonald. Curt McDonald. 'Curt' with a 'C' and the 'McDonald' is 'Mc', not 'Mac'." She could hear him writing the information down.
"Thanks, Samantha. I owe you one."
"No you don't. You're my brother. I love you."
"I love you, too."
"If it turns out that Curt did do this, call me and tell me, okay?"
"So I can kill him myself."
"You're welcome. Listen, if you and Josh need anything, a place to get away to or someone to listen, just give me a call, okay?"
"Thanks, Samantha. I appreciate that."
"I mean it. I'd love to see you guys. We'll just have to promise not to talk politics while you're here. Deal?"
"Deal. Mom would have been so happy to see us actually getting along." Sam chuckled.
"Yeah, I think she would."
"I really miss her sometimes."
"Like now." Sam's voice was barely above a whisper. After a few seconds of silence, Sam cleared his throat. "I gotta get going; I'll call you soon. I promise."
"I love you, Samantha."
"I love you, too."
"Bye, Sam." Samantha waited for the click from her brother's line before clicking the "off" button on her own phone. She tossed the receiver onto the nearby love seat and slouched back onto the couch.
God help Curt if it turned out that Sam's hunch was right.
Josh motored through the West Wing. He was anxious to get back to Sam to see if his conversation with Samantha had borne any fruit. He glanced quickly over his shoulder to make sure that CJ and Lionel were still following him. The two were talking animatedly to each other. Well, to be perfectly fair, Lionel was talking a mile a minute and CJ was merely trying to write it all down on her notepad. Josh couldn't contain the small smirk that crept onto his face. Once Lionel got going on a subject, he was like a speeding freight train; nothing would stop him until he ran out of steam.
Josh slowed his pace as he approached Sam's office. Cathy wasn't at her desk and Sam's door was still closed. Glancing down at Cathy's phone, Josh saw that the light for line one was on. He turned to his companions. "Give me just a sec, okay guys? He's still on the phone."
CJ looked up from her notepad, her expression a bit frazzled. "Sure, let us know when you're ready." Lionel merely waved his hand as he leaned against Cathy's desk to make himself comfortable.
Josh quietly opened the door and poked his head in. His heart caught in his throat when his eyes settled on Sam's figure.
Sam's chair was turned sideways so it was facing the wall that separated his office from Toby's. One hand was holding the phone to his ear, the other was gripping the photo of himself, his sister and his mother that normally sat on his desk. He looked so lost.
"I really miss her sometimes." Sam's voice was full of sorrow as he strok
ed the image of his mother with his thumb.
Josh watched as a sad smile spread across Sam's features as he nodded his head.
"Like now." Sam's words were so soft, Josh barely heard them.
"Hey," Josh kept his voice equally soft, not wanting to startle Sam.
Sam turned his chair so he was facing Josh. This time the smile that curled Sam's lips was full of warmth and love. He held up a finger to let Josh know he'd be off the phone in a second.
Sam seemed about to speak, but nothing came out. Sam cleared his throat as he returned the framed photo back to its resting place next to his laptop. This time the words came. "I gotta get going, I'll call you soon. I promise."
Josh couldn't help but smile. It wasn't often that Sam's phone calls with his sister ended on such a positive note.
"I love you, Samantha," Sam's voice was quiet again. "Bye." Sam hung up the phone and heaved a tired sigh before looking over at Josh. "Hey."
"How'd it go?"
"Better than I expected. She was pissed to begin with, but then calmed down some. I got his full name and Samantha's promise to kill Curt herself if it turns out that he's the guilty party."
Josh laughed. "Well, I'm glad. Another fight with your sister is the last thing you need right now."
Sam nodded. "What did they say?"
Josh motioned out towards the bullpen with his head. "I've got CJ and Lionel with me. We were just waiting for you to get off the phone."
"Well, I'm off. Let's talk to Lionel."
Josh was relieved that any trace of sadness in Sam's voice seemed to have disappeared with the end of his phone call with Samantha.
Josh stepped back out into the bullpen and said, "Okay, guys, we're ready." Josh held the door open as CJ and Lionel preceded him inside. Josh glanced at the clocks on the wall. It was almost noon. /Is this day ever going to end?/ he wondered as he re-entered Sam's office, closing the door behind him.
The throbbing in CJ's head just wouldn't stop. The stress of the day combined with having listened to Josh, Sam and Lionel speak legalese for nearly four hours had finally caught up with her. She had about a million thoughts racing through her head which didn't help matters.
Glancing quickly at her watch, CJ saw that she had just under two hours to prepare for the six o'clock briefing. /That should be plenty of time./ Her deputy had handled the noon briefing under the pretense that CJ was stuck in a meeting. If she wasn't there for the six o'clock, the press would definitely know that something was up.
CJ began to mentally run through a list of topics that were likely to be brought up at the briefing. She also began wracking her brain for anything new that she could give to the press in an attempt to keep them preoccupied for at least a few more hours. CJ just hoped that it would be enough.
Turning the corner that lead to her office, CJ froze in her tracks. She could feel her heart sink at the sight that greeted her: Danny Concannon, notebook in hand, waiting for her by Carol's desk.
CJ slowed her pace, relieved that Danny had not noticed her approach. /So much for keeping the press occupied for another few hours./ As soon as the thought flitted across her mind, she kicked herself. /Calm down, CJ. He may not be here about the book. It could be anything. You can do this./ Unbidden, Josh's words from earlier that morning came back to her. /"What in the hell are we paying you for?"/
Taking a deep breath, CJ murmured to herself, "This is what you're paying me for, Josh." With a steely resolve and confident stride, CJ approached Carol's desk. If Danny did indeed know about the book, she wasn't going to give him an inch.
"Carol," she said in greeting to her assistant. "Any messages?"
Carol stood and handed CJ a small pile of papers. "Nothing too important." Eyeing Danny, she pointed to the top paper. "Your friend that stopped by this morning called a little while ago. She said she had a couple of things that she forgot to tell you."
CJ read the message. 'Lydia Walker-3:15 p.m.-Has new information regarding subject discussed this morning. Please call ASAP.' "Thanks, Carol." Carol nodded in response and sat back down, returning to her work. CJ turned to Danny. "And what can I do for you on this wonderfully wet and rainy day?"
Danny managed a half smile before motioning towards CJ's open door. "Can we talk in your office?"
"Sure," CJ kept her voice level as she lead the way inside. CJ took a seat while Danny closed the door behind them.
"CJ, I want you to know that I know about the book and that I'll be bringing it up at the six o'clock."
CJ gave Danny her most innocent look. "What book?"
"CJ, don't insult my intelligence. We're off the record here. You know that."
CJ nodded but said nothing. She gave Danny a long look before asking, "Is there any way I could get you to hold off until first thing tomorrow?"
Danny fixed her with a disbelieving stare. "You're joking right?"
"Why does everyone think I'm joking today?"
Danny looked confused. "Excuse me?"
CJ waved it off. "Never mind."
"There's no way I'm sitting on this, CJ. I'm the only one who has this and we both know that will change within the next few hours. I have no choice."
CJ stared at Danny for several long moments weighing her options. She was unable to totally keep the smile off her face as the simplest solution presented itself to her. "Well, if that's how you feel, Danny, I can't do anything about it."
Danny looked at her warily. "You can't stop me, CJ."
CJ put on her most offended look. "Did I say anything about stopping you? I don't believe I did. In fact, one would think that you were almost being paranoid, Daniel." She fixed him with another long look.
"I think I have every right to be paranoid."
Now CJ was amused. "Do you?"
"CJ, you never let anything go this easily. Especially not something that's as important to you as this."
"Who said anything about letting this go?" All of the amusement left CJ's voice. An uncomfortable silence filled the room as they sat eyeing one another.
Finally, CJ made shuffling movements with the papers on her desk. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do before the briefing."
Danny still didn't look convinced but he stood and headed for the door. Before leaving, he turned back to the Press Secretary. "I didn't have to do this, you know, CJ."
For a split second, CJ almost felt guilty for what she was going to do. Almost. "I know that, Danny."
"Okay, I'll see you later." Danny left without another word.
CJ leaned to her left so she could see out of her office window better. Her eyes followed Danny's form as he strode through the bullpen and finally turned right into the press area. As soon as he was out of sight CJ jumped out of her chair and tore down the hall to Sam's office.
She tried not to run, she really did, but she had to get them out of the building immediately. If her plan worked, she'd be able to thwart Danny, but if anyone else got hold of the story before the briefing they were screwed. And CJ wasn't taking any chances today.
Cathy looked up, startled, as CJ flew up to her desk. "Are Josh and Sam still in there?"
"Yeah. They're working on . . ."
CJ didn't wait for her to finish her sentence. She strode past Cathy and opened Sam's door, not bothering to knock. Josh and Sam were hunched over the younger man's desk pouring over a legal text. They both looked up as she burst into the room.
"You two have to get out of here," she announced unceremoniously.
"Shit, already?" Josh got the words out first.
"Are we going to be able to get out of here?" Sam's question was strained. CJ knew how much he hated being hounded by the press.
"It shouldn't be a problem if you go now. Danny's the only one that has the story, so you can still leave. He's going to try to bring it up at the six o'clock."
"What do you mean 'try to bring it up'?" Sam asked giving her a suspicious look.
"I have my ways."
"You are just too mysterious for me, CJ." Josh replied sarcastically.
CJ glared at him. "You'll be thanking me later."
CJ noticed that Sam was also glaring at Josh. "We're thankful now, CJ. Aren't we, Josh?" Sam elbowed Josh in the side.
"Ow! All right, all right. I am in total awe of your skill and cunning. Okay?"
CJ smiled broadly. "Why thank you, Joshua."
Josh mumbled something unintelligible.
"What was that?" CJ asked, still smiling.
"Nothing." Josh sounded like a pouty two-year old.
"Guys, I know you don't like leaving when there's work to be done, but this is for the best. You'll just have to trust me on this."
Josh still didn't look any happier about the situation. That is until Sam leaned over and whispered something in his ear. CJ strained to hear, but she was too far away. However, the smirk that curled Josh's lips gave her a pretty good idea as to what Sam had said. "All right, you sex fiends, out of here now before I have the Secret Service drag you out." CJ turned to leave.
Josh blushed and Sam laughed. "Whatever you say, Flamingo."
CJ turned back around. "What did you just call me?"
Sam actually blanched. "Nothing."
"Really? Because I could have sworn I heard you call me Flamingo."
"I would never do that, CJ."
"No, because I know that if I were in fact to call you Flamingo, you would become extremely angry and probably kill me and dump my body somewhere that no one would ever think of looking."
"I didn't think you would be that stupid," CJ reached to pat Sam on the shoulder. She laughed when the younger man actually flinched. "You need to relax, Spanky." CJ looked from one man to the other. "Make sure you guys call me if you need anything, okay?"
"Thanks, CJ." Josh answered because Sam was too busy mumbling something about it being okay for CJ to call him Spanky, but God forbid he pick on anyone else. CJ couldn't help but laugh as she headed back to her office.
CJ approached Carol, who was waiting just outside the entrance to the press room. She handed CJ her briefing folder and whispered, "Good luck." CJ nodded and strode to the podium.
CJ opened her folder, fixed her glasses and looked out on the sea of reporters. Her gaze came to rest on Danny, who was seated in his usual spot to the right and about half-way back. "Good evening, everyone. I am pleased to report that the figures from the survey on unemployment in the nation are in and they are very good. The national average unemployment rate is currently 3.8% with rates being a bit higher in the northeast and slightly lower in the west. Details of the survey are in your packet."
The briefing continued to go smoothly as CJ deftly moved from topic to topic answering all questions with ease. Now came the moment of truth. "Anything else?"
Danny's hand was the first in the air followed by the usual barrage of "CJ!" "CJ!".
"Paul." CJ motioned to a reporter in the front row who had only been in the room for a little over a month.
"Does the White House have any comment regarding Senator Paquette's charge that President Bartlet is ignoring the social security problem?"
"I think if Senator Paquette takes the time to review the last several sessions of the Senate, he will see that it has been his party, and not President Bartlet, that have shot down any attempts to make serious progress in regards to the social security problem. Diane," CJ pointed to the fresh-faced reporter who sat to her left.
"Are the rumors true that the Bartlets are going to be purchasing a dog?"
Out of the corner of her eye, CJ could see Danny groaning at the question. /As long as that's the only rumor going around./ "Actually, as I said this morning, the First Family is considering a pet, but have not yet reached a decision as to which animal they will get."
CJ saw that Danny appeared about ready to stand up. "That's all for today, folks, have a good night and we'll see you tomorrow."
She picked up her folder, removed her glasses, and strode away ignoring the shouting behind her. She couldn't believe it. It had worked. Something so simple and so basic had actually worked. Leo was waiting for her at the door.
"I see operation 'Don't Call on Danny' was a success."
"I told you to have faith, Leo."
"Well, CJ, I can honestly say that I'm glad you proved me wrong. You did good in there."
Leo smiled, patted her shoulder and headed back to his office. CJ's happiness was short lived as she saw Danny storming up to her.
"I can't believe you did that!"
CJ shrugged and began walking to her office. "Believe it, Danny."
They didn't say another word to one another until CJ had closed her office door behind them.
"That was completely unprofessional and you know it!" Danny's voice was a bit too high in volume for CJ's liking.
CJ stood face-to-face with the reporter, refusing to back down. "Let's get one thing straight here, Daniel. That is my press room," she stated firmly, pointing over Danny's shoulder. "I call on who I want, when I want. I couldn't care less what you think."
"You deliberately didn't call on me because you knew I was going to bring up the book!"
"And whose fault is that?" CJ's voice was cold as she stared down the man in front of her.
A hurt expression flashed across Danny's features before being replaced by anger. "Okay, if that's the way you want to play, that's fine with me. I thought I was doing you a favor by telling you ahead of time."
"If you think that letting me know you're going to be leading the charge that will completely disrupt the lives of two of my closest friends is doing me a favor, you are sadly mistaken." CJ was surprised to see Danny lower his eyes to the floor as she spoke.
"If trying to protect Josh and Sam, two men I love like brothers, makes me unprofessional in your eyes, then so be it. And if you want to criticize me for letting this become personal, feel free, because there is nothing professional about what is being done to the two of them and I will do whatever I have to in order to help them." CJ stormed around her desk and took a seat. Danny finally looked up and returned her gaze. His eyes were full of resigned sadness. "I believe you know the way out."
Danny stared at her for a few more seconds before quietly leaving the room.
As soon as the door shut, CJ let out a huge breath. It took her a couple of minutes to completely calm down. She was going to have to get a tighter grip on her emotions if she was going to be of any use to Josh and Sam over the next few days.
Picking up her phone, CJ dialed Lydia's number hoping that the new information her friend had discovered would help them to find the author of this horrible book. As the phone rang, CJ turned her chair to face the darkened windows, which were still being pelted with rain. /It's only going to get worse from here on out/ she thought dismally.
The voice on the other line brought CJ out of her reverie. "Lydia, it's CJ. Carol said you have some new information for me?"
"Take me home and fuck me."
Josh felt a shiver travel up and down his spine as Sam's whispered words echoed through his head. Josh had been gearing up to argue with CJ's suggestion that he and Sam leave the West Wing immediately when Sam had leaned in and sucked all of the fight out of him with six simple words:
"Take me home and fuck me."
Who was he to deny Sam anything? Especially when he asked so nicely. Josh tried to clear his mind and focus on the road. It would put a serious damper on his plans were he to crash his car before they even got onto the highway.
The silence of the car was broken only by the rhythmic thumping of the windshield wipers and the pounding of the rain. Josh snuck a glance at Sam as he stopped at a red light. The younger man was staring out the passenger window, seemingly transfixed by the pouring rain. A small smile curled the corners of Sam's lips, making Josh's heart beat just a bit faster.
"The light's green; you can go now." Sam said softly just as the driver behind Josh leaned on his horn. The smile never left Sam's face.
Shaking his head ruefully, Josh flipped off the car behind him and proceeded down the street. Josh forced all of his attention on to his driving, determined to get home as quickly as possible. He needed Sam, and he needed him now. The arousal he had been trying to tame all day was threatening to break out of its cage, demanding to be satisfied.
/Just a few more minutes,/ he told himself. /I can hold out for a few more minutes./
It was actually fifteen minutes later that Josh pulled the car to a stop in front of their building. He slipped the car into park, killed the engine and headlights, and turned towards Sam. It was time for a little payback.
Josh leaned across the seat so his face was mere inches from his lover's. He watched in fascination as Sam's breathing sped up and his pupils dilated. With a wicked grin, Josh whispered, "I'm going to take you upstairs and tear off all of your clothes. Then I'm going to get down on my knees and suck your cock until you come in my mouth." Josh placed one hand behind Sam's neck and dropped the other into Sam's lap, lightly massaging the burgeoning flesh he felt there. Josh leaned in even closer, his lips barely touching Sam's. "After I've lapped up every drop, I'm going to take you to bed and fuck you through the mattress."
Josh was totally unprepared when Sam grabbed the front of his jacket and slammed him back against the driver's side door. Josh opened his mouth to speak, but Sam shoved his tongue inside before Josh got out a single word. He clutched desperately at Sam's back and moaned as the younger man devoured his mouth. Sam's hands were all over him, setting Josh's body on fire.
Sam finally pulled back so they could both catch their breath. Sam's eyes were the darkest shade of blue Josh had ever seen them, his hair a tousled mess and his lips wet and swollen. He looked delicious. The thought made Josh's cock harden even further.
Josh felt his breath catch as Sam reached out his right hand and gently trailed his fingertips down Josh's lightly stubbled cheek. Josh was mesmerized. "I want you now." Sam's voice, which Josh found incredibly sexy to begin with, was even huskier than usual.
Josh watched Sam slide back over to his side of the car, open the door and get out. Josh's eyes tracked Sam's figure as he made his way over to Josh's side of the car.
Behind Josh, the car door opened abruptly, almost sending him tumbling to the pavement. He felt Sam's long fingers curling around the collar of his jacket as he pulled Josh out of the car. Once Josh was on his feet, Sam kicked the door shut behind him and pulled Josh tight against his body. The short trip around the front of the car was enough to soak Sam's clothes, molding them to his lean body under his jacket.
"Who's sexually frustrated now?" Sam whispered, the tip of his tongue tracing Josh's rain- soaked ear.
With a growl, Josh turned his head and claimed Sam's mouth with his own. The searing heat of Sam's tongue as it pushed past his lips was a wonderful contrast to the cold rain pouring down around them. It was liberating to be able to kiss Sam like this in the middle of the street in the middle of the day. They had been careful for so long, and now, it didn't seem to matter anymore.
This time Josh broke the kiss, determined to regain control of the situation. "Inside, now." His tone left no room for argument. Sam just smiled, obviously willing to slip back into the passive role. At least for now.
Josh watched appreciatively as Sam put a bit more swagger into his step as they made their way inside and up the stairs. Josh stayed back a couple of steps, admiring the view. Even wearing a soaking wet trench coat, or maybe because of it, Sam looked incredibly hot.
After what seemed like an eternity, especially to Josh's aching cock, they came to their door. A wicked idea sprang into Josh's mind as Sam dug around in his pants pockets for his keys.
Just as Josh heard the lock give, he stepped up behind Sam, wrapped one arm around his waist and dragged the tip of his tongue along the back of Sam's neck.
"Josh. . ." Sam groaned as his head rolled forward.
Josh pulled away reluctantly. "Yes?"
"You're killing me here."
"Just open the door, Sam." Josh went back to licking Sam's neck. Sam always tasted so good.
"Josh, I can't possibly be expected to do something as complicated as turn a doorknob while you give me a tongue bath."
Josh stopped his movements and spun Sam around to face him. "Okay, I'll fuck you out here then. Makes little difference to me."
Sam's eyes darkened even further. When Josh realized that the younger man was actually contemplating this new option, he reached past Sam and opened the door. "See? Nothing to it."
Sam didn't reply. At least not with words. He merely leaned in and outlined Josh's lips with his tongue before turning and entering the apartment.
It took Josh a few seconds to gather his wits and follow Sam through the open door. By this time, his erection was an angry bulge threatening to break through the fabric of his pants.
Josh removed his coat and suit jacket and hung them in the closet next to Sam's to let them dry. Next came the tie, which he draped over the chair that sat beside the door.
He entered the living room to find Sam sprawled on the couch, one dim light illuminating the room. The younger man was an invitation to sin: Sam's hair was wet from the rain, he had removed his own coat and tie and the top few buttons of his shirt were undone revealing a large expanse of golden skin.
Josh smiled as he sauntered across the room. He could feel Sam's hooded eyes tracking him as he moved. As Josh approached the couch, Sam sat up and spread his legs a bit, giving Josh enough room to kneel between them.
"Here's how this is going to work," Josh began, caressing the tops of Sam's muscular thighs. "I am in charge. You don't touch me unless I tell you to and you don't come until I say you can come. Got it?"
A sly grin lit up Sam's face, "Oh yeah, I got it."
"I mean it, Sam. If you come before I give you permission, I promise you, I won't touch you for a week."
Sam snorted. "Yeah, right. You wouldn't last three days."
Josh squeezed the muscles below his fingers, "Try me."
Sam was staring at him, obviously trying to decide how genuine Josh's threat was. After a few moments, he relented. "Okay, I promise I won't come until you say I can."
"Good boy. Now, I think I mentioned something about sucking your cock."
"I seem to remember that coming up in conversation."
Josh smiled and reached up to undo the button of Sam's pants. "I want you to watch me, Sam." The button popped and Josh went to work on the zipper. "I want to feel your eyes on me while I take you into my mouth. I want you to watch every moment as my lips slide up and down your shaft." Josh opened Sam's pants as far as they would go.
"Oh, God, please," Sam whispered.
Without breaking eye contact, Josh reached into Sam's boxers and pulled out his rock-hard cock. Still staring into those deep blue eyes, Josh lowered his head and reached out with his tongue to lap at the head. Sam moaned and his head fell back against the cushion. Josh pulled back.
"Uh, uh, uh, you have to watch, remember?" Josh's voice was a whisper. He was gratified to see Sam lift his head and open his passion-glazed eyes. "Much better."
Determined to throw Sam off balance a little, Josh lunged forward and swallowed Sam's entire length, not stopping until his nose brushed against the coarse hair at the base. Sam's body seized as the younger man let out a yell that would have woken the dead. Josh pulled off as quickly as he had gone down. "Careful there, Sammy. We wouldn't want you coming before I told you to, now would we?"
Sam glowered at him. "You don't play fair."
"And this is a surprise to you?"
"Just get back to doing what you were doing. And take it easy this time!"
"You're so demanding," Josh commented as he began to stroke Sam's erection. He looked up into Sam's face, "I love it when you get this hard. It turns me on to know I can make you this hot."
"Josh. . ." Sam's voice was almost a whine.
Josh lapped at the slit where a drop of precum had formed. He savored the taste of his lover as his tongue drew lazy circles around the head. Without losing contact, he looked up to find Sam watching him intently, his breath a bit labored.
Josh opened his mouth and breathed on the head of Sam's cock which was dripping wet with his saliva. Sam groaned loudly.
"Stop teasing, Josh, please." He sounded so desperate, Josh took pity on him and began to suck in earnest. He wrapped his lips around the hard shaft, applying just enough suction to keep Sam on the edge, but not enough to send him careening over. "Oh, God!" Josh heard from above him. He sucked a little harder and was rewarded with Sam's hips bucking and a wordless cry of pleasure. He worked his way up and down a couple more times, enjoying the feel of Sam's smooth skin sliding against his lips before pulling away completely. He looked up at Sam again.
"You like watching me don't you?" Sam could only nod his head. "You love to watch me on my knees sucking your cock, seeing it slide in and out of my mouth." Another nod, this time accompanied by a whimper. "I love doing it. I love the taste of you, the feel of you." Josh leaned down and swiped his tongue along the entire length. "Sam, you can come now."
Sam let out a cry as Josh began working him into a frenzy. Finally, Josh engulfed him completely and swallowed. Sam screamed as he pumped his warm semen down Josh's throat. Josh moaned his appreciation, pulling off and letting the last of it trickle down Sam's cock. Josh lapped it up greedily.
Josh climbed into Sam's lap and began to kiss his lover hungrily. Josh ran his fingers through Sam's damp hair when he realized something was missing. "Touch me, Sam." Sam's hands came up instantly.
The kiss intensified as they stroked and petted one another, feeling the need to reconnect after the stress of the day. Josh knew that they needed to forget about the outside world for a little while and lose themselves in each other.
"Take me to bed, Josh," Sam whispered when they broke for air.
Josh smiled as he stood, reaching out to pull Sam to his feet. They shared another kiss that was broken up by Sam's laughter as his pants fell down around his ankles.
"You may want to take those off, babe." Josh indicated Sam's pants with a nod of his head.
"Only if you take off yours," Sam teased.
"Happy to oblige." Josh was out of his shoes, socks, pants and half-way out of his shirt before Sam managed to disentangle his feet from the pool of fabric gathered around his ankles.
By the time they made it to the bedroom, they were both down to their boxers. Sam flicked on the light and looked at Josh quizzically when Josh closed the door behind him. "Why did you close the door?"
"Because the mirror is on the back of the door."
Josh watched Sam's pupils dilate as realization dawned on him. "Oh, you are so bad."
"That's why you love me."
"Among other things," Sam replied playfully, reaching out to stroke Josh through his boxers.
"Behave," Josh groaned in warning. He knew he was treading a fine line and wasn't sure how much of Sam's teasing he could take before the night came to a premature end.
Sam laughed. "Okay, I'll be good."
Josh pulled Sam to him and kissed him once more. Their lips ghosted against one another, feather-light touches that were a promise of things to come.
Josh released Sam and slowly stripped out of his boxers. He walked over to the bed and took a seat on the side facing the floor-length mirror that hung on the back of the door. Josh grabbed the lube out of his night stand and held the tube out silently to Sam.
Needing no encouragement, Sam stripped off his boxers and prowled over to Josh. He squirted some of the lube onto his hand and let it warm for a moment before carefully stroking it onto Josh's aching erection.
Josh nearly lost himself in the sensation of Sam's slick hand gliding up and down his shaft. "Enough, Sam, or this will be over before it starts."
Sam smiled and released Josh.
"Now, get yourself ready for me."
Sam stared into Josh's eyes as he coated his fingers with lube. Josh nearly came as he watched Sam's face twist with pleasure as he stretched himself to accommodate Josh's cock.
"Stop." Josh's voice sounded hoarse to his own ears. Sam stopped and looked at Josh intently. "Ride me," Josh commanded. The heat in Sam's expression sent surges of desire throughout Josh's body.
Sam braced his hands on either side of Josh's hips before kissing him soundly, their tongues dueling briefly before Sam abruptly pulled away. "Oops, I touched you without your permission."
"I'll let it go this time. Face the mirror."
Sam turned and backed against Josh, his legs outside Josh's thighs. Josh reached up and massaged the perfect globes of Sam's ass. They were definitely one of Sam's best features. Sam moaned his appreciation as Josh spread his cheeks apart and then pressed them back together again.
Josh decided that they had both waited long enough and that it was time. "Sit," he commanded as he held Sam open. Sam slowly lowered himself towards Josh's waiting cock, the anticipation nearly killing both of them.
Josh watched with awe as his erection slowly disappeared inside of Sam. The feeling, no matter how many times he experienced it, never ceased to amaze him. Sam was so hot, so tight, so perfect for him, Josh felt like he could stay inside of his lover forever.
When Josh was buried to the hilt, Sam pressed his back against Josh's chest with a contented sigh, his head falling back onto Josh's shoulder. "God, that feels good."
It was Josh's turn to sigh. "It feels perfect."
Sam turned his head and pressed his lips to Josh's neck as he rocked his hips slowly. The feeling of that warmth releasing and reclaiming him was nearly enough to drive Josh insane.
"Look at us," Sam said softly. Josh looked past Sam's sweaty shoulder to the image reflected in the glass. Himself, seated on the bed, hair sticking up in a million directions, face flushed with arousal. Josh noticed that his hands were wrapped possessively around Sam's waist but couldn't remember when he had done that. His eyes traveled to Sam's form: thigh muscles straining with effort as they rocked his body onto Josh; chest heaving in exertion; a light sheen of sweat glistening on his skin; his cock, once again erect, standing out proudly from his body. They were beautiful.
Josh lowered one of his hands to Sam's renewed erection and began to stroke it lightly. He tried to thrust his hips, but Sam's weight prevented him from doing so. It was wonderfully frustrating.
Their eyes locked in the mirror, and Sam smiled the most radiant smile Josh could ever recall seeing. Everything that they felt for each other was in that smile. That was all it took to send Josh over the edge. He felt Sam slide down onto him, the velvety heat engulfing him as he came. His orgasm raced through his body, tightening every muscle with nearly unbearable pleasure. At that moment there was nothing but Sam. Sam around him, in him, a part of him.
As the waves of pleasure slowly ebbed, Josh realized that Sam was about ready to blow. He sped up his strokes and encouraged his lover to come. Josh watched Sam's reflection ride him harder and faster before Sam lost himself in his own orgasm.
Josh held Sam tightly in the aftermath to keep the younger man from sliding to the floor. Josh enjoyed the feel of his man against him, Sam's heart thumping nearly in time with Josh's own.
"That was amazing," Sam murmured a few minutes later.
"You're amazing," Josh countered.
Sam clasped Josh's arms which were still encircling him. "I love you."
Josh closed his eyes and squeezed Sam. "I love you, too."
Sam stood carefully and dropped a kiss onto Josh's lips before disappearing into the adjoining bathroom.
Josh plopped back onto the bed and simply enjoyed the feeling that accompanies mind-blowing sex. He felt totally relaxed for the first time in weeks.
"Are you going to join me or what?" Sam called from the bathroom.
"Coming!" Josh forced himself off the bed and made his way towards the sound of running water. Josh realized that as long as he had Sam, nothing else mattered.
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