TITLE: Variations on Variations: Baby's First Congressional Recess
AUTHOR: Julian Lee
CATEGORY: Sam/Josh; holiday; much fluffiness!
RATING: PG+ - Josh will not stop swearing.
DISCLAIMER: If I've been good this year, perhaps Saint Nicholas will leave a pair of Senior Staffers in my shoes. In the meantime, they belong to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells Productions, and the swell guys at NBC.
ARCHIVE: Just let me know where you stuck it, please.
SUMMARY: "'Don't knock Martha Stewart. She is a crafts goddess.'"
NOTES: For Kathi, who asked for fluffiness. To me, nothing says holiday fluff like "baby's first Christmas/Chanukkah/Congressional Recess." It's a follow-up of sorts to "Something Like Iago," and it hasn't been beta'd.

* * *

Variations on Variations: Baby's First Congressional Recess by Julian Lee


Sam draped strands of tinsel over the branches of the Christmas tree, reflecting that this was the last year he would be able to decorate any way he chose, without worrying that the ornaments close to the bottom were soft and drool-proof. It was probably the last year for tinsel, too, for a while. The trade was more than worth it.

*Patter patter patter -- FWUMP.*

Sam looked up, tensed to run for the bedroom should the need arise. "Josh?"

"God *damn* it!"

"Josh, are you OK?"

"Goddamned bastardly piece of shit!"

"Josh!" Sam's voice sharpened. "Watch it."

"He's five months old. He's not absorbing this. Although, I have to say, it's nothing he hasn't heard before."

"If his first word is *any* form of 'schmuck'--"

"Aren't you even going to ask if I'm OK?" Josh appeared in the living room, holding Sebastian and looking pissed at the world.

"I did." Sam looked him over. "You're walking; you're fine."

Josh looked at Sebastian. "This is a good lesson for you to learn, Sebastian. Daddy is cruel."

Sam grinned and smoothed the baby's hair. "And Abba is ridiculously sensitive. What happened to you, anyway?"

He looked down. "I, uh."

Sam's grin widened. "I like this story already."

"There was this wall, see..."

Sam's shoulders convulsed with silent laughter. "Another good lesson: Daddy has never once walked into a wall here." He frowned at Josh. "Were you carrying Sebastian when you walked into this wall?"

"No. Though it's nice to see you at least worry about *him,* since you don't care about me."

"You can -- mostly -- take care of yourself."

Josh seemed to notice, for the first time, that the Christmas tree was decorated. "Wow."

Sam smiled almost shyly. "You like it?" They'd gone all out with the decorations this year, despite knowing full well that Sebastian wouldn't remember a damned minute of it.

"I had no idea. All this time, I've been sleeping with Martha Stewart."

"Hey. Don't knock Martha Stewart. She is a crafts goddess." He made a face. "But, eew." Noting Josh's pained expression, Sam put his hand on the other man's arm. "Is something wrong, Mir?"

Josh's eyes slid to the low table just far enough from the tree to keep it from catching fire. "I was thinking the menorah looked kind of puny next to the tree."

"Really?" Sam smiled. "I was afraid the tree looked gaudy next to the menorah."

Laughing, Josh leaned over and kissed him. "Your tree is beautiful."

Sam squeezed Josh's arm. "So is your menorah."

They admired their decorations in silence for a moment, until Josh started to list a bit. "Uh, Drive?"

"Yeah?"

"The inertia. It's melting my brain."

Sam propped Josh upright. "There's a mop and bucket in the hall closet with your name on them."

"I can do that. I can mop." He headed down the hall.

"Josh?" Josh turned, and Sam held out his hands. "Sebastian?"

"You don't think I can get a mop and bucket while holding him?" Josh asked, slightly offended.

"Probably. But can you do it without hitting him in the head with the closet door?"

"Yeah, all right. Shut up." As he started to hand Sebastian over, the doorbell buzzed, and Josh froze, almost literally paralyzed. "Oh, *shit.*"

"She's early," Sam remarked dryly.

"Shit, yeah. Three *hours* early. What do I do?"

Sam's eyebrows shot up. "I've found that opening the door works as an opener. We'll see where it goes from there."

"I'm serious, Drive."

"So am I." Josh didn't move. Sam sighed and gave him a light push with the heel of his hand. "Go on. Let her in."

Josh slouched over to the door, whining, "But I don't *want* to." The doorbell was buzzing again as he reached the box and reached out his finger with a face that would have seemed more appropriate if touching the button would have given him a 40-watt shock. "I gave at the office?" he said shakily.

"Let me in, Joshua."

Josh closed his eyes and counted backward from ten. That didn't work as well as it used to. "Of course, Mother." He pushed the smaller button on the console and opened the front door, hovering half in, half out of the apartment as his mother climbed the stairs.

She grinned when she saw him. "Joshua."

He picked his jaw up off the ground and hugged her tightly. "You look *fantastic,*" he whispered.

"Prim" had long been as good a word as any to describe Judith Lyman. Soft, Peter-Pan collared blouses buttoned all the way up, straight skirts or crisply pleated pants, as a befitted a New England wife and mother of the late fifties and early sixties. But with Noah gone and Josh finally able to take care of himself (or, even if he wasn't able, that was Sam's problem now), Judith's bohemian spirit had sprung to the fore. She had cut her hair short -- shorter than Sam's, even -- to make it easier to take care of, and she had traded her "proper" clothing for a black turtleneck, faded jeans, hiking boots that looked like they been used for actual hiking more than once, and a brown sarape that swished against her knees as she walked.

"I feel fantastic," she said, handing him an enormous shopping bag spilling over with packages and sweeping into the apartment. "Be a dear and hold this for me."

"Hello, Judith," Sam said.

"Good evening, Samuel." She held out her arms and wriggled her fingers. "My grandson, please." Instead of simply holding Sebastian and cooing at him, the way most other people did, Judith sat down on the couch and began examining him, as though looking for some hidden switch.

Josh watched her, bemused, from his hiding place halfway around the Christmas tree. "Everything's there, Mother," he assured her. "We had him checked out by a reliable mechanic before we brought him home."

"Look in your bag, Joshua," she instructed sweetly, if a bit imperiously. "There might be a toy for you in it somewhere."

Sam looked off into the kitchen and tried not to laugh. Josh peered into the bag, but everything was wrapped in glittering winter-themed paper. "Are all of these gifts for Sebastian?" he demanded.

"One or two are for you and Sam," Judith said defensively. When Josh continued to glare at her, she spread her hands and shrugged. "Just call me Rabbi Claus, I guess."

"We could open three presents for him every night of Chanukkah, and he'd still have two dozen on Christmas morning."

"I regret that I have but one grandchild to spoil for my country," she replied. Finally satisfied that everything was in order, Judith smiled at Sebastian. "You are beautiful." She looked up at Sam. "He looks so much like you."

"Vinci DNA is heavy on dominant genetic characteristics." Leave it to Sam to turn what was intended as a simple compliment into a genetics lesson.

"His *eyes,*" she said, somewhat awed, staring at Sebastian's steel-gray eyes. They seemed to have that effect on people.

"His father," Sam said darkly.

Judith heard the ice in Sam's tone and stepped off fast. "You have pictures?"

"Rolls and rolls," Sam said.

"Mother, you have the kid in hand," Josh protested. "What do you need with pictures?"

Judith ignored her son. "May I see them?"

"Of course." Sam headed for the hall closet, where shoeboxes filled with photos waitied to be put into albums. Josh hoped they didn't mind a long wait.

Once he was gone, Judith returned her gaze to Josh. "You look well, son," she said.

He laughed and came away from his hiding place. "I do?" He hadn't slept in three weeks; he felt like he was being repeatedly hit by a truck, and the fact that Sam always seemed so calm and collected was starting to unnerve him.

But Judith nodded. "You seem...content."

He blinked. "I -- I suppose I am."

"Fatherhood agrees with you."

He shook his head. "Sebastian agrees with me. Fatherhood as an abstract concept--"

"Then it's a good thing you're raising Sebastian and not an abstract concept."

Sam bounded back into the room clutching no fewer than six packets of photos and dropped next to Judith on the couch.

"Shit," Josh muttered. "We have had Sebastian for two and a half weeks. How do we have so many pictures?"

"You should be careful of your language, Joshua."

"He can't understand me."

"That's what everyone thinks, but children at this age are sponges for learning -- especially language. Your father, God rest his soul, took it into his head that a ribald old Navy song he learned from Leo was an appropriate lullabye for your sister. By the time she was two and a half, she could sing the entire thing."

Josh smiled sadly. "I remember that song. You kept trying to make her stop singing it, but she never did."

Judith nodded once, gently, and turned to Sam. "Pictures, please."

"If you two are going to look at pictures, may I have Sebastian?" Josh asked.

Judith smiled as though thrilled to see him taking that kind of initiative. "Of course." Josh was starting to believe that he was not likely to drop his son; still, everyone held their breath during the hand-off, and Josh noted that Sam was sitting on his hand to keep from reaching out to guide the procedings.

Josh and Sebastian settled into the armchair next to the couch, and Sam handed Judith the first set of photos. "This is the first roll we took. Before Angela went back to California."

Judith stared at the picture. "She looks so sad."

"She was giving away her child."

"Yes, I -- no." She shook her head. "It's not that. She just looks like she must be a...a sad person."

Sam nodded. "I think she is."

Judith looked at her grandson. "You did the right thing. Absolutely." She grinned at Sam. "More pictures?"

And more and more and yet more. At the President's command, Sam and Josh had brought Sebastian to the White House, and Sam had devoted two rolls to pictures of the baby being held by various members of the West Wing staff. At some point that afternoon, CJ had arrived with Nora, and after the day had become an infant-filled free-for-all.

"You should get this one framed," Judith said, holding up a picture of President Bartlet holding a baby in each arm.

"Yeah, well, it *looks* idyllic enough," Sam replied, laughing ruefully, "President with children -- but at the point when I took this, he was lecturing us on the histories of their names -- all eight of their names -- and Dr Bartlet was just out of the frame, waiting to pounce and give them both physicals."

"People care about these children, Samuel," Judith said softly. "They will never want for people to look out for them -- or to help them, should they ever need it."

Sam caught Josh's eye, and they smiled at each other.

Sam started to hand Judith one last set of pictures, frowned, and lifted the front flap of the envelope. Blushing, he stuffed the envelope between the side of his leg and the arm of the couch. "Oops, sorry," he said. "Not that roll."

Judith turned and quirked an eyebrow at her son, who was every bit as pink as Sam. "Uh...we, we were just..." Josh fumbled on.

"They're nothing interesting, Judith," Sam cut in. "They're just personal, and Sebastian's not in them, so you wouldn't really be interested."

She smiled. "Thank you, Sam." She touched Sebastian's cheek. "Remember this, Sebastian: Daddy uses words to make music. He is an artist."

Sam's blush took on a pleased hue. "Thank you, Judith," he murmured.

"Abba uses words to make a muddle of things. He is a clone of his father."

Josh couldn't help grinning, the sting of his mother's words drained by the comparison to Noah. "Thank you, Mother," he said gleefully.

Judith rolled her eyes and handed the pictures back to Sam. "Make the most of it while you can," she advised, and pointed at Sebastian. "Once this one starts crawling, you will find yourselves without the energy to do anything but chase him around."

Josh gaped. "Mother!"

"Don't be a prude, Joshua. I did have two children, after all."

"We were brought by a pelican," he said stubbornly.

Judith snorted and rubbed her palms twice against the leg of her jeans. Sam's eyes widened at that familiar gesture, which he'd never realized was a Lyman family tradition. "I'm sorry to cut our visit so short, but I promised Leo I'd stop in and see that *other* baby." She stood. "Would it be all right if I came back tomorrow?"

"Please do." Josh looked startled that he had said it -- and meant it. He got out of the chair carefully and kissed Judith's cheek. "Thanks for coming. And..." He frowned. "thank you for the gifts."

She ruffled Josh's hair and then Sebastian's. "I'm an old woman in a condo in Florida, Joshua. What do I have to do but paint ceramic bowls and buy things for my family?"

Sam snickered, and Judith turned to him, eyes glinting. "Something stuck in your throat, Samuel?"

"Uh, no, but thank you for your concern," he said quickly.

She laughed and hugged him. "Take care of yourself, Sam. Thank you for showing me the pictures."

"See you tomorrow."

"I'll walk you out," Josh offered. At the door, Judith looked him over and sighed.

"My baby's all grown up," she said, sniffling.

"Years ago."

She shook her head. "I don't mind telling you, Joshua: I was worried about you. After Rosslyn, and the PTSD, and the President...well, you seemed terribly lost. When you had your breakdown that Christmas, I realized it was the same thing you had done after your sister died. For months after the fire you seemed fine, and then one day you just...well you just lost it. I'm ashamed of myself for not anticipating that that would happen again after you were shot."

"I lost it? I -- I don't remember that."

"I'm not surprised. You can repress like no one else I've ever met -- even your father. I'm so relieved that you've found something to hold onto." She reached out, and he thought she was going to ruffle Sebastian's hair again, but instead she pressed lightly against the diamond chip in Josh's ring. When she pulled her hand away, there was a tiny square imprinted on the pad of her finger. She looked at the mark for a minute, then looked up at Josh and grinned. "Happy Chanukkah, Joshua."

He kissed her forehead. "Happy Chanukkah, Mother. Thank you for coming by."

"Thank you for having me. Now get back upstairs; if Sam puts one more ornament on that tree, it's going to collapse."

Josh held the front door open for his mother and continued to hold it open, watching her until her rented Buick disappeared around the curve at the end of their block, wondering when she had gotten so *smart.*. He let the door fall shut and looked at his son. "How much trouble do you think Daddy's gotten into in the two minutes we've been gone?" He trudged up the stairs and into the apartment, where he found Sam leaning against the arm of the couch, looking through the pictures he had hidden from Judith and laughing softly.

When he heard the door close, Sam looked over at Josh and smiled. "I'd almost forgotten."

"And then you almost showed them to my mother." He said it without malice.

"Somehow I don't think she would've been as appalled as you think."

"Probably not. I doubt she's spending her time painting ceramic bowls, either. But these are not the kind of pictures I want my mother seeing." He edged closer. "I wouldn't mind having another look at them, though."

To Josh's extreme disappointment, Sam dropped the pictures into the envelope and stuck them back in the pile where Josh couldn't reach them. "Nope. Sun's down."

"What is that?" Josh demanded. "A code of some sort? A new rule no one told me about?"

Sam laughed and propelled Josh toward the bedroom. "You'll light your candles; we'll open some gifts; we'll put the Crown Prince to bed, and then..."

"And then, what?"

Sam leaned in until he was six inches from Josh and whispered, "And then I'll put a bow on my head, and you can unwrap me."

Josh squeaked and kissed Sam hard. He thrust Sebastian into Sam's arms and raced down the hall to their bedroom for his yarmulke and the matches.

As he came back to the living room, he heard Sam confide, "This is my favorite time of year, Sebastian."

FIN

Happy, um, Chanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, everybody (I know I missed somebody, but I'm about as close as I'm ever going to be).

Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page