TITLE: Variations on Variations: Litany of Wrongs
AUTHOR: Julian Lee
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters. I tried to lure them away from Aaron Sorkin with the promise of hot sex, but they're too loyal.
ARCHIVE: If you want it, it's yours. Just tell me where.
SUMMARY: "Once he found himself humming 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' and reflecting that no one on *his* list had been nice."
NOTES: One month after "Hidden Things." Also, it won't make much sense if you haven't read "A Particular Tuesday." Thanks to Beth for teaching me to love the words prologue and expansion.
Variations on Variations: Litany of Wrongs by Julian Lee
He knew that what he was doing was immature, counterproductive, and wrong. He didn't care. He also knew that he had learned this bad habit from CJ, and though this did give him pause for a moment or two, it didn't deter him completely.
Josh Lyman was making a list.
Not just any list. Not a list of books he'd read or movies he wanted to rent or people he hated, as CJ made; no, Josh was making a list of complaints.
A litany, if you will.
A litany of wrongs.
When Gualtiero Vinci died six months ago, the care and feeding of Clan Vinci had fallen to his grandson: Sam Seaborn.
And as the lucky stiff who lived with Sam and shared his life, Josh dealt with the Vincis almost as much as Sam did. They all wanted something from him, and as family patriarch (welcome to the seventeenth century, everybody!), seeing to those wants was Sam's responsibility. He had sole right of refusal for any request, but he was so desperate to prove himself in this situation that he had yet to turn down anything anyone had asked for -- if it was in his power to obtain. Obviously, there were some things he simply could not do, but a number of requests -- many of them unethical -- had been fulfilled by a man who wrote the words of the President, for God's sake, but couldn't find the strength within himself to tell his relatives "no."
With the possible exception of Sam's mother and her sisters, Josh didn't think there was a single Vinci he didn't hate. Come to think of it, even they had their moments. Hadn't they passed over 'take- charge Tracy,' the one who'd actually *wanted* to lead the family, in favor of Sam, the one who wanted it less than anything else he could think of -- and had made no secret of that fact?
And so he was making a list.
Once he found himself humming "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and reflecting that no one on *his* list had been nice. "Lumps of coal for everyone," he declared to the empty bedroom. Sam had stuck his head out of the bathroom and asked if Josh had said something, to which he waved his hand and said it was nothing.
But it was something, all right. It was a list, and it was a *long* list. And every time he thought of that list, he got more pissed off. So he would resolve to stop thinking about it, and sometimes he would even succeed for a day or two. But then another relative would call to beg for something, or another delivery would arrive, and Josh would add it to his list, and he'd end up rereading the whole sordid thing. And he'd get pissed off again.
The list was hand-written (hand-scribbled, actually; he didn't have the most legible handwriting in the world), covered in notations that only he (and possibly Donna) could decipher. Which was a damned lucky thing, as he *never* wanted Sam to see what he was writing about the Vincis. Its entries usually looked something like this:
"3/7: Great-Aunt Marcella wants face lift because clerk at store mistook best friend -- 2 years older than Marcella -- for daughter. You're 72. Get over yourself."
Scrawled in the margin: "3/12: Great-Aunt Marcella has sent *ugliest* figurine ever. Blueish St Bernard, paint already chipping. Does she imagine will help cause?"
And then, underneath, the writing small and tight, like Josh's mouth when he's angry: "3/16: Sam OKs money for face lift."
Another read: "5/19: Lou Fabrizzi (sp?) called 3 times; is wanted by police for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Wants Sam to hide him. Can't wait 'til Sam kicks his ass."
Beneath this: "Holy shit! Sam considered finding hiding place for lowlife. Had to remind him that harboring wanted felon much more damaging than convicted drug dealer in family."
"6/1: Teleflora delivery: daisies and yellow carnations, already wilting. From Leena Ghirelli for...reasons unknown. Should be fun."
"6/2: Leena called. Wants promotion (no position actually open)."
"7/22: Serena (Rose's daughter) wants to marry Grant Edgemoor. Is asking for Sam's blessing? Kind of sweet."
"Retraction (9:23 p.m.): Not asking for blessing. Grant Edgemoor already married; Serena wants Sam to 'persuade' to leave wife. Has watched either _Godfather_ or _Practical Magic_ too many times."
"7/29: _Godfather_. UPS dropped off pair of huge, gaudy, Rolex knock- offs (likely stolen) with note from Serena urging Sam to 'reconsider' decision. At least remembered one for me. Am throwing in pile with rest of Vinci family crap."
And Josh's favorite: "5/29: Dean (possibly Ghirelli -- sp?) has decided to become CIA operative and wants Sam to "put in a good word" because Sam is "you know, an important guy and stuff." Dean is beer- guzzling pot-head."
"6/1: Sam unsuccessful at convincing Dean that Sam's limited influence w/CIA will not get Dean job there, as is beer-guzzling pot- head."
"6/4: FedEx delivery. Sad-looking fruit basket; no good chocolate. >From Dean -- still doesn't get it."
"On closer inspection, sad fruit basket found to contain 1/4-ounce of marijuana -- likely obtained from Lou Fabrizzi (sp?)."
Bringing any of this up with Sam was pointless. "They're my family," was all he would ever say, "and it's my responsibility to look out for them."
"Of course you have to look out for them!" Josh exclaimed once when he didn't think he could handle the Vincis for one more day. "If one of them gets injured, you help with hospital bills. If one of them is in an abusive relationship, you find them a safe place to get away to. You do *not* hide them from the police; you do *not* give them money for no good reason; and you do *not* subjugate your entire life to them. That's not the way it's done."
"You don't understand my family, Mir," Sam insisted, a point Josh made no move to contradict. "You and your mother have a very strong relationship, and that's wonderful, but you don't have this enormous family network to look out for."
"You think I don't have -- have cousins and uncles and crap like that?" he demanded.
Sam calmly sealed the letter he was writing, thanking his uncle for the clock. It was one of those Vegas dice-clock deals, and it had arrived without explanation. Gifts that showed up for no reason were the ones that scared Josh the most -- they meant someone was thinking of wanting something sometime in the near future, and he and Sam had no way to prepare for whatever it was going to be. "When was the last time you talked to any of them?"
He sighed loudly and rubbed his forehead. "How often did you hear from *your* relatives before you became patriarch?" This, Sam refused to answer. Josh stepped closer. "Listen, Drive, in no way does getting what you think you want ensure your happiness. In fact, sometimes getting what you think you want ends up being the worst thing that can happen to you."
"It's not my job to second-guess them," he insisted.
"That's *exactly* what your job is!" Josh retorted. "You're not just the -- the Bank of Vinci here. You don't just dole out the family fortune whenever somebody asks for a loan. You're the leader of the family. The decision-maker. The *force.* You're supposed to do what's best for the family -- and sometimes that means not giving what they ask for. Sometimes it means being enough smarter than they are to figure out that what they ask for isn't really what they should get."
Sam didn't answer, but started humming quietly, and after a minute Josh realized the song was "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
"Wonderful," Josh sniped. "You'll just blindly give them whatever they ask for, but you're not going to listen to what I have to say about any of this. Way to include me in the family, Drive." He threw his hands in the air and walked away.
As a point in Sam's favor, he didn't often launch into Rolling Stones serenades at this point in the argument. As a point very much against him, what he usually did was tell Josh all about how beloved Papa Vinci, how people would go to him weeping and emerge from their talks smiling and relieved, and that they would always pat Sam and his cousins on the head and tell them what a great man their grandfather was. If Josh had to hear that story one more time he was going to fly to California and beat the shit out of every Vinci he could lay his hands on.
There also seemed to be a general disregard for basic human decency among people who needed things from the patriarch. Somehow, Josh always ended up being the one who picked up the phone -- when they were home for the calls at all -- and no one ever wanted to talk to him. Here he was, a not uninteresting person, and if nothing else, he was the one their family's leader had chosen to spend his life with; the one who usually took messages, and he would've thought that the clan would want to be in his good books, too. But they treated him as a glorified secretary, practically ordering him to ferry messages to Sam and then hanging up abruptly.
Perfect example: One night, so very late it was almost very early, Sam's cell phone rang. Totally unsurprisingly, it woke Josh but not Sam, so he leaned across the bed (and Sam) to grab it. "'Lo?" He yawned.
"Sam?" a querulous old woman's voice asked suspiciously. "This doesn't sound like Sam."
Sam's family. He cursed silently. **Why, oh why, couldn't it have been a national emergency?** "No, this is Josh." He fought to keep his eyelids open.
"Where's Sam?" the voice demanded.
"Sleeping," he said, forcing himself to stay calm. **They're your family now, too,** he repeated to himself. His self remained unconvinced.
"Sleeping!" There was a lot of disapproval in that word.
"It's 3 in the morning here," Josh pointed out, and this seemed to stump the woman for a moment.
"Oh." A pause. "Who is this?"
He swallowed a bitter chuckle. **Who the hell do you think it would be at 3 a.m.?** "It's Josh," he repeated wearily.
"Ah," she said, and if possible, that syllable contained more disapproval than everything else she'd said so far. "Well, this is Great-Aunt Marcella."
Josh groaned. **Not again. Lady, you've had so much plastic surgery there's nothing left to lift or tuck.**
"I wish to speak to him," she continued.
Josh scribbled "Marcella" on the notepad on the bedside table. "I'll be sure to tell him you called, ma'am," he promised.
There was a short pause. "Well?"
"Uh..." Josh stopped, bewildered. "Does he have your number?"
"Young man, I wish to speak to him *now.*"
"With all due respect, ma'am," he said, trying to maintain polite, "it's 3 a.m. Sam is asleep. As soon as he wakes up, I'll tell him you called. But I'm not waking him up."
"No!" Beside him, Sam stirred, and he lowered his voice. "I'm sorry, Marcella, you're just going to have to wait." He hung up on her and forced himself to take several deep, calming breaths that did nothing whatsoever to calm him.
He tried to convince himself that it was just Marcella, that she was an old woman accustomed to getting her own way. But then, later that same week, Frost called.
When the phone rang, Josh picked it up wearily -- he'd gotten home only ten minutes earlier, all but thrown out of the West Wing by Sam and Toby, who were going to be stuck in Toby's office for the majority of the night reworking a speech that suddenly could no longer be about what it was about. Or something like that. Sam had tried to explain it to him, but he'd been too zoned to take in much. "Hello?"
Josh's lips curled up. He liked Frost. The middle child and only son of Sam's Aunt Isabel, Frost was a sweetly befuddled young man drifting through his twenties in a haze of Kant and sitar music. "Frost! How's it going?"
"Not so bad. Is Sam around?"
"No, he's stuck at the office. He's been having one of those weeks, you know. And then your Great-Aunt Marcella called on Monday, and I swear, that woman--"
"Look Josh, I don't have time to talk," Frost cut in hastily. "Just tell Sam I called and that I need him to call me as soon as possible. Thanks." And hung up. Josh stared at the phone in his hand until it kicked over to a dial tone again, then he hung up and got down to the business of actively loathing the Clan Vinci.
The next day, he barged into Sam's office and demanded, "Are we a partnership?"
Sam blinked up at him. "Pardon me?"
"You and I." He waved his hand impatiently between them. "Do you think of our relationship as a partnership?"
He planted his hands on his hips. "Do you consider me family?"
Sam pulled his glasses off to bring him into better focus. "Would you like me to show you all the places I have you listed as my next of kin?"
Though this melted his iron resolve a little, Josh still snorted and flung Frost's message at Sam. "Tell that to your family." He spun on his heel and stormed out.
For a moment, Sam couldn't process what had just happened. He looked down at the message. "Call Frost," it said, in perfectly neat, clipped printing.
"Fuck," Sam muttered, jumping out of his chair and racing into the hallway. "Josh!" Josh didn't slow. Ignoring the curious stares from the bullpen, Sam put on a burst of speed and caught Josh's arm just before he could go brood in his office. "Josh, stop."
He whirled back around, his eyes two shades darker with rage. "You know, for people who are calling to beg favors from you, they're not very humble or grateful. And considering I'm the person who decides whether or not you ever find out they called, you'd think they would want to show me a little common courtesy. Next time you talk to them, remind them I'm not your houseboy."
For the next week, Sam dove for the phone every time it rang, seemingly appalled by his visions of what Josh would do if he talked to another Vinci anytime soon.
And then there were the gifts -- if you could call them that. Since Sam and Josh were never home during the day, they'd made arrangements with the Post Office, FedEx, UPS, FTD, and anyone else they could think of to have packages left with Will and Seamus, who lived two doors down. Seamus worked nights, so he was home during the day to accept deliveries, and Will didn't seem ever to sleep, because he was always awake at whatever inhumane hour they got home and came to pick up the newest atrocity.
Will found the whole situation amusing. Every time he handed over a package he would remark, "Someone sure loves you guys." Will was a young guy, a college student, maybe, and he would always flirt unabashedly with whichever one of them showed up at his door. They didn't mind at all; they'd had many a dinner conversation comparing how he looked in various outfits they'd seen him in. But in the end, he was one of the things that pushed Josh to his breaking point when it came to Sam's family.
"Another package!" Will announced cheerfully that cloudy Saturday morning when he, for the first time in months, came to them. "Delivered yesterday by Mimi herself. Seamus is still swooning." Josh nodded sleepily and reached for the box. Will considered playing keep-away with it, but he looked at Josh more closely and realized what a bad idea that would be. "Somebody loves you guys," he said, regular as clockwork, but Josh was a wee bit hung- over (something about "It's Charlie's birthday; Zoey's buying!"), so instead of his usual reply of, "Well, what's not to love?" he answered, "It's all Sam."
The young man blinked. "What?"
"The packages?" Josh waved the box. "They're all for Sam. From his family."
Will leaned forward playfully and propped his arm on the doorframe. "Feeling underappreciated?" he asked. "I might have the perfect remedy." He waggled his eyebrows.
Josh mirrored Will's motion, so they were leaning toward each other on opposite sides of the doorway. He swiped his bottom lip with his tongue. "How perfect?" he asked, cocking his head to the side and letting his gaze sweep appraisingly up and down the younger man, appreciating the way his black jeans clung to his hips.
Will took a slight step backward and dropped his arm, his eyes widening. He'd always been easy-going about the harmless flirtation, but Josh would bet that this was the first time either of them had responded in anything other than the light, bantering manner in which it was intended.
Suddenly, Josh was livid. He was furious with the Vincis, furious with Sam. Things had degenerated so far that his twenty-year-old neighbor was propositioning him, however jokingly, on his own doorstep -- and the offer was appealing. Josh gripped the doorframe and waited for the room to stop rocking, then held the box out. "I changed my mind," he said. "I don't accept this package."
"What?" Will's hazel eyes widened. "You...you can't do that. Seamus already signed for it."
Josh shook his head. "I don't care. I've changed my mind. I don't want it in my home."
"I -- I don't know," he said uncertainly.
Josh waved him away wearily. "Just take it back, Will. Have Seamus give it back to Mimi on Monday. If she gives him a hard time, he can tell her to have her supervisor call me. Here." Josh wrote his cell number on a scrap of paper he found in the pocket of his jeans and stuffed it into Will's shirt pocket. Then he wrote "Return to sender -- refused," on the package and pressed it into Will's hand. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you again soon." He shut the door on the baffled young man and went into the kitchen to get himself coffee. He never told Sam about the package. He wasn't even sure who it had been from.
All gifts that weren't going to spoil were piled on a card table in the corner of the living room, because Sam would neither do anything with them nor throw them away -- nor would he let Josh pitch them for him. Everyone believed that this was the way to convince the patriarch to do something for them. All he really wanted was for someone, just once, to say, "Thank you, Sam." What he hoped for every day was for someone to tell him he was doing a good job, but the thank-you would have sufficed. And the gifts were not thank-yous. They were bribes, plain and simple; they were attempts to curry favor.
He had been in charge of this family for six months. To date, not one person had thanked him for anything he had done.
Something would have to be done, Josh knew. Soon. Otherwise, one of them was going to explode. And right at the moment, he honestly couldn't say which one it would be.
Positive and constructively negative feedback always appreciated; huge, gaudy Rolex knock-offs, not so much. firstname.lastname@example.org
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