Title: That Thing He Does
Author: Nomi
Feedback email: gnomi@world.std.com
Author's website: world.std.com/~gnomi/stories.html
Pairing: Sam/Toby (past relationship); Josh/Sam (current relationship)
Rating: PG
Archive: Yes to list archive and anyone else who asks
Series/sequel: Part of my Scratching the Itch universe (at above website)
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: I didn't create the characters, just the scenario.
Summary: "It's just a thing he does."
Note 1: For Gail, on the occasion of her birthday (25 February 2003)
Note 2: This story would still be called "something about Toby and pants" were it not for Beth's help. I couldn't ask for a better beta. Assume spoilers through "Inauguration" (both parts).

That Thing He Does by Nomi

Today was a slow day for the campaign - I'd had a breakfast event this morning and now I was supposed to be catching up with correspondence, but the Klez virus had attacked our mail server so I couldn't log on. Which meant that I was finally going to get a chance to deal with the pile of crap that had accumulated on my desk while I'd been on the road.

I'd just finished organizing the files into categories when the phone rang.

"Seaborn for Congress, Sam Seaborn speaking."

"He mentioned 'The Incident' to the new guy!" a panicked voice said.

I knew that voice, but panicked wasn't an adjective I would have typically associated with it. Given the topic, however, it made sense.

"Toby, calm down." Now there's a sentence I'd never anticipating having to utter.

"How can I be calm? I hoped...no, I prayed that he'd forgotten 'The Incident.' He hasn't mentioned it at all in almost four years. And with everything else that has happened during the past four years, I'd assumed that there would have been much more important things to occupy the mind of the President. But..."

I interrupted Toby's monologue. "T, slow down. Tell me exactly what happened."

"Bailey just left my office. He had been working on the rewrites to the speech when the President knocked on his office door." Toby didn't specify which sections of the Inaugural speech were being rewritten, but it didn't matter. Speeches of that magnitude - Inaugural, State of the Union - get rewritten virtually until the moment they go onto the TelePrompTer, and even then there's always a chance of rewording on the fly.


"And, apparently, the kid didn't realize it wasn't me in the doorway. He said something along the lines of 'Keep your pants on, Toby,' and that's when the President mentioned 'It.'"

"Toby, what exactly did the President say?"

"Will says he said, 'Is Toby taking his pants off again?' As if this is something that happens frequently."

"T, you've got to admit there have been many times you've slept then dressed in your office. We all did at least once."

"You all changed in my office?" The fact that Toby mis-parsed what I said let me know just how frazzled he was by this incident. Though I still wasn't sure why.

"Toby, focus. What the President said sounds relatively innocuous."

"But that wasn't it," Toby said. "He even went as far as to say, 'It's just a thing he does,' as if I do it every day or something."

"T, don't worry about it. 'The Incident,' as you call it, was harmless. And it isn't like he even saw anything incriminating."

"Unless you count me with my pants around my ankles standing next to my desk."

"What's so incriminating about that?" I asked.

"_You_ were under my desk, still wiping your mouth clean."

"Yeah, but he didn't know that. If anything, he might have thought you had either sat in something or that you had spilled something on your pants. Or, even, that someone had spilled something on you. It has been known to happen." For instance, that night right after the election when we'd all gone drinking and CJ, having been pushed from behind, upended her martini into Toby's lap.

"You and I were already..."

"Yeah, but who knew that at the time? You and Andrea were still doing the 'let's have a baby' tango, and no one even knew about you and me. Hell, Toby, you got her pregnant three years _after_ you were divorced, and you were sleeping with me before you were divorced. Your relationship with your wife - or ex-wife; I've lost track as to who's currently winning that argument - is beyond fucked up, and, considering my life, believe me when I say I know fucked-up relationships."

"I know, Sam. Those were _my_ $300 shoes that got ruined in the crossfire."

"Um...yeah." What could I say? He was right. "Anyway," I continued. "Tell me why you're freaking out like this."

"Sam," Toby said in that "isn't it obvious" voice I hated so much when he was my boss.

"What? It's ancient history. I sucked you off in that closet of an office you had during the transition. We almost but didn't get caught. You _did_ get caught with your pants down, literally. What's the problem?" Damn, but Josh's bluntness was rubbing off on me. Either that, or I felt less restrained in this office than I did in my West Wing office.

"He's telling the new guy all the old stories."

Ah - and here we'd arrived at the crux of the issue.

"T, you know it was the right thing for me to do. You know I had to leave. And not just because of the promise I'd made. It was the right time." For a lot of different reasons - I was stagnating in my job; Josh and I needed to prove to ourselves that we could maintain our relationship when we weren't living in each other's pockets; I needed to not be living in the fishbowl 24/7. Fishbowl though this current campaign was, it wasn't nearly the same as being in the White House. For the first time in a very long time, I was beginning to actually feel healthy again.

"The President's treating Will just like he treated you in the beginning, like he treated Josh."

"So, in other words, he's forgetting Will's name and is making rude comments to the man." I hoped that was what Toby meant; on some level I'd be hurt if Will was accepted immediately.

"Yeah, something like that." Toby chuckled. "Oh - and Josh and I are the ones behind the bicycles in the office and the Seaborn posters in the windows. Though I made it look like it was Bonnie and Ginger."

"You sneaky bastard," I said. _Now_ Toby was sounding more like the Toby I'd worked with all those years.

"Promise me something," Toby said.

"What?" I asked.

"Don't _ever_ tell anyone about this conversation."

I smiled, even though he couldn't see me. "I promise."

"'Cause I'll deny that it ever happened. I'll say I was calling California to talk to Joey." Toby paused. "And don't forget, Congressman Seaborn, I have stories to tell about you, such as what happened that night Josh and I took you out, got you drunk, and put you to bed."

The title made me shiver a bit. I'm still not sure I'm ready for this job if I win it, but knowing Toby has that much faith in me was comforting. "I know you do."

"Keep up the good fight, Sam," Toby said. "Even if it is pointless."

"Hell, T, I learned that one from you."

"So I _did_ teach you something," Toby said smugly.

"Yeah," I responded. "That and how to end conversations with blithering idiots." I hung up the phone and stood there, a wide smile on my face. I knew he'd e-mail me something scathing later in the day.

I went back to my filing, but I knew I was still grinning. I'd have to remember to tell Josh about this tonight when he called. Not with all the details; Toby's revenge is often quick and very, very painful. But enough so that, if Josh needs leverage some day, he'll have something to work with.

It's what we do - we're family, after all.


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