Author: Jae Kayelle
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin, NBC, and John Wells Productions own the characters. No copyright infringement intended, no profits made from this work of fiction.
Summary: Ya gotta kiss a lot of frogs.
Note: This was started for Halloween last year. Just picked it up again and, since I've never been one to sit on a story for very long, I decided to post it now. All of October should be Halloween. ;-)
Spellbound by Jae Kayelle
"That woman!" Josh sputtered.
Sam glanced at his friend as they hurried through the corridors of power.
"Congresswoman Maleva?" At Josh's furious nod, Sam continued, "She's always seemed a bit strange to me."
"Strange? She's downright eerie."
"Because she won't support your bill?"
"Yeah, and because she's way too independent for a Democrat. I keep thinking she's going to become an Independent. Plus she just gives me the creeps. Those eyes. Have you seen her eyes, Sam?"
"They're violet," Sam nodded. "Elizabeth Taylor has violet eyes."
"She does -- for real? I always thought she wore coloured contacts."
"I saw "National Velvet" on the late show last week. I don't think they had coloured contacts back when they made that movie, and her eyes were definitely violet."
Josh studied his friend. "You're such a geek."
"Hey!" Sam was affronted.
"And you're my geek," Josh continued affectionately.
Josh apparently realized what he had said and tried to verbally back pedal. "I mean you're my friend and so what if you're a geek? I still lo-like you. Buddy. Pal."
"Oh." The bright, interested smile that had appeared on Sam's face at Josh's second declaration faded into confusion and disappointment.
"Guess I better go rethink my plan of attack on the bill. See if I can convince Witchy Woman to support it. Another angle might help."
"Yeah, it might." Sam was lost in thought.
"Later." Josh peeled off towards his office.
Nervously, Sam approached Congresswoman Maleva's office. He schooled his features as he faced the assistant guarding the inner sanctum. She regarded him as if he was the enemy.
"Sam Seaborn to see the Congresswoman," he told her.
Before she could speak, a voice emanating from the intercom said, "Send Mister Seaborn in, Vira."
Vira gestured toward the door without speaking. Sam pulled his eyebrows down out of his hairline and walked towards the door. When it opened before he could reach for the knob, he jumped back one full step.
A pair of violet eyes accosted him from the other side. "I do not have a lot of time to spare today, Mister Seaborn. You were squeezed onto my calendar at the last minute. Do come in."
Said the spider to the fly, Sam thought giddily and entered the office, shooting a startled glance over his shoulder when the solid oak door thunked shut behind him.
Maleva crossed over to her desk and sank onto a large leather chair. "Speak," she intoned.
"I, uh, this is going to sound silly," he told her.
"Go ahead." She spun her hand to hurry him up.
"I did some research on you."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You rose to office of Congresswoman by rather rapid means. Came out of nowhere, so to speak. There are some rumours that the path opened up in rather mysterious ways."
Maleva laughed. It was a deep, rich laugh, not the high-pitched cackle he was half-expecting. "I am aware of those rumours, Mr. Seaborn. My opponents saw to it that they perpetuated them to their fullest during the campaign, perhaps they even instigated them. I challenged them. They denied it, of course. I won the election, which was the ultimate goal. What is your point? Surely you are not here to dredge up all of that again. I am a Democrat, if you recall. I am on your side."
Determined not to let her cow him, Sam sat up straighter and said, "I dug deeper than the superficial mudslinging of the election, Congresswoman. I went back quite a few years. In fact, when trying to locate your college records I discovered a surprising fact. You attended Radcliffe in 1937. That would make you about 84 years old. Funny," he cocked his head to the side, "You don't look a day over 40."
The violet eyes darkened to a deep purple. Sam could have sworn they flashed blue for an instant and, in the back of his mind, while suddenly scared spitless, he wondered how she did that. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as Maleva slowly rose to her feet and she seemed to grow taller as she stood there. She looked pissed.
"Please get to the point."
Leaning way back in the chair, Sam swallowed hard past the ball of fear lodged in his throat and said, "I believe you are, in fact, familiar with the black arts."
She laughed again, and regained her seat. "Surely you jest."
"Mister Seaborn. You are not a foolish man. I, too, have done my research. I know all about you -- *all* about you. Coming here and making defamatory remarks towards me on my turf is not a smart move. What if I tape all of the conversations that take place in this office?"
"You don't. I have connections who checked you out."
"CIA?" she asked.
"Thank you." Inwardly he was quaking. She'd bought his bluff. "Now that we've gotten past that will you listen to what I have to say?"
"Please. Go ahead."
"I want you to cast a spell."
"A love spell?"
Sam was astonished. "You read minds, too?"
Maleva shrugged. "It is the number one request."
"So you have done this sort of thing previously."
"Before we continue, let me say that if you speak a word of this conversation to anyone whatever work I do for you will become null and void. You get one chance. I am not a witch, Mr. Seaborn. I prefer the term sorceress. I do not own a cauldron or a broom other than the kind used for sweeping the kitchen floor. I have three cats, none of them jet-black. I have never had a wart on my nose or any other part of my body."
Smiling more easily, Sam nodded. "I understand."
"I can turn men who would be kings into frogs if necessary. Be aware of that."
"Yes, ma'am," Sam gulped, his fear returning at the expression in her weird eyes. He gathered his fleeing courage to make a demand of his own. "I'll keep your secret if you keep one of mine."
"The name of the person I'm interested in."
"Josh Lyman," she stated matter-of-factly.
He opened his mouth but words refused to emerge.
Maleva was already turning away. She told him, "Bring something belonging to Mister Lyman that he has recently touched and meet me at 7999 Wolfe Street at midnight tonight."
Sam stumbled out of the office, dazed but surprisingly not confused.
It was a creepy neighbourhood. It was Munsters type creepy. Sam double-checked the address to make sure it didn't read 1313 Mockingbird Lane. There was little illumination at that end of the block. Light from the streetlamp simply did not reach as far as the driveway of the house. There was a full moon but it was playing hide and seek behind some clouds and only came out for brief periods. Large trees bent over the path to the front porch, swaying in the wind, which seemed to have picked up the moment Sam arrived. As he stepped onto the large open verandah he noticed that there was a cemetery across the street.
A brass doorknocker with the head of a skull on it graced the front door. Sam gingerly pulled at it with his fingertips and let it fall against the heavily grained wood. The light tap it made was barely discernible to him, so he reached out again intending to really let it fly. Just as he stuck his hand out the door creaked open.
Sam jumped back about a foot.
Maleva gestured him inside. He stepped forward and something silky and virtually invisible brushed his face getting caught in his hair and on his eyelashes. He swatted at it. Cobweb. Sam walked into the foyer trying not to stare at his hostess. Her brunette hair seemed several shades darker than it had earlier in the day. It fell loosely down her back. She wore a floor length gown of black silk with another layer of black lace covering it. The gauzy sleeves hung to her fingers when she let her arms fall to her sides.
"Please come with me, Mister Seaborn."
Feeling vaguely like a lamb going to the slaughter Sam followed her deeper into the house. This was so he could win Josh's love. He had to remember that. Or possibly he was really stupid and should just leave now.
She led him into a room he could only describe as macabre. Seven shrunken human heads were lined up on the mantle over the fireplace. He could swear they were looking at him. One of them might have even smirked. The furniture was done in Early Ghoul. Gnarled wooden chairs had legs that actually looked like the legs of really old people, shrivelled from age. The arms ended in knobbly, knuckled fists. He blinked in disbelief at the oil paintings hanging on the walls. Ancient faces gazed back at him, their features distorted, twisted in pain and horror. They almost seemed three-dimensional. Suppressing a shiver he turned to Maleva, determined to see this through. It was all for Josh he reminded himself again, even while part of his brain was telling him he was a fool and he should get out now before he became part of the décor.
"Shall we begin?"
Sam gulped and nodded.
Maleva sat down behind a small card table. Sam stared at it.
"Are we going to play poker?" he asked striving to regain his sense of humour.
"Of course not. Please be seated."
With a flourish Maleva whisked a red velvet cloth off the table. Underneath it was a silver bowl filled with a murky liquid. When Sam peered into it he couldn't tell what it was.
"Place your right hand in the bowl, Mister Seaborn."
Hesitantly Sam did as he was told and jerked his hand right back out again when he felt the warmth of the liquid. It wasn't hot enough to burn but it was definitely surprising.
"What the hell is this stuff?"
"It will not hurt you. I must have your cooperation in order for this spell to work." Maleva gently but firmly guided his hand back into the bowl.
Sam endured the vague discomfort as the liquid coated his fingers. It felt slimy and icky.
"What happens if the spell doesn't work? Will Josh just go on as if nothing occurred?"
"He might not notice a difference in his daily life. Then again he might experience a dramatic change."
"Such as?" Sam prodded. He was proud to recognize that he hadn't lost all of his common sense. "If Josh is in any sort of danger..."
"Do not be concerned, Mister Seaborn. Your man will not be endangered."
His man. He liked the sound of that. Sam nodded. "Go ahead."
"I should, however, point out that there have been a few documented cases of would-be lovers turning into frogs."
Maleva waved a hand dismissively. "None of my clients or the objects of their affections have ever suffered such indignities."
"Then why mention it?"
"It is in our code of ethics to warn clients of all possibilities."
"Witches have a code of ethics?"
"Sorceress, Mister Seaborn," she reminded him. "And, yes, we do. We are not all evil beings. Most of us merely wish to practice our arts in peace and harmony."
"Sounds cozy. So, no trials by water?"
Maleva's lips thinned and her gaze darkened. "There is no need to be offensive, Mister Seaborn."
Chastened, Sam spoke quietly but sincerely, "I apologize."
The Congresswoman held out her hand. "Did you bring a possession of Mister Lyman's?"
Sam reached for a tie he had taken from Josh's office. Unfortunately it was in the right hand pocket of his suit jacket. He had to contort himself in order to get at it with his left hand. Drawing it out he passed it across to Maleva.
Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes and ran her fingers over the material. She took her time but, just as Sam began to fidget - the slime was cooling and his hand was beginning to cramp, she finally started to whisper something. The words were indiscernible to Sam. He wasn't even sure of what language she was speaking. It sounded like a chant of some kind. After a minute or so her voice grew louder.
"Russtoo barachna. Russtoo barachna. Russtoo BARACHNA!"
Sam flinched from the volume. He nearly pulled his hand free of the glop in the bowl but Maleva slammed her hand down on top of his. The bowl wobbled under his wrist, and the liquid contained within nearly sloshed over the sides. Maleva swayed from side to side like a willow caught in a high wind. Sam's heart beat wildly at the rising weirdness that filled the room.
"Ahya nockrore keepsa roo!"
Sam stared as her head dropped onto her chest and she suddenly went motionless. Thinking she had passed out he thought perhaps he should check to see if she was all right.
Abruptly she sat up straight, blinked and a radiant smile lit up her features making her look years younger.
"It is done."
"It is?" he rasped.
"Yes." She gracefully rose to her feet and retrieved a towel from another table. Passing it to him she indicated that he could remove his hand from the bowl. When he did she assisted him in drying off.
"You expected thunder and lightning perhaps?" she asked mildly.
"N-no. Not at all." Truthfully, he wasn't sure what he had expected. What he had witnessed was a little difficult to process just yet.
"Remember our deal, Mister Seaborn. No one can know of what happened here tonight and none of our conversations can be repeated."
"What about telling Josh?"
An odd little smile tugged at her ruby lips. "Do you really want to tell him you had a spell placed on him?"
Thinking that Josh would likely laugh and scoff or else call in a shrink, Sam shook his head. Either way would not help his cause.
Maleva ushered Sam towards the front door. When he opened it something brushed against his pants leg. He twitched nervously and looked down to see a slinky black cat rubbing its white chin on his Armani.
He looked up again. "Thank you, Congresswoman."
"Do not thank me yet." She smiled mysteriously and closed the door in his face.
"Grisella Gruesome," he muttered. As he walked towards his car he realized he was shaking all over. He drove home very slowly.
Sam sweated out the next day. He couldn't eat, hadn't slept and could barely concentrate on his work. Toby yelled at him every hour on the hour but it didn't help. All Sam could think about was the pact he'd made with the Devil, also known as Congresswoman Maleva, also not widely known as, but was by her own admission, a sorceress.
Finally, unable to take any more of his self-made anxiety, he went back to Maleva's office intending to call off the deal. He was informed that the Congresswoman was unavailable for the rest of the week.
"I'm so stupid," he muttered. It was to become his mantra for the rest of the day.
It was possible the Roosevelt Room was spinning. Yup. It definitely was. Josh stopped yelling at the assembled members of government long enough to grab the edge of the table and hang on.
"Lyman? You all right?" Representative Wilmar held Josh's arm and eased him onto a chair.
Josh put his head down between his knees. The room was now doing the Mexican Hat Dance. This was not good.
"Josh?" Sam flew into the office and Donna hurriedly got out of his way. Good thing or he would have run right over her to get to Josh's side. He knelt beside the chair and rubbed his friend's back. Josh lifted his head an inch or two off the top of the desk and smiled wanly.
"Hey yourself. Are you okay? I heard you fainted at the meeting."
"Fainted is a strong word. It was just a little dizzy spell."
"Shouldn't you see a doctor? You're looking a little green."
"Nah." Josh made a surprising noise from the back of his throat. At first Sam thought his friend was going to re-experience his hastily eaten lunch from a couple of hours ago, but Josh merely looked embarrassed and excused himself.
"You sure? I can call Dr. Bartlet."
"God no, Sam. I'm fine. A little... indigestion is all. Brrrivett! Gah. That tasted bad." Josh covered his mouth with the palm of his hand.
Sam automatically pulled the trashcan sitting beside the desk closer.
"You look more than a little green, Josh. You look downright... Oh. My. God." Sam rose up and stumbled backward. "Donna? Don't you think he's looking green, really green?"
Josh's assistant bent over at the waist to see Josh's face, her long blonde hair swinging forward. She pushed it aside. "He looks pretty pasty but I wouldn't call it green exactly."
"You sure it's not, I don't know, frog-green?"
Now Donna was looking at him strangely. "Frog-green? Sam..."
"Because if it is frog-green maybe we should take him to see someone."
"Like a veterinarian? Honestly, Sam. You've been hanging around with him too much."
"Hey!" Josh protested and then belched or possibly croaked in a frog-like manner. Sam's anxiety climbed another notch.
"That's it. I'm calling Dr. Bartlet. She'll have me committed but I don't care. Josh is in trouble and I need to fix it." He was vaguely aware that he was jabbering and mostly to himself, but his state of mind was at Defcon 3. "If I can't find the witch I'll get another one who can help."
"Sam!" Donna sounded shocked, and then her voice dropped to a whisper, "Did you just call Dr. Bartlet a witch?"
They both turned in time to see Josh lose his lunch in a spectacular manner into the trashcan.
"Ewww," they chorused.
Fortunately, Abigail Bartlet was in the Residence and arrived within minutes of Josh emptying the last contents of his stomach. She checked his pulse rate and temperature, and then examined his skin and eyes. She ordered him go to Toby's office and lie down. Sam slung an arm around Josh's waist and half-carried him down the hall.
Fidgeting in the doorway of his office, as if he wanted to make a break for it, Toby scowled at the Deputy Chief of Staff sprawled under an afghan on his couch.
"Why does he have to lie down on my couch? CJ has one, too, and there's a perfectly good one in that roundish shaped office down the hall."
"He's not going to barf on your couch if that's what you're afraid of, Toby," Abbey told him over her shoulder as she checked Josh's vitals again.
Sam hovered nearby while Donna hovered beside him. Abbey glanced at them.
"There are too many people in here. Everyone leave. Now."
Toby fled without another word. Donna looked put out but also vacated the office. Sam, however, could not make his feet move.
"Let me stay, Mrs. Bartlet. Please."
She pursed her lips. "All right. Will you pour a glass of water?"
Eager to do something for Josh he picked up the pitcher on Toby's desk, poured a glassful of water, spilling some on his hand, and passed the glass to her. She did not take it from him. Instead she said, "Now drink it. You look like hell. I don't want another patient today."
"Yes, ma'am." He sipped at the water and then, realizing that he was a little dehydrated, gulped down the rest of it. "What can I do for Josh?"
"He's going to need his fluid intake replenished and then you are going to take him home."
"What? Is he...? Isn't he going to...?"
"Die? Honestly, Sam. If he was an emergency case do you think I'd have him lying on Toby's couch instead of calling for an ambulance?"
"No, ma'am." He had been about to ask if Josh was going to turn into a frog. Fortunately he'd stumbled over that one before actually saying the words.
I'm so stupid, he thought.
"Now leave us alone while I examine Josh further. Now Sam. Go."
Reluctantly, Sam left the office. When he was allowed back in Josh looked marginally better and was dozing on the couch. Abby took Sam aside and spoke to him in a quiet voice.
"He has food poisoning. I made some calls and found the source. It was sent to a lab just to make sure. I also notified the staff. Thank goodness Josh was the only one who had the tuna salad and not much of it at that. It's clearing his system. He can go home if someone goes with him so, Sam, you can watch over him tonight. Promise me, though, that while he is drinking lots of water and clear broth, and some Gatorade to replenish his electrolytes if he can keep it down, you will make yourself a decent meal and eat it."
"Yes, ma'am. I will."
"Sam." She eyed him suspiciously.
"I didn't eat lunch so I'm feeling a little hungry," he admitted.
"Which one of you is more likely to have actual food in your home?"
"I know I have enough to make chicken stir fry."
"How long has the chicken resided in your refrigerator?"
"I bought it two days ago. It's in the freezer but I can defrost it in the microwave."
"Then take him to your place."
They were allowed to leave as soon as two bottles of Gatorade were procured from the mess, and after Josh had a couple of hours of sleep on the couch broken by three hasty trips to the washroom assisted by Sam. When Josh awoke looking and feeling stronger Abbey gave them permission to go home with strict instructions to call her if Josh had a relapse, which she assured them was unlikely. She was simply making sure that Sam would contact her if the need arose.
Josh wasn't up to taking a shower so Sam used a warm wet cloth to quickly bathe him. He was highly conscious of Josh's bare chest, legs, and arms, and of the fact that only a pair of cotton boxers kept his friend from being totally unclothed. He gave him some sweats and a clean t-shirt to put on since Josh had sweated through his own clothes. Sam helped him change into them. Finally Josh was cleaned up and dry and ready to be bundled into bed. Sam tucked the covers around him.
"I can make you some tea. Do you think you might want some?"
"Maybe later. Just some water for now."
Josh looked so played out that Sam's heart went out to him. He sat on the edge of his bed and brushed the hair back from Josh's forehead. His hand lingered and his fingers slid around to stroke Josh's temples. Closing his eyes, Josh murmured and smiled at the touch.
Sam kept up the stroking for a minute or so, and then he let his hand fall to the bed beside Josh's head. He leaned a little closer. Josh looked up at him.
"Thank you for taking care of me."
Sam frowned and backed away. He stood up. "I'd better go make myself something to eat before Abbey sends the Secret Service around to check up on me."
"Sam? What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Be right back."
He took his time in the kitchen and ended up making a sandwich that he knew he wasn't going to eat.
The rather plaintive call from the bedroom drew him like a siren's song. He hurried back in there leaving the sandwich on the counter but paused to pour a glass of water for Josh, which he took with him.
"Do you need something?" Sam tried to will his heart not to react to the sight of the man he loved lying virtually helpless in his bed. It didn't work. His heart only beat faster.
"Yeah. I need you. Would you sit with me for a while?"
"Sure." Sam set the glass on the bedside table and perched on the side of the mattress.
"That doesn't look comfortable. Come on. It's your apartment and your bed. Make yourself at home." Josh grinned self-deprecatingly at his choice of words.
"Okay." Sam removed his shoes and climbed up on the bed next to Josh, sitting with his back against the pillows. After a moment he realized he was sitting up while Josh was lying flat. He started to slide down a bit while Josh pushed himself up higher. They both stopped and stared at each other.
Sam looked away first.
"I did something stupid."
"I doubt that, Sam. You could never do anything stupid."
Flashing him a grateful if disbelieving smile, Sam said, "I did. Something incredibly stupid."
"I hired a witch."
"Maybe you should ask who?"
"All right, who?"
"That's the one."
"She's a witch."
"I know that. Why did you hire her?"
"Actually, hired isn't the correct word. I asked for her help."
"And she agreed?" Josh was incredulous. "What's the catch?"
"No catch. More like mutual blackmail."
"Sam!" Josh's voice rose to an alarmingly high pitch.
"It's not what you think. It's nothing illegal."
"What then?" Josh struggled to sit up straighter and Sam helped him. "Sam, tell me."
"I promised not to tell anyone that she's a witch, although she prefers the term sorceress, and she won't tell anyone why I asked for her help."
"Why did you? You still haven't answered that question."
Sam drew a deep breath. "I wanted her to cast a spell. A love spell."
Josh looked at him oddly. "For you?"
Dropping his gaze to the comforter lying over his legs, Josh said, "Who are you in love with and when can I meet her?" He finished with a wobbly voice.
"Not a her."
"A him?" Josh squeaked.
Sam nodded. "It's you. I'm in love with you, Josh."
Both his eyes and his mouth opened wide. Josh stumbled over the words a couple of times but finally asked, "You're in love with me?"
Sam nodded again, unable to speak at all in his misery.
"You didn't need a love spell. I've been in love with you for years."
"You have? Wait. How do we know that this isn't a result of Maleva's spell?"
Looking crestfallen, Josh said, "But I do love you, Sam."
"We have to find her and get her to remove the spell."
"I'm not sure I believe in witches or love spells."
The only thing Sam had to say to that was, "Get some sleep. Tomorrow we'll try to find Ms. Maleva."
"Try to find her?"
"She's away from her office for the rest of the week."
"Where is she?"
"If I knew that I wouldn't have said that we should try to find her." Sam reminded him. As Josh nodded distractedly Sam gazed at him with wide eyes. It was just now hitting him that Josh had declared his love for him.
"You love me?" he asked, stunned that this man whom he adored felt that way about him.
Taking one of Sam's hands in his own slightly clammy one, Josh said, "If I didn't feel like six different kinds of crap I'd show you how much I love you."
Beaming, Sam replied, "We can wait but how about a kiss for now?"
Josh gestured for him to lean closer. Their lips met and clung. After a bit Josh opened his mouth. Sam jerked away.
Holding a hand over his mouth Sam said, "Um, maybe I could get you a toothbrush?"
"I'm sorry, Sam."
"It's not your fault."
"It's not my fault my breath stinks?"
"Well, no. Who knew that tuna salad had gone bad?"
"Think I could sue the cook?"
"On what grounds? Loss of lunch?"
Josh shrugged. "Just a thought."
"At least you didn't turn into a frog," Sam muttered.
"A what? A frog? Sam! Please tell me you didn't think I was going to turn into an aquatic amphibian."
"All amphibians are aquatic at least part of the time, Josh."
"Yeah. Sam -- "
"Maybe it did cross my mind once or...twice."
Grinning broadly, Josh shook his head. "That's my Sam."
"I like it when you call me that."
Hazel eyes met blue. "Yeah?"
"You're mine, Sam."
"And you belong to me, Josh." Sam leaned down again and pressed a second kiss onto Josh's lips. This time Josh kept his mouth closed.
The fresh autumn air was invigorating. There was no wind, the temperature was fairly warm and the sun shone brightly in the morning sky. Sam stole a glance at Josh walking beside him, kicking at leaves lying on the sidewalk. Josh looked up and smiled. Sam grinned back at him. His lover was looking and feeling much better than he had a few days ago. In fact, all it had taken was a good night's sleep followed by more sleep the next afternoon, followed by some tentative fumbling in bed together, and Josh was good as new.
They got better at the loving part the next night, finding that they were very compatible.
Sam jerked his head around so fast a muscle in his neck twanged.
"Congresswoman Maleva," he said, surprised to find those weird violet eyes locked on him. He couldn't read her expression any better than he could that night at her house. "I've been trying to contact you."
"Did you use a ouija board?" she asked dryly, causing both men to gape at her.
"Um, no?" Fleetingly, Sam thought that perhaps he should have tried that. The amused smile on Maleva's face chased the notion away. "You're pulling my leg."
"Yes, Mister Seaborn. I am. When you approached me about the love spell you seemed so convinced as to my purported reputation that I didn't have the heart to dissuade you. You were also perhaps a wee bit desperate. It was so sweet."
"Sweet," Sam repeated blankly.
"Yes. Washington politicians are perceived to be hard-hearted liars who cheat on their spouses. You only wanted to find love. It's refreshing and beautiful. And," she switched her gaze to Josh, "I hope that you got your wish."
Turning from Maleva to Josh and back again, Sam sputtered, "But didn't you... You know..." He churned his hands helplessly.
"I...? Oh!" She burst out laughing. "You think that I had something to do with it?"
"No. I did not. It was all fated to be apparently." She smiled knowingly at the two of them.
"What about all that hocus pocus mumbo jumbo at your house?"
"First of all that wasn't my house. It belongs to a friend of mine who goes all out every year for Halloween. The neighbourhood children love to visit the spooky haunted house. As for the "hocus pocus", I made it up."
"What about that greasy stuff I had my hand in? It took me two tries to wash it off when I got home."
"Chicken stock, vinaigrette salad dressing and extra olive oil heated on the stove."
"Then how did you know I wanted you to cast a spell on Josh?"
She shrugged. "Lucky guess. I had seen the two of you together at various White House functions. You look like you should be a couple. Oh, do not worry," she added when Sam gazed at her horrified, his expression mirrored on Josh's face, "I doubt many others notice it, and if they do they probably put it down to a close friendship."
Sam felt oddly disappointed. "Are you even a wi- a sorceress?"
"No, I am not." She smiled gently.
"Well," was all Sam could say.
Maleva laughed. "I am sorry I played a trick on you, Mister Seaborn. It is the time of year for such things as witches and spells, though. Tonight is Samhain or All Hallow's Eve as you might know it."
"Yeah," Sam replied glumly, still not over the let down of finding out none of the hair-raising experience had been authentic. "And it was my idea."
Placing a perfectly manicured hand on his arm, Maleva squeezed lightly and released him. As she started to walk away she said, "You both must come to my home for dinner one night. Call my office and we'll set a time and date."
"Any chance you'll support my bill?" Josh called after her.
"None whatsoever," she shot back and waved merrily as she crossed the street.
"Crap," Josh grumbled. Then he looked at Sam and gently grasped his lover's shoulders. "You okay?"
Sam nodded and conjured up a smile. "I sort of wish she was the real..." he stopped and laughed. "I was going to say I wish she was the real thing."
Josh laughed with him.
Then a thought struck Sam.
"She never explained how she attended Radcliffe in 1937. Congresswoman! Wait up!" Sam shot across the street with Josh running after him.
"Sam! Maybe it was an aunt or her grandmother!"
"I checked. Both her parents were only children and none of her grandparents attended college!" Sam yelled over his shoulder, still running full tilt after Maleva. He saw her half a block ahead of him and ran faster. A sudden gust of wind grabbed a pile of dried leaves and swirled them around Sam. It was like getting caught in a mini-cyclone as leaves, dirt and litter encircled him. He couldn't see a thing and got turned around in the vortex. When it let up he staggered and found himself in Josh's arms as his friend supported him, keeping him from falling.
Blinking rapidly to free the dust from his eyes, Sam kept one hand on Josh's arm. When his vision cleared his fingers tightly gripped his lover's coat.
They both looked up and down the street. There was no sign of the Congresswoman.
"She's gone, Josh!"
Taking Sam's face in his hands, Josh said, "Look at me, Sammy. I know what you're thinking and maybe you're right, but we can't do anything about it. If she is for real and doesn't want to admit it then we'll just have to accept that. Although I'm sure there is a logical explanation for everything."
Sam stared into Josh's hazel eyes and nodded after a moment. "You're right."
"You're going to drop it?"
"Good. Let's go. Leo will be screaming down the West Wing pretty soon." He slung his arm around Sam's shoulders and steered him toward the White House.
They walked in silence for about a block. Then Sam said, "Do you want to see a real haunted house?"
"It's on Wolfe Street. It looks like the Munsters' house."
"The Munsters? Really?" Josh sounded interested.
"Well, it is Halloween. Sure. Let's go see it."
A determined look arose in Sam's eyes. "And while we're there we can ask Maleva's friend some questions about her."
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