Title: Continental Drift
Author: Jackie Thomas
Date: April 2004
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Archive: All yours
Disclaimer: All theirs
Spoilers: S1 and 2
Summary: A scene from the campaign.
Continental Drift by Jackie Thomas
Sam woke to the sound of a glass of water crashing off the night table.
Sitting up with a start he saw his glasses and the governors address to the California Democratic Party jumping along the surface of the table to join it. He heard a distant roar like a lorry passing close by. The coat hangers rattled in the closets and he thought - earthquake.
His first instinct was to leap out of bed but he got tangled in the sheets and ended up in a heap on the floor watching transfixed as a picture on the wall shook itself to the floor.
A few seconds later it was over and all the inanimate objects settled down again.
As he started to extricate himself from the sheets the phone rang.
"Josh? That was…You're all right?"
"Uh huh. I'm…listen, you ought to come downstairs. To the…to the… Lobby." Josh was sounding a bit vague.
"Okay. What's going on?"
He looked at the picture on the floor. An etching of a palm tree. "Oh."
He found his watch, it was 5am. He pulled on jeans and a sweater and wondered if Lisa had gained the power to visit acts of God upon him. He certainly wouldn't put it passed her. He definitely deserved it.
He found Josh and Lisa in the lobby. Josh was sitting on one of the couches arranged in the waiting area. He was dressed in jeans and an old sweatshirt and holding a bloodied handkerchief to the side of his head. Lisa was standing nearby her arms folded. Sam wondered briefly if she had hit him.
The lobby was filling with people woken by the quake, comparing notes and waiting for the coffee the hotel had started to serve.
He pressed a kiss to Lisa's lips and Josh got to his feet and wandered off. "You should have called. I could've met you off the plane."
She had her bags with her and had evidently just got off a flight from New York. She looked tired.
"I didn't know until yesterday. The magazine needed me to cover the campaign at the last minute. I didn't know you were here until I bumped into Josh."
"Right," Sam said. "Its good to see you."
"I'm sure it is," she said.
"Do you want to get a cup of coffee? They've got coffee."
She shook her head. "No thanks. I'm going to check in and then I'm going to start working. We need to talk though, at some point."
"Also you probably need to look after your buddy." She nodded at Josh who was standing with Toby. Toby was gesturing wildly at him while he just blinked back.
"He was standing out front when I came in and the earthquake hit. Something off the building hit him on the head."
"Oh, right. That explains the…"
"I think he's got concussion. Which is why I'm prepared to overlook the comment he made when he saw me."
"Which was?" Sam hardly dared ask.
She let Sam pick up her bag and she checked in at the reception desk. When he had seen her to the elevator he joined Josh and Toby. Toby stopped talking at Josh and said.
"Who was that, Princeton?"
"Really. Does she also do plagues of locust?"
"I...er," but Toby had moved on.
"Listen, we need to incorporate the quake into the speech tonight."
"What, vote Bartlet or the Lithosphere gets it?"
Toby raised his eyebrows and Sam remembered too late that he was too scared of Toby to cheek him. However Toby didn't seem to mind.
"Yeah, that's it. We'll use that. We need a few more laughs."
Sam grabbed Josh's arm as he started to wander off again. "I'm going to take Josh to the emergency room."
"Why, what's wrong with him." Toby seemed to notice for the first time the handkerchief Josh still held to his head. "Did Sam's fiancé hit you? I wouldn't blame her."
Josh missed the innuendo. "No, something fell on me. The sixteenth or seventeenth storey, maybe."
"Jesus, go on then."
Sam guided Josh out of the hotel into a cab outside. When they were on their way Josh laid back and closed his eyes. "I knew California was a bad idea. How did you even survive your childhood?"
"What were you doing outside at five in the morning anyway?"
Josh's hand fell away from his head revealing a small cut but the beginnings of a large bruise. "Its continental drift isn't it," he murmured. "A centimetre a year, a centimetre a year and then bang." Josh went quiet.
"Josh, we're nearly there. Don't go to sleep."
Sam frowned. "I know."
"Donna. I mean Donna's gone. Back to her boyfriend."
"Really? She quit, just like that? Why?"
"I don't know. He asked her to."
"That's a pity." It was a pity. Donna was good at organising Josh and she had looked after him better than Sam could after his father died.
"I tried to stop her…" He opened his eyes and looked at Sam. "I couldn't stop her."
"You can't save everyone, Josh."
Josh closed his eyes. "Nothing changes and then everything changes. Nothing changes. Like continental drift."
"Try to stay awake Josh." Sam said gently. "Just until they check you out."
"As long as you don't disappear…as long as…that's all I'm saying."
When Josh had been discharged a couple of hours later Sam took him back to the hotel. The only obvious effect of the bump on his head was an inability to stay awake and he was almost asleep as Sam took him up in the elevator. He brought him to his own room because he didn't know which one Josh was in.
His key card was in his wallet in his back pocket and he supported Josh with one arm as he searched for it. Josh dropped his head on to Sam's shoulder, which didn't help.
"Are you two on your honeymoon now or what?" Sam looked up to see Leo approaching.
"I, er…Josh - "
"I know, I heard. How is he?"
"Fine. He's just sleepy. Apparently that's normal but I don't know." Sam was having trouble supporting Josh and getting into the room with the now retrieved card. "Could you…I can't…"
Leo pulled Josh gently away from Sam. Josh turned and leaned against Leo. "Dad," he said and Leo rolled his eyes and absently patted Josh's head.
"All right, son."
When Sam had let them into the room, he and Leo got Josh into bed where he seemed to fall immediately asleep.
"What did the doctor say?"
"Concussion but mild. He has to sleep and someone has to wake him up every few hours to make sure he's not in a coma or dead. So I thought I should…"
"Donna can do that can't she?"
"She's gone. Donna's gone."
"She quit. Went back home."
"No. When did that happen?"
"Josh put her in the cab this morning, just before the earthquake."
"Damn shame." Leo thought for a moment. "Okay, you got stuff to work on?"
"Yes, Toby wants an earthquake theme to the next couple of addresses."
"Well that sounds…unwise."
"Yes. Have you heard any news, was much damage done?"
"A little, nothing major. No one was hurt or anything. Well except Lucky here."
"So the governor can safely make earthquake jokes."
"I guess." Leo was looking down at Josh.
"Did you enjoy the earthquake, Leo?"
"I slept through it."
"I've slept through worse. Listen Sam…"
"I've been hearing things about you and Josh."
Sam stared at him. "What sort of things?"
"You know what sort of things and I don't want to hear any more. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Leo, there isn't…"
"You understand I'm not asking you anything that isn't my business. I'm just saying this is a campaign and a pretty fragile one at that. So I don't want to hear anything more about the two of you."
Sam fixed his gaze on Josh. A spot of blood showed through the dressing. This again.
"Good. Then, join us when you can." Leo put his hand on the door, seemed reluctant to leave. "You're doing some good work Sam, the Governor likes you."
Josh slept while Sam worked and he woke him up three hours later.
"Josh, are you okay?"
Josh blinked awake, smiled when he saw Sam sitting on the edge of his bed. "Yeah, why…?" He looked around him and frowned. "What's going on? how did I…?"
"Take it easy, you're okay. You hit your head."
Josh thought for a moment. "Earthquake?"
"And Donna's gone?"
"And Lisa's here?"
"Did she hit attack me?"
"We've only got her word that she didn't."
"Everyone thinks we're sleeping together."
Josh groaned. "That again." His eyes opened properly at last. "You know, we've got to do something about our body language."
Sam just smiled back at him. Josh sat up and rubbed his hands across his eyes, started to get up. Sam put his hand on Josh's shoulder. "Don't Josh, you're supposed to be resting."
"What's the time? We can still make it to the Symposium."
"The doctor said…"
"Nah, I'm fine," he fingered the dressing. "I'm going to be so impressive with this on. I'm going to look like Bartlet's enforcer."
"Yeah, that's exactly what you'll look like."
"Who said something…about us?"
"Oh. Toby made a crack and Leo said he'd heard things."
"It was really embarrassing."
"Embarrassing doesn't cover it." Josh's gaze washed over him. "You're not going to go to New York again?"
"No, I'm going to stick around and get this guy elected President. You're not going to panic and stop speaking to me?"
Josh smiled. "No. I've matured, I can deal with this."
"Then we're all right?"
"We're all right. So. I'm going to take a shower and we can go to work."
A few seconds later Josh came out of the bathroom. "Of course, I should probably shower in my own bathroom."
"Because its just that sort of thing…"
"Exactly that sort of thing…" Josh grinned. "Okay. I'll see you later. Thanks for the…you know." Josh gave him a friendly punch on the arm. "Hey, do you think Mandy'll be at the thing tonight."
"Mandy? You mean that frightening woman Toby wants to hire?"
"Yes," Josh said.
"You like her don't you?"
Josh shrugged. "Yeah, I mean, you know, she seems…"
"I think she'll be there."
"Okay," he paused before turning to leave. "I'll see you."
Josh stopped at the door. "Sam, are you breaking up with Lisa?"
Sam thought about constructing a vague sentence involving the inappropriate use of the word `thing'. He hadn't been on the campaign five minutes and he was already talking like Josh.
"I think she's breaking up with me. But yes. That's what I'm doing today."
"I should be apologising."
"No, you shouldn't." He half-smiled. "Nothing changes, nothing changes, then everything changes."
"Who said that?"
"You did. But you had concussion."
"Sam?" Josh's gaze rested on him and he could be the only person in the world. "We're not…I mean…we're not doing this?"
Sam replied with equal caution. "This. No, we're not doing this."
"Okay," Josh found his key card in the pocket of his jeans. "Then meet you downstairs in half an hour?"
Josh had his hand on the door handle but he didn't open the door. He leaned in instead and kissed Sam. The kiss was light, lips softly meeting and withdrawing. Over as soon as it began but all the glasses of water in Sam's mind crashed to the floor, the coat hangers rattled and the pictures shook on the walls.
When he looked at Josh his hand still clutched the door handle and it was clear he did not believe what he had just done.
"So that was new," he said eventually.
"Uh huh," said Sam, pleased at how articulate he was.
Josh closed his eyes and sighed and looked at his feet. Three perfectly Josh things to do.
Sam looked the top of his head. "I think…I think you should probably ask Mandy Hampton out tonight."
Josh raised his eyes, met Sam's gaze again. "We're not doing this?"
Sam shook his head slowly. The words wouldn't let themselves be spoken.
"So nothing changes?" Josh said.
Sam shook his head again. "Nothing changes."
Josh opened the door finally. "Then everything."
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