Author: Anne Marsh
Title: The Masochism Tango
Rating: PG 13, tops.
Summary: A friendly game goes awry...
Notes: Est. relationship. Timeline-wise, falls somewhere after '20 Hours in America'. Not part of a series. Josh POV
Archive: Yes, please
Feedback: Yes, please. PLEASE. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Masochism Tango by Anne Marsh
Somehow, we wound up in the bowling alley.
See, there's a bowling alley, right? I mean, right at work, like maybe two blocks' worth away from my office, maybe, on any given day, someone could be bowling. Usually, it's not any of us.
Tonight, Sam, Toby, CJ, and I are all in the bowling alley. And we're agreeing upon the terms for a match. Sam and I against Toby and CJ.
"All right. I've got it." Toby stood, facing us all. "The losing pair has to tango through the White House hallways until the President catches them."
"You've got to be kidding me." Sam shook his head. We weren't even out to the President yet-- scheduling a meeting with him without disclosing the topic wasn't exactly a piece of cake, and maybe we weren't trying as hard as we could have to make it happen.
"I'm game." CJ shrugged.
"Toby. I work at the White House." I said under my breath. He glared at me. "You picked those stakes, too. Make sure it's something you can live with when you lose."
"This time, you're losing."
"It's true." CJ nodded. "I'm a pretty good bowler. Oh, but, Toby, if we lose; I lead."
"You can lead." He shrugged.
"We're going to win." I reminded him.
We didn't win. In fact, we lost pretty spectacularly. Oh, don't get me wrong, we did well. We rocked the bowling alley. It's just that Toby and CJ-- CJ mostly-- did better. Astoundingly so.
"Well." I stared at the ten fallen pins, registering CJ's victory whoops.
Now, there was much whooping between them. I looked over to Sam.
"Well." He returned, still staring at the end of the lane.
Toby turned to us. "Tomorrow. After lunch. The dance begins, and you continue tangoing until the President sees you-- not until *you* see *him*. He must acknowledge the dance."
"Acknowledge the dance? Did you spend time writing that while we were playing? Did you go through some sort of mental thesaurus and construct showy sentences for our benefit?"
"I wouldn't say it was for your benefit." CJ shrugged.
"As you are the loser, Joshua, I shall allow your refuge in mockery."
"My refuge in mockery." I snorted.
"Speaking of mockery, how come Toby gets to use flowery language without the merciless application of it and I don't?" Sam asked.
"Because I'm da man." Toby responded. He and CJ high-fived.
"I did mock him." I shrugged.
"We'll see you guys tomorrow." CJ laughed as they left the room.
"Oh, we'll see them all right..." Toby muttered, smiling evilly. The door closed.
"We're screwed." I said, sinking into a chair and looking to Sam again.
"Yep. That pretty much sums it up." He nodded, sitting in the chair beside mine.
"You thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I'm really hoping you don't want to ravish me on one of the lanes, because then we'd really be--"
That got a laugh. "No, can't say a bowling alley is one of the places I've always dreamed of ravishing you. Now the movie theater, that holds some possibilities..."
"Don't even, Josh."
"Seriously. You thinking?"
"We could leave these lives behind, and become travelling performers. In another country. With different names."
"By noon tomorrow?"
"I'm sure between the two of us, we've got the connections. Even if the other country is just Canada. It's a start."
"Just to avoid tangoing down the halls of the White House? Come on, we lost in a bowling game. It's a silly bet. Who cares?"
"It's a ridiculous bet. But I really don't want to leave these lives behind, and become travelling performers in another country by noon tomorrow."
"Then what were you thinking?"
"That I'd like to ravish you on one of the lanes. So hard we actually move from this end to that one and knock over all the pins. We'll do it on a blanket so that it doesn't peel any of your skin off when we scoot forcefully across the lacquer."
"I completely forget. I think it had something to do with being screwed-- not in the ravish you way, I'm sorry to say, but in the laughingstock way."
Sam pushed at my shoulder gently, and I stood.
I swallowed the last bite of a hastily-grabbed lunch and ducked into Sam's office. It was, by my watch, twelve-oh-one
"So you're still leading, right?" He asked.
Before I could come up with something remotely witty to say-- which is what I like to do, especially when I'm having a bad day, which today *definitely* counts as-- Toby and CJ flung the door open. Toby was holding a long-stemmed red rose.
"You will carry it. You will pass it. All with your teeth." He announced.
"That wasn't stipulated at the time of the bet." Sam said. He's cute when he's in lawyer-mode. Then again, he's always pretty cute.
"You will do it, or you will regret it." CJ backed Toby up, taking the rose from him and thrusting it at us.
I took it from her and offered it to Sam. He shrugged and took it between his teeth.
"At least it's plastic. No thorns, no bugs, no pesticides." I cheered him. Well, okay, that probably didn't actually cheer him, but at that point, it didn't matter. We were about to tango through the communications bullpen, and, if necessary, straight to the Oval.
He grinned at me-- more a result of holding a rose in his teeth than his mood. As a grin, it was pretty rueful. And roseful. I shrugged, and-- clasped against him in the manner befitting two people about to tango, turned to look at Toby and CJ.
"We who are about to dance, salute you."
And I flipped them off, and led Sam out of his office and through the bullpen.
Some people stared, some laughed. We got some applause. I dipped Sam and took the rose, right in front of my office, and Donna. Her eyes bulged amusingly, and Sam and I continued through the hallways.
"Nice touch." He whispered.
"Thank you." I whispered back. Actually, I whispered something that sounded more like 'thgnkle', but there was plastic flora in my mouth, so that can be excused.
"You're an excellent dancer." He said teasingly, his breath soft against the side of my face.
I passed him the rose, just as Leo stepped out into the hallway. "You're not so bad yourself."
I could only imagine the confusion we left in our wake-- Leo blinking and wondering if he'd actually just seen what he thought he saw, realizing he had, and deciding we'd gone off the deep end.
I knew CJ and Toby were following us, intent, I suppose, on catching people's reactions. What good is winning the bet if you don't collect on the spoils which to the victor go, right? I heard Toby mutter 'long story' as they passed Leo.
We got to a crossroads-- cross-corridors-- and I whirled Sam around and dipped him a second time, and, as though the fates were waiting for just the right moment to screw us royally, as I was re-claiming the rose, President Bartlet came around the corner and stopped short.
"Josh? Sam? Is there something going on today that I'm not aware of?"
We straightened up and I spat the fake flower out into my hand. "We lost a bet, Sir."
"And you couldn't just use money like ordinary people?"
"It was a bowling match, Sir. Against Toby and CJ. The stakes were dancing through the White House hallways until we ran into you." Sam continued. "Now that you've, um, caught us, we can go back to work."
"Yes, I think you'd better." He nodded. It felt like being in the principal's office-- actually, it felt like being caught dawdling by the principal on your way to class, with somebody who'd been kissing you under the bleachers. "That goes for all of you, by the way."
"Yes, Sir." Toby and CJ chorused. The four of us headed back to communications, heads down until we were out of the President's sight.
At which point CJ laughed. Hard. And a lot. Since I'm pretty sure she could, you know, whup me without breaking a sweat, I didn't stop her or anything, but later when it was just Sam and me, I complained about it.
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