Author: Your Cruise Director
Pairing: Josh Lyman/Matt Santos
Disclaimer: Property of Sorkin, Wells, NBC, etc.
Summary: Matt Santos didn't answer Josh Lyman's question about whether he had ever had marital problems.
Notes: Mild spoilers for "Opposition Research." Written for the writers_choice "Take a Risk" challenge; I'm a virgin in this fandom, but that seems fitting with the theme.
Disclosure by Your Cruise Director
By the time Santos has finished talking to his children, Josh's internal Red Alert klaxon is blaring. "Congressman," he begins, and looks away from the censure in Santos' eyes at the refusal to call him by name. "When I said I needed to know whether you had had marital problems...you said that was between you and your wife."
"And it is." Damn, Santos is tall, and can look quite threatening when angered despite that genial handsomeness of his; Josh makes a note to keep that in mind for debates. "I won't have people prying into my..."
"*Congressman*," interrupts Josh. "You have to understand...the press is going to find *everything*. If the two of you ever had a public argument and there were witnesses, it will be on the news. If you ever flirted with a famous woman at a party and someone took a photo, it will end up in the paper. And if, god forbid, you had a girlfriend, and she ever told anyone -- her best friend, her mother -- you can be sure you'll be asked about it at your next public appearance, and nobody will let you get a word in about your education agenda or anything else! I'm not trying to pry into your personal business, but I *need to know*."
A twitch tugs at Santos' mouth, and Josh feels his stomach twist itself into knots. Oh god, there's something, and he isn't even sure that he can get Santos to tell him before he finds out from *The New York Times*...
"I trust my wife completely," the man is saying. "And the only other person who could talk...he's dead."
He. Oh. So his wife...all right, this is good. Well, not "good," but if one of them had to have had an affair, better her than him. There could still be some very ugly press in store -- cuckolds tend either to be ridiculed or come across unbearably holier-than-thou, forgiving things that Josh can't at the moment imagine, but then, he's not Santos. "Good," he finds himself saying aloud, nodding. "I mean, not that he's dead, just that he's not in a position to talk about your wife."
Santos' perfectly defined lips flatten. "Why would he have talked about my wife?"
"Well, ex-" Josh very nearly says "-lovers," catches himself in time. "Except for a few rare, private people, everyone tends to talk to someone. You brag, or your friends pry, or someone makes an insinuation that you feel you have to address..." Inexplicably Josh is thinking of Donna and her Irish photographer and his talk about unconsummated feelings between colleagues -- well, if Donna wants to waste everything on Bob Russell, that's not Josh's business. "When someone's dead, he can't confirm or deny anything, and his loved ones tend not to want his name brought up in that kind of context."
"I never talked to anyone, except my wife. And he had as much if not more to lose than I did." Santos isn't even looking at Josh; it's as if he heard him, yet they're having two different conversations. "Look, don't you think I know what it could do to my career? Even if it's nobody's fucking business." Unexpectedly the congressman slams one of his fists into his opposite palm. It's the angriest Josh has ever seen him -- one profanity, one little gesture -- and Josh finds himself suddenly buzzing with adrenaline, a little intimidated both at the rage and the knowledge that this man could lose control, perhaps in a public setting.
What's Santos trying to tell him? That his wife had an affair with one of Santos' own colleagues, someone else in Congress? Maybe he was married too, if he had as much to lose -- maybe a Republican. Very carefully, Josh shrugs and says, "At least it never went public. It's good that you and your wife got it out in the open, I guess."
"I wouldn't have kept something like that from her." And now this is making no sense at all. If Santos' wife had an affair with some guy, what would he have been-- The conversation flips itself around in Josh's mind like a memo on a computer screen, correcting his pronouns, highlighting the one assumption he of all people should have known better than to make.
Oh god. Why is Santos even telling him this, if nobody ever knew? The man could easily have ducked the subject. Josh is pretty sure that rumors about himself and Sam made the rounds, but no one has ever tried to bring them up to his face, not in serious conversation anyway. Does Santos think he's...? Josh chances a look, finds that the candidate is no longer staring off into the distance but looking right at him.
"You're all right with this?" Santos asks. "I don't mean Josh Lyman, my campaign manager," he dismisses the title with a wave of his hand, "I mean, *you*. There are going to be a lot more cheap hotel rooms in our future."
"Yeah, sure. Fine." Even as he's speaking. Josh's stomach twists again with a completely different sort of anxiety. He knows almost nothing, really, about this man for whom he got on a plane to Texas in the middle of the holidays, frantic to see him, telling himself it was because of the filing deadline. And it was, and Josh believes in what Santos stands for, and believes he can win despite Russell and Hoynes and all the people who are never going to be convinced to vote for someone with Santos' skin color no matter his striking good looks and charisma and passion and...
*I think I found my guy.*
How in hell did he not realize before he got on that plane?
"Congressman," he begins, but Santos leans toward him, a frown creasing his high, elegant brow.
"Josh, please. No one else is here. Call me Matt."
"Matt," Josh concedes, just this once. And wonders if it means he's already lost.
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