This comes from a challenge I posted on another list. The story had to have: A birthday, a cake, an inappropriate or embarrassing gift, reference to a Beatles song and a tape gun.

For the Birthday Boy

Spoilers: Minor for "Sombody's Going to Emergency, Sombody's Going to Jail"
Rating: G
Dislaimer: The characters do not belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: It's Sam's birthday!
Note: The Layton Club does not exist; it is based upon a political think tank that has not (yet) invited me to join.

"Josh, what are you doing?" Donna frowned, watching Josh wrestle with a small package, holding it down with one hand and wielding a tape gun with the other. He looked up at her blankly, then went back to his task. With a loud 'skreeee', he taped his hand to the package and then tried to remove his hand without dislodging the tape. He failed.

"Is there any particular reason why Scotch tape isn't good enough?" Donna asked carefully, eyeing the bright wrapping paper on the package.

"Couldn't find any." Josh carefully picked the tape off the back of his hand, along with some hair. "Leon in the mailroom loaned me this."

"I have Scotch tape in my desk," Donna pointed out.

"How was I supposed to know that?"

"You rummage around in my desk all the time."

"I do not."

"Then who takes all of my sunflower seeds?"

"Gremlins."

"Oh. Gremlins." Donna nodded. "They break in at night, eat all of my sunflower seeds and leave the shells in your wastebasket?"

"Yep," Josh agreed. He took a firmer hold of the package and brandished the tape gun again. Donna grabbed it before he could tape his hand and the package to the file folders on his desk.

"Josh, let me do that, please," she begged. Josh, with a self satisfied smile, let go of the gun.

"'Kay."

"You do this on purpose, don't you?"

"Do what?"

"Start to do something so ineptly that I'll take over and you don't have to do it."

"No. Never." The innocent tone was well done and Donna didn't believe it for a minute.

"Honestly," she tsked. "You are so helpless sometimes."

Donna picked up the package and looked at it. It was a fair sized box, it didn't rattle when she shook it gently.

"What is it?"

"It's Sam's birthday present," Josh told her. "It's a..."

"Sam's birthday..." Donna interrupted, looking stricken. "Oh, God, that's today, isn't it?"

"Yes," Josh nodded. "I got him a..."

"I'll wrap it for you later," Donna said, and fled with the package still in her hands.

-----------------------

"What do you think?" CJ carefully put the large box on Toby's desk. Toby lifted the top and looked.

"What kind is it?"

"What do you mean, 'what kind is it?'" She glared, hands on hips. "What do you think of the decorations?"

"What kind is it?" Toby repeated, looking at the confection in the box. It was a gorgeous cake, with a very well done replica of the Capital Dome resting on a sheet cake, the details painstakingly picked out with silver sprinkles.

"It's devil's food, with vanilla buttercream icing," CJ replied coldly.

"You didn't make me a devil's food cake with buttercream icing for my birthday," Toby observed.

"We were in Vienna," CJ reminded him. "And you threatened to have the President give me a running commentary on Viennese history if I told anybody it was your birthday."

"I didn't say you had didn't have a perfectly good reason not to," Toby returned mildly. "It's a beautiful cake, CJ. Sam will be blown away."

"Thank you." CJ smiled, good humour restored. "See what you miss by not telling anyone about yours?"

-----------------------

Sam swallowed the last bite of chicken and wiped his lips on a napkin.

"That was delicious," he said to the First Lady. "Thank you for inviting me to lunch."

"It's your birthday, Sam." Dr. Bartlet smiled at him. "If you can't have a special lunch on your birthday, when can you?"

"I was a little surprised, that's all. I thought everybody would do the whole surprise party thing."

"After the surprise party for Josh last year?" Abbey raised her eyebrows. "And the surprise he gave us? No, Sam. No more surprise parties. We're all adults here."

"Sometimes I wonder." Sam smiled back. "So far, no one has given me any presents, though. Present company excluded."

"I am quite sure that Josh is mangling the wrapping on your gift as we speak. The President is waiting until later so that he won't have to put up with Leo calling him a geek all day and Toby is probably sneaking his gift into your briefcase so he doesn't have to listen to you say thank you," Abbey mused. "I hope my gift fits."

"I'm sure it does." Sam glanced at the shirt and sweater she had given him.

"When I was a girl, which, I might add, wasn't that long ago, a lady wasn't supposed to give a man clothes unless she had dishonourable intentions," Abbey said slowly. "But you guys spend so much time here that I thought a change of shirt might come in handy."

"It's lovely," Sam assured her. "And I didn't think you had dishonourable intentions."

"Oh, I would have, if I weren't married to the world's largest repository of inane trivia." Abbey gave him a flirtatious look. "You're good at useless information, but he's got you beat by a long shot."

-----------------------

"Are we ready?" Josh asked Donna, as she came into his office with two boxes. One was his gift, beautifully wrapped in totally different wrapping paper, and the other was a tiny box, barely the size of her hand. "What did you get?"

"You'll see," she said cryptically. "Yes, we have everything. Toby's ready, too."

"Then let's go." Josh got up and slung his jacket over his shoulder.

"Josh?" Cathy blocked the door, holding a package. She had a puzzled frown on her face.

"Yeah?"

"This just came in by courier." She held out the package. "It's for Sam."

"So give it to Sam," Josh shrugged.

"It's marked 'for the birthday boy'," Cathy pointed out. "Should I give it to him or should I bring it...?"

"Bring it along," Donna said decisively. "Let's go before Sam gets back."

-----------------------

"Toby?" Sam stuck his head around Toby's door. "Where is everybody?"

"The day's over, Sam." Toby was putting things into his briefcase. "Think of it as a birthday gift."

"Oh." Sam looked slightly disappointed.

"Oh, Ainsley Hayes called while you were on the Hill," Toby said casually. "She would appreciate it if you would stop by her office before you leave."

"Is it an emergency?"

"She didn't say."

"I'll call her and tell her I'll see her tomorrow..." Sam began, then spied Toby shaking his head, very slowly. "...Unless that's where my surprise birthday party is?" Toby changed the motion to a nod.

"You knew we were going to do this."

"Well... I was beginning to wonder."

"For the record, I thought it was a bad idea," Toby told him.

"Is that why I found out it was your birthday two weeks after it passed?"

"Yes."

"Did CJ make a cake?"

"Yes."

"What kind?"

"Chocolate, with vanilla buttercream icing. And I risked life and limb to find that out for you. Shall we?"

"Let's wait a bit." Sam grinned. "Let them think you had to work hard to get me to show up without suspecting."

"Works for me." Toby shrugged and perched on the edge of his desk. "You get birthday wishes from your folks?"

"Yeah." Sam flopped on the couch. "My sister sent me a prayer rug from Istanbul and told me she'd be back in the States for Thanksgiving. Mom sent me a hideously expensive and very ugly painting by one of her artist friends."

"And your dad?" Toby asked softly.

"He sent a card." Sam looked away. He still hadn't forgiven his father for his betrayal. "At least he didn't try to use my birthday to buy me off."

"Speaking of families," Toby said, after a minute or two, reaching behind him. "This is from my mother."

"Your mother?" Sam looked startled.

"I told her it was your birthday," Toby said defensively. "The subject came up when I called her last Friday."

Sam opened the package. Inside was a tin of large cookies, with his name on them in icing.

"I don't know what to say." Sam was touched. Toby shrugged indifferently.

"She's seen you on television and she thinks you're too skinny," Toby replied. "She feels sorry for you, having to put up with me all day."

-----------------------

"Where are they?" Cathy tapped perfectly manicured fingernails on Ainsley's desk.

"I knew asking Toby to get him down here was a bad idea." Josh brooded. "For all I know, they went out for a beer, laughing at me behind my back for planning this."

"They aren't," Donna replied soothingly.

"How do you know?

"Because neither Toby nor Sam would miss an opportunity to laugh at you to your face," Leo put in.

"They're coming," Ginger warned.

Everybody got into position, listening for footsteps. Nothing.

"Ginger, are you sure?" CJ hissed at her.

"I've worked for Toby for three years," Ginger hissed back. "Believe me, I know when Toby's approaching." CJ shook her head in disbelief.

CJ's faith in Ginger was restored a few moments later, when everyone heard Sam's voice floating down the staircase. Unless in a tearing rage, Toby rarely spoke loud enough for anyone to eavesdrop on him.

-----------------------

"You ready?" Toby paused on the landing.

"Of course." Sam flashed a pleased grin. "I'll be totally surprised."

"You'll act as if you're totally surprised," Toby corrected. "You won't actually be surprised unless you develop amnesia between the landing and the doorway to Ainsley's office."

"I'm developing that as we speak," Sam said blithely.

-----------------------

"Ainsley, you wanted to see me?" Sam opened the door, giving a light knock as he did so. He waited for it and he wasn't disappointed.

"SURPRISE!" The roar from the small crowd was deafening, almost able to compete with the sudden blaring of the Beatles "Birthday" from Ainsley's boombox. Sam didn't have to fake looking surprised. He had expected Josh and Donna, CJ and Carol, Bonnie and Cathy and Ginger, but he hadn't expected to see Leo, Lionel Tribbey, Nancy McNally or the First Lady. He hadn't expected two Senators and three Members of Congress. And he really hadn't expected to see Mallory.

"Happy birthday, Sam." Mallory led the congratulations, taking his hands and kissing him. Ainsley, with a bright smile and a hug, kissed him as well. The other women followed suit.

"If I had known that kisses were part of the package, I would have mentioned my birthday," Toby murmured to CJ, who promptly grabbed him and kissed him on the top of his head.

"Feel better?"

"Not noticeably, no. Maybe you'd better try again."

"Next year. On your birthday."

"Promises, promises."

-----------------------

After a good many kisses, hugs and handshakes, Sam found himself staring at a huge pile of gifts. He blinked several times to clear his vision.

"Guys... This is so..." he stuttered, overwhelmed.

"Let's hear it for the President's speechwriter," Toby said sardonically. "Open the damned gifts, Sam, so we can all have some cake."

Sam took the first one off the pile. It happened to be from Ainsley. He tore off the wrapping to reveal a video.

"Topsy-Turvy." Sam smiled and wrapped Ainsley in a warm hug. "Thank you."

"What is it about?" Leo asked, as Sam reached for another gift.

"It's the story of Gilbert and Sullivan." Lionel Tribbey told him. "I've seen it seventeen times. And he thinks I don't know my G and S."

"To continue the Gilbert and Sullivan theme..." Leo handed Sam an envelope, containing two tickets to 'Pirates of Penzance', and Mallory added her invitation to take him out to dinner.

-----------------------

The next was a huge box, with best wishes from Margaret, Bonnie, Ginger, Carol and Mrs. Landingham. Sam opened it and removed a large, soft pillow and rustic quilt.

"Now you can sleep in Toby's office in comfort," Margaret said, with a mischievous look.

"Thank you so much," Sam replied, picturing the quilt spread out on his bed at home. He admired it for a moment or two, then turned to the box Cathy held out.

"For the man who changed his middle name to 'on time'," She commented, as Sam unwrapped the high tech, state of the art desk clock. "I've already set it and programmed it to remind you of all your deadlines next week."

-----------------------

CJ's gift caused gusts of laughter. The electric toothbrush and toothpaste was a testament to Sam's dedication to dental health.

Sam opened Toby's gift next. He took one look and tried to look annoyed.

"The Chicago Manual of Style?" Sam gave Toby a mock glare. "You think I need one?"

"Yes."

"I already have a copy."

"From ten years ago," Toby retorted. "It needed updating."

Sam took the book out of the box and spied the other small gift. It was a pen. Not just any pen, but the kind of fountain pen that got pen collectors drooling.

"Toby..." Sam looked at the pen, then at his boss. "Where did you find this?"

"Just something I found in New York a few years ago," Toby shrugged.

-----------------------

"Open mine next," Josh urged. Sam saw the eagerness on Josh's face and deliberately selected Donna's tiny package.

Inside the box was a White House key ring, with a key attached. Josh guffawed, as Sam held it up.

"A White House key ring?" He chuckled. "Donna, that's lame, even for you."

"The key is the gift, Josh, not the key ring." Donna glared at him. "Sam, the key is for the Layton Club."

"The Layton Club?" Sam blinked. "How did you...?" The Layton Club was an exclusive political think tank, with members all over the world. Many of the men and women in the room were members, but Sam hadn't been invited.

"I pulled a few strings," Donna said offhandedly. "I spoke to the president and he said that they were going to invite you anyway. It's not some kind of country club thing. It's an intellectual forum."

"Yes, I know." Sam tucked the key into his pocket. "I still don't see how you got me into it."

"I made some phone calls and got them to vote you in this afternoon," Donna replied, carefully not looking at CJ, Toby, Leo, Nancy or Lionel. "They agreed that your birthday was a good time to invite you. Now open Josh's gift before he explodes."

---------------------

Sam opened the box Josh had been struggling with earlier and stopped. Josh smiled in satisfaction as he saw tears spring to Sam's eyes. Sam carefully held up the weird looking instrument.

"Josh... You didn't have to do this," Sam said, in a hushed voice.

"Yeah, well, I thought you could use it," Josh said, with a fine attempt at humility.

"What is it?" CJ asked, as Josh and Sam exchanged the kind of look only long time friends could conjure.

"It's an astrolabe," Sam said, carefully putting it back into the box.

"Now seems to be an appropriate time to give you this, Sam." Mrs. Bartlet handed him a square package. Inside was the President's gift; a book on sailing from the nineteenth century.

"Geek," Leo commented, as Sam looked though the pages.

"Who? Sam or my husband?" Abbey inquired.

"Both of them."

-----------------------

The cake was delicious, once Sam stopped admiring it long enough to cut it. Ainsley's office was too small and stuffy to hold everyone for very long, and the guests spilled out into the hallway and sat on the stairs to eat cake and drink the fine bottle of champagne Nancy had brought.

"Hang on," Josh said suddenly. "Cathy, what about the package that arrived this afternoon?"

"What package?" Sam looked up from licking buttercream icing off his fingers.

"This." Cathy rummaged around the heaps of wrapping paper and found the small padded envelope.

Sam looked at it, wondering who it was from. It was addressed to him, with 'Personal, for the birthday boy' written across it. He tore open the envelope and found the card. Inside the birthday card was a phone card, with a hundred dollars of free phone service on it.

"A phone card?" He looked blankly at it, then at the signature on the birthday card. He turned bright red and tried to tuck the card into his pocket. Josh, quicker, grabbed it from him.

"'Happy birthday, Sam. Love - Laurie. Call me sometime.'," He read, to the great amusement of the entire party. If it were possible, Sam would have turned even redder.

"Who's Laurie?" Ainsley wondered. Josh proceeded to explain, with great relish and only a little embellishment, and found out that not only could Sam blush, but could blush to the insides of his ears.

END

 

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