Rating: PG, language
Spoilers: none that I'm aware of
Archive: Sure, just let me know where
Disclaimers: These people are not mine... unfortunately... they're all
**I'm still sort of new to TWW, so if something in characterization sounds
Feedback: Yes, definitely! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sam Seaborn stretched his aching back and rested in his big chair. It had been
Even as his thoughts ran the same course a hand tapped lightly on his door. "Go
"It's not Ainsley. It's me, C.J.."
"Oh." Though she clearly had to talk to him about something, he couldn't
C.J. Cregg ducked her head inside his door. Her cynical eyes took in the
"Professor Godwin just died."
Sam lifted his eyes from his desk and turned to her. "Not Professor Godwin from
She nodded. "The cancer was too much for him."
Well, he was getting old, Sam." C.J. let a smile cross her face. "But I do
Yeah, he could always make statistics jump right off the page."
C.J. snorted. Whatever. She knew Sam was a numbers geek but that was too much.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Sam asked rhetorically. Together he and C.J.
"It's a riddle." Sam finally put together a coherent thought.
"It's a challenge." C.J. stared at Sam grimly. Out loud, she read her part:
"If you are as smart as you may think,
Sam ripped his envelope open without another thought. Scanning it quickly, he
C.J. sighed. "OK. Do we want to go looking for it?"
"Let's see." C.J. ticked off the reasons, one by one, on her slender
"Oh, heaven forbid you miss that." The most annoying thing about Sam was that
C.J. stifled the urge to strangle him. "So do you want to do it?"
"Again, why not? I like the idea of a treasure hidden somewhere in his old
C.J. snorted. "Treasure. Right. More likely it's just a roomful of old papers."
"Then why would he leave us all this?"
"To mess with us."
Sam didn't answer. Instead he stared at C.J. wordlessly, eyes boring into hers
She shook herself and responded. "Oh, fine." C.J. said, turning away.
Just as she spoke, unfortunately, Donna Moss strolled by Sam's open door.
"What is this, Donna?" C.J. asked.
"Inside is the name of your secret valentine."
"Why not?" Donna looked petulant, like a small child. "The President was
C.J. chuckled. "So what's the deal, Donna?"
"Well, C.J., you write your name on the card inside the envelope. All the girls
"Define 'nice gift.'" Sam appraised Donna critically. She was a
Thus, he was rather surprised as she said, "Dinner for two at Chez Louis for
"Donna!" C.J. gasped. "That place costs a fortune!"
"Not if you know the owner." Donna grinned. "Just write your message on
C.J. asked the question Sam hadn't had the guts to pose. "Who's in on
"Oh, a lot of people." Donna ticked off the names on her fingers.
Sam swallowed. He'd have to have a little talk with Donna. Ending up with the
C.J., meanwhile, was nodding calmly. None of the men on that list would cow her
"Hey, who's speaking for Sam over here?" the latter grumbled. But he
C.J. grinned. "So, Sam. You and Ainsley would make an interesting couple!"
"Oh, really?" Sam felt the urgent need to riposte. "What about you and
"You and me. That'd be interesting." C.J. grinned again. But was it just
Well, it was something to check out.
The next morning, C.J. half-smiled as she spied Sam's pristine SUV pull up
"Of course. I've gotten used to it at work." Sam said. Changing the
"Who knows?" C.J. asked. "And how does he know we'll know it when we see it?"
"Well, if nothing else, we'll have a good time together," Sam chirped.
Sam, meanwhile, was coolly appraising C.J.. He knew she wanted to strangle him,
The drive was uneventful, aside from C.J. earning Sam's ire by turning on an
"Sam, you're old before your time." C.J. smiled. "Don't you ever relax?"
"Pot calling the kettle black, C.J.?" Sam jeered. "We work for the most
"Oh, shut up."
Sam tried to turn the conversation back to serious business, but failed. Teasing
To his surprise, she sighed. "I don't know, Sam. And the date really
"Really?" Sam couldn't help himself. "Why?"
"Cause it's only a date in his mind." C.J. sighed again. "It's
tough to say no
Then, as if returning from a parallel universe, C.J. blinked a bit and smiled
Sam was, for once in his life, utterly at a loss for words. What could he say
Meanwhile, the West Wing soldiered on. "Donnatella Moss!" Josh Lyman hollered.
She appeared immediately, having been just outside his door. "Yes?"
"Are you serious that I can't pick my own Valentine's Day date?"
"Yes." Donna was nonplussed. "That's why you agreed to my little game."
"Well..." Josh floundered. "Never mind that. But what if I wind up
"Then you'll have to swallow your pride for a night, or listen to Margaret
"How do you know!" Josh threw up his hands in annoyance. "And where the
"Toby's handling it. Sam and C.J. took the day off."
"Of all days, today?" Josh mumbled. "Fine. Donna, get me Toby." He
Josh's smile was at its sweetest a fact not entirely unnoticed by Donna.
Donna's face was cold. But, unexpectedly, she relented. "Oh, fine. Let me
She proceeded to do so, but not before she was stopped by Leo McGarry in the
"Thank you, Leo."
"I also have a favor to ask you."
Leo screwed up his face, trying to remember. "Margaret asks that she not
Donna sighed. "Fine." She hadn't wanted to make exceptions, but it was
"Yes." Leo answered decisively. "Donna, please do not put Mrs. Bartlet
"Right." Donna had to give him that one. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Thank you." Leo walked away. "And get Josh to finish that damn FCC
"Yes, sir." Donna called back as she turned into Toby's office.
The Communications Director was in a distinctly foul mood. "Why the hell did Sam
"Hi, Toby," Donna said, not in the least cowed. Months of dealing with Josh
"Fine." Toby picked up the handset and brutally assaulted the keys.
"Thanks, Toby," Donna said, hoping she wouldn't get another Valentines
Her hopes were dashed in the last moment. "And hey, Donna? Don't put me with
She could have strangled Toby cheerfully, but instead she just nodded and left.
C.J. stopped for a moment, pausing to massage her throbbing hands. "Sam, I just
"I'm beginning to agree with you," Sam said. He sat down on a pile of
As he spoke, however, some chord struck in C.J.'s brain. "Sam, when you told
"Yeah," Sam said, looking puzzled. "Why?"
"Don't you see?" C.J. could hardly believe she'd overlooked the
"And he was a Republican."
"Whatever." C.J. waved her hand irritably. "The point is, there could be
"My God." Sam began to get excited. "There could be inside dirt on a
He lay in one position for a couple of minutes, merely dazed from the fall.
C.J. couldn't keep the giggles inside, though she immediately helped Sam to his
"It's ok." Sam said, grinning ruefully. "So, you wanna look for it again?"
C.J. shook her head. No. "Not til I get some food and call Toby. He's got to
"Oh yeah." Sam's sunny expression clouded over. "There are about
"Yeah." C.J. turned back to the paper pile. "I wish we could come up
"It's incomplete as it stands," Sam answered. "And I don't
like the fact
"What do you mean?"
"Didn't you watch the news?" Sam never missed a news program if he could
"How does he know that?" C.J. was on the defensive now.
Sam shrugged. "Got me. I'm sure Toby and Josh are working on it."
C.J. whipped out her cellular phone and waited impatiently for it to connect. At
C.J. waited for Toby to finish. "Yeah, that's it. But what's up with the
"Thanks for reminding me," Sam said as C.J. put her phone back in her pocket.
"I don't want to be with Margaret on Valentine's Day. I have to tell Donna."
"Just because." Sam smiled impishly. "Valentine's Day is a time for
fun, not a
C.J. raised her eyebrows a bit. "Oh, so you'd be happier with Donna or Ainsley?"
"God, not Ainsley." Sam shuddered involuntarily. "She was picking at me
"Still." Changing the subject, Sam said, "What do you feel like for food, C.J.?"
"How about a pizza?"
"Sounds good to me," Sam said. "But no peppers."
"Sam, what good is a pizza without peppers?"
"Pretty damn good."
"Well, fine, no sausage."
"What did I tell you, Sam, about whining to me?"...
"Cathy, I'm going to go nuts, I swear!"
Sam's assistant turned to face Donna, who was looking distinctly fatigued.
"Because all I try to do is make the world a better place and all I get for it
"Don't worry about it, Donna," Cathy said, being levelheaded as she
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Donna conceded. "I mean, the day
"You have met Toby, right?" Ginger, Toby's assistant chuckled as she
"You know what I mean." Donna refused to be daunted. "Want to see my
"At this rate you'll only have one possibility to choose from for each,"
"And I still haven't got C.J. and Sam's little quibbles yet," Donna
"Why don't you want to go out with my boss?" Cathy asked, a little hurt.
"Nothing personal. It's just that Sam talks too much." Donna was, if
"That'd be interesting," commented Ginger.
"Yeah." Donna chuckled. "She's so cynical, and he's such an idealist..."
"Twenty bucks says they're at each others' throats before the night is
"I don't know," Donna said thoughtfully. "Opposites attract. Now,
if me and Josh
Cathy wisely remained silent.
"Damn it, Sam, how can you possibly say that?" C.J. exclaimed angrily as she
"Well, he's got something, that's for sure!" Sam answered, his
"I don't buy it." C.J. was stubborn. "Lillienfield will bluff
"Still, C.J., I have to tell you I can sort of guess when someone is outright
"Sam, give it a rest, okay?" C.J. said, tiring of the argument that she knew
"Really?" Even Sam had to be impressed by that one. "Wow."
"Yes," C.J. said with some irony. "A consummate politician. Which
-" She stopped
Where in the hell, she asked herself, was she getting these vibes from? Sam had
Still, there was something very appealing in those eyes. God, he was a walking
She shook herself out of her reverie. Sam was saying something. "Excuse me?"
"I said, is there any way to call his bluff, if it IS a bluff?" he asked.
"I don't think so," C.J. sighed. "The only thing I can possibly
think of is to
"True," Sam mused, polishing off the last slice.
"Damn it, Sam, I wanted that pizza."
"Sorry." He got up, made to hold the door for her, and promptly slipped
C.J. rolled her eyes. Cancel her flattering remarks. Sam was still such a child.
She helped him to his feet, unaware of the fiery red tinge to his skin.
On the way back Sam called Toby to check in. He was distinctly unprepared for
"It's not like that, Toby." Sam earnestly sought to explain. "See,
"Wait a minute." Sam heard the rustling of papers in the background.
"Yeah," Sam confirmed, praying Toby wouldn't bust a blood vessel or
His boss's next thought threw him for a Herculean loop. "Professor Harold
"Yeah," Sam said, shooting C.J. a strange look. What was Toby on about?
He explained momentarily. "Sam, I know what you're looking for."
"What!" Sam exclaimed. In his excitement, his arm shot up in the air, and
Once they were settled at a nearby rest stop, Sam spoke once more, plugging the
"Sure. Godwin was a leading Republican advisor on the Hill," Toby said.
"My God," C.J. said. "You were right, Sam."
"How I love those words."
"Anyway," Toby said, annoyed, "Godwin resigned from Lillienfield's
"Right, C.J.," Toby said, relieved to be talking to the coherent person in
"Bring the opposition to the telecommunications bill down," Sam chipped in,
"We'll call in if we find something," C.J. added.
They disconnected. "Well, now we have some focus," Sam said.
"Yeah," C.J. said, trying to dwell on the positives. She thought, *I'm
President Bartlet strode leisurely down into the West Wing. "Leo, you there?"
After a moment, his friend responded. "Right here, Mr. President."
"What's going on today?"
"You have a meeting with the Irish ambassador at twelve," Leo
Bartlet's brow furrowed. "Shouldn't Sam be working on it?"
"He took a personal day. He and C.J. will be back tomorrow."
"They both took a personal day?" The President chuckled. "Toby must be
"You might want to avoid him." Leo didn't mince words. "But Sam and
Leo enlightened the President about Sam and C.J.'s quest. "And if they find
"I don't like it, Leo." Bartlet frowned. "It's dirty."
"And if it comes back to bite us, I'll hold you responsible."
"And if it works, the credit is Sam and C.J.'s."
"Yes sir. I understand."
Sam breathed a sigh of annoyance as he sustained his fifth paper cut of the
Now it was C.J. who was getting on Sam's nerves. "Oh, come on, have a
"It's leaking out through my fingers," Sam said dryly, holding up his
Immediately C.J. stopped. "Oh, geez, I'm sorry. Anything I can do?"
"Why am I not surprised?" C.J. grinned. Still, that was all she said as she
"I have no idea whatsoever." Sam was perfectly honest. "Things just happen."
"Maybe they wouldn't, if you looked before you run where angels fear to
"Well, C.J., we're even, aren't we?" Sam said, trying to lighten
the mood. "I'm
"I'm what, Sam?" She stopped bandaging to look him squarely in the eye.
"Well..." Eventually in spite of that he decided to shoot from the hip.
She jerked back as if he had slapped her. "C.J., I'm sorry..." Sam
"It's ok, Sam." C.J. turned away, just wanting to get her bearings. No,
Forgetting her tension for a moment, C.J. rolled her eyes. "You are such an
"I know." Sam didn't even try to argue, he just wanted her to be all
His simple response did wonders for C.J., and it was the impetus for her to
"What?" Sam was honestly flabbergasted. C.J. Cregg, anything less than put
The idea that filled him was so bewilderingly, joltingly obvious that he
So he said, awkwardly, "C.J., I'm sorry. That was out of line."
"It's all right, Sam." Though she tried very hard not to show it, Sam
Oh, Jesus. He'd made her cry. "C.J.," he began awkwardly, unsure of what to say.
She cut him off. "No, Sam, really. You know what? Every time I try to open up, I
Sam muttered something distinctly uncomplimentary about his best friend and a
"Yeah." She was getting it together now, wiping her cheeks, angry with
Sam would never know what made him say it, but he'd opened his big mouth. It was
"Sam!" C.J. cut off one of his famous ramblings. Smiling, she said, "I
She was about to say more, but visibly stopped herself. "Let's look for
"Wow." Sam came down, gingerly, from his seat on a pile of papers. This time
C.J. had to laugh. "Sam, dammit, I just finished going through those -" All
Sam noticed it too. "Jesus," he breathed. "After all this time, it was
C.J. didn't answer. She took the file and flipped through it. Her eyebrows went
"How does the man manage to stay in office?"
For the umpteenth time, C.J. had to laugh. In the workplace, Sam's unfettered
"Really?" Sam perused a page of the file and his eyes widened in shock and
"Whatever." C.J. couldn't restrain another grin. My God. Her coworkers
"He's ours." The two high-fived.
"Let's get back," C.J. said. "I have a feeling Toby will need this pick-me-up."
She was very right. "Josh!" Toby could be heard bellowing all the way down
Donna rolled her eyes. "Josh!" she repeated in a softer tone, sticking her
"Oh, shit." Josh mumbled, shaking himself awake. He hadn't meant to fall
"Josh, get down there now. Toby sounds like he's about to bust a blood
"All right!" Josh pulled himself to his feet. "Donna, you're fired."
"Okay." She turned around and asked ostentatiously, "Ginger, do you have
"Donnatella!" Josh hollered. "You will do no such thing!"
"But you fired me."
"Well, I didn't mean it."
"Then how will I know what you mean and what you don't?"
"I... you..." Josh was not in the mood. "Guess," he finally
Getting to Toby's office, he steeled himself for another round of yelling. But
Toby wiped his eyes. "Josh," he said, through what passed for helpless
Again, Josh was flabbergasted. "But I thought Lillienfield had the votes!"
"He did!" Toby breathed a sigh of relief, calming down. He had lived and
Dimly Josh could hear Sam and C.J. chorus, "We did it!"
"Congratulations, you guys!" Josh said loudly. "C.J., you got through
"Yeah, he's here and in one piece," C.J. told her friend. "Well,
"If you don't count several paper cuts," Sam said, irritation coloring
"And a bump on the head," C.J. added.
"Well, Sam, what can I do, lie?"
"No, I guess not. But all the same, you had to tell them?" Sam's whiny
Toby sighed in annoyance. "Sam, stop whining or your cellphone will be exploring
"Toby, has Danny called today?" C.J. took the conversation in a new direction.
It was Josh who answered. "No, he hasn't, C.J. Why?"
It took her a moment to respond. "Cause I have to break a date with him."
"C.J.!" The two men heard Sam exclaim. "Why?"
"You know why, Sam," C.J. said. "I told you. And no, Joshua, I will not
"Okay, okay." Josh backed down. She was telling Sam secrets? What had
"But thanks all the same. Sam and I will be in at eight or so."
In the background they could hear Sam. "Oh, what a great song." Josh grinned
It was Toby's turn to change the subject. "What do you think is up with Sam
Josh shrugged. "What makes you think there's anything up?" he lied.
"Oh, I don't know... C.J.'s telling Sam secrets that she won't
"OK, I am confused," Josh said. "But what's the harm? So
they're a little better
Toby didn't answer. "You didn't forget that Valentine's Day is the
"No, not with Donna's little game." Josh shuddered. "What if I get
"I will mock you mercilessly." Toby grinned evilly. "But my point is
Josh grinned in return. He liked the way Toby was thinking. "I'll do some
"See that you do."
Back in the car, Sam was in oldies heaven as he sang along. Only about halfway
Idly, he spoke. "C.J., I think this should be your song." He sang the lyrics
"Oh, she takes care of herself she can wait if she wants. She's ahead
C.J. smiled as she listened. Sam understood things much better than she, or
"Billy Joel, he's my favourite," Sam piped up.
C.J. nodded. "It's nice. I like it."
"Oh." Sam couldn't think of anything else to say. "Good."
The two rode in silence for a while. As they pulled off the highway, C.J. turned
Sam chuckled. "Oh, geez, C.J., I should apologise to you. I said that rude
"Sam, I deserved it. I hardly ever show you all anything except work."
"But it was still out of line."
"Don't keep apologising, dammit -"
"Why do you take everything on yourself -"
They both stopped and laughed at the same time. "I'm sorry," Sam said.
"That's fine." C.J. said, smiling. Suddenly, she turned away from him,
"I guess so."
Phrasing carefully, C.J. asked, "What happened with you and Mallory?"
Sam sighed. "We finally just called it off. She didn't understand that what I
"Thank you," C.J. said softly.
More silence ensued, until a song they both knew came on the radio: Joan
*Why is she still like this? I mean, we should be better friends by now. I
*Oh, my God... what's happening here? The song's right... is he so
strong, and is
Finally Sam made the turn back to the White House. "Let's go give Toby the
"What? Sure." C.J. shook herself out of her reverie.
The White House was dark by the time the two of them entered. "Toby?"
"It looks pretty deserted," Sam said.
"Yeah, but Toby needs this," C.J. answered. "He wouldn't leave."
They eventually happened upon Toby in Josh's office, working, with Donna taking
"Hi, you guys." Donna withdrew, having heard all about that afternoon's
"Toby, here's the file," C.J. said, handing it to the Communications
Flipping through it, Toby couldn't restrain a grin. "This is the file that
"Don't think we don't appreciate that," C.J. said, smiling.
"But can Sam and I
"Yeah, Toby, is that ok?" Sam didn't have to fake a yawn.
"Yeah, go. See you in the morning." Toby waved a hand irritably. "Get
"Sure. 'Night, Toby."
C.J. and Sam left the office and quickly located Donna. "Hey, Donna, as long as
"Yeah, C.J., go ahead."
"Can I not be put with the President on Valentine's Day?" C.J. asked,
"Yeah, sure. Sam, any objections? Comments? Whines?"
"Just answer," C.J. said tiredly as Sam started to take offense. The younger
However, as soon as the two were outside, he turned to her. "You didn't have
"I know. I wanted to do it." C.J. responded, a bit snappishly. Maybe her
Sam unlocked the car. "Well, let's go home. We've both got evil days tomorrow."
C.J. let out a groan. "Don't *remind* me. Briefing after briefing after
"And I have three speeches to write for tomorrow night." Already Sam could
C.J. was about to make it worse. "Sam, could I turn on some music?"
But, to his surprise, he found himself liking the beat. "This isn't bad,
"Thanks." C.J. couldn't hide the shit-eating grin. "I knew that if
you gave it a
Sam instead focused on the lyrics.
"I'm afraid I'm starting to feel what I said I would not do
Was that how it was now? He still wasn't sure. "What is this?" he asked.
"It's called 'Every Time', by Janet Jackson." Was it his
imagination, or was she
Sam tried again to lighten the mood. "It's not bad, but still, give me
After what seemed like forever, the SUV pulled up outside C.J.'s building. "I
She smiled. "I did too, Sam, despite all indications to the contrary."
He would later say that was what made him do it. "Maybe we could spend some more
For one electric moment, she pondered the apparent invitation. Finally,
"Bye, Claudia Jean." Sam felt a shit-eating grin of his own coming on.
"Don't call me that, Samuel Norman." She was too quick for him. "Later."
Sam drove home, full of conflicting emotions. Eventually, he tried to relax with
"I've got it bad, don't I?" he said aloud to his empty apartment.
"But how does
Suddenly, the idea hit him: the envelopes. Engage in a little envelopian
Now he just had to get his hands on her envelope.