"Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours"

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
property of Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, et al. (NBC).

**I'm still sort of new to TWW, so if something in characterization sounds
grossly out of place, I apologise, and I know this relationship probably doesn't
have a snowball's chance on the show... but whatever! (-: Enjoy!)**

Feedback: Yes, definitely! (samwest5@hotmail.com)
---------

Sam Seaborn stretched his aching back and rested in his big chair. It had been
one helluva day, and it wasn't over yet. Toby was bugging him for the final
draft of the President's speech to the FCC people. Leo was annoyed because Sam
had made the Freudian slip of telling a gay flutist that playing the "fruit"
must be nice. Ainsley was beginning to pick at him because he had transposed one
word in his latest press release. And it was Valentine's Day tomorrow and he had
no date.

Even as his thoughts ran the same course a hand tapped lightly on his door. "Go
away, Ainsley." Sam didn't even look up.

"It's not Ainsley. It's me, C.J.."

"Oh." Though she clearly had to talk to him about something, he couldn't very
well tell her to go away. "Come on in."

C.J. Cregg ducked her head inside his door. Her cynical eyes took in the
slightly fetid smell of old take-out boxes and the literal mountains of paper.
Shit-eating grin playing on the corners of her mouth, she said, "Sam, I hate to
add to your paperwork, but there's one more thing I have to tell you."

"Yeah?"

"Professor Godwin just died."

Sam lifted his eyes from his desk and turned to her. "Not Professor Godwin from
Princeton? Political science Professor Godwin?"

She nodded. "The cancer was too much for him."

That's terrible."

Well, he was getting old, Sam." C.J. let a smile cross her face. "But I do
remember my graduate courses with him. You didn't like him, but you sure
respected him."

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.
"Anyway," she continued, walking into the office, "he left a note for you in his
will. And one for me, too." She held hers up. "I haven't opened mine yet."

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Sam asked rhetorically. Together he and C.J.
ripped open their envelopes. Together they gaped in utter shock at what lay
inside.

"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,
You'll unravel my hints without a kink,
But who am I kidding? You do things by rote
So for the answers look in Seaborn's note."

Sam ripped his envelope open without another thought. Scanning it quickly, he
told C.J. its contents: "There's something really valuable among his papers.
But, his papers are in a storage room in Maryland."

C.J. sighed. "OK. Do we want to go looking for it?"

"Why not?"

"Let's see." C.J. ticked off the reasons, one by one, on her slender fingers.
"We have the German ambassador coming in three days. We have a bill on
telecommunications that needs polishing by tomorrow. And, least of all, I have a
date with Danny tomorrow night!"

"Oh, heaven forbid you miss that." The most annoying thing about Sam was that he
was completely serious where any normal man would be sarcastic to the best of
his ability.

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
papers." Sam's eyes sparkled like the child he occasionally was.

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
with a mien in his eyes perilously close to that of a puppy.
This lasted for several seconds. But it lasted a longer time than Sam had
expected because, oddly enough, C.J. had kept staring. There was something in
his eyes that was nice. They were clear and open; a breath of fresh air in an
increasingly stale environment. Ever since the shooting she had felt a kinship
with Sam. He had saved her life. That immediately made them close friends.

She shook herself and responded. "Oh, fine." C.J. said, turning away. "Pick me
up tomorrow morning at seven."

Just as she spoke, unfortunately, Donna Moss strolled by Sam's open door. "Oh,
good, C.J., you're here." She handed C.J. an envelope. "Here."

"What is this, Donna?" C.J. asked.

"Inside is the name of your secret valentine."

"What?"

"Why not?" Donna looked petulant, like a small child. "The President was all
right with it. In fact," she said, looking like an old country biddy about to
unleash a great secret, "the President and the First Lady even said they would
play."

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
are doing this. Then you give it to me and I redistribute the names among the
guys on the senior staff. Everyone gets a nice Valentine's Day gift, and
everyone's happy."

"Define 'nice gift.'" Sam appraised Donna critically. She was a wonderful
person, but her schemes had a way of going wrong.

Thus, he was rather surprised as she said, "Dinner for two at Chez Louis for
each couple sound good?"

"Donna!" C.J. gasped. "That place costs a fortune!"

"Not if you know the owner." Donna grinned. "Just write your message on the
envelope. No names, period. I haven't decided who will be paired with who."

C.J. asked the question Sam hadn't had the guts to pose. "Who's in on this, may
I ask?"

"Oh, a lot of people." Donna ticked off the names on her fingers. "There's... hm.
You, Sam, me, Ainsley, Josh, Toby, Margaret, Leo, and the President and Mrs.
Bartlet."

Sam swallowed. He'd have to have a little talk with Donna. Ending up with the
First Lady, or Ainsley, might have damaging effects that would take years to
counteract.

C.J., meanwhile, was nodding calmly. None of the men on that list would cow her
in any way. Some, in fact, might be a lot of fun. She was just relieved Donna
hadn't asked Danny. "OK, Donna. Sam and I will play."

"Hey, who's speaking for Sam over here?" the latter grumbled. But he didn't
object further, and Donna sailed out of his office.

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 Leo? Or
you and me?"

"You and me. That'd be interesting." C.J. grinned again. But was it just his
imagination, or did her grin get just a bit softer?

Well, it was something to check out.

The next morning, C.J. half-smiled as she spied Sam's pristine SUV pull up
outside her apartment building, neurotically punctual as usual. Putting her
stuff into the car, she commented as such. "Live and die by the clock, eh Sam?"

"Of course. I've gotten used to it at work." Sam said. Changing the subject, he
asked, "So, what do you think is actually in Professor Godwin's papers?"

"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.
Again, C.J. had to stifle the urge to strangle him, but less of an urge came
this time. She wondered if it was something that one simply got used to. For
people working in the same section of the West Wing, she and Sam spent very
little actual time together.

Sam, meanwhile, was coolly appraising C.J.. He knew she wanted to strangle him,
but he also knew she wouldn't act on it. For someone with one of the most
high-profile jobs in the Bartlet administration, she was a very closed-off
person. She'd always intrigued him, and now he had time to find out more. He'd
like to be better friends with her. And since the shooting, he'd only gotten
glimpses of what he knew was there.

The drive was uneventful, aside from C.J. earning Sam's ire by turning on an
extremely loud rock n'roll station. "Dammit, C.J., I told you," Sam said,
switching the dial back to oldies for the four hundredth time, "I drive, it's my
car, it's my music."

"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 powerful
man in the world. We're not allowed to relax."

"Oh, shut up."

Sam tried to turn the conversation back to serious business, but failed. Teasing
C.J. was more fun than he could have imagined. "So, how do you want to approach
this? I mean, so you can get back for your date with Danny in time."

To his surprise, she sighed. "I don't know, Sam. And the date really isn't that
important."

"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
to Danny. He's a great guy. But I'm just not sure I want to have that kind of
relationship with him." She sort of forgot her audience for a moment. "I want a
boyfriend, but I want someone who understands that my job is the most important
thing in my life. Without this, I'd be back in California, serving as toady to
self-serving sex and violence merchants." The steel was evident in her voice. "I
was lost there. Sometimes I think I still am."

Then, as if returning from a parallel universe, C.J. blinked a bit and smiled
ruefully. "And why I just told you all this, Sam, I have no idea. I'm sure you
could care less."

Sam was, for once in his life, utterly at a loss for words. What could he say
that wouldn't sound patronizing, or just hopelessly stupid? Still, it was
interesting that Concannon hadn't completely penetrated her armor. Finally, he
settled for a brilliant, "Don't worry about it."
They continued to drive on.

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 with Ainsley?
Or Margaret?"

"Then you'll have to swallow your pride for a night, or listen to Margaret talk.
Neither would be fatal."

"How do you know!" Josh threw up his hands in annoyance. "And where the hell is
Sam? I need the FCC speech by four."

"Toby's handling it. Sam and C.J. took the day off."

"Of all days, today?" Josh mumbled. "Fine. Donna, get me Toby." He moved away
from her, but thought better of it. "Donna, can you do one thing for me?"

"What?"

Josh's smile was at its sweetest – a fact not entirely unnoticed by Donna.
"Please, please, please don't put me with Ainsley."

Donna's face was cold. But, unexpectedly, she relented. "Oh, fine. Let me write
that down." She moved away, calling, "I'll get Toby for you!"

She proceeded to do so, but not before she was stopped by Leo McGarry in the
hall. "Donna, here's your envelopes for Margaret, and the First Lady."

"Thank you, Leo."

"I also have a favor to ask you."

"Yes?"

Leo screwed up his face, trying to remember. "Margaret asks that she not
be put with Josh, and please do not put me with C.J. – just for now. She's still
not happy with me over the energy bill."

Donna sighed. "Fine." She hadn't wanted to make exceptions, but it was only
fair. She was trying to make everyone happy, not want to kill each other.
"Anything else?"

"Yes." Leo answered decisively. "Donna, please do not put Mrs. Bartlet with
Sam." He explained, "Mrs. Bartlet likes Sam, but she just spent a considerable
amount of time with a bunch of teenage boys from the 4H Clubs of America. And
given how Sam can be..."

"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 speech!" he
called as he turned into his office.

"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
and C.J. take the day off anyway? Leave me with four speeches that have to be
finished – oh, hi Donna."

"Hi, Toby," Donna said, not in the least cowed. Months of dealing with Josh had
her prepared for any male crisis. "My boss asks that you get on the phone with
him about the FCC speech."

"Fine." Toby picked up the handset and brutally assaulted the keys.

"Thanks, Toby," Donna said, hoping she wouldn't get another Valentines request.
Honestly, she thought to herself, there's a reason some of these people can't
get dates.

Her hopes were dashed in the last moment. "And hey, Donna? Don't put me with
Margaret. The woman drives me nuts sometimes."

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
don't see anything here," she said, defeated. "We've gone through these papers
for three hours."

"I'm beginning to agree with you," Sam said. He sat down on a pile of papers.
"All that's here is old legal papers and notes about opinions."

As he spoke, however, some chord struck in C.J.'s brain. "Sam, when you told me
there was something valuable in his papers, was that a direct quote?"

"Yeah," Sam said, looking puzzled. "Why?"

"Don't you see?" C.J. could hardly believe she'd overlooked the possibility
herself. "Something valuable doesn't have to be money, or stuff like that.
Professor Godwin was in contact with Washington insiders."

"And he was a Republican."

"Whatever." C.J. waved her hand irritably. "The point is, there could be
political gold hidden in this room!"

"My God." Sam began to get excited. "There could be inside dirt on a
Congressman, there could be a lost dissent or opinion, there could be anything!"
He sat up straighter. However, in his excitement, he forgot where he was
sitting. The pile of papers tumbled to the floor, taking Sam along with them. He
landed upside down, hitting his head on the stone floor.

He lay in one position for a couple of minutes, merely dazed from the fall.
C.J., however, started to worry. "Sam, are you ok?" she asked.
"Ow," he mumbled, reaching back to rub his head, and turning bright pink as he
spied C.J., now trying her best not to laugh.

C.J. couldn't keep the giggles inside, though she immediately helped Sam to his
feet. "Sorry," she said. Still, this unnerved her: she should be used to Sam
falling by now, but why had she been so worried when his head had hit the
ground?

"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 be
mad that we both took off."

"Oh yeah." Sam's sunny expression clouded over. "There are about four speeches
to finish, aren't there, and bills to cover?"

"Yeah." C.J. turned back to the paper pile. "I wish we could come up with a
little more on the telecommunications bill, though."

"It's incomplete as it stands," Sam answered. "And I don't like the fact
that Lillienfield is crowing that he has something for the Republicans."

"What do you mean?"

"Didn't you watch the news?" Sam never missed a news program if he could help
it. He claimed it was so he could do his job better; C.J. and the rest of the
staff just thought of him as a dork. "Lillienfield went public hinting that the
Republicans had the votes to turn down the bill."

"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
length she spoke. "Toby, it's me, C.J.." A pause. "Yes, I know. Sam told me."
Another pause. "Yes, we're together! Not together together." Sam went red – how
embarrassing.

C.J. waited for Toby to finish. "Yeah, that's it. But what's up with the
telecommunications bill?" She sat down gingerly on another, shorter pile of
papers as she listened to Toby. Eventually she said, "I see. Thanks. Sam and I
will be in the office soon." She was about to hang up when she said, "Oh, tell
Donna one thing, Toby: not to put me with the President. I don't want to talk
work on Valentine's Day, and I know I'll wind up doing that. Thanks." She hung
up.

"Thanks for reminding me," Sam said as C.J. put her phone back in her pocket.

"What?"

"I don't want to be with Margaret on Valentine's Day. I have to tell Donna."

"Why?"

"Just because." Sam smiled impishly. "Valentine's Day is a time for fun, not a
time to listen to your boss's assistant talk."

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 today
because one word was out of place in the press release on the President's
check-up. One word!" He shook his head.

"That's Ainsley."

"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."

"C.J.!"

"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.
"Why?"

"Because all I try to do is make the world a better place and all I get for it
is yelling!" Cathy looked mystified. Donna explained, "Very few people in this
office have a date for Valentine's Day, and no one gets into the spirit. So, to
help that, I decided on a secret Valentine game. But everyone keeps saying who
they don't want as a Valentine!"

"Don't worry about it, Donna," Cathy said, being levelheaded as she normally
was. "Everyone will get over it. It's the FCC speech, and the telecommunications
bill."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Donna conceded. "I mean, the day after tomorrow
is Valentine's Day. No one can be grumpy then."

"You have met Toby, right?" Ginger, Toby's assistant chuckled as she came into
the bullpen, as the senior staff liked to call it.

"You know what I mean." Donna refused to be daunted. "Want to see my chart?" She
showed them a small diagram of each White House staffer, and who they refused to
be matched to.

"At this rate you'll only have one possibility to choose from for each," Ginger
commented.

"And I still haven't got C.J. and Sam's little quibbles yet," Donna answered.
"But I have to add my own." She made an X in the box shared by her and Sam.

"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 nothing
else, blunt. "So, that leaves Sam with C.J."

"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 out,"
Cathy said, grinning.

"I don't know," Donna said thoughtfully. "Opposites attract. Now, if me and Josh
wind up together, then you'll have a fight on your hands."

Cathy wisely remained silent.

"Damn it, Sam, how can you possibly say that?" C.J. exclaimed angrily as she
moodily finished off a slice of pepperoni pizza. "Lillienfield is an arrogant
jackass, how can you give his absurd claims any credence? It's ridiculous.
Whatever he has, it's not worth the trouble."

"Well, he's got something, that's for sure!" Sam answered, his normally equable
temper beginning to fray. "Otherwise why would he be so cocksure? He knows he
can't bluff this administration; God knows he's tried. This is concrete."

"I don't buy it." C.J. was stubborn. "Lillienfield will bluff anything and
everything, especially to piss off the President. He enjoys nothing better."

"Still, C.J., I have to tell you I can sort of guess when someone is outright
lying to me." Sam continued to press the point. "Lillienfield said they had
something. He looked me straight in the eye."

"Sam, give it a rest, okay?" C.J. said, tiring of the argument that she knew she
couldn't completely win. "Lillienfield once told the Ambassador from Norway that
the White House hot dogs were made out of former President Clinton's dog Buddy.
And he was believed."

"Really?" Even Sam had to be impressed by that one. "Wow."

"Yes," C.J. said with some irony. "A consummate politician. Which -" She stopped
herself in time from saying it. *Which you are not, Sam,* she thought. For some
reason, she didn't want to say it aloud. It might hurt him. But he wasn't a
politician. He was too damn innocent for that.

Where in the hell, she asked herself, was she getting these vibes from? Sam had
never meant *that* much to her. They were friends, of course, but she'd never
looked at him THAT way.

Still, there was something very appealing in those eyes. God, he was a walking
cliché of the American Dream. Symmetrical features, square jaw, and those cobalt
blue eyes that could only be called magnetic...

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. "Any
legal loophole we can use to tip his hand?"

"I don't think so," C.J. sighed. "The only thing I can possibly think of is to
get right down in the mud with him. Lillienfield has more indiscretions than you
could possibly think of. There's got to be SOMETHING we can use."

"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
on a patch of ice in the vestibule.

C.J. rolled her eyes. Cancel her flattering remarks. Sam was still such a child.
It was hard to believe that one of the brightest minds in the country was still
a longshot to stay on his feet for the entire day.

She helped him to his feet, unaware of the fiery red tinge to his skin. "Let's
get back to the warehouse," she commanded, "and try for a bit longer to find
what we need."

On the way back Sam called Toby to check in. He was distinctly unprepared for
the task, and found Toby even grouchier than usual. "Where the hell are you
two?" Toby growled. "I've got speeches up to my ass and you two decide to take a
day in the country!"

"It's not like that, Toby." Sam earnestly sought to explain. "See, we're going
through our old poli sci professor's papers. He wrote C.J. and I and said there
may be something in his papers we could use."

"Wait a minute." Sam heard the rustling of papers in the background. "Your old
poli sci professor."

"Yeah," Sam confirmed, praying Toby wouldn't bust a blood vessel or three for
his taking a day on such a comparatively unimportant task.

His boss's next thought threw him for a Herculean loop. "Professor Harold
Godwin?"

"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 thus,
off the steering wheel. C.J. had some nasty moments as the SUV headed for a pine
tree, but Sam jerked it back on the road. "Let me pull over, Toby," he said,
with an apologetic glance for the extremely unnerved Press Secretary.

Once they were settled at a nearby rest stop, Sam spoke once more, plugging the
phone into the speaker outlet so C.J. could listen too. "OK, Toby, could you
please explain? You're on speaker now."

"Sure. Godwin was a leading Republican advisor on the Hill," Toby said. "He was
the money behind several campaigns. One of those was Peter Lillienfield's."

"Jesus."

"My God," C.J. said. "You were right, Sam."

"How I love those words."

"Shut up."

"Sorry."

"Anyway," Toby said, annoyed, "Godwin resigned from Lillienfield's staff three
years ago, when his cancer caught up with him. He took a lot of personnel
records with him."

"Including Lillienfield's."

"Right, C.J.," Toby said, relieved to be talking to the coherent person in the
car. "And you know what we could do with that information."

"Bring the opposition to the telecommunications bill down," Sam chipped in,
making C.J. grin. He made it all sound so simple. "We're on it, Toby."

"We'll call in if we find something," C.J. added.

"Right."

They disconnected. "Well, now we have some focus," Sam said.

"Yeah," C.J. said, trying to dwell on the positives. She thought, *I'm not sure
my current focus is where I should be.*

President Bartlet strode leisurely down into the West Wing. "Leo, you there?" he
asked, pressing the intercom button.

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
said. "Mrs. Landingham should have the briefing on your desk as soon as Toby
finishes it."

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 very
annoyed right now."

"You might want to avoid him." Leo didn't mince words. "But Sam and C.J. could
come back with something very valuable."

"What?"

Leo enlightened the President about Sam and C.J.'s quest. "And if they find
Lillienfield's personnel records, there's gonna be something in there we can
use."

"I don't like it, Leo." Bartlet frowned. "It's dirty."

"Yes sir."

"And if it comes back to bite us, I'll hold you responsible."

"Yes sir."

"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
afternoon. This was getting to be a fruitless quest. "C.J., why do I get the
feeling that we're not going to find anything?"

Now it was C.J. who was getting on Sam's nerves. "Oh, come on, have a
little faith!" she admonished, digging through another pile of papers. "I think
we'll find it yet. Where's that optimism I keep hearing
about?"

"It's leaking out through my fingers," Sam said dryly, holding up his bleeding
hand.

Immediately C.J. stopped. "Oh, geez, I'm sorry. Anything I can do?"
"Actually..." Sam hesitated before mentioning it, then decided a little ribbing
was a small price to pay. "I have a first aid kit in my car."

"Why am I not surprised?" C.J. grinned. Still, that was all she said as she left
to get the kit. She was only gone a matter of moments and she began to bandage
his hand right away. "Sam, honestly, how *do* you sustain so many injuries in
the course of a normal day?"

"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 tread,"
C.J. chided softly.

"Well, C.J., we're even, aren't we?" Sam said, trying to lighten the mood. "I'm
a walking bruise, and you're..."

"I'm what, Sam?" She stopped bandaging to look him squarely in the eye.
Something told him he'd better choose his words carefully.

"Well..." Eventually in spite of that he decided to shoot from the hip. "C.J.,
you are so closed off. I'd really like to be better friends with you, and yet
you don't let me. I don't understand you. It's like you think you're the only
person in the world with problems or
something."

She jerked back as if he had slapped her. "C.J., I'm sorry..." Sam said
desperately. He didn't know what was going on, but he knew he'd pissed her off
somehow, and for some strange reason, that realization made his stomach twist
into knots.

"It's ok, Sam." C.J. turned away, just wanting to get her bearings. No, it
wasn't okay, and she knew damn well why. "Sam, it just... well, that hurts me, to
be honest."

"Why?"

Forgetting her tension for a moment, C.J. rolled her eyes. "You are such an
idiot."

"I know." Sam didn't even try to argue, he just wanted her to be all right and
not hate him.

His simple response did wonders for C.J., and it was the impetus for her to
reveal herself. "Sam, I'm just a little confused."

"What?" Sam was honestly flabbergasted. C.J. Cregg, anything less than put
together? She was always so calm, cool and collected. He didn't think he'd ever
seen a hair out of place.

The idea that filled him was so bewilderingly, joltingly obvious that he
actually shook himself from the force of it. Maybe that was C.J.'s problem.
Everyone always *expected* her to be put together and on top of everything. No
one gave her a chance to relax and be herself.

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 could see
a few shallow rivulets on her normally unruffled cheeks.

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
get my ass burned. I opened up to Danny and he turns into this bloodsucking
appendage, looking for stories. I open up to Josh and he just heckles me."

Sam muttered something distinctly uncomplimentary about his best friend and a
donkey. "C.J., that's just Josh. You know that."

"Yeah." She was getting it together now, wiping her cheeks, angry with herself
for her sudden weakness. "But still, it's hard for me. And they always expect me
to be the strong one."

Sam would never know what made him say it, but he'd opened his big mouth. It was
too late now. "You don't have to be the strong one around me, C.J. – really, you
don't. I'm not trying to pity you or anything. I mean, it would be chivalrous,
but -"

"Sam!" C.J. cut off one of his famous ramblings. Smiling, she said, "I
appreciate it. Really."

She was about to say more, but visibly stopped herself. "Let's look for
Professor Godwin's papers one more time, then let's head back." Checking her
watch, she explained, "It's 4:26 pm."

"Wow." Sam came down, gingerly, from his seat on a pile of papers. This time he
managed to avoid injury, but the papers came down in a heap in front of them. He
mumbled a distinctly profane statement.

C.J. had to laugh. "Sam, dammit, I just finished going through those -" All
speech stopped as she spied the familiar sheet of paper peeking out from under a
sheaf of folders.

Sam noticed it too. "Jesus," he breathed. "After all this time, it was right
there."

C.J. didn't answer. She took the file and flipped through it. Her eyebrows went
up more than once at the parade of iniquity listed there.

"What?"

"How does the man manage to stay in office?"

"Got me."

For the umpteenth time, C.J. had to laugh. In the workplace, Sam's unfettered
optimism was a definite Achilles heel, but out here it was strangely
invigorating. And those damned vibes were still there.
Finally she spoke. "Sam, given what's here, we have the votes in hand. Easily."

"Really?" Sam perused a page of the file and his eyes widened in shock and
agreement. "Wow. I didn't even know that was legal in Thailand."

"Whatever." C.J. couldn't restrain another grin. My God. Her coworkers would
think she had gotten Sam's happy bug or something. "The point is, Lillienfield
is signed, sealed and delivered."

"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 the
hall.

Donna rolled her eyes. "Josh!" she repeated in a softer tone, sticking her head
into her boss's office. "Toby's on the warpath."

"Oh, shit." Josh mumbled, shaking himself awake. He hadn't meant to fall asleep
or anything, but 265 was so *boring*...

"Josh, get down there now. Toby sounds like he's about to bust a blood
vessel."

"All right!" Josh pulled himself to his feet. "Donna, you're fired."

"Okay." She turned around and asked ostentatiously, "Ginger, do you have a box?
I have to clean out my desk."

"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 snapped,
running down the hall.

Getting to Toby's office, he steeled himself for another round of yelling. But
instead he was stunned to hear instead sounds of laughter.
Josh barrelled into the office. "Toby! My God, are you all right? Little too
much Tylenol again? You're laughing!"

Toby wiped his eyes. "Josh," he said, through what passed for helpless giggles
from him, "the telecommunications bill is in the bag."

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
breathed this bill for weeks, and now to see it pass was one of the defining
moments of his career. "But Sam and C.J. got the dirt we need. Didn't you guys?"
he said, motioning to the speakerphone.

Dimly Josh could hear Sam and C.J. chorus, "We did it!"

"Congratulations, you guys!" Josh said loudly. "C.J., you got through
the whole day without killing him?"

"Yeah, he's here and in one piece," C.J. told her friend. "Well, mostly one
piece."

"If you don't count several paper cuts," Sam said, irritation coloring his
words.

"And a bump on the head," C.J. added.

"C.J.!"

"Well, Sam, what can I do, lie?"

"No, I guess not. But all the same, you had to tell them?" Sam's whiny tone
could be heard clear through the speakers.

Toby sighed in annoyance. "Sam, stop whining or your cellphone will be exploring
uncharted territory. And get back here with that file."

"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 tell
you."

"Okay, okay." Josh backed down. She was telling Sam secrets? What had *happened*
today with those two?

"But thanks all the same. Sam and I will be in at eight or so."

"Thanks."

In the background they could hear Sam. "Oh, what a great song." Josh grinned as
he heard the strains of "She's Always A Woman" by Billy Joel. Sam was an oldies
nut, and Billy Joel was way up there. "Bye, you two." Josh disconnected, and
turned to Toby. "Well, hell. Telecomm is all set. I now have nothing to do
tonight."

It was Toby's turn to change the subject. "What do you think is up with Sam and
C.J.?"

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 tell to
her best friend, Josh Lyman?" Toby said. "And don't you tell me you're not just
as confused as I am."

"OK, I am confused," Josh said. "But what's the harm? So they're a little better
friends. It won't kill either of them."

Toby didn't answer. "You didn't forget that Valentine's Day is the day after
tomorrow?"

"No, not with Donna's little game." Josh shuddered. "What if I get stuck with
Ainsley all night?"

"I will mock you mercilessly." Toby grinned evilly. "But my point is that if
anything *is* going on with those two, it will make our monotonous Valentine's
Day much more entertaining."

Josh grinned in return. He liked the way Toby was thinking. "I'll do some
investigating."

"See that you do."

Back in the car, Sam was in oldies heaven as he sang along. Only about halfway
through the song did it occur how much the lyrics applied to the woman next to
him. She was tough, brave and strong. But under that, she *was* a woman. And
people seemed to forget that. But with her looking like that, Sam had no idea
how they forgot. How he had forgotten.
He had to try.

Idly, he spoke. "C.J., I think this should be your song." He sang the lyrics
along with Billy, if only putting a little more emphasis on them.

"Oh, she takes care of herself – she can wait if she wants. She's ahead of her
time. Oh, and she never gives out, and she never gives in – she just changes
her mind. She's frequently kind and she's suddenly cruel – she can do as she
pleases, she's nobody's fool. But she can't be convicted, she's earned her
degree. And the most she will do is throw shadows at you – but she's always a
woman to me."

C.J. smiled as she listened. Sam understood things much better than she, or
anyone in the West Wing, had ever guessed. "Nice song," she said. "Who's it by
again?"

"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
to Sam. "I want to apologise for being so ornery today."

Sam chuckled. "Oh, geez, C.J., I should apologise to you. I said that rude
thing. I made you cry."

"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. "And
that's the last apology I'll have for you. Unless you deserve one," he amended.

"That's fine." C.J. said, smiling. Suddenly, she turned away from him, staring
out the window. "You know, Sam, as long as we're opening up, can I ask you a
personal question?"

"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
told her was true. I really am playing smart most of the time when it comes to
women." C.J. laughed. "Well, it's true!" Sam said, continued. "She just wanted
something from me that I didn't have, I guess. There were no hard feelings."
Still, by the tone of his voice, he was obviously lying.

"Thank you," C.J. said softly.

More silence ensued, until a song they both knew came on the radio: Joan
Armatrading's "The Weakness In Me." Each pursued a different inner monologue.

*Why is she still like this? I mean, we should be better friends by now. I
really want to get to know her. I really am not the sort of person who falls in
or quickly out of love. But I want to see if Danny's right about her. Cause I
think there's a totally amazing woman under that coolness, and I'd like to find
out. And she looks so beautiful right now... but what about Mal? She told me I
don't have what it takes to get a woman. Do I?*

*Oh, my God... what's happening here? The song's right... is he so strong, and is
all the weakness in me? He's only my friend. Nothing more. And he doesn't want
anything more, anyway. He's still torn up over Mal. But maybe someone could
comfort him. Maybe that someone could be me. But what the hell am I going to do
with Danny? And why the hell am I thinking this way about my friend Sam? This
can't be happening!*

Finally Sam made the turn back to the White House. "Let's go give Toby the
file," he said, half to himself.

"What? Sure." C.J. shook herself out of her reverie.

The White House was dark by the time the two of them entered. "Toby?"
C.J. called, searching the empty offices.

"It looks pretty deserted," Sam said.

"Yeah, but Toby needs this," C.J. answered. "He wouldn't leave."

"True."

They eventually happened upon Toby in Josh's office, working, with Donna taking
dictation. "Oh, you're back," he said, looking up.

"Hi, you guys." Donna withdrew, having heard all about that afternoon's
surprises from her boss.

"Toby, here's the file," C.J. said, handing it to the Communications
Director.

Flipping through it, Toby couldn't restrain a grin. "This is the file that
finally brings Lillienfield down."

"Don't think we don't appreciate that," C.J. said, smiling. "But can Sam and I
go home? We're tired."

"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 Donna back
in here, would you?"

"Sure. 'Night, Toby."

"Night, Toby."

"Night, guys."

C.J. and Sam left the office and quickly located Donna. "Hey, Donna, as long as
I have you, can I ask you something?"

"Yeah, C.J., go ahead."

"Can I not be put with the President on Valentine's Day?" C.J. asked, explaining
her reasons.

"Yeah, sure. Sam, any objections? Comments? Whines?"

"Just answer," C.J. said tiredly as Sam started to take offense. The younger man
grudgingly told Donna his preferences, then made no further objection as C.J.
pushed him to the door.

However, as soon as the two were outside, he turned to her. "You didn't have to
do that."

"I know. I wanted to do it." C.J. responded, a bit snappishly. Maybe her weird
vibes that day had just been the product of fresh Maryland air. She wasn't used
to it. Yeah, that was it.

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
briefing."

"And I have three speeches to write for tomorrow night." Already Sam could feel
the headache start.

C.J. was about to make it worse. "Sam, could I turn on some music?"
"Sure, what the hell." It wasn't that long of a drive, Sam reckoned with a
cynicism that would have astonished his companion. He could sit through it.

But, to his surprise, he found himself liking the beat. "This isn't bad, C.J., I
gotta hand it to you."

"Thanks." C.J. couldn't hide the shit-eating grin. "I knew that if you gave it a
try, you'd enjoy it."

"Shut up."

"Okay."

Sam instead focused on the lyrics.

"I'm afraid I'm starting to feel what I said I would not do
But last time really hurt me - I'm scared to fall in love
Afraid to love so fast - 'Cause every time I fall in love
It seems to never last...
But every time your love is near, and every time I'm filled with fear
'Cause every time I see your face my heart does begin to race every time..."

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
avoiding his eyes?

Sam tried again to lighten the mood. "It's not bad, but still, give me Sinatra
any day of the week." He began an exaggerated lip-synch. "You're just too
marvelous – too marvelous for words like glorious, glamorous, and that old
standby –amorous..." C.J. giggled appropriately. But she still didn't say
anything.

After what seemed like forever, the SUV pulled up outside C.J.'s building. "I
had a good time today, C.J.," Sam said diffidently.

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
time together."

For one electric moment, she pondered the apparent invitation. Finally,
wonderfully, happily, C.J. answered, "I'd like that." She stepped away from the
car. "See you tomorrow, Sam."

"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."

"Bye."

Sam drove home, full of conflicting emotions. Eventually, he tried to relax with
some music, but the first song to come on was another Sinatra tune: "I've Got
You Under My Skin." Turning off the radio, he went over to the TV and flipped it
on. The first program he saw was on the nature channel: the mating habits of the
flamingo.

"I've got it bad, don't I?" he said aloud to his empty apartment. "But how does
she feel? And how can I find out?"

Suddenly, the idea hit him: the envelopes. Engage in a little envelopian
subterfuge, and the perfect Valentine's Day would be his. What better time to
risk asking C.J. out than on the most romantic day of the year?

Now he just had to get his hands on her envelope.

 

TBC

Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours - 2

 

 

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