"Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours"
Warnings/Disclaimers/etc: See Pt 1
Sam woke up the next morning with a new resolve. He would go to work,
brilliantly rewrite and finish his four speeches, placate or at least grudgingly
satisfy Toby, and somehow get C.J. to go out with him.
This plan was ruined when he abruptly looked at his flashing alarm clock. The
power must have gone out during the night.
Sam fumbled for his watch and muttered something profane under his breath. He
was supposed to be at work by 7:30 am. It was 8:19.
He vaulted out of bed, cursing steadily. Showered and dressed in ten minutes
flat, he grabbed his briefcase and sprinted to his car. On the way he flipped
open his phone and called Josh, wanting a mildly sympathetic voice to talk to
before dealing with Toby and Leo.
He didn't get it. "Where the hell are you!" Josh yelled. "Toby's
and I'm certainly not seeing speeches appearing on my desk!"
"The power went out last night, and my alarm didn't sound!" Sam complained.
on my way now."
"Well, be prepared. Leo and Toby are both looking for you."
"In fact," Josh continued, voice rising, "I think C.J. is the only one in
West Wing who isn't annoyed with you right now. And God knows why, given what
you probably put her through yesterday. Get in here now." He slammed the phone
In spite of himself, Sam was angry. Josh knew there wasn't a damned thing he
could have done. And just because the man had meetings til hell froze over gave
him no right to be so rude.
Still, given the reception, Sam arrived at the White House with the air of a man
waiting to be executed. After clearing security, the first place he went was to
Margaret, Leo's assistant, eyed Sam nervously as he went in. "Good luck,"
said. "I think I can reattach your head for you if you need it."
"Oh, I will." Sam bravely went in.
After a half-hour of continuous dressing-down, Sam left the office with Leo's
words still ringing in his ears. He decided to swing by his own office before
going to face Toby.
He wasn't prepared for the surprise waiting there. "C.J.!" Sam exclaimed,
feeling the blood rush to his face. "What's up? Are you mad at me too?"
She chuckled. "No, Sam. I just wanted the first draft of the Amnesty
"It's in my computer, I have to print it. I finished it last night at
set his briefcase and laptop down, plugging the latter in. "Of course, my damn
alarm clock has to short out this morning."
"I heard. Believe me, I heard."
"Josh yelled at me," Sam said, allowing a bit of hurt to creep into his voice.
"That's Josh," C.J. said diffidently, avoiding Sam's eyes. "When
he's in this
mood, it's best to stay out of his way. You know that."
"Yeah. But he still shouldn't have yelled!" Sam said.
"What can you do?" C.J. shrugged.
Sam couldn't help appraising her as he accessed the speech. She looked really
beautiful. *Of course,* he told himself, *she's probably worn this suit a
hundred times. It's just that now, I notice.*
C.J. surreptitiously did the same. Even late and bedraggled he looked put
together. And the fact that he hadn't taken the time to dry his hair scored
points, too. Little tendrils were out of place, threatening to hang in his eyes.
It was dare she say it? sexy. He looked good. But he always looked the same.
So exactly what the hell did that mean?
Aloud she said, "So... did you get your envelope from Donna yet?"
Sam checked his desk, suddenly hit by the brainwave. "No. No, I don't think I
"Oh." Uncharacteristically, C.J. fell silent.
So did Sam, for the most part. "Here's the speech," he said, handing it to
"Thanks." She smiled softly. "See you later. And don't let Toby get to
Sam grinned back. "Do I ever?" She left his office in a haze of perfume that
left him dizzy whether it was her or the fumes, he couldn't tell.
He applied himself furiously to writing his next speech, for the Washington
Schoolteachers' Union. It would look good, he reasoned, if he could placate Toby
with one of his speeches already written when he came barrelling in.
He was actually almost finished when the knock cam on his door. "Sam!" Toby
grumbled, coming inside. "After what you pulled this morning you damn well
better have the teachers' speech on my desk pronto."
"It's almost done, Toby." Sam didn't blink. "Give me fifteen
"Fifteen minutes?" Toby repeated. "You're kidding, right?"
"Well, give it to Josh when you're done," Toby said, irritated that
little or nothing to bite Sam's head off about. "He needs to see it before
Toby, with nothing else to say, stomped moodily away. Sam couldn't help
chuckling to himself. This day was looking up.
But even as he typed, an idea began to burrow into Sam's consciousness. He had
to see Josh. Maybe he'd finally take the chance to stand up to his friend.
Though they *were* friends, Josh took advantage of it far too often. Well, he'd
straighten it out.
He finally finished the speech. Watching it print, he whipped it out of the
printer and headed immediately to Josh's office.
Donna shuffled the envelopes one last time. "Perfect," she murmured. Everyone
was matched with the person she'd picked. And no one could complain.
OK, well, one person could complain about anything. "Coming, Josh!" she called
He was in a foul mood. "Where's Sam?" he demanded. "Did he talk to you
meeting this morning?"
"No, he hasn't. He should be here any minute."
"Fine. Did you get the EPA reports?"
"Did you go to the archives on 25-171?"
"No, I'll do it right now."
"Fine." As Donna turned to go, Josh unexpectedly looked up from his paperwork.
"Thanks a lot."
Donna grinned in response. She couldn't help it; that stupid smirk of his got
her every time. "No problem." She headed off to to the archives.
As soon as she was gone, Josh stood up. He hated doing that to Donna, sending
her off to search for a file he wouldn't need for days, but it couldn't be
Stealthily he crept over to his assistant's desk. On top of her papers lay the
envelopes, completely unmarked except for a small "DM" to indicate that Donna
was the sender. He knew her passion for order, and he'd been wanting to do this
all day. Quickly, furtively, he shuffled the envelopes and left them in the same
place on Donna's desk. *This,* he thought, *should get interesting.* After all,
he reasoned, variety was the spice of life, right?
He got back inside just as Donna returned. "Here's the file," she said,
it onto his desk. "And here's your envelope!" she said, proudly placing it
in the centre of the file. "Don't open it til 7pm tonight. The President will
call us all to the Oval Office and we'll open them together. Then we're off for
a magical night of dinner and dancing."
Josh raised his eyebrows. "A bit excited, Donnatella?"
"Well, it's Valentine's Day, why not?" She grinned. Josh, for some
reason, suddenly found breathing difficult.
He smiled back. "I guess. Can you please go find out where the hell is Sam?"
"Right here," a new voice added. Sam had just turned the corner when he heard
his name. "Josh, we need to talk."
"About the way you treat me." Sam set his eyes. He didn't like
but this one was necessary.
He spoke before he could chicken out. "Josh, just because you have meetings all
day every day doesn't mean you have to take that out on me."
"What are you talking about?"
"About this morning," Sam answered. "You chewed me out because of my alarm
Josh recalled. Donna had been yelling at him, Leo had been paging him every five
minutes, and he'd just gotten off the phone with Senator Irwin, one of the most
argumentative, pompous jerks in the entire government. It had been a hellish
morning, but Sam was right. That wasn't an excuse. "You're right," he
aloud. "And don't think that wasn't a supreme sacrifice for me to
Sam had to grin. That had gone well. Maybe he should confront people more often.
"That's ok, Josh; I just wanted to hear you say it. And I wanted to beg a
"Oh." Josh threw up his hands in annoyance. "So you put me through
blackmail just to beg a favour."
"No, I put you through emotional blackmail because you deserve it," Sam
retorted. "And I'm asking a favour because you're my best friend."
Josh sighed. "All right. Even though I'm heinously behind already, what do you
want me to do?"
"Well, it's more of an advice thing, actually." The idea had popped into
head at the last minute, but he thought it feasible. No one had dealt with more
women than Josh Lyman, he of the fan club. Now if he could get advice without
telling him exactly who the woman was he was interested in.
"Oh, so let's hear this advice thing." Josh seemed open to helping out.
"Well..." Sam was suddenly hit with an attack of hesitation. What if he had
tell Josh? He could visualize the teasing. It'd be exactly what everyone was
saying about Donna and Josh.
Still, he went through with it. "Josh," he began, hands in pockets and scuffing
his shoes on the floor, "I was wondering... howdoyouaskoutawoman?"
There! He'd said it! He looked at Josh, whose face seemed to be frozen in his
"can-I-help-you" mode. "Josh?" Sam queried. He had a little more
just saying the words. "I asked, how do you ask out a woman?"
Josh found his voice. "I heard you the first time. I just can't figure out why
Sam's brow furrowed. "Why shouldn't I be asking?"
Josh chuckled. "Well, actually, I think you *should* be asking. I just can't
figure out why it took so long." Realising that comment might sound slightly
insensitive, he tried to amend it but only made it worse. "Well, between hitting
on Jenny McGarry and 'accidentally' sleeping with a call girl..."
Sam turned away in annoyance. "Jeeeez! One lousy mistake and a guy's branded for
"Well... yeah." Josh hastened to change the subject back to Sam's
Sam, who are you interested in?"
This was the moment Sam had dreaded. "Why?" he hedged.
"Well, different approaches work on different women."
Josh had a point. Damn it all to hell. "True. But I can't tell you her
"Why?" Josh had a sudden thought. "Sam, please, please, please tell me
a call girl."
"She's not a call girl!" Sam said loudly. Then he mumbled, "She works
"Oh!" Josh clapped his hands together gleefully. "So come on, spill it, or
"You can guess til hell freezes over," Sam said, suddenly emboldened, "but
can't tell you her name."
"Then how do you expect me to help you?"
Damn it. Josh had another point. Sam sighed. Nothing to do but tell the truth.
"She might get mad."
"What, and you think she'd kick your ass or something?"
"Quite honestly, she might."
Josh couldn't hold back the giggles. "Sam, there's quite a number of women
could kick your ass."
"OK, OK," Josh amended. "Maybe not a *significant* number." He paused.
could it be?" He stopped again, lost in thought. "Donna?"
"No! No! She's yours, Josh."
"Does she know that?" Josh smirked. "Who else.... Ainsley?" Sam
merely shot him
an incredulous look, and Josh halted. "OK, forget I said that. Margaret?" The
same reaction was repeated. "OK, forget I said *that.*" Another long pause
ensued, til Josh finally spoke. "Sam, you didn't..."
Josh phrased his sentence delicately. "Sam, is the President going to be hunting
you down with a shotgun or something?"
"God, no!" Sam shivered at the thought. "Not even if I was drunk, would I
that! Well," he corrected himself, "maybe if I was drunk. But it's not
"OK." Josh whistled through his teeth. "Damn, Sam, we're running out
The only one I can think of that fits your criteria is -" He broke off, suddenly
stunned, as the idea hit him. It couldn't be true. "No."
"Yes," Sam said, abashed. He knew, Josh had hit on it.
"Yes!" Sam insisted. He wanted this over with. "I think you've got it,
Josh seemed to be trying to find words. Finally, he just spluttered, "C.J.!?!?"
"Sssshhh!" Sam shot his friend a glare. "People could hear!"
Josh paid no attention. "C.J., Sam?" he asked, still in shock. "How C.J.?
C.J.? How could the two of you possibly get together?"
Sam glared, getting up. This had been a mistake. "Oh, so I'm not good enough for
"No, no! I didn't mean that!" Josh stood and effectively barred the door
his own body. "It's just..." Shooting from the hip, he finished his
"You're just really throwin' me for a loop here, buddy."
Sam sat back down. "Why?"
"Because... because..." Seeing as it had worked the first time, Josh
again. "Because she's everything you're not, Sam."
"So?" Sam was unimpressed with Josh's logic. "Opposites have never
"Not too often, Sam, I gotta tell ya."
"But how do I ask her out?" Sam would not be deterred. Secretly, though
never admit it, Josh was impressed. This was a whole new side of Sam.
"Wow, I really have no clue." Josh shrugged. "I mean, this is C.J. Cregg.
not like, someone you just met or something." His expression brightened a trifle
as an idea hit him. "But I know someone who might help you."
"Really?" Sam brightened as well, back to his usual cheery countenance.
Sam's face abruptly plunged back down into the 'fear' regions. "No,
Donna!" he begged. "She'll ask me everything under the sun! Please!"
Josh took no notice, as Donna appeared in his doorway. "Donna, Sam has some
romantic problems." Donna's eyebrows rose as her boss continued, oblivious to
Sam squirming in discomfort. "He's got a crush on C.J., and wants to know how to
ask her out."
"That is so wonderful, Sam!" Donna exclaimed, a bit too loudly for Sam's
"You come with me," she said, physically removing him from his seat.
you how a woman likes to be treated. Not like I actually thought you'd need the
help." Josh waved to his friend as he was dragged, shell-shocked, from his seat
and out the door.
The morning dragged on. Sam vainly tried to work while Donna remained stuck to
his side. She was actually rather helpful, but while he tried to be productive,
she got in the way. Still, he was polite.
C.J. watched Sam try to haggle with Donna about something. It was kind of funny,
but she had absolutely not left him alone all day. He was being his usual self,
laughing and joking. She wondered what was going on.
She thought more than once about approaching him. Their encounter that morning
had left her with a bad feeling. It had been so... stilted. She didn't want their
relationship to be stilted.
What *did* she want it to be?
"C.J., you ok?" Cathy asked. Sam's assistant had noticed the press
staring off into space. "You look out of it."
"What? No, I'm fine." C.J. stood and prepared to walk away.
Cathy wouldn't let it go. "You were staring at Sam. Is everything ok between you
C.J. prayed she wasn't blushing at that moment. "Yeah, fine," she fudged.
"No reason." Still, Cathy looked calculating, and that made C.J. nervous.
and Donna have been together like, all day, haven't they?" she said, trying to
"Yeah, they have," C.J. said, trying not to react. "I wonder what it's
"Search me." Cathy shrugged. "*She's* sure been enjoying his company,
The notion hit C.J. full in the pit of the stomach. Donna couldn't... no, it
couldn't be. She couldn't have a crush on Sam!
And yet, it was horribly convincing. They had been chummy all day, more so than
usual. Donna hadn't left his side. And now... what was she doing? She was putting
her arm around his shoulders!
C.J. turned away suddenly. Damn it. She'd lost her chance. She should have said
something the night before. And now, Donna was sinking her hooks into Sam.
*He'll never get away,* C.J. thought maliciously. *Donna has a way of entrapping
men. Look what she's done to Josh.* Aloud she said icily, "Tell Sam to get me
the Irish ambassador's briefing when he gets a chance." Then she turned on her
heel and strode away.
After some time, Sam managed to extract himself from Donna for a moment. Vowing
revenge on Josh, he immediately headed for his office. He brought Donna's
envelope with him.
Accompanied by a severe crisis of conscience, Sam had opened the envelope. He
was doubly horrified to read Ainsley's name inside.
He had to get rid of it.
He had resealed it, and now he meant to get rid of it.
Josh wasn't in his office, and Donna was off somewhere doing his filing. The
office was empty.
Feeling like a spy, Sam crept in and searched the desk til he had what he
wanted. Josh's envelope lay, tossed aside, on top of his computer keyboard.
Carefully, Sam took it and replaced the envelope with his own. What better
revenge than to replace Josh's Valentine's Day with a long, drawn-out Ainsley
dispute? And possibly get C.J.'s envelope in the process?
In spite of himself, Sam chuckled. He was turning into an evil, nasty person.
And he was loving every minute of it.
In that same vein, he opened his new envelope. Thus, he was quite disappointed
when he saw Margaret's name written in clear, mocking blue ink.
Damn. Now he'd have to steal someone else's. But there wasn't time now.
He slowly tiptoed back to his office, to start work on his next speech before
Josh came strolling back to his desk after lunch in a fantastic mood. Bill
32-643 had been settled. He had successfully fought off Lillienfield's attempts
to put the telecomm bill down. And he'd finally told off that bitchy staffer
who'd tried to tell him to shut up. Things were good. And now he was staring
Donna's envelope in the face.
He wondered whose name was inside. He wondered if he could wait to find out.
Waiting never stood a chance.
Checking the hall for Donna before proceeding, Josh carefully opened the
envelope, watchful to rip as little as possible. He got it open in virtually one
piece and looked at the card. He recoiled. It said Ainsley.
*Damn it!* Josh thought. How was he going to get out of this one?
Various excuses ran through his head. An illness? No, he was a lousy actor. Work
he'd forgotten to do? No, that one would never hold water. Donna knew his
schedule better than he did.
Then it hit him. He'd just steal someone else's envelope. Donna might get
confused, but she wouldn't be able to tie anything to him. It was the best
explanation. And he had to do it now, before he lost his nerve. But whose?
Josh nervously walked down the hall, just canvassing the offices. Sam was
working feverishly, no doubt to catch up on time lost. Donna was still at his
side, apparently offering dictation help as she advised him on relationships.
Josh had to grin. It really had been a dirty trick, but he hadn't known what to
say. And Donna really, probably, *could* help Sam out a bit.
C.J. was likewise working feverishly on something. But Toby's office stood open
Quick as lightning, Josh slipped inside, looking around. The envelope was lying
alone, unobstructed, under Toby's paperweight. Before even thinking, Josh walked
in, switched his envelope with Toby's, and walked out.
It was that easy.
And, Josh told himself sternly, he would not open this one. If it wasn't
Ainsley, he could deal. He just didn't want his Valentine's Day to be occupied
by a leggy blonde Republican that gave him several bad thoughts at once.
Just to safeguard his interests, Josh slipped the envelope into his coat pocket.
If anyone else got the same idea that he had, this would foil them.
Now, on to real work. He knocked on C.J.'s door. "C.J., it's me,
called. "I have the 2pm briefing."
"Come in." Josh was surprised to hear defeat and tiredness in C.J.'s voice.
must be upset about something,* he thought. *She's never tired. Or at least she
doesn't show it.*
He opened the door. "Here it is, Claudia Jean," he said, setting the file on her
desk. Nodding a hello to Gail, C.J.'s fish, Josh asked, "Everything all
"Yeah, fine," C.J. said, pushing her glasses up onto the bridge of her nose.
"Just tired. Recuperating from yesterday's excursions."
"Yeah, that would make sense," Josh said cautiously. He wanted dirt, but he
didn't want to appear to be interrogating her.
As it turned out, he didn't have to. "You know, Josh, there is one thing,"
said. He could feel her expression turn to ice. "Could you possibly extricate
your assistant from Sam's office?"
Josh was surprised by the undertone of vehemence in C.J.'s voice. "Sure,
he said, a bit perplexed. "Why?"
"Oh, no reason." C.J. sighed, irritated. "Just that she hasn't left
for the entire day."
Josh shrugged. Why was she so annoyed about it? "Yeah, well. She's probably got
some agenda of her own." He had to fudge the truth, he reasoned, otherwise Sam's
secret would be out.
Still, that only made C.J.'s look blacker. "I don't care, Josh," she
"Get her out of there."
Josh could only nod as he headed over to Sam's office.
Later, Toby muttered various obscenities as he roamed the halls looking for
Josh. He needed the damn speech, and he needed it now. But Josh was nowhere to
He considered asking C.J., but quickly reconsidered. For a few hours she'd been
in a fouler mood than Toby'd ever been in. Every inconsequential thought caused
C.J. to snap.
Instead, he'd been forced to roam the halls, looking for Josh. On a whim,
though, he'd brought his envelope. After all, Toby thought, why not mix things
up a little? Maybe he'd ask Josh for his envelope, just to change things. If he
ever *found* Josh.
He happened upon Donna. "Seen your boss?" he asked.
"He has a meeting with Leo soon, you might want to check there." Donna checked
her watch. "Is Sam in his office?"
"As far as I know," Toby answered. "Donna, is there a reason that
stuck to Sam's side today?"
"Ye-es," Donna hedged. "But I can't tell you." She headed off
down the hall.
Toby watched her go, perplexed. He shook his head and continued down the hall to
He didn't find Josh, but he did find the Chief of Staff. "Leo, seen Josh?"
"No, not yet," Leo answered. "He should be here any minute."
"I need that speech from him."
"Well, I'll lean on him."
"Thanks." Toby turned to go, then reconsidered. One envelope, he reasoned, was
as good as another. "Hey, Leo, can I have your envelope?"
Leo regarded him quizzically. "Why?"
"Why not?" Toby shrugged. "Little variety."
It wasn't enough for Leo. "Sure you didn't open your envelope and be scared
who you got?" he asked, teasing. He knew half the guys in the West Wing walked
in abject fear of Ainsley Hayes, and the other half dreamed of asking her out.
He pondered, but only for a moment. He had nothing to lose. None of the women on
that list would cow him in any way. "Sure, what the hell." He handed his
envelope to Toby.
"Thanks." Toby turned to leave. "And could you please remember to bug
Danny Concannon strolled leisurely past the Secret Service checkpoints in search
of the press secretary. He had to find out what was going on. Last night she'd
called and broken their date, citing ill health. But she'd looked fine at the
briefings, only a bit distracted.
He wanted answers.
Making his way down the hall, Danny tapped twice on C.J.'s office door. An
irritated, "Come in," answered his knocks.
Cautiously poking his head in, he said, "Hey, C.J., it's me."
"Oh, hi, Danny." Inwardly C.J. knew her subconscious was kicking and screaming.
This was the last thing she needed right now. But what with Donna and Sam, she
didn't know whether to break it off or encourage it. And was there anything to
*Men!* she screamed silently.
Still, she had to say something. "What can I do for you, Danny? And don't go
looking for stories. I gave you all everything we have on the Irish ambassador,
and anything else is not yet for publication."
"What makes you think I'm looking for stories?" Danny picked up the fish
and gave Gail a few. "What makes you think I'm not just saying hello to my
C.J. smirked. "*Your* fish?"
"Okay, *our* fish."
"Danny, as good company as Gail is, you did not just come to see her. What's
up?" If there was going to be a confrontation, she wanted it over with.
"Well... actually it was about you." Danny took a deep breath. "I just
know what's going on, C.J."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you cancelled our date because you said you felt bad," Danny answered,
trying to think of a way to get his point across without calling her a liar.
"You seem okay, though."
"It was a sudden thing," C.J. said, breathing a sigh of annoyance. "It
this morning, though I'm still a little dizzy. Interrogation over?"
"Yeah. Hey," Danny said, spreading his arms wide like a criminal caught by the
cops. "I'm not interrogating you here. Just curious."
C.J. took a deep breath. "You're right, Danny. I'm sorry for sounding so
It's been a bad day."
"Don't worry about it."
They both fell silent. C.J. racked her brain to say something that would get rid
of him, but unfortunately, she kept coming up with the truth. *Danny, I think we
should see other people 'cause I have a crush on Sam?* she thought cynically.
*Right, like he'd just go quietly!*
Then it hit her right between the eyes: She *did* have a crush on Sam. A big
one. A bad one. And Danny, sweet as he was, simply wasn't Sam.
Aloud she said, "Danny, I think we need to talk," before she could think. Now
that she was certain of what she wanted to do, she wanted time to think. But her
subconscious wasn't about to grant her that luxury.
"Sure, C.J., what's up." Danny seemed relieved. Maybe he was more of a
mind-reader than she thought.
She had to phrase her words carefully. "Danny, you're a really great guy. I
really enjoy being around you."
"But." Danny was a sharp individual, and he caught some sort of hidden meaning
behind her words.
"But." That was her tacit agreement that something was going on. "Danny,
thought a lot about this -" actually, she had "and I just don't
should see each other right now."
His shoulders sagged, but other than that he took it relatively well. "Same
reasons you said before, C.J.?" he asked, a remnant of the old shine in his
"That," she agreed, "and one more." She wasn't going to bullshit
him, if it was
at all possible.
"And that reason would be?"
Her press-secretary skills kicked in at the last minute. "Off the record,
"Fine." That gave it away, however. "You're seeing someone."
"Yes." C.J. nodded. No harm fudging the truth a bit. She'd deal with Donna
enough. "And it's someone you know."
"He work here?"
C.J. shook her head. Oh, no. That was too much.
Danny understood. "I got you. But hey, if it doesn't work out with this guy
and I *will* find out who it is call me, ok?" And without another word, he
strode away, leaving C.J. with a nasty feeling in the pit of her stomach. That
had been far too easy.
She was still that way when the President came strolling up to her. "All right,
C.J.?" Bartlet asked.
"Fine, sir." C.J. steadied herself.
"If you're sure." He shrugged and changed the subject. "Is Sam in his
"Yes, sir. He's in there with Donna." C.J. was even surprised at the amount
vehemence in her voice. *What,* she thought, *is happening to me?*
The President looked at her quizzically. "C.J., are you sure you're all right?
Something going on between you and Donna?"
"Oh, no, sir."
"Well, make sure there isn't." The President turned away. "I
don't like to see
my staffers fighting. Also, Donna's the fastest typist in the West Wing,
according to Josh, and I'd like her to help you with the four p.m. briefing.
There's a lot to cover."
*Perfect,* C.J. thought sourly. But out loud she merely said, "No problem, Mr.
"Can you go tell Sam to come to the Oval Office while you're getting
President asked. "It'd really be a favor to me, C.J."
"Sure." C.J. could feel her heart doing jumping jacks in her throat as she
headed to Sam's office.
She heard voices in the hall as she approached. "Sam, soon you can tell
everyone," Donna was saying. "How surprised will they be?"
"Yeah," Sam answered happily. "It'll be a relief. Donna, this is all
doing. This will be great."
"Anything for you, Sam." It was so sickening it almost made C.J. gag. Instead
she stabilized herself and knocked on the office door. She was bidden to enter,
but almost wished she hadn't.
Inside, Donna sat in Sam's spare chair, hand on his shoulder, as he surfed for
statistics on reported abortions for the past year. "Sorry to interrupt," C.J.
said frostily. "But Sam, you're wanted in the Oval Office. And Donna, the
President asks that you come with me."
Sam and Donna exchanged looks before rising, which pissed C.J. off mightily.
Still, she didn't speak until Sam had left and she had Donna as the two women
walked back down the hall.
While Donna dealt with C.J., Sam sat in the Oval Office, alone and bewildered.
Where was the President, if he had been summoned here?
What Sam didn't know was that the President was in his office.
Bartlet looked around hastily for signs of his Deputy Communications Director.
Seeing none, he proceeded. It made him nervous enough doing this without being
caught in the act. He really did need to speak to Sam in the Oval Office. He
just had to do this first.
Donna was a nice girl, he told himself. But after he'd opened the envelope and
considered the possibility of spending an entire Valentine's Day with her
yammering about nothing, he knew what he had to do. The girl talked more often
than he did. So he had to get someone else unbeknownst to Donna.
And hopefully, the President told himself, C.J. and Donna could work out
whatever their problem was. That woman had been snippy all morning, and it was
very plain that the issue was with Donna. Whatever it was would hopefully be
worked out. C.J. was smart enough to know her excuses hadn't convinced him in
He slipped into Sam's office. Even though this was a relatively minor thing, it
still gave him the creeps. The Leader of the Free World, perpetrating a theft.
Oh, well. May as well go through with it.
He grabbed the envelope, replaced it swiftly with his own, and turned to leave
... Running smack into Josh.
"Josh!" the President breathed. "Please avoid giving me coronaries, at
for the next two okay, maybe six years, will you?
"Sorry, Mr. President," the Deputy Chief of Staff said contritely. "Just
looking for Sam."
"He's in the Oval Office."
Josh smiled pleasantly, not getting it but not about to cross his boss, either.
"And you're not there, sir?"
"I, uh, had to get something more for the meeting," the President fudged.
I was down in the Wing already, so Sam asked me if I'd go get the file."
The slant of Josh's eyebrows showed he didn't buy it, but he was far too
comfortable in his job to contradict the President. He merely nodded and set off
in the direction of his office.
The President breathed a sigh of relief. Now he really *had* to go meet Sam.
That over and done with, he put his new envelope in his pocket and headed off
down the hall.
C.J. had absolutely no words to say as she strode down the hall, Donna
struggling to keep up. What could she say to the woman?
"C.J.," Donna said, huffing a bit as she tried to keep up, "do we want to
the bit about the Burmese coup?"
"Sure," C.J. tossed back over her shoulder. Getting to her office, she yanked
the door open. "You can use my computer," C.J. told Donna tersely.
than you writing things down that Josh can't even read anyway."
Donna's eyes widened at that one. What was *wrong* with her? Still, she didn't
want to start a fight, and kept silent.
C.J. sat down on the other chair and flipped open a file. Rapidly she began to
read. "The Burmese leader was taken prisoner approximately ten p.m. Washington
time last night, by the head of a gang calling itself the Myanmar Liberation
Front, and he..." She trailed off. "Damn. Do you have the dossiers?"
"I think they're in Sam's office," Donna said, oblivious to the press
secretary's annoyance. "Want me to go ask him to pull them out of his
"No, Donna, I want you to stay right here!" C.J. snapped. "I'll go get
Getting up, she strode for the door.
However, she was stopped in her tracks by Donna's quiet voice. "C.J., can I ask
Breathing a sigh of annoyance, C.J. answered, "What?"
"What's wrong?" Donna said, innocent face probing C.J.'s for answers.
been in a foul mood all day, and I hope it's not something I did."
C.J. faced the other woman with little or nothing to lose. "Quite frankly, it
*was* something you did."
"Oh, really?" Donna said, face falling. "I'm sorry. What was it?"
How to answer? C.J. paused, feeling for words. Finally she just muttered,
"Well, if you'd left Sam's side at all today, maybe you'd know."
Donna was surprised to say the least. "Hold it for a minute," she said.
what exactly is going through your head right now?"
"Oh, lots of things," C.J. said, smiling falsely. She'd had it. "Like
want to say very rude things to you."
Donna racked her brains, thinking of what could possibly be wrong. "Did I
forget to do something?" she finally asked. "Is it because you needed to talk to
Sam about something you-"
She halted, epiphany overcoming her features. C.J. found herself getting very
nervous. What if Donna was right? She had the second okay, third biggest
mouth in the White House, after Sam himself and Margaret. She'd tell someone,
probably Josh, straightaway. C.J. closed her eyes, hearing the teasing now.
Thus, Donna's next words were something of a relief. "Oh, C.J. Did you and Sam
have a fight about something? You could have told me to leave, I would have
given you all the time you needed to patch it up."
C.J. had to smile wearily. "No, it's not that, Donna."
"Then what could it be?" Donna muttered, half to herself.
C.J. opened her mouth for another snarky reply, then thought better of it. Who
was she kidding? If Donna and Sam were together, then there wasn't a damn thing
she could do about it. She'd just have to deal with it and get through it. But,
she told herself, if they ever got married, she'd jump off a building. Sarcasm
of Donna's variety and Sam's optimism were not a good mix. Even though it hurt
like hell, she forced herself to smile. "Donna, it's all right," she said,
a sad grin.
Donna, to put it mildly, was confused. "What?"
C.J. smiled that same sad smile, and kept going. "I really should be offering
you my congratulations, I guess."
"Cong-rat-u-lations?" Donna echoed haltingly.
"Yeah." C.J. chuckled once, a short, mirthless sound. "I mean, come on. It
"What exactly is obvious?" Donna's brow furrowed.
C.J. sighed. Donna was really going to make her admit it. "The way you two
talk," she finally said. "The way you're not afraid to put your hands on
shoulders and stuff. The way you guys laugh together." She sighed again. This
hurt a lot more than she'd thought it would. "It's really obvious."
Donna raised her eyebrows. "And what man-of-my-dreams would I be doing all
these things with?"
C.J. was a little confused now. "Well... Sam, of course."
Donna stared at C.J. for a time, as if she had three heads. She was trying
valiantly not to laugh, but she finally lost it. "Sam??!?" Donna finally
spluttered, through fits of laughter. "You really, honestly think I'm in love
C.J. felt vaguely insulted. "What?"
Donna calmed down enough to answer. "C.J., he's... he's Sam!" she
waving a hand in dismissal. "He's the kind of person you go to with a minor
problem, or to get a pick-me-up when you're in a bad mood. He's a great friend.
He's not the type of guy you fall in love with."
C.J. lowered her gaze to the ground. She spoke softly. "He's the type of guy
*I* fell in love with." It was time to get over it and admit it to herself.
Donna paused. "Oh my God." There was another noticeable pause before she said,
"You're kidding, right?"
"Why does everyone keep asking me that!??!" C.J. snapped. Then, as if
remembering the conversation, her tone softened. "No. I'm not kidding."
Belatedly, Donna realized the cause of C.J.'s snippiness. "Oh, C.J., seeing us
together must have torn your heart out by the roots. I'm sorry."
"It's all right, how could you have known?" C.J. said, allowing herself a
smile. "But all the same, given that this is just a one-sided thing, I should -"
Donna cut her off. "What did you say?"
"I said that since this is just an infatuation of sorts, I should just try to
"One-sided?" Donna echoed incredulously. "C.J., are you blind?"
"What do you mean?"
As much as Josh had threatened her, Donna knew she had to come clean. Besides,
it was getting close to briefing time. "C.J., you know why I was with Sam all
"Because he wanted advice," Donna said matter-of-factly. "Advice on how to
you out so you'd say yes."
C.J. was fully unable to speak for approximately five minutes. What Donna had
said filled her with fear, elation and anticipation, but for some reason she
felt the strangest sense of peace. It was as if some higher plan had finally
been fulfilled. All was right with the world. She liked Sam. And Sam liked her.
And yet, when she finally spoke, her first thought was calm, cool and
professional. "Oh, my God. It's almost briefing time." And with that, she
up her briefcase and headed out of the office.
Donna trailed behind her. "C.J., you're inhuman!" she teased. "Your
thought after you discover an extremely good-looking man who thinks you're sexy
is of a press briefing?"
C.J. stopped in her tracks and turned to face Donna. "Oh, so you think he's
extremely good-looking?" This time, however, there was a trace of amusement in
"I do," Donna answered without hesitation. "But really, C.J.....
He's like my
older brother." She paused. "Know what I mean?"
"Yeah." C.J. smiled.
"I'm just sorry you might not wind up with him tonight," Donna answered.
mean, I found out about this after I'd given out the envelopes, and of course
there's no way to get them back now."
Just as quickly as C.J. had felt a giddy jubilation, now she came crashing back
down to earth. Damn. Donna was right. She'd have to spend Valentine's Day with
someone who wasn't Sam.
And that thought pissed her off more than she could say.
What did she ever do to deserve this?
Sam was asking himself much the same question as he turned his envelope over
and over in his hands. Why Margaret? he asked himself. He hadn't discovered his
boss's theft, so he still believed he held Margaret as a Valentine's Day date.
And that, though she was a nice woman, he could not deal with. Not if it meant
C.J. would be off with Josh, or Leo. Or someone else who wasn't him.
But whose envelope should he steal? Not Josh's, he might wind up with Ainsley
again. Leo was in meetings all day in his office. And he wouldn't go near the
President's office unless summoned.
That left Toby.
Sam closed his laptop, having finished his last speech for the moment, and
peered down the hall. Unless he missed his guess, Toby would be watching C.J.
deliver the four pm briefing. He hoped he was right.
Feeling more and more like a criminal, Sam slunk down to Toby's office. The
door was open, but the envelope was nowhere in sight. Damn! Now he'd have to
look for it, and he wasn't sure how much time he had.
Well, he'd have less time if he sat here thinking about it. Slowly, cautiously,
like an archaeologist in a tomb, Sam began to search. There was paper
everywhere, and it was difficult to see the desk, let alone a tiny white
Still, he persevered. He carefully set piles of paper aside as he searched,
with a precise touch that his critics would have called inhuman. Or
anal-retentive, whichever they thought of first. But where in hell was the
Then, he had it. Sam moved swiftly to Toby's closed laptop and opened it.
Inside, mocking him, was that white envelope.
Sam kicked himself for not thinking of it first. Whenever Toby wanted to hide
something flat, he put it there. The whole Wing knew, but Toby didn't know that
they knew. Well, they certainly didn't know if he knew they knew. But...
*My God,* Sam thought. *I'm even rambling mentally now.* He crept out of Toby's
office and back to his own, hoping for the best. He wondered whose name was in
the envelope he now held and wasn't going to open. Obviously it wasn't Margaret.
But who else?
Pondering his options, Sam gloomily decided it could be anyone. Even Ainsley's
envelope could have made its way to Toby, if Josh had been of the same mind Sam
had been. But as it stood, there was only a 1 in 4 chance that the name he now
held was C.J. Cregg.
Still, Sam decided, he'd hope for the best. Maybe he'd get Donna. She was a
friend, and they could talk all night about their unrequited loves. There was
another thing the whole Wing was aware of. Except for Josh, of course.
Heading down to his office, he noticed the people start to drift back into
theirs from the press room. He could hear Toby congratulating C.J. on how well
she had handled some issue. C.J., of course, was being her usual modest self,
saying it was no big deal.
Sam smiled. That was one of the things he appreciated most about her. Still, it
was also one of her greatest faults. She needed the credit she deserved, and the
confidence she deserved. It wasn't right that she should toil in the background.
He just hoped he got the chance to tell her that himself.
Just then that hope was answered as C.J. herself came up to him. "Hey, Sam."
"Hi." Sam grinned warmly at her, hoping she'd get the message. He
why she'd been so snippy all day, but it seemed to have worn off.
She understood. "Sam, I just wanted to apologise to you for today," C.J. said,
looking contrite. "I've been an evil bitch all day, and I'm sorry.
apologised to Donna."
"Okay," Sam answered, smiling at her. "No problem, it's over and done
C.J. debated for a moment, then finally admitted it. "It really was a stupid
reason to be upset," she said, smiling back at him ruefully.
"What was it, if I can ask?"
What the hell. "I thought you and Donna were together," C.J. said guiltily.
mean, *together* together."
Sam stared at her for a moment, then couldn't restrain the snickering that came
to the surface. "C.J., that's incredible." The thought hit him then,
*Why* would she bother to get upset? Better play it carefully.
"Yeah, Donna told me that too," C.J. said. "She said you guys were like
and sister, rather than boyfriend and girlfriend."
"That's pretty much it. Besides," Sam lowered his voice conspiratorially,
whole Wing knows she's in love with Josh."
"I help her with that."
"Really?" C.J. stared fondly at him. Yet another virtue to add to the man's
list. Damn, he was cute.
"Yeah," Sam shrugged, "it's the least I can do."
C.J. would later say it was that that pushed her to say it. "Sam, whatever
happens, have a happy Valentine's Day." Her tone was downcast, however, and
"You too, C.J.," Sam answered. Under his breath he mumbled, "Even if it
Unfortunately for Sam, C.J. had excellent hearing, and she'd had enough
surprises for the day. "What did you say, Sam?" she asked, her face growing taut
"I said..." Sam took a deep breath. Here came everything Donna had told him
say. This was his chance.
And it all went out the window. "I said have a great Valentine's Day, even if
it isn't with me," Sam finished in a rush. "I mean, I'm sure
you'll have a great
time with whoever you wind up with, and you'll -"
C.J. cut him off, with an affectionate, sad smile on her face. "Sam, that's one
of the nicest, most selfless things anyone's ever said to me." She faced him, a
small smile playing on the corners of her mouth. "I had no idea, quite honestly,
how you felt, until Donna felt compelled to tell me."
"She what!" Sam exclaimed. "How could-"
"Sam!" C.J. stopped him. "It was my fault; I pressured her. But she told
and I realised that you were pretty special to do all that for me." The
shit-eating grin that he found so attractive was out in full force, and it sent
his various internal organs flipping in different directions. "That takes
determination and guts."
"Well..." Sam trailed off, his heart in his throat. "I could learn a
you in that department."
They stood in the hallway, facing each other, not wanting to make a big
production out of it. And yet it was momentous for both of them. Sam finally
realised that all is fair in love and war, and C.J. realised that maybe opening
up wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Not if it got her this.
Finally, after eons, they broke their stare. "I have to go finish up," C.J.
said. "I'll see you in a couple hours."
"Right." They both moved to go their separate ways, and yet something brought
them back together. Sam's arms automatically moved around C.J.'s waist as he
brought her in close to him, and her lips met his with a surprising gentleness.
It only lasted a second or two, and yet Sam happily, that he knew there *would*
be a next time.
It ended abruptly. Sam felt the tingles march outward from his lips to crawl
down his back and make him dizzy. This was a special thing, and she was a
special woman. "Good luck with the briefing," he said softly.
"I'll see you later." C.J. put all her warmth into her smile as she turned
down the hall.
Seven o'clock couldn't come fast enough, just to get it over with. Sam kept
staring at the clock, willing the hands to keep turning. The speeches came and
went monotonously, and yet Toby never once complained. At six-forty, he stuck
his head in the door. "Sam?"
Sam shook himself out of his latest fog. "Yeah, Toby?"
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah, fine. Why?"
"Because of your writing."
Sam sighed. "I knew you'd complain about it all at once instead of five times
during the day." He extricated himself from his chair with some difficulty, and
stood to face his boss. "What's the most wrong?"
"That's just it, Sam," Toby said, a strange look on his face. "There
isn't anything fundamentally wrong with these."
"What?!" Sam's brow furrowed. "Toby, are *you* okay?"
Toby ignored his underling. "It's bizarre. These speeches are the right length,
touch on things in good order... you even added action verbs. And this language!
It's positively... economical!"
Sam reviewed the work he had done in a mental fog. They were definitely not his
usual touch. But if they satisfied Toby... Damn, *everything* was starting to go
"Sam, are these your speeches?" Toby asked abruptly.
"Of course they're my speeches!" Sam exclaimed, hurt that Toby would even
insinuate a thing like that.
"Well, you didn't have any help?"
"No!" What the hell was he trying to prove?
"Well, Sam..." Toby stopped, unsure of how to phrase this. "They just
sounds like something C.J. said, that's all."
Sam stared at him. Impulsively he began to laugh. "Oh, God, Toby," he said
through giggles, "if you knew the half of what's happened today, you'd get
find that hilarious."
Toby could only stare at his deputy. Finally, he muttered something along the
lines of, "Okay, Sam, that's great," and walked out of the office.
Sam spent the rest of the time pacing and debating how he'd handle each
perspective date. Donna? Talk all night about their various crushes at least
now, he couldn't say his was unrequited love. Ainsley? Not speak unless spoken
to, or unless he felt a sudden yearning need for her to babble on longer than
he'd ever been guilty of. Margaret? Ditto. The First Lady? Avoid annoying her on
any topic whatsoever. Probably just agree with everything she said. And C.J.?
Well, he'd play that one by ear.
As he paced, the minutes and seconds started to blur. Slowly, time passed until
it was the last thing on his mind...
It was 7:10. Donna checked her own timepiece impatiently as she waited for Josh
and Sam. "Where could they be?" she mused.
C.J. spoke up. "You know Josh's watch sucks, Donna. And as for Sam, he's
probably tied up with something." *Or he might just want to avoid this,* she
thought, *as I do.*
"Well, I'll wait two minutes longer," Donna announced. Everyone else was
congregated in the Oval Office, waiting patiently for the wayward staffers and
looking pleasantly excited.
At the last possible minute, Josh rushed in. "Sorry everyone, Senator Abrams
kept me on the phone." He addressed his assistant as an afterthought.
even start with me, Donnatella, I know my watch sucks." He looked around.
"We were wondering the same thing," Abbey Bartlet answered.
"Well, ma'am, I don't know," Josh answered. "Has anyone tried to
"Oh, hell, don't bother," Leo said. "Let's just do this, and
whoever's left is
"All right," Donna said. "If that's all right with everyone
yeses filled the room. "Then let's start," she announced, smiling.
President, why don't you go first?"
"All right." The President tore into his envelope, hoping for the best. Seeing
the name, he smiled. "Margaret, it seems we are together for Valentine's
"It's an honor, Mr. President." Margaret grinned, but said no more. She was
quite conscious of the teasing-threatening look the First Lady was shooting her
Toby went next. "Donna."
Josh let out an inward sigh of relief. Spending a Valentine's Day with Donna
would have been more than he could handle. He might accidentally have told her
Donna was smiling. She could easily handle Toby, and best of all she wouldn't
have to watch her tongue, like she would have with her boss. "Leo, care to go
"Certainly." Leo ripped open the envelope and revealed Ainsley's name.
Josh was smiling inside. No Ainsley for him, and no Ainsley for Sam. His friend
was one step closer to C.J. and a great Valentine's Day. If *he* didn't have
Just as that thought entered his mind, Sam opened the door and ambled in.
"Sorry I'm late, everyone." He held up his envelope. "Had to find
C.J. bit back a grin. "No problem," Donna said. "Josh was just going."
"All right." Josh tore open the envelope. Upon reading what was inside, a look
of utter happiness tore across his face. Still, he quickly suppressed it and
mockingly bowed low to the First Lady. "Mrs. Bartlet, I've drawn your name as a
dinner partner on this lovely night."
Abbey smiled. "Such a gentleman, Josh."
"Yes, let it stay that way," the President said, teasingly roguish grin on his
face. "Just remember two things, Josh. She's my wife, and the 82nd Airborne
works for me."
"Yes, sir." Josh was grinning. He wanted to see his friend's reaction as he
opened his envelope. This was going to be good.
Donna had also realised what was happening. She bit her lip to keep from
laughing as she watched Sam begin to struggle with the envelope.
C.J. hadn't been keeping track of everyone's matchups. She'd just waited
one of the guys crossed to her side, ready to start her Valentine's Day and her
night of having to hopelessly watch her tongue lest she let something slip. But
suddenly the picture in front of her registered: everyone was paired already
No, she couldn't be that lucky. Could she?
Sam, uninterested, was opening his envelope, ready to read Donna's name, or
Ainsley's name. Thus, he was completely shocked when he saw the familiar
slashing penmanship, and the letters C.J. on the paper in front of him.
His average cheerful, happy-go-lucky grin broke through the sour expression.
Still, this time there was something extra in it. "Who do you have, Sam?" Josh
Sam didn't answer, instead crossing to C.J.'s side. "It looks like
spending Valentine's Day together after all," he said to her, eyes lighting up
as hers did the same.
C.J. laughed. She could be this lucky, after all. "Yeah, I guess so."
He put an arm around her shoulders. "Just do me a favor."
"What?" C.J. asked, not caring if the President and entire Senior Staff was
Sam laughed wickedly. "Don't wear heels. It makes my job difficult, and I
like to stretch."
The significance of what he said was absorbed by everyone in the room. Josh and
Donna laughed, watching their friends. Leo, Margaret and Ainsley merely gaped,
astonished. Abbey smiled fondly. The President addressed them both. "Sam, C.J.,
does this mean what I think it means?"
"Yes, sir," Sam said. "It means C.J.'s agreed to go out with me."
"Hey!" C.J. joked. "I haven't agreed yet, Sam!"
The room broke up. "But are you two ready to face the press problems that will
inevitably occur here?" the President persisted. Smiling, he said, "Not that
not happy for you two. It's just..."
C.J. addressed her boss. "Sir, it's not as if we're getting married or
something. It's just a date and now I *am* agreeing," she said to Sam,
grinned and turned pink. "I think we can stand by our policy of not commenting
on White House staffers' personal lives, and we'll be fine."
The President nodded, once. "Well, then, I wish you all the best. And Sam, I
wish you good luck. You'll need it."
The room broke up again, with Sam turning even pinker and mumbling, "Thank you,
sir." The couples broke up to go get ready for dinner.
Still, Sam hung back. "You were serious, what you said to the President back
"Of course I was," C.J. said, taking his hand as they strolled to the parking
lot. "What, you think we shouldn't go out?"
"No, no," Sam said hastily, smiling at her. "It's just that you made
This is just a first step."
"Right," C.J. answered. "This is a baby step. It's not a flying leap
"Yeah." Sam paused before answering. "So, just one baby step at a time,
"Right." C.J. unlocked her car, which was parked a few spaces away from
"So, see you in about an hour?" she asked.
"I was told 8:30 at Chez Louis," Sam answered.
"Okay." C.J. couldn't stop smiling. She really had caught Sam's happy
told herself. "I can't wait. For more than one reason, this will be a great
"What's the other reason?"
"The food, of course." C.J. felt her stomach growl in anticipation. "We
share a plate of escargots when we get there. They're incredible, and I can't
finish one by myself."
"C.J.!" Sam whined. He chuckled, looking her full in the face. "I'm
snails, I'm sorry."
"Oh, try 'em, you big baby."
"Why should I?"
"Because I ask you to, nicely."
"Nicely, right. You *told* me."
"*Told* you? Sam, please..."
Sam couldn't resist. "C.J., what have I said about whining to me?" He
her joking attempted slap, got into his car and drove home, chuckling the whole
way. It really didn't get any better than this, he thought as he unlocked his
door, about to go in search of his tux. *It really doesn't,* he thought. *Or
Well, at least he and C.J. could try and find out.