Sam jerked himself awake. He absently rubbed his aching neck as he wondered what time it was. The Wing was abnormally quiet. Could he have fallen asleep for so long?

Trying to remember what he'd been doing before his void, he came up with the answer quickly: he'd been trying to finish the work he had so he could have an evening with C.J. guilt free. And ask her a rather important question. Checking his watch, he recoiled in horror. His reservation was at eight p.m. It was now 7:25.

Sam swore and jumped to his feet. Did he have anything else to finish? Rifling through his files, he was gratified to see he'd finished nearly everything, and what he hadn't would wait.

But why was it so dark? It usually wasn't so dark at 7pm. Oh, well. No matter. He shrugged into his suitcoat, gently hitting his blinds as he did so. Diving into the desk, he grabbed the ring box, making sure that the ring was inside. He smiled to himself nervously. This had to go well. If not... well, he wouldn't think about that.

Turning to leave the office, he had a thought and shifted the blinds to see what sort of night awaited him. Then Sam was struck with a terrible realization as he beheld the weather.

Rivulets of hail stuck on his window. Though the lights in the office were off, Sam still couldn't make out the tree outside his office window. He heard the howl of the wind and as he brought a hand to the window he could feel the frost.

"Shit." Sam went to lift the phone and was appalled to find the line silent. Madly he tore out of the office and down the hall. The Wing was positively ghostly without the normal hustle and bustle, and this only added to Sam's anxiety.

Hearing noise, he followed the sound until he stood outside C.J.'s door. "C.J.!" he called.

C.J. opened the door. "Hey, Sam."

"Have you looked outside?" Sam's voice was hard, fraught with alarm.

"No, why?"


C.J. turned back into her office and opened her blinds. The same frigid picture assaulted her eyes. "Oh, damn," she said, eyes full of concern. "It looks terrible out there."

"Yeah." Sam hung his head. "It's supposed to be one of the worst on record."

C.J., as was her strong suit, reacted quickly. "Then come on, Sam, let's get out of here before it gets any worse!" She grabbed her coat, directing Sam, "Go back and get your stuff too." Sam made the mad dash back to his office, tossing the files into his briefcase. He arrived back into the hallway just as C.J. was locking her office. "Come on. Down to the door."

"We'll take my car," Sam added. "It'll be safer." Sam drove a four-wheel drive Expedition, which C.J. jokingly referred to as the 'suburban assault vehicle.'

It was the measure of her state of mind that she didn't argue. "That's all right," C.J. called over her shoulder as she strode rapidly down to the door and the Secret Service checkpoint.

At the exit doors, however, she was stopped. "Sorry, Ms. Cregg, Mr. Seaborn," one of the agents said. "President's orders. No one leaves. It's too damned dangerous."

While C.J. began to argue, Sam felt himself slipping closer and closer to despair. If they couldn't leave the White House, then they couldn't have dinner, and Sam couldn't, at least tonight, ask C.J. to be his wife. And besides that, the prospect of sleeping on his couch didn't appeal to him in the slightest.

He tuned back in just as C.J. admitted grudging defeat. "Fine," she said, in a huff. "I'll be in my office, trying to get comfortable." She turned and stalked back in the direction they had come. Sam hustled to catch up with her.

Once he had done so, his natural peacemaking side came through. "There could be worse things, C.J.," he said, though he could feel his own hopelessness flowing through his veins.

C.J. muttered something, then paused as a brainwave struck her. "I wonder if anyone else is still here."

"Maybe, why?"

C.J.'s smile was devilish. "Well, at least if we have the wing to ourselves ..."

She let the sentence dangle, and Sam felt himself blush. Still, he had to beg off, much as he didn't want to. His concentration wouldn't be on her, and that would cause comment. "C.J., I really shouldn't. I, uh... have work to do."

Her face fell. "You have *got* to be kidding."

"Sorry. I have to..." Sam racked his brain. "I have to finish the specs for the welfare speech next week. Leo wanted it by tomorrow morning."

"And you have to work on that *now?*" Sam could feel his resolve weakening, but he knew it was the best decision. Still, C.J. was especially attractive when moping.

Finally he just did what he knew was best. "I'm going to see if anyone else is here." Quickly he walked away, not daring to watch the look on her face. If she was still there, he needed a moment with Donna. She would know what to do.

Sam was on pins and needles by the time he got to Josh's office. He heard sounds from within and barged in.

His friend was indeed there, and in a foul mood. "Dammit!" Josh yelled to no one in particular. "I said I had to get out of here, and did I do it? No!" Upon seeing Sam, however, Josh calmed slightly. "Oh, hey, you're still here?"

"Yeah, did you hear the news?" Sam said, slightly rushed. Al l the fear and adrenaline was slowly coming to a head. "We can't leave, the President said it's too dangerous because there's hail and ice, and now I can't keep my reservation with C.J. and I can't ask her to marry me, which -"

"Sam!" Josh had to cut off the ramble. "Yes, unfortunately, I knew that. Donna's off somewhere. Is C.J. here too?"


"Then what's the big deal? It's not like you're going to keep her waiting at the restaurant," Josh answered.

"Yeah," Sam said slowly. He sighed. It had sounded right in his head, but now it just sounded stupid. Still he said, "I was just really prepared, finally. I was ready to ask her, and now I'm questioning myself again."

Josh sighed. "Dammit, Sam, you know I'm no good at this stuff." Sam nodded. "Still, I mean, what can you do? Just -" He cut himself off. "Just wait. There's nothing else you can do, so why not work on something to take your mind off it."

"I guess you're right." Sam sighed. Unfortunately, Josh was right. If the President wanted them to stay, there wasn't much he could do. He'd just try to avoid C.J. until he had a better grip on his emotions. "Is there anything you need my help on?"

"Yeah, actually." Josh fished in a drawer and came up with a large stack of magazines. "Take these, and search them." They were all copies of The Advocate, a magazine for the gay and lesbian community. "I'm working on an addendum to the newest gay rights bill and I was told about one of their columnists who's now in Washington as a consultant, and I think she might help me. I need you to search these and clip her columns."

"I can do that, sure." Sam took the stack and reflected that it would keep him for some time. "Thanks, Josh."

"Not a problem, believe me." Josh cracked a smile, sensing his friend needed a joke. "Hey, I never thought I'd see the day you thanked me for giving you work."

"Trust me, I could use it." Sam found himself telling Josh all his reasons for avoiding his girlfriend. "Do you know what she was saying when she found out we were stuck here?"

"I can guess." Josh smirked, recalling a particularly juicy story about honey and whipped cream.

Sam flushed. "Well, not like I'd mind. But..." He sighed. "My concentration would have been elsewhere."

"I get you."

"Right." Sam turned to leave, then thought better of it. "Can you have Donna come by my office later?"


"Thanks." Sam made his way down to his own office, unlocking it and making his way inside. He was soon lost in work, yet his problem was never far from his mind.


Too Marvelous for Words - 6




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