Warnings/Spoilers/Disclaimers: see pt 1

Again muchas gracias to my friend Stef, for (if this is a word) dialogual inspiration. =)

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Josh was thinking essentially the same thing. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't like being snarky. It was just the only way he knew how to deal with a lot of the situations he encountered. Besides, what exactly do you say to your two best friends, who have just started a serious relationship?

He fumbled around on his desk for the latest project that required his attention. However, finding nothing, he was forced into the open. "Donna!" he called. "Can I have file 25-869-361 please?"

She came in with it quickly, laying it on top of his other paper stacks with a little flourish. "Anything else, Mr. Lyman?" she asked, face deadly serious but voice betraying acute amusement.

Josh glowered at her. "Go away, Donna." She didn't answer; just left. Of course, Josh reflected to himself, that *would* be her way of hurting him even more. For some reason the thought of a distant Donna nagged at him. It bugged him like a fly on the wall; fine when one was unaware, but once you noticed it drove you mad. But he couldn't fix things. Not now. Not yet.

And he *was* angry. Angry that they were together. It was completely wrong; why couldn't they see it for what it was? Angry that they seemed to give no thought to anyone else. Well, by his own stratagems, he'd change that. But how? He didn't want to let the cat out of the bag; C.J. would probably never forgive him and he didn't want that. But how could he get them to realise what a mistake they were making?

Then, he had it.

Vaulting out of his chair, Josh set off down the hall and knocked on C.J.'s door. With a firm injunction to himself to control his temper, he entered when she bid him to.

Her face immediately contorted into an expression of icy politeness. "Josh. What can I do for you?"

"Actually, C.J.," Josh answered, keeping his face cool and composed, "I just wondered if you'd run over my thesis here. See if it's okay for the next briefing."

C.J. relaxed a tiny bit; it was work-related. She took the paper, asking, "What's this deal with?"

"Congressman Kane has a harassment suit pending against him," Josh answered. "It hasn't been leaked to the press yet, but one of his aides started out by dating him, then when they broke up she brought a harassment suit."

"Oh." C.J. realised that sounded really stupid, but she did not trust herself to speak further, and she swore Josh would not see the galvanic effect his words had just had on her. Was that what was destined to happen between her and Sam? Theoretically, Sam could even bring a suit against her. It wasn't just limited to women. Would they end up not speaking at all, except through their various lawyers?

C.J. shuddered. She had to talk to Sam. Unfortunately, she knew what she had to do, and it wasn't something she relished.

Meanwhile, she had to deal with Josh. "Um, yeah. Yeah, sure, I'll read it."

"Thanks." Josh laid the paper on her desk and walked out. He wasn't smiling, for he hadn't enjoyed what he'd just done. But, he told himself, it was necessary. This way, his best friends would stay best friends, and no one would be hurt. Well, not any more than necessary.

At the same time, C.J. was finding it difficult to keep her mind on Josh's paper. It would be suitable for the briefing, she was sure. But the personal implications kept running through her head. A suit... personal problems... her and Sam's careers ruined; they'd never show their faces in Washington again...

She stood abruptly, thinking a walk would clear her head. Leaving her office, she turned into the hallway and was immediately confronted by the last person on earth she wanted to be faced with at that moment: Sam.

He was so chipper, as always. "Hey, C.J.," he said, pleasant smile on his face. "Do you have a minute to go over the last item about the German ambassador?"

"In a bit, yeah." C.J. knew she sounded downtrodden, but didn't care. "I need to take a walk."

Sam's face fell artistically. "Are you all right, C.J.? You don't sound so good."

"Yeah, well." C.J. couldn't look at him. She was going to hurt him. That ripped her apart, but she knew it was for the best. And besides, the sooner she spoke the better it would be. "Sam, we have to talk."

"OK, sure." He gestured to his open office, holding the door open for her and following. "What's up, C.J.?"

*Get it out in the open,* she told herself. *Get it over with and just walk away.* Preparing herself, C.J. did just that. "Sam... I've done a lot of thinking about this. And I think that we should see other people, at least for now."

She should have known he'd react the way he did. Sam had a way when he was upset, depending on the object of his anger. Sometimes he'd either use guilt to rub it in the person's face. And sometimes he'd look at the person in very real pain, asking silently why they were doing this to him. This situation definitely called for the second look. C.J. could feel the school of piranhas chomping on her heart for doing this to him. Damn politics.

He finally spoke. "Why would you think that, C.J.?"

"I was just thinking for the future, I guess." She turned her face to the wall. "About harassment suits and awkward relationships and barriers. You're my friend. I don't want that."

"Oh. I see." I'm your *friend?* Sam wanted to scream. Just a *friend?* Maybe it was best to end this if she felt that way. But what annoyed him was that they really hadn't even had a chance to find out what the relationship was. It sure felt like more-than-friends to him.

Aloud he said heavily, "Well, C.J., I'm not mad at you. I understand where you're coming from."

"I'm glad." C.J. permitted herself a small smile. "I still want to be friends with you, Sam."

"I'm glad," Sam echoed, thankful that his face didn't reflect the utter frustration he felt inside.

There was really nothing else to say. The two sort of stared at each other lamely. Finally, C.J. hazarded, "Well, I have to go find Josh. I have his briefing on the Congressman's harassment suit."

Sam's brow furrowed. "But Josh said he'd show that to Toby, and then to Simon." Simon Glazer was the deputy press secretary.

C.J. shrugged. "So he showed it to me."

"Yeah, I guess you're right." But even as he spoke the idea jumped into Sam's head. Josh had shown C.J. the report on purpose. It would be like him. He was manipulative, and it would be the way he'd get his ideas across.

"I'm going to kill him," Sam said under his breath, with a vehemence that even shocked himself.

"What?" C.J. said.

Sam waved a hand irritably. "Nothing. But hey," he said, tone growing soft. "Promise me one thing."

"Yeah?"

Sam smiled boyishly, inside already plotting ways to kill Josh. "When you're ready... call me?"

"I promise." C.J. felt her throat choke up, and not for the first time damned her job. And yet, she'd never give it up. Rather than lose it in front of Sam, she simply ducked out of the room.

 

  You're So Vain - 5

 

 

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