Disclaimer-Characters belong to Aaron Sorkin save the minor guys I came up with. No copyright infringement is intended. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Author's Notes-Big huge thanks to Disney. You're fun to talk to and to commiserate with. Thanks so much for taking the time to beta-read this.
Spoilers-In the Shadow of Two Gunmen I or II... I forget which... And the episodes talk about Sam and Josh's career histories, too.
Archive-Go for it. Tell me where it is.
Spitfire Politico-The beginning of something wonderful.
He adjusted his necktie for the fifth time since entering the House cafeteria. He hadn't even made it to the cashier yet. It was his first day working for the Congressional Budget Office and he was meeting with several staffers of Appropriations Committee members. Mostly he was there to take notes while a fellow CBO staffer was to do the talking. His fellow CBO worker had yet to show. He had been taking copious notes when the old fogies of the Hill decided to give the poor young buck a break; they all went down to the cafeteria together, but he had no desire to sit with any of them. They had intimidated him enough already.
Paying for his meal, he looked at the dining area. Most of the staffers he had been meeting with were huddled in the back corner snickering. He had a feeling they were laughing at his expense. He took a deep breath and quickly scanned the rest of the dining room. Almost everyone had a dining companion. In fact, everyone did except for a lone brunette sitting at a table away from the rest of the people. She was engrossed in a file while sipping on water. He knew that if he sat alone, the staffers would rope him into eating with them. With the lady working, he could sit silently and try to enjoy his meal, mentally bracing himself for the next round.
"Excuse me," he said. She finished a line in the report before looking up and finding a pair of gorgeous cobalt blue eyes.
"Hello," she said.
"Hi," he said. "Um, I was wondering if I could join you?"
"Sure," she said, moving her briefcase off the table. "Have a seat."
"Thanks," he said, sliding into a chair across from her. "I don't normally intrude on others' tables, but..."
"It's quite all right," she said.
"Thanks." She could tell he was nervous.
"I'm Lisa. Lisa Cole," she said, extending her hand to him.
"Where's my head? My name is Sam Seaborn."
"Pleasure," she said as they shook.
"Don't let me keep you from your work," he said before starting on his salad. Lisa looked at the file then closed it.
"I didn't want to work on it anyway," she said. "I, uh, haven't seen you before." She picked up her sandwich to finish it off.
"That's probably because I've never actually been here before," he said.
"What do you do for a living, Mr. Seaborn?"
"Please, call me Sam." She nodded. "I just started working for the CBO. Yesterday as a matter of fact." She smiled.
"You from D.C.?"
"No wonder we've never met. You're a ways from home, aren't you?" He nodded. "I'm Congressman Rollins' chief of staff."
"Wow. Congressman Rollins... Where is he from? I'm not as up-to-date on my members of Congress as I should be."
"He's from Tennessee," she said. "And this is only the start of his second term. He's still a relatively new kid on the block." She smiled warmly at him. "So, in other words, Sam, you're not alone." He smiled back at her. There was something comforting about being in her presence. "What brings you to the Hill on your second day?"
"Preparation work on the budget." She nodded.
"I'll be seeing you again, then," she said. Sam raised an eyebrow. "Congressman Rollins is on the Appropriations Committee."
"Good," he said. There was a slightly awkward silence for a moment before Lisa spoke up.
"Pardon me, but... You don't look like a bean-counter."
"That would be because I'm a lawyer."
"Then what are you doing with the CBO?"
"Getting my foot in the door."
"There are dozens of other ways to do that," she said. "Interning, PACs..."
"They were looking for someone with some knowledge in law," Sam said, getting on the defensive.
"Forgive me," she said. She hadn't meant to step on his toes. "I guess I forget how lucky I was sometimes."
"Oh?" Sam asked.
"I was recruited out of college to head Congressman Rollins' staff."
"Really?" he asked. She nodded.
"The CBO is a truly phenomenal organization," she said. "Where would we be without it?"
"I would like to do something else, though. Maybe speech writing," Sam confessed. He had never said that aloud to anyone, not even to himself when he was alone in his tiny apartment. Why he was telling a total stranger was beyond him.
"Members of Congress could always use some good speech writers, somebody to keep their hot air fresh," she said with a wry smirk.
"I can ask around for you if you want," she said. "See if anybody's in the market for a scribe." He was taken aback.
"I... I don't know what to say."
"'Thanks' is normally a good way to answer."
"Thank you," he said, looking into her gray-blue eyes.
"You're welcome. I'll call you if I get any takers," she said as she stood.
"Um-how?" he said as she made sure her briefcase held everything she had brought down with her.
"I'll call the CBO. If you quit before I contact you again," she said, pulling a business card from her briefcase, "give me a call. Or even if you just want a friend-in D.C., everybody needs them. My pager and cell numbers are both on there. I'm never without them."
"Hate to run out on you, but I've got to get back to work."
"No, hey, I understand," he said. Sam stood quickly, holding his hand out to her. "It was nice meeting you." She shook his hand again.
"Nice meeting you. Good luck with your meetings." He nodded as she left. Sam remained standing for a moment before getting back to his lunch. He couldn't take his eyes off the business card. He was terribly new in D.C. and could use an "insider" friend. Glancing at the corridor she had disappeared down, he smiled.
As Sam and the congressional staffers started back for the conference room they were using, one of the staffers came up to Sam. "Do you know Lisa Cole?" he asked.
"I met her today," Sam said, curious as to where he was going or what he was after. The staffer looked back at his buddies and reached for his wallet, digging out a ten-dollar bill.
"Roger, you won," he said. "I don't believe it. I figured you must've known her. We all did." Sam looked at them quizzically.
"Lisa is sort of anti-social," he explained. "She'd rather yell at us than eat with us. She's very good at what she does. I heard she made one guy in the minority whip's office cry."
"She seemed awfully friendly to me," said Sam. The staffers laughed, which confused Sam to no end.
Lisa breezed into Congressman Richard Rollins' office. A staffer approached her the moment she stepped through the door. "Lisa," he said, "the mail came while you were gone."
"And?" she asked.
"Thirty more letters. Plus, fourteen e-mails and ten faxes. And those are just to our office here. The local offices are getting swamped with phone calls."
"Thanks, Billy. I'll talk to the congressman."
"He's got to do something."
"I'll convince him," she said. "Don't worry."
"Okay," he said as he started to walk off.
"Do you know if anybody's looking for a speech writer?"
"I don't know. Why? Are you thinking of jumping ship?" She shook her head.
"Trying to save a poor lawyer from the CBO," she said.
"I can make a couple calls."
"Don't worry about it. I'll look into it later." He nodded. She dropped her briefcase behind her desk, picked up a file folder, and knocked on Rollins' door.
"Come in," he called. Lisa opened the door and walked in, closing the door behind her. "What do you have, Lisa?"
"This problem isn't going to go away." He sighed, running both hands through his salt and pepper hair.
"We're the federal government, Lisa. We're not God no matter how hard we try to be."
"You've got to do something. Anything," she said. "If you don't do anything and quickly, you can kiss this office goodbye next year." He stood up.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked. "A rain dance?"
"Call the National Weather Service or NOAA. You've got to talk with somebody and we'll get a report out to the district."
"Why don't you call NOAA and write the press release?"
"Because I'm not in Congress. You are."
"Even if I call NOAA, I can't make it rain. They can't make it rain."
"The farmers are going to come to your nice estate in middle Tennessee with pitchforks and torches to fry your home. The whole damn state will go up in smoke with no water to douse the flames because it hasn't rained in *months* down there. You can't staff it out. You have to make a couple phone calls."
"Lisa, perhaps you've forgotten about the US budget for the next fiscal year? I'm up to my ears in tax numbers. Make the phone calls and leave me alone."
"Sir," Lisa said, "we're getting tons of correspondence from constituents asking why the hell you haven't done a thing. And you haven't! I've been trying to get you to do something since we hit the five hundred letter mark. We're getting pictures, too," she said, handing him the file folder. "Dead fields. Malnourished livestock. Children who are lucky to get two meals in a day because their parents aren't getting money from what should be thriving crops to buy groceries."
"Call Nashville," he said.
"They have. They've gone to the local and state levels and they're not doing a thing. It's up to us now."
"Lisa, it's up to us to get laws passed. It's not up to us to make it rain."
"And what about Farm Aid, huh?"
"That only raises so much money. And with the number of farmers we have in Tennessee, in our district alone..."
"Lisa-" A series of bells rang out. "I have a vote." He grabbed his suit coat and slipped it on.
"Sir, you can't ignore this anymore. You absolutely have to do something."
"There's absolutely nothing I can do," he said, waking towards the door.
"That's not true, sir," Lisa said, following him. "If anything, at least you can look like you're doing something."
"But I am doing something," Rollins said. "I'm going to go vote on a bill."
"Sir, I refuse to believe that you are going to hand this district over to a Republican next term because of the weather."
"I'm not," he said, stepping into the corridor.
"You will if you don't do anything."
"Save it, Lisa, and stay here." Lisa stalked back into the center of the congressional office as Rollins walked on. The staffers looked at her expectantly.
"Find out what the other Tennessee representatives are getting," Lisa said to no one in particular. She knew a staffer would get right on it and one did. Sighing, she walked back into her office.
Her thoughts flew to her family. She was the daughter of a farmer and a schoolteacher. Her father, Edward Cole, still grew soybeans and raised cattle on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Rollins' congressional district. He had called her the night before and had told her of the struggles they were going through. Her parents were too proud to ask her for money or to directly ask her for any sort of government help. She knew, though, that their bills were mounting and they were either going to have to sell or take out yet another loan from the bank. Swallowing hard, she knew they were already treading water in a sea of debt. It was only a matter of time before they got tired of swimming.
She felt powerless, sitting in her office. She was by no means through with Rollins. Somehow she would convince him to do something to help the farmers out. Drumming her fingers on her desk, she had to do something. She thought of Sam and picked up her telephone.
Sam shoved three legal pads worth of information into his briefcase, the one his father had given him upon graduating from Duke. Of course, his father had hoped that it would hold opening statements for high-profile court cases and various other legal briefs. Instead, it held page after page of stuff Sam didn't even pretend to understand. One of the staffers clapped Sam's shoulder before leaving. "Don't worry, son," he said. "It gets worse." Sam swallowed hard, watching the man leave, chuckling. He was beginning to believe his father had been right. He should have stayed and practiced law, not tried to help shape it.
His heart was somewhere around his knees as he started to leave the Capitol. Lisa's words bounced around in his head. He did need a friend. He needed several. He didn't have a single one he could call and ask for advice except her. What would she think of him, calling her up on his first day on the job? That he was weak? He shook his head and decided that maybe he wasn't cut out for politics.
His gait slowed down considerably when he realized he had gotten turned around somehow in the catacombs under the Hill. It was getting late and he wanted to go home. Not necessarily his cheap apartment in Arlington but his childhood home in California. He was about to give up when he heard a voice call out to him. "Sam?" He turned quickly to see Lisa. A wave of relief crashed over him.
"Hi," she said as she walked up to him. She looked at him quizzically. "You okay?"
"I'm a little disoriented. Which way do I go to get out of here?" She smiled warmly at him.
"I'm headed back to my office for a minute before I leave. Why don't you come with me?" He nodded as she led the way through the catacombs and up to the Rayburn House Building. "Have you ever been on Capitol Hill before? Taken the tour?"
"No, today is a definite first." She nodded. "Do you know much about the building?"
"It's called the Capitol. The round thing is the Rotunda. There's a fountain outside."
"In other words, you know about the same as me?"
"And I work here," she said. "Go figure. How'd your first day on the Hill go?" she asked, leading him down the corridor to Congressman Rollins' office.
"I'm beginning to regret not taking up Dewey/Ballantine's offer."
"It's a good firm," Lisa said with a nod. "Come on in." He was not about to stop following her. She was his ticket out of the building and hopefully in the right direction to go to Arlington. The office was practically deserted at seven o'clock. "Was your day that bad?"
"Pretty much," he said with a nod, following her straight into her office.
"Well, I assure you, it'll get better," she said, grabbing her briefcase.
"One of the guys I was with earlier told me it would get worse."
"He's trying to scare you." Gathering several files, she slipped them into the briefcase.
"He did an excellent job of it."
"Politics is a cutthroat business, Sam. I won't lie to you on that. But when it works, it's a beautiful thing." He nodded. "Ah," she said, snatching up a scrap of paper. "I had been looking for this for two hours." She handed it to him.
"Six congressmen and a senator are looking for speech writers. Three are Republicans, three are Democrats, and one's an Independent. I didn't know your party affiliation, so... Of course it all depends on if you want to leave the CBO still."
"Lisa," he said, looking up at her. "I didn't expect this..." She smiled.
"The beauty of politics."
"How can I ever thank you?" She shook her head.
"Don't worry about it."
"What you said earlier about friends," he started.
"I could really use one. You're the only person who has bothered to give me the time of day. Even at the CBO..." She gestured to one of the chairs in front of her desk. He slowly sat down as she crossed to sit beside him.
"You're thinking you never want to lay eyes on this place again, right?"
"That nothing good can come from this godforsaken building?" He nodded. "Some days I feel that way, too." He cocked his head to one side. "Truth be told, Sam, I would mark this day down as a total waste if not for meeting you."
"I find that hard to believe."
"My boss won't listen to me," she said. "He used to. He used to value my opinion. Today I couldn't say anything to him without his jumping on my case." She sighed. "It's been a long day." She looked at him seriously. "You'll be hearing this quite a bit, especially if you start working in one of these offices. You're like a breath of fresh air: young and idealistic. What some might call 'fresh meat.' You'll become jaded soon enough."
"You couldn't possibly have been here long enough to turn cynical," he said.
"You're very kind," she said, "but I've been here for three years now, running this office. I've seen and done some things that would make ordinary citizens hair curl. It tilts your perception a bit."
"Are you telling me that I should... What are you telling me?"
"Exactly," she said. "That's what we do around here. We talk in circles and before you know it, you're dizzy. What I'm telling you, Sam, is that, if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded in ways you never thought possible and you'll have some of the worst days of your life here. If you go work for Dewey/Ballantine, you'll be rewarded in ways you never thought possible and you'll have some of the worst days of your life. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which road you want to go down." Sam inhaled slowly, glancing down at the list of names in his hand. "But know this, too." He looked at her. "I'd be honored to be your friend." She waited a beat before adding, "If you're a Democrat, that is." He grinned.
He had needed that. He had needed that in more ways than she could ever know. She refueled his political fire, nurturing his soul. "I'm Sam," he said, holding his hand out to her. "Bleeding-heart liberal." She shook his hand proudly.
"For that, my friend, we are going to this bar in Georgetown tonight, that is, if you're up for it."
"Excellent," she said, grabbing her briefcase and standing up. As they started to go, Sam's curiosity was getting the better of him.
"Did you really make a guy in the whip's office cry?"
"See, you've already heard some of the Hill's gossip. It wasn't cry so much as whimper and beg for mercy."
"Yeah. He thinks he's so much better than the rest of us, a real jackass. He attacked the bill my boss wrote and, well, I took it a little personal." She shook her head. "And he's a fellow Democrat."
"What's his name? So I can watch out for him?"
"Joshua Lyman. Yes, do watch out for him. He's a certifiable pain in the ass. Stay as far away from him as possible."
Flannigan's was like any other Irish pub: plaid wallpaper, green and cream colored tablecloths, warm wooden bar, and a quaint ambiance to boot. It was Lisa's favorite bar. She had been to several in the D.C. area but none were as friendly or as comforting as Flannigan's. Having left their briefcases in Lisa's car, they saddled up to the bar. Collin Flannigan himself walked up to them. "Ah, Lisa. What'll it be tonight?"
"The usual," she said. Flannigan glanced at Sam as he poured Lisa a rum and Coke with much more soda than alcohol.
"He with you?"
"Yeah, Collin. This is Sam. Sam, this is Collin Flannigan, owner of this great establishment."
"Any friend of Lisa's is welcome here," Flannigan said. "What'll it be?"
"Uh, just a beer."
"Import or domestic?"
"Bottle, tap?" Lisa cleared her throat and Flannigan turned to her, placing the drink in front of her.
"He's had a hard day," she explained. "He'll leave it up to your good judgment." Flannigan winked at her and returned a moment later with a bottle for Sam.
"Thanks," Sam said.
"You need anything, you let me know," said Flannigan before wandering off. Lisa swiveled in her barstool to look at Sam.
"Collin likes to bring you exactly what you want. If you aren't specific enough, he'll ask you questions until you don't want a drink anymore," explained Lisa.
"Ah," said Sam.
"Let's toast," she said. "To friendship and to surviving Congress."
"Hear, hear." They clinked their drinks before taking a sip. Sam noticed several gentlemen walk up behind Lisa. One of them tapped her shoulder. She placed her cup on the bar and turned.
"Oh, it's you," she said.
"What brings you by, Miss Spitfire Politico?" asked the man in the lead of the group, slurring his sentence lightly.
"The last time I looked, it was still a free country." Sam watched the exchange closely.
"This is a private establishment. I do believe that Collin can throw you out whenever he likes."
"If he doesn't throw you and your buddies out first," countered Lisa.
"Lisa, who is this guy?" Sam asked.
"I see you've got a man now, Lisa. I didn't know anybody could melt that ice heart of yours."
"Well, I guess it's better to have a heart of ice than to not have one at all," she said pointedly.
"And who's the lucky winner of the jackpot?" he asked, ignoring her last comment and looking straight at Sam.
"Who are you?" queried Sam.
"Lyman," he said. "Josh Lyman." Sam looked at Lisa quickly.
"This is the guy you made cry?" Lisa smirked and decided that Sam was definitely okay.
"Yeah. This is the guy who started *begging* me for forgiveness with tears streaming down his face." Josh's buddies started to snicker.
"I did not cry," he said. "I did not beg. I told *you* off."
"I've got witnesses," Lisa said. "Half of Congress will testify to it."
"Half of Congress are pathological liars."
"The half that didn't see it, yeah," Lisa said. "Why don't you go away? Find a Republican to bother."
"Because I'd rather work at knocking you down a couple pegs."
"You know you'll lose," she said.
"I will not," insisted Josh.
"If I were you," she said, "I'd sit down before I embarrassed myself."
"Well, you're not me," he said.
"Thank God. A hopelessly single political operative who's pushing thirty real fast and with nowhere to go but down?"
"Better than being all holier-than-thou, running a congressional office at eighteen." Sam glanced at Lisa. She had definitely looked young but if she started working for Rollins at eighteen that meant she was twenty-one and that didn't make much sense. He had never figured her to be that young.
"And what were you doing at eighteen?" she asked. "Bashing mailboxes? Sneaking into nightclubs?"
"I sure as hell wasn't parading around D.C. like a circus freak." Sam watched as Lisa clenched her jaw closed tightly. He hadn't known her very long. He had only spent maybe an hour with her altogether but her expression made him wonder what was going to happen next. Lisa was perfectly still for a moment before lashing out, grabbing Josh's tie and yanking him down to her level.
"Listen here, punk," she said, "take a hike before you no longer have the ability to walk."
"Empty threats," he said. Lisa could smell the alcohol on his breath. It was nearly overpowering.
"Leave and find some breath mints," she said. Sam was beginning to wonder if he should alert the barkeep, half-afraid things might come to blows. His education at Duke may have prepared him to fight in a courtroom but it did little for barroom brawls.
"Hey, hey, hey. No hooligans in my pub!" Flannigan said, noticing the crowd gathering around the bar. His first thought was that Lisa's friend and one of the other patrons were causing the trouble. He was shocked to see that Lisa was one of the troublemakers.
"You heard the man, Josh," she said. "Go find someone else in another bar to terrorize." Josh made no move to leave. "You know," she said, releasing his tie, "I bet that if we worked together, like good little Democrats should, we'd be an unbeatable team."
"Y'think?" he slurred. Lisa nodded and leaned closer to him.
"It would prevent me from having to kick your ass."
"That's a good reason, too." She nodded. "Have a good night."
"You, too," Lisa said with a sweet smile as Josh led his posse off. Sam watched as the group filed past them and out of the bar.
"In all my days, Lisa, I never thought you'd be at the center of something like that," Flannigan said.
"Sorry you had to see that, Collin," she said. "No harm, no foul I hope." He shrugged and walked away. She took a sip of her drink and looked at Sam. "Hi."
"Hi," he said warily. "So that was-"
"And do you think he'll be back to bug you?" She nodded.
"I count on it. That's the tenth time since I met him."
"And how come you haven't, I don't know, filed a restraining order?"
"He's just a jerk," she said. "He's not worth the paperwork."