For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.
Previously, on the West Wing: Sam, a new CBO employee, meets a congressional chief of staff, a woman named Lisa Cole, as well as a drunk congressional staffer, Josh Lyman.
Sam angrily slammed his apartment door. That was the last straw-he was going to make phone calls in the morning to the list of names Lisa had given him. He had decided to tough it out with the CBO until he felt confident enough to try his hand at speech writing for a United States Congressman or Senator. Now, though, he was through listening to the drivel of number crunchers. He was so sick of them that he was ready to crunch *their* numbers. He dropped his briefcase by the door and practically ripped off his tie and jacket. He had only been in Washington three weeks and he hated every waking moment. He stopped walking through his apartment when he thought that-because he really didn't. There were a few moments that were pleasant, moments he actually looked forward too-his meetings with Lisa.
She had become a great friend. They often got together for lunch in the cafeteria or would meet at quaint restaurants for breakfast. A few nights they met at Flannigan's for drinks and traded verbal spars with Josh Lyman. Those, Sam decided, were fun, too. The last meetings had been the best because the fights had been exaggerated. The three had finally come to an understanding. The more he thought about Lisa, the more he wanted to see her, the more he wanted to hear her reassuring voice. He hadn't seen her at all that day. Inhaling sharply, he crossed to his telephone and dialed her cell number.
Lisa thanked the clerk at the dry cleaners for the seventh time. "I really do appreciate you staying open late for me."
"Hey," he said. "We aim to please, especially for our friends on Capitol Hill." Lisa nodded as she paid her bill. About that time, her cell phone started ringing. "I believe that's you," he said, noticing she wasn't even reaching for a phone. Lisa suddenly started feeling her blue jeans pockets for the phone, having forgotten where she had placed it. She glanced at her feet, at her purse leaning against her shoe. Sighing, she bent over to rifle through her bag and pulled out the ringing phone.
"Hello," she said as the clerk handed her back her change.
"Sam?" she asked with a smile.
"What's up?" she asked, pocketing the change and grabbing her purse and several hangers.
"I, uh..." Her smile faded.
"Sam, what's the matter?" He swallowed hard.
"Where are you?" she asked as she walked as quickly as she could out of the shop and towards her car.
"Nothing, Lisa. Really." She juggled her laundry, purse, and cell phone to try and unlock her car.
"You know I don't believe you so why don't you try answering me again," she said. With the passenger side door opened, she dropped her purse onto the seat and hung her laundered clothes on the hook.
"I just... I just..." As she closed the car door, she licked her lips, waiting for him to continue. He didn't.
"I'm on my way, okay?"
"You want me to keep talking to you on the phone or can you wait until I get there? 'Cause I'd be more than willing to ramble."
"I'll see you when you get here."
"All right, sweetie. Hold on, okay?"
"Yeah." She didn't hang up until he did. And when he hung up, a dread fear grew rapidly, beginning in her heart and soon spreading all over her. She sped to get to his apartment in Arlington. By some miracle, no police officers pulled her over. She could only imagine the speeding ticket she would have gotten. Knocking on his door, she hoped everything was okay.
"Lisa," he said eagerly as he opening the door.
"What's the matter?" she asked, looking at his face as he let her in.
"I just..." She reached up with one hand and gently touched his jaw.
"I get the 'I just...' Let's see if we can get this to say anything else, 'kay?" He smiled faintly.
"I wanted to see you."
"There's a good start."
"I had a bad day."
"What happened?" she asked, taking his arm and guiding him to the couch. He shrugged lightly. "You're going to have to do better than that."
"I can't go back there, Lisa."
"What happened?" she asked again, sitting next to him and taking one of his hands in both of hers.
"I just can't take it."
"Tell me," she said gently but firmly. He shook his head; he didn't want to tell her. It was kind of dumb but so very aggravating. "C'mon, Sam," she tried. "You can tell me."
"I want to," he said, unable to look at her face.
"Then *do*," she said. "Tell me."
"I'm not a bean counter."
"They think all lawyers should be able to do the math that they do. And I can," he said, looking up at her. "Some of it. Most of it's crap." She nodded. "And they expect you to be perfect. What am I? An arithmetic god? I don't think so. And I can't go back there. I can't face them again."
"What'd they do to you, Sam?" she asked. She watched as a darkness consumed his eyes-the innocence was gone, the idealism had vanished.
"I'm a lawyer. I'm not a mathematician."
"Yes, Bones," she said, "but what'd they do?" A hint of laughter lightened the darkness in his eyes, making her smile briefly.
"I thought I could deal with it and I can't."
"Deal with what?"
"After a while, all those damn numbers just run together." She nodded; she understood. "And so what if I accidentally transposed a couple numbers? And so what if it froze the computer system? I don't think it warranted such a verbal chastisement." Whatever light had been in his eyes was gone again. She squeezed his hand lightly, knowing how humiliating it must have been for him.
"You want to know my opinion of the CBO, present company excluded of course?"
"What?" he asked, looking at her.
"They're all bastards over there," she said. "They sure think they've got all the answers but they don't have any. Numbers can be made to say anything, support anything. I, personally, have worked with the numbers they provide for the budget and turned them around. They're not as important as they'd like to think." She looked at him seriously. "I'm not as up on my criminal law as you are, but... Couldn't you sue for psychological damages?"
"Theoretically? How about realistically?"
"Realistically, the suit wouldn't hold much water."
"What are you gonna do?"
"I already gave them my notice." Her eyes widened.
"You did what?"
"I gave them my two week notice. They told me not to bother coming back, that I was through anyway."
"Oh, Sam," she said. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not. I'm glad I'm out."
"So what now?" He looked at the refrigerator in the background.
"I'm going to make some calls to the people on that list you gave me." She smiled.
"Good for you."
"What if I don't get it?"
"Don't get a job?" He nodded. "Of course you will. Don't think like that."
"What if I don't, though?"
"Sam... Don't let them get to you like this. This isn't the be-all, end-all. You'll come out of this on top in the end, I assure you."
"I wasn't their first choice for the CBO."
"Of course you weren't. You're not a mathematician. You're a lawyer. You'll fit wonderfully into any congressional office on the Hill."
"What if my speeches are boring?"
"Seriously, Lisa. What if-"
"Stop right there," she said.
"No what if's. None. I won't hear them."
"None of those, either. You can do this, Sam. I know you can."
"Lisa..." She stood up abruptly and pulled him to his feet with her. "Wha-"
"Shh!" she said, guiding him to a mirror on the wall. "Who is this?" she asked, standing him in front of the reflective pane.
"What's your name?"
"Sam Seaborn what?"
"Lisa," he said, turning to her. She pushed his face back to the mirror with her hand.
"Sam Seaborn what?"
"Sam Seaborn loser?"
"Sam Seaborn, lawyer."
"What do you want?"
"What do you want?" she asked.
"I want to know what you want."
"Wrong answer," she said. "What is it you want, Sam Seaborn, lawyer?"
"I want a job."
"What kind of job?" He glanced at her.
"I'm the lawyer. I'm the one who should be asking questions."
"Answer mine, Sam. What kind of job?"
"String it all together now."
"Sam Seaborn lawyer speech writer. Now what?"
"Do you see it?"
"Sam Seaborn lawyer speech writer?"
"No." She sighed.
"Look harder." She bit her tongue to keep from laughing at his expression, studying his own visage in the mirror.
"I see a very troubled guy." Her happiness disappeared when he said that.
"Because I really don't know what I want."
"Yes you do."
"Everyone knows what they want. You're just having doubts right now. Do you see what it is you want?" He looked at her in the mirror.
"I don't know."
"Yes you do. Do you see what you want?" He nodded. "What is it?"
"I want to know what I want."
"You don't want to be a speech writer?"
"I don't know."
"You're going to have to figure it out, Sam."
"Do I have to figure it out now?"
"So long as you get a job before your rent is due, I guess not," she relented.
"Do you want a drink? I've got some beers or..."
"Sure." He nodded but remained standing in front of the mirror. "Go sit down," she said. "I'll get 'em." Then, when he looked at her, she said gently, "It's okay." He walked over to his couch and wound up lying down on it, feeling as though his insides had been trampled by a herd of wild elephants. Lisa quietly retrieved two bottles from his nearly empty refrigerator, uncapped them, and handed him one before resorting to sitting on the floor with her back to the coffee table. There was an empty armchair flanking the couch but she preferred to sit cross-legged on the floor.
"I didn't ask this before, 'cause I've always been told, y'know, it's not polite to."
"Ask away. Whatever it is," she said.
"The day we met," Sam said, looking at her, "Josh said something about... You were eighteen when you started working for Rollins?"
"How does that work?" She started picking at the bottle label.
"Graduated early," she said simply.
"Really?" She nodded. "No wonder you were recruited to *run* his office, being so smart and all." She shrugged. He was surprised to see her so modest. "Aren't you proud of it?"
"Of course I am. But people treat me differently because of it." Sam was silent for a moment, thinking.
"Have I?" She laughed.
"No. Well, you're... You've treated me differently but in a very good way."
"So most of the time I try to keep how old I am quiet, y'know?"
"Sure. Can I ask something else?" he asked, sitting up long enough to take a sip.
"Ask anything. I don't mind."
"How come you have a mottled accent?" Sam asked.
"Pardon?" she asked, taking a swig of her drink.
"You don't seem to have a southern drawl. Except when you drink or it's late," he said, turning to look at her. "I have a chair, too, y'know."
"I like the floor," she said. "As for my accent being mottled, I'm sure it has something to do with sitting down with the honorable representatives from Louisiana, New York, California, and Kansas for a long chat."
"Yeah?" She nodded. "How'd your day go?" he asked before taking a sip. She laughed lightly.
"You want to know how my day went?"
"Yeah. Why's that funny?"
"Comparatively speaking, it was fine."
"What happened on the Hill today?"
"We're still arguing over HR 119."
"What's HR 119?"
"This environment bill with a provision for drought tacked on at the bottom."
"Tennessee is in the middle of a really bad drought," Lisa said. Even as upset as he was he could hear pain in her voice.
"What's wrong, Lisa?"
"Something's wrong. What is it?"
"Farmers are having a hell of a time back home."
"So they're our constituents. We should care."
"And Congressman Rollins doesn't?"
"He does. It's taken him three weeks to understand why he should, though. With this tacked on provision, it's threatening to not pass the Senate, let alone the House."
"Wish I knew," Lisa said before taking a long drink.
"Who do you know who's a farmer?" She licked her lips and looked at Sam. She hadn't known she had been that transparent.
"My father," she said slowly.
"I'm sorry..." She shrugged off his sympathy.
"I've just got to find a way that I can get HR 119 through the House is all. Who are you gonna call first?" she asked, deciding to change subjects before she wound up crying, thinking of her family.
"Who do you think I should call first?"
The two wound up talking all night long, making their lone beers last the entire night. When Sam looked at his watch, he sat up quickly. "What?" she asked.
"It's almost six o'clock."
"You're kidding," she said, checking her own timepiece.
"Oh, I'm gonna be *soo* late," she said, jumping to her feet.
"No, hey," she said. "It's okay." She slipped her shoes back on, having kicked them off some hours ago. She felt her pockets for her car keys then looked at Sam, remembering she had dry cleaned clothes in her car. "I couldn't borrow your shower, could I?"
"Yeah, I guess..."
"Do me a favor, would you?"
"Of course." She tossed him her key chain.
"Could you get my clothes out of my car?"
"I picked 'em up last night at the cleaner's. They're hanging in the back seat."
"Thanks, Sam!" she said before rushing to find his bathroom.