For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.
Previously, on the West Wing: Sam quits the CBO. He and Lisa talk for hours on end.
Sam started meeting with Lisa for lunch daily, going over possible interview questions seeing as how he had made appointments with the three Democrat members of Congress who were looking for speech writers. He sighed. "Lisa, this'll never work."
"Yes it will," she said. "But only if you believe."
"I believe I've made a mistake."
"Then you have," she said. He sighed again. "Sam, I want to help you; I do. But if you don't think you're ready for this, neither will the people who interview you."
"I want this."
"Then believe it."
"Yes you can. Close your eyes."
"Close your eyes."
"Do you want my help?"
"Then close your eyes," she said.
"All right, all right. They're closed."
"How many fingers am I holding up?" she asked, her hands still folded in her lap.
"I'm not looking, Lisa."
"All right. Think back to your first day on the Hill, the day we met."
"Do I have to?"
"Yes, you do."
"Are you there? Do you see those staffers you met with?"
"And how they treated you?"
"Lisa, I didn't want to live through that humiliation the first time," he said, opening his eyes.
"I'm going to blindfold you if you don't keep your eyes *closed*."
"Close them!" He sighed, causing her to physically cover his eyes with her hand.
"You can move your hand."
"Nope. Now, picture those guys."
"Clearly," he said through clenched teeth.
"And hear their voices? And the voices of those jerks at the CBO?"
"Lisa," he whined.
"Now picture them when they learn you're now a member of a congressional staff," she said. She watched as the corners of his mouth turned up in a smirk. "They'll never believe it. Think about those bean counters... They'll have to come to *you* now. Those guys you talked to on your first day here... They'll have to work *with* you. Won't that be nice?"
"So, you gonna believe in yourself now, in your dream?"
"You gonna see yourself doing well in the interview?"
"Yes, Lisa. Can I open my eyes now?"
"Because I want you to visualize the interviews. And you won't if your eyes are open."
"It's hard to concentrate with you covering my eyes."
"You're going to be working in a stressful, fast-paced office. Me covering your eyes is nothing, all things considered."
"You? Nothing? You're kidding."
"You've very-" She sighed as her pager went off. She finally uncovered Sam's eyes as she grabbed her beeper.
"What is it?" he asked upon seeing her expression.
"I have to go back to work. The whip wants to talk about HR 119."
"My interview is tomorrow. I'm not ready for it yet!"
"Come by my place tonight, say eightish. I'll cook and we'll finish, okay?"
"Thanks, Lisa," he said, kissing her cheek.
"What are friends for?" she asked. She started to pull her wallet out to pay for her lunch.
"I've got it. Go on."
"You sure?" He nodded. "Thanks."
"See you tonight."
Sam listed off his alma maters and college GPA's as Lisa looked over a few samples of his work after a warm home-cooked meal at her apartment. "Do you really think I have a shot at this?" he asked.
"I thought we covered this at lunch."
"No, we covered my insecurities. I want to know if *you* think I have a snowball's chance."
"Sweetie, I *know* you've got a good shot at this."
"You do?" She nodded. "How?"
"Do you think you have a chance?"
"Why?" she asked.
"I asked you first."
"I think I have a chance because right now I'm unemployed." Lisa smiled. "And because I have good writing skills. Okay, maybe not good but at least adequate. I know a great deal about law. I mean, I graduated from Duke Law School. So I've never actually practiced law but I did pass the bar exam. And it's not like I'm never going to practice law. I hope to at some point but..."
"Confidence," she reminded gently.
"I'm a graduate of Duke Law School," he said determinedly.
"I have experience in writing speeches."
"I was on the debate team in high school as well as at Princeton."
"You're going to do just fine, Sam."
"I hope so."
"When did you write this piece on the environment, weather conditions?"
"A couple days ago," he said. He didn't tell her but he had started looking into the situation in her home state when she told him about it.
"I'm not. Why?"
"It's very good is all." She smiled. "It would have come in handy earlier today at that meeting."
"I can print you off a copy if you want."
"I'd like that, thanks. What time is your appointment?"
"Nine thirty." Lisa looked at her watch.
"It's eleven now. You'd better go home and get some sleep."
"Yeah. Thanks, Lisa."
"Sure. Come by and see me afterwards, okay?" She handed him back his notebook.
"I owe you one. Really."
"Don't worry about it." He hugged her. "You'll do just fine," she said, putting her arms around him. "Just be yourself. That's all you can do."
"I'm a klutz, Lisa. If I'm myself, I'll ruin the interview." She looked in his eyes.
"Listen to me, Sam. Don't sell yourself short. You can do it. I know you can."
"I have faith in you." He didn't seem convinced. "Come by my office in the morning *before* the interview."
"Night." Sam saw himself out, leaving Lisa to worry about him as she sat back down in her living room.
Lisa sat in her office, working on an e-mail, when a staffer poked his head in her door a few days after Sam had his first interview. He had gotten the job the very next day. "Hey, Lisa."
"Yeah?" she asked, not even bothering to look up.
"Josh Lyman to see you." She looked up immediately.
"Send him in." A moment later, Josh entered her office. Lisa stood to greet him. "Josh. How are you?"
"Fine," he said, shaking her hand. She gestured to one of the chairs in front of her desk. He reluctantly sat down.
"What can I do for you?"
"This water thing," he began.
"Oh no," she said, falling into her chair. "I've worked too damn hard to get Congressman Rollins to sign on-I'm not about to go in and tell him to take his name off the bill."
"It's ludicrous," he said. "It'll never pass. It's pointless."
"It isn't," she said. "It isn't when it comes down to re-election. If we don't vote yes on this bill, I can guarantee you that a Republican will fill this seat next November."
"I don't think so."
"Josh, you don't know my district. If he votes against this, we're screwed."
"He's popular back home."
"How popular do you think he's going to be when he doesn't bring home some sort of water reserves. Tennessee is in the middle of a drought right now," she said. "People are losing their livelihoods because there's no water. There is *no* water."
"There is some, just not as an abundant supply as maybe you'd like." Lisa tossed the day's Nashville "Tennessean" at him. The banner headline proclaimed the gravity of the situation.
"Supply and demand, Josh. Our normally bumper crops are down, sending prices sky high. People are losing jobs, not to mention homes, because banks are foreclosing on their properties. He is going to sign HR 119. It will at least look like we're doing something."
"You can't win every battle you fight, Lisa. This vote isn't going to mean a damn thing next November because it will not pass the Senate."
"You never know, Josh."
"We want Rollins to vote against this so we can get the education reform bill through. If we table the water bill, we can get education reform through with no troubles. If we don't table the water thing-"
"We are not tabling the 'water thing.' We aren't just talking about water, Josh. We're talking about people. People who desperately need water."
"You're going to put us in a pickle, Lisa."
"He's going to vote for it, Josh."
"I'll personally go talk to Rollins myself."
"You will not," she said, standing up. "You'll have to go through me first."
"No, Josh. I mean it."
"I thought we were going to work together."
"We are. You're just being uncooperative."
"I'm the one-" He had to stop to laugh. "I'm the one being uncooperative?"
"Lisa, I'm the one arguing with a brick wall!"
"Spitfire politico. You had it right." There was another knock at her door. "Yeah?" she asked tiredly. The same staffer poked his head in.
"Have him come in," she said. The staffer ducked back out.
"Sam Seaborn?" asked Josh. Lisa nodded as Sam entered.
"Hey," Sam said.
"Hi," Lisa said, trying to smile.
"Settle this argument, Sam," said Josh. "Should we table the water bill in favor of the education bill or the other way around?"
"Neither one will make it to the President," said Sam. "The education bill is so full of loopholes it's not even funny. The water bill has at least the beginnings of a great plan."
"Thank you," said Lisa, settling into her chair again.
"Wait a sec, whose side are you on?" asked Josh.
"The side of the people, you?" Josh threw his hands in the air.
"Look at all the polling data, Lisa. Everyone's number one concern is education, not water."
"You're forgetting something, Josh," Lisa said.
"To have education, you have to have life. To have life, you have to have water. Which one do you think we should pass?" she asked.
"You're too damn good to be in this business, you know that?"
"From you, I'll take that as a compliment," she said with a faint smile.
"I'll go convince the whip."
"Thanks, Josh," she said. "I really appreciate it." He nodded before leaving. Sam closed the door after him. "So," Lisa said. "What brings you by?"
"What about it?"
"You're late." Lisa looked at her watch before jumping up out of her chair.
"So I am," she said, grabbing a handful of file folders. "And I'm sure Congressman Rollins is going to have my head. Thanks for coming by, Sam."
"I was told to."
"Well... I guess I'll be looking for a job before too long, too."
"Nah," he said reassuringly. The two started for the door.
"How's working with Congresswoman Davis?"
"Great. I appreciate your putting in a good word for me."
"What are you talking about?" she asked as they continued through the office and down the hall.
"I know you called her after my interview."
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said, lying through her teeth.
"Okay, but... Thanks." She glanced at him.
"You're welcome," she said almost inaudibly before they entered the caucus meeting.
"About time you showed up," Rollins said as Lisa took a seat behind him. "Do you have those files?" She handed several to her boss.
"Sorry I'm late, sir," she said. "A last-minute meeting with a representative from the minority whip."
"To say that they're dropping the request to table HR 119."
"Since who cares? They're dropping the request."
"How did you manage that?"
"How do I manage anything in this town?" Rollins seemed satisfied with her answer and started participating in the meeting actively again. She glanced at Sam, sitting behind Congresswoman Eileen Davis from New Jersey halfway across the room. Sam was different than most of the staffers on the Hill. He still had that rookie look about him, which was sweet in a strange way, but he wasn't nearly as power-hungry as most of the others. She had spent so long trying to convince everyone that she was politically worthy of their trust and respect and yet Sam did so without her having to prove herself. She wasn't sure if that was good or bad, but it was different, and it certainly felt nice.
Turning her attention to keeping up with the meeting, she tried to take notes. The words seemed to fuse together into noise, annoying noise at that. She put her pen down and focused on the back of Rollins' chair. The truth was that she had never been so distracted. She had never allowed anyone to get close to her except those in Rollins' office. But now there was Sam.
She had been so young and inexperienced when she started working for Rollins, arguing with everyone about everything. No one had accepted her, save for those in Rollins' office. She had gone for drinks-alcohol-free drinks for her since she had been underage-with various staffers from all over the Hill but she wouldn't consider any of them friends, not now. At best, they were people with common interests in government who usually sided with each other on political issues given she rarely associated herself socially with anyone outside the Democratic party. At the time, she thought of them as her "buddies." They went to bars and normally had a good time. It took her nine months before she figured out why she felt so empty when she went home afterwards. They couldn't have cared less about her personally. She was the anomaly, the entertainment. They didn't want her with them for her; they wanted her around for laughs. Looking again at Sam, she remembered him telling her about his first day on the Hill. She never explained the reasons to him, but she empathized with him greatly.
Now she had a name for herself and yet she still didn't have any friends except those in Rollins' office and Sam. She and Josh were more like acquaintances but she hoped they would come to some sort of understanding and become friends. He had the ability to make it all the way to the top in D.C., she knew. Sam did, too, but he would have to learn to believe in himself a little more before he could grasp that.
The meeting was long and boring, like most all of the meetings on Capitol Hill, but it gave Lisa the time to think. Sometimes, however, that wasn't always a good thing. She thought of how her family was suffering back home with no water. She thought of how long it would take HR 119 to pass the House, then the Senate, then achieve law status with the President's signature by using at least a dozen ink pens. Closing her eyes, she ran a hand absently through her hair. She didn't like the idea of her parents either selling or losing her childhood home.
She nearly leapt out of her skin when she felt warm breath on her neck. "Hey." Turning quickly, she saw that it had been Sam who had whispered to her.
"Hi," she whispered back. She moved her file folders from the seat beside her so he could join her.
"How can you stand these meetings?" he asked quietly. "They're so... humdrum."
"You learn how to tune them out after a while," she answered, leaning close to him so as not to disturb those around them. "Even the members of Congress do it. They get to the point where they can't even hear their own voices." She hadn't realized how wonderful his cologne smelled before. Then again, she was beginning to think she had never been that close to him for more than a few brief seconds before. Something told her to back away from him, that her closeness to him was dangerous. There was something thrilling in that danger, though, like the excitement of pulling government strings, of holding the power. She returned to her upright position, taking a deep breath.
'You aren't doing this, Lisa,' she told herself. 'You are not falling for Sam. He's your friend. The one true friend you have right now. You don't need a romantic relationship that will end badly. You need a friend. Plus, you've only known him a month now.' Even as she tried to concentrate on the meeting, she could still smell his intoxicating cologne and feel the warm breath on her neck without his actually being that close to her.
"Don't you ever just want to run away from this place?" he whispered in her ear. She closed her eyes tightly, thankful the C-SPAN cameras weren't bothering with the caucus meeting. Her heart sped as she wondered humorously, 'Is that an offer?'
"Sure," she said instead.
"At least I'm not the only one."
"Yeah," she breathed.