For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.
Previously, on the West Wing: Lisa preps Sam for interviews for his speech writing position. He gets one and starts working with both Lisa and Josh on the Hill.
Lisa squinted at the sink, all those hoses and pipes. Sighing, she felt around for the wrench that she knew she had somewhere in reach. Her back hurt from being bent strangely to work on her kitchen sink. As her fingers graced the cool metal, a knock at her door scared her; she jumped. "Just a sec!" she called, having just banged her head against the bottom of the metal basin. With her right hand, she started to place it on her bruising forehead. The back of her hand scraped across an exposed screw. She quickly got out from being cramped under her sink, letting a string of curses fly that would make a salty old sailor blush. Cradling her hand, she threw open the door. "What?" she asked angrily, blinking back tears.
Sam was taken aback and could tell Lisa was as well. "I-I'm sorry. I should have called first."
"Oh, Sam," she said. "No, I... Come in." He noticed her injured hand for the first time as he entered her apartment.
"What happened?" The back of her hand was now covered in blood. She glanced at the sink. Sam followed her gaze and saw the tools scattered across the kitchen floor. "Where's your first aid kit?" he asked.
"Bathroom." He guided her to her tiny bathroom and held her hand over the sink as she opened the medicine cabinet. "I'm not sure what all's here."
"What did you cut your hand on?" he asked, turning on the water and holding her hand under it.
"I'm not sure."
"Is it rusty under there? Are you going to need a tetanus shot?" He grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
"No," she said. "Well, it is but I have all my shots, thank you." He uncapped the bottle.
"You sure?" She nodded. "This is going to sting," he said, looking into her eyes.
"I don't want to hurt you."
"Believe me, sweetie, it already hurts." Sam pulled her hand from under the running water and tipped the hydrogen peroxide bottle. Lisa placed her free hand on his right shoulder and looked at his face, unable to stomach the sight of her gashed hand. Sam cast one last glance at her before dousing her hand. She inhaled sharply at the fire now blazing in the wound.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he whispered repeatedly, watching the pale red bubbles. She squeezed his shoulder, still studying his profile. He dried her hand gingerly before applying a bandage. "I can take you to the hospital for a shot, no joke."
"No. Thanks, though."
"Can I ask what you were doing?" He held her cold fingers in both his hands, turning to look at her. He had to suppress the sudden and inexplicable urge to hold her.
"I got tired of waiting on the super," she said, realizing her hand was still on his shoulder. "I should have known plumber wasn't on my résumé."
"What seems to be the trouble?" he asked as he led her back to her living room. Standing that close to her in the cramped space caused those romantic urges, or so he guessed.
"I don't know for sure. I figured that, if I got down there and tinkered with it, I could solve the problems being the rational, thinking human being that I am. I should have known better." She licked her lips as they sat down together on her couch. "Thanks, Sam, for..." She looked at the large bandage on the back of her hand. Smiling, he offered a gentle kiss across her knuckles. A whole horde of butterflies took to her stomach.
"You'd do the same for me."
"You want some ice tea or soda or something?"
"Actually, I just came over to tell you I was leaving tomorrow morning."
"Some big event back in Trenton that Congresswoman Davis is speaking at." She smiled.
"You wrote her speech?"
"So, when will you be back?"
"Three days-sometime Wednesday afternoon."
"Oh-" The kitchen sink fell into the cabinet. She was going to say, "okay," but wound up adding, "brother." Water started springing up from everywhere. Both Sam and Lisa rushed into the kitchen. Lisa started moping up the water with towels as Sam managed to stop the leak. "How'd you do that?"
"Very carefully," explained Sam before helping her dry the floor. Lisa sighed heavily.
"Figures, y'know?" she said. "The super is going to have a field day with me." She carried the sopping wet towels to her bathroom and dropped them unceremoniously into the tub. When she returned to the living room, Sam was leaning against the back of the couch.
"Come with me."
"Pardon?" she asked, noticing the large wet splotches on her overalls.
"I'm leaving first thing in the morning and I won't be back for three days. Stay at my place why don't you? You can call a repairman and you won't have to worry about that mess," he said, nodding to the kitchen.
"That's a mighty generous offer, Sam. I couldn't possibly though. I mean, that's your... I don't want to intrude." He laughed warmly.
"You won't be intruding; I won't even be there."
"You've done so much for me already, I-"
"I'm not going to let you talk me out of this, Lisa," he said. "Pack a bag and come home with me." Lisa swallowed hard, halfway wishing the invitation was for something other than a couch to sleep on.
"Okay." Sam smiled. "Give me a minute?"
"Sure." Lisa nodded before disappearing into her bedroom. As she started packing her bag, she looked toward her door, knowing Sam was just beyond it.
"Stop that, Lisa," she muttered. "He's your friend, your best friend, and he is opening his home up to you simply because you're a poor, stray, wet cat who needs to be taken in."
Sam, meanwhile, was suffering from the same dilemma. He had known her for several months now. They had been nearly inseparable for those months, too. Josh had confronted him away from Lisa one night and asked him, point-blank, why he hadn't asked her out. At the time, he made a lame excuse about friendship that Josh had bought. Josh's question started him thinking about the possibilities of romance with her. The more Sam thought about that outcome, the more he wanted to see it happen.
He sighed. No matter how many times he visualized himself asking her to dinner or a movie or even just walking her into a corner and planting a long one on her, he knew it wouldn't happen. But he certainly hoped it would. Hearing the door open, he saw Lisa, no longer in overalls and an old work shirt but tight blue jeans and a tee shirt.
"Let me grab my coat," she said, glancing at the trench coat by the door. Sam retrieved it and held it open for her. Smiling faintly, she put her bag on the floor and stepped into the coat. Sam's hands drifted down her arms after she was in her coat. They both reached for her suitcase at the same time, causing Sam's hand to close around hers. "Sam," she said softly.
"Let me get it." She could feel his breath on her neck. She was glad she was now wearing her coat so Sam couldn't see the goose bumps that suddenly spread over her arms. No one had ever had that kind of effect on her. In a way, it was humbling. She was used to the power and control struggles in D.C. She had gone toe to toe with some of D.C.'s elite and never even broke a sweat. Sam didn't know how much power he had over her.
In silence, they walked down to the first floor and to the adjacent parking complex. She wished she could ride with him to his apartment in Arlington but was glad to be in her own car in the same breath. In her own car, she could focus on getting those thoughts of Sam out of her mind. The harder she tried not to think of him, the more she thought of him. His cologne, his smile, his mesmerizing eyes... As she stopped at a red light, she knew she had fallen for him completely. She wasn't sure which was worse: that she was in love with him or that he didn't have a clue.
Lisa followed Sam up to his apartment when they reached his building. He was still carrying her bag when he unlocked his door. "C'mon in. Mi casa es su casa."
"Thanks." He placed her suitcase on his coffee table, away from his two suitcases by the door, obviously for his trip the next day. "I'm glad things are still going good for you on the Hill," she said, shedding her coat.
"Yeah, it's been really nice. I've even offered up ideas for policy and things," he said. "It's been wonderful." She could tell; his eyes showed his amazement. "You were right, you know?"
"About what?" she asked.
"Every now and then, politics is a beautiful thing."
"When it works, it works," she said. "And did you hear?"
"Hurricane Katherine brought several inches of rain to parts of middle and east Tennessee."
"Now if only the Senate had agreed to HR 119... That would have been enough water to hold onto for the next month with the storage and filtration systems should the drought live past this fluke."
"You did what you could."
"Yeah. We did what we could." She smiled thinly.
"So, how's your dad?"
"He's living; he's working." She took an uneasy breath.
"What else is there, Lisa?"
"We didn't *do* anything, Sam, really. We tried to do something but it didn't work, 'course we only did it half-assed anyway. It took five months for substantial rain to fall and it came in the form of a hurricane. Well, it had been downgraded but..." She sighed. "It didn't matter that I spent weeks, months arguing that something needed to be done. It won't matter in the long run. We'll go down there in a little over a year and say, 'Hey. Look at us. We're your friendly neighborhood Congressman in the United States House of Representatives. We did jack for you. We sure as hell tried but we failed miserably.' Who in their right mind would vote for Rollins next November?"
"Seriously. Who? Me? Well, yeah, that's a given. I want my job. My family just 'cause they want me to have a job, too. Rollins and his family 'cause it's the Rollins family. The rest of the staffers if they're from his district and there are only like five of us who are." Sam watched her argue animatedly, not sure where her next rant would come from.
"You're not... You're not the ultimate authority on the weather. The big guy upstairs is..."
"I don't believe that. I don't believe that there is anything that we can't do. We're the federal government for crying out loud. We can't keep the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness sacred for everybody the union? I can guarantee you that there were some very unhappy people back home who couldn't do anything. There's at least one case of a suicide over this, because he didn't want to face giving up his farm to the bank, which would have taken away his freedom, his liberty. He didn't wait for that-he took it himself because no self-respecting Southerner would have anybody take anything from him unless it was over his dead body. None of them were happy. None of them had the opportunity to seek out happiness when the bills kept piling up until they were so high they couldn't see. And some are still having trouble." Sam had a question but wondered if he should bite his tongue. Seeing her that upset, though, he had to ask.
"Your father included?"
"Yes," she said.
"I don't want your pity, Sam. I want..."
"What?" She tried to open her mouth to speak to him again but couldn't. He started walking to her. "You want what, Lisa?"
"I want a perfect world. I want utopia. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently it is."
"I don't... I don't know what to say."
"There's nothing *to* say because there's nothing to do. We had our chance and we blew it." Sam suddenly understood why she was trying to fix her sink. She wanted something she could do, something where she could get instant gratification. She had talked him through his insecurities and now she needed someone to talk her through hers.
"You feel powerless right now?" She was ready to tell him no but, under the scrutiny of his blue eyes, she couldn't.
"Yes," she admitted.
"Like there's nothing you can do, now or ever." Tears started rolling down her cheeks.
"Yes." Sam reached out to her, touching her cheek. She put her hand over his and closed her eyes tightly. He pulled her to him, holding her close as she cried on his shoulder.
"You'll get through this," he whispered, stroking her hair. "You're a fighter, Lisa. You... You'll wake up in the morning and charge the Hill like I've seen you do morning after morning for months now."
"But if we don't... If we can't... Oh, what's the point?" she asked. Sam was slightly disturbed by Lisa falling apart. She had been his political supporter from the start and seeing her doubt the system was unnerving and discouraging.
"There are... There are good things to working on the Hill, y'know?"
"Like meeting fascinating people..." 'Like you,' he added in his mind. "Like getting Josh Lyman to cry on the House floor..." She stopped crying long enough to laugh lightly. "I know that there's no way I can even come close to the pain you're feeling for your family and for all those other people, but... If you quit now, then all those people who you argued with have already won. You can't let that happen."
"Okay," she said.
"Okay I won't let them have the satisfaction of winning." Sam smiled.
"There's the Lisa I know a-" He stopped immediately when he realized he was about to finish off that sentence with, "and love."
"Thank you, Sam," she said, hugging him tightly for an extra moment before slowly regaining her composure.
"What are friends for?"
"Yeah," she said, trying not to sound as unhappy as she felt at his last comment. She sniffled and Sam dried her tears.
"You want some coffee?"
"I think it'd probably be best if I just got some sleep, got geared up for tomorrow." He smiled.
"That's my girl," he said. The sentence slipped out before he had the chance to stop it. She returned the smile, wishing that that particular statement were true, that she belonged to him, not just as his friend. When he realized she wasn't going to take offense, he said, "You can take the bedroom," he said, nodding in its general direction.
"I just figured I'd take the couch," she said. "I don't want to put you out."
"Don't worry about me," he said.
"You're gonna be sleeping on a hotel mattress for the next couple nights; you don't want to sleep on your couch the day before you leave."
"Yeah. I do."
"If you insist..."
"I do." She nodded, grabbed her suitcase, and wandered towards his bedroom door. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask," he said. Lisa stopped and glanced at him, seriously considering asking him to stay with her. "Okay?"
"Okay," she said with a nod before going into his bedroom and closing the door behind her. She leaned against it, closing her eyes. If she thought about it, she could remember the feel of his arms around her. Sighing heavily, she dug her toiletries kit out of her suitcase and wandered into the adjacent bathroom to brush her teeth.
Sam woke the next morning early. He had exactly an hour and a half before he was to meet the congresswoman and the rest of the staff at the airport. Slipping quietly through his bedroom, where Lisa was sound asleep in his bed, he made it to the bathroom for a quick shower and shave. He peeked out, to make sure she was still sleeping, before tiptoeing in his robe to his closet for a suit. Lisa rolled over, from her back to her side, causing Sam to look back at her quickly. When he realized she was still sleeping, he finally crept back into the living room.
He had enough time for breakfast and coffee, hoping the smell wouldn't be the culprit to wake Lisa. Before he had to leave, he scribbled a note for her and removed his spare apartment key from his key ring. Sneaking back into his bedroom, he set the note and key on the night stand. He was going to silently make his escape when he made the mistake of looking at her. She looked peaceful, which was more than he could say for the way she looked the previous night. Angelic, perfect... He gingerly brushed a stray lock of hair out of her face and leaned down to give her a gentle kiss on her temple. She didn't wake but he could have sworn he saw her smile. "Bye," he whispered before retreating to the living room, gathering his luggage, and leaving, locking the door behind him.
The ringing telephone woke Lisa. She reached out and grabbed it, "Yeah?" she asked sleepily.
"Hey, this is Josh. I was trying to reach Sam. I guess I dialed the wrong number." At the mention of Sam's name, she thought she could smell his cologne. Wishful thinking, she guessed as she put her free hand to her temple.
"Sam left this morning, something to go to in 'Jersey."
"Oh, that's right. I was going to call you, too, so I guess this works out."
"What time is it? What's up?" she asked, rubbing her tired eyes.
"It's not quite six. The whip wants to visit the White House today and he wants a strong showing of Democrats behind him."
"You want me to talk Rollins into going?"
"Yeah. And bring your staff. Mostly we want numbers. You could drag in unknown Republicans to fill out our group and we'd be happy."
"What's this meeting about?"
"Oh, more environment stuff."
"You do remember HR 119 not that long ago, right?"
"Yeah. We signed it."
"Took you long enough," she muttered. "We'll be there."
"We goin' in busses or...?"
"Okay, then. I'll probably call you again when I get to work, straighten out some details."
"Sure. Didn't mean to wake you."
"Yeah," Lisa said before hanging up. She sat up and glanced around the room. She shook her head, thinking she was living in a dream world temporarily, before the memories of the previous night flooded her mind. No wonder she could smell him, she was in his bed, wrapped up in his covers. Her jaw dropped open, thinking of how it must've seemed with Josh calling Sam and getting her. "It was innocent, though," she said to convince herself. "Nothing at all to be concerned about." She started to get out of bed when she noticed the key and the note. She read it aloud, "'Lisa, I hope today goes better for you than last night. I hate that I'm having to leave when I want to be with you...' What!" If she wasn't awake until that point, she certainly was then. "Oh, 'to make sure you're okay. I'll call you, though, when you've had enough time to get to work. In the mean time, I hope you're sleeping well. Talk to you soon. Sam. PS Here's the key to the place.'" She looked at the key for a moment before climbing out of bed and getting ready for work.