Perspectives and Rivals
Cold Keys Series Part 5

----MC


"Josh, please don't do this now." Leo's voice was laced with quiet force.

Leo stood with his Deputy Chief of Staff in a crowded ballroom. Another black-tie fundraising gala was in full swing, complete with scores of politicians, wealthy benefactors and the obligatory bad band.

Josh glared at Senator Harkins. Harkins glared back and took two steps forward. Josh's jaw set and Leo put his hand on the younger man's arm.

"Josh, no." Leo growled.

Harkins lost his glare on Josh when a blur in blue velvet attached herself to his arm and purred sweetly, "Senator, I've been looking for you. Won't you please honor me with a dance." Harkins allowed himself to be led to the dance floor.

Leo mumbled under his breath, "God bless you, C.J."

Josh continued to glower at Harkins as he danced with their Press Secretary. Then he permitted himself a small smile. Harkins expected Josh to explode about the latest attempt to sabotage Bartlet's gun control bill. Harkins looked mad but also worried. If he'd been less worried about Josh for the last week, the sabotage might have worked.

Leo watched with growing confusion. Josh now looked quite calm and smirked with amusement.

Josh turned to Leo, "Hey, you really thought I was gonna go ballistic on his tail didn't you?"

"Yeah."

"The point is, so did he. Doesn't mean I actually have to waste all the energy to get really pissed."

Leo looked at him again. Josh Lyman in control of his temper was an unusual thing, and a very powerful political weapon. He'd wondered if Josh would ever fully recover from the shooting and the bouts of PTSD that followed. He'd never told him that, of course.

In the two months following the "Christmas thing," as they called it, Josh had learned to deal with his feelings. He'd fought to face his mortality and keep his sanity. And the fight made him stronger.

Josh had a new maturity and strength that Leo admired. A year ago, Leo would have separated a screaming Josh from a ranting Senator. Tonight, he was enjoying the results of a brilliant tactical play by a powerful politician. Leo smiled. He was proud of his protege and surrogate son.

"Josh, I think you should go cut in." Leo, the master politician, couldn't help supplying the final tactical move.

"Yeah."

Josh wove his way through the dancing couples and politely tapped Harkins on the shoulder.

With exaggerated politeness he asked, "Senator, would you mind if I cut in?"

Harkins scowled but said nothing. He'd seen Leo and Josh a moment before and he knew he'd been played. C.J. extracted herself from the Senator and happily settled into Josh's arms.

"Thank you, C.J."

She looked at him closely. "You're OK aren't you? I really didn't need to dance with the slime did I?"

"No."

"Josh, we won."

"Yeah, we won big."

"I'm really proud of you."

Josh stopped dancing and led C.J. to the side of the room. He hadn't expected her to say anything like that. "C.J.--"

She interrupted, "--Josh, don't slip back to sarcastic mode. Just know that I realize how far you've come to get through this. We all do. You mean a lot to us."

He just stared at her for a moment. Emotions played on his face, but he simply led her back to the dance floor and smiled at her.

Carol stood to the side of the ballroom, efficiently organizing the background press spin, and watching for problems.

She glommed Sam as soon as he came in the door.

"Sam."

"Carol, what's up?"

"We need you to dance with Ainsley Hayes so the press can get some shots."

"Why?" His voice betrayed his apprehension.

"We want to show them that you are a good sport about her kicking your ass on Capitol Beat a few months ago and show that she's been accepted into the staff."

"No."

"Sam, just do it." Toby strode up and growled the command.

"Do you have to dance with Ann Stark to show our 'renewed sense of bi-partisanship?'"

"No. Because we don't want the bloodshed on camera. And I don't dance."

Sam grumbled, "Fine, where is she?" He stalked away from
Toby and Carol and pasted a pleasant smile on his face. Under his breath he mumbled to himself, "God, I hope she's not drinking."

A few minutes later, Sam extracted Ainsley from her table and away from the three empty glasses containing the remnants of Pink Squirrels.

They did make a lovely couple on the dance floor. Flashbulbs lit the room as reporters angled for the shot. Sam held Ainsley somewhat closer than decorum dictated simply to keep her from falling. She was balance-challenged in high heels after drinking.

Ainsley smiled sweetly up at him. "Gee, Sam, after all the stupid things I've done in the past week, it's nice too know that I can at least dance with you and not have to worry about embarrassing myself because, as my father always says-"

Sam cut her off. "-Ainsley, just smile pretty for the cameras and keep your big pointy high heels off my toes."

Several papers featured photos of Sam and Ainsley, smiling on the dance floor, in the gossip sections the next morning. Captions ranged from the truth---"Rivals make nice for the cameras" to "Is this a new bi-partisan romance in the White House?"

Sam grumbled over all of them. Carol had obligingly left all the copies on his desk. The picture that really made him grumble was the one of Josh and C.J. dancing. The genuine affection on their faces and the comfortable way she nestled into his arms was not a play for the camera. Sam wondered why that bothered him so much.

C.J. received the same set of photos on her desk that morning. She put the one of her and Josh aside to frame. She shredded the ones of Sam and Ainsley with some satisfaction.

Sam remembered the night in his office last week when C.J. came to mend their fences, and comfort him about the Grand Jury trial. He'd held her in his arms that night for the first time. They'd shared brief hugs in the past and occasional chaste kisses on the cheek. But that night he'd held her as a man holds a woman that he needs and cares about.

They hadn't discussed it after that. But he felt they both sensed the change in their relationship. Nothing more happened then because they'd both been paged moments later to deal with the latest press fiasco.

He'd wondered every day since what might have happened if they hadn't been interrupted. They continued to do their jobs, and returned to their quiet friendship.

Wednesday afternoon, Sam and Josh breezed into the West Wing and through the usual Secret Service checkpoint still arguing about whose turn it really was to pay for lunch. They almost missed the somewhat amused agent's announcement.

"Butch and Sundance are back from lunch." The agent intoned softly into his mike.

Josh stopped in the hall and turned back. "Hey, our new code names are Butch and Sundance?"

The agent looked at him sternly. "Yes, sir."

"You think we are going to rob a bank?" Josh continued.

"No, sir."

"But--"

"--You two do get into trouble together."

"Do not."

The Secret Service agent sighed. The Deputy Chief of Staff was far too much like a little boy at times. "We particularly liked having to move the President outside in the winter after you started the fire."

"Hey."

Sam grabbed his arm and pulled him along.

"I'm just saying, Sam, I'm not sure the senior staff should have code names like that. People could take it the wrong way."

"No big deal Josh. Butch and Sundance are cool."

"They got killed by like two hundred gunmen Sam, how is that cool?"

"That was at the end. And they survived jumping off the cliff."

Josh was mollified. "Hey, was it Butch or Sundance who couldn't swim?"

Sam listened as Josh set off a rant. He really didn't mind being Sundance. Apparently his detail had wanted to call him "Kitten." Ron Butterfield nixed it. Sam made himself a mental note to send Butterfield a very nice Christmas present.

 

 

Home        What's New        Author Listings        Title Listings