"It's dark," Sam observed, peering into the surprisingly small room
that housed the main air-conditioner thingy.
"A little *too* dark," Josh said, hitting the light switch.
"A little *too* quiet."
Sam stepped inside and sneezed. "And dusty!"
"A little *too*-"
"Shut up!" Sam snapped.
Josh rolled his eyes and produced a toolbox.
Sam looked up nervously, eyeing Josh's feet, which were dangling in
front of his face.
"What're you doing now, Josh?"
"I'm - oof - hold the torch a bit higher, would you?"
"I can't!" Sam was already on tip-toes. "You wouldn't need it if
weren't up in a hole in the roof!"
"With... the... hang on, one more... OW!"
"I just gave myself a bit of a shock. Pliers."
"*Pliers?* Why do you want pliers?"
"Just gimme the-"
"Demimondaine?!" Cathy stormed into the room. "You... you...
"Um... scoundrel..." Sam muttered, teetering.
"...harridan... And you're fired."
"Oh, stuff it," Cathy snapped, and stormed out again. Demimondaine
indeed! The nerve! Sam sighed.
"Gimme the pliers." Josh irritably completed his order.
Sam gave him the pliers.
"Right," said Josh. "Now, if I just-"
There was a *snap* sound, followed by a crackle, and then all the
lights went out.
Josh said, "... oops..."
The President faced his wayward senior staffers solemnly. "I didn't
even know it was possible to cause the entire White House to black
out," he said. "Not even for five minutes."
"Live and learn," Josh said jokingly. The President silenced him with
Sam was worried. The President had insisted on speaking to them alone
- not even Leo was present, although he was sure the Chief of
was dying to get his hands on them. Not to mention Toby. He shuddered.
"The Secret Service still isn't entirely convinced it wasn't a
"Even after we explained?"
"Even then." The President allowed them to shake their heads at the
over-zealousness of the Secret Service, but glared when Josh opened
his mouth to comment.
"Next time you can get the pliers your damn self," Sam whispered to
POTUS sank into a chair and sighed. "What am I going to do with you
"If I may say so, sir, the air conditioning is fixed now," Sam put in
"Because Toby threatened the repairman with a treason charge if he
didn't come!" the President snapped. "You're lucky I'm not going to
fire the both of you!" He eyed the two downcast staffers in silence
for a moment before adding, "And next time you want to cool everyone
down, buy them ice creams. Setting off the sprinkler system just
ruined many a good outfit, as Donna so enthusiastically informed me."
Josh groaned. "Donna's gonna kill me."
The President grinned. "Now, Sam, knowing you, this wasn't your
"No, sir," Sam said nervously.
"You were just led astray, right?"
"Well, no, uh, I did go willingly, sir." Sam had long ago decided
that with the President, honesty was the best way to go. "Although,"
he added thoughtfully, "if I'd known what Josh was going to do, I
think it goes without saying that I would've stopped him."
"Good answer," the President said. "Because if you'd agreed with
I probably would have fired you."
"...Oh..." Sam said weakly, then sneezed. Oh, great, he thought
sourly. Now the ice water that Cathy had thrown at him was giving him
"Luckily for you, I happen to find this situation rather amusing." In
response to their astonished looks, the President chuckled. "The
expression on the face of every Secret Service agent in sight when
the power went out will forever be a happy memory for me. Not to
mention what Toby said when the sprinkler system shorted out his
Sam swallowed. Toby was going to take this out on him, he knew it.
"Thereby wiping out his hard drive," the President added.
Sam groaned softly. He was a dead man.
"Now, I can't just let this go, so what I'll do is, Josh, I'm turning
you over to Toby, and Sam, I'm giving you to Leo."
Josh relaxed visibly. Toby was bound to go easier on him than Leo
would have. Sam, on the other hand, was seriously contemplating
throwing himself out of the window. The only thing stopping him was
the thought that doing so would accomplish nothing more than making
him look even more like an idiot.
"Now," the President continued, "you may wonder why I'm not just
letting your respective bosses deal with their subordinate. Reason is
as follows: a lot of what Toby said applied to you, Josh, and judging
by what he said, he'd like to deal with you directly."
Josh's face fell, and he shuddered. He hated being on the receiving
end of Toby's temper.
"And, Sam, Leo's reaction to the situation was similar to mine -
amusement, that is to say - but I feel certain he'll come up with
punishment suitable to your role in this fiasco."
Sure, Sam thought gloomily. Something nasty enough to make him beg
for mercy, no doubt.
The President beamed at the crestfallen men. "Gentlemen, you are
dismissed," he said.
The next day, a heinously overworked Josh found time to stop by at
Sam's office, and was rather surprised to find him on his knees in
front of Cathy's desk, a bunch of flowers in one hand and a box of
doughnuts in the other.
"I'm sorry, so, so sorry," he was saying. "Please forgive me and
back to arranging my schedule?"
Cathy glared at him. "You called me a, a, a demimondaine! That was
"I'm sorry, I, I, I'd forgotten what it meant, I just knew it was an
insult, I'm sorry!"
"You used a big word to call me a - a harlot! And then you fired me!"
"I didn't mean it! You know that - you're still here!"
"Only because Donna caught me cleaning out my desk and explained."
Sam put on his most dejected expression and whispered, "I'm sorry."
Cathy struggled to maintain her anger in the face of this unexpected
onslaught - she hadn't even known he had a puppy-dog look - but
was no use. She sighed. "Apology accepted." She grabbed the flowers
and doughnuts irritably and said, "Are these chocolate doughnuts?"
"Absolutely," Sam grinned, getting to his feet.
Now even the irritation faded. She smiled and said, "You have an
appointment with Mallory in ten minutes, until 4. Leo set it up."
Sam's grin faded. "Thanks," he muttered, and escaped to his office,
where he found Josh sitting in his chair, with his head cocked
quizzically to one side.
"What was that about?"
Sam glared at him, stifling a cough. "You and your bright ideas.
'You're fired.' Oh yeah, works great. I had to beg for three hours
straight to get her to tell me my next appointment. Which, as it
turns out, is going to be a three hour row with Mallory over whether
Valentine's day is overworked hype or a not-to-be-missed opportunity
to show your 'significant other' how much you care. And that is your
fault too, thank you so very much, Mr. Handyman. And I'm sick, too,
which isn't your fault, but I'm blaming you anyway. And also, get out
of my chair."
Josh slid out of the chair, and Sam slid into it. Josh raised an
eyebrow. "That's your punishment? Leo's got you at odds with Mallory?
Sam grimaced. "It's enough," he stated with considerable conviction,
flashing back to a long dispute the night before, during what was
supposed to be a peaceful dinner. He looked up, finally taking in
Josh's harried state. "Why? What's Toby making you do?"
"I have to deal with the 816 meetings."
"All of them?" Sam gave a low whistle, which turned into a hoarse
cough. "That'll keep you busy for a couple of weeks."
"With some of the most boring people in the government, and I'm not
allowed to tell any of them to kiss my ass. Speaking of busy, I
should really go." Josh shook his head as he headed for the door.
"You got off easy, pal. Look to the future - you know, the part
you make up after the fight."
Sam grinned. Trust Josh to throw a whole new light on things. The
phone rang shrilly, interrupting his thoughts.
"Hello? Hi, Mallory."
Josh brought himself up short. He wanted to hear this.
"Cancel?" Sam sagged with relief. "No, that's all right. I
understand. Sure. Yeah. Oh, sweetie, do we have to do this on the
phone? I'm sorry. No, I'll never call you sweetie again. Of course I
want to, but you just said I shouldn't! Okay, I will then." Sam threw
a "help-me" look at Josh, who smirked.
"No, I haven't changed my position on Valentine's day. No, see, I
don't think I should need a special day to show you how much I care.
Why can't I do that every day?"
Sam slumped in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. Finally,
he'd found an argument that worked, he thought in relief as he
listened to Mallory simper about how sweet he was. "Okay, I'll see
you tonight. I may not be very good company, though. Sure, chicken
soup sounds great. Bye, honey." Sam hung up before Mallory could
berate him for calling her "honey", and turned back to Josh.
"Smooth," Josh observed.
Sam saluted mockingly. "That's me," he said. "It's ten after one.
out of my office."
Josh looked horrified. "Late!" he yelped, and took off at a run.
Sam laughed to himself as he reached for a file so he could get back
to being productive, and changed course mid-reach to pick up the
phone, which had started ringing again.
"Talk to me," he said, cheerfully. "Oh, hello, Senator. Josh is
handling that now. Yes. Right, finally someone competent." Sam held
the phone away from his ear and stuck his tongue out at it. "Yeah, so
call him, 'cause I don't care anymore. Yes, sir. No, sir." Then,
because Josh wasn't allowed to and the West Wing had a new improved
reputation to uphold, and also because he wanted to, he said, "Kiss
my ass, Senator," and hung up. But, because he was Sam, he did it
He picked up the file he'd been aiming for before the phone rang, and
flipped through it idly, the realization slowly dawning on him that
he didn't have much work to do. He beamed at the thought of Josh
running around bowing and scraping to a bunch of Senators and the
like, then felt guilty. With a heavy sigh, he decided that maybe he
would help Josh out, just for today. He hated being the cheerful,
helpful one, but there you are, he thought. Can't change your nature.
He got to his feet and headed to Josh's office, hoping that Donna
would be able to tell him where he was. As he got into the corridor,
a blast of cool air hit him. Thank God, he thought delightedly. The
temperature in the West Wing was back to being maintained at a
comfortable constant. All year round. Nevertheless, he made a mental
note to make sure Donna got them a new guy... for the next time