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THE WEST WING FIC: Sufficient Unto the Day

Title: Sufficient Unto the Day
Author: flywoman 
Rating: PG
Words: 1115
Characters: Sam/Toby friendship (mostly), past Josh/Sam implied
Summary: “They’re gonna throw rocks at you next week, and I wanted to be standing next to you when they did.” A week after “Red Haven’s on Fire,” Toby helps Sam find his feet again.
Disclaimer: Hail to the Chief. That would be Aaron Sorkin, not me.
 

 

“You’re a good guy, Toby.”

“You’re drunk, Sam.”

Sam gave him a sloppy smile, tried to shove a forefinger into Toby’s chest, and missed. “You saying you think my judgment’s compromised?” He started to slide down the wall.

“Always,” Toby said, and slung Sam’s arm around his shoulders. “Think you can at least hand me your key?”

“Sure,” Sam muttered, patting at his pockets. “Got it here someplace.” Toby rolled his eyes and reached in for it; Sam squirmed.

“Got it,” he said, and unlocked the door. Sam was wincing.

“Hands in new places,” he complained.

“Let’s go,” Toby said, and grabbed him unceremoniously under the armpits, yanking him into the hotel room before some reporter came along and decided to plaster the front pages with photos of Sam shit-faced.

Sam was limp in his impatient embrace. “Toby,” he said earnestly as he was hauled to the bed, “I feel like I’ve let you down.”

“No,” Toby deadpanned, “I’m the one who’s letting you down,” and he did just that, unfolding the other man on top of the covers like a rag doll.

“Did you just make a joke?” Sam struggled to sit up, propping himself unsteadily on his elbows.

“Not in front of reliable witnesses,” Toby replied, and pulled Sam’s shoes off. Underneath, his socks were wet, and no wonder; it had been a long day. A long, grueling day. As soon as he got Sam settled, Toby was planning to go looking for a bottle himself.

Sam wriggled his toes experimentally. “I can’t feel my feet.”

“That was the idea,” Toby reassured him. “You okay otherwise? Dizzy?”

“Toby,” Sam said with great dignity, “I have been drunk before.”

“I remember.” With a meaningful look that made Sam blush.

“Oh. Yeah.”

Toby sank down onto the mattress, puffing. Sam smothered a soft belch with his fist.

“I’ve torpedoed my chances at a political career,” he slurred without rancor.

“You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.”

“Yeah.” Sam chuckled. “You know what’s so great about you, Toby? You are conshit – constish – you couldn’t bullshit if your life depended on it.”

Toby tilted his head, considering. "Of course, you also let me run the last week of your campaign."

"I had a choice?"

"Yeah, you- of course you had a choice, Sam."

But Sam was only teasing. "I knew I couldn't get anyone better," he said lightly but sincerely.

"You might not have thought that," Toby told him, "if you'd known my campaign record before President Bartlett."

Sam smirked at that. "Josh called me in to help you with the first campaign. What more did I need to know?"

"Maybe that I'd never actually gotten a candidate elected before."

"Oh." Sam meditated on that. Just when Toby thought that he might be dozing off, he opened his eyes again and smiled up at him. "So this must have felt like coming home."

“Actually, I was thinking,” Toby said, because this was as good a time as any, and Sam probably wouldn’t remember in the morning anyway, “maybe Josh should have been here instead.”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked in a casual tone, but Toby felt him tense up and wondered at it.

“Well, we’re so similar in the way we… I think that Josh might have taken a more pragmatic approach to the campaign.”

Sam laughed. “We would have just fought the whole time.”

“That was my point.”

“Besides,” Sam added, and there was a taint of bitterness that Toby had never detected in him before, “Josh wouldn’t have come.”

He cleared his throat. “Well, he has been pretty busy with the situation in Kundu.”

“Yeah.” Sam was quiet for a minute. Then he said, wonderingly, and as if to himself, “We used to be so close.”

That was all, but it was as if the entire world blurred, rearranged itself, and then clicked firmly into a new configuration. How did I not know about this? Toby inquired of himself. Oh, right. I normally don’t give a damn.

Right now, though, something was twisting inside his gut, so Toby leaned forward, clasped the sides of Sam’s face, and brushed his lips fraternally against his forehead.

Sam’s eyes fluttered shut. Then he tilted his head up and pressed his lips, softly but deliberately, against Toby’s.

Toby froze, but he wasn’t as surprised as he would have been half an hour ago, and he neither pulled back nor pushed the younger man away. He kept his mouth closed, chaste, until Sam withdrew and turned his head away.

“Sorry,” Sam mumbled, sounding wrecked. He curled himself into fetal position, facing away from Toby.

“Sam.” Toby hesitated a moment, then tentatively touched Sam’s shoulder. “Sam.”

“Just forget it. Please. I dunno what I was thinking.”

“Well,” Toby said slowly, “I’m willing to go with the assumption that you were drunk, and that you were… thinking about someone else that you’d rather have here with you right now.”

Sam stiffened under his hand but didn’t respond. No good deed goes unpunished, Toby reflected, and patted him awkwardly.

“Also,” he ventured at last, “if I ever stopped being straight, you’d be the first to know.”

Sam was quiet for a second. “Careful,” he said. “Think you came awfully close to complimenting me there.”

They both stayed silent for a few minutes before Sam rolled over and looked Toby in the eye.

“You were wrong,” he said, suddenly sounding almost sober. “There’s no one I’d rather have had here with me.”

Toby’s throat tightened painfully, and his fingers gripped Sam’s shoulder. Sam took a deep, shaky breath, gave him a lopsided half-smile, and then tucked his face into Toby’s side and let it out in a shuddering sigh.

Toby paused, staring down at him. Then he shrugged, toed off his shoes and swung his legs up onto the bed. The bottle would wait a little while longer.

He tried to tell himself that he wasn’t really worried. Sam would recover quickly from this defeat; he always did. The younger man shared Toby's ideals, but paired them with an unquenchable, almost quixotic, optimism that he himself had never known. And Sam was still – how had C.J. put it – youthful and energetic. He’d do well as a senior counselor, and he’d find his feet again.

All true, and yet a niggling doubt remained as he recalled the matter-of-fact tone of Sam’s statement, the bleak look in his eyes when he’d mentioned Josh.

What was it that Andy used to say when she got frustrated with me? Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. He sat and stroked Sam’s hair until the warm arm wrapped around his waist relaxed into sleep.

 

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
jezziejay
Aug. 18th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
I wish I had watched this show because your story and characterisations have me intrigued. Loved the feet metaphor :)
flywoman
Aug. 18th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
I wish I had watched this show

It's never too late! I've been rewatching the first four seasons on DVD over the past 9 months, and it is a seriously great show. In fact, it's the only show I've seen with dialogue as good as or better than that of House MD.

And Toby Ziegler's character reminds me quite a bit of Greg House's, although he's not my favorite. He has high principles, and he's good at what he does, but he's a sad, cynical, sarcastic sort who takes a certain pride in his own misanthropy.

And thanks so much for reading and commenting despite not having watched the show! I enjoy writing dialogue for Sorkin's characters so much, and this is my first fic that features Toby.

The context here is that Sam Seaborn is a speechwriter for the President who agreed to step in at the last minute as a Democratic candidate for a largely Republican district in his hometown, knowing that if he failed (as he most likely would), it would be very hard for him to get back into electoral politics. Toby is his boss and took over his campaign in its last week so that Sam could at least get his progressive message out and support the President's policies that he helped to craft. The results aren't shown explicitly, but we don't see Sam again until years later when his old friend Joshua Lyman wants to bring him back to the White House to work for a new administration.

The Josh/Sam pairing is imaginary, but consistent with canon as far as I'm concerned. I think that you would really enjoy seeing them together, especially in the first season.
jezziejay
Aug. 18th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
It certainly sounds interesting, and I remember that my best friend used to love it. I watch so little TV that I never remember to watch shows, and I usually stick to those that are less than half an hour long. But I do a box set of the first season - somewhere - and maybe I'll give it a shot. It's not very dated by now, is it?

I have been watching a lot of Modern Family recently - and I just love it :)

If you've posted this fic on another comm, feel free to delete this!
flywoman
Aug. 18th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)
Yes, I remember you buying Season 1! Do give it a try if you can locate it. I think that the show is still very timely. In some ways more so, since it was kind of like a liberal escapist fantasy during the Bush administration, and now we have a president who's much more like the one in the show.

And I did advertise this fic on the West Wing comm, but I see no reason to delete this discussion... unless you want me to!

Modern Family certainly has good ratings on imdb. Maybe I should try it... once I've watched the Dollhouse and Doctor Who DVDs that have been waiting for me for months now...
jezziejay
Aug. 18th, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
Right, I'm sold! I'll see if I can dig it out tomorrow - this isn't the first time I've heard a comparisson between Martin Sheen's fictional president and Obama, so that will be interesting to watch.

I don't mind at all about this discussion staying up, as long as you don't feel it's hijacking your fic.

And do try Modern Family - it really is laugh out loud funny.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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