blue flamingos

Agreeing to the Impossible

Fandom: The West Wing

Category/Rated: Slash, Gen, PG

Year/Length: 2006/ ~3760 words

Pairing: Sam/Will subtext

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Sam decides the West Wing's not for him, but politics still might be. Good thing he knows a guy.

Author's Notes: For [info]tww_minis's Sam round, for [info]scrollgirl who asked for: Sam/Will in a friendship/gen story, Sam as a congressman, sexual tension, resolved or unresolved.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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Sam's been there for nearly a year before he realises the Deputy Chief of Staff job isn't going to work out, round about the time Alex decides she doesn't want to take the bar exam again after all, not long after Josh proposes to Donna and Sam realises he won't have his best friend to fall back on much longer, even though Donna insists on waiting till the end of the President's first term before planning the wedding.

He sticks it out for another six months after that realisation, trying to talk himself into believing things will get better, and that eventually he'll stop looking for Toby and their assistants when he goes down to Communications.

Three days after he starts composing his letter of resignation, mostly in his head, before he tells anyone he's jumping ship – again – without any idea of what he'll do next, other than not go back into law, third time lucky or not, he runs into Will Bailey on his way back from a meeting on Capitol Hill. They do the obligatory long-time-no-see-how's-the-President?s then Will invites him for lunch and Sam accepts, despite having a call sheet that will keep him in the office till eight if they go well and quickly.

Sam waits till they've ordered their food and are both sipping coffee before he asks. "So, last I heard you were going to Oregon to run for Congress. With... Karen?"

"Kate," Will corrects. "She stayed here, actually." He stirs his coffee with rather more enthusiasm than seems really necessary,.

"OK." Sam makes a note to ask CJ what's wrong with her information network next time he speaks to her. "But still, Congress."

Will frowns slightly, not meeting Sam's eyes. "Didn't happen in the end."

"No?" This is the man who was prepared to campaign on a dead man's ticket, who took on Sam when he didn't have any experience being a candidate, and never once indicated that he didn't think Sam had as decent a shot at winning as anyone else.

"No." Will shrugs and looks round the restaurant. He's obviously aiming for trying-to-spot-the-waitress, but he lands short in seeking-the-nearest-exit. "It just – didn't seem like the right time, I guess."

Sam may not be great at picking up signals, but even he can tell Will wants out of this conversation. "Maybe next time," he suggests. "What are you doing now?"

Will all but sighs in relief and starts talking about working with the DCCC, running the campaign for the guy who *is* standing in Oregon. He's easy to listen to, especially once he relaxes a bit and it becomes clear that he's not too keen on his candidate, beneath all the enthusiastic rhetoric. In fact, listening to Will, Sam can hear the way he sounds to himself sometimes, when he's thinking about President Santos.

Campaign horror stories get them through lunch and coffee and splitting the bill, which Sam insists on, even after Will offers to pay, then they're standing on the sidewalk, fastening their coats, and Sam realises what's been nagging him all through lunch. "That's the tie I gave you."

Will's fingers go instantly to the knot and his eyes flicker down then back up, fast. "Is it?" he asks, not quite hitting casual, just like in the restaurant.

"Yeah." Sam remembers handing it to him on the beach in California, back when he was so disillusioned with the White House that he never wanted to set foot in it again. Funny how much things don't change. "It looks better on you."

Will flushes and finishes fastening his coat, hiding the tie from view. "Thanks. I forgot I even had it." He pulls on his left glove, then reaches out his right hand to shake Sam's. "If you're ever in Oregon..."

"I'll come supplied with ties." Sam grins and releases Will's hand. "Give me a call next time you're in Washington."

"Sure," Will says, and Sam watches him walk away before trudging back to work and the call sheet.

It's not until he's lying in bed that night that he wonders if Will wasn't just being polite when he offered to pay.

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Sam makes a few inquiries about Will and his congressional campaign that apparently isn't, not no-one seems to know much, not even CJ. He figures maybe Will was telling the truth after all, and if he wasn't, it's really none of Sam's business. He leaves his resignation letter on Josh's desk one night when he's taken Donna out, right before Sam has two days off.

He leaves his cell phone at home in the end, though he takes his pager, just in case a real emergency comes up, and spends two days not falling in the sea, not answering any pages and definitely not thinking about Will Bailey, with whom he may or may not have been on a date, Kate-not-Karen notwithstanding.

He has twelve messages on his voicemail when he gets home late Sunday evening: seven increasingly irate ones from Josh, one from Donna followed swiftly by a calmer sounding Josh, a telemarketer who assures him that all he needs is a new cell phone to make his life complete, one from his mom and a hang up. He tries star 69 but whoever it was withheld their number. Sam tells himself firmly that there's no reason to think it might have been Will, who, after all, doesn't actually *have* his home number.

The next day isn't the most fun he's had at work. Josh rants at him for several minutes, which is easy to ignore, then sends in Donna, who is sweet and much more difficult to ignore, though Sam manages to stand firmly. Oddly, the easiest person to defend his decision to is President Santos, whom Sam still finds it hard to think of as the President, and even harder not to compare, generally unfavourably, to President Bartlett.

After that, it gets easier. He agrees to work out the month while Josh finds a new deputy, and offers start coming in from people who want Sam. To Donna's surprise, when she sees some of the offers, and his mom's concern, he turns them all down and actually doesn't feel as unnerved as he thought he would when his last week rolls round and he doesn't have a job to go to.

On his last day, Josh takes him out for a drink, even though they had champagne at his leaving party in the West Wing. It's a lot different to the last time he walked out, when Josh didn't speak to him weeks. Sam still thinks the Deputy Chief of Staff job was Josh's attempt to make up for that, in his own clumsy way, because, even when he took the job, Sam couldn't have thought of a job to which he was less suited.

"So," Josh says after a couple of hours, banging his beer bottle down a little harder than really necessary. "Sure you don't want to change your mind? I could fire the new girl."

The new girl, as Josh calls her, has staffed for two Congresswomen and a Senator – she's probably better qualified for the post than Sam is after nearly two years in it. He grins, feeling relaxed and a little drunk. "Nah, you couldn't. President Santos likes her."

"True." Josh nods sagely, then leans in. "Donna doesn't."

"She'll be fine." Donna doesn't like her too much, but she's not jealous, as she explained to Sam several times over lunch earlier in the week. They are engaged, after all.

"Back into law now?" Josh has asked the same question every day for over a week, trying, he says, to get Sam to slip up and reveal his secret plans. Telling Josh he doesn't *have* any plans, secret or otherwise, has no discernible effect.

"Maybe," Sam says and shrugs. He swallows the last of his beer in one long gulp.

"Donna said you were asking after Will Bailey," Josh says abruptly, and Sam only just misses getting beer up his nose – not an attractive proposition.

"I, er, ran into him," he says, trying to sound calm, and not like he needs mouth to mouth. Josh squints at him suspiciously, until Sam wants to look away, not sure what Josh thinks he's seeing. Finally, Josh breaks eye contact and gestures to their server for another round. Sam doesn't even bother to remind him of the hangover he'll have tomorrow.

"His girlfriend was in the armed forces, you know." Sam can't pick out whether he's supposed to hear the emphasis on girlfriend or armed forces.

"Ex-girlfriend," he corrects, taking his chances. He's known Josh a long time, and he doesn't think anyone knows him as well as Josh does, when he tries.

"Whatever." Josh waves that away. "She could still have you killed."

"For what?" Sam asks. His voice sounds angrier than he thought he felt.

"Sam..." Josh gives him the same look he did when President Bartlet got elected and they had to stop acting like no-one would care what the two of them did, sympathy and pity all in one, and Sam would like to be anywhere but in this bar, suddenly. Josh reaches over and pats his arm. "If you're going to run for Congress again, you and Will..."

"Don't finish that sentence," Sam says sharply. Josh pulls his arm back, looking stung.

They leave soon after that, and Sam wonders if he'll ever see Josh again, except for in the background on CNN.

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He goes back to California for a while, but it's hot and full of memories of failures, in politics and life, and he gets bored with nothing to do all day. It's not as much fun as he might have imagined.

He ends up back in law, despite his best intentions, working for a small firm in Boston, where he doesn't have anything to do with politics or boats, and he feels like he's making some kind of difference. He still watches the news every night when he gets home, watching Santos' popularity gradually fall, seemingly beyond anyone's control, and catching an occasional glimpse of a harried looking Josh. He doesn't call, and Sam doesn't call him, but Donna emails every week, which he tells himself is nearly as good. Anyway, he's not looking for Josh on camera.

The problem with being out of politics is that he has no way of getting gossip without coming out and asking, which, poor choice of words aside, he's never been very good at doing subtly.

Fortunately, his friends have good memories, something he often wishes they didn't, so he finds an email from CJ one morning when he gets to work, telling him that Will's thinking of having another try at the Oregon 1st, and he's in Portland looking for a candidate.

Once Sam's got his head around the fact that Will's looking for a candidate, not to be a candidate, he arranges a few days off and books a flight to Portland. He's not really going to see Will, he tell himself as he studies a scrap of paper with the Portland DC office address into his pocket, at least not about the campaign. He's owed the time and he misses politics, a bit. Not enough to regret leaving the White House, but enough to take a six hour flight to Oregon.

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Sam tells himself several times on the walk over that Will might not even be in the offices - he's looking for a candidate, after all, not expecting one to come to him – but the first person he sees when he walks in is Will, leaning on the reception desk, chatting to the receptionist. They both look up when Sam opens the door, and Will's eyes widen in surprise. Sam suspects that he looks much the same way.

"Sam," Will says, then blinks and moves forward, his hand outstretched. "You do know I was only kidding when I said drop in, right?"

Sam shakes his hand and hopes he's not flushing too noticeably. "I could – if this is a bad time, I can come back?"

"It's fine. It's great, actually, cos I just got stood up." He flinches slightly and adds, "by a potential Congressman. I don't know what's wrong with Democrats these days. Do you want to get a coffee?"

"Sure," Sam says, feeling slightly battered by the flow of nervous words. They turn to head out, and that's when he realises they're still holding hands.

They walk down to Will's choice of coffee shop and get seated in silence. Sam feels at a loss for words: what seems so clear in his head when he booked the flight is gone, and he has no idea what he'll say when Will asks what he's doing there.

Will doesn't ask, though, just looks at Sam over his coffee cup, eerily reminiscent of the way Josh looked at him in the bar. "Doesn't sound like you're having much luck finding a candidate," Sam says finally.

Will shrugs. "Someone's out there somewhere, I just haven't found them yet."

Sam thinks of Leo and President Bartlet, how they spent their entire lives together and Leo always knew he could make his best friend President. "I thought you might go for it this time."

"No," Will says firmly. "I'm a behind the scenes guy – couldn't get myself elected."

"I could." Sam's not sure which of them is more surprised to hear the words come out of his mouth, especially since he's never considered himself to be great at campaigning: speech writing, sure, but not actually campaigning.

Will blinks and stares at him, the moment stretching out between them. Then he shakes his head and Sam tries not to feel the pitch of disappointment. This is never going to work, and he should have stayed in Boston. "You couldn't," Will says. "But I could."

And just like that, Sam's running for Congress. Again

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Campaigning with Will as his campaign manager turns out to be a lot different from last time. For one thing, it starts with house-hunting, so he can get in the 180 days residnecy requirement, which is a lot more hassle than renting an apartment ever seemed to be.

Once they start the campaign, though, Will actually listens to him and even acts on some of the things he suggests. He's also not afraid to shoot Sam's ideas down every once in a while, or to argue why they should be kept until after they've won. Which, amazingly, it actually looks like they might have a chance of doing. Once campaigning starts seriously, their numbers begin to tick up, slowly but consistently.

The only problem, Sam realises a couple of months into the campaign, when Josh rings him and says, "Will Bailey," like it's a warning, is that whatever drew him to Will's campaign in the first place is still drawing him, except he's in Oregon and campaigning and there's only one option left.

Will takes a while to relax back into the person he was when Sam first offered to step into Horton Wilde's campaign, but when he does, they end up staying late at the campaign offices, even after the last of the interns have gone, trading stories of campaigns and the White House, tossing around ideas for policies and campaigns. It reminds him, vaguely, of Bartlett's campaign, late nights with Josh and Toby, except this time it's not Josh he feels occasionally painfully self-conscious around, or Josh who pulls his hand back when he passes Sam coffee and their fingers touch.

Even with his inability to tell if women are looking, Sam knows Will is. He's not stupid, he's been around politics long enough to know that, if he wants to get elected, he and Will can't do anything, be open about it. What he doesn't know is why Will changes the subject every time his aborted run for Congress comes up.

For that, he ends up relying on Elsie.

Sam spent the first couple of weeks waiting for her to turn up, since she followed Will into the West Wing, instead of sticking around for Sam's campaign, until Will explained that she'd taken a job on what he called a doomed Senate campaign, and couldn't be tempted back, even with Sam's numbers continuing to go slowly up. Will doesn't seem too bothered by this, but Sam watches his face light up when she walks in one day and throws her arms round him, how he champions her round the office, mocking the guy she's working for, until he's called away to take a phone call.

"See?" Will says, holding his hand over the receiver, "Some people understand I'm an important person round here."

"Whatever you say." Elsie shrugs and grins at him. "I bet you asked them to call now to make you look good."

Will shakes his head, smiling back, and turns to his call. Elsie glances round, spots Sam and comes over to greet him. "I hope you're keeping him in his place."

"More the other way round, actually," Sam tells her. "This campaign needs you for that."

"I bet you say that to all the girls," Elsie giggles. She glances over her shoulder at Will, scribbling frantically as he nods, apparently unconcerned that whoever he's talking to can't see the nods. When she turns back, her expression is serious. "He's all right, isn't he?"

"Yes," Sam says cautiously, not exactly sure what she's asking. All right as a campaign manager? As a person? In his health?

Elsie rolls her eyes. "You've got no idea what I'm talking about, do you?"

"Not entirely." The glare she gives him reminds him of CJ.

"Honestly. After he broke up with his partner, right before he took you on?"

"Kate?" Sam asks, mystified. Everyone said that ended when Will left Washington and she stayed.

Elsie's eyes go wide and she covers her mouth with her hand, a parody of shock. "Oh," she says quietly, then again. "Oh, he didn't tell you."

"Tell me what?" Sam asks, though he has a strange feeling he already knows, that Will pulling out of his own Congressional race, and the way he shifts away from touching Sam have just been explained to him.

"No, nothing." Elsie runs her hand through her hair, not meeting Sam's eyes. "Nothing, forget I said anything."

Sam finds it hard to imagine doing that, but it turns out to be easier than he would've expected. Will's phone call reveals that a major donor has, for reasons unspecified, withdrawn his support for their opponent, and suddenly his campaign is spiralling down, while Sam's picks up and up and up, until it's election night and, unlike last time, he actually thinks he stands a chance of winning.

There's a stage set up in the centre of town, the result due to be announced any time. Sam's lost track of where exactly their staff have got to – every so often, one will appear from the crowd to shake his hand or wish him luck, while Will grins next to him, both of them restraining the impulse to point out that it's a bit late for luck now. Like the rest of the campaign, it's different from last time – no-one from the West Wing is there with him, though he's had plenty of calls wishing him luck, but, more importantly, this time he thinks it doesn't matter too much whether he wins or not. According to Will's sources, the DNC think they make a good team, and they'll find another race for them if they don't win this one. Will grinned when he told Sam this, then added that he'd told them not to look too hard, they're going to win this.

Will nudges him, drawing his attention back to the stage. "Looks like it's time."

Sam has a sudden, ridiculous urge to reach for Will's hand, his stomach churning with nerves. For all that he doesn't care whether he wins or not, this time he can't actually call it. Not like in California, where he could hardly stand to go along to the announcement, couldn't face Mrs Wilde knowing he'd failed to win her husband's seat for her.

Will presses his arm against Sam's, his eyes bright and happy. "Good luck," he says, and Sam laughs, missing the first few words of the man with the microphone.

"... next Congressman for the Oregon first, Mr Sam Seaborn."

The words don't register at first, swallowed up almost immediately by the cheering of the crowd, and the screams of voices he recognises as his campaign staff. Then Will throws his arms round Sam, hugging him tight, "we did it, we won," loud in his ear. Sam reaches up to hug him automatically, reality crashing back down on him. He thinks, this will never happen, as he holds onto Will, ignoring the hands on his back, then, absurdly, that he'll have to think of something more appropriate when someone asks him.

Janey pushes at him the moment he steps back from Will. "Get up there, idiot." She's grinning as she says it, though, and hugs him, fast.

Sam turns to make his way up to the stage. He has no idea what he'll say, both he and Will agreeing that they didn't want to jinx it by writing an acceptance speech, not when the election was so close, but he's a speech writer, he'll come up with something, he's sure. He just probably won't remember it afterwards, which might not be entirely a blessing.

A hand catches his arm, stopping him, and Sam turns to see Will holding out his tie. He takes it, bemused. Will grins, and leans in close to be heard above the crowd. "Your's doesn't go," he says, pulling Sam's own tie loose.

Sam thinks for a minute of disagreeing – he's always had good taste in ties, if nothing else – but Will's fingers at his throat feel good. He thinks, instead, of that day on the beach, of saying those words to Will and starting off a chain reaction that led all the way to this moment, like Josh's string theory; of Dr Bartlett cutting the President's tie off, right before his debate in the second campaign, and how Josh's ties became lucky; of months now of working with Will and wondering how things might be different if they were both in other careers, how they maybe could be different, if they're careful.

Will finishes fastening the tie and smoothes Sam's collar down, pushing him up towards the stage. Sam goes where he's pushed, to renewed applause from the crowd, knowing he's grinning like an idiot and not caring.

They're going back to Washington. Together.


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