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anikadicara

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Summary: As Science Communications Officer, 18 year old Willow is the youngest staffer in the West Wing. That means she's no stranger to hard work, but dealing with a sick Josh Lyman proves to be a difficult assignment.

Notes: Story is unfinished, will post more in the coming days. I love the West Wing (especially Josh), if anyone wants to write more stories that'd be awesome :D

***

Willow breezed past her own desk on her way to her boss's office, flinging her coat and bag on her chair without missing a step. It was already after 5:30 am, and Josh was pretty much guaranteed to be well into his workload by now. Unfortunately, that meant he'd be very unlikely to listen to her report on the future of Ion Mobility Spectrometry for national security. Josh’s disinterest in science made Willow’s new job as the White House science communications officer difficult, because he continually put off her briefings on the assumption that he would not understand them. Her brilliant plan for today had been to come earlier than him and corner him when he was fresh, energized, and optimistic – a mood which usually lasted about five minutes into the sixteen-hour workday. But she had slept through her alarm, waking at the sound of the morning paper being delivered to the door of her tiny apartment at 5:15 am, half an hour past her target time for being at the office. She had dressed, brushed her teeth, run a wet comb through her hair, and power-walked the three blocks to the White House gate, arriving at work a record-breaking eleven minutes after she had woken up. And yet Willow knew that despite this accomplishment, she was about to find Josh already swamped and unwilling to listen to her.

As it turned out, Josh wasn’t in his office. His senior staff meeting wasn’t until 7, which Willow knew from the schedule that his assistant Donna had sent out to all of the junior staff before leaving on vacation. This had been Donna’s attempt to ensure that without her, Josh would still go to his meetings and not end up wandering aimlessly around the West Wing arguing randomly about anything and everything. Willow had noticed that the free block of time in this morning’s schedule before the senior staff meeting would the perfect chance to get the Ion Mobility Spectrometry report through to Josh. She wasn’t about to let that slip away. Since Josh’s coat and briefcase were not in the room, Willow concluded that he too was running late and hadn’t arrived yet at the White House, so she settled into his desk chair to wait for him.

***

“Willow!?” Startled, Willow nearly dropped the copy of Science Times that she’d found in Josh’s recycle bin half an hour ago. She looked up to find Sam leaning in Josh’s doorway, staring incredulously at the eighteen-year-old junior staffer sitting casually in Josh’s chair with her feet up on his desk.

“What?” she asked him, ignoring his shock.

“Why are you in here? Where’s Josh?”

“Late.”

“Josh is late.” Sam repeated.

“Yes.”

“Josh is never late.”

“He’s late today.”

“No, I mean really never late. I’ve never seen the guy miss a sunrise in the office.”

“Seems like there’s a first time for everything.” Willow said calmly as she returned her gaze to the magazine in her lap.

“You’re not concerned about this?”

“No. It’s barely five thirty in the morning.”

“But Josh is never late.”

“This conversation just started, and we’re already going in circles.”

“Do you talk to all the senior staff like this?”

“Yes.”

“Because it makes you seem tough and confident?”

“Because I am tough and confident," Willow retorted. Sam just looked at her in silence. “Did you need something?" she asked.

“I was looking for Josh. Because, you know, this is his office.”

“I’ll let you know when he’s in. After I bombard him with information about Ion Mobility Spectrometry.”

“He’ll enjoy that.”

Willow grinned. “I know.”

***

Josh showed up half an hour later. Willow was engrossed in a Science Times that she’d taken from CJ (who had also, slightly less rudely, come looking for Josh). She didn’t even notice him under he was standing right behind her, casting a shadow over her page and causing her to whip around in alarm.

“Josh! It’s about time.”

“Good morning to you too. Get outta my chair.”

“Hear me out first. Before you get started with the bajillion things on your desk. I think you’re really gonna like this report, I have a way to boost the travel industry and increase national security at the same time with barely any cost.”

“Get outta my chair.” Josh was almost whining.

Willow swung her feet off Josh’s desk and kept talking as she circled it, keeping up her confident persona. “Ion Mobility Spectrometry. It’s ten times faster than the current remote-detection methods used for illegal substance screening in airport security, and has none of the moral ramifications. It can detect explosives in amounts as low as a few nanograms, and the entire analysis is over in seconds. Theoretically, tourists could just walk right through a detector and onto a plane, unless they have a few nanograms of explosives on them in which case they’d be taken into custody and tried on terrorism charges. Sound good to you? This should be taken to Leo.” Josh had plopped down in his chair and was staring blankly at her, rubbing his temples. He looked half asleep. “Did you hear anything I just said to you?”

Josh opened his mouth, but no words came out. Instead, his breath hitched and he swiveled away from her, burying his face in the crook of his arm. “Huh-IShoo!”

“Bless you. Did you hear anything I just said?” Willow repeated, tapping her heel impatiently. Usually Josh fired back immediate argumentative responses, she hadn’t ever seen him be this slow on the uptake.

He didn’t lift his head, but instead directed two more powerful sneezes into his elbow. “Huh-ISShh! Huh-Ishoo!!” Josh wiped his nose on the sleeve of his pale blue dress shirt. Pretending not to notice, Willow continued to stare at him in expectation of an answer as he tried to discreetly wipe his sleeve with his other hand. “Sorry,” he said. “What were you asking me to do?”

“Take Ion Mobility Spectrometry to Leo.” She considered him more closely. His eyes were puffy, and his nose was slightly red around the edges. His hair was rumpled in the back, as if he had tossed and turned all night and then forgotten to run a comb through it. His voice was a bit rougher than usual, and he had been late. It would be easy for someone with half of Willow’s intelligence to figure out that Josh Lyman was sick.

“Okay,” he answered her.

“What?”

“Okay. I’ll take it to Leo.”

Willow narrowed her eyes. “You’re not going to fight me on this.”

“I’m not.”

“But you always fight me.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” Josh replied. Willow smiled to herself, remembering her identical retort to Sam earlier that morning.

“You’re not fighting me because you’re sick.”

“I’m not sick.”

“Then why are you late?”

“Couldn’t find my keys.”

“You looked for your keys for over an hour?” Willow interrogated. Josh looked confused.

“What?”

“You were over an hour later than normal to work today. It took you more than an hour to find your keys?”

“There was traffic!” Josh groaned in annoyance. “Not everyone lives three blocks from the White House.”

“There was traffic before six am? You should move closer to work.”

“And get a tiny studio that costs more than my huge place half an hour away? No way.”

“How do you know I live in a studio?”

“Because Candace rented it to you. She was Leo’s old secretary, I picked up notes from her once.”

“Stalker.”

“I’m not a st- a stalk- st-aIISHhoo!”

“Bless you. Still not sick?”

“I’m fide.” Josh sniffed, straightened his tie and sat up taller in his chair. “Was there anything else?”

“Sam came by your office. He wants to see you.”

“ ‘bout what?”

“No idea.”

“Okay.”

“Take this report to Leo. And read it first, make sure you understand it,” she commanded, thrusting it at him.

“Willow, I’m senior staff and a Rhodes scholar. You’re eighteen, and just because your scientific brain was discovered by the president during your high school field trip to the West Wing doesn’t mean I can’t understand your reports. Don’t talk down to me, you don’t wanna cross that line. I’m your superior,”

She looked at him for a minute. “Okay. I know. Yes, sir,” she answered calmly, without breaking eye contact. “Just, let me know if you have questions.”

Josh nodded curtly, and Willow left, heart pounding. She barely had her feet out his door when he called out to her. “Willow?”

She poked her head back in the office.

“Yes?”

“For the record, I, um, I wasn’t going to read it.”

“I know,” she agreed, suppressing a smile. “Senior staff at seven.” And with that, Willow stalked back to her desk.

***

Willow loved to work during senior staff meetings. It was the time when the bullpen was most focused, because nobody’s bosses were running in and adding work or changing assignments. She focused on the article in front of her, about a team of researchers and advocates pushing for the creation of an artificial pancreas to treat type 1 diabetes. The story was compelling, a promising scientific idea wrapped up in advocacy that politicians would understand and get behind. If any scientific issue was going to be easy to sell to Josh, it would be this. She happily set to work, breaking the article down into talking points that would convince the administration to adopt this into their agenda. She was just putting the finishing touches on a schematic of the device when Charlie burst into the bullpen.

“Tissues! I’m looking for tissues! Does anybody have some?” Margaret tossed him the box off her desk, and he caught it gracefully.

“You’re a lifesaver, thanks Margaret.” And he was off.

“They don’t have tissues in the oval?” Margaret wondered aloud.

“Let’s just hope the press doesn’t get a hold of that one. I can practically hear the incompetency jokes writing themselves,” Carol laughed. Willow returned to work, enjoying her co-workers banter as a background to her buzzing thoughts.

***

The tranquility didn’t last long. The senior staff’s approach was apparent before they even reached the bullpen, their voices echoing down the hallway from the oval office. “For the last tibe, I’b fide! If ode bore persod asks be that, I’m godda—”

“Okay, okay, chill. I’m not arguing with you,” Sam growled at Josh.

“Good. There’s a bonth… lef.. leftISHhoo! left for… HuISHhoo! Left for us to get this fidished, we cad’t afford to take breaks. We’re godda bake the deal, and it’s godda be od our terbs.”

“ Blow your nose, I can barely understand you,” CJ commanded frustratedly.

“Go to hell.” Josh stalked into the bullpen, snatched a tissue off Carol’s desk, and blew his nose noisily. Without another word to any of them, Josh made a beeline for his office and slammed the door. Sam shook his head and walked over to Willow.

“Do me a favor?” he asked.

“Sure.”

Sam handed her a file. “I need Josh to approve these points for the weekly address, can you give them to him?”

“He’s right in his office, we both just saw him storm in there," Willow pointed out.

“He’s mad at me.”

“Because you said he was sick?”

“He is sick. He didn’t go a full five minutes without sneezing during senior staff.”

“He should go home.”

“Can I please be there when you suggest that? I’d like to witness your beating.”

“I’ll give him the file.”

“I owe you one.” Sam left for his own office. Deciding that she’d give Josh a little while to cool off, Willow returned to her pancreas project.

***

After enough time had passed, Willow decided it was time to give Josh a shot. She knocked on his door, Sam’s file in hand. No response. She knocked louder. When she still didn’t get an answer, Willow pressed her ear against the door. Nothing. Knowing that it was probably a bad idea, but at a loss for anything else to do, Willow pushed the door open.

Josh was sprawled out on the couch in his office, an open file on his lap. He was fast asleep. Tissues were scattered all around the trash can, apparently Josh had not felt the need to get off the couch to throw them away and instead settled for tossing them haphazardly toward the can. His nose looked red and sore and he was breathing through his mouth, snoring slightly. All in all, not a sight that Willow expected he’d like the entire junior staff to see. She shut his door and then stood staring at him, unsure of what to do. Was it her responsibility to wake him? If she woke him, he’d be humiliated and angry and would almost definitely take it out on her (although she might be able to siphon off some of the blame onto Sam). But if she didn’t wake him, he’d miss his meetings and wouldn’t approve Sam’s speech and Donna would blame the entire bullpen. She had to wake him.

“Josh?” She shook his shoulder lightly. “Josh, you need to wake up.” He stirred, blinked once, and let out a massive sneeze.

“HuAAISHOO!” He scrubbed at his nose. Willow pressed a tissue into his hand and he continued to sneeze into it. “Huh-ISHoo! HuISHHH! HuhISHOO! Uhhh..” Josh groaned, pulling himself into a sitting position and blinking blearily at Willow.

“Whad are you doig here?” he asked, wincing as he heard his voice, which was low and gravely and thick with congestion. He reached for another tissue.

“Giving you Sam’s speech, he needs you to approve the talking points. Letting you know that you’ve slept through your education meeting. And telling you to cancel the rest of your appointments, go home, and sleep in a real bed.”

“Dot a chance. I’b fide. The goverdbent doesn’t stop for a cold.” Josh blew his nose for a full minute, using four tissues in the process. Willow leaned against his desk and waited for him to finish. “That the speech?” He gestured at the file in her hand.

“Yeah.” Willow handed it over.

“Alright, I’ll take a look. Tell Sam I’ll meet with him in a few… a few… HaISSHHoo!” a few binutes. Dabbit.” He blew his nose into yet another tissue, and then waved the box at Willow. “I’m gonna deed more of these.”

She shook her head. “Go home. You can take work with you if you have to. Just go home, get in bed, and stay there till you can pronounce the word ‘fine’.”

“I AM fide. Fide.” He sniffled. “I’b fide.” Willow rolled her eyes.

“Home, Joshua,” she commanded, remembering how Donna always used Josh’s full name when she was trying to get him to do something. “Or at least go take a long lunch and nap, any amount of rest will be an improvement over this.”

“I’b dot drivig all the way hobe id the biddle of a work day, it’s too far,” he whined.

“Sleep in your office then. Sleep on a park bench. Sleep in my apartment, for all I care. Josh, you can’t go to meetings like this, you’ll infect everyone.” With that, Willow turned on her heel and left the office, Josh sniffling and staring after her.

***

To be continued! I have more written, but I've got to be at work in five hours so it's time for bed.

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Next Part!

***

To Willow’s complete amazement, Josh left his office only a few minutes later, wrapped in his coat and scarf and carrying his briefcase. The bullpen staff watched him sympathetically and told him to feel better, and he rudely ignored them as he coughed and sniffled into a tissue. Willow congratulated herself on doing the impossible. Josh had listened to her, the youngest staffer in the white house, in his angry, embarrassed, sickly state. The confident thing really worked, apparently. She made a mental note to gloat to Sam at the next opportunity.

For the rest of the day, Willow made her way through three reports and CJ’s press briefing. CJ fielded a few questions about Josh, as some of the reporters had gotten wind of the blowout in the Oval Office this morning (apparently, Josh had sneezed on both the president and the secretary of defense, and then refused to excuse himself from the meeting). Now that the stress of the morning had worn off, Willow was finding the whole episode funny, and she was proud of her ability to mingle with the senior staff and be taken seriously. This could be material for the college admission essay she’d be writing as soon as Bartlet’s final term ended. She worked steadily into the evening, becoming immersed in stories of insulin, glucose, and transplants. It was only when Sam perched himself at the edge of her desk that she realized she was the only one left in the bullpen.

“Burning the midnight oil, huh?” Willow looked at him.

“Burning the midnight oil? Seriously?”

“What? I’m a speechwriter. I could have said why the hell are you still at work at eleven, but that wouldn’t be as poetic.”

“I’m not sure burning the midnight oil counts as poetic. You’re still here too,” she pointed out.

“You're like Josh, why do you have to argue with everything I say? Yeah I’m still here, I’m senior staff, we work till we keel over.”

“I got a sense of that today.”

“You mean Josh.”

“Yeah.”

Sam looked at her for a minute. “That’s actually what I came over to tell you. Getting him to go home, that’s not something everyone can do.”

“He was pretty beat.”

“Sure, but Josh doesn’t listen to most people. I just, I thought you should know that.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“Sure.” There was a short awkward silence. Sam stood. “I’m gonna go to my office.”

“Okay.”

“Burning the midnight oil,” he called over his shoulder.

Willow laughed. “You do that.” She watched as Sam retreated into his office for a late-night writing session. This had been a bizarre day. She packed her things, swung her bag over her shoulder, and headed home to get five hours sleep.

***

It was a freezing night, and Willow speed-walked to her apartment. Her hands shook from shivers as she pushed the key in the lock, but the door swung open before she turned it. She must have forgotten to lock it in her unnecessary haste to beat Josh to the white house this morning. And here she was again, in a hurry to get some sleep before doing it all over again. As the adrenaline of her day wore off, Willow began to feel sleep threatening to take over her where she stood. Dumping her coat and bag on the kitchen table and stepping out of her heels, Willow shucked off her blazer and stepped out of her pants, exchanging them for the sweats she had dumped at the foot of her bed early that morning. She was in the process of unbuttoning her shirt when a shadow shifted in front of her. Heart pounding, Willow flipped on the light.

“JOSH!” He woke, startled, entangled in Willow’s comforter.

*** TBC ***

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“wuzzhappedig?” Josh croaked.

“What the HELL are you doing in my bed!? What are you… why… ” she trailed off, her brain still trying to process the sight of the deputy chief of staff in her apartment, sleeping in her bed. She hastily buttoned her shirt back up to give herself a second to think.

“I don’t .. I don’t dow. I’b.. you said to cobe here.” He blinked rapidly, scrubbing at his nose and looking up at her with a sniffle. He looked so pathetic that Willow’s anger started to ebb despite herself.

“I said to come here.”

“Id by office. You said to sleep od a bendch or id by apartbedt or dap at .. at your.. huh..huhISHoo! huhISHoo!” He grabbed a roll of toilet paper next to him on her bed (the deputy chief of staff had been searching around her bathroom!?), unraveled a large wad and powerfully blew his nose. “You told be to cobe here.”

“I was kidding. That was supposed to be sarcastic!” Willow ran her hands over her face. She was at a complete loss for what to do, which was rare. She was angry at Josh for breaking into her apartment, and she was sure there were some rules about an 18 year old staffer hosting a member of the senior staff at her apartment overnight. But at the same time, Josh just looked so… sick.

Josh seemed embarrassed. “I didn’t.. I wasn’t payig buch attentiod today… I thig I’b really sick.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” Josh just looked at his hands, sniffling continually. Willow sighed. She had to be in control here. “Okay. I think we should get you home. So you can sleep in your own bed.”

“I’m goig idto the office. I slept through the whole afterdood.”

“Seriously? You just admitted you were sick. How can you go into the office like this? Can you even stand up?”

Josh looked almost comically offended. “I cad stand up.” He pushed the tangled blanket off of himself and rose quickly to his feet, only to sway a bit and sit right back down on her bed.

“Clearly. Lay back down, I need to step out for a minute then we’ll figure this out.” Grabbing her cell, not caring that she was in a blouse and sweatpants, Willow rushed back out of her apartment, sitting on the icy front step. She took a breath. What now? Josh was much older than her, a grown man. He could make his own decisions, right? But here he was, in her apartment, taking her orders and looking more helpless than Willow had ever seen an adult look. She couldn’t drive, so taking Josh home was out of the question. She could call him a cab. But Josh lived alone, what if he couldn’t take care of himself? Which was stupid, Willow convinced herself. He was a grown man and this was just a cold, or the flu. And it’s not like she had any medical skills herself, so she wouldn’t be of any help to Josh if he stayed here. But if she kicked him out, was that heartless? Willow was at a total loss. Who could she call? Her first thought would be Donna, but she was on a vacation that she more than deserved. None of the other junior staff had any pull with Josh. Sam was his best friend. But could Willow really call Sam on his cell phone in the middle of the night? As tough as she acted when speaking with them, the senior staff intimidated her. It was after midnight. But Josh was Sam’s best friend. She took a deep breath and dialed him. He picked up on the first ring.

“Sam Seaborn.”

“Hi, Sam. It’s Willow. Sorry to call you so late, but I kind of have a situation.”

“A situation,” she could practically hear him smirking over the phone.

“Yeah. It’s about Josh. I didn’t know who else to call.”

“Can this wait until morning? My midnight oil’s running low.”

Ignoring the comment, Willow fired back, “No. It can’t. I just got back to my apartment and found Josh sleeping in my bed.” Silence. “Sam?”

“Yeah.”

“You still there?”

Silence for a few seconds. “Yeah.”

“He’s really sick. I’m not sure what to do.”

For some reason, Sam laughed a little. “Is he breathing?”

“Of course he’s breathing, it’s not like I think he’s going to die or anything. But he sounds horrible, and he can barely stand. He might have the flu or something, I have no idea. I’m not sure why he’s in my apartment, and I don’t know if I should keep him here, or if I should try to get him home, or—”

“I’ll be right over.”

“To my apartment?”

“No. No, to Canada,” he teased.

“Thanks for that.”

“No problem.”

“You’re coming to my apartment?”

“Isn’t that what you’re asking me?”

Willow was flustered. She hadn’t really thought about what she was asking him. “I don’t – I mean – I didn’t know what to do, I thought you might have a suggestion.”

“I do. The suggestion is I come to your apartment and pick him up.”

“I didn’t mean to interrupt you, I just—”

“Found Josh passed out in your apartment.”

“Yeah.”

“See you in a few.”

“Wait, don’t you need the address?”

“I got it.”

“You have my address?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I ask how?

“No.”

“…okay.” She hung up. Could her day possibly get any weirder?

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The next part's up, enjoy! Also, still waiting on others to contribute West Wing fics, I'm obsessed at the moment...

***

Realizing she was shivering again from the freezing air, Willow rose to her feet and re-entered her apartment, where she found Josh in the middle of a sneezing fit.

“ISHoo! ISHoo! huhISHHHOO! ishHOO! huhISHoo! Huh—” he paused, a crumpled wad of toilet paper held up to his nose, and stared at the ceiling. His breath hitched several more times before letting loose one last sneeze, so loud Willow was convinced she saw the walls shake. “IISSHHHOO!! Ugh.” Josh blew his nose and fell back against Willow’s pillows, looking miserable.

“Bless you. Sam’s coming over, he’ll be here in a few minutes.”

“You called Sab?”

“Yeah. He’s gonna take you home.”

“Ugh. I hate beig sick.”

“I know. Do you want some water, or tea or something?” Willow was feeling distinctly awkward, Josh’s whining while lying in her bed was keeping her very aware of the inappropriateness of this situation.

“Tea would be good, thagks,” Josh sniffled into his toilet paper.

“Green or peppermint?” She called over her shoulder, rummaging through the cabinet.

“I don’t care. I won’t be able to taste it adyway.” He rolled over on her bed. Willow started a pot of water on the stove, and pulled out a mug and a peppermint tea bag. She leaned against the counter and looked over at him. He had his face buried in her pillow, and he wasn’t saying anything. What was she supposed to do now?

“Is there anything else I can do?”

“You can stop beig a kiss-ass ad let be rest,” mumbled Josh into a pillow.

“Seriously? You broke into my apartment and slept in my bed, and now you’re mad at me?”

“I’b dot ba.. ba.. aISHoo! Bad at you. I’b just.. I don’t dow. I don’t feel good,” he said quietly, not even raising his head.

“I know you don’t. But you still broke into my apartment, and you just sneezed on my pillow.”

Josh raised his head, looking mortified. “I wasn’t thidkig…” he sat up, wincing, picking up the pillow. “I’ll get it clead.”

“Yeah.”

Josh reached for the toilet paper and blew his nose. He got up slowly, rubbing his head. He walked gingerly around the bed to pick up his used tissues and dropped them in her trash can. “Sorry about this. I don’t dow what’s wrog with be.”

“You’re sick.”

“Yeah.”

“And not handling it all that well.”

“Yeah.” Josh looked at her with bleary eyes. He was vulnerable. He was looking to her to be in charge. This was a powerful man, on close personal terms with the president of the United States. Willow had no idea how she had ended up in this situation. “You.. uh… you have a dice apardbent.”

She laughed a little, releasing some of the tension in her mind. Clearly he was feeling as awkward as she was. And, she reminded herself, he was the one with reason to feel awkward. He was the one who chose to come here in the first place.

“Thanks. Let’s sit.” Willow led Josh over to the couch, handing him the blanket draped over the edge. He settled himself down, wrapping the blanket around him and shivering a little.

“I didn’t bean to stay here all day, you dow. I was godda dap, ad thed, go.. back to the office…” he cupped his hands over his face. “huhISHoo! Uhhh…” he kept his hands over his nose. “ub, could you, get be a – a tissue..”

Willow stood quickly, locating his toilet paper roll and ripping him off a piece. He blew his nose as she apologized, “I don’t remember where I put the real ones. Hold on.” She walked over to the kitchenette and started opening up cabinets, eventually discovering an unopened box of Kleenex behind some dishwashing detergent. She tossed it to Josh, then took the boiling water off the stove and poured tea into a mug. Josh was blowing his nose into the tissues when she returned, so she set his tea down on the coffee table and waited for him to finish.

“Real kleedex are like heaved right dow,” he joked, tossing it in the trash (he missed) and then gingerly picking up the tea. There was a slightly more comfortable silence as Josh sipped his tea and sniffled, Willow watching him. He pulled another tissue from the box and dabbed at his nose as he drank. “Really, I apologize for all this. I don’t rebember feelig this bad in a log tibe.”

“Don't worry about it, it’s not your fault.”

“I didn’t have to break id to your apartbend though.”

“No,” Willow agreed, “you didn’t.”

***

More to come in the next day or two!

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I've never even heard of this show and I'm loving it, like hardcore-I'm-mad-tired-and-should-go-to-sleep-but-this-fic-is-so-good loving it

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Still working...

***

Josh drank and sniffled in silence for a few more minutes until there was a knock at the door. “Sam,” Willow announced. Josh sat up a little straighter and pushed the blanket off himself. “Really? I don’t think you’re going to look tough for Sam in this particular moment,” Willow shot at him over her shoulder as she went to the door. Josh gave her a dirty look.

“Hey, thanks for coming,” Willow greeted Sam at the door. He looked as exhausted as she felt after a long day of work, but he grinned at her as he looked her up and down.

“Nice outfit,” he smirked. Willow had forgotten about her blouse and sweats.

“Shut up, I got distracted.” She led him inside and closed the door.

“I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to tell senior staff to shut up,” Sam teased her as he removed his leather gloves and dropped them on her table.

“I’m pretty sure senior staff aren’t supposed to break in to my apartment and sleep in my bed, either” Willow retorted, indicated Josh who was now curled up on the couch.

“That’s the couch.”

“He was in my bed when I got here.”

“Id your dreabs,” Josh croaked.

Sam snorted. “Hey, man, how’re you doing?” He crossed the room and sat next to Josh, clapping him on the shoulder. Willow gathered Josh’s bag, coat, and scarf from the floor by her bed.

“I thig you were right. I’b sick, I feel like crap.”

“Really? You mean this isn’t a ploy to end up in Willow’s bed?”

“Hey!” Josh and Sam both laughed at Willow’s indignation, Josh dissolving into coughs.

“That doesn’t sound so good,” Sam studied Josh with concern. Josh took a few steadying breaths.

“I’b fide. ISSHoo!” Josh sneezed suddenly, and Sam passed him a tissue.

“That much is obvious. C’mon, I’m driving you home.” Sam helped Josh up from the couch as he blew his nose, and Willow draped his coat and scarf around his shoulders. Clutching the coat tightly around him, Josh let Sam carry his bag and lead him to the car idling outside.

“Feel better!” Willow called after them from the top step. Josh waved one hand at her as he continued to blow his nose with the other, and then settled himself into the passenger seat. Willow stepped back into her apartment and took a deep breath, drinking in the silence. Not ten seconds later, there was a knock on her door.

It was Sam again. “Hey, is everything okay?” She asked him.

“Yeah, yeah, we’re fine. Sorry to leave so fast, it just seems like he should get home. I left my gloves,” Sam said, without breaking eye contact with her. Disconcerted by his stare, Willow whipped around and saw his gloves lying on the table.

“Got ‘em.” She handed them over. “Oh, and you should probably take these too.” She handed Sam the box of Kleenex. Sam took them and just stood there on her front step, looking at her. “What?”

“Nothing. Just—” he broke off, still staring. She stared right back. “I just – thanks.”

“Oh. Sure.”

“I mean, I know this was weird. For you. Probably not what you wanted to do with your evening.”

“Seriously, it’s fine. I worked for most of my evening anyway, remember? I called you pretty much right when I got home, when I found him. Don’t worry about it.”

“Right. Well. Uh, thanks. For doing that. You didn’t have to take care of him.”

“No problem. Goodnight, Sam.”

“Night.” He considered her for a few more seconds, then added, “You’re weird, you know that?”

“Is this a continuation of your thank you? Because you really could have stopped where you were.”

“No, no, I mean… it works for you. The weirdness. You’re harsh, you don’t take crap from people, and yet here you are making sure Josh has enough tissues.”

“Thanks, I guess? Stop talking while you’re ahead, Sam.”

“Right. Okay. See you tomorrow.”

“Make sure I don’t see Josh tomorrow," Willow demanded.

“Whatever you say, Boss.”

“Shut up.”

Sam gave her a wave and retreated down the steps back to the car. Standing frozen on her front step, Willow saw Josh snatch the tissues Sam handed him. Smiling slightly, she closed her front door, stripped her sheets and dumped them in the laundry, and flopped on the couch to sleep.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Back! Life's more hectic now, so updates will be less frequent. But I haven't forgotten about this, I promise.

******

The next morning at work, Willow didn’t mention the previous night’s adventures to anyone in the bullpen. As she returned to her work among her buzzing coworkers, she could barely believe that only a few short hours ago, two members of the President’s senior staff had been in her little apartment and one of them had slept in her bed. She kept this to herself both out of respect (and pity) for Josh, and also because she didn’t know how to make sense of what had happened. Fortunately, it seemed that Josh had the good sense to stay home sick. According to her officemates, this was extremely rare – most of them could not remember Josh ever taking a sick day. Willow stayed silent as they discussed this new development, instead choosing to put her focus on the latest from Scientific American.

Around lunchtime, Sam approached Willow’s desk. He looked exhausted.

“Hey,” he greeted her.

“Hi.”

“You’re wearing real pants.” Willow rolled her eyes at him. A couple of her coworkers looked around curiously. “How’s it going?” Sam asked.

“Not too bad, there’s a new stem cell report out that I want to recommend when Josh gets back,” Willow reported, keeping it professional.

“Sure. Uh, you know that deli on seventeenth?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m going over there, gonna grab some lunch. Get some soup to run over to Josh.”

“Okay.” Sam didn’t move. “Do you need me to do something while you’re gone?” Willow asked him.

“No, no. I actually was wondering if you want to come.”

“Oh,” said Willow in surprise. “Sure.”

“Good. Josh’ll want to thank you for yesterday.”

“I didn’t really do anything.”

“You didn’t kill him when you found him in your bed.” Willow suddenly felt the eyes of the entire bullpen on her as silence fell. Sam looked around. “Haven’t told that story yet?”

“Nope.” Awkward silence. Willow was having a lot of those lately.

“You gonna?”

“You guys are all witnesses,” Willow said loudly to her coworkers, gesturing around the bullpen as they looked at her curiously, “that telling this story was Sam’s idea.”

“What the hell happened yesterday?” Carol could barely contain her excitement. “Josh was in your bed and Sam was there and you weren’t wearing pants?” Sam snorted.

“Nothing happened,” said Willow angrily. “Josh was sick, he knew my apartment was close by so he was going to rest there over lunch but he fell asleep and I found him when I got home. That’s it.”

“What about the pants?” asked Carol.

“You told Josh to take a nap at your apartment?” Dave, an intern, questioned her with raised eyebrows.

“I didn’t tell him to, he just… he was sick. He didn’t think about it. And I was wearing sweats,” Willow retorted.

“So Josh broke in to your apartment to take a nap,” said Dave incredulously.

“I guess. Yeah, that’s what happened.”

“He is so never going to hear the end of this,” Margaret piped up excitedly.

“And that’s why I didn’t tell them,” Willow told Sam, who was grinning, as she pulled on her coat and grabbed her bag. “Let’s eat.”

***

Willow and Sam walked briskly along the edge of Lafayette Square to the deli, the bitter cold air biting their cheeks as Sam interrogated Willow about her life. She answered his questions easily, almost never resorting to sarcastic retorts as she grew less and less intimidated by him.

“So I hear the president discovered you because of a grape.”

“A grapple.”

“What?”

“A grapple. It was an apple injected with carcinogenic artificial grape flavor.”

“Ah.” He looked at her inquiringly. “And that led to a meeting with the president because…”

“Our tour guide was holding a box of them. I got bored looking at White House architecture so I started reading the label, and it had butyric acid in it which I had just read about in a magazine that said it was a carcinogen in animal studies. So I—”

“You were reading about beauty-something acid in a magazine? Aren't you supposed to be reading Seventeen or Teen People or something?.”

Willow ignored him. “When the guide asked if we had questions, I asked him if he knew about butyric acid. He didn’t, so I told him his grapple might be dangerous and he should stop eating it. I didn’t know the president was behind me.”

“He was behind you?”

“I guess he wanted to look at architecture.”

“That sounds like something he would do, yeah.”

“Anyway, then everyone noticed the president, and they spent forever taking pictures with him. The tour guide put down the grapple box so I picked it up and kept reading it. Next thing I knew, the president was asking me how I knew so much about carcinogens.”

“Just out of curiosity, how do you know so much about carcinogens?”

“I read stuff.”

Sam laughed. “Is that what you told him?”

“I said I’d read about it in NewScientist.”

“Sounds more impressive than ‘stuff’.”

“I guess. He hadn’t heard of NewScientist, so I told him that’s why nobody knew that grapples were carcinogenic. I told him he should read it, and that I wanted newspapers and TV news to talk about science more so people know things like that, and he said he’d hire me to make them do that.”

“Just like that?”

“Well there were like ten meetings first, and this huge background check where scary looking secret service agents questioned all of my teachers.” Sam laughed, and they walked in silence for a few minutes.

“I still don’t really know why he did it though,” Willow said, partly to herself and partly as a question to Sam.

“What?”

“Why the president hired me like that. Thousands of people come on tours every day, he doesn’t hire them all. Especially the ones who haven’t even been to college yet.”

Sam studied her for a second. He did that a lot, and it always made Willow feel a little bit uncomfortable, like she was being x-rayed. “I bet,” he said slowly, “that most of the tourists that run into the president don’t order him to do things.”

“I didn’t order him to do anything!" protested Willow. "I just said that people should know about—”

“Not that. I mean you acted like us that day. Like the senior staff. You weren’t afraid to tell the president that he should read that magazine, and that’s rarer than you think.”

Willow digested that information as they finally reached the deli. Sam ordered turkey-cranberry sandwiches for himself and for Willow, and a container of chicken soup for Josh. Willow held their purchases as Sam flagged down a cab, and directed the driver to Josh’s apartment. They hadn’t driven two blocks before Sam’s cell phone rang.

“Sam Seaborn. … you’re kidding. … For tonight? … Yes. … Yes, I’m on my way.” Sam shut his phone and leaned forward to address the driver. “Excuse me, would you mind letting me off here please?” The driver pulled over to the side of the road as Sam hastily offered Willow an explanation. “The president wants to re-write his agriculture speech for tonight and Toby’s going ballistic, I need to go back to the office. Stay in this cab, it’ll take you to Josh’s and I’ll catch another. Just make sure he’s alive, kay? See you later.” And with that, Sam was gone. The driver eyed Willow, who shrugged, then leaned back in her seat. Here she was, on her way to Josh Lyman’s apartment, alone.

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  • 4 weeks later...

***

The driver pulled up in front of a row of brownstone houses. “Excuse me,” Willow addressed him. “Which house were you supposed to drop me at?” He looked at her like she was stupid.

“Number six, ma’am.”

“Thanks.” She gave him a generous tip to make up for her apparent stupidity and got out of the car. Taking a deep breath, Willow walked briskly up the steps and knocked loudly on Josh's front door, her head held high. There was no response at first, and she was on the point of knocking again when she heard movement and Josh’s form appeared in the frosted-glass window. He swung open the door.

Josh looked horrible. Willow had never even seen him without a tie, so the person standing before her was far from the boss she knew. He was ghostly pale, his eyes pink and watery and his nose crusty and irritated. He wore grey sweatpants and a ragged Harvard sweatshirt, and had a blanket around his shoulders and a balled-up tissue in his fist.

“Willow?” he croaked. His voice was almost gone. “What are you doig here?”

“Making sure you’re alive. Sam bought you—” Willow stopped as Josh sneezed harshly into his tissue.

“HATTchoo! HaTISHHoo!”

“Soup. Bless you.” Josh walked back into the apartment in search of a less dilapidated tissue, and Willow took it upon herself to follow him inside and shut the front door. As Josh blew his nose, Willow set the food on the counter. “Bowls?”

Josh gestured at a cabinet behind Willow, and she took down a bowl and dumped the chicken soup into it. She could feel him watching her as she stuck it in the microwave.

“So,” she said finally. “How are you feeling?”

“Crappy. Ad confused. Does Sab dow I cad bake by owd food?”

“Apparently not.”

“Where is he?”

“Got a call in the cab, Toby’s freaking out about agriculture.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”

They stood awkwardly in silence for a minute, Josh sniffling continually. Finally he spoke up, his voice sounding painful. “Are you really godda eat soup with be?”

“I got a sandwhich. Not that soup’s not good or anything, but I’m in more of a sandwichy mood,” Willow rambled. Josh gave her a funny look, and it occurred to Willow that even though right now Josh looked like a dischevelled bum with a cold, he was still a member of the president’s senior staff and might be too sophisticated to refer to a mood as ‘sandwichy.’ But then he grabbed a tissue and Willow realized he was just getting ready to sneeze.

“Huh..huhISHoo! HuISHHoo! HuISHOO! HuISHH! Ugh.” Josh grimaced and pulled several more tissues from the box, turning away from Willow as he attempted to blow his nose with an awful gurgling sound, culminating in another massive sneeze. “I’b sorry, that was gross. You dow you don’t have to stay here.” He slumped against the counter as if standing was sapping him of all energy, and rubbed his temples with a grimace.

“I don’t mind staying, Sam wanted me to make sure you were alive. And to be honest you’re not convincing me.”

“I’b fide.”

“Really,” Willow rolled her eyes. Josh glared at her over his tissue. The microwave beeped, and Willow retrieved the soup. She brought it and her sandwich over to the kitchen table, and promptly sat down and began to eat. Josh took the hint and joined her. For several rather uncomfortable minutes, the silence was broken only by their chewing and Josh’s liquid sniffles.

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  • 3 months later...

Every once in a while, I'm bored and pick this up again. Don't really care if anyone's reading, just figured I may as well post since I'm writing anyway...

***

After eating half his soup, Josh set down the spoon, blew his nose, and said abruptly, “So I guess Sab’s idea of a date backfired.”

“A date?”

“Cob od,” Josh smirked. “You thig he idvited you just id case Toby called hib away?”

“He said you wanted to thank me.”

Josh laughed, which quickly turned into a cough. As the coughs subsided he swiped at his nose with a tissue and said, “That’s a load of crap.”

“Thanks. I’ll remember that next time you break into my apartment and I'm deciding whether to call the cops.”

Josh ignored her and said instead, “He’s tryig to date you.”

Now it was Willow’s turn to laugh. “He is not. Sam’s probably at least ten years older than me, plus everyone knows speechwriters can’t date the interns. Actually, no one can date the interns. It’s politics.”

“Thags for rebindig be. I’d forgotid what we do all day.”

“Seriously. There’s no way Sam’s trying to date me.”

“Kay. Thidk what you wadt.” Josh leaned back into his chair and massaged his eyelids. “This cold is kickig by ass.”

“I know. I think it’s making you delusional.” Josh stopped rubbing his eyes and stared at her. “Sorry,” she said awkwardly. It was too easy to slip into her usual sarcasm and forget that this pathetic, whiny man in front of her was one of the most powerful people in the country. She had to stop doing that.

Josh just looked at her.

“Um, do you need anything else? Should I make some tea?” She stood up and started to clear away the paper bag from their lunch and the remnants of her sandwhich. When he still didn’t say anything, she prodded, “Josh?”

He held up a finger, still staring. After a the longest few awkward seconds in the world, his eyes fluttered shut and he caught three massive sneezes in his hands. “HaISHH! HaISSHH! HuhISSSHHH!!” He kept them there, steepled over his nose and mouth, until Willow plopped the box of tissues in front of him. Turning away from her, he blew his nose squelchily over and over until he was out of breath and Willow had run out of things to clear off the table. Throwing a final rumpled tissue on the pile in front of him, Josh groaned and announced “I’b goig back to bed.”

“Okay. I’m gonna call a cab and head back to the office.” Willow pulled out her cell phone and Josh gingerly rose out of his chair and plodded off to the bedroom. As she waited for an answer, Willow covered the phone and called out to Josh, “Feel better!” He stopped, turned, and nodded tiredly in her direction. Which, Willow thought with some pride, was probably the closest thing to a thank you he was capable of in his current state.

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Heee!! Sorry, just found this. This is amazing! I love it. Particularly Sam, who is kinda my favourite, maybe after Toby. Your writing is very good, as is Willow (thought for a splitsecond that this was some CRAZY Buffy/WestWing crossover because I watch tons of Buffy). She's very sweet. I squeed a little when Josh suggested that Sam was trying to date her - that would be The Most Adorable thing ever. Thanks so much for posting!

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