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Fic: Campaign Romance

Fandom: The West Wing
Story Title: Campaign Romance
Character/Relationships: Josh, Sam, Donna, Josh/Sam, Josh/Donna
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Broad spoilers for all seasons of The West Wing.
Summary: They had always been a campaign romance. Even when they were apart.
AN: This was written for challenge 3 of round 1 of tvnetwork2_las. The prompt was "[character] dreams about [character]".

Campaign Romance

The dreams started the first night he was on the campaign trail. He spent his days busier than ever before, the Santos campaign requiring just as much work as the Bartlett campaign had done, but this time there was no Leo or Toby or CJ or Donna or … or Sam to pick up the slack, or supervise the crazy people beneath him or keep the candidate on track, on message and under control. And there was no Sam to come home to at night.

They'd always been a campaign thing. Other than his brief fling with Mandy, which had destroyed any rumours about the two of them, they'd made the most of every opportunity. If they were on the campaign, it was like it wasn't real. It wasn't even sex, most of the time, although sometimes it was. Mostly it was like coming home to someone who knew him, curling up together in a tiny, single bed and feeling … whole.

But Sam wasn't in politics anymore. He was happy at his law firm, or so he made a point of saying whenever Josh called. He'd invited him to come help on this campaign. Sam had laughed bitterly. "Quit my settled job with a good salary to chase after you and your long shot again, Josh? I'm not a young man anymore. I have a girlfriend I actually like. I've paid off my mortgage. I'm settled. It's not going to happen."

The first night of the campaign trail he dreamt of Sam.

They were sitting either side of a table in the California sun and Sam smiled at him in that way he used to, before bitterness and cynicism had infected him too. He grinned in a way that said he thought they could conquer the world together, like, maybe, if they just tried hard enough, it was all going to be OK.

They happened every evening, even the nights when he was so exhausted he suspected it was closer to passing out than sleeping. Sometimes they'd laugh at each other's silly little jokes. One time they danced. Occasionally they'd talk about the campaign and Sam would always have some little insight that he'd missed, some little suggestion.

During the days he'd never felt so alone. It wasn't so much that he needed his hand held – he was a grown man, he had worked in far more hostile environments – but there was no one he could really let himself go with. Everyone had an agenda, there was no one he could release the control to when he needed to. His job was to be in charge and he needed them all to see that. Even when he started hiring people to pick up some of the slack, they still weren't friends. When the others got more involved in the campaign, Donna and Leo and Toby (however secretly), he couldn't let them think that he wasn't the beacon holding the campaign together, that he was going to make mistakes and sometimes need someone to rely on. Even when he really screwed up, he needed them to trust that he could do it, otherwise…

The Sam in his dreams was his constant companion. One night he just let Sam hold him as he cried, the release of everything exactly what he needed. Dream Sam was holding him together by the end, as the long shot became closer and closer to a reality.

The night before the election he slept with Donna. The dreams stopped.

After they won the election, he found himself unable to resist the symmetry, turning up unannounced outside Sam's office. Sam took him to his favourite restaurant, a metal table with an umbrella outside in the Californian sun. He tried to pretend it wasn't familiar. Sam smiled at him from the other side of the table, but it wasn't the same. Even though he was nowhere near as tense as the last time Josh had seen him, he didn't look at Josh like they could do anything anymore.

He convinced him to take the job anyway and called Donna on his way home.