If Only She Knew
by Jessie

Summary: Sam's late night ramblings about life, love, and a couple of his coworkers.

Disclaimer: The West Wing is not mine. No harm is meant by this story.

Spoilers: Specifically "Crackpots and These Women", but most all of the second season as well.

Authors Note: I'm working on a sequel to this story right now, and, in case your curious, Ainsley enters into the picture in it, even though she really isn't mentioned in this one.

Feedback is, as always, very much appreciated, and will probably inspire me to get that sequel finished faster (I am not above bribery). Hope every one enjoys this. I had fun writing it :)

***

So, I'm going to admit something. And I'd really appreciate it if you didn't laugh. Or smirk, or chuckle, or . . . whatever. Cause it's not like this is easy to say aloud. Or even to think about.

And it's not like it's that big of a deal either. Cause it isn't. I mean- I'm just saying . . . it isn't. I just thought I'd admit it and I don't want to be laughed at.

So if you could . . . you know. Not.

This really isn't that big of deal.

But anyway- here I go.

I'm . . . watching my best friend and his assistant right now. I've been watching them for a little while. And I don't care what you say- I can't help it. And it's late. And I haven't slept in forty-eight hours. And I'm missing Mallory. And . . . I can't help it.

You understand, right?

I'm watching them and I'm thinking- 'God, why can't I have that?' I'm thinking, if I were Josh . . . man, I wouldn't be walking around the way he does- like some moron who doesn't see what's right in front of his face.

If I were him I'd be doing some serious 'sweeping-her-off-her-feet' right now.

But I'm not Josh. Obviously. And he doesn't see what he's got, and probably won't until it's too late. Like all the greats- he's only blind to the one thing that's the most obvious.

No. I'm not Josh. And since I'm not, I have to let him screw this one up on his own, while I get to screw up with Mallory. Now that I think about it, even if I were Josh I'd probably wreck things just as much as he does. I mean, comparing track records, I can't help but notice we're both pretty much above par.

In other words- I'm one to talk.

And please forgive me for my golf metaphor.

What 'love of my life' has ended happily, I ask you? I can't even name one. And I could probably say the same for Josh. We're both too involved in our work. That's what it's always been, really. Probably always will be too. We'll both end up with great jobs and no social life. Which isn't much of a change from our current positions, but still. When you think about it . . .

Well. This is depressing.

Just call me Sam Seaborn, hopeless romantic.

But anyway, let's not get into the depressing side of things. I'm being sentimental right now- I don't want to bring my mood down. I'm watching my best friend and his assistant. It's late- and I'm tired. But I can't go home until Toby finishes revising my speech.

So, instead of trying to find something else to work on while I wait, I'm thinking about how much I miss Mallory. And how much I wish I were in bed right now.

Preferably with her, but at this point, I'd settle for a simple goodnight's sleep. And I'm also thinking about exactly what it is that my best friend has that I don't.

I assure you, my productivity astounds even me.

Or- you know what? Maybe I'm just as blind as Josh is, and I don't know what I have when I've got it. And I probably won't figure it out until it's too late. As is typical.

But I'm going to hope that isn't true. You know- just so this night doesn't turn into a complete romp through the garden of self-pity and despair.

Anyway.

Josh.

Donna.

You have to admit, it's hard not to crack a smile whenever they're around.

Have you ever watched them together? I mean, really watched them- like I'm doing now? It's like watching my grandparents when they think nobody's looking. Only Josh and Donna aren't in their eighties.

What I mean is- my grandfather can be a real pain in the ass, and my grandmother is about the most controlling woman I know. But when they think nobody's looking they can be really . . . sweet.

And I thought I asked you not to laugh.

I'm allowed to be sentimental every now and then.

Anyway . . . what was I talking about?

Right.

It really is very late.

I wonder why Josh and Donna are still here. Shouldn't they have left hours ago? Or, at least, *she* should have.

He keeps her here way too long, you know. I'm surprised she doesn't threaten to quit unless her hours get better.

Actually- I'm not surprised. I think it's pretty obvious why she doesn't up and leave. Even to me: Mr. Clueless, who, among other things, has committed such sins against intelligence as 'accidentally' sleeping with a call girl.

And then, of course, giving this information to my boss's daughter.

In my own defense, however, I did attend a very prestigious university. Really. And I became a highly successful lawyer, and am now Deputy Communications Director for the White House. These things don't just happen by accident.

Right?

Kind of makes you fear for the state of our country, doesn't it?

Anyway. I was thinking about Donna wasn't I? My mind really does wander when I'm this tired. I'll have to bring that up next time Toby asks me to wait for him to finish his editing.

Not that he'll listen to my protests. But it couldn't hurt to try.

That is, unless he has something sharp or in any way lethal within ten feet of his office.

Maybe I shouldn't bring it up after all.

I think I'll just abandon this train of thought all together. I'll just keep watching Josh and Donna. Stick to safer territory.

I still remember when I first figured out that Donna had a thing for Josh. I'm not always the fastest guy when it comes to picking these things up, but this was far too obvious. Even for me.

From the moment we got into the White House, and Josh yelled her name from across the bullpen for the first time, and she came running up to him as though she lived for nothing else: I knew- with what little sense I have about these things- that she had a thing for him. Perhaps a crush. A little hero-worship or something. But I think it was obvious to everyone that she was slightly taken with him.

Everyone except Josh, that is.

I guess she would have to be slightly taken with him to put up with him like she does. I'm his best friend and I can barely put up with him sometimes.

Which brings up an interesting point. Or, at least, a somewhat relevant point.

Okay, let's just call it a point. It's really not right to get into adjectives this late at night. My point is this- Donna Moss is one of the greatest women I know. Truly.

Just something to think about I suppose. I don't how Josh would get through a day without her.

And you wanna know when I first realized that he cared about her too? Cared about her as more than just the annoying assistant who refuses to bring him coffee and spouts off odd facts as though inane trivia was a language all its own?

I'll tell you when I first realized this. It was during a late night talk with CJ, last year.

Yes. Another late night.

"He really is very sweet sometimes." She had said, leaning back in the chair facing my desk.

"Uh huh." I had replied, staring at my computer screen and not really paying attention.

We had just gotten done with the President's chili dinner and all I really wanted to do was go home and sleep, something I had little hope would happen that night.

Instead, I was sitting in my office, revising some ridiculous speech for the ambassador to who-knows-where, because Toby didn't like the guy's attitude and didn't want to take the chance that he was going to address the press unprepared.

It occurs to me that Toby has kept me at the office late on more than one occasion.

It also occurs to me that, knowing myself, I probably would have stayed late to work on it anyway.

I don't remember why CJ was still at the office, or- more specifically- why she was in mine. But she was. I think she was waiting for news on something or other to come in- I don't know. But she was there. And she was talking about Josh.

"He gave back the card too. Leo told me." She went on lazily, stretching her arms in the air. I read over my last sentence a second time, then looked up suddenly. Something she had said had caught my attention.

"The card?"

CJ sat up and yawned slightly.

"Yeah. He'd been worrying about it all day, the poor thing." She laughed. "He finally went up to Leo and the President before dinner, and told them he couldn't keep it. That he wanted to be with his friends if anything ever happened."

She had a wistful look on her face, as though she was just remembering that Josh was actually a good guy.

Just so you know, realization came on rather suddenly and without warning for me. As it usually does.

"The card the NSC gave him?" I asked, quite a few things about that day suddenly clicking into place.

"Yeah."

That was when I knew.

You see, suddenly I was remembering something that had happened earlier- the strange conversation Josh had initiated while in my office. The way he had been slightly . . . off.

"Listen. You're close with Cathy, right?" He had questioned me, and I had found it odd that he was asking about my assistant. Did Josh even talk to Cathy? Why did he want to know about her?

"I haven't seen her naked, if that's what you're asking." I had tried going for the humorous, but he didn't seem particularly amused. In fact, he kind of seemed slightly nervous by my comment.

"No Sam. Well, that's not what I'm asking."

"I mean, she's like my younger sister, but she gets paid, and . . ."

"Right."

"And she frightens me." Well, it was the truth. That woman is about the scariest person I've ever met.

"Yes."

"But I love her." Also true.

"Yeah."

"It's like you and Donna." This point seemed to need stating, just so I could clarify what kind of love I had for my assistant.

Somehow, I don't think it clarified it very much.

"Right." He finally got to the point of his visit. "When they gave you a card and they told you that it was just you and not Cathy, how did you . . . How'd you feel about that?"

"When they gave me what card?"

"The NSC guy . . . the card with the directions."

"The directions to . . ."

"You, CJ, Toby. I'm saying when the NSC guy gave you your cards."

There was a short pause, before I gave him a puzzled look and asked, "Josh, what card?" I still had no idea what he was talking about and I imagine this fact had suddenly become very apparent.

"Nothing." I could tell he had just realized something, though I was still at a loss. "I was thinking of a different . . . nothing. Nothing." He quickly backtracked awkwardly and left the office, leaving me more than a little confused.

And then suddenly, on this other late night, with CJ sitting across from me and- for the most part- talking to herself, I realized what this infamous "card" was and why it might cause some one to become upset.

So that's what he was so worried about. That's why he had been asking me about Cathy.

I'm telling you, actual light bulbs were clicking on above my head.

"Like you and Donna," I had said, hadn't I? And that's who he was thinking about.

Donna.

But the thing was- it wasn't "like you and Donna."

Sure, I love Cathy. She *is* like a sister to me. She's a good woman, and, of course, I would wish for her to be safe if anything ever happened. And, I guess I would feel slightly guilty that I would be up in Air Force One, or where ever they put me, and she wouldn't. But I would get over it.

I don't mean it like that, though. I guess what I mean is . . . I'd talk to her about it maybe. And then I'd realize that this was the way things worked. I was a member of the senior staff and was the one who was needed or . . . whatever. And- that's how it was.

I would be upset- most likely some part of me would want to be noble and all that jazz; would want to at least try to make it possible for her to come with me. Yeah, I'd want to talk to her about it- get it out in the open- but . . . I would understand.

Josh, however, did not understand. Or, if he did, he didn't like it. As far as he had known the rest of the senior staff all had cards just like his. But not Donna.

I replayed the conversation over and over again in my mind. That question he had first asked me- ". . . you're close with Cathy, right?" That question didn't have the same meaning as what I had thought.

Or maybe I just hadn't thought.

It wouldn't have been a first.

What he was really trying to do was make sure his closeness with Donna was okay. Before he could actually get to the point of the conversation he had to be sure that I was close with my assistant too. That his relationship with Donna wasn't abnormal. He wanted some reassurance.

See? I can be perceptive.

I had actually noticed this fact in the first place. Only . . . not really.

I mean- I guess I had figured that he was talking about Donna as soon as he had asked the question. Which is probably why I included the "like you and Donna" comment.

At least, now that I think about it, that seems like the likely explanation.

I know. I'm an idiot. Give me a break- lack of sleep, remember?

So, there I was, sitting in the dim lamp light, absently closing my laptop and leaning back in my chair, while CJ went on about something or other. I don't think she really expected me to pay any attention. I sat there and it was as though my entire being had just emanated one loud and universal "ohhhhhhh!"

I understood.

"When they gave you a card and they told you that it was just you and not Cathy, how did you . . . How'd you feel about that?" His words came back to me with the kind of condescending quality familiar to realizations that you know you should have realized sooner.

It wasn't some noble instinct that had sent him to my office. Josh may be slightly chivalrous when he wants to be, but he's no closet King Arthur. What that was, was pure concern that he would be without his loyal and ever-present assistant.

Donna would not be there and he didn't like that. At all.

Not only that, but Josh had been talking about feelings. He had been trying to communicate his emotions. That alone did it for me. That, all by itself, was the straw that broke the camel's back. The needle in the haystack or . . . whatever. My metaphors are getting mixed up, aren't they?

Anyway, my point is that anything that could get Josh Lyman to willingly start up a conversation on feelings- any kind of feelings- had to be major. Had to be . . . important.

Donna was important.

And, suddenly, I knew. I had this big grin on my face as I leaned back in my chair- I could feel it. Just like I can feel the grin on my face right now. Cause I can't help it.

And stop smirking. You're ruining the mood.

But you wanna know what my first thought was after I had this realization? This epiphany, if you will?

"If only she knew." It's the same thought that I'm thinking right now as I watch Josh make some sarcastic remark about her secretarial abilities.

If only she knew.

This thought, combined with the grin, is giving me a very strong case of déjà vu. And may I recommend never experiencing déjà vu when you're this tired and mopey? It can really only make things that much more confusing. And who wants that? Seriously.

I inhale and exhale loudly.

I miss Mallory.

I guess I should just call her. I mean- what's the worse that could happen?

Okay, don't answer that question.

But you know what? Maybe this means that I'm not as dense as Josh is. I realize what it is I want- who the woman is that I want to spend the rest of my life with . . . or, at least, this moment with. And many more moments.

The 'rest of my life' thing we can work out later.

The point is- and I sure am making a lot of points for one night- my point is that I know how I feel. Which is more than I can say for my good friend, the Deputy Chief of Staff, who is currently apologizing to his assistant in his usual cocky, yet sincere, way.

I guess *my* problem is that I don't have the confidence. Which, of course, Josh has in excess.

So there. You see? Put us two together and we make the perfect man. I've got the know-how, and he's got the guts. Mallory and Donna wouldn't stand a chance.

Not that Josh needs any help in wooing Donna. And please don't get on my case about the use of the word "wooing". It's a perfectly acceptable word.

No. All Josh needs is a good kick in the head in the hopes that he'd get some sense knocked into him.

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I should be the one to kick him in the head. Not literally I mean. Figuratively. I wouldn't actually go up to Josh and . . . you probably got that, huh?

But the thing is- and it's a very good thing- a very reasonable thing that shouldn't be forgotten or ignored. The thing is . . . here's the thing . . .

Don't worry, it'll come to me.

The thing is that I lack courage. Which I said before, so you know it's true. I'm not good enough at this lying thing to be able to do it twice in a row like that.

Politics is really for me, isn't it?

It's just that I lack enough courage to drop a bomb like that on my best friend. If he didn't kill me he'd have a heart attack . . . or something. I just don't want to risk it.

You understand? Besides, I'm still busy over here moping about Mallory and how I seemed to have lost the ability to use a telephone.

Imagine- this is the woman who could, quite possibly, be the love of my life, and the reason we're not together at this moment is because I can't work up the courage to dial her phone number.

Well, there are lots of other reasons why we're not together at this moment- one of them being that she's dating a hockey player- but I don't like to think about them.

The woman you love is dating a hockey player. You have to admit- that's never a good sign.

But enough about Mallory. This line of thinking is starting to depress me again.

I'm not gonna work up the guts to call her, just like Josh isn't going to suddenly realize he's completely head-over-heals for his assistant. This isn't some afternoon soap opera or grocery store romance novel. This is real life. And real life tends to be a little more complicated than that.

Not to mention scary.

And all that this talk really means is that it's late, and I wish I were in bed rather than here, and I'm watching my good friend and his assistant- who are now arguing over why they're at the office this late at night- and I'm way too sentimental to be in politics.

Romanticism should be a disease. It really should.

But . . . I need to snap out of this. I need to go check on Toby to see if he'll let me go home now, and I need to stop thinking about all of these abstract things that only seem to come up when I'm tired.

But I can't stop.

Thank you for not laughing.

I'm depressed right now. I'm deeply saddened- even with the lovely couple right in front of me. They're only serving as a reminder that love is doomed and I might as well not even try. I have no backbone. I have no courage. I am a romantic, exhausted, speech-writing blob. An amoebae.

Can they write speeches?

Oh, and can I take this opportunity to say, just for future reference, that self pity is not something I enjoy? Really. So if this ever comes up again- hit me over the head with something heavy before I start going into the terrors of my love life. Okay?

I miss Mallory.

Oh hell. Who knows, right? Maybe . . . maybe I *will* call her. And maybe Josh will realize that he's an idiot.

An idiot in love, but an idiot none-the-less.

I can dream, can't I? It's one of my many endearing qualities.

Don't smirk. My ego needs this.

They're arguing over whether Donna deserves a raise now.

Yes, I'm still watching them. Say what you want, but, like I said, I can't help it. Despite what he's saying right now- and I'm amazed that she's taking it so well cause if I were her, I'd pummel his ass for that last comment- he really does have a thing for her.

If only she knew.

That's the thing, isn't it? If only she knew. If only Donna knew what I know about Josh- that he feels the same way about her as she does about him. Or if Josh knew that she liked him just as much as he likes her. If only Mallory knew that I was sitting here wishing for the gumption to call her up.

Now, I'm not a terribly bright guy- based on previous events I'm convinced that SAT scores are not a true rating of intelligence- but I think that this would make things a lot easier.

If only things were easy.

Yes. That's my main point for the night. Simplicity.

It can be a beautiful thing.

If things were simple than that phone on my desk would suddenly start ringing with a lovesick Mallory on the other end, and some one- any one- would be out in the bullpen right now giving Josh a good talking-to.

But I'll tell you what's actually going to happen. And listen closely, cause I'm usually not this well grounded.

What's going to happen is that Josh is never going to realize that he's in love, and that the woman he loves shares his feelings. Or, if he does, it'll be way too late and Donna will have already found someone else. I can see it now.

And as for me? I won't even hear the name Mallory until something like the Reykjavik Symphony Orchestra happens again. And when it does, I'll just screw things up once more, and she'll go off and marry her inept hockey player. And I'll spend the rest of my life trying not to think about what might have been.

Makes that romance novel fluff look awfully good right now, doesn't it?

Alright, time to stop sitting around and feeling sorry for myself. I need to get up and go find Toby. Not that that should be hard. I can just see him sitting behind his laptop in the office next to mine, refusing to move until he's finished.

If I were in my office right now I'd probably be able to hear him typing away as he tears my speech to shreds without a second's hesitation.

Now that I mention it- why aren't I in my office? This- this is . . . CJ's office.

Why am I in CJ's office?

I really need to get some sleep soon.

But, somehow, I don't think that that's going to happen.

I'll probably keep myself up for what's left of the night obsessing over Mallory. I might even add some worrying over Josh and Donna in there as well. Just for variety.

If I'm going to torture myself, I might as well go all out.

Let's see if I can't add some immense concern over Josh's mental well being too. You know- cause what better way to raise the level of angst around here? Hell, I'm sure I can come up with something about Toby to worry over as well. And CJ too, while I'm at it.

And then there's Leo . . . Which, of course, reminds me of Mallory, and suddenly I'm back to where I started.

Crap.

These circles certainly have a way of screwing with a person's head.

Sigh.

And I say the word 'sigh' instead of actually sighing just for the effect. It sounds much more pitiful when you say the word.

My love life is doomed. Josh's love life is doomed. I might as well just commit myself to this lack of a social life now.

Except . . . no.

Yes- you heard me. No.

This has gone far enough. I can't do this. I mean- I can't not do anything.

Screw my lack of courage. Screw my dwindling sense of self worth. I have to do something or I'll never get a full night's sleep. I'll be doomed to walk the face of this earth loveless and sleepless and all-around miserable.

And, as wonderfully as that's been working out for me so far, it's time to stop.

I can do this. Just be Josh. Only . . . don't. Cause Josh is an idiot. So am I, but . . . just be Josh's confidence. I can do that.

Be irrational. Be spontaneous. Take charge.

Yeah- I like that. Take charge. I'm good at that.

At least I hope I am.

But no time for doubts- this is it. The lack of rest and contact from the opposite sex has finally gotten to me.

Out in the bullpen, Josh and Donna's voices grow louder as I approach. I'm going to take it as a good sign that they are, for the moment, not arguing. I'm not a very superstitious person, but I'm willing to see this as a good omen.

I stalk up to them casually, though I'm not quite sure how a person can actually 'stalk' and be casual about it. But I guess I'm just going after every challenge tonight, aren't I? And, some how, I think I manage to both stalk and be casual at the same time.

But then I stop.

I get the impression that this is how the President feels whenever he 'lands'.

Except- and here's the weird part- I think I'm bouncing back. I mean- I may have 'landed' for a moment there, but there's- there's just all this energy coursing through my body and I'm immediately brought back up.

See? Bouncing.

This would be fun if it weren't so terrifying.

"I'm going to call Mallory." The words are out of my mouth before I even know where I am, and I can't hold back the grin on my face. A very large grin, by the way.

Just call me 'Sam read-me-like-a-book Seaborn'. It's a nice change from 'Sam lovesick-and-depressed Seaborn'.

"Good for you." Josh mocks, smirking as he leans back against one of the bullpen walls. I am undeterred, however, seeing the glint of friendly support hidden in his eyes.

"I am." I say confidently, and am amazed that I really am as confident as I sound.

Don't ask me how- but right at this moment I know that I *will* call Mallory. And I *will* tell my best friend just what an idiot he is.

And then, suddenly, I can feel the certainty racing through my veins.

When did this happen?!

Seriously- have you been paying attention? Cause if you could just point out at what time I suddenly gained a spine . . .

Maybe it's the exhaustion. I've done a lot of stupid and crazy things when running on little-to-no sleep.

I've done a lot of stupid and crazy things regardless of my nighttime habits, but still.

I glance over at Donna, who has taken a seat on top of someone's cleared desk. She has an amused expression on her face- you know the one. Like she's trying not to laugh but at the same time she's kinda proud. The kind of look she'll give Josh when he's done something stupid yet admirable.

My grin widens.

Josh smiles too, and I find myself fascinated with them both.

I want to be like them when I grow up.

Really. I want the picture in my mind to come true- the one with me and Mallory bickering as we grow old together. Cliché I know, but it's a nice image. It's something to work towards.

I can feel my grin turn into more of a knowing smile and I face my best friend, completely oblivious to the consequences of my next actions. I can't and won't think about what might happen as a result of this. That would ruin it.

Just act.

And if you're going to smirk- go ahead and smirk. Josh already is, so there's no reason why you can't.

But whatever you're going to do, I'm . . . gonna keep watching them.

It's really a great way to kill a couple of hours. I'd recommend it to anyone.

I'm grinning again, aren't I?

Oh well. In a few moments it won't matter. Cause then I'll actually have a reason to be grinning- you know, as Josh tries to sort out what I'm about to tell him.

He'll get over it. And, hopefully I won't be damaging their existing relationship too much.

Just don't think about the consequences. Just tell him. Cause someone needs to.

I look at the idiot before me, and I thank God- or whoever- that this confidence is still with me. Cause I'm gonna need it.

If only she knew.

Well . . . she's about to. I feel myself start to speak, apparently without the need of my brain.

Here's to late night confessions.

"And Josh . . ."

***
The End