"What about pumpkins?"
"Do we need pumpkins?"
"You don't have pumpkins?" Ginger isn't really sure you can have Halloween without pumpkins, but Bonnie just shrugs.
"I've got spooky music, fake cobwebs, and some of those plastic bats you can hang from the ceiling. Do I still need pumpkins?"
"You've got to have pumpkins. I'll bring some."
"All right. What else?"
"What about drinks?"
"I've got my grandma's punch."
Ginger grins. Bonnie's grandmother's punch is infamous; this is definitely going to be a party.
"So, eight o'clock?"
And it is, for about ten minutes. Ginger's already got the rest of the day planned; make sure Toby's meetings for tomorrow are all set, type up the final draft of the convention speech, pick up a few pumpkins on the way home, and get changed in time for the party. It will be the first proper night out she's had since June, and nothing, she thinks, is going to stand in the way.
She's even counted on Sam's requisite freak out over the state of the speech, and she has the words ready when he comes barrelling out of his office.
"This is terrible. We're going to have to start again."
She's already out of her chair, and holds out a hand as Sam passes over the speech.
"It's fine," she says a few minutes later, scanning the pages. They've been through this five times already. "If you just change the bit in the middle -"
"The entire speech is the bit in the middle. I might as well throw the whole thing out."
"It's not that bad," she says, but she doesn't quite meet his eyes. "You've got the basic -"
"We have nothing. We have no policies, no jokes - we don't even have a message."
"You've got a message."
"What? What is our message?"
"The environment is good?" she suggests, handing the speech back to Sam.
"The environment is good. That's great. These people are environmental lobbyists. I think they already know the environment is good." He flicks through the speech impatiently, and Ginger bites her lip. "Who the hell wrote this? Wait. I wrote this."
She waits nervously; finally, he looks up.
"I'm just going to have to start again."
So much for having her entire day planned.
"We're going to have to pull an all-nighter. We -"
"We?" she echoes, dreading what comes next.
"You, me, Bonnie. Ed and Larry. The president needs this by tomorrow morning."
He can't be serious. She looks at him, his jaw set in determination. "Sam, it's Halloween."
"Halloween. Tonight. Bonnie's having a party."
"Well, then, she's just going to have to cancel it. We need to get this thing done."
"You can have the party here. We'll put up decorations. You can wear costumes. It'll be fun."
"And work on the speech for the environmental lobby?"
"I know it's not perfect. Just think of it as political trick-or-treating."
Political trick-or-treating? "Do I get candy?"
He smiles, then, looking relaxed for the first time in a week. "I'll bring you candy. You can go home this afternoon and get whatever you need, and we'll meet back in the Roosevelt Room."
"Are you going to wear a costume?" She's already given up trying to argue; she can tell when Sam's made up his mind.
"Yes. I'll be coming as a frustrated and potentially soon-to-be-unemployed speech writer."
"All right, I'm going to get back to work on this thing, see what I can get done before lunch. Make sure you're back here by seven?"
"Yeah." She'll have to tell Bonnie, she supposes. So much for their Halloween party.
It's ten to seven by the time she staggers back into the White House, trying not to drop the pumpkins stacked precariously in her arms. The security guard on duty shoots her a sympathetic smile as she passes, and she makes it halfway across the lobby before almost literally walking into Sam.
"Hey. Whoa!" He looks up as she struggles with the pumpkins, and smiles. "You need some help, there?"
"Yeah." She smiles back as he takes one of the pumpkins, tries to keep up as he walks quickly towards the Roosevelt Room. "So, how's the speech?"
"Terrible." He doesn't look back as he answers, and she lets out a sigh. They're going to be here all night. "I think I've got the introduction down, though."
"That's good." It isn't; the introduction was the one thing she thought he'd finished already.
"Yeah. So if I can -" He stops suddenly as she puts her pumpkin carefully down on the table and shrugs out of her coat. "Wow. You look -"
"I'm a nurse," she says, as if she has to explain the costume. She realises, too late, that it's probably inappropriate to wear in the White House, but Sam had said they could wear costumes, and she hadn't had time to find something more professional.
"Yeah." He sounds choked, and it takes an effort to keep her hands steady by her side.
"You said we could -"
"I can keep my coat on, if -"
"No. I mean, it's okay. It's Halloween, right?"
"So you should - anyway, we should -"
"It's a great costume."
She wonders if maybe he's forgotten about the speech, but she's spared from asking when Bonnie walks in. Sam drags his gaze over to her, and visibly swallows.
"And you're a cat."
"Yeah." After a second, Bonnie shrugs, and glances at the table. "Hey, you brought pumpkins."
"I only brought two," Ginger says apologetically. Sam's gaze is firmly at his feet, now. "Sam?"
"Yeah. The speech. Okay."
"Do you need -"
"No, I'm fine. We should work on the speech. Where are Ed and Larry?"
"They're bringing drinks," Bonnie says, and Ginger grins; maybe this won't be so bad, after all. "Speak of the devil -"
Ed and Larry's arms are loaded as they enter, laying what Ginger's sure must be the entire contents of the Hawk and Dove bar on the table. Bonnie's already pouring a drink, and she hands one to Ginger without comment.
"So, I guess when I said we could have the party here -"
"Is this a problem?" Ginger looks up almost guiltily as Sam surveys the bottles. "We don't have to drink, if you -"
"No, it's fine. What's in this?"
"Punch," Bonnie says, and Sam looks at her. "It's my grandma's recipe."
Ginger can't help raising an eyebrow as Sam pours himself a cup, but she sits down with a shrug; it probably wouldn't hurt to loosen him up a little.
"So, the speech. Everybody's got a copy?"
Ginger nods, and flips hers open as Sam sits down beside her. He doesn't waste any time before crossing off paragraphs, and she tries not to think about how long this is going to take.
"All right. Paragraph six. Who said we have to include this?"
"Toby, I think. You don't like it?"
"It's not that I don't like it, it's just - maybe if we move it closer to the end, we can move the bit about environmental protection agencies closer to the top, which leaves - do you have our policy notes?"
"Here," Bonnie says, leaning over the table, and Ginger frowns.
"Where do the policy notes go?"
"In the middle. The policy notes should be the entire speech."
"Except for the jokes."
"Except for the jokes. Of which, by the way, we have none."
"We have a couple of jokes."
"We have a couple of jokes about extinction and environmental terrorism."
"And that's bad."
"We're talking to environmental lobbyists. We can't have it look like we're not taking these things seriously."
"So we have to make them laugh, but not about the environment. And we have to talk about environmental policy, but not with jokes."
"We can make jokes about the environment. We just have to make them about the other guys."
Sam studies the speech again, crossing out more sections; Ginger looks up as someone opens the door.
"What are you guys doing?"
Toby looks haggard, and Ginger reaches for a bottle of whiskey. She pours him a glass, which he takes without comment.
"We're rewriting the environmental speech," Sam says, barely glancing up. "What are you still doing here?"
"I had a meeting with Thompson. It ran over."
"Did you need the notes about the amendment?" Ginger's already halfway out of her seat when Toby shakes his head, and she sits back down.
"No, I got it. What are you wearing?"
She blushes a little as she looks down; out of the corner of her eye, she can see Sam glance over. "I'm a nurse."
"I can see that. Why are you a nurse?"
"And you're celebrating by writing a convention speech?"
"That was my fault." Sam finally looks up, setting his pen down. "Bonnie and Ginger were having a party, and I made them cancel, so I said they could have it here."
Toby looks around, as if any minute a hundred of Bonnie's friends are going to come walking into Roosevelt Room, and then back at Sam. "You made them cancel a party?"
"We had to work on the speech."
"The speech is fine."
"The speech is a mess."
"Yeah." Toby sits down with a sigh, and reaches over to look at Sam's notes. "You moved paragraph six?"
"To the end. So we could move the bit about environmental protection agencies -"
"Yeah. No, that's good. What about policy?"
"I've been trying to write up the policy."
"Because we really should have something about policy -"
"I've been trying. It's not easy to talk about policy and then try to make them laugh."
"Of course it isn't. These people have no sense of humour." Toby flicks to the next page, and frowns. "Not that anything you've got here is actually funny."
"Yeah. Did you see the one about -"
"I saw it."
"We should probably cut that one."
They've done a pretty good job at deconstructing the speech before they're interrupted again, over Toby's complaints that tearing the current speech to shreds doesn't do them any good if they don't have anything to replace it with. Ginger looks up from the argument to see Josh shutting the door behind him, sliding into a seat across the table.
"What are you guys doing?"
"We're writing the environmental speech," Sam says, still scratching out language.
"I thought that was written already."
"We're rewriting it."
"Okay. Why are there pumpkins?"
He's already pouring himself a drink, and Ginger shrugs. "We're having a Halloween party."
"I made them cancel theirs." Sam has a smudge of ink on his chin, and Ginger fights the sudden urge to wipe it off. Toby gestures at him, and he catches it himself.
"Okay." Josh glances at Ginger. "Nice costume, by the way."
"Yeah." She doesn't blush, this time.
"You're a nurse."
"She's a very sexy nurse. But we need to get this done first."
Josh raises his eyebrows at Sam for a minute, and shrugs. "Okay. Does anyone have -"
Bonnie hands him a copy absently, and he looks through it. "You know you've got a joke about environmental terrorism here."
"We know. Where's Donna?"
"She's with CJ. You know, we really shouldn't -"
"We already got rid of it."
"Because last time -"
"We already got rid of it," Sam repeats. He looks up, but he's spared from further comment when Donna and CJ enter, surveying the room.
"Wow," CJ says. "It looks like you're having a party in here."
"We are," Ginger says. CJ's already pouring herself a drink, and Sam refills his punch.
"You're having a party?"
"It's a Halloween party. We're working on the environmental speech."
"Well, I can see how those two go together. Need any help?"
Bonnie's already handed out copies, and CJ glances down.
"You've got a joke in here about -"
After a minute of silence, Josh leans forward. "You should put a joke in here about the oil companies."
Sam looks up. Somewhere along the way, his chair moved closer to Ginger's, and she can feel his pant leg scrape across her thigh. "That's good. These people hate the oil companies."
"Well, they're environmental lobbyists, so yeah."
"What about drilling?" Ed looks up, makes a quick note in the margins. "We could make a joke about drilling in the Arctic -"
"And about Ritchie," Sam finishes; he's smiling, now. "That's good. Remind them about Ritchie's stance on environmental policy."
"Does Ritchie have a stance on environmental policy?" Josh asks; Donna leans across him to pour another drink.
"I think he'd prefer if there wasn't one," CJ says, and Sam nods.
"And that ties into our message," Ginger says; Sam smiles at her.
"What's out message?"
"The environment is good."
"That's probably a good message to have in front of the environmental lobby."
Ginger nods. Sam's grinning at her like their entire environmental policy was her idea, and she wonders how much he's had to drink.
She's lost track of how long they've been working by the time CJ leaves, with a last parting look at the pumpkins. Josh and Donna are the first to follow, and Sam's hand traces idle patterns on Ginger's thigh. She isn't sure if he even notices.
I think we're almost done here," Toby says, and Sam sits up sharply; maybe he did notice. "If we get something to replace paragraph twenty-seven -"
"That's the bit about extra funds for wildlife preserves," Sam says. "We moved it up."
"Okay, then. In that case, I'm leaving."
Sam looks around the room when Toby's gone; Ginger's pretty sure Ed and Larry are playing tic tac toe on Larry's copy of the speech. "You guys should go home, too. I think we're about done here."
Bonnie mutters something that might be thank God, but Ginger doesn't move.
"Yeah. I just want to clean up some of the language."
"The language is done." That much is true; Toby's speech, still sitting on the table, has lines through nearly every sentence.
"Yeah, but I just wanted to -"
She has to lean over and take the speech out of his hands, and he looks up at her. "The speech is finished. You can stop worrying."
"I'm not worried." But a smile pulls at the corners of his mouth, and she leans forward.
"It's great. It'll be fine."
She practically has to pull him out of his seat; afterwards, her hand lingers on his, and she glances down.
"We should probably clear up some of this alcohol."
"Yes." Luckily, there's not too much of it left; she's pretty sure Toby took a bottle of whiskey on his way out, and Ed and Larry took most of the rest. She hands Sam a bottle as she starts gathering them up, and leads without question back to his office.
"That punch was really good," he says, as they put the bottles down on his desk. When she turns around, he's staring at her, and she takes a step forward.
"What was in it?"
She shrugs. "Vodka, juice -"
"There was vodka in that?"
"Yeah. And run, I think, some sparkling -"
"There was alcohol in it?"
"Yeah. It's Bonnie's grandmother's recipe."
"I didn't know it was alcoholic."
"You couldn't taste the alcohol?"
"I just thought it tasted - I don't know. There was really alcohol in it?"
"Trust me," she says, a smile threatening to surface.
"Oh. Well, I guess that explains -" He gestures back and forth a little wildly, and she wonders how they ever managed to get the speech finished. "This."
"Oh. Not this, this. The other thing. I just meant - I think I'm a little drunk."
"Yes." Ginger thinks they're all probably a little drunk.
"Oh, God. I just wrote a speech for the president while I was drunk."
"A speech that he's going to give to people."
"You've never written a speech drunk before?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, on the campaign, sure. But never an important speech."
"Is this an important speech?"
"No, not really. But -"
"Then don't worry about it. You have other drafts."
"The other drafts sucked."
"This is bad."
"Sam, it's fine."
He still looks unconvinced, but he smiles as she places a hand on his arm.
"So, where's my candy?"
"My candy. When you said we could have the party here, you said there'd be candy."
"Right. I did say that."
"See, the thing is -"
"There's no candy."
"You didn't bring me candy."
"Even though you promised."
"I brought you a plate with moose on it. And I got you a Christmas present."
"But no candy."
There's a moment of silence, and she realises, belatedly, that her hand is still on his arm; she frowns. "There's another thing?"
"Another thing. Before, you said the other thing. What other thing?"
"Oh. I just meant - you know, the punch -"
"That was the thing. What was the other thing?"
"Right. Yes. Just, you know. This."
This, he'd said, and gestured between them. She goes to move her hand away, but traces it up to his collar, instead.
"Yeah. You know, with the - you know what? It was inappropriate."
But he doesn't move back, and her fingers tug at his shirt. "It was?"
"Yes. Because - and anyway, I'm your - I wasn't trying to make you uncomfortable."
"I'm dressed in a nurse's uniform in the White House. I'm already pretty uncomfortable."
"Yes." His eyes travel down at that, taking in her costume; she can feel her skin tingling. By the time he looks back up at her, he's smiling. "You make a very good nurse."
"I always thought so."
"So if I fall down and hit my head on my way out of here tonight, I should -"
"I'll be your first call."
"You make it hard for a guy not to fall down and hit his head."
She thinks there's a compliment in that, somewhere. "You should be careful about that."
"I'm just saying, I like the costume."
"And I'm sorry if I ruined your night -"
"It wasn't ruined. I got to get drunk in the White House."
"That's always a plus."
"And there were pumpkins."
"There were." He's standing closer to her, now, her hand pressed up against his chest. "And I didn't mean to -"
His mouth is slightly open, and then she's leaning in; when she kisses him, his lips are soft.
"Okay. Well, that happened."
"Yeah." And suddenly, she's sure she's been reading this all wrong; she steps back hurriedly. "I'm sorry, I -"
"Wait." He grabs her hand as she turns to leave, pulls her back towards him. This time, he kisses her, and she feels herself relax as he settles a hand on her waist, pulls her closer.
"Okay," she says, when they finally break apart; Sam's gazing down at her. "Well, that happened."
He smiles, and she squeezes his hand; this has definitely been a weird night. And then she can't help kissing him again, her fingers tracing slow circles on his arm.
"You know, I have candy back at my apartment."
"Should I knock on your door, like I'm trick-or-treating?"
"I think you can just come in."
"Yeah." She takes half a step back, and looks up at him. "I guess a promise is a promise."
Sam smiles at her the next morning, and she grins back at him until Toby steps in between them. "I think we should -"
But he's interrupted by Leo, and Ginger uses the distraction to get to her desk. "Is this the final draft for the convention speech?"
"Yeah." Sam's gaze drifts to her a moment before resting on Leo, and he frowns. "Oh, God."
"You wrote this last night?"
"Who wrote it?"
"Well, all of us, really."
"Who's all of us?"
"Me, Toby, Josh, CJ, Ed and Larry, Ginger -"
"You had a hand in this?" Leo turns to look at her, and she nods anxiously.
"I carried a pumpkin."
It sounds stupid even as she says it, but Sam grins at her. Leo just looks confused.
"You want me to take this to the president?" Addressing Sam, again.
"Well, I haven't read it, but -" Leo glares at him. "Yeah. Take it to the president."
"It's supposed to be funny?"
"It was funny last night." He shrugs. "Just get everybody drunk, they'll think it's hilarious."
Toby winces a little at that, but Leo looks mollified. When he's gone, Sam turns to Toby. "What were you going to say?"
"I was going to say that we should go over last night's speech."
"Oh. I could try to get it back -"
"Don't worry about it. The lobbyists will probably be drunk, anyway."
Ginger reaches for a memo as Toby retreats back into his office, and she looks up to see Sam standing over her desk. "I brought you something."
"Yeah?" She can't quite hide her smile, and he leans in closer.
She looks down as he places something on her desk; a Hershey's kiss.
"You brought me candy."
"Yeah. I thought, since I forgot last night, then we -" He shifts, and she ducks her head. "Anyway. I brought you candy."
"Thank you." When she finally meets his eyes again, he's smiling. "Don't you -"
"Yeah. Right. I should get back to work. I just wanted to say - I mean, I have more of these at home, if you wanted to -"
"I'll be there."