Part Four: Epilogue
"Why didn't we get married?"
Lisa looks up from the photo she's been studying and cocks an eyebrow. Gee, Sam, I don't know, she responds sarcastically in her head. Could it have had something to do with Josh or your dream about the 'real thing'? Or maybe it was that whole 'You love me, but I'm not enough' argument? Placing the picture frame back on the shelf, she asks, "Why do you think?"
He doesn't hesitate with his answer. "'Cause I don't know what the cool restaurant is and I don't care. When I get hungry, I want to eat. And I don't know where the Tommy Hilfiger party is and I don't know what to do when I get there."
You're full of crap, she thinks, and then proceeds to tell him so.
"I was never cool enough for you," he continues to argue.
"You're full of crap," she repeats, taking a step towards him, "and you think too little of me. Furthermore, I didn't leave you, you left me. And you did it to do this. And the reason you're pissy is because I'm here looking at you and writing about you and you're wondering if I'm going to think you've been doing anything at all."
"Often it's not clear to me whether or not I have." Sam's face falls and he now looks extremely tired, almost beaten.
Lisa gazes at him and her heart automatically aches for him. She wants so much to be angry with him, to find in his every word and gesture another reason for why she should consider herself lucky that they had broken up when they did. And yet there he is, looking so lost and helpless that she instead finds herself wanting to go to him and wrap her arms around him and tell him that everything will be okay. Since she can't do any of that, she firmly insists, "You have."
"How would you know?"
"I don't," she reluctantly admits after a slight pause.
He nods and wanders a bit aimlessly around his office. Lisa follows him with her eyes and wishes there were more she could do. "Here's something interesting," Sam declares as he comes to a stop in front of his bookcase. "In 1940, our armed forces weren't among the twelve most formidable in the world, but obviously, we were going to fight a big war. And Roosevelt said the U.S. would produce 50,000 planes in the next four years. Everyone thought it was a joke. And it was, 'cause it turned out we produced 100,000 airplanes. Gave the Air Force an armada that would block the sun."
Lisa's familiar with Sam's tendency of changing subjects abruptly, and is somewhat comforted by the fact that he hasn't lost the habit during the past four years. Smiling encouragingly, she asks, "Do you still have what you wrote that night?"
"About curing cancer?"
Sam walks behind his desk and brings up the document on his computer screen after a few quick taps on some keys. He begins to turn the screen in her direction, but she shakes her head. "Read it to me?" she requests as she sits down in a chair opposite from him.
He hesitates for a second, uncertain of whether he should risk allowing Lisa back into that private aspect of his life. But, deciding that he's being foolish, he sits down in his chair, repositions his computer in front of him, and reads, "Over the past half century, we've split the atom, we've spliced the gene, and we've roamed Tranquility Base. We've reached for the stars and never have we been closer to having them in our grasp. New science, new technology, is making the difference between life and death, and so we need a national commitment equal to this unparalleled moment of possibility. And so I announce to you tonight that I will bring the full resources of the federal government and the full reach of my office to this fundamental goal: we will cure cancer by the end of this decade."
As Lisa watches Sam read aloud the words she knows he slaved over, she feels a sense of enormous pride swelling within her chest because it's her Sam – Sam circa 1997 – who's sitting across the desk from her. It's the Sam who still believed in the real thing and real convictions and real ideas. The Sam who hadn't yet been forced to compromise on things that mattered to him. The Sam who hadn't had to learn how to settle for winning the battle because winning the war was impossible.
He finishes reading and stares at his screen, looking as if he's forgotten she's in the room with him. Lisa can tell he's sad and that breaks her heart. It's now more than ever that she misses the old Sam. She wonders if he misses him, too.
She knows there's nothing she can do for him – not now, anyway – so she uncrosses her legs and, being careful to keep her voice light and even so as to not tip Sam off to the fact that she knows what he's currently feeling, she says, "That was nice. I'll pass the notes along."
He doesn't acknowledge that he's heard her or that he's aware she's leaving, but Lisa actually prefers this. The last thing she wants or needs right now is another drawn out good-bye. As she walks into the Communications Bullpen and tries to remember where the red-haired assistant said she'd hang her coat, Lisa's blind-sided by Josh.
"Where are you going?" he asks, appearing, seemingly, out of nowhere.
She wants to tell him that it's none of his business (because it really isn't), but instead replies, "Well, you know, I accidentally left my broomstick behind at the hotel, so I figured that I'd—"
"Cut the crap, Lisa. Where are you going? Are you leaving?"
"Why do you always have to be so damn— Wait, you're leaving?"
"Leaving town or leaving the White House only to be back tomorrow morning?"
Forcing herself to bite her tongue, she stiffly replies, "I'm going to fly back to New York tomorrow morning."
"Why? Is the story done?"
"My part of it." Josh is staring at her in confusion and she knows he won't let her leave until she explains herself. "I'm going to pass the story on to someone else. One of my colleagues will show up next week to finish it up."
His face becomes blank for a moment as he thinks about what this all means and is then overtaken by a huge smirk. "This is so like you, Lisa," he scoffs. "I knew this would happen."
His words are harsh and cold and Lisa finds herself glaring at him as her stomach begins to churn. "What are you talking about?" she demands.
"I'm talking about you. I knew you'd show up here, dredge up all these bad memories for Sam, essentially ruin what should be a very happy night for him, and then run away after you've destroyed him all over again. You're like some really bad Roadrunner episode in which Sam's Wile E. Coyote and you're the Roadrunner and you just keep dropping those weights on top of his head over and over and—"
"You couldn't have let someone else have this assignment, Lisa? You must have known how hard it would be for Sam to see you again after all this time."
"Yeah, and it's been a complete walk in the park for me, thanks for asking," she retorts.
"But it was your choice to accept this assignment. Couldn't you've told your bosses that you didn't feel comfortable coming here or that you thought someone else might be able to do a better job or that—"
"Josh Lyman, you are such an idiot," she interjects with a sigh.
His mouth falls open for a second before he manages to utter, "Huh?"
"You know, all those times you teased me about being a heartless bitch, I thought you were doing just that: teasing. But now I realize that you really do think that's what I am." When he doesn't respond, she continues on to say, "I couldn't give the story to someone else or turn it down without coming here first because the idea for the story is mine. I came up with it. I pitched it. I spent two months fighting to get a space for it in an upcoming issue."
"You came up with the idea?" Josh asks slowly, almost skeptically.
"Yes, Josh, believe it or not, I'm actually not stupid. As a whole, the American public knows that the President doesn't write his own speeches. But if you ask a random sample of the public, 'Who do you think writes the President's speeches?,' the majority of those surveyed would say, 'The President.' That's why I wanted to do this story. I felt it was about time Sam got his due."
Josh is speechless and can't seem to find the words he wants to say. "You… I… Wow… I…"
Rolling her eyes, Lisa spots her coat hanging on a coat rack in a corner of the room and makes her way towards it. "I still think it's about time Sam got his due, but it's too weird for him – for me, too – that I'm here. So I'm going to go back to New York, tell the Editor-in-Chief that I can't finish the story because there's a conflict of interest or something, and someone will come take my place."
Josh considers just letting her leave after she finishes putting on her coat, but because he's him, he can't stop himself from stating, "Well, that's all fine and good that you're trying to give Sam some much deserved face-time, but I still think you could've gone about it better."
With her back to him, Lisa clenches her jaw and has to refrain herself for yanking off one of her high-heeled shoes and attacking his face with it. She instead walks over to him, a small smile on her lips, and says, in a low voice, "I've spent the past few years trying really hard to hate you, Josh. But, despite how hard I tried, I just couldn't bring myself to do it because, once upon a time, you were a really good friend to me. You kept me sane for a lot of years as you allowed me to air grievances about arrogant professors, ridiculous course requirements, an idiotic brother, and a set of loving but overbearing parents. So, in the spirit of the good times we once shared, let me let you in on a little secret. If I'd wanted Sam to stay with me in New York all those years ago, I could've gotten him to. Don't get me wrong, it would have taken a lot of cajoling, a lot whining, and probably a lot of yelling on my part, but in the end, he would've stayed. And we would've gotten married in September and he would've gotten a new job, and we would've ended up with our two-point-five kids and the house in the suburbs with the white picket fence." She pauses to take a quick breath and then launches into the meat of her argument. "But the reason I decided not to try to make him stay was because I knew that, one day, he would wake up and feel as if there was something missing from his life. He wouldn't know what it was and he wouldn't say anything to anyone about it because, well, it's Sam we're talking about and we both know that's how he is, but pretty soon he'd end up waking up every morning and going to sleep every night wondering, 'What if…?' I didn't want him to ever have to live with any regrets, so I let him go. Could you do the same thing for him, Josh?"
"What do you…what are you talking about?"
Lisa can tell she's rattled him with her comments by the way in which his body has sagged a bit and he's rapidly blinking his eyes. Recognizing that she's managed to ruffle the unflappable Joshua Lyman, she smiles more broadly. "Sam just told me that he's not sure whether he's done anything since coming to the White House. He said it kind of off-hand, so maybe he meant it, maybe he didn't. I don't know. But you call yourself his best friend and you've been with him all these years, what do you think? Does he really feel that way?"
She knows Josh has absolutely no idea whether or not Sam is really that unhappy, regardless of the fact that they spend sixteen hours of every day in the same wing of the same building together, and she knows he knows she knows this. He hangs his head, almost as an admission of guilt, and stares at his shoes. He'd had them polished that morning in honor of the State of the Union, and they now shine at him as the overhead lights bounce off of them. He'd had them polished because a State of the Union address is a symbol of a new beginning. A new beginning…a new book…a fresh start. But what does that all matter if Sam's miserable?
Reaching out, Lisa pats Josh on the shoulder and condescendingly says, "Take care of yourself, Josh. I'll see ya around."
He hears her clothes rustling as she exits the room and is then left alone in silence. Taking a few steps to his right, Josh looks around a doorframe into Sam's office. He sees Sam sitting at his desk, his laptop open in front of him, but he isn't working. He's instead staring blankly off into space, and there's no mistaking how forlorn he looks.
"Josh? Are you back here?" Upon asking the questions, Donna almost immediately spots her boss and rushes towards him, her blonde hair flowing behind her and a huge grin on her face. "Where've you been? I've been looking all over for you. We're trying to get C.J. to do 'The Jackal' for us, but she's being really difficult about it and Toby told me to come find you but I didn't know where you'd gone so I had to look everywhere and… Well, are you comin' or not?"
Josh shifts his gaze to his assistant and sees that she's so jazzed by the night's proceedings that she's literally bouncing before him. Forcing himself to smile, he responds, "I'll be there in a second. Just let me, um…let me get Sam."
Donna zooms back to the celebration occurring in the Oval Office as Josh's smile first wavers and then disappears entirely. Turning his attention back to Sam, he learns that his best friend is still sitting at his desk, staring off into space. Josh begins walking towards him when he's suddenly struck by how defeated Sam looks. Defeated, as if all hope is lost. This realization slams into him like an errant train, causing him to grab on to the frame of a nearby cubicle wall in order to prevent himself from toppling over. With a hand over his now pounding heart and his eyes growing larger with each passing second, Josh whispers, "Oh, God. What have I done?"