Hannah (hannahfmuk) wrote in ship_manifesto,

Pairing: Sam Seaborn/Josh Lyman (The West Wing)

Pairing: Sam Seaborn/Josh Lyman (The West Wing)
Title: We da men!
Author: Hannah
Spoilers: Based on Seasons 1-4 (although mainly the first two)
Author's website: www.geocities.com/hannahfmuk

Apologies if the 'cut text' link doesn't work/appear at all - I'm still figuring out how to do the whole Live Journal thing.

What's the Show?

Created by Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing is a behind-the-scenes look at the work done in arguably the most powerful office on earth. From the opening scenes of the pilot episode, the viewer is introduced to a place where incredibly intelligent people work exceedingly long days in order to help President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) lead the country, all the while trying to have some semblance of a personal life.

Who are Sam and Josh?

Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) is the White House Deputy Communications Director and Senior Counsel, which basically means he's the head speechwriter who also weighs in on policy discussions. He's a graduate of Princeton and Duke, and prior to working at the White House, he was a very successful contracts lawyer in New York.

Sam's a little klutzy, frequently stumbling over things or whacking his head on gym equipment, and isn't all that great at dating women - in the pilot episode he tells a friend he's at a bar with, "I never know if [women] are looking or not." When he tries to date the daughter of Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, Sam has to enlist the help of CJ Cregg (the press secretary) in order to convince Mallory to go to lunch.

But this apparent inability to function on a day to day level is just one small facet of Sam. He's an incredible speechwriter, believing that "Oratory should blow the doors off the place" (episode 2.07 The Portland Trip)and Leo McGarry points out to him that he is one of the leading minds of his generation. Better yet, in episode Season three, President Bartlet tells Sam that he thinks Sam will be President himself one day.

Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) is the Deputy Chief of Staff. His role is more political than Sam's, and a large part of it appears to be getting Congress to vote the way the White House needs them to on legislation and thwarting their attempts to disrupt the White House's political agenda.

At first glance, he may come across as cocky and arrogant (Toby Ziegler, Director of Communications, accuses him in the pilot episode of having made a "smug, taunting, calamitous performance" on a tv show), but Josh is a very complex character - early on in Season 1 we learn that his older sister Joanie died in a house fire while babysitting him and, even though he was only very young at the time, he feels guilty for running out of the house and leaving her behind. At the end of the first season, he is shot and the Season 2 opener sees him undergoing major surgery. He recovers well but at Christmas time (episode 2.10 Noel) it becomes apparent that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Josh is clearly brilliant at his job - he has worked in D.C. for many years and before working for Bartlet was on the staff of then-Senator John Hoynes at a time when Hoynes seemed guaranteed to be the Democrats' presidential candidate. Leo McGarry comes to visit Josh while he is working for Hoynes and steals him away to work on Bartlet's campaign, which was clearly a smart move as Bartlet is now the President.

Where's the canon?

It seems to me (and to the many other Sam/Josh slashers) that these guys' sexuality is ambiguous at best. There are many occasions where it's possible to interpret a scene as showing the character to be less-than-straight. I'll discuss these first, then get on to the good stuff - the scenes which show just how slashily close Sam and Josh are to each other.

Sam and Josh both tend to end up with the 'gay' storylines - in Season 1, Sam has the job of looking at strategies to get rid of the don't ask/don't tell policy, and in Season 2, it is Josh who debates with a congressman the potential problems caused by the Marriage Recognition Act (which, for those who don't know, defines marriage as between a man and a woman only). While this alone is certainly not indicative of non-straight orientation, the fact that it is almost without fail these characters who deal with such topics makes me wonder if viewers are perhaps being offered a subtle hint - watching Josh's MRA arguments in 2.07 The Portland Trip, it seems as though at any moment he could come bursting out of the closet.

In episode 1.03 (A Proportional Response) Sam becomes infuriated with Josh, who when interviewing Charlie Young for the job as personal aide to the President has to ask Charlie if he is gay. Sam kicks up a huge fuss, offers to help Charlie sue the White House and is hustled out of the room by Josh. Sam points out to Josh, "I know right from wrong," and if viewers hadn't already seen that Sam was being criticised for (accidentally) sleeping with a call girl, it would be only too easy to imagine Sam was making the protest because he is gay. Another instance when Sam gets het up about gay issues is episode 2.08 (Shibboleth) in which he condemns a Christian activist because her group did not condemn a man who threatened to blow up a theatre which was putting on a play portraying Christ as gay. He yells at her, even though Josh has told him, "Don't bring it up at the meeting." For what it's worth, Shibbolethis my favourite West Wing episode of all time, and in it Sam and Josh get to spend plenty of time together.

As an aside, I'd like to quickly mention that in an interview published in the May 2004 edition of Details magazine, Rob Lowe comments, "There was a time when I thought that they were setting Sam up to come out of the closet..." Although this is said in response to a question about Sam's lack of girlfriend throughout four seasons of The West Wing, it's interesting that even the actor was beginning to wonder about Sam's orientation.

Anyway, that's enough about the guys on their own - let's move on to them as a couple.

"The show was originally based on the relationship between Sam and Josh," John Wells (executive producer) is quoted as saying (In Keith Topping's excellent The West Wing: Inside Bartlet's White House - Virgin Books Ltd, 2002). Do I really need to labour the point here? These guys have a complex enough relationship to have been the basis of the creation of one of the most successful tv shows of the past decade. Happily for us, much of that complexity takes a slashy form, with many lingering looks and much physical contact between the two men.

Up until half-way through the second series, The West Wing is an embarrassment of slashy goodness between Sam and Josh. Sadly, after that the political storylines seemed to take precedence, and the hints of slash were few and far between. Still, here's my selection of slash-filled episodes and moments:

In episode 1.02 (Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc), Josh, Toby and Sam are discussing the fact that Sam has accidentally slept with a prostitute. Sam's boss, Toby, is thoroughly unimpressed, but Josh comments, "Who among us hasn't know the taste of forbidden love? Why, I remember spring break..." At this point, Sam cuts him off, leading slash-obsessed viewers to wonder just what happened between the two of them one spring break.

Episode 1.06, Mr. Willis Of Ohio, begins with the senior staff playing a game of poker. At the end, Sam and Josh share a wonderful piece of dialogue:

Josh: Sam, I'm going back to the office - they've got the commerce report ready for me. What are you doing?
Sam: I was gonna go home.
Josh (with a tilt of his head and a come-on tone of voice): Sam? I'm going back to the office - they've got the commerce report ready for me. What are you doing?
Sam: [blinks] I'm gonna go back to your office with you and make sure you understand the commerce report.
Josh: Thank you.
Sam: When I get through with you, you're gonna know everything there is to know about standard data versus sampling data in the census.

Uh-huh. That's exactly what they're going to do.

Just one episode later (1.07, The State Dinner), Sam and Josh are dressed in white tie, ready for the state dinner being held for the visiting President of Indonesia. Josh strolls into the bullpen where Sam is standing.

Josh looks Sam up and down.
Sam (returning the look): Hey! We look good!
Josh: Don't we?
Josh: Oops. [He reaches forward to straighten Sam's tie]
Mandy (Josh's ex, who's also there): Do you guys want to be alone?
They shoot her a pointed look and wander off together.

Later in the same episode, the senior staff are all in a room together listening to a conversation between the President and a sailor on board a small ship in the middle of a hurricane. He is describing horrific conditions, and Josh wraps his arms around Mandy. Well, the upset looks this causes Sam to shoot them are really worth noting. He looks over at the several times, looking more miserable (and jealous?) as the minutes tick by.

Next up we have episode 1.09 The Short List. Josh has managed to convince the White House's choice of nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court to accept the nomination. What follows is a series of hand-slapping (involving the victorious cry, "We da men!") and dreamy gazing that would melt the heart of even the most slash-cynical viewer. After having given President Bartlet the good news, Sam, Josh and Toby return to work. Toby wanders off and Sam and Josh are left standing outside Sam's office. Josh grasps Sam's wrist oh-so-tenderly and tells him, "We did it." Sam responds with a fond smile. Bless them.

Moving on to Season 2, we have the two-part season opener (2.01 & 2.02 In The Shadow Of The Gunman) which features two of the slashiest scenes ever in the show - if you weren't already convinced that Sam and Josh used to be involved with each other, the first of the flashback scenes between them should be enough to convince you. Basically, Josh is on his way to see Bartlet giving a speech in New Hampshire. On his way he stops in New York to see his old friend Sam, who's in the final stages of negotiating the sale of two oil tankers for a big company, something he's doing so well he's about to be made a partner in the law firm for. Sam walks into his office to find Josh waiting for him. They hug. And when I say they hug, I mean they really hug - it's a bear-hug with plenty of burying faces in necks. That kind of hug. They head out for a hot dog and chat about what they're up to. Sam comments that Josh wants him to quit his job and go work for Hoynes, but says he can't because, "Lisa and I are getting married in September." Josh's reaction is stunned silence. Clearly at a loss for words, he eventually croaks out, "Oh," then "Okay." There being nothing more to say, he leaves, congratulating Sam on the partnership. Not on his engagement. For me, and many, many others, that's very telling.

Anyway, Josh leaves for New Hampshire having asked Sam if he should come back for him if he sees "the real thing" there. Sam tells him that won't be necessary because Josh has "a pretty bad poker face." The next day (we've moved into the second episode now) Josh returns to Sam's offices, having seen that Bartlet is indeed this magical "real thing". Sam sees Josh standing outside the meeting room and, without a word being spoken between the two of them, throws his pen down and leaves the room - and his extremely high-flying career - to follow Josh.

Episode 2.04 (In This White House) sees Sam yelling at a Republican, named Ainsley Hayes, who has criticised the White House for being too strict about gun control. Sam is visibly upset by the subject, and points out just how close Josh was to dying. Josh is present during the discussion and at once point he wanders past Sam (on his way to lean wearily against the wall) and they brush shoulders in a kind of I'd-hug-you-now-but-we're-in-public kind of way.

While the ITSOTG episodes contain the slashiest scenes, the episode with the general highest overall slashy feel to it is 2.11 - The Leadership Breakfast. It opens with Sam and Josh bantering away while building a fire to keep warm (and, in the process, accidentally setting fire to the White House) then throughout the episode, they share many scenes, each of which shows the guys as very close. Underlining this closeness is the fact that their colleague CJ refers to them as "Fred and Ethel" (the neighbours in I Love Lucy).

In episode 2.16 (Somebody's Going To Emergency, Somebody's Going To Jail) we find that Sam is distraught, having learned that his father has been cheating on his mother for 28 years. At the end of the show, Josh announces that he and Toby are "going to get Sam drunk and put him to bed." The little eyebrow-wiggle that Sam does in reaction to this suggests he's taking the suggestion of bed really very well.

Finally for the second season we have episode 2.17 (The Stackhouse Filibuster) which contains a glorious scene in which Sam interrupts Josh's meeting because he's "shopping for a piece of fruit." He then proceeds to stand there and eat a banana (Freudians take note here!) while Josh tries to carry on with what he was doing.

There aren't any overly slashy scenes in Season 3 - a few small moments possibly, but nothing worth going on about at length here. Worthy of mention in Season 4 episode Debate Camp is the goofy gaze Josh is directing at a group of guys (featuring Sam) who are singing for no apparent reason. He looks so utterly adorable and in love, but sadly I can't find a screen-cap of his expression anywhere, so you'll just have to track down a copy of that episode and see for yourselves.

Why do they get slashed?

Well, there's so much in the show to suggest that Sam and Josh are very close, yet not even a hint as to how they first met. So you'll find a lot of fics suggesting how they first met. Also, since Sam has now left the show, there are a few 'what happened next' stories beginning to pop up. But most of the fics were written while both characters were on the show. Why might this be?

Well, I write Sam/Josh slash because to me these are two fantastically interesting characters - hugely intelligent and dedicated to their work, with personal issues lurking in the background ready to provide inspiration for angst-ridden fics full of hurt/comfort scenes. Watching from the pilot episode up to the middle of Season 2 with a slasher's eye for detail, it's only too easy to imagine that Sam and Josh have some kind of romantic history, and that they still care a great deal for each other - perhaps it's only the fact that they live their lives under the scrutiny of the press that keeps them from pursuing a relationship at that time. After that, the slashiness starts to fade from the show, and we're left with fanfic to fill the gap.

Finally, and somewhat superficially, these are two incredibly good-looking guys - putting them together can only lead to goodness.

How do they get slashed?

There are five main types of Sam/Josh slash:

- Historical AU fics (although there are very few of these)
- Stories in which the guys are working at the White House and in a hidden relationship
- Stories in which the guys are working at the White House and people know about their relationship
- Stories set pre- or post- the Bartlet administration
- Stories ignoring the fact that Sam leaves his job (and the show) in the middle of the fourth season.

Of these types, the second and third are most prevalent in archives, but the final two make up a rapidly-growing proportion of the stories.

Where's the fanfic?

The two sites archiving a large number of stories are
Big Block of Cheese
(slash only) and
The National Library
(all types of WW fanfic) - each of these sites has a Sam/Josh directory.

The only LiveJournal I've managed to find dedicated to this pairing is at
Josh and Sam: Their Not-So-Secret Love

Over on Yahoo, there's the
Sam_n_Josh group
where most Sam/Josh authors post their stories (many also post to the
group which is the submissions list for the Big Block of Cheese).

A list of all the fics ever posted to the Sam_n_Josh group can be found
at Godless Harlot's web site, which also features
a very comprehensive list of Sam/Josh fics

There are a great many exceptional writers in this fandom, possibly because of the fact that such an intelligent show tends to attract a highly-literate audience. Authors especially worth looking out for include (but are by no means limited to):

Jae Gecko
, whose Turning series is the ultimate introduction to Sam/Josh slash - beginning many years pre-Bartlet, this series follows Sam and Josh's relationship right up until the end of Season 3, seamlessly blending events from the tv show with a slashy relationship

Jesse Morgan
, who writes an on-going series called At Home (there's a new chapter each month or so - at the time of writing she's just posted Chapter 71)

Sue C
, who has created the Carpe Diem universe in which the shooting at the end of Season 1 has left Josh paralysed

Julian Lee
, whose Variations series follows a relationship between Sam and Josh beginning during their time in the White House and finishing as their jobs come to an end

Anne Marsh
has written many fics, all of which are worth reading, but especially worthy of attention is her Reune universe, set post-Bartlet.

Jackie Thomas
writes excellent non-NC17 rated fics all of which are so fantastic I can't single out any particular one for particular commendation.

has written several wonderful Sam/Josh fics, all set at a non-specific point during their time at the White House.

stories are well worth are read, and are unusual for this fandom in that they are Sam-centric (for some reason many of the fics focus on Josh).

has written a very long series of stories (around 30) which tie in with the first four series of the show and feature Sam and Josh at their absolute kinkiest.

My very favourite historical AU fic is one I have only found in old postings at the Sam_n_Josh group - bye Jae Kayelle it's called On the Frontier and is utterly fantastic - Godless Harlot's page (linked to above) gives direct links to all the chapters of this story, which is good enough to be reason alone for joining that group.

There don't seem to be many photos of the guys around, but Coupdepam has a website with many, many West Wing screencaps - you can find it

A final note

Well, I hope those of you who were already fans of this pairing feel I've done it justice. To those of you reading this to find out more about the wonder that is Sam/Josh slash, I hope I've tempted you to read around the stories and perhaps even write some of your own - although the biggest West Wing slash pairing, it's not got a huge following compared to pairings from some shows (Stargate SG-1 and Harry Potter spring to mind here), but it's a very friendly fandom to be a part of.

Also, to any authors reading this whose fics I haven’t recommended, please don’t take it personally. In all honesty, I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve ever read in this fandom, but a lack of space (and an unwillingness to bore the uninitiated to tears) meant I couldn’t recommend everyone here.

Have a great holiday season, everyone, and a very happy new year.

Tags: west wing

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