torch, March 2001

Disclaimer: I am not the secret love child of Aaron Sorkin and Chris Carter, for which we should all be grateful. This was written, sorta kinda and very very belatedly, for the Little Black Dress challenge. LBD posited that Krycek is the little black dress of fandom, suitable for any crossover occasion. Despite the wonderful examples provided, I had my doubts, and here they are. The story contains references to various things WW and XF, but I can't think of anything spoiler-ish past And It's Surely To Their Credit and Terma, respectively.

Thanks to Jessica for creating the addiction, to Terri for late-night support and close reading, and to elynross for her amazing competence with commas and other things. Do not archive this story without permission.

Lies, damn lies, and agriculture


"Not now," he said, keeping his eyes on the last word of the sentence, as if refusing to look up from the report would actually make Donna disappear from the doorway.

"You have a phone call."

"Not now," he said again, wondering if he should underline the word so he wouldn't lose his place. "Not now, and close the door on your way out."

"Yes, now, Josh. In my professional capacity as assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff, which in case you didn't know happens to be you, I have answered a number of phones. I know when you have a phone call, and right now, you have a phone call."

"Right now, I distinctly remember asking you to hold my calls unless the stock market collapsed or Godzilla married the Statue of Liberty. Has the stock market collapsed?"


"Has Godzilla married the Statue of Liberty?"

"I don't think so. At least, CNN isn't covering the wedding. But you have a phone call."

"Donna, I have three hundred and forty-two pages to read before the two o'clock meeting, and not only do I have to read them, I have to understand them. Not only do I have to understand them, I have to summarize them into a two-minute briefing complete with policy outline. I do not have a phone call unless the Mississippi is on fire." Josh looked at the last word of the sentence again. It was counterproductive. "Who is it?"

"I don't know."

Josh took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. Donna was standing in the doorway, one shoulder barely brushing the lintel, looking serious and earnest in a way that set off warning bells so loud he was surprised people didn't start to evacuate the building. He tried to remember what he'd done recently that might merit this kind of treatment, and couldn't come up with anything. "It was National Annoying Blonde Assistants' Day recently and I missed it?" he hazarded.

Donna looked reproachfully at him. "He said it was important. He said you would regret it if you didn't talk to him."

"What I would regret," Josh said, "is not having read this report by two o'clock because I was on the phone with a nameless madman. Go away. Close the door."

"Have you noticed the way too much coffee in the morning makes you cranky?"

The door closed, and he was alone with his three hundred and forty-two pages.

* * *


"No." The notes he'd jotted down were much too lengthy and practically illegible. Josh squinted at them. Even Donna's handwriting was better than that. Maybe he could dictate to her. "Not unless Mars suddenly fell into the Pacific."

"I booked a meeting for you at one thirty, so don't go anywhere."

He dropped his pen. "Which part of three hundred and forty-two pages before two o'clock was unclear? For that matter, which part of a meeting with Leo and the President at two o'clock was unclear?"

"He said it was really, really important." Donna fixed him with a wide-eyed look that sent chills down his spine.

"I didn't miss your birthday. I know when your birthday is, and I didn't miss it." Josh picked up the pen again and stabbed it accusingly in Donna's direction. "Who is this, and why won't you tell me?"

"I don't know who he is," Donna said. "He wouldn't tell me his name."

"He wouldn't tell you his name? Donna, how do you think he's going to get into the building for his one thirty meeting that, incidentally, I want you to call him up and cancel right now, if we don't have his name?"

Donna leaned back against the doorjamb and crossed her arms. "He said it wouldn't be a problem. And I can't call him back, he didn't leave his number. And you didn't give me any of the things I wanted for my birthday."

"Is that what this is all about? Tell me that isn't what this is all about."

"That is not what this is all about. You have no sense of adventure, Josh. A mysterious stranger is coming to see you to give you important information. It's like something out of a spy thriller. Don't you feel like you're living in a spy thriller? Don't you think it's exciting?"

"The thought of the look on Leo's face if I don't have the necessary information at the two o'clock meeting is all the excitement I need in life right now. And weren't you going to get me the background info on Soles and Rezwani?"

Donna held up a sheaf of papers. "I've already got it."

"But you haven't given it to me."

"No. You have three hundred and forty two pages to read, and you have a meeting at one thirty."

"I do not have a meeting at one thirty. I have a meeting at two o'clock with the President of the United States and the Chief of Staff. And you want to know why I don't have a meeting at one thirty? I don't have a meeting at one thirty because you are going to cancel it for me. And you said you loved your birthday present."

"I can't cancel the meeting. I told you, he didn't leave a number. He was calling from a pay phone."

"Then go up on the roof and send up smoke signals. You're a creative person, Donnatella. You'll come up with something."

"I did love my birthday present." Donna took two steps forward and dropped the papers on top of the report. "One thirty, Josh. Read fast."

* * *

"Hey, Josh."

"I'm working." He dropped the pen again and leaned back.

"So am I," Sam said, undeterred, and walked into the room. "Do you think 'deep friendship' sounds better than 'close relationship'?"

"Depends on if you're trying to break up with her or get back together again." Josh stared at the last word in the last sentence he'd read. It was purpose. Maybe that was a good sign. "And how, exactly, is it that you think that would be any of my business?"

"I'm talking about Portugal, as in tomorrow's state dinner." Sam rocked back on his heels. "Maybe I should say 'lasting relationship.'"

"Maybe you should get out of my office. I have a report to read, I have to say something intelligent about it when I've read it, and I have an insane assistant who's booked me a meeting with the man from UNCLE at one thirty. I don't need you hanging over my shoulder wondering if you should ask Portugal to be your baby."

"The President's baby," Sam said absently. He pushed a stack of folders out of the way and half-sat on the edge of Josh's desk. "I think it's important that we send the right message here."

Josh pushed back at the folders before they could spill agriculture statistics all over his report. "I'm sending a message here. The message is, get out of my office and let me work in peace. I'll write it down for you if you like."

"This has to be friendly, but if it's too friendly, it sounds condescending. Maybe if — close friendship," Sam said in the tone of someone having a much more profound epiphany than the words seemed to warrant. "Mind if I borrow your pen?"

"Yes," Josh said and tried to pick his pen back up, but Sam was faster. "Why aren't you in the office of the other person in this administration who gets paid to write international pick-up lines?"

"Toby had a bad experience with seafood on the Algarve coast in 1982," Sam said, scribbling on an index card. "He bears a grudge."

* * *


"Unless Teletubbies are dancing the polka all over the Mall, leave me in peace."

"Your one thirty is here. Also, Sam is sitting on your desk."

"I know that. He's sitting on two years' worth of statistics from the Department of Agriculture, wondering how to get to second base with Portugal."

"Josh, do you even know what a Teletubby looks like?"

"No. And I don't want to know."

Sam looked up. "They have things on their heads," he said, then crossed out something on his index card.

"Things? Things on their heads? Things like hats, or—" Sam opened his mouth, and Josh quickly held up his hand. "I didn't ask. I don't want to know. Donna, can't you just give this man some cheese and tell him to go away?"

"We don't have any cheese. I'll send him right in."

Josh sighed. He leaned back in his chair again and watched as the stack of folders gave up the battle and cascaded all over the report and his illegible notes. "You have your own office. With your own desk. Why aren't you in your own office sitting on your own desk, or even at your own desk?"

"Ainsley Hayes is in my office."

"It's a big office. There's room for both of you."

"She's talking about gun control."

"Then you can go to Ainsley's office and sit on her desk." Josh got to his feet, pondering what it would be like to pick Sam up by the collar of his immaculate suit and throw him out of the room in a shower of agriculture statistics. He'd just decided the satisfaction might be worth the strained muscles when the door opened.

The man who slipped inside wore a suit that made Sam's look scruffy, and it made him look like a fashion model gone slightly to seed. He also wore black leather gloves. He looked at them quickly, Josh, then Sam, then Josh again. "I'm not sure both of you need to be present," he said, his voice a husky rasp. "This is just a courtesy visit. I assume you know why I'm here."

"No," Josh said, "I don't. I also don't know how you managed to set up a meeting through my assistant without giving her your name."

The man smiled a crooked little smile. "You can call me Alex," he said. "Like I said, this is just a courtesy visit. We want to make sure that the present administration isn't going to rock the boat."

Josh kept himself, with some effort, from giving the man his best you're-a-lunatic stare. "Believe me when I say that if there is a boat to be rocked, this administration is going to rock it," he said. "I don't know who you are, or what you want, but—"

"Nobody briefed you?" The man frowned; it made his nose wrinkle up. "We can't have you stumbling into anything accidentally." He looked around at the walls as though seeing something that wasn't there. "If you don't have the information, this place isn't secure. Meet me at the Reflecting Pool at midnight."

That did it. Nothing but the you're-a-lunatic stare seemed to fit. Josh flung his arms out in an impassioned gesture and knocked Sam's index cards to the floor. "Why me? I mean, is there some vast international conspiracy—"

"Yes." The man nodded. Josh steadfastly refused to look at Sam, who was making a grand production out of not saying a single word. "There are men who wield power you've never even dreamed of. Midnight. I'll tell you everything you need to know. We're going to have a very close friendship, you and I." He took a step forward, put his hands on Josh's shoulders, and kissed him on the cheek. He smelled of expensive after-shave and gun oil, and his left hand was strangely heavy and stiff. "Don't be late." The man turned and walked out of the room.

* * *

"Oh, Josh—"

"Shut up."

"He kissed you, Josh." Sam was laughing so hard, he leaned sideways, about to follow his index cards to the floor. "That wasn't the man from UNCLE," he managed to get out, "that was the spy who loved me."

"Shut up. Donna!"

She must have been standing right beside the open door. "Yes?" There was a thud and an ow. "You have a meeting with Leo and the President in ten minutes. Also, Sam is lying on your floor."

"I know that."

"Why is Sam lying on your floor?"

"Close friendship," Sam wheezed. "The President gets Portugal, you get—"

"Shut up."

"He kissed you, Josh." Sam tried to push himself into an upright position. "He wants to meet you — at midnight—"

Donna made a suspicious choking sound. "Your one thirty kissed you?"

Josh stared at the ceiling and wondered if it would fall down on him again if he wished hard. "I would like for everyone who doesn't actually work in this office to get out of this office. Now." He fought the urge to rub the back of his hand over his cheek. "Donna, if you book another meeting with a crackpot who won't give his name, you won't get another birthday present until you're a hundred and two."

"When I'm a hundred and two, you'll be a hundred and fifteen."

"I know that."

"Do you really think you'll be giving me birthday presents when you're a hundred and fifteen?"

"I don't even think I'll be giving you a birthday present next year. I might reconsider if you get Sam off my floor and out of my office."

"He kissed you!" Sam said in the tone of voice of someone who can't believe his luck. "Joshua Lyman, sweetheart of the lunatic fringe." He got to his feet and stacked his creased index cards. "You'll have to let me know how your date goes."

"Out. Now."

Donna turned her head and vanished from the doorway. Josh looked at his desk, where his notes had vanished under a tide of wheat and corn harvests. Sam walked to the door, chuckling softly to himself. As he was leaving, Donna came back. "Josh?" She smiled brightly. "You have another phone call. A Special Agent Dana Sc—"

"Tell her to go to the Reflecting Pool at midnight and leave me alone." Josh sat down and pushed at the folders with one finger. Some of them slithered down on his lap.

"This wasn't about my birthday present, Josh. I would never be that petty." Donna closed the door.

Five seconds later, the door opened again, and Sam stuck his head in. "Close friendship," he said.

Josh threw the report at him, and three hundred and forty-two pages fluttered down over the office floor.

* * *


He closed his eyes. "Yes."

"You're two minutes late for—"


"I'm just saying, it's Leo and the President, and—"

"Yes." He opened his eyes again. "I have no idea what that report said."

Donna held up an index card. "Bullet points," she said.

Josh pushed himself to his feet. "I can't read your handwriting."

"Yes, you can."

He walked over to the door and took the card. "Is it too much to hope for that you've told me what to think about it as well?"

"You can think on the way there."

"That's a one-minute walk if I pretend to have a broken ankle."

"Think fast." She smiled at him as he walked out of the room. He was ten yards away when she called out, "Josh!"

"No," he called back, turning and walking backwards.

"Should I buy some cheese for next time?"

* * *

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