Subject: A Probable Impossibility (TWW) Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 12:35 PM Title: A Probable Impossibility Author: Victoria P. [email@example.com] Summary: "By the way, when I said I'd run in his place, it's not like I meant it." Rating: G Spoilers: through Process Stories Disclaimer: All West Wing characters belong to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, etc.; this piece of fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights. Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool. Feedback: I'm hoping it's probable, not impossible. Notes: Thanks to Jen, Dot, Meg and Pete'n'Melissa. All dialogue is taken directly from the episode. Date: November 20, 2002
A Probable Impossibility
He makes a promise to a widow.
"Tell Mrs. Wilde, tell Kay that I'll do it." Even as he says the words, he knows they're meaningless. A Democrat hasn't won the California 47th in possibly forever. A dead Democrat has even less of a chance.
He tries to put it out of his mind as Election Day approaches; he keeps a weather eye on the polls and everyone thinks it's just because it's his home district, and that Will Bailey is an up-and-comer who reminds him of himself.
He wonders, though, in the few hours he spends at home, his mind revving too fast for sleep. He sees himself in the House, then perhaps the Senate. His unspoken dreams of coming back to the White House as President one day were vocalized by the President himself, and Sam believes in him.
But in the cold light of day, trying to run the country and help with the campaign, his dreams fade to nothing.
Because a Democrat has no hope of winning the California 47th, and even a slamdunk live candidate with the energy and belief of Will Bailey behind him couldn't do it, so a dead one certainly won't.
While he's always been able to believe six impossible things before breakfast (and if he hadn't, working in the White House would have taught him), this one thing is so improbable, so ludicrous, that even he can't wrap his head around it.
When the thoughts do surface during daylight, when he's reminded of the times he's been betrayed or left out, he pushes them down. He's over the resentment of being treated as though he can't be trusted. He really is.
Except that sometimes it still gnaws at him during those same few sleepless hours he spends in his cold and empty bed.
He doesn't tell anyone until Election Night. Even then, he tells only Donna. Because she's the only one who won't look at him like he's crazy. Donna knows about life-changing decisions made at what looks like the drop of a hat. She drove almost twelve hundred miles to join the campaign in Nashua in much the same way he'd walked out of Gage Whitney's boardroom to follow Josh to the same place.
So he sits with her on Election Night, watching the returns in disbelief. He lies on Toby's couch and wonders how this could possibly be happening. He's talking to himself, to Donna, the words running through his mind and out his mouth in a steady stream. "'A probable impossibility is preferable to an improbable possibility,'" he tells her. "The impossible is preferable to the improbable."
Except, of course, that not only is Horton Wilde winning the election impossible, it's highly improbable. No one, least of all him, expected it. And yet, he should have known as soon as he opened his mouth and told Will Bailey he'd do it, that fate would conspire against him.
He can hear Toby's groan at the clich without ever voicing the words. But it's true. This is the kind of thing that would only happen to Sam Seaborn, an Aristotelian confluence of events of the sort that no one would believe if it were fictional.
"By the way, when I said I'd run in his place, it's not like I meant it," he says, and he can hear the whine in his voice. But he did mean it on some level, or he never would have offered. He wants to be the real thing, like Bartlet is the real thing.
Donna takes his hand, takes him back to the party to have cake, and all the while, his head is spinning.
When his picture appears on television, his name announced as the rumored candidate for the run-off, he tries to play it off. He seeks out Toby, Josh and CJ, ostensibly to explain, to have them help him craft an excuse he can give to Will, to Mrs. Wilde.
But the barely acknowledged truth is already pushing its way to the surface of his brain. He wants to run. He wants them to tell him he can do it. Should do it.
He tells the President he's not running. He tells himself the same thing, but by this point he doesn't quite believe it. His brain has started to kick up reasons he should do it, and most have nothing to do with placating House Democrats.
When he comes back to CJ's office, she says, "We think you should run."
Amy explains her reasoning. "You're not going to win, so you can't lose."
And he knows she's telling the truth, that he could run a good race and that there's really no downside, but he turns to Toby, because he wants more than that, and he knows, out of all of them, Toby will be the one to break it down and tell the truth.
And he does. "You have to ask yourself, is it worth it? You're going to lose. A Democrat's always going to lose in the 47th."
But a dead man, a dead liberal Democrat, just won, and Sam's feeling the touch of fate right now. Opportunity is knocking, and while the speechwriter in him winces at his reliance on clichs tonight, the dreamer in him knows that this could be his chance.
Toby's words make him think, take a step back to look at the big picture, to see the whole board. And he knows he can do better than just placate the House Democrats. He can make it about issues.
He can be the real thing, as improbable as it seems right now. He can do this.
"Then I think you should win," Toby says, and Sam knows his probable impossibility has just become improbably possible.
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