purple_elefants (purple_elefants) wrote in b4td,

Title: Precedent
Author: purple_elefants
Character: Josh Lyman
Rating: PG
Pairing: None per se, but Amy is also present
Disclaimer: Only the cereal is mine (and, you know, the plot, but the characters do not belong to me)
A/N: Thanks to christinekh for the beta

“Josh, get ready. We’re going out tonight.” Chris burst through the door. “My first class tomorrow was canceled, and a bunch of us are going down to Rudy’s.”

Josh looked up from the various books and papers he had sprawled in front of him in their shared dorm room. “Naw, man, I can’t tonight.”

“What do you mean you can’t? It’s Thursday; you only have one class on Friday. We’re going out tonight.”

“I need to work on the case.”

“The one you spent weeks working on with that group? I thought you guys gave up on that.”

“They did; I didn’t. I think we’re missing something.” Josh leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk, while his roommate pealed off an old T-shirt and rummaged for something clean.

“Come on, man. Let it go. It’s not a real case; these aren’t real people. It’s not even graded. Come with us tonight. Live a little.”

“Tomorrow night. Tomorrow night we party. Tomorrow night…we celebrate.”

“Hey, suit yourself, but you’re missing out. Gonna be a lot of great chicks there tonight.” Chris rubbed his hand over his face to see if he needed to shave and splashed on some cologne.

“What do you care? Aren’t you dating that new girl…Annie?”

“Amy, yeah. She’ll be there. You gotta come; she’s bringing friends. Friends, Josh! Female, you know, women? You do remember women, right?”

Josh picked put the mini foam basketball on his desk and chucked it at his roommate as Chris ducked out the door. He smirked to himself; oh yeah, he remembered women. But tonight was not about women. He shook his head to clear any such thoughts trying to creep in and distract him. He needed to focus. He looked over the same pages he’d read a thousand times, but the thousandth and one didn’t bring any new insights. He turned to the bowl of cereal that he'd intended for his dinner but had gone soggy an hour ago, only to abandon it once more, grab his jacket, and head out the door.

He spent the evening in the library pouring over book after book, looking for any precedent from which to work. He didn’t expect to find an answer, but a lead, a clue, something he could work with. Anything. There was an angle out there, and he was going to find it. He had to.

The class had been broken into groups, each with a different, seemingly impossible legal case and client assigned to them. It was an annual exercise, a challenge, and they were told that even with four heads, they may not be able to build a solid argument. Tomorrow was the final deadline for anyone to try to present a case. For those that couldn’t, it was a lesson in not winning every time. That may have been the more valuable lesson for Josh Lyman.

He closed another set of pages and scrubbed his hand through his hair, then turned his head to stretch his neck and checked his watch. Except for the pain in his neck and fatigue in his eyes, he would not have believed over two hours had passed. He gathered a few books to take with him, placing the rest in a cart to be re-shelved on his way out.

The room was still dark when Josh got back. Good, Chris wasn’t home yet. Odds were he would not be coming back alone, and Josh was counting on more time to go over things in the comfort of his own room. He wasn’t ready to give up. The change of scenery at the library had been good, less distracting, but he had needed the walk back and fresh air to get his blood flowing and mind turning again. He plunged back into his search, somewhat rejuvenated.

Loud voices in hall snapped him away from his thoughts. He wasn’t any closer and was beginning to wonder if all his efforts would prove fruitless after all. The floor was littered with crumpled papers, rejected ideas that were too much of a stretch, even for him. He picked up the foam basketball and pretended to dribble around the room, faking left, then right to keep the defense on their toes. Slam dunk into the basket on the back of door! He pumped his fists in the air as the crowd roared.

He spun around when the door opened.

“Working hard? See, I told Amy we shouldn’t come back here and bother you.” Chris picked the basketball off the floor and tossed it back to his roommate.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. He tried to talk to me out of it, but I’m persistent.” Her words dripped with sarcasm, part innate and part enhanced by alcohol. “We brought you beer.” She held out the six pack long enough for him to slide out a bottle before she set it on Chris’s desk. “What are you working on…besides your jump shot?”

Josh returned to his chair and launched into an explanation, losing his place a few times along the way, caught up watching her, not sure she was even listening. The raven-haired girl was clearly drunk. She had settled herself on top of Chris’s desk, presumably because it was the closest thing, and opened one of the beers she’d set down not a minute ago. While Josh was speaking she dangled her legs like a child and mindlessly played with the lamp shade, occasionally lifting the bottle to her lips. She turned the lamp on and immediately off again, squinting at the sudden bust of light.

Josh took another drink of beer and tried not to laugh.

“This is how he prefers to spend his evenings rather than coming out with us,” Chris chimed from his place on their ratty sofa.

“No, I get it. It’s not about a grade; it about finding a way. The deck is stacked against you.” Amy’d not only been listening; she’d been absorbing. She idly fiddled with of one of Chris’s books, flipping through the pages. “I guess I should go then, leave you alone.” She took one last swig of her beer and slid off the desk. “Good luck,” she said to Josh, nodding her head toward the door for Chris to walk her out.

His solitude momentarily returned, Josh got another beer off Chris’s desk, smiling at the open book and crooked lamp shade before turning away. But something had caught his eye. He wasn’t sure what exactly he’d seen, but there had been something. He grabbed the book and turned the lamp back on as he stood there scanning the pages. Something was starting to click.

He took the book back to his own desk making notes as partial ideas came to him and pulling out other books to refer and build. Not twenty minutes later, before Chris even returned, he sat back, surveying his work. There it was, done. The seemingly irrelevant case that he happened upon in a book for another course—where she had left it open—had set his entire argument in motion.

He looked at the clock. It was much too late to call tonight. He’d call in the morning.


“Hey, Dad, it’s me. I figured out that case...yeah.........
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