Title: BLUE CHRISTMAS
Feedback? Always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating: PG, I guess; perhaps PG-13 if you're very sensitive
Spoilers: Hm. Not very clearly perhaps, but "Noel"; "ITSOTG"
Summary: Christmas at the White House, Josh thinking over what has happenedand what could have been done - or can still be done.
Thanks to Nomi, excellent in patience, advice, support and beta, and Laura.
Blue Christmas by Winter
It was winter in Washington it looked as it was going to be a snowy one this year.
“Beautiful”, Josh Lyman thought as he stood at the window behind his desk, in the West Wing of the White House. As Deputy Chief of Staff in the now soon-to-be two-year-old Democratic Bartlet administration, he hadn’t had that much time to enjoy the last days’ softness, without that really cold touch of winter.
Or to consider any of his private problem, for that matter, as he let his mind wander into that stuffed-away part of his pre-occupied thoughts. He wasn’t really sure that he wanted to consider those issues any further, anyway. Really, he was thankful for the midterms’ elections and all the “extra” work they had produced during the fall, he admitted to himself with a resigned sigh.
And now, Christmas was finally coming up, with a few days off even for a White House Deputy Chief of Staff inevitably. He sighed again as he leaned his forehead against the window, leaving a misted mark of his breath on the glass.
“What if…” he said to himself in a low voice. He felt so alone; it was late afternoon the Friday before Christmas and the corridors, usually full with ambitious political professionals of different magnitudes, were emptying. Josh heard hearty wishes for a Merry Xmas, which didn’t help in making him feel any less lonely and helpless.
Donna opened the door and said in a cheerful tone, “So, you’re still in here? Aren’t you going away for the holidays this evening?”
“Donna”, he replied tiredly, “if the door is closed…”
She didn’t take any notice of course, why should she now, when she hadn’t for the last two odd years?
“Well, I’m at least going home now or, perhaps, we’re going for a last Xmas drink. I think you deserve one too, Josh.”
“Perhaps I’ll join you.”
“That’s just like you. Well, then you can take Sam with you. He is sitting in his office, as he has been for the last three days, working on that Christmas Day speech. Maybe you have the influence to pull him away from it for the evening,” she said with a peculiar, teasing smile.
“Very funny.” He turned towards the window once more, trying to signal the end of the conversation but with little hope that it would work.
“Really?” she replied in a somewhat awkward voice.
“I’ll talk to him. Just have to finish some things here…”
“I’m sure you will.” Another strange smile, but Josh found it somewhat encouraging. “Cause if you don’t…” She left the sentence unfinished and then quietly closed the door. She always had to have the last word.
The park outside was now hidden in the darkness of the early winter’s night. The lamp-posts cast their yellowish light on the newly fallen snow.
If only he had another chance… He stroked his fingers absent-mindedly over the big scar crossing his chest, the mark that the surgeons’ saws and the fanatic’s bullets had left on him. In his mind he strolled down the hot street of that Atlantic seaside place in early summer, before the assault…
It was the first really hot summer’s day when they drove away from the politics and intrigues of Washington, “to get some fresh air” as Josh said, after a spring full of successes, disappointments, compromises, votes gained and lost.
Sam had some work that really had to be done, but he didn’t put up that much resistance when Josh enthusiastically made up plans.
“It’s going to be just like in college!”
“Unlike you, I spent my time in college studying.”
CJ had teased them and reminded Josh of his last such project, a trip to Florida earlier that spring, and all the things that had gone wrong then. That time, it had also been Josh and Sam, and it had ended in a highway motel during what turned out to be that season’s worst storm in the state.
“You’re a political animal, Josh, but when you get outside this artificial world of strange men and strange behaviour, you’re really as lost as a clumsy child.”
Sam had it the nail on the head, Josh had thought, in a way. Clumsy, without knowing what to do or say in those private situations… He was obviously a strange man himself in many aspects. His hope, then, perhaps lay in finding another man just like himself. Sometimes such a hope seemed very pleasing. That motel night could have been the start of something, but as always he appeared to have blundered it away.
CJ had given the two friends a questioning look as she turned down in her own, “polite” way the offer to join them.
“Me, and the two of you, at the beach, together?” She made a face. “You know sometimes I really do miss my Californian swimming pool…”
They decided that asking Toby was futile, and to spend a day and a night at a seaside place with, for example, Donna and some other, surely nice, young woman would have been all too much like an attempt to… Well, something they didn’t want it to be. At all.
So Josh and Sam went by themselves. Sam picked up Josh at 7 AM that Saturday morning and they drove for two hours, chatting mostly about baseball, something about the latest gossip and, inevitably, a little politics.
When they arrived, they discovered that others had made the same plans for that first really hot summer’s day.
“Well,” Sam said as he drove down the over-crowded main street, ending at he promenade overlooking the beach. “Just like in college, eh?” he continued, somewhat irritated.
Josh didn’t reply; he lifted himself slightly from the front passenger seat, took off his sunglasses and cast a look down at the beach, which was full with parasols and blankets in different colors, and white and black (mostly white) flesh. He then leaned back and rubbed himself between the eyebrows, suddenly looking and feeling as old as he sometimes forgot he was. Sam looked across at him when he didn’t get any answer and reached out his hand to touch Josh’s.
“Sorry,” he said softly, and it was enough. Josh smiled at him bravely as he continued, “We’d better find a place to stay first if we don’t want to sleep on the beach, under the stars.” He paused and turned the wheel, going northward, making a, as Josh thought, lovable face. “But perhaps that was what you had in mind?”
“Cute,” Josh answered. He seemed to have regained the vigour and dry wit was that the word that Sam liked best about him. Liked was that the word? With the sun streaming down through the open roof hatch, the weekend ahead of him them he allowed himself to explore such territory.
They first thought about a little hotel that seemed nice enough, but then Sam said that perhaps they’d be better off with a bigger, more anonymous place.
It was that way with them: no obvious remarks, but hints. It could be tiresome, Josh thought, but then, it was just another game. Or was it? Sometimes it seemed more important, even more important than whatever bill of some kind that Bartlet was trying to press through the legislation.
They got a double. It wasn’t that there weren’t any other rooms left, but, well, it was easier, and cheaper, and they were just going to stay for one night. Most of it they would spend out anyway, Sam said. Josh didn’t object, although he wasn’t that sure of the last statement. Still, they had their separate beds. And, honestly, he was glad that Sam had taken over the initiative.
It was well past noon when they finally reached the beach in their comfortable summer outfits: shorts, polo shirts and sandals.
“Now that you pulled me away from work, you’ll have to make sure I’ll have a good time,” Sam remarked.
“Always the spoiled child,” Josh teased and nodded towards a bar a bit away. “A drink?”
“And perhaps lunch? And by the way you’re not really that old.” Sam turned towards him with a warm smile. “Or perhaps I am older too…”
“So,” Josh continued the old song-theme, “will you still…”
He didn’t finish the sentence but turned his back at his friend. They were at a rather crowded part of the beach, but most people seemed to be more punctual and were busy with their meals. Josh felt Sam step up close behind him, putting his arm around Josh’s stomach. For a moment they just stood there, until Josh softly released himself from Sam’s grip.
“Lunch it is,” he said.
After lunch and an afternoon of sunbathing and dipping toes in the Atlantic it hadn’t gotten that warm yet they returned to the Best Western. They ordered cheeseburgers through room service.
“Like in college?” Sam asked. Josh, as usual, ignored the fact that he wasn’t in college anymore and that perhaps his body didn’t cope as well with the habits of those as it did then.
He sat down on one of the beds. “Early night, early morning? Work to be done…”
“Wasn’t that my line? ” Sam sat down on the other bed, twisting his fingers and looking down at the floor, at the narrow strip of carpet between the two beds. Then he rose, crossed over and sat down cautiously next to Josh.
“Yes?” Josh turned halfway towards him so that their shoulders just touched. Sam turned his head, looking Josh straight in the eyes, their faces five inches apart.
“I…” He leaned forward slowly so that their nose-tips nearly met. “I just wanted to tell you that…”
And then there was a knock at the door. Josh flinched, then jumped up, blushing; like a teenager, Sam thought, with a nervous smile. He imagined Josh got approximately the same image of him.
They hurriedly sent away the hotel’s waiter, who raised an eyebrow but then, it wasn’t his business.
The cheeseburgers proved good filling for their hungry stomachs, while they both considered means, conditions and consequences of appeasing another hunger, which they now obviously shared.
Still sitting on Josh’s bed, Sam was the first to finish his meal, and he sat quiet, watching his friend finishing his. Josh then took both of their waste and disposed of it in the wastebasket. When he returned, he stood in front of Sam. The latter glanced up at him.
“This time you seem to have gotten it right, Josh Lyman,” he said. “Even CJ won’t be able to tease you about this trip’s failure, cause the way I look at it, it has been a success.”
“We still have the night, and the ride back tomorrow…”
“Well, I’ll have to help you with that, then I’m the one driving, remember? And I think I can also help out regarding the night…”
He reached out and took hold of the soft but still slim sides of Josh’s stomach, softly forcing him down on the bedside beside him again.
Sam leaned forward and kissed him, first carefully, seeking his way around his lips, then more and more aggressive, and Josh responded. He let his tongue seek contact with Sam’s, while his right hand slipped under the other’s polo shirt, feeling the stomach muscles and ribs under the tanned skin. He leaned forward and lifted Sam’s legs from the floor, placing the beautiful younger man under himself on the bed. Sam pushed Josh’s T-shirt upwards and over his head, and his own polo shirt went the same way. All the while they were kissing intensely, breathing heavily.
“Yeah?” the other replied between breaths.
“I hope that…”
“There’s no problem on my end…” He stopped kissing for a moment, held Josh a bit off with his hands on the other man’s chest, smiling reassuringly. “And I hope there’s none on yours.”
“Free as a bird, and trying to use that freedom…”
“Good.” Sam pursued his work, kissing Josh’s mouth, his cheeks, chin, neck, shoulders, forehead, chest, stomach… Josh, groaning, felt a tickling inside him. He slipped out of his shorts and boxers, reaching down to kiss Sam on his stomach, slowly pulling his boxers off, revealing… He stretched to turn off the light.
Sam Seaborn, Deputy Communications Director in the White House and the president’s speechwriter, groaned. No, not that sentence either… He had started to work on the Christmas Day speech early enough, but the last paragraphs were always the trickiest. He thought of how the editors used to say that you should always keep the heavy stuff for the beginning and middle, since the most likely part to be stricken when the editing space demanded it was the end. Still it needed to be a grand closure, something people were going to remember, naturally along with the substantial parts: reforms, promises, the political agenda.
He leaned back, rubbing his temples. He was tired. The West Wing corridors were emptying. It was the Friday before Christmas, and he ought to get ready to… well, what? First he needed to finish the speech, after his latest discussion with Leo over it, but that really wouldn’t be that hard. He was in his mid-30’s, a career man, with jobs practising law and politics behind him, now back where he felt his work really meant something. He didn’t care that the pay check showed a smaller amount; still it was enough to get by with, and more.
Christmas, a family holiday, but he wasn't going "home", wherever that was, especially not after what his father had done. Another holiday, after Thanksgiving. This year he had spent that one with his friends here - CJ, Toby, Donna... and Josh. Yes, Josh. Were they his family now, his political family? He admitted to himself that the image of Josh as part of his family wasn't very unpleasant, and perhaps not that hard either... He remembered the Floridian experience with a smile, but with some bitterness. Then there was that summer's day at the sea. Their best time ever, followed by a few weeks of excitement and anticipation. But then there had been work, and then - the assault. He didn't like to think of it that much, wanted to push the West Virginia White Pride and the day it entered his world and changed its direction behind him.
When Josh was hit, he had felt an anxiety within himself that he hadn’t thought possible. Now it instead had seemed very hard to subdue, and when Josh came out of the surgery and was going to get well - it had been a wonderful moment after all that panic. And then it had become like this - uncertainty, sadness, Josh so different, but still the same. Had they lost their chance? Still, he didn't think that the underlying feelings had changed between them. But maybe the conditions had...
He didn’t really know if he would come to accept thinking of himself as homosexual or bi, whatever. There had been plenty of girls for sure, and some women, but they hadn’t at all been the same as this was it passion? Yes, he admitted to himself, this passion for Josh. The question is, was there more to it? Since that night in Florida, he had been over that question time and time again not constantly, of course. Little things were left to constant thought besides the general topic of politics and the political game when working in the White House.
Now, alone, or almost alone there were others left in the West Wing,
Leo, maybe CJ, Toby, Donna, and Josh, and Bartlet, of course he couldn’t help pursuing that line of thought once more. With the holidays as short as they may be in this job coming up, the loneliness seemed harder to bear; it was only natural. He had his friends, of course, although the ones outside this political world now were easily counted. And he had his longing for something more.
He opened his eyes, leaned forward and closed his laptop. The speech could wait for tomorrow. Perhaps he would work on it at home, although he didn’t think he could avoid coming in to work. There would be others. There always were. Even on Christmas Day, and perhaps he would end up spending it at work, with his friends. He turned around, smiling faintly at his own image in the window glass, reflecting against the darkness outside.
“You’re a tragic figure, eh?” he spoke out loud.
“Not as tragic as I,” a familiar voice with a soft touch replied from behind. He turned around, watching the one he now thought to be his closest friend.
“You caught me there.”
“As always.” Josh walked into his office, his coat on his arm and briefcase in his hand. He sat down heavily on Sam’s couch, sat there as he had so many times during the last years.
“Up to something?”
“Well, I promised Donna I’d drag you along for a drink. I expected it might take some work, but I see that you’re finished?” With a little smile at the corner of his mouth he nodded towards the closed laptop.
“Yeah, right. Cute.” Sam disconnected the computer, winding up the cord and putting the things in their case. “I thought I’d take it home and finish it tomorrow.” He paused, closing his eyes, giving in to his tiredness. “If I’m lucky.”
“I suppose it’s not Leo or the president at your throat about those final small adjustments, but you yourself.” Josh stretched his legs out on the carpet, which meant he had to bend his body in a somewhat awkward way to avoid the coffee table. “So that means I won’t see your beautiful face around here tomorrow then?”
“You’re not going away?” When Josh waved his hand as if the question was ridiculous, Sam continued. “Well, if you don’t have anything else to do, you might come over tomorrow and give a hand…”
“Or perhaps not, my friend. Usually you’re not very fond of a lot of company, especially not mine, while polishing your fine work.”
“Are you making fun of me? Cause I’m too tired to care, or even notice. So it would be a waste of your talent in that regard, and we know how tragic that would be.”
“You don’t seem to have lost your talent of making some jokes yourself, even if they’re as tiresome as always.” Josh gasped, showing his own tiredness. “Perhaps I should turn down that offer to join the others at the bar.”
“Really? Well, I’m not that up to it either.” Sam packed his things together, glanced quickly at his watch and raised his eyebrows. “No, I think I’d better get some sleep. Those sentences will make much more sense tomorrow, I imagine…” But he put down his case, and instead of reaching for his coat pushed Josh away a bit, forcing him to sit up, and sat beside him on the couch.
“Sleep? Yeah…” With another gasp, Josh stretched out his arms instead, leaving his right one on the back of the couch, behind Sam. The latter leaned back, and Josh’s arm slid downwards until it rested around Sam’s shoulders. He cautiously bent his fingers, softly squeezing the right shoulder. Sam released his breath slowly, then leaned over, letting his head rest on Josh’s right shoulder.
“I thought of us,” he said in a silent voice, “about last summer, and everything that has happened since…”
“Yeah, I thought about it too. Sam, I’m sorry, sorry about the way I’ve acted.”
“”Who could blame you?” Sam slid even closer, and Josh felt the smell of his hair. “After what happened to you…”
“I’ll live,” Josh replied, then, realizing what he said, gave a short laugh. Sam seemed serious enough, though.
“And that, Josh, I’m very glad of.” He turned his face toward Josh’s cheek, kissing it softly. “Very glad. I just hoped that perhaps…”
“Now is a good time for a new start, Sam.”
“Yes, perhaps it is.” Sam turned around, resting his weight partly on Josh’s knee but mostly on his own knees on the couch close to Josh’s thighs. He leaned forward and kissed him.
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