TITLE: "Circadian Rhythms"
AUTHOR: Luna (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ARCHIVE: Ask; it's at http://www.sparkgirls.com/stories/violet
CATEGORY: Josh/Sam, post-War Crimes, rated R
NOTES: So, hi, this is my slash-list debut, though I've written some before (see sparkgirls.com). Not my characters, of course. Transcendent props to R.E.M., G.K. Chesterton, Jae and k. T-minus five days until Jess gets her props. Feedback would be appreciated.
Circadian Rhythms by Luna
Spring ahead, fall back, and so Sam wakes up with no idea of the time. The blinds are open, and small globes of orange light float through the window and into his eyes. Sam squints at the streetlights, peers at the alarm clock next to his bed. It's just after midnight. The heater rumbles to life. A light film of sweat and dying cells lies on his skin. The soft flannel of the sheets, refracted amber glare striking the walls, and Josh's nose pressed into the back of his neck.
This is all he wants with Josh, sometimes; to have fallen down in the same place. A few hours of sleep and then waking, skin warmed, senses dull, time lapsed. Close enough to breathe in unison. Then Josh moves his leg forward, nudging his knee against Sam's. Josh is hard against the underside of Sam's thigh, and Sam isn't always so sure what he wants.
"Gerrumph," Josh mumbles, and throws an elbow forward, jogging Sam's shoulder blade. Sam shifts, relinquishing the pillow and resting his cheek on the corner of the mattress. He looks down to the knobbly beige carpet and tries to pick out a design in the clothing scattered across the floor. Like crop circles, or the whorls of a fingerprint. He closes his eyes again and imagines for a second that he could drop back into dreams. But it's hopeless. Sam swings his legs over the edge and pushes off.
As the blankets fall away from his body, so does the warmth. A draft from around the window competes with the muttering heater, and the air in the center of the room startles goosebumps from his arms. Sam picks up light blue Jockeys and a navy sweater, pulls them on. He stands still for a moment, a weak pulse in his temples. Then he goes to the wall, leans his back against it, and turns the halogen lamp on.
It's not the light that wakes Josh; it's the cold. Sam watches him stir, burying his mild snores in the pillow, hands reaching for a body that isn't there. Josh twists the sheets around himself. He sits up fast, with a grunt. His eyelids flicker, his pupils dilate. Then he sees Sam and smiles. "What're you doing up?"
Sam points his chin at the clock. "It's early."
"Yeah?" Josh places his thumb and two fingers across the bridge of his nose and rubs his eyes. "Man. I thought it was maybe four in the morning. My, um. Whatever it's called, it's off."
"Circadian rhythm," Sam says.
Josh yawns and doesn't hear. His hair is trying to go in six different directions, but his face and voice have been softened by the time in bed. He sniffs. "Could use a shower."
Sam considers the prospect, and the gymnastics, since he has a shower stall instead of a bathtub. "I guess we both could."
"Hell with it. We're cavemen." Josh stands up and stretches, arms arched over his head. "You got food?"
"Even better." He yawns again, loudly, wiggling his jaw. Then he tilts his head and grins at Sam. "Quit staring, huh?"
Sam catches himself, then, realizes his gaze has been locked to the lines of Josh's bare legs and back and hips since Josh shrugged off the covers. Sam chuckles and shakes his head. "Cover yourself, then."
Josh scoffs and hooks his toe around the waistband of his green plaid boxers. He kicks them up, grabs them out of the air, and steps into them. "Well, the evening's pretty much shot now. I mean, I'm not gonna get anything done."
"Yeah." Sam edges toward the open door. "And I'm only about a month and six hundred pages behind schedule."
"C'est la guerre."
"You mean c'est la vie."
Josh pops his head through the collar of his black sweatshirt. "Do I?"
Sam rolls his eyes and steps into the hall. Without stopping to switch the lights on, he trudges into the living room. His head feels foggy. He stands at the bookshelf for a little while, selects a slightly frayed volume and takes it to the leather couch. In shadow, the words engraved on the binding are illegible. Sam turns on the TV and mutes the sound. By the intermittent blue-white flicker of the screen, he can make out the text, and the pages. He reads like that for a few minutes, holding the book a few inches away from his face. Soon he hears Josh shuffle behind him, crossing into the kitchen. The kitchen light fluoresces brilliantly to Sam's left. He marks his page and listens to Josh rummaging through the refrigerator.
"You have no beer," Josh announces grimly. "That's just wrong."
"There's wine," Sam says, not turning. "In the bar."
He hears Josh go to the low mahogany cabinets along the wall, hears him shifting the pizza box so that he can balance it with the bottle of Merlot. Josh adds a pair of water glasses and juggles everything from the bar to the sofa. He arranges it all on the table, and wrinkles his nose as he pours their drinks. "California wine?"
"California wine is socially acceptable now," Sam informs him.
"So are thong panties, but you don't wear them."
Sam nearly spits into his wine. He glances at Josh. "Please don't explain."
"Donna and everybody were eating lunch in my bullpen. Haven't you ever walked into your office and caught one of those conversations at the wrong time?"
"They don't hang out in my office because I don't have an assistant."
Josh takes a drink while he considers this. "Right. Cathy left--"
"--Over a year ago, actually. Last summer, after--"
"--The thing," Josh finishes. "It's been a while, then. Why haven't you hired someone new?"
"Ginger and Bonnie like taking turns working for me." Sam sips his wine. "It's a little vacation from Toby."
Josh laughs. "Yeah, 'cause you're the boss of their dreams. What're you reading?"
"Rereading. G.K. Chesterton. 'The Man Who Was Thursday'."
"Never heard of either of them."
Sam angles the book so that the light from the kitchen splashes on the pages. "Life was a fly that faded, and death a drone that stung/The world was very old indeed when you and I were young./They twisted even decent sin to shapes not to be named:/Men were ashamed of honor; but we were not ashamed."
"So that's why the girls like you. You're always accentuating the positive."
Sam sighs and shuts the book. "Pass me a slice?"
They eat the cold pizza in silence for a while. Josh channel-surfs, checks scores on three sports channels and comes back to rest on CNN. The President's image flashes on. "That was a good one," Josh says.
Josh points the remote at the closed-captions scrolling across the bottom of the screen. "The remarks, after Abilene. Yours?"
Sam shakes his head. "Jay and Janet."
"Did you edit it?"
"A little bit."
"It shows. It's good." Josh nibbles his pizza crust thoughtfully. "I can't believe tomorrow's Monday."
"Does that still matter? I don't remember the last day I didn't go into work at all."
"Yeah, but Mondays are different. No matter what else is going on, they manage to plunge to unforeseen levels of disaster." Josh dusts crumbs from his fingers into the pizza box. He settles back into the cushion. "Look at it this way. It's cold out. Maybe we'll get a freak snowstorm and the whole city will shut down."
"Don't waste your energy wishing," Sam mutters.
"Nothing." Sam taps a finger against the cover of his book. This is how subjects always change between them, how the topic always turns to work. "So we're not eliminating the penny."
"Great." Josh refreshes his wine, emptying the bottle. "Here's to the penny. Long may it circulate." He toasts the air before he drinks. "We're doing well."
"Yeah," Sam says. He doesn't mean it to sound like a question, but once spoken, it hangs there waiting for an answer.
"These last few weeks," Josh elaborates. "I guess Hoynes is going to Texas for us, so they must have made something work, there. And C.J. seems to have her stride back. Her swing. Her groove."
"She's good." Sam frowns slightly as he reaches for the last slice of pizza. "She's always been good, she just doesn't walk around beating her chest. We forget how hard her job is."
"Also, we got the veto through. We're doing well."
Sam nods, eyes focused on the TV screen. Sometimes all he wants is to be at the top of his game, to be playing on Josh's team. Victories to talk about, challenges to look toward, and confidence crackling between them. Not to lose that. Not to lose. "We threw an elbow," he says.
Josh snorts. "That's cute."
"Well, it's not cute." The pizza is congealed and chilly on Sam's tongue. He swallows twice, three times to get it down, and drops the slice back in the box. "It was a successful gambit. It's what I get paid for. It was productive, not cute."
Josh draws back, tilting his head, sliding toward the arm of the couch. The white glare from the kitchen makes one side of his profile pale; the rest of his face is painted by shadow. "I meant the phrase was cute."
"I don't think you did." Sam crosses his arms, grips them below the elbows, feeling for muscle and tendon and bone beneath the fabric of his sweater. His voice sounds thin and high through his teeth. "Josh says you should have them vote on the journal, if you need more time. I knew that. I worked in the House, couple rows over from you. I was the guy with the suede briefcase. Maybe you remember me."
"I didn't ask. I told Donna to say I needed to stall. Seriously, man, how did you think I didn't know that?" Sam pushes a hand into his hair. He wonders where he picked the gesture up, whether he'll yank it all out and wind up looking like Toby. "I know legislative procedure, and I know damned well how to hold it up. I'm not somebody's kid brother, and you should know that. I didn't need you to tell me how to do my job. That's not what I needed."
Josh looks at him steadily. "Okay. I thought you were asking--"
"I wasn't." Sam forces his hand back to his knee. His knuckles look angry and pale. "I knew what I was doing. And my fucking job isn't cute, Josh."
Sam exhales deliberately through his nose. His chest feels constricted, hollow, collapsing. He tells himself to keep breathing; it's the easiest thing to do. After a few minutes the weight dissipates, though it doesn't disappear. "Sorry," he says emptily.
Josh nods. His neck seems awkward, tense. "The polls are starting to look a little less ugly. About time."
Josh sets his glass down on the tabletop. "Donna," he begins, mouth narrowing, aimlessly kneading his hands. "She, ah, she lied today."
Sam blinks. "To the committee? She was weird when she came back."
"Yeah." Lines appear and deepen on Josh's forehead and around his eyes. "She keeps a diary, if you can believe that. I guess she said she didn't, and the guy saw..."
Josh trails off. Sam watches him, silently gauging the distance in Josh's face and voice. Josh wants to sleep with Donna, but hasn't yet. Sam knows how he talks about women he wants, and women he's had. They've told each other about these women, about break-up sex with Lisa and Mandy, about girls in bars and libraries, about single, mistaken nights with Ainsley Hayes and Joey Lucas. They tell these stories to each other, adding layers of luster and dirt to the bare reality. They don't talk about sleeping with other men. Sometimes Sam wonders. "Is this going to be a thing?" he asks instead.
"I don't know. No." Josh clenches his jaw. "I think. I hope... She was smart enough to stay away from anything too specific and damning. And I don't think there'll be a subpoena."
"You don't think?"
"I talked to the guy. He may actually be a decent guy." Josh looks disgusted when he admits this. "You know, she knew she screwed up. She felt like crap about it. She came straight to me."
Sam lets this sink in. "Good. So. It's fixed?"
"I think." Josh cracks a small smile. "You're not gonna finish that pizza, huh?"
"It's a little funky," Sam warns him.
"So am I." Josh takes the slice.
Sam opens his book again and tries to read the dim text. His eyes feel strained. He quotes a line aloud: "You say you are a poet of law. I say you are a contradiction in terms."
Josh chuckles without humor. "You know," he says, "I just. I--God. It'd be nice if we had a full weekend ahead of us, huh?"
"Yeah," Sam says, and he stands and leads the way to the bathroom.
In the shower they twist around each other, unable to separate because there simply isn't enough space. Their hands are slick with the steaming water and Sam's blue SoftSoap. Sam leans into the slippery yellow tiles, bracing himself, determining Josh's every movement with his own. He's read that every seven years, every cell in the body renews itself. So Sam no longer has the same body that Josh touched the first time, and even now he's washing down the drain.
The hot water turns tepid, and then frigid. By the time they climb out they are breathless and shivering, skin flushed, teeth chattering. They leave thick, soaked green towels tangled on the floor, and wet footprints on the carpet leading back to the bed. "S'late," Josh murmurs, throwing himself onto the mattress. He drags the blankets up over his shoulders.
Sam turns the corner down and climbs in beside him. "Late, and cold, and I have to meet with Becky Reeseman at seven. I'm gonna have to drink four pots of coffee to get through that one."
"And you'll still be dropping dead by lunch." Josh squirms closer to Sam. His skin is warm and moist.
"What are you doing?" Sam asks, keeping his voice casual. He closes his hand around a wrinkle in the fitted sheet.
"As you pointed out, it's cold."
"You're a heat-seeking missile."
"Just point me east." Josh slurs the last of these words, the alcohol and exhaustion in his voice tangible on Sam's shoulder. He huddles closer.
The distant, contained blazes of streetlight swim and twinkle through the window. This all Sam wants, sometimes, and he tries to enjoy those times before they pass. The red clock tells him it's two a.m. The heater purrs, and Josh's breathing mellows to an even tidal rhythm. Sam listens with his eyes scrunched shut. His arms and shoulders slowly relax; he has no energy left. His hand releases its grip on the sheet. And they fall asleep exhausted, and they wake up, and it's snowing.
End. Feedback warms the heart. http://www.sparkgirls.com
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