Author: Anna-Maria Jennings
Archive: Certainly, just let me know
Spoilers: SEASON TWO PREMEIRE (slightly)
Pairing: Josh Lyman/Sam Seaborne
Beta'd: no :( sorry for the typos!
Rating: PG (or higher for m/m "themes," I guess)
Feedback: makes the heart grow fonder, and the pen work faster (or something) to email@example.com
Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I seek profit from these characters. I'm not trying to harm them, just to entertain some (new) friends.
Notes... Well, I lied when I said I would lurk for a bit. After seeing the premeire for the second (and third) time today, this little bit of filler struck me. I don't know that I'll follow it up - though I think the campaign has possibilities. If I trample on any story canon, I'm sorry! I'll learn. Also - I'm assuming or inventing the fact that Sam went to Harvard for law school, too, since Princeton doesn't have one and they *had* to meet somewhere. ~Ann
Crying by Anna-Maria Jennings
<from In The Shadow...>
"I need to be in New Hampshire!"
"You went to New Hampshire. We both did. You came and got me."
I still remember it, as though it were yesterday. Josh showing up, like that, in my office. In a suit - his tie already loose at 9:30 in the morning. His eyes were so wide - so bizarre and lit with the craziness he felt the whole trip was. And we fell into the same old routine instantly. That's just the way it's always been with us - since those last few days of law school, the wine-drinking, wild last few days of May before we graduated, when we were both heading into the world with broad smiles and law degrees.
Those were the days.
I had this off-again, on-again thing with Lisa Carter. She had dark hair, dark eyes, and a dark temper. We fought often and passionately - and usually made up, a day or so later, with equal passion. She hated my idealism. She hated the idea that I would "throw away" my law degree to pursue some stupid public service dream. In a way, I thought she made sense. There was a lot more money to be had in the practice of law than in the making of it. The only reason I would choose government over the legal career was, well, I loved it.
But sometimes, I also thought I loved Lisa. She was pretty - beautiful, really - and we made a gorgeous couple.
Josh hated her.
"She's a bitch on wheels," he said over many a late night beer. "She doesn't love you - she loves the _idea_ of you."
I'd try to slur a defense, but he was right. Lisa loved the idea of being the girlfriend - or the fiancee, or the wife - of a powerful lawyer or powerbroker. I was simply the stupid guy who kept crawling back.
At the end of the year, Lisa and I had our biggest fight to date. Again, over the career situation. I was sitting on two "start immediately" job options. One, as an press secretary in the Washington, D.C. congressional office I'd been staffing in Boston for a year as a grad school internship-cum-practicum. The other, as an associate at Gage Whitney in New York. The Gage Whitney job paid an pretty indecent sum - almost enough to pay off the loans I'd accumulated at Princeton and Harvard. The Congressional job came with nothing - medical benefits, maybe, but no promises of housing or society or future advancement into multi-million dollar salaries or corner offices. I was deeply divided over the offers, and had decided to hear the Congressman himself out over dinner the night before. When I got home - ready to call the D.C. office manager in the morning and tell her I'd take the spot - Lisa was waiting for me, wearing pearls and a blue suit and the meanest scowl I've ever seen.
The fight was pretty violent - she slugged me somewhere into the fifteenth minute of yelling - and ended with her storming off, zooming her little Lexus out of my driveway and into the night with some cry of never seeing me again. That was sometime after she explained what a weak-willing, snotty little bastard I was. I walked to the bathroom both to survey the damage to my face and to relieve the tension of three drinks with the Congressman. She'd been mad as hell. This did not bode well for our upcoming New York getaway plans, I thought tiredly. Well, Lisa would wait until morning. No use talking to her - or thinking about her - when she was this angry.
I had stripped down to my boxers when there was a knock on the door. Stepping out of my slacks, I yelled, "Just a second!" and threw on a T-shirt. If it was Lisa, I wanted as little exposed skin as possible.
It was Josh, smiling and, surprisngly for midnight on a Friday night, sober. "Hey, what are you doing here?" I said, letting him in.
"How'd the thing go?"
My mind fuzzed after the long evening.
"The thing?" "The thing. The thing with Congressman Anderson. Dinner. Job offer."
"Oh, that." I shrugged. "You want a beer?"
He laughed a surprised little laugh. "Do I want a - no, Sam, what happened? I want you to tell me what happened."
I looked at him tiredly and sat on my couch. In my mind, I heard a million appropriate things to say at that moment - things about Anderson, things about the nobility of business or politics or even just how damn good the fish at Piccuci's was - but instead, I heard myself say, "Lisa was here when I got back. We had another fight."
I saw a blank cloud pass over his face, his usual reaction to Lisa. Anymore, Josh considered Lisa and I an off-limits topic or something. It wasn't that he didn't care - he just seemed to regard getting involved as futile. That was fine, really - I was a little tired of the "Lisa is bad for you" lecture, anyway. So he put his hand on my shoulder, standing in front of me, just sort of patiently waiting to hear the latest story.
Then something happened that I didn't expect. I know Josh wasn't expecting it. I started crying. Soft crying, the kind that no one really realizes is happening until you have to wipe tears off your chin or blow your nose. Josh just looked down at me for a second, then shifted his bag off his shoulder and sat next to me. A minute later, I was crying on his shoulder, his arms around me. I told him what Lisa had said - the way she'd unearthed years' worth of insecurities and neurotic tendencies. He sighed a held me a little tighter when I said she'd hit me. "Ah, Sam..."
"I'm sorry," I said, pulling back, drying my face on my hands. "I don't know why - I -" I choked back another little sob and couldn't meet his eyes.
"Hey, don't be sorry. Nothin' to be sorry about." He gave me an encouraging little smile, and I smiled back, weakly. He laughed, then looked at his wet shoulder. "Are you crying, or is it raining?"
I nodded, laughed a little, too. It wasn't hard to laugh with Josh, ever. Things were so easy with him. I smiled, thinking how much I really *wanted* to go to Washington with him, *wanted* to get away from all the meaningless bull shit of the corporate world...
He reached his hand up and brushed my cheek, drying a tear. I looked up, held his wrist with something I hope passed for conviction, and spilled out my real fears. "Josh, what if I go to Washington and I hate it? What if it's not the real thing and it ruins it all for me?"
He met my eyes. Josh knew how deeply my idealism ran, at that point. I knew he could already see that I couldn't start in Washington with Anderson. I think he knew then that I couldn't love it there until the real thing came along, not until I could be part of something big and real and wonderful - but that I would do it, I would go, and leave Lisa and New York and the millions of dollars, if he told me to. I would let it destroy me if he asked me to go.
So instead of answering that question, Josh stroked his thumb across my face again, slowly, until I leaned into his palm and closed my eyes. A second later, I felt his lips on mine.
The kiss began softly - just the press of his lips, trying to soothe me - until I lifted my own hand to his neck and opened my mouth to the light question of his tongue. Then his fingers were in my hair, and I was unbuttoning his shirt - the famous short-sleeve plaid he'd worn for years - pulling it off his shoulders and feeling the muscle in his arms. He paused for a moment after I'd pushed his shirt off his back and looked at me. "Is this - Sam? Is this okay?"
The hesitance in his voice told me everything. He wanted this, and he wanted me, knowing everything he knew and everything I hadn't told him. He knew it was conditional and complicated and strange - and he still wanted me - but, more than that, he loved me. He loved me enough to make sure it was "okay." Looking at him, feeling a deep, unexplainable kind of love in my chest, I shook my head. "No. No, it's not okay, Josh."
"What's - I mean -"
I stood solemnly and took his hand. He looked up with a brief, confused shake of his head, then followed me to the bedroom. When we reached the bed, I lay back and pulled him on top of me, the full length of his body pressed to mine. He hovered above me for a second, peering deep into my eyes, until I leaned forward and melded our mouths again. From there, it just flowed.
Afterwards, I lay satiated in Josh's arms, my head resting on his chest. He was stroking my hair gently, and I was rubbing his biceps. "Josh..." I started uncertainly.
"I know," he said simply. "You should go to New York."
"I want to go with you."
"But you won't. Because it could ruin you, and I won't be a party to that." He kissed the top of my head and sighed. "It won't be as much fun, without you, but -"
I looked up. "If you do see the real thing -"
"I'll let you know."
In the morning, he left before I woke. I saw him the next night, briefly, at a bar. Things weren't strange, not even awkward. Just comfortable. So, if now I knew I loved him, so what? The end was near, and it would be amicable and kind. And surely, someday, I would see him again. I didn't worry for a second that Joshua Lyman would drop out of my life.
So there he was, in my office, years later and older and maybe wiser. And things were just as comfortable as they'd always been. He looked great - I said "fit," but I thought in less artful terms. I'd barely seen him since graduation, and that was years ago. Oh, sure, we traded e-mails and false promises of getting out to see each other, but to have him there - so suddenly - was an amazing jolt. I hadn't remembered our chemistry until then, until I saw his quirky face, heard his quirky voice, and felt that strange hard clench in my chest at his smile.
So we went outside - the meeting forgotten in his presence - and we talked about the present, the future. I hated the look on his face when I told him about Lisa. Blank, automatic. The college look. Nothing I could do about that, now, so we moved on.
He'd been working for Senator Hoynes for a while now. I'd never felt - from the first day Josh took that job - that he wanted to be there. I felt it, mostly, because he gave me the man's resume every time I broached the topic. It became more of Josh trying to convince himself than anything.
He broached the Hoynes topic constantly, anymore. It was a national campaign, a chance to be a part of something Big, something Monumental and Timeless, he wrote. Between those lines, he wrote about the loneliness and the loss of idealism. That was what kept me away. I knew Josh well enough to know he was going through the motions - recruiting me because, yeah, he wanted me there - probably for a few reasons - but also because it was the right thing to do. It was expected. I think, if I'd accepted that early on, he would have been disappointed. Excited, yes, but eventually, disappointed. Selling out has nothing to do with money - it's about lending yourself to something you can't believe in. And I wasn't ready for that, yet.
"What're you doing?" he asked me. And I rattled back an answer about shipping and liability, saw its emptiness reflect in his eyes, and realized staying away from Hoynes didn't mean I wasn't selling out. I realized I'd done that long ago, when I came to New York. And it ate at me, the idea that in the process of trying to keep this woman and this image and this political idealism, I'd sold a chunk of myself to a corporation - to a bunch of greedy hacks. Watching Josh brush by me, I wondered if I could get it back.
He left for New Hampshire, and I went back to my office, but something had changed. It felt -wrong. Wrong to be there, amidst the corporate selfishness and avarice I'd ached to escape in grad school. It felt wrong, too, because Josh wasn't there. I remembered the look in his eyes that afternoon - the way it changed when he thought about Bartlett up in New Hampshire, or Hoynes in D.C., or me and Lisa in New York. I wondered what it would take to make my own eyes glow with the kind of passion he had.
The next day, I found out.
I returned to my office a changed - and significantly sleep deprived - man. Armed with a sudden conscience, I stormed the meeting, ready to go on the attack. I spend most of the night in front of a computer, alternately looking up information and idly day dreaming about the years of my life wasted on numbers and facts instead of feelings and desire.
When Josh showed up that afternoon, dripping wet but flushed with feeling, it was all I needed. "New Hampshire!" I shouted at my boss, and suddenly, we were off. On the elevator ride down, Josh talked non-stop about Bartlett - his appearance in Nashua, his ideas, his dreams, his reality. As we stepped outside, into the pouring rain, I stopped him with my hand on his arm. "The real thing, huh?" I yelled. J
osh smiled, the most gorgeous and unfettered smile I'd ever seen on him. "The real thing."
I kissed him, there in the rain, right on the mouth, and saw the smile increase. "We should get a cab," he said slowly.
"It's not raining," I assured him, putting my hand on his face. "That's just me crying."
Then he laughed, the true, charming laughter of someone in love with his life; and I felt myself following him, first into the laughing, then into the cab, and finally to New Hampshire and, again, into love. I couldn't help it; I've always been a sucker for the real thing.
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