TITLE: Don't Know Much About Gravity
AUTHOR: Ellen Milholland [email@example.com]
RATING: PG-13, for slashy type kissing and such
ARCHIVE: Ask, please.
DISCLAIMERS: Nobody's mine. Summary and lyric are Ani's song 'asking too much.'
SUMMARY: "I want someone who's not afraid of me or anyone else. In other words, I want someone who's not afraid of themself."
NOTES: The West Wing section of a response to Liz Barr's challenge: three stories, three fandoms, one lyric. And then Martha added on this challenge without realizing it: make it one het, one boyslash, and one girlslash. For august, in some ways she might never know.
Don't Know Much About Gravity by Ellen Milholland
"Don't ask me to put words to all the silences."
They never discussed it except in the abstract, because people almost never discuss the givens in anything but the abstract. They didn't discuss it in the same way that most people don't discuss gravity, or neutrino particles, or that there was heavy traffic on the beltway that morning.
There are some things that are too real, too regular, to be discussed, because anything a person might say would be redundant.
This is why they have never said words like 'hope,' or 'love,' or 'need,' or 'scared' to one another. Because these words would be superfluous, because they are all spoken in different ways already, like the arrangement of shoes next to Sam's bed, or the fact that Josh kept Sam's multivitamins in his medicine cabinet.
These were just how things were, because why else would two men follow each other across state-lines and tax-brackets? There is no trust like the trust of hands on bare skin, no trust like lips and tongues and sleeping flesh-on-flesh. There is no trust like sharing coffee and toast and raspberry jam at five AM.
They had met in Washington, and beyond all sense of reason, they had become friends. Josh had been a little older, a little wiser, a little more experienced, and Sam was bright-eyed and interning the last summer before he graduated from law school. They had met near the Reflecting Pool, one morning in July, and Josh was reading the Washington Post.
Much later, Sam would marvel at the fact that was the first time he had ever jogged that particular route at that particular time, and that Josh almost never sat outside to read the paper during the summer. But they had both been there, and Sam had made a spectacle of himself by tripping over Josh's shoes and ending up sprawled rather ungracefully in Josh's lap.
"Hi," he said, but he was slow to get to his feet because Josh had eyes that sparkled and a mouth that begged to be kissed.
"Josh Lyman," Josh had said, laughing. "And you're in my lap, man."
"I wasn't sure you'd noticed. Um, sorry about that," Sam said, standing. "I'm not known for my surefootedness."
"Well, that's a relief. You have a name?"
Sam extended his hand, smiled his brilliant look-I-went-to-prep-school smile, and announced, "Sam Seaborn."
"Law school, right? Yale, maybe?"
"Duke," Sam laughed, and that had been the beginning. "I go to Duke."
"Good to meet you, Sam Seaborn who goes to Duke," Josh had said, collecting up his papers.
And suddenly Sam shook his head. "Come, get breakfast with me."
"I don't eat breakfast."
"Get coffee with me, then," Sam said.
Josh considered this. "There's a place near here. Come on."
Things begin like this, in the world, unexpectedly near strange bodies of water. Sometimes, sometimes a person trips and falls over and lands on the Earth, because the Earth is solid, and the Earth is real and unmoving and a truth. The Earth is a truth, and sometimes a person hits it too hard, and then they stand back up, and it's still under their feet, and this is how gravity sometimes works.
But Sam tripped and fell and landed on Josh, and Josh was solid, and real, and unmoving, and Josh was a truth Sam wouldn't understand until many years later, when he was drinking orange juice and Josh was wandering his apartment in nothing but boxers. Josh turned, Josh smiled, Josh said good morning.
There are different types of gravity in this universe.
In the early days, Josh had taken to calling Sam beautiful, mostly, Sam thought, because Josh liked the flush that spread across Sam's skin whenever he said it. "You're beautiful, Sam," he would say, over and over, even in the blackness of night when there was no way he could possibly tell.
He would touch his fingers to Sam's stomach and Sam's sternum, and he would tell him, "You're beautiful," and it was the first time in Sam's life that he'd felt that way. It was the first time that it didn't matter that he was too smart, or too Californian, or any of that. It was the first time 'pretty' wasn't an insult, and even though he was 24, it was the last summer of his adolescence.
He had gone back to school, then. And he had become successful, and he had convinced himself that Josh had been fun, a lot of fun, but that it hadn't been anything more real than his degrees or his girlfriend or his future at Gage Whitney. And Josh had been far away, and everyone knows that gravity grows weaker with distance, because even Pluto sometimes forgets that the Sun is there, reining it in.
And Sam probably forgot the hold Josh had on him until that fateful day when Josh had told him to go away with him, to go away to work on a political campaign that might go nowhere, to leave his fiancée, and his job, and his city.
Because Josh's eyes said everything that his mouth couldn't, and Sam felt the strange pull in his chest like a laugh or a sob or the tug of a harness and he'd said okay. He left his carefully constructed life, and he let Josh pull him off the edge of the world.
To anyone else, this would've been crazy, and it was a little crazy even to them.
But there was Josh's mouth, and the lines of Josh's calves against dark sheets, and sunrises and sunsets and those things people never question like love and taxes and how the Earth spins just fast enough so that no one goes flying off. And then, there were the things they never spoke of, like Sam and Laurie or Josh and Donna or Josh and Joey, because it would have hurt too much, and because those things never really meant what they seemed to mean.
There was a night, after the MS and after reelection, when Josh had stood mostly naked in Sam's living room, and he had announced, "I never slept with Joey Lucas."
Sam turned from the refrigerator, holding a glass of iced tea, his hands shaking. "I didn't think you had."
"I slept with Donna, once," he sighed, falling back into a leather armchair. "I didn't mean to do this to you. But I wanted to tell you. Because, I didn't want you to think that just because none of these things destroyed us... I didn't want you to think that nothing ever would."
"Josh, would you shut up?"
"I slept with Donna, Sam."
"I heard you the first time, Josh. And I knew."
Josh nodded. "I thought you probably did. It was stupid."
"Yes, it was."
"But you forgave me."
"I didn't have to forgive you. You didn't do anything I needed to forgive."
"I slept with--"
"Okay, Donna. Got it, Josh. Okay."
"You remember that day in Washington, Josh? The first day, and I sprawled out across you in my usual debonair style?"
Josh smiled. "How could I forget?"
"You let me leave you, after that, and get engaged and, you let me be that lawyer everyone expected me to be. But you knew it wasn't me. You let me go, you let me go to New York. And then you came back, when it was time. So, so you slept with Donna, because you needed somebody, or because you were drunk, or... because she has a nice ass, I don't know. But I trust you, and I'll always come back for you."
And Josh's eyes were wide, and it was dark in Sam's apartment, but Sam knew Josh was beautiful, and so he said so, "You're beautiful, Josh."
"Don't say that, Sam. Don't say that because we don't say things like that."
"No, we don't." Sam nodded, looked towards the windows. It was raining outside.
But just the same, Josh's voice dropped, and he said, "Sam, I need you."
And there were these words, and yes, they were the right words but they could never be right enough, never right enough to say the things these two men wanted to say to one another. Sam just shook his head, walked over to Josh, put his fingers to Josh's bare shoulder. "Gravity's a funny thing, Josh. Let's talk about gravity instead."
"I don't know much about gravity," Josh said.
Sam could feel Josh's blood pumping, could feel the warmth of Josh's skin, remembered all the falling and all the getting up and all the moving on that they had done, apart and together but always in each other's orbit. "You believe I'm real, Josh?"
"Then I think you know plenty," Sam said. There was a silence then, but it was more real than words could ever be, more real than 'love' or 'sweetheart.' And then Josh reached up and touched Sam's hand with his own.
Because there are not always words for the silences people find hiding between fingers or between musical notes or between beating hearts, people must sometimes find movements and breaths and slow looks to fill the quiet.
And sometimes, the silence just is.
end. feedback adored.
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