Title: Fed Up
Author: Jae Kayelle
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin, NBC, and John Wells Productions own the rights to the characters. No copyright infringement intended. No profit being made from this work of fiction.
Archive: yes to list archives
Spoilers: nothing specific, mid S3 -- early Amy episodes.
Summary: Sam has had enough.
Thank you to Abigale who read an earlier version and picked a whole bushel of nits out of it. Any lingering mistakes are mine.
Posting this in honour of Rob Lowe's 38th birthday today -- March 17, 2002. I'm sure it's exactly what he always wanted. Not. And I hope he never reads it. <bg>
Fed Up by Jae Kayelle
Sam could not get any work done. All he could think about was how betrayed he felt by Josh. How could Josh do that to him? Treating him like a child, giving him verbal pats on the head, and ignoring him.
Sam tossed his pen onto the desk. It rolled too far and hit the floor. While he stared at it, Sam thought about how he and Josh used to hang out together, how they would watch sports on TV and wait for the pizza or Chinese takeout to arrive. They didn't do that anymore. Even worse, they barely spoke to each other.
He missed their friendship. He missed Josh. Settling for the occasional five minutes when Josh deigned to speak to him at work was not good enough. There were signs that Josh still cared a little. The time Josh had gone to the mini refrigerator in his office and handed him a bottle of water without asking made Sam's heart skip a beat. If Josh stopped by to check on him when Sam had a meeting, even if it wasn't an important one, it caused a tiny flare of hope to light up Sam's day. It didn't take much. Small gestures that showed Josh remembered they were friends.
Sam knew he was gathering crumbs. He knew he cared far more than Josh did. Their relationship had always been uneven that way.
It was more uneven now. While Josh had fallen by the wayside, Sam had fallen deeper. It hurt but he didn't have a choice in how his feelings were trampled. Or did he?
He got up and headed for Josh's office. Donna wasn't at her desk so Sam went right in.
Josh was on the phone but looked up when Sam entered. He waved at Sam, a weird half-hearted gesture that made it look like he changed his mind in the middle of it. Either he was welcoming Sam or he wanted him to go away. Sam was willing to bet it was the latter. He experienced the familiar pang of hurt and hung onto it, using it to build up a head of steam. He stood by the door with his arms folded tightly across his chest, and watched Josh with the intensity of a hawk eyeing its prey.
"You gonna go to the thing?" Josh asked. His voice was low and intimate as he tucked his chin in and half-turned away. Sam knew then that Amy was on the other end of the line. He frowned. Josh missed it.
"Are you taking me?" Josh continued, teasingly. He went silent for a bit, opening his mouth as if to speak, but no words emerged. "I know..." Josh glanced with irritation at Sam and turned his chair around so that he was facing the window, the back of his chair shielding him from Sam's gaze.
"Amy, this would be a perfect opportunity to go public with our relationship." Another pause, and then his voice rose in a whine. "Why not?"
Sam leaned against the doorway. The proper thing to do would be to go away, but every time Josh glanced his way as if expecting him to be gone, Sam's stubborn streak got bolder. He wasn't leaving. Not until he and Josh had a little talk.
"...but it is so. Well, I think... My opinion does so count!" Josh was getting genuinely angry. Would wonders never cease? "What do you mean? Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah, but... Would you let me talk?"
There was a long silence. Finally, Josh said, "Are you still there? Oh. You're gonna let me talk?" He laughed and his voice dropped back to a low and intimate tone.
Sam was quite suddenly furious. It sounded like Josh and Amy's little spat had already run its course. Now they were headed back into makeup territory.
Josh laughed again. He spoke too low for Sam to hear him clearly, but his tone became boyish and sickly sweet.
Sam clenched his teeth. It felt good to get angry. Now he just needed an outlet for the adrenaline rushing through him.
Leaning back in his chair, still mostly turned away from him, Josh stretched out his legs and parted them slightly. Sam's eyes were drawn to the way the fabric of Josh's pants pulled tautly over his thighs, outlining his groin. He couldn't look away.
Seized by inspiration, Sam turned and locked the door through which he'd entered the room. Then he walked over and did the same to the other door. Josh was still whispering sweet garbage to Amy and so did not notice the action.
Walking up behind him Sam put his hands on the back of the chair, but changed his mind about swinging it around. He moved to the front instead. That startled Josh who kept talking to Amy, while keeping his eyes on Sam and clearly trying to figure out what he was doing.
He leaned down and dug his fingers into the leather armrests. Sam was close enough to see the gold flecks in Josh's hazel eyes, which were wide with uncertainty. Then he blew in Josh's ear.
He picked up the phone receiver from his lap. "Sorry, Amy. You were saying?" He glared at Sam. "No, it was...there's a rat in my office. It surprised me."
Ignoring the fierce look, Sam squatted in front of the chair with his hands on Josh's knees for balance. The heat from Josh's legs warmed his palms through the light fabric. He walked his fingers up the insides of the leanly muscled thighs in front of him, and kept going farther up to the crotch. Pausing there Sam licked his lips and glanced up. Josh was staring back at him with intense interest.
Still talking on the phone he said, "Uh...huh. Yeah. An exterminator might be a good idea."
Sam reached for Josh's belt and quickly undid it. Unfastening the pants, he pulled the zipper down and parted the material. He was just about to slide his hand inside when Josh clamped onto his wrist. Sam was determined not to let Josh sway him from his purpose, so he looked up slowly and curiously.
They locked eyes. The terror on Josh's face made Sam rock back on his heels. Sweat stood out on his friend's brow and he was breathing too quickly. The grip on Sam's wrist was beginning to hurt. He pulled, trying to get free. Josh hung on for a moment longer, as if he didn't realize what he was doing, and then he let go.
Sam rose to his full height and backed away, rubbing at the red marks on his skin. The handles on a filing cabinet drawer pressed into his back as he stared at Josh who looked less spooked but was still plainly frightened. The idea of Josh being scared of something he had done confused Sam.
Josh seemed to realize that he continued to hold the phone up to his ear, and spoke into it. "Uh, sorry. I didn't catch... Right. Listen, Amy. I gotta go. Talk to you later. Yeah." He clicked the talk button and lowered the receiver, but did not replace it in its cradle. Instead he sat there holding it, turning it around in his hands. Finally he looked away from Sam.
"What was that?" he asked.
"Yeah, Sam. What the hell was that? What did you think you were doing?" He finally hung up the phone.
Coolly, Sam regarded his friend. Josh sounded angry but he still looked mostly freaked out.
"It was my way of getting your attention."
"You feel you need to go to such drastic measures to get my attention?" Josh asked, practically shouting the words.
Visibly deflating, Josh said, "I was on the phone."
"I was talking to Amy."
"I figured that's who you were talking to." Inexplicably feeling sad and with the hard edge of the anger that had driven him this far having vanished, Sam began walking to the door.
"Sam, we...she and I have a...we're in a relationship."
"Yeah." Sam put his hand on the doorknob and stopped there. He didn't turn to face Josh. "Look, I'm sorry for what I did, or almost did. Just forget it, okay?"
"'Kay," Josh's voice was so soft that Sam really wanted to turn around and see his face, but instead he unlocked the door and went out, closing it behind him.
Sam returned to his office and went right back to work, pulling the legal pad he'd been using earlier towards him. He picked up his pen and began making notes again. It wasn't until a couple of minutes later, when he read what he had put down, that he realized he was only repeating word for word exactly what he had written before he had lost his train of thought and went to see Josh. He ripped the page from the pad, wadded it up into a tight ball and hurled it towards the door. Just as he did the door opened and Josh walked through. The paper missile struck him on the forehead.
He winced and stopped in his tracks. "If you're pissed at me don't you think throwing really huge, and hopefully dry, spit balls is a bit juvenile?"
"I'm not pissed at you...now. I'm p- I'm angry at myself."
Sam leaned his elbows on the desk and covered his eyes with his hands. "Because of what I did."
He heard Josh close the door and walk towards the desk. Coming around to park a hip on the corner, he was silent for a moment.
"Why did you do it?" he asked finally.
Talking into his hands, Sam told him, "I wanted your attention, speaking of acting juvenile."
"My attention? Have I been ignoring you?"
Sam dropped his hands. "You're not serious?"
Josh had the grace to look guilty. "Okay, so I have been ignoring you."
"Why, Josh? Why is it when I try to talk to you about anything personal or even work related, you only listen as much as necessary to get the information you need, and then you tune me out? What happened to us, Josh? When did you stop listening? When did it all start to fall apart?"
"Were you even aware of this problem, this rift between us?" Or was it big enough to be classified as a chasm?
"Okay." It wasn't okay, but Sam didn't know what else to say. For the first time since they had met, Sam found himself with nothing to say to his best friend. Josh's quasi-admission that he knew things were not good between them left Sam bereft of any kind of feeling. No anger, not even a shred of the disappointment that, he supposed, should be the next on the list.
"See, the thing with Amy is, she and I are," Josh stopped and sighed. "I'm not sure what she and I are."
Sam frowned. "What?"
"Our relationship is weird," Josh said, shrugging. He tipped his head to the side and asked, "You don't like her, do you?"
"No. I don't. Mostly, though, I don't like how you act now that you're involved with her. In fact, I've never liked how you behave when you're in a relationship. You did the same thing when you were involved with Mandy and when you were infatuated with Joey Lucas. You get stupid, Josh. You're not a stupid man, but you turn into a real jerk who neglects his friends and pretty much becomes an asshole."
Josh's staggered expression reflected that a nerve had been struck. Sam was immediately sorry, but he was also quite suddenly angry again. He didn't want to apologize this time. Instead he leaned back in his chair with his elbow on the arm, and rested his fist against his mouth.
"You think the women I date turn me into a jerk?"
Sam lifted his gaze from the top of his desk. What he saw in those hazel eyes floored him. Josh looked hopeful. It was the last thing he expected.
"Yeah, I do," he said, answering the question.
"So, it's not just me being a jerk?"
"Oh, Josh. No. Well, yeah."
"Oh," Josh hung his head.
"Hey." Sam lightly touched him on the arm to get his attention. "Josh Lyman is a complicated kind of guy. He keeps everyone guessing unless he's lost his mind over his current girlfriend, and then he just annoys his friends."
"Speaking of friends, did we just step over some kind of boundary a few minutes ago? Y'know, when you almost...and I almost let you?"
Sam nodded, accepting that they had moved beyond the anger and shock of discovery. "I guess the secret's out. I'm jeal...I don't like Amy." He had nearly said too much.
"So, what, you were going to give me a blow job to make me forget about her?"
Uncomfortably, Sam replied, "I'd say that was the plan but, since I didn't really think it through far enough to call it a plan, that would be stretching the truth."
"Sam! What the hell was it then?"
"I was about to give you a blow job because I wanted to do it. That's all I was really sure about."
Josh dropped his hands to his knees and began rubbing his legs. "Wow."
"Yeah," Sam sighed. He suddenly felt wrung out.
"Sam, I don't know what to say."
"Look. Let's just try to forget it ever almost happened. I apologize for...it."
Josh stood up. Sam thought he would leave, they would avoid each other for a while, and then everything would go back to the way it was. But Josh did not leave. Sam made himself look up at him.
Josh asked, "Could I come over to your place tonight? We need to talk."
"I have to go someplace first to do something so it might be late."
"This thing I have to do is important, but what we need to talk about is also important, so if I'm really late don't think I'm blowing you off." He laughed quietly at that. "So to speak."
"You don't have to..."
"Yes!" Josh said vehemently. "I do have to. We have to. Your friendship is too important to me to mess this up. Well, anymore than I already have. We have to talk, Sam. We will talk."
Not trusting his voice, Sam nodded. Josh gave him one sharp nod back, and then left the office. Sam remained as he was, his heart pounding from an entire arsenal of hope.
Sam gave up. It was nearly 2 a.m. Josh wasn't going to show. He knew that now. He was angry with himself for believing him when he said he would come over. The anger warred with sinking disappointment.
With a leaden feeling in his chest, Sam went to bed.
The pounding on Sam's door woke him after three a.m. He padded through the living room, switching on a lamp as he went, and tried to focus long enough to squint through the spy hole. It was Josh. Sam leaned his forehead against the door for a moment before unlocking and opening it.
Josh entered and Sam let him close the door behind himself, as he walked over to the couch. He dropped onto it and put his feet up, tucking them into a knitted afghan that he also pulled up to his chin. He was wearing a thin t-shirt and a pair of holey sweatpants, no socks, and he was cold. Josh took his coat off and sat down at the other end of the couch.
"We need to talk," he said.
"Yeah," Sam mumbled, still half asleep. His eyes were beginning to close and he struggled to keep them open. "So talk."
"You didn't think I was gonna come tonight, did you?"
"It's not tonight yet. It's tomorrow morning."
"Yeah, I'm sorry. It took longer than I thought it would -- that thing I had to do."
"Did you get it done?" Sam asked sleepily.
"Yeah. It's done." Josh looked away and then back.
"What'd you do?"
"I broke up with Amy."
Sam's eyes opened a little wider at that news. "Did she...? I mean how did it happen?"
"I told her we couldn't go on the way we were." Josh rubbed his hands over his face and sighed heavily. "God, Sam. I was stupid. Just like you said. And I was blind. I couldn't see how she treated me. The crazy thing is she thought that's how you're supposed to treat the person you love. Even crazier? I thought so, too. I let it happen. We were so bad for each other. It still hurts, though."
Josh looked quite distraught, triggering Sam's instinct to comfort. He started to sit up, intending to reach for him. Instead, he made himself lie there and let him talk.
Josh picked up a throw cushion and turned it over and over in his hands. "As you pointed out, I'm not good at relationships. Over the years, you, my mom and Leo are practically the only people who have stuck with me."
Sam threaded his fingers through the gaps in the open knit of the afghan. Josh wasn't saying anything Sam didn't already know, but for him to actually say the words caught Sam by surprise. Still he kept quiet.
Josh went on, "What I don't understand is why you put up with me. My mom does it because I'm her son. Leo...I'm not sure about him, either. Maybe it's a misguided sense of loyalty to my father or something. But you, Sam, I just don't get it."
Closing his eyes, Sam said, "I love you."
Sam opened his eyes. "I don't know. I just do."
Josh stared back at him, his expression bleak and bone deep. "Well. That sounds promising."
"It's not something that needs analyzing, Josh. Accept it and let it be."
"Is it really that simple?"
"It can be, if we allow it."
"Sounds too easy," Josh grumbled.
"Cut it out. I love you and that's not going to change. I'll continue loving you no matter what. After about forty or fifty years, if you continue to do stupid things I might stop speaking to you but I'll still love you."
"Wow. Sam, that's," Josh's voice caved under the weight of his emotion and he turned his head, running his hand over and over his face. He cleared his throat and looked at Sam. "So, you're saying what I think you're saying?"
"I'm in love with you and, possibly you already figured out this part, I wouldn't mind having sex with you at some point."
It took Josh a moment to articulate a response to that. "Now what do we do?"
Sam considered it and opted for keeping it simple. "I'm cold."
Josh sputtered a laugh. "Yeah? Maybe you should go back to bed. I'll leave so you can get some sleep."
"Stay with me." Clutching his afghan up to his chin, Sam stared at Josh. He hoped the other man understood what he was really saying, because he did not think he could explain it in words that would not frighten either of them.
"I'm not...ready for any...of that. I can't even tell you what you want to hear."
"It's okay," Sam said quietly. "We've got forty or fifty years."
"At least that much time," Josh agreed cautiously.
"Turn out the light." Sam closed his eyes and waited.
For several long minutes Josh did not move. Finally his weight shifted on the couch and Sam heard the snap of the lamp switch. There was more movement and the quick burn of shoelaces being untied as Josh removed his shoes. Then he nudged Sam over towards the edge of the couch.
"Give me some room here."
Sam inched over and Josh lay down behind him lifting the afghan so that Sam's back was briefly chilled. A slightly heavier weight settled over both of them. It was Josh's coat, Sam realized, and burrowed under it, grateful for the warmth and the scent lingering on it that was pure Josh. They lay there pressed up against each other for a moment, with Josh trying not to touch him too much. Sam stopped breathing, waiting. Josh slowly placed an arm across his chest and Sam let air fill his lungs again. Another slight hesitation, and then Josh tightened his hold and snuggled closely, fitting his legs and then his body along the length of Sam's.
After that it was easy.
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