Title: Here With Me
Author: Simba
e-mail: petacollins7878@hotmail.com
Archive: Yes to Emerald's Grotto. Anyone else wishing to archive please ask, thank you.
Rating: NC17 (For sex and language)
Summary: As Sam and Josh's relationship deepens, Sam's past comes back to haunt him.
Series/Sequel: This is the sequel to Stand By Me. It can be found here at Emerald Green’s Grotto. http://www.slashcity.org/~emeraldsea/emerald.htm
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin created these characters. I don't own them and make no profit whatsoever.
Spoilers: Season One. 20 Hours in LA. White House Pro Am. Mandatory Minimums.
Notes: Big thanks to Emerald for beta-ing this baby and to Ankh for being a sounding board for my ideas.
Warnings: Very strong mentions of a past abusive relationship if that offends you please do not read.

Here With Me by Simba

I won’t leave, I can’t hide, I cannot be, until you’re resting here with me Dido

Sam sat down on his bed in disgust. “No.”

Josh gave him a pleading look. “Aw, come on… it’s not so bad.”

“I don’t want to meet with Al Kiefer and neither do you. I know you don’t, so why are we even having this conversation?” Sam rested his forearms on his legs and rested his head on one of his hands.

Josh was silent for a half a second, then sighed heavily. “Leo said the President wants to meet with Kiefer… but would rather have us do the meeting instead”

Sam rolled his eyes. “So, Leo wants you to shore up support.”

Josh flung himself down on the bed next to Sam. “Yep.”

Sam looked at Josh sideways, Josh was staring up the ceiling, a frustrated expression on his face. “Why do we even care what Kiefer’s got to say?” Sam lay down and rolled onto his side so he could see Josh’s face more easily.

Josh shrugged. “Because we’ve got that flag burning thing and then the fundraiser that night.”

“Oh that’s going to be fun,” Sam said, mildly amused that they were going to a gay man’s fundraiser as ‘straight’ men. They were both silent for a moment, then Sam spoke. “The president wants to hear numbers, doesn’t he?”

Josh blinked and then his gaze turned to Sam. “Yeah. So, we’ve got to at least hear Kiefer out. He’s a good pollster.”

Sam gave a mirthless smile. “How much did Leo pay you to say that?”

“Not enough,” Josh said with a sigh.

“I just wish there was somebody else.”

“So do I,” Josh agreed. Then he rolled onto his side and gave Sam a suggestive look.

Sam smiled at him. “You’re so cute when you’re frustrated.”

Josh laughed. “Do you realise the innuendo-“

Silencing Josh by covering his mouth with his hand, Sam shook his head. “You really have to get your mind of the gutter.” The words were muffled, but Sam understood them. “Yes, I know your mind’s in the gutter where I’m concerned.”

Josh’s hand encircled Sam’s wrist, and he tugged Sam’s hand away from his mouth. “And yours isn’t?”

“Josh.” Sam shook his head. “We’ve had this discussion, neither of us are paragons of virtue.”

Josh’s eyes darkened with emotion at Sam’s reference to the conversation that they had several weeks ago, where they had promised themselves to one another. It was a promise Sam intended to keep, come hell or high water… he knew Josh felt the same way.

They both moved at that same time, two forces colliding in a whirlwind of emotion. Sam gasped when Josh’s hands moved him so that he was now flat on the bed, with Josh’s body covering him. Josh grinned, holding Sam’s wrists loosely within his grasp as he balanced himself on top of Sam. “You thought you were going to win that one, didn’t you?”

“No.” Now that Josh was on top, Sam really didn’t mind losing this particular battle.

“Liar,” Josh declared, then ducked in for a kiss.

Sam moaned, shifting his hips, so that Josh was more comfortable and rested more firmly against him. “What time are we due to leave for LA?”

Josh pulled away for a beat and gave Sam an astonished glare. “You’re asking me that now?”

Sam grinned playfully at Josh. “I thought while I had your total attention, now was the best time.”

“God, you’re an idiot.” Josh pressed a kiss to Sam’s forehead and then moved down, placing gentle kisses over Sam’s face.

“I think he wants to leave in the morning, race the sun to the Pacific or something,” Sam murmured, his hands exploring Josh’s body under the shirt he was wearing.

“Why do you ask when you already know the answer?” Josh asked, beginning to undo Sam’s shirt.

Sam shifted to accommodate Josh’s movements. “I like to keep you guessing,”

“Why?” Josh had now undone Sam’s shirt entirely.

Sam laughed. “It keeps you on your toes.” Then moaned when Josh thrust against him once, just lightly brushing their cocks together.

“Didn’t expect that, did you?” Josh asked, letting go of Sam and sliding off the bed to get rid of his clothes. Sam looked at him through slitted eyes, admiring Josh’s muscular body; the ruffled hair, the flushed skin of arousal – Josh looked divine. Sam rolled off the bed in a graceful movement that made Josh stop what he was doing and just stare at him. Sam slowly pulled off his shirt and dropped it on the floor. Josh gulped. Sam grinned at his response, then slowly began to slide his pants down off his body.

“You are sinful,” Josh said, sitting back down on the bed and watching him.

Chuckling, Sam threw the pants at Josh. “But you love me for it.”

“Yes, I do,” Josh responded, pulling the pants off his head and throwing them on a nearby chair. “Now come here..” Josh trailed off as Sam laughed. “Now whose mind is in the gutter?”

Sam couldn’t help but agree, his mind was in the gutter and with good reason. He approached Josh slowly, savouring the look in Josh’s eyes. Josh rose and tugged him closer to him, Sam gave a small moan as Josh’s hands and body came in contact with his. He really did love this man. He really did. That was the last coherent thought as sensations and feelings took control as Josh pushed him down on the bed.

_______

Josh met up with Sam at the airport. It was two am , he was flying to LA, and he wasn’t happy about leaving so early in the morning. Sam shot him a grin, then boarded the plane, catching up with CJ to talk to her about something. Josh couldn’t tear his eyes away from Sam, the man looked fantastic in a suit, he really did. It never failed to amaze Josh that Sam could always look so well dressed. Sam disappeared into Air Force One and Josh sighed, hefting his bag onto his shoulder and beginning to echo the movements of his lover and board the aircraft.

“Josh!”

Josh turned to see Toby striding towards him. Josh smiled a greeting to the older man.

Toby caught his arm as they began walking towards the plane. “We have to get out of this Kiefer meeting.”

Despite his earlier conversation with Sam, trying to convince him that it was a good idea to meet with Kiefer, Josh agreed with Toby. He didn’t want to meet with Kiefer either – for some reason it really seemed like a bad idea. “I know.”

“Well, should we talk to the president?” Toby asked trotting up the stairs, the plane’s engines began to whirl as they warmed up and Josh had to strain to hear him.

“What?”

Toby made a vague gesture that Josh presumed meant ‘wait till we’re on the plane’. Josh nodded at him and then jogged up the rest of the stairs. Despite the Kiefer meeting, he was looking forward to going to LA. It would be a nice change of scenery and there was always the fact that it was Sam’s old stomping grounds. Josh caught sight of Sam sitting on one of the long arm chairs as he and Toby walked through the doorway. He shot Sam a smile when Sam caught his eye. Sam gave him a little nod and then returned his attention to CJ and Donna. Both women looked like they were talking at once and Josh hid a smile when he saw Sam’s frustrated look. He glanced at Toby and repeated his earlier question. “What were you saying?”

Toby walked down the corridor to stow his bag. “I said that I think we should talk to the President about this…”

“I don’t think the President is going to change his mind, Toby.” Toby glared at him and Josh raised his hand in a placating gesture. “All I’m saying is that no matter how much you and I agree about this, the president still wants to hear what this guy has to say.”

Toby gave a sigh and nodded. “Yeah, but it’s still worth a shot, don’t you think?”

“I do.” Josh nodded.

Twenty minutes later Josh was proven correct in his assumption about the President’s response. He made his way to the area cornered off for the senior staff. Sam was already sitting down on one of the chairs with his legs on a table, eyes closed, to all appearances he looked asleep, but Josh knew better. The slight tension around Sam’s eyes and mouth indicated that he was awake. Toby sat down next to Sam and Josh moved to the window seat. He liked to look out of the window when flying… after all what was the point in flying if you couldn’t see what you were flying over? CJ and Donna were opposite Toby and Sam and were discussing what they were going to wear at the fundraiser. Josh found it vaguely amusing that Mandy wasn’t here on the flight, after all she was the one that had done all the hard work organising the event, but then again Mandy had been distancing herself from the Administration ever since the debacle with the FBI guy. Josh wondered suddenly if Mandy still felt guilty about that. He made a mental note to call her to see if she was okay.

3:45am

Josh reached for the phone to call the deputy whip to get the latest developments from DC about what bills were going to be introduced on the floor in the morning. There was only so long he could listen to Donna and CJ exchanging tips about sunscreen and their fine alabaster skin. It just didn’t make sense, they were only going to LA for twenty hours if that, when would they have time to sunbathe? Josh got in touch with the deputy whip and waited for the information as the guy rummaged through the files on his desk. It didn’t take long to find out and Josh gave a frustrated sigh. Covering the mouthpiece he informed the others, “Cameron’s going to introduce a bill in the morning.”

Sam didn’t even open his eyes. “Gays in the military?”

“Yeah.”

Toby sighed. “It doesn’t matter.”

Josh gave him a incredulous look. “Ted Marcus might care.”

“He’s not going to know,” Sam disputed, still not opening his eyes.

“How’s he not going to know?” Josh asked. The man was well informed and he was holding their fundraiser that evening. Josh gave a mental groan, would it be too much to ask for them to have one plane trip without a problem at their destination? It was enough that they had to deal with Kiefer.

Josh gave his thanks to the whip and hung up. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to doze off, there was no point wasting time thinking about it right now.

Half an hour later, he heard someone rise and rustle about as they walked out of their section. Thankfully CJ and Donna had stopped talking and allowed themselves to asleep for a little bit. Josh cracked an eye open to see who it was and wasn’t surprised to see that it was Sam. He had obviously gone down to one of the conference rooms, because his briefcase was also missing. Toby looked at him and Josh mouthed. “Ethanol Tax?”

Toby nodded. “He had to make a few calls.”

Josh sighed. “It won’t make a difference. The vote’s tied.” The bill about the Ethanol tax was tied fifty-fifty, the only way to break it was to have the President veto, something that the President was loathe to do. The only other option, was to get the Vice President to change his position on the issue. Something that Josh knew, having worked for Hoynes, wouldn’t happen no matter how much pressure Leo put on him about it. Josh closed his eyes again and made a mental note to go down and check on Sam in a few minutes.

He awoke with a jerk when the plane bumped with turbulence. A quick glance at his watch and Josh saw that he been asleep for about thirty minutes. Josh rose and made his way down to the conference room, stretching a little to work the kinks out of his back. They would be landing in the next forty minutes. He could hear soft murmuring coming from inside and gently rapped on the door and walked in.

Sam threw him a tired smile, then frowned as he obviously heard something that he didn’t like. “…No, I understand that Senator, I do, but you…” Sam paused and tilted his head listening.

Josh sat down opposite, noting the yellow legal pad where Sam had been scribbling notes. It never failed to amaze him the amount of notes that Sam always took… it must’ve been a habit learned from law school… Josh paused, scratching that thought, it must’ve been a habit Sam had developed when he began working as a lawyer.

“… No, sir… I agree with you… but you have to understand….” Sam gave a little sigh, pushing his glasses up a fraction on his nose.

God, he was sexy when he wore those things, Josh thought. Josh leaned back in the comfortable leather chair and waited for Sam to finish the phone call. There was a list in front of Sam and already there were quite a few names marked off.

“…Yes, sir.. No I don’t think that sir, you have to view this as an opportunity, Senator. …” Sam tapped his pen on the desk and then shook his head at something the Senator was saying. “Yes, sir, I understand, thank you sir.”

Sam hung up and pulled off his glasses and massaged his eyes tiredly.

“They’re not changing their votes, are they?”

Sam pulled his hand away from his eyes and gave the slightest shrug. “No, but I still have about eight more to calls to make.”

Josh grimaced, Sam was going to be doing this until they landed, so there would be no time for him to rest before they got to LA. Running on no sleep, wasn’t good, Josh thought, concerned for his lover’s health.

Sam took a sip of his coffee then made a face. “Damn.”

Sam rose and Josh forestalled him with a small smile. “I’ll get you a fresh one.”

“Thanks.” Sam gave him smile and Josh grinned at the light that he saw in Sam’s eyes, it hadn’t been there a moment ago. Moving to the coffee dispenser, he heard Sam sit back down and pick up the phone and begin to dial.

“Yes, hello, this is Sam Seaborn…” There was a pause as Sam listened to the person on the other end. “Oh he is…is he, well can you tell him it’s Sam Seaborn and let him know that right now I’m calling him from Air Force One and I would…. Oh, he’s right there, thank you that would be appreciated.”

Josh laughed and turned around to give Sam the thumbs up. Sam covered the mouthpiece and chuckled, “It gets them every time.”

“I just bet it does,” Josh agreed, turning back to finish making the coffee. Toby wandered in at that moment.

“How’s it going?” Toby directed the question to Josh as Sam was busy on the phone, an irritated expression on his face. Josh rolled a shoulder, taking the coffee over to Sam. He placed it down in front of Sam and Sam gave him a distracted look of thanks.

Josh turned back to Toby. “We’re not getting any swing votes.”

Sam hung up the phone. “Senator Russell’s certainly not going to change his mind.” He reached for the coffee and took a reverent sip. Josh found it amusing how much Sam depended on his coffee. Sam couldn’t survive without it that was for sure.

“Aha,” Josh began then stopped as Sam shot both Josh and Toby a look.

“Guys, I appreciate you being here, but get some rest before we land, because after that…”

Toby waved a hand in agreement. “He’s got a point.”

“I often do,” Sam pointed out needlessly and then gestured at them to go.

“You sure?” Josh asked, hesitating in the doorway.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Can you make the phone calls about this particular bill?”

“Aha no, it was your thing.”

“Then you can’t help me,” Sam answered, reaching for the phone as the door shut behind Josh could hear Sam’s voice asking to speak to Senator Thomas and that he was calling from Air Force One…. Josh laughed when he heard Sam say, “Good morning Senator,” two seconds after that.

Toby was waiting for him and Josh walked with him back to the area they had been sitting in before. “You think Hoynes will change his position?”

Josh snorted. “Not in this lifetime, no.”

“Never?” Toby asked plopping down in the chair opposite him near the window. Josh eased himself down into the chair.

“You have to understand, he took a stand on this before and he’s not going to back down, it was too important to him before….”

“Great,” Toby muttered, drumming his hand on the armrest.

Josh echoed the frustration, they had needed to win this one on the floor. “Yeah.” Then he did as Sam suggested and leaned back and closed his eyes and rested till they landed at six am.

The absence of Josh at the staff meeting at the hotel confused Sam. He hadn’t seen Josh since they had checked in. The President clapped his hands together and sat down on the plush suite in his hotel room. “So Sam, get any swing votes?”

Sam pulled his thoughts back to the present. “Aha no, sir.”

Bartlet pulled a face. “Yes, well, it didn’t hurt to try.”

Sam nodded. An hour and a half talking to so many Senators, he had lost count and nothing had come of it, none of them had changed their position. He bit back a yawn. He was tired, he hadn’t gotten any rest on the flight, apart from a few minutes at the beginning. “I think Leo is talking to the Vice-President, sir.”

The President nodded, an irritated expression falling across his face. “Yes he is…. we’ll see whether that bears any fruit later, now what’s next?”

CJ began talking and Sam allowed himself to tune out as he wondered about Josh’s absence. Donna handed him a note and Sam frowned at her and she leaned down and whispered in his ear. “It’s from Josh.”

Sam opened the note and read the contents and frowned. Damn, Marcus knew about Cameron’s bill, this wasn’t good. He looked at Toby and handed him the note. Toby read it rapidly and sighed, rolling his eyes.

The president paused mid-speech. “Is something wrong?”

Sam sighed. “There might be, sir.”

Toby informed the President. “Marcus knows about Cameron’s bill. Josh has gone to see him now.”

“Now, that’s just what we needed, isn’t it?” The president lamented with a groan. He rose and the staff stood also. “Okay that’s it for now, go and clean up…”

“Do we look bad, sir?” Sam asked.

The President shot him a look. “You don’t look bad, but you’ve all looked better. Go and have a shower the lot of you.”

The staff left the president and Sam looked at the others. “I wonder if he was saying that we smell.”

CJ laughed. “No, I think he would’ve told us that.”

They walked down to the lift and CJ pressed the button, jabbing her finger on the button, with a violence that Sam didn’t think was entirely necessary.

“Tired?” Sam queried.

CJ gave him a baleful stare. “No, why would I be?”

Sam held up his hands. “I’m just saying..”

The elevator dinged and Sam gave a sigh of relief that he could get out of this conversation sooner and have a shower. Travelling always made one feel dirty… at least it did in Sam’s opinion. He entered and pressed the floors the staff were staying on.

“How do you do that?” Toby asked, with a frown.

Sam raised his eyebrows. “Do what?”

“The numbers, how do you know?”

“I read.” Sam gave a shrug, why wouldn’t he have known where all the staff were staying? It seemed like something he should know so he had memorised it when he had first read the call sheet. There was nothing special about it.

“Oh, well, that clears it up,” Toby said with the slightest of smiles.

Sam gave him a playful glare. “I thought it would.” The elevator came to a stop and Sam looked up realising it was his floor. “My stop. See you in a few.” He stepped out.

“Count on it,” Toby agreed.

“Yeah,” CJ said with a wave of her hand. “We’ve got flag burning stuff in an-“

The lift doors closed cutting off the sound of her voice. Sam shook his head at her. Every time, she did the same thing without fail, continued talking when it was obvious conversation had to cease, he hoped CJ never changed. Sam made his way down to his room. He needed a shower.

_______

Flag burning was something that Sam could say honestly that he’d never paid much attention to, apart from general conversations here and there. He had never realised just how much of an issue it was for some people. Each to their own, he thought. He listened to the representative speakers, passing the time by idly going through a mental list of how important this would be to their re-election campaign in a few years time.

CJ was standing near the press corps on the other side of the room and there were… Sam’s eyes surveyed the room and hazarded a guess that there were about a hundred people here, discounting the security and hired help.

Toby shifted beside him, stuffing his hands in his pockets and Sam looked him with veiled amusement. The TV screen behind him showed the President and Sam was struck by how bored he looked. Although, he supposed, to most people the President probably just looked, well, he looked presidential.

Josh sidled up to them, and Sam started in surprise. When had he returned? Sam noted absently that Josh had neither showered nor shaved. He looked scruffy. Sam suddenly decided that he liked a scruffy Josh, and filed that piece of information away for later. Josh patted his and Toby’s arms and gave a little nod for them to go outside. Sam followed, pleased to escape the seminar.

Sam squinted in the bright LA light. Was it brighter? Or was he just more sensitive? He figured it must be the latter, great. Which meant that he was probably getting a headache. He really wanted to rub his temples now and massage his eyes. But that wouldn’t help, forcing himself to concentrate he focused on Josh. “What’s up?”

+++

Sighing, Josh gave the slightest shrug. “I just got back from Marcus’s…” He could see the expectant expressions on Sam and Toby’s face and tried to keep the scowl from his face. “… He’s threatening to cancel tonight unless the President comes out publicly against 973.”

Sam looked aghast and surprised. “This is one of Cameron’s.” He waved his hand as he spoke and Josh found it cute.

Toby echoed Sam’s sentiment. “It’s not going anywhere.”

Josh pulled a face. “I explained that..” he left the ‘and then some’, silent, but they picked up on it. When he had been at Marcus, pleading that they sought this mess out, he had been mortified and angry that Marcus would pull a stunt like this.

“What did he say?” Sam asked.

Josh explained what Marcus had told him. Marcus took the bill seriously because he was gay, like that wasn’t already obvious. Josh should’ve listened to his gut when he had first heard about this on the plane and called Marcus himself to head off this trouble. But what could they do? They could do nothing, taking action against it would be a disaster, and it was the worst possible timing to come out against the bill for the gay community.

Josh waited for the two men to take in what he had just told them and give him the spin that he needed. He hadn’t been on the ball when he had got there, Marcus’s holier than thou attitude had irked him tremendously.

Toby spoke first. “All right….it’s not in the interest of his cause for the president to make a statement or give it credibility and attention.”

“Right.” As Josh listened to Toby, he gave a small smile at the words. Toby was good at this - he was very good.

Sam nodded at Toby’s words, agreeing with Toby’s choice of phrasing. “Use all those words when you talk to him…”

Josh suddenly realized that Sam and Toby were bucking him up, he must still look affronted by the confrontation with Marcus. He let out a small mirthless laugh when Sam told him that the President couldn’t be blackmailed. Sam was so right, that’s what Ted had been trying to do and that’s exactly why he was so pissed at Ted.

“Yes,” Toby agreed with Sam’s point.

Josh did too.

“And should the president choose to stay at his hotel rather than kow tow to the Hollywood blah blah…” Toby continued that train of thought and Josh made a mental note of it.

These men were good at spin - they were very good. Sam clapped him on the arm and brought him out of his thoughts. “Let’s go back.”

Josh nodded, suddenly having a very strong desire to shower after his confrontation with Marcus, but that probably couldn’t happen for quite a while anyway. He looked at Sam as they reached the door. “How’s he doing in there?”

Sam hestiated his hand on the door’s handle, as he turned to look back at Josh. “He’s got that look on his face like he’s thinking about ways to kill himself.” Then he pulled open the door.

Josh raised his eyebrows a little taken aback by the reply, wondering whether it was Sam or Bartlet who was that bored. He had a sneaking suspicion that it was Sam. Although catching sight of Bartlet’s face a moment later, Josh figured it was a toss up about who was more bored. He looked closer at Sam and thought he could see a pinched expression on his face. Josh wondered if it was a headache, and made a note to check on Sam later when there weren’t quite so many ears.

________

A couple of hours later, both men were in Sam’s hotel room getting ready for the fundraiser . Well, actually, Josh was ready, but he was there to check on Sam. “You ready?” he asked, while still idly fiddling with his cuff links. He actually felt tremendously better having had a shower.

“Nearly.” Came the muffled reply from Sam in the bathroom.

Josh had come down under the pretence of giving Sam another bottle of aspirin. Well, that was the excuse he’d had ready in case anyone wondered what he had been doing wandering the halls of the hotel. He had been right in the end, Sam did have a headache. It had no doubt been brought on by the lack of sleep on the plane, the stress from trying to work out the Ethanol tax bill, the Marcus fiasco and the Kiefer meeting.

Sam walked out of the bathroom, ruffling a towel through his hair. He had pulled on his suit pants, but was still shirtless. He took Josh’s breath away.

“So, who’s going to this fundraiser?” Sam asked throwing the towel on the bed.

Giving a shrug, Josh approached Sam, resting his hands on those warm bare shoulders.

Sam gave him a grin. “Yes?”

Josh moved his hand to brush the side of Sam’s cheek, smooth. Sam had just shaved. “Nothing.” Sam’s hands came to rest on Josh’s hips. Josh ducked in for a kiss. Sam let him control it. He ran his hand down Sam’s back and felt the shiver that went through Sam at his touch, making him smile into the kiss. Sam pulled him closer and Josh willingly obliged. They stood like that for a few minutes, kissing and enjoying the feel of one another. It had been a long day.

Josh finally forced himself to step back. “Feeling better?”

Sam laughed lightly. “I feel better yeah…” he gave a vague gesture that Josh interpreted as the day being tiring.

“Still have a headache?”

Sam shook his head. “Nah, not really, it’s all gone. So do you know who’s going tonight?”

Josh shrugged. “I have no clue, it was Mandy’s thing, remember?”

“Yeah.” Sam turned away and pulled on a business shirt. “Shame she’s not here to see it all come together.”

“Yes, it is,” Josh agreed, he loved this man he really did. “I think she’s trying to distance herself from us.”

“She still seeing that therapist about the FBI guy?” Sam looked at him over his shoulder.

Josh walked up and wrapped his arms around Sam from behind. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Good for her,” Sam murmured, patting Josh’s hand where it lay underneath the shirt and resting against Sam’s bare stomach. Josh caressed the tender flesh and felt it dance under his touch. He placed a kiss on the side of Sam’s neck. Sam tilted his head, allowing him access.

“It really is. I don’t want to talk about Mandy now.”

“Josh, we don’t have time.” Sam said regretfully as he glanced at his watch.

Josh sighed deeply, resting his chin on Sam’s shoulder. “Yeah, what time do we have to be in the lobby?”

“Twenty minutes.”

Josh let Sam go and allowed him to finish getting ready. Sam was done in five. He shot Josh a dazzling grin, which made Josh’s knees go weak. “Let’s grab a drink down at the bar, before we go.”

Josh nodded. “Sure. Why not?”

Sam patted Josh’s butt as he walked past. “Good.”

Sam looked mournfully at his watch. Would this fundraiser ever end? He could see Josh talking with Joey Lucas and smiled. Josh really admired this woman, Sam could tell. It was so cute. Sam sighed, twirling the champagne glass in his hand. He leaned against one of the brick walls that circled the pool. This place was really quite extravagant…. He vaguely wished that he could afford a place like this, but then dismissed it, if it meant that he turned out like Marcus then he wouldn’t take it for all the money in the world.

“Hey ya, Spanky.” CJ came to stand beside him. Sam gave her a welcome grin. “Why aren’t you mingling?”

“I find it’s best to keep moving at these things,” Sam told her matter-of-factly.

CJ looked at him puzzled. “You’re not moving.”

“I’m taking a breather,” Sam answered, without missing a beat. Although he usually did find it best to keep moving at fundraisers, otherwise one might end up caught in a meaningless conversation about nothing. Not that Sam hated these fundraiser things, it’s just that tonight, he wasn’t in the mood, he was tired, it had been an exceptionally long day and Sam just wanted to go back to the hotel and lie down. Come to think of it that’s exactly what he would do when he returned to the hotel. He’d have a quick nap before they went back to DC.

“Me too,” CJ agreed with a sigh. “What’s with that whole development thing?”

Sam shot her an amused look. “You’re asking me?”

“I just thought he might’ve explained it to you better.”

“Nope, he was just as vague.”

“Oh well, good.” CJ said, and straightened. “Let’s go annoy Josh.”

“Should we bring Toby?” Sam asked, sipping his champagne.

“Why not?”

____

The minute that Sam had come up with Toby and CJ, Josh had known that he was about to be teased about something. They had that look. Josh had seen it before. He was familiar with their mischief making, and was often involved in it himself, he thought with amusement as he watched Joey talk with the other staff about polling. He listened attentively when she dismissed Al Kiefer’s numbers. When Joey explained just exactly how Kiefer’s data was incorrect, Josh could’ve kissed her, Sam’s dry amused look told him that the feeling was shared. Then Sam’s gaze shifted to CJ and seeing the look that Sam and CJ shared, Josh filed that intense gaze away for later, when he could ask Sam what it was about. Moments later Toby was grinning and shaking his head and rising. Josh knew from their smirks that they would definitely be bringing on Joey for their polling numbers next time. Sam passed him and raised an eyebrow at him, his eyes dancing with laughter.

Distracted by Sam, Josh had to focus back on the conversation with Joey. Yet, he couldn’t stop think about Sam -the man was just so good looking. It should’ve been a crime. He bestowed a smile on Joey. “Do you have any idea how much you have scored with Sam and Toby?”

“I have some idea,” she said, through her interpreter Kenny.

Josh gave a smile. “Yes.”

A few minutes later, Josh left the table in a panic, suddenly realising what Sam might have taken from his conversation with Joey. Joey had just told him, not unkindly, that she had come here with someone; it was a hint that she would like to be more with him, but she couldn’t right now. Josh was not a stupid man. He could pick up the signals like anyone else. Although, apparently his skill at reading the signals had become a little rusty since he’d been with Sam, since he’d missed all the ones that Joey had sent. His skills were slipping indeed. He had to find Sam.

Josh left Joey and Kenny, and moved through the party, his eyes scanning the crowd. He finally found him on the other side of the party.

Sam was on the landing, near the pool, leaning against the wall. Sam raised his glass and took a sip.

Josh walked up and stood next to him. “It’s not what you think.”

Sam gave him a confused look. “What’s not what I think?”

“Joey Lucas.”

Sam was silent for a full minute, just staring at him and then his expression softened. “I never thought it was, Josh.”

Josh ran a hand through his hair, trying to hide how relieved that made him. “Oh well, because for a minute there…”

Sam touched his arm once briefly. “She came on to you.”

It wasn’t a question. Sam had suspected before he did and hadn’t doubted him, the thought brought a smile to Josh’s face. “Yeah.”

Sam smiled at him tenderly. “It’s fine.”

“Cool.” Josh waved a hand, “I just aha , you know…”

“Panicked?” Sam asked dryly, although the smile still lingered.

Josh gave a sigh. “Yeah.” He then glanced around at the party. “When can we leave?”

Sam straightened and patted his arm, Josh looked at him and then followed Sam’s gaze seeing Donna and CJ waving at them. “Now.”

“Thank god,” Josh muttered, following Sam out to the motorcade that would take them back to the hotel.

The nightmare came when he was alone in his hotel room. The trip had been a whirlwind tour, of flag burning amendments, and guacamole, and Kiefer… then the fundraiser… it had been a stressful twenty hours to say the least. Also tiring, Sam had decided to take a short nap before they headed back to DC. With no familiar presence beside him, he had tossed and turned and only the sharp rapping at his door managed to wake him. Sam twitched and opened his eyes. He rolled to the side of the bed and got to his feet. Scrubbing a hand over his face to wake up, he wondered who was at the door. There was another impatient knock and Sam mumbled a curse as he walked into a chair before he found the light switch and made his way to the door.

“I’m here,” he grumbled, still trying to banish the dream from his mind, but it lingered. He sighed and pulled the door open. Josh was there. It brought a sense of déjà vu the way Josh stood, hand raised ready to knock again, reminding of a different time Josh had stood outside his door, hand raised wanting to come in. Despite his mood, Sam smiled at him. “Hey.”

Josh smiled and dropped his hand. “Were you sleeping?”

“Not really.” Sam stepped back to let him in. Josh gave him a questioning look and Sam waved a hand in response, not wanting to admit to the restlessness that had invaded his sleep. He didn’t want to share that just yet. He wondered suddenly if it was because Josh hadn’t been beside him that it had brought on the nightmare. Josh touched his shoulder bringing him back to this room, this place. Sam frowned. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

Concerned brown eyes locked on him and Josh rested his hands on Sam’s shoulders. “You okay?”

Sam shrugged. “Yeah, why?”

“You aha…you look a little spooked.” Josh kneaded Sam’s shoulders gently.

“I’m fine.”

Josh raised an eyebrow at that and shrugged. “You sure?”

Sam rested his hands on Josh’s hips. “Yes.” It wasn’t quite a lie, because he was fine now that Josh was here. He squeezed Josh’s hips gently with his hands. “What are you doing here?”

Josh’s eyebrow quirked, although his eyes still looked worried. “Donna sent me out to smell the roses with Joey Lucas.”

“And you came here?” Sam asked, a smile tugging at his lips.

Josh opened his mouth to speak and paused, an abashed expression falling across his face. Sam laughed, shaking Josh slightly where he held him. “You went to Lucas first?”

Josh dropped his hands so that they rested on Sam’s hips. “I had to. Donna would’ve asked me…”

“… how it went and you can’t lie, because you have a lousy poker face.”

Josh tugged Sam closer and smiled. “Well, yeah… but I’m here now.”

“Yes, you are.” Sam agreed. Josh’s right hand shifted to rest at the back of Sam’s neck. “You come here for a particular reason?”

Josh’s forehead wrinkled. “I need a reason?” He brushed his lips gently over Sam’s.

Sam pulled Josh closer, his hands moving up to stroke Josh’s back. “No.” It was a breathless whisper as Josh’s mouth descended again.

Sam whimpered as he felt Josh take control of the kiss. God, he needed this. He needed to feel Josh…needed to feel. He moaned at the loss when Josh pulled back and led him slowly towards the bed. “Do we have time for this?” Sam asked.

Josh sighed sitting down on the bed. “Probably not, but I just want to hold you, can I do that?”

Sam climbed onto the bed beside Josh. “You can always do that.”

“You really okay?” Josh asked after a moment of quiet contemplation.

Sam looked up, all his guards going up. Josh didn’t need to know about the nightmare, it would just worry him and it wasn’t important. They always went away again after a time. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

Josh ran his hand through Sam’s hair, stroking it. “Okay.” He kissed Sam’s brow and then shut his eyes. “Wake me in an hour.”

Sam sat up. “We don’t have an hour.” He patted Josh’s stomach and got out of the bed. “We don’t have time for this… I need to pack and so do you.”

“_You_ need to pack?” Josh questioned, his voice suddenly filled with concern.

Sam kept his back turned to his lover, afraid of what Josh would see there. “That’s a surprise?”

Sam heard the bed creak as Josh got out of it and then sensed Josh moments before Josh wrapped his arms around Sam from behind. “You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine.” Sam leant back into Josh’s embrace, stroking the arm that rested against his stomach. He felt Josh sigh then the nod as Josh allowed him to win this fight. If you could even call it a fight, Sam mused absently. He bent to grab his bags and put them on the bed, Josh let him go, moving into the bathroom. Sam watched him go, thankful that Josh wasn’t pushing him now. Of course, Josh didn’t know that there was really anything wrong and that’s exactly the way he wanted it. So he had a nightmare… it happened to everyone one time or another, it didn’t mean there was a huge problem or anything.

“You want these packed?” Josh walked out of the bathroom, holding up his toiletries. Sam nodded and Josh put them in his suitcase. He grabbed his suit from his closet and placed that inside as well.

“You packing it like that?” Josh asked, a bemused expression on his face.

“Why not?” Sam looked down and realised that he had placed the suit in his carry on bag. He sighed and pulled it out, and put it the other suitcase. “Better?”

Josh grabbed Sam’s hand as he went to walk away to grab several folders that were set up on the table in the hotel room, they needed to be packed. “You sure-“

“Josh, I’m fine! I’m just tired,” Sam snapped and then he closed his eyes and took a deep calming breath. Opening them again, he saw Josh watching him worried and slightly wary. “God, I’m sorry,…”

Josh cut him off. “Don’t be sorry. Just tell me truthfully, are you okay?”

Sam sighed, contemplating for a second telling Josh about the dream and then put it aside. It was nothing. “I’m just tired.”

Josh grimaced and then gave him a small reassuring smile. “You can sleep on the way back.”

“Yeah.” Sam was suddenly wrapped tight in Josh’s arms and he grinned at the affection behind the actions. “It’s nothing.”

“Okay.” Josh rubbed Sam’s back and then deposited a quick kiss on his cheek and stepped away. “I better get going, Donna’s probably having a hissy fit about packing my stuff.”

“You don’t pack your stuff?” Sam grinned at Josh, “Josh, I’m shocked.” Josh laughed and Sam chuckled as well, as he pushed Josh out the door. “See you in a few.”

Josh nodded, walking away with a wave of his hand. “Yeah, see you in the lobby.”

Sam was still smiling, as he went back to his packing, the dream forgotten, for now.

__________

Sam sat across from him, asleep. Donna, CJ and Toby were stationed to his far right on lounges there were all resting as well. Josh watched Sam sleep on the plane, concerned. Sam had been weird earlier at the hotel. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but there had been something. Maybe he had just woken Sam up… maybe it was just fatigue… or maybe it was something else.

Sam’s forehead creased in his sleep and his hand twitched. Josh glanced around to see if anyone was watching, Toby, CJ, Toby, and Donna were all asleep, like Sam… except they weren’t… they didn’t look as disturbed as Sam did.

Josh moved carefully, in case someone woke up as he did this. He leant over under the pretext of grabbing a folder near where Sam lay sleeping and gave him a gentle reassuring pat on the leg. Sam twitched at the touch, but then settled, his forehead clearing.

Josh sat back and Sam was quiet for about ten minutes and then he shifted restlessly, his forehead creasing again. Whatever he was dreaming about wasn’t nice, Josh thought.

Josh moved, sitting down in the vacant seat next to Sam, and made sure his shoulder touched his lover’s. Sam relaxed slightly, the anxious creases on Sam’s face disappearing at his touch, which made Josh smile. God, he loved this man. He had to firmly control the desire to just take Sam into his arms and hold him. It wouldn’t do to make such a public display of affection. In the months that they had been together, Josh was happier than he had ever been. He knew Sam was as well… as corny as it was... and Josh actually hated corny, Sam was his match. He could picture himself growing old with Sam. Josh liked that thought, he really did.

Sam’s body jolted as he came to wakefulness suddenly. Josh touched Sam’s arm gently. “Hey.”

Tilting his head sideways, so that he could look at Josh, Sam gave a tired grin. “Hey.”

“Sleep well?” Josh asked, wondering if he was just being paranoid about Sam’s sleeping habits. After all, they didn’t keep regular hours most days, hell it was no wonder Sam was tired.

“Yeah, Josh.” Sam glanced at his watch. “I’ve been asleep an hour, I’ve slept marvellously.”

Josh fought back a laugh, he didn’t want to wake everyone else. “I thought so.”

“Hey, I never asked, you okay with Ted now?”

Josh rolled a shoulder, and shifted in the comfortable plane seats. “Yeah, although I don’t think we’re going to be best-friends anytime soon.”

“No, that’s my job,” Sam kidded, patting his arm.

“Yes, that’s your job,” Josh agreed, looking away from Sam to glance around them at the other staff. Both Sam and he were talking quietly as to avoid waking anyone up. For some reason that defied explanation, at night voices always seemed to travel further.

Sam yawned. Josh sent him a mock glare. “Yawning’s contagious you know.”

Looking decidedly unrepentant, Sam’s eyes slid shut again. “So?”

“So-“ Josh’s words were cut off by a yawn. “You made me yawn.”

“Good, means you’ll stop talking,” Toby mumbled quietly from where he sat diagonally opposite them.

Sam snorted. “Don’t bet on it. Josh likes to talk…”

“I do not-“

“See,” Sam said, waving a hand. Josh didn’t know whether to be mad at Sam, or amused. Amusement won out; Sam was carrying on the conversation with his eyes closed.

“Princeton, get Harvard boy to shut up.”

“You know, I would find it insulting the way he refers to us like that, but you know what I think… I think it’s a weird kind of compliment,” Josh said, like it was a revelation.

Sam slapped him lightly on the leg. “Yes, it really is, Harvard,” Sam agreed, “Now be quiet… I’m sleeping.”

“Oh now you’re sleeping,” Josh murmured, Sam eyes slitted open and Josh grinned at the promise he read in them. Sam was definitely going to keep him awake later.

“I’m sleeping now,” Josh told Toby and Sam. Both men grunted their gratitude. Josh shut his eyes, the warmth on his right a steady comfort. Josh knew Sam was leaning into the touch. As he drifted off to sleep, Josh recalled the look on Sam’s face when he had come to the door at the hotel. Sam had definitely been spooked by something… oh and it couldn’t have been you waking him up, could it? Josh pondered that then gave a mental sigh. It was probably nothing…but the concern about Sam’s attitude earlier stayed with him, long into his sleep.

Two days later:

There was music playing softly when Sam entered his apartment. He grinned and glanced around trying to spot Josh. Placing his coat and briefcase near the door, he heard some clanging coming from somewhere, and his smile softened, the clanging was coming from the kitchen. Sam spotted Josh near the stove. What was it about this man that… he laughed out aloud when he saw that Josh hadn’t cooked, he had gotten take-out. Sam was pleased, because he finally felt like eating after the day’s work. Breakfast had been postponed till later, when he had woken up, trying to shake another dream away. Lunch had been forgotten as he gotten busy with the Mendoza confirmation stuff with Toby.

Josh turned at the sound of his laugh. “Hey.”

Sam walked over and gave Josh a light kiss. “Hey, yourself. What are you doing here?”

Josh brushed Sam’s hair back and pulled Sam close for a longer kiss, when he broke apart Josh rested his forehead against Sam. “God, I’ve been wanting to do that all day.”

Sam cupped the side of Josh’s face gently. “Me too.” Then he pulled away and tried to look at the food that Josh had brought with him. “What ya got?”

“Chinese,” Josh offered him a plate already laden with food.

“I’m starving,” Sam said taking the plate and chopsticks offered. He nodded towards the table. “Wanna sit here or on the couch and watch the news? ”

“Sam, I know what the news is gonna be, we work in politics.”

Sam gave a long suffering sigh at the comment, Josh said this every time. “Just because we work in politics doesn’t mean you know what is happening everywhere.”

Josh laughed. “I walked into it again, didn’t I?”

Sam nodded, sitting down at the table. He knew Josh said it because he wanted Sam’s undivided attention. It was endearing. “Let’s eat.”

Josh sat next to him. “Sure.”

They debated the day’s various events, the child labour bill was coming together and they had decided to fast track it, so no one could attach any amendments. They moved onto the Mendoza confirmation.

“So our day of jubilee is coming closer,” Sam murmured, between bites.

Josh nodded. “Yeah, everything okay? You doing okay?”

Sam shrugged. “Going into it, I had no concept about how..”

“How much work it was going to be.”

Sam nodded. “Well, yeah, Toby’s stressed out of his mind over this thing.”

Josh was silent for a moment and then he put his dinner aside and turned his attention to Sam. “And you? How are you doing with it?”

Sam took a mouthful of food to avoid answering that question immediately. He shrugged, but Josh rested a hand on his shoulder. “You look tired, are you…”

Sam swallowed quickly and gave Josh a reassuring smile. “I’m okay.” That was the perfect opportunity to mention the dreams, but he didn’t, why not? He didn’t want to worry Josh any further. Josh seemed to buy his answer and ruffled Sam’s hair. Sam found it amusing the way Josh liked to play with his hair. Sam looked down at his dinner, he hadn’t quite finished it, but his stomach rebelled the thought of more food. Sam supposed it was because he hadn’t eaten too much through out the day and his stomach was rejecting the sudden flood of food. He pushed his plate away and saw that Josh was finished as well and took his plate from in front of him and began cleaning up the kitchen.

Loading the dishwasher he heard Josh exit the kitchen, a beat later the music was turned up slightly. Sam smiled and wandered out to find Josh and see what he was doing.

Josh wasn’t there, so Sam went back to finishing clean the kitchen up. He threw the take out containers in the bin and made himself a cup of peppermint tea. It cleaned his palate and served as a good way of looking after his teeth and calming his nerves. He’d been drinking it more lately, in an effort to help his sleep. He took a sip and swirled the lukewarm liquid around his mouth. He had learnt long ago to add a bit of cold water to his herbal teas if he wanted to drink them straightaway. Josh teased him about this habit, said it screamed the fact that he was from California. He placed the cup in the sink and started when he felt two strong arms wrap around him from behind.

Josh’s voice was soft, seductive. “Feel like dancing?”

Sam’s eyebrows rose. They’d never danced before so the offer was a surprise. He turned in Josh’s embrace and gave Josh a baffled look. “I’m sorry?”

Josh’s face took on a sheepish expression. “I just…”

Sam waited, but when it became clear Josh wouldn’t continue, he prodded Josh gently, trying to coax the answer out of him. “Felt like dancing?”

“I feel like holding you, you don’t think it’s weird, do you?” Josh’s eyes looked uncertain and Sam gave him a reassuring smile.

“No, it’s not weird.”

Josh drew Sam closer and brushed his lips over Sam’s.

Sam could taste toothpaste and smiled. He ran his hand up and down Josh’s back his other hand resting on the small of Josh’s back. Josh’s hand came to rest on the back of Sam’s neck, nesting there in the thick of Sam’s hair.

Josh stepped back, pulling Sam away from the sink. He held Sam by his waist, and pulled him closer. All the while they kissed. Mouths’ moulding together, tongues duelling. Finally, Sam pulled away to breathe. He rested his head on Josh’s shoulder. Josh rested his head against Sam’s. They began to sway and move to the music that drifted in from the lounge.

“This is nice,” Sam said, after awhile.

Josh’s hold tightened slightly and then relaxed. “Yeah. Not weird at all.”

“No, not weird. Nice.”

“Yeah.” Josh pulled Sam’s head back gently so that he could see his eyes.

Josh’s eyes were a very soft brown, loving. Sam’s face lit up in a smile at the look. “I love you.” Sam whispered, he could feel Josh’s heart jump at his words and brushed his thumb across Josh’s lips, they parted instantly. “I really do.”

“Ditto.” Josh’s hands came to frame Sam’s face. “Ditto.” Then moved in to kiss Sam again, the kiss deepened and Sam moaned at the onslaught. Josh laughed softly as Sam let out a regretful sigh when he pulled back. “Feel like taking this to the bedroom?”

Sam raised his eyebrow suggestively. “Sure.” But neither man moved. Sam ran his hand through Josh’s hair. “We could just stay here…”

“We could,” Josh agreed, his hands moving back down to rest on Sam’s hip and the small of his back. Josh’s eyes fluttered shut as Sam moved closer to kiss him again. Sam brushed his lips against Josh’s cheek and then nibbled and nestled at the hollow of Josh’s throat. Sam smiled when Josh moved his hand to hold him there.

“Bedroom?”

“Yeah?” Josh answer made him sound like he was asking a question and Sam laughed and gently extracted himself from Josh’s arms. Sam reached out and took one of Josh’s hand and tugged Josh out of the kitchen.

One Week Later:

Sam jogged up the stairs to Josh’s home. He glanced at his watch, Josh should be home by now. Sam raised a hand to rap at Josh’s front door. It was answered almost immediately, like Josh had just been waiting for him to get here. Sam smiled at Josh brightly as he walked in into the entrance area of Josh’s home. “Hey.”

“Hi.” Josh shut the door behind Sam. Sam began pulling off his coat and let out a light laugh when Josh's eager hands took it from him and hung it on a hook near the door. Sam found himself turned around and looking into Josh’s dark gaze.

“Hey,” Sam said again, this time his tone was softer, and more inviting. Sam could see Josh’s pupil’s dilate and Sam’s heart rate increased, he knew what was about to happen. Josh tugged him closer. Sam let Josh control the movements, but didn’t let him control the kiss. Josh gave a soft whimper, when Sam delved into Josh’s mouth, tasting him. Sam liked that sound, his hands travelled down to grip Josh’s ass and he pulled Josh closer to his body. Josh gave a guttural groan in his throat. Sam grinned, then moaned when Josh’s hands traced a similar path on his body.

Josh’s hand travelled through Sam’s hair to rest at the back of his neck. Sam suddenly lost control of the kiss as Josh asserted his claim on him. Sam found himself backed up against a wall, next to Josh’s door.

Josh lips travelled to his neck and Sam’s hand entwined in Josh’s hair holding him there, groaning as Josh gave a little thrust of his hips, brushing against his growing arousal. “What brought this on?” he gasped.

“You in a suit.”

“Me in a….” Sam pulled Josh’s head up, so that he could read the expression in Josh’s eyes. Josh’s eyes were dancing with mirth and love. “I’m in a suit everyday, Josh.”

“You look good in a suit.” Josh rolled a shoulder, flashing a smile at him.

Sam loved that smile, it was so contagious. Josh could just smile like that and everything seemed all right. “Aha, thank you…I think-”

Josh cut him off, by ducking into kiss him again. Sam gave up trying to think after that. He vaguely remembered Josh pulling him towards the bedroom, and then after that nothing.

______

“Sam?”

A gentle shake on his shoulder woke him up. He blinked groggily, trying to get his bearings.

“Yeah?”

“Get up, it’s too early to go to bed,” Josh said, giving him another gentle shake on the shoulder.

Sam raised an eyebrow at Josh. “Not for what we did.”

Josh laughed. “No, never for that. Come on, let’s get dinner ready.”

Josh tugged him out of the bed and Sam pulled on some boxers and then jeans and wandered out to the kitchen, Josh followed, already dressed similarly.

“So Congresswoman Reesman dropped the child labour amendment,” Josh said grabbing some carrots out of the fridge.

Sam nodded, pulling out some pasta and onions from the pantry. “Yeah.”

“What did you say to Mrs Bartlet?” Josh asked curiously as he grabbed a cutting board at put it on the kitchen counter.

Sam shrugged, grabbing a bottle of pasta sauce from the pantry and a can of tomatoes. “Just told her that she had made a mistake.”

Sam heard a clatter as Josh dropped the knife on the bench. “You did what!”

Sam turned, holding out his hands in an appeasing gesture to Josh. “I didn’t come…” he paused thinking back to his confrontation with the First Lady. “Well, actually I told her that she needed to vet stuff like that through our office… I appealed to the professional in her.”

Josh’s face went blank as he retreated into his thoughts, then Sam watched as comprehension dawned. Josh raised a hand to his forehead, his brow wrinkling in panic. “Oh man, you told her that she wasn’t very professional, didn’t you?”

Sam sighed, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “There is no need to panic about this.”

“I’m not panicking.”

Sam merely raised an eyebrow.

Josh rested his hands on his hips and took a deep breath. “Really, I’m not panicking. I just would like to know what you said to her.”

Sam leaned back against the kitchen bench. “I merely told her, that as a doctor if she told me to exercise, etc…” Sam waved a hand to indicate what he told Mrs Bartlet about following doctor’s orders.

Josh frowned at him. “That’s not very clear, can you elaborate?”

Sam went back to cooking the spaghetti bolognaise. “I said, that I didn’t think she was professional. Then, she tried to cut me off, and I said, with the greatest respect, of course-” Sam shot Josh a look, Josh nodded waving at him to continue. “That she had trained to be a doctor and as such, I value her opinion… and I went to university and trained to do this kind of stuff… words to that affect. She understood, she was quite gracious about it actually.”

“So you told her off.”

“You told me to.” Sam pointed out, feeling a little annoyed at Josh’s reaction. He put some water in a saucepan and began heating it to the boil. Then grabbed another pan for the sauce. He put a drop of oil in it and then turned the hotplate on.

Josh sighed, coming to stand beside Sam near the stove. “Yes, I did. I’m sorry.”

“You should be.” Sam sliced the onions and put it the saucepan. Josh grabbed his hand and placed a quick kiss on it. Josh’s nose wrinkled as he encountered the strong smell of onions on Sam’s hand, but he didn’t let go.

“I am. I just…” Josh squeezed Sam’s hand gently.

“Well, you weren’t the one who walked in there to tell off Lily Mays and found the First Lady there instead… plus CJ has to learn to pick up the signs,” Sam said, shaking his head as he remembered CJ’s confusion of early in the day. It was the one sign she couldn’t seem to get, when the President wanted the senior staff to handle the First Lady, he dropped hints, hints that CJ couldn’t seem to pick up. Sam couldn’t figure out why.

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“I know.” Sam tugged his hand free and gave Josh a gentle slap on the butt as he went back to cooking their dinner. “Now, you going to help?”

Josh grabbed the pasta and put it into the now boiling water. “I’m helping.”

Half an hour later, they were seated at the kitchen table eating their dinner. Sam pushed his plate away, having eaten only half of it.

Josh frowned at him. “Not hungry?”

Sam grabbed the glass of water from in front of him and took a sip. “I’m full.”

“You hardly ate. You okay?”

Sam bit back a sigh. “I’m fine.” He neglected to mention that he hadn’t slept very well the night before. They could only spend certain number of nights at each other’s place a week and Josh hadn’t been with him last night and Sam had missed him.

Josh ruffled Sam’s hair gently. “You not getting sick, are you?”

“Why? Worried that I’d pass it onto you?” Then he winced at how abrupt that sounded. Josh’s face showed his surprise. Sam rested his hand on Josh’s forearm, “Sorry. I’m just tired.”

Josh opened his mouth to reply, then clearly thought better of it. He just nodded and Sam stood and wrapped his arms around Josh from behind. Josh leant into the embrace.

“It’s okay, Sam. Why don’t you turn in? It’s like ten already, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“What about-“

Josh cut him off. “I’ll clean the kitchen.” Josh’s hand snaked up to ruffle Sam’s hair. “Go on. I’ll be there soon.”

Sam sighed, knowing he wasn’t going to win this argument. He placed a gentle kiss on Josh’s cheek and left him there. Sam didn’t see Josh’s worried frown as he walked out of the kitchen. Sam went into their bedroom and pulled his jeans off and grabbed some boxers. Brushing his teeth a few minutes later, he was struck by the sweetness behind Josh’s gesture at cleaning the kitchen. Josh usually hated to wash up. Sam smiled, he would make it up to Josh later. Walking out of the bathroom, after finishing his ablutions he fell into the bed and closed his eyes, within minutes he was asleep.

Josh placed the leftovers in the fridge and tried to not to over think Sam’s behaviour at dinner. The idea that Sam had told the First Lady off was disquieting, no matter how right he had been in doing so. Josh turned the dishwasher on and sighed. Sam had never been a huge eater, but he’d always had a healthy appetite, but over the past week or so, since they had returned from LA, Josh had noticed that Sam wasn’t eating his normal amounts…. Well at least not at lunch anyway. They hadn’t been together in a few nights and Josh had missed Sam.

He walked into the bedroom and saw with concern that Sam was moving restlessly on the bed. “Sam?”

Josh strode quickly over and rested his hand on Sam’s forehead, trying to settle him and see if he had a fever. There was no fever that he could tell, but that didn’t mean Sam wasn’t getting sick, Josh mused.

“Josh?”

Looking down, Josh saw that Sam was looking up at him blearily for the second time that night. “You okay?” he asked kneeling down beside the bed so that he was more at eyelevel with Sam.

Sam rolled over entwining his hand with Josh’s. “Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked, frowning at Josh.

Josh petted Sam’s hair again, a soothing gesture for him and for Sam. “You looked restless.”

Sam’s face tightened for a moment and then he gave a small grin. “Well, you weren’t beside me that’s why.”

Josh wasn’t going to be put off. “Seriously, are you okay?”

Sam lifted himself up one elbow and reached out and took hold of Josh’s chin tenderly. “I’m fine. Now, are you coming to bed or not?”

Chuckling, Josh gave Sam a quick kiss and then stood. “When you put it that way, how could I refuse?” Josh stripped off his jeans and walked into the bathroom to get ready for bed. He walked out a few minutes later, Sam was awake, waiting for him, and Josh paused, struck by the pensive expression on Sam’s face. “Sam?”

Sam’s face cleared and he appeared to shake whatever it was that was worrying him away.

“Nothing.” Josh pulled on a pair of boxers and climbed onto the bed. Sam shifted, giving him room and Josh settled the covers over them both. Sam nestled himself against Josh.

“Night.”

Sam mumbled a good night and Josh smiled. Sam, when tired, was sometimes just adorable, although Sam would chastise him for thinking that. He rubbed Sam’s back and then closed his eyes, following Sam into sleep a few moments later.

It was the groan that brought Josh out of a deep sleep and to semi-wakefulness. When Sam shifted, kicking out in his sleep, Josh awoke fully. He sat up and reached for the lamp. Light flooded the room. Sam was on his side, turned away from him. As his eyes adjusted to the bright light, he could see just how tense Sam was. Josh shifted closer, resting his hand gently on Sam’s back. Sam jerked, his eyes flying open. Then he groaned when he saw how bright the room was. He rolled onto his back and buried his face under the pillow. Josh glanced at the clock. 2:30am.

“Josh, why are you awake?” Sam’s voice was muffled by the pillow, and he lifted it to shoot a dark look at Josh then pulled it back to cover his eyes again.

Josh pushed his amusement at Sam’s actions to the side. The reason why he was awake now was too pressing. Resting his hand on Sam’s chest, Josh could feel that Sam’s heart was racing. He frowned. “You okay?”

“I would be if someone wouldn’t wake me up at these god forsaken hours,” Sam muttered, slowly removing the pillow, he squinted at Josh. “I should be asking you if you’re okay, are you?”

Josh nodded, he rubbed Sam’s stomach. “You were having a nightmare.”

“I was?” Sam looked surprised.

Josh couldn’t tell with that response if Sam was honestly surprised or if he was feigning confusion. “Yeah, you were. Want to talk about it?”

“Well, I would, if there was anything to talk about,” Sam countered, “I was just dreaming about ….” The barest of hesitations before Sam continued speaking, “going five rounds with Mike Tyson…” He rubbed his ear, “then he bit my ear.”

Josh smiled, despite his concern. “Well, I can see why that would be disconcerting.”

Sam snorted, “Disconcerting? He bit my ear. It was a little bit more than disconcerting.”

Sam moved his hand to cover Josh’s where it lay on his stomach. “It was nothing, you scared my boogie man away.”

“Sam.” Josh shook his head and moved to switch off the light. “So long as it wasn’t anything…”

“Tyson was bad enough thank you,” Sam murmured, wrapping himself around Josh.

Josh held Sam close for a beat. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Sam’s dream had been about something else entirely. He was probably being paranoid. It probably was just some weird dream about Tyson… Josh went back to sleep.

A week later:

Sam woke up in a cold sweat. He sat up and moved to sit at the edge of the bed. He drew in a deep shuddering breath and hung his head, trying to banish the images from his mind. He felt a warm hand run over his back and shivered.

“You okay?” Josh’s husky voice made Sam turn around and give him a forced smile.

“Fine.”

“Sure?” Sam could see Josh trying to wake up enough to assess him.

“Yeah. I’m just gonna get a glass of water, you need anything?”

Josh rolled closer, grabbing his arm. “You sure you’re okay?”

Sam couldn’t meet Josh’s eyes, but he nodded. “Yeah.” Josh let go and Sam rose and grabbed some sweat pants to put on. He smiled at Josh and patted Josh’s hair down. “Go back to sleep.”

“Okay,” Josh mumbled, his eyes already sliding shut. Sam paused, just watching Josh’s breathing even out. He couldn’t get the image from his dreams out of his mind. He didn’t know why it was bothering him now. He had dealt with this, he had moved on. He shook himself and moved out to the kitchen. He sat down at the kitchen table, not bothering to get a drink.

The nightmares were coming more frequently now. He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in god knew how long, not since LA that’s for sure. Sam sighed resting his chin in his palm. He didn’t know how much longer he could hide it from Josh.

Sam wanted to tell Josh, he did, but Josh already had enough on his plate, he didn’t need to deal with this as well. Thinking deeply, Sam sighed. He really should tell Josh. He’d tell him tomorrow, if there was time. It was probably nothing, though. So the dreams stayed with him, when he was awake, that didn’t mean anything, did it?

He was fine.

He just needed to learn how to relax. That’s what it was. He was fine. He was.

_______

The next day, Sam rapped sharply on the door to Josh’s office and walked in. “He won’t let me see her.”

Josh stopped what he was doing and looked at Sam utterly confused about what Sam could be referring to. “See who?”

“Laurie,” Sam said shortly, crossing his arms against his chest. Josh’s eyes flicked to the door and Sam moved to close it, with an angry frustrated movement.

Josh put down his pen and looked at Sam carefully, there were smudges of dark under Sam’s eyes. He could see them, and then there was the fact that last night Sam had another nightmare.

Josh wished desperately that Sam would talk to him, but every time that he made a comment that might lead to talking to what was bothering Sam, his lover cut him off. It was really beginning to worry him, and if he was honest about it, frustrate him. He was hurt that Sam wouldn’t share this with him. Sam wasn’t acting right and refused to-

“Josh, I’m standing right here.”

Sam’s voice brought him back to the present and Josh gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry.”

“Like I’m going to see her anyway.” Sam said after a moment. “I know I can’t go to the thing.”

“The thing?” Josh asked.

Sam’s eyes flashed. “Graduation. Toby won’t let me go to Laurie’s graduation. Haven’t you been listening?”

“Yes, I’ve been listening, I’m just….” Josh paused, wondering how to phrase it, his worry about Sam. His expression must’ve given him away because Sam was suddenly straightening and backing towards the door.

“It’s fine,” Sam said quickly, he opened the door and paused in the doorway, a brief glance at Josh, that Josh couldn’t read. “It’s fine.”

Josh watched him go and then shook his head. “No, it isn’t.”

Then with an effort he pushed all thoughts of Sam to the side and began working again. He’d talk to Sam tonight.

Josh’s worry was compounded that evening. Sam’s fury at being used about Laurie over the whole FEC thing, wasn’t surprising. What was surprising as Josh followed Sam into Sam’s apartment what was that Sam had very nearly told the President about Laurie. He’d told Toby that he was taking Sam home to help him cool off, and Toby had nodded agreement.

“Sam, calm down.”

“I am calm,” Sam snapped, throwing his brief case on the couch.

Josh winced. “No, you’re really not.” He held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Want me to give you a back rub to relax?”

“Don’t do that.”

“Do what?” Josh asked, his hands still raised in a calming gesture.

“Placate me. I’m not a little kid.” Sam said angrily, then abruptly he turned away from Josh and took a deep breath. “Sorry.”

“S’okay,” Josh answered, approaching Sam slowly and then tentatively reaching out to touch Sam’s shoulder and bring Sam round to face him. “Just tell me what’s wrong.”

Sam gave an exasperated sigh. “There is nothing wrong.”

Josh noted that Sam couldn’t meet his eyes when he said that. “But-“

Sam looked at him then an earnest or almost desperate expression on his face. “I’m fine, Josh, there really is nothing to worry about, I’m just…” Josh could almost see Sam’s thoughts darting about as he tried to find a reason for his behaviour tonight. “…pissed about this whole Laurie thing.”

Josh bit his lip gently, then nodded. “Okay.” He tugged Sam into his arms and wasn’t the least bit reassured when he felt the desperate way Sam clung to him. Why couldn’t Sam share this with him? “It’s okay.”

Sam nodded, then yawned into Josh’s shirt. Josh patted Sam’s back. “Let’s go to bed.”

Sam shook his head. “Nah, you go ahead. I’ve got some work to do.”

Josh opened his mouth to say something about that. About the reason Sam was forcing him to go to bed first. Sam was afraid to sleep. The thought made his heart jump and his eyes prick with tears. But he quelled the emotion after seeing the way Sam was looking at him with a challenging yet defiant expression. “Okay,” he said finally, “don’t stay up too late.”

Sam gave a vague nod and then gave him a brief chaste kiss. Josh wondered if they would ever sleep together again. It had been a while since they had done anything more than snuggle, cuddle, and kiss. Josh liked all that stuff, but after a while he wanted just a little bit more.

“Night,” Josh murmured, ruffling Sam’s hair and then heading back to the bedroom.

“Night.” Came Sam’s soft reply.

Hours later, Josh awoke when he heard a whimper beside him on the bed. “Sam?”

No response as Sam twisted in the sheets, trying to escape whatever was haunting him. “Sam?”

Josh reached out and pulled Sam into his arms and that seemed to ease the troubled movements. Josh kissed Sam’s forehead and held him close, falling back to sleep.

He reawakened a short time later to find himself alone in the bed. Josh moved to get up, but heard movement and lay back down. Sam walked in, hair mussed and an odd expression on his face. “You okay?”

Sam started at the sound of his voice. “Sure. Just got thirsty.”

Josh didn’t believe that. But judging from the careful expression on Sam’s face, he decided not to say anything – for now. “Come back to bed.”

Sam did, snuggling into Josh’s arms. “Night.”

“Night.”

Josh tapped on Toby’s door and walked in. “What’s up?”

Toby stopped typing and looked at him seriously. “Have you noticed anything strange about Sam?”

Josh shut the door and sat down on the arm of the couch. “What do you mean?” His heart had skipped a beat at the question.

Toby gave the smallest of shrugs. “I don’t know, but Sam’s acting differently. I just figured you being his best-friend might’ve noticed something.”

Josh was silent for a moment reviewing his recent interactions with Sam. “Nothing very strange. Why?” He didn’t want to let on how worried that he was becoming about Sam’s increasingly erratic behaviour in private.

“Nothing very strange?” Toby raised his eyebrows at him. “Do you know that he hasn’t been sleeping?”

“Yes.” Josh did know that. He had a bruise on his leg, from when Sam had kicked out in his sleep to prove how bad Sam’s sleeping habits become. Sam had spent most of the night awake. He’d had ended up walking around the living room, eventually Josh had coaxed him back to bed sometime later, at about four. Josh sighed. Sam wasn’t sleeping well, if at all.

“He yelled at Cathy and Ginger this morning.”

“He what?” Josh glanced in the direction of the bullpen, half-afraid that Sam would see them talking and walk in. “Why?”

“That I don’t know. But I think you need to talk to him.”

“I was planning on it,” Josh said carefully, unwilling to admit that Sam had been brushing his concerns off for nearly a month now. Sam thought he was hiding the fact that he wasn’t sleeping, that he was hardly eating, but he wasn’t. Josh wasn’t blind and he wasn’t stupid. Something was up with Sam.

“Good,” Toby grunted then he shook his head and looked back down at the work on his desk. Josh took it for the dismissal it was and rose.

“Talk to you later.” He opened the door and walked out and nearly collided with Sam.

“Whoa,” Josh steadied himself and Sam. “Sorry.”

Sam grinned at him, although Josh noted that it didn’t reach his eyes. “That’s okay.”

Josh touched his arm and gestured towards Sam’s office. “I need to talk to you.”

Sam frowned, looking at him in concern. “Is everything okay?”

Josh nodded following Sam into his office and shutting the door. “It’s aha…” He paused considering Sam for a moment.

Sam looked at him impatiently. “Josh, are you going to get to the point soon, because you know I’m a busy guy.”

Josh blinked momentarily taken aback by the acerbic tone and the sudden change in demeanour. “I hear you ranted at your assistants this morning.”

Sam sat down behind his desk. “Sure, they deserved it. It’s not like you don’t yell at Donna all the time.”

Frowning Josh tapped his lips thoughtfully. “Yes, but that’s me.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Sam asked sharply.

Josh decided to change tacts. “Sam, are you sure you’re okay?”

Sam looked at him and his eyes softened. “I’m fine. I’m tired that’s all. If I yelled at anyone today, I will apologise.”

Josh didn’t know whether to hug Sam or shake him to make him see sense. It was obvious that Sam was lying, not only to him but also to himself. Sam wasn’t nearly as fine as he thought he was. “Okay.”

Cathy knocked nervously and entered. “Sam?”

Sam glared at her. “Yes?”

“Aha… you have a meeting on the Hill in half an hour.”

“Thank you.”

Cathy nodded and backed out quickly. Sam grabbed his things and brushed past Josh. “We’ll talk later, okay?”

Josh watched him go worried. God, he just wished he knew what was going on with Sam. Why wouldn’t he open up? His gaze settled on Cathy who was working at her desk. Walking over he touched her shoulder to get her attention. “Cathy, do you mind if we have a chat?”

Cathy looked up and then nodded. “Sure. Ginger, can you mind the phones?”

“Sure.” Ginger nodded.

She followed him down into the break room and was silent till Josh had set a cup of coffee down in front of them both. “This is about Sam, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Josh ripped open a sugar bag and poured it into his coffee.

Cathy took a sip of the thick brew and grimaced and reached for a bag of sugar herself. “So what do you want to know?”

“What have you got?” Josh countered quietly, stirring the coffee to speed up the diffusion of the sugar.

Cathy shrugged delicately. “Sam seems a little off lately.”

“How so?”

“Haven’t you noticed anything?” she asked pointedly.

Josh fought a blush, it was the first time that anyone had suggested that there was more to his relationship with Sam then just mere friendship. He and Sam had suspected that their assistants knew, but suspecting was a far cry from knowing. They were so careful about it too – he didn’t think anyone really knew the truth. Although Donna and Cathy both knew them very well, they were in tune to their moods as it were. He supposed that they might’ve picked up on something somewhere along the way. Then again, she could have just been referring to the fact that Sam was his best friend.

“I’m asking what you’ve noticed.”

Cathy lowered her gaze to her coffee. “Sam’s…” She paused sipping her coffee. “I’m not sure what it is, but he’s yelling at me, he’s yelling at Ginger, he’s snapping left and right. It’s more than just the fact that he’s not sleeping. His writing isn’t sparkling like it used to. These last few weeks his been off his game and he knows it.”

Josh listened to her silently, weighing up what she had just said with what he already knew. “What else?”

“He threw his papers at Toby yesterday.”

Josh stared at her, stunned. “He did what?”

Cathy sighed. “I thought Toby told you.”

Shaking his head, Josh tried to correlate that information with the Sam he knew. “How long has this been going on?”

“I think a few weeks.” Cathy put her coffee down and tentatively reached out to touch him on the arm. “Josh, can I ask you something?”

Josh gave a wary nod. “Sure.”

“What’s he been like with you?”

“He’s been…” Josh looked around them thankful that there was hardly anyone around them in the mess although the question did sound innocent enough. “Distant … I can’t seem to get through to him.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes.” Josh took a gulp of his coffee. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s eating him up.”

“You’ll get through to him, Josh. You always do.”

“Sure.” He gave her a reassuring smile and sighed, he was going to have to talk to Sam tonight. This couldn't go on any longer, not if it was starting to affect Sam’s work.

___

Sam sat in his office, trying to stop his mind from thinking, but the thoughts wouldn’t stop coming. The nightmarish images from his dreams kept haunting him. He didn’t know what they meant, they seemed to be related… Sam banished that thought before he could finish it. He didn’t know when he had slept the night the whole way through, it had to be way back before LA. The confrontation with Josh this morning had made him feel terrible. Josh didn’t deserve his anger. It wasn’t Josh’s fault that he was tired.

Sam ran his hands over his face. “Why now?” he wondered, “What wrong with me?”

He couldn’t do this any more, he felt so tired, so drained, so … so empty.

Sam frowned, wishing that Josh was here so that he could just be wrapped in that comforting embrace and forget about everything. Josh was worried about him, Sam wasn’t blind. He could see the worry and it was spreading to the other staff, usually it would’ve seemed sweet and endearing that they cared, today it was just another burden to endure. He just had to make it through the day and everything would be fine.

There was a hesitant tap and then Cathy stuck her head. “Staff, Sam.”

Sam rose and nodded. “Thanks.”

Walking away from Leo’s office, after they had just finished senior staff with Toby and Sam, Josh was only half listening to the conversation when Sam said it. The two men had been arguing about a phrase since he had caught up with them. Who really cared if the President said, united or together? It was a pointless argument in his opinion.

“Listen Paul!” Sam froze his expression horrified, he shook his head as if to clear it. “I meant Toby.” His voice was dazed. “I meant Toby,” he whispered, his eyes seeking out Josh’s for a moment, then darting away again.

Josh reached out to touch Sam on the arm, but Sam stepped back as if he was afraid of him. “Sam?”

“I left something… I think I..” Sam didn’t bother finishing his statement, he just pivoted and walked away.

Josh stared after him, more concerned then ever when he saw Sam brush past CJ. Judging by her disgruntled expression Sam had said something to her.

“Josh, what was that?” Toby turned his anxious gaze now on him.

What could he say? “I don’t know Toby, but I’m going to find out.”

Five minutes later he reached the Communications Bullpen. He knocked on Sam’s door and was disconcerted to find the office empty.

“He’s gone,” Cathy said looking up from her desk.

Forehead wrinkling in concern, Josh looked at Cathy questioningly. “Where?”

She shrugged. “He said that he wasn’t well and he’s out for the day.”

God damn it Sam, Josh thought, the sick feeling in his stomach growing. He should’ve known that it was about Paul. He had to find Sam. Toby ran into him just as he was pulling on his overcoat to leave. “Where are you going?”

“To find Sam.” Josh grabbed his backpack. There was no way he was leaving Sam alone to face whatever demons he was facing right now, no way in hell.

“You need some help?” Toby inquired softly.

Josh paused, realising that Toby was just as worried as he was. “It’ll be fine. I’ll let you know. Besides, we all can’t leave.”

Toby rolled his shoulders. “Why not? There is nothing pressing. Sam was done for the day, you’re done for the day…I’m-“

“Not done for today, you have a meeting with Mendoza.” Josh gave him a small smile. “Don’t worry.”

“Sure.” Toby followed him out of his office. “You’ll let me know if you need help?”

“I will.” Josh promised. He exited the White House and paused at the Gate. Where would Sam go? He gazed at the car park, Sam’s car was still there, so that meant he couldn’t have gone too far.

Josh found him at the Lincoln Memorial. Sam was standing there, staring up at it, obviously lost in thought.

Josh approached him cautiously. “Sam?” Either not hearing or choosing not to acknowledge him, Sam continued to just gaze at the monument. “Sam?” Josh tried again, moving to stand beside him. He didn’t touch him, afraid of what Sam might do if he did.

“Josh, what are you doing here?” Sam turned tired blue eyes to him.

Josh nearly enfolded Sam in a hug because of the despair that he saw there. But he couldn’t, this was too public a place. He wondered if that was why Sam had come here. “You have to ask?”

Sam looked down and scuffed his shoe on the ground. “I have to ask.”

Josh wasn’t sure what to say. “You wanna grab a coffee somewhere?”

“No.”

Well, darn that hadn’t worked. Blunt approach then. “What’s going on, Sam?”

The breeze blew at them, ripping at their coats. It was a bitter day and Josh thought that it matched Sam’s mood.

Sam shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“What was that earlier?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sure you do.”

“No, I really don’t.”

“You said Paul instead of Toby.”

Sam didn’t say anything he gazed at the ground drawing a circle with his shoe. Josh felt that they were going in circles. “Sam, talk to me.”

“What do you want me to say?” Sam snapped, “I don’t know what’s going on, Josh! I really don’t!”

“Sam-” The wind whipped his voice away and Sam glared at him. Josh just wanted the ground to swallow him up, because if Sam didn’t know what was going on, how was he going to help him? He reached out and grabbed Sam’s arm, to hell with public opinion. They were friends damn it, and friends touched each other on occasion. “Sam,” he repeated, “ what do you think is going on?”

That was good, that sounded like Stanley his shrink.

Sam stared at the ground again. Josh wished Sam would just look at him. “I….” Sam stopped frowning, clearly something had occurred to him. Sam pulled away. “We can’t do this here.”

“You’re right about that,” Josh agreed. “Come on.” He pulled Sam with him and together they left the Lincoln Memorial. Clouds covered the afternoon sun, Josh looked up trying to see if it was going to rain. Usually Sam would say something about the weather or give some inane bit of trivia about what the temperature was going to be. Josh frowned, come to think of it, Sam hadn’t done that in a while.

He negated Sam’s opinion that he could drive his car home. Josh didn’t want Sam driving, in the end Sam gave in and just hopped in Josh’s car. Josh didn’t know whether that was a blessing or a curse. “Do you want some take out?” he asked once he got the car moving. Sam needed to eat and Josh couldn’t remember if Sam had even had lunch earlier.

Sam sighed. “Sure, fine, whatever.”

“Let’s just go home,” Josh said, glancing over at Sam, who had leaned back in the seat and shut his eyes. Whether Sam was doing it to ignore him or he was tired, Josh wasn’t sure. But he’d leave Sam in peace for now.

Parking the car half an hour later, Josh shook Sam gently to wake him up. “We’re here.” It was a needless comment but he felt like talking.

Sam blinked and opened his eyes. “I can see that.”

There was that acerbic tone again. Josh hopped out of the car and grabbing his backpack, he led the way into his apartment. Sam shut the door and hung his coat on the hook near the door. Josh followed suit.

There was a heavy silence. Sam was clearly unwilling to break it and Josh didn’t know how to start.

In the end, it was Sam who broke the stalemate. “You want some coffee?”

Josh shook his head. “No thanks, I’m fine.”

Sam seemed to be put off by that then he turned and walked into the kitchen. “Oh well, I think I will have some. Do you know that they now sell different flavours..” Sam laughed. Josh winced, it was a nervous laugh the sound kids make when they are about to get a booster shot. “What am I saying, of course you do. You go to the supermarket these days don’t you, there’s like a whole section devoted to coffee. Who would’ve thought huh? In the sixteenth century…” As he spoke Sam was moving constantly around the kitchen as if he couldn’t keep still.

Josh frowned, crossing his arms. “Sam?”

Rambling on, Sam ignored him. “….It was a specialty - a gift that kings were given. Now, it’s such a commodity… hey I wonder if I can work that into a speech. Do you think I could get Toby to work it in?”

He turned to look at Josh and Josh shrugged, wondering how to stop this verbal avoidance. He had never seen Sam quite like this and it scared him. “Sam, are you-“ He didn’t get a chance to finish his question.

“Fine, just fine Josh. I think that I will have something to eat. Do you want anything? We could order take out.” Sam had finished making his coffee and he held it in both palms as he began to sort through the take out menus that were stuck on the fridge door. “Chinese sounds good don’t you think? Then again I think I feel like some Indian? How about some Pizza, that’s always good, pizza and beer-“

“Sam, please, stop,” he said gently.

Sam whirled around to look at him a confused expression on his face. The coffee sloshed in the mug, nearly spilling over. Josh stepped forward and Sam backed away. “No…” Sam muttered, looking at him pleadingly. “I’m fine.”

“No, you’re really not,” Josh countered, taking another step forward and Sam backed away until he was pressed against the kitchen counter.

“Josh, don’t do this,” Sam said, his voice shaky.

“Why? I care about you.”

Sam’s hands were trembling Josh could see the mug wavering in his grasp. “Why?”

Josh’s breath caught at the simple question. “Oh Sam, you have to ask?”

Sam looked away from Josh, swallowing hard. “I can’t do this now.”

“When? When is a good time, Sam?” he challenged. “For weeks now, you’ve been lying to me, you say you’re fine and you’re clearly not! You’re not sleeping, you’re hardly eating and you won’t tell me about the dreams you’ve been having.”

“How do you know about them?” Sam whispered, visibly surprised.

Josh let out a sad laugh. “I’m you’re lover, of course I know.”

The response made Sam close his eyes briefly as if he was in pain. “God, Josh.”

“Tell me what’s going on.”

“I can’t.” Sam shook his head, stuttering. “I can’t.”

“You can’t or you won’t?”

Sam’s breath was coming in heaving gasps, and Josh knew he was going to break any second. “Josh, I…” Sam couldn’t speak. Josh stepped closer.

“Just tell me if it’s about Paul.”

“No,” Sam denied, looking everywhere in the kitchen but at Josh. “No.”

“You’re lying.” Josh rested his hands gently on Sam’s shoulders, he could feel them quivering under his touch. “Look me in the eye and tell me that! Damn it, you called Toby Paul! What the hell do you think this is about?”

“I don’t know,” Sam muttered, eyes desperately roving about the kitchen.

“You do know,” Josh shot back, god it hurt to see Sam like this. “Let me in, Sam. Let me help you.”

“Josh-“ Sam shuddered and the mug fell from his hands, smashing onto the kitchen floor. He doubled over and Josh caught him, pulling Sam into his arms.

“Shhh, I’ve got you.” He smoothed Sam’s hair down and held on tight as Sam began to cry. “I’ve got you,” he whispered over and over. Sam buried his face against his neck, his tears were hot against his skin and Josh knew that both his suit and Sam’s were going to need a dry cleaning, but that didn’t matter. The only thing he cared about was Sam.

Finally, Sam’s breathing slowed and the tense muscles against him seemed to ease. Josh kissed the side of Sam’s neck and pulled back. “Okay?”

Sam nodded, he scrubbed at his eyes. Josh wiped a few stray tears away gently. “Why don’t you take a shower or something?” Sam opened his mouth to speak and then just nodded. Josh stepped forward and tenderly kissed Sam’s forehead. “I’ll be right here.”

Sam paused at the doorway and turned back to look at him. “Josh?” His voice was raspy, like sandpaper. Josh had never heard that tone from Sam before. His voice was usually so smooth.

“Yeah?”

Sam gave the smallest of smiles. “Thanks.”

“Sure.” Josh smiled at him and waited for Sam to leave before he began to clean up the spilt coffee. Kneeling down, he began to pick up the large pieces of china. He could hear the shower turn on and was minutely pleased that Sam had followed that instruction. He dumped the bits of china in the bin and grabbed some paper towel and began to sponge up the coffee. Once done, he stepped into the hallway to see if Sam was still in the bathroom. He could hear the shower running so he assumed that he still had some time. Josh stepped over to the sink and grabbed a glass of water. He drank the entire glass and then splashed water on his face. He didn’t know how to approach this, he was just winging it with Sam. He hated seeing Sam like this, he took a deep breath to regain control of his feelings. He wasn’t going to lose it. He had to be strong. Walking out of the kitchen, he found Sam in the bedroom looking through the wardrobe. Sam was dressed in jeans and t-shirt. “You looking for something in particular?”

Sam jumped, his hand going to rest on his heart. “Sweater.”

Josh reached past him and grabbed a navy one from the drawer to his right. “Here.”

Pulling it on, Sam sat down on the bed. “I don’t…”

Seeing that Sam was at a loss for words, Josh sat down on the bed, shifting so that he was leaning against the bed board. Josh grabbed a pillow and rested it on his lap. He patted the area beside him. “Come here.”

Sam looked at him and then complied with the request. He lay down beside him and rested his head on Josh’s lap. Josh gently ruffled Sam’s hair. “You don’t have to talk until you feel ready Sam, we have all the time in the world.”

Sam gave a snort of amusement. “Liar, we have to be back at work sometime.”

“And,” Josh chuckled lightly, “there he is.”

Sam rolled over and raised confused eyes to his. “What?”

“My Sam,” Josh said simply. Sam blinked hard at that visibly moved by the statement. “Shh,” Josh whispered stroking Sam’s hair. Sam had once commented that Josh often petted him like he would a dog. Josh had taken that as a compliment because owners loved their pets without reservation. It was how he loved Sam.

“I can’t explain what happened,” Sam closed his eyes. “But it’s got something to do with…”

“Paul.” Josh hated the son of a bitch. He hoped to god that he never met the bastard. He wouldn’t want to be held for responsible for what happened if he did.

Sam let out a sigh. “Yeah.” He opened his eyes sitting up. “I can’t get it out of my head.”

Josh raised an eyebrow in confusion. “What?”

Sam looked away. “I don’t know, Josh. It’s all so confused.”

Taking a deep breath, Josh leant forward and grabbed Sam’s hands. “I think you need to talk to someone.”

Sam nodded. “I’ve aha…” He looked down at their linked hands. “I’ve been thinking that myself. I need to get some things straight in my head.”

Josh nodded. “Okay then.” He smiled, trying to lift Sam’s mood. “I hear you threw some papers at Toby.” A light laugh escaped Sam. “I wish I had seen that.”

Sam nodded. It was almost frightening how docile Sam was. Josh tugged Sam so that he was once again lying with his head in his lap.

Sam bit his lip. “I’m just so tired.”

“I know.” Josh rested his hand on Sam’s head. “I know.”

Sam shivered. “I think,…” His voice caught and Sam coughed to clear it. Josh frowned wondering what Sam was going to say. “I think maybe Paul had more of an impact on me than I thought.”

Josh closed his eyes briefly, he had suspected something along these lines. “I know.”

Sam nodded. “I thought it was over.”

“It’s okay, Sam,” Josh said gently, looking down at Sam. Sam had closed his eyes, but there was a crease between his brows. Josh ran his thumb over it, trying to smooth it out. “It’s all right Sam, you have every right to react however you want.”

Sam didn’t answer, just traced a hand over Josh’s leg. Josh shifted, so that they were lying side by side, he threw the pillow off the bed and made Sam rest his head against his chest. “If you need to talk about anything I’m here.”

Sam gave the smallest sigh. “I know.”

“Do you?” Josh questioned gently, because if that were the case, things would never have gotten this far in the first place.

Sam tapped his hand on Josh’s stomach as if suspected what Josh was thinking. “I was scared, Josh. I couldn’t stop the dreams. I’ve had them on and off all my adult life and then suddenly they were coming every night. I didn’t want to worry you.”

Josh kissed Sam’s temple tenderly. “Newsflash, you hurt, I hurt.”

The only response was Sam tightening his hold on him briefly before his breathing slowly evened out. Josh glanced at the clock it was 5pm in the afternoon, it didn’t matter, he would hold Sam all night if he had to. He remembered the first time Sam had told him about Paul. It had been very early into their relationship and Josh could still see the look on Sam’s face when he had explained about how Paul had treated him. It had been a blow, to know that Sam had been through an abusive relationship and that he hadn’t told anyone. Josh knew that it wasn’t something Sam would’ve told any of his female lovers. It was a testament to the trust Sam had in him, that Sam had told him about Paul. Josh ran his hand up and down Sam’s back. Paul had called Sam ‘rent boy’. Josh had known without Sam saying anything else that Paul had treated Sam like one.

The sound of rain distracted him. He could see it gently pattering the window to his right. The apartment was going to get cold soon and he was beginning to get hungry, but still he held Sam, he wasn’t going to let go. Sam moaned in his sleep and Josh tightened his hold and gently reassured Sam that he wasn’t alone. Sam relaxed. Josh gave a mental sigh of relief, Sam desperately needed to rest and he would do anything to take Sam’s pain away. But it was something that Sam needed to work through, as much as he hated to admit it, alone with a professional.

Josh must’ve fallen asleep as well, because when he woke up he no longer held Sam. Sam was sitting up, just watching him sleep. Josh raised himself up to rest on his elbows. “What time is it?”

“About eight.” Sam’s voice was soft.

Josh couldn’t see Sam’s face and he reached to turn the light on. Flicking it on, he squinted as the soft light suddenly flooded the room. He lay back down and kept his eyes shut for a moment, allowing himself to adjust. After a moment, Josh opened them to see Sam looking away from him and out the window. His profile was that of a man considering heavy topics. Josh touched Sam’s leg to bring Sam back to this room, to bring Sam back to him. “You okay?”

“Su-“ Sam began then paused, his eyes crinkling into the vaguest of smiles. Josh’s heart gave a leap, it was the first time he had seen a smile reach Sam’s eyes in god knew how long. “Not really, but I’m getting there.” Sam interlaced his hand with Josh’s hand where it rested on Sam’s thigh.

Josh sat up. “Really?”

Sam nodded. “I think so. I can’t promise I won’t lose it on you again, but I’m trying to figure everything out and I’m going to get some help.”

Josh raised his free hand and cupped Sam’s cheek. “I’m here for you.”

Sam’s cheeks creased into a smile. “I know.”

“Good.” Josh leaned forward and tenderly kissed Sam. Sam’s eyes fluttered closed and he pulled Josh to him. Josh didn’t know how long it had been since they had been together, they had both been too busy. It was at that moment that he remembered that he had promised to call Toby, so he regretfully pulled away from Sam. He rested their foreheads together and ran his thumb over Sam’s parted lips. “I have to call Toby.”

Sam frowned. “Now? Why?”

Josh leaned back so that he could look Sam in the eye. “Because he’s worried about you and I need to make sure he doesn’t put an APB out on the both of us.”

Surprised, Sam stared at him. “He’s that worried?”

Nodding, Josh leaned forward and kissed Sam again briefly. “Yes.” Rolling away from Sam, he picked up the phone from the bedside table.

Fifteen minutes later he had reassured Toby that everything was fine and that Sam was going to be okay. He had managed to be informative enough to satisfy Toby’s curiosity, but vague enough to protect Sam’s privacy. He hung up and swivelled on the bed and he found Sam leaning back against the bed board, a bemused expression on his face. “Sam?”

“He was worried, wasn’t he?”

“You sound surprised.”

Sam shrugged and waved a hand. “I don’t know it’s just….I’ve been treating him like crap and he still cares.”

“You’re his friend.”

“I just…”

“What?”

“I think I owe him an apology.”

“Yes.” Josh grinned. “You owe one to CJ as well and Cathy, Ginger…” He rattled off several more names and Sam grimaced.

“I have been an ass, haven’t I?”

Josh stood and pulled Sam to his feet. “Yeah, but I think you can be forgiven. You had a very good reason.”

Sam sighed. “I wish I didn’t have a reason.”

Josh hugged Sam to him. “So do I. But hey, next time I act like an ass, just remember that I cut you some slack.” He yelped when Sam swatted him on the butt. “What was that for?”

Sam chuckled and pulled back to look at him. “For being you.”

“Next time just give me a kiss would ya?”

Sam looked at him thoughtfully and Josh felt his pulse quicken at the look. He knew that look, it meant only good things. “I think that can be arranged.” Sam raised Josh’s hand and tenderly kissed the underside of his wrist. Josh’s heart jumped. Sam’s tongue darted out and licked it. Josh suddenly licked dry lips. He wanted to do this with Sam, god did he ever, but in truth Sam still looked tired and he didn’t think this was the right time. Sam seemed to agree because he gave him one more tender kiss on his wrist and then dropped his gaze. “Josh, I don’t know what I did to des-” Josh placing his finger on his lips to cut him off.

“Don’t say it. I’m the one who is lucky.” Sam’s eyes darkened with emotion and Josh smiled at him. “Come on, let’s get some dinner ready.” With that he led Sam to the kitchen.

Allowing Josh to mother him, Sam sat the kitchen table staring idly at his mug of coffee. He hadn’t taken a sip yet and it was probably getting cold. He had never thought that… It had obviously affected him more than he thought, his relationship with that that… man. Sam felt a hand rub his shoulder and Sam looked up and saw Josh standing beside him. Josh was looking at him with such concern that the words popped out without conscious thought. “I love you.”

Josh’s pupils flared at the words and he gave Sam a soft smile. “I know.” He ruffled Sam’s hair and kissed his brow, then pulled away. “Dinner’s almost ready.”

Sam wasn’t very hungry. Although, he was going to eat this meal for Josh’s sake to stop him looking so worried. The dreams… they haunted him, images still came flashing into his mind. Fingering the rim of the mug, Sam smirked wryly as he pondered why it had all resurfaced now. Leaning back in the chair, Sam sighed. He’d been living in denial that he could deal with this. So what had changed? Why had…

The answer came so simply. It was Josh. The love and security that Josh gave him had allowed these demons to surface, because with Josh by his side, he could face them. Watching Josh place the dinner on the plates, Sam had no idea what they were eating, Sam pondered Josh’s reaction. On some level, he’d been terrified of telling Josh about the extent of the abuse he’d suffered. Sam shook that thought away, it wasn’t that really, it was… Josh was his best friend and lover, and the only person he’d ever told about this, about Paul. So telling him now…

God, Toby. He’d called Toby, Paul. The two men were nothing alike, Sam was disgusted with himself that he’d called Toby by the wrong name.

“Sam?”

It had been… he’d have to apologise to him. He’d do that the next time he saw him. There was something about Josh and his relationship with him that had started to heal the hurt that Paul had cut upon his soul. Okay, that was slightly melodramatic, but it made no less true.

“Sam?” Josh shook Sam’s shoulder gently.

Starting, Sam saw that Josh had placed a plate of food down in front of him. He’d made an omelette. It looked delicious. He’d made it with mushrooms, ham and cheese, all of Sam’s favourite things to add to the dish. The sweetness behind the gesture made Sam swallow hard and he felt himself tearing up.

“Hey, hey…” Josh was standing and enfolding him a hug from behind, his chin resting on Sam’s shoulder. “Shh, you’ll be all right,” he whispered fiercely, rocking them both.

Sam’s hand snaked up to grip Josh forearm and he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“I’m sorry, I’m such…”

“It’s not your fault, none of it is.” Josh soothed him, grazing his lips over Sam’s temple.

Sam gave a soft nod. “I don’t…”

“Swear to god, Sam, if you say you’re not worthy…” Josh countered, his hold tightening briefly. “You are worthy. I love you,” he trailed off, as Sam shuddered.

Trembling at the words and the fierce devotion layering it, Sam raised Josh’s arm and kissed the underside of Josh’s wrist. He wanted to thank Josh for supporting him through this, but he had a feeling it was all just beginning. He needed some serious therapy. Sam was not a stupid person, he now realised that he needed help in dealing with this, so he could move on. Clasping Josh’s hand, he stared down at the linked hands. Josh was silent, just holding him. Sam blinked and swallowed hard. “Shall we eat?”

The hug tightened and then Josh let him go, immediately Sam missed the warmth of Josh’s embrace. Josh sat down beside him and shifted the chair closer, and put his arm around Sam’s shoulder, then took Sam’s fork. Sam found himself shifting closer, to Josh. He was going to protest that Josh had his own meal, but he really needed to feel Josh near him at the moment. Needed to feel this closeness. Staring up at that monument that after noon, Sam could remember trying to focus thoughts that were completely scattered. He’d never felt that totally lost, he’d felt adrift, like he lost his anchor.

“Eat up,” Josh ordered gently.

“Josh-“ His words were cut off by Josh successfully shoving some food into his mouth. Sam swallowed the delicious if somewhat cool meal. He shifted closer in Josh’s embrace, wrapping his arm around Josh’s waist. Josh kissed his temple. “I’d have been lost.”

“What?” Josh stilled beside him.

“Hmm?” Sam inquired, absently fingering the seam on Josh’s jeans. Josh placed the fork down and tilted Sam’s chin up.

“You’d have been lost, when?” Josh’s eyes were dark, his forehead lined showing his concern.

“It’s not…” Sam felt somewhat self conscious about what he’d just said, he’d given so much of himself away already, he’d didn’t know if could share this as well.

“It’s okay.” Josh kissed him briefly, then pulled back and extracted himself from Sam’s embrace. “I’ll re-heat this, then we’ll eat.”

True to his words Josh did exactly that, re-heated the meal and then sat down again, and proceeded to position himself again, this time with his own plate of food. They ate in silence, Sam relishing in his love of Josh and focusing on that. He adored the way Josh loved him, he’d never been loved like this before, and just maybe, Sam realised that he was ready to face his past.

A few weeks later:

It was the afternoon and Josh sat on the side of the bed watching Sam sleep. It was good to see Sam sleeping. It really was. He brushed his hand over Sam’s thick hair. Sam stirred only slightly, a smile crossing his face at Josh’s touch. They had decided to have a lazy weekend and so far it was going remarkably.

All the worries that they’d had from work had been left there… at work. Josh left his hand on Sam’s forehead, leaving it there to make sure that Sam knew he was there.

Sam had been in some pretty intense therapy for the past few weeks. Josh had watched him struggled with it, but it was all working out, Sam was now sleeping through the nights and Josh, for one, couldn’t be happier.

Sam stirred again, this time his eyelids began to dance and Josh knew that Sam was waking up. Several minutes later, Sam woke up. “Hey,” he said softly, brushing Sam’s hair again.

The lazy smile that crossed Sam’s face brought an answering smile to Josh’s. “Hey,” Sam responded. Sam reached out and rested his hand on Josh’s thigh, his thumb lightly stroking it through the jeans that Josh wore.

“Sleep well?” Josh’s other hand moved to cover Sam’s.

Sam gave a small smile. “I really did.”

“Good.” Josh lifted Sam’s hand up and placed a soft kiss on the palm. “Glad to hear it.”

Sam’s eyes darkened. “Me too.”

Understanding the sentiment behind the words, Josh kissed Sam’s palm again and rested his cheek against it. Sam brushed his thumb over the slight stubble that covered Josh’s face. Josh leaned down and kissed Sam. “Feel like doing something special?” Josh asked when they pulled back to breathe.

Sam looked at him through dilated pupils. “Like what?”

Josh’s hand began travelling down Sam’s body. “Like this.”

Sam arched into the gentle caress. “That’s sounds pretty good.”

A light lustful laugh escaped Josh as he continued his tactile exploration of Sam’s body. Sam whimpered when he ducked into nibble at the soft hollow on Sam’s neck. It never failed to make Sam moan, and Josh always went there first.

Sam’s hands began pulling at Josh’s shirt, tugging it off his shoulders. Josh was vaguely pleased that he hadn’t bothered to do it up. Sam was only wearing sweats, so access to Sam’s body was relatively easy and in no time Josh had Sam naked. Sam let out a frustrated sound when Josh was still wearing his jeans. “Having trouble?”

“Get them off,” Sam ordered, his hands fumbling with Josh’s zip.

Josh chuckled and then stood quickly, shucking off the rest of his clothing and lying down next to Sam. Sam rolled onto his side and trailed his fingers down the side of Josh’s rib cage, the feather light caress made Josh’s skin shiver. He bit his lip when Sam continued to trail that hand down along Josh’s stomach. The muscles tensed and Josh had to hold back the moan, feeling the desire building.

Satisfied at his reaction, Sam gave him a pleased grin. “Like that?”

“You know I do,” Josh murmured, right before he pounced on Sam. “Let’s take it slow.”

The smirk on Sam’s face grew. “I was planning on it.”

“Oh, well—“ Josh’s words trailed off into a moan as Sam’s hand encircled his hardening cock.

Sam tugged on it in gently, before rolling Josh onto his back. He then leaned in to lick and nibble Josh’s nipples. Josh’s hands nested in Sam’s hair holding him close. Josh could feel Sam’s grin against his chest and decided to get his own back. He ran his hand down Sam’s back and laughed when he heard Sam’s groan. Gently he pulled Sam so that their lips could meet, Sam didn’t resist and came willingly.

Rolling them so that Sam was on the bottom, Josh delved into Sam’s silken mouth, revelling in the taste and touch of Sam. He thrust gently against Sam and Sam responded, one leg coming around to anchor Josh’s body to him, a whimper escaping Sam at the sensations Josh was creating with his movements.

Sam’s mouth broke free of Josh’s and his hands came up to frame Josh’s face. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“Are you going to get sappy now?” Josh inquired with a tender smile

“Can’t think of a better time.” Sam’s thumbs stroked Josh’s kiss swollen lips. “There’s something I need to ask you.”

The seriousness in Sam’s eyes caught Josh off guard. “Yes?”

“Will you sit in on a session with my therapist on Monday?”

Josh didn’t quite know what to say, but he already knew the answer to that question. “Sure.”

Sam smiled, relieved. “Good.”

Josh sat back rolling off Sam. Sam sat up as well, an apologetic expression on his face. Josh raised his eyebrows. “What?”

Sam gestured at the two of them. “I’ve seemed to have killed the mood, sorry.”

Moving closer, Josh tilted Sam’s head up so he could see Sam’s eyes more clearly. “It’s fine.”

Sam smirked. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Josh kissed Sam once hard and then sat back, but Sam pulled Josh into his arms, leaning back against the head board. Josh entwined his hand with Sam’s, holding it to his chest. Sam rested his cheek against the side of Josh’s head. They were silent for a moment, both men just luxuriating in the feeling of being together.

“I love having you here with me.” Sam’s voice was soft, tender.

Josh smiled, squeezing Sam’s hand once, before holding it tight to his chest. “I love it too.”

“Excellent.”

Josh debated whether or not questioning Sam about what it was about. It was probably best to save it till Monday. Josh could wait till then, he had a fair idea about what it was about. “So…”

Sam kissed Josh’s neck nuzzled the side of Josh’s neck. “You’re okay with Monday?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Josh asked quietly.

He felt Sam’s shrug behind him. “Dunno, just wondered that’s all… um…” Uncharacteristically Sam was stumbling over his words. Josh suddenly realized why, Sam was nervous about him going there.

“What’s it about?”

“Best to leave till Monday,” Sam answered, clearly unwilling to share the details of what they were doing.

So Josh didn’t mention it again, because after that Sam’s hands began to wander and Josh forgot all about Monday.

_____ Sam rubbed his hands together and paced the waiting room of his doctor’s office. Josh gave him an exasperated look. “Sam, would you sit down?”

Sam complied with his lover’s request, but less than thirty seconds later was standing again, beginning to pace. He hadn’t thought he would be this nervous about this. It was ridiculous really, he had a fair idea to what Josh’s reaction would be when they got in then… but still, butterflies had taken up residence in his stomach and they refused to depart. Wishing apparently didn’t make it so.

“Sam?”

Sam stopped his pacing at looked at Josh. The worry was evident in Josh’s eyes, Sam shot him a small smile. Josh didn’t smile back, just looked at him seriously. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yeah, I do. You need to know.”

Josh shook his head, holding up hand. “Let me rephrase this, you don’t need to do this today.”

“Why wait?” Sam asked, honestly confused.

“Because, I don’t know… you seem a little…”

“Nervous?” Sam supplied helpfully and Josh gave him a grateful look and then nodded. He sat down next to Josh on the plush sofa. “Listen, I’m always going to be nervous about this… but I need to do this, I want to do this, I need you to know.” The last was said softer and Josh’s hand came to rest on Sam’s shoulder. “Do you understand?”

Josh gave a heavy sigh. “Yeah, I do.”

“Sam?” A strong female voice interrupted the conversation and Sam rose.

“Dr Watters.” Sam greeted, and then he turned to Josh and held out his hand. “You ready?”

Josh took his hand and Sam pulled him to his feet. Josh’s tawny eyes ensnared Sam’s with an earnest expression of love. “For anything.”

_____

“And then… Paul um…” Sam took a deep breath and then let it out. “Then Paul…”

Listening to Sam, Josh could see it happening. He wished that Sam were not such a wordsmith, or such a great story teller, because he could visualise it. See Sam being beaten by Paul, see Paul having sex with Sam and then ripping him apart with his words. Leaving a dollar on the stand, because Sam wasn’t worth anything more. God, Josh scrubbed his hands over his face.

“Josh?” Watters asked, gently.

“Hmm?” He was pulled back to the present and Josh turned to look at her. “Yes?”

“You okay?”

“I’m fine.” Josh looked back at Sam and gave him a reassuring smile. Sam’s face was bleak with emotion. “I’m fine, go ahead.”

Sam nodded and then looked away from Josh and out the window. Josh knew that Sam wasn’t seeing what was out there, he was looking back into his past.

“Sam?” Josh prodded tentatively, unsure about whether or not he should push. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Watters give him a reassuring nod.

Sam didn’t appear to hear him at first, so Josh called to him again. It took a moment, then Sam was back. Sam’s blue eyes met his. “Paul hit me more than once. The first couple of times I thought I deserved it… I was seventeen, I had never been in a real relationship,” Sam gave a snort of disgusted laughter, at the reference to a relationship with Paul, but he shook his head and continued on. “…So with Paul, I didn’t know the rules. Didn’t know what was expected… but that last time he hit me, he did it because I didn’t give him head fast enough….”

It was worse, if anything, Josh thought as he listened to Sam’s speak, to know. It was horrifying to hear what Sam had been through with Paul. His horror must’ve been showing on his face because Sam stopped and swallowed hard, hanging his head, taking a few deep breaths. Josh couldn’t help himself, he went to Sam and pulled him into his arms and gave Sam a long hug. Sam’s soft gasping breathing, told Josh that Sam was fighting to control his emotions.

Josh couldn’t blame him. He was having a tough time himself. He rested his cheek against Sam’s hair and Sam’s arms encircled his waist. “Shhh, I’m right here.”

Sam shuddered. “I’m okay.”

Oddly enough, Sam did sound okay. Well, his voice was a little husky with emotion, but that was to be expected. Josh couldn’t hold back his own tears at what Sam had just told him. Then it was Sam supporting him, holding him close. Paul was one SOB Josh would like the President to order a hit on. But that was never going to happen, so Josh would just have to live with his vicious fantasies, besides he had Sam in his arms and that was all that mattered to him.

Josh rubbed Sam’s back soothingly. “It’s okay.”

Sam held him tighter and then took a long trembling breath and pulled back. “It’s getting there,” he said, looking Josh right in the eye. Josh’s heart broke just a little at the pain and love he saw there, it healed with the courage he saw there as well.

“Sam, Josh?” Doctor Watters asked, her voice a soothing sound. “You ready to continue?”

Sam sat down and Josh sat beside him, taking Sam’s hand within his. “Yes,” Josh answered. “We are now.”

Sam’s hold tightened for a moment and their eyes met. Josh found he couldn’t say anything at the expression of affection and adoration on Sam’s face. Josh raised Sam’s hand up and kissed it gently. Sam’s eyes softened, although the marks of tension were still there, but the pain that he had seen earlier weren’t as strong as it had been. Sam was healing and Josh had never found him more endearing.

Sam seemed to know what he was thinking, because a brief smile crossed his face. “I love you too.”

Josh nodded his gaze locked on Sam, Sam’s eyes moved from him to the Watters. “Should we continue?” he asked.

“Whatever you feel, Sam,” Watters confirmed.

Sam nodded, his gaze coming back to rest on Josh. “Okay..”

Josh settled in to listen never letting go of Sam’s hand. It occurred to him that Sam wasn’t willing to let him go either. Josh found that thought comforting.

Two nights later:

Sam woke up with a jerk wondering what had disturbed him. He sat up and looked around, Josh was still sleeping peacefully. Then the room flashed with light and Sam knew what it was, the thunder of a storm had disturbed him. Wiping at his eyes tiredly, he lay back down beside Josh.

Josh rolled over and rested his hand on Sam’s chest. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Sam said, shifting till he was comfortable again. “Thunder woke me.”

“Kay…” Josh mumbled, he shifted closer to him.

Sam bit back a smile it had been four weeks now since he had blown up at Josh. Four weeks of therapy that Sam knew he was going too need for a while longer, but that was fine with him. It had been good to finally face his past with Paul. That Paul had been abusive - that he had been dominated and demoralised by Paul had been hard to acknowledge and even harder to face. But he had and Sam had never looked back. The hardest part had been sitting down with Josh and telling him what had happened. Josh’s grief and empathy for him, had broken him down again, but Sam had needed to tell him. In some warped sense it had allowed him to heal, to face the fact that Josh wasn’t like Paul at all. Josh had understood the fear and had just hugged Sam when he had told him. Sam was getting very used to Josh’s hugs – they made him feel safe.

He had apologised to everyone he could think of. Toby had pulled him aside and asked him point blank who Paul was. Sam had said that he was a bully he had known, he hadn’t been quite ready to admit to Toby the exact nature of that particular relationship. Sam had a sneaking suspicion that Toby knew already, but Toby had just nodded and told him if he needed to talk that he was there. Sam had been shocked into silence, his gruff boss thought of him as a friend. It made him feel worth something.

Then there was Josh. Josh had been a godsend, not quite hovering, but always there for him to lean on. Sam hadn’t known what he would’ve done if Josh hadn’t been there. Sam hugged Josh to him.

Josh rubbed Sam’s stomach. “Sure you ‘kay?”

Sam smiled. “Yeah.”

“Good.”

“Everything’s fine.” Sam closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep, safe and secure in Josh’s arms.

Fini

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