Title: Josh follows Sam
Author: Jackie Thomas
Date: May 2001
Category: Josh/Sam
Rating: PG 13
Email: jackiethomas73@hotmail.com Feedback appreciated.
Archive: All yours
Disclaimer: All theirs
Spoilers: Post-ep for In Excelsis Deo, so everything up until then.
Summary: Josh hits head. Hits his head on something hard.

Josh follows Sam by Jackie Thomas

Josh: Here’s one.

Mandy: One what?

Josh: A book which if I was stuck with it on a desert island, I still wouldn't read, "The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California”. I believe I would eat this book before I read it.

After the carols Josh followed Sam.

He caught up with him on the way to his office. Sam had picked up a file from one of the assistants and was reading and walking.

“Sam, I wanted to apologise about what happened with Laurie.”

Sam glanced at him. “Forget it, you already apologised to her.”

“I know, but I’ve got a big mouth and she’s your friend.”

Sam looked up from the file as they entered his office. “Really, forget it. I should have guessed it would turn out that way.” He answered Josh’s questioning look. “You’re a passionate guy Josh. And Laurie…” he frowned. “Well Laurie…isn’t one to take any nonsense from anybody.” He sat at his desk and watched Josh lingering in the doorway.

“Voice of experience?” Josh asked.

Sam took off his glasses, apparently to better focus on him. An unconscious mannerism Josh was inordinately fond of. “I offered her ten thousand dollars not to go home with Carl Everett after the state dinner.”

Josh winced on Sam’s behalf. “Good move.”

“I thought so,” Sam said with a self-deprecating smile.

Josh started to leave. “So we’re okay?”

“We’re okay. In fact, just let me know, I’m available for any further Keystone Koppery that you might be planning.”

“Really? Because I have a ladder and a large pane of glass that I need to move…” Josh paused. There hadn’t been a moment these last few weeks. “Look Sam, are you okay lately?”

Sam picked up his messages from the desk. “Yup,” he said evasively.

“Because you haven’t seemed…since this thing with Laurie.”

“There’s no thing Josh, really.” Sam stared at Josh for a moment and abruptly changed the subject. “What are you doing over Christmas?”

“I’ll be here.”

“Come to Bermuda with me.”

Josh blinked. “Seriously?”

“Absolutely. I was just going to use a friend’s place on the beach and get some work done. You should come. Get some sun.”

Which was how, with last minute flight booked, bag hastily packed they came to arrive in Bermuda late in the evening at the start of the worst storm the islands had seen in decades.

After a bumpy landing they took a taxi to the house, the wind rifling through the palms along the way and dashing rain against the windscreen. Although they had the use of Sam’s friend’s car they abandoned any plans to pick up supplies or go for dinner as the taxi driver warned that the storm was going to make travelling around the island impossible in the next couple of hours.

Inside, the power was down and they were without light, heat, phone or practically anything else. Plus the house was shaking. Sam found a torch and shone it round the room, a small living/dining/kitchen area. Two doors led to a bedroom and a bathroom. A backdoor in the kitchen area led out to a porch and the beach. He pointed the torch speculatively at an open fireplace, logs piled up at the side.

“I’m going to build a fire,” he said.

“You want a hand?”

“No thanks.”

“Don’t hurt yourself.”

“Okay.”

Josh was soaked through and blown inside out just from the short trip from the taxi to the house. Sam, on the other hand, looked like he’d stepped out of the pages of In-Style Magazine. Josh wasn’t supposed to notice things like that though. He headed into the bedroom with the bags.

By the time he had dried off and put on jeans and a sweatshirt Sam had got a large and furiously roaring fire going. It had cast the room in orange and flickering shadows and was beginning to take the edge off the cold. Sam was standing looking thoughtfully up at a skylight that was rattling violently.

Josh took the torch out of his hand and started going through the kitchen cupboards. He found nothing edible but an elderly box of cornflakes.

“You know Sam if you were mad at me you could have just socked me, you didn’t have to go through this elaborate plan to kill me off.”

Sam didn’t take his eyes off the skylight. “Socked you? Aren’t you enjoying yourself?”

“I’m fine. Its just when you said it was going to be eighty three degrees I didn’t realise that was the angle the house was going to be at.”

Josh continued his search through the cupboards and suddenly things looked considerably brighter with the discovery of a very comprehensive selection of spirits. He sent a blessing to the god of getting-drunk-and-forgetting-about-it and picked a bottle of whisky. He poured generous glasses and handed one to Sam.

“What are you looking at?” he asked peering at where Sam was staring. Not seeing anything he wandered back for the cornflakes.

“I think this window’s going to blow in. Or out.”

Josh sprawled on the couch in front of the fire. “Well Sam, then don’t stand under it.”

“What would we do if the roof blew off?”

Josh shrugged. “Go and sleep in the car?”

“Seriously.”

“Seriously!”

“What I mean is, I’ve got no clue. My dad would know what to do, my grandpa would have known. They’d have got out there with a hammer and whatever and sorted it all out. How come I don’t know?”

Josh sat up to look at him and realised he was serious, “Because things change, Sam.”

“I suppose.”

“Please tell me you’re not feeling inadequate, because you know, you’ve done pretty well for yourself in life. And furthermore, we went to school for about fifty years between us, we’d figure something out. And furthermore, the roofs not going to blow away.” Though he wasn’t as sure of this last one as he sounded.

“It used to be clear though, didn’t it? You were a man so you did certain things, you protected your family, you earned the money, you fixed things that broke and people respected you, now nothings clear.”

“A good thing too, don’t you think? I mean you know this. You know there weren’t any choices then.” Josh warmed to the subject. “Not for the men being real men and not for anyone else.” But he knew there was more to this. “What’s going on anyway?”

“Nothing.” Sam shrugged and noticed the glass in his hand. He took a sip and looked over at Josh. “Because we’re supposed to have all this power but we can’t help high school seniors who get rocks thrown at their heads for being gay, we can’t help Leo, I can’t help Laurie and I can’t…”

Josh waited for the end of the sentence which never came and then said cautiously. “I wouldn’t worry about Laurie. There’s one that can look after herself.”

“Okay,” Sam replied despondently and looked up at the skylight again.

“Okay, now I get it. You’re feeling unmanned because you can’t stop her doing her night-job.”

Sam laughed at last. “I’m sorry, what am I feeling? I must have left my dictionary in the sixteenth century.”

Josh liked the way Sam would sometimes emphasise seemingly random words in his sentences. Liked that he could make him laugh so easily.

“I’m just saying. Just because you’re not James Capen Adams…”

“Wait…who?”

“Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California…”

“…Why?”

“Just because you’re not him it doesn’t make you any less of a man.” He wanted to tell Sam about all of the times when, despite his big opinionated mouth, he hadn’t known what to think or do without Sam’s good sense and counsel but he wasn’t up to that kind of disclosure, instead he said. “People respect you. Not because you’re a guy but because of the things you do.” Sam nodded but Josh still thought he had somehow missed the point. “So come here by the fire and have your whisky and cornflakes.”

“Right, the breakfast of champions.” Sam came over and took a handful of cornflakes from the box. “Yum,” he said and put down his glass to eat them. “I’m glad I had those peanuts on the plane otherwise I’d be really hungry by now. I’m going to change out of my suit.”

When he returned, also in jeans, he sat on the floor leaning against the couch and they watched the flames dancing against the breezes and listened to the storm and the sea rage outside. The wind was getting wilder, the rain battering the walls and roof was getting heavier and Josh began to feel that there was nothing else on the planet but this little house with the two of them in it.

A couple of hours passed and Josh threw the last of the wood on the fire and sat on the floor next to Sam to pour them another drink. Josh was drunk by then, had been for a while, and Sam had gone even more quiet and meditative which meant he was well on his way.

“Josh, do you think CJ thinks we’re a couple?” asked Sam suddenly and then obligingly thumped Josh’s back when he choked on his drink. “I mean I get the definite impression that she does.”

“What did she say?” Josh asked nervously.

“Nothing much just, you know, ‘what are you and Josh doing tonight?’ that kind of thing. Like she assumes we’re always together.”

Josh relaxed a bit. “Nah, she just knows we don’t have any other friends left.”

“You think?”

“Yeah, I think.”

Sam upturned the cornflakes box and found it was empty. “Because if that kind of rumour got out…”

“Bartlet would lose the Pool and Patio vote and I’d never get to be president.” Josh knew this.

“Plus Toby would have a coronary.” They both took a moment to fully picture Toby’s face if he heard such a rumour.

Josh looked into his whisky to avoid looking at Sam. “Sam, your reputation was pretty much secured after you made a pass at Leo’s wife at the fundraiser. Then there was Laurie, which, like, everyone knows about now.”

Josh laid his head back and closed his eyes. He thought about his own far murkier reputation, the disastrous affair with Mandy, his failure to take a hint from Donna. He thought of all the men he never told his name to and he knew the others wondered about him. He noticed Sam’s hand was on his arm.

“Its not that I mind Josh,” he said, so gently that Josh was almost undone. “That’s not how I meant it.”

Josh didn’t reply. He knew that Sam wondered about him as well but this was as close as he had ever got to raising the subject. And sometimes, like now, it was all Josh could do to stop himself from unfolding his entire soul for Sam’s inspection. Sam, who would probably not even blink, who would say he’d pretty much figured it out anyway. Sam, whose instincts were to protect (which was what this whole Laurie thing was really about after all) would love him despite it and because of it.

He trusted Sam, no question, but he’d never do it. The habit of secrecy was too ingrained, the risk to everything he wanted for himself too great. Sometimes, on his worst days, he was a grizzly bear hunter of the basest kind and he would not go hunting with something holding him back. He wouldn’t allow it, not now he had come so far.

Not even to Sam. Actually, especially not Sam because once he started who knows what he would end up declaring?

“That was a good fire,” he said. His eyes were still closed and he began to feel the chill as the fire died away.

“Yeah. I should get some more wood.”

“Stand outside for long enough I’m sure a tree will come flying by.”

“There’s a big bin out back full of stuff to burn.”

“Or, you could do it that way,” Josh said. “Anyway, I’ll go.” Not convinced he was able to move.

“S’okay, I’ll go,” Sam said not moving either. “In a minute.”

There had been something close to disappointment in Sam’s voice during this not too subtle subject change and Josh felt guilty.

“Sam,” he said, opening his eyes and concentrating on the crackling of the fire.

“Yup?”

“What I meant to say earlier when I wasn’t drunk…”

“Its okay.”

“What I wanted to say...”

“I was just having a thing, I’m all right now.”

“…was that lots of people rely on you. I mean you’ve bailed me out about a million times. And I don’t know what the hell’s been eating you lately but I know you’ll do the right thing. You always know the right thing to do.” Sam looked over at him unconvinced and with the intense expression of someone more drunk than they were prepared to admit. He was so sweet looking that Josh smiled. “I mean you’re like Yoda. Or the Dalai Lama.” Sam snorted with laughter and put his hand on Josh’s shoulder to pull himself up.

“I’m going outside.”

Josh got up too. “Okay, sounds like a job for the Keystone Kops. Lets go.” Swaying slightly he joined Sam by the back door.

They stood for a while, listening to the roar of the storm outside, putting off the moment.

“Grizzly Adams!” Sam said suddenly.

“What?”

“Grizzly Adams.”

“Stop saying that.”

“No, James Capen Adams was Grizzly Adams.”

“Uh, you mean beardy guy on TV? Wore wild animals as hats, bears were his friends?”

“Exactly.”

“No kidding?”

“Seriously. He tamed bears for PT Barnum and there was this one bear that knocked a huge hole in his skull. But he carried on doing the bear taming thing with this big furry hat on until he just died of it.”

Josh stared at him. “Where do you get this stuff?”

Sam shrugged. “I think I read a book.”

“Man, I should have known. So okay, what would James Capen Adams do now?”

“He would have gone outside right now and torn down some branches with his bare hands.” They looked out of the kitchen window and saw a broken cardboard box flap by like a giant bird. “Oh yes.”

Sam pushed open the door and they were instantly pelted with rain and almost blown backwards. They struggled out of the house and, making it to the woodbin, Josh held the lid up while Sam gathered as much as he could hold. Then Sam shouldered it open for Josh to pull out some more.

But on the way back to the house a thing came out of nowhere and hit Josh in the head. Something hard and sharp propelled by the wind. He slipped and fell scattering everything he was carrying and the next thing he knew Sam was by his side yelling his name.

“I’m okay,” he said letting Sam help him up and get him inside slamming the door shut behind them. Josh stood in the middle of the kitchen holding the side of his head, slightly dazed. “Fuck that hurt. Was that the roof really falling in?”

“I think it was someone else’s roof actually. Josh, let me see,” Sam pulled Josh’s hand away from his head and examined it carefully. “You were out for a few seconds you know. Damn, its cut. It’s bleeding a bit,” he grabbed a hand towel and gave it to Josh to hold to the cut. “You should put some ice on it. Except there isn’t any ice.”

“Its fine,” Josh said, but his head began to hurt and he put his hand against the wall for support. “I’m going to change.” He had fallen on his back and was wet through all over again.

He went into the bedroom and, finding his way in the darkness, crouched to open his bag on the floor. He suddenly began to shiver and fight waves of nausea. He looked into the bag and couldn’t remember what he wanted from it, forgot why he was holding a towel. He continued to gaze into the bag until he heard Sam’s voice through the buzzing in his head. He seemed very far away.

“What?” he asked, not understanding what Sam had said.

Then he felt Sam’s hands gripping his shoulders and guiding him to sit on the bed. But he was sure he needed something from the bag. He was so cold he couldn’t stop himself shivering.

Then there was a dizzying upheaval involving Sam’s hands and his clothes, at the end of which he was wearing dry clothes and was very nearly unconscious again. Finally a blanket was put round his shoulders and he was engulfed in, what even he could tell, was a very anxious hug.

There’s always an upside.

Sam held him until the latest waves of nausea subsided, saying reassuring things in a panic-stricken voice. Then they were standing again, on several of their feet.

“I’m going to get the fire going,” Sam said. “And you have to get warm and, if possible, not have a life-threatening brain injury. Okay.”

“Okay...What?”

Then he accidentally fell asleep against Sam’s shoulder on the way to the couch and woke up to an urgent instruction. “Josh you have to wake up.”

He found himself on the couch staring into Sam’s eyes. Very blue. He suddenly remembered something he had meant to say before.

“I do love you Sam. I’d like to keep you in my pocket.” He squinted as the very blue eyes momentarily widened. “You know you have beautiful eyes but you should put your glasses on, you’re all blurred.”

“Right, that’s it,” said Sam in his coming-to-a-decision voice. “Josh we’re getting in the car.”

“Road trip?”

“Yes.” .

“Can I drive?”

“No.”

Sam vanished then and reappeared with his coat on, car keys in hand and they were up again. Sam held him tightly as they negotiated the front door and the windswept trip to the car.

He never knew how but the next thing he was laying in the back of Sam’s friend’s car, covered in the blanket and strapped in by seatbelts through some ingenious Sam Seaborn design. His hair was wet again from the latest walk in the rain and the Ave Maria played gently somewhere nearby. Again that urgent voice pulled him away from the darkness.

“Stay with me Josh, please. You’re going to be fine but you have to stay awake.” Sam had been leaning back from the driver’s seat, stroking Josh’s hair. “You can’t go to sleep. Do you understand?”

“Absolutely. No sleeping,” he assured him closing his eyes and wondering how he could get Sam to touch him again.

“Josh, I’m serious, speak to me.”

A wave of irritation as a motor started far away. “If I can stay awake through the Hilton Head speech I can…”

 

He was in a bed, the sun was flooding in through a window just behind him and his head really hurt. It was a white painted room, a hospital room and the instinctive panic that rose from not knowing how he came to be there vanished as he saw that Sam was with him. Sam was asleep, he was on a chair drawn close to the bed, his head resting on his arms on the sheets next to Josh’s hand. Josh gently ruffled the short dark hair and he was soon awake.

“Hi,” Josh said questioningly.

“How do you feel?”

“What the hell happened?” He was getting the full force of Sam’s concerned face and it was unnerving him.

“You don’t remember?”

After a pause to dredge through fractions of memories he said. “We went to Bermuda, right?” Out loud it sounded like a hallucination but Sam was nodding, relieved, “and we went out in the storm?”

“Good, yes. Then there was a thing. Some kind of flying piece of thing. Knocked you out.”

He put a hand to his head and felt a dressing there and maybe a stitch underneath. “Sam?”

“You’re fine. Really. I mean they said you probably would be but they’re going to check you out some more. It wouldn’t have looked so bad if you could hold your drink at all.”

“No one drilled a hole in my skull did they?” he asked feeling around for drill holes.

“Nah, it was concussion is all.”

“Concussion? Obviously. My Christmas with Sam Seaborn.”

“Don’t worry,” Sam said reassuringly. “I’m always having concussion, you just keep passing out for a few days and then you’re fine.”

“Yeah, but your skull’s probably a lot harder than mine from all those things you bump into every five minutes.” He smiled at him affectionately and then sighed. “Remind me again why we went outside in a hurricane?”

Sam leaned over and pressed a call button by Josh’s bed. “Uh, it was something do with James Capen Adams.”

“Oh okay…who?”

 

Later, in the early afternoon, when Josh was discharged he found Sam in the cafeteria staring into a cup of coffee. He slid into the seat opposite him and rested his forehead on the table.

“How did it go?” Sam asked.

His head hurt, he was dizzy when he stood up, he felt sick and he kept thinking about Grizzly Adams and he didn’t know why. “Fine. I’m fine.”

Sam didn’t reply. Josh guessed he was tired too but his mood seemed to have slipped again.

Josh lifted his head to look at him. “So they kept asking me to name the president of the United States. That’s pretty funny huh?”

Sam gave him a look. “You want something to eat?”

“Nah,” Josh put his head down again. It didn’t help. Eventually he sat up and had a drink of Sam’s coffee. With the coffee gone Sam began staring at the table until Josh got worried.

“So, the roof fell in and you knew what to do. I knew you would.” Josh ventured. He was actually beginning to piece together parts of what had happened. “I mean you drove me through that storm.”

“I know, with half a bottle of whisky in my system when there was nothing wrong with you. I’m trying not to think about it.”

Josh was surprised at the response. “From what the doctors told me about the state I was in I could easily have been dying.”

“I thought you were. I thought you were dying.” Sam said quietly.

“Sam. Thank you,” he said, quietly too. And Sam looked up and met his gaze for the first time and then looked quickly away. Josh watched him. “Sam, are you ever going to tell me what’s wrong?” He heard an impatient inflection in his own voice. The doctor had told him that he might experience irritability, so what else was new.

“Nothing’s wrong,” came the automatic response.

“Sam, come on. This is me.”

“I know. I mean. Don’t.” Sam’s eyes darted toward the door as if he were looking for an escape route.

Then he smiled, a small apologetic smile, one of his more devastating slightly crooked ones. “Put your head on the table a while longer,” he said sympathetically. “I’m going to find the car. I don’t know what I... I don’t think I parked it so much as abandoned it.”

And for the first time Josh thought he might have something to do with Sam’s recent melancholy. So he put his head on the table and told himself not to ask again. Then Sam absentmindedly ruffled Josh’s hair before going off to find the car. Josh didn’t understand anything.

 

The island, as they drove across it, was pretty and tranquil and bathed in warm sunshine with hardly a sign of the drama of the night before. The house too, seemed to have survived more or less in tact, looking unmoved and somehow stately even with its peeling white paint and bougainvillea climbing unchecked across the walls. Sam insisted on dropping Josh off before going to look for a store that was open to find supplies.

Josh couldn’t do anything else but cross to the bedroom, change into a T-shirt and shorts and go to bed. He was very soon asleep but woke again a couple of hours later to the sound of Sam by the bed.

“Are you okay?” Sam whispered, a hand on his shoulder.

“Sure. What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Go back to sleep, I’m just getting some stuff.” But Josh knew he was checking on him and he suddenly felt safer than he had in years.

Then Josh realised there was just one bed and he started to get out of it, he figured it was Sam’s turn for a decent sleep. “Where are you going?” Sam asked when he picked up a blanket to take to the couch with him.

“You take the bed Sam, you must be...”

“No, no.” Sam said, pushing him gently back in and straightening the sheets. Josh didn’t have enough fight in him to resist.

He was almost asleep again when he said. “Why don’t you just get in?” Sam was silent. “I’ll never tell.” He turned himself to face the edge of the bed and felt it dip as Sam sat down on the other side.

“I don’t know Josh. I don’t think James Capen Adams would approve.”

“Well, I don’t think this guy should be your role model anymore,” Josh murmured before falling deeply asleep.

When he next woke the shadows had travelled to the other side of the room. Attempts to move brought waves of pain; in his head and in his back, now nicely bruised. On the other hand, staying still brought a rare sense of peace, the sort that comes with having nowhere to be and nothing to do. It was completed by the wonderful, surprising sensation of having Sam inches away from him sleeping. So he closed his eyes, stayed still and listened to Sam breathing.

“Josh, are you awake?” He wasn’t sure whether he had been or not but he was content enough to open his eyes and find Sam looking across at him from the next pillow, hair very nearly mussed, in the grey T-shirt he sometimes worked out in, those eyes warm but troubled. They smiled at each other, shy smiles.

“Hey,” said Josh.

“They said I had to wake you every few hours to make sure you… well to make sure you don’t get enough sleep.”

“Thanks Sam.”

Josh watched Sam’s expression cloud over. “I have to tell you something,” he said, suddenly sitting up.

“Okay.” At last.

“Remember you told me that if I had something on my mind it was generally best to talk to you or Toby or someone…well someone that I actually know.”

“Sam?”

“Well I think you ought to know that I may have…”

“…confided something unwise in a…”

“…total stranger, yes.”

“Do you want to tell me what and to whom? Bearing in mind my head’s exploded once already in the last 24 hours.”

Josh found himself the subject of an intense scrutiny before Sam finally started speaking. “It was at the hospital last night,” he said softly. “They were ages with you. Like I said, I believed that you were probably going to die and it was probably my fault and there was this woman who was sheltering from the storm in the waiting room. She brought me some tea because I was kind of scared…”

This was so much already that Josh pulled Sam’s head down and kissed his forehead. Sam stared at him for a moment afterwards and then started speaking again.

“…and she was sort of old and you know how old ladies like me…and well I may have told her that I was in love with you. In fact I did…tell her.” He paused and then carried on at an increasing pace. “I think its probably okay because she didn’t know who I was and anyway I have a feeling she was German and didn’t speak English but... yeah. Say something.”

Josh, blinking in amazement, needed clarification. “Why did you tell a German lady you were in love with me?”

“She may have been Austrian.”

“Sam…!”

“Because I am. I am in love with you. I wasn’t sure but then the whole thing with Laurie and I was sure. I wouldn’t have mentioned it but when you suffered a severe blow to the head you wanted me in your pocket. Which I think counts.”

Josh had been listening to Sam’s multi-layered confession and somewhere in the middle of it he had sat up too, ignoring the fire alarms that the sudden movement set off in his head.

“Christ,” he said, in pure astonishment as the room somersaulted in front of his eyes. “I am too...I mean… Sam, I am...Wait, I’m doing Dr Seuss, start again.” He felt a steadying hand on his arm and closed his eyes a moment. When he could open them again he found Sam’s unblinking gaze on him. He decided that this was a scene too similar to some of his more wistful daydreams to be real, clearly something that might happen to you after you cracked your head. So there wasn’t any reason why he shouldn’t be honest.

“Its been so long now Sam I wouldn’t know how not to love you.”

Then still not believing it he found himself kissed by Sam Seaborn. A quick experiment but deep enough to mean something. Then he knew he wasn’t dreaming because in the dreams Sam hadn’t tasted of something like honey and smelt warm like sleep.

“I guess I knew,” Sam said thoughtfully. “I guess I knew it.”

Josh searched Sam’s eyes for regret or confusion, and for the first time in weeks he found neither but still asked. “Sam, are you sure about this?”

“Josh. Totally,” he answered without hesitation.

“Because, aren’t you, you know, straight?”

“It’s not looking that way about now, is it?”

Well, that didn’t suck.

But he pursued the point anyway because good stuff like this didn’t happen. “Because its okay not to be sure. I mean this is… You should take some time and figure things out.” He was trying to be serious but Sam was twinkling at him irresistibly and he found himself grinning right back. “Y’know, send me a memo, discuss it at Senior Staff…” and he was shut up and nearly knocked over by Sam’s mouth on his, hard and urgent, an arm around him, a hand through his hair. The world turned upside down, the world beginning to go blotchy. He dropped his head onto Sam’s shoulder. “Okay, passing out now.”

Sam cradled his head for a moment, kissed it briefly, kissed it for longer and then gently laid him back down on the pillow. “All right?” a look so loving he began to shiver, a finger tracing the line of his cheekbone, another gentler kiss. Josh held onto consciousness because he didn’t want to miss this. “Go to sleep Josh, I love you.”

Josh reached out and pulled Sam to him and wrapped his arms around him, Sam found a place against his shoulder and settled his head there. It couldn’t be this easy.

“It can’t be this easy.”

“Hush, don’t think.”

Something occurred to him. “What exactly did I say after I got dinged?”

“You said I had beautiful eyes,” Sam said happily.

“Nothing too cheesy or embarrassing then?”

“Nah, just standard deputy to deputy stuff.”

“Sam.”

“Yeah?”

“You do, in fact, have beautiful eyes.”

“Go to sleep Josh, I love you.”

Through the remainder of the day and the following night Sam slept within Josh’s embrace, as easily as if this were how they always slept. Each time Josh woke, Sam was there and he held him a little tighter to prove to himself it wasn’t a side effect.

The last time that Josh woke it was morning again and Sam wasn’t there anymore. Josh’s head was clearer now.

He found Sam out on the porch. A far less threatening place than before. A sand-strewn extension of the beach looking out on a wide and calm blue ocean. It was early but the sun had already lit the landscape as prettily as a watercolour. Sam had swept up the debris from the storm and everything seemed as clean as a newly painted room.

He was sitting sideways on the step leading down to the beach, leaning back against the railing, working on his laptop a coffee mug by his side. He was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt under a black sweater; he took Josh’s breath away. Josh wandered out onto the deserted beach to take in the warm, fresh breeze and then back to sit on the step along from Sam.

“What are you working on?”

“Toby’s latest draft of the State of the Union.”

“What state is it in?”

Sam put aside the laptop and looked at him over his glasses. “It’s okay, I guess.”

“Toby’s getting minimal.”

Sam laughed, a small and preoccupied laugh. “How’s your head?” he asked.

Josh looked out to sea. “That’s the last time I go drinking with you. I can’t take the pace.”

“Are you going to be ready to head back today?”

“Sure.”

“Because I spoke to Leo and he said to take an extra day if we needed to.”

“I’m good.”

“Okay.” They looked at each other for a long time not speaking.

“Sam,” Josh began. There was a conversation that they had to have now and he didn’t know if he could start it. But Sam was always strong enough.

“I know what you’re going to say.” He watched Sam take off his glasses and focus on him his extraordinarily steady gaze. His own gaze dropped.

“Sam. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Sam said quickly, still amazingly wanting to help him. “Its my fault I shouldn’t have said anything. I’ve screwed everything up.” He was getting upset.

“Hey, don’t do that,” Josh reprimanded gently. “Me and the nice German lady, we needed to know. But Sam, that thing that didn’t happen last night…”

“It can’t not happen again. I know.”

“All my life…” he wanted to explain how his life had been for all these years and not sound like he was making an excuse for being a coward. He couldn’t. “I can’t take the risk. Not now.”

“I know, because of the Patio and Pool guys and the being President thing.”

And he realised suddenly that this was all there was to Josh Lyman now. An ambitious idiot with a big mouth about to throw it all away. Even when Sam was all he had ever really wanted when the long days ended, even when Sam stood quickly and walked all the way down to the sea, standing for a long time looking out. Josh hated the distance between them, hated that he was making it permanent.

He was an idiot with a big mouth but Sam always knew the right thing to do.

And in a matter of weeks Sam had fought and won all the battles that had defeated Josh for years. Josh, who couldn’t shake a dark image of himself as a ruthless hunter, filthy and bloody from the hunt, incapable of anything but perpetually tracking down his quarry. He didn’t know what to do so he did the thing that had served him best these past few years.

Josh followed Sam.

Josh followed Sam down to the sea. He took his hand in both of his and kissed it. He put his arms around him and promised him that he would find a way to be with him no matter if the storms raged and the roof fell in.

Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page