Title: Nightmares
Author: Perpetual Motion
Webpage: www.geocities.com/iwannabedonna
Category: Slash, Drama
Rating: PG
Pairing: Sam/Josh
Series: Beginning of the "Nightmares" storyline.
Spoilers: Very possibly everything, depending how my mind works.
Summary: Josh is having nightmares. Sam can't sleep.
Archive Instructions: If you've got the others, I hope you'll want this.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. I just borrow them, wrinkle them slightly, and let Aaron iron out the wrinkles.
Author's Notes: This was inevitable. Sam and Toby have their own series. Josh and Marbury have their own series. Sam and Josh need their own. Especially since the SamJosh muse won't quick poking me in the brain.

Nightmares by Perpetual Motion

“Josh."

Josh glanced up from his work. "Yeah, Sam?"

"Josh."

"Yeah, Sam?"

"Josh."

"*Yeah, Sam*?" Josh rubbed his eyes. "You okay?"

"Josh."

"What is it, Sam?"

Sam moved his hand away from his stomach. "Something's wrong."

Josh stared at the spot Sam's hand had covered. A dark red spot spread over Sam's incredibly white shirt. Blood. Sam was bleeding.

*

Josh awoke in bed, sweating and panting. He placed a palm on his chest and felt his heart thudding hard.

~God, I wish this dream would quit.~ Throwing the blankets off, Josh set his feet on the floor and stood up slowly. Padding down the hall he flipped on the light in the kitchen and reached for a glass from a cupboard. He turned on the facet and watched the glass fill with water.

He sipped slowly and attempted a few deep breaths, but it wasn't working. He'd been having the same dream every night for two weeks. He couldn't figure out why they were suddenly starting to come. Sam was safe. Josh was safe. Everyone was safe.

Except Mrs. Landingham.

Josh shoved that thought aside. He really didn't feel like hashing it out. ~I should see the shrink.~ That almost made him laugh. ~And I'm thinking this willingly.~ Sighing and groaning at the same time, Josh set the glass in the sink and walked back to bed. He slipped into his bed and tossed his pillow to the floor. It was sweaty and smelled like nightmares. He grabbed the extra on the other side of him and pretended to sleep.

*

Sam turned in bed, turned again, turned again, and fell off. He stared at the wood floor of his bedroom and came to the 3:00 am conclusion that his floor needed refinishing. ~I really need to get to sleep.~ He got up on his hands and knees, groaning as he stood up and flopped back onto the bed. ~I'm not an insomniac; I'm just not sleeping at all.~ He rolled over and pulled the sheets back over himself. ~I'm not going to go to sleep tonight.~ Groaning again, Sam reached for the phone beside his bed. ~Josh is going to kill me.~ He hit one on the speeddial and waited.

"Hello?" Josh sounded very much awake.

"Hey."

"Hey, Sam. Are you okay?"

Sam rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling.

"Can't sleep."

"Can't either."

"Why not?" Sam heard Josh shifting over the phone line. "Josh, what's wrong?"

"I keep having a nightmare." The words came out in a quick, tense tone.

"What kind of nightmare?"

"Just a nightmare."

Sam clenched his jaw a moment before speaking. "About the shooting?" ~God, I hate saying that.~

"Kind of."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

There was a lengthy pause on the other end of the phone. "They're about the shooting, but I'm not the one who was shot."

"Who's getting shot in your dream?"

"You."

Sam gaped for a moment. "Josh-I-" He stopped when he realized Josh had hung up the phone. He put his phone back on the cradle and stared up at the ceiling again. ~I'm definitely not getting any sleep tonight.~

*

Josh stared at the phone on the cradle and cursed himself. "Damnit. Why did I do that?" He rolled out of bed, stood up, and grabbed a pair of jeans that were flung over a chair. Pulling them on as he walked down the hall, he slipped his shoes on and opened the front door to step onto the stoop. He took a deep breath of slightly humid air and let it out slowly. ~Last time I was out here this late was when CJ and Toby and Donna and Sam stopped by. We kept joking about the cops coming by to nail us for breaking city ordinances for drinking beer on the stoop. Everyone was so relaxed. All the heavy stuff was out of the way. I was better. The guys who'd shot me were caught. Nothing was so horribly wrong that we couldn't laugh it off for the night.~

Closing his eyes and sitting on the top step, Josh pictured the night in his mind. CJ and Toby on one side, Donna and Sam on the other. Sam laughing and looking so relieved that Josh was going to heal all the way. ~At least physically.~ Sighing to himself, Josh opened his eyes.

"Hi, Josh."

Josh looked up, "Hi, Sam."

Part Two - The Thing

Sam sat on the stoop next to Josh and crossed his arms on his knees. "You hung up on me."

"Yeah."

"Why?"

"Don't know."

"No idea at all."

"Nope." Josh stared out at the street. "You got here fast."

"I'm six blocks away."

"Fast walk."

"I jogged."

"Oh."

Sam kept his eyes on Josh's profile. The other man looked haggard with bags under his eyes and deep lines around his mouth. The fingers on his left hand never stopped moving. "You look like hell."

"Thanks."

"You've looked like hell for a couple of weeks."

"Careful. I'm blushing."

"How long have you been having nightmares?"

Josh let out a long breath. "Most of my life."

"What?"

"I had nightmares about the fire for years. I've had nightmares about the shooting since it happened."

"You never told me."

"No."

"You were trying to protect me."

"Yes."

"I want to help."

"I know."

'You have to stop protecting me."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

Josh stared out at the street in silence.

"Is it because of the thing?"

"Which thing?"

"The thing where we're two important people in the world so we can't discuss the thing."

"Yes."

"You're protecting me because of the thing you feel for me."

"Yes."

"I feel the thing for you, too."

"I know."

Sam sighed. "I want to help, Josh."

"I know."

"But you're going to keep protecting me."

"Yes."

"I'm going to make you stop."

"No, you're not."

"Yes, I am." Sam leaned over and kissed Josh.

Chapter Three - Inside

For a half-second Josh sat stunned as Sam kissed him softly. He had momentary flashbacks of a much younger Sam kissing him just like this on a totally different stoop when it was okay they did things like kissing in public. No one knew them then. Everyone knew them now.

Josh pulled away, his hand on Sam's chest. "Sam, no."

"No?"

"No." Josh took his hand off Sam's chest and clenched it into a fist on his leg. "We can't do this."

"Why not?"

"Because we're in the public eye and we work for the President and this could ruin everything we've worked for."

Sam sighed and tapped his fingers on the step. "I know." He let his eyes roam over Josh's body. "But I wish I didn't."

"Sam-"

"I wish we could be like we were when we were just a couple of no-name aides on the hill."

"We can't."

"I know."

*

"Sam, we are in public."

"And?" Sam buried his face in Josh's neck and kissed the skin he could reach.

"We're in *public*."

"Who's going to see us?"

Josh had to admit Sam had a point. The bulb in front of his apartment building was out, as usual. He pulled Sam closer. "No one, but we're still in public and we work for powerful people."

"And we're never on any kind of camera. No one knows us, Josh. We can make out in public."

~When did he get so sure of himself?~ Josh kissed Sam quickly. "Let's go inside."

*

"What?"

Josh snapped out of his memory. "What?"

"You just said 'Let's move inside'."

"I did not."

"Did too."

"Did not."

"Did too." Sam touched Josh's leg. "I want to go inside. I want to lay next to you and hold you and keep you from having nightmares."

"You want to protect me."

"Yes."

"I don't need protection."

"You protect me, and I don't need it."

"Yes, you do."

"No, I don't. Josh, quit being strong. Let me hold on to you tonight."

Josh was ready to protest again. He locked eyes with Sam, prepared to kick him off the stoop. The words disappeared when he looked at Sam. There was a hurt, haunted look in Sam's eyes. ~He's been having nightmares, too.~ "Come inside, Sam"

Chapter Four - Trauma

Sam lay next to Josh , spooned behind him, one hand feeling the warmth of the other man's stomach. He moved closer, allowing his knees to touch the back of Josh's. ~He's here, and he's alive, and he's going to live a long, healthy life.~ Sam did his best to try and ignore the pessimistic voice in his head, but he failed. ~At least until the next Neo-Nazi jackass tries in the name of the Aryan brotherhood to finish what someone else didn't.~

Sam tightened his hold on Josh.

*

Josh felt Sam's arm tighten around him and let his fingers intertwine with the ones on his stomach. ~He's here. He'll never leave me. Not until he dies, but Sam will never die. People like Sam never die. They live forever to keep optimism and truth alive. They have to or we'll all be doomed.~

He turned over so he could be face to face with Sam. ~I love him. It's the easiest thing in the world to deal with right now. I love him.~

*

"Josh."

"Yeah, Sam?"

"Are you scared?"

"Of what?"

"Anything." Sam stared at Josh unblinkingly. "You never seem to be scared of anything."

"I'm scared."

"Of what?"

Josh swallowed hard. "I feel like I started a trend."

"A trend?"

"I got shot last year. This year Mrs. Landingham died in a car crash, and I'm scared of who's going to be next."

"You make it sound like you started a curse."

"I might have."

For a few seconds, Sam wasn't sure if he should smack Josh or just try to hold him closer. "God, Josh, don't believe that. Don't *ever* believe that. Your getting shot was not a curse. It was a couple of close-minded bastards who had been so brainwashed they were dead inside. Mrs. Landingham didn't die because of you. She died because some asshole wasn't smart enough to turn over his car keys. It's not you fault."

Josh hiccupped once and tears slid down his face. "If it's not my fault, then why do I keep having nightmares?"

"It's called trauma. I'll explain it in the morning." Sam kissed Josh delicately on the temple and pulled the other man closer. ~God, I know we haven't talked for awhile, but you know I have a standing prayer to keep Josh safe. Send me to hell for loving him if you must, but keep him safe. Amen.~

Chapter Five - Morning

“Wow, you look like hell.”

“And a bright, cheery good morning to you, Leo.” Josh managed to stifle a yawn as he unlocked his office door.

“You okay, Josh?”

“Fine, just couldn’t get to sleep last night. Kept having nightmares about the meeting with Mary Marsh.”

“Funny.”

“I try.” Josh let another yawn take over for a minute. “Why *do* I have a meeting with Mary Marsh, Leo? I thought my apology last year was enough to keep me away from her forever.”

Leo shrugged. “Al Caldwell called and asked for your personally. I wasn’t going to turn the man down.” “I like Al Caldwell.” “I do too.” “I think Mary Marsh is a raving lunatic.” Leo smiled slightly. “Me, too.” He watched Josh yawn again. “Get a cup of coffee and grab a nap. I want you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the raving lunatic.”

Josh grinned. “Okay.”

*

Sam looked up from his laptop when a very large cup of coffee was set on his desk. “Thanks, Cathy.”

“You’re welcome. You look exhausted.”

“Yeah.”

“Everything okay?” Sam smiled a little, enjoying the feel of being spoiled by his assistant. He liked Cathy. “Just had to help a friend last night.”

“Yeah, Josh looks exhausted, too.” Cathy waved off his slightly surprised expression. “He’s your best friend, Sam. If you lose sleep over anyone it’s going to be him.” She paused for a second. “And I found that letter on your computer when you had me looking for part of a speech to e-mail you.”

“Uh-“ Sam swallowed once and took off his glasses. “Cathy-“

“Sam, don’t ramble. I’m fine with it. You’d be cute together. Drink your coffee; you have a meeting in ten minutes.” Cathy left Sam’s office.

Sam drank his coffee.

Chapter Six - Four Minutes

Josh downed his third cup of coffee in twenty minutes and made a quick attempt to smooth down his hair. Mary Marsh was going to be in his office in four minutes.

~And then the fun can really begin.~ Josh smirked slightly. ~Maybe I can get a sniper to get a potato cannon and wait for my signal.~

"You're thinking something evil." Sam leaned against Josh's doorway and smiled slightly.

"Maybe."

"What are you planning to do to Mary Marsh?"

"Nothing that'll cause permanent damage."

"Meaning what?"

"Potato cannon."

Sam's smile got wider. "Very nice."

"Thank you." Josh straightened his desk and reached for his suit jacket.

"Josh, are we okay?"

"What?" Josh glanced at the clock. Two minutes to Mary Marsh. "What, Sam?"

"Are we okay?"

It clicked. "You mean after last night?"

"Yeah." Sam shuffled his feet a little. "Are we okay?"

Josh looked at Sam, all seriousness in his eyes. "We're fine. We're great."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Sam beamed and took a step closer to Josh. "Last night was-"

Donna burst into Josh's office. "*She's* here." Donna rolled her eyes. "And she's on a cell phone and won't shut up."

Josh grinned and looked at Sam. "Later."

"Okay." Sam smiled and left the office.

Josh turned to Donna and put a slightly maniacal leer on his face. "Donna, be a dear, send in the raving lunatic."

Chapter Seven - Mary Marsh

Josh put on what he hoped was a genuine smile as Mary Marsh burst into his office. She looked exactly the same; tallish with short brown hair ~And a six foot stick up her ass.~ "Hello, Mary."

"Josh."

~Wow, the snow bitch lives on.~ "What can I do for you?" Josh unsuccessfully smothered a yawn.

"Am I boring you?" Mary raised an eyebrow.

"My apologies. I had an insomnia attack last night. I'm afraid I'll be yawning again."

"It would be like you to be as rude as subtlety allowed."

~Certainly didn't learn it from you. New York sense of humor my ass.~ "What can I do for you, Mary? I was a little surprised to hear from you."

"I'm sure you were. I had actually planned to come and speak to you about the radio address."

"You sound like you changed your mind." ~Thank God.~

"I have." Mary reached into her bag. She pulled out a manila envelope and tossed it on Josh's desk. "I'd like to talk about those now."

Josh raised his eyebrows and opened the envelope. He tipped it over and a set of pictures landed on his desk. ~Shit.~ "What are these?"

"I think that's obvious."

Josh stared at the pictures. They were all shots of early that morning, on the stoop, when Sam kissed Josh. ~This is bad.~

Chapter Eight - Screwed

Josh picked up the pictures, his hands shaking slightly. "Where the fuck did you get these?"

"I don't appreciate language like that."

"Where the fuck did you get these?"

"I won't talk to you if you use language like that."

Josh jumped up from his desk and slammed is office door open so hard it bounced back and almost shut again. "Then get the fuck out."

Mary stood up, made an indignant huffing noise, and stormed from Josh's office. She jumped when the door slammed behind her. ~Bastard.~

Josh sat behind his desk and flipped through the pictures. He and Sam on the stoop. Sam arguing with him while staring out at the street. The two of them kissing. Sam's hand on his leg. Josh's hand halfway to wrap its fingers in Sam's hair. Josh pulling way, half-confused, half-content.

Reaching over, Josh hit the intercom button on his phone. "Donna, get Sam in my office."

"Okay."

Josh tossed the pictures back onto his desk and leaned back in his chair. He rubbed his eyes tiredly. ~I have enough nightmares at night. I don't need Mary Marsh.~

"What's wrong?" Sam closed Josh's office door. "What'd Mary Marsh do?"

"Took pictures." Josh gestured to his desk.

Sam picked them up, his eyes widening as he flipped through them. "Where the hell did she get these?"

"I don't know."

"She wouldn't gloat?"

"Not when I started cursing." Josh groaned as someone knocked on his office door. "Sam."

Sam stuck the pictures back in the envelope and handed it to Josh. "Here."

"Thank you. Come in."

Leo opened Josh's office door. He had a manila envelope in one hand, and he looked slightly pale. "Could I speak to both of you *now*." I wasn't a request.

Josh and Sam shared a look. Sam's eyes showed exactly what Josh was thinking. ~We're screwed.~

Chapter Nine - These

Josh swallowed hard and glanced at Sam. The other man looked clam, but Josh could see his hands shaking. "Good morning, Leo."

Leo stepped into Josh's office and closed the door very quietly. "Good morning, Gentlemen. What the hell are these?" Leo held up the envelope in his hand.

"Probably the same thing as these." Josh pulled his envelope from the desk. "How'd you get yours?"

"It was sitting on my desk this morning with my name printed on it." Leo clenched his jaw. "What the hell are these?"

"Mary Marsh's extra revenge. Otherwise known as a scandal." Josh rubbed a hand over his eyes. "We didn't know there was a bastard taking pictures, Leo."

"There's always a bastard taking pictures, Josh!" Leo's voice rose. "And this time Mary Marsh was paying him.!"

"How many copies are there?" Sam's voice cut through the tension.

Leo zeroed in on Sam. "What?"

"How many copies of them are out there? How many copies do we have to explain? Which people have those copies?" Sam ticked off his questions in rapid fire. "Don't start yelling at Josh, Leo. It's not his fault. I kissed him. He pulled away and said no."

~Sam protecting Josh. That's a shock.~ Leo's voice was sarcastic in his own head. "He said no."

"Yeah."

"You said no?"

Josh nodded. "Yeah."

"Then how come there are pictures in there of the two of you going into the house?"

"I tucked him in."

Leo blinked. "Excuse me?"

"I tucked him in."

"Did you give him a teddy bear, too?"

"No."

"Did you two do anything last night?"

"We slept." Sam's tone was getting short.

Leo ignored the tone and turned back to Josh. "Did you do anything last night, Josh?"

Josh could hear his heart pounding in his ears. He saw Leo's lips move, but he couldn't make out what was being said. He opened his mouth to ask Leo to repeat himself, but before he could, he felt himself start to pass out. ~These things are going to drive me nuts.~

Chapter Ten - What Else?

Sam glanced at Josh when Leo asked his question. He noticed Josh getting very pale. "Josh, are you okay?" He watched with his heart pounding as Josh slumped to the floor. "Josh!" Sam hurried around the desk and kneeled next to Josh, not noticing how hard his knees hit the carpet. "Josh!"

Leo felt his throat constrict at the sight. Sam looked scared to hell. Josh just looked bad. "I'll go find Abby." He hurried out of the office. He knew Abby was around; she had flown in from California the night before. He went to the Oval Office first.

"Charlie, is the First Lady in there?"

"Yeah, Leo."

"Is it safe to go in there?"

"Should be."

Leo walked in, clearing his throat to get the attention of the President and Abby. "Josh just passed out in his office." Leo watched as they both stiffened up. "Sam's with him, but I need you to look at him, Abby."

"Okay." She glanced at Jed. "I bet he's fine. I'm going to get my bag from the residence." Abby left.

Jed gave Leo a long, hard look. "What else?"

Leo bit the inside of his cheek for a second. "Do you want to know?"

"Is it going to screw us?"

"Like a drill."

"Tell me."

"There are pictures of Sam and Josh in a compromising position."

The President pinched the bridge of his nose. "Compromising?"

"There are pictures of Sam and Josh kissing on the stoop of Josh's place."

"What else?"

"Josh got the pictures from Mary Marsh."

"Damn." The President rubbed his eyes. "I have to make a phone call."

"Okay. I'm going to go stand outside Josh's office." Leo left the Oval.

Chapter Eleven - Strong, Steady, Fine

Sam looked up when Josh's office door opened. ~Please, don't let anyone see Josh like this.~ He breathed a mental sigh of relief when Abby walked in.

"Hi, Sam."

"Hey." Sam watched her kneel on the floor. "He passed out. I don't think he hit his head except when he fell on the floor."

"Okay." Abby pulled her stethoscope out. "Why'd he pass out?"

~Because Mary Marsh wants nothing more than to screw him over.~ "He got stressed."

"Has he been sleeping?"

"He's been having nightmares." Sam blurted it out and squeezed his eyes shut after saying it.

"Bad nightmares?" Abby pulled a blood pressure cuff from her bag and strapped it around Josh's upper arm.

"Really bad."

"How many nights have you tucked him in?"

Sam's eyes snapped up from watching Josh's face. "What are you talking about?" He was wearing a perfect poker face.

"Sam, I was educated at Harvard. I'm not stupid." Abby watched the needle on the blood pressure cuff go down. "His heartbeat is strong. His pulse is steady, and his breathing is fine."

~Strong. Steady. Fine. Those are Josh descriptions. At least they were. They'll have to be my descriptions now.~ "He's going to be okay?"

"He needs more sleep." Abby snapped her bag closed. "I expect you to make sure he gets it."

"I will." Sam stroked a hand over Josh's hair.

"I'll go get him a cot. Leo's waiting outside to speak to the both of you again." Abby stood up and watched Sam shift until Josh's head was resting on his thighs. "He'll be fine, Sam." ~I know you'll make sure of it.~

"I know. Thanks, Abby."

"You're welcome."

Chapter Twelve - Scarred

Josh groaned softly as he opened his eyes. His head hurt. It hurt a lot. The lights were off, thankfully, and he turned his head carefully. Sam as leaning against the edge of whatever he was laying on. "Sam."

Sam jerked and whipped his head around to see Josh trying to sit up. "Hi."

"When did I get on a cot?" Josh stooped trying to sit up and settled for resting on his elbows.

"Abby brought it in after you passed out."

"Passing out I remember."

Sam stood up and sat on the edge of the cot. "I told Abby about the nightmares."

"Why?"

"Because I needed to tell someone. I needed advice. I usually go to you for advice."

"But I'm going crazy again, so I wasn't an option."

"You're not going crazy." Sam's voice was tight. "You've never *been* crazy. It was Post-Traumatic Stress. You were shot; PTS is a normal reaction. I can't figure out how I never saw it."

"Sam, *I* never saw it."

"But you're not supposed to, Josh. When you don't notice, I'm supposed to. I didn't notice." Sam reached out a hand and pressed it to Josh's shirt, right over the scar. "I didn't notice."

Josh pulled Sam's hand away from his chest and kissed his palm. "Neither did I." He sighed and pulled Sam to him in a tight hug. "I guess we're both scarred."

Sam nuzzled against Josh's neck. His voice was a breath against Josh's skin. "Yeah."

~We'll get through this, Sam. You, me, and half the world if those pictures end up in public.~ Josh hugged Sam harder.

Chapter Thirteen - Stress

‘Can I go in yet? Leo glanced at Josh’s closed office door and back at Abby.

‘No. Josh needs time to wake up and reorient himself. You are to stay out.’ Abby saw Leo about to glare at her. ‘Make that face at me, and I’ll choke you with the blood pressure cuff.’

Leo stopped midway into a very good glare. ‘Abby, I need to talk to him.’

‘And you will wait to do so. He’s nearly exhausted. Let him rest.’

‘You know exactly what’s going on.’

‘Yes.’

‘How?

‘I’m pretty observant, Leo. I’m a doctor.’

‘That would explain the bag.’

Abby sighed. ‘He’s fine, Leo. He’s very tired and needs some downtime, but he’s fine. He’s not even going to have a big bump on the back of his head.’

‘I feel like I made him pass out.’

‘Don’t get egotistical; your evil powers aren’t that good. His body needs rest to deal with any large amount of stress. When the stress levels got slightly too high his body said ‘screw it. Knees, give out’, and he passed out. If you hadn’t raised the stress level, someone or something else would have. You do work in the White House.’

Leo grinned and some of the worry left his face. ‘Thanks, Abby.’

‘You’re welcome. Stay out here for a few more minutes, and when you go in, knock. I’m going to go calm down my husband.’

Leo just nodded and watched her walk off.

Chapter Fourteen - One of His

Leo counted backwards from one hundred four times in his head before he knocked on Josh’s office door and opened it to slip inside. ‘You guys okay? He kept his voice low.

Josh looked up from rubbing Sam’s back. ‘We’re scarred.’

‘What?

‘Nothing.’

‘He okay? Leo watched Sam shudder slightly.

‘He’s crying.’

‘I’ll leave.’

‘We have to talk about this, Leo.’

Leo nodded. ‘We will. Calm him down.’ Leo left and grabbed Donna’s arm as she walked by. ‘Josh and Sam are in the middle of something important. Keep everyone out of there.’

Donna nodded. ‘Okay.’

‘Okay.’ Leo let her go and turned to walk to the Oval Office. He nodded to Charlie. ‘He free?

‘For a few minutes.’ Charlie sorted a few files. ‘He’s got a meeting with budget in ten.’

‘I’ll be done by then.’ Leo let himself in.

The President looked up from paperwork. ‘How’s Josh?

‘Didn’t Abby talk to you?

‘Yeah, but she’s only a doctor, and you just saw him.’

‘He’s fine, but Sam’s crying.’

‘Sam’s crying?

‘Yeah.’

The President raised his eyebrows. ‘Why?

‘Don’t know. I was out of the room.’ Leo sighed. ‘We’ve got to do something.’

‘I’m going to make a phone call.’

‘I thought you did.’

‘Didn’t get the chance.’

‘Ah. Who you calling?

‘Al Caldwell.’

‘No.’ Leo bit out the word. ‘This isn’t him.’

‘But it’s one of his.’

‘Mr. President-’

‘I get judged by those who stand next to me. So will he.’

Leo gritted his teeth. ‘Be careful, Mr. President. We don’t need Mary Marsh any more rabid than she already is.’

‘Fine.’ The President checked his watch. ‘I have budget.’

‘Yeah.’ Leo sighed. ‘I’ll go.’

‘Okay.’

Chapter Fifteen - Three Easy Steps

The President glared at his phone and paced. “Charlie!”

Charlie walked into the office. “Yes, Sir?”

“What’s my schedule right now?”

“You have budget in five minutes.”

“Push it back. Make sure I’m left alone.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows but decided not to push his luck. “Yes, Sir. Anything else?”

“Get out.” The President picked up the phone and dialed, barely noticing the door closing behind Charlie.

“Al Caldwell.”

“Reverend, this is the President. You have a minute.”

“That sounds like a statement, Sir.”

“It is.”

“Then I guess I have a minute.”

“Good. Fire Mary Marsh.”

There was a long pause over the phone line. “Excuse me, Mr. President?”

“You heard me. Fire Mary Marsh.”

“Why?”

“She caused one of my staffers to pass out from stress twenty minutes ago.”

“Mr. President, I’m afraid I don’t understand. Ms. Marsh has been in the office all morning, and no one from the White House has visited here today. No one from my office made anyone pass out today, Sir. At least not to my knowledge.”

The President white-knuckled his grip on the phone. ~I like you Al. I really do, but it’s one of yours.~ “Find Mary Marsh. Ask her what she did last night. Fire her. Three easy steps.”

“What did she do, Mr. President?”

“She attempted to ruin the lives of two of my staff. She did so by violating their privacy. Find her. Talk to her. Fire her. Take the steps, Al.”

Al sounded weary. “Yes, Sir, Mr. President.”

“I will be calling back, Al.”

“I’m sure you will, Sir.”

Chapter Sixteen - Only Thing

Josh sat back in his desk chair and closed his eyes for a second.

“You okay?” Sam’s voice was soft.

“I’m waiting for the Aspirin to kick in.” Josh opened his eyes and saw the worry indenting itself around Sam’s eyes. “Are you okay?”

“You scared the hell out of me.”

“I wasn’t planning to pass out today, but I’ll pencil it in next time.”

Sam almost smiled. “Don’t joke about it.”

“Sorry.”

They lapsed into silence, watching each other, content for just a moment to relax. When Sam broke the quiet, his voice was reluctant. “You know it’s not your fault, right?”

“What?”

“Everything that’s happened lately is not your fault. You didn’t give the President MS, you didn’t slam into Mrs. Landingham on Eighteenth and Potomac, and you didn’t start a trend when you were shot last year.”

“I think I’ve heard this.”

“It’s worth repeating.” Sam took a deep breath. “And you didn’t bring Mary Marsh down on us by kissing me last night.”

Josh finally managed a small smile. “That one I don’t have to be convinced of.”

“No?”

“No. It was the only thing I could do last night, Sam.”

“You tried to fight me off.”

“I’m a tease.”

Sam smiled. “Yeah.” He paused. “Why was kissing me the only thing you could do?”

“I had to make sure you were still okay.” Josh watched Sam’s eyes narrow.

“Josh, what happens to me in your nightmares?”

~Damnit. Should have kept my mouth shut.~ “Nothing.”

“Josh what happens to me in your nightmares?”

“You get hurt.”

“How?”

Josh swallowed hard. ~You’ll tell him eventually. It’s Sam.~ “You get shot.”

Chapter Seventeen - Timing

Sam stared hard at Josh. "You've had nightmares about me getting shot?"

"Yes."

"For how long?"

"A while."

Sam stepped towards Josh's desk, his hands shaking, but his voice steady. "How long, Josh?"

"Since I woke up in the hospital."

"What?!"

Josh winced at the tone. It made him think of walking over slivers of glass-painful and hot and ripping. "Sam."

"You've had nightmares about me for a *year*, and you've never told me?"

"It's not really a conversation piece."

"It should be! Damnit, Josh! Goddamnit!" Sam clenched his hands, looking very ready to punch a hole in the wall. He breathed deeply and pressed the sides of his fists against his temples. "How could you not tell me?"

"Everytime I thought about it, the timing was wrong. The past year's been a bitch for the both of us." "That's the best you can come up with? You didn't tell me because the timing was off? Fuck you, Josh." "Sam-"

"Shut up." Sam's voice was very soft and trembled slightly. "Just shut up. I'm leaving. I'll find you when I want to talk to you. Don't come near me." Sam slammed the door to Josh's office as he left. Josh sat, stunned, not sure what to do. "Fuck."

Chapter Eighteen - Knew Better

“Margaret, is Leo busy?”

“Yes.”

“Can you unbusy him for a few minutes?” Josh ran a hand over his hair and rubbed his eyes. “Tell him this morning’s thing is looking bad.”

“He’ll know what that means?”

“Yeah.”

Margaret gave Josh a doubtful look but stood up and went into Leo’s office. Josh leaned against the wall and sighed. ~I told Sam I was having nightmares about him, and he told me to stay away from him…Leo, it’s not as bad as it sounds…I can talk Sam into reason…Of course I can! I know him, Leo.~

“Josh.”

“Yeah, Margaret?”

“Go on in.”

“Thanks.” Josh walked into Leo’s office. The trepidation in his stomach felt like lead.

Leo stood behind his desk looking halfway anxious and exhausted. “What’s going on?”

“Sam and I had words.”

“Which words?”

“Quite a few, but the one I’m most worried about is the one he yelled.”

“What’d he yell?”

“Fuck.”

Leo’s eyebrows rose. “He *knows* that word?”

“And speaks it eloquently.”

“He yelled it at you?”

Josh sighed harshly. “Yeah.”

“Why?”

“I’ve been having nightmares..about him.”

“And you didn’t tell him.”

“No.”

“Josh, you knew better.”

“Yeah.”

“You knew he’d be pissed when he found out you were keeping something like that from him.”

“Yeah.”

“Why’d the hell did you do it?”

“Keep it from him or tell him?”

“Both.”

“I was scared.” Josh scratched his neck nervously. “I didn’t want to tell him because I was scared, but I had to because anytime I’ve been scared, I’ve gone to Sam.”

Leo bit the inside of his cheek. “Fix this now.”

“Okay.”

Chapter Nineteen - Apologies

"Sam."

"Get out."

"Sam-"

"Get out, Josh."

"Sam, I-"

"Get the fuck out, Josh."

"I can't."

"Do it anyway."

Josh took a deep breath and turned around. He paused at Sam's closed office door, and locked it. He turned back around, "Sam, I have to talk to you."

"You sure the timing's right?" Sam's voice was running with sarcasm. "Because if this isn't a good time I'm sure you could find me in a year."

"I'm sorry."

"That doesn't make everything better."

"I know." Josh took a few uncertain steps towards Sam. "I need you, and those dreams scared me, and I was afraid if I told you you'd leave me."

"Why would I leave you?"

"Because everyone else has. Joanie left. My dad left. Mandy left."

"You cheated on her."

"I know."

Sam sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I wouldn't leave you."

"You just did." Josh's voice cracked, but he took a deep breath and tried again. "When I told you about the dreams, you left."

"I freaked. You kept that from me."

"Yeah."

"You're not supposed to keep things from me."

"I'm sorry."

"So am I. Come here, Josh." Sam opened his arms and pulled Josh into a tight hug. He kissed him on the cheek. "I'll never leave you, Josh. I promise.

Josh leaned into Sam's shoulder and cried.

Chapter Twenty - Raw

"Josh."

"What?" Josh's voice was muffled by Sam's shirt.

"You need to talk to someone."

"About what?"

Sam bit the inside of his cheek to keep his patience. ~He's never going to admit abandonment issues. Not if he never admitted Post-Traumatic Stress to himself.~ "About the fact that you're afraid that everyone will leave you. You need to talk to someone."

"I have you."

"I'm not a professional."

"You know me better than anyone." Josh pulled away so he could look at Sam. He still had tears in his eyes. "I don't want to talk to anyone."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm not crazy."

Sam rubbed Josh's back and kissed him softly. "I know, but you're pretty raw right now. You're sleep-deprived and scared and we're about to start a war with Mary Marsh."

"Can't we just ignore her?"

"If we knew who all those pictures, we could, but we don't know. We have to assume it's going to be a battle."

Josh groaned and laid his head back on Sam's shoulder. "I loathe her."

"I know."

"She's a raving lunatic bitch."

"Yes."

"You're going to make me see someone no matter what, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"I want Stanley."

"Which one?"

"Christmas Stanley."

"Okay, I'll call him."

"Thanks." Josh let go of Sam. "I have to go talk to Leo and tell him we're okay."

"Okay."

"We are okay, right?"

Sam nodded, seeing the stress in the morning in Josh's eyes. "Yeah, we're okay."

"Okay."

Chapter 21-Holes

"Margeret, I need to see Leo."

"Again?"

"Yes. Again."

"Have you been crying."

Josh rubbed his eyes. There were dry and they itched. "No. I need to see Leo."

"Okay. Hold on a second." Margeret stood up and walked into the office. She came out a few seconds later. "Go on in."

"Thank you." Josh went in and stood in front of Leo's desk. "We're okay."

"You are?"

"Yes."

"You're certain?"

"Yes. Sam even convinced me to go to therapy again."

Leo stared at Josh. "You're not in that hole again, Josh."

Josh smiled a little. "I know, but I've been in another one for a long time."

"You never noticed."

"Sometimes a hole looks like a safe place, Leo. You throw a big wall around it and make it off as dangerous ground, most people leave it alone."

Leo smiled. "I had a hole like that. What happened to your wall?"

"Sam doesn't leave anything alone."

"No kidding." Leo stood and walked around the desk. He clapped Josh on the shoulder. "You ready to fight?"

Josh stared at Leo's face, saw the determination there, flashed back to the set of Sam's jaw, the flame in his eyes aimed at anyone who tried to hurt Josh. He felt something in him uncurl and jump up and scream for a fight. He was ready. "I'm set."

"I'll get CJ and Toby. Go get Sam. We've got a battle to set up."

Chapter 22 - Plan of Attack

CJ sat next to Toby in Leo's office and watched Josh and Sam fidget. "What have you two done?"

Josh's head snapped up. "Nothing."

"Sure." CJ looked at Leo. "What's going on?"

"There are some incriminating pictures of Josh and Sam."

"How incriminating?" CJ took the manila envelope from Leo and pulled the pictures out. Her eyes widened as she shuffled through them. Beside her, Toby cursed softly.

"Who has a copy of these?"

"Josh and I so far."

"Have you told the President?"

"Yes. He called Al Caldwell and ordered Mary Marsh be fired."

"Why the hell does Mary Marsh care about this?" Toby waved a hand at the pictures.

"Because gays are evil, Toby. Didn't you know that? And you can't have evil people in politics." Sam sounded thoroughly disgusted and angry.

"If anyone is evil here it's Mary Marsh." Toby looked at the pictures again. "Has this turned into a media circus?"

"Not yet. That's why we're all here. We need to know if anyone else has these pictures or any other information."

"I'm not seeing a problem here, Leo." CJ put the pictures back in the envelope. "If anyone else had these I'd have been fielding questions all morning. And we don't comment on the private lives of staff."

"Until their pictures end up on a tabloid at least." Leo made eye contact with everyone in turn. "We need to plan damage control now. Even if nothing happens, I want a plan."

"We're dealing with Mary Marsh. She's a fanatic among zealots. Something's going to happen." Sam's voice was resigned to fact. "We really need a plan."

"Track her down, cage her, and put her on a diet of bread and water."

Leo smiled at the mental image he put together from the suggestion. "Tempting, but no, Josh. Any suggestions that might work?"

Toby spoke. "Let her make the first move. We'll have a better chance of seeing her plan of attack if we stay low for awhile."

"How long is awhile?"

"Until she moves."

Josh reached over and squeezed Sam's hand. "Don't worry. Snakes always move fast when they go for the neck. She'll do something soon."

"I'm not sure that's a good thing." Leo sighed. "Let's just be ready to move."

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