Title: Noli Me Tangere
Author: Baked Goldfish
Disclaimer: Nothing here is mine, including "The Sleepers" by Walt Whitman, which is quoted near the end. Please don't sue.
Rated: R
Pairing/Category: Josh/Toby, angst
Spoilers: Very vague season 3 and 4
Archive: Sure
AN: Much thanks to Becky Anderson for the impetus to write this.
Summary: "He didn't want Josh to know why he didn't need to be drunk for this."

[-----]

Noli Me Tangere by Baked Goldfish


"I'm gonna go see Spanky," CJ said, standing up gracefully. He'd never seen her look drunk, though he knew she'd probably had more to drink than he had.

"You're leaving me?" he asked, mockingly hurt. He swallowed the last of his drink, and gave her the tiniest smile he could muster.

She leaned over and kissed the short, coarse hair on his temple. "Don't do anything stupid, Toby."

He scratched the back of his neck. "When do I do anything stupid?"

"You do stupid things when you're drunk," she said with a smile. If he were more sober, he might have heard the sadness come across in her words and eyes. She walked away, and he reached into his shirt pocket for a cigar. He found none.

He saw Josh across the bar on some campaign stop that night. Podunk, Northeast USA. He chuckled to himself, and thumped his finger on the empty shot glass in front of him. He couldn't remember where they were that night. He couldn't remember how much he'd had to drink. He wasn't drunk. He wasn't drunk. He wasn't drunk.

He was telling himself that in triplicate, so he knew he must be drunk. He got up, and walked over to where Josh was throwing back the last droplets of his beer, and thought that he'd never been a beer man himself. Scotch, or rum, or even Guinness on occasion. He never understood what drove man to ferment barley and drink the stagnant juices produced thereof, but at any rate, he drank that too. If it's nasty but has a frothy head, I'll suck it dry, he thought. He nearly smiled at the wrong thoughts that came after that one, but then he remembered who he was.

Left foot forward, right foot forward, roll from the heel to the ball, swing arms naturally. After forty-four years, he thought he might have the basics of walking down pat, but no. He managed to make it to where Josh was sitting and peering forlornly into his empty bottle, and he thought Josh smelled like beer. "Josh," he said; he took pride in the fact that he wasn't slurring.

It took a moment for Josh to notice him. "Toby," he said, a little too loudly. "Toboggan. Tobel Prize. Toblerone."

He gave him a prickly stare. "So what the fuck am I, a sled, an award, or a fucking piece of chocolate?"

"You're all of the above," Josh sighed with an easy smile, leaning back against the bar and nearly falling down as dimples creased his cheeks and his thin eyebrows raised imperially. "You're a chocolate sled."

Josh smelled like beer, and Toby'd never been a beer man, but he'd drink it if he needed to. "I think," he said, leaning towards Josh with his hand close to Josh's elbow on the bar. "I think we should go take a walk."

Josh tried to look serious while still looking pissy drunk. It wasn't working, and Toby almost laughed. "'Sup?" Josh asked, standing up as straight as he could. His suit jacket was wrinkled and old looking, even though Toby knew it was brand new. His shirt was becoming untucked, and his tie was loose around his neck. "Is, did Leo call you or somethin'?"

"No," he said. He leaned closer to Josh, inhaling his scent like some sort of animal. "I just, you know, it's a nice night for a walk. The fucking stars, man. They're, they're in the sky, and-"

"Whoa," Josh said, putting his hand on Toby's chest. "Whoa." His hand was still there, platonic and frat-boyish, and he slid it up to squeeze Toby's shoulder in an equally platonic way. "We'll go for a walk," he breathed, and Toby swore he could see Josh's breath feathering its way to warm his temple.

"I'm - we don't have stars in Brooklyn, Josh," he said mournfully. "The first time I saw stars was in Star Wars."

"We're gonna go look at stars, Toby, so. Shut up." Josh grabbed his wrist and pulled him through the throng of volunteers and other staffers. Left foot forward, right foot forward, roll from the heel to the ball. He waved meekly to Sam and CJ who were sitting in a booth, and looked around for the President. Then he remembered the President couldn't go to bars, and he felt sorry for him.

"Poor president," he mumbled. His shirt was too thin for the northeastern summer night, and he felt his skin goosefleshing as they stepped out of the bodies-warmed bar and into the fresh air. Too thin. Too thin. He wondered if Josh heard him lamenting the President's position.

"Stars," Josh said, indicating that he hadn't heard Toby at all. "All the stars in the world, Toby." He swept his arm expansively against the night sky, as tiny white specks glittered down on them from trillions of miles away.

He looked up at them like a kid looking at the top shelf in a candy store, in awe but unable to reach the jawbreakers that he really wanted. "Technically, there aren't any stars in the world, Josh, they're, y'know, in the rest of the universe."

Josh sighed. Toby looked at him the same way he looked at the stars. "I try to be a nice guy," Josh said. "And I get 'technically the blah blah blah fuckity fuck.' And people wonder why I'm such a dick sometimes."

In his mind, Toby heard John McLaughlin screaming: Issue One, Josh is a dick. "He's wrong," he muttered, mostly to himself.

Josh took a deep breath, his lips forming a tiny 'o' before he looked at Toby and shut his mouth. "Hmm?"

He almost told Josh he wasn't a dick. "I want a cigar," he said instead.

Josh looked at him in confusion. "What, do I look like Faceman?"

He looked back in equal confusion. "The hell are you talking about?"

"Faceman, he, on The A-Team, he always had cigars for . . . what's-his-face. The dude with the cigars."

"I-" He shook his head and laughed. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Josh looked worried. "I don't have a cigar."

Toby kept laughing silently with his hands in his pockets. He looked at the ground and shook his head again. "It's okay." He looked up again, still smiling. "Just how much did you have to drink?"

"I-" Josh looked at his fingers like he was counting. "Dunno. I'm not drunk."

"You're wasted."

"I'm-" Pushing both hands through his hair, he looked up at the stars. "All the goddamn stars, Toby," he said. He threw an arm around Toby's shoulders. "All the stars, right here for you."

They stood there for a while, and he wondered how Josh got so warm. He wondered if the warmth seeping through his flesh was all the liquor screwing with his brain. He looked at Josh. Josh's skin glowed with the light of the thousands of stars in the sky. "Ritchie doesn't like stars," he said abruptly. "He's, he's anti-environment. And pro-pollution."

"Stars are in the environment," Josh said. "Stars, and . . . we should go for a walk."

"This is what I said," Toby told the night. "This is, this is what I said twenty days ago! I said, 'let's go for a walk.' So, now we're finally gonna go for a walk, huh? After I-"

"Shh," Josh said, wrapping his arm closer around Toby's neck so he could press a finger to Toby's lips. "We're gonna go now."

"We're gonna," he said as Josh lazily dragged his finger down to Toby's chin. They walked for he didn't know how long, with Josh leaning on him like he was a crutch. He couldn't hear the bar anymore, and it was too dark and he was too drunk to read the street signs. Josh kept being warm. He kept tasting the ghost of Josh's finger on his lips. They walked a block, maybe two.

"Where are we?" Josh asked loudly, coming to a stop by a broken streetlight. He peered into the surrounding darkness. "Toby?" He leaned heavily against Toby; Toby got tired.

Left foot forward, right foot forward, hold Josh by the waist. He put Josh against a brick wall, and put his hand on the wall to see how cool it was. Josh grabbed his other hand and put it on the wall on the other side of his head; he was braced around Josh, now, standing in front of him. Hands pushing against the cool brick, Josh leaned forward and the smirk on his lips became a kiss.

Then his lips pressed near Toby's ear, and he said in a soft, sandpapery voice, "You're chocolate."

"I thought I was a sled," Toby said as he brushed his beard against Josh's neck. He remembered Josh's scent, unchanging every time. He remembered what he was getting himself into.

"You're a prize," Josh said, one hand off the wall and cool against Toby's stomach. "You're a fucking brass ring."

The press, Toby thought. The press. The press. He pressed himself against Josh and kissed him with his mouth open and his thumbs hooked into Josh's belt loops. He heard a moan, short and surprised but happy enough. The inside of Josh's jacket was warm, so he put his cold hands there, and pulled his lips away. "You don't taste like beer," he said, and his voice sounded quiet, soft, and just a little higher pitch than normal. Shy, he thought.

"You don't taste like chocolate," Josh said with that self-assured smirk, and Toby could feel him growing hard. It made Toby just as hard, and through four layers of clothes, he pressed himself even more against Josh.

Josh was smiling at him like they were talking baseball stats, grinding against him like he was in junior high. He wiped the smile of Josh's face by pulling away to undo their belts and zippers. And then when there was even less between them, and then when there was nothing between them, he put his hands on the back of Josh's head and put his hips as close to Josh's as he could. His knuckles scraped the rough brick when he kissed Josh, his tongue running along the smooth, curved surfaces of Josh's teeth, and he kept rolling his hips until he felt Josh's fingers digging into the flesh beneath his unkempt shirt. Shy, he thought, as Josh's mouth formed a silent 'o' against his beard. Shy, he thought, as his own mouth let out a choked groan against Josh's cheek. Breathing harshly, he brought one scarred-knuckle hand down between them, stroking Josh's length while Josh stared up intently and open-mouthed at the stars, trillions of miles away. When he was moments from over, Toby pulled Josh's head to him and kissed him to soften his cry.

They weren't breathing regularly. When Josh pulled away, it was a second short of being comfortable, and Toby saw the awkwardness on his face. Josh fumbled with clothing himself while Toby wiped his hand clean with the handkerchief he kept in his back pocket before fixing his own trousers. Josh slid down to the ground, back to the wall, arms crossed limply over his stomach, legs stretched out in front of him.

He looked down at Josh, and ran a hand over his tired eyes. Josh looked back up at him, eyes dulled and face slack from drink and sex. He half expected Josh to fall over, and wondered if he'd call for a doctor if that happened. He swallowed. He swiped a hand over his head, the heat in his skin already fading. He'd remembered what he was getting into.

"Toby," Josh finally said. "Toby."

Toby kept looking down at him, his frown back in place and his breath still ragged. "Nothing like a bit of back alley sex to sober a guy up, huh?" he quipped, hollow. Josh was already having second thoughts; it was quicker this time than the last, Toby thought, but unsurprising.

"Toby," Josh said again, the regret seeping into his voice. "We're, you know. Drunk."

He laughed. "You're drunk," he bellowed. "You're drunk, I'm-" His voice dropped back to that quiet, soft tone, and he scratched his scalp. He didn't want to tell Josh that it wouldn't even take him one drop of liquor to get him to this state. He didn't want Josh to know why he didn't need to be drunk for this. "I'm gonna head back," he said.

Josh stood up, and followed him, laughing nervously. "Jesus fucking Christ, Toby, it's not my fault you fucking love me-"

He turned around, a foot from Josh, and punched him. Right hook to the chin. He saw Josh fall. He saw Josh bleed. He saw Josh look up at him in surprise. He saw, in his mind's eye, Josh going home to Amy, the same way he'd gone home to Mandy, the same way he'd gone home to the few women who came between those two. He saw, in his mind's eye, Josh forgetting this the same way he always did. "You're a dick," he said.

Josh pulled his hand away from his lip; it was spattered with blood that looked like oil in the dark. "I'm - Toby, I'm sorry," he said, his voice shaking on the last word.

"I'll bet," Toby muttered. But Josh looked sorry enough, drunk and on his back with a bloody lip. He reached down, taking Josh's hand in his own and pulling him up.

They walked a few steps, separate from each other. Then, he felt the heaviness of Josh's arm draping over his shoulder, and he looked at Josh, confused and maybe a little annoyed. Noli me tangere, he thought. Touch me not. "What're you doing?"

"I'm really, really sorry," Josh said, patting Toby on the shoulder. Josh kissed him on the cheek like he was a little kid, then wrapped him in a hug. "We're, we're still, you know? We're cool, right?"

He wanted to laugh. It was a patented Josh line, used over and over on him whenever they got too drunk around each other, or when Josh got too drunk around him and he just couldn't say no. Unsurprising, he thought, but still sharp and scraping against his sternum. He wanted to scream.

"Yeah," he said, patting Josh on the back. "We're okay."

Josh pulled back and grinned at him. "You, mi compadre, get to be my wingman again," he said, before stumbling back into the bar. Josh's ghost handprints were still warm on his back. Josh's ghost lips were still warm on his cheek. Warm. His shirt was too thin for the cool northeastern summer night. He was cold.

The door to the bar opened again, and CJ came out. "Toby," she called, laughing with a highball glass in her hand. "Come inside, boy-oh."

He shrugged. "It's nice out. Stars and stuff."

"'Stars and stuff'?" CJ laughed. "This is my friend, the great wordsmith." He watched her eyes narrow as she took a step closer and crossed her arms. "You okay?"

He smiled softly at her. "I do stupid things when I'm drunk," he half-whispered.

He watched her turn her head to look at the bar, watched her eyes track Josh's animated form in the frosted glass window. "Stupid things, huh? I mean, yeah, it's Josh, but."

He shrugged even though she couldn't see him. "Have you ever seen him sleeping?" he asked.

She turned back to him, shook her head; her eyes told him she thought it to be a random question. "Not since Rosslyn."

"Same here." The words coming out of his mouth were discrete, and his lips formed them in an almost exaggerated manner. He saw her brows pull together and she took another step towards him; the corners of his mouth twitched up as she shook her head uncomprehendingly.

"Seriously?" she half-whispered. "I mean, I guess I - I thought you two were-"

That same tiny smile didn't seem to want to leave his face, and he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet for a few moments. "We're not. We're 'buddies,' CJ. Just ask Josh." Cool air and adrenaline had sobered him slightly, and he saw the sadness for him in her eyes quite clearly now. He hated it. "We're fine."

She dipped her head a half an inch, catching his pronoun use before he caught it himself. "Are you?"

He raised his eyebrows, glanced at the bar and shrugged. "Have you ever known me not to be? Every time, every - whenever we go out to get sloshed, have you ever known me not to be perfectly fine?"

He'd stumped her. He watched her go, and watched her hold the door open for him. "It's dark out here," she said by way of explanation, nodding at the door.

He chuckled, and the chuckle turned into a full-throated laugh when he saw her surprised stance. "'Darkness!'" he bellowed, spreading his arms, fingers tendriling out into the soot-black night as he looked up at the stars. "'You are gentler than'-" His voice dropped along with his arms, and the smile on his face withered and hollowed. "'You are gentler than my lover; his flesh was sweaty and panting. I feel the hot moisture yet that he left-'"

"Toby," she said. Her soft voice stopped his ramblings better than any crack of the gun, and he dropped his gaze to her.

"I remembered what I was getting into," he said, his voice gentle and almost guilty. "Don't be angry at him.

"Come inside." He saw her smile weakly at him; he shuffled his feet and looked away long enough for her to close the door and go back inside, alone. He stood there for a moment longer, his legs stiff and shoe soles sticking to the cement ground as he tried to remember-

Left foot forward, right foot forward. Roll from the heel to the ball. He walked.

-end-