Title: The Three Rs
Author: Nomi (gnomi@world.std.com)
Posted: 7/30/01
Archive: Sure, just tell me where
Part: 1/1
Codes: J/S
Rating: PG-13
Notes: Thanks to Amberfor posting the challenge, and to Julian, who asked for this story. Previous stories in this series can be found on my website at http://world.std.com/~gnomi/stories.html .
Warnings: Spoilers for season 1: The Short List, Celestial Navigation

The Three Rs by Nomi

"Sam? Where did the kitchen supplies end up?" I heard Josh's voice calling to me down the hallway as I continued to bring in our luggage from the car.

With the Mendoza confirmation finally over, Leo had given Toby and me the weekend off. Through subterfuge and guile - OK, so I begged - I had convinced Leo to let Josh have the weekend off as well, as long as he took his phone and pager and didn't turn them off. So it would probably end up as a working weekend away, but at least we'd gotten out of the city for a bit. Now we were ensconcing ourselves in a little house outside Baltimore for two days of what I was thinking of as the three Rs - rest, relaxation...and revelation.

The rest and the relaxation were for both of us. Ever since we'd started this relationship, Josh and I had barely had any downtime. And we'd barely talked since the last time we'd gone away, when we'd had a relationship so torn to shreds that I wasn't sure there was any hope for us.

That hadn't really been the time for true confessions. Well, it might have been, in fact, but I wasn't ready then. Truth to tell, I wasn't totally ready now. But it had to be done.

Somehow, we had repaired the damage I had caused to the relationship, and now we'd begun to settle into a nice rhythm together, but I felt I had to be upfront and honest with Josh about something...something I had never told him before...something that had the potential to drive Josh to break up with me once and for all.

I just hoped it wouldn't come to that.

"Sam?" It took Josh calling my name to make me realize I'd never answered his question.

"They're in here...in the living room," I called out. When Josh came to get the box, I gave him a light kiss, which he tried to deepen.

"J...do what you have to do and then come on back in here, OK?" I asked.

"Sure, love," he responded, a confused look on his face. But he grabbed the box and headed back to the kitchen. I sat on the sofa and waited for his return.

This was it - I was going to tell Josh my secret. I knew that I had to tell Josh now, before we got too deep into this weekend. It had to be now for two reasons: one, I was afraid that if I was sitting on this secret any longer, I'd explode. Two, I was terrified that Josh would see my keeping this secret as yet another betrayal, and that might lead to his breaking up with me again.

OK, so I wasn't overly secure in our relationship yet. But how could I be? I knew that Josh loved me, and I was positive that I loved him, but sometimes love can't overcome all obstacles. We'd already faced a major obstacle, and I knew others were inevitable, but I didn't want this one hanging over my head.

As long as I didn't chicken out. Which was a complete possibility, given my extreme desire to avoid confrontation.

After about five minutes, Josh came back to the living room and sat next to me on the sofa.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," I responded automatically, and Josh could tell.

"Love?" he said, "what's wrong?"

I took a deep breath. My first concrete thought was that it was a good thing I hadn't unpacked, 'cause I had a pretty strong feeling that I'd be on my way back to DC within five minutes of telling Josh what I had to tell him.

"Josh, you know I love you, right?"

"Yes," he said, his face reflecting his confusion.

"And you know I'd never intentionally do anything to hurt you, right?"

He looked even more confused. "Of course, Sam. We've talked about this."

"And you know that I'd never keep secrets from you, right? Not if I could help it."

Josh looked closely at me. "I know you wouldn't. Just like I wouldn't keep secrets from you."

I resisted the automatic urge to correct Josh's 'just like' to 'just as,' figuring it wasn't an appropriate time.

But Josh knows me way too well. "Love? What, no correction?" When I didn't answer, he took my hands in his and pulled me around to face him completely. "Love?" he said again. "C'mon...what is it? You're scaring me. Are you sick? Is there something I should know?"

That was my opening. And I wasn't going to back out. I was going to tell him now. "Yes, Josh. There's something I have to tell you."

"What?"

"Do you remember back before the inauguration? During the transition?"

"Barely," Josh responded with a grin. "It seems so long ago. A lot's happened - both professionally and personally..." he grinned and kissed the fingers of my left hand, still firmly in his grip.

"There was a day...Toby was a nut? I was hiding in a supply room? You came and found me." I remembered the day vividly, as - I assumed, based on some comments from him - did Toby. But I doubted it was burned into Josh's memory.

Josh thought a minute. "Yeah, I remember that day - right after New Year's. We were all a bit nuts then. But, yeah. I remember. Toby was looking to skin you alive, and none of us could figure out why. That was before..." He stopped. "Sorry...never mind. Anyway, what does that have to do with anything?"

I wondered momentarily which of my many transgressions the incident with Toby was "before," but I let the comment lie. This wasn't the time for Josh and me to get into an argument about Laurie, about my stressing about his relationship with Donna or with Joey, about anything. I anticipated a fight, but I wanted it to be on _my_ terms.

OK, I can be seriously pathetic at times.

"C'mon, love. There's nothing so bad you can't tell me." Josh was trying to get me to open up, but I wasn't sure how to say it.

"Josh, I need you to listen and not yell until the end, OK?" At Josh's confused nod, I took a deep breath and continued.

"During the campaign, I was involved in a relationship. It was during the time you were together with Mandy, and my relationship was totally and completely secret. We couldn't - and didn't - let anyone know that we were together. But when it ended, it ended not so wonderfully. It wasn't horrible - we both knew it wasn't going to last; we both knew we really wanted other people - but it wasn't pretty, 'cause even the most amicable of breakups are ugly."

Josh looked like he wanted to interrupt, but I squeezed his hand gently to try to dissuade him. If I didn't do this all at once, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get it all out.

"D'you remember that I told you that you weren't the first guy I'd dated?" Josh nodded. "Well, I experimented somewhat in college, but after Lisa and I got together, I was totally monogamous. When Lisa and I broke up...when you came and got me, took me to New Hampshire with you, it was like a whole new world had opened up to me. I no longer had to be that guy - the law-partner-married-two-kids-summer-house-in-the-Hamptons guy. I was free to start over, to reinvent myself."

I took a breath. I was about to get to the heart of the matter.

"There was one night - we were in the Manchester office, preparing a speech to be given the next day in...I don't remember - East Podunk, West Virginia or something. A speech about fishing rights, or the endangered eel or some other nonsense. One night I'd been feeling like maybe I shouldn't have thrown away all that I knew, the comfortable life, to follow you...much as I knew already then that I loved you to distraction."

I stopped again, 'cause Josh looked up at me, totally shocked. But he remained quiet, 'cause I'd asked him to.

"Yes, J, I loved you even then. I loved you since I met you. Why do you think I followed you? But that's neither here nor there. Anyway, we were there late at night, and I was beating my head against a paragraph about the majestic lakes of Wherever, West Virginia, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, and suddenly I was being kissed."

"Who?" Josh asked, then "Sorry."

"No, 's'okay. It was Toby."

I paused, waiting for the inevitable explosion.

But it didn't come, so I continued my story. "The relationship progressed from there. We slept together when we could, didn't when we couldn't. It was all very casual, and we were both in it for reasons that weren't totally fair to each other. Toby...he was lost without Andi, trying to figure out which way was up in his life. I was lost 'cause you'd just started dating Mandy and I was sure that I'd lost you forever. So we two lost souls found each other. And we found comfort in each other's arms." I paused again, still waiting for Josh's explosion.

"But..." Josh said. "You...he..." Josh collected his thoughts, then said, "But he's so much older than you." I could hear the unspoken "older than I am," which I knew was an issue for Josh.

But there was still no anger. I was confused.

"Uh...J?" I saw what I was about to do as poking the sleeping lion. Josh has quite a temper when provoked, and here I was attempting to provoke him, for some purpose I wasn't quite clear on myself. "You're OK with this?"

"Why wouldn't I be OK with this?" Josh asked. "I'm just grateful that you weren't still involved with him when I came to my senses and decided that you were going to be mine."

"Oh, is that what you decided?" I asked, smiling for the first time since I started this.

"Yeah, Seaborn. You were going to be mine, no matter what. On second thought, Toby wouldn't have been an obstacle in my getting you." Josh grinned, showing his dimples in full force. "I was going to use the whole strength of my considerable charm to get you to be mine. I was going to pursue you until you couldn't turn me down. Our getting together was inevitable."

"Inevitable, eh?" I asked. "And what if I had been immune to your - admittedly considerable - charms?"

"You and I both know that you aren't. Immune, I mean. You get hard every time I look at you."

"True," I said, unable to deny what I knew to be true.

"Toby didn't stand a chance," Josh said firmly. "You were destined to be mine, and that's all there is to it."

"So," I asked, "what took you so long?" Josh and I maneuvered so that I was lying between his legs, my head resting on his shoulder.

He looked down at me. "A number of things - first, it took me a while to figure out that what was missing in my life was you."

"Thank goodness for Mrs. Bartlet," I said.

"Amen." Josh answered. "Second, I didn't know if you...well, if you were interested in men. I thought you were the straightest guy I knew. I didn't know how to tell you _I_ was bi; I had no clue you were. I even sent Donna on a fact-finding mission before that first night..." Josh blushed, something he doesn't do very often.

"What? You couldn't have just asked?" I was incredulous - Josh was always so straightforward with me. I always knew where I stood with him, so I was amazed that there was something he felt he couldn't ask me.

"And if you weren't receptive? I was so worried about losing your friendship, especially when I thought that was all I could have." As he spoke, Josh snaked one hand up inside my shirt and began to stroke my chest. When he got frustrated with the lack of access my clothing allowed him, he unbuttoned my shirt and resumed his explorations.

"I never would've..." Thinking was very quickly becoming difficult. "There's no way I would've abandoned you just 'cause you were attracted to me," I said.

"But I had no way of knowing that," Josh said. A rogue hand slipped into my pants, and the conversation quickly ceased.

***

As we lay there, our naked bodies cooling but our ardor not cooling one bit, Josh looked up at me as I lay sprawled over his length.

"Love?"

"Yeah?" I responded tentatively. Even after all we'd said and done that afternoon, I was half afraid of what Josh was about to say.

"Why were you afraid to tell me about Toby?"

"I'm not sure," I responded honestly. "I was afraid that you'd see my not telling you before as yet another betrayal."

"Have I been that bad?" Josh asked, his tone conveying his hurt.

"No, J...I'm just still finding my footing here. I haven't been in a long-term relationship - a _real_ relationship - since Lisa. I don't remember the rules...I don't know how to read you yet." I was letting all of my vulnerabilities show, but if I couldn't let Josh see them, there would be no future for us, no matter how physically compatible we were.

"So we'll trip, and we'll stumble, and we'll probably hurt ourselves and each other, but remember this: if you're honest with me, there is nothing that you could say that would make me hate you." Josh skimmed one hand down my back in a gesture I knew he meant to be soothing but that actually had the opposite effect, arousing me yet again.

Josh sniggered. "You're insatiable, did you know that?"

"Only with you," I said honestly.

"Did Toby...oh, never mind. I shouldn't ask that. Just tell me - he didn't mistreat you, did he?"

"In the end," I said, "we were horrible to each other. We weren't what the other wanted." And that was all I was going to tell Josh at this point. Later, maybe, I could confess to Josh that the real end was the night I couldn't help calling Josh's name in the heat of the moment.

"Good," Josh said, "'cause if he'd hurt you - _really_ hurt you - I'd have to kill him."

"I'd pay good money to watch that," I said, snuggling closer to Josh.

"I just bet you would," Josh responded. "You've got this vindictive streak that I hope is never aimed at me."

"How about at Mandy?" I still held an unreasonable amount of anger toward Mandy, solely because she had Josh first.

"Oh, go ahead. Do what you will to _her_."

"You still that mad at her?" I asked.

"No...I think we've found a way to work together," Josh said. "Which reminds me - how did you and Toby manage to have a working relationship - a boss-employee relationship, at that - after you broke up? Didn't you feel that there was too much that you each knew about the other? Wasn't there tension?"

"There was tension, but not because we knew each other too well," I answered. "In fact, we really didn't get to know each other, even though we were sleeping together. It wasn't a real relationship - not like what we've got...not even like we had as a friendship. I knew much more about you than I ever knew about Toby...that's pathetic, isn't it?" I hadn't really analyzed what I'd had - or hadn't had - with Toby until now, when I had a real relationship to compare it to.

"So...I won't kill him right away, how's that? But if he _ever_ tries to get you back..."

"Don't worry, J." It was comforting to see Josh's possessiveness come out. "You're stuck with me."

"I can't think of anyone better to be stuck with," Josh said.

We settled back onto the sofa, just lying together and thinking. Suddenly, Josh broke the silence.

"I'm gonna ask you something I have no right to ask, and you have no obligation to answer." He took a deep breath then said, "When you went to Connecticut to spring Justice Mendoza...you didn't...there wasn't...oh, never mind."

I reached one arm up and grasped Josh's chin, holding his head still so that I could look him directly in the eye.

"I will tell you this only once," I said. "Since before the inauguration, there has been nothing other than a professional relationship between Toby Ziegler and me. He sometimes has delusions of being my older brother, but there is nothing romantic between us. In fact, there has _never_ been anything romantic between us. Our dalliance was nothing more than two desperate people looking for any port in a storm, and when it ended, it ended. So don't ever think I'd leave you for him or for anyone else."

"Glad to get that off your chest, love?" Josh asked, smiling.

"Well," I said, gesturing at our nakedness, "there's nothing _else_ on my chest at the moment."

"That can be changed," Josh said, rolling us over and effectively cutting the conversation short.

We tussled on the sofa for a couple of minutes, but very soon we were lying on the carpet, Josh pinning me to the floor.

"When I'm done with you, I'll be the only lover you will ever remember," Josh growled in my ear before latching himself onto my collarbone. In a break from his usual leisurely exploration, Josh quickly homed in on my most sensitive areas, making me moan and beg.

As he finally brought me off, Josh whispered, "That'll make you forget Toby."

"Toby who?" I asked.

"Absolutely right," Josh said.

"I might need the occasional reminder," I said, wrapping my hand around Josh's cock.

Josh maneuvered us so that my legs were draped across his shoulders, and he reached into the pocket of his discarded jeans, pulling out a tube of lube. "I think that can be arranged," he said as he began the first of what I hoped would be many memorable encounters.

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