Title: The West Wing (I know, not very creative, but gimme a break) Author: Maharae Pairing: Josh/Sam Rating: NC-17 Disclaimer: They're lovely people, but unfortunately they're not mine. (Of course, they'd probably have *much* more fun if they were;) Summary: Josh and Sam find out that there's more out there than meets the eye. Be warned, however, my roommate describes me as a romantic sap, and this is quite the case with this story. Feedback would be welcome.

The West Wing by Maharae

"Josh."

Josh Lyman had his back turned to the door and didn't acknowledge Mandy's presence behind him. Mandy walked closer and saw that he was writing furiously, his pen flying across the paper in a blue whir.

"Josh," she said again, louder as she rested her hand on the back of his chair.

His reaction was entirely gratifying as he practically leapt out of his chair and spun around, sheets of paper scattering in a little white tornado. "Jesus, Mandy, you trying to give me a heart attack?"

The corner of her mouth turned up in a grin as she watched him uncharacteristically flustered and trying not to show it. "It's a thought, but not really why I came. What are you doing?" She asked as he tried nonchalantly to pick up the ten or so sheets of paper littering the ground.

She had the pleasure of watching him flush. Oh, this could be good, she thought.

"Josh, I've never seen you blush before," she said and received a scowl and an even deeper shade of red before he turned, taking his papers and shoving them in his open backpack.

"What are you doing here, Mandy?"

"Watching you fidget. What are they, love letters?"

"No," he replied immediately and firmly.

"She must be pretty special, I never received any."

"There's a reason for that," he said pointedly. "And this is none of your business," he finished sitting back into the chair, once again unflappably cool.

"We'll see about that."

"Are you two finished chatting or do you want us to reschedule this meeting at your convenience?" CJ said dryly, popping her head through the door.

"Duty calls," Josh murmured getting up and putting on his blazer. *** Josh didn't get back to his office until late and had managed to keep the conversation with Mandy out of his mind for most of the day. He sat wearily down in his chair and picked up his backpack. It had been a stupid idea in the first place, he thought as he took the sheets out. And yet, the stupid idea had completely filled three sheets of paper. He began to reread what he'd written and wondered if he was going insane.

It wasn't a love letter as Mandy had suggested, but it was close enough to make him nervous and he hated that. Josh Lyman was not a man that people made nervous, he was a man that made people nervous. He was damn good at it too.

And yet here he was like some errant schoolboy writing about love. His love. The person that he'd fallen in love with, without really looking. It was...degrading to realize that he was just like one of those poor S.O.B.'s who pined for someone. He'd never pined in his life. If he wanted something he went and got it.

Everything was attainable, even if it wasn't.

"Yeah, right," he mumbled to himself. "Not this time."

"Josh," Sam said as he walked into the office.

Josh's head whipped up and he felt his skin heat again. Dammit, not twice in one day. "What are you still doing here?" He asked, automatically going on the attack.

"Just finishing up something with Toby for tomorrow," he said, leaning casually against the doorframe. His coat was slung over his shoulder and he looked exactly how the perfect image of a White House staffer should look. His hair was slightly mussed, his clothes rumpled and his tie askew. The sleeves of his blue Oxford were rolled up to show strong forearms and his eyes were a sleepy blue.

Josh almost groaned aloud. He didn't really believe in God, but he knew that someone up there was getting a perverse thrill out of this.

Josh Lyman, well known ladies man, and not so well known man's man, had had the cruelest trick played on him. He'd fallen in love with a man he couldn't have. It wasn't until this very moment that he truly felt for all the women he'd ever been with, including Mandy, although he'd rather be dropped in a pit of vipers than ever admit it.

"You up for a drink," Sam continued, completely unaware of the affect he was having on his friend.

No, Josh thought fervently, and found himself nodding instead. "Sure," he said standing up. "But I'm buying." At Sam's surprised look he almost flinched. Way to go, sport, why didn't you just ask him on a date?

Don't I wish, he thought as he shut off the lights and locked the door behind him. Don't I wish. *** A drink, as it turned out, had been a very bad idea. Like he'd expected anything else, but Josh still didn't have to like it. The Georgetown bar was not very crowded at this time of night, at least not on a week night, and Sam had led them to the back of the room where the smoke didn't hang so thick and the conversations didn't carry.

Sam slid into the booth and Josh sat across from him. The waitress came over immediately and flashed a brilliant smile at Sam, which he was apparently too oblivious to notice.

"What can I get you gentlemen?"

"Pitcher of draft," Sam replied and Josh's eyebrows went up.

"Is there a reason we're getting blasted?" He asked when the waitress left.

"Not really," Sam replied flippantly, immediately telling Josh that there was, and he really wanted to talk about it, but he didn't want to actually say anything until someone, and Josh figured that he was elected, dug it out of him.

"Okay," he said slowly.

"It's not anything. Well, nothing important. I'd tell you, I mean, if it was something important. But it's not. Anything important." His eyebrows drew together as he saw Josh fighting back an amused smile. "What?"

"Nothing, apparently," he said finally giving into the grin.

The waitress came back and set down two glasses and a pitcher. "You need anything else, just give me a holler."

Sam reached for his beer and took a long swallow.

"So," Josh started, "about this nothing, does she have a name?"

Sam's head whipped up and Josh wondered how anyone could look so damn innocent. "Name?" He asked, and then his shoulders dropped. "It's about Laurie."

Josh's heart lurched in his chest. "Sam-" he started, but Sam rolled over his words.

"I know what you're going to say. You're going to say that I'm trying to reform her and I'm a fool for doing it-"

"You apparently don't need me in this conversation," Josh mumbled.

"She's only doing it to get money for school."

"They all have a reason, they don't just one day wake up and say, I think I'll be a hooker today."

"Call girl," he corrected automatically.

"Whatever, the point is you can't save all of them, Sam. No matter how much you might want to."

"I know," Sam said, shredding the napkin in his hands. "But I just wish-" he looked up and sighed. "She was at the dinner last week."

Josh's face was blank in confusion for a moment and then it seemed to hit him. "The State Dinner?" He asked and before Sam could respond he continued. "Oh, Sam, you didn't-"

"No!" Sam said holding up a hand. "It wasn't...I mean, I didn't invite her. She wasn't there for me," he said with what Josh assumed was a trace of bitterness. "She was with Everett."

"Carl Everett?" Josh asked incredulously. "The man who-"

Sam gave a quick nod.

"The girl's got an impressive clientele," Josh mumbled, then looked apologetic at Sam's sharp look. "Sorry," he said holding his hands up. "So," he drawled slowly. "What does this mean?"

Sam shrugged and continued shredding the napkin in his hands. "I think- no, I know I did a stupid thing."

He seemed to leave it at that and Josh had to prompt him. "What, Sam?"

He seemed to think it over for a long moment then come to a decision. "I offered her ten thousand dollars-"

"Jesus, Sam," Josh hissed as he leaned forward over the table. "What were you-"

"Not to sleep with me," he said just as low. "I did it to...hell," he said throwing the confetti of napkin down on the table. "I don't know why I did it."

And then again it clicked in Josh's mind. "You didn't offer her the money to sleep with her," he said slowly. "You offered her the money so she wouldn't sleep with him."

Sam nodded glumly. "I really messed it up this time, didn't I?" He said with a self-deprecating half smile that looked totally alien on him.

"Sam," Josh started, his hand moving to cover the younger man's before he could stop it. "Maybe she doesn't want to be reformed."

"That's what she said."

"You can't save everyone," Josh continued softly. "Not even you."

Sam tried for a tired grin and Josh managed to drag his hand back before it got any notion of staying. "Thanks. I mean for..." he trailed off as he motioned around the general area. "Thanks."

"No problem," Josh said as he relaxed back into the atmosphere of the place and the chance to observe Sam outside of the office. *** And it really was a rare treat, Josh thought an hour and a half later, to watch Sam get smashed. While he had switched to water halfway through the first pitcher, Sam had kept right on going, obliviously ordering drink after drink. Josh felt kind of bad for just watching as Sam drowned his sorrows, but dammit, he was wallowing over a woman, and Josh felt that it was sort of justified.

And then, of course, the conversation meandered without any rhyme or reason, and Josh was content to just sit with a bemused smile on his face. At just before midnight, he stopped Sam in the middle of trying to explain some esoteric fact without using any words over three syllables because around the middle of pitcher two he'd lost the ability to follow any words longer than that. At the moment, he was talking with exaggerated enunciation, looking directly in Josh's eyes to make sure that he was paying attention.

"Sam," Josh said softly.

Sam trailed off and blinked distractedly, then creased his forehead in concentration. "Yes, Josh."

"You're drunk."

He rolled his eyes up as if to think about it, and after a moment said, "Yes, yes I believe I am."

"I think it's time to take you home," Josh said, standing up to grab his coat. "Come on," he said helping Sam to his feet. Sam stood unsteadily, his body leaning heavily into Josh's. Josh froze for half a second, and then reached around his inebriated friend to grab his coat. He managed to get Sam into it without any unforeseen difficulties, despite Sam having complained about missing an arm, left a few bills on the table, and walked out into the chilly December night.

Josh's breath puffed white in the air, and Sam's breath warmed his shoulder as he seemed to make himself quite comfortable against his side.

"Taxi!" Josh yelled, edging for the street.

The yellow cab pulled up and Josh detached himself from his friend and almost sent him sprawling across the seat, with himself on top. It took some maneuvering, but he finally got Sam in a sitting position, and then focused on the cabbie. "Twenty-eight Laramer Square," he said, then rested his head on the back of the seat. He tilted his head until he was looking at Sam who had fallen asleep somewhere between the street and the cab.

It always surprised him how young Sam really was. Not that he was an old man, but Sam had this weird combination of intelligence and naiveté, world-weariness and innocence. Sometimes it was like he was stuck in that in between world of child and adult.

People looked at him and thought they knew what he was about and then he'd throw them all for a loop by spouting off something brilliant. It had almost been unnerving when Josh had first met him, and now...now it was just Sam.

Josh smiled softly, and a little self-deprecatingly in the darkness of the cab. It was almost funny when you thought about it. If you disregarded the intense ache, almost like heartburn he thought prosaically, of never being able to get what you most desperately want. Here he was, White House Deputy Chief of Staff, two degrees from Harvard, he had his own fan club for crying out loud, and he was mooning over some pretty boy from Princeton.

//A very pretty boy,// his mind helpfully added.

He sighed long and deep, then blinked his eyes opened as the cab slowed. "Hey, Sam, come on, buddy, wake up," he said nudging Sam in the side.

Sam mumbled something and turned away. Josh looked at the cab driver. "I'm gonna take him up, I'll be back in a minute."

The cabbie nodded and Josh opened his door and got out. Around the other side he took Sam by the arms and pulled until Sam stumbled into him, his arms wrapping around Josh's shoulders.

"You gonna come up for a while?" Sam mumbled into Josh's neck.

Josh ignored the question as he tried to ignore his body's awakening responses. "Come on, Sam, one foot in front of the other. That's it."

The stairs were difficult, but they managed without anything getting mangled, and Josh puffed out a breath when they reached Sam's door. "I gotta start working out," he said then looked Sam over.

Keys, he needed keys.

Oh, please, God, couldn't you show me a little mercy?

But either God was a sadist, or he was already asleep because Josh's prayer went answered. He steadied Sam against the wall and patted Sam's outer pockets, then pants pockets when he couldn't find them. He hit the jackpot with his right pants pocket and looked up to see Sam's blue eyes remarkably clear and looking straight at him.

"You can't change 'em, Josh, no matter what."

"No, you can't, Sam," he replied past the lump in his throat. He pushed Sam back until he was leaning up against the wall and let go slowly, his hands still raised just in case Sam decided to topple. When he didn't, Josh stuck the key in the lock and turned.

"So I should just let it go, be a friend, right?" Sam asked as Josh slung his arm around Sam's waist and led him into the dark apartment.

Josh turned, putting his face within inches of Sam's. "Yeah, Sam," he said, his voice curiously rough. "Just be a friend."

The furrows in Sam's brow eased and he smiled sweetly. "Thanks, Josh. You're a real pal."

Josh shook his head to clear it and headed down the hall into what he assumed would lead to a bedroom. He flipped on the light and was greeted with a king size bed dominating the room.

It was simple, and very clean. There were two nightstands on either side of the bed in a dark cherry wood that complimented the dark blue color scheme, and the cream colored carpet. There were a few personal items on the dresser that was against the far wall, and a discarded tie draping the overstuffed chair next to the door.

He practically carried Sam through the door and sat him on the bed. Sam immediately fell back and Josh shook his head debating on whether to make Sam at least a little more comfortable.

He sighed and knelt down to take off Sam's shoes, and was startled when Sam starting talking again. He'd thought he'd fallen asleep.

"You do realize you're a pal, right?"

"Yeah, Sam," he said leaning over him to undo his tie.

Sam's eyes were closed and he had a slight smile on his lips. Josh shut his eyes tightly for a moment, then turned his attention away from Sam to pull down the comforter.

With any other guy he'd have probably stripped him down to his boxers without a second thought, but he was definitely having thoughts about Sam, and he didn't trust his hands to do anything more than removing clothing.

With a little maneuvering he got Sam under the sheets and stood back. "I'm a real pal," he muttered disgustedly, then shut off the light and closed the door behind him. When he got out into the hall he fell back against the door and took a deep breath.

"Mental note," he said walking back down to the still waiting taxi. "Never, ever do that again." *** When he got back to his own apartment he was cursing himself ten times a fool. He looked dejectedly around his own apartment, seeing the scattered papers and clothes strewn everywhere.

The cleaning service hadn't come yet, he thought in his own defense, then cursed himself again wondering how one person could make that much of a mess, especially considering that most of his time wasn't even spent there.

He looked around wishing that he were back at Sam's welcoming apartment rather than his own sterile one. Realizing the direction of his thoughts he blew up.

"Oh, come on," he said, the sound sharp and angry in the empty apartment. "It won't ever happen. And even if it did..." he trailed off as he sat down hard on the couch and rubbed his hands over his face. "Even if it did, it'd never work."

Josh sat there for a long time in the silence of his apartment while nine miles away the object of his thoughts dreamed peacefully in a drunken slumber. ***

"Heard you had a long night last night," CJ said, then grinned at Sam's wince. "Apparently I hear correctly."

Sam sent a dark look in her direction, which did nothing to diminish her good mood. "Was there something you wanted, CJ?"

"Yeah, you were supposed to meet me ten minutes ago-"

"To go over the Senate Bill," Sam finished for her. "I'm sorry, CJ," he said walking around his desk and putting on his jacket. "It slipped my mind, won't happen again."

"God, Sam, you look totally trashed."

"Well he was up late last night," Mandy said walking up behind them.

"Does everybody know?" Sam asked looking pitifully through red-rimmed eyes.

"You work in the White House, Sam, where everybody knows everybody else's business," Mandy said dodging a courier.

"Yeah, and where were you last night?" Sam retorted.

She grinned. "I had a date," she replied over her shoulder as she walked off.

CJ shook her head and turned her attention back to Sam. "It's not anything to worry about, is it, Sam?" She asked, finally concerned.

"No," Sam said jerking around to look at her. "Why would it be something to worry about?" She opened her mouth to answer but Sam continued. "Come on, let's get a look at the bill."

She followed him with a slight frown on her face.

***

Josh dropped his face onto his arms resting on his desk. He'd just snipped at Donna, and he knew he'd gone too far when he saw her face fall and then go blank. That little scene had come just after arguments with both Mandy and Leo.

He'd been a bear this past week and he knew it. When he woke up the next morning, still on his couch, after he'd dropped Sam off, he'd made a promise to himself. He'd kept his promise this week at the expense of friends and work. Every stray thought, every little niggling of desire had thoroughly been quashed, and he'd never felt more dead in his life, and he'd taken it out on any unsuspecting person that had gotten in his way.

Josh knew he could be aggressive and intimidating, he had to be in this business, but he'd gone thoroughly overboard into provoking, and the results had been disastrous. Only an hour ago he'd stormed out of Leo's office. He remembered the words clearly.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Both anger and concern coloring his friend's voice. "You practically took Mandy's head off this afternoon and-"

"It's nothing, sir," Josh broke in insolently.

"Now you listen here," Leo said coming around his desk to face him. "The President doesn't need this, *I* don't need this. Now whatever it is, you fix it and pull yourself together or you're outta here."

Josh had almost laughed in his face, would have if he suddenly hadn't felt the urge to cry.

Instead, he'd nodded sharply and walked out, then proceeded to take his anger out on Donna.

Now he was alone.

Well, not alone, no one was ever alone in the White House, but there were only a few people rushing around the halls. Josh felt a headache coming on, but didn't move for fear that his feelings that had been vacillating back and forth so fast he couldn't keep up with them would finally snap.

He didn't look up as someone knocked on his door, and entered without his permission.

"Josh," the concerned voice asked, then let out a sharp breath of air. "Jesus, Josh, you look like hell."

He heard Sam walk up to the desk but still didn't move. "Whaddya want, Sam?" His voice was tired, strained, and a little sad.

"I wanna know what's going on. Everybody's worried about you."

Josh finally raised his head, and even the dim lighting couldn't mask the weariness and sadness in Josh's face, not quite hidden by the scornful disdain. "Well, tell 'em not to," he said getting to his feet and snagging his jacket off the chair. He tried to walk out the door without a glance but Sam grabbed his arm.

Josh reacted to the touch with startling violence, tearing his arm away from Sam and turning on him, his eyes flashing with anger. "Don't touch me," Josh hissed between his teeth. Sam's mouth dropped open, confused and suddenly wary. He held his hands up in surrender. "I just want to help."

The fear in Sam's eyes touched him and he felt his shoulders drop. He closed his eyes and ran a hand over his face.

"I'm sorry," he said after a long moment. Josh looked back up and Sam dropped his hands slowly. "I know it's not enough, but...I'll apologize to everyone tomorrow," he finished lamely.

"I don't want an apology. I want an explanation."

Josh was shaking his head before Sam was even finished. "I can't give you one. You can't help me with this, Sam," he said backing up a step as Sam came closer. He didn't even realize he had done it, but Sam had. "No one can, I need to do it on my own."

Sam tested him by taking another step closer, and sure enough, Josh edged towards the door once more.

Sam was suddenly twelve again and out hiking in the forest on his uncle's farm. He'd heard a long, low keening just before he stumbled upon a coyote caught in a trap. It had yipped and snipped and growled something fierce every time Sam had come near it, almost taking a chunk out of his hand. But Sam, ever patient and determined, had waited the injured animal out and the bravado had abruptly changed into cowering fear.

He blinked in sudden understanding.

Josh was afraid of him.

Sam was so surprised he actually said the words aloud before he could stop himself. "You're afraid of me."

Josh blanched and stepped back, but before he could negate the comment, Sam spoke again. "Why?"

And then with sudden insight his jaw dropped. "Is- is this why you've been acting this way? Because of me? Josh, what did I do?"

"Nothing!" He yelled immediately, and it seemed to startle him more than it did Sam. "You didn't do anything," he said softer, the lie coming easily to his lips.

But Sam wasn't so easily fooled. "Are we friends, Josh?"

"Of course."

"Then act like it, dammit."

Josh was stunned both by the words and the look in Sam's eye. He'd never seen him this way before, and it was quite disconcerting.

"Don't lie to me again," Sam continued, and Josh felt a wave of guilt wash over him.

"Sam-" he broke off, taking a hesitant step forward. "I'm sorry, you're right, this has something to do with you, but it's nothing you've done," he added quickly.

"Then tell me, even if it's nothing I've done, maybe there's something I can do."

Josh shook his head. "I know you wanna help, Sam, but you can't, not this time."

Before Sam could speak again, Josh had left the office, not once looking directly at his friend.

***

But Josh had not lied. The very next day, he apologized, in that quick, efficient way of his, to all those in the office, and then it had been business as usual. Disasters to be averted, plans to be made; information flowed freely through the halls in a constant stream of motion. And if anything, Josh was more on the ball than usual. His tone and manner were all business without a wasted breath or movement to be seen.

He was like a finely honed machine, and although it took longer for people to notice, they eventually did.

Josh had completely shut down to anything that wasn't work related. There was not a wry half smile, a presence of his wicked wit, or even an old fashioned yelling match in sight. Josh Lyman, it seemed, had disappeared, and no one quite knew what to do to get him back.

***

"Donna," he yelled through his office door without taking his eyes from the report in front of him. "Tell Leo I'm ready at his convenience."

"Will do," Donna replied from the open doorway. She started to leave and then hesitated. "Josh, are you all right?" She finally asked.

"I'm fine, Donna," he replied curtly. "Bring me the Garner Report when it's ready," he said in dismissal.

Donna looked almost ready to argue, but then relented as she saw Mandy coming down the hall. If anybody could kick some sense into Josh, it was Mandy. Donna gave the young woman a meaningful look as she turned into Josh's office, which was returned. She then sighed and sat down at her own desk.

***

It wasn't until the door closed softly, cutting the noise by half, that Josh looked up to see Mandy, her arms crossed in front of her, and her face in a firm mask.

"What's going on here, Josh?" Her tone implied she wasn't leaving until she got a suitable answer.

"What's usually going on in the middle of a workday, Mandy. Work. Now if you don't mind..." Josh trailed off, motioning to the pile of scattered papers across his desk.

"Actually I do mind," she replied walking up to his desk and dropping her arms. "What is with you lately? Last week people were getting a rise out of you for just existing, and this week all you care about is work. Josh, this isn't like you."

"Isn't it?" He snapped his head up. "Isn't it just like me to get too involved in work to care about anything else?"

"Josh-"

"Why did we break up?" Josh asked and Mandy all but jerked at the sudden topic change.

"What?"

"Come on, Mandy, I'm sure you kept notes," he said snidely, sitting down and propping his feet up on the desk. "I'm too temperamental, I'm too self-involved, I'm too-"

"Josh, just stop it! What is with you? You're coming about this close," she said holding her fingers less than an inch apart, "to having it out with Leo, the second time in two weeks I might add, and it might just get you fired this time. Your job in the White House isn't just about the work, Josh, it's about the people you work with too, and if you can't get along, then you don't belong here."

There was a long silence followed by a soft knock on the door and Donna stuck her head in. "Josh," she said, and he finally broke eye contact with Mandy.

"What is it, Donna?"

"Leo said he's ready for you in his office."

He nodded and stood. His eyes met Mandy's as he walked around the desk. "I gotta go see about confirming a Supreme Court Justice," he said flatly and walked out.

Mandy's head dropped to her chest, and a moment later she followed him out.

***

Josh sat back on his couch, resting his head against the back, and closed his eyes with a sigh. How was it that all he did was work behind a desk all day and yet he still got so tired by the end of it?

Then he chuckled. His first real show of amusement in days. He probably got more exercise than those people at Balley's just by walking around the White House day after day. He was hardly ever actually behind a desk. He had been more recently though. It was the only place he could get away from those concerned glances that he was beginning to loathe. Only Mandy had shown up so far behind his first line of defense, but he knew it wasn't going to be long before he was going to be called to the carpet by Leo again.

He suddenly felt a surge of anger. Couldn't a guy just do his job unmolested? He was doing what they paid him for, and at least he wasn't snapping at anyone anymore.

His stomach growled and he moved only enough to look at his watch. It was almost nine and he hadn't eaten anything since lunch. He pondered the effort it would take to make something from his barren fridge compared to reaching over to the phone and ordering in.

A minute later his reach for the phone was aborted by a knock at the door. His brow automatically creased as he wondered who it could be. One of the neighbors he didn't know or Mandy who'd tracked him down.

He debated about not answering it, but there was another sharper knock and he got the distinct impression that the person behind the door would wait him out.

He dragged himself off the couch and headed for the door. Cursing himself softly for not installing a peephole yet, he made sure the chain was in place before opening the door a crack.

At the sight of the visitor, Josh's whole body went tense. He'd avoided Sam all week, making perfunctory comments whenever he had to speak with him, and Sam hadn't seemed inclined to search him out in the office, but apparently that didn't extend to after hours because Sam Seaborn was at his door at nine o'clock on a Wednesday night.

And he was carrying food.

That, in Josh's opinion, was the only point in his favor.

"Whaddya want, Sam?" He asked when he realized that they'd been staring at each other for a while.

"Well, unlocking your door and inviting me in wouldn't be a bad start."

For whom, Josh immediately thought, but decided not to voice that comment. He deliberated for a brief moment and then, despite better judgment, closed the door, took the chain off, then opened the door wide in invitation.

You're Josh Lyman, he reminded himself. You can hold off your impulses for a half an hour while you eat, and then firmly push him out the door. Feeling a little bit better about it, he headed into the kitchen calling over his shoulder, "Wanna drink?"

Sam had immediately come inside and closed the door behind him, but once in, he hesitated. He truly had no idea what he was doing here; he was merely going on instinct. He knew the trouble Josh had been having was related to him and he wasn't going to leave here tonight until they'd settled this thing.

"Glass of water'd be good." He considered a moment going for something harder, but decided that alcohol could only serve to cloud an already muddy issue.

He set the food down on the coffee table, shed his coat, then made his way into the kitchen, his eyes roaming over the apartment. It had the sparseness of someone who wasn't home much and didn't entertain, but Sam could see the subtle touches around the apartment that reminded him of Josh.

He reached the tiny kitchen and almost surprised Josh into dropping two glasses. Josh backed up a few paces and spared him a narrowed glance. "Need something?"

"Plates."

Josh nodded absently to a cabinet and Sam grabbed two plates, then hunted around for silverware.

"So what're you doing here?" Josh asked as Sam headed back into the living room where Josh was looking over the prodigious amounts of food.

Sam set a plate down in front of him and watched as it was immediately filled with piles of white rice topped with beef and broccoli. "I thought you might be hungry," he said with evenly. "You haven't been taking much care of yourself lately."

The comment surprised Josh and he raised an eyebrow. "I don't need a babysitter, Sam."

"That," Sam said filling his own plate, "is entirely a matter of opinion."

Josh had taken the armchair adjacent to the sofa, which Sam now settled himself on.

"You know, I wish everyone would stop concerning themselves with my problems and concentrate on their own," he mumbled.

Sam smiled slightly. "That's progress. At least your admitting there is a problem."

"But it's *my* problem," Josh said calmly despite the tension in his posture. "I'll fix it myself."

"Oh, come on," Sam replied with heat glittering in his eyes. "Can't you just admit for once that there is something that the great and mighty Josh Lyman cannot handle? We're your friends, Josh, let us help you."

"Great and mighty, huh?" He asked, his tone suddenly light and a cocky half-smile in place.

"Josh-"

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sam-"

"I can't help," Sam finished disgustedly.

"I'm sorry," he said shrugging.

"No, you're not," Sam said quietly, putting his plate down in front of him. After a long moment he looked

up at Josh. "You said it had to do with me-"

"Sam-"

"No, let me finish," he took a deep breath then continued. "The day when we argued in your office you said that it was nothing I did, but it had to do with me. You were also scared as hell to be with me."

Josh started to speak again but was silenced by Sam's raised hand. "I never thought it would be this way," Sam continued wryly. "I never expected..." he trailed off, looking down at his hands, but Josh was intrigued enough not to speak. Finally Sam looked up at him again. Josh couldn't tell what emotion was behind Sam's eyes, but whatever it was, it was fierce and bright. "It's just that it's been so long, I guess I thought..." he gave a weak smile and continued. "I guess maybe I said something...that night, and I'm sorry. But you know that I'd never try anything, right? I mean you do know that."

Josh felt like he was floundering in the ocean without a life raft in sight, but owing to his nature, he wasn't content to let Sam know that he didn't have a clue of what they were discussing. "How long," he started out slowly, "has it been?"

Sam seemed to become very little boyish as he fidgeted, not wanting to meet Josh's eyes. "Since the campaign," he muttered softly, "almost from the beginning."

"That's over three years, Sam."

Sam's head came up, his eyes locking with Josh's. "Yes, it is."

"I'm not scared of you, Sam."

"But in your office-"

Josh shook his head sharply. "I'm scared of me."

Sam thought for a moment. "I don't understand."

"Neither do I. So I guess we've got two options," he said leaning forward, his elbows on his knees. "We can either ignore this ever happened and go our own separate ways, or we can hash this out right now. But I warn you," Josh continued before Sam could speak, "you wanted to hear the truth and I plan on giving it to you, whether you like it or not." He paused for a moment as his words settled into Sam's features. "Deal?"

"Deal," Sam replied without hesitation.

The answer seemed to both increase and decrease the tension in Josh's body at the same time. "Okay," he said scratching the back of his head in a nervous gesture. "So where do we start?"

Sam leaned forward, mirroring Josh's posture. "Let's start at the beginning. What did I say or do to you two weeks ago that has you all bent out of shape?" Josh looked confused and Sam continued. "This started the night after we went to the bar. I must've done something."

Josh's mouth twitched in understanding, and he shook his head. "You didn't do anything, Sam, you didn't have to. You were just there." It was Sam's turn to look confused and Josh fidgeted, getting up to pace, his hand running through his hair. "Look, I'm gonna say something here, and then I'm never gonna say it again, okay?"

He asked turning to Sam for confirmation. Sam nodded mutely and Josh immediately paced away. "I don't know what you think you told me that night, what secret you think you let out, but," he said as he turned, "you were pretty incoherent most of the evening," he finished with a slight grin. Sam ducked his head as his face flushed, but looked up as Josh began to move again.

"What did happen that night was..." he let out a low sigh, his shoulders tight as he stopped pacing, still facing away from Sam. "I'm attracted to you, Sam," he said, and flinched at how that sounded. "I have been for a while. I knew it'd never work so I just didn't think about it, didn't let myself think about it," he finished softly. He didn't speak for a moment, but didn't turn around either. "The day we went out, I ah, I had been letting myself imagine what it would be like, you know. And then...then you were talking about Laurie and I guess...I guess it just hit me." He turned around, a sardonic smile in place, that didn't even slip when faced with Sam's carefully controlled features. "The last two weeks," he said raising a hand and tapping it on his chest, "they were me being pissed at myself."

"Why?" Sam asked, and they were both a little surprised that that was the first question he asked.

"Cause even after all that I still couldn't stop thinking about you," he said with brutal honesty, for some reason wanting Sam to know exactly what he'd been going through.

Sam stood up slowly, holding his eyes. "So you're attracted to me?"

It was enough of a question that Josh nodded in confirmation.

Sam skirted around the edge of the table so he came face to face with Josh. "Is that it?"

Josh looked incredulous for a full second before he got angry. "Is that all you can ask?" He asked furiously, his hand waving in the air as he began to turn away. Sam caught his wrist and turned him until they were facing again, but this time they were closer, Josh's chest heaving in agitation. "Answer the question, Josh," Sam said in cool lawyer tones.

"D'you really think if it was just attraction," he said almost sneering the word, "that I'd be like this?"

To Josh's surprise, the tension fled Sam's frame and he even smiled. "You love me, don't you?"

"Of course not," Josh snapped, tugging on the wrist that was still firmly held in Sam's grasp.

"And it burns you." Sam's eyes drifted to his lips, and Josh inhaled sharply at the look. Those blue eyes met his own and Sam said softly, "It doesn't have to."

The words made no sense to Josh as Sam was slowly leaning towards him making his heart stutter and his breathing catch. "Sam?" He managed to get out.

"Shut up, Josh."

His lips were warm and soft: a curious exploration. Josh's first instinct was to fall into the kiss; the subtle taste, the soft glide of lips, but his second instinct got the better of him as he pulled away sharply, his eyes full of hurt.

"I don't need pity, Sam," his voice was gravely and hard. "And I don't like games."

Sam's eyes were hazy and he reached up to slide his hand over Josh's neck, urging him forward. "This isn't a game."

Arousal slithered down Josh's spine at his husky tone, but his hand went to Sam's chest, keeping them apart. "That's right, it isn't," he pushed slightly, and Sam let him go, his eyes following as Josh grabbed his plate and started cleaning up as if nothing happened.

As if Sam's world hadn't just suddenly halted.

As if his lips weren't still tingling.

"Josh-"

"Sam, I told you all that," he said waving his hand negligently in the air, "because you're my friend and you wanted to know what's been bothering me. Well that was it, and as I said before, there's nothing you can do." He paused, set the now dripping plate deliberately on the counter and turning to face Sam. "Nothing you should feel pressured to do." He smiled a little then, "Hey, I'll get over this, you'll see."

"And how do you propose to do that? Hypnosis?" Sam snapped, walking into the kitchen. Josh seemed to straighten his shoulders as if bracing for the fight. "Do they have a patch for something like this cause what just happened in there isn't going to go away."

Josh tried to speak and Sam waved him off.

"No. You got your say, now I get mine." He stopped in front of Josh who had folded his arms across his chest in a clearly defensive posture. "You don't get to be the martyr on this one. Sorry. You see, you said that you've recently come to this realization that you have some sort of feeling for me that goes beyond friendship, but let me tell you something, buddy," Sam said leaning in close, "you," he jabbed his finger into Josh's chest, "are way behind in the game. Three years, Josh," he said throwing his hands in the air and pacing back into the living room.

"You think someone like Laurie deserves a crisis?" He asked with something resembling a chuckle. "Try living through Diane, or Sara, or Mandy," he said explosively. "You wanna know how many times I laid in my bed and told myself it was for the best? How many times I threw myself into my work just so I wouldn't see you laughing with them and smiling with them and kissing them? How many times I told myself that friendship was enough? Well, maybe it's not enough anymore," he said walking back into the kitchen where Josh hadn't moved, too shocked by what was being said. "I want you, Josh, and I came here tonight because I thought that I had totally blown it by telling you that when it wasn't what you wanted to hear, and then you tell me that you want me as well, and I'm not supposed kiss you. Not supposed to want to touch you?" His voice had risen in fury and indignation, but his next words were practically a whisper. "Do you really think," he started slowly, "that you're the only one with something to lose in this? You said you're attracted to me, Josh, but I love you. I always have. And if you think that's pity talking," he thought to add, "then you're more stupid than I thought."

And without waiting for a reply, Sam turned around with quiet dignity and headed for the door.

Josh literally couldn't move. The words had paralyzed him quite effectively. It just hadn't occurred to him that Sam could feel something for him. That he had apparently felt something for some time. Had felt it, and come to terms with it, which Josh still hadn't been able to do. The door to his apartment closed softly, and Josh's body sagged as he realized what he'd just let happen. On an immediate surge of adrenaline, Josh flew across the room, slammed the door open, raced down the steps, practically tripping over himself, and skidded to a stop just outside his building. He looked desperately right, then left. Seeing Sam, his heart jumped. "Sam!"

Sam was about twenty feet away, his shoulders hunched in his brown trench coat as the December wind inched around him. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, then stop. He turned slowly, his face shadowed as he stood just beyond the reach of the streetlamp. "Go home, Josh, there's nothing more to say."

"Isn't there?" He asked, walking forward. The wind picked up and his skin shivered, although he couldn't feel the cold. "What about I'm sorry," he said as he stopped only a few feet in front of Sam.

"I'm sorry too, but that doesn't change things," And something was wrong because Sam didn't sound angry, just tired and resigned.

"Sam-"

"It doesn't change the fact that you're Deputy Chief of Staff and I'm Deputy Communications Director. It doesn't change the fact that we work in a White House that says it's liberal, but when the chips are down it can't take the scandal." Sam's face was flushed and his breath was chilled in the air in white clouds. They drifted down and he spoke again, softer this time. "You were right not to want this, Josh. I'm sorry I pushed it on you. I just couldn't…" he trailed off as his face tightened in pain. "I'm sorry."

This time it was Josh who reached out to take Sam's arm to prevent him from walking away. "How can you just walk away? How can you stand there and say you love me one moment and then just walk away?"

"Isn't that what you wanted to do?" Sam asked, and then didn't give him the opportunity for answer. "Besides, you know I'm right. The President has enough problems without our adding to them," he tried to turn away again and Josh tightened his grip bringing them nose-to-nose.

"You fought for Laurie, I watched you do it," he hissed, "and now you won't fight for this?"

Sam grabbed his biceps, almost shaking him. "Josh, are you listening to yourself? Your career would not survive if the press found out, and they would, don't kid yourself."

"So now you're saying that it's for my career. You don't mind ruining the Presidency, but when it comes to my career-"

"Yes! When it comes to you or anything about you, I will do anything, Josh, absolutely anything to see that you're safe."

"Well, maybe I don't wanna be safe," Josh growled. "Maybe I wanna be with you."

Sam abruptly let him go and Josh released his arm and stepped back. He seemed to struggle a moment for equilibrium and then dropped his head to his chest and put his hands in his pockets. "I'm sorry, Josh, I shouldn't have…" he looked up with a failed grin. "It's just that you said what I wanted to hear and I wasn't thinking clearly or I would have never…" He sighed deeply and ran a hand through his hair. "I can't let you take the chance, Josh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he whispered as he turned to walk down the street.

Josh watched him go, not making a move to bring him back. The cold didn't touch him now because Josh Lyman saw something he wanted. And he wasn't going to stop until he got it. With determination blooming in his heart and a plan forming in his mind, Josh loped up the steps to his apartment, a small smile on his face. Sam would never know what hit him. ***

Sam walked down the hallway towards his office Monday morning, his head hanging to his chest. It was just after six in the morning, and he hadn't slept the night before. He couldn't believe what he'd done to Josh. To the both of them. He'd known when he first acknowledged what he was feeling that as long as they worked for Josiah Bartlet, they couldn't have a relationship, even if Josh had wanted one. But Josh hadn't, and because of that fact, it was easy to keep his distance. Easy to just be friends. But last night when Josh had said he felt something, something that Sam had wanted to hear for a long time, the Presidency had slipped away into need. And when Josh had pushed him away, reason had returned. And as far as he could tell, reason sucked.

"Sam," Cathy called and he raised his head to greet the hive of chaos. "You're late."

Sam took the messages in her hand and nodded. "I know."

"You've got a meeting with staff in five minutes."

"I know," Sam said flipping through the messages.

"And," she said flashing him a smile. "You've got a letter on your desk." Sam slanted her a quizzical look, but her grin just grew.

"From who?" He asked opening the door.

She shrugged. "Don't know. It was there when I got here this morning."

Sam walked into his office and set his briefcase down on his desk and picked up the cream colored envelope sitting in the middle. 'Sam Seaborn' was printed in large letters on the cover. He took his glasses out of his jacket pocket and slipped them on, then reached for his letter opener. Inside was one sheet of paper, unlined, with two sentences written in cursive, dead center. ~I fight for what I want. I don't intend to lose.~ Sam lost his breath and dropped into his seat. The letter was unsigned, but there was only one person who could be so arrogant, so stubborn, so…irritatingly sweet.

"Sam." Sam's head shot up to stare uncomprehendingly at Cathy. "Staff meeting," she said and watched his forehead crease in confusion. "Were you planning on going?"

"Staff meeting," Sam repeated loudly, jumping to see feet. "Yes, of course. Going. Why wouldn't I be?" He asked, rushing around his desk, the letter still clutched unnoticed in his hand. He reached the door when Josh came flying around the corner. He had a huge smile on his face, showcasing his dimples, and an even more pronounced swagger to his step. Sam stood statue still as Josh came up and deliberately put his hands on his shoulders, then looked him directly in the eye. Sam's mouth opened then closed without a sound, but Josh's grin just grew bigger.

"We got him."

"What?"

"Harrison said yes." Josh did a little turn and hop as Toby came out of his office.

"We got him?"

"Yes," Josh said raising his arms above his head. "We da men!"

"Let's go tell the President," Toby said calmly, although there was a small grin playing around the corners of his mouth.

Sam was still staring at Josh dumfounded when Josh looked down and saw the letter in his hands. If anything, his grin grew.

"I told you I'd get my man," he said softly as he took the letter out of his hand and slipped it in Sam's coat pocket. Then Josh let out a whoop and dragged him down the hall and presented in front of Mrs. Landingham.

Sam couldn't help the grin that found his face as he realized what Josh was saying. Peyton Cabot Harrison III, Supreme Court Justice. And Sam had helped put him there. Josh's excitement caught up with him, and he didn't even notice his smile as Josh slid an arm around his shoulders.

***

The next four days could have gone down in Sam's book as the four most wearing days of his life. It was Thursday night and Harrison was probably somewhere cursing the White House and its entire staff, Lillianfield was toasting himself for a job well done, and Roberto Mendoza was now the White House's official nominee for Supreme Court Justice. Sam dropped into his chair and sighed, his head falling back. Josh hadn't said anything about the letter, hadn't made any overt gestures at all. But Sam could feel the difference. He knew that Josh was biding his time, laying in wait. Throughout the week Sam had begun to feel like the prey of a wild animal, never quite knowing when the beast would pounce.

"Quite a night," said a quiet voice by the door. And the beast had arrived. Sam opened his eyes and saw Josh leaning against the doorjamb. His tie was loose, his sleeves were rolled up, and he looked thoroughly rumpled. Not threatening in the least. And, in Sam's humble opinion, it was completely unfair that his heart chose that exact moment to start pounding.

"Yeah," Sam replied in a rusty voice. "Mandy outdid herself." Josh smiled and walked in, slipping his hands in his pockets.

"She always does." Sam fidgeted under Josh's gaze and searched frantically for something to say. Josh beat him to the punch. "I know we've been a bit preoccupied this week." Josh's right hand came out to trace patterns on the edge of the desk. Sam's eyes followed the movements, then looked up to see Josh watching him. "But I want you to know, I meant what I said on Monday."

"Josh," Sam sighed. "These are our friends. They fought too hard to get here, we can't do this to them."

"Sam," Josh replied evenly. "These are our friends. If this ever gets out they'll fight for us. Just like we'd fight for them." Sam studied him for a moment, then stood, seeming to come to a decision, and grabbed his coat from the back of the chair. He walked around the edge of the desk and headed for the door without a word. When he reached it, he turned around to see Josh watching him, his expression carefully neutral.

"Well, come on," Sam said nodding his head toward the door.

"Where we going?" Josh asked, slightly concerned, but walking forward anyway. When Josh stopped just in front of him Sam curved his lips in a profoundly sweet smile.

"We're going home."

***

Sam got out of his car and grabbed his briefcase, turning he saw Josh's car pull up beside him. There were clear rules to this engagement. The first of which was no one could know about it. That meant that they couldn't stay together tonight, or any night. But that didn't mean that it wasn't going to be fun while it lasted. While it lasted. Sam shivered a bit at the thought, then resolutely put it out of his mind as he watched Josh exit his car. There was a small, secret smile on his face, which Sam couldn't help but answer. They walked up the stairs in silence, their arms brushing against each other. Sam opened the door to his apartment and walked inside.

He dropped his briefcase and coat on the couch and turned to face Josh. Josh had walked inside, then turned to lock the door. When he turned back again, Sam wasn't able to move in the face of his look. Josh took the opportunity to move closer. Josh's hand ran up his side, feeling the heated flesh under his thin cotton Oxford. The air felt heavy with electricity, like just before a storm. And in a way, that's exactly what Josh was. He was an unpredictable summer storm that was as beautiful as it was raw. He opened his eyes to see the coffee brown of Josh's studying him intently. The light touch on his side became an almost painful grip, and before he could breath Josh's lips were on his: hard and demanding. This was what Sam had dreamt of. To be consumed by Josh's heat, to feel that fire burn inside of him. His hands dove into Josh's hair as his lips opened to admit the welcome intruder. He felt the low moan in his throat as Josh's surprisingly strong arms wrapped around him, dragging him closer still. The kiss ended as abruptly as it began, but Josh's mouth never left his skin, skimming over his cheek and jaw, dropping to his throat, small sounds of contentment echoing deep in his chest. Impatient hands were suddenly scrabbling to get under his shirt, his stomach muscles tightening in anticipation. His head dropped back as he choked out Josh's name. Strong, capable fingers were now efficiently undoing his tie and opening the buttons on his shirt. Josh's mouth trailed lower. He seemed to be mumbling to himself, but the words were too indistinct to understand. When Josh drew back, Sam sucked in a deep breath at the searing look. Josh's hand cupped his face, and his thumb lovingly trailed along his bottom lip, which trembled at the attention.

When Josh spoke, his voice was husky, and deep like aged brandy. "I'm going to make you scream," was the solemn promise. Sam nodded blindly, not caring at the moment about anything other than Josh's body on his. He fumbled with the buttons on Josh's shirt, and the knot in his tie, and almost stumbled over his own feet as Josh led them into the bedroom. They managed to make it intact, and the first touch of skin on skin sent sparks through his body. He fell back onto his bed and dragged Josh on top of him, his mouth searching out its mate. He could feel Josh's erection, hard and hot against his thigh, and deliberately shifted, taking the resulting moan into his mouth. The solid press of Josh's body suddenly shifted as he pulled away slightly, his nails scraping lightly down Sam's chest. His mouth followed, and his tongue flicked out to catch the tightening nipples. Sam grasped ineffectually at Josh's shoulders, and then threaded his fingers through his hair as he felt his belt being unbuckled. Shoes, socks, pants, and briefs were removed with the minimum of effort, and when he looked up, he saw Josh's eyes devouring him.

"Josh," he whispered, unable to speak any louder. "I need to see you. I need…"

His voice trailed off as Josh's slithered off the bed and stood, looking down at him. Sam sat up halfway, his weight resting on his elbows, and watched as Josh toed off his shoes, and unbuckled his belt. The sound of his zipper was probably the most erotic thing Sam had ever heard and he began to feel a little lightheaded. A moment later, the pants and socks were off, and he stood in front of Sam wearing only royal blue silk boxers. While Sam had had several glimpses of Josh's body throughout the years and had begun to form his own mental picture, it was nothing compared to what stood before him. Josh was tall and leanly muscled, which had to be due to daily workouts, although Sam couldn't fathom when he had the time. His arms were well developed, his chest was broad and firm and dusted lightly with hair, and his stomach flat and surprisingly defined. Sam knew that Josh had also been a runner while in college, and it still showed in his strong thighs and calves. Sam swallowed hard. He looked once more at the blue boxers, misshaped by his obvious erection, and then he met Josh's eyes.

"You know," Josh said conversationally as he stepped forward, his dimples flashing. "They're the same color as your eyes, right at this moment." Josh seemed to slide gracefully down to his knees between Sam's thighs, his hands running lightly over the young man's legs.

"Josh," Sam said, his voice cracking slightly. "You don't have to."

Josh raised and eyebrow. "Do you want me to?"

"God, yes."

"Then shut up," he replied smiling.

He leaned in then, placing a string of kisses along Sam's inner thigh, feeling the firm flesh tremble under the attention. He breathed in deeply, smelling the musk, and nudged Sam's erection with his nose. Sam fell back on the bed, his fingers gripping the bedspread like he was holding on to his life by a mere thread. Josh's left hand went up from Sam's thigh to his stomach and up to his chest, playing with his nipples, and with his right hand, he grasped Sam's erection at the base, and dipped his head to taste. Sam's body jackknifed up, and if Josh hadn't been prepared for it, he certainly would have choked. He shifted slightly, gaining leverage, and then in one swift move, enveloped Sam's erection in his mouth. Sam let out a strangled scream and undulated beneath him, now making almost continuous low sounds of pleasure/pain. It was like being massaged with warm, wet velvet. Sam literally started seeing lights flash in front of his eyes because they were closed so painfully tight. He couldn't get any air to his lungs, and his body felt like a live wire. Electricity shot down his spine, and pooled like liquid heat in his belly. His hands convulsed on the sheets and he would have screamed again if he'd had the breath. And then it was over. He gulped in a breath, feeling little tremors of aftershocks echoing through his body. Somehow he found the strength to lift his head. Josh was now sitting on the bed, his hand covering Sam's. And he looked like he'd been given the greatest gift in the world. Struggling to break free from the lethargy in his limbs he sat up and caught Josh in a long kiss.

"I want you so much," he whispered, his hands caressing Josh's body almost frantically as if he thought it would disappear.

His hands trailed lightly over the honeyed flesh, feeling the suppleness and strength in the rounded contours of his shoulders, the lithe slope of his back, the tightly coiled muscles of his stomach, and the long length of his legs. Sam put as much of himself as he could into discovering just what made Josh moan, what made him scream, and what made him whimper. Josh was one of the most powerful men in the world, not because of his job or his relationship with the President, but because of the magnetism of his personality, the sheer force of his will. He could be benevolent or he could be dangerous. It was all a matter of choice. He was devastating. And he was lying on Sam's bed, writhing under his careful ministrations. Josh's golden eyes were shut, and he was breathing in light pants as Sam moved his hands and mouth over that beautiful body. Josh's erection was straining between them, and Sam suddenly reached over to the nightstand and started rooting around in it. Josh opened his eyes.

"Wh-what are you doing?" Sam produced a small bottle and raised his eyebrows at Josh? "Do you have a problem with that?" Josh looked at him for a long moment, then reached forward with gentle deliberateness and brought Sam's lips to his.

Their first kiss had been tentative: a hesitant brush of lips. The others had carried with them a sense of desperation: a battle of teeth and tongues, fighting towards an intangible goal. This was somehow softer and sweeter than either of them could have ever imagined it being. They pulled away, all at once curiously shaken and calmly centered. Sam smiled gently and opened the bottle, slowly drizzling the lightly scented oil into his hand. Josh held his breath as he watched Sam take all the time in the world, then exhaled in a rush, as that slick, strong hand gripped his erection firmly. There was almost no friction as Sam coated him in oil, then turned to prepare himself. Josh almost sobbed when Sam finally straddled him and began his slow, torturous descent. Josh gripped Sam's muscled thighs with an almost vicious grip as he felt himself slide into Sam's delicious heat. He gave his control over to Sam, letting the younger man set a maddening pace, contenting himself with roaming his hands over the body of his lover. But the slow, controlled pace couldn't last for long. Sam leaned over seeking Josh's lips as Josh began to thrust blindly. Sam's erection had renewed, and Josh reached for it, finding it slick with sweat and pulsing for his touch. Sam threw his head back and came suddenly with a hoarse shout sending Josh toppling after him helplessly. Sam sagged, boneless on top of him, his breathing harsh on Josh's shoulder. Josh closed his eyes and stroked his hand over Sam's damp hair. After a moment he spoke.

"I have never been more of an idiot than I've been with you." Sam almost jerked up and looked into Josh's serious face. "I'm sorry, Sam, I should have seen it before. I just…" he shook his head and sighed, then brought a hand to Sam's face, tracing a finger over his jaw. "It's hard, hard to say it. Hard because I feel it so much."

Sam smiled slowly. "You don't have to say it, Josh."

"Yeah I do."

"Okay." A long moment passed in silence, and then Sam finally broke, nudging him in the ribs.

"Well, come on."

Josh sat up, wrapping his arms around him and capturing his lips for a quick kiss. "I love you." Sam nodded.

"That's more like it," then kissed him again. "You hungry?" He asked, pulling back. Josh grinned wickedly.

"Starving." Sam rolled his eyes, then rolled off the bed. "You're incorrageable," he shook his head and held out a hand.

"That's why you love me," Josh replied, taking it, and brushing his lips across the knuckles.

"So that's why, huh? I wondered."

***

"I should go." Josh said a few hours later. He was lying on his side and Sam leaned over his shoulder to plant a soft kiss on the back of his neck, his arm snaking around to hold him close.

"Yes, you should." Josh rolled on his back, and Sam settled comfortably on his chest. His blue eyes were clear and guileless. He didn't sound upset. He didn't look it either. "You know I should. If anybody-" Sam cut him off with a brief kiss, and Josh ran his hand over the short, dark hair, pulling him closer. His left hand ran down the sleek back and he dragged Sam on top of him. Burrowing his head in the solid shoulder he wrapped his arms around Sam in a fierce hug. "I don't want to." Sam raised his head and cupped Josh's face between his hands. Josh's eyes were shut tightly, and Sam ran his lips over his brow and down to his stubbled cheeks.

"I don't want you to," he whispered next to Josh's mouth where he paced a soft kiss. "I want you to stay right here. In my bed," he said with a kiss to the other side of Josh's mouth. "With me." He lightly brushed Josh's lips with his own. "Safe."

"But we aren't safe here, are we?" Sam shook his head no. "So you're going to get up, put your clothes on-despite the tragedy of hiding this beautiful body." He grinned and slid a hand down Josh's side causing him to catch his breath. "Then you're going to drive home and crawl into bed. And then you're going to dream about me."

"And when I wake up?" His hand rose to his chest.

"I'll be right there," he said, breathing into his lover's mouth. Josh took Sam into his arms and rolled them over, pinning Sam between him and the sheets. He looked briefly over at the clock. It was just after midnight. Plenty of time to give Sam something to remember him by. Never enough time, Josh thought as he walked into his own apartment two hours later. There would never be enough time.

***

Friday morning Josh walked into work, his eyes blurry and his emotions, once again, at odds with each other. He was elated that he and Sam had worked things out, but he'd wanted to stay with him so much, almost above all else. But he couldn't. They couldn't. Not now, maybe not ever. He hung his head, not paying attention to anything around him. He waved Donna off and then opened the door to his office, already shrugging out of his coat. He started at the figure sitting at his desk. Sam smiled.

"Hi."

"Hi," he replied, surprised.

Sam swung his feet off the desk and stood, nodding to the door. "Close the door, Josh."

"Sam?"

Sam walked closer and reached past Josh and shut the door on his own. "I just wanted to say," he whispered, his breath caressing Josh's lips, "good morning," his mouth followed suit. Josh dropped his backpack, his hands reaching out to cradle Sam's face between them as he took possession of his mouth. Pulling back, the grin slid across his face at Sam's bemused expression.

"Good morning to you too."

A knock at the door broke their embrace, but it couldn't keep the smiles off their faces. Sam stepped back to a respectable distance as Josh opened the door.

"Josh," Donna started in right away. "You just got a call from Senator Heynes to cancel your eleven o'clock, and Leo says he needs you right away. Hi, Sam," she finished, flashing him a smile.

Sam nodded, then cleared his throat, "So," he said turning to Josh, "it's a go?"

"Absolutely," Josh replied seriously.

"Good." Sam exited the office, brushing past Donna with a grin.

"What was that about?"

"Nothing," he replied softly, his dimples flashing. "Now," his gaze sharpened as he strode down the hall to Leo's office. "What's this about Senator Heynes not wanting to meet with me?"

Donna shook her head as she practically ran to keep up with Josh's long strides while she filled him in on the up-to-date information. Whatever it was that had been bothering Josh didn't seem to be bothering him anymore, and that was good enough for her.

The End...for the moment.

Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page