Title: Thirty Second Hypothetical
Author: Maharae
Disclaimer: The characters described herein are not mine and never will be.
Archive: Ask first please
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Josh/Sam
Spoilers: In Excelsis Deo
Warnings: m/m sex--that was kinda obvious, huh?
Summary: Christmas in the Whitehouse. Sequel to The West Wing.
Feedback: Is appreciated. Maharae@aol.com
Dedication: To LauraS for everything :)

***

Thirty Second Hypothetical by Maharae

December 23, 1999 7:41 am

"What have you done, Sam?" CJ asked, glancing back at the young lawyer as he leaned against her door with studied casualness.

"Nothing," he replied quickly, breaking off his ramblings about millennium fever.

CJ had learned that this behavior could be interpreted one of two ways: Sam had either had way too many cups of coffee on his way in, or he had something he needed to say and didn't quite know how he wanted to say it. She gave him a sharp look over the top of her glasses.

"Can I come in?" He asked, motioning to close the door. CJ nodded, and set her glasses gently on her desk, preparing. "So okay, here's the thing," he started, coming forward and settling himself on the couch. "What if you found out somehow that someone in the White House was, say, gay? How would you feel about that?"

"Sam?" She asked, leaning forward in her chair.

Sam quickly held up his hands. "Hypothetically."

"Personally or professionally?"

"Either. Both."

CJ leaned back in her chair. "Well, personally I don't care, and professionally, unless it could affect the President," she shrugged, "it probably wouldn't matter either."

Sam shifted in his seat. "And if it could, you know, affect the President?"

CJ stood up and walked around her desk, leaning against the back of the chair facing him. "What do you know, Sam?"

"Nothing."

"Sam?"

"What?"

"Nothing is hypothetical with you, now give."

Sam seemed to struggle with something as he looked down at his hands, which had twined together. He then winced slightly and looked up. "You said you should be my first call. I," he took a deep breath. "I'm kind of involved in something that, if discovered, could possibly be damaging to the President."

"Again," CJ sighed, and Sam smiled sheepishly. "Can you get uninvolved?"

"That's a problem, CJ. I don't want to get uninvolved."

"So what's this thing?" she asked, coming around the chair and sitting down. Sam looked at her for a long moment, not saying a word, and her eyes widened.

"Oh, Sam."

"I really like this guy, CJ."

CJ raised a hand to her forehead. "Oh, Sam," she said again. "You know you can't do this."

"It's done, CJ."

"Sam-"

"CJ," he said firmly. "It's done."

"Do you have any idea how bad this could get, a hooker's one thing, but Sam, this guy-"

"Okay," Sam interrupted, holding up a hand. "Number one, she's a call girl not a hooker, and number two, he won't say anything."

"How can you be sure? People would pay a lot of money-"

"I know that," he said, launching himself off the couch and starting to pace.

"Don't you think I know that? But I'm saying, he won't tell anyone."

"And I'm saying how can you be sure?" She said, standing up and taking his arm.

"Because he's got just as much to lose as I do, maybe more." His voice was hard and painful, and

CJ let go. "Now, we've been careful," he said sitting back down on the couch. "But I'm asking you: how bad can this get?"

"Pretty bad, Sam. Look," she sighed, going back to her desk. "We've already got trouble on the moral front what with Al Cauldwell and Lillianfield, and this…Sam, no matter what precautions you take, they're going to find out, and no matter what we say or don't say, we're gonna get hit, and hit hard."

"I suppose it's too much to ask that the country not care about my sex life."

She smiled a little. "Look, Sam. I'll do what I can, but-"

She was cut off by a knock at the door, and Toby walked in, holding out a slip of paper. "We just got this fifteen minutes ago."

"What is it?" CJ asked as she took the paper, then looked back up at Toby.

"A gay high school senior," he started, which brought Sam's head snapping up, "A couple of kids in Minnesota tied him to a tree and tried to beat him to death. Leo wants you to test the waters on Hate Crimes at your morning briefing."

Sam's chest felt like it had imploded and he struggled to breathe, to get the words out. "Is he…" He swallowed dryly. "Is he all right?"

Toby turned to look at him. "He's in critical condition, they don't know if he's going to pull through," he said, and then slipped out of the room.

CJ looked down at Sam who had covered his face with his hands. "Sam," she said softly, walking over to him.

"Jesus, CJ," came the tortured whisper. He dropped his hands, and his blue eyes were wide and dark with anger, pain, and panic. His mouth opened, then closed as he looked up at her, and she sat down beside him, her hand smoothing over his shoulder.

"We'll fix this, Sam. We'll revisit Hate Crimes legislation, and we'll-"

"No."

CJ almost flinched in surprise. "Sam?"

He turned toward her and she could see his struggle for control. He shook his head slightly. "Do what Leo says, test it, don't-"

"Sam!" She exclaimed looking at him as if he were insane. "Did you hear what he said?"

"Yes, and now I need you to hear what I'm saying," he said fiercely then stopped himself, taking a deep breath. "Do what Leo says," he said again, looking her in the eye. "Gage reaction. Do not, under any circumstances, turn this into a crusade. Understand?"

CJ nodded, keeping her silence as she watched Sam stand up and, with a grace and composure uncharacteristic of him, exit of the room.

***

7:52 am

Josh walked into his office, his backpack slung casually over his shoulder, and stopped short when he saw Mandy. He flashed an amazingly bright smile and continued past her, dropping into his chair. "S'up?" He asked, cocking his head slightly to the right.

"You tell me," Mandy replied, fighting back mild amusement.

"Well, I wouldn't know Madeline," he said raising his hands, "I just got here."

Mandy leaned forward. "When are you gonna tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"Come on, Josh, give me a little credit. Two weeks ago you were like suicide on a stick, then you throw yourself into work--which, in you, translates to brooding--and now you're all smiles." Mandy had watched Josh's facial expressions, looking for some clue as to what he was thinking, but all she got was a raised eyebrow. Huffing a little she narrowed her eyes then continued.

"You're in love."

"Really?" He asked, and if anything his smile got broader.

"Yes. And I'm waiting for you to tell me who it is?"

Josh picked up a file on his desk and glanced through it, then looked back up at Mandy. "Then you'll be waiting in vain," he said getting up and walking toward the door. "Donna! Give this to Toby, not to me," he said handing the file to his assistant. He turned back to Mandy. "Now, what were we talking about? Oh, yes," he said walking back to his desk. "You were gossiping about me. Feel free to continue."

Mandy rolled her eyes. "Do I know her?"

Josh valiantly held back a chuckle. "There is no her, Mandy. Now don't you have a job to do? Somewhere else," he clarified when she didn't move.

"Yes," she said after a moment, standing up and smoothing her suit. "I do. But make no mistake, I will get this out of you," she threatened.

***

A half an hour later Josh walked in on Leo and Margaret bickering with each other. They seemed to enjoy doing that more than anything. There was a mountain of wrapped presents on Leo's desk and Leo was scowling as he signed yet another card.

As soon as Leo saw the look on his face he excused Margaret.

"We're not done yet," she said just as exasperated as he was.

"Two minutes," Leo said, shaking his head at her glare as she left.

"I'm tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop," Josh started as soon as he shut the door behind Margaret.

"Yeah?"

"Lillianfield's got this information he's gonna hold it 'til after Christmas when people are watching. I don't wanna tell you too much, but I wanna make an attempt at a preemptive strike."

"Well, you gotta tell me more than that," Leo said reasonably.

Josh sighed. "Sam knows a girl."

Leo gave a quick grin. "I've heard rumors."

"I wanna talk to her."

"Nope," he said, shaking his head.

"Leo-"

"Absolutely not."

"I'm saying-"

"Josh!"

"I'm saying, something to keep in our pocket," Josh protested.

"I don't want it in my pocket, I don't want it in your pocket, Sam's pocket, and I sure as hell don't want it in the President's pocket," the refusal firm, even as Josh turned around, rubbing his forehead in agitation.

"Lillianfield's coming down the mountain, Leo, this is no joke," Josh said turning back.

"You don't have to tell me it's no joke, Josh, it's my life." Leo's voice was stance was unshakable on this. "All I'm saying is, we don't do these things," Leo added, understanding Josh's need to try, and feeling the better for it. But he wanted no misunderstanding: if he had to go down for this, then he was damn well gonna go down alone.

"All right," Josh said sighing.

"All right?" Leo asked, making sure.

"Yeah."

"Listen," he said, changing tracks quickly, "you hear about this kid in Minnesota?"

"No," Josh said, his brows creasing.

"A gay high school senior, he got beaten up." Josh's breath caught and held in his throat as Leo continued. "Then they striped him naked, tied him to a tree, then threw rocks and bottles at his head. You know how old the assailants were? Thirteen."

"Is the kid dead?" He asked, his voice a shadow of what it usually was.

"He's in critical condition. This is all by way of saying we're gonna have to revisit Hate Crimes legislation after the break."

Josh's head had dropped back against the wall, too heavy to hold up, then he struggled to pull himself together and act like a professional instead of a… he shook his head to clear it. "Well, we oughtta gage reaction before we wade in too deep."

"CJ's gonna send up a test balloon at her briefing."

"All right."

"Margaret!" Leo yelled out to his secretary.

"Yes, sir," Margaret said walking in.

"Let's get this over with," Leo said with a mixture of amusement and annoyance.

Josh said his goodbyes vaguely and then walked down the hall. It wasn't until he was halfway there that he realized he wasn't going to his own office, he was heading to Sam's. He almost turned around, not knowing what he wanted to say, but then continued on. He needn't have bothered since Sam wasn't anywhere to be found.

***

Josh settled back in his chair with a deep sigh. Wasn't it always the way, you get something settled in your life and then you get nailed right between the eyes when you weren't looking.

He needed to do something about Leo, that wasn't just going to go away despite what Leo said, having Donna bring it up to him just confirmed his opinion. And now this kid He really needed to talk to Sam.

He laid his head back on the chair and rubbed his eyes. What were the odds that something like this could happen so soon after he and Sam? There was no doubt this thing was gonna get out now, sooner rather than the later they'd hoped. And now there was no way this wasn't going to turn into a political disaster. They were going to have to tell someone, and God, he really didn't want to do that. The only thing worse than talking to your parents about sex was telling the people you worked for who just happened to be the most powerful people in the free world. While, as friends, Josh was pretty sure they wouldn't care, this was politics, and people have a funny idea about sex when it's in the White House.

"Josh!" His head snapped up as Mandy flew through the door and shut it firmly behind her. "Are you insane?"

"Possibly," he replied, looking back at the unpredictable tornado standing in front of him. "What did I do this time?"

"I just had a talk with CJ," Mandy said folding her arms across her chest.

"Yeah, so?"

"She had a talk with Sam."

Fear uncurled in his chest, but outwardly he just raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, so?"

"When did this happen?" She asked, her voice clipped.

"When did what happen, Mandy?" He asked as he stood.

"You and Sam."

"What exactly did CJ imply?" Josh asked carefully.

"She didn't imply anything," Mandy snapped. "What she did was ask my advice on how I would handle a certain situation involving one Sam Seaborn. I made the connection myself, and if you think I'm gonna be the only one to do so then you're wrong. Just how long do you really think you can keep it a secret?" She asked, throwing her arms up.

"Look, Mandy-"

"Are you gonna say it's a lie, cause I would really like to think this is some sort of nightmare. Josh, this is catastrophic, if we thought Lillianfield was bad-"

"Mandy, it's not against the law."

Her eyes snapped up to his. "So it is true."

Josh took a deep breath, but didn't look away. "Yes."

"Jesus, Josh, what were you thinking? It may not be against the law, but if you think this country's just going to accept it, then you're out of your mind, and this administration-"

"Well let me tell you something, Mandy, this administration does not get to dictate my love life!" Josh snapped.

"Josh, as long as you work for this administration it can dictate anything it damn well pleases," Mandy shot back. "You are the Deputy Chief of Staff, and as far as this administration is concerned, you have no life."

Josh's eyes flashed, but then he dropped his head, his voice low and resigned. "Well, I guess that's it then."

"What?" Mandy snapped, frustrated with Josh and his inability to see reason.

Josh looked back up at her and said simply, "I quit."

Mandy's eyes went wide and her jaw dropped as she watched him start to fill his backpack. "You can't quit," she gasped.

"I just did." There was no anger in his voice, just firm conviction.

"Josh, you can't really be willing to give up-"

"Don't even say that it's not worth it, Mandy," his eyes flew back to hers, sparks of anger flashing in their depths.

Mandy fought the urge to back up and tried for a reasonable tone. "Josh, in three years, you and Sam-"

"It's already been too long," Josh said, shaking his head and continuing to pack.

"This is your life you're talking about."

"This was my life," he replied, a sliver of regret showing through. He closed his backpack and

walked around the desk, facing her. "But you have to understand, Sam's my life now. I'm not giving that up. Not for my job, not for the Presidency, not for anything."

Mandy looked at him hard, trying to find a way to break through, but all she saw was calm resolve. She'd never seen him look this way before, not for her, not for anyone. She'd wanted that look once. But, she thought now, maybe it had always been for Sam without anybody realizing it.

She suddenly smiled. "We're not going to let you go so easily, you know."

"Mandy-"

"Josh."

"The press'll have a field day with something like this, you know that. Especially now."

"They'll have a field day whether you're working here or not. You know that," she repeated firmly. "Look, we've been through some rough times before, Josh. We're getting kind of good at it." He still looked ready to argue, but she spoke again before he could. "The law of large numbers says we have to win one sometime," she smiled. "Let's make it a good one."

He chuckled slightly and shook his head. "You're gonna get us all fired."

"All for one."

"Yeah, right. In PR speak that means we're screwed either way so we might as well make the right decision." His smile faded and he looked at her seriously. "This could get really ugly, you know."

"I know. But no one: not me, not Leo, not the President, and certainly not Sam, no one is going to let you quit. So," she said grabbing his arm and leading him out of the office. "Let's go talk to Sam and start making some plans."

"Mandy," he said, stopping. "I am sorry."

"It's okay, Josh. It's not like you haven't always been a PR disaster waiting to happen."

"Yeah, and how many times have I happened?" He asked wryly.

"That's why you've got me."

She held out her hand and he pushed it aside, instead slinging his arm around her shoulders.

"Thanks."

"Don't thank me yet."

Sam's door was open, but the young man was facing to the right staring off in the distance. Josh's smile dropped. "Sam?" He asked, getting his attention. "What's wrong?"

Sam's eyes were a combination of rage and despair. "We just got the call," he said softly. "Lowel Lydell is dead."

"Oh God," Mandy whispered, putting a hand to her mouth.

Josh moved forward. "Shut the door." He heard it click shut behind him as he knelt down next to Sam's chair taking the younger man's hand in his own. "Are you all righ-" he broke off. "Sorry, stupid question."

"I hate this," Sam said tightening his grip on his lover's hands. "I hate that this kind of thing can happen."

"I know," Josh murmured.

"And I feel bad because when I first heard I didn't think about his family, I-I thought about us, how it would affect us, how it's never--we're never gonna work, not now," he turned to Mandy.

"You can tell him."

"I did tell him," Mandy said smoothly, moving forward. "And now I'll tell you. I'm sticking by you. And so will the others."

"But there isn't a choice here. This gets out and we will not be allowed to continue."

"Sam-"

He turned back to Josh. "It's over, Josh."

Josh's eyes darkened and his grip tightened on Sam's hand. "No, it's not," he said his voice hard.

"I did not go through hell with you and come out the other side just so some ignorant bastards in

Minnesota can come between us. It's not over," he said fiercely, "and I've never, ever seen you give up that easily. Don't give up now."

Josh was still kneeling at his feet and Sam searched those dark eyes for a long moment. They were filled with steel determination, the kind that Sam had always admired over the years. Even with all that was happening, Sam felt a jolt of happiness that Josh would feel that strongly about their relationship. How could he feel anything but the same? "I won't give up, Josh," he swore softly. Not now, not ever.

Josh's lips curled at the corners and he caught those gold eyes shift from his face to Mandy and he knew from the look on his face that if they weren't in front of witnesses, there'd be a lot more going on than hand holding. He felt a small hit of pressure ease in his chest and then he turned to Mandy. "All right, so what can we do?"

***

"There's something else," Josh said twenty minutes later, shutting the door behind Mandy and turning back to the younger man.

Sam sighed, motioning Josh to continue.

"I need to ask you about your friend."

Sam's brow creased in concern. With the tone of Josh's voice he knew exactly who he was talking about, but he also realized it couldn't be good. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Josh said quickly alleviating his fears. Then he shifted and looked up, his eyes still concerned. "You would describe her as… I’m sorry, what was her name again?"

"Laurie."

"She's expensive."

"Josh, I assure you, I would have no way of knowing how much-"

"I understand," Josh interrupted. He knew he wasn't saying this right, but he needed to ask. For Leo.

"Yes," Sam said answering the question.

"Yeah?"

"Very expensive."

"She's elite."

"Yes. Why are we talking about this?"

And this was the hard part. He hated asking his friends, and he loathed asking his lover, but he gritted his teeth and forged onward. "Sam," he started slowly, "I need to know if she would divulge the name or names of any influential Republican members of Congress that she might have-"

"No way!" Sam snapped immediately, his blue eyes going wide that he would suggest such a thing.

He felt like a slug. "Sam-"

"I'm telling you there's no way-"

"Sam-" he tried again.

"Josh!"

"There's this thing that's gonna happen," he said finally.

"What?" Sam demanded.

"Lillianfield knows that Leo's a recovering alcoholic."

"Everyone knows that Leo's a recovering alcoholic," Sam rebutted.

"Yeah, but they don't know there were pills," he said sharply watching Sam's eyes go wide again.

"There was Valium," he said softer. "He was in rehab."

"When?" And he saw that Sam was beginning to grasp the magnitude of the problem.

"Six years ago."

"He was Secretary of Labor six years ago."

"Yeah."

"He was high when he was running the Labor Department," he said in a whisper, and Josh felt for him. It had been like the world stopping under his feet when he found out.

"Yeah," Josh replied softly, his eyes staying locked on his lover.

"And Lillianfield knows this?"

"I'm fairly sure," he nodded. "That's why he started this in the first place, Lillianfield's gone hunting," he said with slight disgust. Sam dropped to his seat and Josh took a slight step forward bringing him up to the desk. "Sam, we owe Leo everything. I mean everything."

Sam looked up, reading the depths of gratitude in those dark brown eyes. He knew the same look would be reflected in his blue. "I'll call her," he said nodding slightly. "We'll go see her together."

"Thanks."

***

Panic and fear, guilt and anguish battled it out in his head as he headed back to his own office. When he got there, Donna was waiting for him, her eyes wide and concerned.

***

Josh sighed as he got in the car. He turned as Sam opened the passenger door. The younger man looked as bad as he felt.

"Well that went well," Sam said, strapping himself into the car.

"Sam-"

"So what are we gonna do now?" Sam asked, still not looking at Josh.

Josh reached across the seat and put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "I am sorry, Sam. About what happened back there," he added when Sam turned to him. "I shouldn't have" he sighed again.

"I shouldn't have taken my day out on her."

Sam took Josh's hand in his own and grinned weakly. "It's been a tough day."

And just like that, Sam had accepted his apology. He squeezed Sam's hand and then slid out of his grip to start the car. It had begun to snow in earnest and he was keeping a close eye on the roads, but when Sam spoke again he almost slid off the blacktop.

"Come home with me tonight."

He managed to get the car under control, and then he turned incredulous eyes to his lover. Sam was looking at the road and not him, but Josh could see the strain and sadness in the younger man's profile.

It would be a mistake, especially now, but…

"Yeah," he whispered. Blue eyes met his own and found a smile.

He parked in the underground garage and they got out. Josh hesitated for a spit second and then popped the trunk. Sam threw a questioning look in his direction, but Josh didn't answer, merely grabbed a small black bag and closed the trunk. Then he faced Sam.

Sam's eyes were suddenly brighter as he realized what the bag meant. He smiled slightly and they both made their way to the elevator.

Once inside his apartment, Sam locked the door behind him and then shed his coat. "You hungry?"

He turned and found himself wrapped in Josh's arms. The older man had yet to take off his coat and so he smelled of wet wool and snow. Sam buried his head in Josh's neck, his arms enfolding Josh's waist.

"This is possibly the worst idea I've ever had," Josh's low voice said in his ear.

Sam pulled back slightly so that he could look into those amber dark eyes. "I'm glad you had it," he said honestly.

Josh lips curled in a smile. "Yeah," he said grazing his hand over Sam's jaw. "So am I."

Sam leaned in brushed a light kiss across his mouth, then bent to grab the bag Josh had dropped when he'd hugged him. Grabbing Josh's hand as well, he led him down the hall to his bedroom.

The first thing he did when he got there was to walk to his closet, drop the bag on a chair and open it. Josh watched as Sam pulled out his extra suit and hung it in the closet next to his own clothes.

Sam stepped back and smiled, then turned back to Josh. "I like it," he declared.

He shook his head but couldn't help but return the smile. "You like my suit?"

"When it's hanging in my closet, yeah," he said walking forward.

"Oh, but not when it's on me," Josh said with mock hurt as he toed off his shoes.

Sam reached for Josh's tie and undid it swiftly, followed by the first several buttons of his shirt. His lips went immediately to nibble on his collar bone and Josh let out a moan as he tilted his head back. "No, I can't say as I do like you're suits on you," he murmured, then took Josh's earlobe lightly between his teeth. "But I do love taking them off you."

Josh lifted his head and met Sam's eyes. "I'd have to say I feel the same about yours," he said before he took Sam's lips with his own. For that moment he concentrated solely on the kiss. Nothing mattered but Sam's lips parting beneath his own, the shiver of pleasure as Sam's tongue tangled with his, their harsh breathing as they pulled back to attack the aforementioned suits.

Josh wanted more than anything to touch Sam's bare flesh, to hear his moans and sighs, to feel the love in his touch. Ever since he'd heard about Lowell Lydell this morning, he'd needed this connection with Sam. To feel alive with him, to know that people like those thirteen year old boys didn't know what the hell they were talking about.

What he had with Sam could never be wrong or ugly.

It was in fact the most pure thing he'd had in his life.

It was beautiful and special and would really be working a lot better if Sam's pants would cooperate and get the hell off his man.

Finally the zipper was free and he yanked Sam's slacks and briefs down in one swoop. There was precious little gentleness now as Sam arched up against him at the first rough touch from Josh's hands. Josh dropped to his knees and took Sam's erection in his mouth. The only thing that mattered was Sam's startled cry. Hands went to his hair as he licked and sucked and nibbled, Sam's hips thrusting into him in uneven strokes. He felt Sam grow impossibly harder under his touch, then that beautiful body seized up, Sam's head thrown back in a soundless shout as he came down Josh's throat.

Josh's hands left his hips and Sam all but staggered back onto his bed as he watched Josh tear off his shirt and pants and then join him. The older man was in a frenzy, his hands running over Sam's body, roughly caressing him, demanding responses. Sam choked on his breath as Josh's mouth crushed against his, hot and needy, then he gasped as insistent fingers spread his legs and brushed across his entrance. Josh quickly moved away from him and rifled through the bedside table until he came up with what he was looking for as Sam busily gulped in deep breaths.

He lost them again when Josh's fingers returned, cool and slick, pushing into him. His erection had rather forcefully returned, and all Sam could do was submit under the onslaught of sensation.

In mere moments, Josh was inside of him pounding against his prostate and sending earthquakes of pleasure rippling through his body. Josh's mouth once again met his and he poured his passion into the older man making Josh speed up his thrusts.

And without Josh ever touching his erection, Sam was abruptly coming again. His fingers dug into Josh's biceps as the other man went statue still, let out his own hoarse yell, then collapsed on top of him.

After a long moment, Josh was able to get his breath back and he grimaced as he saw Sam wince when he pulled out. Sam looked ravaged. "God Sam," he said softly, "I didn't mean to…" he broke off at Sam's grin.

"Wow," Sam said, his eyes sparkling. "I'd love to see what happens when you do mean to."

"That's not what I mean. I was rough."

Sam's smile softened as he caressed Josh's face. "And I liked it." He kissed him gently on the lips, easing away the concerned crease in his brow.

"You did?"

"Well, maybe not all the time," he grinned mischievously. "People might get suspicious if I have

too much trouble sitting down."

Josh dropped his head on Sam's shoulder and chuckled. "God I love you."

"I know," Sam replied combing his fingers through Josh's hair. "And that means you can tell me things, you know," he said after a moment.

Josh looked up at him and then rolled onto his back, not saying a word.

Sam propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at him. "I'm not saying you have to tell me every little thing, Josh, but this thing today, it affected us, you just as much as me. You tried to hide from it and it exploded inside of you," he flashed a quick grin.

"Not that I really minded. Except when it hurts you."

Josh turned to him. "I'm just not so good with feelings."

"I don't exactly have a gold star in the relationship department myself, but I just want you to know I'm here. For anything."

Josh pulled him into a hug. "Thanks."

***

Sleeping with Josh was a challenge. Sam could tell that he was very used to sleeping on his own because of the tiny fact that he spread out over the bed like a very large cat. So, being the inventive man that he was, he worked with what he had. Josh spread out over the bed and Sam spread out over him.

And that was how morning found them. The alarm went off and Josh jerked up, almost rolling Sam off the bed.

"No wonder you never had any long term relationships," Sam mumbled as he turned off the alarm. The younger man yawned and crawled off the bed. Josh watched him with a cross between amusement and affection. While not a morning person himself either, he found himself quite happy to lay in bed and watch his lover.

Sam poked his head out of the bathroom. "You getting dressed or have we decided to skip work today?"

Josh sat up. "Wait, that reminds me, aren't you supposed to be on your way to Bermuda?"

Sam grinned shyly. "Plans change."

"I thought you needed a vacation."

"I do," he gurgled around his toothbrush.

Josh slipped out of bed and went to the closet. "But not in Bermuda?"

Sam rinsed his mouth out and absently brushed a kiss across Josh's cheek as he made his way to the dresser. "I decided I'd rather be here with you."

"Sam, you made those plans months ago," Josh protested.

"And I changed them last night," he said slipping into his pants. He looked up at the older man.

"Look, Josh, don't be so concerned. I'll just rest here. With you."

Josh grinned suddenly. "Oh, there's no rest if you're here with me."

"Mmm," Sam said, sliding his arms around Josh's waist. "Even better."

***

Josh and Sam walked into the office together the next morning, Sam laughing at something he had said.

"Josh," Donna called and he turned. "Leo wants to see you--wait what're you doing here?" She asked catching sight of Sam.

Sam opened his mouth, undoubtedly to babble. Josh didn't let him. "Why does Leo want to see me?" He asked as he dropped his backpack and coat on a chair.

"Actually he asked for both of you," Donna frowned. "Wait, how did I miss you weren't going somewhere?"

"Donna. Leo?"

"Right. He wants to see you right away." She turned to ask another question about Sam, but Josh had already grabbed his arm and was steering him down the hall into his office. He saw Cathy walking towards them, probably going to do the same thing as Donna and ask 1) why he wasn't on a plane to Bermuda and 2) tell him that Leo wanted to see him.

Josh shut the door in her face and turned to Sam who was sliding out of his coat. Sam turned back to him. He looked a little nervous. "How do you think Leo knows that I'm here?"

Josh loosened his tie that was already beginning to strangle him. "I don't know. But," he said walking up to him and bracing his hands on his shoulders. "We're a united front. We didn't do anything wrong here."

"Right." Sam said then took a deep breath. Josh looked at him and Sam smiled encouragingly. "Let's go," he said.

Josh stepped back and led the way to Leo's office. He saw CJ talking to Leo about hate crimes and almost had to smile when Leo promised they'd get into them after the break.

"Excuse me," he said ambling into the room as if he had nothing to worry about.

"Yes." Leo said, his eyes latching instantly on the two men. Josh looking casual and Sam a step to the right and one behind, not being able to hide his nervousness.

"You wanted to see us?" Josh questioned.

"Oh yes," Leo nodded, "very much."

"Should I leave?" CJ asked, darting glances between the three men.

"As quickly as possible," Leo replied, not looking at her. "You went and did it," Leo started as soon as the door closed.

"What?" Josh asked, a little surprised at the instant attack.

"Exactly what I asked you not to do."

"Leo-" Josh said, his mind zipping from the thought of he and Sam being found out to…well, the thought of he and Sam being found out.

"You saw Sam's friend," Leo said, cutting him off.

"How did you know?" Sam asked, getting back to his concern that Leo knew that Sam wasn't in Bermuda, when the only one who knew that should have been Josh.

"I had you tailed," he answered immediately and could see both men take a mental step backwards.

"You had us tailed?" Josh asked, incredulous.

"Yes."

"Why did you have us tailed?" Sam asked, once again reevaluating the situation. If Leo had them tailed, and Leo knew that he was still in Washington, then that would mean Leo knew…

"On the off chance that you're as stupid as you look. Who's idea was this?"

"It was mine," Josh said tapping his chest. "Sam was a reluctant accomplice--you had us tailed?"

"Get over it," Leo said looking back down at his desk. One of the most powerful men in the world, he thought, and I'm reduced to writing Christmas cards for the last three days.

"She didn't give us anything." Sam offered.

"I should hope not," he said looking back up at them.

"Leo-" Josh started again and Leo cut him off.

"It's not what we do, Josh."

"That may be true, but still-" Sam tried.

"It's not what we do," Leo said firmly.

Sam nodded. "Yes, sir."

"You should apologize to that girl for even asking."

"I did."

"Apologize again."

"Yes, sir." Sam said a little startled at the vehemence in his voice.

"Like I'm not gonna have enough problems without the Keystone cops?" Leo asked, throwing his hands up.

"We meant well." Josh said softly.

"Is that supposed to mean something to me?" Leo snapped.

"No."

Leo sighed. "It does."

"I'm glad," Josh replied sincerely.

"Go back to work," he said waving them off.

"It's Christmas Eve." Sam said, his voice light-hearted.

"The country isn't open on Christmas Eve?"

"Fair point," Sam said, still grinning as he walked out of the office.

"Leo…" Josh started, not sure what he wanted to say. To warn him about Lillianfield, to tell him about Sam.

"I know," Leo said, before Josh could finish.

Josh looked at him and saw a thousand things in his friend's eyes. "It's gonna get bad before it gets better."

"I know," he said nodding, then, "Margaret! Let's get this over with."

"I'm here at Christmas," Josh said as he headed for the door.

"Okay." *** "Think he knows?" Sam asked that night as they were snuggled on the couch. Josh shrugged.

"Maybe. Does it matter?" He asked looking down at him.

"Not right now," Sam answered and then kissed his chin.

Josh smiled softly. "Did I tell you what I did today?" Josh asked and Sam shook his head. "Shopping with the President."

Sam giggled. "And you survived to tell the tale."

"It was close." He looked down at Sam's sleepy blue eyes, his head resting on Josh's chest, his arms wrapped around him. "I got you something."

Sam's eyes opened wide. "You did? Where is it?" He asked, as eager as a child.

Josh grinned and nudged Sam in the side. "I have to get up."

Sam edged over enough for Josh to get off the couch and watched with interest as Josh went over to his backpack and bent down to get something out of it. He stood up and stopped short as Sam's blatant appraisal. He felt his blood heat in the face of that look, but didn't let it distract him.

He held out the wrapped rectangle that was obviously a book. Sam took it in his hands and darted a curious glance to Josh. Josh sat down next to him, watching him intently.

The wrapper tore and Sam was holding a old and faded book of poetry in his hands. To know that Josh survived a bookstore with the President was enough for him to love the gift.

"I, ah, I marked a page," Josh said and Sam turned to the book-marked page.

"The Thousand Man," he said softly. His eyes scanned the poem and he felt his heart melt. He looked up at Josh.

"Sometimes I'm not good with the words, Sam" he said, "but I'll always love you."

And Sam couldn't help but smile. "You're brilliant," he replied and kissed him solidly on the mouth.

Just brilliant.

The End.

End Notes: The poem is the 'Thousandth Man' by Rudyard Kipling and has been used in several slash stories that I know of, but it fit so perfectly with the rare book shop that I had to put it in. And for those who want to read it in its entirety

One man in a thousand, Solomon says, Will stick more close than a brother. And it's worth while seeking him half your days If you find him before the other. Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend On what the world sees in you, But the Thousandth man will stand your friend With the whole round world agin you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show Will settle the finding for 'ee. Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go By your looks, or your acts, or your glory. But if he finds you and you find him. The rest of the world don't matter; For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk Than he uses yours for his spendings, And laugh and meet in your daily walk As though there had been no lendings. Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call For silver and gold in their dealings; But the Thousandth Man h's worth 'em all, Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right, In season or out of season. Stand up and back it in all men's sight -- With that for your only reason! Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide The shame or mocking or laughter, But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side To the gallows-foot -- and after!

~Rudyard Kipling