Title: To Spare the Vain Remorse of Years
Author: Alethia
Fandom: The West Wing
Pairing: J/S (may I say, that it is so much fun to be able to put the same thing for three fandoms...there must be something about names in TV shows that start with J and S that just make the characters easily coupled ...)
Rating: PG-13
Archive: Anywhere, just drop me a line.
Date: April 2000
Disclaimers: These characters belong to people who are much richer and more powerful than little ol' me. No money is being made off this and I have none anyway, so there's really no point in anyone having a conniption.
Feedback: Would love some! :) Alethia888@juno.com
Spoilers: Yes for 'Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail...'
Summary: Josh helps Sam deal with his pain in the aftermath of his father's revelation.
Notes: Yes, there have been many (well, imho) stories regarding the line about getting drunk and putting Sam to bed...but it's just so much fun to play with.
A big thank you to Nomi for her wonderful beta-ness and for catching all my stupid grammar mistakes! And, also, a big thanks to Sarah. Maybe next time? ;)

^^^^^^
To Spare the Vain Remorse of Years by Alethia

"I just want to kick him. Really hard. Just once. Do you think that could be considered violent?" Sam asked.

"Oh, I dunno, seems more like a gray area to me..." I replied in an amused voice.

"Really?"

"No."

"Oh."

I grinned again. Sam and I had left Donna and Toby at the bar to find their own ways home. Of course, before that we had spent enough time there for Sam to get thoroughly plastered. And then he decided, for whatever reason, that he wanted to walk home. Not that it was that far, but still, it was 2:30 in the morning and Sam was not exactly sober. For Sam's sake I had decided to go light on the alcohol, which turned out to be a very good thing. I doubt we'd have found our way back to Sam's place if both of us were in his state.

But, man, Sam was cute when he was drunk. He had spent the entire night either slumped up against the wall, slumped up against me, or with his forehead resting on his hands. So now he was cute and rumpled and way too alluring for my tired brain at this late hour. Yet the night had reinforced something else for me, the fact that Sam had been hit hard by his father's betrayal. He normally would have at least tried to put on a show of normalcy. But tonight he didn't. And, I must admit, that made me worry just that much more.

At the moment, Sam and I were weaving our way down a sidewalk. And using the word weaving was being generous. Sam was resting half his bodyweight on me and seemed to be incapable of walking in a straight line; if he could have, we probably would have been at Sam's apartment by now.

"I mean...the man didn't have commitment issues. He sure as hell committed to that other woman. He just didn't want to commit to my mom...And couldn't he have just gotten a divorce, for god sakes? Keeping a mistress is so....so..."

"Tacky?" I supplied.

"Yes, that is exactly right," he said, poking me lightly in the chest. "It's tacky. Who does that anymore, anyway? He couldn't even be classy about it."

I felt a small, fond smile forming on my lips. "I don't think there's a way that you can classily keep a mistress."

He turned to me with that cute puzzled look on his face. "Is 'classily' even a word?" he asked.

"It is for me."

He seemed to accept that. "Words. Words are funny. I probably know more words than most people. I learn new ways to say things and put pretty strings of words together to make everything sound just perfect, but when it comes right down to it I can't even form a coherent sentence when talking to my father on the phone. How pathetic is that?" He looked up at me with his sad blue eyes and I felt a brief flash of anger at the man who put that sadness there. I had met Sam's father and knew how much Sam had held him in esteem. I could understand exactly why he was acting this way; I never would have guessed either. But just then I would have done anything to keep Sam from hurting like he was. I still can't believe his father would betray his family's trust so callously.

"You're not pathetic. People all have trouble talking to their parents sometimes. It's a universal problem. Like taxes," I replied.

We were almost to Sam's apartment. The walk was peaceful, in a way. Sam gets contemplative when he gets drunk. Well, that's not exactly true; he's normally a contemplative person. I guess he gets introspective; he examines and talks about not just what he thinks, but what he really feels. Which is just fine with me. It could be a lot worse.

"Why does this building look familiar?" he asked suddenly, interrupting my thoughts.

"You live here, Sam," I said lightly.

"Are you sure?" he asked seriously.

"Yes, Sam. I'm sure. Now, do you know where you put your keys?" I asked.

"Yes?" he answered.

"Is that a question?"

"No?"

I sighed. Well, this should be fun. Sam giggled at my side. The arm that was draped across my shoulder shifted and I felt his hand come up and touch my cheek.

"I like you," he said sweetly.

I almost melted. This was the thing I loved most about him: he brought me down out of the bullshit DC mentality and brought back that childlike optimism that we had so completely believed in when we were younger. I'd spent too much time in this world. My belief that I can change the world had been replaced with a deeper sense of cynicism that seems to infect many of the politicians in DC. But Sam had never quite lost his. It was amazing that he had managed to keep his idealistic nature intact, especially in the world he resided in. He had spent a time in the big corporate New York legal sphere, which can be as tedious and underhanded as politics is. I'm continually amazed at how Sam has turned out, though. And at times like these, his innocent nature was infectious.

"I like you, too," I answered honestly. He was still smiling at me and leaning on me and he still looked adorable. It's at times like those when I felt myself begin to waver, when I just knew that I could so easily fall in love with this man. Which ended up confusing things considerably.

Shaking my head, I got back to the task at hand. "Well, I did say we would put you to bed, so I suppose it would be a good idea to actually go in your place rather than just standing out here all night," I said, half to myself. "So. Keys?" I asked hopefully.

He just blinked.

Great.

It was a very cruel deity who continually put me in such situations and thus perpetuated my long dormant and still partially denied attraction to this man. I patted him down and finally found his keys in one of his many pockets. "Ah-ha! Victory," I said as I held them up. He didn't even glance at them. He was still looking at my face with that sweet, innocent smile on his face.

Hmm.

I unlocked the outer door that led into the building. Then I walked him to his door, unlocked that one as well, and shuffled him inside his immaculate apartment.

Sam and I, well, we're a study in opposites. The man is anal. I bet even the junk drawer is categorized alphabetically. Ugh. And me? Well, let's just say I have a very different way of doing things.

He was still babbling about something as I pushed him through the apartment to the bedroom. I had kind of tuned him out. He was saying something about watercress at that point, and I figured it was a good enough time to ignore him and get him ready for bed.

I have decided we wear way too many layers of clothes. Really. It's ridiculous. Why does anyone need 4 different layers? It's stupid. And it's a pain in the ass when you're trying to undress someone who swears they forgot how to work their fingers. As far as helping out, Sam was just getting in the way so I told him to stop trying. It made it so much easier and more effective for him to just stand in the middle of the room watching me take all his clothes off. He was smiling again and watching me with amused eyes. And every so often he would reach out and try to pat my head, or something, and I would swat him away again and he would go back to the unresisting drunk that he was supposed to be.

When I had stripped him down to his boxers and his undershirt I tried getting him to sit back on the bed, but he ended up laughing out loud as he fell backwards and started bouncing on it like a four year old.

I sighed. Apparently he was being playful tonight too.

"Sam, come on, help me out here, would you?" I asked him.

"Okay," he said easily. He promptly started to take off his undershirt, God only knows why, and got his arms twisted in the fabric. And then, of course, he had to go rolling around on the bed trying to untangle himself while I was trying to help him and then we both got tangled up and twisted together. And then he started to laugh at me.

I finally got him out of his shirt and had gotten up to go when he suddenly sat up and pulled me back into bed with him.

"What the hell?! Sam, what are you doing?" I asked.

He wrapped his now shirt-free arms around me and pulled me into an embrace. His head rested at the juncture between my neck and my shoulder and I could feel his warm breath through my clothes. "Stay with me?" he asked softly. "Just stay a little while and talk."

I sighed. "You don't need to talk right now, Sam, you need to sleep," I replied.

"I'm not tired," he answered.

"Sam, you've been sleeping at the office...you must be tired."

"I'm not," he said more firmly. "And I want you to stay."

I sighed again. When have I ever been able to say no to this man, anyway? "All right," I agreed.

Feeling my acquiescence, he shifted his arms and pulled me to him more comfortably. He snuggled into my chest and sighed contentedly. I was glad I stayed. I mean, the man had just found out his father had been keeping a mistress for 28 years. If he wanted me to stay with him for a while, I wasn't one to argue. Although, as far as appearances went, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to be in bed with a half-naked Sam Seaborn wrapped around me with what looked like no intention of letting go.

"Hey, Sam, ya wanna loosen this death-grip here before you permanently damage something?" I asked him, only half-joking.

He looked up at me then with the most heart-broken look in his eyes and I completely forgot all about everything except this man in my arms. "Hey," I said, hugging him back to me. "It'll be okay. You'll see."

As I wrapped my arms around him I could feel slight tremors running the length of his body. Was he crying? I closed my eyes. I didn't think I could handle that right then. When he looked back up his eyes were moist and so full of despair that I couldn't bear to look. "No, it won't," he answered softly. "It'll never be okay again."

I hugged him back to me again, wishing I could take away all that pain. He was shaking more violently now and seemed to want to get as close to me as he possibly could. I ran my hands, in what I hoped was a soothing motion, up and down his back. He was still shaking, the silence of his pain making the whole situation that much more heartbreaking. And since I was his friend, and that's what friends do, I held him while he cried and felt my own heart break just a little bit more.

And, of course, compounding the problem were my body's traitorous responses to the proximity of this beautiful man. Normally I could control myself around him. Really, I had gotten very good at it. But having him so close and being able to feel him and smell him was doing very bad things to my body. And did his skin really have to be that soft?

Okay, how much of an ass am I? I'm supposed to be comforting the man, not trying my hardest not to jump him right there. It was about him, not me.

The shaking has subsided now and he seemed content to just rest in my arms. I sighed. I ran my hands down his back again, making shushing noises, while trying to subtly put a little more distance between him and me. But considering that all of his instincts were telling him to reach out and grab hold of any kind of human comfort, it's really not surprising that he followed me and completely covered my body with his own. Yeah, it's not surprising, but it's not good either. He went completely still. Shit. I knew he could feel it. Hell, it was all I could do not to rub myself up against him.

He looked up at me then. I knew it was written all over my face. And I felt like a complete jerk because this was my problem and I could deal with it and he shouldn't have to, especially now. But someone apparently didn't tell him that because he slipped a thigh between my own and pressed against me more firmly and I cried out as a white-hot bolt of electricity shot straight through me. And then he was there, and his tongue was in my mouth and his hands were in my hair and the kiss was good. I pressed myself against him and tried to get even closer as I thoroughly explored his mouth, tasting Sam and beer.

There was something about that I should remember. I knew there was. But Sam's mouth on my neck had completely sucked away any ability to think and even any desire to. He brought his mouth back up to mine and I suddenly remembered what it was.

Beer. Sam was drunk.

I pushed him away and sat up quickly, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed. He let out a whimper that went straight to my groin and tried to follow me, but I pushed him away again, more gently this time. I took a deep breath and concentrated on getting myself under control.

"We can't do this," I said, hating how breathless my voice sounded, even now.

"Why?" he asked, his voice husky. He sat there, his eyes dark and his hair a mess, looking at me like all he wanted to do was attack me again. And he still looked gorgeous. I felt a shiver run through me.

"Because you're drunk," I said. He started to protest but I cut him off. "Because you're drunk and you're upset and you're straight and you're the Deputy Communications Director and I'm the Deputy Chief of Staff and this cannot happen."

He sighed and I saw the fight go out of him. I flopped back on the bed and sighed again. "Will you still stay with me?" he asked.

I looked over at him again. I had pretty much seen every expression on that face, but his haggard appearance now startled me. Sam was generally a positive person. He tended to see the good in things and focus on those rather than the bad. It was one of the characteristics that made him both naïve and amazing. But I couldn't see that in him anymore. The life had gone out of his eyes. It was that look that convinced me to stay. I could almost literally see the emotional beating that he had taken and I berated myself again for adding to that heartache.

"Yeah," I said softly.

He smiled then, a small tug at the corners of his lips, but I could tell. His eyes turned sleepy and his whole body seemed to sag in relief. And that gave me more pleasure than I'd expected.

He reached over and began tugging at my clothes, pulling off my overcoat and throwing it across a nearby chair. He then reached for my suit jacket and began pulling that off, but before he could get very far I reached out a hand and stopped him.

"What are you doing?" I asked, amusement and uncertainty coloring my voice. I had pushed him away twice already. I didn't know if I had the strength to push him away again.

"Helping you get undressed," he answered innocently.

"I don't think I need any help, Sam," I answered. "I've been doing it pretty regularly for the past 35 or so years."

"Oh. Right."

I finished taking off my jacket and stood, beginning to move towards the living room where Sam's very comfortable couch resided.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To the couch," I answered. "Where else would I be going?"

"I thought you were going to stay with me," he answered softly.

Hmm, staying in bed with a half-naked Sam Seaborn who was apparently drunk enough to want to jump me? I don't think so, I have a bit more self-preservation than that. And I didn't want to have to deal with Sam's guilt about it if anything did happen. Because, boy, can Sam be the king of guilt. His idealism and optimism come with that as a price tag. He somehow feels that since the world really isn't how he thinks it should be, it is then somehow his job to make it that way. And anything that fails to meet his ideal he perceives as being his fault.

"Sam, I don't think that that's a good idea," I said. His face fell. I sighed. Well, how the hell am I supposed to make Sam happy and at the same time make sure nothing happens tonight that'll be hell to deal with in the morning? "Why do you want me to stay with you?" I asked him.

"Because I don't want to be alone tonight," he answered. Well, that's not a very good reason. I was sure Mallory would be willing to keep him company. It didn't have to be me-"And because you're my best friend. And I can't be myself with very many people, Josh."

"Yeah," I answered gruffly. Okay, that was good enough for me. I could do this. I could already tell that Sam was just about to fall asleep. So, I merely had to control myself and everything would be fine.

Right.

I put my jacket on the same chair as my overcoat and quickly finished taking off my tie, shirt, pants, shoes, and socks. Sam had apparently settled in for the night and was contentedly watching me with a smile playing about his lips. I walked over to the other side of the bed and lifted the comforter.

"Enjoy the show?" I asked him. I couldn't help myself. I fall back on humor in situations like this; it's a character flaw, sue me.

"Mmm, very much so," he responded sleepily. I paused and looked at him but he just yawned and stretched into a more sprawling, comfortable position. I climbed in and settled back into his very comfy bed. Nice. Everything Sam has is nice. This was much nicer than the couch would have been. I sighed as I settled back and drifted for a minute. I felt a slight movement behind me, and then Sam was wrapping himself around me and resting his forehead at the back of my neck.

Okay.

"Sam," I whispered, wanting to know what he was doing, exactly.

Silence.

"Sam," I tried again, just to be sure.

Nope. He had fallen asleep in that position and did not seem inclined to get out of it any time soon. I felt myself stirring. Shit, I didn't think I could stand this yet again. I consciously regulated my breathing and thought about anything other than the very warm body behind me. My thoughts began to slow as the quiet and the late hour began to take over. I relaxed back into Sam's embrace and got a content purr in response. I began to drift off.

^^^^^

Warmth.

Softness.

Light.

I sighed and slowly drifted back to consciousness. For a moment, I couldn't remember where I was, but it must have been someplace good because all of my senses told me I was in heaven.

I opened my eyes. I began to pick up more details: not my bed, not my bedroom, way too bright to be a normal time to wake up. There was someone behind me. I heard a soft sigh, and warm arms snaked around my waist and I was embraced from behind. It probably wasn't a good thing that I couldn't remember who I was with.

I blinked, my eyes getting used to the bright sunlight streaming through the window. I turned over only to find Sam right behind me. His hair was pointing in every direction and he looked so completely adorable that I just had to laugh.

"Hi," he said simply.

"Hi," I answered.

He just looked at me.

I rubbed my eyes. "What time is it?" I asked.

He glanced over his shoulder at the clock. "Five after 1:00."

"That's late."

"Uh-huh."

Now I just looked at him.

"Did you have to go into the office this morning?" he asked, frowning a bit. He looked so cute when he did that. Well, I'll amend that; he looked cute most of the time, but he looked especially cute just then. I reached out and smoothed my thumb over the line that had formed in between his eyes.

"Nah, I'm pretty much done with most of the stuff I'm doing," I answered.

"Okay."

I finally realized that I was still in bed with my best friend and he still had his arms around me. I could get used to this...but that was somewhere I couldn't go. For just a moment I allowed myself to wish that things were different. But then I had to get back to the situation at hand.

"Think we should get up?" I asked.

"Probably."

"Yeah."

Suddenly, Sam pushed me flat and sat on me, effectively barring any escape.

"Sam! What the hell?!" I said indignantly. He should be sober by now. What was he doing?

"You love me, don't you?" he asked.

Wait, did he really just say that?

"You love me and you won't admit it because you're too scared of what it'll mean," he stated.

I groaned. "I would love it if you would get off me. I'm dying here. What is this, some new obsession with physically restraining me? Because, I can tell you Sam, I really didn't see you as that kind of person."

"Shut up. You are so quick to avoid the issue. Answer the question, Josh." Hmm; he knows me too well.

"Sam this really isn't the time..." I tried again.

"Bullshit. You don't have to go in, I don't have to go in, and you're going to answer my question."

I sighed. Apparently he didn't have too much of a hangover to keep him from being irritating and stubborn this morning. Well, he anticipated the evasion. Hmm, maybe I could throw him with a bit of truth and guilt tripping...

"What does it matter?" I asked softly. "Either way nothing is going to happen. Let it go," I said softly.

"Why? You said the same thing last night. We're in the middle of the most liberal administration the country has ever seen. What, do you think our colleagues would condemn us? Do you think we'd be fired? What exactly is going on in your mind right now?"

"Condemned? If not by our colleagues then by a whole bunch of other people. Fired? Quite possibly. We may work in this liberal administration, Sam, but that doesn't make it some sort of impenetrable shield that no one can break through. We are in power, but that also makes us vulnerable. And certain groups wouldn't like how it'd look if they perceived that we favored other groups over them. It wouldn't work."

"And what? I get no say in this whatsoever? Is the all-wise Joshua Lyman going to do what's good for me because he knows best? That's ludicrous and you know it," he said loudly.

"Why is this so important to you?"

"Oh, you mean besides the fact that you're making decisions for me and basically dictating the path my life will take? Well, other than that little aspect of it, maybe it's your assumption that you know what I want. Everything else aside, you have this idea in your mind of what I want and you somehow think that it's accurate, maybe because of all the years I've known you, maybe it's your special breed of arrogance, I really don't know. But you do know how much I hate it when you treat me as anything less than your equal, Josh."

"Whoa! Where did that come from?" I asked as I pushed Sam off of me and turned to face him, leaning on my arm. "Treating you as less than equal? Are you serious?! Sam you're probably one of the only people on this planet that I see as equal to me. Not that everyone else is less than we are, it's just that we happen to be two unique people. But besides that... dictating the path of your life? Do you really see what I'm doing as controlling the rest of your life? Gee, that's a new one. Because, really, what I thought I was doing was protecting us both from something that could get very nasty."

"I neither need nor want your 'protection,'" Sam said shortly.

"Fine. Well, then, what do you want? Because I'm at a loss here Sam. Last night you were practically licking my tonsils and now, this morning, you want some declaration of undying love. So, what is going on? In all the years I've known you you've never acted as anything but the good little white, straight boy from California. Was I somehow mistaken?" I asked him.

I knew it wasn't fair to put Sam on the spot like that, but I couldn't help it. I'm not stupid, far from it in fact, and he'd been putting out some strong signals ever since last night. Which, considering everything that's happened recently, I should probably be worried about, but I couldn't really focus on that. I could still feel Sam's body on mine, and I remembered how he'd tasted last night and I just wanted to know where we stood. Sam's been my best friend for years and it would be the greatest of ironies if we had both wanted something more and never said anything about it.

"I thought you knew," he answered softly, looking down.

I sighed. He had that lost look on his face again. That one that got to me every time. I reached over and put my hand on his shoulder. I knew it was a bad idea, especially taking into account everything that went on last night, but I really didn't care at that point. I hate seeing Sam hurting. And I know he's the same way with me. It's the part of our friendship that I treasure the most. We know that we can both just be ourselves with each other and not have to worry about petty appearances that are so important to everyone in our world.

He looked up at me then and I felt like even more of a jerk. Trust me to bring even more confusion and chaos into Sam's world exactly when he didn't need it. I sighed and pulled him to me. He rested his head in the same spot as last night-apparently he liked it there-and relaxed into me. I stroked his hair lightly in a comforting gesture and looked down at him.

"Let's not talk about this now, huh?" I asked. "It'll keep."

He nodded.

"What do you say we get out of this bed, get something to eat, and just hang out?"

He nodded again. But still, he just looked at me. So apparently it was up to me to actually start moving. I could do that. I flopped back down on my back and then quickly rolled away from him and swung my legs over the side of the bed. That was a successful maneuver. Well, I was impressed with myself.

I stood up and turned around, only to find Sam in exactly the same position, just watching me.

"Come on, Sam," I said. "It's time to get up. You don't want me to steal all the hot water, do you?" I asked lightly.

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Light is evil," he answered. "I have a headache."

I grinned. Man, did I know how that felt. "Come on. I'll make you a shake that'll get rid of it."

"All right, all right, I'm coming," he answered, sounding more like a petulant four year old than a Princeton graduate and senior White House staff member.

He headed in the direction of the bathroom while I went to the kitchen to make him that shake. Ah, the priceless information you learn in college. Just as I was finishing fixing his hangover remedy, Sam finished showering and came out wet and in boxers.

Yeah. That wasn't good.

I groaned inwardly and turned back to the counter. I poured his shake from the blender into a glass and set it down. "Well, I finished your shake," I said, still not looking at him. "I guess I'll go and take a shower then, too."

I turned around, still expecting him to be where he was before, and got a bit of a shock at finding him close behind me. Too close.

I sagged against the counter and closed my eyes. He apparently took that as permission to come even closer. He leaned in and I thought he was going to kiss me again-I even started closing my eyes in expectation-only to have him lean out again with the shake in his hand. He took a drink and winced.

"God, what did you put in this?" he asked with a grimace on his face.

Good. I could do banter. Banter is good. I smiled back slightly, relaxing now that I was pretty certain he wasn't going to push me up against the counter and have his way with me. Not that that would have been an unpleasant experience, but it was what I was trying to avoid. Although with same at this close proximity I couldn't really remember why...

"It's good for you. And what do you expect after getting so plastered you couldn't even walk in a straight line?" I asked with a grin as I edged out away from the counter and started moving towards the bathroom.

"I could too walk in a straight line," he shot back. "It was just, you know, the rest of the world that was moving."

"Sure, sure. Whatever you say, Sam." I answered over my shoulder as I walked out of the room.

And using Sam's shampoo and his shaving kit was oddly good, in a domestic kind of way. They smelled like Sam. Sam smelled comfortable. I was so used to his scent after our long friendship that even just smelling what he wore everyday gave me a measure of peace.

After I was done, and I had made sure I was more dressed than he had been, I went to see what Sam had done while I was in the bathroom. The first thing that hit me as I walked out was the incredible smell coming from the kitchen. My stomach rumbled, and I realized that I hadn't eaten since dinner last night. Considering it was now well past 1:00 in the afternoon, that was a long time ago.

I walked into the kitchen and grunted appreciatively as Sam set an omelet down in front of me. I ate quickly, surreptitiously watching Sam the entire time.

"Did you like your shake?" I asked him when I was done.

"No. Did you like your omelet?"

I smiled. "Yeah, thanks. So what do you want to do today?"

He shrugged. Just then the phone rang. I groaned. It was most likely Toby, calling to tell him that he had to come in today, which meant that I would probably have to go in today, too. Sam answered the phone, and I could tell immediately that it wasn't Toby. He stood up straighter and he stiffened, as if steeling himself for an oncoming battle.

Well, now I knew who it was.

He spoke crisply and shortly, using his intimidating-lawyer voice that I had come to know so well. I wondered what his father thought of that voice.

I winced as Sam slammed down the phone. I had thought that after his conversation with his dad last night, there had been some sort of resolution. Apparently I was wrong. Sam was still staring down at the phone, seemingly forgetting I was in the room. I walked over to him silently and pulled him into another hug, because I knew he needed it. He sagged and then grasped me tightly, again burying his face in what I was starting to think of as Sam's spot.

I held him just as tightly until I could feel him begin to nuzzle my neck, and at that point I knew it was time to let go.

I pulled back and looked at him. I sighed. "That's not the way to deal with this, Sam," I said, finally coming to a realization. Shit. It was so like Sam to try and avoid his problems by getting emotionally involved in something else.

Oh, God.

It was a defense mechanism. It didn't mean anything. The thing with his dad had so traumatized him that he had turned to me and I had let my emotions confuse the whole situation. God, this was all my fault. But, oh, how it hurt. Had I actually thought for a while that Sam had any feelings beyond friendship for me? And that they had just happened to surface at the time when he was under considerable emotional distress? I'm supposed to be smarter than that. God, I am such an idiot. This is all my fault...

"Why not?" he asked. "I want you." He tried to pull me back to him, but I resisted.

"Because you can't hide from what you're feeling towards your father by throwing yourself into my arms. It won't work."

"I think it will," he said, with a predatory gleam in his eyes as he matched me movement for movement across the floor. I hadn't seen that look on Sam's face very often before tonight either.

"Sam, you know that if we do this you'll regret it and I won't have that. I can't," I answered back.

He made a sudden movement and then was pushing me back into the wall, pressing against me again.

"I won't regret it," he said huskily, just before his lips claimed mine in another kiss.

I grunted and tried to push back, but he kept pushing into me and I couldn't keep myself from responding. I wrapped my arms around him and opened my mouth as his tongue stole in. I groaned. This couldn't be happening.

With all of my strength I managed to push him back and hold him there.

"No," I said shortly.

He looked into my eyes, seeing the desire, but also seeing the determination there. He stopped trying to kiss me and just deflated. He put his head down and rested it on my chest in an oddly vulnerable pose. I brought my arms up and wrapped them around his neck and held him to me, waiting for what I knew was coming.

"It's just, your mind can so easily convince you that nothing has happened...and then all of a sudden, you get shocked back into reality and you find yourself at a loss," he said brokenly.

I nodded and rubbed my hand encouragingly over the back of his neck.

"I'm sorry, Josh. I shouldn't have done that. You deserve better."

"Don't worry about it," I said lightly. "That was probably one of my better offers in the past, oh, decade." I grinned. Sam and I both knew our love lives were a joke, and we teased each other mercilessly over that fact.

He looked up at me then, grinning, and I knew he'd be okay. It would probably be rough for a while, but he had that spark back in his eyes. I knew he could handle it. For all his vulnerability, Sam was one of the strongest men I knew. And I knew I was strong enough, too. I could handle my attraction to him. I would just put it in a box and shove it into the back of my mind. It didn't matter anyway. There was no way I'd let Sam feel guilty over it. We would never talk about it. Our friendship would go on. We were fine.

^^^^^
The title was reverently taken from the third stanza of Lord Byron's "Remember Him Whom Passion's Power":

Oh! let me feel that all I lost But saved thee all that conscience fears; And blush for every pang it cost To spare the vain remorse of years.

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