Title - Trust in the Difficult
Author - Calligrafiti
Pairing - Josh/Sam (also, implied J/OMC)
Rating - pg-13 - NC-17
Archive - yes, please
Spoilers - Mildest of spoilers for "Noel".
Disclaimer - Josh, Sam, and Ainsley aren't mine. I'm just playing with them, and I'm sure AS will never miss them. No infringement intended.
Acknowledgements - Many thanks to Tana for a fast, fine, and highly encouraging beta.

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Trust in the Difficult by Calligrafiti

2:00 pm, Friday, mid-June, the White House

Sam strode down the hallway, rushing through the West Wing like a rabbit through its briar patch. Around one corner, up the stairs, blowing past Toby's office, he moved as quickly as he could without actually running. Still Ainsley paced him. How did she do it? Sam wondered. How could anyone move so quickly in those big high heels? Most people he could expect to shake off at his office door, but then most people could take a hint. Most people wouldn't still be prattling on about tort reform ages after he'd told them the six different ways they were wrong. Most people . . .

"Sam!" Josh yelled out of Sam's office. "I need to talk to you."

Oh, thank God. "Be right there." He turned to Ainsley. "Thank you *so* much for sharing your unique and challenging point of view."

"It's not unique, Sam. And this White House will have to acknowledge . . ."

Josh shut the door behind Sam, cutting off her tirade.

"What's her obsession this week?" Josh asked.

"Who cares? My door is shut and I no longer have to think about it."

Josh grinned. "Testy. How long did she have you?"

"Fifteen of the longest minutes of my life. She latched on like a moray eel in the parking lot, talked all the way here, and gnawed at my will to live enroute. I think I may have gone grayer while trying to escape."

Josh looked enviously at the thick pelt on Sam's head. "At least it's all still there."

"What, my will to live? Well, it regenerates pretty fast." Sam noticed a couple of white paper bags on his desk. "Hey, are those from the Miklos Grill?"

"Yep. The one on the left's yours."

Sam opened it and pulled out fragrant containers full of Greek food. "You've saved what's left of my sanity and now you're feeding me lunch."

Josh saluted him with a stuffed grape leaf. "I'm sweet like that."

"Do you really need to talk to me, or were you just covering my back?"

Josh swallowed and put the other half of the grape leaf back in it's plastic container. "Er, yeah. Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to come over to my apartment tonight. I need to talk to you about some stuff, and this isn't really the place to do it."

"Oh . . . kay. Is something wrong? Did your doctor say--"

"I'm fine, Sam."

"Did something happen with Leo?"

"No, Sam. Nothing's wrong with me or Leo."

"But--"

"Sam. Just eat your gyros and say you'll drop by around 8:00 or so."

"I can make 8:00." Sam took a bite of his sandwich and Josh counted four chews before Sam added, "Look, can you just . . ."

"No. I can't just. If I could just, I'd just. But I can't. Just." Josh finished his grape leaf and started hunting for the cucumber sauce.

Sam sipped at his ginger ale. "It doesn't have anything to do with tort reform, does it?"

* * * * * * * *

At 7:55 Sam knocked on Josh's door. He'd managed to get away from the office by 6:30--a new record for a Friday evening--and had changed into jeans and a wine-colored henley before coming over.

Josh opened the door, and gestured him inside. Sam noticed that the usual drifts of paper had been shoveled into distinct piles on either side of the couch. Since copies of _The Progressive_ and _Physics Today_ covered the chairs, Sam grabbed half the couch space. Josh handed him a beer and sat down beside him, holding a brown bottle of his own. Josh had also gone casual, opting for a Yale t-shirt over his jeans.

Sam took a swig of the beer. "So."

Josh picked at the label on his own bottle. "Um, yeah. So."

"Josh. you've had me wondering what's going on for the past four hours. If you make me wait until you finish denuding that bottle, I'm gonna hurt you."

Josh put his bottle down on the table. "Look, I'm sorry about that. I was going to get you to go somewhere for lunch to talk, but Kathy said you'd be back late. Then I grabbed stuff from Miklos and realized after I got to your office what a *bad* idea it would be to discuss this there, and normally I remember how you obsess about things, but I was kind of obsessing myself at that point." As he talked, Josh's shoulders drew up towards his ears, until he looked like an especially well-educated turtle.

"Josh, you're babbling. That's usually my thing. What the hell?" Sam put his hand between Josh's shoulder blades, frowning at their sharp relief. When had Josh lost so much weight?

Josh took a deep breath, then slouched back against the couch, dislodging Sam's hand. "OK, you know I've been in therapy--pretty serious therapy--for the past 6 months. Ever since I had my very special Christmas meltdown."

"Right."

"Well, it's helped keep me on point at work. I haven't tried to disembowel anyone, in spite of regular provocation. I mean, the new Treasury Secretary alone . . ."

"Josh?"

"Right. On point. The thing is, the therapy isn't just helping me pull stuff together for work. It's also putting a lot of things in perspective from the rest of my life." He glanced over at Sam. "I *do* have a rest of my life, you know."

"I've been planning to get one of those myself."

"Yeah, well, a lot of it isn't a big surprise. There are things about my sister, my dad. I was seeing a therapist before the shooting about those. But some of it . . . Jesus, Sam. Have you ever tried scraping away 20 years of denial? It's not unlike scraping away 15 layers of skin from your ankles, and then wearing wool socks for a week."

Sam fought the sudden urge to scratch his right ankle.

Josh stared at his bottle again and continued. "One of the things I've scraped at involves my, um, my sex life."

He paused. The beer bottle continued to exert it's strange fascination for him.

"Sam, I've told you a bit about how some stuff got put on hold when I was growing up. I figured, you've got to make choices. You can carry a 4.0 or party every night. You can plan on a life with a wife, kids, career, everything that your dad would want for you, or you can choose otherwise. Except . . . except some stuff isn't a choice."

He looked over at Sam. "Do you see where I'm going with this?"

Sam said, "I think you'd better say it."

"I'm gay, Sam." Josh pause, then Sam nodded encouragingly and he continued. "I figured I could chalk up a couple of blowjobs from guys in highschool to experimentation, and sleeping with a male friend in college was just one of those things that happens in college. I don't know what I called that time with a fella in Connecticut just before I moved to DC. Jaegermeister, maybe? But every single woman I've been involved with has been carefully selected from the pool of impossible relationships. Joey's 3,000 miles away, Mandy's, well, Mandy. And they were the good ones."

"That doesn't make you gay," replied Sam. "Choosing unavailable women could just mean you're allergic to commitment, like half of all other men under 40."

"Yeah, but imagining Keanu Reeves while making love to your girlfriend is a clue."

"Josh--"

"Sam, I'm gay. This is something I've been thinking about for months. I didn't get a hard-on in the gym this morning and say, 'Whoa, I must be homosexual.' I'm sexually and romantically interested in men, far more than in women. I always have been. I've just been trying very hard not to think about it."

"Why's that?" asked Sam.

"Aside from the fact that it's going to totally mess up my life? If I find some sort of relationship, it'll either be some damn hole-in-the-corner thing, hoping the press and my mother never find out, or I'll be the Gay Staffer. You know, like we have the Gay Congressman, and the Gay Cabinet Member. Everything I say or do will be viewed through that adjective, even though 99% of the time my being gay will be totally irrelevant. All of which assumes that Leo doesn't see me as too much of a liability for the Senior Staff, which is a big assumption." Josh rubbed his face wearily. "Not to mention explaining to my mother why she'll never have grandkids. Ho-boy. Talking sex with Mom. There's a joy that will rank right up there with dental surgery."

"Josh, Leo wouldn't fire you."

"Are you sure about that? He might not have a choice, you know."

Sam hesitated. "True. But if he fired you for that, I'd walk. I came onto the campaign with you, I'd leave with you, too."

Josh smiled for the first time that evening. Sam added, "I can't do much to help with your mom, though."

Josh's dimples deepened. "Maybe you could write a coming out speech for me to give her?"

"Of course. One for your mother, one for Donna, one for the President--you're on your own with your ex-girlfriends."

This drew a chuckle from Josh. "So, we're all right then?"

"What, us? Sure. You'll still be dragging me to meetings with everyone I've never wanted to meet. I'll still be phoning you up with my latest crisis. We'll still conspire to torture CJ every few weeks. We're good, Josh."

"Good."

* * * * * * *

Two hours, one pizza, and an episode of _The Capital Gang_ later, Sam left Josh's apartment. Josh waved him off the porch steps and went back to sprawl on his couch. Things had gone way better with Sam than he'd expected. Sure, Sam had always talked a good game on sexual issues, but there was a big difference between supporting gay rights in general and supporting your newly out best friend. There'd been no drawing back, no pointed questions about what previous hugs and backslaps *really* meant. Their friendship was solid. What more could he want?

Josh turned his face into the couch cushion where Sam had recently been. He hadn't expected Sam to turn to him and say, "At last!" and jump his bones. But he couldn't help wanting it.

* * * * * * *

Sam wandered around his apartment, picking up random bits of detritus that the week had scattered about. He'd built up several panic scenarios in his mind that afternoon, from Josh's heart to his head. Compared to a diagnosis of compulsive obsessive paranoid schizophrenia or congestive myocardial infarctions, the new aspect of Josh's love life was a considerable relief.

"No more Mandys clawing out your heart, Josh," he mused. He thought about some of the other gay men he'd known, from highschool on. Many were really nice guys. How would Josh do with one of them?

Sam sat on the edge of his bed with two mismatched socks in his hand, the hamper open and ignored beside him. Josh would do really well. He'd saunter into the right room, flash those dimples, and have every man there at his feet. Eventually he'd meet someone nearly as terrific as himself. Josh and New Guy--call him Gary--would settle into couplehood. It wouldn't be like the coupling Sam and Lisa had tried. There'd be no need for escape with the guys--Gary would be a guy. Gary would be on hand for late night gripefests, to drag Josh into a car after too many beers, to shoot baskets with him.

Sam balled up the socks and slam-dunked them into the hamper. Josh had been out for about two hours, and already he felt himself being replaced.

* * * * *

One month later, Monday, 8:00 am, the White House

Sam poked his head into Josh's office. "Josh, what does Lillingfield think he's doing . . . Josh?"

"Sam the man, good morning. How's life treating you?" Josh sat smiling in his ergonomically questionable chair, glowing incandescently.

"What happened to you?"

"Who happened to me, you mean. Come in and shut the door."

Sam complied. "Well?"

"This weekend was the most amazing experience of my life." Josh gestured with both hands and nearly busted a finger on the bookcase behind him. "I met this guy. And do you know what we did?"

"Since my pupils just imploded, I'm thinking he painted you with the luminescent stuff they use on watches."

"Nah. We're saving that for the next date." Josh leaned back and spun around in his chair. After his second revolution he stopped and asked, "Is this OK? You don't mind me talking about my love life, do you?"

"Talk on. Just remember this when I need to bend your ear about my latest romantic disaster."

Josh's grin widened. If his dimples got any deeper they'd dig grooves in his brainstem, Sam thought sourly.

"OK, so I was jogging Friday evening and this guy stopped me to ask how to get to Dupont Circle. We started talking and . . ."

Twenty minutes later Sam smiled and waved his way out of Josh's office. He kept the smile plastered to his face until he could shut his door and his blinds, sit at his desk, and bury his face in his hands.

Oh, god. This is way harder than he'd expected. Josh and Tim, the new guy, were going sailing next weekend, barring national disasters. Sailing was Sam's thing, damn it. OK, not in the sense of him actually being good at it, but it's one of the things he did. And on the rare occasion when Josh got near salt water, he did it with Sam. He ran his hands though his too-long hair. Time to get a grip, he thought. There were six different things that he should be obsessing about right now, and none of them involved Josh's love life. He stared at the paper piles on his desk and continued to think about Josh. And Tim.

* * * * * * *

Mid-August, Friday, The Derbyville Bar--Alexandria, 8 pm

Josh watched Tim across the table, wondering when he'd finish talking. Tim was used to his scrutiny, reveled in it, in fact. Josh could watch him for hours in any situation, by any light. Tim's blue eyes shone with an electric energy when he was excited, his dark hair waved with studied carelessness across his forehead, his golden skin caught the light like dusky silk. When Josh teased him, Tim's wing-like eyebrows lifted and the faintest of lines creased his forehead. On his lean runner's body, Armani suits looked better than their creator could have hoped. All in all, Tim was perfect, until he opened his mouth.

"So what do you think?" Tim finally paused.

"I try not to think after working hours."

"About the bar, Josh. The food critic at the Post gave the scotch selection five stars."

"Yeah, it's fine."

"Mark used to hate taking me to places like this. He said that we should really spend our money in clearly gay establishments. But so many of those places put too munch emphasis on ambiance and not nearly enough on the stock. I mean, they're *bars* for Pete's sake!"

"Yeah, it's fine." Josh could see the watch on the man across from him. 8:15. Forty-five minutes until he could possibly drag Tim home and into bed. The man's mouth had a lot of good points, as long as words weren't coming out of it.

A wave of humid air told Josh that someone had come in the door behind him. A wave of hearty laughter told Josh who it was.

"And that's why Stoppard never wrote about American football," said Sam to a long-legged blond woman as he walked by Josh's table. Josh slouched down, sending a silent prayer to the God of his fathers.

"Don't let him turn around. Please don't let him turn around. Please, please don't . . ." his eyes met Sam's in the beveled mirror behind the bar. Sam turned around.

"Josh!" Sam grinned and caught his companion by the elbow. As she turned, Josh noted with some slight relief that she wasn't Ainsley, but that was the only bright spot to be found. Sam smiled at her and said, "Miriam Preston, this is my friend Josh Lyman and . . ." Sam looked at Tim. And blinked. "Er . . . Josh?"

Josh stood up and offered his hand. "Hi Miriam. It's a pleasure to meet you. This is my friend Tim Winslow." Tim and Miriam shook hands while Sam looked from Tim to Josh and back to Tim.

Miriam waved to a group across the room and excused herself to join them.

"Tim," said Sam, "would you excuse Josh and me for a couple of minutes?"

"Sure, I guess. What's--"

"Work stuff. You know how it is." Sam flashed him a quick, tight smile, and walked toward the cloak room, trusting that Josh would follow him.

They'd barely gotten past the first raincoat when Sam whirled around and growled at Josh, "What the hell is going on?"

Josh rubbed his forehead. "I know this doesn't look good."

"Look good? It's like looking in a mirror! You've been singing the praises of Tim for the past month, Josh, and you never once mentioned that he could be my twin. Why the hell are you fucking my doppleganger?"

Josh felt his painstakingly constructed new world start to crumble. "He's really nothing like you, Sam." Unfortunately, he didn't add. "He's an advertising executive, for God's sake."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

A young woman came into the room and grabbed an umbrella. They fell silent, Josh staring at his shoes and Sam staring at Josh, until she left. Josh risked a look at Sam. On Sam's face shock was giving way to confusion and, possibly, hurt.

"Sam?"

"What."

"Could we go somewhere and talk?"

"I don't . . . I really don't think so, Josh."

"Sam, please--"

"I've gotta go."

"Please." Josh was talking to Sam's back, as the man walked out of the cloak room. Josh turned to the wall and thumped his head against it a few times.

"Josh?" He turned at the sound of his name, looking into a pair of concerned blue eyes. Unfortunately, they were the wrong pair.

"I can't do this anymore, Tim," he said.

"Was that the Sam you quote six times a day?" Tim asked.

"Yeah, that's him."

"I knew it wasn't true love, you and me. I didn't know I was a substitute."

"I'm sorry."

Tim snorted. "I may not be the word master, or mister moral compass, or whatever the hell Sam is this week. But I'm a good guy, Josh. I deserve better than this."

Josh held his hands up in front of him. "You're right. You're right, and he's right, and everybody's right but me. I'm sorry."

"You're really fucked up, Josh. You know that?"

"Oh, I've got the therapy bills to prove it."

Tim rolled his eyes and left the room.

Josh leaned against the wall to collect himself, and then went back into the main bar. Miriam was still at the table across the room, but neither Sam nor Tim was in the room.

* * * * * * *

Sunday, 10 am, Josh's apartment.

Sam stood at Josh's door and knocked. After two minutes he knocked again. After another two minutes he knocked continuously, determined to thump the door until it opened or his fingers broke. The door finally flew backwards, revealing a haggard-looking Josh in boxers and a t-shirt.

"What in seven hells! Sam?" Josh squinted at him through the harsh morning light.

"So let's talk."

"Whah?"

"You wanted to talk. So let me in. Or we can talk on your stoop and entertain the neighborhood."

"That was Friday." Josh shook his head in confusion.

"You've changed your mind?"

"No. No, come in."

Sam looked around the apartment. Entropy clearly had the upper hand. He tipped a pile of papers from one side of the couch to the floor and claimed the new space.

Josh hovered uncertainly at the other end of the couch, finally transferring a used t-shirt, towel, and running shoes onto a nearby pile of books and sitting. "So," he started, then paused.

"Just talk Josh. Start at the beginning, go on until you reach the end, and then stop. Don't justify, don't obfuscate, just tell me what's going on in your confused head."

Josh rubbed his face, then dove in. "I'm in love with you, Sam." He paused, and looked at Sam, who simply nodded. "I don't know when it started. No, when Bartlett gave his acceptance speech, the speech you wrote, and you looked over at me with that wonderful 'look what we did' expression on your face, I knew."

"Almost three years," Sam murmured.

"Well, yeah. I fell for you hard, but I thought I was straight. Which confused things considerably. And I knew you were straight, especially when you went home from the inaugural party with that red-headed staffer, Gwen, from the Florida office.

So we came to the White House. Mandy came and went; Joey came and went. But every morning I came into the office, and there you were. Laurie came and went; Mallory, well, she's still around. But you don't talk about her much. And God knows we talk a lot.

When I admitted to myself I was gay, I knew what loving you really meant to me, what I wanted from it. And I knew I couldn't ask you for it. You were so good about everything, Sam--the perfect straight friend. You didn't put me in the "gay buddy" box, we were just friends, the same as before. And I couldn't have felt more guilty about it, 'cause I was living off of every touch, off of every time I smelled your aftershave. I know I should have told you. I should have given you the chance to draw back, because I knew I was using our friendship. But I couldn't bring myself to torpedo the relationship.

Then I met Tim. He seemed like the perfect solution. We--you and I--worked, talked, played a little basketball. Then I could meet Tim and do, um, less friendship-oriented things."

Josh paused.

Sam asked, "Is he here?"

"No, he dumped me Friday. Seems he didn't like being used, any more than you."

"Is that what I'm pissed off about? Being used?"

Josh looked at him in surprise. "Isn't it?"

"No."

"Then what's going on?"

"You sold me short, Josh. Did you really think I couldn't handle this? What did you see me doing at this point--storming out? Decking you? Clutching the collar of my shirt closed while shouting, 'you cad!'? What's the script look like, Josh?"

"I don't know."

"I've never seen you scared off by anyone before, and I haven't intimidated anyone since that av geek in 5th grade. Is that time at the gym finally paying off for me?"

"I . . ."

"Which is it? Am I a small minded loser or a scary jerk?"

" . . ."

Sam watched Josh's mouth open and close silently a few times. "I've never seen you rendered silent before, either. I guess I must be scary."

"No. Well, yes. I'm confused."

"Let me clear something up for you." Sam looked at Josh for a long, silent moment, then reached over, held his chin, and planted a firm kiss on his lips. He drew back briefly and examined Josh's shell-shocked face. Josh's lips parted with surprise and Sam dove back in for a deeper kiss. He explored Josh's mouth, tasting bitter coffee and the underlying warm spice of Josh.

Sam drew back a second time. This time Josh closed the distance between them, pushing Sam back into the sofa cushions. He held Sam's head in his hands, kissing his lips, his chin, the lids of both closed eyes. Between kisses he said, "You gorgeous son of a bitch. You could have said."

Sam's response was to angle his mouth across Josh's. A period of tongues and lips ensued, broken only by the need for breath. Josh found himself panting into the crook of Sam's neck, breathing in the scent of his aftershave as Sam's rapid breath ruffled his curls. He concentrated on the feel of Sam's body beneath him. They lay chest to chest, legs entwined. Josh felt a promising hardness digging into his hip and a less-promising tension throughout the rest of Sam's body.

Josh really liked his position and levered himself up reluctantly. "Are you OK, Sam?"

"I'm fine."

Josh ran his hand lightly along Sam's abdomen. Sam froze with a look on his face similar to that of a squirrel facing an SUV. His erection still strained against his jeans, but the rest of Sam's body seemed more ambivalent.

"I don't think I'm the only one who's confused here," Josh said, sitting back. He kept one knee against Sam's leg and reached for his hand. Sam looked down at their entwined fingers.

"I'm not confused," Sam protested, looking up at Josh's face. "I know exactly what I want. I want you." At Josh's unconvinced expression, he continued, "I want to be the one who sends you into the office glowing every Monday. On the weekends I want to drag you away from your reports and briefs," Josh grinned and Sam blushed, "OK, summaries, damn it. I want you, Josh. I'm pretty sure I love you. I'm just not sure how to go about, um, all this."

"Well, you've got the kissing down," teased Josh.

"Mouths are mouths. After that it gets different."

Josh's grin faded. "Are you saying that you've never experimented with men?"

"No, I haven't."

"Oh-kay." Josh shut his eyes and, before his good intentions could fade, said, "Areyousureyoureallywantsex?"

"What?"

Josh opened his eyes again to look at Sam. "You're 32 and you've never been sexually involved with a man before. It can't be from lack of offers. I've loved men, like Leo, without there being any real sexual interest. Maybe you really don't . . ."

Sam squeezed his hand firmly. "That's not it. It's honestly not."

"Sam, it's OK if you don't want this." I'll just jerk myself raw three times a night, he thought.

"I want this. I want you. Josh, Friday night I went home pissed as hell. After I stopped wanting to throw things at you I started thinking about you and Tim. And I have to say, I wasn't mad about you having a lover who looked like me. I was mad because he wasn't me. I thought of what you and he were probably doing," Sam paused.

"That would be just about everything. Maybe more."

"Oh-kay. I thought about it, pictured it, and I really wanted it to be happening to you and me. I've been jealous of Tim for a month now, but Friday made everything crystallize for me. I want you, Josh."

"You've been jealous for a month and you never said?"

"Yes."

"Really?"

"After three years you can't talk."

"Well, yeah. But, really?"

"Yes, really. Damn it, Josh, would you just shut up and get back to the kissing? 'Cause I'm pretty sure we can resolve this faster by action than by talking it out."

"My wordsmith doesn't want to talk." Josh stood up and held out his hand.

"Get over it," Sam smiled and let Josh lever him to his feet. "What are you doing?"

"We're going to the bedroom. There's more room there for that resolving action you mentioned. All right?"

"Oh yeah."

Josh's bedroom was a free-range breeding ground for dust bunnies. He and Sam blazed a trail to the bed, which was miraculously debris-free. It was also free of blankets, pillows, and the topsheet, leading Sam to think that Josh was probably a restless sleeper. He filed the thought away for later as he saw Josh take off his t-shirt.

* * * * * *

Josh threw his t-shirt onto the nearest pile of abandoned clothes. Sam looked at him and swallowed. Josh's torso displayed more muscle than dress shirts had lead him to expect, highlighted by a dusting of cinnamon curls. The symmetry of ivory and shadowed flesh was broken by a red scar inches below Josh's heart. Sam lifted his right hand until it hovered over the scar, tracing the air above the rough damage caused by the sniper's bullet and the more even lines made by surgeons carving out room to work.

Josh could feel the warmth of Sam's hand over the skin on either side of his scar, but nothing over the scar itself. He lifted Sam's hand to his lips and kissed it, saying, "It won't hurt if you touch the scar, Sam. I don't feel anything there anymore."

Sam looked stricken. "That's almost worse."

"I've got three square inches of deadened skin. It could have been a lot worse." Josh guided Sam's hand back to his chest where his other hand came up to join it. Lightly Sam trailed his fingertips down over Josh's abdominal muscles, until they rested briefly at the top of his boxers. Josh sucked in his stomach involuntarily, leaving an inviting gap between boxers and skin, but Sam ignored it for the moment, running his fingers along Josh's waist until they met in the small of his back. As easily as that they were embracing, Sam's head resting on Josh's shoulder, as Josh nuzzled the silky hair above his temple and rested his hands at Sam's waist. Sam bent his fingers slightly, until his fingernails as well as his fingertips rested against Josh's skin, and then ran them up along either side of his spine. Josh shivered and caught his breath. He could feel Sam's mouth curve into a smile against his collarbone.

Sam slowly dragged his fingers along the wings of Josh's shoulder blades, and over the delicate skin just beneath his armpits. As those long fingers moved between their bodies, tracing the bottom curve of his pectorals, Josh found himself praying for the second time that summer.

"Oh, God," he said silently. "Don't let me scare the hell out of Sam." The fingers met over his sternum and then separated, inching their way towards his hard nipples. "Please, God. Please don't let--" One set fingers brushed lightly over his right nipple, then the others brushed his left. Josh heard his broken prayer spoken, in a desperate voice he barely recognized as his own, "Please, please God . . ."

Sam raised his head to watch Josh's face as his fingers returned to brush his nipples again. Then Sam lightly pinched them. "Aw, fuck," said Josh, his self-control in shreds. He pushed Sam back onto the bed and jumped on top of him, cock thrusting against cock through three layers of cloth.

"Oof-ugh," exclaimed Sam as the air rushed out of his lungs. Josh graciously refrained from kissing him as he caught his breath, choosing instead to run his mouth down Sam's elegant neck, sucking and lightly biting. At the juncture of neck and shoulder Josh's mouth was blocked by Sam's shirt. He gathered the threads of his self-control just before ripping the thing off Sam's body.

Instead, he lifted up to grasp the shirt's tail and said, "Let me take this off you." Sam raised himself up on his elbows as Josh pulled the shirt over his torso. Sam's body shone a darker gold in such light as made it past the drapes. A thin line of black hair arrowed down to the button of his jeans. Josh brushed over the hair with the knuckle of his forefinger, then bent his head to trace the skin on either side with his tongue. He raised his head slightly to blow a stream of cool air along the dampness, then further to look at Sam.

Sam lay against the mattress, his fingers clutching at the bottom sheet. He breathed quickly through his open mouth while his eyes, in contrast, were shut fast.

"Sam," said Josh, his mouth an inch above Sam's navel. "Sam, look at me." Sam opened his eyes. His pupils were far larger than even the dimly lit room could account for. Josh held Sam's gaze as he ran his tongue along the rim of the other man's navel, then dipped it inside. Sam gasped, and tension quivered through his body, but Josh doubted it had anything to do with nerves this time.

Josh moved with excruciating slowness, dragging his mouth in a wet line towards the center of Sam's chest. As he tasted his way along Sam's body, he noticed the flavor of soap and skin mingling with a fresh layer of sweat. He detoured to the right and left, grazing Sam's nipples with teasing flicks of his tongue. Sam's hands left the sheet to tangle in Josh's hair. Josh looked up to see Sam's eyes had drifted shut again. But he heard a muttered "Josh, Josh," coming from the other man's mouth and figured there was no question of who he thought was he was with.

He licked his way towards Sam's right collarbone, only to feel the hands in his hair pulling his head south again. "Hmmm?"

"Do that again, that thing with your tongue."

Josh went back to give further attention to Sam's nipples, moving from lapping, to sucking, to the slightest grazing of his teeth. Sam's fingers tightened until Josh feared for what remained of his hair.

"Sam."

"Oh, yeah."

"Sam."

"More!"

"Sam!"

"What?"

"Fingers."

Sam unthreaded his fingers from his curls and kneaded the shoulders below.

Josh blew across the tight nubs, gave them one more lick each, and moved up to kiss the hollow of his neck. As he worked his way towards Sam's mouth, he felt something scrape against his stomach. Looking down, he noticed the button on Sam's jeans that was causing his discomfort, as well as the jeans themselves, which couldn't be comfortable for Sam. And Sam's legs were still hanging over the side of the bed.

"Hey, Sam?"

Sam reached up and stroked his face in response.

"Want to get all the way on board here?"

"Hmmm? Oh, right." Sam pulled himself up towards the head of the bed and reached up to pull Josh back down to him. Josh eased himself to one side, draping himself against the other man's body. He placed a hand over the annoying jeans button and paused, looking at Sam's face. Sam smiled and moved a hand down to cover Josh's. "I'm on board with this."

Josh undid the button and, with Sam's hand on his, unzipped the jeans. He reached in through the fly of Sam's briefs and claimed his erection with a firm hand.

"Oh God." Sam moaned, grabbing the sheet again, and thrust up into his hand. Josh watched his face as he moved his fingers along Sam's shaft, easing his way with the precum oozing liberally from the tip. Sam bit his lower lip, his face flushed, his breath coming in irregular gasps.

Josh grinned briefly. "You're gonna love this," he promised, and bent down to run the tip of his tongue around the crown of Sam's cock.

"Jesus God!" Sam's hips left the bed once, twice, then he gasped, "Josh, no, wait."

"What? You're kidding."

"Please, wait. It's too much. I'm gonna come," Sam said between panted breaths.

"That's the goddamn point."

"Not alone. C'mon, take off your boxers."

Josh reluctantly let go of Sam's erection and complied as Sam shimmied out of his remaining clothes.

They looked at one another for a moment, each built to very different, but exacting standards of beauty. Sam said, "You know, I wish I were a painter instead of a speech writer. There are just no words for how gorgeous you are."

Josh blushed for the first time in ten years. "Come here," he said huskily.

They moved back together, their bodies fitting tightly, both sighing at the contact of flesh on flesh. Josh rolled them over until he was on top. "Ohhh, yeah, this is good," muttered Sam. He ran his palms down Josh's sweat-slick back until they could grasp his ass. Sam kneaded the rounded muscles until Josh moaned and thrust against him.

"Yes. Just like that," Josh said as he reached between them to grasp first Sam's then his own erection in his hand. Their thrusts soon found a rough, matching rhythm.

"Josh, Josh," moaned Sam. Josh raised his head in a brief moment of alarm, but it was clear from Sam's face that he wasn't about to say "no" to anything at that moment. Josh lowered his head to nuzzle at Sam's shoulder as he picked up the pace of his thrusts.

They moved together in increasingly blind need. Sam passed from moaning Josh's name, to calling God's, to wordless cries as he came. The smell and feel of Sam's semen sent Josh over the edge soon thereafter. Shuddering to a halt, he clutched Sam as close as possible and listened to their heartbeats slow to a calmer rhythm.

Josh eased himself over to Sam's side and dazedly wished for the energy to find a blanket. He recovered just enough to turn his head towards his bed partner who lay in the filtered midday light, looking boneless, but very happy. Sam dragged a finger through their mingled essences and raised it to his mouth with a look of consideration on his face. First he took a quick taste, lapping with the tip of his tongue, then he drew his entire finger into his mouth and sucked it clean. Josh felt a twinge in his groin and a flash of renewed energy. Sam looked over at him and smiled.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"I guess I'm bisexual."

Josh chuckled. "Not a bad theory. Got anything to back it up?"

"Not right now. Give me fifteen minutes."

"So you're really all right with this," Josh asked as he brushed Sam's hair off his forehead.

"Oh, yeah. And you?"

"Me? Are you kidding? I've been fantasizing about this for years."

"That's the thing." Sam's smile faded a bit, and Josh's brow creased with concern. "Fantasies get sort of built up, and I'm not exactly an expert at this."

"Sam . . ."

"I mean, I understand the basic equipment, of course, but that's not the same as--"

Josh swallowed the end of Sam's sentence with a kiss, then pulled back to say, "You're exactly what I want. You're who I want to come home with. You're who I want to see first thing in the morning. You're who I want to fantasize about during long staff meetings." He paused. "Well, actually, I've already been doing that last one."

"Really?" Sam's smile had returned full-force. "Tell me about them."

"Well, there are about seven fantasies involving you, me, and a shower. Want me to demonstrate a couple?"

They worked their tired way out of bed and started towards the bathroom. Josh continued, "And then there's a couple involving you, me, and the kitchen counter. And there's this special one of the two of us in my favorite leather armchair during the Superbowl."

"We'll have to wait on that one. What a pity."

"True. But I think we could substitute the World Series without compromising the basic theme of the fantasy."

"You think?"

"Well, we'd have to compare them both to be sure."

Sam laughed and gave Josh a long kiss. Then Josh turned the faucet and started Shower Fantasy Number 1 (of 7).

[The End]

-----------------------------

The title is from a line in Rilke's _Letters to a Young Poet (no. 8)_:

And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.