Title: Turning Point
Author: Jae Kayelle
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin, NBC, and John Wells Productions own the rights to the characters.
No copyright infringement intended. No profit being made from this work of fiction.
Archive: yes to list archives.
Spoilers: 100,000 Airplanes
Summary: Josh smells the coffee.
Turning Point by Jae Kayelle
Sam glanced up from his laptop and said, with all the enthusiasm of a man about to undergo a root canal, "Hey."
Josh stepped away from the doorjamb that he'd been leaning against while watching Sam stare at the computer screen. He swung his arms and glanced around the office. Was the collection of antacids and headache remedies on the desk getting larger? In fact they had vanished for months, but there seemed to be more bottles than ever before. Sam still insisted they were all vitamins, yet anyone with the ability to read past a grade four level could see that there wasn't a bottle of vitamins in the lot. Josh looked at his friend, slumped in his chair, once again fixated on the laptop.
Clearing his throat, Josh walked up to the desk and sat in the visitor's chair. "Did Lisa go?"
"Yeah. She went back to New York."
"I thought she was going to be your shadow for the next couple of weeks."
"It wouldn't work. She's going to ask her editor to replace her on the assignment." Then he mumbled something that Josh didn't catch.
Speaking up, Sam told him, "I said, I hope they drop the article."
Josh didn't like the gloom that had settled over Sam. Sure, he'd been pretty low key for quite a while now, but not like this. It had to be because Lisa had been here tonight.
Plastering on a smile, Josh said, "You're missing your party. It's your night, guy -- yours and Toby's. You should be out there dancing with him or CJ or someone."
Josh sighed. It was obvious to him that it was not okay.
Sam was hurting and that hurt Josh. It was surprising how much it hurt him knowing that Sam was upset, and the realization that it was surprising turned Josh's world upside down.
When had it stopped mattering to him that Sam was not happy? Why hadn't he noticed that Sam was in trouble? Somewhere along the way, the job had become more important and all consuming. Hell, working in the White House consumed them all. It was a short-term job in the scheme of things. They all knew it would last from four to eight years and then they would move on to something else. With luck a few of them would return here in some capacity with the next administration, but it wasn't like a job in the private sector where, barring layoffs, an employee could conceivably keep his position until retirement. With the spectre of time hanging over their heads, and the need to make a difference within that time constraint, the pressure was enormous. Some of them would emerge relatively unscathed.
It had simply never occurred to Josh that Sam might feel the weight sooner and more than the rest of them, but he should have realized it. Sam felt deeply. He cared with all of his big, compassionate heart. He had given up his life in New York for this. Now it was all coming to bear on him.
Josh didn't want to examine too closely why Sam was crumbling under the weight. He knew why, he just couldn't face the reasons. Not tonight. If he looked at the faults of the underlying structure Josh knew that he, too, would crumble. Tonight he needed to be strong for Sam. He wanted to be strong for Sam. He had so much to make up for, so much to atone for.
"Sam?" His voice was soft and creaky. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Sam. Let's go home."
What was obviously a false smile appeared on Sam's face. "We have a party to go to, remember?" He closed the laptop and stood up.
"The party can go on without us."
"What about Amy?" And then Sam looked Josh in the eye for the first time in the conversation. "I didn't know you had reconnected with her. I saw you with her in the hallway earlier. You both looked...intense."
Josh stared back at him. He made his decision and it didn't hurt at all.
"Amy left with her boyfriend. I want to be with you."
Sam's shoulders slumped a little, right after a spark of something that looked like hope flared and died in his eyes. Whatever was going on inside Sam's head, he was determined not to let it live to torment him.
Josh got angry. What the hell had he done to Sam?
"I want to be with you," he repeated.
"Because you can't have Amy?"
"Dammit, Sam! I want to be with you. Amy has nothing to do with this. I want to be with you. How many times do I have to say it? I've been a lousy friend to you and I want a chance to make up for it. You look like you need a friend. Let me help."
"I don't need pity." Sam was nearly out the door before Josh realized he was moving. Scrambling to his feet, Josh ran after him and caught up with him in the hallway. He grabbed Sam's arm and dug in his heels, the sudden stop and the weight on his arm dragging Sam to an abrupt halt and swinging him around to face Josh.
"What are you doing? Let go!" Sam was irate, struggling to get loose from Josh's grip.
"Not until you listen to me." They stared at each other. Sam lifted one eyebrow. Josh realized Sam was listening but nothing was being said. "Oh. I want to be with you, Sam."
"You said that."
Frowning, Josh said, "I'm going home with you tonight."
"Well, as long as you're so eager about it."
"Sam. I want to be with you. I'm not gonna say it again."
Sam started walking down the hall. Belatedly, Josh realized it and followed, and then ran back to get Sam's coat. They stopped at Josh's office so he could get his coat and then they were off.
For half of one minute Josh wished they'd gone to his place instead, if only to help him find his footing on his territory, but he knew it was better this way. Sam couldn't leave if they were already at his home.
Once they got there the fight went out of Sam. He lost his combativeness and shifted into autopilot. He sat on his couch with his coat still on and stared into space. Josh looked at him for a moment, and then went to the kitchen and made two sandwiches. It amazed him that Sam kept real food in his refrigerator, considering he was hardly ever home long enough to eat a meal. And yet, he kept food. Whatever. Josh was grateful because it was there and he was hungry. Somehow he had missed eating tonight, hence the raid on Sam's fridge.
He took the plates into the living room and set them down on the end table. Then he reached down for Sam's left hand and tugged until he stood up. Once he had Sam on his feet, he pulled his coat off and took it to the hall closet to hang up. When he returned to the living room, he found Sam still standing where he'd left him, looking lost.
"Sit down and have something to eat."
"I ate earlier."
"When -- breakfast?"
"At the party with Lisa."
"Bet that was a tasty meal."
"Yeah, I know. Low blow."
"To be honest, I don't remember what I had. I did eat it though."
"That's good, Sam. I'm just gonna have this sandwich. I didn't eat. Can't remember why not."
Sam nodded and sank back onto the couch. Then he got up again and went to the kitchen, returning with two bottles of beer. He handed one to Josh and settled beside him, not too far away. Josh took that as a good sign and kept eating his sandwich.
After several minutes of not speaking, Sam said conversationally, "My life sucks."
Swallowing a mouthful of bread, lettuce, tomato, and turkey, Josh took a swig of his beer and set the remainder of the sandwich on the plate. Wiping his fingers on a paper napkin, he slid his arm around Sam's shoulders and tugged until Sam fell against him.
Sam moved around so that his head rested on Josh's shoulder. A deep sigh emanated from that region. Josh spread his fingers as they moved through the silky hair on the top of Sam's head. He kissed the temple. Another sigh. Taking a look at his friend, Josh saw that Sam was drifting off to sleep.
"Wanna go to bed now?"
His voice heavy with fatigue, Sam mumbled, "Shower first."
"You go get undressed and I'll start it for you."
"I can do it."
Josh stood up bringing Sam with him. He kept one hand at Sam's waist as a gentle guide, and they walked into the bedroom. Stopping just inside the doorway, Sam looked towards the bed with longing. Josh pulled him closer into a hug.
"Go to bed, Sam," he whispered.
Movement against his neck seemed to be of the affirmative. He rubbed between Sam's shoulder blades and then released him. Shuffling to the bed, Sam began undressing.
Josh watched him for a moment before reluctantly tearing his gaze away. "I'll, uh, go make up a bed on the couch."
Tired blue eyes turned to him. "Sleep in here, Josh. The couch could be lumpy. I lost the remote in it the other night."
That brought a genuine smile to Josh's face, and he even managed a laugh. "Sounds like as good a reason as any." And then he saw the real expression in Sam's eyes. Loneliness and despair were all that registered before he was at Sam's side again.
"Get undressed and into bed." Josh was afraid to look at Sam now. Not directly. If he did he knew he might fall apart. Instead, he reminded himself of his earlier promise to stay strong and, keeping one hand on Sam at all times, waited until his friend was down to shorts and t-shirt before helping him slide between the sheets. Sam lay there watching him expectantly. "I'm gonna borrow your mouthwash, 'kay?"
"I really don't want it back after you're done with it, Josh."
Another laugh found its way out. "You're a riot tonight, Sam."
"Yeah. Catch my act at Ha Ha's."
"Nothing. Go do whatever, and then come back here."
When Josh returned wearing, like Sam, just his boxers and undershirt, the lights were out in the bedroom but his friend was awake and propped up against the pillows. Climbing into bed beside him, Josh struck a similar pose.
Sam asked, "Do I make a difference?"
At the same moment, Josh blurted, "It's my fault."
"I didn't catch... What did you say?" Sam asked.
With a sigh, Josh ground the heels of his hands into his eye sockets but stopped because that hurt. "I'm a lousy friend. I don't talk to you. I don't listen to you."
"Tell me something I don't know."
Josh turned to look at Sam. The room might have been dark, but the light from Sam's digital alarm clock threw enough light for Josh to see the tightness around Sam's mouth. It matched but did not surpass the tightness around Josh's heart.
He twisted around until he was on his knees in a gesture that was purposely symbolic. "How can I make it up to you, Sam?"
The long lashes dropped and then lifted. "Talk to me. Listen to me."
"Is it really that simple?" Josh lay down again beside him.
"Yeah, Josh. It is."
"So what do you want to talk about? I'm here to listen."
That brought the hint of a smile, relaxing the lines. "Not now."
Sam wriggled down so that his head rested in the centre of his pillow. Then he rolled over and threw an arm over Josh's stomach. Encouraged, Josh slipped down to the same level and lay on his side facing Sam. After a brief hesitation he settled his arm on Sam's hip. Another minute or so and he moved closer so that he could feel Sam's warm breath on his cheek.
"But we used to," Josh protested, pleased that the whine he felt in the back of his throat did not get out.
At this range he could see quite clearly Sam's expression. He watched in anticipation as Sam flicked his gaze up and down, weighing, considering. The tip of Sam's tongue appeared, and then disappeared. Josh waited, fairly tingling, his fingers drawing circles on Sam's hip.
Finally, Sam said, "We need to talk."
"Yeah." Josh was puzzled. Hadn't they already had this conversation?
"No, Josh. We need to _talk_."
"Well, whatever day it is when we wake up." Reaching up, Sam brushed the back of his knuckles against Josh's cheek.
Unconsciously, Josh turned into the caress. His eyes closed briefly. When they opened again, Sam wore a smirk on his face. He rolled over onto his other side pulling the blankets up to his ears.
"Good night, Josh," he said over his shoulder. "We'll talk later."
Maybe Sam wasn't quite as fragile as he had looked earlier. Deciding that was a good thing, Josh made himself comfortable on his right side. Then he moved closer to the shapeless form on the other side of the bed. He stopped moving when he was settled snugly up against the broad back, his arm lying protectively around Sam's waist.
"I said no, Josh."
"Just getting comfortable."
After a moment Sam shifted back a fraction of an inch, just enough to let Josh know they were going to be okay. On the verge of sleep, Josh reminded himself that he still needed to make amends for a lot of things.
"I'm sorry, Sam."
"Hmm?" was the sleepy reply.
"Never mind. We'll talk when we wake up."
"S'what I said."
"Go to sleep, Sam."
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