TITLE: Variations on Variations: A Particular Tuesday
AUTHOR: Julian Lee
ARCHIVE: Sure thing, just tell me where
SPOILERS: Both seasons are fair game
DISCLAIMER: I neither own nor profit from this. That's Aaron Sorkin's great fortune.
SUMMARY: "He had, most of all, no idea what he was doing."
NOTES: This takes place approximately 6 months after "Borrowing Trouble." Words cannot express my gratitude to Beth Latshaw, who saved this story & would not accept my first-born anything.
Variations on Variations: A Particular Tuesday by Julian Lee
There's this smile Sam gives Josh when he's thrown himself into whatever he's doing, concentrating on it completely, and Josh does something for him: a kiss on the top of his head; a quick rub of his knotted shoulders; a cup of tea at his hand. Josh lives for that smile some days. It says that even when Sam's conscious mind is somewhere else entirely, he still knows Josh is there.
And there's this look Josh gets when he's at war with some stubborn legislator, or when the stack of files Donna's handed him makes absolutely no sense, when he's sitting in his office with a pencil behind each ear and a third clamped between his teeth, ready to strangle the next person who speaks to him. Sam instinctively passes Josh's office at this point; the tension in Josh's face and body vanishes, and he gets this look in his eyes that says, "Yes, I look ridiculous; go ahead and laugh at me." And Sam can't get over how the look always comes in the split second between when he's decided to laugh at Josh and when he gets around to doing it.
Drive. Doesn't sound like a name for your lover, but it's what Josh calls Sam, and some days Sam can't remember to answer to anything else. Josh says it refers to Sam's unquenchable energy; his idealism, retained despite everything the administration's been through; his focus and insistence on holding to whatever goal he's set for himself, no matter what shit intervenes. The truth is that Sam is Josh's drive. Ever since he found out about the President's illness, Josh has found it difficult to get up much energy around the office. **What's the point?** some part of his brain asks. **Why bother working on this; you'll be looking for a new job by the end of the year.** And the answer, every time, is Sam. **Look at Sam; he still believes in Bartlet, believes in *me,* expects me to keep fighting.** That's a more than good enough reason for Josh.
And, Mir? What the hell? A friend of Sam's makes fun of this all the time: "Your pet name for your boyfriend is a Russian space satellite?" No. It's short for "miracolo," and Sam knows it's unforgivably sappy, but Josh understands. He has survived. He survived the fire that took his sister; he survived the bullet that took their innocence; he survived a window that begged him to jump through. But, although Sam is more deeply grateful than he'll ever be able to express that Josh lived through all this, to him the real miracle is that every morning he wakes up and Josh is here.
"Morning, Mir," Sam said at some ungodly hour, after they got back to Josh's place at one in the morning after seventeen hours at work -- and lost hours any sane person would've spent sleeping having sex all over the apartment. It was a game: where haven't we fucked yet? Josh swore and rolled away from Sam, something he only does in the morning. Sam is a morning person. Josh decidedly is not.
"Tell me I don't have to go to work today."
Sam climbed out of bed and stretched, bent for the puddle of clothes he hadn't bothered with last night. "I'm getting in the shower. You'd better be out of bed by the time I come back."
"I could always hop into the shower with you." But his voice was so heavy it was clear he wouldn't be hopping anywhere anytime soon.
"Sure. That wakes you up."
"Enough." Josh's language centers didn't wake up until the first cup of coffee.
"No, I need an actual shower this morning. You know, the kind where you get clean, rather than the kind where you get dirtier."
A cell phone rang in the pocket of someone's long-discarded suit jacket, and they dove for their crumpled clothing. Josh found his first, but it wasn't ringing. "You."
"Sam Seaborn." He listened, frowned. "No, Mom, I didn't...no... Slow down; I can't -- oh." Josh crawled across the bed and sat on his knees behind Sam, dropping his arm over Sam's shoulder and down his chest, his chin on Sam's shoulder. Sam took his hand but didn't look at him. "What happened?... This morning?... Have you called Tracy?... Call her, Mom.... No, I don't -- then *I'll* call her.... When's it gonna be?... I don't know.... Of course I'll try, but there's -- it's not the same, Mom!... Yes... I'll try, and I'll let you know when -- OK. Call Bryant about the cemetary plot and Amy about the will. OK. I love you too. Bye." Sam hung up and stared at the floor, not moving.
"Sam?" No answer. "Drive, what's wrong?"
He roused somewhat. "Jesus, Josh, I'm sorry. I didn't even...my grandfather died. The funeral's Thursday."
"I'm sorry." Josh focused on this and not that Sam's grandfather hadn't died years ago, as he'd believed.
"It's -- I mean, he was *old.* Ninety-five if he was a day. Still..."
"He was your grandfather. I understand."
Sam shook his head. "It's not that at all. It's -- I don't know if I can explain. My mother's family is huge. It's this big, old, Italian family, and Papa Vinci was the patriarch." He noticed Josh was smiling. "Josh, my grandfather died. You caught that part, right?"
Josh forced the corners of his mouth down. "I'm sorry, Sam. It's just that you're the WASPiest WASP I know, and when you remind me you're Italian--"
"A quarter. It just happens to be the quarter that causes the most trouble. Papa Vinci was like that -- trouble, you know? He terrified the family and infuriated his in-laws; I lived in terror of him. He'd order the grandkids around, yell at anyone who broke any of his many house rules -- he even kinda leered at us, like he was trying to figure out how much he could get for us. But he was in charge. There was never any question of that. You had to do anything he told you to, but whenever you needed anything, you could go to him, and you'd get it instantly. Money; advice; a place to hide--"
"Hide from what?"
Sam shrugged. "From whatever you needed to hide from." He rubbed his knee. "It's nothing mysterious or illicit. Papa Vinci just...took care of everybody. He held this family together, and now that he's gone...I don't know how long we'll last."
Josh wrapped his other arm around Sam, too. "Hey. It'll be all right. There'll be a new patriarch. Or matriarch. Or whatever. There always is. Whoever's oldest now will step in, and life will go on."
Sam swallowed hard, and a small shiver ran through his body. "That's the thing, Mir. Now that Papa's gone..." he paused so long Josh thought he'd decided not to finish the thought. "Now that he's gone, *I'm* the oldest."
Josh pulled his arms away and turned Sam to face him. "What?"
"Papa outlived his two sons, and there were only two grandsons; my cousin Jason and me."
Josh raced to remember. "Jason died last year."
Sam nodded. "I'm up, Mir. I'm the oldest male. It was never, *never* supposed to be me. Jason was groomed for the job from the day he was born; they never told me a thing. I can't do it."
"Sure you can. You're Sam Seaborn."
"It was as easy as getting out of bed in the morning for Papa Vinci." Sam’s blue eyes clouded over with images from his childhood. "People came to him sobbing, or shaking with fury or fear or whatever they were chasing -- or was chasing them. And they'd leave smiling. They'd pat the grandkids on the head and say, 'Your grandfather is a great man.' That's what they all said."
"You're a great man."
"I can't lead them. I can't even..." He stared over Josh's shoulder. How had he come to this point? A tiny part of him had been convinced that Papa Vinci was immortal. If he survived Uncle Renzo, and Uncle Mak, and Jason, surely he could've held on long enough to outlive Sam. Sam couldn't lead this clan of misfits. He had a vital, high-stress job. He had a lover whose entire life was in the Northeast. He had, most of all, no idea what he was doing.
Josh's hands rested on his biceps, and Sam shivered at the electricity in his touch. "It'll work out, Drive. However it's supposed to work out, it will." He grinned. "I'd say you're overdue for a matriarch."
Sam groaned. "Shit. I have to call my cousin Tracy."
"Yeah. She's better suited: forty-four, an accountant...I'll give it to her in a heartbeat if she asks. If she can keep The Daughters from killing her first."
"Mom and her sisters. My cousins and I are The Grandchildren."
"And The Daughters don't like Tracy?"
"She's not popular with the family."
>From the tremor of surprise that ran through Sam's body, Josh could tell he'd never thought about his place in the Vinci family this way. "Yeah," he said finally. "I guess I am."
"There you go."
Sam pulled him close. "Thank you, Mir."
Josh smiled and handed Sam his cell phone. "Call your cousin. I'm taking a shower." And when Sam climbed into the shower with him five minutes later, Josh understood, and didn't say a word about it.
"Hey." Sam came into Josh's office and closed the door.
"Hey, you. Leo give you the time off?"
"Yeah. Now I have to go book a flight." Josh handed him a computer printout. "What's this?"
Josh shrugged, self-conscious. "I had a minute."
"And you spent it finding me a flight." Sam folded down a corner of the itinerary.
"Well...yeah. Look, you don't have a lot of time; you need to get back to your place and pack--"
"I'm already packed." He creased the corner again.
"When the hell did you have time to do that?"
"I didn't. It's the bag I keep at your place."
Josh laughed. "You're a devious, devious man, Sam Seaborn." He frowned. "I'd drive you to the airport, but..."
"But Toby would bludgeon you to death, because you're working on the Eisenger meeting."
"Something like that." He had his hands on his hips and was tapping his index fingers against his belt. "I'll pick you up Friday."
"Okay." Sam closed the distance between them and wrapped Josh in a crushing embrace, as though his life depended on Josh being real, being someone he was allowed to hold. "Thank you."
"Don't worry about it. I love you."
"I love you, too. I'm gonna go call a cab."
"Actually..." and Josh was squirming again, "there's one coming in five minutes."
Sam laughed. "Maybe I should fire Cathy and make you my assistant." He stepped away. "I'm jumpy as hell, so I'll wait outside and get out of your hair."
"I don't mind you in my hair, Sam." He ruffled Sam's hair. It was supposed to be a joke, but he wasn't sure it was funny. "Honest."
"I'll feel better outside." Sam jangled loose change in his pocket. "I haven't been able to sit still for more than 30 seconds since Mom called. So...I'll see you Friday."
"Yeah. I'll miss you 'til then."
Josh traced tiny circles in the air with his hand. "Don't worry. I'm not going to get mushy. I'm just...gonna miss you, is all."
"Yeah. Me, too." Sam headed for the door.
"Oh, Drive?" Sam paused and looked back at Josh. "Call me when you get there, akay?"
Sam smiled and nodded. When he was gone, Josh surveyed the piles of junk on his desk and sighed heavily. It was going to be a long three days.
"Hey, you. You there?"
"I'm in the jetway as we speak."
"How was the flight?"
"Nerve-wracking. Screaming babies; several hours of panic about what happens next; crappy food. The usual."
Josh laughed. "Anybody there to meet you?"
Pause. "Yes. My crazy Aunt Rose. Well, this just gets better and better. I have to go now."
"Yeah. I love you. Call me before you go to bed tonight."
"I will. I love you, too."
"Give 'em hell, Godfather."
"I'm hanging up now, Joshua."
"Can I kill them?"
Josh lay his copy of _Dutch_ across his stomach. It was a gag gift from CJ for his last birthday. He was reading it anyway. "I don't know, Sam. *Can* you?"
"Get me one large trunk with a sturdy lid and one large body of water, and I'm sure I could arrange something."
"Trouble at Chez Vinci?"
"Everything's falling apart already. When I got here, the funeral was only half-planned; the food for afterwards hadn't even been discussed; The Daughters were fighting over what to put on the headstone; and, my cousin Angela's been on the couch, drunk and stoned, the whole time."
"What happened to the take-charge Tracy?" Ronald Reagan looked weird upside-down.
"She won't be here until tomorrow. Christ, Josh, what am I doing?"
"Is the funeral ready now?"
"Figure out how to feed the guests?"
"Aunt Tina's taking care of it."
"And the headstone?"
"'Pray for sun; carry your umbrella.' It’s corny, but he said it all the time."
He tapped the book jacket. "Drive?"
"You're doing great."
"I can't do this, Josh. I'm a thirty-two-year-old bisexual speechwriter living on the wrong side of the country."
Josh leaned against the headboard. "You are the President's deputy Director of Communications. You can move back to California as soon as the second term's over--"
"Josh, I would never--"
"This is your pep talk, Sam. Don't interrupt me. You have the energy of youth. And I doubt your sexual orientation would--"
"Josh, I will personally guarantee that the Vinci family has never had a queer patriarch."
"Times change, Drive." Josh picked up a pen and flipped it over the back of his free hand. "I believe in you. I think you can do this."
"Really?" Sam's voice came across the line small and scared.
"You're the only thing keeping me sane right now, Mir."
"It's going to suck trying to get to sleep without you." He considered the vast cotton expanse on the other side of the bed that Sam would not be occupying tonight.
"I wish I could touch you right now."
"You know, we could always..." he trailed off suggestively.
Sam sighed. "No, we can't. I'm sharing a room with my cousin Augie, and I don't know when he's coming to bed."
"The godfather doesn't get his own room?"
"Oh, how I wish you'd stop calling me that. Talk to me about work."
So he told Sam about Toby losing his temper at the Eisenger meeting, about the President's fury at a general who’d been turning a blind eye to the harassment of Jewish soldiers, about Donna's new Gomer. He talked until Sam was nearly asleep, then whispered, "I love you, Drive. Go to bed." And tried, unsuccessfully, to follow his own advice.
Josh started freaking out on Wednesday. The bed had felt obscenely large and cold without Sam, and he hadn't fallen asleep until nearly four. When he finally dragged himself into work, half an hour later than expected, he quickly discovered his ambition had gone to California with Sam. Then Senator Goody called.
George Goody was a pompous ass from Montana who refused to acknowledge how little power he held in DC. They had to be nice to him, because he was a Democrat, but the senior staff despised him, and President Bartlet wasn't much better.
The senator's pet gripe of the day involved a ranching subsidies bill that had been dead since the moment it was introduced. Josh listened and responded cordially for about twenty minutes, then he felt the snap in his brain that meant his patience had begun to unravel. Needing to make a point with large gestures, never mind that Goody couldn't see him, Josh stuck his pencil behind his left ear.
Two minutes later, when he needed a pencil to make a note (that read "Save me!"), he grabbed one from his top desk drawer. But when he needed a folder from the bottom of his sea of papers, he stuck his pencil behind his right ear and went searching for the statistics he needed. Goody had other statistics. Josh went to jot them down and didn't have a pencil, so he took one out of the drawer. The Senator told him to look something up on his computer, so he clamped his pencil between his teeth and opened the program.
This was Sam's cue to come by and laugh. Sam was in California.
Twenty seconds later, Josh was screaming at George Goody to "shove his ranch subsidies up his ass and ride them back to Montana," and there went the administration's relationship with yet another state.
The instant he slammed the phone down, he realized he was terrified.
When had Sam become a drug? When, in the eight and a half months of their relationship, had Josh fallen so hard for this man he literally couldn't get through a day without him? Josh had never had a relationship go so deep, a relationship he needed so much, depended on so much. Now here he sat, incapable of functioning without Sam, and it petrified him. He worried about being so dependent on Sam; he worried that this worry would make him pull away from Sam; he worried that someone would make the connection between Sam's absence and Josh's meltdown, and that this would freak one of them out. And, oh, what a joyous conversation they would have to have when Sam came back.
"Hey, Drive. How's it going?"
"They won't give it to Tracy. Turns out she's a lesbian."
"She showed up with her girlfriend, and The Daughters decided she's not fit to be the patriarch. Or -- matriarch. Or, whatever."
"Well, that lets you off the hook, too, doesn't it?"
"Oh, no. It's not her being gay that upset them. It's that she never told them. They don't feel someone who would keep something that important from them can be trusted to run the family. But since they already knew about me -- it's done, Josh. The Daughters have decided it's me."
"Don't you get any say in this? The Daughters just get to...throw this thing at you?"
"It's how it's always been done." He sounded heartbroken and exhausted.
"Drive, listen to me."
"Yeah?" he said wearily.
"Get home as fast as you can. And if it feels like too much, think of Toby."
"Sure. No way could you have survived Toby this long if you weren't a very strong man."
Sam chuckled. "That's for sure. Thank you, Mir."
"How are you?"
"Me? I yelled at George Goody. I insulted Donna's tastes in men and clothing in the same sentence. Leo thinks I'm having another PTSD attack. It was a good day." Sam laughed, then fell silent. "Get some sleep, Drive."
"It's seven o'clock."
"Stupid time zones. Will I talk to you again before you get home?"
"Good luck, then. I love you."
"Love you, too. Night."
Sam grabbed Josh in the parking ramp, pinned him to the car, kissed him frantically, greedily. "You have no idea how much I missed you."
Josh recovered his sense of balance. "I'm going to send you away more often if that's what I get when you come back."
Sam buried his head in Josh's neck. "Please don't say that."
"I didn't mean -- I'm sorry." Metal brushed against his neck. "Hey, what's this?" He pulled Sam's arms down and looked at his hands. On his right hand he now sported a gold band with an onyx inset. "This is beautiful. What is it?"
Sam groaned. "The patriarch's ring."
"You get a ring for this? Seriously, Sam, you should get a cat."
He covered his right hand with his left. He could still see the ring glinting through his fingers. "Josh, this is hard enough without you making jokes."
"I know. Let's get you home." They got into the car, but Sam put his hand over Josh's before Josh could turn the key.
"Mir, I'm so sorry about all of this."
"This is your family. You never need to apologize to me for taking care of them."
"My life is going to be very different. I told them I wouldn't be as available while we're in office, but I'm in charge now, and I can't ignore that completely. It's going to get weird."
Josh shrugged noncommittally. "How was the funeral?"
"Packed. We had to set up folding chairs on the edges of the pews. Everyone sobbed, and the kids were scared half to death. Papa would've approved."
And when they arrived at Sam's, Josh would've liked nothing better than to spend the entire night relearning Sam; his taste, his smell, the landscape of his body. But he had these concerns that would not disperse, and he knew he had to confront them before they snuck around and burned him in the ass. "Sam."
Sam's fingers traced dizzying circles on the back of Josh's neck. "Hmm?"
Josh tried to concentrate on something other than Sam's hands. "We need to talk."
Sam's face fell, and a light went out of his eyes. "All right." His hands settled awkwardly in his lap.
Josh sighed heavily and ran both of his hands through his hair. This was about to suck. "Sam, I was -- I was a wreck without you."
"And I was a wreck without you."
"When did it get like this? When, when did we stop being able to function on our own?"
The _National Geographic_ on the coffee table was six months old. "We can function on our own. We just prefer not to."
"We're junkies, Sam. It can't be healthy."
A realization was breaking through the younger man's brain. "You want to slow down."
"I don't know *how* to slow down, Sam. When you're gone, my life collapses, and when you're here...when you're here, nothing can be wrong in the world."
His day had started out horribly, and Josh was about to make it a thousand times worse. He hadn't expected anything from tonight but hours of mind-blowing sex, followed by a night holding the man he'd missed more than anything these three days. Instead he was getting his heart stomped into the ground. "That's not good?"
"It's an addiction. I need to know that I can keep living my life when you're not here. The next time one of us goes somewhere, or if, God forbid, something should happen to you -- or to us--"
You can stare at the bridge of a person's nose and it almost looks like you're making eye contact. "Is something going to happen to us, Josh?"
He hadn't wanted to say it, but he couldn't think of any way to avoid it. "I don't want to need you as much as I do."
If Sam had been listening closely enough, he could've heard his own heart rip in half. He stared at Josh, hardly seeing him, those awful words bouncing around his head. All he could say was, "Oh."
"Sam, I don't, uh--"
Sam stood. "You should go now, Josh."
"Good night, Josh."
"I'm scared, Drive."
Sam looked up. Josh stood just inside the closed door to Sam's office. "Scared of me? You should be, because right now I'm mad as hell at you."
Josh kept his hand on the doorknob. "I'm afraid of letting you get too close. I'm terrified of being hurt."
"*You're* afraid of being hurt? That's a really good one, Josh." Sam slammed his file cabinet shut. In three seconds he was going to kick Josh out of his office. Permanently. He'd spent most of the weekend crying, but now he was on to anger, and he was enjoying his stay.
"If anything happened to you--"
"People die. It's a thing they do."
"Damn it, Sam, I'm trying to explain." Now Josh was truly terrified. What if this didn't work? If he couldn't get Sam to understand -- if he couldn't even get Sam to listen -- "My work suffered when you were gone. We drew that line ourselves. If our relationship got in the way of our jobs...shit. I'd give it up for you. But as long as I'm here--"
Sam froze. "You'd give up this job for me?"
Both hands dropped limply to his sides. "If it came to that. I'd give up anything you asked me to." He risked a step forward. "You know that."
Sam shook his head, feeling his heart expand back to normal size. "I didn't." They stood enveloped in a horrid, waiting silence. One false word could collapse the whole facade. "Josh?" he asked tentatively.
"Did we get what we needed out of Senator Goody?"
He nodded carefully. "Did Donna accept your apology about the remark you made?"
"After inflicting much torture on me."
"And Leo thinks you're okay now?"
"And all of those things happened before I came back?"
"You're doing fine." And he smiled.
Josh couldn't stop laughing. He swept Sam into his arms. "So, there was this other thing I was thinking this weekend. While I was sitting around my apartment not sure you would ever speak to me again."
"Move in with me."
"I beg your pardon?" Sam stepped back and considered Josh from arm's length.
"Let's move in together."
He shrugged. "Your place. My place. Some other place. Wherever."
"Doesn't this massively crimp your plan to stop needing me?"
Josh gripped Sam's shoulders lightly. "Oh, Drive, I'll never stop needing you. I was so miserable this weekend I almost bought an Alfa Romeo. Do you know how long it's been since I attempted anything that stupid?"
"The cottage in the Iron Range."
"The cottage in the Iron Range. That was the weekend before Mandy and I broke up. If I'm going to be a junkie, I might as well have my drug close at hand."
"We weren't going to take unnecessary risks."
Josh chewed the inside of his lower lip. "That was your thing."
"It's still my thing, Josh." He stepped away and leaned against the wall. "If I moved in with you tomorrow, Danny Concannon would be parked on our front steps at five o'clock Wednesday morning."
"Subterfuge and misdirection, Samuel." Josh weaved his hands in the air like a boardwalk magician. "You're my best friend; my apartment is expensive--"
Sam scratched his nose. "Your apartment has one bedroom."
"Danny Concannon doesn't know that."
"We're civil servants, Drive." He scratched his left ankle with his right heel. "These are not Gage-Whitney salaries."
"No shit." And the thing was this: the cottage in the Iron Range, the unpurchased Alfa Romeo, these were better ideas than this. But Josh was here, and Josh was offering him something not unlike happily ever after, and the weekend had been long and dark for both of them. "You really want to do this?" Sam searched his eyes. "You're not just saying it because it's what I want to hear?"
"*Is* it what you want to hear?"
Sam stared at the leg of his desk, looked up to Josh's dark eyes. He nodded.
Josh whooped and hugged him again. "Oh, thank God; I was afraid you were gonna be pissed. Pack you bags, Drive; it's moving day!"
Sam laughed. "Slow down! There's a lot to talk about. First off, you *have* to stop calling me a drug. And Godfather."
"I'm telling you; get a cat."
"Is there any way to shut you up?"
Josh grinned. "Only one I can think of."
"Then lock the door, Mir." There was still a lot to talk about. But the kiss was an apology, and a promise. And when their clothes started coming off, that was an apology, too. And when Sam's onyx ring scratched Josh's back, that was a promise he intended to hold Sam to for the rest of their lives.
'Sokay? Not 'sokay? Would *you* like an Alfa Romeo and a cottage in the Iron Range? The Muse loves feedback of all kinds. firstname.lastname@example.org