Title: Watching Sam
Author: Jae Kayelle
Email: bcunningham@sk.sympatico.ca
Pairing: Sam/Josh
Rating: PG13: mild m/m slash. If you don't like this sort of thing, please delete.
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin, WB, NBC, and John Wells Productions own the rights to the characters. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made from this work of fiction.
Archive: yes to list archives.
Website: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Crater/7657/potpourri.html
Spoilers: Noel, and vague ones for the last part of Season 2.
Summary: things always seem worse in the middle of the night.
Feedback: Something positive is always appreciated.
A big thank you goes to Pat for being a wonderfully brutal beta reader. Any lingering mistakes are mine.

Watching Sam by Jae Kayelle

Finding himself awake and worried and alone after 3 a.m., Josh threw a trench coat over his t shirt and sweats, and drove through darkened streets to use his in-case-of-emergencies key to get into Sam's apartment. It was because he could not stay away any longer. It was because he needed to be near Sam, and because he hoped Sam needed to be near him.

Josh waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, and for his heart to slow it's erratic pounding. He drew in a long, steadying breath. The silence of the apartment was somehow comforting, but only because he could sense Sam's presence here and that made this folly more bearable. The understated citrus tang of cologne drifted from the closet near the door where Sam's overcoat hung. Walking further into the room Josh stood next to Sam's favourite armchair and ran his hand over the leather, softened from age, textured with tiny cracks worn into it. Josh remembered how the expression on Sam's face had changed from stunned to joyful when the chair was returned to him from Lisa's clutches. Sam's ex-fiancée had held it hostage out of spite after the break up of their relationship, only shipping it to his D.C. apartment unexpectedly when Sam gave up the tug-of-war saying she could keep the chair. Josh's fingers dug into the leather, and then he smoothed the dent before treading softly towards the bedroom.

Standing in the doorway, Josh saw how the full moon bathed the room in a soft blue glow. Fingers of light reached across the bed and stroked the backs of Sam's legs up to where the sheet draped across his thighs. That was the only place where he was covered. Josh sucked in a quickening breath as he stared at the sight. Sam laid on his stomach, sprawled like a starfish, his exposed skin inviting Josh to touch it. When he realized his knees were pressed against the side of the mattress, hand hovering scant inches over Sam's bare back, Josh drew away.

The pull was too strong, however, dragging Josh forward again. Reaching down, again close but not touching, he traced the long lines of Sam's body through the air. He followed the length of the strong back down to the firm, rounded swell of his rump. God, Sam had a great ass. Blinking at the unexpectedness of that thought, at the forceful way it burst through the defensive walls of his subconscious to form a voice at long last, Josh sat carefully on the edge of the bed.

All he wanted was to make everything better for Sam. This was supposed to be about friendship not lust. He tramped down on his wayward hormones and concentrated on what had brought him here in the middle of the night.

They had all been struggling lately, trying to make sense of the disorder around them. Tempers were frayed; they yelled at one another, they took out their fear and uncertainty on each other, because no one else understood. But Sam reacted in a different manner. He grew quieter and kept to himself. His office door was closed more than it was open, a sure indication that he wanted to be left alone whether he was working or not. He spoke to Ginger and Bonnie if he needed something from them. He spoke to the Senior Staff, Josh included, only when he had to and then in short sentences. There were none of the rambling, nerdy speeches that were his trademark. Josh was angry with himself for not doing anything sooner when he saw how his best friend was floundering.

Stirring, but not waking, Sam burrowed back into his pillow, and Josh resumed breathing. He focussed on the defined biceps and wished that Sam's arms were around him, holding him, making promises that it was all going to work out. He wanted Sam to whisper in his ear that they were doing the right thing, that they would win the fight, and that the two of them could be together as friends, as whatever they could make of it.

He mulled that over. It seemed the hormones were bouncing back from their earlier thrashing.

Sam's hand closed over his. Startled, Josh nearly leapt up off the bed, his legs tensed, ready to run. Then he got himself under control, and stared at Sam who blinked sleepily back at him.

"Josh?"

"Yeah?" He struggled for studied nonchalance and achieved nothing.

"What are you doing here at," Sam glanced at the digital clock on the bedside table, "at 3:47?"

"Um," Josh said uselessly.

"What's wrong?" Sam sat up, the sheet falling even lower, as he turned in the bed. He realized it, and tugged it back up to his waist.

Josh jerked his gaze away from the incredible sight of a nearly naked Sam rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand, his hair sticking up in a dozen directions, and his face flushed from sleep.

"Josh? What's wrong?"

"What's wrong?" Josh's voice rose on an incredulous note, but he managed to keep the volume down. His nerves were still twanging from his earlier realization that Sam was dreadfully unhappy. "You said you're okay. This afternoon, when I asked you, you said you were okay."

"I am okay."

"No, you're not."

"I'm not?" Sam seemed genuinely puzzled.

Josh drove his fingers through his hair. "It took me such a long time to figure it out and I'm sorry for that, Sam."

"You're not making sense, Josh. I'm fine, although I just had my sleep interrupted by my lunatic friend. The first reasonably good night's sleep I've had in weeks, I might add." Sam looked at him seriously, not a little concern in his blue eyes. "Why would you think there was something wrong with me?"

"I," Josh began, and faltered again, thinking maybe he was wrong, that this was the result of his overactive imagination running away with his common sense.

Sam patted the bed beside him. "Come and sit down. You're here, we might as well talk." He smiled gently.

Feeling less stupid, Josh sat on the bed. Sam's invitation relaxed him enough that the knot in his stomach loosened.

Sam drew his knees up and leaned on them. "So?"

"So. I, uh, I've been watching you. I'm worried that maybe you're...unhappy...at work. You seem unhappy."

"You've been watching me?" Sam asked, totally missing the point.

"Yeah. So, are you okay?"

"You've been watching me?" Sam asked again, his mouth drawing up into a devilish grin.

"Yeah," Josh repeated, staring at Sam's mouth and wondering how it would feel against his own, and on his skin. Then he dragged his attention back from such thoughts. God, he was pathetic.

"I thought you were, um, never mind," Sam said.

"Tell me."

"I always thought you were kind of oblivious to things. You know, so you'd miss it even if something were happening right under your nose."

"I think I resent that remark, but is something happening right under my nose?"

"No. I'm fine. Really."

"You would tell me if there were." Josh's eyes narrowed, studying Sam's expression, as he waited for his answer.

"Yes."

Josh glanced down where his fingers plucked at the sheet. "I get scared sometimes, Sam."

Shifting closer, Sam leaned forward, hair falling down across his forehead as he peered into Josh's eyes. He touched Josh's coat sleeve, rubbing back and forth, picking at the material.

Josh stared at the long fingers. He had always loved how Sam talked with his hands. Right now their warmth seeped through the cloth, causing a thrill of excitement in Josh with each stroke. It seemed that Sam was saying he needed this connection, too.

"What scares you, Josh?"

Josh opened his mouth to tell Sam that he was petrified of losing him. Instead he heard himself say, "I'm afraid that I'll wake up in two years and find myself out of a job and the country with a President who's not the real thing."

"We've had plenty of the latter in the course of history. As for the other, you'd never be without a job for long. You're a brilliant man, Josh. Politicians would line up at your door just so they could pick your brain. You would be so in demand you would have to hire someone exclusively to sift through the many offers piling up on your desk."

Throughout his speech, Sam's hands kept touching Josh's leg or arm to emphasize his points. He stroked the inside of Josh's wrist with one finger, and then hesitated when Josh sucked in his breath. After a beat, Sam idly circled the tip of his forefinger over the pulse point. Josh was sure Sam could feel his heartbeat speed up slightly. He glanced up into Sam's eyes and saw what he thought was shrewd understanding. Shifting closer on the bed, Sam rubbed the back of the hand he held. It was comforting and reassuring. He picked up his speech where he had left off. "It's all moot, Josh, because Bartlet will win in two years, and for four years after that we'll all have jobs running this country and making it better."

Josh grinned inanely, feeling vastly lighter. "That's my Sam, always seeing through the dreck to the sunshine on the other side. I guess that's why I came here. I needed to hear some of your optimism again. I missed it." Sam's passion was contagious. It filled Josh with hope, and fuelled his own zeal.

His best friend smiled. "All you ever have to do is ask."

"'Kay. I'll remember that the next time I have an anxiety attack in the middle of the night," Josh said jokingly.

Sam asked, "My Sam?"

"What?"

"You said, "That's my Sam." Am I yours?" Sam looked at him curiously.

"Yes," Josh replied hoarsely, staring back at him, hoping that even an inkling of what he really felt showed in his eyes, while at the same time he was terrified that it did show.

Sam lowered his eyes. Josh felt his stomach drop into his shoes. This is it, he thought, rejection before I even come right out and say how I really feel.

"You were right," Sam said, his gaze still on the mattress.

"Huh? I was?" Josh struggled to keep up with the current train of thought. "About what?"

"I have been upset lately."

"Sam..." Josh felt that knot tighten in his gut.

"Let me finish. Please?"

Josh nodded.

"I enjoy my job. I like making a difference. Josiah Bartlet is the real thing. He truly is, and there are moments in my overwhelming, insanely busy days when I think about that and I'm so grateful to be a part of this administration. Working with Leo, CJ, Toby, and especially with you has been wonderfully fulfilling. But lately it hasn't been enough. I want more. I want joy. I want passion that doesn't come simply from writing a great speech and hearing the President of the United States of America read it to a roomful of cheering, on their feet, men and women. I want someone to come home to, or, at least, someone to go home with. Actually, someone to go home with is preferable. That way, chances are I would be with the person I love."

Josh's eyes flew to Sam's face. Gazing back at him, expression wide open, Sam took one of Josh's hands in both of his own, and continued, "I love you, Josh. I'm in love with you. You've been the best part of my life since the day we met."

"But Lisa," Josh began, wondering why he was trying to sabotage his own happiness.

"Lisa never really had a chance. I'm just sorry I mislead her. It wasn't fair."

"Not fair to me, either." Sam flinched, and Josh was immediately sorry that he'd spoken without thinking.

"No. I suppose not," Sam's voice was barely above a whisper.

"If you had said something back then, I might have found the courage to tell you how I really feel, too."

It was Sam's turn to look startled. His fingers closed convulsively on the material of Josh's sweatpants.

"You're my rock, Sam. When I feel myself sinking I look at you and know that you'll be there to save me."

"I wasn't there when you needed me last Christmas."

"But you were. I was living in a black hole, Sam. You know what black holes do? They suck light and energy into themselves leaving nothing behind. This one was sucking the life out of me, and I didn't even know it until it was nearly too late. I put my hand through a window. Do you know what I really wanted to do?"

Sam slowly shook his head, wide-eyed, looking frightened to hear the answer.

"What I really wanted was to throw a chair through that window and follow it out."

"Josh. No." Sam's voice was low, anguished.

"I didn't do that." Josh shoved a shaking hand through his wild hair. "I didn't do that because...I got this flash...I...in my mind I saw you down there on the street picking up the pieces. I couldn't do that to you, Sam. I love you, too, and have for a very long time. I...have trouble remembering what my life was like before I met you. I don't ever want to find out what it would be like without you in it." He paused, swallowing hard to keep his emotions from overtaking him. He had things to say to Sam, and wanted to get them out before it was too late.

Continuing, he said, "Tonight I made a decision, although it didn't all come together in my head until just now. I've been watching you, Sam. I saw how discontented you've been lately. It bothered me, but I didn't do anything about it. I did my job and ignored you. I make a lousy friend, Sam, but I can do better and I'd like another chance to make it up to you."

He was trembling all over, fine tremors that began in his heart. A drop of water slid off his chin to land on the back of his hand. He blinked, his vision blurred by unshed tears. He stared at the flattened teardrop on his hand, watching as it traveled an inch or so before spreading itself too thin to go any farther. It was sort of how he felt at that moment.

Reaching out, Sam pulled him into a tight embrace. Josh rested his chin on Sam's shoulder, brushing his lips against the warm, silky skin. He wound his arms around Sam's waist and clung to him, palms rubbing up and down the broad back, trying to make Sam a part of his own body.

He had no idea how long they sat like that, gently rocking back and forth. After a while, Sam pulled away slightly and pushed Josh's coat off his shoulders. Trying to help, Josh only succeeded in getting his watch caught in the lining of the sleeve. Patiently, Sam freed him and laid the coat across the foot of the bed, while Josh kicked off his shoes. Then he drew Josh down beside him until their heads rested on the same pillow. Sam held him close, whispering meaningless, soothing sounds to him, and placing tiny kisses on Josh's temple and eyes and forehead.

"Nice," Josh murmured, exhaustion seeping into his bones.

"Shh."

"Sam?"

"Hmm?"

"Do you always, y'know, sleep naked?"

"That's for me to know, and for you to find out."

"Sounds like fun."

"Go to sleep, Josh. We've got time."

"'Kay." He yawned hugely. "Go...sleep."

Josh's last coherent thought was that Sam had forgiven and accepted him, flaws and all. Now, all he wished for was the circle of Sam's arms embracing him. There would be time for more than this later. Now was the time to heal.

# end

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