Title: What Comes of 20 Hours in LA
Author: Nomi
Posted: 8/29/00
Archive: wherever, just let me know.
Codes: S/J
Rating: NC-17
Notes: spoilers for "Take This Sabbath Day," "20 Hours in LA".
This story is dedicated to all the people who encouraged me to write more, and especially to those (you know who you are) who said "More Leo!"

What Comes from 20 Hours in LA by Nomi

I hate LA.

I'm not just saying that. I haven't had a good experience in Southern California since before getting involved with President Bartlet's campaign. If it's not a personal disaster - like this last time - then it's a natural disaster: mud slide, wildfire, earthquake. Every time we go to LA something bad happens.

And this time it almost killed me emotionally.

See, here's what happened: We went out to LA for a fund- raiser and to make nice with our constituents out on the West Coast. Now, first off, the man throwing the fund-raiser is a movie mogul who is big in the gay community, so I knew that it would be a difficult trip for both Josh and me, but more for Josh. I say that because I have always been comfortable in my sexuality, but I think Josh has always been slightly unsure of his own feelings. And I say this as his friend and as his lover.

The trip started badly - we were running late 'cause we'd spent the previous night in each other's arms and didn't want to get up and get going. Mostly my fault, I think, but sex with Josh is addictive. So we both looked like Hell - but it was 3:00 in the morning, so none of us were at our best.

Already on the plane we had to deal with uncomfortable issues. Representative Cameron had introduced an anti-gay bill in the military, and we were going to have to deal with it before seeing Ted Marcus at the fund-raiser, 'cause he'd expect us to have a statement. Not to mention the whole hoo- hah with the Vice President and the Ethanol tax credit vote. So we worked on the flight on the way out.

Then, when we got to the hotel, 6 hours after we took off, it penetrated our brains that we would have to be separated on this trip. It was the first business trip we'd gone on together since getting together - we'd been together a week or so, and we'd already gotten used to falling asleep together. Or, at least, I'd gotten used to falling asleep listening to Josh snore. But anyway, so Josh got checked into his room, and I got checked into my room, and we dealt with the fact that we were going to have to sleep alone tonight.

Not long after we got to the hotel, I tried to find Josh in his room, only to hear from Donna that Ted Marcus had demanded that Josh come out to his house. That could not have been a good meeting - Marcus is a bulldog about issues he cares about, and Cameron's bill was bound to bother him. And, as I've said, Josh doesn't deal well with things like this. He'll get snide and combative, which isn't good for us or for him. Mind you, I get the same way sometimes, but Josh has raised it to an art form.

When Josh pulled Toby and me out of that horribly boring flag-burning amendment meeting to tell us that he'd had to promise Marcus some time alone with the President, I started having bad feelings about this whole thing. The President of the United States cannot and should not be in thrall to one lobbying group or another. Hey...that's pretty good. I should remember it for a future speech. Ted Marcus _does_ influence the votes of many in Hollywood, but it doesn't mean that the US government should bow to his wishes and desires. But Josh - and later, the President himself - were getting Marcus under control, so I didn't figure I'd have to worry too much, except about how this was affecting Josh on a personal level. That always concerns me.

So after a day of meetings, we finally go to this fund- raiser. CJ kept using me as a shield against all sorts of people she didn't want to deal with for one reason or another. And, meanwhile, I was having problems of my own.

You see, a couple months ago, before Josh and I were involved, this woman from California - Joey Lucas - came to the White House to yell at Josh about the Democrats' treatment of the candidate for the 46th California district. Josh had had a bad night, wasn't prepared for the meeting, and was shocked to find that Joey Lucas was a woman.

Now, I'll admit, this was sort of my fault. The meeting with Lucas had originally been my bailiwick, but I was hoping to go away for the weekend, so I asked Josh to cover for me. I didn't end up going away, due to my own entanglements, but that's another whole issue.

So Joey Lucas shows up, berates Josh - who begins to lust after her - and then she leaves town. Now, as I've said, this was before Josh and I were together, so I saw this all as a humorous turn of events. But he spent a while at the Marcus party talking to Joey, and it worried me. I know we're committed to this relationship, but what if he decides that he was wrong after all and decides to pursue a relationship with Joey. I'm not sure I'd be able to give him up. No, I know I _wouldn't_ be able to give him up.

He introduced me to her at the Marcus party. She's bright, funny, cute - if you go in for women like her; if you go in for women, which I've been doing less lately - everything Josh would be looking for.

Now this is a new emotion for me. Jealousy is not usually a part of my personality. But I worry a lot about losing Josh. Sometimes I worry I'm going to screw up and he'll leave me. Other times I worry that he's going to decide one day that he made a mistake and doesn't really want to be involved with a man at this time, that it's bad for him politically, or whatever, and he'll dump me.

On the plane coming home, I heard Josh and Donna talking about Joey Lucas. Apparently, he found Joey Lucas and Al Keifer together _in flagrante delicto_. For a man in a relationship, and especially for a man involved in a gay relationship, this bothered him more than I think was proper. And as his lover, I think I should have a say in this.

So the whole trip home, I was obsessed over Josh's feelings for Joey Lucas.

We had decided on the plane that we'd go back to Josh's from Andrews. It's sort of 50-50 where we're going to be every night. It usually depends on which one of us drags the other out of the office. But President Bartlet's been good about letting us go earlier than usual - say 9:00 instead of 2 AM - so that we can get some quality time together. I think Mrs. Bartlet may have had something to do with it. She's got some sort of thing about Josh and me being together. Josh finally broke down and told me that she's the one that pushed him to approach me. But, anyway, I digress.

So we'd decided to go back to Josh's place, and the whole ride there, I was tense. I didn't know how or if to approach the subject of Joey Lucas with Josh. I knew I didn't want to talk about it tonight, and I didn't know how to hide my tension from Josh. He sees right through me sometimes. But tonight, we were so drained. I tried to forestall any serious conversation the minute we got inside.

"Hey...I've missed you." It was my opening salvo. Not the best, maybe, but you do what you can.

"I missed you too." He turned towards me as he closed the front door. "C'mere."

He's gotten somewhat bossy, but that's OK by me. I went.

"I woke up this morning without you...I don't want to do that again." He spoke as he pulled me into his arms. Turning us both, he leaned me up against the door he had just closed. _This_ was really what I had missed. Josh does things to me that make my head spin, and sometimes he does them without even touching me.

So here he had me up against the door, and he was taking his coat off and tossing it somewhere in the hallway. And meanwhile his lips were blazing a trail across my face, landing occasionally on my lips, then lingering there. When he'd removed his topcoat, his suit jacket and his tie, he started in on my clothing.

We were so hot for each other, we almost lost it right there in the hall. And when we _did_ get to bed, the sex was frenzied, desperate. I knew I'd be in pain the next morning, but I needed Josh in me as fast as he could be. We were so hungry that we didn't take any time for gentleness. Finally, we fell into a fitful sleep, tangled in each other's arms and legs but not finding any of the usual comfort from holding each other.

***

The only member of the senior staff to miss the LA trip was Leo, and I thought he could be an impartial observer. He has also sort of taken on a father-figure role for many of us. It is not uncommon to see one or another of the senior staff emerging from Leo's office at odd times. We all respect his wisdom and his insight, and, despite his often gruff manner, we all know he cares how we are.

So there I was at the end of Leo's morning briefing with the President, waiting in Margaret's office for Leo to be free. By now, Margaret's used to all of us hovering, waiting for Leo, so she just ignores us. Finally, the phone on her desk buzzed. After a minute, she turned to me.

"Sam, Leo says he has time for you now."

Thanking her quickly, I turned and entered Leo's office.

"Hey, Sam..." Leo never pressures any of us to get to the point. This time, he was totally willing to let me steer the conversation wherever I needed.

"Hey, Leo. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me." I was nervous about talking about personal issues with Leo. Despite the fact that he's always willing to listen, and he barely ever judges, this is always the hard part.

"No problem." Leo's expression was unreadable. He wasn't going to make this easy for me, 'cause he probably knew I'd have to get to the real issue in my own time, in my own way.

I decided to take the bull by the horns. "It's about Josh and Joey Lucas."

Leo got more comfortable. "This has the potential to be interesting," he said.

"Y'see, when she was here around the time of Simon Cruz's execution..." I paused, trying to gather my thoughts.

"Sam, we were all on edge then. Things were said, things happened...Hell, you and Josh hadn't even gotten together yet then, right?" Leo seemed to want to make everything all right for us.

"Yeah, that was before, and then, I thought Josh's flirtation with Lucas was harmless. But now that he and I are together, I feel more proprietary about his time. And the whole time we were in LA, he was obsessing about her. I don't want to lose him, Leo. I just can't give him up!" That wasn't a place I'd planned to go in this conversation with Leo, but there I was.

"Sam, you're being an idiot." That's typical Leo, calling the situation just as he sees it.

"Leo, you didn't see them together. He was bending over backwards to make her like him. They were talking a lot at Marcus' party. CJ, Toby and I went over to talk to Josh and to meet Lucas, and they were talking and laughing like old friends." I wasn't painting a complete picture for Leo of what I was really feeling. "I'm afraid he'll decide...oh, never mind."

"You're not just being an idiot, you're a jealous, insecure idiot," Leo said. "Go. Get out of my office, go talk to him. There's no national crisis going on, thank goodness, so take a long lunch. Go somewhere romantic, secluded, where you can talk for real, and tell him what you're afraid of. Be honest. And don't be an idiot." But Leo was smiling with that last part, so I knew he meant it in the best way possible.

I felt I'd been dismissed, so I got up. "Thanks, Leo. As always."

"Don't mention it. Really. Don't." As I said, he's gruff, but he watches out for us.

I waved to Margaret on the way out. She was on the phone to someone about something, so I just headed back to my office.

Now I just had to convince Josh to come out to lunch with me...

***

Using Leo's influence, I convinced Josh to come out to lunch with me, but instead of going out to a restaurant, we decided to get take-out and bring it to my apartment. For my purposes, it was probably better for us to be somewhere private.

Armed with enough Chinese food to feed a raft of Cuban refugees for a month, Josh and I headed to my place. We don't tend to spend as much time there as we do at Josh's, but that's fine by me. I really don't care where we are, as long as we get time together. It sounds corny, I know, but I have really come to care for Josh through the time we've worked together, and now that we're a couple, it's even more intense. I look back now and recognize that some of my reactions to earlier events were colored by my feelings for Josh. I almost lost it when everyone was saying that Josh was going to get fired for his comments to Mary Marsh. Hell, in his position, I probably would've reacted even more obnoxiously...as Toby did later.

Anyway, so there we were, having lunch at my place, and I didn't know how to approach this conversation, which was not going to be easy for me. It could make or break this relationship, and with the way I was feeling, I was terribly afraid it would break it. And confrontations are not something I've ever been good at. That's why I work for Toby - I'm the peacemaker, he's the bulldog. But I couldn't hide behind Toby on this one...though that did present an interesting mental image...

Finally, when we'd both stuffed ourselves and had run out of meaningless small talk, I said, "Why don't we go into the living room?"

We sat on the couch, with Josh putting his arm around my shoulders. I took some strength from the contact but, at the same time, didn't want to be too comfortable in case there was a huge blow-out. I thought a minute, while Josh just looked at me.

"Uh...Josh...I have a question to ask you, and it's not easy." I figured there was no reason to hedge. "What's with you and Joey Lucas?"

Josh looked stunned. "Nothing! There's nothing going on between us!" I knew from his tone that I had hurt him, but there wasn't much I could do about it. "Do you not trust me? Is that what this is all about?" Josh was getting worked up, which wasn't my intention.

"Josh...please, calm down." I wanted to have as rational a discussion as possible.

"Calm down?!? You virtually accuse me of cheating on you with Joey Lucas and you want me to calm down?"

This discussion was not going well.

I admit now that I started from a confrontational perspective, but I was worried about losing Josh, and I was hurt by the thought that Josh might have wanted to leave me, and for a woman at that. At the time, I had convinced myself that being up-front about it was the best way to go. But almost immediately I realized my mistake, and I tried to backtrack.

"Josh, let's talk about this rationally. When we were out in LA, it seemed to me that you were...." I paused to try to find the right word, "...overly concerned with Joey Lucas." No, that wasn't quite right.

And at this point, I can say unconditionally, my logical mind ceased to work.

I started again to try to explain myself. "What I mean is...you seemed almost obsessed. I heard Donna say you had a crush on her. Do you?" Now I was getting emotional, but I couldn't control myself. "Do you want to call this --" I gestured with my hand between the two of us, "-- off? Do you want to be a free agent again? Remember, you approached me." I paused to take a breath. I looked over at Josh, and he had a stricken look on his face.

"Sam?" he asked, "are you saying you want to call this off?"

That hadn't been my original intention, but I'd started this relationship avalanche. "Maybe that would be best." In my head, I was screaming "no!", but it was too late.

Josh stood up and said, "Well, then I'd better go...." He paused, as if there was something more he wanted to say, but then he cleared his throat, walked to the hallway, grabbed his coat, and then I heard the apartment door open and close.

I had meetings all the rest of the afternoon, so I didn't have to worry about crossing paths with Josh.

That evening, I was still obsessing about what had happened over lunch. Knowing I'd caused my own problem just made it worse. And this wasn't a simple breakup. I knew I'd have to see Josh in and around the office, so we'd be spending large quantities of time together, but I was determined to avoid being alone with him as much as possible. Maybe there'd be an out-of-town emergency that he or I would be called away for.

***

Four days later, I regretted making that statement, even to myself.

Since Josh and I called off our relationship - or whatever you could call what we'd had - there had been 2 plane crashes that the NTSB was investigating, a US diplomat who had been less than diplomatic in his dealings with a young lady, and countless little crises that the senior staff was occupied with. On the upside, I hadn't seen Josh outside a senior staff meeting since our horrible lunch. On the downside, I hadn't seen the inside of my apartment, either.

Finally, on Friday night, after what, at the time, I considered to have been the worst week of my life, I was able to leave the West Wing for more than 10 minutes. By instinct, I found myself heading toward Josh's office to find out if he wanted to go somewhere and have a drink, but then I remembered we'd broken up and that it had been my fault. It had just been so automatic to try to seek Josh out. I knew that I wasn't handling this break-up well, and we hadn't even been together all that long. I was going to have to learn to curb this instinct.

Instead, I sought out CJ and Danny - who, I later realized, were trying to catch their own personal time together - and pestered them to go out with me. I was just so desperate for human companionship to keep my mind off Josh. Working had kept my mind occupied, but now that I had some down-time, I had an opportunity to reflect on how much of an idiot I'd been with Josh.

Needless to say, the outing with CJ and Danny was an unmitigated disaster. I drank too heavily in an attempt to drown my sorrow, and if it weren't for the fact that Danny's a man of high morals, I would've been the front-page story in many major newspapers that morning. I could just see it, later: "President Bartlet's Head Speech Writer Drunk and Disorderly in Georgetown Bar." Wouldn't _that_ have looked good for this administration! Somehow - and my mind is somewhat hazy on the details here - I ended up at home, in bed, in my boxers. I wonder which one of them...oh, never mind. But all they knew - or, at least, all Danny knew on the record - was that I was depressed. I don't _think_ I let slip why I was trying to drink myself into oblivion.

I woke up Saturday morning with a headache the size of Cleveland, a hard-on like steel, and smelling like the New York subway system in the 80s. Now, not only was I depressed as all Hell, I was depressed, horny and hung over. Not a good combination. But I woke up with a new determination to make it right again between Josh and me. Even if I had to grovel. A lot. In front of the whole senior staff.

But now I just had to convince Josh to listen to me. And for that, I needed an ally. In the shower Saturday morning, I started formulating my plan of how to get Donna on my side. This wasn't going to be easy, considering how much she watches out for him. But I decided that this relationship with Josh was too important for me to have blown away with one stupid mistake, and I was ready to battle any obstacle to get back into Josh's good graces.

Now, if only I could find some aspirin.

***

I spent all of Saturday depressed and hung-over. Every time I came up with a scenario of how I could convince Josh that we really did belong together, the cynical part of my brain reminded me of all the reasons Josh and I would never work as a couple, especially now that I had been so distrustful.

And every time I thought of Josh, I got more upset. It seemed like every time I closed my eyes, I could see his smile, hear his laugh, remember times we'd spent together. After a while, I gave up trying to get anything done. I spent the majority of the day sitting on my sofa watching depressing movies. The sadder the better. They were the only thing that matched my mood. Occasionally, I remembered that I had to eat to stay alive. Not that being alive was all that great shakes, but I have a job where people depend on me, and me turning up dead would make Toby want to kill me.

I couldn't get up enough energy to go to the gym, and I was half afraid I'd run into someone I knew. See, in our business, there is no down time - even at the gym, I'd be expected to be the intelligent, witty writer that I strive to show the world, not the pathetic loser I had come to feel like.

Saturday night, I didn't sleep. Depression is a funny thing - you either want to sleep all the time, or you can't sleep at all. I think I would have preferred the former, except that every time I closed my eyes, I had visions of Josh, which made me remember what I had thrown away, which made me more depressed.

By 6 AM Sunday morning, I was an emotional wreck, and I had decided that I couldn't wait until Monday to talk to Donna. Using my intelligence and wiles - and the local DC- area phone book - I found Donna's home phone number. I forced myself to wait until a civilized hour - 9:00 AM - before I called her.

From the beginning, the phone call was against me.

"Donna? It's Sam."

"Why are you calling me at home? What do you want, Sam?" Donna was openly hostile, which I should have anticipated. She's been skeptical about this relationship between Josh and me from the beginning, even though she helped Josh get up the courage to ask me out. I think she only did that because she knew it would make Josh happy, not because of any specific fondness toward me.

"Donna, please hear me out. I need your help." I was ready to beg if necessary, but I was hoping she'd agree after I explained my plan. "I made a big mistake with Josh last week, and I want to ask, no, plead for his forgiveness..." I figured that Josh had given Donna all the gory details of our breakup, so I didn't go too much into explanations. "...And I hoped you'd help me, 'cause he listens to you, even when you tell him to do things he doesn't want to do. If you could convince him to sit down with me for just half an hour, I promise I'll do anything you want. If, after half an hour, he wants to leave and never have anything remotely social to do with me again, fine. I'll leave him alone. But I'd like the opportunity to plead my case." This was the part of lawyering I had always liked - trying to convince the jury that I had the stronger case.

Donna gave a non-committal "hm."

"Please, Donna. Go to him and tell him I'm sincere. I know I hurt him by not trusting him. But I _do_ trust him. I was just blinded by jealous stupidity. I can't continue to go on like this!" Now I was sounding desperate and whiny, but if it convinced Donna to help me out, it was worth it.

"Well, I guess there's no harm in me calling him and asking if he'd be willing to meet with you. When do you want to meet with him?" Good, at least Donna didn't hang up on me right away.

I thought a second. "How about tomorrow over dinner?" I didn't foresee another week like last week coming along so soon, so maybe we'd get away from the West Wing for a short dinner break, even if we'd have to go back after we talked. And food was often a good way to start a potentially difficult meeting...even though I blew it last time. I also figured that tomorrow I'd have to shower and shave and look like a human being for work, so I wouldn't look like the pathetic wretch I looked like at the moment.

"OK," Donna said. "I'll call him and then call you back. But I can't promise he'll say yes. In fact, if I were feeling like I know he does right now, I'd definitely say no." We said quick, tense good-byes and hung up.

The next 45 minutes were horrible. I couldn't stop obsessing on what I would do if Josh said no. Then I couldn't figure out why it was taking Donna so long to call back. Then I couldn't stop thinking that maybe she'd convinced Josh not to meet with me, so when the phone finally rang, I was such a wreck that I dropped the handset as I answered.

"Sam Seaborn." With my luck, it would be someone other than Donna wanting me to think business.

"Sam, it's me...Donna." This was the call I was waiting for. I waited to hear what she'd say. "It's not..." She took a deep breath. "He says he has a meeting tomorrow night and won't go out to dinner with you. He says that he's booked for the foreseeable future."

OK, that was it, then. Josh didn't want to have anything else to do with me that wasn't involved with running the country. It hurt, but I would have to learn to live with the pain.

"Thanks, Donna, for going to bat for me," I said, hoping she'd hear the sincerity in my voice.

"Yeah...I'm sorry it didn't work out for you...." She paused. "Sam?" Now she sounded tentative.

"Yeah?" I wasn't sure what she was going to say or ask me. I braced for the worst, though the worst had already passed in hearing that Josh didn't want to see me or talk to me.

"I'm really sorry. I don't want you to think I don't like you. I really do. It's just..." she paused again. "It's just that he's been hurt so bad, and I knew you were going to end up hurting him, and I...." This time, the pause was so long, I didn't think she'd continue, but then she did. "That sounded wrong. What it is is that every time Josh has been in a relationship, he ends up getting hurt, and I hate seeing him go through this every couple of months. It turns him into some kind of machine, and I hate it. So, please, give him some space." With that, she quickly said good-bye and hung up.

Giving Josh space was going to be the hardest thing I ever did. Not talking with him in the hallways, not smiling at a shared joke, not going over last night's ball scores - that was going to be the hardest thing about this breakup. The previous week had been too hectic for me to notice all the day-to-day things I was going to miss, but now that I had a free minute to think, my mind turned to the everyday friendship bits that Josh and I had shared even before we got together. Now I'd lost even those. Up until that moment, I had been focusing on the relationship aspects I'd destroyed. Now I realized I'd also destroyed my friendship with one of my closest allies and confidants.

By Monday morning, still having not really slept, I was determined to get back the friendship, even if the relationship was irreparable. I decided to start slow, no pressure on either of us. Hell, I wasn't even sure he wanted to be friends ever again, but I was going to try my damnedest to convince him otherwise.

Having decided on a course of action, I began to prepare to put it into motion. There was no sense in getting even more depressed than I already was, and action kept my mind off more depressing possible outcomes of my campaign. I had already blown it trying to use Donna as my ally, so I had to have another solution. I decided stealth would be my best weapon.

***

I made sure to get into the office early on Monday, before Josh or Donna showed up. As the first step in my "Get Josh Back" campaign, I had brought him breakfast - "the finest bagels and muffins in all the land," or, at least, what I could get at the local bakery. I didn't leave a note or anything. That wouldn't be as stealthy.

I decided that while waiting for the day to really begin, I'd go and talk to a couple of people. Also, I'm a terrible liar, so if asked point-blank if I knew who left breakfast for Josh, I'd get that deer-in-the-headlights look and stammer like a lunatic. Hiding was a better option, and Leo seemed like a good place to start. Having totally ignored his advice not to be an idiot, I decided to see what other wisdom he might dispense, hoping that this time I'd follow it.

Leo already knew what I wanted.

"So, Sam...You blew it, didn't you."

"Yeah, Leo. You don't have to look so happy about it." And he did - he had that all-knowing grin on his face that says 'I told you to do something and you didn't listen and now look what you've gotten yourself into.'

"It's not that I'm happy," Leo said. "It's that I totally understand what you're feeling. I've been there - Hell, I'm in the middle of a divorce I caused by my own stupidity."

I knew that. That's part of why he was my first meeting this morning.

"Look, Sam, I know you're in a really bad place right now, and that you don't want to hear this, but I'll tell you anyway. If you and Josh are meant to get back together, you will. If there's really something there, he'll get over you being an idiot, you'll get past your own immense idiocy, and you'll be happy together. If neither of you can get past it, then you shouldn't be together. But fight for it if you think this is the right relationship for both of you. I say this from the perspective of someone who probably should've fought harder for his relationship and ended up blowing it."

I could tell that this was almost as hard for Leo as coming clean to the public about his past addiction history, and I appreciated his candor on this subject.

"Thanks, Leo," I said as sincerely as I could muster before my first cup of coffee. But I could see in his face that he got it - he knew I recognized his sacrifice for me and that I appreciated it.

"Now go. And don't make it worse."

I left, heading toward my next in-house meeting of the morning. I knew this was going to be a really hard conversation, and that this wasn't really the time or the place to have it, but I also knew that if I didn't have it, I'd keep beating myself down, which was bad on even more levels.

Luckily, his office door was open.

"Hey, T?" I never called him that any more, especially not in the office.

Toby looked up. "Yeah?"

"I need you." That was our old signal for 'Can we talk about something really difficult?' "It's not work-related this time."

"Always." Which was always his answer. "Come on in. I've got coffee."

Ah, caffeine. The opiate of the overworked masses. I poured myself a cup, sat down, and bit the bullet.

"T, I screwed up. Big time. And I don't know how to fix it. Was I this much of an idiot when we were together?"

Y'see, during the campaign, Toby and I were together, but no one knew it. We didn't think it would look good for 2 major players in the Bartlet camp to be sleeping together at all - Hell, I wasn't even keen on Josh and Mandy's relationship - especially in a same-sex relationship. But then-Governor Bartlet knew all about us, and turned a blind eye to our relationship as long as we were discreet. Which we were. We parted amicably when we started in the West Wing, 'cause we knew it would be impossible for Toby to be my boss and my lover at the same time. But he promised he'd always be there for me, and he always has been. Not that he doesn't - to borrow a phrase - ride me hard in the office, especially when he thinks I've screwed up. He's a tough and demanding boss. But he's also a close friend.

"So, Sammy," he called me consistently during the time we were together. I never figured out if I liked it. "How badly did you screw up your relationship with Josh?"

"Real bad. I didn't trust him and ended up hurting both of us. And Donna says he doesn't want to see me at all outside of work." That was stretching it a bit, but I wanted Toby to understand my desperation.

"Well, you have two options. You can go and convince Josh to talk to you, apologize to him, beg at his feet if necessary, and heal and move on. Or you can give up, write off this relationship as a failure, and move on with your life. Eventually, you and Josh will find a way to work together again, but you will never have that friendship back."

He wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, and he was saying almost exactly what Leo said.

Now I had a hard question to ask him.

"T? How would you have felt in my position when we were together?" This was hard because we had never really discussed our relationship. It existed, and then it was over, and it was all very friendly and bloodless. I know there's tons I don't know about Toby, even having slept with him for months. Hell, I don't even know if he has siblings, what his family's like. In retrospect, it seems strange to me that I accepted this man into my heart and as intimately as possible into my body, yet we never let each other into our lives beyond the office, and our sexual relationship existed in a vacuum. Yet I knew that this conversation was necessary.

Toby answered almost immediately. "I'd want to know what was going on. But I would hope that I would trust my lover enough to know that he wouldn't cheat on me. That has to be on a gut level, on a cellular level, for a relationship to work. And it takes a lot of work."

I tried to explain my actions without getting defensive. "I saw him with Joey Lucas, and I immediately began to doubt my own appeal. I suddenly realized that someone like Josh wouldn't need someone like me. That...well...that I didn't deserve that kind of relationship."

Toby looked at me like I was crazy. "What the Hell do you mean? You deserve a great relationship. You deserve all the happiness you can get out of this crappy world." Ah, yes. Little Mary Sunshine. That's Toby for you.

"So how would you undo what I did?" Here was the issue - how do I put everything back to rights? "I'm not even sure I can convince Josh to talk to me any more, let alone anything else."

"Be persistent," Toby said. "Get in his face. Show him that you're sorry, that you know you were wrong, that you want him back."

Get in Josh's face? How was I going to do that if he wouldn't see me?

It was like Toby read my mind. "You're creative. You're smart - much as I don't usually acknowledge it - and you will figure it out. Now leave me alone. We have work for the country to do." But he smiled slightly on this last comment.

I left, armed with the beginnings of a strategy. It would be exaggerating to say it was anything approaching a plan, but I think I could work on it. I'd just approach this as I would a speech or anything else I write - I'd sketch out the outline and then fill in the details.

***

Throughout the day, I heard mumblings that Josh had shared the breakfast basket with as much of the staff as he could, pumping them for information as to who might have left it.

So that was Monday's opening move. Tuesday, I brought lunch and left it in Josh's office. Wednesday, I decided not to do food, so as I was leaving for the day, I left a book for him that I knew we had discussed way back. I had randomly found it a number of months ago, before we were together, at a used book store, and had mentioned it to Josh, who said it sounded interesting. I figured he was polite enough that he'd come and say "thanks" for the book, which would give me an opportunity to apologize in person. And I was banking that he'd remember that the conversation was with me and not with anyone else.

Thursday morning, I went to the gym before going into the office. Five minutes after I got in, Josh came to my office. He stood stiffly in the doorway.

"Thank you for the book, Sam." That's all he said, then he turned to go.

I couldn't let him. "Josh, wait. Can we talk a sec?"

"I don't think that's a good idea." His voice was flat, his face was blank. This wasn't my Josh; this was some machine that had taken over Josh, and I wanted my Josh back.

Both Leo and Toby had said that if I thought the relationship was worth it, I should fight to get Josh back. I decided they were right.

"Josh," I said, "please come in here." I'm not sure which one of us was more surprised that he actually did what I asked.

I closed the office door. Josh looked annoyed, but didn't stop me.

"Look," I said. "This silent treatment has gone on long enough. I know I screwed up. I know I should have trusted you. I know I was a total and complete idiot. But I miss you, Josh, and I need you. I need you in my life." OK, so I had resorted to begging. I was willing to sacrifice my pride for this relationship.

Josh just stood there.

"Josh, please." I continued to beg. "If you don't want to get back together, I will try to move on. But I can't continue this way, with you just ignoring me. I need to know what you are thinking, what you are feeling."

Very quietly, Josh said, "I need to know that I am trusted by my lover. That he believes me when I tell him things. That I can go out and meet with people and he won't think I'm cheating on him. You violated all of that, Sam, and I don't know if I can forgive that. I don't know that I can feel any desire for a man who doesn't trust me."

"But can you tell me that you don't feel anything for me other than contempt?" I asked. "Can you deny that you feel something when I do this?"

Now I'd decided to get in his face for real. As we'd talked, I'd been pacing closer and closer to Josh and the closed door. I used my greater height to block him between my body and the door and I leaned in and kissed him hard. I pried his lips open with my tongue and insinuated myself in him. When I paused for a breath, I said, "Your body gives you away, Josh. I can tell you're hard for me right now. I hear your breath coming faster. You and I both know that I can make you hot and needy. But that's not what I want from you. I want you, heart and soul, back in my life. I can't promise you that I won't be an idiot again, that I won't violate your trust in me. But I need you to give me another chance." I repositioned myself so that our hips were aligned and he could feel me as much as I could feel him. "Tell me you don't need this. Tell me you don't miss this. Tell me you don't miss me!"

He looked like he was about to do it. "I don't..." he paused. "I....Damn you, Sam Seaborn. As much as I tried not to need you anymore, I do. I need you."

With that, his hands came around to the back of my head. Fisting his hands in my hair, Josh pulled my mouth down to his for a kiss that was half pleasure, half pain. All his frustrations were poured into this kiss. A barely-rational thought passed through my brain that if I weren't careful, I'd be half bald by the end of the kiss.

Frenzied, hungry for each other, Josh and I let our passion drive us. He finally let go of my hair, letting his hands roam all over me. I was similarly reacquainting myself with the feel of his body. I was somewhat hampered by his back being pressed up against the door, so I let my hands trace his chest, his legs, anywhere I could reach. Eventually, his hands settled on my ass while mine were at the waist of his pants. He was pulling me against him, leaving me no question about his desire for me. I started working on the fastening to his pants when suddenly he broke the kiss.

"No. Sam. This is not what I want!"

I stopped, knowing that "no" means "no," but not liking it.

"Josh?" I asked carefully, "_what_ is it that you don't want?"

He looked directly into my eyes and said, "I don't want us using sex to cover up any problems between us. It's a bad way to handle things. Believe me!" I was going to have to probe that one gently some time in the future.

"So," I asked, with just a touch of hope, "does that mean you are willing to give me another chance?"

"Yes," he said, "But you'll have to re-earn my confidence. I need to know that you will not be jealous of every woman I come in contact with. And until you can prove to me that you will not be suspect of every conversation I have with a woman, I cannot continue a physical relationship with you."

I let out a deep breath I hadn't been aware I was holding. "I can more than live with that," I said. As long as I got Josh back in my life, I was willing to concede to any demands he wanted to make. Hell, I'd come to work in bunny slippers if he asked. All I wanted was for us to be together again.

I suddenly realized that I still had him pinned against my office door and that we were both still hard. As quickly as I could, I backed up, not wanting Josh to think I'd use sex to get him to agree with me.

"So," I said cautiously, "where do we go from here?"

Josh thought for a minute. "Why don't we go out to dinner, have nice, civil conversation, and see where we end up?" he asked.

I can do nice and civil...I think...especially in public.

Turning back towards my desk, I decided there was still something I had to say.

"Thank you, Josh," I said softly.

"For what?"

I could hear him moving away from the door and towards me, but still I looked at the papers on my desk, afraid to meet his eyes.

"For giving me another chance," I said. "For forgiving me for being an idiot. For not throwing me out of your life forever." Now that I had gotten started, I couldn't stop. "I was so scared I'd lost you forever. That I would never see you smile at me again, that I would never hear your laugh, see that look you give me when we have a shared joke during a staff meeting. I was afraid I'd never hold you again, never feel your hands on me again..." Finally I had run out of steam.

"Sam, look at me." He said it firmly but not forcefully. I turned to face him.

"Sam," he started again, "I was hurt. I was confused that you would think that I could betray the relationship that was between us. I felt betrayed myself. But I never actually stopped loving you. In fact, it tormented me at night. Being without you for this past week and a half was such torture. I needed you, but I couldn't live with the thought that you'd mistrust me again. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I did. So now we pick up the pieces and move on. I was probably wrong to cut off communication. But it was the only defense mechanism I had. But know this. I do love you - more, it seems, with each passing day."

I didn't have a response to that. First, this was the first time he'd ever said he loves me. Then, having him basically tell me that even something this horrible could not shake his love for me was so powerful, so amazing, that I didn't know where to start to respond. So I said the first thing that came to mind.

"Josh? I love you, too." Another first.

And in that moment, it came to me. That was why I was willing to do whatever he wanted me to. I was so crazy in love with this guy that he could make me do just about anything. But I didn't think he was ready to hear the extent of my feelings for him, so I held back.

"So..." he said, clearing his throat, "let's plan on dinner tonight. There's a nice place on Massachusetts Ave. I'd like to take you."

We agreed that 7:00 would be a reasonable time to try to get out for dinner, with the agreement that if some sort of national emergency came up, we'd play it by ear.

***

At around 6:40, Josh came looking for me.

"You about ready?" he asked. No major crisis had come up, so it looked like dinner would be a go.

"Sure. Let me just finish here," I said, saving my file and locking my terminal. As soon as I was done, I stood up. "Let's go."

We headed out towards Massachusetts Avenue. It was a beautiful night for early spring - there was a crispness to the air, but it was not so cold that the walk was unpleasant.

When we reached the Henley Park hotel, Josh stopped. "I thought we'd eat here." 'Here' turned out to be at Coeur de Lion, a restaurant with a reputation for excellent food, good jazz music, and a romantic and private atmosphere. It surprised me a bit that he took me here, seeing as we were not at all out, but perhaps the restaurant's reputation for privacy was well deserved.

Josh went up to the maitre d's lectern and gave his name. Very soon, we were seated at a very private table separated from the rest of the restaurant by a screen. Here we could be alone but still hear the music. It also gave us privacy from any sort of prying eyes - we've both got recognizable faces, so this out-in-public thing was kinda dicey. Thankfully, the restaurant was close to the White House and also had a reputation for very good food, so it was not totally inconceivable that two West Wing staffers would go there for a working dinner.

Anyway, we had a very pleasant dinner, with civil and civilized conversation - staying as far away from work- related subjects as possible - and enjoyed the music. I just enjoyed being with Josh outside the office, and I think he enjoyed being with me, as well.

After dinner, we walked back to the White House. It was a bit awkward, but he walked me back to my office . The feeling on my part was that it was sort of the end of a date, so I should kiss him good-bye, but at the same time, we were in the office, so it was awkward. We both stood and stared at each other for a couple of minutes, as if neither of us knew exactly what to do, and then Josh headed back to his office.

Back at my desk, I started crafting an opposition paper on school vouchers, because I know the issue will come up eventually and it pays to be prepared for all eventualities. I got so caught up in my counter-argument that by the time I looked up again, it was almost midnight.

On my way out to go home, I stopped by Josh's office just to say "goodnight," but he wasn't there. He was probably stuck in the Oval, so I didn't see the logic in waiting around for him - it could be forever, especially if the President decided to play "Know Your Supreme Court Justices" or some other random trivia game with Josh. Instead, I left a note on his desk. I thought about the wording for a while - I wanted it to be special but discreet in case someone saw it lying on Josh's desk.

Finally, after much deliberation and a couple of mental drafts, I came up with, "J - my deepest appreciation. - S" Short, pithy, gets my point across, and is sufficiently vague that any prying eyes won't understand. Especially because there are a couple of staffers with "S" names that Josh may have done favors for...but I was sure he'd know the note was from me.

On that cheerful note, it was time for me to go home. Yes, my apartment would still be empty and lonely, but at least now there was the hope of Josh coming back to it.

***

Friday morning I came into the office and there was a note on my desk:

"S - let's get away from everything this weekend. There's a house in Maryland we can use. We'll have time to sit and talk. Let me know. - J"

Sounded promising to me, so I headed off to Josh's office to say yes.

As I approached his office, I could see he was on the phone. I hovered in his doorway until he noticed me. He gestured for me to enter, so I did and sat in one of the guest chairs opposite his desk.

Pretty soon, he got off the phone. He looked up at me.

Without preamble, I said, "Yes. Sounds like a good idea."

Smiling, he said, "Good. An old friend has a house on the Eastern Shore, and he's in Europe for the year. He's told me I could use it whenever I wanted. It's a nice place..." He trailed off. "I figured we could leave this evening - it's about an hour and a half drive from here - and spend the weekend there? No cell phones, just pagers."

Both of us knew we couldn't be completely out of touch for a whole weekend, but pagers-only would be fine with Leo.

"Sounds great," I said. "I'll need time to run home and throw a bag together. How about we meet at my place at 8:30?"

We agreed on the plan and both went back to work. I hoped that this weekend away would give us the opportunity to really talk and get our relationship back on track. I just hoped we could stick to whatever ground rules we set for ourselves.

***

Those exact ground rules were the topic of conversation during the majority of the drive out to the Eastern Shore. I understood the reasons Josh wanted to get the rules stated before we got to Wye Landing, but I'm an adult, and I can keep my hands to myself...usually...OK, so I knew this was an important step in rebuilding our relationship - if we could state from the outset that we wouldn't cross certain boundaries, and stuck to those boundaries, then I would prove my trustworthiness more in Josh's eyes.

So by the time we'd gotten to Wye Landing, we had a plan: spontaneous kissing would be allowed, but anything beyond that would have to be a mutual decision. And we'd have separate bedrooms. Josh almost didn't give in on the kissing, but I appealed to his logical side - how would the two of us be able to spend the whole weekend alone, in a relatively secluded house, with no outside interference, and be able to stay totally away from one another? I knew it would be impossible. And I also had a sneaking suspicion that Josh wouldn't be any more able than I was to just stop with kissing.

It was almost 10:00 PM by the time we got to Wye Landing and got into the house. "House" was a bit of an understatement: the place we were staying was a mansion with 6 bedrooms, a sunken living room, separate dining room, a kitchen, breakfast nook, 3 1/2 baths, a library...all the comforts one would ever need for a weekend away. It was too dark to get an idea of the area the house was in, but I could hear the surf from the Chesapeake on the shore. Maybe if the weather were warmer, we would have been able to take a walk along the beach, but it was late winter, and still too cold for beach outings.

Since Josh volunteered to bring in the luggage, I grabbed the grocery bags out of the car and then went into the kitchen to put the food away. This allayed a bit of my guilt about my inability to cook. Josh is a great cook - he's cooked for me once, plus when we've done the occasional staff pot-luck, his stuff has always gone first. Because I'm less gifted in the kitchen, we had agreed on the ride up that Josh would cook and I'd do the dishes. I didn't even recognize half the ingredients I was pulling out of grocery bags, but I figured Josh knew what he was doing.

When I was done in the kitchen, I returned to the front hallway, expecting to find my bags there. When I didn't see them, I wandered upstairs, where I heard Josh moving around. I found him in one of the bedrooms, unpacking his suitcase.

"Hey," I said.

"Hey," he responded. "I put your bag on the bed in the room across the hall. These two rooms looked good, but if you see something you like better, I doubt Steve would mind if you staked out a different room. These two were the ones he recommended I use when I came up here." He paused. "Not that I told him I was bringing someone..." He paused again.

That almost-monologue told me a lot - Josh was just as nervous about this weekend as I was. For some reason, that made me feel better. Not that I revel in his suffering. Much the opposite. But knowing that he was as nervous as I was made me know that we both saw this weekend as a major turning point. What happened this weekend would determine the future of our relationship, and that put a lot of pressure on both of us. I was determined, however, not to think of the weekend that way.

"Josh?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm gonna unpack, and then I was thinking of building a fire in the fireplace, making some cocoa" - that much, I could handle in the kitchen - "and sitting in front of the fire with a good book. Care to join me? 'Bout 20 minutes?" I figured that was a good way to start off the weekend - relaxing together in front of a romantic fire, but no pressure.

"Sounds good to me. I'll see you in 20, then." He smiled at me, the first genuine smile I'd seen from him in a while.

I wandered across the hall to my room, quickly unpacked, changed into jeans and a button-down shirt, and then went downstairs. Luck was with me - there was a large amount of firewood stacked by the fireplace, as well as old newspaper to use as kindling. I soon had a good fire going, and after replacing the grate, I went to the kitchen to make some good old-fashioned cocoa.

I was just emerging from the kitchen again when Josh came downstairs. He had changed from the clothes he'd driven here in - the same suit he'd been wearing at work - into a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, and he was barefoot. He looked comfortably rumpled, and my first thought was that I'd like to rumple him even more. But that would have to wait.

I held out one of the two mugs I was carrying. "Here, Josh, come into the living room with me and drink this. It's still piping hot, so you might want to wait a bit." As I spoke, I walked into the entry to the living room, down the short stairs, and headed for the couch. The fire had been burning for a bit, and the smell of fresh-burning wood was filling the room.

I sat down at one end of the couch, leaving plenty of space for Josh to decide where he wanted to be. After what looked like careful deliberations, he sat down on the middle cushion of the sofa, not very close to me, but not very far, either. Putting his feet up on the coffee table, Josh took a careful sip from the still-steaming mug in his hand and moaned.

"Oh, Sam. This is wonderful."

Now, if only I could get him to do that about something that wasn't chocolate. But that was more wishful thinking on my part. One step at a time.

We sat for a while in companionable silence, reading our books. Every once in a while, one of us would turn to the other and say something, usually triggered by what we were reading, but for the most part we sat quietly, each in our own world. But I began to feel restless. At about midnight, I put my book aside and stood up to stretch. I walked around the couch to get my legs moving again, and I stopped behind where Josh was seated. Putting my hands on his shoulders, I leaned down and dropped a kiss on the top of his head.

He turned to look at me.

"Hey," he said, shifting his whole body so that he could look straight at me.

"Hey," I repeated. We seem to use that as shorthand a lot, with many different meanings. Right now, it meant, at least to my mind, 'I am willing to see what will happen next.'

I bent down again towards him, and kissed him lightly on the lips. When he didn't pull away, I kissed him again, this time with more intent. He responded by parting his lips slightly and giving me the access I wanted. But I was in what would soon prove to be an uncomfortable position if I kept this up too long. I took a chance.

"Josh? D'you mind if I come and sit next to you?"

He didn't answer, but he patted the seat cushion next to him as he shifted back around to sit straight on the couch.

Moving back to the front of the couch, I sat down right close next to Josh. With just the slightest hesitation, I leaned in toward him again and resumed the kiss. He again opened for me, and soon our tongues were dueling for control of this kiss. Worried that I would get too carried away now that I had Josh back again, I threaded my fingers into Josh's hair so that I'd have something to do with them. He moaned, much like he did about the cocoa, and slid his hands around to my back. I lost track of how long we kissed like that, but then we had to stop to breathe.

"J?" I'm trying to find something to call Josh when we're together, something that's just for us.

"Yeah?"

"You with me?" What I was trying to ask without asking was, 'Do you mind if we continue,' but I was afraid to ask. At the same time, I was afraid that if I didn't ask, he'd be angry at me again.

"Yeah." And with that, he took control of the kiss. He pushed me back onto the sofa cushions so that I was half- sitting, half-lying, and started unbuttoning my shirt. "Oh, Sam...I missed you," he said between kisses.

He quickly had my shirt open and was trailing his fingers along my breastbone to about my navel, but no lower. I think we both knew instinctively that there were lines we weren't going to cross tonight. Technically, we hadn't even blown the "kisses only" rule yet, but I didn't think I would mention it. I was too busy getting reacquainted with Josh's body, as much as I could reach of it, which wasn't very much. With some dexterity I didn't know I possessed, I had managed to pull up Josh's sweatshirt so that his back was partially exposed, and as he explored my breastbone, I was exploring his spine.

"J, pull up a sec. There's too much shirt here," I said, attempting to get a word in edgewise as he did amazing things with his lips. My words must have penetrated, 'cause he stopped what he was doing long enough to pull off the sweatshirt and toss it to the end of the sofa we weren't occupying. Then he began his assault on my lips anew.

We were both keeping our fingers busy, finding each other's sensitive spots again. I remembered his fondness for getting his nipples stroked, and he seemed to remember the spot below my ribcage that made me squirm. I was hard beneath my pants and boxers, and I knew Josh had to be, too. And with the fact that it had been a while since we'd been together, I knew I wasn't going to last long, even without him touching me below my navel. I thought it was only fair to warn Josh of this.

"J?" I said, not knowing exactly how to say it, "um...I..." but I didn't get a chance to continue, because just then he nipped me at the base of my neck and I lost it. Moaning, I jerked my hips off the sofa as my orgasm burst through me. "Oh, Josh! Oh, DAMN! OH, SHIT!" And then it was over, and I was embarrassed as all Hell.

Having no idea what else to do, and needing to get away, not only to clean myself up but to get away from the humiliation, I jumped off the sofa and ran out of the room. I could hear Josh calling my name, but I didn't stop. I ran upstairs and dashed into the bathroom. Tearing off my clothing, I turned on the coldest shower I could stand and jumped in.

About a minute later, I heard Josh pounding on the bathroom door. I ignored him, 'cause I couldn't bear to face him, and eventually he went away.

When I had myself under control again, I got out of the shower and dried myself off. Having no desire to put back on my dirty clothes, I just wrapped a towel around my waist and headed back to my room.

Josh was sitting on my bed when I walked through the door.

Before I could get any words out, Josh said, "You OK? I was worried."

I could see from his face that I had scared him. "I'm fine...now." How could I tell him that it had been so long since we'd been together, and I'd been too depressed in between, that I hadn't gotten off since right after we got back from LA? That's so intensely personal. But then I realized that it was a way that I could show him he could trust me - not only had I not been with anyone, I hadn't even jerked off since he left.

"Um...Josh...," I said, unsure of how to continue. "Y'see, since you left that night, I haven't...well..." But Josh seemed to understand.

"Yeah, me either." That surprised me, but I didn't say anything.

Suddenly, I realized that I was still standing there dressed only in a towel. "Hey, Josh? Do me a favor? Turn your back a sec?" I knew he'd seen me totally naked in the past, but this was going to be a really awkward conversation, and I knew I'd feel better dressed. I also knew I didn't want him watching me dress at just this moment.

Josh shrugged but turned his back, giving me at least the illusion of privacy. I quickly tossed on a pair of boxers and a pair of sweat pants. "OK," I said, "you can turn back now."

I sat down on the bed next to Josh, not quite sure what to say next. I hoped that he'd start somewhere, but for a couple of minutes, we just sat in silence.

The silence finally became oppressive, and we both seemed to notice at the same time, 'cause we both started to talk.

"Josh?"

"Sam..."

"You first," I said, sort of glad that he wanted to talk, which would keep me from having to bare my soul right away.

"Sam, when you ran off like that, I was so afraid that you were...that you didn't want to, well, that I had pressured you too much by suggesting this weekend away. I thought maybe you'd decided that you weren't ready to pick up again..." He tapered off.

"Josh," I hadn't been expecting him to be unsure about all this. I thought that he was the one in control of the future of this relationship, and I was more than ready to comply with whatever demands he chose to make, but now it seemed like he was trying to figure out what _I_ wanted.

I started again. "All I wanted - ever - was to be with you, any way you want me. If it's just as a friend, that's OK with me. If it's for more, then wonderful, but I know that I violated your trust and that you might not want me back in your life, in..." I paused, then said quietly, "in your bed." There, I'd said it. I'd put my heart on the line. Josh was now free to kick me out of his bed forever.

"Oh, God," he said. "Even when we were apart, I kept dreaming of having you in my bed, under me, above me, wherever I could have you. Even in your office, with that big glass window exposing us to the whole West Wing staff, I had dreams of taking you up against your desk, up against your filing cabinet..." He paused. "I woke up every morning wanting you, needing you."

"So, what do we do now?" I asked, almost afraid of the answer.

"We try to pick up where we had been. This 'kissing only' thing is Hell on both of us, and I know now it's not going to work," he said. "I want you too much." He flushed, as if embarrassed to have given away so much of his inner feelings.

Sitting there on my bed, both of us shirtless, it was like there was a sudden magnetic force driving us together. Within seconds, we were in each other's arms, kissing and touching each other wherever we could reach, all our pent-up desires pouring themselves into this embrace. The feeling of skin on skin was incredible. We both wanted more contact as we fell back onto the bed, and we started dragging at each other's waistbands. The sweats and boxers I had just so carefully put on soon ended up on the floor, as did Josh's.

In seconds, we were lying on our sides, facing each other, exploring each other's bodies as much as we could. Slightly hampered by our position, Josh quickly took the initiative and rolled me onto my back. He climbed above me and laid his body along mine, aligning our hips. Slowly he began to undulate his hips, causing light friction between our bodies. The feeling was exquisite, and I quickly became hard again. He kept up this light friction until I was moaning and shifting my own hips to maintain the contact.

"Don't worry, love. We'll get there. But for now, I just want you to enjoy," he said.

With that, he leaned down and caught my lips with his, kissing me lightly. His hands were everywhere at once, and I couldn't keep up with the sensations. After a couple of minutes, he grabbed my hands and pulled them over my head, I guess because I kept trying to touch him and he was tired of pulling my hands away. Grasping both my wrists in his left hand, he said, "Leave them there or I'll tie them there." I wasn't sure if he was serious, but I wasn't quite ready to find out. Bondage was a whole new territory for me, and I wasn't positive whether or not I'd enjoy it. So I left my arms above my head, grasping the headboard.

I thought I heard Josh say "damn!" as he began moving down my torso leaving a trail of kisses in his wake.

"What?" I asked as soon as I could get enough breath to speak.

"I was so sure nothing would happen this weekend that I didn't prepare...I have nothing with me." By this, I assumed he meant condoms or lube. I could help on one front, but not on the other.

"J? I have...if you'll let me get up...I have some lotion in my shaving kit..." He smiled at that. Hell, after-shave lotion as lube? Not the strangest thing I'd ever used, but right up there.

"Not...letting...you...move," he said in between licks down my body. Of course, I was writhing by then, but I knew what he meant. When he got down to my toes, he sucked on them lightly, then got up out of the bed and went over to my shaving kit, which I'd placed on the bureau when I unpacked. Taking a minute to rummage around, he came back out with my bottle of after-shave.

He uncapped it and took a sniff. "Spicy...well, it's better than nothing, right?"

I was hoping so...and hoping that it wouldn't sting. Hey, even in my driven-by-passion state, I had a strong sense of self-preservation, and pain hurts!

"OK," he said, coming back to the bed and opening the bottle of lotion, "let me know if you're OK, OK?"

With that, he poured some lotion into his left hand and slicked up the fingers on his right. "Lift your knees, Sam...give me some access," he said softly.

Complying, I planted the soles of my feet on the bedspread, slid my feet up 'til my knees were bent, and opened my thighs as much as I could. Josh kneeled between them, put his left hand on my inner right thigh, and slowly worked the index finger of his right hand into me. I was tight, having not been penetrated in a while, and the sensation was amazing. I couldn't form a coherent sentence, so I just moaned to give him encouragement.

While he was working his finger back and forth inside me, Josh took his slick left hand off my thigh and grabbed my cock. I was semi-hard already, and he slowly massaged the length of my shaft, bringing me to full hardness quickly. It was hard for me to comply with his demand that I not move my hands, because I was itching to get my hands on Josh the way his hands were on me. All the while he was whispering to me, "Sam, you're wonderful. You turn me on. You are so beautiful." He made it almost a mantra.

Looking down, I could see that he was as hard as I was, and I felt like I should do something for him, as well. He noticed my gaze and said, "No...this is for you. We'll do me later." And with this, he went back to kissing my chest.

It didn't take long before I was at the point of coming again. Josh could feel my muscles clenching and could see my cock jerking in time with his movements.

"Easy, love," he said. "It'll come..." And with that he picked up his pace with both hands, milking me and stroking me 'til I was sobbing and thrashing. With one final stroke, he brought me to the edge, and I know I came, but the next thing I remember is his hands stroking my chest, whispering to me, "Come back, love. C'mon..."

I looked up at him. "Hey..." There I was, using that "Hey" shorthand again. This time I meant it as 'You do things to me that amaze me.' He seemed to understand, 'cause he grinned.

"Hey," he responded. "You left me there for a sec...you OK now?"

"Never better." And I meant it. I had never felt this content in my life.

But then I had a thought. "J?"

"Yeah?"

"That was all about me...what about you?"

"I could tell you - and it would be the truth - that I get immense pleasure just from watching you," he said with a grin.

"Not good enough," I said. "Vicarious pleasure only goes so far." And with that, I rolled him onto his back, took my finally-allowed-to-move hands and ran them along the length of his torso, with a single goal in mind - making him feel as good as he had made me feel.

I bypassed all of the erogenous zones on his upper body - there'd be enough time for them later - and headed directly for his inner thighs. First with my hands, and then with my lips, I caressed and smoothed the silky skin I found there, with occasional forays toward his quickly reviving erection. As I moved back and forth, Josh kept up a litany of "oh, yes, oh, yes." He's becoming quite the vocal lover, which I'd like to think is partially my influence. I love hearing what I do to him.

Eventually, I decided that I'd held off long enough and I traced the length of his erection with my tongue. Josh continued to moan as I took time to explore his balls with my tongue, re-learning his textures and scents. As he tried to grab my head and guide me onto his now-weeping cock head, I resisted, looking up long enough to say, "No...turnabout's fair play. No hands." And _then_ I took him into my mouth.

It didn't take long for him to reach the breaking point himself, and with a loud "Oh, SAM!" he exploded in my mouth.

For a couple of minutes, the only sound in the bedroom was of our harsh breathing.

Without words, we curled ourselves around each other, seeking the comfort of each other's bodies. We fell asleep, wrapped in each other's arms.

***

When I woke up at around 9 on Saturday morning, the side of the bed Josh had been on was empty.

Josh's absence from the bed didn't bother me as soon as I became a bit more awake - I could smell coffee brewing and what smelled like pancakes being prepared. I got out of bed, grabbed my robe from the closet, and headed downstairs to the kitchen.

As anticipated, Josh was standing at the stove flipping pancakes, but he turned when I came in.

"Hey," he said, smiling. I noticed that his attire matched mine - bathrobe, barefoot despite the cold. "Did you sleep well?"

OK, so we were going for standard-morning-conversation mode. I could deal - it was easier than the "how-did-we-end- up-in-bed" conversation I had been anticipating with some dread. I know that we were both willing participants last night, but after Josh's whole "I don't want to use sex as a placebo" speech before we left DC, I was a bit worried about what his mindset was going to be this morning.

Josh put down his spatula long enough to come over, kiss me, and cop a quick feel. He then went right back to making breakfast.

"Did'ja sleep OK?" he asked me. "You were so fast asleep when I woke up, I didn't have the heart to wake you, and I figured we'd want a real breakfast, so..." he stopped at my expression. "What?"

"J? Last night was...well, it was amazing," I said. I wanted to ask about his dramatic turn-around from no touching to this grab-Sam-at-your-convenience arrangement, but, more, I wanted to tell him how I really felt. "We...well, we seemed so in tune with each other's wants and desires. I don't think I've ever been there in that way with another relationship."

Josh had a small smile on his face when he turned to me. "It was special for me, too. Even though we didn't...what we did was really special."

We must have stood there like idiots smiling at each other for a couple of minutes, until Josh realized that he was real close to burning the pancakes. He went back to making the food and I set the table.

Breakfast was a comfortable affair, with us reading the paper and having random conversation, but it gave me time to think about our current situation.

By the time we finished breakfast, I really wanted to talk to Josh about his new attitude. All through our meal, I kept trying to talk to him seriously, but he kept leaning over and stealing kisses - just to shut me up, I think - instead of answering, and after a while, I just gave up.

But now I was determined that we have this conversation.

"J? Can we sit and talk for a bit?" I wanted to be up front with him, get everything out in explicit detail so that there'd be no confusion as to where we stood. I didn't want us spending this weekend working on one set of assumptions and then go back to DC and find everything had changed back to the bad way it was before. Call me paranoid, but I didn't want to risk blowing it again, even accidentally.

"Sure, Sam. What's up?" Josh grabbed himself a refill of coffee and turned to look at me. "Hey...what's so wrong?" I guess my facial expression gave away my concern.

"Let's go sit in the living room, where we'll be more comfortable." I anticipated this conversation taking a while, and I didn't want to be standing the whole time, and the kitchen table wasn't the best place to sit and have an intense conversation - too many sharp objects nearby.

Leading the way, I walked into the living room and headed for one of the armchairs flanking the sofa. I was afraid that if we sat down next to each other without some sort of furniture between us, we'd revert to last night's behavior. Not that I'd mind some mind-blowing sex play or anything, but it would distract me from my goal of finding out what was going on in Josh's head.

Finally, Josh came into the living room, mug of coffee still firmly in his hand. I've come to find over the time we've known each other that he can't think straight until at least 24 ounces of caffeine are running through his bloodstream, and with the mugs here in the house, that would be at least 3 cups. According to my count, Josh was working on his fourth this morning, so hopefully he'd be alert enough for this conversation. He sat on the sofa, closest to the chair where I was.

"Love, what is it?" Josh said. "You're worrying me here."

"I don't mean to scare you," I said sincerely, "it's just that...I'm confused." That was an understatement. I was totally flummoxed, truth to tell, but I didn't want to shove that on Josh all at once.

"Confused about what?"

"Us...this new place in our relationship we seem to be in...what you want from this relationship...what you expect from me..." At this point I was beginning to ramble, but I couldn't help it. Once I'd started, I couldn't hold back the torrent of concerns I had.

"Hey, slow down, love," Josh looked overwhelmed by my questions, and no wonder - I'd just thrown a ton of angst his way. "What brought this on? I thought you said that last night was wonderful."

"It was," I said, "and that's what is causing this problem in my mind. You'd made it clear before we left - and on the trip down here - that we wouldn't go to bed with each other until we'd settled everything, and nothing is totally set, yet last night...well, you know." I sounded like an idiot, but I needed this clarified.

Josh got a look of "Aha!" on his face, and he reached out to grab my hand. "Love, I don't want us using sex as a way to hide from our problems. But you - and I - needed comforting last night, and our bed is one of the places where I can show you just how I feel about you. The fact that you came to me to talk about this puts my mind at ease about us hiding from our problems. I understand how it could look to you like a sudden turn-around, but after you ran off last night..." I blushed at this "...I thought a lot about how you reacted and what my response should be. I saw you embarrassed by your reactions to me, and that was the last thing I wanted. I needed you to know that I love you." He paused. "Change that: I _need_ you to know I love you. Now, before, always."

He'd told me that before - even my questioning his loyalty couldn't kill his love for me, much as he had hoped the feeling would fade. I understood that - not that he's angry about loving me, but the love caused him pain, and he hoped the pain would fade. But we're past that now, I think...I hope.

Josh continued. "So, when you wouldn't answer me last night when you were in the shower, I knew I needed to show you I was going to be here for you. That's why I waited for you in your room, and that's why I instigated the loving. But I didn't mean to confuse you."

I took a chance. "Tell me about the relationship where you used sex to hide your problems." I wasn't sure he'd tell me, but if he did, it would put my mind at ease about him trusting me.

"It was...Mandy. By the end there, we weren't talking anymore. We'd fall into bed at the slightest provocation...you probably didn't want to hear that...but, anyway, we used sex to cover up glaring problems, and by the time we got around to talking about them, it was more like yelling, and it was too late." He paused again. "Not that I _want_ to still be with her instead of with you. Don't ever think that."

I didn't, but it was still nice to hear.

"So," he continued, "you OK now with all this?"

He hadn't answered all my questions, but I kinda had thrown them all at him at once, and they didn't all need immediate answers. Just knowing that the communication lines were open between us, and knowing that he didn't think I'd betrayed our agreement, was fine with me for now.

We sat in silence for a couple of minutes, and I enjoyed just sitting holding hands with Josh.

After a while, Josh turned to me again. "It's beautiful out. Let's go for a walk along the beach."

Now, Josh's a New England boy. For him, "beautiful" weather seems to mean "not currently snowing." But this time, I agreed with him - spring was in full bloom on the Eastern shore. It was in the high 60s, the sun was out, and there was a slight breeze. So, once we got dressed, off we went.

During our walk, we discussed meaningless things - movies we'd seen and liked, music we enjoyed, that sort of thing. But it was something we hadn't really done in our relationship since becoming a couple. Yeah, I knew all about Josh on a friend level, but this deeper level of physical intimacy required a deeper level of emotional intimacy. This weekend was turning out to be more important for our relationship than I had ever anticipated. I'd figured that time together would allow us to reconnect, but I hadn't anticipated this amount of sharing of information. I wondered if Josh had thought this far...and figured he hadn't. He's not one to think too far ahead in many cases. And it's gotten him in trouble in the past. But this time, I think it was right - too much analysis of potential outcomes would have kept us from going away this weekend, and then...who knows if we'd have ended up as back together as we are now.

Anyway, we had a very nice walk, and then we went back to the house, read for a decent portion of the morning, had a light, simple lunch, made out, read some more, and then, around 6 PM, Josh went into the kitchen to make dinner. I offered to follow and help him, but knowing that I am not too handy in the kitchen, Josh declined my offer. Accepting my shortcomings as a cook, I went back to my reading.

At about 7, he poked his head out again and said dinner would be in the oven for another half hour, so he was coming back out to sit with me. I was stretched out on the sofa, so I had to sit up slightly to accommodate Josh. He chose to lie down on the sofa - he being just enough shorter than me that we could both fit - with his butt wedged up against my crotch. His back was up against my chest, leaving me in the perfect position, from my perspective. I had freedom of movement for my hands, which I took advantage of. Almost as soon as he was settled in my lap, I started unbuttoning his shirt.

"You've got me at a disadvantage here. I can't reach you from this position," Josh complained.

"Ah, that's all part of my dastardly plan," I said, wiggling my eyebrows even though he couldn't see me. I finished with his shirt and started in on his belt and pants. It didn't take long before I had access to his bare skin.

"Close your eyes and just feel, OK?" I was going to take advantage of our position to wield a little control of my own. Reaching my right hand down into the opening of his pants, I worked my fingers past the waistband of his boxers. I clasped him lightly, feeling him become hard in my hand. Barely moving my hand, I stroked him gently, teasing more than anything else. I love making him wait, making him yearn for my touch.

"Sam...you're killing me here."

"Shh! I'm doing this, and you're going to let me." There. I can be forceful when I want to. I just don't usually want to. As we were talking, I increased the speed and the firmness of my touches, until he started to moan. As I've said before, Josh is a very vocal lover, and it turns me on to hear him. I started to kiss the nape of his neck, licking and kissing the smooth skin, all the while increasing the speed that my hand was moving.

Josh suddenly gasped. "Sam, if you don't stop now..." and then he gasped once more, moaned loud and long, and came all over my hand and the inside of his boxers.

He shifted so that he could look at me. "Now I'm the one who needs a shower and a change of clothes. We've got..." he looked at his watch "...20 minutes 'til dinner will be ready. Care to join me?"

Now, what kind of sane man can turn down _that_ sort of offer? Josh sat up, swung his legs around, stood up and looked at me expectantly. Being no fool, I followed suit, and we almost ran up the stairs, with Josh ignoring his state of partial undress. We were tearing off our clothes as we hit the bathroom door. Once he was completely naked, Josh went over to the tub and adjusted the water temperature while I finished undressing, and then we climbed into the shower. We washed each other for cleanliness, but it turned into something more when Josh started soaping up the fingers of his left hand. He turned me around so that my back was to him, and then he slowly worked one slick finger up inside of me.

"This is just a taste of things to come when we get home, love," he said. He worked his finger in and out of me, hitting the sweet spot inside me on every second pass. After only about a minute, I came all over the shower wall. Josh then turned me back around and washed me clean again. Then he turned off the water.

"C'mon...dinner will be ready in a sec." Stepping out of the shower, Josh grabbed a towel, wrapped it around his waist, and headed out of the bathroom. I was still standing in the shower stall, surprised that I had kept my balance through all that. I quickly grabbed my own towel, dried off, wrapped it around my waist, and headed after Josh. Hell, if he wasn't going to dress for dinner, why should I?

***

Saturday evening passed uneventfully. We spent a long time after dinner snuggling on the sofa and enjoying each other's company, and then eventually went to bed.

I woke up Sunday morning knowing we had to go back to DC but not really wanting to. I was half-afraid that, despite all Josh's assurances, we'd lose the closeness we'd found this weekend.

About 2 minutes after I woke up, I felt Josh stirring.

"Hey," he said, sleep still clouding his voice.

"Hey," I responded.

Josh rolled on top of me. "I love waking up with you," he said.

"I love it, too," I said. "We should figure out a way to do this more often."

"Wake up together or get away for the weekend?"

"Both, but especially the waking-up-together part." I paused. "Not that I don't want to get away with you more often, but what with our jobs..."

He nodded, which looked strange to me from his position above me, and I started to giggle.

"What, you think I'm funny? I'll give you something to laugh about," he said, and started to tickle me. Now, I am and have always been exceedingly ticklish, and can even be tickled remotely, so I began squirming. This just served to goad Josh further, and his tickling intensified. Since he had me basically pinned to the bed, I was at his mercy. The tickling went on for a few minutes, and then it changed - his fingers were suddenly caressing instead of tormenting.

"J...don't - we don't have time." I know that if we got started, we wouldn't get out of bed for a while, and we needed to get ready to head back to civilization and the real world.

"Ah, you never let me have any fun," he said, smiling.

"If we had more time, I'd let you have all the fun you wanted," I said.

"Is that a promise? 'Cause you know I'm going to hold you to it when we get home."

"Yeah, it's a promise." I felt comfortable making promises to Josh. He'd never demand anything I couldn't follow through with.

"You mean it? Free rein?" Now Josh had a feral look in his eye. I'd seen that look before, the night he first seduced me. It frightened me and tantalized me at the same time. But I'd promised, and Josh would never hurt me.

"Yes, free rein."

"Okay." Josh climbed off me and headed for the shower. When he returned and started to get dressed, I just lay there, watching him, and he noticed. He turned getting dressed into a reverse strip tease, which turned me on. He didn't fail to notice _that_, either.

Josh grinned at me. "Yeah, love, I know. But you said it yourself - we have to get moving if we're going to get back to DC before Leo and Toby have a combined conniption fit that would take an international incident to supersede. You remember how nuts they got about us being out of touch all weekend."

This "pagers only" weekend was great for us - and since no national or international crises came up, we weren't bothered - but our bosses had a fit when we told them we'd be essentially out of touch for almost 72 hours. Toby ranted at me for a good 10 minutes, but then he wished me a good weekend and wandered off with a look on his face that I couldn't quite interpret. As for Josh when he told Leo, from what he told me in the car, Leo was convinced that during the weekend, Canada was going to invade Wyoming, there would be 4 hurricanes - even though it wasn't really hurricane season yet -and we'd have a plague of locusts just for good measure. But finally Leo let Josh go, and Toby let me go, and off we went, but I knew they'd like to see us back. As, probably, would President Bartlet, whom Leo and Toby were most likely driving nuts.

So I understood Josh's point, but I didn't have to like it.

Finally, once Josh was completely dressed, I got out of bed and headed for the shower. The memory of our...encounter...here on Saturday was still fresh in my memory. But we had to get moving, so I couldn't dwell on it. I quickly showered, dressed, and joined Josh in the kitchen. He'd already packed up all the kitchen supplies while I was in the shower, so it wasn't long until we were ready to head back to DC.

The drive back was uneventful, if you don't count Josh's occasional strays from safe driving to stroke my leg...or higher. He kept me on-edge the whole way home, so I knew he had to be planning something. I wasn't sure what it was, but I had an idea that it had to do with his collecting on my promise to let him have all the fun he wanted.

Finally, he pulled up in front of my place. "Love, run in and drop your stuff off, if you want, but then come back, OK?" he asked me.

I had no plans for the day that didn't include Josh. "OK." I ran into my apartment just long enough to drop my luggage and make sure everything was still where I expected it to be, and then I went back out to the car.

Josh drove us to his place, and after I helped him unload the rest of the stuff from the trip, we - almost instantly - found ourselves in his bedroom. His hands and lips were everywhere. Josh was acting like a man who'd gone without for weeks rather than hours.

"I'm gonna make you scream," he whispered in my ear as he unceremoniously dispatched my shirt. "I'm gonna make you beg."

That sounded promising.

Sometimes, I think Josh is a magician - his sleight-of- hand astounds me. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but very soon I was standing stark naked at the foot of Josh's bed. He was still totally dressed. Sometimes I think he likes the power he feels from having me stripped bare in front of him.

My secret is that it turns me on, too.

On second thought, it is probably no secret to him, seeing how often he does it. And I was naked with a raging hard-on. But Josh was just getting started.

"Sam, you told me I'd have free rein, and I plan to take it, but if I do anything that makes you uncomfortable, please let me know, OK?"

I nodded.

Josh continued. "Other than that, then, I don't want you to speak."

I nodded, but I was confused. I'd wait to see what Josh had in store.

"OK. Now lie down. On your back."

I did as he asked. This was Josh in full Dictator mode, which was so amazingly sexy. He is usually such a soft- spoken man that when he gets dictatorial, it has so much more meaning.

Josh came over to the side of the bed and arranged the pillows under my head and shoulders so that I was half- sitting. I could see to the end of the bed, which is where he moved to stand.

"We're going to start with you pleasuring yourself, OK?"

I nodded, even more confused than before. I had thought that the point of this exercise was for Josh to do whatever he wanted to me, not for me to do whatever I wanted to me. That I could do on my own time.

But then Josh explained. "I enjoy watching you come, and I want to see exactly how you make yourself come, so that I can discover what pleasures you the most. Don't worry - I won't be an observer forever."

The thought of jacking off in front of Josh made me nervous and horny at the same time. The horny I was ready to deal with; the nervous might hurt my performance. But I was instructed not to say anything, so I couldn't protest.

Suddenly, Josh came back to my side of the bed. "Oops. Forgot something." He opened the drawer in the bedside table and pulled out a bottle of lotion. "You might want to use this. Not that you have to, but I wanted it to be available for you." Then he went back to his place at the end of the bed. He pulled out a chair from against the wall and sat.

"Begin whenever you're ready," he said.

So there I was, stark naked, stretched out for all the world - or at least Josh - to see, and I was expected to bring myself to orgasm. Hmm. An interesting prospect, to say the least. To begin with, I opened the bottle of lotion and took a sniff. Smelling nothing in particular, I poured some onto my right hand. I rubbed my palms together, both to grease both hands and to warm the lotion. Then I closed my eyes, in an attempt to center myself and to focus on me and not on my observer.

Starting the way I usually did, I slowly drew circles around my nipples, smaller and smaller until I was plucking at the tips. As I continued that with my left hand, I slowly drew my right hand down to grasp my cock. Alternating between stroking my shaft and running my fingers over my balls, I got into a rhythm that felt familiar. At first, I started with the visualization I usually use - that I've been using for years - Josh, standing naked in front of me, begging me to take him into my mouth. I could feel my breathing become shallower, quicker, as I got more and more aroused and got closer and closer to orgasm. Then I heard a voice.

"Open your eyes, love. I want to watch them as you come."

I opened my eyes. My imaginary Josh was nothing compared to the fully dressed but highly aroused man standing before me. I was holding back the moans that I wanted to release, as I had been instructed not to speak. Josh could tell.

"C'mon, love, make some noise for me. I know how you are. Make me hear how you feel."

I couldn't hold back much longer. Moaning for all I was worth, I increased the speed of my hands, both on my nipples and on my cock and balls. Just as I was about to come, I locked eyes with Josh. With a final moan and a gasp, I came all over my hand. I was almost sobbing from pleasure at the end. Being watched made the experience so much more intense.

Josh walked out of the bedroom for a minute, then came back with a wet washcloth. He took my hand away from my cock and started to clean me off. He then began to whisper to me.

"That was beautiful, love. I love watching you pleasure yourself. You are so magnificent." Over and over he repeated this, all the while cleaning me and kissing me. When he finished, he put the cloth to the side.

"Thank you," he said. "Thank you for letting go enough to let me see that."

Then he started removing his clothes. When he was totally naked, he climbed onto the bed, and then on top of me. Aligning his body with mine, he kissed me almost chastely.

"I'm still gonna make you scream," he whispered. "Here are the rules. I am going to work my way down your body, with you letting me know where you want to be touched. You can only tell me using moans and sighs. No words."

With that, he began. Josh running his hands across my chest made me moan softly, which he took as minor encouragement. He tongued my nipples, which made me moan louder. Then he moved off them, and I whined. I guess this is what he meant when he said he was going to make me beg. After a couple of seconds, though, he took pity on me. He took my left nipple between his teeth and sucked gently, then did the same with the right.

They probably heard my moan in Silver Spring.

Working his way down my torso to the sound of my moans, he found all my sensitive spots again. His tongue blazed a path that his hands then followed, until he reached my inner thighs. He nipped me lightly on my left thigh while his hands played with my cock.

That moan was most likely heard in Baltimore.

But then he stopped again.

"Love?" he asked in a tentative voice, one that I rarely heard from my take-charge lover.

I nodded, still under the "don't speak" rule.

"Do you trust me? I mean _really_ trust me?"

This was it. This was my big test in Josh's eyes. This is what this whole weekend had been leading up to - did I trust him really, truly, with all my heart.

I nodded again, with some fear of what my "yes" would cause to happen, but it was true - I did trust him implicitly, and I needed to prove it to him.

I think he saw the apprehension in my eyes, 'cause he smiled. "Don't worry, love. It won't hurt."

Josh got up from the bed and went to the closet. From the back of the closet, he grabbed a small duffel bag. Bringing it back to the bed, he unzipped it.

"OK...I'd like to try something I've never done before with you. But I want to make something clear: If I do anything you are uncomfortable with, speak up. Don't let me do things just because you think they make me happy. And I mean speak - that is the one thing you can speak for, and 'no' will be taken as 'no.' I promise you that."

And with that, he began extracting things from the bag. First out were four white scarves. He put them to the side. Then he drew out a black scrap of silk.

"Last chance...you really OK with this?"

Still not sure what "this" was, but trusting Josh with my life, I nodded again.

"OK, sit up slightly." When I did, Josh grabbed the black silk and tied it around my eyes as a blindfold. It was strange being totally naked and blind, but it was exciting.

I heard Josh moving around again, and then he grabbed my left hand. Pulling gently on my hand, he angled my arm so that it was spread out and above my head. He maneuvered me into the center of the bed, and then I felt him wrap something that I assumed was one of the scarves around my wrist. It wasn't very tight, and if I tried hard enough, I could probably get loose pretty quickly. But this was Josh's show, and I'd comply with his wishes.

The stretching and tying continued until I was in a four- point hold, spread-eagled on the bed.

It was probably the most erotic thing I'd ever experienced in my life.

"You still with me?" Josh's voice came to me from my right side, and it sounded like he was down near the bottom of my ribcage.

I nodded yet again.

I felt Josh running his fingers along the bottom of my ribcage, then further down. Just feeling and not seeing him was exciting me beyond belief. I was already steel-hard, and Josh was just warming up. He trailed his fingers all over my body, dipping between my legs periodically just to hear me moan. Then he stopped, and I felt his weight shift on the bed.

The next thing I felt was Josh's warm mouth engulfing my cock. He took me almost all the way down his throat and sucked gently. It didn't take long before I was moaning and tears were running down my cheeks and down past the edge of the blindfold.

Josh paused for a sec. "It won't be long now, love." He changed tactics, licking my shaft and balls and then taking the head of my cock back into his mouth. He lightly tongued my weeping slit, tasting the precum.

With one of his hands circling my shaft, he slowly worked two suddenly slippery fingers of the other hand into me. The multiple-front assault was too much for me.

Screaming his name at the top of my lungs, I came.

I think I blacked out for a sec, 'cause the next thing I remember, Josh was freeing my hands and feet, and then he removed my blindfold. He climbed into bed with me, and I wrapped my totally depleted body around his.

"Hey, J?" I whispered.

"Yeah?"

"Did I pass?"

"With flying colors, my love."

We lay there for a few minutes, and I could hear his breathing slow. I had another thought.

"J?" I asked again.

"Yeah, love," he said sleepily.

"You'll never leave me again, right?"

"Never, my love. Never. I promise."

---END---

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