TITLE: On Account of Rain
AUTHOR: Julian Lee
EMAIL: thwarted1066@yahoo.com
URL: http://www.geocities.com/thwarted1066/index.html
CATEGORY: Sam/will
RATING: PG-13
ARCHIVE: Anyone who wants it may have it. Please just tell me where.
DISCLAIMER: I own none of these characters. They like me better, but they're not mine.
SUMMARY: You win some; you lose some; and some are called on account of rain.
NOTES: This is my response to the Bordello's "happy couple fic" challenge. Thanks to Shoshanna for the very cool beta. It's dedicated to everyone who loves Will Bailey, but especially Shoshanna, Perpet, and Nomi.

*

On Account of Rain by Julian Lee

"Will."

Will looked up, a small smile curling his lips. He couldn't stop it. Even after four months in the West Wing, he still smiled when the other Senior Staffers called him by the right name. "Hey, Josh."

Josh returned the smile, much more broadly. He stretched his arms up, curling his fingers around the top of the doorframe. "How's the thing coming?" He gestured at the papers surrounding Will.

"Pretty well," Will said, nodding. "I've written worse."

Josh dropped his arms, taking a step beyond the mysterious line into the office that only Toby and Ginger usually consented to cross. "You do understand that this is an address to be given--"

"By the President of the United States to the United Nations Security Council? Yes, I think I've kind of caught on to that by now."

"You sure about that?" Josh spun his toe as though crushing an imaginary cockroach. "'Cause the way you're talking is like--"

"Like I'm writing a speech for the Hyannisport Toastmasters? I do that so I don't go into nervous shock about the President of the United States part."

"Okay." Josh nodded. "That's fair. But listen, you gotta stop..." He waved his hand in a tight circle.

"Finishing your sentences?"

"Yeah. That. Totally." He grinned and dropped into the visitor's chair. "May I?"

Will gestured towards the chair. "Please do."

Josh laced his fingers behind his head. "So, I'm having dinner with Sam tonight."

Slowly, Will returned the page he'd been reading to the pile. He clicked the cartridge back into his pen and slid it into his shirt pocket. "You...what?"

"Dinner at Sam's." Josh smirked. "Yeah, I know you two got to know each other a little in California, but he's pretty much my best friend, and he's invited me over to have dinner with him tonight."

"I know," Will blurted.

Josh blinked. "You know?" That might've been a frown. "How do you know?"

"Sam told me."

"Oh." Josh's hands dropped into his lap. "I didn't know you two were still in touch."

Will pushed his up glasses. "Sometimes."

"Okay. Great. But, anyway, I'm going over there, and I was wondering if you had any messages for him."

"If I--" Will pushed up his glasses again, fiddled with their positioning. "If I have any messages for Sam."

"Yeah. I'm going around, collecting messages. Like, CJ says--" A disarming grin dimpled Josh's face. "Well, never mind what CJ says, but you get the idea."

Will smiled tightly. "I do. And I appreciate you thinking of me."

"Hey, you're on the team now." Josh waited. Will just stared at him. "So...you have anything?"

"For Sam? No."

"Nothing? Not even, 'Will says hi'?"

"Nope."

"Not even if you come up in conversation?"

Will's hand drifted towards his glasses again, but he yanked it back. "Would I?"

Josh shrugged. "Maybe. You know, if Sam says, 'How's Will doing?' I could say, 'He's fine, and by the way, he says hi.' Something like that."

"*Would* you say that?" Will's eyebrows arched.

"Probably not." Josh stood. "No messages?"

"No messages." Will shook his head. "Thanks, Josh."

"No problem." And he was gone, hollering for Donna, already half-way to his office. Will pinched the bridge of his nose and reached for his phone.

"How's the second section?" Toby was hovering in the doorway.

Will released the phone. "Much better. You want to read it?"

"Is it done?" He had a pile of small somethings - peanuts, maybe - cupped in his palm.

"Not yet."

"Then, nope." Toby popped some of the maybe peanuts into his mouth and shuffled away.

Will reached for his phone again.

"Josh is having dinner at Sam's tonight." Toby was back.

Will nodded with utterly faked enthusiasm. "He just came through collecting messages."

"You have any?"

Will swept his hand out, palm out. "Not really."

"Yeah? Nothing?"

"Nothing came to mind. Why?"

"No. Nothing." Toby shook his head. "It's just - Sam got you this job."

"For which I am eternally grateful."

"You should think about maybe having a message for him." And off he went.

Will gritted his teeth and wished he was the kind of man who threw things, or broke things. He could swear in a dozen languages, but that didn't have the same *oomph* as really letting some inanimate object have it. Unfortunately, there had been only one temper allowed in the Bailey household, and it hadn't been his. He reached for his phone and finally dialed the number.

"Congressman Seaborn's office; this is Cathy."

When Sam came back to Washington, he'd tried to sneak Ginger out of the West Wing, but Bonnie had raised such an unholy clamor about the impossibility of dealing with Toby alone - and no one else, out of eleven hundred employees in the White House, was willing to transfer to Communications - that he'd been forced to drop it. Instead, he'd hunted down Cathy and lured her away from the Department of Weights and Measures. He hadn't had to lure very hard.

"Cathy, it's Will Bailey. Is the Congressman available?" Always 'the Congressman' here. Always the picture of propriety. Will was pretty sure all that propriety was eating a hole in his stomach lining.

"Hi, Will!" Thank God for Cathy. Cathy liked him. "He's here, but he's in a meeting."

"I'll hold."

"Are you sure? He's probably going to be a while. I can put you into his voicemail."

"I'll hold."

Five minutes later, Will had amassed the largest pile of rubber bands of any desk in the White House, and he was still holding. Ten minutes later, Toby had passed his office door twice, and Will was still holding. He had given Toby a 'what're you gonna do?' gesture both times. Let him think Will was holding for State or one of Hoynes's people. No way in hell he was letting go of this phone. Will believed in government accountability, and Congress Seaborn had a reckoning headed his way.

At fourteen minutes and thirty-one seconds, he heard a soft click followed by a worried, "Will?"

Will's chair nearly went over backwards as he scrambled to get his indignation back in order. "Sam."

"Have you been holding this whole time?"

"I have nothing *but* time, Sam. I have all the time in the world."

"You have an address to the Security Council to write."

"Not right now. Right now, all I have to do is talk to you."

"O-kay." Will pictured the frown crossing Sam's smooth forehead. "What are we talking about?"

"Josh was in the office a bit ago."

"Yeah. That'll happen sometimes. What did he want?"

"Apparently, he's having dinner at your place tonight." Will picked up one of his rubber bands.

"Of course. I know that. So do you."

"Josh is a pretty thoughtful guy. He wanted to know if I had any messages for you."

"Oh." Sam's voice had grown very small.

"I couldn't think of any." The rubber band twisted around Will's fingers.

"Okay, Will, listen--"

"You didn't tell him, Sam!" With an accusatory *zzzt,* the rubber band flew across the office, plinging against the front window and slithering to the floor.

"I've been meaning to." From the tone of his voice, Sam didn't believe that any more than Will did.

"When, Sam? When he showed up at the door tonight?"

Sam sighed. "He's my best friend."

Will snorted. "Funny, he said the same thing. But I have to wonder what kind of best friend you can't tell something this basic."

"I'm not sure he's going to understand."

Will pinched the bridge of his nose again. He really needed to get his glasses looked at. "Do you not want me there tonight? I could stay home."

"No!" To his credit, Sam sounded appalled by the suggestion. "God, no. I need you here tonight, Will. Please."

Will sighed, feeling not enough of the tension drain from his body. "What time is he coming?"

"Eight."

"I'll try to be there by seven-thirty. It's been a light day."

"Thank you, Will."

"Yeah."

"And listen, Will--"

Will curled the phone cord violently around his fingers. "Forget it, Sam."

"All right. I'll see you tonight."

"Right." They hung up. Will went back to his notes and burned through three more paragraphs in the next fifteen minutes.

(~(~)~)

Three extra paragraphs put Will and Toby over the edge for the second section, and at six-thirty, Toby told him to go home.

"Are you sure?" Will blinked owlishly at him from the depths of the couch. "We could start section three, get a jump on tomorrow's--"

"While I have no trouble believing that you have no life," Toby cut him off, "I do, and I'm going home. You work for me now, so you're going home, too."

"Okay. Right." Will heaved himself off the couch, drumming his fingers on the back of his notepad. "Right."

Toby pointed out the office door. "*Home,* Bailey."

"Okay." Will turned towards the door. "Uh, tell Congresswoman Wyatt hello for me."

"Does she know you?"

Will shrugged. "We've met once or twice."

"No message for Sam," Toby grumbled as Will went back to his office, "but for a woman he barely knows..."

Will was halfway back to Toby's office before he remembered why he couldn't say what was on the tip of his tongue. Swallowing it with another mouthful of stomach-eating acid, he packed up his gear and walked to his car.

Behind the wheel of what was, in all likelihood, the only vehicle in the Beltway that met California emissions standards, Will wrapped his arms around the steering wheel and rested his forehead against his hands. He could be in Nice right now. He could be swimming, and taking long walks in the vineyards, and having a lot of sex with the dissolute youngest son of France's fourteenth richest man. Screw Toby; screw Josh; screw Sam, even. There was one more flight from National to Schinpol tonight; he could be on it and make the connection to De Gaulle in the morning.

He pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket and dialed Sam's home number. "I'll be there in twenty."

(~(~)~)

Sam greeted Will with the kind of kiss that makes a man forget his name - and pretty much everything else. His shoulders pressed against the apartment door, his hands splayed across Sam's back, his tongue relearning every plane of Sam's mouth, Will remembered why Nice had never really been an option.

"I'm sorry," Sam whispered, his thumb stroking Will's cheek.

"Me, too." Will caught Sam's hand and pressed a kiss to his wrist. "Cease-fire?"

Sam laughed and disentangled himself from Will's grasp. "I can't believe I find that endearing."

Following as Sam crossed to the kitchen, Will asked, "What?"

"You don't seem to see much difference between a relationship and a war."

"I'm Tom Bailey's son," Will returned, shrugging. "I don't see much difference between anything and a war." Standing in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, Will breathed in the warm kitchen smells. "What are you making?"

"Swordfish Béarnaise."

"Elsie's recipe?"

Sam nodded and lifted the lid of something that was bubbling happily on the back of the range. "It was so good when she made it for us that I asked her for the recipe. Thought I'd try it out."

Reaching over Sam's shoulder, Will snagged a kale leaf from the pot on the back burner. Sam smacked the back of his hand lightly. He took the leaf anyway.

Sam shook his head in amused exasperation. "Anything interesting going on at work?"

Sighing, Will hopped up on the island counter. "Nothing much. Toby has a stick up his ass."

Sam laughed and turned to face him, leaning his hip against the oven handle, stirring idly. "That's not a stick, Will. That's his head."

That got Will laughing so hard he nearly went crashing to the floor. Sam looked like he was about to say something when the timer on the microwave started beeping. "What's that?" Will asked.

"The kale. I had to do it first while I still had burner space." Sam fixed a menacing glare on the other man. "Keep away."

"I want to help."

"You can help by staying away."

Will sighed melodramatically as Sam drained the kale and moved it to the warming pan. "Now what?"

Grinning slyly, Sam moved the last ingredients of the béarnaise to another small pan and stuck it on the only free burner. "Now we have forty-five minutes until the sauce is done and an hour until Josh is supposed to get here."

"Yeah?" Will reached out and tugged gently at Sam's nearest belt loop, pulling him away from the stove. Sam let himself be pulled and ended up standing between Will's legs.

"Yeah." Sam's fingertip trace a lazy circle around the top button of Will's shirt. "I think we might be able to find something to do with ourselves."

Will drew Sam in for another hungry kiss. "I'm open to any ideas you have."

Making love to Sam continued to be a revelation for Will. That he, William Bailey, last son of hyper-masculine Tom Bailey, could fall into a relationship with another man and not count himself any less a man, was not a possibility he had ever considered. He knew who and what he was, and he had simply accepted that this made him weak.

But then Sam had swept into his life, and Sam was one of the strongest people Will had ever met. After a lifetime of generals and dictators, Will couldn't help but be awed by a man who carried his strength in his eyes and his words, rather than in his fists and his guns. And then one day Sam had laughed at one of Elsie's lame puns, and Will had looked at Sam across the mattress walls of Horton Wilde's campaign headquarters and realized that awe had given way to something else entirely. He'd sighed and thought, 'Back to being my father's disappointment.'

There had been these decades of self-loathing to overcome, but California had blessed Sam with the relentlessness of the waves that battered its coast. Sam was who he was, and he refused to apologize for a thing. And slowly, he had made Will believe. Sam made him strong. Stronger than he'd imagined possible. Sometimes he wondered if the men and women of the California 47th knew just how great a leader they'd chosen to follow.

Well, obviously they would never know how great he was at *this,* Will thought as Sam's fingers moved on to unbuttoning the shirt. His lips followed behind, dropping kisses along Will's chest, and Will slid his hands around the waistband of Sam's pants to the zipper. He ran his knuckles down the placket, and Sam hissed, dizzying Will as the sharp, hot breath exploded against his stomach.

Sam straightened, his blue eyes glassy. "Not in the kitchen."

Grasping Sam's waistband firmly, Will slid off the counter and dragged him into the living room. "I've always loved your couch."

"Couch!" Sam yelped as Will pushed him down on it. "Wait, Will - hang on--"

Climbing up to straddle Sam's hips, Will slid very slowly down Sam's body until their erections aligned. Even through several layers of fabric the sensation was almost excruciating. He planted his hands on either side of Sam's head and grinned down at him. "You were saying?"

Sam reached up and threaded his fingers through the hair at the nape of Will's neck, drawing him down for a kiss. "I have no idea."

The next time Will was aware of anything besides Sam's body and the things it could do, something in the kitchen was beeping, the sun had moved to the far corner of the apartment, and he and Sam were in complete disarray - and mostly naked. He raised his head from the crook of Sam's neck and looked around. "Beeping."

Sam's hand stroked slowly down Will's back. "Huh?"

"Something in the kitchen is beeping."

"Oh." Sam looked thoughtful. Then he leapt off the couch, barely avoiding dumping Will on the floor. "The swordfish!" Struggling to return his pants to their rightful position, he smiled at Will. "We're a mess. I'll take care of the food. You - shower, change, something."

Will reached up and caught his hand. "Join me?"

Sam bent to kiss him. "No time."

Will checked his watch. Twenty minutes to Josh. "Shit!" He scrambled to his feet, almost crashing down when his feet got tangled in his pants. He ignored Sam's laugh as they parted ways.

Fifteen minutes later, Will stood staring into Sam's bedroom closet; what did you wear for dinner with a co-worker who you were pretty sure had designs on your boyfriend? He wondered if Sam had any idea how much of Will's wardrobe now lived here.

"Wear the red pullover," Sam called as he shut off the shower.

Will searched for the shirt. He'd never worn it much until Sam found it in his closet and asked why he'd never seen Will in it. Now it was one of his favorites. As he slipped it on with the khaki slacks that seemed least likely to get up and walk away on their own (when did the rest of the senior staff find time to do laundry?), Sam emerged from the bathroom half-dry and half-naked. Will's eyes glazed as he tugged on the towel wrapped around Sam's hips.

Sam laughed and accepted a kiss but slapped Will's hand away when it started to wander. "No time. Josh in five." Will checked his watch and yelped when it confirmed Sam's words. Well, that killed any desire he'd had to start something. Sam chuckled. "Calm down. We're almost ready, and he's bound to be late. He's never been on time for anything in the fifteen years I've known him; why would he start now?"

Will was setting the table when the knock on the door came. So much for the infamous Lyman tardiness. "Sam?" he called. "Josh is here."

There was a crash in the kitchen. "Oh, crap."

"Sam? Are you all right in there?"

"Um...basically."

"Need any help?"

Josh knocked again.

"Go let Josh in, would you?"

The fork in Will's hand plummeted to the floor. "I can't let him in!"

"Well, I'm kind of - I really can't get to the door just now."

"He doesn't even know I'm here!"

"Sam?" Josh called anxiously from the hall. "You in there?"

"Will, please?"

"All right, I'm going." Will picked up the fork and put it at Josh's place. "But you owe me so big," he muttered as he crossed the living room. At the door he paused, taking a deep breath in a hopeless effort to calm himself. He opened the door. "Hi, Josh."

Josh's brown eyes widened, and the broad smile on his lips slipped right off. Will could almost hear the crack when it hit the floor. "Will?"

"Come in." Will held the door wider.

"Um, I might be in the wrong place."

Laughing, Will held out his hand. "You're not. I'll take that cake."

"I'm looking for Sam."

"He's in the kitchen."

Josh leaned back and checked the apartment number on the wall beside the door. "I'm having dinner with Sam."

"Yeah, he went to war with the béarnaise, I think." He wriggled his fingers. "I really can hold the cake."

Josh handed Will the box and came into the apartment, shaking his arms out of his dark jacket. "Sam didn't tell me he was having other dinner guests tonight." His voice was tight.

"Sam's pretty busy; things slip his mind sometimes." Will's voice was even tighter.

"You didn't mention you were going to be here."

"I think it's Sam's thing to tell."

"There's a thing?" Josh clearly had no idea what Will was talking about. "Sam's got a thing to tell?"

Sam arrived from the kitchen in a flurry. "Josh!"

Josh beamed. "Hey, partner!" He bounded across the living room and wrapped his arms around Sam. "Lookin' good."

Sam blushed and murmured something Will couldn't hear but was probably self-deprecating. Will released the door with more force than necessary. It slammed shut accusingly, and Sam jumped out of Josh's embrace.

"Josh brought cake," Will said.

Looking over, Sam all but cheered. "German chocolate!"

"I know your weaknesses," Josh said, winking at Sam.

"Yeah, well, right now my weakness is the sauce that tried to overtake the kitchen. So, um, hang out with Will for a minute, and I'll let you know when dinner's been subdued."

Will took a step towards him. "Is everything okay?"

"It will be." Sam smiled reassuringly at him. "I've got it."

"All right."

Will and Josh watched Sam go. Will thought he heard Josh sigh.

"Hey, do you want a drink?" Will moved to the liquor cabinet. "Sam's going to be a bit. That's an ornery sauce."

"Yeah." Josh dragged a hand through his hair. "Sure."

"There are martinis. Want a martini?"

"Okay. Wait. There are just...martinis? Sitting around?"

"Yeah." Will handed him a glass and turned back to the cabinet. "Why not?"

"Nothing. It just doesn't seem like Sam's kind of thing."

Shrugging, Will turned, drink in hand, and headed for the far end of the couch, closest to the door. His spot. The spot he'd clung to in the early days of the relationship, waiting for the for the moment Sam came to his senses and tossed him out on his ass. Close to the door, to minimize the humiliation of the exit he had only recently begun to believe he wouldn't have to make. Sam had been the first to call it 'Will's spot;' before then, Will hadn't realized how loathe he'd been to sit anywhere else.

Josh was in his spot.

Will checked his step smoothly and headed for the armchair beside the couch.

"I'm sorry; I'm in your spot." Josh started to stand.

"Don't be silly," Will said, half-standing himself to wave the other man down. "I don't have a 'spot.'" They returned to their seats, clutching their martinis more than drinking them, staring at their shoes, and listening to Sam swearing at dinner.

"Should we, maybe, try to help him?" Josh ventured.

"No way." Will shook his head vehemently. "I tried that once. My hand smarted for a week."

"He's had you over before?"

Will's teeth ground against each other. "A few times."

"I didn't know." They stared at their shoes some more. Then, for kicks, they tried staring at each other's shoes for a while. Josh smirked at Will. "You're not so good with the small-talk thing."

"Ah, no," Will admitted. There was a small, clunky silence. "You understand," he rushed on, "that I grew up with generals and admirals and the heads of state of NATO member countries. I can talk with the commander of the UN forces or the Prime Minister of Israel, but friends and friends of friends are not my area of expertise. On top of which, I have no idea what you expected when Sam invited you to dinner tonight, but I'd lay even money that it wasn't me, and that's not fair to any of us, and I wanted you to know that I feel bad about it."

"Why would you feel bad about Sam inviting us to dinner?"

Will didn't really hear him. "I feel bad, but I'm not apologizing. I want to be clear that I refuse to apologize for anything that happens here tonight, as I am responsible neither for Sam's unwillingness to confide certain aspects of his life to you nor his inability to make a béarnaise without destroying half the apartment - Sam, what are you doing in there?"

Sam appeared in the doorway between the two rooms, looking like he'd conquered the world's mightiest army. "Done!" he said, addressing the far end of the couch. "Tell your sister that hers is a sauce of ill repute."

Josh blanched, and a swallow's worth of his martini sloshed over the side of his glass. "*My* sister?"

Sam's hand rose to his mouth. "Oh, God, Josh, I'm sorry. I just - I saw someone in Will's spot, and I - no. I'm sorry." He looked at Will. "Your sister, of course."

Will hadn't known Josh had a sister. He nodded. "I will tell her of the perfidy of her sauce."

With a small laugh, Sam perched on the arm of Will's chair. He took the martini glass and sipped calmly. "So, Josh, welcome to our domestic farce," he said, returning the glass.

The color that had started to return to Josh's face drained away again. "Um, yeah." He swallowed. "Is - did you get dinner rescued?"

Will snickered, and Sam threw him a glare without malice. "It wasn't as dire as all that," he insisted, leaning into the back of the chair. "Okay, maybe I should've consulted the master before I undertook it, but I thought I'd understood her directions the first time."

"That's a family trick," Will said. He offered the glass again. "You were being tested."

Sam finished the martini. "Did I pass?"

"We'll find out when we eat the thing." Will grinned.

Sam's forehead creased as he looked at Josh, who was staring at them with a frown Will wasn't even going to try to sort out. "Josh, what's wrong?"

"You never said a word," Josh said, his voice choked. "Either of you."

Sam looked at Will, who returned the gaze with his heart in his throat. Everything was in Sam's hands now.

"You never asked," Sam returned quietly.

A timer in the kitchen chided them shrilly. Sam squeezed Will's shoulder and stood. "Dinner's ready for real this time."

And if Will had been party to a more uncomfortable social gathering, he couldn't remember it. He recalled dinners at the mansion, retreats at Camp David, summits at Yalta - days when nations were failing miserably at the job of not going to war, days when leaders knew that within hours their armies would be killing each other in the streets - and they had been more cordial to each other than Josh was at that table. He acted as if Sam had plunged a carving knife into his back, and the stare he gave Will promised that olives and bicycles were the least of his concerns around the West Wing from here out. Will would've thrown him out, would've taken enormous pleasure in punching the indignant scowl off his face, had he not looked infinitely more disgusted with himself than with either of them.

After the swordfish béarnaise, which you'd never have guessed had almost died an ugly death on the range, and after Josh's elegant and obviously store-bought cake, Sam went back into the kitchen to start the dishes. He and Will were still arguing about this particular domestic detail, so both of the other men followed to offer a hand. But when Will saw the look Josh was giving Sam, the kind that got caught in your throat and made your stomach flutter, he excused himself, muttering something vague about section three, in case Sam felt the need to return that look. Will would concede the game, if need be. It would hurt - oh, God, it would reach in and yank his heart out - but he'd do it, because he loved Sam enough to get out of his way.

Less than ten minutes later, Josh barreled out of the kitchen with his mouth set in a tight line. "I have to go now."

Will looked up from his laptop, blinking fast. "Oh. Okay. I'll get your jacket." He walked to the coat closet and wasn't surprised when Josh followed right behind him. "Are you sure you can't stay longer?" Will asked. "Sam sees you so infrequently, I know he'd love it if you stuck around. He might even make you some of that weird tea I can't stand."

Josh made a sound that was either a snort or a humorless laugh. "I have to go."

Will handed over the jacket. "Thanks for coming. It means so much to Sam to see you guys now that he's out of the White House. It means a lot to me, too; I barely know you outside of work."

"You're right," Josh said.

Will kept his gaze up, meeting Josh's eyes - and his challenge. "You know where to find me," he said softly.

Josh nodded.

"Thank you for coming, Josh."

Zipping up his jacket, Josh sighed. "Thank you for having me, Will. See you tomorrow." Will held open the door, and Josh slipped out of the apartment.

Without turning, Will knew that Sam had come into the living room. "Well," he said as he let the door close, "that was fun."

"He's so mad at me."

Will turned to stare at Sam, leaning heavily against the archway between living room and kitchen. "Mad at you?"

"I thought for sure..." A grimace of disappointment - of betrayal, almost - crossed Sam's face. "He's so good on gay issues. I guess it's different when it's your best friend."

"Sam--" Stunned, Will crossed the living room and took Sam's hands between his. "You - he's not mad at you."

"You should've seen his face when he asked how long we've been together. And maybe he was angry with me for not telling him sooner, but--"

"Sam," Will interrupted firmly, squeezing his hands, "he's not mad at you. Mad at me, probably; mad at himself, definitely, but not you. Never you."

Sam blinked in confusion. "Why on Earth would he be mad at you? He barely knows you - and I told him to cut the crap at work. I told him that you are a good man, an excellent strategist and analyst, and a damned gifted writer, and that if he and Toby and Leo can't appreciate your talents and treat you with the respect you deserve, that I'll steal you, because my staff certainly can."

Will swallowed a sigh. Sam might just have worsened his work situation by ordering Josh to be nice to him. But it was a sign of Sam's forthright attitude, his belief in the inherent honesty of people's dealings with each other, that he truly believed he was helping, and Will loved him all the more for it.

And Will did love him. There was no question of that.

"He doesn't need to know me to be angry about this. All he needs to know is that I'm not him."

"Not him? Will, what are you - oh." Sam's expression caved in on itself. He pulled his hands away and returned to the kitchen, sinking onto a bar stool. "You don't really think he - no. No, Josh doesn't think of me that way." He smiled ruefully. "I checked."

"Sam, think about it," Will said, following him into the kitchen and leaning beside him against the counter. "Circumstances and Josh's overdeveloped sense of self-preservation have always kept him from taking this risk. But now you're not working together anymore, and he feels like that's made it safe for him."

"Yeah, but now I'm an elected representative of the California 47th." Sam's face was grim.

"Love isn't logical, Sam."

Sam snorted. "Tell me about it."

Will took a deep breath. "Do you love him, Sam?"

Sam looked down at his hands, pale against the midnight blue marble of the counter-top. Will was grateful that Sam thought enough of him not to jump to an automatic denial that neither of them would've believed. "I did. When we first met, God, did I ever. He came back to New York to get me, and I swear it was the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for me; he was like a dripping-wet knight charging up to rescue me. I broke it off with Lisa to go with him, but he was completely hands-off. Then there was Mandy, and then we were in the White House, and I...I stopped hoping he would come around."

"But now he has." Will desperately wanted to take Sam's hands again, but Sam had to do this without interference. "And you didn't answer my question."

With a grimace, Sam said, "I guess the most honest answer I can give you is that some part of me will always--" He stopped and stared at Will, an astonished smiled breaking over his face. "No. You know what? That's the coward's way out."

Will's mouth was sere as the desert. Sam was no coward. He would never lie to spare someone's feelings; never sacrifice integrity for stability.

"'Part of me will always love him,'" Sam said, shaking his head incredulously. "That's what I think I ought to say because it's logical. It's believable. But here's the thing: I don't love Josh anymore, and I have to trust you enough to know that you'll believe me."

Will could only stare. He was still standing. What was even better, he still had Sam. And he believed him. "I guess fifteen years is too long to hold onto something like that."

"In this town, fifteen years is no time at all to hold onto anything," Sam retorted, smiling. "But as it turns out, I'm in love with you."

Will fought, but he knew he was doomed. This conversation was every relationship cliché in the book, and he was smiling like every clichéd idiot. They both should be ashamed of themselves.

But looking into Sam's sparkling blue eyes, he couldn't find the indignation. "I'm glad to hear that," he said.

Sam grinned. "I figured you might be." Leaning over, Sam kissed him warmly, his breath sending an unshakable reassurance spreading through Will. Sam loved him. He loved Sam.

And Josh could just deal with it.

(~(~)~)

Josh showed up at Will's office door with a grease-spotted paper sack in hand. "Interested in lunch?"

Will looked at the clock on his desk. It was three o'clock, and he hadn't noticed. Then he looked back at Josh. It was just now occurring to him that Josh Lyman was offering him lunch. "What did you have in mind?"

Holding out the bag, Josh said, "The best meatball sub in D.C." Then he snatched the bag back. "Unless - you're not a vegetarian, are you? I know a lot of you California types are...that way."

"'That way'?" Will raised an eyebrow.

"You know." Josh shrugged. "Hippies."

"Ah. Yes." Will nodded sagely. "We are, indeed. However, you may recall that I hail from Orange County. Give me the sub."

Laughing softly, Josh came in and dropped into the visitor's chair. As they unwrapped the thick paper around their sandwiches, Josh sighed. "So."

Will nodded as he chewed. "Yes, indeed."

"Some night last night."

"Pretty crazy."

For a long moment, there was only the quiet sounds of chewing and swallowing. Then Josh put his sub carefully on the corner of the desk. "I left abruptly. I feel bad about that."

Will shrugged. "Sam understood."

Josh wiped at the corner of his mouth with a napkin shot through with wrinkles. He must've been clenching it very tightly. Pointing to Will's computer, he asked, "Is that the third section?"

"Yeah. It's pretty rough around the edges, and the middle - well, let's just say that the seventh and eighth paragraphs would best be helped by sticking them in cement shoes and tossing them in the Potomac."

Josh held out his hand. "May I?"

"What? Oh, yeah. Sure." Will turned the laptop so Josh could read it.

"That's good," Josh said eventually. "That's incredibly good, Will. Except the seventh and eighth paragraphs."

"We're working on it."

"Still, it's damned well written." He turned the computer back. "Sam was right about you."

"I'm sorry he yelled at you."

"Oh, that. He was right about that, too. But he didn't need to say it. He was just...right about you."

Will felt the blush creeping up his neck and into his face, and he stared at his keyboard, resolutely refusing to speak.

Josh grinned, pushing to his feet. "I have to get back to work."

"Yeah. Me, too." Will looked up. "Thanks for lunch, Josh."

"No problem. We have to watch out for each other. This place can eat you alive. Thanks again for dinner last night."

"It was our pleasure," Will responded automatically. Josh winced, but Will couldn't take it back. And wouldn't.

With a nod, Josh tapped his fingers along the edge of the door. "Right. Have a good afternoon, Will." He wandered towards his office.

Will picked up his phone and dialed. "Hi, Cathy, it's Will Bailey. Can I leave a message for the Congressman?"

"He's on a call, but he should be off in a minute, if you want to hold."

"No, that's okay. A message is fine."

A pink rubber ball careened off the glass. Leaning across his desk, the phone tucked between shoulder and ear, Will held up his index finger. Toby glowered, but the ball did not hit again.

"What's the message?" Cathy asked.

"Tell him Josh brought me lunch. I think the freeze is almost over."

Will was smiling as he hung up. He was sure of Sam. What was more, for the first time since he came to the White House, he was sure of himself. Rolling his chair back and rising, Will grabbed his notepad and went to see what Toby wanted.

END

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