Title: Out of Order
Author: Candle Beck
Email: meansdynamite@yahoo.com
Pairing: Josh/Sam
Rating: PG
Spoilers: All the way up through Sam leaving.
Archive: Go nuts, let me know.
Disclaimer: Characters herein depicted belong to Aaron Sorkin, Rob Lowe and Bradley Whitford. No money is being made off this story.
Feedback: By all means.
Summary: Still hearing your voice in the night.

Out of Order by Candle Beck

Josh said, "I've found the real thing, Sam."

Josh said, "We're going to do this, we're going to do this right," and Sam didn't know if he was talking about the campaign or the heat of Sam's hand low on Josh's back, the way one of them was a fuse and the other a match, no way to tell which was which.

Josh said, "I had an older sister," standing at a hotel room window in San Diego watching the sun go down, his battered, tragic eyes turned away from Sam, and the line of Josh's shoulders was straight and steady, a bridge that connected the ocean and the shore, the sky and the earth, the day and the night, the past and the future.

Josh said, "It hurts sometimes at night. It feels like I'm missing something there. Like my heart was broken," with his hand on his chest, his eyes pulled down and moving like a cyclone of shadows.

Josh said, "We won, I can't believe we won!" his voice leaping young, his face alight, his grin a reckless, giddily joyous thing, his hand slamming down over and over again on Sam's shoulder, grabbing hold of him and shaking him, too excited to keep either of them still, his exuberance wondrous and contagious, and Sam was surprised, because they had done it right after all.

Josh said, "You're leaving me all alone to run off and lose a congressional election, yeah, that makes me feel real good," trying to joke, but his words were weak and falling broken like brittle leaves.

Josh said, "Josh Lyman. And you must be the wonder-kid we keep hearing so much about," his hand out, the broad palm offered up in greeting, caught white in the Capitol's fluorescents, his pose cocky and self-assured, unabashedly sizing up the other man, and Sam thought, `What a pompous jackass.'

Josh said, "Why don't you go back to goddamn Duke and learn something useful, you're no good to anyone here," during a stupid fight about health care, the morning after the night when Sam had brought Lisa to meet his friends, and Josh's mouth had been pressed thin and tight, a harsh scar of a smile, with enough light and power in his fierce gaze to banish darkness from the world forever.

Josh said, "I don't think the Mets have the strength to last the summer," his hand holding a chilled beer bottle to Sam's bare stomach, pressing a wet circle to the skin, and Sam thought, `I don't think we do either,' then knocked the beer out of Josh's hand, pinning him down and swallowing the other man's surprised cry, using the force of their bodies against each other to beat out that awful knowledge.

Josh said, "Do you want cheese on your eggs?" standing in Sam's kitchen in his boxers and socks, his hair a wreck of soft curls, continents of goosebumps making new landmarks on the map of his body, and it was December, so deep into winter that spring seemed like a myth, a dream.

Josh said, "Do you have any idea what kind of fight it would be to get Mendoza confirmed to the bench?" and Sam grinned and nodded, and Josh grinned back.

Josh said, "Maybe . . . maybe I'm not okay," and Sam raised Josh's hand to his mouth and kissed the clean white roughness of the fresh bandage, which covered up the skinny traced lines of Josh's fortune, hid Josh's future, made him a mystery.

Josh said, "Your father's not the man you thought he was, but you're still the man he raised. So at least he did something right," and Sam, who had been sinking slowly, who had been way down deep in the black, saw a pure gleam of light, felt himself rising.

Josh said, "I'm coming to see you," and Sam looked around his cramped law school apartment, seeing the skeletal plastic rings of an empty six-pack holder on the gleaming clean kitchen counter, his navy blue raincoat draped over a chair like it was wrapped around the stick-thin shoulders of some eight year old kid, the wrinkled clumps of his socks poking out of his shoes, the holes in the fabric of his couch that begged for a finger to burrow within them, the precarious stack of law briefs drifting ever closer to the edge of his desk, Sam already thinking up lies to tell his girlfriend about where he would be when Josh was in town.

Josh said, "I can't remember if it hurt. Do you think it hurt, Sam?" lying pale as a cloud and eerily still in his hospital bed, the blue gown matching the color of the veins in his arms, and Sam was trying the best he could not to cry, trying with everything in him not to break down weeping and tell Josh that yes, it hurt, it hurt worse than anything either of them could have ever imagined.

Josh said, "Sam, this is Leo McGarry," beaming to beat the band, in a leased office in Manchester, one hand gripping Sam's arm and the other extended, offering the two men to each other's inspection, Josh's chest rising with pride, and Sam felt like he was meeting a fiancé's parents for the first time.

Josh said, "You're going to lose, Sam," serious and calm with the warm California sun streaming down around him, scrimming him in gold, and Sam was dismayed to find that the suffocating press of failure felt so familiar to him, felt so much like coming home.

Josh said, "What did you say to the president when he told you he had MS?" and Sam looked at him shocked and angry, like Josh had just asked what Sam had said to his priest during confession.

Josh said, "Do you think he'll run again?" but Sam couldn't answer, because Josh's hand was on his shoulder and Sam was clinging to the front of Josh's shirt, crumpling the even seams and straight line of buttons, Sam was having trouble drawing breath, much less coming up with a response.

Josh said, "I made a friend named Sam," and Sam knocked back a burning carbonated swallow of soda, looking at the tender bite mark on his hip, listening to Josh on the phone in the next room telling his mother about his new friend Sam.

Josh said, "I want to be lost at sea with you," his arm wrapped around Sam's chest as they fell asleep, his nose in the dip at the base of Sam's skull, his breath falling feather light on the first bump of Sam's spine, and Sam knew they were already as lost as they could get anyway, everything else was just geography.

Josh said, "I know you need to go to California. It's what's next," and Sam had never in his life heard the truth sound so much like a lie.

Josh said, "Of course I'm going to miss you. Missing you is going to be the main aspect of my personality from now on. How could it not be?" on the last day of April when Sam was 37 years old, and knew he would never again be 37 years old in April, and he was already older than he ever thought he would be.

Josh said, "You're either a bad omen or luckier than a rabbit's foot. I'm having trouble figuring you out," sharp and young on a roof in Washington, DC, smiling at Sam, quirking his eyebrow, the gesture almost lost in the shadows, the concrete scraping their elbows as the false stars glinted with red lights, the moon a glowing dagger above them.

Josh said, "Just because I can't say certain things to you doesn't mean they're not true," and Sam shook his head, turned away, thinking, `yes it does.'

Josh said, "Sam? Can you hear me? I don't . . . are you still there? Sam? I think . . . I think I've lost you," the words scattered with static, his voice crackling and breaking over the trembling phone lines that connected the country.

Josh said, "I don't want to feel this way anymore," ending it for the third but not last time, his eyes sad and full of something that ached like a bruise, his hand pressed wide to the window of Sam's apartment, the chill seeping up his shirt sleeve onto his ghost- white wrist, the fog sinking away from his fingers, so that when he moved away, the negative outline of his handprint remained like the signature on a cave painting, and through his invisible palm the city of New York shone blue and silver like a promise.

Josh said, "You're all I've ever wanted," making Sam speechless and stunned in an airport terminal, with shafts of light swirling up dancing pieces of dust around them, and Sam had never thought that when it ended between them for the last time, it would end like that.

Josh said, "Let's get into trouble, Sam," grinning wicked and beautiful, his eyes shiny as new dimes, playing catch with the light, glittering, and Sam felt like his mind was a carnival, chaotic and joyous and spinning.

Josh said, "Maybe I was broken, but you fixed me. Maybe I couldn't find myself, but you always could. Maybe I was no one, but I'm yours now. Maybe I've ruined everything, but I'm here now, and we can put it all back together, can't we?" and a key turned in Sam's heart, simple and quiet and sure.

Josh said, "Good-bye."

And all Sam wanted to say as he left Josh behind was, "I'm sorry."

THE END

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