Title: Five Ways Josh Lyman Didn't Get Laid
Author: E.E. Beck
Website: http://www.jennielyn.com/lookingglass/
Rating: NC-17
Pairings: Josh/Sam, Josh/Leo, Josh/Donna, Josh/Joey Lucas, Josh/Lord John Marbury
Spoilers: In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, The Portland Trip, Noel, Two Cathedrals, and Dead Irish Writers, respectively.
Summary: Answer to the five things challenge (though not what Oro is running). Five alternate universe scenes ranging from the romantic to the disturbing to the sad to the simply smutty. Appearances by happy!Josh, fuckedup!Josh, depressed!Josh, drunk!Josh, and romanced!Josh.

Five Ways Josh Lyman Didn't Get Laid by E.E. Beck

In the Shadow of Two Gunmen

He holds the door open for Sam, who strides out and heads up the hallway without missing a beat. Josh falls in stride naturally, easily, as they make their way towards the elevators. They cast short, secret little glances at each other as they go, and Josh is glad they don’t catch each other at it, because that would really be the end.

There are two people already in the elevator. They give Josh suspicious, edgy looks as they all descend, and Josh has to restrain the urge to bare his teeth at them and pretend to have rabies or something. People like that, whose $2000 suits would be ruined if a drop of rain ever fell on them, but that’s okay because it never does, have always brought out something very naughty in him.

He and Sam make it all the way across the lobby, Josh leaving a trail of wet footprints on the marble flooring to match his incoming tracks. They don’t slow as they hit the doors, and the guard has to jump out of their way.

And then they’re down the imposing steps and onto the soaking street, and Sam’s jacket is plastered to him within three seconds. Only then, with the building looming over them and cars spraying sheets of muddy water a few feet away do they let go and laugh.

Josh, who knew Sam would come with him with absolute, unshakeable certainty, but who also didn’t entirely believe it, staggers back and leans against the wall. Sam stands a moment on the sidewalk, his head tilted way back and the rain driving into his face. Neither of them can quite stop howling.

Sam stumbles over and leans beside Josh, his face and hair streaming. The rise of the building at their backs shelters them somewhat from the downpour, and it’s as if they’ve stepped into an odd pocket of silence there, just the two of them. They try to stop laughing, look at each other, and fall apart again.

“I just quit my job,” Sam says, swiping at his face.

“One hell of a pay cut,” Josh says, and that sets them off again.

“Oh God,” Sam moans. “Oh God.”

“We should get out of the rain,” Josh says eventually. “I don’t need to be back in New Hampshire until tomorrow.”

Sam’s laughter peters out into sporadic chuckles. “You know,” he says casually, “I don’t even know the guy’s name.”

This catches Josh, in the gut where it really counts, the same place that came to life the moment he saw Sam stand up in that conference room. It makes him shiver and tingle and want to laugh all over again. It also makes him hard. “Bartlet,” he says. “Jed Bartlet.”

They get a room at the Watergate. A place to talk things over, Josh says. Sam agrees easily. He has not yet said anything about New York and New Hampshire, about his apartment or his things or his fiancé. Josh is not about to remind him. He thinks maybe Sam is in a bit of shock.

This elevator, too, is occupied. Sam and Josh face front, not speaking, and try hard not to meet each other’s eyes in the elevator’s mirrored surface. The crest of it will break over them again if they do look at each other, and Josh is pretty sure that the elderly couple behind them wouldn’t appreciate a pair of laughing hyenas. Or a pair of laughing hyenas tearing their clothes off and going at it right there on the floor.

The room is big and beautiful. Josh made sure of that downstairs. There’s a spacious bathroom, a balcony, a king-sized bed, and a fully stocked bar. Josh considers the options, weighing their varying appeal, and finally settles on the bar with a sigh.

“None for me,” Sam says when Josh holds up the bottle. Josh, who was about to pour, reconsiders and puts the bottle down. He stands with his hands planted on the bar, facing the windows.

Sam walks slowly across the room and sinks onto the end of the bed. “I left my briefcase,” he says absently.

“Anything important in there?” Josh asks.

Sam considers this seriously. “No,” he says. “Not really.”

“I can’t believe you came with me,” Josh says, feeling a grin break out. “You’re nuts, you know that?”

Sam glances up at him, smiling a little. “Out of my mind,” he says. “Completely…” his voice trails off, and his eyes have a sort of glazed look, though Josh doesn’t think it’s entirely the shock. He pushes off the bar, shoves his hands in his pockets, and slowly saunters across the room to stand before Sam. Sam tilts his head back, watching Josh’s approach as if he is magnetically pulled.

“We can leave for New Hampshire tomorrow morning,” Josh says huskily. “I bought two train tickets.”

Sam’s lips twitch. “Sure of yourself, weren’t you?” he asks.

Josh, who very much was and very much wasn’t, allows his eyelids to drop and his eyes to show what he’s thinking. He can see Sam’s full body shiver.

“We can take the train out tomorrow,” he says again. “You’ll be working mostly for Toby Ziegler, writing.” He leans in closer, and Sam tilts his head way back, exposing the line of his throat. “You’re going to be putting the words in the mouth of the future President of the United States,” Josh murmurs.

Sam swallows hard. “You’re trying to seduce me,” he says.

Josh raises an eyebrow. “Trying?”

Sam laughs again. “Arrogant bastard,” he says, leans up, and kisses Josh.

It’s all over then, except for the shouting. Lots of shouting. Plenty of laughing, too. They leave their soaked clothes in miserable little heaps on the expensive rug, and roll about the big bed naked. They leave the drapes open, and this high up the rain isn’t impeded by most buildings. It pounds at the windows and balcony door, and Josh is tempted to take Sam out on the balcony and fuck him over the rail.

But the bed is nice too, really nice, and Sam’s cool, damp skin is heating rapidly next to Josh’s. They tussle for long moments, trading kisses and arm locks in equal measure, letting out little salvoes of mirth whenever they catch each others eyes. It takes them long minutes to settle down to the serious business of sex, and even then they’re not too serious about it. Sam’s skin tastes like rain, and he quivers all over when Josh drags his teeth down his throat. But they’re still laughing, both of them chuckling into kisses and skin, and they only stop when Josh swoops down and swallows Sam’s cock in one hungry slide. Sam yells, bucks frantically, and nearly rips a handful of Josh’s hair out. Josh gives him only a few long, slow sucks, swallowing him to the root with every one, just to remind him. Then he pulls off, and Sam keens miserably.

“Hold on,” Josh says, gently removing Sam’s hands from his hair. “Wait just a minute and you’ll get what you want.”

He slides away from Sam and off the bed with effort, and staggers almost drunkenly for a moment before regaining his feet. There’s lube and a strip of condoms in his pants pocket, and Josh digs them out of the sodden mess with slightly shaking hands.

“Arrogant bastard,” Sam repeats as Josh returns to the bed.

Josh grins and pauses, one knee raised to get onto the bed. Sam’s cock is hard and dripping, slick with Josh’s mouth. But Sam has not reached for it while Josh was gone. He waited for Josh, carefully if not patiently, and he is perfectly ready when Josh comes for him.

That’s another blow to the gut, and Josh inhales sharply. “Fuck,” he mutters, and lunges.

There’s a bit of uncertainty about just how they’re going to do this, how they’d both like it. They settle for Sam on his knees, the pillows stacked high beneath his chest as he grips the headboard. Josh kneels behind him and breathes hard as he slides his fingers into Sam. They liked this position before.

“Come on,” Sam mutters. “Come on.”

Josh pets him and murmurs soothingly, though he, too, can not wait much longer. When he slides into Sam they both let out slow, grinding cries between their teeth.

Josh tries going slow, tries taking his time. But he is as desperate crazy as Sam, and Sam’s very desperation makes him all that wilder. He bends low over Sam, clasping him about the chest and playing with his nipples as he leans over Sam’s shoulder and presses their cheeks together. They move like that, their breathing falling naturally into unison as they stare at the headboard and listened to their names falling from the other’s lips. At the end Josh straightens up, lifting Sam back to straddle his thighs, turning his head enough to get to Sam’s mouth. Moisture of rain or laughing tears or just tears cling to the place where their faces pressed together.

They lie on top of the covers afterwards, still clutching each other as they regain their breath.

“So,” Sam says after several minutes. Sam likes to talk after sex, Josh remembers. It was something that had been strange for Josh the first time. “What time is the train tomorrow?”

“It’s an open ticket,” Josh says, a little surprised. “We can go anytime.”

“Good.” Sam yawns and stretches. “You probably want to get going as soon as possible though, right?”

“There’s a lot to do,” Josh says.

Sam nods. “Yes,” he says. “I’ll need to talk to Lisa.” He winces a little.

“Sam,” Josh says, wanting to draw away but unable to. “You realize, it’s sort of funny when you think about it…you agreed to come with me and a presidential campaign really isn’t the place to“

Sam lifts his head from Josh’s chest. Josh, who is expecting hurt, expecting the look of a man who has just had a hole punched in his chest, an expression he’s seen on Sam’s face before, an expression he’s put on Sam’s face before, is taken aback by the smile. “Like you came and got me just for the campaign,” Sam says. “Like you fucked me here just the once.”

Josh is silent, because Sam is right. “Talk to Lisa tomorrow,” he says, gripped by sudden possessiveness. “Then we can go.”

Sam nods, and his hair tickles Josh’s chest. Josh can’t stop himself from reaching up to stroke it. They’ll make another run of it again, Josh knows, they’ll put everything they have into it. And like the work waiting for them in New Hampshire, Josh is sure, in the way he absolutely knew that Sam would come with him, because how could he not, that they will win this time.


The Portland Trip

Josh is wired and edgy, and he’s feeling shitty.

He knows Josiah Bartlet pretty damn well by now, knows him well enough to know when to bow out of the phone call and let Leo take over. It’s good sensethe President needs to rant a little bit, and Leo needs to let him, then push him gently back on track. So Josh sits quietly and listens to them and feels like shit.

The President agrees with them finally, grudgingly, because there’s nothing else. He’ll pocket veto the Defense of Marriage Act, lodge a silent, ineffective protest against the injustice of it, because its homophobic and homophobia is wrong.

And, Josh thinks with a sick little lurch, if a reporter ever got hold of some of the stories about him, talked to a man who’d met him in a club, who somehow remembered his face or name, they would fire him so fast he wouldn’t even have a chance to clear out his office. Josh’s head hurts, his head and his chest and his eyes. The lights in Leo’s office are a bit too bright, and that’s not just the beer talking. He wonders if he will be able to sleep tonight. He doubts it. It has been several weeks since his nights were untroubled.

Then the phone call is over, and Leo and the President hang up. Leo retakes his seat behind his desk, and Josh can tell he’s already putting it behind him, filing the incident away as a part failure, part draw, and moving on to the next order of business. That sort of pisses Josh off, because it’s something he should be able to do, something he used to be able to do. It makes him a little mean.

“Hey Leo, Margaret mentioned…“ he says, letting his words trail off expectantly.

On cue, Leo rolls his eyes. “Oh, come on Josh!”

“No, she just said“

Leo waves an impatient hand. “My divorce papers came today. She thinks I'm going to drink.”

“It seems like a pretty good reason to.” Josh says, not that he would know.

Leo smiles, almost gently. I'm an alcoholic, I don't need a good reason to.”

And that makes Josh feel worse, and the meanness is all gone. Because he gets that, he really does. They’re a lot alike, he and Leo, a lot more than either of them have ever said. Leo hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol since the campaign, and Josh…Josh hasn’t had a man inside him in more months than he cares to think about, beer or not. He hasn’t been to a club in nearly seven years, not since he realized this politics business was really going to work out for him. He hasn’t found an anonymous man to take into a back room. He’s been good, oh so good, and now he’s wondering if he found someone tonight, it would maybe make sleeping a little easier.

And he’s standing up before he has any more time to think about it, and walking around Leo’s desk to perch on the corner nearest him. Leo lifts an eyebrow, disconcerted. Josh feels a surge of elation, momentarily allowing him to escape the feeling of millions of little creatures crawling around just underneath his skin. He likes Matt, he really does. He’s never so much breathed a word of the few companionable buddy fucks they’ve shared over the past few yearssheer desperation on Josh’s part, and what he strongly suspects is affectionate pity on Matt’s. But Matt is out and proud and fuck the consequences, Matt has done it regardless, and tonight that made Josh want to grab his own hair and tug until it really hurt, until it came out in clumps and handfuls. But that’s another thing he doesn’t do anymore, he’s not allowed to do anymore. People who want to hurt themselves don’t work at the White House.

He leans over closer to Leo, making his tone conversational, the words casual, and his body anything but. “You wanna have coffee someplace?”

Leo’s eyes go very very wide for just a second, then narrow down to slits. “Why are you sitting on my desk?” he asks coolly.

Josh smiles at him, slides off the desk, and makes a quick circuit of the room, closing every door, drawing the shades on the windows. He’s back to Leo before the man can get it together enough to stand up, and this time Josh slides up onto the desk right in front of Leo, pushing aside a pile of papers and leaning back so his legs to fall open naturally, wide enough to frame Leo in them.

“Joshua,” Leo says, and it makes Josh’s toes curl. “Get off my desk.”

“Okay,” Josh says agreeably. He leans forward, gives Leo’s chair a little push to make room, and slides down and down some more, ending up on his knees between Leo’s feet.

Leo sucks in a sharp breath, and Josh smiles. He knows he looks good like this. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing,” Leo says, and his voice is quivering just a little. “But I want you to know that if you leave right now we’ll never have to speak of this again.”

Josh considers this, but not for very long. It’s the smart thing to do, and he’s not smart tonight, he’s not logical or self-controlled or capable of not doing this. He’s getting the old familiar rush, of fulfilling this most basic need of his body, this most basic addiction of his fucked up head. He thinks, in a moment of clarity, that he really hasn’t self-destructed in far too longhe’s forgotten how fucking good it feels.

He puts his hand on Leo’s knee, and Leo jumps. “You used to look at me,” Josh says, and just the memory of some of those glances makes his balls ache. Leo’s looks had been surprised and speculative, a little hot, a little guilty, and a little disgusted ever since he and Noah Lyman found him on his knees for one of Noah’s business partners on his seventeenth birthday. Josh had considered it then, of coursethere wasn’t much he didn’t consider thenbut Leo wasn’t the sort of man he was looking for then. He wanted someone bigger than him, older than him, and much more concerned with his own pleasure rather than guilt. But now he’s just desperate enough, just losing it enough for this to be all he can think about.

“Joshua,” Leo says again, though he is no longer quite so stern. “Get up.”

Josh smiles and runs his hand up Leo’s thigh. “You used to want me,” he says. “You used to feel awful about it, but you wanted me so bad we could both taste it.”

“I don’t,” Leo protests, too fast, too loud, and it’s the wrong tense. It makes them both flush, but for entirely different reasons.

“It drove you crazy,” Josh murmurs, shifting closer. Leo’s knees fall open without him even seeming to realize it. “It used to drive you crazy, wondering what it would feel like. You wished you’d had me before my father found out. And you knew I hadn’t stopped no matter what he said, and you still wanted to know what it would be like to come in my mouth.”

Leo’s breath hitches and Josh moves in further, first pressing his cheek to Leo’s inner thigh, then sliding up to close his mouth onto Leo’s cock through his pants. He breathes in a long, slow suck, and Leo makes a raspy moaning sound.

“Josh,” he says, and he sounds wounded.

“It’s alright,” Josh assures, lifting his head for a moment. “Don’t worry about anything.” He uses the moment to work at the fly of Leo’s expensive suit pants, and then work his hands into Leo’s underwear. Leo jerks hard when Josh takes him in both hands, and Josh wastes no more time.

He sucks him as long and dirty as he knows how. He licks up and down until the whole thing is slick and shiny, then sucks at just the head in short, staccato bursts. He wedges Leo’s cock in slowly, bit by bit, working his tongue hard against the underside and not being particularly careful of his teeth. He loves the stretching of his jaw, the pressure on his tongue, the moment of almost gagging as he tilts his head back and slips it into his throat. His hands go to his own cock, which has been aching since he made his snap decision.

Leo makes an attempt to sit still and passive through it, but Josh will not allow that. He draws off for a moment, blowing puffs of air on the head that make Leo shiver. Then he takes just the crown between his lips and works his tongue at the little slit, relentless and merciless, until Leo lets out a small, defeated moan. Josh rewards him with a long stroke down his throat, and from there Leo doesn’t even try and pretend he’s not having the blow job of his life.

Josh makes him wait for it for timeless minutes, working him into a frenzy with his tongue, jacking him hard with both hands as he rubs the wet head over his lips and slightly stubbled chin and cheeks. Then he fucks his own mouth, driving down and pulling off with every stroke, his throat working hard. He’s getting dizzy with it, with the taste and smell and the wet sounds he’s making, but he has enough presence of mind to squeeze the base of both their cocks when they’re getting too close.

Leo’s hands clench rhythmically on the arms of his chair, and Josh hopes for a while that he’ll take the initiative. But he doesn’t, not even when Josh leaves his cock and tongues his balls for long minutes, until they are swollen and doubtless oversensitive and painful. He waits for Leo’s hands on his head, to be pushed back up, for his mouth to be opened. But the thought doesn’t seem to even have occurred to Leo, veteran of a decades long marriage to a good, prim, Catholic woman, and it makes Josh harder, angrier, a little closer to whatever it is he’ll find when he finally falls off the precipice he’s been dancing along for thirty years. The scar on his chest is aching, still tender muscles cramped and pulled as he hunches over Leo, and he’s never been closer to that edge in his entire life. He takes Leo’s hands and places them on his head.

Leo grips uncertainly, too gently, and Josh torments him, going suddenly passive; lips working desultorily at the ridge just below the head, tongue flicking absently. Leo shifts restlessly, his breath coming in quick pants. Josh waits, working his own freed cock with viciously slow tugs.

Leo seems to finally get it. He lets out a soft, “fuck,” and grips Josh’s hair, lifting his hips. Josh murmurs happily around him, glad to encourage. And then Leo is all over it, suddenly abandoned and reckless. One hand cups the back of Josh’s head, threading in his hair, and the other slides around to hold his face, press at the hinge of his jaw and force his mouth a little wider. He pushes up again and again, more sure with each thrust, moving Josh’s head to meet him, sliding in until Josh’s nose is pressed to his groin on every thrust. They’re both moaning louder, and Josh knows that his hungry, muffled sounds are making Leo that much crazier. He can’t put it off any longer for either of them, and he knows he needs to come first.

He jacks himself frantically, though he doesn’t have to work too hard for it. He’s been ratcheted up all night, tension and unease funneled easily to his cock and balls as a matter of lifelong habit. He’s been fucking away his problems, and fucking himself into more, since he was fifteen.

He moans hard when he comes, all the way down with Leo’s cock head vibrating hard in his throat. That’s it for Leo, who gasps hard and jerks. Josh swallows it all, and is disappointed when there’s no more.

He draws off slowly, licking regretfully at the spent cock, each flick making Leo twitch with aftershocks. He’s released Josh’s head, and his hands lie useless, shaking a little on his thighs. Josh takes his sweet time tucking Leo away, and then himself, and he stays kneeling at Leo’s feet for a long moment after he’s done.

There is a descent in the aftermath of his orgasm, a sudden reassertion of the sense and control he abandoned. Panic clutches at him, and his heart works painfully. He remembers now, now that it’s too late, that this part doesn’t feel good, this part when he’s really gone for the bottom, when he’s finally lying there, the rush gone, and only the reality of about to drown and his own fucking fault, always his own fucking fault, left for company.

Leo shifts in his chair, and Josh glances up. Leo looks slightly dazed, a little drugged, and Josh thinks abesntly that at least he knows he can still suck cock like a pro, at least he hasn’t lost that.

“Josh,” Leo says, then clears his throat because his voice is a little uneven. “Josh, what--“

Josh springs up and backs away, nearly tripping over Leo, the desk, then his own feet. “Shut up,” he snaps, without thinking.

Leo does, and his eyes are much more aware now. Aware, and worried.

“I“ Josh says. “I didn’t meanwe can justI should go and you can fire me or whatever but I’ve just gotta“ he’s backing towards the door, one hand fumbling behind him for the knob, the other coming up to rub at his chest.

“Josh,” Leo says. “Wait, we should“

Josh runs for it, leaving the door swinging behind him, and his come on the floor under Leo’s chair, not twenty feet away from where the President’s desk sits. He’s vaguely aware of the few staffers left in the building stopping to look after him, but he doesn’t care.

He’s out in the parking lot with little recollection of getting there. He thinks vaguely that he shouldn’t drive like this, that his hands are shaking and his vision blurring and his heart so loud in his ears he can hear little else. He’s really losing it this time, he thinks, fumbling for his keys anyway. This time it’s not about pushing the limits, not about being guilty and guiltier, not about being too much of a fucking coward even in this to do anything but make other people do it for him, pushing other people until they have no choice but to destroy him someone please finally do it. This time, oh fuck, this time his chest is really hurting and this time is it, this time he’s going down.

He laughs a little hysterically at that and gets the keys out. The drive to Georgetown is a blur of familiar streets, emptier now as most normal people have left the city for the weekend. He hasn’t crashed and died on the way, he realizes as he finds his parking space. He’s incredibly glad of that, and he wishes it weren’t true.

He stands a moment in the living room once he’s inside, and he really doesn’t know what to do. The idea of finally getting it over with, of swallowing everything he can find in the medicine cabinet is appealing, but brief. He’s never really tried to kill himself, at least not that directly, and even now he can’t quite get his mind there.

He goes into his bedroom, lies down with his clothes and shoes on. His cock is wet and a little uncomfortable, and he ignores it. He will not be able to sleep, he knows. His edgy energy has been replaced with empty numbness, and that sort of tiredness is not satisfied with simple sleep. He thinks he should call his therapist, thinks this is one of those times when he needs help, but he simply doesn’t have the energy to reach for the phone, nor to want the help at the other end.

The weekend is a vague haze of distant reality. He doesn’t remember to go to the bathroom until Saturday afternoon, to eat until Sunday, or that he is supposed to go to work until four A.M. Monday morning. He considers not showing up at all, never leaving his apartment again, but the simple habit of work takes over, and he’s there before he can change his mind.

Leo looks at him only once during the staff meeting, and there is nothing but worry in his eyes. That is the first thing to get Josh going in two days, and it pisses him off. Leo’s decided to worry, then, decided to make it about Josh and his problems, not Leo and his cock. He’s still got enough of something that wants to survive left in him to recognize this anger for the lifeline it is, and he grabs at it for all he’s worth. He simmers in silence, and does his work.

Leo tries to speak to him only once, his questions gentle and concerned, his hand guilty on Josh’s shoulder. He says he knows how it is, that sometimes there’s nothing Josh can do, but it’s alright, and he can help. Josh brushes him off, and snaps when he has to, and Leo doesn’t try again.

Outside, November is slowly freezing into December. Inside of Josh the Ave Maria plays on a continuous loop, and slowly the edge creeps closer again.


Donna doesn’t let him drive, which is probably smart because he’s entering the final stages of exhaustion, when even desperate energy has run out and there’s nothing left but sleep. They’re silent on the way to his apartment, and Josh keeps his eyes on his lap, on his professionally bandaged hand. Beneath that bandage, he knows, are a few rows of neat stitches, like tiny, black railroad tracks criss-crossing his palm. It throbs with every beat of his heart, and the spot where they stuck him for the antibiotics still stings.

They pull into his parking spot and Donna makes it around the car to open his door for him before he can even fumble his seatbelt off. He feels clumsy and slow, like he’s living underwater. Donna looks at him for a moment, bent awkwardly in the car door, and Josh thinks maybe he hears her breaths shaking as she suppresses tears. He wants to tell her it will be all right, but he’s just too tired.

She helps him out of the car and up to his apartment. She steers him straight for the bedroom and settles him on the bed, efficient hands working at his jacket, tie, then his shoes.

“Merry Christmas,” Josh says, for it has occurred to him that he hasn’t said it yet to her, and according to the bedside clock it’s been Christmas for almost an hour.

“Happy Hanukkah,” Donna says.

“I’m gonna sleep now,” Josh says, conversationally. “Just so’s you know.”

“Okay,” Donna says, and there’s suddenly a blanket over him. Josh is fading too fast to say anything else.

His sleep is a mosaic of oblivion and dreams, though he does not wake in the night as he has been recently. He dreams the President is talking to Joanie, an older Joanie, an extrapolation of the woman Josh has often imagined she would have become.

He wakes to a faceful of sun, a rumbling stomach, and a strange sense of well-being. He lies there a long moment, feeling limp and wrung out, but just a little more rested. It’s not until he rolls over that he remembers his hand, Stanley, the diagnosis.


The bed dips and Donna leans over, her hair falling around them both as she moves to look him in the eye. “How are you doing?”

“Better,” Josh says. His voice is thready, and he clears his throat. “You look tired.”

She does. The circles show up too clearly on her pale, unforgiving skin.

“I’m fine,” she says. “Just had a little trouble sleeping. Your couch sucks.”

“You didn’t have to stay,” Josh says.

Donna’s mouth tightens and her eyes shift away.

“Donna,” Josh says slowly. “Donna, no one ordered you to stay with me, did they?”

That makes her look at him again, and he’s not surprised to see that he’s angered her. He’s been good at that, lately. “No,” she snaps. “No one ordered me to stay.”

Josh sighs, rubbing at his face. “Sorry,” he says. “I shouldn’t have said that. It was unworthy of you.”

Donna’s face seems to fold in on itself, her mouth scrunching up and her eyes squeezing shut. A single tear escapes her lashes and slides down her cheek.

“Hey, now, it’s okay,” Josh says, reaching for her shoulders. “I’m fine.”

She lets out a choked sob and flings herself at him. Josh wraps his arms around her and holds on, rubbing at her back and stroking her hair as she cries it out into the blankets over his chest. It’s the kind of crying that will leave her aching from her guts to her heart, and Josh rocks her gently, making soothing sounds over her muffled moans.

“I was so scared,” she says, her face still buried in the blankets. “I thought, God Josh, I was so scared.”

“It’s okay,” Josh says again. “Really, it is. The worst part is over.”

Donna lifts her head and makes only the most minimal attempt to wipe away the wreckage of her tears. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading,” she says. “All day yesterday. Doctor Keyworth gave me some references that he thought could help, because I had a lot of questions. And I just know how you think sometimes and you should know, Josh, that it’s not you’re fault. You’re not weak or anythingthis just happens to people. There are these chemicals in your brain that might make you more susceptible to this sort of thing, and it just…happens.”

Josh nods. He’s not particularly convinced, but he knows how to make Donna feel better.

“And no one is upset with you,” Donna says. “Not the President, not anybody. We’re just all glad that you got the help you needed.”

“Okay,” Josh says. He’s not all that sure about this, either, and it’s something he knows he’ll be following up on in person. “Stanley will be calling,” he adds after a moment. “After the holidays. With a name for me. A person I can see.”

Donna nods. “Okay,” she says. “We can do that, as long as you need.”

It hits them at about the same time, the realization that Donna is lying diagonally across his bed, her hands plucking absently at the blankets about his neck and her face hovering only a few inches from his. They blink at each other, a little startled, a little bemused, and Donna gives him a small, watery smile.

“I was so worried,” she whispers, and it is clear that she still is.

She kisses him, which is why he allows himself to respond, Josh tells himself. Her lips are a little chapped, something he wouldn’t have expected from her, and they taste like tears. Her tongue is small but determined in his mouth, and her hands are working at the blankets with much more purpose.

She starts slow, but the mood changes quickly. Josh doesn’t have to do much except lie on his back and help her get his clothes off. She is very careful of his hand, and after she has his shirt off she kisses the bandage tenderly and tucks it away safely at his side. Josh feels a little off center without it, a little strange with just one hand to run up her side and stroke the line of her collar bone, but he puts the strange sensation out of his mind.

Donna undresses herself when she is done with him, efficiently but with enough show to keep his eyes riveted to her. When she lies down full length on top of him, her long legs twining with his, she is warm and soft in all the right places. Josh wraps his one arm around her and walks his fingers from the nape of her neck to the small of her back. He slides a hand over her ass and cups the back of one of her thighs. Her skin feels about five degrees hotter than his.

“Do you have--?” she murmurs into his mouth.

“Nightstand,” he says, and begins to reach.

Donna beats him to it, and Josh’s eyes roll a bit as he enjoys the spectacle of her on her hands and knees, her breasts bouncing and her nipples temptingly within reach. Josh reaches, first with fingers, and then with mouth, and Donna subsides over him a moment, wriggling and sighing as he works the nipple with his tongue.

But then she pulls away, and she has a condom in her hand. She straddles his thighs and smoothes it onto him, her hands working him with an easy, catching rhythm. Josh hisses and bucks, and Donna smiles.

He thinks about rolling over, about sliding in between those long thighs and working in slowly and gently, but Donna has other plans. She goes to her knees for a moment, then shifts forward, sinking down over him with a little sigh. She bites her lip and shakes her hair out of her face, and Josh runs his hand from her knee up her thigh to her hip.

She rides him slowly, working herself on him with deliberation and care. Neither of them make much sound as they move together. She watches him with an unwavering regard, penetrating and unavoidable, and Josh has to retreat behind his eyelids a few times for the force of it.

The end builds slowly for both of them. Donna rises and falls with gradually increasing speed, and her hands come up to play with her nipples. Josh’s bandaged hand comes up unthinkingly, reaching for her, and its stark whiteness against their skin startles them both. They freeze up for a moment, Josh buried to the base inside her, Donna’s eyes locked on the hand hovering in midair. Something hangs precariously in the moment, tipping wildly and unpredictable, and Josh isn’t sure whether Donna will burst into tears again, or just stop.

He puts the hand down again, and she does neither. They find their rhythm after a moment, and Donna is a little more frantic, a little more focused on the goal. One hand slides down her body and into her cleft, and Josh leans his head up to watch.

It’s not long, then, for either of them. Josh comes first, Donna soon after, and they stay a moment in position, the right angle of their bodies dappled with sun and sweat.

Donna disposes of the condom and curls up beside him. Her hand finds its way onto his chest and covers his scars.

“You should eat something,” she murmurs.

“I will,” Josh says. “Get some sleep.”

She sighs and drifts away. Josh lies beside her for the rest of the morning, unwilling to disturb her obviously hard-won rest. She is very tired, he knows. She has been very worried about him. He wonders where she would be this Christmas day, were she not with him.

“It’s not the plane,” he murmurs into the silence.

Donna stirs uneasily. “Josh? Is something wrong?”

“No,” Josh says, and pats her shoulder. “I was just thinking out loud.”

“About what?” she asks sleepily.

He considers telling her all of it, how he knows he could blame this on his body, his aging libido, how he could leave his mind blameless and uninvolved. But it’s not the plane, it’s been the pilot all along, and Donna is wrong about at least one thing. He is, in the end, a weak man, and he has taken what he needed.

“We can’t do this again,” he says, cutting to the bottom line.

Donna’s head comes up, and she regards him through slightly hurt eyes. “Why not?”

He could tell her its because she’s his assistant, because she’s younger than him, because it just can’t be. But she already knows all that. “Because I can’t do it because of you,” he says instead. “Because if I’m going to get better I have to do it for me.”

She blinks hard. “That’s admirable, but“

“No,” Josh says firmly. “Really. I just…can’t.”

She stares at him a moment, looking as if she’s about to argue the point with vigor. But something in his face must tell her that it’ll be no good, that his mind is made up and it’s final. She slumps and wipes a hand across her face. “If you’re sure,” she says.

“I am,” Josh says. “And thank you for, well.”

Donna frowns. “I didn’t just do this because“

Josh presses a finger to her lips. “Don’t,” he says, because she really did and he knows it. “Just…go back to sleep.”

She looks at him a moment, then kisses his finger very gently. It’s not until she does so that Josh realizes it’s the bandaged hand he has pressed to her face. He draws it away and she lies back.

“I have dinner planned,” she murmurs as she falls asleep. “Going to cook for you.”

“Okay,” Josh says. “Just go to sleep.”

She does, and he allows himself only an hour in the bed with her before he forces himself up. He goes into the living room in his robe and stands at the window he smashed with his bare hand. The world is frosted white and dazzling blue in the sunlight through the replaced glass.

Josh leans his forehead against the glass and breathes, and begins to be better.


Two Cathedrals

They’re getting drunk, and they’re not even pretending to have any other motive. There’s a sort of hysterical party atmosphere going on, though some of the more junior staffers still look too shell-shocked to really comprehend what is happening. Josh has ended up at a table with Toby, CJ, Ed and Larry, and Joey Lucas. Kenny has pulled up a chair as well, as he seems to be nominally off duty. His sign has been becoming progressively larger and more flamboyant as the night progresses.

“It’s going to be an early morning tomorrow,” CJ says, pouring herself another glass. They told the bartender to leave the bottle nearly an hour ago, and have gone through two since.

“Probably,” Josh agrees.

Toby, who has not said anything since the first bottle, drinks steadily, determinedly. One table over, Sam slumps, already half gone, between Cathy and Donna.

“I’m happy, I really am,” CJ says, for what must be the fifth time. Kenny just points vaguely at her and makes a quick signal that Josh suspects means, ‘and there she goes again.’

“Yes,” Josh says again.

“It’s just,” CJ continues doggedly. “It’s just the way…it’s just maybe I thought…it’s just all a bit…”

“Yeah,” Kenny says.

“I think you’re all insane,” Ed says. “I mean, we knew something was up but…”

Josh has noticed that none of them seem particularly willing or able to actually complete a sentence.

Joey taps Kenny and signs.

“We’ll have polls tomorrow morning,” Kenny says.

Ed makes a zipping lips gesture at her. “Oh dear God don’t talk about work,” he moans.

Joey flips him off. She’s been doing that more and more frequently over the past half hour. Josh suspects its because neither she nor Kenny are quite up to a quick and witty comeback.

People seem determined to make this a real party. They are, after all, about to start preparing for a re-election campaign, and a surprise one at that. There’s a manic quality to everyone, an off key hilarity that’s just a little shocky. Josh sips his drink, taking his sweet time. He’s well passed buzzed now, but he feels none of his usual boisterous offensiveness when drunk.

People begin pairing off around him. Ed and Larry drift away, making noises about Janet and Janice from Human Resources. CJ was pulled away fifteen minutes ago, to join a more energetic group across the room. Toby has advanced to the stage of carved granite drunk, completely inscrutable and the only movements his hand and the glass.

Josh sees Joey signing out of the corner of his eye. He watches Kenny respond, shrug, then stand. The interpreter heads for the bar, and Joey turns to face Josh.

She’s taught him a fair bit of sign, in quick, haphazard, often very silly lessons. He can understand her if she goes slowly and spells every other word, at least.

“You’re quiet,” she signs.

Josh shrugs. “Not much to say.” Joey leans close, her eyes fastened on his lips as she follows his words. Josh has always liked the way she does that.

“Me either,” she signs. “Too much happening.”

Josh nods, closing his eyes. On the back of his lids he sees her and Kenny at the funeral, the Latin words somewhat unfamiliar clay in Kenny’s hands, Joey unmoved by the echoing grandeur of the songs.

A hand on his arm returns him to the bar. “Are you doing alright?” she asks.

Josh shrugs. “More or less,” he says. He glances over at Toby, who has slowed down, Josh estimates, a few glasses short of complete liver failure. They’ve had trouble talking to each other, all of them. There was too much at stake, too much hanging in the balance, too many questions like “who was the first told?” and “when was this decided?” They’re all jumpy and trying to keep it together, and Josh can see his own disillusionment mirrored back at him in them. It makes them all uncomfortable, he knows.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he asks Joey suddenly.

She raises an eyebrow eloquently.

Josh pauses, considering. He can’t say he wants to get somewhere more quiet so they can talk better. Shrugging, he decides he’s drunk and he can do that sort of thing. He makes an appropriately explanatory gesture with two circled fingers and his pointer on the other hand.

Joey considers a moment, and Josh is almost sure he’s about to get the middle finger treatment when she smiles and nods. She points to him, then mimes turning a key. Josh nods and stands. “Let’s get a cab,” he says.

It’s not far to Georgetown, and they don’t talk during the ride. Josh lets her in with a flourish and a hand at the small of her back. The quiet is refreshing as she glances around and smiles.

They stand a moment in the living room, glancing at each other, and then away. But Josh is in no mood to pretend there’s anything more or less happening than what they’re both after, so he steps close, slides his arms around her waist, and kisses her.

She goes up on her toes, her hands sliding up his back and into his hair. Her mouth is still cool from the ice in her drink.

He walks her backwards into the bedroom with careful precision. By the time the back of her thighs are pressed to the mattress she has one hand up the back of his shirt and the other working at his belt. Josh appreciates this haste, this efficiency. They need to get laid tonightit’s just what is done on a night like this. He has thought more than once that its funny how the rituals of celebration and mourning are so similar. Getting drunk and laid is certainly a flexible tradition.

That makes him laugh, and Joey pulls back, feeling the vibrations in her mouth. Josh shakes his head at her look and leans to kiss her again. He hasn’t decided yet just what he’s celebrating or commemorating, and he knows Joey hasn’t either.

They undress each other quickly and climb onto the bed in an awkward tangle. Joey ends up beneath him, her small breasts pressed to his chest. Josh cups them, flicking at her nipples and watching her squirm. She pushes at his shoulders and slithers down his body, taking his cock first in both hands, and then her mouth. Josh lets her push him over and throws his head back into the pillows. The streetlight paints a diffused radiance on the ceiling, and the storm glass locks them in near total silent isolation from the world outside. He moans and arches as Joey swallows him, and reaches down to run a hand through her hair.

She pulls off him with a demure little slurp, and glances up his body to meet his eyes with a raised eyebrow. Josh doesn’t need words. He reaches for the night stand, and Joey rolls over again, her legs parting invitingly.

It’s good when he slides into her, as it should be. She is warm and moving beneath him, distracting and pretty in the dimness. They’re both out to enjoy themselves, and it makes for a lot less trouble. They move together with purpose.

Joey’s hands flutter about his chest and back, gripping his shoulders, then letting something indecipherable trip off her fingers into the air. Josh has no idea what she’s saying, and he doesn’t need to know. He reaches under her and lifts her hips slightly. She moans at the new angle and pushes up into him hard.

When he looks down at her again her eyes are closed. Somehow, this makes it seem even quieter in the room, and Josh relaxes just a little, lets go just a little. He buries his head in her neck for a moment, trying to push the past few days out of himself with every breath into her skin, every push into her body. He unlocks his mouth then, lets the alcohol and the memory take over, says things he didn’t know he thought, tells her how fucking pissed he is, how disillusioned and excited and not excited enough and just not sure anymore.

He cries out when he comes, and her eyes remain closed.

They lie next to each other afterwards, not touching. Joey seems to be edging towards sleep, and Josh rolls onto his side to face her.

“It’s okay,” she signs sleepily at him. “It’ll be okay.”

He nods, though she is not looking at him. He wonders if she’d be willing to do this again, to make a sort of arrangement. He has no doubt that they’ll both need this more than once, need to pour it out in the sex, need to give the turmoil to each other, give it to somebody, who will never be able to speak of it.

Because the voice of the people is the voice of God, and God will be speaking to them in a year and a half. And it can’t be too long off, Josh thinks, because he’s heard enough from God lately, they all have. Right now, he just wants the quiet.


Dead Irish Writers

The limo is plush and intimate, and John Marbury’s hand is warm on his thigh. Josh leans back and stretches out his legs, liking the way Marbury’s eyes slide down the length of his body. He’s needed this all night, and he didn’t even know it until Marbury approached him as the party was winding down, the offer of a quiet drive highlighted by the hunger in his eyes. Josh had left Amy drinking with the girls again. He’s pretty lucky, he reminded himself. There weren’t that many women who would be willing to accommodate his utter inability to be monogamous.

“Where are we going, your Lordship?” he asks, glancing at Marbury.

Marbury smiles. “As pleasant as it is to hear ‘your lordship’ from that lovely mouth, I think John will do tonight. And, well, wherever you would. I am at your disposal.”

Josh files the tidbit about his mouth away for future reference, and contemplates a moment. “Let’s just drive,” he says. “I’m pretty comfortable right here.”

John nods and leans forward to the intercom to give the driver his directions. When he sits back, his hand somehow finds its way back to Josh’s thigh, only about two inches higher.

“I am not a patient man,” John says, leaning close.

Josh lifts an eyebrow, a bit surprised. Somehow, he’d pictured something a bit more roundaboutly seductive.

John shakes his head. “Which makes the two years I’ve waited to have you nearly excruciating.”

Josh feels a flush bloom on his face, and ducks his head. Beside him, John laughs softly.

“Oh, come now,” he says. “You cannot tell me you did not know what I wanted.”

“No,” Josh says, regaining his tongue. “I do have eyes, and you were hardly subtle.”

John laughs. “Subtlety is reserved for those who do not mind being ignored,” he says. His thumb begins running along the inseam of Josh’s pants. “And in this particular case, I would not be ignored.”

Josh can certainly believe it. The instantaneous flare of appreciation, then heat in the man’s eyes the first time they had met, in the oval office of all places, had been unmistakable. The hungry looks he’s been raking Josh with at every meeting since have only intensified.

“So what took you so long?” Josh asks.

John grimaces. “Circumstance, more than anything,” he says. “It seems that whenever I am in your country there is an international incident brewing.” He smiles. “If it were not for India and Pakistan, I would have had you that very first night,” he adds.

“We’re rather confident, aren’t we?” Josh returns, suppressing a small thrill. He can sometimes forget the intoxication of being deeply wanted.

“Hmm,” John says. “Would you have been coy with me, then? Made me wait a few dates? Teased me with your smile and your dimples and your ‘come take me’ swagger?”

Josh laughs. Only this man could rattle off such a speech without sounding as if he were reading it off a prompt card on the set of a low-budget porno. “Maybe,” he says. “A little anticipation never hurt anybody…much.”

John’s eyes are suddenly wiped of laughter, his gaze abruptly very focused. “I’ve anticipated long enough,” he says softly, and kisses Josh. Josh tilts his head back into it, finding John’s hands cupping his face. The push of the man’s tongue into his mouth is one of the most lewdly suggestive things anyone has ever done to him.

They kiss for long moments, and it’s not until he comes up for air that Josh realizes he’s been pulled into John’s lap. He grins and lets loose a slow, provocative writhe. John gasps, catches his hips, and presses a hard kiss to the underside of Josh’s jaw.

“None of that,” he says breathlessly. “At least, not quite yet.”

“Oh?” Josh lifts an eyebrow. “I thought you’d like that.”

“I do,” John says, sighing as Josh gently digs his fingers into his shoulders and kneads. “I like it a bit too much.”

It becomes rapidly clear to Josh that blithe quips about subtlety or not, John intends to savor every moment of this. He starts with Josh’s tie, unknotting it deliberately, as if it were the bow on top of a much prized present. Then long minutes working his hands between Josh’s jacket and shirt, the touch somehow intimate, the licensed slide of hands beneath his clothes a prolonged tease. The buttons of his shirt are tackled like individual kingdoms to be conquered: circled and approached and retreated from, then pounced upon in a moment of inattention, the nibble of teeth at his collarbone ample distraction.

The shirt finally slips off his shoulders and falls away. Josh shivers as his bare skin rubs against John’s jacket. John treats his nipples to the same routine as the buttons, tormenting them both with approach and retreat, then sliding gentle fingers over them at just the right moment to surprise a moan out of Josh. He spends long moments there, and when Josh finally opens his eyes and lifts his head from where it has fallen back on John’s shoulder, he finds the man watching him with unnerving intensity.

“What?” he asks. His voice is heavy with sex, and it makes that heat flare again in John’s eyes.

“I like to watch you,” John says. He touches Josh then, with firm, almost proprietary hands, strokes that encompass shoulder, ribs, side and hip. He traces Josh’s spine with concentrated interest, then drops a line of kisses on the nape of his neck, just below his hairline. One hand follows the waistband of Josh’s pants with a single, teasing finger, while the other descends from the notch of his collar bone in a straight line down his sternum and stomach. The two hands meet at his belt buckle, then slide lower and close over Josh’s cock through his pants. He groans and bucks, and John gives him a few slow, squeezing pulls before letting him go and returning to his belt.

The only aid Josh is allowed to give is to kick off his shoes and toe off his socks. John works his belt free, then spends a ridiculous amount of time over the button and zipper. Josh is nearly whimpering by the time the pants slide off his hips, his boxers going with them.

And then everything stops for a moment, and Josh is sitting completely naked in John Marbury’s lap, the weave of his suit pleasantly rough against the skin of his thighs, the man’s eyes moving all over him like possessive hands. John holds him about the waist for a long moment, his thumbs ghosting almost ticklishly along Josh’s sides. Then one hand slides down and takes Josh’s cock, petting gently. Josh sighs and presses closer, turning sideways to stretch his bare legs out along the bench seat, and dropping his head back into the crook of John’s neck. John cups his balls and kisses his adam’s apple. His arm about Josh’s shoulders slides down his back, and in a surprisingly easy contortion Josh finds himself on his back on the seat, with John kneeling between his thighs.

“Are you ever going to take your clothes off?” Josh asks.

John cocks his head, considering. “There is a certain appeal in fucking you with my suit still on,” he says thoughtfully. In his hand, Josh’s cock jumps. John’s eyebrows shoot up. “Now that bears further investigation,” he says. “But not, I think, tonight.”

He moves suddenly, and there is nothing lingering about his hands now. He strips out of his tuxedo, flinging the parts about him in a thoughtless flurry of shirt and boxers, jacket and socks. He’s crouching over Josh again with military quickness, and he has a condom and a bottle in hand.

“I like it a little fast,” Josh blurts suddenly. This isn’t something he’s in the habit of telling somebody on a first encounter, but he’s too hard, too hungry, to do anything but get what he wants. “I like it to burn a little.”

John’s hands flex visibly on the lubricant, and the condom packet tears violently between his fingers. “I was hoping you would say something like that,” he says.

Preparation is a blur of bending knees and slick fingers. Josh lifts one leg to tuck over the back of the seat and uses the other to tug at John.

“You want it bad,” John pants, his hands trembling a little as he smoothes the condom down his length. “You can’t wait any more.”

“You can’t either,” Josh returns, the end of the sentence dying in a shuddering moan as John begins to push at his partially stretched opening. He slips the head in, and they both hisses. John grits his teeth, twisting his face up into a tense rictus of near pain as he slides in slowly.

It does burn, just the way Josh likes it, making him know every inch, making him feel split and pierced and impaled. They both nearly scream as the car takes a sharp corner and propels John the rest of the way into him, hard and with no warning.

“Fuck,” Josh gasps. “Tell him to do that again.”

John pants a short laugh. “I don’t need him to make you scream,” he says, pulling out and pushing back just as hard.

They find a fast, hard rhythm, occasionally aided by the bumps in the road. Over John’s shoulder and through the tinted windows, Josh sees Embassy Row blur by. But he can’t concentrate on that very long, and he soon finds his head tossing restlessly on the seat, his hands urging John faster, harder. John does not take his eyes off Josh’s face, even when he reaches to stroke Josh’s cock, and the fragmented beginnings of a thought form in Josh’s mind, then scatter like dandelion fluff before the wind of John’s quick thrusts. He reaches for it again, but this is too good, too fierce to get anything but his full attention.

They come almost together, Josh first. He goes taught all over, his hands locking on John’s biceps and even his toes clenching. Then he is utterly drained, a puddle of limp satiation, as John gives a few more hard thrusts and cries out. Dimly, Josh realizes that it Is his name.

“Well,” John says from Josh’s neck after several panting moments. “That was certainly…incendiary.”

“Mmm,” Josh agrees.

“Not,” John continues, “that I expected anything less spectacular with you.”

Josh wonders fuzzily if the man ever gets tired of the sound of his own voice. He doubts itit really is quite an intriguing voice.

“Oh, dear,” John rattles on. “It does seem we’re stuck together.” He runs a finger between them, grimacing a little at the come drying tacky across their stomachs and chests. “Dear, dear. Perhaps you should come back to my suite with me and we can remedy this situation.”

Josh makes an affirmative noise, the shape of his thought beginning to return to him in bits and pieces. ‘Dates,’ he had said, and ‘bears investigation.’

“Of course,” John says, as If reading his mind. “You’ll have to put an end to it with the lovely Miss Gardner. She may be accommodating enough to allow others, but I’m afraid that I am not so understanding.” He smiles, and there is a new light in his eyes, something that could be joy.

Josh raises his head to study him more closely. “Again with the confidence,” he says. He was right, then. A bubble of quiet elation rises in his chest.

John gazes down at him, sober again with the ease of his ever mercurial moods. “I’m tired of waiting,” he says softly. “And I thinkI had hopedthat you are, too.”

“Okay,” Josh murmurs back, feeling a little awed. “I…yeah. The the suite sounds good.”

John’s eyes are soft, and he touches Josh’s cheekbone with a careful fingertip. “I’ll take that as a yes, then,” he says.

Josh can only nod.

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