Title: It's Not About Apples, Leo
Spoilers: seasons one-three
Disclaimer: I don't own them, but having said that, I like to think that Sam belongs to us now ;-)
Summary: Sam falls asleep and trouble ensues.
It's Not About Apples, Leo by Coupdepam
Josh opened one eye, then the other. Blinking until he became accustomed to the light, he slowly sat up. Sitting at the end of the room was Sam, his glasses reflecting the light from the lamp beside him. Josh watched him for a while unsure if Sam was asleep in the chair that he had pulled up beside the bedroom window.
Eventually Josh heard a suppressed sigh then the sound of a page being turned and with the knowledge that Sam was awake he quietly asked, "What you doing?"
"Jesus, Josh!" Sam jumped and as he did so the book he had been holding flew out of his hand and landed on the end of the bed. Josh reached forward and picked it up.
"The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine," Josh looked back at Sam, "Are you punishing yourself?"
Sam walked over to the bed and took the book from Josh. Their hands touched briefly but Sam pulled away and returned to his chair, "I was trying to…"
The sound of Sam sighing was, Josh realized, a sound that he had heard many times in the past few days, "Trying to what, Sam?"
"I was trying to send myself to sleep," Sam confessed.
"You were planning to go to sleep in a chair? What's wrong with the bed?"
"I tried it, it doesn't work," Sam slumped further down the chair and put his feet up on the windowsill.
"Come back to bed," Josh lay back down and pulled the covers over him. Sam didn't move, "Sam, come back to bed."
"Go back to sleep."
"Come back to bed and I'll go back to sleep," Josh reasoned but when Sam didn't reply he sat up again and this time switched on the bedside lamp, "Sam?"
"I can't sleep, Josh. I'm not sitting here looking out for shooting stars. I…can't sleep."
Josh realized Sam was getting himself into a state, "Okay, okay just… don't fall asleep in that chair."
Josh switched off the lamp and shuffled back under the covers, "You want me to fetch the shotgun?"
"You look like a homesteader guarding his land," Josh explained.
"Go to sleep, Josh."
"Okay," Josh rolled onto his side, "But promise you'll wake me if there's any trouble on the ranch."
A gentle snort from Sam was soon followed by a snore from Josh and that was followed by another sigh from Sam.
Josh woke before the alarm and fumbled groggily with the buttons to stop it going off. He yawned, stretched and rolled over to face Sam. The bed was empty. Josh listened for sounds coming from the bathroom or kitchen but there were none. It was then that he remembered when he had last seen Sam and wasn't surprised on sitting up to find Sam fast asleep in the chair, legs still propped on the windowsill.
Josh walked quietly over to him and shook him by his shoulder. When that didn't work he tried saying his name. When Sam still didn't respond he walked around to the other side of him and unceremoniously shoved his feet off the window. Sam woke with a start, his glasses and book falling from his lap.
He stretched, yawned and cursed the stiffness in his neck. Finally he opened his eyes fully to find Josh perched against the windowsill with his arms folded, "Are the cattle safe?"
Sam didn't have the slightest idea what Josh was talking about and started to rise from the chair, determined not to let Josh see how uncomfortable he was.
"You know," Josh continued, "Scientists have proved that sleeping in an upright position does not produce the same benefits that sleeping lying down does. That's why even if you sleep for a whole flight, you still feel like crap when you get there."
Sam picked up his glasses and book and started to move away. He was stopped by a hand on his arm and a now very serious-faced Josh, "Hey, you can't spend the night in a chair, Sam. What's going on?"
"Nothing's going on. I just can't sleep. I'll get over it," Sam shrugged and walked towards the bathroom.
"Yeah, well, you look like shit you know, and seeing how I only love you for your looks you better do something about that." Sam turned and winked at Josh before shutting the bathroom door behind him.
Donna poked her head around Josh's door, "Was it Thursday for Matlock or Friday?"
"Thursday, are you going to the Mess?" Josh asked without looking up.
"What do you want?"
"Anything…sandwich…whatever, and can you get Sam something too?"
"No," Donna replied and Josh finally looked up, "He's sleeping."
"Well I didn't attach probes to his head to measure his REM but he looked pretty fast-asleep to me. Should I wake him up?"
"No!" Josh shouted, "God no, just…let him sleep. He hasn't been sleeping very well recently. And apart from feeling crappy he's starting to be crappy, not to mention the fact that it's keeping me awake," Josh leant back in his chair but sprung forward again when he realized what he had just said, "That sounded like I know what Sam gets up to in the middle of the night, not that he gets up to anything…as far as I know…and I don't. I meant worrying keeps me up… you know…I worry that he can't sleep and then I can't get to sleep… not that I know if he's not sleeping, he just told me he wasn't…he could be sleeping fine…for all I know," Josh stooped talking, painfully aware that he was only making matters worse.
Donna stared at him for a while before answering, "Okay, well I'm going to go get you a sandwich and one for Sam. Do you want to do any more manic rants before I go?"
"No I think that's probably it," Josh waited until Donna was out of sight and then let his head fall onto his desk. The loud thump coincided with the boom of Toby's voice.
"Ginger, why have I come back to a deputy asleep on my sofa?"
Josh jumped out of his seat, "No, no, no," he muttered and raised his voice as he entered the bullpen, "Toby, don't wake him up," he arrived in time to find Toby standing over Sam, his hands on his hips.
"Oh hallelujah," Sam mumbled as he stood and walked past Josh, "I'm awake again."
Josh waited until Sam had left the office and then turned to Toby, "He isn't sleeping," Josh explained and then added, "I think," to avoid reliving his hellish conversation with Donna.
"I'm sorry to hear that but it's the State of the Union. He can sleep when we're done. I'll even tuck him in," Toby sat down and started to flip through a file on his desk, "I'll make sure he doesn't stay late."
Josh nodded and went back to his office.
That night Josh put plan B into operation. Plan A, hot milk and classical music, had failed but Josh hadn't been deterred. Tonight he was going to read Sam to sleep.
He watched as Sam came out of the bathroom and walked towards the bed, "You're really beginning to look like a zombie."
Sam climbed under the covers and leant over and kissed Josh, "Why, you say the sweetest things."
Josh reached over and took the book away that Sam had picked up.
"What are you doing? I was going to read…Josh I'm really not up to it tonight."
"Lie down," Josh ordered and too tired to argue Sam complied, "I'm going to read to you and the sound of my dulcet tones is going to lull you to sleep."
"Dulcet tones?" Sam sat up again.
"Just shut up and close your eyes," smiling, Sam lay back on the pillow and waited for Josh to start.
Half an hour later Josh was still reading, Sam's eyes were closed and his breathing was slow and deep.
"It was not in the first moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But I saw that everything within my view ought to be white had been white long ago..." Josh stopped reading, closed the book and carefully reached over to switch off the light.
"That's my favorite bit."
"Damn it Sam, you're meant to be asleep."
"Sorry, I tried. You'll have to think of something else," Sam rolled over and wrapped his arm around Josh, "It was a nice thought though."
Josh pulled Sam closer towards him and tried to think of another way to get him to sleep. When Sam got out of bed an hour later and went and sat in the living room, Josh was still thinking.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Josh sat at his desk and rubbed at his eyes wearily. Plans A and B had failed and plan C, the purchase of a Sound Machine that recreated the sound of the ocean had just proved to be a waste of money. Sam and Josh had lain listening to the sound of the waves and occasional seagull until Sam had turned to Josh and said, "That's really annoying," and a relieved Josh had agreed and happily reached over to switch it off. Josh decided that he would try something else and then he would suggest that Sam see his doctor.
"Donna!" Josh waited until Donna appeared before asking, "Have you done with that report yet?"
"Well I'm going as quick as I can but every time I start to read it I lapse into a coma so that slows things down a bit."
"You're meant to be pulling out the main points not reading it for pleasure…wait, is it really that mind-numbing?" Donna nodded, "Give it to me."
And so plan D was born.
"What's that?" Sam asked as Josh held out his arm so that Sam could lie against him.
"It's The Global Core Common Data Report. It sent Donna to sleep so I thought it might work on you," Sam snuggled closer to Josh, "And I'm pretty sure Miss Havisham doesn't figure in it."
Josh waited until Sam was lying still and had closed his eyes, "Sam, you're stressed about The State of the Union right? I mean there's nothing else going on?"
"There's nothing else, it's just insomnia. I get like this sometimes. It starts because of one thing but then I end up getting so stressed about not being able to sleep that I forget what caused it in the first place and end up getting stressed about not being able to sleep which means of course that I can't get to sleep because I'm so wound up about not-"
"Okay, okay…you're proving the theory quite clearly there, Sam."
"Well okay then," Sam took a deep breath which was exhaled as a sigh, "Start reading."
Josh held the report under the lamp and gently stroked Sam's hand and started to read, "The philosophy of the core documentation is to collect common data and background information that can be shared among the countries requiring documentation, thus avoiding duplicate collection efforts and ensuring a coordinated approach to the analysis…"
Sam had finally fallen asleep three pages into the report but now, three hours later, Josh had woken to find the bed empty. He got up and wearily walked towards the sound of gentle tapping coming from the living room. Sam was sitting hunched over his laptop with a blanket around his shoulders. Josh went over and sat beside him, took the laptop away from Sam and pulled him into a hug.
"You need to see your doctor. I've tried everything I can think of. You just need to go get some sleeping pills or som-"
"No," Sam interrupted, "No pills, I've been down that road before and I don't want to get so I can't sleep without them again."
"Well what then? You can't go on like this."
"It will pass. It always does. When the Union's done I can spend all day in bed and you can read to me…" Sam kissed Josh on his forehead, "and lull me to sleep with your…" he kissed his cheek, "Dulcet tones," he leaned further towards Josh as he finally landed a kiss on his lips. Josh pulled the comforter around them both and returned the kiss. They stayed like that for a while until Sam pulled away, "Go back to bed. Just because I can't sleep doesn't mean you shouldn't. Anyway it's adding to my stress knowing that I'm stopping you from sleeping as well."
"Come back with me," Josh said as he rose from the sofa.
"I'm actually getting some good work done here and I-"
"Just come and lie down at least. That way you'll be resting, you're just making yourself even more tired sitting doing this."
"At least I'm doing something. I can't lie staring at the ceil-"
"So close your eyes. Come on Sam you need to get some rest, besides you said you were getting stressed about me not sleeping and the sound of you tapping on that keyboard is going to keep me awake so you should-"
"Well cover your head with a fucking pillow then!" Sam shouted.
Josh took a step away and held up his hands in surrender, "Okay, okay… I'm going to bed now Mr Sudden Temper Flare-up, where apparently I've got to put a pillow over my head," Josh walked back over to the sofa and kissed Sam's head, "I can make myself an air hole though right, you don't actually want me to suffocate?"
Sam grabbed Josh's hand as he began to walk away, "I'll do this and then I'll come and lie in a horizontal position next to you and stare at the ceiling."
"Okay," Josh smiled and squeezed Sam's hand before letting go and walking back to the bedroom.
Toby waited as patiently as he could for the president to finish talking. He looked at Sam for some support but was unable to catch his eye, as his head was bent downwards looking at the folder in his lap.
"You say you don't want to use the word and then give me ten reasons why we should!" Toby challenged.
"It's not the word, it's the sentiment that bothers you. We can sit here and play virtual-scrabble, Toby or we can get to the point- which is that you still think I shouldn't even mention them in the first place."
Toby cast another glance at Sam. He knew he agreed with him on this and couldn't understand why he wasn't joining in with the debate. He watched as Sam's head slipped even further downwards.
At this point, and prompted by a look from Leo, Josh decided it was time to step in, "Why can't we include them and admon-" Josh stopped as he felt Sam's head suddenly roll onto his shoulder. The warm room, endless conversation, comfortable sofa and knowledge that apart from Toby's quibbling the State of the Union was done had all combined to create a perfect recipe for sleep. Josh didn't move. Part of him aware that falling asleep in the Oval office was almost as bad as shouting in it, but part of him relieved that Sam had finally managed to fall asleep at all. CJ, Toby, Leo and the President stared at Sam in various expressions of amusement and annoyance but before anyone could do or say anything Sam broke the silence that had fallen on the room.
"I'd like an apple please," he mumbled sleepily.
Josh ignored CJ's snort of laughter and started to shake Sam's shoulder. In response Sam merely leaned further towards Josh.
"Wake up buddy," Josh was careful to say buddy and not baby.
Sam slipped an arm across Josh's chest and moaned, "Five more minutes… we never sleep in anymore."
Josh was now frozen still. His hand was still on Sam's shoulder. This wasn't too bad, he told himself, they could explain this away.
Sam's arm that had been wrapped around Josh's chest now dropped down and encircled his waist, he burrowed his head beneath Josh's and let out a contented sigh, "Let me sleep, Josh," and the way Sam's head fit perfectly beneath Josh's left no doubt in anyone in the room that this was not a case of mistaken identity. Sam had definitely woken `there' before.
Sam sensed something was not right. Josh was tense in his arms and he could hear his heart pounding furiously. Sam opened his eyes and tried to focus on the two black shiny objects that met his view, one of which was tapping up and down. Sam's eyes soon adjusted and told his brain he was looking at a pair of shoes. Sam's brain told him that was impossible because Sam's feet were not over there and neither were Josh's. Sam's eyes then told his brain that the shoes were resting on a thick blue carpet with an Eagle in its center. Again Sam's brain told him that this was impossible because there was only one room- Sam's brain finally yelled at him to move away from Josh as quickly as he could. He jerked upwards and the top of his head collided with Josh's jaw causing both men to gasp then moan and still nobody spoke.
It was the President who spoke first. He was standing leaning against his desk and unnoticed by everyone in the room he had a slight smile on his face, "Sam?" he waited until Sam was looking at him, "Did you want an apple or were you just thinking out loud?"
Leo turned towards Bartlet. He couldn't believe he was reacting so calmly to what they had just witnessed, "Sir, would you like me to talk to Sam and Josh in my office?"
The President ignored him and walked towards Sam and Josh, "It's a fact that many of you know that in times of peace the Eagle's head on this seal points one way and in times of conflict it points the other," he paused and put his hands in his pockets, "I wonder which way it points when someone outs themselves in the Oval Office."
Leo sprung out of his seat, "Okay, I'm going to go talk to you two in my office."
Bartlet gestured for him to sit, "I'm going to the Residence why don't you all stay here and let Josh and Sam tell you all something that I've known for quite some time." He collected some files, yelled for Charlie and then left the room leaving its stunned occupants staring at the door as it closed behind him.
Toby stood up and walked around the two sofas. He rubbed at his forehead as he paced but returned to his seat without saying anything. CJ simply sat staring at Sam and Josh, occasionally she shook her head and smiled. Leo didn't move, his gaze switched between the two men sitting in front of him but his anger was palpable. After what seemed like perpetuity he leant forward in his seat and spoke, "Please, for the love of all that is sane in this world, tell me that the President knows something freaky about you and apples, Sam."
"It's not about apples, Leo," Sam said and was pleased to find his voice sounded almost normal.
"Just so we're all straight-" Toby began but was cut off by CJ's burst of laughter. One look from Toby silenced her immediately.
"Just so we're all…clear on this, we are all talking about what I think we're talking about?"
"Well that depends what it is you're talking about, Toby, because if everybody starts adapting their vocabulary in order to discuss it I don't think we're going to get very far!" Josh shouted.
"I think we all know what we're talking about here," Leo said.
"And it's not apples," Sam added.
Josh closed his eyes and sighed before sitting back down next to Sam.
"For how long?" Toby asked.
"Since 1998 off and on…more off than on…but for the past eight months we've been more on than off," Sam explained.
CJ counted back the months and tried to work out what had been going on eight months ago. When she had the month the rest fell into place, "When you found out about the MS."
"Well, when Sam found out if you want to be precise," Josh said.
"Who knows?" Leo asked.
"My family, Josh's family, Matt Skinner, Donna, obviously mine and Josh's closest friends, oh, and a vending machine repair man in North Carolina, but we probably don't need to worry about him."
"And evidently the President," CJ added, "But we probably do want to worry about him. How does he know anyway?"
Josh shook his head, it was a mystery to him as well but not as much as it was a shock discovering that he didn't seem to mind. He looked at Leo who was staring at the floor, deep in thought. Toby had returned to pacing and Josh sat back and waited for the next question.
"So what are we going to do?" Toby asked, "It's out now, so what are we going to do about it?"
"How is it `out'? Three more of our close friends know, that's all, are you seriously suggesting someone here is going to leak it?"
"Will you stop looking at this from Josh Lyman's point of view and look at it from ours. You kept this from us and up until today it if it had become a story it would have been about you two lying to the administration. Now the story is the administration keeping this a secret…or deciding that this should be a secret…or whatever…but it involves us now," Toby stopped pacing and looked to Leo for support.
"Hold on," Josh jumped out of his seat, "We didn't lie-"
"I don't think Toby meant-" Leo began.
"No, we didn't lie and how the hell did we get to discussing damage control?"
"Because this could be damaging and we need to control it!" Toby shouted.
Leo glanced up at Josh's tense jaw and decided to turn the conversation to Sam, "How does Matt Skinner know?"
Josh tried to calm down as he waited for Sam to answer.
"Sam?" Leo prompted.
"He knows…he met…it was through Josh really," Sam sighed deeply and fell back against the sofa, "I can't do this now, I can't string a sentence together let alone think straight."
Josh immediately sat down and studied Sam. Without taking his eyes off him he announced, "We're going home. Sam's going to sleep then we'll come back." He grabbed hold of Sam's arm and pulled him up, "Toby, you wonder how you failed to notice that there was more to me and Sam than friendship and yet you hadn't noticed that for the past few days you've been working with the walking dead. Sam hasn't slept well for the past week and not at all for the past two nights so if you want my strategy here it is, I'm taking Sam home, he's going to sleep, we'll come back and then we'll talk." With that, Josh pulled at Sam and ushered him out of the room.
"I'm sorry Josh," Sam said as the car neared his apartment. The two men had hardly spoken since they had left the White House.
"Don't be, it's not your fault."
"What are we going to do?"
"You're going to sleep Sam, and that's as far as I've got."
As soon as they entered the apartment Sam took off his jacket and flung it over the sofa. By the time he had crossed the living room his tie was hanging loose around his neck and both shoes were removed and scattered before he had even entered the bedroom. Josh walked behind him and watched as he as good as collapsed onto the bed. Sam fell asleep almost immediately and Josh looked at his watch, determined that Sam would get at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep. He unplugged the phone turned his and Sam's cell phones to vibrate, made some fresh coffee and settled on the sofa. For the first time in days it was Josh's turn to stay wide awake while his partner slept next door.
Josh swallowed the dregs of his third cup of coffee and glanced at his watch. Sam had been asleep for four hours and twenty minutes. Josh hated to wake him, but knew that they should go to the White House and face the music. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched Sam sleep. He had hardly moved from the position he had been in four hours ago. Josh lay down beside him and placed his hand, flat, on Sam's chest. He let it lay there for a while watching it rise and fall. Sighing, Josh shook Sam gently but in response he only groped for Josh's hand and tucked it, within his, under his chin. Josh closed his eyes and let his head fall back on the pillow. He pulled his hand out of Sam's grasp and laid it on his shoulder, "Sam." He continued to shake and call his name until Sam eventually opened his eyes.
Sam stared at the ceiling for a while and then closed them again, "I was dreaming about apples again. I was in the canteen at Junior high. All the other kids wanted a donut but I wanted an apple," Sam wiped his hand over his face and rubbed at his eyes.
"What happened?" Josh asked.
"They were all eating their donuts and making all these noises like they were the most delicious things they had ever eaten."
"And nothing, I just ate my apple and watched them and I thought how tasty my apple was and how it was probably just as nice as their donuts."
The two men lay in silence. The curtains were pulled but the window was open and the traffic's conversation drifted into the room punctuated every so often by a car horn.
"Toby's pissed as hell," Josh murmured and he felt Sam's head move against his chest as he nodded. Josh patted Sam's chest and then sat up, "Come on."
Josh had already washed and changed so he threw a pizza in the microwave while he waited for Sam. When he heard the bathroom door open he turned the dial again so that Sam's would be ready. "You'll have to eat this in the car, Sam," Josh called and Sam appeared in the doorway just as the microwave bleeped its completion. Josh laughed as he placed the pizza back in its box.
"What's so funny?" Sam asked.
"Nothing it's just I called you and the microwave bleeped just as you…" Josh looked at Sam's tired frown, "Nothing, come on let's go."
When they reached the communication Bullpen Sam walked straight into his office but Josh went and stood in Toby's door. "Where are we-"
"Leo's office," Toby interrupted, "CJ and Leo are waiting." Toby pushed past Josh and out of his office.
Josh ran a hand through his hair, breathed out deeply and then went next door. Sam was sitting in his chair leaning over the waste bin. He took three deep breaths, nodded and then stood and walked over to Josh. "It's a good job I didn't puke, I just realized that waste bin is wire mesh," Sam carried on past Josh.
Josh grabbed Sam's arm, "Hold on, you can't go into Leo's office on the verge of throwing up."
"It's never stopped me before," Sam reasoned. Josh didn't return Sam's smile, "It's okay, it was just eating that pizza in the car and I still feel really tired which makes me nauseous…it's okay." Sam walked on and Josh reluctantly followed him.
When they reached Leo's office he came flying through the door, "Give me one second guys," he said before shouting for Margaret. Josh and Sam walked into the office and seated themselves on the sofa next to CJ. Toby stood in the corner of the room, his head bowed and hands in his pockets. Nobody spoke until Leo entered. He shut the door behind him and went over to his desk.
"Did you get some sleep?" he asked Sam as he sat down.
"Yeah, I feel much better now," Sam replied.
"Yeah," Josh agreed, "He was just nearly puking from exhaustion in his office, but don't worry because he feels much better."
Toby coughed and shifted restlessly on his feet. Leo glanced at him and realized he was impatient to start. "Did you get something to eat, Sam?"
Toby sighed loudly and turned away to face the window.
"Yeah, Josh made me eat some pizza in the car on the way over, hence the retching," Sam explained and silence descended once more.
"Okay," Leo sat back in his seat and waited until Toby had turned around before continuing. "After you went home I talked to Toby, I talked to CJ and I talked to the President. And then I came back here and had an idea and Sam, it's got everything to do with apples."
Josh and Sam exchanged puzzled looks but Josh was feeling increasingly relaxed. Leo wasn't mad, he actually sounded quite cheerful. He was plotting, Josh realized. Leo had a plan.
"When we were in the Oval Office, Toby, you said that if this had got out before, it would have been a matter of Josh and Sam having lied to us but if it gets out now it's a matter of the administration deciding to keep it secret."
Now it was Toby's turn to look confused, "Yes, I did and I still think-"
"What exactly is the `it' that we are talking about here?" Leo asked. When he had talked with Toby earlier Toby had used his extensive vocabulary to avoid using the words gay, homosexual or even relationship and Leo was counting on him doing so now.
"The `it' is the fact that Sam and Josh are more than just friends." Toby stated, obviously uncomfortable. It wasn't the fact that Sam and Josh were gay he found difficult, it was the fact that he was discussing it in front of them, CJ and Leo.
"No Toby," Leo stood up and walked over to Toby, "The `it' is whatever we want it to be." Toby, Sam and Josh looked nonplussed at Leo's words, but CJ was smiling.
"CJ," Leo prompted.
She sat up and turned to face Sam and Josh, "I don't know what happened in the Oval office earlier, but I know that Toby thinks you have a secret and if you told us what it was we would have to decide how to deal with the ramifications of it for this administration." CJ paused, Josh was smiling too now, "Now I don't know what the secret is, Toby thinks it has something to do with your friendship, but I think it has something to do with apples."
Josh was smiling broadly now. Sam looked just as confused as before. Leo was looking at Josh with a wry smile on his face. Toby was…pacing.
"Nobody actually said..." Toby stood still, "Hold on," he carried on his path to the window and then turned around, "In the Oval office, nobody actually said what the secret was…nobody, so far, has actually used any of the words that we are all thinking to describe what we are now thinking about Sam and Josh." He returned to his original position and slowly added his smile to the collection. "For all we know, Josh and Sam's secret could well be about apples."
"Couldn't it just," Leo agreed.
"We don't have to worry about keeping anything from anybody, because as far as we know there's nothing to hide." Toby rubbed a hand absently over his forehead, "I can live with that, I'm worried about what the apple-secret is, but…I can live with that."
Leo nodded at Toby, an almost indecipherable look was exchanged between the two men, and then Leo walked over to where Josh and Sam sat. "We won't talk about this again and if we do it won't be anywhere near the White House. You have kept this secret all this time, keep it secret. If it comes out through another source we'll support you but as far as I'm concerned Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn have never disclosed the nature of their relationship to any of the senior staff or the President."
Josh didn't want to show just how relieved he was by what had been said. Leo's plan was almost childlike in its simplicity, but extremely effective. He relaxed his hands that had been clenched, and then looked at Sam, "Are you okay with this?"
Sam flashed a look that made Josh realize that Sam had failed to keep up with what was being said. Josh knew that when he was fully alert, Sam would have understood every nuance of the conversation and then explained it all to Josh. But Sam was not fully alert, he was barely awake. "Josh, to be honest-" Sam stopped talking and swallowed, "I really think I am going to throw up this time."
"Not on my carpet," Leo exclaimed and he dived behind his desk for the waste bin.
After a while, the dry heaves that Sam was struggling against stopped, and realizing he hadn't answered Josh he leaned back against the sofa and said, "To be honest, I'm not sure I really caught the finer points of the conversation, but there seemed to be quite a bit of smiling going on so I'll take it that things are working out well."
Josh smiled, "We're the Upside Down Frown gang." He started to hoist Sam up.
"Which is better than being the `we've all perpetrated a lie again' gang," Toby said. Josh started to walk out of the room but Sam stopped and turned towards Toby. There was a pause as both men looked at each other. Josh turned back; he knew that Sam would want some sort of assurance from Toby that things were okay between them. The silence seemed to stretch on unbearably, Sam looked at Toby waiting for him to speak, while Toby returned the stare, his face giving no hint of what he was about to say.
"Go get some sleep Sam, you look ready to drop."
Josh visibly relaxed as he once more took hold of Sam's arm and steered him out of the room. CJ followed them out but Toby lingered.
"You're okay with this, aren't you?" Leo asked him.
"What, the secret apple ruse?" Toby asked.
"No, the other thing."
"Ah, the apple that dare not speak its name," Toby replied and paused before continuing, "I think it's going to be weird for a while…I think it will take a while. But I think…I think it will be okay…after a while." Toby sat down on the sofa and Leo joined him. "What made you change your mind? When you spoke to me earlier you were talking about how to control it, how to spin it, you weren't talking about… apples.
"I spoke to the President. I asked him how he knew." Leo got up and shut the door before continuing. "It was after the President had announced he was going to run again. We all stayed late that night and I left after the President had gone back to the Residence but he came back down again. It must have been early in the morning because I didn't get away until one. Anyway, the President decided to take a stroll through the West Wing. Everyone had gone home, or so he thought."
Toby leant back as he listened to Leo. He could remember coming into work the morning after the President's announcement to find Sam asleep on his sofa. Josh had appeared a few moments later and had picked up his jacket from the sofa. He had told Toby that he had just got in, but now the more he thought about it, Toby remembered thinking that Josh looked as if he had spent the night sleeping on the sofa. He realized now that he probably had.
"The communications Bullpen was in darkness," Leo continued, "and he was just about to return to the residence when he heard a voice coming from your office. He was going to go in, he was glad to find someone still around, but then he heard what was being discussed.
"I was hoping he was going to say he wasn't going to run again," Sam admitted to Josh.
"What? We talked about this, you never said that before."
"No, well, we talked about it as colleagues. I told you what I thought as a member of the senior staff but …I just thought…a part of me hoped that he would say that and then we would be able to stop living a lie."
"We're not living a lie," Sam didn't answer, "Sam, we're not living a lie," Josh sounded like he was trying to convince Sam and himself.
"I don't think I can keep doing this. We say goodnight here in front of everyone and then half an hour later you pull up outside my apartment. I let Ginger and Bonnie joke about when I'm going to stop being Washington's most eligible bachelor, and I already have. If I see you in the mess I have to think how many times we've sat together that week before I go over. I walk all the way to-"
"We're not living a lie Sam, we're living in a hypocritical, judgmental often homophobic world. We agreed that if anyone ever asked us, or if someone found out, we would tell them the truth. But we both know that nothing good would come of coming out now. We've left it too late to start thinking about that now."
"I know," Sam mumbled. And then more definitely, "I know, I just allowed myself to think about what it would be like if we weren't hiding `us' and it was…it seemed more real than the life we are living at the moment."
"We're real Sam, it's just that our reality is a…a parallel reality."
"That's good, you should be a speech writer," Sam mumbled as he finally allowed himself to be pulled into Josh's embrace. They fell asleep, Sam on top of Josh, and Josh on top of his rumpled jacket.
Leo had been sitting forward when he was telling Toby what the President had overheard, but now he had finished he turned to face him. "He told me today that if he had found out about Sam and Josh before he had overheard them that night, he would have let one of them go and it probably would have been Sam. One sex scandal is bad enough but two…"
"But he doesn't think it's a scandal now," Toby stated.
"No," Leo paused, "He doesn't."
Toby thanked Leo for telling him what the President said and then walked back to his office. He switched off the light and replaced it with the lamp. He thought about how he felt about Sam and Josh, how he feared their revelation might change his relationship with them. He walked down to the Mess and thought about how difficult it must be for Josh and Sam to have to live their secret life. He tried to imagine being in love with someone but not being able to share it with anyone. He didn't think he would be able to do that. He stood with his hands in his pockets looking at the cakes and pastries on display but thinking of other things.
"I'm glad you came down today, I've got something you'll like."
The voice of the canteen supervisor interrupted Toby's thoughts and he looked up at her and raised his eyebrows.
"Here you go Mr Ziegler, I know how you like a nice pie," she reached over and pointed to a display of neatly cut slices, "Apple pie!" she exclaimed. She watched as Toby smiled, and then much to her confusion, began to laugh.
As they drove home, Josh told Sam again that everything was alright, but he knew that he was now well past understanding or caring about what Josh was telling him. At a set of lights, Josh pulled up level to a hotdog stand. The smell drifted into the car and Sam dived out of it and threw-up over the sidewalk. As Josh ran around the front of the car, he was suddenly aware of how successful they had been at presenting themselves as just two friends, the reaction of Toby and Leo had told him just how successful. They had been living a secret life for so long that it had become second nature to them. He stood by the car and waited for Sam to finish, when what he really wanted to do was go over to him, rub his back, place a hand on his forehead, comfort him. He pulled the seatbelt around Sam and, in defiance of all their strict rules, sneaked a kiss as he reached over to fasten the belt.
Once inside the apartment, and after the curtains had been pulled, Josh pulled Sam towards him. He soon realized he was actually keeping him upright and so began the short journey to the bedroom. Sam collapsed onto the bed and Josh rid him of his shoes, pants and shirt and pulled back the comforter.
"I'm going to sleep in the other room," he whispered as he kissed Sam good night. A mumble came in reply.
Josh went over to the curtains to make sure that no light could sneak in later. He unplugged the alarm clock and phone and took Sam's cell phone and pager from his coat and switched off the cell and took the pager with him.
Josh had slept for eight hours and been awake for six by the time he heard a clatter followed by an `Ow!' come from the bedroom. He looked at the door expectantly and couldn't hide a grin when Sam appeared looking completely disheveled but decidedly better than he had the day before.
"You unplugged the lamp," Sam complained, "I tripped." Sam rubbed his ankle and then came and sat next to Josh. "What time is it?"
"Twelve o'clock. You've been asleep for fourteen hours."
"Wow, that's-" Sam yawned and rubbed his eyes.
Josh put the newspaper on the floor and Sam moved to lie against him and closed his eyes. For a moment Josh thought he was falling asleep again but then Sam's eyes opened and he looked up at Josh.
"You're the apple in my dream," he said.
"Okay…you're the cream in my coffee," Josh countered.
Josh stared down at Sam's perplexed expression, "Oh, sorry, I thought we were doing the song lyric thing."
Sam smiled and shook his head, "No, I meant in my dream…the apple that I want in my dream- it's you. I finally figured it out. All the other boys wanted a donut but I wanted an apple."
"Forbidden fruit?" Josh asked.
"No, not really, I'm happy with the apple. I never told you the end of the dream." Sam shifted and made himself more comfortable against Josh. "When the other boys have finished their donuts they come over to me and asked me what my apple was like but I don't tell them. I always say that I had a donut."
"Always? You've dreamt this a lot?" Josh asked.
"Two years," Sam confessed, "But here's the thing- this time it was different. I told them that I didn't like donuts, I liked apples. I then explained to them, in quite specific detail, why I liked apples."
Sam closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "So now do you see why you're the apple?"
"Yeah," Josh mumbled, his chin rested on Sam's head and he was staring into space. The two men lay quietly for a while and Sam began to fall asleep again.
"Sam," Josh whispered.
"Am I a Golden Delicious?"
Sam snorted, "No, you're a Coxes Pippen."
"Mmm, I love it when you talk dirty," Josh kissed the top of Sam's head and wrapped his arms tighter around him He would explain what had happened in Leo's office later and then they would go into work, and Sam would smile just like Josh would when they would arrive in their offices to find a large slice of apple pie on their desks.
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