Title: I'll Be Home
Author: Clarity / Karasu
Feedback email: karasumouri (at) earthlink (dot) net
Author's website: http://enchantingmuse.com
Pairing: Sam/Josh, Toby/CJ
Rating: CHILD
Archive: Yes to list archive. Anyone else, please ask first! =)
Series/sequel: Nay
Disclaimer: You know the drill
Warnings: None. This is pure fluff.
Summary: A little holida fic to get into the spirit of things.
Notes: I just wanted to be able to say I actually had a holiday-centric fic this year. I love holiday fics and thought the characters from West Wing deserved a chance. A little more fluffy than I tend to like writing, but I feel a little mushy right now anyway. ^_^ FYI, this is un-beta'ed, seeing as I just typed it. And most of all: Enjoy!

I'll Be Home by Clarity/Karasu

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love / Even more than I usually do / And although I know / It’s a long road back / I promise you

I’ll be home for Christmas / You can count on me / Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree / Christmas eve will find me / Where the love light gleams / I’ll be home for Christmas / If only in my dreams

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Three years ago Sam had paced through his apartment trying to find some sort of distraction to keep his worry at bay. Three years ago he had between trembling hands marred perfection and kissed along the stitches. Three years ago he had a lover.

Two years ago everything had broken into a million pieces, too hard to put back together perfectly. Two years ago he and Josh agreed to put their relationship on hold until the MS issue was resolvedfor better or worse. He thought that two years ago would be the worst time in his life.

A year ago he had come back to California; he spent the holidays with his parentsseparately, of course. A year ago he had spent hours on the phone to the east coast, listening to descriptions of the backstage antics that he had once been a part of in the West Wing. A year ago he started to wonder if he had made the right decision.

Now he knew that he was wrongtwo years ago hadn’t ached this much and being on the opposite side of the continent of his friends was stupid. Hindsight made everything so clear. But he didn’t believe in backing down, and that made things difficult. He didn’t want to crawl back, eitherit would feel like failure.

For the tenth time that morning Sam hung up the phone before he could hear the first ring on the other end. He sighed and got up, heading towards the kitchen where he could grab a cold beer from the ‘fridge. Out the windows he could see trees and flowers still in full bloom, their colors rich even though it was mid-December. Sam couldn’t remember a time when he had missed the cold and the snow. Well, to be honest, he didn’t miss the weather; he had grown up in California and still had the mindset that California’s climate ought to be the “right” one. He missed the West Wing.

He missed the senior staff meetings, late night poker games, ambiguous conversations with coded hand motions, and the people who had rekindled his interest in the world.

He wondered for a moment about the person who had moved into his apartment; a man or a woman? Perhaps a couple? He found it hard to think about think about those strangers. He wondered if anyone every stopped by looking for Sam Seaborn, or perhaps mail still sent to address had his name. For some reason, he hoped so.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Two days later he opened his front door to discover the identity of the persistent knocker. Sam stood, stunned for a moment, and stared at Joey Lucas. She smiled brightly at him, holding a flat box with something like a dozen ribbons curled on the top.

“Aren’t you going to let me in?” she asked.

Sam took a couple of steps back, still shocked. “Kenny?” he asked when he could make his voice work.

Joey waved her hand dismissively. “I wanted to talk to you,” she explained.

“Oh.” Sam shut the door and motioned his guest towards the couch. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, thank you,” Joey said.

She sat with perfect posture, Sam noted somewhat enviously. She was a beautiful woman, full of strength and charm. Sam wondered why she was here, talking to him, when she could be seeing anyone else in the world. He had never talked to her much. Josh and Donna knew Joey much better as they were usually the two working with her.

“I have a gift for you,” Joey said after awhile, handing over the mass of ribbons; Sam accepted silently.

“Ah... thank you,” he said as he started picking at the tapped edges of the wrapping paper. He saw Joey’s eyes squint in silent pleasure.

It only took a few moments for him to get through the wrapping and open a box that had once held a picture frame. He stared blankly at the familiar enveloped stuck inside and then opened it up. Sam felt his lips part in silent confusion. The plane ticket he held was marked for the twenty-fourth; the return trip listed no date, small text explained that payment would not be due unless a return flight was scheduled.

“What...?” Sam started, unsure how to end his question.

Joey smiled gently and reached out to pat his hand. “Go home,” she said. Sam continued to stare at her. She shook her head slightly. Tapping her finger on his ticket, she repeated, “Go home, Sam. They miss you.” She paused and Sam felt her acknowledgement of what should have been secret; “He misses you.”

He finally mustered up enough strength to protest. “I can’t leave, Joey. I’m supposed to have dinner with my mom on ChristmasI’m meeting with the governor two days later. And... I can’t take this from you,” he finished, holding the ticket towards her.

Joey stubbornly refused and pushed his hand away. “Sam,” she scolded, her mouth shaped in a small, pert pout. “I’m deaf, not blind. I got back from DC last Tuesday. Everyone thinks about friends and family right now. Everyone looks a mess because a piece is missing.” She stared pointedly, waiting until Sam gave a little nod to acknowledge that he understood. “And Josh didn’t even try to flirt,” she said, looking a little miffed.

Sam smiled slightly at the last.

“Go home,” she encouraged. “Everyone’s waiting.”

He sighed heavily. “I can’t stay...”

“Then book a return trip,” Joey challenged. Her entire posture spoke of determinationshe was not going to let him back down. “But I think you need to go back before you decide.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Josh scratched the back of his hand distractedly while Toby updated Leo. They were winding down rather smoothly this year and while peace may not have descended on the world, it might have decided to vacation in the White House. He hoped so, at least, he was too tired to deal with much at the moment.

He looked down at the hand that was bothering him and realized that within the red patch, irritated by his scratching, was the thin white scar now nearly three years old. Those memories made his chest ache for too many reasons and for a moment he thought he could hear the ghostly sirens that used to haunt him.

“Anyone going home for Christmas?” Leo asked.

Josh jerked his head up at what seemed to him to be a sudden question. From the corner of his eye he could see Toby shift restlessly. CJ glanced at him before answering, “Over New Year’s.”

Toby shook his head silently.

“I’m sticking around,” Josh said quietly.

Leo looked them over each in turn, his expression clearly showing that he wanted to press the issue, but he wouldn’t.

“Okay, guys, you can head out when you’re done.”

“Merry Christmas, Leo,” CJ said before she left. Toby made a gesture that was supposed to indicate that he was included with that statement.

Josh lingered momentarily. “Are you?”

Leo looked up from the paper he had started to read. “What?”

“Are you?”

“Am I what?”

Josh rolled his eyes. “Going homeseeing family. That stuff.”

Leo rubbed the spot on his nose where his glasses rested. “Mallory insists I meet her fiancé. They’re coming over on Christmas day.”

“Ah,” Josh said, not thinking of anything better to say. “Okay, then. Happy holidays.”

Leo stopped him from leaving. “Josh, have you heard from Sam?”

Josh reminded himself to exhale. He rolled his shoulder in an uncomfortable shrug. “No, I don’t think anyone has.”

“Oh for... why don’t one of you guys call him?”

“We, uh... I did. Today, actually. Answering machine.” Josh shrugged. Leo frowned, but didn’t say anything else.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“I can’t find it!”

CJ’s voice carried through the kitchen and into the living room. Toby called back over the jazzy rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that was playing on the stereo; “What?”

CJ entered the living room with her hands on her hips. “I just went out the other night, and I swear I bought mistletoe.”

Donna perked up immediately. “Oh? What was that for?”

“CJ, seriously, what do you need mistletoe for?” Josh asked from his slouched position on the couch. He held a gingerbread cookie in one hand and a beer in the other.

“It’s part of holiday tradition!” she said, smacking the back of Josh’s head. “And damnit, my house is going to have holiday spirit!”

“Cheers!” Toby said, raising his shot glass in a toast. CJ leveled a glare his way.

Josh sat up to get out of CJ’s reach. A smile tugged at his lips as he asked, “Do you really need mistletoe for an excuse to make out with Toby? I mean, really... Hey!”

CJ made a grab for him, but Josh hopped to his feet and danced away, laughing. Donna grinned, watching the short-lived chase and the ensuing punishment of cookie-stealing.

“I’ve decided,” CJ announced, smacking her lips loudly as she finished the pilfered cookie, “that Joshua will get the mistletoe I need. Anybody need anything else?”

“What? Hey“ Josh protested.

“I don’t think you have enough lights, CJ,” Donna pointed out helpfully.

Toby glanced around the apartment. “I don’t see any candles, you’re not quite the romantic you pretend to be.”

CJ turned back to Josh. “Okay, you’re going out for lights, candles, and, most importantly, mistletoe. Scoot, I expect you back here within two hours!” She pushed him towards the door; despites his protests, Josh ended up with car keys in hand and coat pulled tightly around him.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A half hour later Donna was searching through CJ’s cupboards for popcorn and saw a shopping bag that looked out of place. She took a look inside and grinned. “CJ!” she yelled. “I found the mistletoe!” She could her Toby’s low chuckle as she took the bag to the other room.

“I can’t believe it,” CJ muttered as she checked the bag for herself.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

An hour later CJ got up to answer the knocks at her door. “I would have thought Josh would announce his return more grandly,” she remarked as she stood.

Donna and Toby looked towards the door to see Josh’s expression when CJ held up the missing mistletoe. Instead, a very different and unexpected face appeared.

“Sam!” CJ exclaimed in shock, mistletoe slipping from her lax fingers. In a moment she had her arms around the man.

Sam returned the embrace a little hesitantly. When CJ finally let go he waved towards Donna and Toby, who had both stood but not come forward.

“What are you doing here?”

“Why didn’t you call and let us know?”

Sam smiled crookedly, a refreshing expression to see. “Honestly I couldn’t make up my mind until yesterday. I guess in the rush I didn’t really think about it.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t warn us!” CJ scolded anyway.

“Surprise?” Sam offered, his smile more genuine this time.

“Indeed,” Toby intoned.

Sam looked them over, shaking his head slowly. “God, it’s good to see you.” CJ and Donna smiled in understanding. “Where’s Josh?”

They had forgotten momentarily about Josh’s errand. “We sent him out on a wild goose chase,” Donna supplied. Sam raised an eyebrow in silent question.

Toby snorted and gave a nod in CJ’s direction. “She didn’t think we had mistletoe.”

Sam smirked. “Need an excuse to make out with Toby?” he asked.

“Not you, too!” CJ cried, raising her hands in a helpless gesture.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Finally Josh’s loud knocks interrupted the inside conversation. He called through the wood to announce success “after five stops!”

CJ was about to go let him in, but Sam stood up instead and moved towards the door. The others stayed in place, watching silently.

“Open up!” Josh called again, proceeding kicking the door.

Sam took a deep breath and then swung open the door. Josh’s scowl fell away to be replaced by shock and confusion.

“Sam?” he said.

Sam stepped back and Josh followed, setting his bags aside but never taking his eyes off the other man.

“I can’t believe you’re here.”

Shrugging, Sam said, “I don’t think I was going to. The other day Joey Lucas came to see me.” Seemingly on its own accord, Sam’s hand came to rest on Josh’s arm. “She said... some things that made sense.”

Josh appeared at a loss for words. His eyes moved to take in the sight of Sam as if memorizing every curve of muscle and every fold of fabric.

Sam continued quietly, “I wanted to come back and see how things had changed. I... missed you.” His other hand came up so that Sam held Josh with a loose grip on his elbows. “I came home.”

Josh smiled faintly. “Yeah,” he agreed with a slight nod. “I guess you did.”

“Sam, look up,” Donna urged quietly, unable to remain silent any longer.

Both men glanced up. Sam chuckled, a grin quickly making its way across his lips; Josh glared open-mouthed at the offending mistletoe.

“CJ! You sent me out for the damn“

Sam cut off that sentence by sliding one hand up to cup the back of Josh’s head. There was a moment where they paused and just stared at one another. Josh closed the distance between them.

Donna and CJ high-fived each other silently, grinning madly. Toby was carefully avoiding eye contact, as he swirled the ice at the bottom of his glass. CJ leaned over to prod his knee; he glanced up and winked, a rare smile turning up his lips.

“You so want to make out with me right now,” CJ teased.

Toby snorted, “When don’t I?”

“Damn right,” CJ returned.

Donna announced, “I guess I should be going.”

“What? You’ve got to be kidding!” Josh said. His cheeks were flushed and his lips looked well-kissed.

CJ agreed. “Time to get this party started.”

Donna leaned back into the cushions and smiled. “Good. I just wanted to make sure we hard our priorities in order.”

“Certainly,” Josh said magnanimously.

CJ stood up to get out the food.

“I do have a boyfriend, you know,” Donna said, her voice making its way to CJ in the kitchen. “He’s visiting family.”

“Yes, Donna, I know,” Josh replied patiently.

“I think she just gave us permission to make out,” Sam said matter-of-factly.

CJ smiled to herself; she knew that when she turned around Toby would be standing in the doorway.

Christmas looked very promising.

~ * Fin * ~

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