Land Of The Living
Character(s): Josh, Sam
Summary: Josh's musings on his relationship with Sam.
Mom saw me flat-out in love today. And I imagine it was the first time because, for one thing, I've never really brought women home to meet her before. Secondly, I have to honestly say, I've never felt this way until now.
The third thing is, it's Sam I brought up here to see her.
She's always loved Sam. From the first time I dragged him to Connecticut to meet her and Dad, years ago, she was so impressed with his manners, his charm. Before I knew it, she was telling me privately what a catch he was, and for a split second I thought she was saying it because she knew that his collar barely concealed my bite mark.
But she didn't, and that's not least of which because she didn't have a clue I'd be the kind of guy who would be interested in that sort of thing. Oh, I've had my dick sucked by a few guys in the course of higher education. (Mostly when I was overseas; even then, I was a calculating son of a bitch). But I've never let on to anyone that I've had a waxing and waning attraction to men my whole life.
So, of course, that whole revelation was a shock to her.
Sam and I caught a late flight up on a kind of last minute impulse. The most recent time I spoke to Mom she was sounding a little down and lonely. It would have been her and Dad's anniversary last month, and it seems to be a hard time for her.
I was happy to come, but I wasn't so sure about Sam. He was nervous, and a nervous Sam can be hard to manage. The last thing I needed was for him to blurt out something provocative during the course of one of his manic periods.
I didn't have to worry about it, because in the end, I was the one to give Mom a vivid image of what went on behind our closed door.
Sam walked out into the living room after a shower, doing the killer casual thing he has down pat. Feet bare, shirt untucked. He looked distracted, a bit out of his element. When he walked into the room, and I looked up and beamed 'wow' at him, I don't think Mom could kid herself anymore. Not if I looked anything like I felt, seeing my man stroll in with damp hair and an electric twinkle in his eyes.
Is she happy that I'm involved in a romantic relationship with a man? I'd say that's a safe no. Is she glad to know I'm having sex, period? Mmm... definitely not. What she does want for me is a solid, loving relationship, one that mirrors the one she had with Dad.
What she and Dad had was a lot of trust, love, and common ground, like ideals.
Sam and I -- I hate to admit -- don't have all of that. We're both democrats, and we're as liberal as the day is long. But our motivations and our philosophies aren't carbon copies of each other. Not to mention, I've known my whole life what I wanted to do, and sometimes I think Sam's still redefining that from week to week.
I know I'm turning out to be a different guy than he'd always led himself to believe me to be. I expect, any minute now, Sam to look up from his paper, stare directly into my eyes in that unnervingly forthright manner of his and say: Josh. What the hell were we thinking?
I'm not sure I'd have an answer to that.
But the love, and the trust? I think we have a fairly firm handle on that. It's still so new. The sex has been going of for years, off and on. But it's only been within the last few months that we've grown from that. And it was two weeks ago tomorrow that I told Sam I loved him.
It still makes me smile. And sweat, just remembering it! I didn't plan it; if I had, it wouldn't have happened the way it did, where Sam was sure to question my sincerity.
I couldn't blame him for that. So, maybe we don't have the whole trust issue down yet. Most people would expect, when their lover tells him he loves him, at least a smile, possibly even a return of the sentiment. Sam got pissed.
I'm sorry. It just slipped out! There wasn't any reason for him to understand it wasn't simply a spontaneous, involuntary exclamation spilling out of my mouth right along with the 'oh god! Oh god yes!' But after he shook off the awkwardness that came not from my declaration, but his reaction, we settled into a pretty honest discussion.
He told me that was the last thing he ever thought he'd hear me say, and I took offense at that. What, I'm too aloof to feel something for the person I've been fucking regularly for the last seven months?
Fucking, he asked in that arched way that tells you he already thinks he knows exactly what you meant, whether you've realized it or are willing to admit it.
And I took offense at that, too.
This is the stuff we're still working out. Sometimes, you know someone so well, you're willing to coast on assumptions. Sam was making a lot of assumptions about me, and, yeah. I found that... offensive.
I used the term 'fucking' loosely, and that was a mistake. Sam's thing with precise language only goes one way sometimes. He can dither away ad nauseum, and not expect anyone to hurry him along to the end of his point, but god forbid you misspeak and end up implying that all he is a nice piece of ass when what you meant to say was that falling asleep in each other's arms is almost as blissful as waking up there, but you're too much of a macho-junkie to spell it out.
So fucking sounded like 'just' fucking to him, and I was left on the defensive -- again -- when all I really started out to do was tell the guy I loved him.
And when did Sam tell me he felt the same way? That's actually kinda interesting. It was five days before I told him, only I didn't know it; I apparently wasn't awake. He still won't admit he knew that, saying he figured I was and just chose to ignore him. Sam knows me well enough to know when I'm awake or asleep, so that really doesn't fly. On the other hand, it's pretty easy to imagine him whispering it in my ear in that halting, uncertain tone he uses when he's not sure he isn't getting something completely wrong and hopes to hell no one hears it, but if he's right he can pipe up and claim to have been the first to voice it.
This is just one of many instances where I become aware of how awful we are at communicating with each other.
There's this technique I've learned for dealing with Sam when he gets revved up. 'Shut up, already!' I wail, and he usually does. It's not as subtle as gently talking him down, but there are only so many hours we're given on this earth, and I've never professed to be a patient man.
And Sam, when he's on a tear....
Mom saw it this morning and had me snorting with laughter when she rolled her eyes heavenward. I tried to tell her he was tense, and that tended to manifest itself in excess verbiage. She said she'd seen him on tv enough to know that seemed to be his natural tendency, and although that's a bit of an exaggeration, I let it slide.
Truth be told, Sam gets on my nerves sometimes. I have no trouble letting him know this; the difficulty would be not letting on. He just has the exact right combination of traits that hits all the wrong buttons sometimes, and my temper lights up like one of those garish carnival games with the bells and the horns. That's when the wailing shut up! comes into play, but I have to hand it to him, he's never tried to make me feel bad about it.
So what's the attraction? I suppose it's just that, an attraction. Some part of him connected with some part of me, and the result was pretty dammed combustible. And I like that he challenges me. And I like that we argue. He's good at it, and so am I. Hot sex doesn't always follow though, as it usually did with Mandy, another immovable force I happened to be attracted to.
At least Sam doesn't leave things in the bathroom no man should ever have to see, like that's intimacy?! That's disgusting! Sam even wraps his used dental floss in tissue before throwing it in the trash, can you believe that?! The prissy little prick.
And this thing with not kissing with food in his mouth? Give me a break. God he's insufferable sometimes. No wonder Lisa used to call him her little prince. That's when she was sober. When she'd get hammered she'd call him Sir Come-A-Lot; I heard her on more than one occasion, and it was all I could do to not say 'I know'.
But she made him happy for a long time, and I have to give her credit; she never expected him to temper his intellect around her, even though she wasn't nearly as smart as him. He. Shit, now he's got me self-editing my grammar, like his specter is hovering nearby ready to cock an eyebrow at me.
I ain't afraid of no stinkin' geek! Ha! Okay, I said that way too loudly....
Anyway, we had a nice walk this afternoon, very leisurely, very normal. I showed him a few places I used to hang out as a kid, even the place where I touched my first bare breast. Sam let me touch him, and it made me giddy. It was beyond embarrassing, and I had to wait five minutes for my dick to go soft.
See, this is the thing: I'm afraid sometimes that it's all about sex, when something like that happens, and the desire just roars through me. I mean, I'm a man; if a warm breeze hits me I get aroused, but it's always been different with Sam, dammit. It's not just sex. Although I wanted to kiss him from almost the minute I laid eyes on him, and that was just... it had been a long time since the thought of kissing a man had crossed my mind. Not humping his leg like a terrier, but just... pressing my lips to his, or breathing in his scent.
He was standing in the Capitol Rotunda with T.T. Evans, with what I now would recognize as intense distress but at the time I thought was rapt attention. I wanted to look closer, but I didn't. I needed to look, but I didn't. Then I did. 'Who is that?' I asked Phil, who had tracked me down for a floor vote. I remember swallowing hard, again and again. 'Nobody you need to know,' he said.
Oh, how wrong that statement was....
When I finally arranged an accidental meeting, Sam shook my hand, and we stood there grinning and talking for over two minutes before he realized he still had a hold of me, and when he finally pulled away I know he had to feel how damp my palm was.
It was like I tripped over a desire I never knew was there, and fell head first into eyes the color of a gemstone. We slept close together that first night, sharing a pillow. And then we didn't speak to each other for over a week.
I expected him to be angry or disappointed when I got around to calling him. Turns out he wasn't even in town, he'd been in New York meeting with some law firm that was sniffing around him, and hadn't tried to reach me either.
And this, now, is pretty amazing, because Sam's a fairly high maintenance guy. If you want to get to know him that is. If you're content to just deal with the polished surface he presents to the world, he's a dream to get along with.
Toby once asked me if Sam had a 'tell'; a subtle signal that let people know there was something bothering him. I was incredulous. How can you not know! Sam's eyes go cold, his posture stiffens, his breathing gets a little shallower, and his voice.... man, how do you not sit up and take notice of all that?!
After that, Toby was all, ah so. And he couldn't for the life of him remember not being able to read Sam. I decided then that it was like having a cloaking device, what Sam does. He bullshits you so hard into believing there's nothing out of the ordinary going on, until you believe there's nothing out of the ordinary going on.
It really is quite artistic, and if it wasn't a sign of some pretty deep-seated neurosis, I'd say he was gifted at it.
But those neurosis.... That's another thing that really shouldn't bode well for us. First of all, sometimes I'm about as stable as the Russian economy. Most of the time I've got my shit together, but I've got exactly the same foibles as Sam, only without the ability to disguise them as well, which means I'm forced to deal with them more regularly, as opposed to Sam just storing them away like winter nuts.
Second of all, I know where mine come from. I still haven't penetrated Sam deeply enough to know the source of his idiosyncrasies. He's a mess in there. That's all I need to know.
But there's no one, absolutely no one I'd rather have in an emergency. They've all said it, at one time or another; Leo, CJ. And I understand that, at least. It's exactly Sam's ability to squash down his emotions and focus like a laser that makes him so dependable in a crisis. It's when he closes the door out of eyesight that you've got to fear. That's when he just disintegrates. But Jesus he makes a glorious comeback.
I've seen it, I've watched him sag against the wall when he thinks no one is there, and in a blink he's back in the game taking charge and giving off this utter, impeachable steadiness. Like I said, it's an art.
And one day I'm afraid it's going to be too much. Because honest to god, I still haven't figured out which is the real Sam. The confident, solid citadel, or the fragile, sensitive boy. Both, I suppose, and it's a good thing, because either one on their own would be unbearable.
It gets really confusing sometimes, being me. Being me that's with Sam, that is. I see a lot of people going on their merry way around him, completely oblivious to the possible landmines he strews about the terrain. One false step, and it's kablooey, you end up with Sam all over you. Sam, who thinks nothing of cutting someone down with a barbed word, or demolishing them with a look of such utter contempt.... And really doesn't even seem to realize it. I wonder if that's true, though. I think sometimes that it's the comprehension coming at him deep in the night that fuels his sleeplessness.
Not that it's usually a problem; I don't know anyone who can function on less sleep than Sam, which isn't always as good as it sounds. He uses it as an excuse to avoid sleep a lot of time, but don't even bother telling him he's exhausted unless you want to know what it's like to be completely dismissed as existing, even as you're standing right there.
He really needs to stop seeing every gesture of concern as a judgment against his ability to do his job.
The only way I've learned to avoid that is to sleep with him, which I can definitely recommend on its own merits. But apart from the substantial physical benefits, there's this understanding about each other you get as a result of seeing each other sweaty and sated; I don't have to be a caustic, sarcastic ball breaker all the time, and he doesn't have to be the smartest, most articulate guy in the room who opens a vein for every cause that walks through the door. He gets to be vulnerable without feeling vulnerable. I can be nurturing without it ruining my rep.
Still, I wouldn't advocate telling him to get more sleep. That just never turns out well, no matter when you try to slip it in there.
I don't know how it works, but it does. We approach things in different ways; not just politically but emotionally, too. There's something about our differences that lets us fit together really snuggly. It goes way beyond the idealist/pragmatist thing. Like, I like to take nice, long, leisurely pisses; Sam rushes through it like it's all a colossal waste of time. This works out well for us, because while I'm still in the bathroom, he's already got the coffee going. See?
But Mom seems completely hung up on the looks thing, which I'm not going to refute. You don't get an instant hard-on for someone you've never met if they don't look good to you. And I'm not about to be coy and say Sam's not an attractive man, or that I only want him for his mind. If anything it's his damned mind that keeps getting in the way of all that other wonderful stuff. But if it was only his looks that I wanted a piece of I'd still be happy to just show up on his doorstep every few years, and walk away picking hair out my teeth. Instead, I fall asleep each night with the smell of him in my nostrils and my thumb hooked into the sleeve of his tee-shirt after being berated for my elitist attitude and limited vision.
It's just... the looks cannot be denied. Although, I have to say, he doesn't always look that good. Sam with a hangover, first thing.... And then there's..... Yeah, so okay. That's the only time he doesn't get my balls to swell with pride, but I guess the smell has something to do with it.
I don't want to give the impression that Sam and I are all about the sex, either. There have been more times than I care to count -- weeks where we've gone without having sex. Unless you count a little mindless milking, but I don't. I'm talking about real, fully engaged sex between the both of us. I guess you could call it the big event. I don't call it that.
Whether it's exhaustion or disinterest or because we're in the middle of one of Sam's pissy-fits or my episodes of high dysfunction and selfish extremes, there are plenty of times where being in the same room is a chore, let alone being naked and intimate with each other's bodies.
And it's weird, I mean really, really bizarre, like when you're coming down from a high and you feel like you're in control, but you know damn well your veins are still swimming with some drug and so you kinda give up a little, you don't fight against it, but you tell yourself it's over, but there's Sam, grinning at you, and you know it's never really going to be over so you may as well hand someone else the keys 'cause you're in no condition to drive.
It's like that, only not.
Because as much as he manages to spin me away on this heady, intoxicating trip, he's also the most qualified to bring me back to myself. He's the one who reminds me to use my indoor voice, and listen with my hearing ears, and yes, Sam
can say these things to me in complete innocence, and I see him as a third grade teacher imparting his sense of morality and love of learning on his class and I don't even want to make fun of him.
Of course, this is also the same man who loves nothing more that to slam into conversations, throwing the most convoluted logic at things, just to see if it sticks, and argue with me using words and terminology that he knows damn well I can't keep up with, not if I want to hold onto my end of the argument. And then he'll gloat about it, quietly, unobtrusively, but gloat nonetheless, the sanctimonious bastard.
Those are real fights, that often have little to do with policy and politics, and more to do with both of us needing some space. But then, after a cooling off period of a couple days or so, because we're both too stubborn to engage in quick make-up sex, I'll find Sam off on his own, standing by the fax machine, or waiting for the motorcade to pull up. He'll give me one of those smiles, and I'll lean into him, like a cat, and I'll know we're okay again.
And always, if I'm the one that made the first move, he'll be the one to make the second. Just a kiss, alone in my office, and I'll feel him smiling against my lips until a weak whimper catches in my throat, and when we open the door no one ever suspects that he's just counted my fillings with his tongue.
Then, in the deepest, deadest, darkest hours of the night this big beautiful man curls himself around me, Joanie, he rises over me, and I surge towards him, and we're lost together, only it's not the kind of lost I feel when I try to remember what your voice sounded like. It's a lost you have to be to be found, and Sam found me.
Anyway.... I wish you could know him. I wish I could tell him all about you so he felt he knew you, too, but there's a part of me that needs to keep you mine. I hope you understand that. He does know I'm here, though. If you could just look over by the tree line, where the late afternoon sun is hitting that wooden rail, you see? That's Sam, with his hands in his pockets, reading the headstones.
If it's okay with you, I'd like to come back sometime, and tell you more about him, and what's been going on with me. I miss you, even though a lot of times it's not the first thing I feel when I think of you. I wish I could come see you more. I won't try to pretend that if you were a-- I mean, if you were here, I'd ever be able to talk to you like this, or share this part of my life. It's funny, Joans; it's almost as if losing you one way gave you to me in another way. It's no consolation. I'd trade a thousand Sams to have you around. I'd trade my own life to have you both safe.
Speaking of Sams. Look at him trying to pretend he isn't checking over here every fifteen seconds. I guess I should go to him, let him know it's cool. See what he's doing with his hands? He's worried. Yeah, I need to... I have to go now, I can't have him getting worried like that. I want him to see how good it is to talk to you, and maybe next time.... I think you'll like him, Joanie. Next time I'll bring him, and you can get to know him, and then you'll understand what I was trying to tell you today.
Don't worry about me. I'm in good hands.
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