Character(s): Josh, Sam
Summary: Slashing through the snow - a first encounter.
Sam Seaborn was smart. Josh could tell that right away. And chatty. He hadn't shut up once since Josh had found him. And he was heavier than he looked.
"I really have to stop for a minute, swear to god," Josh huffed, staggering towards a small market through the daggers of icy snow that blew at them. Sam, sprawled on his new friend's back, arms wrapped around his shoulders, nodded enthusiastically.
"Uh, yeah," Josh scowled. Stepping over what he estimated to be a two foot drift of fresh snow, Josh bent low to let his burden slide from his back.
"Ow! Ow! Ow!" Sam yelped, hopping up and down on one leg.
Josh reached out reluctantly to steady the young man, then leaned back against the shop window. "You did say seven blocks, right?" His expression was skeptical, as he searched the blizzard swept street for any signs of life. Preferably a taxi.
"Oh yeah. It's really not far now. The building's right over there. If you could see over there." Sam leaned out from under the awning a little, and peered up Virginia Avenue into the swirling storm.
His wool cap pulled down as low as it could go, and his scarf wrapped up as high as it could go, there wasn't a whole lot of Josh Lyman to be seen. He squinted his eyes against the cold, and the blinding whiteness, and plowed his glove-clad hands under his arms.
"What made you think you could walk home in this?" he asked.
"We are walking home in this."
Shaking his head, Josh huffed his agitation. "No. I'm walking home in this. You're riding on my back." Josh noticed the hurt expression on Sam's face, and felt inexplicably sorry that he'd sounded so harsh. "You really should put some ice on that ankle as soon as possible."
Sam snorted loudly, any injured feelings swept away in the howling wind. "Yeah, I'll just bury it in a snow bank," he chuckled, shivering noticeably.
His cloudy breath coming more easily now, Josh did a few deep knee bends to work out the crick in his hips from hauling around this strange young man he'd found half buried in the snow four blocks back. "So, you're from California?" he asked.
"Yeah. How'd you know that? Does it show?"
Josh laughed. "No, man. I heard about you. You went to Duke."
"Uh huh," Sam grunted agreeably.
"So, how do you afford a high-rise apartment in Foggy Bottom on what you're making on the Hill?" Josh wanted to know. He buried his hands in his coat pockets, where he was delighted to find a roll of lifesavers.
Sam accepted the offered candy and popped it into his mouth. "I room with Calvin Yokes, Mitch Caleb and Sandy Meyers," he said. "They have a two bedroom, and let me sleep on the couch."
"They make you pay them for that privilege?"
"You try maintaining two households, in two states on what they make; every little bit helps."
"Two congressmen and a legislative aid, and they still have to live like college students," Josh groused. "Is this a great city, or what?"
"It is. Really great." Sam's face was glowing with cold, but Josh could see it was also flushed with delight. They all start off that way, he reminded himself.
"So, what do you do when you have a date?" Josh thought back to his own college days, and the absurd methods they'd all come up with to ensure some semblance of privacy.
Sam batted his eyelashes lazily. "I go home with them. Yokes and Meyers share a room, and Mitch has his own. When they're back in their home states, sometimes I take one of their beds."
Josh took note of the way Sam kept laying his hands against his face, as though to make sure it was still there. "Well, if I'm ever gonna get you to this palace of yours, we should get going again. Hop on board."
After one more hopeful glance at the street, praying for the miracle of a cab crawling by, Josh turned around so Sam could, indeed, hop on board.
They chugged on for another half block or so, when Josh came to a street that actually looked as if it had been plowed. "How the hell am I gonna get you over this huge mountain of snow they piled up here?!" he lamented. Turning swiftly, forgetting that the person he was addressing was not behind him, but on him, he nearly lost his balance.
"Hey! Hang on!" Sam squealed, leaning into Josh deeply, resting his head against the smelly, wet woolen cap.
"You hang on," Josh grumbled, managing to right himself at the last moment. "Shit. Seriously, can you climb over that?" He disentangled a hand from behind Sam's knee and pointed at the obstacle before them.
"You're not going to call it climbing," Sam began amicably. "You'll probably, in recounting this story to your pals in your office, characterize it as 'scrambling', or, possibly 'clambering'. It won't be pretty. But I can do it."
"And you can't just say 'yes', can you?"
"Down, boy," Josh instructed, stooping so Sam's foot could reach the ground.
Sam was right. It wasn't pretty. But it made Josh laugh so hard he made quite a spectacle of himself, following behind his new playmate. Standing in the middle of the street, packed snow hard and icy under their feet, Josh helped Sam spring on his one good foot to the other side.
"That was so much fun, we get to do it again!" Sam giggled, and began his ascent.
"Good god," Josh sighed, but he was nearly hysterical by the time they slipped down the other side of the mound.
When Sam had settled back into place on Josh, legs wrapped securely around his hips, he reached down and slapped his ride on the ass. "Giddy up."
A bolt of heat shot through Josh, unexpected, but not unwelcome.
They trudged on for another few blocks, still high from their silly foray into mountaineering. Sam shouting faster! and yah! while Josh stumbled along just trying to keep his balance.
They were both starting to wind down from another bout of laughter. Sam had slumped low on Josh, when he suddenly pointed ahead. "That's me." His voice was at a normal pitch, but after all their exuberant horseplay of the last few blocks, it sounded husky and intimate.
"I can't believe we made it," Josh said. "You are one lucky son of a bitch that I came along and found you. You'd still be sitting in that drift up to your chest."
"I owe you."
"You better have beer." Josh hefted Sam a little higher and set his sights on the looming apartment building a block away.
"Even better," Sam said in his ear. "Whipped cream."
Josh felt his heartbeat pick up, and he knew it wasn't just from exertion. He wished he could look at Sam's face, see his expression. See if he looked anything like he sounded.
"Whipped cream?" Josh squeaked.
"For the, the Irish coffee," Sam explained, then laughed.
"No. I just, for a second, I thought you meant... the other thing." Josh was glad now that Sam couldn't see his face. He knew it was blazing red. The beat of silence was too much for him to stand. "The hot chocolate thing."
Sam's laugh reverberated through Josh.
Up ahead, a grumbling crowd of people stood at the corner of 23rd Street. As the two men approached, they could see that the street had been cleared here as well, snow packed firm and solid.
"Why isn't anyone crossing?" Sam asked.
"You have the better vantage point. You tell me."
They moved through the small crowd, where Josh stopped by the hill of snow piled against the curb. He helped Sam down, then held him in place while he balanced on his good foot, before turning to a woman bundled up to within an inch of her life.
"Excuse me. What's the problem here?" Josh asked.
"Stupid ass public works mowed down a fire hydrant," she told him, waving her arm at the street. Looking closely, Josh could now see the sheen of ice glinting under the fresh pellets of frozen snow that continued to fall.
"How far down?" he whined.
"Oh, couple blocks in both directions," she explained, pronouncing it 'die-rections'.
Josh looked to Sam, who shrugged.
"I live right there," Sam said with a grin, pointing halfway down the next block of Virginia Avenue. The one on the other side of the river of ice.
"That's nice, Seaborn." Absently looking where his companion indicated. "So now we...."
"Cross. I guess we cross." Josh slapped his hands together, rubbing them awkwardly with his thick gloves on.
"No way, Lyman. We're both gonna fall on our asses if you try to carry me across." Sam was shaking his head back and forth, blue eyes cutting suspiciously to their latest obstacle.
Josh was grinning widely. "Unless we're already on our asses."
"I don't follow."
"No. You lead." Josh slipped his arm under Sam's shoulder, and began drawing him to the pile of snow that blocked their path.
"What are you talking about?" Sam sounded a little panicky. He resisted clumsily, grabbing hold of a lamppost at the last possible moment.
Josh was still grinning, using a calming, encouraging tone. "No, look, it's okay. You sit down, and I'll go behind you. I'll push you along, and use you to keep my balance."
Sam's eyes went wide, his breath coming out in fluffy little puffs between their faces. "You've gotta be kidding. That's your plan?"
"You have a better one?" Josh's hands were planted firmly on his hips.
"Do you know how much these pants cost?"
"Fine. You get your own self over, Hoppy. I live in the other direction anyway. So, it's been nice finally getting to know you - "
"Wait!" Sam clutched Josh's sleeve. "You can't leave me out here! I live right there!"
Josh snatched his hat from his head and rubbed his thinning hair franticly before putting it back on. "Ooookay. But if you want my help, you have to do it my way."
Sam swung his head from Josh's face, who's eyebrows were raised expectantly, to the hazardous road in front of him.
"You know, you have a bit of a reputation, Lyman. Now I know how you got it." Offering Josh his arm, Sam slowly worked his way over the last snowy obstacle to his certain doom.
It didn't go quite as smoothly as Josh had made it sound, but amid enthusiastic whoops from the crowd, they inched their way across the treacherous street. Safe and sound on the other side, Sam's cheeks rosy, Josh's nose runny, both men pulled themselves to their full height, and adjusted their clothing.
"God, I hope no one I know saw us," Josh said looking over his shoulder nervously.
"Relax. They wouldn't recognize you anyway." Sam reached out and swiped the hat off Josh's head. "There. Now everyone will know who you are!" He tried to turn away from Josh's reach, momentarily forgetting his hobbled status, and nearly tumbled over.
Laughing hard, Josh easily grabbed his hat away and turned his back. "One more time, California. Climb aboard."
The last half a block was slightly downhill, and Josh had to inch his way slowly to stay on his feet. The entire time, Sam kept up a running monologue, pointing out neighborhood landmarks, such as the place he'd thought was a curbside trash pickup point, but which was actually a homeless person's homestead. And the liquor store that carded him every time he went in.
When they arrived at the locked front door to the lobby, Sam slithered off Josh, and leaned against the wall while he dug through his pockets for his entry card.
"So, you wanna come up for that Irish coffee?" he asked from under thick lashes.
Josh stamped his feet loudly, like a steed at the gate. "Um. Sounds good. I'm not imposing?"
Sam's head whipped up, his expression startled. "You just carried me seven blocks on your back through a snowstorm. I can make you coffee, dude; it's no imposition."
Josh shrugged one shoulder. "Ahkay."
"Besides. You're soaking wet. You should get out of those pants."
Sam turned and swiped the card through, giving the door a push when he heard the mechanical click.
He bounced gingerly through the lobby to the elevators, Josh's hand grasping his elbow.
"Ow. Ow. Ow."
was small, but the view was terrific. Josh figured on a clear day, he could see the spires of National Cathedral, maybe Georgetown University. As it was, he could barely make out the buildings of George Washington U., just across the street.
"Take these," Sam's voice instructed him from behind. When Josh turned from the window, he found a pair of dark blue sweat pants dangling from Sam's hands. "I'll put on the coffee."
Josh pushed the sweats away delicately. "Uh, thanks, but I'm fine. I, I appreciate it, though."
"Take 'em. You're soaking wet." Sam shoved the pants into Josh's hands and turned away. "Ow. Ow. Ow."
"No I - "
"Take them home with you. You can give them back later." Sam's tone was slightly irritated, and Josh couldn't tell if it was from having to argue the point, or because he was in some serious and obvious discomfort.
Throwing the sweats over his shoulder, Josh caught up with the young man, and took firm hold of his arm. "Nuh uh. You're gonna get off that ankle. Tell me where everything is and I'll take care of the coffee."
"And you'll get into some dry clothes?"
Josh sighed helplessly. "Yes, I'll get into dry clothes." As an afterthought, he added, "You're gonna have quite a reputation yourself, before you know it."
The amused expression on Sam's face threw Josh. "I meant, I meant the getting your way. The way you just got me to - you know what I meant, don't you?"
Sam nodded his head and smiled, but remained silent as Josh led him to the sofa.
"Coffee stuff's on the counter. Liquor's under the sink. And the whipped cream...."
"I can take it from there."
"But first, you're gonna change?"
"Christ." Josh aborted his path to the kitchen, going instead to the bathroom Sam was pointing to. He struggled out of his damp dress pants, and slipped on the thick sweats with crumbling white letters that spelled 'Princeton' down one leg. He'd never admit it, but they felt great against his skin after his clammy, wet slacks.
After getting the coffee started, and finding everything else he needed, Josh sat on a chair near the sofa and looked at his new buddy. Who looked like hell. If someone who looked like that could look like hell.
"Can I get you something for the pain?" Josh asked with concern. While there was an apparent sun-kissed quality to the young man's skin, Josh could make out a waxy wash of paleness that seemed out of place. His forehead was furrowed slightly, and he kept blinking his eyes hard every time he shifted around on the sofa.
Sam agreed to take the Advil Josh brought him, and they chatted comfortably over blistering hot spiked coffee until the window began to grow dark, and the sickly orange glow of distant streetlights oozed through the frothy blizzard.
Sam yawned loudly, shooting an apologetic glance Josh's way.
"Look, there's no way you can get home in this," he said. "And I have a feeling my roommates may stay in their offices. If you want to crash here...."
Josh looked around the living room quickly, then out the large window into the churning storm. Eventually, he looked at Sam; eyes blue, color returning to his cheeks, hair tussled and boyish.
"You know what," Josh said abruptly. "I'm sure I'll be fine." He rose from his seat and collected their empty mugs. "Remember, I won't be lugging an extra 165 pounds on my back, so, thanks for the offer, but I'll be okay."
Sam's skeptical expression didn't daunt him.
Standing at the door, Sam looked up at him through sleepy eyelids, teetering precariously on one leg. "Thanks a lot, Josh. You're a good guy, in spite of what everyone says about you." A lazy smile played at his full lips.
"You're already pretty good with the backhanded compliments there, Sam. You'll do well in this town. In a few years you'll be as cynical as me."
"Hm, we'll see how long I stay." Sam's eyes dropped to the floor. "It's... not exactly the way I thought it would be." He spoke wistfully, but when he looked back up at Josh, his eyes danced with humor. "But if nothing else comes from my time here, I have a great blizzard story to tell."
Josh stepped into the hallway, and flung his scarf around his neck flamboyantly. As Sam was easing the door shut, Josh turned back swiftly, and placed his palm on the closing door.
"Hey. Do you have a car?"
Sam looked slightly confused. "I really don't think you can drive in this - "
"No. I mean, just, a question. Do you have a car?"
"Yeah. I don't use it for work, but yeah. Don't you?" Sam leaned hard against the door frame.
"I do, but it never runs. But I was thinking.... You know, after the storm, when the snow starts to melt? The Potomac swells to, like, ten times its size. And the view at Great Falls is unbelievable."
"I've never been," Sam told him.
"Well, you should. I mean, before you leave DC, you should go out to Great Falls. When the snow melts... I could take you."
"In my car." Sam's smile turned teasing.
"I'm just saying."
Sam crossed his arms over his chest, his left ankle hovering above the floor. "I didn't say I was leaving DC. I just said, it's not what I expected." He looked closely at Josh for a second, then began nodding his head. "But I'd love to see the Falls."
Josh felt an effervescence tingle in his belly. "Great. Okay. Then... bye."
"Thanks again," Sam said as he slowly closed the door.
As Josh headed towards the bank of elevators, he smiled widely at the "Ow. Ow. Ow," he heard coming from inside the apartment.
| back | send feedback | The National Library |