TITLE: "As We Know It" (1/?)
AUTHOR: Marie-Claude Danis
EMAIL: mc@verticalcrawl.com
SITE: http://verticalcrawl.com/fic
DISTRIB: My site, list archives. Or just ask.
FEEDBACK: That would be swell.
SPOILERS: Up to and including "18th & Potomac"
PAIRING: Josh/Joey
SUMMARY: Josh breaks. Joey picks up the pieces.
NOTE: I've been writing fanfic for this side of forever, but this is my very first West Wing piece. Thanks loads to Loren for her impromptu late-night proof-reading.
FOR: Loren and Lindsay.

* * *

The first time I stepped off that plane, I was met with quiet, controlled panic. "The poll. It could work", he thought, headstrong, and I did too, because it was him. The second time around, burdened with news no one wanted to hear, I walked right into a full-blown hurricane, and I was so distraught by the crumbling giants around me that I turned right around and slept with Joshua Lyman.

And so there I was that very night, mere hours after giving the President possibly the worst news of his career, and I stood on shaky legs between his kitchen doorframe and him, who was reaching his breaking point, right there in front of me. I watched it like a train wreck, my fingers still tangled in his messy hair, and there he stood too, worn shirt half unbuttoned, tie still hanging loosely around his neck - reminding me too much of a fancied-up noose. He couldn't tear his eyes from mine, but I doubt he was seeing me. Tears rolled down his flushed cheeks, and his chest heaved softly with his laboured breath. His mouth looked like mine felt - bruised, swollen, kissed. That mouth, I knew it by heart; its every groove, the way the lips parted to let warm, struggling breath out, chilling my own, still moist. I had learned it so easily. It had always been hard to look away.

I realized I was panting too, but I couldn't move, paralysed like he was by his sudden spill of emotion. Then his gaze fell and his shoulders shook with a deep sob, and I wondered what could possibly have happened, between my first visit and now, to break this man so completely. This arrogant bastard, he should not be reduced to this.

Earlier he'd told me he was just too tired to fight it, that being with me was easy. It wasn't meant to be hurtful, and it never occured to me to be offended. I'd been watching him drowning in himself, and reaching out had been the most natural thing to do. I was pretty sure I wasn't in love with him, but it felt right.

"Josh..." I tried. His forehead was to mine now and he brought his hands up to touch my wrists on each side of his face. His hands were gentle, shaking. I wondered briefly what he was expecting me to do. It was absurd to think he would have any kind of plan at this point. Just like we - this - had just happened, out of a bad day among many others. We kissed again, and it was warm and deliberate. I felt his hot tears against my cheeks.

This man who could be President - I wasn't sure if he would make it.