TITLE: "Oh My Brother" (1/1)
AUTHOR: Marie-Claude Danis - mc@verticalcrawl.com
BETA: Calligrafiti - a godsend.
SITE: http://verticalcrawl.com/fic
DISTRIB: My site, or just ask.
SPOILERS: Everything up to and including 2C, and possible S3 spoilers.
PAIRING: Josh/Sam friendship

Oh my brother, won't you stand beside me
We will carry each other
And if your soul grows weary
Or the strength leaves your bones
Oh my brother, I will carry you home

- Eddie From Ohio

* * *

You follow his slow progression back into his bullpen. Even from your vantage point across the room, you can see the blank emptiness of his eyes, the drawn cheeks, the thin lips. You notice the slump of his shoulder, the haphazard funk of his step, all but a broken-down version of his trademark swagger.

Undetected, you watch him stop at his assistant's desk, moving things around on it, distracted, while he peers longingly at the empty chair. You flinch painfully at the sorrow tugging at his mouth and watch as the Hanged Man disappears back into his refuge.

You cross the vacant maze of cluttered desks, pulled out chairs and smudged glass partitions. You don't trip. Deliberately casual, you step inside the dark office and smile a broad smile when he looks up owlishly at you. You think that the harsh glow of the desklamp makes him look scared and ten years older, or scared and ten years old - you're not sure which.

You tell him you were waiting for him to be finished with Babish (and not the other way around) and that you have dinner for both of you. You offer up the two wrapped sandwiches you've been clutching in your hands for the past two hours. You try for idle conversation while you both dig in, and notice how hard it seems to even get a full sentence out of this brilliant man. You keep a light facade, but wish on a number of things.

You wish that Babish would back off a bit, so that your friend could at least regroup between beatings. You wish that Donna had nothing better to do than be here till all hours, and remind her boss to eat and sleep and slow down and maybe even stop, just for a minute. Briefly you wonder what kind of stupid name is "Cliff" anyway. You decide you hate all lawyers - Republicans or White House Counsels or Princeton-educated or just the regular TV kind. You make a quiet exception for the steampipe distribution venue type.

You wish it were earlier, or much later, whichever, as long as sunlight was an option. You wish you were on a boat instead. You wish he was there, too. And while you're at it, you wish that the Real Thing, his Real Thing, didn't have Real MS. You resent him briefly for being the cause of all this, then you remember that you serve at his pleasure, and the point becomes moot.

The empty rooms around you are deafening, and you're brought back to the moment by the crackling of the paper wrapper as your friend flicks the lettuce out of his BLT. You wonder why you keep buying him BLTs, if he's just going to take the lettuce out. You wonder, but you know why. You keep buying him BLTs because it's comfort food. Or it should be.

He's not hungry. You can't blame him. He's not hungry because he hasn't slept in 70 hours, the girl he'd do anything for is out with a guy that is three things he hates at once (Republican, a lawyer, and with her), his President is a sinking ship, and he'd jump right out in the freezing water if he could, but he just can't give in to the fleeting comfort that comes the second you allow yourself to give up. You know all this, because he's your friend, your family, your only constant, and because you live by his side, almost day in, day out, and he's as easy to read as any text you've ever laid your hands on. You're a master of language, and you particularly excel at the language of Josh, which at times is merely a barrage of jumbled run-on sentences with no verbs. He's all imagery, and you find yourself thinking in that very language when you think about him, or when you think he might be thinking about you. Which you suppose is fitting.

This is only the second time you've seen this man crumble, and it still holds the deep-rooted shock of hearing your parents fighting for the first time, or accidentally killing a bird when you were nine, or being the last one picked or the last one told - only a hundred times worse. He's supposed to be who you turn to when you like a call girl and no one will let you, or when your father is a cheating bastard, or when your boss steps all over you, or when your ideals might as well be rolling paper for those still allowed to enjoy their jobs.

But instead he needs your help, and it feels incongruous, you helping him. He's the one who owns the world; you're just a guy with a clean shirt, lousy eyesight from reading too much with poor lighting, and a few charged laptop batteries tucked into your briefcase, just in case. He's the cool one, you're the geek. And those labels don't usually bother you, except when they're blown to smithereens like this.

You realise you both haven't said anything in a while, and when you look at him he's holding his boring sandwich and looks about two seconds away from disolving into tears. You know he wouldn't like that, not here, not now, because he wouldn't be able to stop. You're pretty sure he doesn't even want to start. So you get up, grab both your coats, and turn off the desklamp. You take him home.

He's too preoccupied to sleep, he says, and you both crash on his couch and put on CNN so it doesn't feel like an intervention or anything that desperate. When it comes up on TV, you don't even flinch, either of you, because that's all you hear about anyway and why should it be any different because you're home. After a while some reporter you don't know starts talking about something happening in Canada, and you don't really care and you turn to him.

Sometime during your musings about just how stoic you both were, had to be, an enormous accumulation of, just, *things* came pouring out and now slides quietly down your friend's cheeks. It takes you a while to register that you're seeing a grown man cry, but then you reach over and put your arms around him. You squeeze him tight, because it's Josh and maybe that way you can push the sobs back in and save you both the embarassment of a decidedly unmanly display of emotion. But you've both seen the worst of each other, and you can go through this like you went through everything else. Because you're that kind of friend, even though everybody thinks you're sleeping together. There is nothing romantic about this, it's even a little unpleasant, but you wouldn't dream of being anywhere else.