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Looking them in the eye

Chapter Text

The new campaign headquarters were buzzing the backing of the democratic party meant their staff was exploding. Josh was hiring left right and centre to try and get things up and running but most of it he was farming out to Lou and Ronna. The really big plus was that now they were working out of the offices and conference suits they weren’t pulling all nighters outside Matt Santos room.

The downside was that the secret service were. Since the nomination Matt Santos was never alone or at least his door was always covered. There was no way Josh could sneak in to see his top.

He and Matt had started their clandestine (from the world not from Helen) relationship back just before the New Hampshire primary and while it had been a rocky ride Josh and Helen had started seeing each other around Super Tuesday. The three of them were generally working out well Josh finally enjoying the attention of two amazing tops in the bedroom after a lifetime of being in the closet about his preference and just dating switches.

Oh, yes, Josh was out now and while at first he’d had a lot of people trying to ignore him or discounted him because he was a submissive in the bedroom. They’d soon been fired if he could or put in their place. Josh followed orders well but he followed very few commanders. These days, mostly just the two though he had to admit he still struggled to disagree with Leo and the President. CJ could be a sticking point at times too but mostly not. Everyone else though just didn’t matter. Particularly cause right now Josh’s main “order” was to put Matt Santos in the white house and Josh Lyman might very well kill himself doing it.

All of which meant that Matt Santos’ submissive campaign manager could not just walking into his bosses hotel room in the middle of the night and not emerge till the early hours of the morning. Nor could Matt or Helen just stop by his town house for a while. Thus Josh was already not doing great that morning when he got into the office and Ronna told him to take an interview.

--*--

Josh dropped his bag on the floor as he got back to his townhouse that evening. His mind stuck on the schedule. Matt and Helen should be just getting back to their hotel after a dinner meeting. He shouldn’t care. He had a night at home and should have been relieved to get some sleep. Instead he was popping open a beer and hoping he could get it in him so he couldn’t jump in the car and drive over to the hotel. He felt shattered after having turned down Donna. He needed something, he didn’t know what but he knew that the Santos’ being on the other side of town was near impossible to resist.

He sat down on the sofa and flicked on the TV. News obviously. He left his beer on the table as he undid his tie and left it on the side with his jacket. He grabbed his files and moved back to his beer. If he could keep focused on the campaign that might help. He was just leaning back an open file in one hand, his beer in the other when there was a knock at the door.

After a brief moment to take in that he actually had a visitor at his door… an oddity. Most people who knew where he lived knew if it was important they could call and he’d been there in a flash. Particularly the few people who knew he would be at home. He got up and walked over. He opened the door to a secret service agent. He had no idea who it was but he knew the routine and  let them come in to look around. Behind him was Helen.

“Ma’am, I wasn’t expecting you. Is there an issue at the hotel?” Josh asked as they waited for the secret service to finish up.

“No Josh, I wanted to see you.” The service men cleared the house and Helen was able to come in. “Thanks guys. Give us a bit and I’ll update you on the plan.” Helen told them and they moved back outside the door.

“Helen, what are you doing here?” Josh asked. Very confused.

“Josh, we haven’t seen you properly since the DNC. Why?” Helen asked flatley.

“You mean other than the mountain of secret service surrounding the two of you. Hard to explain why I’m turning up at your hotel rooms in the night and not leaving till morning.” Josh said turning away to go for his beer. He needed some distance to keep this from getting difficult.

“Josh, the secret service aren’t going to gossip. I had a word and they legally can’t tell people these things. So, why haven’t we seen you? Matt’s getting worried you’re going to try to resign again.” Josh laughed at that.

“No, no thoughts of resignation. It’s just that this is the big leagues now and the risk just went through the roof. Plus we’re all over the place.” Josh told her trying to keep it somewhat professional.

“Josh. We have two options here. You can shut this down and we’ll live with that and all three of us can go through the next six months and possibly four years of presidency thinking what might have been. Or we carry on, deal with it going public if and when it does and in the meantime we get a shot at happiness. We get the chance to support and look after each other. Through the insanity that is coming.” Helen gave Josh a hard look and waited for him to respond.

“Helen I had to look a woman I’ve worked with for years and miss working with every day in the face and tell her that despite her being completely qualified for the roll I can’t hire her because of what she said in the nomination race. I want nothing more right now than to come crawling to you or Matt but there are people watching. I can’t do that. We can’t do that.” Josh started at the floor in defeat.

“We can Josh. You can. You just have to ask.” She said gathering the dejected sub into her arms. Josh dropped to the sofa and Helen came with him. “I’m sorry you had a bad day. I’m sorry you had to do that to Donna.” It didn’t take much of a google to realise how close Josh and Donna Moss had been. Helen pulled him to her and gave him a kiss. “Josh what do you need right now?” She asked him not sure how to help the conflicted sub.

“I think… I think I just need to cuddle right now. I’m sorry, I know that’s pathetic but please…” Josh said and leaned into her.

“Okay, we can do that. Walker?” She called through the front door. One of the agents looked in. “I’ll be staying here. I’ll tell matt myself.” She told him and he just nodded and closed the door again. Josh let it go after that curling around Helen and just holding her. Helen pulled her phone out gently and dialed Matt.

“Hey hon. Yeah, Josh needs me here tonight. Yeah, he’s a bit broken up over Donna. Yeah I’ll give him your love.” She stroked Josh’s hair as she talked. “Matt sends his love. He was hoping you could come round ours tomorrow. He really wants some time with you. That gonna be okay?” She asked him as he nuzzled against  her side.

“Yeah, barring emergencies I want to spend some time with him too.” Josh told her. For a while they just sat their Josh with his head in Helen’s lap. Helen knew that Josh was struggling with all this. He wasn’t used to having a relationship, having people to turn to. It was getting late though. “How about we move through to the bedroom babe?” She whispered to him. He nodded and rolled off the sofa offering her his hand. “Good boy.” She said with a small smile taking the proffered appendage. “Heel” She told him before leading him by the hand to his room.

--*--

They kept it simple, Helen hadn’t wanted to presume and Josh hadn’t been home regularly other than for sleep in years. He didn’t have any toys at his place, he’d generally not had much time for sex or anything else in the last decade. He was enjoying the change now. Helen was laid out on the bed with Josh lying inverted alongside her. His head was between her legs gently lapping at her while she stroked him.

“Hmmm, very good.” She hummed stroking his hair as well. It was lazy and gentle and satisfying. She kept her stroke slow and Josh matched her between her legs nuzzling and kissing her core. Gradually her orgasm built and she pushed Josh firmly against her, his tongue dipping into her deeply as her hand grew tighter and faster on Josh. “You can come when I do.” She told him. They’d already put a towel down to catch Josh’s mess. A few minutes more and Helen crashed over the edge with a full body shake and Josh let go with a gasp.

When they came down Josh’s head was resting lightly on Helen’s leg and they were both almost asleep. Josh threw the towel towards the hamper and shuffled up the bed when Helen nudged him. They cuddled with Josh wrapped around Helen from behind.

“Good boy. Well done.” Helen told him. “Josh, I know it’s soon for us but I’m falling for you.”

“I know Helen, so am I. Scares me a little.” He told her honestly.

“Why?” Helen asked worried.

“Because we don’t have time or privacy for this. Because I’m worried I’m going to fuck it up again.” He admitted.

“Josh, we are going to be patient and if it goes wrong it won’t be just your fault. We’re all in this. It’ll take more than one of us to mess it up.” She pulled his arms tight around her. “For now we need some sleep though.”

Chapter Text

Matt hung up the phone on his wife and looked around his empty hotel room. He wished he could have gone with Helen but the press were following him a lot closer than her and the two of them spending the night at Josh’s would have been one hell of a scoop. He thought about the call. Josh wasn’t doing well with turning down Donna and he was right. Matt could see from her past work and what Josh thought of her that she was great at her job and would be fantastic for the campaign. On the other hand after her performance for Russell she could not be front and centre of his campaign right now..

Give it a few weeks maybe a month or two and Josh would likely be about to explode based on the current trend. He could use her then. He opened his laptop and sent a recommendation through to the midwest base. If they could slot her in there then he could swing her in to play later when Josh needed her.

He settled on to the bed and felt lonely again. He was mostly just jealous of his wife and sub on the other side of town. He wanted to be there but he hated knowing that Josh was upset and he couldn’t be there. He’d just have to wait till tomorrow. After that he didn’t like the look of the schedule. Helen was heading home and he was heading out on the trail and Josh was staying here to run things. He needed to see them both now before it was too late.

--*--

Matt was heading out for the day and Bram as usual was walking him out of his last event of the day in Cleveland. It was eleven in the evening.

“Mrs Santos managed to fly out for the weekend she’s waiting at the hotel. The team are sorting her schedule now.” He carried on and Matt’s head spun.

“We done for today?”

“Ummm, yeah, we can be done.”

“Fine. I’m going to go spend the night with my wife. No interruptions. Oh except, I need to talk to Josh later. Tell him to stop by the room.” He told Bram.

He rushed through the hotel desperate not to be caught and stopped by someone. This was a chance. They all needed this. As he reached his door already flanked by Helen’s detail he paused and turned to Steve who was his details lead.

“When Josh gets here no need to knock just send him straight in.” He said with a meaningful look as Bram left down the corridor. Steve was aware of the situation and knew what the congressman meant. He was actually starting to worry they should be putting a detail on the campaign manager but wasn’t sure how to pitch that. Matt went into his room to enjoy some time with his wife while they waited for Josh.

--*--

Josh was staring at his boards trying to work out their message for the hundredth time. Bram stuck his head round the door and Josh looked to him.

“Congressman turned in for the night but he said he wanted a word with you.” Josh’s heart leapt.

“Bit early isn’t it?” Josh asked trying to keep it casual.

“Mrs Santos flew in.”

“Right, better go see him soon before I end up interrupting them.” Josh tried not to run out of the room. He took his ubiquitous backpack with him. For the rare occasion he managed to sneak in with Matt he now kept a change of clothes with him for the morning. He exited the lift and saw the secret service flanking the door. He always felt a little embarrassed walking past them. There had never been a chance of hiding this from them but it was like a walk of shame in reverse. As he reached the door Steve nodded to him.

“The congressman said for you to go straight in.” He said unlocking the door for him.

“Thanks. Have a good night boys.” He told them as he stepped into the room. The overhead lights were off and just the bedside lamp was on. He just about maintained enough thought to close the door behind him as he was faced by the site of Matt and Helen bare on the bed Matt thrusting gently into Helen. He was entranced by the site. Matt sped up a little and Helen shook with an orgasm.

“You gonna stand there all night Josh?” Matt asked without looking around.

“No.” Josh said quickly. “No I’m...I’m… where do you want me?” He asked slowly trying to get his blood to flow anywhere near his brain. Helen looked up at him with a smile while Matt laughed and buried his face in Helen’s chest.

“Josh, lose the clothes and bag. Then you can heel.” She told him as Matt recovered enough from his laughing fit to start moving slowly again inside her.

“Over here. Next to the bed Josh.” Matt added. Josh struggled through getting undressed trying to remove his jacket before dropping his bag. His eyes still focused on the activity on the bed. Finally he was done and moved to the side of the bed away from the door nearer the window and kneeling. He dropped his eyes from the bed instead, just listening. He heard both of them shift and saw Matt’s legs appear off the bed in front of him. A hand stroked his hair. Helen was still on the bed.

“Missed you, Josh.” Matt told him. “Enjoy the show?” He asked the still sub. Josh nodded.

“Yes, Matt” Josh wanted nothing more than to lean forward and take Matt’s still hard member into his mouth but he waited.

Helen grabbed his hair and gave it a good hard tug. Josh gasped.

“Like that Josh?” Helen asked leaning off the bed and tugging again. “Do you want more?”

“Nashua” Josh gasped out as she continued to pull. Matt wandered around behind him.

“Josh, I want you to choose. Tonight you can have pain or bondage. Which do you want?” Matt asked him gripping his shoulders while Helen still stretched his neck.

“Pain! Pain please.” Josh begged. He needed it. He needed the distraction. Matt stepped back and the flail seemed to come out of nowhere. It was searing and sharp and warm and somehow pure as it lanced through him.

“Josh?” Helen asked

“Nashua.” He gasped out.

“Count them Josh.” Matt demanded.

“One.” He croaked. Josh took ten in total before Matt stopped and stroked the bright red skin.

“You have no idea how beautiful you are right now.” Helen said. “My turn. Stand up, hands on the bed and bum in the air.” Matt paused for a moment and kissed his back before helping him to his feet. Helen climbed off the bed and looked at Josh’s arms shaking.

“Josh, do you need a break.” Josh shook his head. Helen looked to Matt who looked a little worried too. “Matt can you sit and help him.” She asked. Matt moved in front of Josh and encouraged him to drop his head and shoulders into Matt’s lap. The top held him steady. Josh wasn’t ready to stop but Helen knew she needed to be careful. Josh’s arse was still pale and untouched by the flail.

Helen spanked Josh not really counting just trying to get a good colour and then Josh started to cry. Matt held him and shhed him. He shifted back on the bed to take more of Josh’s weight. Helen Joined them stroking over his back and sides. Slowly Josh calmed and Matt knew he’d needed that. Josh enjoyed the stroking and slowly moved to rub against Matt where he was half hard. Helen leaned back and ran a finger along Josh.

“Here Josh. Time to help me out. She said reaching down to start stretching herself. Josh moved and got back to his feet.

“Yes, Helen.” He said moving to lick her clit while she stretched her arse. Matt Rolled over to help them. He passed Helen the lube after taking some himself. He used his on to start stroking himself and Josh encouraging them both to full staff. Then he lifted Josh away and used his hips to move Josh to line him up with Helen. He lined himself up with Josh. Slowly he pushed forward penetrating them both at the same time. They all groaned in unison.

The bed creaked as he started to thrust. Josh let him have complete control as he couldn’t think around how full and tight and hot and sore he was. Helen was pretty happy as well being plowed by Josh under Matt’s steam and getting to stare up both of them. It was the look on Josh’s face when Matt hit his prostate that sent him over the edge. Josh spasmed above her and Matt sped up hammering both of them. Helen realised she’d forgotten to give Josh permission or a condom. He knew not to come without one unless told to. The pace was furious and the bed was moving with them.

“Josh, you can come next time I do.” She told him. She was already building to it pretty quick. She reached up to grab the back of Matt’s head pulling herself up and changing the angle. She made eye contact and saw how lost to it Matt was. “Love you.” She said and Matt grinned and kissed Josh’s neck and her hand.

“Love you too.” Matt said back to her. Then he hit Josh’s prostrate and the sub gave a guttural groan which made them both laugh. Helen screamed caught by surprise by her own orgasm. Josh yelled with her and Matt just gasped as they all lost it one after the other.  They collapsed on the bed sprawled over one another.

Helen nuzzled the side of Josh’s head. He was barely conscious. He blinked and looked at her.

“Love you too Josh.” She told him. He smiled and leaned in to kiss her deeply.

“Love you Helen. Though was it me or did the bed move a lot there.” He said looking around at the bed. Matt laughed.

“It’ll be fine. It’s a hotel it’s not like no one ever had sex here before.” Matt told him

He stroked up Josh’s still flushed back. Josh shivered at the feel of it over his over sensitive skin. “You okay Josh?” He asked.

“Yeah.” He said sleepily.

“I mean in general. I’m sorry it’s been hard to find time.” Matt murmured. “Sorry to both of you.”

“Hey I’m the one who writes the schedule. I’m sorry I couldn’t find the time. But I do miss doing more of this.” He told them.

“It’ll get easier.” Helen murmured in hope.

“Yeah, when?” Matt said not thinking.

“I don’t know but I know it’s worth waiting for.” Helen said stroking each of their faces. “My men are worth it.” She told them. Josh was drifting off in the comfortable pile.

--*--

Matt woke up to the wonderful feeling of Josh shifting against him. He pulled him in tighter against his front.

“Ready for round two?” Matt murmured into Josh’s ear.

“Oh yeah.” He responded reaching back to run his fingers through Matt’s hair. Matt decided to just go for it he reached down and lined himself up with Josh’s still stretched hole. He thrust in. Josh groaned loudly and Helen stirred next to them. As Matt started to move the bed creaked under them. Helen decided she didn’t want to be left out and squirmed back against Josh. Josh took advantage rubbing against her back as she pulled his hand down to her folds and encouraged him to stroke her.

“Good boy.” Matt murmured in his ear. “Make sure she enjoys herself. You having fun their love?” He asked Helen.

“Oh,” she said softly as Josh pushed two fingers into her. “Yes, that’s good Josh.” Matt started to speed up. He needed more leverage though. “Sorry hun. I need a new angle.”

“That’s fine.” She told him and moved to sit against the pillows. Matt smiled at the idea and pulled out. They moved to put Josh between her legs and Matt behind him holding one of Josh’s legs up over his hip to give him the perfect deep angle he was looking for. He braced his other hand on the headboard and started to slam into his sub driving Josh’s face into Helen with every thrust. Josh gasped for breath when he could and tried his best to satisfy Helen. He struggled to focus though as Matt pounded against his prostate with every thrust. Helen was writhing and pushing down on Josh’s tongue loving the sensation of him there and the fierce look in Matt’s eyes. She pulled Matt into a kiss and he moved impossibly fasted and harder.

Suddenly the creak turned into a sharp crack and the world shifted and moved beneath them. They all yelled as they fell apart and a loud bang followed as part of the bed frame his the floor. The door opened and there was yelling as the secret service poured in. Helen and Matt grabbed at the tangled covers to cover themselves.

“Sir, is everything alright?” Steve asked struggling to keep a straight face after he had ascertained that no bullets had been fired and no one else was in the room. Matt looked around at the three of them in the mess of bed. While they were shaken and all of them gasping and a little lost looking no one appeared to be hurt.

“I think we’re okay. Thanks for the check but I think we need a bit of time to sort this out.” He told him, hoping he could get rid of the four agents stood in his room while he and both his lovers were naked.

“No injuries?” Matt looked to the other two Helen shook her head.

“I’m fine.” Josh looked fine too.

“We’re good.” He told the agents. They nodded and left the room most of them struggling not to at least smirk. Matt looked to Helen and couldn’t hold back a chuckle of his own. Josh scrambled out of the mess of the bed. He was gasping for breath as he moved from the bed. The bitter taste was in his mouth and he felt like the room was spinning. He could hear the screaming and running as he fell back against the wall. He was shaking.

Matt and Helen rushed to get out of the remains of the bed. It took a moment for Matt to work out what was happening then he realised. The agents had thought they’d heard a gunshot. Josh was having a flashback. He stopped himself running at Josh and grabbed Helen to stop her too. He’d seen this before with people he’d served with.

“Josh, you’re having a flashback.” He told the struggling man. Josh didn’t seem to hear him. He slowly moved towards him. “Josh you need to stop hyperventilating.” Matt continued trying.

“Josh Heel!” Helen ordered him. Josh still didn’t seem to see the room but he closed his eyes clearly trying to control his breathing.

“That’s right Josh. Down.” Matt told him moving to help the sub move to his knees. “Josh, just slow your breathing.” He kept an arm around Josh.  Matt was so glad Helen had been there, she’d had the perfect idea. “Josh, open your eyes and tell me about the room.”

“Your here and Helen and we broke the bed, it’s a mess.” Josh said slowly blinking a lot trying to clear the images from his mind. “My bag is by the door.”

“Good Josh, how are you doing?” Helen asked.

“I… can I get a drink?” He asked her his voice a little shaky.

“Of course Josh.” Helen told him getting up and getting him a bottle of water. Matt pulled Josh in against his side.

“I… the sound…”

“I know Josh, do you want to talk about it?” Matt said hugging Josh concerned over him.

“I, I just heard that noise and everything was moving and it hurt and I was alone, everyone else was gone and I was alone Matt. If they hadn’t worked it out when they did I would have died.” Josh told him as Helen came back and handed him the water Josh swallowed some wanting to clear the bitter taste from his mouth.

“It won’t happen Josh. Anything happens and you and Helen are the first people I’m going to look for.” Matt told him.

“We’re gonna try and avoid that whole getting shot at thing first though.” Helen instructed them both as she sat down next to Matt and stroked Joshed back snuggling in next to them.

“We broke the bed.” Josh said.

“Yeah, but the sofa is a pull out. We’ll get that out in a minute. For now I just want to hold both of you.” Matt said pulling Helen in too. He was a little scared himself. He was still waiting for his own heart rate to drop.

--*--

They’d broken the bed. They had actually broken the bed. It looked terrible as well. Josh thought as he stood and stared at it. Matt had already left and he was waiting for a knock on the door to tell him to coast was clear before he left. Helen was waiting as well so it wouldn’t look suspicious that the secret service were still on the room.

“How am I going to explain why I’m up late?” Josh asked her.

“Stomach flu?” She suggested.

“With the amount of coffee I intend to drink when I get out of here.”

“Hey, you were asking for suggestions. Why don’t you call you mother? That would be a good excuse.” She said with a small grin knowing Josh’s mother had actually called the switch board more than once trying to talk to her son.

“You know this guilt thing is a little unfair.” Josh observed with a small smile.

“Yes, now be a good boy and call your mother while you wait to escape our demolished bedroom.” Helen ordered. Josh smiled and did actually call his mother. He even smiled when she started asking about if she was seeing someone. He carefully said he was but that he didn’t want to go into details. Eventually the knock came and he had the perfect excuse as he wandered into the main room saying goodbye to her.

--*--

The picture was as bad as Josh remembered it being and he couldn’t help smirking a little when Bram came up with “Hurricane Santos”. Luckily they were able to place Helen there after some work and that made it an easy sell that the two tops had just got a little over athletic together. Oh, and there was no way that bed was steel reinforced.

--*--

Matt lived on the plane. Josh flew back and forth. Both of them barely slept and Josh didn’t seem to eat. Matt did but only because they were piling on the lunch meetings thanks to the press. They were never in the same place twice or over night in the same hotel with time to sleep. It was a good campaign but it was a nonexistent relationship. Matt even caught Josh tied to a chair once they were both getting so desperate.

Chapter Text

Josh couldn’t believe it was Donna on the screen. He had said no to hiring her. He had been very clear so why was she standing up as their spokesperson. Lou had hired her, why did Lou have to hire her? 

Suddenly while he’s making jokes about not being interested in Lou the door opens and there’s Donna again. Why was she everywhere? He’d almost stopped thinking about her everyday. Then the banter started that amazing feeling of arguing and dueling of the one woman who could really keep up with him and run with his swings. Then the conversation was over and he couldn’t bring himself to make Lou fire her. He was like an addict who fell off the bandwagon. 

Now he just had to make sure she didn’t out them. The debate was tomorrow, she worked for Lou he could probably keep away and then she wouldn’t get a chance to work it out. Keep them in different states even. He really hoped it would work because somehow he didn’t know how Donna would react. He was terrified of her censure. He couldn’t bear the thought of telling her and her rejecting him over it. She was too important and so were the Santos’ he couldn’t deal with losing any of it. Even though he knew he would. No way could he keep this up through a presidency or if they lost the wait till the next campaign keeping this out of the press would be torture. But those were future bridges. Now he just had to make sure he didn’t give Donna a reason to come charging into his office yelling:

“Your sleeping with the candidate!”

--*--

Josh wasn’t avoiding Donna. He was sure he wasn’t. With such a young campaign he had to be at HQ and he needed Donna and Lou on the road with Matt. The distance though is starting to make him doubt though. Leo was right, everything came out eventually on a presidential campaign. Toby was right as well, he’d had to drag Matt into this and if he was really committed he wouldn’t still be risking it all in Josh. He just needed to stay away, keep out of it then they might all be able to move on. Well, more like move back.

--*--

Matt was losing it. He got to see Helen and the kids quiet often but even then he had no time. He hadn’t seen Josh in weeks. He was getting sick of not being able to take his own time. He was sick of having his family used by them and others to sway the public. He was fed up with not being able to get his own mail. Was it worth it? He wasn’t sure but he also thought there was little chance of him seeing Josh if he threw in the campaign here. He couldn’t face that, one of the few things keeping him going was the collar he kept tucked in his carry on.

--*--

Donna could see the Santos’ were struggling. Helen was losing it over the security and Matt never having time for the kids. The congressman just didn’t have time to think or do anything but react to the next thing. She hadn’t seen Josh in weeks, he’d been holed up at HQ. She knew she couldn’t say anything about that to them to help. So she did what she could and offered to help Helen start shaping her own dialogue. Oh, and she told Josh to chill.

--*--

They were on route to Phoenix. Helen and the kids were in the meeting room while Matt made some calls and Josh was trying to work out the schedule. His phone rang. Only the switch board had the number so he answered.

“Hello” He said still scribbling across the scheduling sheet.

“Josh, were you born stupid or did you get dropped on your head?” Came the acerbic irish voice.

“Danny?” He asked confused to have the reporter calling him rather than CJ.

“Yeah Josh and I’m calling cause I just saw a picture of you, Matt Santos and an unknown woman in a hotel room. Care to comment?” Josh stood in stunned silence. Finally after what seemed like an age he looked around and realised he needed privacy for this discussion. Dropping the papers and juggling the phone he headed for the bathroom.

“Where did you see that?” He asked.

“A contact who runs a blog. He got it earlier today. What the hell were you thinking Josh? You guys get drunk and pick up a girl?” Josh hadn’t ever had to talk about this. It was weird.

“It’s Helen. The woman is Helen. And we weren’t drunk.” Josh told him. He trusted Danny not to call him evil just stupid and he already knew that.

“Not sure that makes this better Josh”

“I know. How long?” He asked with a sigh. This was it the nail in the coffin. He didn’t know when but he’d known it would.

“Goes out on his blog tomorrow morning. Good luck man.” The report said with sympathy.

“Yeah, Danny thanks for the heads up.” They both hung up and Josh took a deep breath he needed to keep moving or he was going to break down. He moved out of the bathroom and went straight for Matt’s cabin. The kids weren’t there so he could warn Matt alone.

“He’s still on a call.” Ronna told him as he approached.

“Trust me he needs to hear this. No interruptions. I don’t care if world war three is declared.” Josh threw at her and went in to the cabin. Matt was luckily just wrapping up. He hung up and looked at Josh expectant of the normal barrage of information.

“We have a situation… I … we… Danny…” Josh found he couldn’t get the words out with Matt in front of him. He was in love and this was going to end everything. He started to tear up. 

“Josh, spit it out.” Matt ordered. 

“It’s not that simple, cause your gonna be pissed and I’ve messed everything up and Helen is gonna hate me… Oh, god the kids!” Josh rambled that being so much easier, to let his panic pour out than to tell Matt the Truth. He was getting hysterical and tears were on his cheeks and he couldn’t look at Matt and then CRACK.

Josh flew into the wall of the small cabin at the force and surprise of the slap. His eyes went to Matt who was looking angry and frustrated with him. He dropped to his knees and bowed his head. 

“Tell me Josh.” Matt said when he had better control of himself mentally cursing himself for the slap. People outside the door would have heard and Josh was going to have a mark on his face.

Josh closed his eyes and tried not to cry or lose it.

“A blogger has a picture of the three of us in a hotel. It’s going to be released tomorrow.” He said surprising himself with how slowly he said it.  He kept his eyes closed waiting for a response. Matt didn’t say anything to him. 

“Crap. Crap.” The top said turning away from Josh in a panic. “What do they have Josh?” 

“I don’t know. I just know it’s you, me and Helen in a Hotel room and that we’re apparently mid act.” Matt stalked around the space lost. There was a knock on the door and Steve opened it.

“Everything alright in here, sir?” He asked noting Josh on his knees and the handprint on his face. 

“Yes, just… someone get Helen for me.” Matt said moving to block the view through the door and close it as Steve ducked back out. Helen was there is a minute.

“What’s going on Matt? Everyone says you guys were fighting?” Helen took in the scene for a moment and was very cautious.

“The press have a picture.” Matt said staring at her. She looked a little confused. 

“Hun, if it’s another picture of my tattoo it’s not that big a deal everyone already knows.” She tried to joke still casting looks at Josh who was still with his eyes closed but disconcertingly tense.

“Helen, they have a picture of us, the three of us. And we’re not just sleeping or sitting around.” Helen swallowed. Okay, she certainly hadn’t been expecting this today. 

“Josh, what do we do?” Helen asked. Josh didn’t move or react. He seemed lost in himself. “Josh?” Helen moved to kneel in front of him. His cheeks were streaked with tears. She gently stroked over the already forming bruise. “Josh, I need you to tell me how you are.” She asked. 

“I’ll resign and Lou can take over. I’ll make sure it’s public before the blog comes out.” He said quietly still refusing to open his eyes and pulling his face away from her. “I’m sorry. I fucked this up.” She looked over to Matt who was wasn’t even looking their way still trying to think of what to do. 

“Matt, come here right now.” She ordered firmly. That seemed to at least draw his attention. He moved over to them.

“Now, I want to be very clear with both of you. We are going to sort this, and it is not going to involve us giving up on this campaign. It is also not going to involve you resigning Josh, or us breaking up. I know it’s been a hard month but I know I still love both of you and any solution that involves someone leaving is not acceptable.” Matt looked surprised and guilty. He dropped and pulled them both into a hug. 

“Of course.” He said and looked at Josh knowing he had messed up. “Josh, this is not your fault. Look at me.” He insisted lifting Josh’s chin. And waiting till he opened his eyes. “You are not leaving us, we need you here Josh.” He said clearly giving the man a quick kiss. “So we can all calm down and think about this. It’s going to come out whether we like it or not.” He shifted to sit against the wall and pull the still struggling Josh to his chest in front of him. He held out a hand to Helen. He held him firmly as Josh calmed down and got himself together.

“We should tell the campaign.” Helen started with. “Before it comes out they should hear it from us.” Matt nodded.

“We need to make a statement tonight or tomorrow, get ahead of the dialogue. Make it clear that this isn’t some accident. We should say something along the lines of not wanting to declare a relationship that wasn’t serious. That’s fairly easy to substantiate, it’s not like we’ve been at this long, or gone on holiday or anything like that.”

“Appeal to privacy and that since you were in the campaign you were already in the public eye after the press outed you. It’s not like your someone obscure who no one knew was involved in the campaign.” Matt continued Josh’s thought. They sat there thinking about just coming out in the open as Josh suggested. Matt looked at Helen and smiled at her, if they were going to do this… Helen smiled back and nodded. 

“Where?” She asked. Josh looked confused and looked between the two of them. He was feeling a lot better though was still grateful for Matt’s arms around him.

“Phoenix I guess.” Josh said.

“Bottom of the carry on.” Matt said to her.

Chapter Text

“Josh, we both love you. I don’t think we could do this without you. We don’t want you to leave, now or ever. I’ve been sure for a while but I think we should make this an announcement.” Helen came back from the bag and handed a box to Matt. 

“I’m sure now as well Josh. We ordered it a while back and made sure to keep the paperwork which might make this look a little less reactionary, I hope.” She said to Josh as Matt handed him the box. Josh was pretty confused. He took the box and opened it. 

Inside there was a black leather collar with four silver d-rings and a silver buckle. It was about an inch and a half wide. On the side was a plate with ‘Santos’ inscribed on it in cursive. He picked it up his thoughts stalled. The inner leather was butter soft and the whole thing was beautiful. It was a proposal of claiming. They wanted to make him officially their sub, not just one of theirs, it was their joint name on the collar.

“Are you sure?” He asked looking sideways at each of them. Matt chuckled.

“Certain.” He squeezed Josh to him and kissed his forehead.

“You Helen?” He asked her. She touched the side of his face.

“Yeah, Josh. I’m sure.” She kissed him and pulled back. 

“Then yeah. Yes. I’d like it.” Josh sputtered still holding the collar. Matt gently took it from his fingers and put it back on the box before reaching up pull Josh’s tie down and undid the first couple of buttons on his shirt. Helen undid the collar and handed it to him. He tightened it till it looked snug but comfortable on Josh. 

“Hell Josh. That looks good on you.” Helen said and used the convenient loops on the collar to pull him in for a kiss.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while but it looks even better than I thought.” Matt agreed still huggin Josh as Helen broke away and Matt took over. 

“You we’re gonna have to tell everyone.”

--*--

They would have loved to stay cuddled on the floor for a little longer but they all knew they were pushing it having just had fifteen minutes alone. On the bright side coming clean about all this was going to make time together easier. Based on Matt and Helen it was still going to be near impossible but at least there would be less pining from across the hall. They straightened up and Josh accepted a wipe to clean his face. He looked at his tie as he picked it up off the floor.

“Do I put this back on or what?” He asked the other two. 

“Leave it off, I want to see the collar.” Matt told him with a grin. “Time to face the music.” Matt said with a small cringe (and no change to his grin) and a nod to the door.

“Wait.” Helen told him and then went over to the door. “Hi Lou. I know. We’ll be with you guys in a minute. Right now can you bring the kids over? Thanks.” She turned back to the boys who both looked sheepish.

“You’re absolutely right dear. We should tell them first.” The door knocked again and Helen opened it to let the kids in. They came in a little confusedly. 

“What’s going on Mummy?” Miranda asked. Peter was looking at Josh seeming to know something was going on.

“Well, kids. We want to talk to you guys about something very important. Matt said picking up Miranda and moving to sit in a chair with her in his lap. Peter and Helen followed while Josh stood off to one side smiling with his hands in his pockets. “So you guys know me and your mom are both tops.”

“And Josh is your sub.” Peter said nodding at Josh before looking back at his father. Matt sat stunned for a moment Helen gapped at her son getting so ahead of them.

“Well done for not telling anyone buddy.” Josh said and held out a hand for a high five from Peter.

“Oh, I see. This was a conspiracy.” Matt said looking between Josh and his son.

“We talked at the house.” Josh said with a shrug. Peter smiled. Miranda didn’t look particularly confused or surprised either.

“Peter told me too!” She told them pleased with herself.

“Well thank you for not telling anyone either.” Josh said to Miranda. 

“How long do we have to keep it secret?” Peter asked his dad.

“That’s what we wanted to talk to you about. We want Josh to become part of our family as our sub. We asked him and he said yes. Is that going to be okay with you guys?” Helen asked cautiously.

“Then I’d be able to tell my friends about Josh?” Peter asked.

“Yeah.” Matt affirmed. Peter move and hugged Josh around the waist.

“Welcome to the family Josh.” He said. Josh’s heart broke and he leaned down and hefted the boy up for a hug. The kid was heavy. He’d seen Matt make this look easy but it wasn’t. So he wouldn’t do it too often but right then it felt right.

“Thanks Peter.” He told the boy in his arms. “That means a lot.”

“You okay with it Miranda?” Matt asked his little girl. 

“Does that mean Josh would do what I tell him?” She asked not really understanding what a sub was yet.

“No Miranda. I’m afraid only me and your mom get to boss Josh around.” Matt grinned into her hair. 

“He doesn’t get to have my room does he?” Miranda asked.

“No hun. He’ll share with me and you’re dad.” Helen told her.

“Okay then.” Josh guessed that was as much of a ringing endorsement as he was going to get from the five year old at the moment. Peter poked at the collar a little.

“You like it?” Josh asked him.

“Yeah, I think it looks cool.” Peter told him.

“So do I.” Josh said before putting Peter down and smiling at his tops. 

“Okay, they’ll be climbing the walls out there. We should start with Lou, Ronna, Donna and maybe Bram first. Then we need to make some calls.”

Matt went for the door this time and Josh still stayed back out of sight not wanting to risk the press catching sight of him in the new collar. 

“Kids, you go back to the meeting room and give us some time. We’re going to tell everyone tomorrow so don’t say anything straight away alright?” Peter and Miranda nodded and left the room. Matt beckoned their lead advisors in. Lou, Bram, Ronna and Donna filed in. At first none of them seemed to notice then Lou’s eyes widened.

“Damn it.” She said before looking at her phone. “Well, Donna won the pool.” She said to the other three. Who all looked to Josh and gapped at the sight of the collar around his neck.

“Yes!” Donna cried and ran over her to hug Josh. “Congratulations!” She told him and he hugged her back just as enthusiastically. It was really nice to be able to relax around her. 

“Wait a second… what pool?!” He asked annoyed.

“We’ve had a pool going since you told the press you were dating on who it was, when you’d go public and if it would last.” Ronna told him. “Donna was pretty much right on all counts. She was the only one who had Matt and Helen in the pool.” Josh starred at Donna.

“When did you work it out?” He asked her.

“Back when the congressman turned down the VP offer. You made that weird joke about three feet on the floor. You had to be dating one of them and I was pretty sure it wasn’t the vp. Then I met Helen and it just made sense.” Donna explained with a shrug.

“You knew the whole time?” Josh asked her feeling bad for having avoided her if she already knew. Helen stayed in her seat and Matt moved to stand next to Josh and Donna. Josh let go of his former assistant who suddenly looked very awkwardly at the congressman.

“Sorry, I should have asked before I hugged Josh.” She apologised it was generally impolite to touch someones sub without permission.

“No worried Donna. It’s not the twenties and you two are old friends.” Matt reassured her before turning to take in his staff. “ So, we have an uphill struggle ahead of us. Tomorrow morning a blog is going to be releasing a hopefully somewhat censored picture of the three of us in a hotel room. We’d like to announce our relationship before that happens and we need to work out what this changes going forward.” Everyone moved into campaign mode.

“First what is Josh’s ongoing involvement in the campaign and what is the intention now if you take office?” Lou asked.

“Nothing’s changed. I’m going to continue as campaign manager and chief of staff if we get that far. I hope so anyway?” Josh told them some doubt coming into his voice as he looked to his new tops for confirmation.

“Absolutely. I don’t see any reason this should change that.” Matt confirmed. 

“Okay, so this is purely personal. Josh we’ll need you on the road more and your going to have to be careful in Washington. You’re going to be under a lot more scrutiny as the future first sub than as a campaign manager.” Lou gave him a solid look that said she expected at least one press scandal.

“Right, no more late night clubbing and letting tops spank me in the corridors.” Josh deadpanned. 

“Hey, I’m just saying, no more closed door meetings with tops or switches given you dating record. No sitting in bars on your own. We need to look at wardrobe as well for when you’re with the congressman.” Lou listed off. “Your public image to date isn’t great for this. We need to make you look like a good, respectable sub. We need this not to look like a political convenience or an attempt to deal with this photo.” Lou hissed, it was a tall order.

“All while keeping the competent and capable image of Josh as a modern sub intact.” Donna added. 

“We were hoping it wouldn’t be hard to prove to the press that this isn’t just a reaction or political manoeuvring. We have the receipt for the collar including the date it was ordered. The night before the DNC.” Helen told them. 

“Wait you ordered it before we had the nomination?” Josh asked the two of them. “What if we’d lost?” He asked a ghast.

“I was confident I could talk you into hanging around, maybe taking your weekends with us in Texas. Win or lose didn’t really make a difference in my mind.” Matt told him. 

“Well, that will definitely help.” Donna said. “The press are going to start rumours the second someone sees Josh in that collar though and we’ll need to get ahead of it.”

“In that case I think we need to move fast. We have a press conference when we hit the runway. Give them shots of the congressman, Mrs Santos and Mr Lyman deplanning with the kids. Then a brief statement announcing the new good news. They can run it tonight it’ll hit the morning papers. The blog shot then looks like it’s a reaction to us. I like it.” Lou said running the idea out loud. 

“Won’t work. Josh looks like shit.” Bram pointed out. They all looked at Josh who was looking a little worse for wear with a bruised cheek and rumpled shirt. Matt reached over and cupped his subs sore cheek gently.

“Sorry about that.” He said softly.

“No. I needed it. Was losing it a little there.” Josh said back eyes only for Matt.”We have make up don’t we? And we don’t land for another hour. I can change my shirt.” Josh told the doubting assistant.

“Oh!” Donna said and disappeared out of the room, closing the door behind her. Ignoring her outburst and departure Matt responded.

“Yeah, but I shouldn’t have panicked. That’s going to be a doozy.” Matt dropped his hand from Josh’s face. The rest of the room looked a little uncomfortable not used to seeing the two act as a couple. Well, they would have to get used to it in Matt’s mind. Now that he could he didn’t want to hide anything.

“So, we should call HQ, give them a heads up as well as Leo.” Josh told Lou and Bram. “I’ll take the Leo call if that’s okay. Matt you and Helen may want to call family let them know before they hear it on the news.” Josh was in motion and feeling on top of the world again.

--*--

Josh was sat in the cabin still. They’d agreed he should work from in there the rest of the trip so there was no risk of someone seeing him. So he was sat next to Helen as he waited for Leo to pick up.

  “Hey, kid. How’s it going?” The old man answered.

“Well, Leo. Bit of a good news, bad news situation wanted to give you a heads up.” Josh said trying not to just blurt everything out.

“Okay, give me the bad news.”

“The press have a picture of me, the congressman and his wife. We’re not playing checkers.” Josh told him tensing in his seat as he told him.

“Josh…” Leo breathed. “I told you everything comes out. How are we going to deal with this?”

“I guess that’s the good news.” Josh said trying to lift the mood of the conversation. “I accepted a collar from Matt and Helen. We’re going to announce once we land in Phoenix.” The line was silent.

“You happy Josh?” came his response finally.

“Yeah, Leo, I’m pretty over the moon right now actually.” Josh admitted with a laugh in his voice.

“Good. Glad to hear it. I’m sure your mothers pretty excited too. She’s been wanting to see you settle down for years.” Josh groaned.

“Josh, please tell me you called her!”

“Not yet.” He admitted.

 “I’ll co-ordinate with HQ and we’ll deal with the fall out. You call your damn mother before she finds out from someone else.” Leo hung up. Matt ducked back into the cabin looking for paperwork. 

“Go okay with Leo?” He asked Josh smiling and briefly kissing him on the way past.

“Yeah, though he just reminded me. I should call my mom. She’s going to go crazy over this. I apologise now for any and all heavy handed grandchildren references that she’s going to make.” Josh said rubbing his face.

“Josh, you know we’re not interested in more kids.” Matt said pausing. “Not at the moment anyway.”

“I know. Don’t worry about it. No expectations from me, I’m just warning you I’m her only child and she’s hasn’t let up about reminding me of my duties as her son for years.” Josh explained.

“Well, noted. You should definitely call her though. Maybe invite her to thanksgiving then we can meet her as well.” Matt realised he’d just assumed Josh would be spending Thanksgiving with them. “Unless you have other plans. We really need to talk some of this stuff through some time.” Matt thought of all the little things they were going to need to sort. “More importantly though, the secret service want a word. They want a detail to go back to washington with you and on your townhouse. Actually I think he wanted to convince you not to go back to the townhouse… You should talk to them.” Shit, Josh hadn’t even considered the secret service. He guessed now he was collared to a presidential candidate they were going to become permanent shadows in his life too. There was a lot of strings attached to this whole deal. Not that Josh was reconsidering it was just that they would be landing in half and hour and he had a lot to do before they hit the tarmac.

Chapter Text

Donna came back from wherever she had been for the past half hour and hands Josh a shirt on a hanger.

“Change into that before we land.” She tells him.

“This isn’t my shirt.” Josh observes. “Who did you steal this from?” He asks. It’s a dress shirt with a band collar. They were normal for male collared subs since they didn’t interfere as much with the collar. As far as he knew there wasn’t another collared sub on plane.

“I didn’t steal it. I picked it up a few weeks back it was in my luggage. I thought you might need it. We’ll have to get you some more after we land.” Donna told him with a smirk.

“Okay, why did I let you quit?” Josh asked.

“You didn’t. This is not me pitching to be your assistant again either. I did it for the campaign. I knew you wouldn’t have a good shirt.” Donna told him a little bit pitying of how useless Josh was on his own.

“Thanks, Donna. For everything and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. Not just about this but I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was a sub.” Josh said. Matt was busy at the back of the plane sorting through his bag for the collar’s receipt. 

“Josh, it was your secret to keep. I’m just glad you managed to find what you were looking for. Oh, and that it turned out not to be Amy.” She added with a smile. She had never really liked Amy.

Lou came in then with Helen.

“This is a group conversation.” Helen announced. 

“The first three questions are going to be how long have you been seeing each other, why didn’t you say anything before now and when is the claiming going to be.” Lou told the room.

“Well I’ve been seeing Josh since February, Helen and Josh started started seeing each other a couple of months later.” Matt told them. “We didn’t say anything because we were just dating and it wasn’t as though no one knew Josh was influencing us and an integral part of this campaign and would be of our white house.” 

“That’s what I said.” Helen told him. “Question three is the issue.”

“A claiming could be a huge boost to our numbers. Everyone loves weddings and claimings.” Lou told them.

“No, if we rush into this everyone will call it a stunt. I think we hold off on even setting a date. Anyone asks we don’t want to rush and we were in the middle of a presidential campaign. We intend to set a date just as soon as were done with the election.” Josh instructed.

“I think we should give them an indication of our intended date just so it doesn’t look like we’re not actually interested in going through with this.” Matt said he wanted them committed to some sort of date as well so they couldn’t just put it off for the next four years.

“I like June. Give us time to get settled and sort things but not too far out. We give them a month but no actual date.” Helen suggested. “All goes well we can do it at the White House.” 

“Wait, you mean the reception. We’ll do the claiming in church.” Matt pointed out. The room went silent. Everyone looked at Josh.

“Matt, I can’t agree to a church. I’m Jewish.” This wasn’t news for anyone else. Matt

it appeared hadn’t thought about it.

“It’s not like you keep Kosher Josh.”

“Yeah, but it’s still my cultural heritage and important to my mom.” Josh said slowly. “I’m okay with a civil ceremony but a church is out.” Josh wasn’t normally bothered about this sort of thing but he knew that it would be important to his family in this case. The room was still as Matt thought about this. He was pretty strong in his religious beliefs and claiming was very important to the church.

“I understand Josh but I think I need to talk to my priest about this.” Matt said and made sure to lean over and kiss his sub. “I’m not changing my mind I just need some religious guidance to work this out.”

“Well, we have time.” Helen told them. “For now let’s just deal with today. Nice shirt Josh, where did that come from?” 

“Donna, thought about it. She had it in her luggage. On that note we land in a bit and I need to change my shirt and apparently talk to the secret service. Since I can’t leave the room yet can I get some space and can someone send in the agent?” Josh said to them all. Matt and Helen both smiled at their bossy sub and herded everyone out of the room. Josh started changing straight away. He was going to have to get used to having secret service around so he may as well start. Steve came in.

“Mr Lyman. It’s good to have a chance to discuss this. We’ve been putting plans in place for a detail for a while. I have extra agents flying out to join you for your trip back to Washington when you’re done here. Then you’ll have a chance to meet the rest of your detail. the biggest current issue is your accommodation in Washington. We need to secure your townhouse before you can stay there again. When you return we’d like you to stay at a hotel while we organise a refit on the townhouse. We’ll need to install bullet proof glass and increase security measures on the doors.” 

“Is that really necessary?” Josh asked.

“Sir, you are now attached to a presidential candidate. We already received regular threats to you and we expect those to increase. Your safety is important and your house in DC is one of the most vulnerable locations. Obviously when you are with the congressman and his wife we will be able to cover you jointly. There are also various locations where you will be safe to move around relatively freely such as the whitehouse and the hill. Otherwise you’ll need to inform your detail of all intended trips and stops so we can make sure they’re safe.” Steve explained.

“Do I have a choice in this?” Josh asked put out by the curtailing of his freedom.

“Not really sir, no.” Steve left after that and Josh sat down. The announcement that they were landing came and Josh strapped in Matt came back in and joined him. Helen stayed with the kids for landing. Josh still hadn’t called his mom but since the press would have been told about the press conference and they would have to wait for them to deplane and set up before they got off. Josh would give her a quick call as soon as he could.

--*--

The call to his mom had to be short. He didn’t want to keep everyone waiting around too long.

“Hi, mom.” He said as she picked up.

“Josh, nice of you to call me for once. How are you?” His mother was surprised but pleased to hear from her busy son. She was very proud of him but she couldn’t help wishing he called her more.

“I don’t have a lot of time mom but I wanted to tell you myself before the news gets hold of it. I’ve got some pretty big news.” Josh wanted her to be happy for him he was hoping she’d finally be pleased. He knew she’d always been disappointed with him. Afterall he was in his forties, unwed, uncollared and no children. 

“Well don’t keep an old lady waiting Josh what is it?” She said lightly a little nervous that this was going to be another disaster like his coming out.

“I...I...ah...I’ve accepted a collar mom.” There was the equivalent of verbal whiplash as his mother started speaking a few times and stopped.

“I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone. Are you sure you’re not rushing into this? I know a lot has changed for you particularly now everyone knows your a sub but that isn’t a good reason to go saying yes to the first person who asks you Josh.” The concern for her sub son was clear. He’d been in the closet for so long she was worried he might be taken advantage of. Josh had never been good with relationships.

“It’s a little quick I’ll admit mom but I’m sure. It’s actually two people as well. Mom I’ve been dating Matt and Helen Santos for a while now.” Josh tried to reassure her but wasn’t sure it was working.

“Santos, you’re boss? Is that really a good idea Josh?” She did in fact sound more concerned rather than less.

“It’s fine mom. Trust me on this. I know it’s fast but Matt and Helen are really good people, you’ll love them. I was hoping you could fly over to texas for thanksgiving and meet everyone.” He knew she must be thinking lots of bad things about Matt at that moment. No way did she approve of the idea that his boss had pressured him into a relationship. Not that it had been that way at all but that’s where her mind would be going right now. He had hopped if he could get her to agree to at least come and meet them that would smooth it out.

“Are you sure it’s love Josh, that’s all I ever wanted for you?” She asked since Josh hadn’t really mentioned love yet. She wanted that for him. She’d loved his father dearly and it had made her life wonderful. She’d always hoped that Josh would find the kind of love and support she had from Noah with someone else. She knew Josh wasn’t what most people wanted in a sub. He was talkative, loud, bossy and opinionated. She was proud of those things in Josh but she knew it made it hard for him to date. He needed love to make the relationship work, to make him want to make it work.

“I’m sure mom.” Josh said looking at Matt. He was, there was no doubt in him that he was in love with Matt and Helen and that they loved him back. Matt signed to him to hand over the phone. “Matt wants a word if that’s okay.” He asked not wanting to surprise his mother.

“Yes, I’d like that.” She said carefully.

“Mrs Lyman.”

“Mr Santos.” They greeted each other formally. 

“I want to reassure you that myself and Helen care a lot for your son. He’s been invaluable to this campaign but beyond that he’s stolen both our hearts. I don’t think either of us can imagine not having Josh around.” Matt told her sounding a lot like a nervous date on prom night meeting the parents.

“Mr Santos, I glad to hear he’s important to you. What I want to know is if you’re going to look after my son. He’s not the easiest sub and I’m afraid he gets that from me. I can’t imagine most tops would have the patience to deal with him.” She might be a sub but she was Josh’s mother and could be very protective when she needed to be. Matt seemed to take it in his stride though.

“I can’t say I’m perfect Mrs Lyman but personally I don’t need patience with Josh. He moves fast enough for both of us. I personally have no intention of slowing him down. Anyone else has a problem with that they can talk to me or Helen. We love Josh as he is, even if he is the toppiest sub I’ve ever met.” Matt finished with a smirk at his sub.

“Hey!” Josh complained at that evaluation of him. Though it was probably true. Except maybe Donna these days. She was picking up his bad habits.

“He is that.” She replied with a small laugh. “He said you didn’t have much time so give him my love and I’ll see you both at thanksgiving.” She sounded a bit happier to hear that Matt supported her son without wanting him to change. She would make her decision when she met him and his wife and that was going to be interesting. She didn’t live in a bubble. She knew her Josh’s candidate was a top with a top wife and two kids. That sounded like it could be a very charged situation, she hopped Josh was sure of what he was getting into.

--*--

“Okay, the press are going to have a lot of questions but for now we’re just doing the statement so stick to the wording and don’t worry about answering anything. We’re looking into the morning shows at the moment for a chance for a dialogue.” Donna told him as they were waiting to deplane. There had been a delay so they had some extra time.

“Donna, I know what I’m doing. I do understand how this works.” Josh told her.

“Oh Josh. If only I believed that.” Donna teased. Matt and Helen watched as Donna fussed over Josh’s appearance. 

“Do they know they’re basically married?” Helen murmured to Matt.

“I actually don’t think they do.” He said back. It was cute. The two of them were so in sync with each other and flirty. He hadn’t ever seen Josh flirt the way he did with Donna. 

“We should get them together.” Helen said. Matt looked at his scheming wife.

“Think we should finish getting us together first then look at adding extras.” Matt told her. “One thing at a time.” Helen just smiled at them and decided that needed to happen.

“Need to get moving or we’re going to be late to the town hall!” Josh said addressing them.

“You’re not going to the town hall.” Donna told him.

“What do you mean? Of course I’m going to the town hall.” Josh said glaring at Donna trying and failing to look in charge.

“You are going to go shopping and get some more shirts and new suits so you’re fit to be seen in public.” Donna told him. Helen gave Matt a look and then Lou gave them the nod to move.

--*--

Matt lead out with Miranda in his arms, Helen followed with Peter’s hand in his. Josh came just behind them. He gripped his backpack on his shoulder like a safety blanket as he faced the real world for the first time with a collar. It had been one thing telling friends and family but another telling the world. He had to keep up though. 

They had spot waiting for them for the announcement. Matt put Miranda down at the bottom of the steps and the two kids stood together with Helen and Matt stood to the fore of the group. Josh just behind him on the other side.

“Hi, so we have a fairly large announcement for you all. Myself and Helen have been involved in a relationship of some time now with Mr Lyman. Earlier today we offered him a collar and he accepted.” He told them all with a smile and reaches back for Josh’s hand as Helen took over.

“We’re very pleased to add Josh to our family and hope that the public can be understanding about us not wanting to distract from policies with our dating life up to now.” That was Josh’s cue.

“Obviously now we have solid intentions going forward we wanted to make sure the public knew as soon as possible. I will be staying on in my role as campaign manager and I’m pretty excited to be able to be more open about our relationship going forward.” Josh told the press. He smiled at Matt and Helen. They both looked pretty happy. Then the rush of questions came.

“How long have you been seeing each other?”

“Is continuing as campaign manager not a conflict of interests?”

“When is the claiming planned for?”

“How long have you and your wife been looking for a sub?”

They waved away the questions and moved to the motorcade. Josh was planning to break off later so he wouldn’t get ambushed now.

--*--

Josh was trying to coordinate getting them all on some morning shows while also juggling Matt’s speaker commitments. Helen had put the kids to bed and then turned in herself. Matt was on the phone to someone. Josh looked at his to do pile and realised it was going to be hours before he was done. He didn’t even know where his stuff had ended up. He had his backpack but his bag had been sent to his room and he had no idea where that was. Even his new stuff had gone a-stray, Donna had told him she’d put them in his room and catch up later but he hadn’t seen her since.

Matt hung up the phone and looked around the room. He seemed to realise that Helen had gone. He checked his watch, they had an early start for the morning shows and it was already midnight.

“Okay, I’m going to bed. You can tell me anything else in the morning.” He told the staff and headed for the bedroom. He disappeared inside before Josh had a chance to say goodnight. He was a little disappointed but let it go. He still needed to work out  where his room is. He got side tracked by Lou wanting to discuss their media spend since the announcement.

Matt re-emerged from the bedroom in sweats and a t-shirt and called across the room..

“Josh, early start.” He told his sub. Josh wasn’t sure what he meant.

“Yeah, you get some sleep. I’m on this.” Josh fired back barely breaking off his conversation with Lou. Frustrated Matt ambled across the room and grabbed josh’s shoulders from behind.

“Sorry to interrupt, Lou, but I’m going to be taking Josh now so he actually sleeps and doesn’t wake us up later.” Matt told the media consultant. Lou just smiled.

“Goodnight to you both. This’ll keep till the morning.” Matt steered Josh back towards the bedroom.

“Matt, I don’t even know where my bag is right now.” He admitted “and the schedule…” 

“Your bags are in our room and there are other people who can sort the schedule. Right now we all need some sleep cause tomorrow we get to deal with that picture coming out on the blog.” Matt reminded him. Josh was shocked he hadn’t thought about sharing a room with them. Matt pushed Josh through the door, Helen was already in bed. And, there was his bag. “Shockingly everyone assumed you’d be sharing with us now that it’s public knowledge. I hope that’s okay?” Matt told him wrapping his arms around Josh who had sort of frozen staring at the bags.

“Yeah, yeah. That’s good. Sorry, not quite used to the idea that I can just walk in here in front of everyone.” Josh admitted. 

“Both of you come to bed. We have to be up in less than five hours.” Helen said from the bed and Matt pushed Josh lightly towards the bathroom and pulled off his t-shirt and sweats before climbing into bed. Josh grabbed his wash kit out his bag and headed to brush his teeth. He realised for the first time he was going to be just sleeping with Helen and Matt. They hadn’t actually done that yet. Josh had almost never done that with anyone. He didn’t know how it was supposed to work. What if he couldn’t sleep? What if they kept him awake? What if he needed to pee in the night? Wait all of that was still the same as when they had sex first. Why did this feel like such a big deal? He looked in the mirror as he was brushing his teeth and his eyes settled on the collar. Because this was his future. This was going to be normal. That’s why this was different.

He reemerged from the bathroom and stood awkwardly. Matt was curled around Helen on the bed. He wasn’t really sure where he was supposed to be. Matt looked around at him and then just rolled away from Helen and patted the bed between them.

“Come on. We need to sleep.” Josh climbed up and Matt held up the sheet so he could slide under it. Helen squirmed back against him and Josh cuddled her. Matt pulled the sheets over them, got the light and then rolled against Josh’s back. He wrapped an arm over the two of them. Josh was a little lost for a moment and then Matt kissed his back and Helen brought his hand up and kissed it. He smiled a little and kissed the back of Helen’s neck.

--*--

They were all three of them jumpy as they sat waiting to go live on the morning show. They hadn’t been able to get a look at the photo yet. It didn’t come out until they were on the move. The campaign had seen it and they had told them it was about as expected, they were definitely midact. Matt was in Josh who was in Helen hanging off the side of the bed. They knew it was going to be rough particularly after the whole casanova congressman bit. 

“So, congratulations to all three of you.” The presenter opened.

“Thanks. It’s been great to share this.” Josh told her. They had decided they would need to all take some answers just to make it real that they were all invested.

“So the burning questions, how and when did you start dating?” She asked brightly.

“Well I came in later but Matt and Josh started dating back in February. I knew about it from the start and supported Matt’s decision. I got to know Josh a bit better over the next couple of months and then we started to date after that.” Helen explained.

“But it can’t have been conventional dating right? I mean you certainly haven’t been doing dinner and a movie in the evening?” She probed.

“I don’t know, we managed it once I think though it was just dinner with the kids and a DVD on the couch.” Matt put in. “Mostly though, your right. It’s been mostly stolen moments and the odd late night. We spend all day together though on the campaign. So you really do get to know each other in that time.” Matt told them.

“So the big news from this morning the picture. How did that come about and who was the woman?” She asked looking at the two men.

“No mystery. The woman is Helen. We haven’t seen the picture ourselves but if there’s a woman there it’s Helen even if her face isn’t showing.” Josh tried to stay relaxed under this line of questioning.

“So no chance of anyone else being involved?” She asked, “We have some sources suggesting that it might be another member of the campaign, your former assistant Josh, a Donna Moss.” The presenter was clearly trying to get a reaction. Matt stilled Josh’s leg that had started bouncing with a hand on his knee.

“It was Helen. I’m sure we’ll be able to confirm that for you all once we’ve actually seen the photo and can place it but right now we can’t say anything other than there’s never been another woman involved in our relationship. So it is Helen. If you want a stronger confirmation you’ll get it later.” Matt told her firmly ended that line of enquiry. 

“So I have to ask at what point did you two decide you needed to add a sub to your relationship?” She asked the Santos’

“We didn’t.” Helen said instantly. “We had discussed it before we got married. We loved each other and wanted a life together but neither of us wanted to completely stop that part of our lives. We decided then that we would be okay with still dating subs outside of our marriage.”

“So you’ve dated regularly since your marriage?”

“No, life kind of overtook us and then we had the kids and the idea of going out dating just didn’t come up again. Until Matt and Josh had a moment.” 

“A moment? What was that like?” 

“Josh had just admitted to me that he was a sub and I knew then I was interested for the first time since my wedding. I told Helen and I tried to leave it there and not take it any further.”

“Yeah, that worked out.” Josh added sarcastically. “I didn’t have a moment so much then I was too busy waiting for him to fire me for not telling him sooner. Later though Matt did that advert in New Hampshire, completely off the cuff. That was it for me. We started seeing each other that evening after Matt talked to Helen.”

“We weren’t interested in finding a sub but we both liked Josh and wanted Josh.”

“How are the kids coping with this? Did they know?”

“We didn’t think they did but it turns out we were wrong on that one.” Helen said giving Josh a look.

“Matt and Helen didn’t tell the kids but I met them when we stopped through at one point and Peter snuck out of bed that evening and saw us sat watching tv downstairs. He caught me later on the landing. I was staying in the spare room but had got up to use the bathroom. He wanted to know what was happening so I told him we were dating but that he shouldn’t tell people. Apparently he told his sister but managed not to say anything to Matt or Helen.”

“Peter loves Josh. He’s more interested in talking to Josh than to me these days. I think Miranda is still a little more shy.” Matt told the presenter.

“So when are you planning the claiming for…” 

The rest of the interview had been quite innocuous. Most of the morning shows they did went about the same. At the end, Lou was waiting with a print out of the photo for them to look at. 

“It’s pretty bad in terms of invading your privacy and they’re right Helen isn’t identifiable. We haven’t been able to work out where it’s from yet.” She said handing the photo to Matt.

“Oh god. That’s… I mean… “ He didn’t really know how to respond to a photo taken through a hotel window of him from behind and to one side. You could clearly see him and Josh naked and the bottom half of Helen also naked. He was mid thrust in Josh and Josh was in Helen. He really wished he could tell where it was but he had no idea. They’d enjoyed that position quite a bit and used it in various places. “I have no idea where this is.” He handed the picture to Helen who couldn’t even look at it for that long and handed it to Josh who looked for a second then laughed.

“Well, that makes this easier.”

“What?” Matt asked him.

“Well, we already proved Helen was in Cleveland.” He told Matt and handed him back the picture. “Check out the bed. It’s Cleveland again. That damn bed. It’s the same one.” He said casually. This was going to be bad regardless but the big problem was going to be proving that it was Helen and they’d already got this covered for Cleveland.

“Wait, you were part of hurricane santos?” Lou said to Josh looking shocked and impressed.

“I thought we agreed never to use that name for it again in case it got out.” He said grinning. “And yeah, it was pretty wild.” He loved remembering that night the way the tabloids had seen it. He never liked remembering the moment the bed broke and he lost it. 

“Do we run it?” Lou asked.

“I think the second coming of Casanova congressman can’t be worse than the accusation that Josh and I got drunk and slept with Donna.” Matt told her frankly checking with Helen and Josh for agreement.

“Yeah, when you put it that way.” Lou said taking the picture back.

--*--

They’d had a few more rally’s that day and a couple of press conferences. The midday news story had been “Casanova Congressman Strikes Again” as the press latched on to the story of the three of them busting a bed in Cleveland and now Josh accepting the collar. It wasn’t until that evening that someone hit on a big question.

“Congressman, given your Catholic background will Mr Lyman be converting? And will it be a church ceremony?” Someone asked at one of the press conferences.

“We’re not making any specific plans on the ceremony at the moment.” Matt shot back and Josh breathed with relief at the deflection. He knew Matt was going to need to talk about that at some point. As far as he was concerned it was a non-starter. Josh might not be kosher or even a practising Jew but there was a big difference between going for a civil ceremony and agreeing to a catholic one. As for converting that was never going to happen. He couldn’t turn his back on his heritage like that. While Matt steered the conversation back to policy Josh spotted Donna. He moved over to her where she was standing with Helen.

“Hey, I just wanted to say sorry you got caught up in this earlier.” He said to her.

“Josh, those kind of rumours have been going around for years. It’s just the first time the press has had something to latch them onto. Plus it’s all cleared up now so no big deal.” Donna told him brusquely. 

“Yeah, but I’m still sorry. You shouldn’t have to have the press accuse you of being a drunken mistake.” Josh tried to apologize again.

“Oh, but it’s fine to be a sobre one?” She joked back to him.

“Your not a mistake Donna.” Josh said simply, “I mean… it didn’t and I’m sure you would never… I’m just going to go look for a foot extractor over there…” Josh trailed off and pointed to where Matt had finished off and was moving out. 

“Good luck with that Josh. Your not a mistake either.” She said with a smile at his clumsy mumbling. She looked back to Helen who was smiling.

“He’s cute when he’s flustered isn’t he?” She said to Donna.

“Yeah.” Donna agreed and tried to stop smiling about  Josh realising how inappropriate it was to be smiling at your long term crush in front of your boss who is also said crushes top. Why was she even still crushing on Josh? He was the definition of unobtainable. He was a sub and she didn’t think she could give up on being a sub herself, she definitely wanted to continue dating tops or find a good one and settle down. He was in a committed relationship with two people who he was going to let claim him and who were both her boss. He was not now nor had he ever been a suitable crush.

Except maybe that moment. He and the congressman hadn’t started dating until just before the New Hampshire primary. So there had been that moment when she’d been working on the Russel campaign in Iowa. When he couldn’t open his door. She had almost gone to his door that  night, she had hoped he’d come to hers. That one moment when they weren’t working together, they weren’t seeing anyone else… Stupidly she’d thought there would be another moment but then he’d made that joke about three feet on the floor and she'd known he was crushing on the congressman. It hadn’t been long after that that she’d been sure he was sleeping with his candidate and now he was wearing a collar and there would never be another moment for them.

Helen watched as Donna composed herself and tried to hide the disappointment on her face as she thought of Josh. Helen wished she could just tell the two of them to stop messing around and kiss and see where it went. That would be a bad idea right now though. They had enough trouble with the press right now. What she needed to do was wait. There would be a moment, they just had to keep the two round each other enough and she was sure there would be a moment and then she and Matt would strike and try and get the two together. She could tell part of the problem was that Donna wasn’t sure because she wanted Josh but Josh was a sub like her. That was going to be more of a sticking point.

“So, Donna, you seeing anyone?” She carefully fished as they all started walking off the tarmac and towards the waiting plane.

“No, not for a while actually. There was this fling but it didn’t work out. Story of my life it seems.” Donna said with an annoyed voice.

“Really? What seems to go wrong?” 

“Work mostly. Working for Josh was a 24/7 job so a lot of weekend trips and evening dates were delayed and cancelled and I only ever met people at work and Josh was not the most understanding boss.” Donna clearly didn’t want to outright accuse Josh of tanking her dating life but Helen was getting the idea that was what had happened. 

“Yeah, not many tops like to feel like they have to play tug of war with your boss for your attention.” Helen sympathised.

“Exactly, they just didn’t get it. Working at the white house isn’t like other jobs.” Neither is working for a man you have a crush on whose jealous of you dating Helen thought. She was going to have to think about that one. She couldn’t see Donna giving up part of her identity for Josh or Josh managing to mellow about Donna seeing other people. She was going to have to think of something or that might stop them ever getting together.

--*--

As Matt climbed back on to the plane, he remembered the discussion yesterday about the service. He turned to Josh.

“I need some time on the schedule to talk to my priest and we need to talk about all this as well. Now that someone's brought it up, we’re going to get a lot of questions on this and we need an answer.” 

“We can talk tonight at the hotel. We’ve got meetings and calls already lined up for the whole flight but you can call him on the way to the hotel, sir.” Josh told the congressman. He was not looking forward to a private conversation that was going to have to consist of him saying no a lot to Matt.

Helen had a scheming sort of look in her eye as she climbed on to the plane. That did not bode well either Josh thought.

--*--

It was just Matt and Helen in the car as per his request on the way to the hotel. He put his phone on speaker. He knew Helen was less concerned about the religious side of things but he felt she should be part of this conversation.

“Father, It’s Matt and Helen Santos.”

“Oh! Hello, good to hear from you both. I hope your well and the campaign is treating you well.” The old priest said in greeting.

“About as expected father. You may have seen the news today.” Matt said caution in his voice.

“Yes, of course. Congratulations to you both!” The father replied cheerfully.

“I was hoping you could give us some counsel father. Josh is a non-practising Jew. He doesn’t want to do the claiming in a church.” Matt asked the worry in his voice at what the father would say was evident.

“Well, I can see why you might struggle with that Matt. I know that your faith is very important to you both. Do you know what Mr Lyman would like for the claiming?” The father was sympathetic and obviously less concerned than Matt by the idea of a mixed claiming.

“I think he would rather a civil ceremony.” Helen answered.

“You wouldn’t be the first mixed claiming in the church. While we do encourage conversion it has to be something that a person comes to on a personal level not just because their dominant tells them to. If you decide to have a civil ceremony and Josh would welcome it I could still give you a blessing on the claiming if that would help ease your mind.” The father laid out with practise the church’s normal offering for this sort of situation.

“But where would we stand with god if we don’t claim him before the church.” Matt asked worried. The father knew that Matt had been uncomfortable with these sorts of issues after the backlash he’d received from some for marrying another dominant. While the church encouraged marriages between people of different dynamics in the belief that it made for a happier home life the marriage of two tops was not actually against their religion. Matt’s family hadn’t really seen it that way though. They were adamant that two tops couldn’t properly raise children. It had left Matt concerned about going against the advice of the church in personal matters.

“Matt, is Josh a good man?” The father asked bluntly.

“Yes.” Matt said with absolute certainty.

“Do you love him?”

“Yes.”

“Does he love you?”

“Yes.” 

“Then with the blessing of the church and god there is no problem. Claims and Marriages are god's way of building families and families are built on love. After all christ gave us two commandments love your god with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbour as yourself. The god of christianity and the god of judaism are the same god. Through love you can not go wrong.” The father had always felt that that was the core of things in matters of the heart.

“Your sure?” 

“Yes Matt. The only other concern would be what you planned to teach your children in that I would be concerned though in Judaism if your mother is Jewish then you are Jewish. As a non-practising Jew I doubt Josh would have a problem with your choice to raise the children in the church.”

“Thank you father. Though we aren’t planning to have any more children.” Helen explained.

“I hope it all goes well anyway Helen. Remember we are all gods children in that we are one congregation before the lord. Take care both of you and ask Josh how he would feel about a blessing.” 

“Thank you father. We will.” Matt said and hung up.

“So, would that work for you? A civil ceremony with a blessing?” Helen asked Matt. “Because I don’t think we should ask Josh to convert. He may not seem it but his family is very important to him.”

“I know. I think if Josh is okay with the blessing I can be okay with the civil ceremony.”

“How would you feel if Josh wants a rabbi to bless the claiming as well?” Helen asked just to put it out there.

“You know. I think that would be nice.” Matt said not seeing a problem with it. He had his beliefs and part of that was that there was nothing wrong with others pursuing theirs and he had prayed a lot over the years for people who didn’t share his faith. There was no reason he should have a problem with someone praying for him.

--*--

The conversation at the Hotel had to wait until after they had sorted the rest of the evenings work. Matt was sure that campaigns were a world in and of themselves where human’s somehow lived on no sleep. He had no idea how he or any of the rest of them were managing it. Finally he had his wife and his sub in a room with a bed and a closed door.

“I know we said we needed to talk but I’m going to start getting ready for bed and we can talk at the same time.” Helen told the boys heading for the bathroom but leaving the door open so she could hear.

“What do you want for the claiming Josh?” Matt asked.

“I don’t know. I guess I always just thought if it did happen it would just be a small civil ceremony.” He hadn’t ever really thought about it. 

“Okay, well I always thought if I claimed a sub it would be in church in front of all my friends and family.” Matt told Josh. Helen looked out the bathroom.

“I always thought I’d do something small but in church.”

“I’m not comfortable with the church thing.” Josh said openly.

“I know and I understand.” Matt said carefully. “You might not have a faith in the same way myself and Helen do but your heritage is important to you. My faith is important to me though. Would you be okay if we had a civil ceremony but with a blessing from our family priest?” He asked carefully not looking at Josh.

“Yeah, of course. That would be fine. I have to say though my mother may want in on that action.” Josh said quickly. He had been to enough church services and weddings and claimings for others over the years that he saw no issue with a blessing. He just didn’t want to have to lie about his faith.

“We already talked about it. If you or your mother want a Rabbi to bless the claiming we’re both happy with that.” Helen said from the bathroom.

“Okay, let’s all get to bed. Sleep is important and since I wasn’t allowed any coffee for the last few hours.” Matt said with a pointed look at the bathroom. “I’m about to collapse.” Josh nodded and started to undress. He’d gotten used to sharing a room pretty quickly and so he and Matt both changed and put their suits away. Josh finished first and joined Helen in the bathroom. She was just applying moisturiser while he brushed his teeth. He was washing his face as Matt came in to sort his own teeth. Finished he headed for the bed and curled around Helen. They normally slept like that  Josh cuddling Helen with Matt behind him with an arm around both of them. Matt didn’t like someone behind him and Helen had felt claustrophobic in the middle. Josh loved it though feeling surrounded by them.

Matt was asleep pretty quickly but Josh couldn’t settle. Helen rolled over to face him.

“Can’t sleep?” She asked.

“Nah, thinking.” Josh admitted.

“What about?” Helen asked quietly.

“This. How does this work in the long run?” Josh asked her.

“I guess about like this. What else is there to sort?” Helen asked him.

“The bedroom is easy but what about living together? You and Matt and the kids having been doing this for ages. Where do I fit in?” He had been worried for a while about that. He knew nothing about kids.

“Where ever you want Josh. If you want your own room or if you want to share with us we can work with that. You don’t need to leap into stuff with the kids just keep doing what you’re doing. Peter loves talking Baseball with you and you’ll work out Miranda in time. That stuff doesn’t work like a campaign Josh, you just work it out as you go.” Helen kissed him. “No rushing though, we’ve got a while yet before the election then months before the claiming whatever happens. Any thoughts on who you want to preside?” Normally claimings were presided over by the subs closest top family member but Helen knew Josh didn’t have any of those. 

“I’m not sure. I was thinking of asking Leo.” Helen smiled.

“I like that idea. We should try to sleep though. Think that’s going to work, baby?” 

“For you, I’ll do my best.” Josh promised. Helen turned back over and with his mind a little less cluttered Josh managed to drop off.

--*--

The reactor took them all by surprise and Josh had had to reel himself in. He’d spent days letting Donna talk him down from spilling news stories. He knew she was right. They had had the correct message all along they needed to let Vinick hang himself.

As the results of polls and reactions flooded into the room Josh found himself back at the board updating it again and again until late at night the information started to slow and he was left with one conclusion. Josh looked at the numbers and spread on the board and wrote one line across the top. Too close to call.

Chapter Text

The time to the election flew by Josh hated watching the pressure build under Matt and the moments they stole at night when Josh was on the road with him were never enough for sleep let alone time to really unwind. They drove themselves closer and closer to the edge of reason as the hope of success built beneath them. Helen was there more and more while her mother looked after the kids.

--*--

Josh had got in late the previous night not making it to the hotel till around one in the morning. He’d got someone to book him a room knowing it was way too late to wake Matt who was barely sleeping as is. He hated dragging in so late but he’d had a meeting in DC and wanted to be here for the last five days and the poll results. He’d arrived flanked by his secret service agents and collapsed into bed. 

It felt like only minutes had passed when someone pounded on his door. 

“Yeah, yeah.” He called he pulled his trousers and a shirt on and then opened the door. Donna just walked into his room. 

State-by-states are out. We're tied in South Carolina, Arkansas, and California.” Donna rattled off with a grin.

“California?” Josh said surprised.

“We've pulled ahead in Arizona, Nevada, Virginia. We got the new national tracking polls.” She told him buzzing with excitement. 

“The Times?” He checked.

“It’s 44-44. We’re tied.” 

“We’re tied?” He asked still only half awake.

“Nationally.” Donna confirmed.

“Holy mother of God, we caught him!” He exclaimed still in a sleepy shock.

“Yes!” She told him and seemed to suddenly break through.

“We caught him!” Josh said caught in the flow of endorphins and a rush of joy he looked at Donna glowing from the news and he couldn’t help it. His sleep addled brain just took over and he grabbed her and kissed her in celebration. It was quick but as he pulled back another part of his brain just push him. It was like a jerk reaction double take that he really wanted to know what kissing Donna felt like and the first time had been so sudden, so much shock. He kissed her again and then they were just kissing. It was as perfect as he thought it would be he was lost in the taste of the woman he’d been thinking about for years. Then he heard it.

“Josh! Where’s Josh?” He heard Matt call from the hallway and let go of Donna stepping back as the weight of what had just happened fell on him. He was collared, he was with Matt. He just kissed Donna and they were tied and however much he should feel guilty all he could feel was elation. “Are they messing with me?” Josh shook his head and Matt caught him up in a hug and then they were kissing and Josh couldn’t help his thoughts. This was the perfect way to wake up in the morning if you couldn’t wake up with someone you loved.

--*--

It was hours before Josh got a moment to try and do anything about that morning. He found himself momentarily alone with Donna. They finished on scheduling and she went to walk away he realised he was about to miss his chance with no one else clamoring for his attention for once.

“Uh, Donna?” he called her back. “I want to, um… I’m sorry. About this morning… it was… inappropriate.” He stumbled out. He didn’t want to say a bad idea cause it would have been a great idea if it had been an idea and not just his body reacting. Except it wouldn’t be because he was involved with someone else and it was entirely his fault that this was soo awkward.

“Don’t worry about it.” Donna shrugged off. She didn’t want it to be a thing. If it was a thing it could be a bad thing and it hadn’t been. It had been a wonderful thing but it was a thing that they shouldn’t have done. Not now anyway.

“Totally inappropriate; I feel terrible.” Josh wished he was sure his face matched his words but he was worried he was smiling. Was he smiling?

Was he smiling? Only Josh could tell you something was inappropriate and come off cute rather than lecherous.

“Don’t” She told him desperate to move on and keep the wonderful memory of that kiss.

“Seriously.” She was sure he was just trying to convince himself now.

“Seriously, it’s bound to happen sometime. I’m gonna call the White House, talk about Kazakhstan.” She told him. Definitely not wanting to talk to people there about the fact that it had finally happened the event that had had a pool running on it since Josh rehired Donna. Of course Donna had known about the pool, she was a good assistant. It had to be now though, now when Josh was as off the market as they came. It had been soo good as well. If there was anyway it wasn’t inappropriate Donna would definitely have wanted it to happen again but sleeping with your campaign manager was pretty inappropriate to start with even without Josh’s relationship with the Congressman and his wife.

--*--

Donna was a little unsure as she approached Josh with the rumour. She knew he’d love it.

“He has a cold?!” Josh looked like he was going to hug her and she is totally on board with a completely discountable hug but he seems to think better of it at the last minute and grabs Bram instead. And now he’s hugging Annabeth, if he can hug Annabeth he could totally have hugged her. Which means her mission has failed and this morning has become a thing.

 

--*--

Donna got to the White House first and met with Will. The thing, official now, was still on her mind and she needed someone she could check with. 

“If something had happened with us, when we were working, romantically, would that have been inappropriate?” She asked him.

“Wow, uh… I’m flattered, but…” He responded trying to let her down gently.

“Oh, no, no, no.” She said trying to reassure him she hadn’t actually meant him. He tried to start telling her about his relationship and it sounded messy but  better than where she was.

“No, not you. I was talking about someone like you with your job in relation to me.” She tried to explain.

“You’re talking about Josh?” Why did everyone always go straight there? Was it so inconceivable she was talking about Sam or Toby? Okay, so it was but still she liked to think she’d been at least a little subtle over the years. Josh hadn’t seemed to notice, then again Josh didn’t notice his chair wasn’t there.

“You’re seeing someone?” She desperately tried to deflect.

“You’re seeing Josh?” He asked pointedly.

“No.” She tried a denial. They weren’t actually seeing each other.

“Than who?” He asked confused. Everyone knew she had a thing for Josh and who else was there even at the top end of the Santos campaign. “It’s not Santos is it? Cause after Josh I’d think you’d be questioning his sanity.” he added. 

“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.” She tried to back him into a corner. He wasn’t buying it.

“Yours is Josh; you’re not cryptic and you should be careful. You should make sure he has permission to be dating.” He tried to advise her.

“Nothing happened with me and Josh, at all. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought this up. We should drop it.” She tried to carry on her denial

“Good idea.” He said mostly meaning her dropping the thing with Josh, that was just a mess waiting to happen. Then he remembered her original question.

“It’s not inappropriate. Seeing someone, that is. It’s a little weird, maybe. But you’ll figure it out. Just make sure your on the same page and nobody's getting hurt.” He told her. I kind of didn’t want to be the one to snuff out the never ending pining romance of Josh and Donna. It would be like getting rid of the office puppy. They were all too invested in it.

--*--

Donna was still thinking about what Will had said when C.J. joined her in the lobby.

“Did Will get you up to speed?”

“Yes. I’m just hanging here until the Congressman and everyone gets in.” Donna said with a smile to one of her closest friends.

“It’s so good to see you.” She could see that C.J. was looking tired and wrung out.

“You too.” They both clearly could use a night off and some girl talk. No time for the night off but they could squeeze in a bit of the later Donna guessed.

“You must be having a good day.” C.J. said with a grin.

“Amazing.” She said smiling back and thinking about how the day started and Vinicks cold.

“How’s Josh?” C.J. asked.

“What do you mean?” Donna asked back not a clue how C.J. had known. Had Josh told her something on the phone?

“Which part tripped you up?” The chief of staff looked confused at her reaction. Oh, god C.J. didn't know anything. Well, she did now. The former press secretary was very perceptive.

“Oh, you’re… you’re just…” Well done Donna, great covering there. Nothing suspicious at all.

“Asking how he is.” C.J. clarified while wondering who was keeping track of the Josha pool these days.

“Oh, sorry. He’s, um… he’s fine. Happy we’re doing so well.” Donna cursed that her acting skills picked now to fail her.

“What’s going on?” C.J. asked in her where’s the poop voice.

“Nothing.” Donna tried to say convincingly.

“Is something… is a Josh thing going on?” C.J. asked not sure if she could deal with another Josh thing. After the Amy thing, the Sub thing, the sleeping with the Candidate thing, the Collared thing and the had sex so good it broke a bed thing she was just about done with Josh things.

“No. No, no, no, no.” Donna said again knowing that sometime soon she was going to have to think of a better response to that question.

“Something happened.” C.J. deadpanned. Why would no one believe Donna when she denied it?

“Nothing.”

“Oh, come on. You’ve got a useless poker face. I spend my whole day talking about election monitors in Central Asia. Throw me a bone.” C.J. pleaded deciding she wanted gossip more than she was done with the mess that was Josh Lyman.

“It’s nothing. We just… we had an odd moment today. Just another in a long series of odd moments meant to be ignored. You should focus on your election monitors.” Luckily before C.J. got round to ferreting more information out of her the Vinick campaign walked in.

--*--

They were at the Marriot that night and Josh was looking to avoid Matt for a bit longer. He had not come out the meeting happy. Josh decided if he was going to stay up for a while he may as well hang out with the rest of the staff. He hadn’t had much time for that lately. 

He arrived and updated them on the meeting grabbing a seat opposite Donna. She smiled at him and he smiled back. He was really hoping they were going to be able to move with what happened before. He had missed being around Donna and didn’t want to start avoiding her again. He hadn’t had time to even get a drink before Donna said she was heading to bed. He watched as she slid the room key across the table. He held her eyes. This was dangerous. He was shocked she went for it. He didn’t know what to do as she stood up and then he did. He sat up and started to reach for the key but someone else got there first and he watched the key go away. 

Donna looked back to Josh as she was handed the key. He looked sorry. She couldn’t tell though, if he was sorry he couldn’t or sorry she’d asked. She wished she knew. She wished she hadn’t done it. He was collared, he was going to be claimed and she had just tried to get him to come back to her room instead of to the congressman. How could she do that? How could she let him go though?

Josh sat a while longer talking and shooting the shit with them until his phone buzzed. He checked and it was a text from Matt telling him to get his butt to bed or find a different room. He sighed.

“Well, that’s my bedtime call. I’ll see you all bright and early tomorrow.” He told them all and headed for the lift. He hadn’t checked the room number but he knew the floor and he was betting he could just follow the agents.

“How’s he doing?” He asked the agent on the door. 

“Cranky.” He told Josh unlocking the door and opening it with a schadenfreudian grin. 

“Yeah, thanks.” Josh told him drolly as he stepped inside.

“Sorry I’m late I got caught up with everyone downstairs.” Josh said looking around to see Matt stood in his boxers facing the window in the dark. He was tense. 

“Sorry to pull you away. I need to get some sleep and I didn’t want you waking me up.” The top told him not turning around. 

“Right I’ll just get sorted then. Josh said not sure about the situation at all. He started to undress and headed for the bathroom. His guilt was building by the second over the thing with Donna. Matt was silent as he got undressed and brushed his teeth. He decided something looking in the mirror. He needed to come clean sooner rather than later. 

He stepped back into the room and walked over to where Matt was and dropped to his knees going down without being asked.

“Matt, I made a mistake this morning and I almost did something seriously stupid. I know your having a bad day but I need to tell you. I need you to know or I don’t know when it’s going to happen but I know I’ll end up ruining things. I need you to know so I don’t.” Josh said softly not even looking at Matt’s back.

“Josh, you don’t want to do this now.” Matt said his voice grave.

“I know but I need to.” Josh replied.

“Fine.” Matt said he stepped over to the bags and pulled out a leesh, he clipped it to Josh’s collar and ran the other end round the bedpost. “Tell me.” He told Josh who had relaxed a little when the leash was attached.

“This morning when we got the tracking results, Donna came and told me and I was so pleased I kissed her.” He paused, Matt was stood somewhere behind him. He couldn’t tell what Matt’s reaction was. “I kissed her and then I kiss her again. I know I should have stopped but I just didn’t think until I heard you in the corridor.” His voice was shaking with fear of how Matt was going to react. 

“So when I came in you two had just stopped.” Matt asked. His voice still full of tension.

“Yeah, we broke apart when we heard you shout from the corridor. 

“So that was your mistake from this morning? All of it?” Matt lost some of the edge to his voice but now he just sounded empty of emotion.

“That was all of it.” Josh swore. 

“So what was this evening’s almost act of serious stupidity?” Matt asked.

“Blame me, it was entirely my fault. Please just me.” Josh told him. He couldn’t stand the idea of Donna losing her job or anything else over this.

“I’ll decide that.” Matt told him. His back was cold. He knew Matt wasn’t right behind him. 

“Donna tried to slip me her room key.” Josh told him. “I tried to take it.” 

Silence rang through the room and Josh ached from it. He waited for a blow, for a pull, for anything. Then the springs on the mattress squeezed as Matt sat down.

“You kissed Donna, tried to take her room key and then came here and told me.” Matt summarised.

“Yeah.” Josh said bowing his head and closing his eyes.

   Matt didn’t know what to do. Part of him was raging with impotence over the Kazakhstan situation that he wanted to punish Josh just to feel in control. He also wanted Josh to be happy though. He knew that he needed to let Josh explore this.

“Josh I know we haven’t talked about this before but me and Helen believe in marriage and in claiming. If you want to date… if you want to look for someone to marry, start a family with we’re not going to stop you. We’re happy as we are and as I’ve told you before, we’re not interested in having more kids. I don’t want you to miss out on that just because of us.” Matt said carefully. Josh was still but he knew Josh was listening. “We knew you had a thing for Donna, Josh. You two are almost a package deal. For clarity, I want to lay down a few rules right now.

  1. No tops and no switches
  2. You tell us
  3. We get a veto

I’ll share you with Helen but you are ours, I won’t share you with anyone else.” The dominant stood and moved behind Josh pulling his head back by his hair. “No one else gets to have you like this. You are ours Josh, that means no secrets. You can date but you tell us who and when and it doesn’t get in the way of us Josh. That’s why we get the veto. If we think someone isn’t right for you or if we think they’re interfering with our relationship you end it or we do.” Matt finished explaining. Josh was still in his hand.

“Yes, Matt.” 

“So next time if you want to you can take the key. This time though I’m going to say it’s okay Josh. You told me. I’ll talk to Helen but we like Donna. I know you two have had something building for a long time.” He pulled  Josh’s head back far enough that he could lean forward and kiss Josh. “Bored of me yet, Josh?” He asked after plundering the subs mouth.

“No Matt. Not even a little Matt. Donna is just… Donna.” Matt smiled. 

“I know. Now can we get some sleep?” Josh nodded and Matt undid the leash from the bedpost and wrapped it around his hand using it to guide Josh on to the bed.

“You look good on a leesh Josh. I think we might need to get a proper one of these after the claiming. Something to match your cuffs and collar.” Matt rumbled as he tied the leesh to the bedhead and cuddled up behind Josh.

“I’d like that.” Josh said quietly as he ended a pretty good day. Caught up in the polls, kissed Donna, kissed Matt, got invited to Donna’s room and got to fall asleep in Matt’s arms. A pretty good day.

--*-- 

The days fly by and sleep is pretty solidly a thing they wish they could dream of. Up to now Josh has stayed in the background. He’s standing on stage a bit more during some of the speeches but since he’s still running the campaign and spending a lot of time at headquarters he’s less in the press and the public eye and that’s how he likes it. They were five days out though on halloween and today he’s with Matt and knows he won’t be able to skip the trick or treating photo-op later. 

“Man it’s ugly. Four states and six markets a day.” Lou said looking at the board littered with arrows. 

“Killer, huh?” Josh  responds sounding tired.

“You sound excited by this.” Lou observes. They all sound tired these days.

“I’m just saying Everest is for sissies.” Josh winced at the board. It was going to be a long slog.

“You’re a masochist.” Lou teased.

“This is news?” Donna asks getting on the plane. She and Helen started to drop their coats and bags.

“Well it was, people are mostly past it now.” Josh teased back. “I heard he did well?” 

“Almost as good as Mister Wonder.” Helen said with a smile. 

“Speaking of which where’s Annabeth?” Donna asked. She was sure the shorter blonde had been ahead of them on to the plane. 

“I gagged her and threw her in a luggage compartment.” Lou joked.

“She’s checking in with Leo.” Josh informed them barely stopping from sipping his coffee.

“Apparently.” Helen muttered.

“Really?” Lou asked loving the gossip.  

“What?” Josh asked the subtleties going straight over his head as always. 

“Nothing.” Lou told Josh, they’d decided a while back to keep Josh out of all gossip. He didn’t deal well with that side of things and they all needed him on his game for the last few days.

“You don’t wanna know.” Donna reassured him. 

“Know what?” Matt asked finally making it to them and dropping his own coat.

“Josh’s backpack isn’t polling well.” Lou told him changing the subject.

“My backpack? What’s wrong with my backpack?” Josh cried.

“Poll have it down as unprofessional. We need to lose it.” Lou told him.

“No!” Donna cries. “Everyone on the hill recognises it. Even the media know about it. We change it now it’ll get picked up on and suddenly we’ll have news cycles focusing on what happened to Josh Lyman’s backpack. It’s ubiquitous with him. He keeps it.” Donna said firmly.

“Thanks Donna.” Josh said with a smile. He liked his backpack. He didn’t want to carry a suitcase. 

“Why is this important?” Matt asked

“Because sir, Josh is your campaign manager and he looks unprofessional.” Lou repeated.

“Why don’t we just get a shot of me holding one of the kids with it over my shoulder? Then I’ll look practical, competent and maybe some of the mothers and family values people will get off my back.” Josh joked.

“That’s good.” Donna said pointing at him. He’d been kidding. He liked the kids but while he and Matt were the same age Matt was in much better shape than him. Josh wasn’t sure at all he could manage a backpack and a five year old. Plus he’d never picked the kids up before.

“We can work with that.” Lou said. Josh realised he’d just been committed to juggling one of Matt’s kids.

“You okay with that plan?” Josh asked looking to Helen and Matt hoping for an out.

“Sure, I already let one sleep deprived middle aged man carry them around. Why not two?” Helen snarked.

“I don’t know, that does sound like a cute shot, Josh. I think you can rock the working parent look. I’ll get Helen to ask the kids though.” Matt said realising Josh wasn’t entirely comfortable assuming the kids would be alright being carried. To Matt’s mind it probably wasn’t an issue for Peter though the kid was getting a bit heavy to carry. Miranda would be easier for Josh but she was still getting used to him. They would be arriving later though and Helen could feel out where Miranda would be on that though before hand.

“Now, what’s the plan?” Matt asked.

--*--

Helen had clearly bribed someone. He couldn’t seem to get coffee anywhere. He was getting pretty jealous of Josh who had been pounding red bull. Five more days. It felt like hanging by his thumbs already. He didn’t get five seconds to think, let alone sleep. He was breaking, he couldn’t really even hear himself think. He wasn’t even aware of where he was anymore.

“Actually he’s here right now.” Josh said handing Matt the phone.

“He does remember I’m white.” Helen asked Matt. She couldn’t believe they wanted her to lecture the Latino community on voter turnout.

“He does now.” Matt said looking at Josh who was clearly uncomfortable.

“Whiter than white. White album white.” She carried on.

“Believe me this wasn’t…”

“White devil, white Dahlia, the white witch who lured a big, gorgeous Latino man away from...” She reeled of all the things she’d been called over the years by the latino community for marrying Matt. 

“Well, honey, if you’re not comfortable doing this…” Matt tried to save himself. 

“No I’ll go but I’m not going to give a speech.” She put her foot down “I’ll do the intro let Hinajosa talk about the ex-convict lists. And only because it’s a good cause.” Matt didn’t have anymore time for this conversation. Josh was hovering needing his phone back.

“On behalf of big, gorgeous Latino men everywhere…” Matt tried to close with a joke.

“I’m talking about the five million ex-convicts who can’t vote in this country.” She clarified.

“Right.” Matt agreed. 

“My mother’s flying the kids up at 4.00, make sure they don’t eat too much Halloween candy before I get there, please.” Helen instructed. 

“Yeah.” Matt agreed and hung up. “She’ll headline. She wants Hinajosa to do the speech.” Josh looked tense. Josh had a feeling this was going down hill faster than Matt thought. He hadn’t noticed but he just hung up on his wife without even saying goodbye. He was going to need to keep an eye on that. Bartlett had started punching walls about now on his first campaign and he’d had more experience of campaigning than Matt did. Josh was pretty sure none of them had had time to even greet each other for a couple of days. For right now though they moved on.

--*--

Josh knew that the kids had been on candy and sweets all night but to be fair he’d spend longer on the phone trying to get hold of the vp. 

“Congressman seems a little irritated.” Donna observed. 

“He’s sleep deprived like the rest of us.” Josh shot back. Not to mention his wife wasn’t happy, his kids were running wild. Helen had Josh blocking him on coffee, Josh wasn’t sure about it but Helen had made threats if he let Matt get more than two cups a day. “Bartlet put his fist through a couple of walls last week of the first campaign.” He needed to get on top of this with Matt though. He could see the man was inches from a break down but they were in the fight of their lives. He just needed his guy to hold on for a few days. Then they’d have some time to unwind and talk and do... other things. He was hating the lack of privacy too.

--*--

Josh was about to miss the trick of treating, he was still on the phone for the vp. Matt just glared and took the phone.

“Give me that.” 

“Sir.” Josh objected

“Hi. Yeah, this is Matthew Santos. Could you possibly… turn on CNN. I’ll wave. Yeah. Oh, I appreciate you support. Now you think you can possibly find the Vice President? Mm Hmm. Thank you. Oh, no. I’m going to wait.” Matt stayed with Josh and waited for Bob Russel. 

Finally they got moving to trick or treating. The kids have already been going for a while.

“Try and make it look like your enjoying your time with the children.” Lou warned as she ushered both of them towards Helen and the kids. 

“Sweetheart. Darling.” Helen said forcing a smile at them both.

“Sorry we’re Late.” Matt said, both of them were very aware of the mass of cameras following them. “How are the spoils?” He asked moving to see into Peter’s bucket. “Whoa, that’s a lot of candy there.” He observed. Josh just hung back, not really sure how to do this, cameras or not this was uncomfortable for him. 

“My stomach hurts.” Peter said sounding miserable.

“Okay, why don’t you let me carry that?” Matt offered taking the full bucket. 

“Can we go now?” Whined Miranda tired.

“Just one more house, honey, okay?” Matt asked her sympathetically. “Come on.” He said putting an arm around Peter and moving them all off. Jos stood behind the children and followed.

“Hold in there Peter.” He said quietly to the boy. “Almost done.” He told the kids. Hoping his gum chewing would hide his words from the cameras. Josh tried to stay out of it as Helen and Matt finally had a second to talk. He was very glad they were facing away from the camera’s before they started getting into it about the felons. Josh was avoiding eye contact and hoping Helen wasn’t going to turn on him too. He was looking at the kids instead. He saw the recoil on Peter and knew what was going to happen. He made a snape decision as Miranda looked a little green too and grabbed her up from behind. He put her on his hip and walked away not looking back. He knew he was going to be sick if he had to see, hear and smell that. The worst thing would be a kids and campaign manager all being sick. He knew Matt and Helen would deal with Peter. 

As he strode back down the path the camera’s were clicking away and Miranda buried her face in his shoulder.

“Hey, you okay?” he asked

“Don’t feel good.” She said.

“You want to be put down?” He wasn’t sure what to do now he was standing away from the house.

“No.” She said pathetically leaning on him still. “I don’t like sick.” She said softly after a moment.

“Me neither. Lets just wait here for a minute in the fresh air then we’ll get you in the car. Hows that sound?” Josh decided. There were agents at the car. That would be safe, give Matt and Helen a moment to come over if they wanted to though. 

“Do I have to keep wearing this?” She asked.

“I think your mom probably has a change of clothes for you on the plane so not too much longer.” He told her. He turned a little to keep her out of sight of all the flashing lights and saw Matt and Helen coming. Peter seemed to be empty and Matt was carrying him. 

“Josh, is she okay?” Helen asked rubbing Miranda’s back.

“Yeah, she’s fine. We just about managed to avoid any serious chain reactions there didn’t we Miranda.” Josh told Helen still holding her. 

“You want me to carry you to the car?” Helen asked. Miranda stook her head against Josh’s coat.

“It’s okay. I got her.” Josh told the worried mother. Matt managed a small smile at that and then they were moving again. 

--*--

In the car Josh spend ten minutes coaxing Miranda to let go before she fell asleep. He’d sat and looked at the kids for a moment and didn’t know what to think. This was going to be his family, that little girl was going to be stuck with him. He really didn’t know if he could ever be enough for that. Matt and Helen were both such amazing people and he was just a well trained asshole who knew how to win votes. 

“Yeah, I know buddy. We’ll be home in just a few hours.” Matt said as he carried Peter on to the plane. Josh followed with Miranda and Helen brought up the rear. 

“Let me take him.” Helen said knowing Matt had work to do. 

“No I got him Honey.” Matt tried to say.

“It’s okay please.” She said getting both men to put the kids down and she ushered them to seats while the guys headed further into the plane to work. Josh switched back to campaign manager mode. He didn’t have time to think like this now. 

Matt came in wanting to talk about Kazakhstan. Josh had to tell him the Waller call was cancelled. Then here it came Matt finally lost it yelling at Josh then slamming the door. 

“You want me to…” Helen asked him.

“No.” Josh said. He didn’t want Matt blowing up further at Helen. She was on the wire herself. “No, I got it.” Josh sometimes thought he lived on stress. He was managing. He knew come election day he’d lose it but until then he knew he could walk the tightrope of sleep deprivation and caffeine that was a campaign. It was time to take one for the team and get everyone back on track. At least it happened four days out.

Matt still looked like he was about to explode when Josh walked in. He was breathing heavily and Josh closed the door. The rest of the staff did not need to see what was about to happen. 

“We need to start addressing the real issues, stop wasting time on beauty pageant ephemera .” Fine, if Matt wanted to keep this professional Josh could do that. 

“Congressman you know as well as I do that right now, what you say on Leno and how your family looks trick or treating are a hell of a lot more important…”

“Damn it, Josh, we need to focus…” Matt interrupted. Josh knew what Matt meant. He also knew Matt was only focused himself because at this stage he was running out of space to think.

“We are.” Josh shut him down. “You like Goodwin and McNally?” He asked.

“Well it’s not like I had a whole hell of a lot of time with McNally.” Matt complained. 

“Berryhill had five minutes eight years ago.” Josh told him. “You like her?” 

“Yeah.”

“And Goodwin?” Josh pushed. Matt nodded. “Great. We got an Attorney General and a Secretary of State. That’s not bad for a three-state, six market day.” Josh explained trying to show Matt that they were addressing the serious stuff as well. “Now we’re going to have this conversation about Leno, then you’re gonna talk to Nancy, then you’re gonna make up with your wife, so we have a relatively happy couple for the rally in Houston. Congressman?” Josh asked. He’d given Matt the professional talk down the Congressman wanted. Now he needed to know if Matt needed anything else. 

“Yeah.” Matt said finally.

“Good.” Josh said and moved back to the door. He’d encroached into the room during his speech.

“Josh?” Matt called stopping Josh for a moment.

“Yeah?” 

“You think we’re gonna win?” Matt asked and Josh knew what he really meant: is this worth it? 

“I do.” For the first time Josh meant it. In his soul he really did think they were going to win.

“Do we have five minutes? Before we go back out there?” Matt asked.

“Would five minutes be enough?” Josh shot back. He could see that Matt needed to take Josh down, take him apart. He needed his massochist of a sub under his hands to help him relax.

“No. But you left something off you list.” Matt told him knowing Josh was right, five minutes wouldn’t be enough. He walked over to Josh and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m sorry I shouted at you out there. You were great looking out for Miranda earlier. I know you care about the important things too. Thank you for not letting me forget that you and Helen and the kids are part of the important stuff.” He gave Josh a quick kiss. “So, Leno?” He said with a sigh and opened the door. 

--*--

Josh was back at headquarters the night before the election. He and the other staffers were sat in the bar when Lou brought the bottle over. He liked scotch and he didn’t really blame her. They’d all earnt it and soon it would be all over. He was a little sad that Matt and Helen were in L.A. tonight. He knew he was going to start getting twitchy, he could have used them to help him sleep but the candidates work was never done till the polls closed. He’d see them tomorrow. 

He watched as everyone slowly paired off and headed for the rooms. They all laughed at his as was surprised by each couple. 

“How did I miss that?” He asked Donna as Lou and Otto of all people peeled off.

“You might have had an easier year of it if you had come onboard.” Ronna told him. “Six o’clock tomorrow morning right?” She said as she too got up.

“Yeah,” he said as he watched her head over and greet her own partner at the bar. “Wow, Cindy? Did you know that?” He asked Donna. Also he had come on board, I mean he’d ended up with a collar for god’s sake. 

“About Ron and Cindy?” Donna qualified.

“Any of them.” Josh clarified. 

“Yes.” Donna said with a superior smile at Josh.

“Which one?” He followed up.

“All of them.” 

“Wow.” Josh couldn’t believe he’d missed so much. Then again he hadn’t had time to talk properly even to Donna in weeks. He thought about his and Matt’s conversation and wondered if he’d missed his chance with Donna again. “Did you ever… ‘come onboard’?” He asked using Ronna’s phrase. He smiled cheekily at her, hoping she wouldn’t take it as prying.

“No.” She said simply but without hesitation. She smiled. What was with Josh’s sudden interest, did he want to ‘come onboard’?

“Never had a campaign fling?” He asked getting more serious and less silly. Needing to be sure she wasn’t lying, that she was still interested before he opened himself to the chance for her ultimate rejection.

“No.” She told him equally seriously before moving to sit next to him. Close enough that his arm on the back of the sofa was almost around her. He really wasn’t sure. He knew what he wanted and it seemed like she was putting the moves on him but he didn’t want to seem like he was assuming anything.

“Do you want another drink?” He asked not able to think of anything else. She looked him in the eye.

“No.” From her eyes, it was clear that another drink wasn’t what she wanted tonight. She stood up and Josh thought about his empty room and Matt telling him he and Helen thought of Donna as a package deal. He thought of all the years of coming this close to something and not following through. All the nights they had ended together but gone to bed alone. He followed her.

--*--

As the lift opened and they step in his hand on the small of Donna’s back they both turn and watch as Josh’s agents step in behind them. He had forgotten them. Donna suddenly seems uncomfortable next to him. He knows they’ll have to talk before anything happens. He leads her to his room. It’s already secure and that will make things easier. 

He lets an agent open the door for him and gently ushered Donna in. He reached back to close the door behind him as he stepped in.

“No!” Donna said. She didn’t want him to close the door. If he closed the door someone might see and then… Josh looked at her.

“Donnatella,” He said softly, “We need to talk and I don’t want anyone walking past hear.” He looked at her. 

“Josh, you shouldn’t do this. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be here…” Donna said trying to move past him out the door.

“Donna! Just give me a minute to talk to you.”Josh cried.

“No! Josh you’ve got something great. I’m not going to let you ruin that.” She told him.

“Sir?” An agent said from the door. 

“Yeah. On it. Thanks.” Josh told him and closed the door. They didn’t like it open like that.

“JOSH!” Donna complained her eyes wide. She was not going to let Josh do something stupid. Josh didn’t seem to get it. He was stood just smiling a little at her.

“Your not ruining anything Donna.” He stepped towards her and she stepped back. He held up his hands in surrender. He stayed in front of the door though. “Matt knows. Helen knows. Not about right now. I promise I didn’t text them or anything but I talked to Matt after the kiss.” Donna looked stunned.

“You did?” She asked, her voice wavering and both worried and confused. If Josh told the congressman about that, how did she still have a job?

“Yeah, I told him about the kiss and about the key and we talked.” Josh looked away from her remembering that night. “He and Helen had already talked. They want some oversight of my dating and no tops or switches but they’re not going to get angry. Neither of us is going to get into trouble for this.” He stepped forward towards Donna again and this time Donna didn’t move away.

“Really?” She asked. “But why? Josh you have them why do you want anything else?” Donna asked desperate to understand why this man who had managed to finally find a great relationship with such an amazing couple. Josh gave her a soft smile and tipped his head. 

“Matt asked me the same thing when Helen asked me out. It wasn’t too hard to explain to him.” Josh took another step closer to her. He felt like he was stalking a wild animal. Like he’d been tracking her for years and now was the moment. “I don’t want anything else. I want you. I’ve wanted you for soo long Donna.” There was a hint of pain in his voice it had been soo long. He’d loved her since Rosselyn, probably before that but he knew he couldn’t be what she wanted.

Donna wanted to ask him why he hadn’t said anything, why now? She wanted to run as well.  She was still worried about the fact that he was her boss. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do when a man she’d had a crush on for eight years was standing right in front of her and running his hand across her neck. His fingers pushing into her hair and his lips descending on hers. 

It was different neither of them pulling on the other but pushing and meeting with such passion and certainty. It was like they were both trying to breath the other in. Their hands were everywhere touching and testing. Josh knew this was how it was between Matt and Helen but he’d never had this himself. He’d always let the other person take charge but now it was a sharing. 

Donna was lost in it. She fantasised about what it would be like to kiss Josh over the years and they’d had that kiss a few weeks ago but that had been shock and instinct. This was slow and new and a beginning. She had dreamed of him grabbing her and pinning her against a wall or his tongue plunging into her mouth for years when she thought he was a top or switch but this felt so much better for them. They kissed like they talked, playfully dueling in perfect synch with one another. There wasn’t a loser just a pause for breath.

“I’ve wanted this a long time too.” She told him. Then they were kissing again. Donna fingered Josh’s collar as his fingers brushed the skin of her back just above her skirt. “You know, this is going to take some working out. We’re both waiting for the other one to make a move.” She had a point Josh was just not that assertive in the bedroom. 

“Well, we’re good at other things, how about we try to take turns.” He said and slid his hand down to squeeze her soft round buttocks. He smirked at the flicker in her eyes. He’d seen it before when they’d been flirting.

“I think I’m game.” Donna tipped her head and licked along the top of his collar. Josh groaned tipping his head back. His other hand moved up Donna’s front and caress Donna’s breast.

Donna undid the first button of his shirt. Josh pushed her top up towards her chin. She lifted her arms and he pulled it off. She went for his buttons with more fervour. Josh just marvelled at the alabaster skin of her shoulders and stomach and the comfortable nude bra that took nothing away from the magnificence of her bosom. He didn’t know what he wanted first, but he wanted to touch, to kiss, to taste all of it. 

Donna felt much the same sense of awe as she opened his shirt. She had seen his chest before, after Rosslyn but then he’d been in bed for weeks, his scars had been red and angry, his chest hair hadn’t grown back yet. He’d been a mess, a thing to look after. Now though his chest was covered in his rich curling auburn hair. His scars were a spiderweb of white across it but it was clear he had kept up with his PT’s instructions. His muscles were back and firm and his arms were the buff they’d always been. He didn’t smell like a hospital now he smelt like Josh. that perfect blend of cologne, burger, coffee and paperwork. 

They both began to run their hands over each others chest’s exploring with a look of wonder. Josh brushed the back of his hand over her bra and kissed her again. He snuck his hand around her back and flicked her bra open. His other hand brushed it aside and cupped her. She was perfect. It was the only thought that ran through his head. 

Donna let him enjoying the feel of his hand gently massaging her breast. She kissed the side of his neck. Her hands moving to his belt to try and get ahead of him. This trade was working well she thought as she slid it out through the loops and reached for the button on Josh’s slacks. Finally was the only thought running through her head.

Suddenly Josh grasped the back of her thighs lifting her and pushing up her skirt at the same time. She put her arms around his neck to keep her balance. He walked them to the bed and laid her down. He moved back and reached for his own trousers to remove them Donna got the idea and started to do the same with her skirt and panthose. They both got stuck finding they had forgotten to remove their shoes first. They couldn’t help it as they collapsed in laughter on the bed. Still tugging off their shoes and losing the rest of their clothes.

  “Should have known.” Josh said looking up at the ceiling.

“Should have known what?” Donna asked him running his fingers through his chest hair.

“That this would involve embarrassment and laughter. How else was this going to go between us?” He observed raising an eyebrow at her.

“Your probably right.” She said before straddling him and leaning down for another kiss. Josh groaned as her buttocks rubbed against his semi hard cock. She was warm and open and soft in his arms and as she squirmed against him they both groaned again. He gripped her round backside firmly rubbing harder against her his fingers dipping in to brush her anus. Then his brain fired as he realised he had forgotten to grab protection. He huffed and pulled back from her kiss.

“Shit, I uh… condoms… in  my bag.” Donna was a little more serious in response, one set for him one for matt. 

“Yeah, good idea. I’ll grab them.” She got off him and quickly found his wash kit and the two boxes of condoms he’d started to carry, one for him and one for Matt. “Josh, help me out here?” She said holding them up for him to see.

“Normal.” Josh told her pointing to the left hand box. She checked the label on the other one. 

“XL? Did you get ambitious Josh?” Donna asked assuming he’d just grabbed the wrong box at some point.

“Yeah but they’re prelubbed which helps him fit.” Josh threw back pleased to get a serious blush out of Donna as she realised who the other box was for. 

“Josh!” She cried wondering how she’d ever get that image out of her head. In fact she was now thinking on the image from Cleveland which did nothing to get rid of her blush.

“Could you get back here please?” He asked desperately. She looked pretty cute squatting naked next to his bag. She fished out a condom and moved back handing it to him. 

“Do we need to talk about this?” He asked wondering if they should be discussing limits or anything. 

“Let’s just keep it straight forward for now Josh. I think I’m done with the talking.” She said moving back to straddle him as soon as he had the condom on. He just nodded and still hard lifted her and let her position him at her entrance. It was so nice to just slide into her. He loved Helen but he’d missed this. He’d missed the easiness of a slick cunt. Then Donna clenched around him and he groaned almost losing it.

She smiled down at him as he brushed her breasts with his hands. 

“Donnatella.” He said worshifully and she started to move, riding him in a slow lazy pace Josh picked up her rhythm and started to thrust up to meet her it was slow but hard and pounding. 

Donna was gasping with each thrust it was like a firework going off in her head each time they came together. She could barely breathe just about holding her pace and managing to keep moving. Finally Josh broke first and started to speed up his thrusts. She switched from gasps to a steady stream of his name and profanity. She grabbed the bed head as a fixed point as wave after wave of pleasure swept her closer and closer to her orgasm. Finally Josh twisted his hips a little and she rocketed over the edge squeezing him tightly and screaming as it tore threw her. Her world exploded and she couldn’t move or think anymore.

When she came too she was still straddling Josh but bent forward with her face buried in the crook of his neck. She couldn’t have been out for that long, her legs weren’t aching yet.  Josh was gently stroking her back as his now soft member slipped out of her. He seemed to notice she was back with it. 

“Need a hand?” He asked her. She nodded not sure she could move her legs anymore. He rolled her off him to the side and disposed of the condom in the bin by the bed. As he rolled back he realised she had fallen asleep. He gently pulled the covers up over both of them and turned to sleep on his normal side and turned off the room light. Between great sex and a long day he was out before his head hit the pillow. 

--*--

Josh woke later and turned to see Donna was still there. It was 3.03 in the morning. He thought about waking her but he didn’t know if that would be okay. He should probably just go back to sleep. As he tried to do so though he felt her get out of bed. He pretended to sleep wondering where she was going. Once she was in the bathroom he jumped up pulling on his boxers and an undershirt racing to join her in the bathroom. He didn’t want her to feel she had to sneak out. 

“It’s 3am.” He told her, hoping she’d not seen the time and would come back to bed.

“Yeah.” She said pulling her skirt back on. 

“Did you get any sleep?” He hinted.

“A little, you?” She said smiling a little as well.

“You don’t have to leave. I mean you don’t have to sneak out.” He clarified hoping she wasn’t regretting anything.

“I wasn’t.” She told him. 

“I didn’t want to make this awkward. I just uh…” Josh said not sure really why Donna was getting dressed. 

“I was just checking the news sites.” Donna tried to explain. Gesturing to the laptop she had open by the sink.

“With a sweater?” Josh asked not quite believing her.

“For warmth.” She turned back to the computer opening sites while Josh leaned past her for the toothpaste and put it straight in his mouth. She gave him a look in the mirror which she didn’t think he saw. Who eats toothpaste out of the tube? He leaned in closer on the premises of reading over her shoulder. Not sure about this Donna straightened and turned to him.

“I’m going to go get us some coffee.” She told him.

“How are you feeling?” Josh asked his voice still lazy from sleep and sex. 

“Like I want to win this thing.” She told him her voice determined. He was worried again. She seemed distracted and he couldn’t tell if she was trying to brush him off or just worried herself about the election. He was surprised himself that he was so relaxed about it. He let her past.

“Coffee would be great, cream and…”

“Three sugars.” Donna finished for him grabbing enough of her things from the bedroom to leave. “I already checked AP nothing new. You should take a look at Reuters.” She instructed as she left. Josh wasn’t sure if he should panic about this. He decided to check reuters instead and call Helen. He’d said he’d tell them if anything happened. Something had definitely happened.

--*--

Helen wasn’t sure where she was when she woke up but after a moment she had at least worked out that she was in bed with just Matt and it was her phone that had woken her. Matt was groaning and flailing at it still half asleep. Helen picked it up and saw it was Josh calling.

“This better be really important Josh. My zombie of a husband needs more than two hours sleep.”

“Sleep when I’m dead.” He murmured into her back.

“You are dead dear.” She told him.

“Would I slept with Donna count as important?” Josh asked tentatively. Helen gasped and slapped Matt’s shoulder to try and wake him.

“I’m up, I’m up.” He cried picking up his head as Helen put Josh on speaker.

“Josh slept with Dona.” She told him and then looked at the bedside clock. “Josh, why on earth are you calling us at 3am?”

“We er… couldn’t sleep.” He told them. “Donna went to get coffee.”

“There are better things to do when you can’t sleep at 3 in the morning Josh. I know you’re aware of them.” Matt teased. “Everything okay there?” He said a little worried.

“Not entirely sure. I think we’re fine. I mean she said she was fine but then she left to get coffee.” Josh wavered back and forth in his own head.

“Don’t worry about it Josh, I’m sure Donna’s just nervous about today. We all are. Just make sure you guys talk about it when she gets back.” Helen told him. 

“And Josh, we’ll see you tomorrow” Matt told him wanting to get back to sleep. 

“Missed you two.” Josh told them biting his lip a bit.

“We missed you too Josh, but you take care of your girl and we’ll be there tomorrow.” Helen told him. They hung up. Josh heard a knock on his door and opened it. Eddie and Lou were there.

“We saw your light was on. Everyone else is up so we may as well make a start.” Lou told him brushing past him into his room.

“Sure, I’ll just get dressed.” He quickly darted around and grabbed his clothes up snagging Donna’s pantyhose as well when he spotted them and shoved them all in one side of his bag pulling out clean things and retreating to his bathroom afterwards. 

--*--

Donna talked to Otto in the corridor and then once he was out of sight approached the agent flanked doorway giving the door a soft knock. Ronna opened it.

“Hey!”

“Hey” Donna responded surprised.

“Welcome to the club.” She said with a grin. Behind her Josh gave her a slightly panicked grin.

“No one can sleep.” Josh explained. Ronna filled her in on the Reuters news and she reassured her they had a suitable press response before she sidled up to Josh and tried to look casual as she passed him a coffee.

“Tell me you found my pantyhose?” She asked nervous that any second now they were going to be discovered.

“They’re in my bag.” He murmured back.

Chapter Text

They were on the tarmac in Texas.

“Say something.” Matt tells Helen a little confused by the silence.

“Nothing to say.” Helen told him with a smile.

“Someone should tell me to change my shirt or not change the health care section of the speech or where we’re going next.” He looked around at the agents and Bram and next to no one else. Everyone else had come back here in advance to get the war room and the party set up.

“We’re going to vote then go home.” Helen told him in her Mom voice she’d been using for a few days since she worked out that Matt was averaging under four hours a night.

“The stump speech?” He asked enjoying being told it was done.

“Delivered for the last time.” 

“And we’re not running late?” Matt said with confusion in his voice.

“Right on time.” Helen reassured him. He looked stunned at the whole situation.

“Unbelievable.”

--*--

Josh was still not sure what was happening with Donna when he came back from grabbing some food. He was still in his jeans and yesterdays shirt from earlier.

“Hey, you look great.” He told Donna as she left her room trying to win points for noticing.

“I changed.” Donna said a little nervous and not really wanting to get into this conversation.

“Yeah, I noticed.” He said hoping they could slip into some banter.

“Thanks.” That whole not being weird thing wasn’t working for either of them. Maybe they should just talk work. That had never been a problem in the past.

“Teddy’s got the war room running?” Josh asked mostly hoping they’d cleared out of his room. 

“Yeah.” Donna responded and then the silence and the unspoken ephemera got to her. “I didn’t want to be wearing the same clothes as last night. How’s our get out to vote effort looking?” She tried to side track back into work.

“Great, I hope. You don’t have to worry. A lot of people are going to be doing the walk of shame today.” Josh told her and then heard what he’d said. “Not that what we did was shameful. Or is shameful…” He was losing it again. “That’s not what I meant.” Donna gave him a don’t-worry-about-it look and moved into the room.

--*--

Matt looked around the house, like everything today it was too quiet. He’d been warned by a couple of people to watch Josh today. Apparently he doesn’t do well with elections.

“Where are the kids?” He asked Helen.

“School. It’s a tuesday.” Helen observed. He’d known that somewhere in his mind but it hadn’t really occurred to him. 

“Kind of a big day.” He said a little disappointed that they weren’t there.

“They’ll be home by 3.” Helen reassured him. He was not used to not having someone demanding his attention or action anymore so he was worrying.

“What’ll I do here all day?” He wondered. He hadn’t had a day at home or to himself in so long. 

“You could sleep.” Helen hinted still on her campaign.

“No, I don’t think so.” He told her honestly, he felt very awake. He wasn’t sure how to sleep anymore.

“Come on.” She encouraged hoping he’d crack.

“I don’t think I can close my eyes.” It felt like he had them propped up with toothpicks, he’d been keeping them open soo long he didn’t know how to close them.

“Then we’ll find something else to do.” Helen alluded and now she had Matt’s attention. She was pleased to have done so since she knew she only had so much time before Bram would try to update him on something. She led him upstairs and he followed.

Finally in their own bedroom for the first time in what felt like a year.  Matt started taking off his tie and looked around for a bag to put it in then laughed and shook his head.

“I live here. I don’t need a bag.” He said sleepily going to his draws. He hung up his jacket and turned to see Helen watching him from the doorway. “You okay there, hun?”

“Yeah, just good to see you home.” She said coming over and wrapping her arms around his waist. He dropped his head to her shoulder. 

“Good to be here.” He told her. They stood there just holding each other for a while. Then he straightened. Helen started to undo his shirt buttons. He tried to help her but ended up just laughing at the fact that he was too tired to even manage buttons. Helen laughed too. She pushed his shirt off and then dropped hers to the floor too. Matt sat on the edge of the bed and worked on his belt and trousers. Helen finished undressing and then helped him stand up to finish removing his trousers. 

Matt collapsed back onto the bed and Helen tucked him under the covers then walked around to the other side of the bed to join him. Matt was the insomnia awake he’d been for awhile now. He definitely wasn’t asleep but he also wasn’t really awake. She leaned into him and they kissed slowly as though they had all day. They did. 

It felt like forever that they slowly explored each other with their mouths and hands. Remembering their bed and home. So many nights together with the kids across the hall. Finally Helen wrapped a leg over Matt’s hip and he thrust slowly into her. It was with slow gentle sweeps that Matt finally brought Helen and gently came himself. It wasn’t explosive but it was perfect. After Matt leaned into Helen and fell asleep. Helen just held him.

--*--

Josh couldn’t believe the numbers. They didn’t make much sense. He needed to do something. He needed to fix them. He was losing it here.

“Your face is frozen in an odd way.” Donna told him.

“Unattractively?” He asked not looking up from the numbers.

“Not entirely.” She said wondering if Josh’s face was ever entirely unattractive to her.

“I think my heads gonna explode.” She had known this was coming, the well done speech had been terrible but this was the start of the real meltdown. Josh always had one on election day. Apparently this year’s was going to be about the exit polling not making sense. Hardly surprising in such a close race. She needed to get ahead of this. Maybe this year she could try a different method. 

“Maybe we should take a walk or something? Try to de-stress before the next numbers come out.” Donna said giving him a look. He finally looked up at her and raised an eyebrow.

“You wanna take a walk or something?” 

--*--

A walk or something found them back in Josh’s room down the corridor from the war room. It was different from the previous night. Then they had been excited and playful and nervous. This time they were both worked up. Without the issues of the night before hanging over them they had both struggled to wait till they reached the room.

They stood just inside the door kissing deeply and hastily. Both working on their clothing and toeing off their shoes. Both so very aware that they only had so long before someone came looking for one of them. Down to his boxers Josh pulled back enough to look Donna in the eye.

“We should move this to the bed.” She nodded encouragingly in response and finished losing everything but her bra and panties. Once they were on the bed Josh made a call and rolled on top of Donna. He leaned down and mouthed her breast through the fabric of her bra his hands trying to sneak around her back to the clasp. He was getting nowhere till he bit her lightly and she arched off the bed with a groan. He flicked the clasp open with a smug look.

“I thought I was the masoccist here.” He murmured moving to give her another kiss on the lips while he gently pulled off her bra.

“Just cause not all of us can get off on being slapped around doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some teeth in bed.” Donna said raising her eyebrow at him. She knew he was a more intense sub than she was. She really wasn’t interested in much in the way of pain. Just light bondage and power play. Beyond that was a bit much for her normally but since he came out and particularly since he and the Santos’ had become open about their relationship it had become clear that Josh was a pretty intense sub. For a guy who enjoyed sitting at his tops knee and being hit so hard he couldn’t comfortably sit down on a hard chair the next day he had done a great job of hiding his preference for years. Donna thought all of this while enjoying Josh’s attention on her breasts. Her own hands had started to wander slipping under his boxers to caress his firm rear. 

Eventually she was getting very worked up. She shoved his boxers down and pulled out his hard member. She rubbed it against her wet panties to show him how ready she was. He nearly ripped them off her before grabbing a condom from his bedside where he’d put a couple in the draws earlier thinking he might get some action with one of his lovers today.

Once he was sheathed he lined up with her. It had been so long since he’d been with a woman like this, where he was so incontrol. He looked at Donna and knew that while he hadn’t missed it, with Donna this was perfect. He thrust in and in acknowledgement of their short time he started to thrust hard and fast. He wanted to be more romantic, he wanted this to be about showing her how in love he’d been with her for years. Right now though it was about both of them finding a distraction from the stress of the day and working off some energy. 

Donna muffled a scream in her hand as Josh started to pound into her. It felt amazing and she loved it. Somehow he brought her a few times before he came himself. She must have been more on edge than she thought, it had been a long time since she came that easily and often. Though thinking about it, other than earlier she hadn’t had sex since Gaza so maybe she was just due.

Still shaking from the intensity of it they both lay on the bed gasping and eventually crawling under the duvet. They cuddled for a short while in silence before Donna could feel the nervous energy building in Josh again.

“You want some water?” Josh offered.

“You have a bottle over there?” Donna asked surprised at the idea of Josh thinking of hydration.

“Tap water.” Josh clarified clearly still a bit twitchy. 

“No, thanks.” It was a sweet thought but Donna could wait till she could grab a coffee. “But thank you.” She noted. He was trying to be thoughtful after all. She should encourage that.

“Mind if I turn on the TV? See if there’s news?” Josh asked and Donna understood. She kind of wanted to see if anything was happening too. 

“Please.” 

“At least I didn’t bring my Blackberry to bed.” He said apologetically. “Could be worse. Less romantic, I mean.” Josh was struggling to get his thoughts in the right order to make sense right now.

“Got it.” They watched the news and Donna shared her concerns about polling laws. She was probably being paranoid but she should have known better than to say anything to Josh, who called someone about seeing those numbers. The knock at the door came as he hung up. Suddenly there were people asking him through his door if he had Donna and he was having to climb out of bed.

Donna was pretty sure they knew. The gossip would be round the campaign in no time that she and Josh had hooked up. Not good but there was no saving it and at least it had probably bought them some time on Josh having a meltdown.

--*--

Helen was relieved to finally see Matt sleeping. She wished she could have tucked Josh in next to him but Josh’s work wasn’t quite done. He needed to be in the war room today incase something happened. She was pretty sure the two of them would have kept each other up any way wanting to check on things all the time. He looked good sleeping there and they’d be back with Josh tonight. She just hoped Donna was looking after him. She heard movement downstairs and got up. Time to head off the kids and make sure they didn’t wake Matt too soon. Just give him a few more minutes.

--*--

It was the blog that put him over the edge in the end. He’d just exploded. He could feel his blood pressure rising. He knew he should stop, he knew his heart needed a break but he couldn’t stop until Donna shouted at him. He didn’t want to round on her so he left.

“It’s texas, shouldn’t it be warm?” He asked her as she approached him on the roof.

“Not in November.” She explained to him. The little things were known to escape Josh, particularly in this sort of mood.

“What are you doing out here?” He asked her wondering why she was shivering on a rooftop. He wished he’d been wearing a jacket he could give her but he hadn’t stopped when he’d come looking for space and air. It was nice that this was here and that the  agents would let him out here on his own.

“I’ve been appointed.” She said evasively. 

“To what?” Josh asked turning to her.

“Make sure you’re okay.” She told him as though it was obvious, it probably was. Josh was bad at life today.

“I’m fine.” He offered back by default.

“Make sure your head’s not actually gonna explode.” No, it wasn’t going to explode. It just felt like it right now. He sighed.

“These numbers aren’t adding up.” Donna rubbed his back.

“They never do.” She told him gently. A fact she knew had never comforted Josh. “You’ve been working 18, 20, hour days for the last year.”

“Yeah.” Josh wasn’t sure what she was getting at.

“It’s here. There’s nothing left to do but let it run its course.” He needed to let it go. “There’s nothing left to do, Josh.” Josh stared out the sky and then back at Donna. He’d been one of the people downstairs before. Making calls organising volunteers and lawyers and spin all day. Now there were other people for that and they were on it.

“If there’s nothing left to do, why am I here?” He asked her sounding so tired and broken. He’d spoken to Bram earlier and knew Matt and Helen were at home. They’d had a nap and the kids would be home by now. Could he have spent the day with them?

“Because Josh we may be on top of this but if anything goes seriously wrong we will need you. I’m sorry, you’re stuck here with us though.” Donna was still rubbing his back. He turned and hugged her.

“Donna, it’s not you… I just miss them.” Josh told her. “We should get back down there though.” He told her as he let go.

“Just don’t let your head explode.” Donna teased him and managed to get a laugh.

--*--

Helen heard the tv going and thought she should probably check in. Matt looked cute sleep rumpled but rested.

“Hey, you.” She said to tell him she was there. He looked around at her.

“I slept.” He said a little pleased and amazed.

“You did.” This was really cute.

“And lost West Virginia, apparently.” His voice turned dry at that.

“And Kentucky and Indiana.” Helen told him. She had been following the results.

“I’m a loser.” He said still tired and wishing he didn’t have to listen to bad news.

“Oh, 24 nothing, baby. But you can still rebound. I have faith.” Helen reassured him. He smiled. She was right, he was being a baby about this. He was never going to win every state. They watched the TV for a moment.

“Where are you?” Helen asked looking at her still sleepy husband. 

“What?”

“In your head, where did you go?” She sat next to him on the bed.

“I’m just thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow.” Matt said looking so lost in the enormity of his life.

“We’ll take the kids to school then grab Josh and go for breakfast.” She smiled at such a normal idea.

“Bacon and Pancakes?” Matt asked he missed their breakfasts out at the dinner.

“The backyard needs raking. You and Josh could try and work that out.” Helen grinned. 

“Wow, Josh with a rake.” Matt said in shock. “We’d need a new garden.” 

--*--

Josh saw Donna.

“Hang on.” He told the congressman. “Hey, what happened? Two minutes. A hundred and twenty seconds. I was stuck in there with Dull and Duller, counting beads on my imaginary abacus.” Donna didn’t say anything. She just stared at him. She looked stunned. “Ohio? Texas? We won? We lost? We need a good lawyer? What?” He was smiling it could be going worse and Donna was there.

“Leo was unconscious in his room. Annabeth found him. He wasn’t…” Donna wanted to stop. She could see Josh struggling to process this but she needed to finish. “He wasn’t breathing. They’re taking him to the hospital in an ambulance now.” Josh couldn’t believe this. They couldn’t lose Leo. He couldn’t lose Leo now. Donna just started guiding him to the car. She needed to get him to the hospital. His agents had already brought round an SUV.

--*--

Matt was struggling to focus on the results coming in as he tried to convince Lou that they didn’t need to spin this and worried about Josh when Bram handed him the phone.

“Matt.”

“Josh.”

“We lost him. Just now.” Matt could hear the tears in Josh’s voice.

“You okay? Is Donna there with you?” He checked. He knew this would be hard for Josh and he didn’t want to leave him on his own. 

“Yeah, she’s here.”

“Do you need us to come over there?” He asked. They really should be here but damn that, he’d drop everything if Josh needed him.

“No. No, you and Helen should be there. I’ll be back later.” He told him. 

“Okay, I’ve gotta go but I’ll tell everyone here. You just take care, Josh, and I’ll see you when you get back.” Josh just hung up on him. Matt passed the phone back to Bram. Everyone was looking at him expectantly.

“Leo passed away a few minutes ago.”

--*--

They’d got back to the hotel a while ago and had been watching the results roll in. The Texas result was a big one for them. Lou was even popping the champagne. She wanted to congratulate Josh but she couldn't see him. The congressman and his wife were dancing in the corridor while everyone was singing. She looked around to find him expecting him to be nearby but she couldn’t see him. 

She stopped on Leo’s floor seeing an agent she thought was part of Josh’s detail.

“Have you seen Josh Lyman?” She asked him. He indicated to Leo’s room. She ducked in and found Josh just standing there staring at the mess. 

“I called housekeeping.” He said when he saw her standing there. “I don’t want Mallory coming in here and find all the paramedic stuff.” 

“We won Texas.” Donna told him. She wanted to see him smile and raise both fists in victory like he always did. She wanted him to strut. “California would put us over. You’ve done a remarkable thing. Win or lose. An extraordinary thing.” He didn’t seem to hear her, or care at that moment. 

“I talked him into this, into joining the ticket.” Josh said not able to look at Donna right now. 

“Nobody talked Leo into doing anything he didn’t want to do.” Donna said firmly. “And he’d want you upstairs. Not down here. You belong up there. It’s your night. He was so proud of you.” Josh looked at her then and saw the truth in her face. He’d always felt like he wasn’t pulling this off with the skill Leo had. He wasn’t as good and that Leo really wanted to take over. If Donna believed it though it might actually be true, she’d always been good at cutting through the bullshit.

--*--

Josh was staring out the window. He didn’t know what to do next. He’d always assumed that Leo would tell him. He’d relied on Leo for the last ten years. He’d told Josh to be kingmaker. He’d always thought that tonight... tomorrow Leo would be handing him the secrets to being chief of staff or telling him what to do next to be ready in four years. He wasn’t good at waiting. He couldn’t keep watching screens go on and on about how close the race was and what effect the closest thing he had to a father dying was going to have on the results. He couldn’t do that.

“Hey.” Came Matt’s voice from behind him. It felt like forever since he’d just talked to Matt. He felt like he couldn’t do it now. If Josh talked to Matt he was going to lose it. 

“Congressman, you need anything?” he knew he wasn’t fooling Matt, the sorry look in his eyes told Josh exactly how he looked.

“No, no. I just had to get out of that room. Same old talking heads babbling the same drivel to fill up airtime. They could run it on a continuous loop, no one would even notice tonight.” Matt looked at Josh and decided to let the man keep his distance for now. This should have been Josh’s night. He wished that it didn’t have to be tainted. “Did we even campaign in Nevada? I seem to vaguely remember something about a convention centre a few months back.”

“An airplane hanger.” Josh could still remember the schedule even now. He had spent months obsessed over it. It would take a long time to forget. “We were on the ground 20 minutes. Should've had you move there a couple of years ago. Maybe even headline a show at the MGM Grand.” Josh joked. It was a bad joke but Matt smiled, Josh wasn’t completely gone if he could still manage a bad joke.

“Yeah, well. Who knew?” Matt threw back. If Josh wanted work then maybe it was okay to ask the question that was weighing on his mind. “Barry Goodwin and the lawyers are planning a march on Washington if we don't win. What do you think?” Josh was quiet for a moment. This could be his first real act to advise Matt as the president elect. The votes were cast. The universe had already decided. Time to step into the role Leo had shaped him for. He would and could do this because Leo would kick his ass from the beyond if he messed it up. 

“I think you’ve got some of the best legal minds in the party.” He hedged to start with, to see if this was Matt having made a decision and wanting confirmation or actually needing his opinion. It could be hard to tell with Matt at times.

“Come on.” Matt wanted his opinion.

“Straight up.” Josh confirmed and Matt nodded. “I think you’re young, smart, the parties presumptive nominee four years from now. Win or lose. Take it to court you’re the guy that screams at the ump because they don’t like the call. Nobody votes for that guy again.” Josh finished sucking his lip wondering if Matt would even want to do all this again in four years.

“Been a hell of a ride though, hasn’t it?” Matt asked with a little smile. The last year Josh thought, the campaign, the hotels and kisses and love and loss and lack of sleep. The endless phone calls. It had all been worth it to Josh to see Matt standing there with that small smile. Still tired. Not yet knowing which way this was ending but standing in a hotel corridor with Josh in the middle of the night with that smile thinking about how they got here.

“Yeah, It has.” Josh replied with a matching smile.

“Congressman, we think they’re getting ready to call Nevada.” Bram said sticking his head out the door. Matt grabbed Josh’s hand and pulled him back into the room. The same night awaits us all. Well this one was his and Josh’s and he wanted to share this moment with him. Good or bad.

They stood in front of the screens and the image came up before the announcer said it. With a tick next to Santos. Matt grabbed Josh and kissed him. It was quick and fierce before he pulled away to find Helen and kiss her.

Donna watched as Josh let Matt leave him. His eyes were transfixed on the screen as he walked forward in near disbelief and there it was. Slowly fists clenched both hands went up. They were victorious.

Chapter Text

As Helen walked down with Matt she worried about Josh. He hadn’t wanted to come down stairs. He was waiting upstairs. She knew he was taking Leo’s loss badly but she also knew that while Josh could duck out, she couldn’t. He was only collared and not claimed and could say he was wrapping things up in the war room. She and Matt would be up a while yet shaking hands and celebrating. Though hopefully shorter than expected given the sun was already coming up. She would be grateful for the hotels blackout curtains. She’d already asked her mother to take the kids to school today so she and Matt would be able to crash upstairs with Josh.

--*--

Josh looked at the war room, they were all done downstairs. All the young ones thought they were done. This was just the beginning. Tomorrow they would have to start setting up the transition office and start handing out roles. 

He looked to the board, to McGarry on the trail. A man who had given him everything, who had wanted him to be happy as well. Who had taught him the importance of having a life as well. He looked at the board for a while. He knew Donna was stood somewhere behind him. He wanted to just stay here in the quiet but Leo would tell him to get back to work or go to bed.

“Thanks boss.” He muttered and walked back to Donna. He knew she was worried, he knew they all were but he wasn’t going to lose it today. He didn’t know if later it would hit him but today he was alright.

Donna held out a pot of pills to him.

“You need to take your blood pressure pills and go to bed.” She told him lovingly.  He nodded and dry swallowed them.

“You alright?” 

“I will be. You should get some sleep. I’m sure Matt and Helen will be up later.” Donna told him and started to move away. Josh grabbed her sleeve.

“Do you need me?” He asked. He knew this hurt Donna too and after everything that had happened in the last day he thought he should look out for her for once.

“I think I need some space Josh. I need to get out of your orbit and think clearly about this.” Josh just nodded and let her go. He headed back to his room. He climbed into bed but left the bathroom light on with the door cracked so Helen and Matt could see when they got back.

--*--

The agents were on the door and told her that Josh was already inside. She was glad not to have to go looking for him. Matt was going to be a little while yet but Helen had managed to slip away to come and check on their sub. 

She opened the door carefully not sure of the organisation of the room she didn’t want to wake Josh if he was asleep. Once she could see there was already some light inside she slipped in and closed the door behind her. It was fairly dark but the light from the bathroom was enough for her to see Josh on the bed. Helen thought for a moment then decided to clean her face and take her hair down first then check on Josh in the bed. 

He didn’t move while she was in the bathroom and as she came back into the bedroom at first she thought he was asleep. There were soft noises coming from under the duvet but Josh sometimes snored lightly. It was only as she was sliding into bed behind him for once since he was lying on the far side of the bed that she realised he was awake and snuffling.

“Oh, baby.” She said wrapping an arm around him. “I love you and Matt loves you. You have so many people Josh. We’re all here for you.” She held him firmly and waited for him to decide if he wanted to talk.

“I never asked.” Josh said finally. “I wanted to wait.” Helen felt lost.

“Never asked him what?” She kissed the back of his shoulder glad the little shakes that had gone with the sobbing had stopped.

“I wanted to ask him to preside over the claiming. I don’t have anyone else.” Josh told her. He’d lost his Dad the night Bartlett got the nomination. Now he had lost the next closest thing he had the night Matt got the office. Last time he’d had Leo who did he have this time.

“Josh, you have plenty of other tops in your life that love you and would be honoured to stand up for you. I’m sure if you asked CJ or Toby they’d say yes.” Helen knew his relationship with them was more of friends or siblings but they were still part of his chosen family even if they weren’t blood relatives.

“I can’t ask Toby. He’s radioactive still. CJ… I can’t ask CJ.” Helen held him tighter she knew Josh struggled with how much family he’d lost over the years.

“We’ll find someone Josh, we could go non traditional and have your mom do it or ask someone from our family. We’ll think of something. Not right now though. I think we need to wait till we’re further past it being Leo’s job.” Josh nodded against the pillow. “You think you can sleep?” She asked him.

“No, not yet.” They just waited for Matt. Helen wasn’t surprised after their talk that Josh wanted them both there before he’d relax enough to sleep.

--*--

Matt slid into bed very grateful for the black out curtains as he thought about his kids who would be getting to school about now. He reached out for the others in the bed and was surprised to find his wife before his sub. It was a change from their normal organisation. He didn’t mind but he remembered the broken look in Josh’s eye earlier in the day and he really wanted to hold him. 

He compromised. He didn’t want to wake everyone up completely by reorganising the bed so instead in ran a hand down Josh’s arm. Helen was small enough that spooned up behind her with her head tucked under his chin he could see Josh as he rolled over to face him.

“Hey.” He rumbled and Helen woke a little as his voice vibrated through her.

“Hey, president elect.” Josh said sleepily.

“Don’t make me beat you.” Matt warned and pulled the sub into a kiss. He’d let the title go this once. “How’s you? How is Donna? She was with you earlier right?” Matt checked realising he’d dropped the ball a bit on keeping track of Josh.

“Yeah, she was. It hit us both hard but I think I’m coping.” Josh told him quietly.

“You guys dating now or what?” Matt asked wanting to know before he next dealt with Donna. He wasn’t too bothered but he suspected it was going to make her uncomfortable.

“I don’t know. Or what... I guess at the moment with everything we didn’t really get a chance to talk.” Josh admitted.

“Boys.” Helen’s voice came from the level of their chests. They both looked down at her. “I want some sleep and I want to pick the kids up later. Josh can work out him and Donna tomorrow. Today we sleep.” The men smiled and shuffled around a bit so they were all snuggled up with each other. None of them took long to fall asleep.