Once home, however, Josh found himself at a loss. He needed to call someone to discuss his good fortune. But all the usual avenues were closed.

He dismissed Joey and Leo from his mind. The former had been too smug when he talked to her last, and the latter really wouldn't give a damn. Sam? Most assuredly not. C.J.? Ditto. Toby? Definitely *not.* He obviously couldn't call Donna. Josh opened up a beer as he pondered idly. Ainsley? No!

Sighing, he realized he only had one choice. Maybe he'd get hung up on, but he had to try.

Sipping his beer, Josh went over to the phone and dialed Sam's number from memory. He wasn't drunk yet, so it came easy.

However, his friend sounded perilously close to drunkenness. "'Lo?" Sam mumbled. Josh heard the soft tones of Sinatra in the background.

Josh spoke fast, knowing that he had to. "Sam, please don't hang up –"

Click.

Damn. Josh, feeling the beer, dialled again, with the same result. This happened five more times. He picked up the phone, ready to try one last time. Something, whether it was the beer or just an impulse to talk to
his friend, made him pick up the phone again.

Sam picked up on the first ring. Speaking slowly and carefully, yet with animosity all too apparent, he said, "What do I have to do to get rid of you?"

Josh seized his chance. "Hear me out."

Sam consulted his watch. "Thirty seconds, starting... now."

Keeping his own time, Josh spoke very fast. "Sam, I know you're really pissed off at me –"

"Damn straight," Sam interrupted.

" – but you have to hear me out," Josh finished.

"Why the hell should I?"

Telling the truth seemed to have worked with Donna. "Because you're the only one I can talk to about this."

"About what?" Josh was about to answer when he heard the sounds of breaking glass in the background, followed by a slurred, "Dammit."

"Sam, you okay?" Old habits died hard.

"Fine. Just a beer bottle falling off the table."

Josh pursued his line of inquiry. "How drunk are you, Sam?"

"Preeeeetty drunk." Sam took a swallow of beer. "So, Josh, why can't you hound someone else about this little thing?"

"Because I thought you'd want to know."

"Want to know what?"

Josh inwardly swelled with pride. "Donna told me she loved me."

The response from Sam, however, was anticlimactic. "Finally!"

That didn't add up. "What?"

"Exactly what I said," Sam answered sourly, thinking, *Why does he have a woman like Donna following him around when I have no one? This is not fair.* "It's old news."

"To everyone but me!"

"Well, yeah."

"Why didn't you tell me!??" Josh sounded shocked, as if he'd been the one betrayed.

"It'sh Donna's right to tell," Sam slurred. "Beshides, would you have believed me?"

Josh thought for a moment. "No, I guess not."

Sam's tone was bitter and ironic. "It'sh nice to have a woman who loves you, ishn't it, Josh?"

Josh missed the symbolism entirely. "Well, actually, it's kind of scary."

"Maybe for you," Sam mumbled under his breath.

Josh heard it, though. "Are you trying to tell me you weren't scared in the least of getting hurt?"

"With C.J.? Hell, no." Sam drained the beer, letting it thwack on the countertop. "It'd have worked out all right."

"But do you know that?" Josh pressed, his ire rising. "How do you know you two wouldn't have ended in alimony courts and harassment suits?"

"We just wouldn't, Josh!" Sam practically yelled. Josh stopped talking as his friend elaborated. "Can'tcha just let me trust my own damn judgment? If I get hurt, at least I want it to be my own choice!"

Josh was about to snap back, when he suddenly lost all will to do so. "Sam, this is ridiculous. I didn't call you to argue."

"Really." Sam could now officially be called drunk. "Then why'n hell did you call me?"

"Well, I wanted to tell you about what Donna said."

"Yeah," Sam said dully. "She loves you, lucky her. Now lee'me 'lone."

He made to bang the phone down, but was stilled by Josh's
entreaty. "Sam, wait! Please!"

"What?"

"Sam, what should I do?"

At first, Sam was disgusted. Josh had destroyed his relationship, and now he asked Sam not to destroy his? And yet, Josh sounded completely lost, which didn't happen often.

He softened, but only a bit. "About Donna?"

"Yeah."

"Well, d'you love her?"

"How the hell should I know?"

Sam's response was delivered couched in all of his own resentment and pain, and no matter how drunk he was, it would have come out intelligible. "Oh, you'll know."

"I see." What Sam couldn't see was the effect those words had on Josh. His friend, no matter how much he tried to tell him it was for the best, was slowly dying inside. Whatever he felt for C.J. was so resilient that it had stood through disappointment and rejection. That was staying power. At this point, Josh was ready to give in, and instead of trying to prevent hurt, he'd just be there when Sam needed him. *If* Sam needed him. *My God,* he thought, *did I screw this one up or what?*

Aloud he said, "Let me think."

Sam snorted. "Well if you need to think, why'dya call me?"

Josh smiled to himself. "Because I knew you'd help kick sense into me."

Sam blinked, utterly confused. "Whatever."

Josh continued, struck with a sudden idea. He knew he'd have to apologise, but given his friend's current state, he could have time to think about it. "Sam, tomorrow I want to talk to you. When you're sober."

"'Kay."

"I owe you and C.J., and also I owe Donna, explanations."

"Damn right."

Josh sighed. "Okay, I deserved that. But you'll get those explanations tomorrow, I swear."

"Fine." Sam trailed off into an incoherent series of drunken giggles.

"Sam," Josh said carefully, "I'll talk to you tomorrow." There was a mumble which he took to be assent. Then, softly, he added, "Thanks, pal."

"Mmrpshgsmph."

"Bye."

 

You're So Vain - 10

 

 

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