Sentimental Fever
by Seana Renay

The night Josh said, "I love you," he woke up at three o'clock and found the bed otherwise empty, the sheets cool where Sam had been.

He got up and poked his head out of the bedroom and heard the faint scratching of a pen.

Sam was sitting on the couch, wearing Josh's black sweatpants and the oldest of the three identical Yankees tee shirts Toby had given Josh for various holidays. When he looked up, Josh felt more naked than usual, comically naked, like a bad dream about high school.

In Sam's left hand was a legal pad. A dense sheaf of paper had been flipped over the top already.

"Here's the thing," said Sam, a moment later. "You're going to laugh."

"Probably," said Josh, cracking a smile.

"I thought you should... I wanted you to know... I wanted to tell you how I..."

"I'm getting why you decided to write it down."

"Exactly." Sam paused. "I wrote twenty-seven pages."

"Wow," said Josh. He raked his fingers through his hair. It stood up straight. "Are you gonna have the President read it to me later?"

Sam turned over the pad, holding it on his lap. "It just happened. I wanted to say it right, so I started, then I couldn't stop."

Josh sat down on the couch. He hadn't sat on a couch naked since college. "This isn't really, you know, a situation that demands inspiring oratory. You don't need to spin anything here."

He reached for the pad and pulled it from Sam's hand. It didn't come easily. He set it facedown on the coffee table.

Sam clutched his pen. His knuckles were white. "I wanted to say it right," he repeated.

Josh touched Sam's wrist with three fingertips. "You wanted to say it better than anybody ever has."

"What's wrong with that? It's my job."

"I'm pretty sure it's not, unless you're expecting me to leave cash on the dresser tomorrow."

Sam's shoulders slumped and Josh was surprised. He had expected a glare or maybe a sock in the arm, something familiar.

"It feels trite," Sam said quietly. "In my head, it sounds trite, Josh."

Josh lifted his hand and idly fingered the sleeve of Sam's tee shirt. "Did I sound trite when I said, uh, the thing I said?"

Sam looked at him. "God, no."

"Okay," Josh said with a measure smile. "Provided I'm not just being held to an incredibly low standard, what's the problem?"

"I don't..."

"That's four incomplete sentences. One more and I'm gonna tell Toby."

"I don't see how it could mean the same," said Sam, "coming from me."

Josh was silent for one minute. He watched the VCR clock.

"You know how everyone thinks you're the smart one?" he asked. "We should get them to stop thinking that."

"Josh -- "

We should put up some signs or something."

"Hey," Sam said, "fuck off."

Josh grinned. "There's something you should worry about saying right. You're, like, two seconds away from following that up with 'at your earliest convenience', aren't you?"

"Shut up," he tried instead, and Josh might have found it more believable if Sam hadn't started smiling.

"See, monosyllabic words can be your friends. Try three more."

He put down the pen and looked at Josh. "I love you."

"Okay," Josh said. "Does that mean you're gonna come back to bed and stop being such a skirt?"

Sam blinked. "If you stop being a noir private eye, I'll consider it."

"Nah, I think they all said 'dame'. Maybe we shouldn't write that off so fast, though. It could be fun."

"Josh -- "

"I could wear a fedora."

Sam touched Josh's knee. "I was being serious before."

"I know," said Josh. "And before that, you were being wrong. I mean, very wrong. Epically wrong."

"About what exactly?"

"I didn't laugh." He studied the back of Sam's hand. "It meant the same," he added softly.

Sam exhaled audibly. His fingers tightened around Josh's knee.

"Twenty-seven pages?" Josh asked. "Not front and back."

Sam gave him an obvious look. "No."

He nodded. "Right," he said evenly, "'cause that'd be crazy." Getting to his feet, he cocked his head towards the bedroom. "I've got the thing at eight, so I'm gonna..."

"Okay," Sam said.

You coming?"

"I was just -- "

"I'm not leaving you out here to do rewrites. Come on."

Josh was almost ready to hold out his hand like a girl when Sam finally stood up. It was lucky, he thought, because a guy standing naked in the middle of the night in February didn't need any further indignities.

"They were good pages," said Sam, once they were back in bed and the sheets had started to warm up again.

"Yeah." Josh paused. "A thing that long, there had to be some dirty parts, right?"

"Well, obviously. I'm worried they're coming off a little flat, though, so I was going to have Toby punch them up for me later."

Sam prodded Josh's feet with toes that were still cold, and Josh hit him with a pillow and decided he was glad he'd been the first to give this thing a name.


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