Breach of Trust: Chapter One


Leo sat at the dining table in the Residence, trying very hard to concentrate on the contents of his newspaper and not on the massive argument that was taking place between the President and the First Lady somewhere down the hallway. It wasn’t possible to make out much of what his old friend and his wife were arguing about but occasionally he heard the word “jackass” thrown around with some vehemence in Abbey’s distinctive, throaty voice. Jed’s voice was a little too deep in timbre for Leo to make out any of the insults he was hurling at his wife but somehow Leo suspected he wasn’t holding back either – he had never known either of the Bartlets to hold back during a full blown domestic fight like this one. Leo was a much more controlled personality and preferred his disagreements to take place by more covert means, making his emotions felt with an exasperated sigh, an angry shake of his head, and a stream of firm, steady, well-argued words. He admired the Bartlets their full throttled approach to each other though. It wasn’t his way, but he empathized with Abbey because he knew from experience that backing down before Jed was always a mistake. Jed liked being called on what he was saying – he liked to engage in sometimes heated debates, and, as president, he was acutely aware of the danger of surrounding himself with yes-men. Nobody, Leo thought wryly to himself as he tried in vain to concentrate on his newspaper, could ever accuse Leo McGarry of being Jed Bartlet’s yes-man. Even so, Leo’s relationship with Jed was much less volatile than the one he had with Abbey; Leo knew how to read Jed, how to defuse the tension when he was spoiling for a fight, and how to deflate him when he needed calming down. Abbey knew how to read Jed too, just as expertly, as only a wife of 30 odd years standing could, but she was as high strung as her husband so she often chose to come out with all guns blazing during arguments than to try and defuse them. They had a highly combustible marriage but Leo had no doubt whatsoever that it was also one of a deep, abiding love and affection. No husband and wife would argue this intensely, this regularly, if the making up wasn’t good fun afterwards.


The argument came to an end amid much slamming of doors. Leo winced, unsure what to expect when his lunch date finally arrived. He put his paper aside, stood up, and took a deep breath, waiting to face his fate. A few seconds later the dining room door flew open and Abbey Bartlet swept into the room. Her face was flushed, her brown eyes sparkling, and her hair a little mussed. She slammed the door hard behind her, put her hands on her hips, glared at Leo and said, in what Leo was thankful was a stage whisper and not a loud yell:


“Leo, if you don’t spank him again soon I swear he’ll be the death of us all.”


Leo gave a little smile, and stepped forward to take her arm and deliver a calming kiss to her cheek. He steered her smoothly towards her chair and she sat down with a deep, heartfelt sigh.


“The jackass! I could…ARGH!” She let out a scream of pure exasperation and Leo smiled at her sympathetically.


“The chef brought your salad about ten minutes ago,” he told her, pointing at the plate on the table as he took his own seat. “It looks good. Why don’t you have something to eat?”


She gazed at him suspiciously. “Are you trying to distract me, Leo?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.


“Would I do that, Abbey?” He replied smoothly, with a raised eyebrow of his own. She looked at him for a moment, and then burst out laughing. He gave a little chuckle and poured them both a glass of mineral water.


“You treat me like a cat,” she chided, taking a sip from her glass. “Like my fur got mussed and you have to stroke it back in the right direction.”


“I like cats.” Leo grinned at her. She grinned back.


“Don’t you want to know what we were arguing about?” She asked, placing her napkin on her lap.


“Not unless it’s something I should know about,” Leo replied. “I’d never interfere in your marriage, Abbey. You know that. Neither you nor he would be able to trust me if I did that and with the…somewhat delicate arrangement we currently have, trust is pretty crucial, I think. Don’t you?”


Abbey sighed, and nodded. “You’re right, Leo. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to drag you into anything or make you take my side, but this wasn’t just a little fight. He’s been impossible for days – you must have noticed.”


Leo considered this for a moment and then gave a nod of his own. “He’s definitely been a little jittery,” he agreed.


“A little!” Abbey threw her hands up in the air.


“Okay – a lot,” Leo conceded.


“I’ve tried everything to find out if there’s something bothering him but he’s as close-mouthed as a clam.” Abbey shook her head. “A spanking usually helps loosen his tongue and relax him,” she said, fixing Leo with a meaningful gaze. “And then we can all get some peace!”


“Uh-uh.” Leo shook his head. “It doesn’t work that way, Abbey and you know it. I agree that he often experiences some kind of release of tension after being spanked but I can’t spank him as a punishment, just because he’s annoying us. Hell, if I did that, I’d have to start spanking half the staff and then my right arm would seriously ache.” He grinned at her and she sighed and managed a small smile in return.


“Oh, Leo, I didn’t mean to suggest…” she began, and then she reached out and put a hand on his arm. “I know you would *never* abuse that trust he has in you, and I know you only spank him because he needs it and not because he’s the most infuriating man on the planet – which incidentally he is. I’m just saying that I think he needs it right now.”


“Maybe.” Leo shrugged. “You’re probably right – but it isn’t fair to assume that just because he’s in a bad mood he needs to be spanked. We’re all entitled to some grouchy days. I’ve had a few myself and I can categorically state that spanking would most definitely *not* have improved my mood in those circumstances!”


“Leo…” Abbey shook her head. “We’re talking about Jed, not you. Not you, not me, not Toby or CJ or anyone else…we don’t want or need it, but he does. It’s just one of those things about him.”


“I know.” Leo nodded. “He certainly seems to be pushing people to their limits at the moment, looking for some kind of reaction. He’s bitten the head off just about every staffer in the building this week and I got a double dose myself yesterday.”


“If he’s yelling at you then you know it has to be serious,” Abbey said quietly. “He never yells at you, Leo.”


“Oh he didn’t yell at me,” Leo took a sip of his water and pressed his napkin to his lips. “He knows not to do that. He just kept pushing away at me – I think he wanted some kind of argument.”


“Is there a reason why he’s behaving this way? Some kind of stress in the job?” Abbey asked. “I mean, a stress other than the kind of stress that he thrives on!” She gave a little smile, which Leo returned. Jed Bartlet loved being president and he was excellent at it. Being president energized him rather than draining him, and he had never failed to live up to the demands of the job. There were occasions when some aspects of his work got him down but Leo couldn’t think of any that might have been upsetting the president at the moment so he shook his head.


“What about the state visit to Britain next month?” Abbey asked. “Is he nervous about that?”


“Hell no! He’s looking forward to it,” Leo replied. “He keeps talking about all his fond memories of living there when he was teaching at the London School of Economics. He’d go tomorrow if he could.”


“Well then, I don’t know why he’s behaving this way,” Abbey sighed. “Thank god you’re around, Leo because it’s at times like this that I despair. I really do.”


Leo gazed at her thoughtfully. He was enormously fond of Abbey and viewed her as his greatest ally in dealing with their mercurial president. Her words weren’t lost on him either. It had been Abbey’s idea that Jed ask Leo to punish him the first time, a couple of years previously, after Jed had admitted to Leo that he had multiple sclerosis and had kept it a secret from his best friend. Leo had been upset by the deception and Jed had brooded on his guilt for several days. He had talked his unhappiness through with Abbey, had spoken of how he felt a need to atone in a physical way for the pain he’d caused his friend, and it was she who had suggested that he do just that, if it would help. Leo had been surprised when Jed had asked him to whip him with his belt, and had only agreed because he could see how desperately Jed needed the absolution that he seemed to feel only a physical punishment could give him. Their current relationship had grown out of that. Maybe it had been inevitable that the relationship would turn sexual, but while Jed had assured him that his wife had given them her blessing, Leo had still been concerned about how Abbey felt about it.


They had met to talk the matter over, and thus started a tradition of weekly lunches where they could both freely discuss how they felt – with no topic barred. That honesty was crucial and had helped forge a bond of genuine affection between them. Leo had been surprised by some of what she had told him over that first lunch. Jed was a high maintenance man – and while Abbey had been more than able to handle him before his presidency, the great weight of such high office had placed an additional strain on them both. Abbey was a busy woman with many other demands on her time, and while she put her husband first, she felt torn. She was grateful to Leo for being there and being able to do something for Jed that she knew she never could.


Now, a couple of years down the line, they were both very comfortable with the roles they played in Jed’s life, and he seemed equally comfortable with them. True, he didn’t actually *like* being spanked, but on some level it seemed to work for him, leaving him much more relaxed and at peace with himself after, so Leo didn’t question it. If Jed needed this, then he’d happily give it to him. He had to admit that he didn’t find the role of disciplinarian too onerous; if Jed one day came to him and said he didn’t need spanking ever again Leo knew he’d be fine with that, but he’d become something of an expert top over the past couple of years and had blossomed into the role as he had come to fully understand his lover’s complex psyche, and he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t come to enjoy the role in many ways.


“Thank god tomorrow is Friday,” Abbey said, finishing her salad with a sigh. “Do you think you’ll be able to take care of it, Leo?”


“I don’t know. I’ll do my best.” Leo smiled at her. “If there is something troubling him then I’m sure I’ll get to the, uh, bottom of it tomorrow, if you’ll excuse the unforgivable pun.”


Abbey gave a throaty laugh and gazed at him affectionately. “I have every faith in you, Leo. Something has to be troubling him – he’s not normally this grouchy without good reason. And if it’s just general accumulation of stress then I’ve never known an occasion when one of your spankings didn’t cure him of that.”


Leo smiled at her, the weight of responsibility he bore for the President settling more heavily around his shoulders. Abbey was right though – Leo was very adept at relieving Jed’s many stresses. He knew that his friend sometimes didn’t like the methods he employed in order to do so, but even Jed couldn’t deny that it worked.


Even so, Leo didn’t want to fall into the trap of thinking their Friday night activities might cure Jed of anything that might be troubling him. He preferred their Friday night sessions to be recreational as much as possible, so he decided to give his friend every opportunity to confide his problems first and get them out of the way before the following evening. That way they could just concentrate on enjoying themselves during their precious night together.


Leo returned to the West Wing immediately after his lunch with Abbey, and, after receiving a nod from Charlie that the President was alone, he entered the Oval Office. Jed was sitting at his desk, his handkerchief in his hand, but he stowed that away in his pocket the moment Leo entered, in an almost surreptitious way. He looked flustered and a little red faced but Leo didn’t have a chance to comment on that as Jed launched immediately onto the offensive.


“How was lunch with Lady Macbeth?” He asked, grabbing a folder off his desk and throwing it into his briefcase with considerably more force than was required.


“Lunch with Abbey was very nice, thank you,” Leo replied smoothly.


“What did you talk about? Oh, wait, let me try and guess,” Jed said facetiously, gazing skywards. “Could it have been *me* I wonder?”


“No, we discussed the ratification of that treaty with Pakistan and then we moved onto a debate about the wording of that congressional bill you want to veto and we finished up with a discussion about the contents of the State of the Union speech… yes we talked about you – that’s partly the point after all,” Leo finished, rolling his eyes.


“Ah – so you admit it!” Jed said triumphantly.


“I do. Totally and unreservedly,” Leo replied calmly.


“Hah!” Jed looked as if some of the wind had been taken out of his sails. “What did you say?” He frowned.


“Uh-uh.” Leo shook his head. “Drop it, sir. Abbey won’t ever trust me again if I go blurting everything out to you straight after we’ve had lunch together.”


“I don’t like it, Leo.” Jed shook his head.


“You don’t mind it. You’d hate it even more if we got together for lunch every week and *didn’t* talk about you,” Leo grinned. Even Jed had to concede that point and he gave a reluctant laugh and shook his head.


“I guess. Well, whatever.” He waved his hand around negligently and glanced back at the file on his desk. “Is there anything I can help you with, Leo?” He asked, as Leo continued to stand there, watching him.


“No – I was wondering if there was anything I could help you with, Mr. President,” Leo said softly. Jed’s head jerked up, and he looked a little startled.


“Such as?” He asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.


“You know, if there’s anything you wanted to discuss, anything that’s been on your mind – it doesn’t have to wait until tomorrow night, sir,” Leo told him, in a gentle tone of voice. “We can talk whenever you want.”


“Yeah.” Jed shrugged, glancing back at the papers on his desk as if they held some special fascination for him, and it looked to Leo as if he was deliberately avoiding meeting his gaze. “There isn’t anything, Leo,” he said dismissively, not even bothering to look up.


“Okay.” Leo stood there for a moment, wondering if Jed would change his mind, but the president’s gaze remained fixed firmly on the papers he was reading, so, after a few seconds, Leo gave in and returned to his office, shutting the interconnecting door quietly behind him. He sat down at his desk with a sigh; something didn’t feel right. Usually Jed became bad tempered when very stressed, and he sometimes became subdued when he was wrestling with a particularly difficult personal issue, but his current jittery mood was out of character and it rang all kinds of warning signals with Leo. Something was certainly wrong, and whatever it was, Leo would undoubtedly get it out of Jed during their Friday night session – so why was Jed being so secretive today?


Jed was fidgety and jittery all through the following day. He was preoccupied, made frequent trips to the bathroom, and seemed to be having trouble concentrating during any of his meetings to the point where Leo wanted to tie him to the chair to stop him getting up and pacing around distractedly. Jed’s mood seemed to worsen as the day continued, until finally Leo decided that enough was enough, and people were beginning to wonder what the hell was going on with the president. He brought Jed’s schedule to a close early, and directed the senior staffers to leave the room. Jed looked at him questioningly.


“Something wrong, Leo?” He asked, with a look of such innocence on his face that Leo would quite happily have spanked him there and then.


“You tell me,” he replied, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’ve been like a cat on a hot tin roof all day and we’re not getting anything achieved when you’re in this kind of mood. Were you even listening to anything Toby just said?”


“Toby says a lot.” Jed shrugged, and began humming annoyingly as he sat down at his desk.


Leo glanced at his watch and then back at his infuriating lover who, still humming to himself, was going through his desk drawers apparently looking for something, and studiously ignoring Leo in the process.


“Okay. That’s it,” Leo said tersely. “I think it’s time you went to the Blue Bedroom.”


“What?” Jed’s head snapped up in surprise.


“You heard. Go and get yourself ready. I have a couple of phone calls to make but I’ll be along in a few minutes.”


“Now?” Jed looked surprised but Leo didn’t miss the expression of relieved anticipation in his eyes either. “It’s only 6pm!” Jed exclaimed, glancing at his watch and then back at Leo as if for confirmation that his best friend, chief of staff, lover and top was really giving him leave to play hooky like this. “It’s a bit early isn’t…?”


“Sir.” Leo stopped Jed dead in his tracks with just the tone of his voice. “I think this is for the best, don’t you? It’ll give us longer to…” He trailed off meaningfully and gave Jed an encouraging smile. He could see his friend thinking through the ramifications of the change of time. Jed hated being spanked and anything that brought forward the timing of that spanking wasn’t welcome to him. On the other hand, he knew that spanking was a prelude to love-making and talking and he did so enjoy the feeling he had after being spanked, and the quality time he got to spend with Leo.


“Well, if you put it like that…” Jed gave a heartfelt smile, his desire to spend more time with his lover clearly winning through over his dislike of the inevitable spanking, and Leo felt a flood of warmth course through his entire body. He enjoyed releasing the relaxed, eager to please personality that Jed Bartlet kept imprisoned behind all that presidential authority and he knew Jed was looking forward to an evening during which he wouldn’t have to be responsible for anything. Even if the price of that sense of freedom was a spanking, it was a price Jed was willing, if not exactly eager, to pay. “Don’t be too long, Leo,” Jed instructed as he left the room. “I’m not in a very patient mood today.”


“In case we hadn’t noticed,” Leo murmured under his breath in the direction of Jed’s disappearing back. He returned to his office and became engrossed in a call that turned out much longer than he had expected. He still had one more call to make before he could leave the office but an idea occurred to him. He closed all the doors in his office to get some privacy, and then put through a call to the phone in the Blue Bedroom and waited a couple of seconds before a startled Jed answered it.


“Hello?” Jed said uncertainly, clearly wondering who on earth was calling the extension.


“Hey,” Leo purred softly. “I’ve been held up but I won’t be much longer. I’d like you to undress and then lie on the bed face down waiting for me. Put a pillow underneath you – I want your ass raised and ready for me.”


There was silence for a moment, and then Jed gave a little chuckle. “Well…that sounds like a dumbass kind of thing to do,” he said.


“It isn’t a request, Josiah,” Leo said firmly. “Think of it more by way of an order, to get you in the right place mentally for where you need to be tonight.”


There was another silence and then Jed gave a little sigh. “Okay – but you’d better not be long, Leo, or I’ll feel stupid. Hell, I’ll *look* stupid too,” he grumbled.


“I’m the only one who’ll be seeing you and I’m used to you looking stupid,” Leo replied cheerfully. Jed gave another snort.


“You shouldn’t talk to your president like that,” he said. “It destroys my presidential mystique.”


“Remind me about that presidential mystique thing again when you’re lying butt naked in front of me with your ass in the air,” Leo shot back. He heard Jed give another little chuckle.


“Okay, okay. *Sir*,” Jed said pointedly. He put the phone down and Leo sat there for a moment, considering his lover’s response. It always took a lot of persuasion on Leo’s part to get Jed to give up his innate presidential authority and just get back to being himself again, so he wasn’t exactly surprised by the way the conversation had just gone. If he was lucky, Jed would be lying naked on the bed when he got to the Blue Bedroom, but he suspected that it was far more likely that he’d find a fully dressed Jed lounging around in the armchair instead – and Jed would have thought up a very good reason for not following Leo’s orders but Leo would know that the only reason for his sub’s disobedience was his need to make sure that Leo would set firm boundaries and stand equally firm in defending them. It was like a dance, and they went through it more often than not. Leo was used to it and actually rather enjoyed it – he had a whole store of meaningless little orders that he liked to give his lover – not because he particularly cared if they were obeyed or not, but because it helped Jed to have something to push against until he got to where he wanted to be in his head. Arguing with Leo was one of his favourite pastimes, and he got a curious sense of pleasure from gradually surrendering to Leo both verbally, physically, and, finally, emotionally. Leo had become familiar with the process, although he still occasionally found it incredibly humbling that this man, who he admired and adored above all others, should choose to offer up the very core of his being so intimately and completely to him.


Leo finished his phone calls and then glanced at his watch again – 6.40. He smiled to himself as he thought about the pleasures of the evening ahead, and got up, shouldered himself into his jacket and told his surprised secretary that he was leaving.


“What…to get something?” Margaret looked at him, her big, bambi eyes confused.


“No. I’m leaving. For the day,” Leo clarified.


“You’re leaving for the day?” Margaret glanced at her watch. “Now?”


“Oh for heaven’s sake, let’s not do this, Margaret,” Leo growled. “I’m leaving early. It’s not cause for alarm, or some kind of inquisition.”


“Oh. Okay.” Margaret sat bolt upright at her desk, still looking confused.


“I have a meeting with the president at the Residence. Does that make you feel better?” Leo said with a sigh. Margaret relaxed and smiled.


“Yes, Leo,” she said, clearly finding comfort in the fact that Leo wasn’t just sloping off early; Margaret liked order and certainty and for people to behave pretty much the same every day, without variation.


Leo walked the short distance from the West Wing to the Residence with a distinct spring in his step. He didn’t care whether a naked or fully clothed Jed was waiting for him when he got to the Blue Bedroom – he was looking forward to getting his hands on his lover and playing his body like a finely tuned musical instrument until Jed all but sang under his expert touch. Leo was very confident that it wouldn’t be long before Jed was naked, whatever state of dress he was in when Leo arrived.


Leo reached the door of the Blue Bedroom and frowned – there were no security agents outside which was unusual…in fact, it could only mean one thing…Leo opened the door with an angry flourish of his hand – to find it completely empty. He gazed around blankly, trying to figure out what the hell was happening. He had expected Jed to disobey his order – but not to the extent of not actually being here when Leo arrived. Leo felt genuinely angry and stomped over to the bed, which showed some signs that Jed had at least sat on it. He noticed Jed’s cuff links abandoned on the nightstand and his tie was slung untidily over the back of the armchair but there was no sign of the man himself. Leo considered the matter for a moment – it looked as if Jed had at least started to do as he had been told but for some reason had changed his mind. Maybe he’d been called away…but Leo couldn’t think of any matter of national importance that would have called Jed from this room that his chief of staff wouldn’t have known about at the same time – and Leo had been very clear on the fact that once Jed entered the Blue Bedroom on a Friday evening, *only* a matter of national importance should interrupt his recreation. Jed needed some time when he wouldn’t be disturbed and he knew how Leo felt on that subject. In fact, Leo was fairly sure that Jed was relieved that his lover took such a firm stance on the matter.


So – where the hell had Jed gone? Leo glanced furiously around the room, looking for more clues.


“Damn…when I get my hands on him…” He muttered to himself, and then stopped short, and laughed at himself. Jed was playing a game with him, and he was reacting as if his authority had genuinely been challenged by his lover’s behaviour. It hadn’t of course. This was all part of the dance, and if Jed was being this antsy then it meant that his lover was trying to tell him something. It was down to Leo to figure out *what* exactly – and he doubted if Jed even knew himself, but this extremely flagrant act of disobedience had clearly been designed to signal something to Leo – as clearly as if Jed had just gotten out a big red flag and waved it around.


Leo sat down on the bed and gave the matter some thought for a few minutes. Jed might not be here, but it was virtually impossible to lose the president so it wouldn’t take long to track him down – in fact Leo doubted that he was far away. He enjoyed their Friday night sessions far too much to want to delay the start of this one by too long. The question was how to deal with this when he had found his errant lover? Doing something this obvious seemed calculated to achieve only one thing: to heartily piss off Leo. Jed had deliberately set out to provoke Leo into some kind of reaction – the question was, why, and what kind of reaction was he hoping for?


Leo pushed that question to the back of his mind and concentrated instead on retrieving the missing president. It took him only 3 seconds to figure out that there was only one place Jed would go in the circumstances; Leo took his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed Josh’s extension.


“Leo? Is that you?” Josh whispered a split second later, as if he had been sitting by the phone waiting for the call. “Please say it’s you,” Josh added in a heartfelt tone.


“It’s me,” Leo said dryly. “Can I take it that the president is in your office then?”


“Yes.” Josh sounded utterly miserable. “He’s giving me a lecture about the many different kinds of shrub you can find at Yosemite National Park. I think he’s trying to bore me to death, Leo.”


“I heard that, Josh.” Jed’s voice sounded in the background. “Is that Leo? What does he want?” Leo rolled his eyes in exasperation at Jed’s innocent tone. His friend knew exactly what he wanted.


“Uh, you I think,” Josh replied. Leo lay back on the bed and listened to his subs having a muffled conversation – he guessed that Josh was trying to cover the receiver with his hand but was too agitated to do it properly, with the result that Leo could hear every word being spoken. “I told you this was a bad idea, sir,” Josh hissed. “I told you that he’d be mad. You should get back there – as quickly as possible. Before something terrible happens,” he added in a doom-laden tone.


“Don’t be ridiculous, Josh. It’s only Leo. I’m not in any mortal danger,” Jed replied airily. Leo heard Josh give an audible gulp.


“If you don’t mind me saying so, sir, you really might be,” Josh replied.


“Nonsense. Here, hand me the phone.”


Leo sat up again.


“Leo, it’s me,” Jed began. “Josh is over-dramatizing. There’s no need to…”


“Get your ass up here. Now. You have two minutes,” Leo ground out from between gritted teeth, and then he threw the phone onto the nightstand with a satisfying clunk.


Jed might have been displaying a great deal of bravado in front of Josh but it didn’t escape Leo’s notice that he returned to the Blue Bedroom precisely one minute and 57 seconds later, and he was slightly out of breath so he’d obviously taken the stairs two at a time and presidential dignity be damned. Jed stood in the doorway, his expression a curious mixture of insouciance combined with apprehension – there was no way he didn’t know that he was in Very Big Trouble indeed.


“Inside.” Leo held the door wide open and ushered his disobedient sub into the room, closing the door firmly behind them. Jed stood in the centre of the room, still fidgeting, as he had been all day.


“You’re angry. I can tell,” he said with a charming grin. Leo didn’t reply. He went, instead, to sit in the armchair, from which vantage point he studied his sub with a stern glower. Jed started to wilt, visibly, and his fidgeting went up a notch. Leo glared at him – Jed usually fidgeted at the beginning of their sessions, but not to this extent, and he’d been restless all day. What the hell was going on with him?


“I had no idea how long you were going to be!” Jed exclaimed, clearly unable to bear Leo’s scrutiny any longer. “There was no point in me just hanging around waiting for you so I thought I’d…”


“Stop it, Josiah,” Leo told him firmly. Jed’s eyes were sparkling a little too brightly and he looked flushed – what was *that* about, Leo wondered? He seemed almost out of control, as if he was being eaten up by some kind of internal energy that was making him act out like this. “I don’t want to hear any explanations. I gave you an order and I expected to see it obeyed.”


“I’m just trying to…” Jed began. Leo fixed him with his most severe glare and Jed dried up, the words fading into the air between them.


“You wanted to make me angry,” Leo said, getting up. Jed’s eyes flashed, and Leo noticed again how unnaturally bright they looked. Jed had very deep blue eyes, but now they looked almost aquamarine in hue.


“No. I…” Jed began.


“You wanted to make me angry and you succeeded,” Leo said. “Stand still, Josiah,” he ordered as Jed continued to fidget, his feet seemingly unable to stay in the same position for longer than a second.


“I can’t,” Jed replied sulkily.


“Then I’ll be happy to tie you.” Leo saw another flash in Jed’s eyes and thought maybe he was starting to understand: he did, very rarely, tie Jed but he was always uncomfortable doing so. He knew that Jed found it easier – it was much harder being asked to remain in position without restraints than it was to have your hands and possibly your legs tied so that you had no choice but to accept the spanking that was being delivered. However, Leo had his own reasons for not being entirely comfortable with using bondage on his friend: what they did in this room was entirely consensual and, when it got really intense as it often did, Leo comforted himself with the knowledge that if Jed didn’t like what was happening to him all he had to do was stand up, get dressed, and walk out of the room. The fact that he didn’t gave Leo the confidence to stand as firm as Jed liked him to stand, and to be as implacable as his friend needed him to be. If he took away Jed’s chance to walk out of the room by tying him Leo spent the entire session second guessing himself, worrying if he was doing the right thing or whether he was going too far. However, it looked tonight as if Jed was trying to push him into doing just that, and if being tied was what his friend needed, Leo was happy to oblige.


He put a hand on Jed’s back and the president jumped and moved away from him as if had been stung. Leo frowned – Jed often flinched during the build up to a spanking but on this occasion it was as if he didn’t want to be touched. Leo tried again with the same result and wondered whether to pursue the matter or let it pass. He decided on the latter course of action – Jed hadn’t been particularly forthcoming at any point over the past few days so there was no reason to expect him to start opening up now – Leo doubted his friend would tell him anything without it being spanked out of him at this point.


“Clothes off, Josiah – and quickly. I’m running out of patience,” Leo told him. That wasn’t exactly true – where Jed was concerned, Leo had vast reservoirs of patience, but Jed was pushing him like this for a reason, and he required a particular response from Leo. He might not know it, for Leo doubted that Jed was acting consciously about this, but he did.


Jed removed his clothes without saying another word. He kept casting anxious little glances in Leo’s direction, which Leo ignored. He busied himself instead by removing his own tie and belt and taking custody of Jed’s tie and belt. He laid them on the bed and then reached into his pocket and took out the key to the heavy trunk that sat at the foot of the bed. He opened the trunk and looked around among the many disciplinary implements lying within for the heavy black paddle. He rarely used this particular paddle, saving it for times when Jed needed a heavy-duty spanking, but today seemed to fit the bill in that respect. Leo placed the paddle on the bed beside the ties and belts and then shut the trunk once more. Jed finished removing his clothes and glanced over at the bed. His expression faltered when he set eyes on the paddle.


“That’s the nasty paddle, Leo,” he commented.


“Yes it is.” Leo nodded. “And anytime you want to start calling me ‘sir’, just go right ahead. You might find it’ll make me go easier on you – but I’m not making any promises right now.”


“It’s the paddle you said you’d only use in the most dire circumstances, Leo,” Jed pointed out, ignoring him.


“Yes it is. I think your behaviour this evening falls into that category, don’t you?” Leo said conversationally, slapping the paddle against his palm and pacing across the room.


“Not really, no. There was clearly no point in me hanging around in here if you were going to be awhile – I’m the president and my time is important for god’s sake, Leo! And I remembered there was something I wanted to talk to Josh about and…ow!” Jed jumped as Leo swung the paddle sharply against his ass as he passed by.


“The only pressing thing you had to talk to Josh about was the many different varieties of shrub to be found at Yosemite National Park,” Leo commented. “It’s lucky I called when I did – the poor boy was clearly wilting under the onslaught.”


“Leo!” Jed’s protested. Leo rarely made fun of Jed’s love of trivia. He viewed the president’s love of all things nerdy rather fondly, and could sit through entire lectures on subjects that nobody had any business being interested in if Jed was the one doing the talking. However, Leo was of the opinion that Jed had not won any such indulgences by his behaviour this evening, and he intended to make that very clear.


“Bend over the armchair please, Josiah, and let’s get started,” Leo said briskly. He tried to put his hand on Jed’s shoulder again, but his lover moved out of reach once more so Leo gave up. He placed the paddle on the seat of the chair, and then returned to the bed to retrieve the belts. He gazed at them in distaste for a moment and then turned back to his sub.


“Will you be able to stand still if I don’t tie you?” Leo asked, gazing at his friend intently. Jed made a face, and effectively answered the question by hopping from one foot to the other. Leo sighed. “Bend over, Josiah,” he said, pointing. Jed gazed at him for a long moment. “Unless you were considering another act of outright disobedience?” Leo asked. Jed looked as if he seriously was considering just that, and Leo sighed, audibly. “Josiah – I want you to cast your mind back over our Friday night sessions for the past couple of years. How many times did you argue with me about being spanked?”


Jed thought about it for a moment, his fingers scratching absently on the upholstered cover of the armchair, his feet still unable to be still. “I don’t know,” he said at last.


“I’d say, on average, nine times out of ten – wouldn’t you?” Leo suggested. Jed thought about this for a moment and then nodded. “And on how many of those occasions when you argued did you manage to talk me out of actually spanking you?” Leo asked.


Jed shuffled his feet again and glanced around the room as if looking for a means of escape. “I don’t know,” he said again, with a disinterested shrug.


“None,” Leo told him firmly. “You like numbers, Josiah. How probable would you say it is, in percentage terms, that you’ll get a spanking this evening?”


Much to his annoyance, Jed began humming loudly and ostentatiously. Leo sighed inwardly – his sub was really making him work hard this evening. “How likely, Josiah?” He pressed.


“I have no idea but I’m sure you’re going to tell me,” Jed replied with a nonchalant shrug.


“It’s 100% likely, Josiah. There is absolutely zero chance of you not being spanked this evening so you can either bend over now or you can keep arguing with me until I get really mad and spank you harder than I would have done otherwise. It’s entirely up to you.” Leo crossed his arms over his chest and surveyed his lover coolly, as if he had absolutely no interest in the outcome of Jed’s deliberations. Jed’s eyes darted from Leo to his feet and then back to Leo again as if to gauge just how angry Leo was with him, and then, with exaggeratedly slow movements, he capitulated and bent himself over the back of the armchair – but not before Leo saw the look of relief in his eyes. What was *that* about? Jed usually looked relieved after a spanking but not before one. Leo was feeling increasingly confused by his lover’s behaviour. Something wasn’t quite right – he just couldn’t put his finger on *what*.


Leo spent a minute or so fastening his lover’s wrists to the arms of the chair with the belts. This chair was ideal for spanking purposes, having a nicely padded back, and two wooden arms around which a belt could easily be fastened to keep Jed’s wrists in position. Jed didn’t say a word, but Leo noticed that he was breathing heavily. He put his hand on the small of Jed’s back to calm his lover but Jed jumped again, and Leo removed his hand – clearly Jed was in no mood to be fondled right now, but again, this set off alarm bells in Leo’s head. Jed often liked to be gentled during one of their sessions. He might argue about being spanked, but he enjoyed Leo’s little touches and kisses in the prelude to the main event – and even during it. Why was he drawing away now? And why was he still so restless? Even tied as he was, Jed still seemed unable to keep his feet still.


“I can tie your ankles,” Leo warned, pointing at the two ties on the bed. Jed shrugged, as if it really had nothing to do with him and Leo considered the matter for a moment. He didn’t want to tie Jed any more than he was already tied. He did occasionally strap Jed right down so that he couldn’t move at all, but usually there were good reasons for that and it was something they had both agreed was necessary. With Jed in his current mood, Leo didn’t think he’d get anything very coherent from his lover on that subject so he decided against tying him down any more than this.


Leo picked up the paddle, took a step back, and swung the implement lightly against Jed’s buttocks. His friend jumped again, but seemed calmer now the spanking had actually started. His feet still moved around a bit, but the more Leo warmed him up with the paddle, the less restless he became. Leo was glad that the spanking was at least starting to have the desired effect, and he swung the paddle a little harder – he still wasn’t anywhere near delivering the long, hard spanking he thought Jed needed, but he intended to take his time over this warm up, and ensure that Jed was thoroughly prepared and in the right place mentally for the arduous spanking ahead of him.


As he worked, he suddenly became aware that Jed was breathing in hard gasps – harder than was necessary for the relatively light level of the taps that Leo was delivering. Jed’s feet might have stopped their restless movements, but now his friend’s body was swaying ever so slightly, as if Jed was having trouble staying upright. Leo stopped, startled, and then took a step sideways and gazed at his friend’s face. Jed’s eyes were closed and he looked as if he was gritting his teeth. His knuckles were white where he was holding onto the arms of the chair, as if he was clinging on for dear life. He was, quite clearly, sick.


“Jed?” Leo threw the paddle down, as that sudden realization hit him. He unbuckled his friend’s wrists from the chair, cursing as he worked at the hard leather to release Jed as quickly as he could.


“Leo?” Jed’s eyes flew open in surprise. “What’s going on?” He asked, looking confused, as if someone had woken him from a deep slumber.


“You tell me,” Leo said grimly, still working frantically on the belts. He managed to release them, and then caught the president as he swayed into his arms. Jed tried to cover the stumble, struggling to stand upright, but all he managed to do was sway more heavily against Leo’s body and Leo guessed that days of rigid self-control were finally taking their toll. Leo felt a wave of some huge, indescribable emotion sweep through him as he felt how hot Jed’s torso was against his own body – now he understood why his friend had been so eager to keep Leo from touching him too much. He managed to swing Jed onto the bed, and his friend lay there, looking up at him, those blue eyes of his still unnaturally bright – only now Leo could see that their brightness was caused by fever.


Leo went to the bathroom and brought back a full glass of water, which he pressed to Jed’s lips. His friend drank, greedily, and then lay back on the bed with a sigh.


“You’re ill,” Leo said, sitting on the bed beside him. Jed made a face.


“Not really ill…just a little tired,” he said.


“Its bad enough you lied to me in the first place – don’t compound it by continuing to lie,” Leo snapped. “God, Jed, of all the stupid things to do! Why the hell didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell Abbey? When I think of what…” He clenched his fists, trying *not* to think about how he had, a few moments ago, been preparing to give his friend a severe spanking. His lover’s expression changed and Josiah disappeared to be replaced by Jed – not even the president, just Jed.


“You hardly ever call me Jed so I guess I really must be in trouble now,” he muttered tiredly. “Makes me far more scared when you do that than when you’re being all ‘Mr. McGarry, sir’.”


“Good,” Leo growled, reaching out to lay a hand on the president’s forehead, which was starting to shine with sweat. “Oh damn it, Jed, you’re burning up here. Why the hell did you think you were well enough to go through this tonight? Why did you push me so hard when you knew…oh shit.” He grabbed Jed’s face in his hands and looked into his friend’s shining blue eyes. “You were trying to distract me, weren’t you? You thought if you made me angry enough that I wouldn’t notice? That was why you went down to see Josh – you thought I’d be so mad I wouldn’t look too closely at you, wouldn’t see what you wanted to keep hidden. Oh my god.” He gazed at Jed, willing it not to be the truth but he could tell by the way his friend’s gaze faltered and he dropped his eyes that he had pretty much hit the bulls-eye. “Why?” Leo whispered despairingly. Jed reached out a hand, and clung onto Leo’s wrist, as if he feared that Leo was so angry he might leave.


“I didn’t want to miss out on tonight. I thought it would help. I haven’t had an MS episode since we started having these Friday night sessions, Leo.” Jed moved his hand to caress the side of Leo’s face, desperately trying to defuse Leo’s anger. “They’ve helped keep me healthy – you know that. I feel like I’m glowing afterwards, feel so relaxed. I thought if I could just keep going long enough the week would be over and then I’d have some time alone with you and I’d feel better… no matter how lousy I was feeling, I’d feel better. I always feel better after being with you, Leo…not just the…” Jed gestured at the armchair, and the paddle beside it, “but this, us…having some time away from it all…”


“Jed, you have multiple sclerosis – what we do on a Friday night doesn’t change that and it doesn’t cure it,” Leo said roughly. “If it did, I’d damn well take out a patent on the treatment and make a fortune from it.”


“You already made a fortune,” Jed pointed out feebly. “You’re the wealthiest man I know.”


“You must take me for the stupidest man you know too,” Leo snapped back, drawing away from Jed’s insistent caress. Jed’s hand dropped down to his side like a stone and he gazed at Leo in mute dismay. “How long have you been feeling ill, Jed? The truth this time,” Leo asked.


“Since Monday.” Jed shrugged. “I thought maybe it would go away…”


“But it didn’t. It got worse, didn’t it? That’s why you’ve been in such a bad mood. That’s why you’ve been so restless as well, isn’t it? It must have been hard concentrating when you felt so ill. You must have wanted to crawl into bed but if you did that you’d have to admit that you aren’t superman, that the country can do without you for a few days, that you have any goddamn weaknesses at all!” Leo didn’t raise his voice, but he left Jed in no doubt whatsoever about his feelings on the matter. His friend made a face, and exhaled a deep sigh.


“Leo, I can’t *be* ill. Every time I have so much as a headache I can see way the staff look at me: maybe his MS is kicking in for real now, they’re thinking. Maybe he’s going to collapse again, right in front of us. The man is a liability – and not just that, it reminds them that I deceived them, and it reminds me that until the election I don’t have the nation’s approval to be here, being their president *and* having multiple sclerosis. Last time they voted me in they didn’t know I was ill. Next time they will, so until after the next election, until after they’ve voted me back in knowing about the MS, I can’t be ill. I just can’t,” he said, as if he could fend off his illness by force of personality alone, and Leo was in no doubt that if that were humanly possible, Jed would have the strength of character and determination to achieve just that.


“So you think you can avoid being ill by refusing to admit it?” Leo asked, exasperated. “Why don’t you run *that* medical theory by Abbey and I’m sure she’ll give you her expert opinion on it.”


“Don’t bring Abbey into it. I had to more or less avoid getting into bed with her for this past week so she wouldn’t guess,” Jed grumbled. “That woman has eyes like a hawk.”


“She was worried about you! She knew something was wrong but she didn’t know what,” Leo remonstrated. “We were all worried, Jed. I gave you the chance to talk about this yesterday – why couldn’t you have told me?”


Jed gave another sigh and shook his head. “I wanted tonight, Leo,” he whispered. “I knew it wouldn’t happen if you found out I was ill.”


“Ah.” Leo sat down on the bed beside his friend with a sigh. He remembered them having a similar conversation before, a few years previously, after Leo had first found out about his friend having MS. Jed had been unable to meet his eye then, and he had stumblingly admitted, with disarming honesty, that he had wanted to be president and wasn’t sure that Leo would have helped him get there if he knew the truth about his health. Now Jed was looking similarly abject, but Leo felt a wave of fury rise inside him all the same.


“Jed – let me tell you something. I wasn’t angry about the thing with Josh earlier. I don’t seriously ever get angry with you about anything we do in this room. You might think I do but I don’t.”


Jed’s eyes were cloudy with confusion. “You seem pretty pissed off at times,” he said, falteringly.


“I’m not. I’m enjoying myself – the same way you enjoy yourself. Sometimes you drive me insane with all your arguments, but most of the time it amuses me. But now – now I’m angry. Not angry in the kind of way that means I’ll spank your ass, but really angry. Incandescently furious. I could have hurt you – seriously hurt you this evening. You’re ill, and you’re in no condition to be tied up and whaled on. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel, Jed?” Leo swallowed down the lump in his throat – Jed’s eyes were brighter than ever, fever mixing with his heightened emotion to make them shine. “I feel like some kind of monster – I feel like a bully, and I’m scared to think what might have happened if I hadn’t noticed how ill you are.”


“Oh hell, Leo…I guess I wasn’t thinking of it from your point of view,” Jed sighed.


“What we do here is about trust, Jed,” Leo said softly. “You trust me not to go too far, not to really hurt you beyond what you need, and I trust you to be honest with me as much as you can, to tell me anything that I need to know – anything that affects the way I treat you in this room. If I can’t rely on you to be honest then I don’t know where we go from here. I really don’t.”


“Leo, please…” Jed looked as if Leo had just kicked him in the gut. “What are you saying? Are you saying that we can’t do Friday nights any more? Is that what you’re saying? Please, Leo, you can’t be serious about that. You can’t.”


“I don’t have an answer to that question just yet,” Leo sighed. Then he noticed that Jed was shaking and could have kicked himself for having this conversation right now when Jed was clearly in no shape to be talking at all – about anything. He got up and peeled back the bed covers, then wrapped Jed in them and held his friend. Jed’s teeth had started to chatter and his skin felt clammy. Leo held him against his own body, trying to warm him up, and finally his lover stopped shaking.


“I guess I beat those odds after all,” Jed muttered.


“Hmm?” Leo frowned.


“Those odds you quoted me about getting out of this room without taking a licking. Guess I beat ’em.” Jed might have been trying to make a joke but he didn’t look too happy about it all the same.


“Guess you did,” Leo murmured. “You always do like to win, Jed.”


“Not this time. Not like this,” Jed sighed. His eyes were more hazy and distant now, and Leo guessed that having finally let his defences down and given in to his illness, the disease was striking back with a vengeance.


“Don’t think about it now – just think about getting better,” Leo said, bestowing several kisses on his friend’s head. Leo was alarmed by how quickly Jed’s condition had deteriorated and he reached for his cell phone, which was lying on the nightstand by the bed where he had thrown it earlier. Jed grabbed his hand.


“Don’t go,” he whispered, gazing at Leo glassily, as if he was having trouble focusing on him.


“I’m not going anywhere,” Leo said, stroking Jed’s hair gently with his free hand, his heart aching at the thought that Jed really imagined there was the slightest possibility that he would walk out on him when he was in this condition. “I’m just calling Abbey,” he said soothingly. He knew Abbey went out on Friday evenings, often staying over with friends until Saturday afternoon. Leo put through an urgent call to her via her secretary and Abbey called him back a few minutes later. He briefly described what had happened, and she told him she was leaving straight away and would be home as soon as she could.


Leo wrapped Jed up in blankets and walked him slowly down the hallway back to his own bedroom, where he put him to bed. Jed gazed at him wearily. He was as limp as a rag doll, and Leo didn’t like the look of his fever. He knew extremes of temperature could make Jed’s condition worse, and it certainly looked as if he was in the grip of a serious MS episode.


“How are you feeling?” Leo asked, bringing Jed another glass of water and then sitting down beside him on the bed and gathering his friend in his arms, holding him quietly. Jed seemed less restless when Leo held him and his legs stopped churning around quite as frantically under the sheets.


“Okay. Just so damn tired. As if someone sucked all the energy out of me and it hurts – everything aches. Damn but I hate feeling this way.” Jed railed against his condition and Leo couldn’t help feeling for him. Of all the people to be struck down by this disease, why did Jed have to be one of them? He relied so much on his vibrant energy, both mental and physical – Leo had known Jed for most of his adult life and he couldn’t recall a time when his friend had succumbed to so much as a cold. All his life Jed had treated illness with contempt – and now this disease was doing the same thing to him.


“It’s okay,” Leo said softly. “Abbey will be here soon and she’ll be able to give you some kind of medication. It’ll be okay.” He nuzzled Jed’s hair with his lips, privately wondering if it *would* be okay – whether anything would ever be okay again. Jed’s breathing slowed when Leo caressed him and he seemed calmer, so Leo spent the next couple of hours stroking his lover’s arms and kissing his head, talking to him soothingly although he wasn’t sure about what – anything to distract Jed from the pain and exhaustion that were claiming him.


Abbey swept in a couple of hours later. She took one look at Jed and rushed over to him, shaking her head the entire time.


“I can’t believe you’ve been hiding this, jackass,” she scolded him.


“Yeah…Leo already gave me the whole lecture thing,” Jed groused as she got out her medical bag and stuck a thermometer in his mouth.


“Good. Don’t think for a moment that means I won’t too,” Abbey said. Leo smiled to himself and levered himself away from Jed, plumping up some pillows behind his friend to give him something to lean back on.


“I’ll leave you in Abbey’s capable hands,” he said to Jed, gazing at his lover over Abbey’s shoulder. Jed nodded at him, but there was an anxious look in his eyes. He knew that all wasn’t well between them, and even if now wasn’t the time to deal with it, Jed was clearly worrying about it all the same. “You’ll be fine,” Leo murmured. “I need to get back to the office. You’re going to be out of action for a few days and there are arrangements to be made.” He caught the look Abbey gave him as he walked towards the door, but ignored it. He just needed to get away, to have some time to himself, to come to terms with what had happened here this evening.


Leo escaped back into the West Wing and worked for several hours, making 2 brief phone calls to Abbey to check on Jed’s progress. She reported that the president was fine and she’d managed to get him settled and, if not feeling better, then at least comfortable, which Leo was relieved about. He’d hated seeing Jed looking so sick – he knew the realities of his friend’s illness, had read everything he could about it to the point of being word perfect on it, but still the reality of it hit him like a cold knife being thrust into his gut. Leo finished up all the work on his desk, and finally, when he couldn’t avoid it because there really wasn’t anything more he could do in the office, he went back to his hotel.


The hotel bar was still open, and it looked warm, inviting, and beckoning. It looked like exactly the place Leo wanted to be right now. Leo hesitated, struggling with himself. He had worked long and hard to fight his alcoholism, but right now he was sick of fighting – he wanted to give in. Leo found himself walking into the bar and buying a bottle of whisky to take up to his room; he always made it a rule never to get drunk in front of people – he always got drunk alone. Always had, back in the days when it was a nightly occurrence. How many years had he been on the wagon now? He didn’t want to count them because he didn’t want to think that he might be betraying himself, and Jed, and everyone else who had stood by him during those dark times.


“Jed betrayed you though,” a demonic little voice whispered in his ear. “Why should you worry about betraying him? He betrayed you. For years he didn’t tell you he had MS, and he deceived you again tonight.”


Leo reached the safety of his room and let himself in with trembling fingers. He threw the bottle of whisky onto the bed, went into the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and allowed the cold water to wash over his hands. He splashed the water on his face, and looked at himself in the mirror but all he could see was Jed, tied to that damn chair. Leo went cold at the thought of what could have happened tonight and how much worse it could have been. If he hadn’t noticed…if he hadn’t seen the condition Jed was in…the condition Jed was hiding from him. Jed was good at hiding things. He’d hidden his MS for 7 years – from Leo, from the nation, from the entire world, and nobody had known. Yes, Jed was good at hiding – tonight hadn’t been Leo’s fault…and yet…and yet…he couldn’t help blaming himself all the same. Maybe he wasn’t as good at this as he had thought. He had always taken their Friday night sessions in his stride, always found it so easy to read Jed, to know what his friend needed, and tonight he’d got it badly wrong in a way that could have had serious repercussions.


Leo felt as if his confidence was shot to pieces but he knew one thing that would make it better. One thing that would stop him from having to think about it… Leo took a deep breath and returned to the bedroom. His hands were still shaking when he picked up the bottle of whisky and slowly undid the lid. The heavy weight of a bottle in his hands and the scent of the amber fluid within brought back all kinds of memories. It felt so good. It would help… He found a glass and was just about to pour himself a measure of the whisky when there was a knock at the door. Leo considered ignoring it, but somehow he had the feeling that whoever came knocking at the door in the middle of the night wasn’t the kind of person who would turn around and go quietly away when nobody answered. Slowly, reluctantly, he put the bottle and glass down on the table, and walked over to the door.


“Leo?” He found himself looking into Abbey’s concerned brown eyes the moment he opened the door.


“What are you doing here? You should be with him,” Leo growled tersely, letting her in anyway.


“I was worried about you. I saw the expression on your face when you left earlier and you sounded so formal and distant on the phone when you called,” Abbey told him, following him into the room. “Jed’s asleep anyway – I gave him a shot and I left him with Charlie. He shouldn’t wake for several hours – he won’t even know I’ve been gone.”


“He needs you,” Leo snapped, wanting her to leave so he could drink himself into oblivion.


“He needs you too,” she said softly. “Leo? What happened? What…oh!” Leo turned and realized that she had seen the bottle on the table. “Leo,” she said again, reaching out to touch his shoulder. “Please – don’t drink. Promise me you won’t drink. Not about this. Please.”


“I don’t know that I can make that promise,” Leo told her grimly.




“I love him, Abbey and I could have hurt him tonight – I mean, seriously hurt him.”


“You couldn’t have known. It isn’t your fault. He didn’t tell me either! He didn’t tell anyone. You know what he’s like – he hates to admit he even has this disease, let alone actually be ill.”


“You don’t understand.” Leo shook his head. “He didn’t just hide it – he went out of his way to distract me so I wouldn’t notice. If I hadn’t seen – right at the last minute…” He shook his head, shuddering again. “I can’t trust him any more, Abbey, and it’s all about trust. What we do on Friday night – what he trusts me to do…I have to be able to trust him too, Abbey. It works both ways.”


“Then you need to tell him that,” she said firmly. “When he gets better. You need to tell him, Leo – and make him hear.”


“He never likes being wrong.” Leo shook his head.


“No,” Abbey agreed, putting an arm around his shoulders and rubbing gently. “But he always accepts he’s wrong if you tell him. Always. He’s needed to impress you all his life, Leo and that’s never going to change. I can tell him he’s wrong and we’ll have a huge fight about it. You tell him and he listens. He always does.”


“I’m not sure I can do this any more,” Leo said, sitting down in the armchair, and gazing up at her in despair. Her eyes flashed in alarm.


“Leo, please…he needs you. I need you.” She gave a tearful little shake of her head. “We both need you. You know I’ve never been jealous of your place in his life. I know he loves you – he always has. I know he loves me too and I know that you and I both want what’s best for him. Don’t make any decisions tonight, Leo. Give it time – give him time to apologise, to make things right again. He’s devastated that he let you down – I could see it in his eyes. Please…”


“I don’t know.” Leo shook his head. “I’m not sure what *can* make this right, Abbey.”


“Leo – you’ve always been there for him. I don’t believe – not for a second – that this has changed that. You’re hurt and you’re angry and that’s fine. You have every right to be, but you and I both know you won’t give up on him.”


Leo considered that for a moment, and then gave a little laugh and shook his head wryly. “Yeah,” he muttered.


“There’s no universe I can even imagine where Leo McGarry isn’t Jed Bartlet’s closest friend and advisor, where he isn’t always there, at Jed’s side, where Jed isn’t leaning on him, needing him – in so many different ways.” She smiled at him, clearly relieved that she seemed to be getting through.


“I’m not bailing on him, Abbey,” Leo sighed. “It’s just that when we began this arrangement I never expected to feel like this. Maybe I was naïve – yeah, it was highly unconventional,” He shot her another wry grin, “but it worked – and not just for him. I like the way it makes me feel when he surrenders everything to me. I never knew I’d like it so much but I do. I guess the way I’m feeling right now is the downside of it. I’ll figure it out. I just need some time and space.”


“Okay.” Abbey bent and kissed his head. “Take whatever time and space you need.” She straightened and walked towards the door. “You won’t drink will you, Leo?” She asked.


“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I hope not.”


“Want me to take the bottle?” She asked. He thought about it, and then shook his head.


“No. I need to figure this one out for myself. I’ll see you, Abbey.”


She shot him one last, worried glance, and the nodded, as if realizing this was down to him and him alone. “Okay. Get some sleep, Leo. You’re a good friend – to us both.” And then she was gone.


Leo sat and gazed at the bottle for a long time. What was it he’d said once, when Margaret had been worrying that news of his divorce coming through would prompt him to fall off the wagon? “I’m an alcoholic. I don’t need an excuse to drink,” he’d said – and wasn’t he just using Jed as an excuse right now to do something he wanted to do every single day of his life? He was an alcoholic – he might not have touched a drop of alcohol in years but that didn’t change the fact that he was an alcoholic. Yes, he’d had a bad day, but using Jed to justify drinking again was just cowardly, and he wasn’t going to let himself or anyone else down by doing it.


Leo grabbed the bottle and opened it, then strode into the bathroom and emptied the contents down the sink. He could smell the whisky, and wanted it so badly it was all he could do to allow the amber liquid to trickle away from him, but then the bottle was empty, and he felt a little spark of satisfaction deep inside. He returned to the bedroom, feeling as empty as the bottle, and lay on the bed with a sigh. He thought of Jed, wanting what Leo gave him on Friday nights so badly that he would lie and dissemble in order that they could have those precious few hours alone together, wrapped up in each other’s arms. It wasn’t just about the spanking – it was hardly even about that, Leo thought sometimes. It was about Jed finding a retreat, away from the pressures of being president, for just a few hours a week. It was about Jed connecting back to himself and finding a way to relax, and it was about Leo being happy to help him do just that. Yes, Jed had been wrong, but not because he’d deliberately set out to hurt Leo – he’d only wanted Leo’s company and undivided attention so much that he’d do just about anything to get it. Leo could empathise with that – Friday nights were the highlight of his week too. No, Leo understood why Jed had behaved the way had; the question was – where did they go from here? Leo wasn’t sure he knew the best way to handle something of this magnitude. There had been a very real breach of trust between them, and he had to make Jed see that – but how? And how did they make it right again? Leo didn’t have any answers to that question, and at some point he fell into a deep, troubled sleep.


The first thing Leo did the following morning was get an update on the president’s physical condition. A tired Abbey told him that Jed was doing fine – he was still sick, and would be for a few days, but she had every hope that this episode of his illness would follow the same pattern as previous attacks, leaving him fatigued but essentially fine.


“He keeps asking for you, Leo,” she told him. “As soon as he woke up. I didn’t have to tell him anything – he knows he screwed up with you last night – big time – and he’s desperate to make amends for that. Will you be visiting?” She couldn’t keep the hopeful note out of her voice and Leo struggled for a moment with their expectations of him and his own need for some space in which to work this out in his head.


“Abbey – I have 101 things to deal with this morning with him being out of action – not least a meeting with the senior staff to discuss how we handle the press briefing. It’s not…” He took a deep breath and continued. “It’s not that I don’t care about him – I just haven’t figured this out yet and I need to have figured it out before I see him.”


“I understand. I’ll tell him that,” she said wearily.


Leo wasn’t entirely sure how he got through the morning, let alone the next few days. His head was pounding and he found it hard to keep his temper with the senior staff who went round and round on the issue of how to treat the president’s relapse and what they should say to the press until he thought he would yell at them. It wasn’t helped by the fact that he still had no idea how to deal with Jed on a personal level. He knew his friend had to be hurting because of Leo’s refusal to visit him, but Leo shied away from that. He just didn’t know what to say to Jed right now, and he didn’t want to end up saying the wrong thing so he preferred to stay silent. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have enough to do in Jed’s absence anyway, so it was easier to let the time slip by and stay in the office than to take that short walk up to the Residence that he was dreading.


Leo still hadn’t come to a decision by Monday morning – and when they needed Jed’s signature on some official documents, it was Josh he sent up to the Residence with them. Josh returned half an hour later, with a concerned look in his eyes. He handed Leo the signed documents and Leo dismissed him with a curt “thank you”. When Leo looked up a couple of minutes later, he found Josh still standing there, his dark eyes radiating his unease.


“You’re still here,” Leo commented unnecessarily.


“Yeah. I…Leo…have you been to see him?”


Leo glanced down at the documents he was sifting through, ignoring Josh’s comment.


“Leo…” Josh began.


“No I haven’t. What do you want from me?” Leo growled, still not taking his eyes off the documents.


“He doesn’t look so good,” Josh said softly.


“Well he wouldn’t. He’s got MS and he just had an episode a few nights ago.”


“Not that – sure, he looks ill, but that’s not what I meant when I said he wasn’t looking good. You know the way he gets when something’s eating him up inside and he doesn’t know what to do about it? He looks like that. Leo – what’s going on?”


“It’s none of your business,” Leo told him sharply. “You know I won’t discuss what happens privately between me and the president…”


“So something *did* happen?” Josh questioned. Leo sighed and leaned back in his chair, removing his glasses wearily.


“Josh, drop it,” he said.


“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out at least some of it,” Josh murmured. “I know you were seeing him on Friday evening and I know that’s when he was taken ill.”


“Josh!” Leo growled warningly. Josh flinched, but continued all the same.


“Leo – you have to go and see him. I’ve never seen him looking like this before. Usually he’s so confident and full of himself, but now he’s subdued and he has this absent look in his eyes. He looks kind of like a beaten puppy…”


Leo flinched and clenched his fists hard. Josh stopped and blinked, as realization sank in.


“Leo…you can’t be blaming yourself for this,” he said softly.


“I’m not. I’m blaming him,” Leo snapped back. “Josh, I told you to leave this.”


“I know. I ignored you.” Josh gave him a wry smile. “Leo, this isn’t like you. You normally manage everything – you just seem to know how to handle everything. You don’t…” He stopped short. Leo glanced up at him.


“Oh by all means continue,” he said with a weary wave of his hand. “I’m sure you want to.”


“You don’t usually avoid things,” Josh finished. “I’ve never known you avoid anything. It’s just not you. You always have a strategy or a solution. You’re always the one we rely on to have the answers or at least to nag us until we come up with them.” He gave another wry grin.


Leo sighed, and shook his head but Josh was hitting on all his raw nerves. Leo knew he needed to talk this through with someone and there really wasn’t anyone else he could discuss this with. “Josh, if you deceived me about something incredibly important – not something you’d done here, but something about the relationship we have on Friday nights – what would you expect me to do about it?” He asked, trying to keep the question as general as possible.


Josh gazed at him steadily for a moment, clearly understanding Leo’s current dilemma.


“Leo, you know what I’d expect,” he said.


“Spell it out for me,” Leo replied, glancing at his office doors to make sure they were shut and he was alone with his deputy.


“Leo – firstly, I’m way too scared of you on Friday nights to deceive you about anything, but if I did…and I’m having trouble even imagining that, then well…I don’t know what you’d actually do but I know what I’d be worried you’d do and I know what I’d hope you’d do.”


Leo frowned at his deputy, who seemed to have side-stepped the question. “Typical politician’s answer,” he muttered grumpily. “Elaborate please, Josh.”


“Well, I’d be worried you’d end it – worried that I’d pushed you too far and you wanted shot of me – but that might just be me. He’s nowhere near as neurotic as I am.” Josh gave a self-deprecating grin and Leo gave a wry shake of his head. No, Jed wasn’t anywhere near as neurotic as Josh, but that didn’t mean he was invulnerable – only Leo knew how much Jed sometimes took things to heart because Jed didn’t share that side of his personality with anyone but Leo and Abbey.


“And what would you hope I’d do?” He asked, not sure that he wanted to know the answer.


“Punish me,” Josh replied. “I mean, really punish me – so it counted and I knew I’d been forgiven. Not for fun – not for the thrill or the turn on, but for absolution.”


“You know, sometimes I have trouble understanding that concept,” Leo sighed. “How do you manage to compartmentalize punishment in that way? I’m not wired like you and him.”


“You understand it – you always seem to get it. You seem to know when we really need to be punished and when we just need to play at it. When it’s fun and when it’s for real. It’s almost like it’s an instinct with you. You’ve always understood it, Leo. You’ve always understood *us* – me as well as him and we’re wired differently to each other too. You know I find it a turn on and you also know that sometimes it’s more than that – sometimes I just want to be punished – it’s kind of like I’m being absolved or forgiven or something and then I feel much happier after.”


“Yes.” Leo considered that thoughtfully. Josh and Jed had very different needs and while it seemed almost illogical to Leo, the truth was that you could spank Josh as part of an erotic game and spank him as a punishment for a misdeed and those 2 spankings would feel very different to him, even if they were essentially the same in terms of force applied and number of strokes given. Part of that was the ritual surrounding it of course and how Leo conducted that ritual, and part of it was Josh’s own mental response. Jed was different though. He never found any eroticism in being spanked. He hated it and made no secret of that fact…and yet he had the same need for absolution and forgiveness that Josh had – and, when he had done absolutely nothing he needed to atone for at all, spanking somehow brought him back down and connected him with himself, making him able to relax and settle inside his own skin. Leo knew what Josh was saying to him, and shook his head. “I’m not sure I can do it,” he murmured.


“You have to,” Josh replied. “Leo, you have to. If you don’t he’ll never forgive himself. You don’t understand how good you are at this. You understand me in a way nobody ever has before – he does too, because he’s coming from a similar place, but you understand without being wired like us – you just seem to know what we need on an almost instinctive level. I’m really grateful for that and I’ll bet he is too. We’re lucky to have you… please don’t give up on him – on either of us.”


“You don’t understand,” Leo murmured in an anguished tone, finally letting the barriers down and revealing the source of his current dilemma, giving Josh a glimpse into the secrets of his soul – secrets that he usually kept very closely guarded. “Josh…I didn’t get it right on Friday. I got it wrong. I got it very wrong. Supposing that happens again? I’m not sure I can trust myself to do this properly.”


Josh swallowed hard and the muscles in his jaw tightened. He leaned forward and looked his boss directly in the eye. “Leo, I’m going to tell you what you’d say to me if I came at you with this: This is your responsibility and it isn’t one you can evade or drop because you’ve lost your nerve. There *is* nobody else. There’s just you, and you’ve always been strong enough to make the hard choices, to follow through on the decisions that nobody wants to take responsibility for, and to lead him where he needs to go, however hard he – and you – find it. That’s what you are, Leo. That’s *who* you are – and that’s who we need you to be.”


Leo gazed at Josh for a long time, trying to find any flaw in the young man’s argument – any weakness at all – but there was none. It was hard advice, but it was what he had needed to hear right now – and Josh was right; it was precisely what he would have said to himself if he wasn’t going through this crisis of confidence. The weight of his responsibility settled around his shoulders once more, but it felt comfortable and familiar. It anchored him in place and gave him the steadiness to push the uncertainties of the past few days aside.


“Okay.” He nodded firmly. “I think it’s time I paid the president a visit.” Josh smiled and walked towards the door. “Josh – thank you,” Leo said softly. “When all this is over you’ve earned yourself a big reward – of the non-punitive kind,” he added, with a smile. Josh smiled back so broadly that his dimples almost took over his entire face. Leo gave him a nod, and then got up and left his office to make the short walk up to the Residence.


Jed was sitting up in bed when Charlie showed Leo into the room. Leo didn’t miss the spark of total relief that flashed through Jed’s eyes when he saw him; relief combined with chagrin and regret.


“Leo – I’m glad you came,” Jed said brightly, but his expression gave away his anxiety. “Leo…” He waited until Leo sat down and then leaned towards him and touched Leo’s arm. “I’m very sorry,” he said with so much sincerity that Leo had to swallow hard to keep hold of his emotions. Jed wasn’t someone who found it easy to apologise, and he hated admitting he was wrong, so this was a big deal for him. Add to that the fact that he was president of the United States and didn’t technically have to apologise to anyone if he didn’t feel like it, and that made the apology even more touching.


“How are you feeling?” Leo asked gently, gazing at his friend, taking in every single line of pain etched on his face, and the chalky white colour of his skin.


“Much better now than I was.” Jed smiled at Leo meaningfully, and Leo couldn’t do anything but smile back, the inference of the words not lost on him.


“You look like crap,” Leo commented helpfully.


“Yeah. Abbey keeps saying that. Hell, even Charlie says that and I feel he should lie when he’s asked.”


“I’ll tell him. He clearly didn’t read that part of the job description,” Leo replied. Jed gave a delighted little laugh, and leaned back against his pillows, looking much more relaxed.


“Oh god I’ve missed you, Leo,” he said in a heartfelt tone. “Nobody else makes me laugh like you do.”


“Me too.” Leo smiled.


“Josh came up with some stuff for me to sign. I didn’t read it – my eyes hurt too much and I figured that if you’d okayed it then I was fine with it too.”


“Yeah.” Leo shrugged, and sat there, just gazing at his friend. It felt good to be sitting here talking with Jed again – it might only have been a couple of days, but their estrangement and the knowledge that they were on bad terms had been eating at him. It wasn’t good for either of them to have this kind of issue hanging over them, Leo decided, and he made a mental resolution to never let it happen again, whatever the circumstances. They’d disagreed on some fundamental work issues and still managed to keep their friendship intact despite some pretty heated arguments, and while this was profoundly different, Leo knew they weren’t in any serious trouble. Jed didn’t know that though – as Leo could tell by the look on his friend’s face. Josh was right – Jed had that look he always had when something was eating at him from the inside out.


“It’s okay,” Leo said suddenly.


“What?” Jed gazed at him, his expression puzzled.


“I just wanted you to know that it’s okay.” Leo smiled at him. “I needed some time to figure out how to deal with your lying ass, but now I’ve figured it out I thought I should tell you that it’s okay.”


“Ouch.” Jed made a face. “I’ll apologise again, Leo. I wasn’t thinking clearly or I’d never have…”


“Jed, I said it’s okay,” Leo told him softly. “You’ve already apologized and as for thinking clearly – well, you were thinking clearly enough to come up with that plan to distract me from noticing how ill you were, and you were very careful not to let me touch you in case I figured out you had a fever either, so I’d say you were thinking pretty clearly. However I’ll give you some brownie points for your illness clouding your judgment.”


“Okay.” Jed nodded, clearly happy with that, but the anxiety hadn’t gone from his eyes. “What happens now, Leo?” He asked.


“Now you concentrate on getting well again,” Leo told him. They were alone in the bedroom, and he leaned forward and gently caressed Jed’s hair, smoothing it back from his forehead. At least Jed didn’t have a fever any more, although his skin was still a little clammy to the touch. “You gave me quite a scare there, Jed,” Leo murmured softly.


“I gave myself one too. I didn’t realize how bad it was,” Jed shrugged. Then he looked up at Leo again, his eyes radiating guilt along with the anxiety now. “Leo – Abbey told me she went to visit you and…”


“I threw it down the sink,” Leo interrupted him. “You didn’t drive me back to drink, Jed. You may be the most powerful man in the world but you’re not *that* powerful.”


Jed grinned at him and gave a sigh of relief. “Thank god. I was lying here thinking that maybe you…” He trailed off and shrugged. “I’m just relieved. Leo, you side-stepped my question; what happens next – after I’m better I mean?”


Leo gazed at his friend steadily. “I’ll punish you,” he said, his hand still caressing Jed’s hair. He could feel Jed tremble slightly under his touch and stroked insistently, waiting for Jed’s response.


“I thought you would,” he murmured finally. “I deserve it.”


“Yes you do. Jed – I’m only going to say this once because I don’t want us *ever* to have this conversation again; you will be honest with me in future. I mean that. You can’t get away with lying to me. You can’t *ever* get away with that. If there’s something I should know then you tell me. I don’t care what it is, and I don’t care what the consequences might be – you tell me or you can bet that the consequences will be far worse than anything you can envisage. I’m not dicking around on this. What you did the other night was a breach of trust, Jed.”


Jed gazed at him with a puzzled expression. It was clear that while he understood how serious it was that he’d lied, he didn’t understand where Leo was going with the breach of trust thing.


“Jed – if I turned up drunk on a Friday night and didn’t tell you, how would you feel about that?” Leo asked.


“You wouldn’t do that, Leo,” Jed replied confidently.


“Supposing I had a bad day and took some pills to get through it?” Leo pressed. “How would you feel if I turned up and didn’t tell you that?”


“That’s different,” Jed protested.


“How?” Leo pressed.


“Because… you’re the one who gets to do all the in charge stuff, Leo,” Jed hissed, in a slightly agonized whisper. “If you showed up drunk or stoned it’d obviously be pretty serious.”


“Why? Because I could go too far and end up really hurting you? And if you deceive me about something vitally important, like your health for example, doesn’t the same thing hold true? I could hurt you because I don’t know you’re ill. I could unwittingly make things worse. How is that different, Jed?”


Jed thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “Okay, Leo. I see where you’re coming from on this now but if I got hurt then it’d be my own fault not yours – that’s how it’s different. My health is my own responsibility – not yours.”


“Not really.” Leo shook his head. “When we’re in a session one of the things that happens is that you give up responsibility to me – that’s part of what it’s about, and it’s what you need to happen so that you can relax and wind down. And I’m not just talking about responsibility for your job but for yourself – and that includes your health.”


Jed considered that for a long time, and then he sighed and ran a hand over his unshaven jaw.


“Okay, Leo. I’m on the same page now. I know I was beyond stupid – Abbey has been drumming that into me and even leaving you out of the equation I’m already in her bad books for not telling her about how I was feeling earlier so if the MS doesn’t get me, you and she between you will.” Jed gave a tired smile. “Seriously – it was a dumbass thing to do. I’d never risk losing what we have, Leo, however weird, freaky and downright unconventional it is.” Jed gave another smile. “Sometimes I think Lincoln would be turning in his grave if he knew what we do under this roof, and then I remember some of the former incumbents of this residence and their predilections and I figure I’m just following in a noble tradition.”


Leo laughed out loud at that, pulled Jed towards him, and deposited a kiss on his friend’s forehead. Jed came, willingly, and placed his hands on Leo’s shoulders, holding on tightly.


“I really did miss you,” he whispered. Leo held him for a few minutes, enjoying the sheer solidity of this man’s body pressed against his own, and then, finally, he released him, and pushed him back against the pillows. Jed gazed at him, a trusting, if slightly wary expression in his eyes.


“So…when you said you were going to punish me…” he began nervously.


“It’ll be bad,” Leo told him. Jed thought about this for a moment and then nodded.


“Yeah. It has to be,” he sighed. “When?”


“Not until you’re better – and I mean entirely better and not just recuperating. I’ll speak to Abbey before I do anything but this will be long and arduous so you have to be up to it physically.” Mentally, Leo was in no doubt that it would be what Jed needed, but he didn’t want to take any chances with his friend’s health.


“Do you have something particular in mind?” Jed asked, peeping out at Leo from under his eyelashes in a way he only did when he knew he was in very big trouble indeed.


“Yes I do – but I don’t want you worrying about it. I want you to get better. We’ll deal with the other thing together, the way we always do, and you’ll get through it. It won’t be anything more than you can handle, but it won’t be less than you deserve.”


“I wish that was a comforting thought,” Jed sighed. “Will you tell me what you have planned?”


Leo thought about that for a moment, and then decided that it would do Jed no good at all to fret about the unknown – he’d be better off knowing what to expect.


“I’ll see you every morning for a week in the Blue Bedroom. I’ll come up to the Residence before work as I usually do anyway, and we’ll spend half an hour or so working our way through all the implements we’ve acquired over the past couple of years – one a day. At the end of the week you’ll take a morning punishment on Friday and then we’ll meet again in the evening as usual. You’ll take one last punishment and then, hopefully, we’ll be back to normal.” Leo smiled. Jed looked less thrilled but he swallowed down hard and nodded.


“Sounds exactly like you said it would be,” he murmured. “Long and arduous.”


“Do you have any complaints?” Leo asked dangerously.


“No,” Jed said hastily. “Leo this is in your hands – you run this particular show as you’ve made very clear to me on many occasions. I’ll do whatever you think is necessary.”


“One more thing, Jed,” Leo said softly. “You come to these sessions prepared for punishment. I don’t want to hear any complaining or stalling tactics.” He gave a wry smile – he normally enjoyed Jed’s perpetual dance of avoidance but he felt it necessary to mark this out as something different. “This will be punishment, plain and simple. It won’t be like a normal session – this will be different.”


Jed looked at him with a wide-eyed expression but Leo had the impression that his lover was comforted by what he’d been told, even if he was both apprehensive and scared too. Leo had no doubt whatsoever that Jed would take his punishment with the minimum of fuss – it would be a matter of pride for him.


“I understand,” Jed said quietly. “I won’t let you down, Leo. I’m sorry I did before.”


“You didn’t let me down – you screwed up but I don’t think you’ve ever let me down,” Leo said, getting up and gazing down on his friend’s bowed head, loving him even more in this moment than he’d ever done. Leo reached out and put a finger under Jed’s chin, then tipped his friend’s face up towards him and bestowed a long, deep, loving kiss on Jed’s mouth. Jed opened up sweetly, willingly, as he always did, craving the physical contact and needing the reassurance of knowing that Leo had forgiven him.


“Now, I have a country to run while you’re lazing around in bed,” Leo teased cheerfully when he released his lover. “Get better soon.” He ran his hand through Jed’s hair affectionately.


“Yeah, because now I have a real incentive,” Jed replied, making a face. Leo laughed out loud and then turned and left the room, chuckling as he went.


Leo was sitting in his office when Abbey burst in a few hours later. She ran straight up to him, enveloped him in a hug, and bestowed a heartfelt kiss on his cheek.


“Thank you!” she said. “Thank you, Leo.”


“What did I do?” He took off his glasses and looked at her, a bemused expression on his face.


“He’s been sleeping – and he looks so much better. That’s some miracle cure you have there, Leo McGarry.”


“Yeah, one visit from me and people fall asleep.” Leo grinned at her. “Seriously – he’s looking better?”


“Yes – much more like himself; and he’s started arguing with me about what he can eat and when he can get out of bed so I know he must be feeling better too.” She grinned broadly. “I don’t know what you said but whatever it was it worked.”


“I promised him a long, hard punishment,” Leo told her with a shrug. “But if that made him feel better who am I to argue?”


“I doubt it was the prospect of that,” Abbey told him. “So much as relief –given that the only alternative to you punishing him would be you suspending that side of your friendship altogether, I’m guessing that he’d take the punishment any day. He loves you, Leo, you know that.”


“Yeah.” Leo nodded. He *did* know that but it was nice to hear it all the same. “Abbey, I need you to tell me when he’s better – and I mean really better. I won’t do a thing before then.”


“I will.” She nodded. “Thanks again, Leo.”


Jed’s recovery continued apace after that. He was back behind his desk within a week, although both Leo and Abbey kept a concerned eye on him to make sure he didn’t overdo things too early on. He leaned on Leo a lot during that first week back at work. He got tired easily, and sometimes his eyes hurt too much to read so Leo would sit with him late into the evening reading out the documents he needed to study. Leo enjoyed those evenings and he knew Jed did too. Jed would sit on the sofa in the Oval Office, his eyes closed, concentrating on Leo’s low, gravelly voice while Leo sat on a chair, reading slowly. They always kept their relationship strictly businesslike in the office but that didn’t stop Leo from occasionally getting up and bringing the president a cup of coffee or a glass of water, and brushing his lover’s shoulder gently with his hand as he did so. He knew they both liked the physical contact – and while their Friday night sessions were in abeyance they needed these little touches. Jed in particular thrived on physical demonstrations of affection, and after what had happened between them he needed Leo’s reassurance that everything was okay.


Leo left it another 2 weeks, needing to be absolutely sure that Jed was fully recovered. He usually had breakfast with the president before work in any case – Abbey wasn’t a morning person and Leo and Jed had long since fallen into a routine of meeting up to discuss the day’s schedule before walking to the office together. Jed had been nervous for the past two Mondays, waiting to see whether today would be the day that Leo began his punishment regime, and on each occasion he had given an almost audible sigh of relief when Leo finished his breakfast and then suggested they head to the office rather than take a trip to the Blue Bedroom. On this occasion though, Jed was quieter than usual – and he pushed his breakfast around his plate aimlessly.


“Is anything wrong, sir?” Leo asked softly, as he watched Jed gaze absently at his newspaper, clearly not taking in a single word he was reading.


“No – yes…Leo, is today the day?” Jed asked. Leo looked at him for a long moment and then nodded gravely.


“Yes it is,” he said quietly.


Jed took a deep breath but he looked relieved. “Thank god. I thought it’d never come and the waiting was driving me insane.” He exhaled a loud sigh and managed to shoot a little grin in Leo’s direction. “I’m ready, Leo. Any time you are,” he said.


“Okay.” Leo nodded. “Then let’s go.” He got up and they walked up to the Blue Bedroom together, side by side. Leo made conversation as they went but he could tell by Jed’s monosyllabic answers that his friend’s mind was on the event ahead. This was new territory for them – Leo had never performed a punishment that was so personal or so serious since the initial whipping that had started this side of their relationship, and he knew Jed was nervous – not because he feared being punished but because he was desperately worried that he might let Leo down. Leo didn’t have any such concerns; he knew that wouldn’t happen.


Leo closed the door of the Blue Bedroom behind them and took off his jacket. Jed stood in the centre of the room, looking calm if a little uncertain.


“You okay?” Leo put his hands on Jed’s shoulders and gazed into his friend’s deep blue eyes for a long moment. Jed nodded.


“I’m fine, sir,” he said softly. Leo smiled and drew away. He opened his briefcase and drew out four padded leather cuffs with attachments. Jed looked at them in surprise.


“I didn’t think we needed this kind of stuff,” Leo explained, “but then, when I had to untie you quickly when you were ill, I realized that there’s no particular virtue in just using ties and belts. I’d rather have something I can release with a flick of my fingers.” He handed one of the cuffs to Jed who fingered it thoughtfully.


“It’s lined with something really soft,” Jed said in surprise.


“Of course.” Leo nodded. “Nothing but the best for you.” He gave a little grin which Jed didn’t quite manage to return. “I’m giving you the option as to whether you wear them today and for the rest of the week. You already know that this will be a severe punishment and you might find it hard to stay in position; I can tie you if you want.” He didn’t add that he’d prefer not to. He was of the opinion that Jed should take his punishments in the spirit in which they were intended – so while it might be harder for him to hold position and take what was coming to him, Leo wanted Jed to undertake to do so of his own volition and not because he was tied. Jed seemed to understand that, because he gave a little shake of his head.


“It’s thoughtful of you sir, but no. I won’t need them today,” he said firmly.


Leo smiled inwardly – he knew that he had been right; Jed wouldn’t let him down.


“Where do you want me, sir?” Jed asked in that same quiet tone. “Over the chair?”


“No.” Leo had to stop himself from shuddering at the memory of Jed, tied to that chair, sweat beading his forehead as he swayed with fever. “Take off your pants and brace yourself against the wall.”


Leo turned away and went over to the trunk at the foot of the bed. He removed a flat leather strap and then turned back to find that Jed had not only neatly folded his pants and left them over the chair but he was also already in position. This was such a difference from the normal routine they went through that Leo had to take a moment to come to terms with it. He had told Jed that this was what he had expected of him, and he hadn’t for a moment thought his friend would challenge him on that, but even so, there was something so very beautiful about Jed’s unquestioning obedience and desire to make amends that he felt a little choked. He returned to Jed’s side and placed his hand on his friend’s back. It felt strange seeing Jed only half-undressed like this; usually he ordered him to undress completely before they began, but this was just going to be punishment – there wouldn’t be any recreation afterwards, more was the pity, Leo thought to himself, hoping that he’d be able to get through the week with as much dignity and acceptance as Jed was displaying right now. This was going to be tough on both of them and he was longing for Friday already.


“Okay. I’m going to warm you up and then we’ll get started,” Leo said, swinging the strap against Jed’s buttocks. Jed didn’t flinch – he remained in position as Leo began and didn’t break it when, after five minutes or so, Leo stepped up the pace to deliver a proper spanking. Leo didn’t go easy on his friend – he knew that Jed would know if he did that for a start, and he also felt that Jed deserved this as much as he needed it. He had to make sure that what had happened a few weeks previously never happened again; Jed meant far too much to Leo for him to allow his friend to take stupid risks with his health. Leo delivered a hard strapping and Jed’s backside was painted red by the time he had finished. The whole event felt strangely surreal to Leo – it was a completely different ritual to the ones they normally conducted in this room and at first he wasn’t sure what was so unnerving about it and then it suddenly occurred to him – Jed had remained completely silent. Usually Jed roared out his emotions during a spanking, but on this occasion he was quiet. Leo wasn’t sure whether this was a good sign or not – he hoped Jed wasn’t simply holding back, or, worse, that he was somehow associating this punishment with those that his father had meted out to him so regularly when he was a kid. Leo thought he had gone a long way to healing those memories over the past couple of years and he hoped he hadn’t misjudged the current situation.


“Okay. That’s day one over. You can break position.” Leo watched as Jed eased himself gingerly away from the wall. His friend’s face was set into a look of deep contemplation and that, also, was unusual.


“Thank you, sir,” Jed said in that same low, quiet tone. Leo couldn’t help himself – he knew that Jed had to be penitent, but he preferred his sub when he was rowdy and argumentative. Yes, Jed’s usual behaviour was inappropriate for the current circumstances but Leo desperately wanted to make sure that his lover was okay so he stepped forward, took Jed’s face in his hands, and kissed him lovingly on the mouth. Jed came as willingly as ever, but there was something passive and subdued about him all the same. Leo kissed him for all he was worth and then released him. Jed gazed at him through his eyelashes, almost shyly. “Thank you,” he said again. “But you’re being too kind to me, sir.” A moment later he gave a little yelp as Leo slapped his already sore ass hard with his hand.


“Who’s in charge here, Josiah?” Leo asked sternly.


“You, sir,” Jed replied with a trace of a smile.


“Then shut up and accept whatever I want to give out – whether it’s painful or pleasurable,” Leo told him.


“Yes, sir.”


“Josiah…” Leo hesitated but then decided to say it anyway as it had been bothering him. “You do know that you can yell and scream and holler all you like during your punishment don’t you?” He said. “That hasn’t changed. If you need to then just go right ahead.”


“Thank you, sir. I know,” Jed replied. “Can I get dressed now, sir?”


“Sure.” Leo nodded, wondering what was behind Jed’s silence. It had clearly been a choice he’d made, and Leo didn’t want to interfere with that, but he hoped it was working for Jed.


Jed pulled on his pants and then took a trip to the bathroom to splash water on his face and run a comb through his hair before returning, ready to face the day. Leo fell into step beside him and Jed reached out to open the door, holding it open for Leo. Once they left the Blue Bedroom, their ranks would be reversed, but right now Jed was making it clear who was in charge by giving Leo the deference he deserved. Leo smiled his thanks and walked through the door with his sub following on behind. The moment they stepped outside Jed returned, almost effortlessly, to full presidential mode and they walked to the office engrossed in conversation about the day ahead and the challenges it would bring. It was a strange shift, Leo thought to himself, but somehow they managed to pull it off without any difficulty at all.


Leo kept a more watchful eye than usual on Jed for the entire week. He noticed that Jed was quieter than normal in the office but he performed his duties with his usual flair and enthusiasm. He still remained silent during the morning punishments and he continued to refuse the cuffs, although Leo offered them every day. He knew that it had to be harder for Jed as each day passed and the punishments accumulated without a chance for the soreness to fade, but Jed never once complained or asked for leniency and Leo knew better than to show him any; Jed needed to know he had been well punished – it was essential to his psyche, and Leo was adept at giving Jed exactly what he needed. Towards the end of the week, Leo noticed that Jed conducted his meetings standing up whenever possible – and this afforded him some small moments of amusement during the day but Jed was never anything less than utterly dignified, despite the potentially humiliating circumstances, and Leo’s heart swelled with pride for him.


The manner in which Jed took his week of punishments went a long way to restoring Leo’s confidence both in himself and in the discipline side of their relationship. Jed was absolutely resolute in taking whatever Leo meted out to him but Leo was still concerned about his friend’s silence during punishment. By Friday morning, Leo was glad it was nearly over – he wasn’t sure what Jed thought of their morning ritual, but it was beginning to grate on him. He enjoyed the sensual post-spanking closeness he got from his relationship with Jed far more than the actual spanking per se, and he felt just as deprived of that as he was sure Jed did. Leo decided that this was his own punishment for not noticing Jed’s illness earlier – he was usually so adept at reading Jed’s moods and understanding his friend’s complex psyche and unspoken needs that he had ignored the alarm bells that had been going off in his mind about Jed’s behaviour that night. So, Leo delivered every single punishment that week with the same sense of stoicism that Jed showed. Going through this cold, hard, clinical exercise in chastisement seemed to be the only way for them both to achieve any sense of absolution.


Leo brought out the heavy black paddle on Friday morning, and turned back to find Jed watching him, a rueful expression in his eyes.


“I figured the only two implements you hadn’t used yet were that thing and the cane,” Jed sighed. “I wondered which one would get an outing this morning.”


“Just saving the worst ’til last,” Leo replied with a shrug. They both knew that Jed was scared of the cane and they both knew why as well. Leo hadn’t used it since that time in Manchester – he had decided to keep it for an occasion where he needed something particularly heavy duty that would have an effect not just physically but also mentally on his unruly but much beloved sub. The cane certainly fit that category and Leo had always known he’d need to make it the culmination of the week’s punishments.


Jed nodded, and turned to brace himself against the wall. Leo winced a little as he surveyed his lover’s ass – 4 days of morning spankings had taken their toll – but, while he had no wish to pile yet more discomfort on Jed, he knew that he had no choice but to do just that. He went through his usual warm up and then swung the paddle as hard as he usually did – Jed would know if he went easy on him and that would be disastrous for both of them. Jed needed forgiveness and it needed to be hard won or he would reject it – and ultimately end up beating himself up in a way that was self destructive and far more painful than any damage Leo could inflict with the paddle. The paddle was a hard implement though, and within a few minutes Leo could hear Jed’s breath coming in little panting gasps. He eased off the pace but not the force of the blows, and then something happened that took him by surprise; Jed began to make familiar little mewling sounds in the back of his throat. They were the sounds he usually made when he was being spanked, but sounds that had been noticeably absent all week. Leo continued what he was doing and a few seconds later the mewling turned into harsh, gasping bellows. Jed growled out his frustration and his pain – frustration with his illness, and the pain of the rift his actions had created with his lover and best friend. Leo understood his friend’s need to express himself in these deep, roaring shouts and he didn’t let up for a second: he wanted Jed to get all the catharsis he needed from this experience. He was so relieved to hear them though – usually Jed only got this vocal when he had reached a place in his head where he needed to be – it was almost like a process he needed to go through, to come to terms with his emotions and to accept that he’d atoned for any wrongs done. Now Leo understood why this moment had been all week in coming – he could never underestimate Jed’s need to be hard on himself, and he guessed that until this point, no matter how hard the week’s spankings had been, Jed hadn’t reached that place in his head where he felt he’d suffered enough to truly be forgiven.


Leo continued with the punishment while Jed yelled himself out. It seemed to go on for a very long time but then he figured that Jed needed it to after what had happened between them. Finally he brought the spanking to a close and took a step back. Jed still stood, braced against the wall, his dark hair soaked with sweat, his breathing coming in hard gasps. He looked like he’d gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, but Leo was adept at reading his friend’s body language and he saw also that Jed’s shoulders were more relaxed and less hunched than they’d been at any point in the past few weeks. There was a dreamy quality to Jed’s eyes, and, wherever he was in his mind, he had, finally, made peace with himself.


“Hey. We’re done.” Leo put a hand on his friend’s shoulder and Jed turned, his entire body shaking, and buried his face in Leo’s chest. Leo held him, rocking him gently for several minutes, his fingers tracing soothing patterns on Jed’s back. Then, finally, regretfully, he pushed his lover away. Now he wanted nothing more than to stay here and make love to his friend, to comfort and claim him as he always did after this kind of spanking, but it was already late and they had a schedule to stick to.


“We need to get to work; and you need to splash some water on your face,” he reminded Jed. The president nodded absently, still looking utterly lost in the moment, and he walked, a little unsteadily, towards the en suite bathroom. Leo packed the paddle back into the trunk and shouldered himself into his jacket, waiting for Jed to return. He wished they could fast forward through the next few hours so that they could return here once more, and pick up their relationship where they had left off a few weeks ago, but they both had work to do. Jed exited the bathroom a few minutes later looking refreshed, if still slightly out of it. Leo hoped the president would be able to perform his duties but Jed made a huge effort to visibly pull himself together and, when they left the room, he was back in presidential mode once more.


The day passed slowly, but Leo had plans for the evening and he decided to bring both his own and the president’s day to a close earlier than usual – they’d both earned that he thought. On the dot of 6pm, he knocked on the door of the Oval Office and stepped inside to find Jed finishing a phone call. He was standing up – Leo doubted the president had sat down the entire day – and he beckoned Leo into the room with a smile.


“You nearly done?” Leo asked when Jed put the phone down.


“Well, I was going to read through the Drummond report and then…” Jed trailed off and glanced at his Chief of Staff keenly. “It can wait. I’m done,” he said.


“Good – then why don’t we pick up where we left off a few weeks ago?” Leo suggested. Jed nodded, a little smile curving the corners of his mouth. “Go to the Blue Bedroom,” Leo said, “Get undressed, lie on the bed on a pillow and wait for me to come up and finish this off.”


“Okay.” Jed nodded, grabbing his jacket and shouldering himself into it.


“And, sir,” Leo stopped him as he put his hand on the door. “Make sure you stay put this time. If I get up there to find you gone then so help me god…” He trailed off meaningfully and Jed gave a little laugh.


“Oh trust me, Leo, that’s not gonna happen,” he replied. “My ass is sore enough thank you – I’m not going to go out of my way to make it even worse – or to make you mad at me all over again. I don’t think I could bear that.”


Leo gave a little grin. “Good. Then I’ll see you in a few minutes.”


Leo spent the next half an hour twiddling his thumbs. He didn’t really have anything he needed to do – it just felt important to him somehow that they revisited this particular scenario and got it right this time. He left his office exactly 30 minutes later after telling Margaret that he and the president were not to be disturbed unless it was a matter of national security, and made the short walk to the Blue Bedroom. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the guards outside the door – not that he had seriously expected Jed to have absconded but all the same, he was relieved anyway. He stepped inside the bedroom, closed the door behind him — and found Jed lying on the bed naked, as ordered, a pillow under his body so that his ass was raised in the air.


“Thank god,” Jed said as Leo stepped into the room. “I mean, I know we’ve made it clear nobody is to come in here but I couldn’t help worrying the entire time that someone would. This would be a really embarrassing position to be found in you know – sir,” he added hastily.


Leo chuckled. “It’s a shame you don’t like it because I find it very appealing,” he grinned, gazing at Jed’s naked, stretched out body like a hungry man contemplating a feast.


He crossed over to the trunk, opened it, and removed the cane, aware all the time of Jed’s wary eyes following his every movement. He knew Jed was scared of the cane at the best of times, and after a whole week of spankings now most definitely was *not* the best of times to contemplate a caning. However, Leo had already decided how this evening would proceed so he walked over to the bed, swinging the cane experimentally through the air as he did so, aware that Jed’s eyes were flashing with their usual uneasy reaction to the implement.


“You ready?” He asked, coming to a halt beside the bed and resting the cane on his friend’s backside.


“Yes, sir,” Jed said in a grim but determined tone. He held on tightly to the pillow he was hugging and closed his eyes. Leo let his gaze linger, just enjoying the view – it had been a few weeks since he had seen his lover in all his naked glory and he always enjoyed the sight; Jed had a broad back and a neatly sturdy and compact body. His skin was a deep golden tone and was stretched tautly over his convulsively clenching muscles. “Relax,” Leo said, tapping Jed’s ass lightly with the cane.


“That’s easy for you to say, sir,” Jed replied and Leo was relieved to see a hint of his mouthy sub, Josiah, returning.


“Just try – it’s an order,” Leo said, smiling to himself. Leo tapped his lover several more times, warming him up thoroughly, and then paused. “Okay, Josiah. Prepare yourself,” he warned, and then he brought down the cane hard on the president’s ass. Jed gave a little holler of sheer pain, but he was so engrossed in the proceedings that he didn’t even notice when Leo walked back to the trunk, threw the cane back inside, and closed it again. Realisation only began to sink in when Leo returned to the bed, sat down beside his lover and reached out a hand to stroke Jed’s hair affectionately.


“We’re done?” Jed looked up at him in surprise. “That’s it? Just one with the cane?”


“Yeah. We’re done,” Leo grinned. “We were pretty much done this morning I think. This evening was just about winding it up. Besides, you can’t seriously expect me to stand around looking at you lying here naked without wanting to move things on to something much more, uh, *recreational*.”


Jed’s look of surprise turned into a grin as Leo began stroking his skin softly. He gave a little moan as Leo’s fingers trailed seductively over his body but something was clearly bothering him and he reached out and took hold of Leo’s hand, stopping the caresses.


“Are you sure we’re done?” He asked. “Really sure, Leo? I can take more if you think I deserve it – if it’ll make things right betw…”


“Ssh.” Leo stopped Jed’s anxious babbling with a firm kiss on his lover’s lips. “We’re definitely done,” he said, burying his hands on Jed’s hair and then going back in for another kiss. Jed melted against him, as passive and compliant as he always was during their Friday night sessions. Somehow he’d managed to return to that place in his mind that he’d reached that morning, and it had only taken a little nudge – the ploy of keeping him waiting on edge for half an hour plus all the build up with the cane – to take him back mentally to where he had been after the morning’s punishment session. Now Leo felt a sense of total relief washing through him as he wrapped his arms around Jed and plundered his lover’s mouth thoroughly. This little blip in their relationship was well and truly behind them now – they’d both gone the extra mile in trying to repair it and Leo knew it was over and done with – and they could get back to their usual satisfying relationship.


For such an active, dynamic man, Jed was always amazingly submissive in the bedroom – he liked being stroked, soothed and made love to, and as all those things were pretty much Leo’s favourite pastimes he felt like the cat who’d got the cream right now. He kissed Jed several times and each time drowned in the sensation of Jed opening up underneath him, allowing him in to explore and claim him. Finally, regretfully, Leo pulled back, wanting to get even closer to his sub.


“Undress me, Josiah,” he ordered in a purring tone and Jed didn’t need telling twice. He positively leapt on Leo and removed his clothing in record time, and, when he was done, Leo slid down on the bed beside him, took Jed in his arms, and began the entirely pleasurable task of becoming reacquainted with the president’s body once more. He turned his lover this way and that, examining and exploring him. He nuzzled at the spot at the back of Jed’s head where his hair met the nape of his neck, inhaling that always intoxicating Jed scent that he enjoyed so much, then worked his way across the broad expanse of golden skin, kissing and nuzzling as he went. He licked gently at Jed’s reddened ass, mindful of the fact that it had to be sore after the week’s punishments and then turned his lover onto his back and held Jed’s arms above his head while he kissed him again. Jed was pliant in his arms, going wherever Leo placed him, accepting every single caress with an arched back or a mewl of pleasure. It was always a total joy making love to Jed – he always abandoned himself so completely when he was in the right mindset, and he enjoyed Leo’s attentions so much. Leo let his mouth trail over Jed’s body, lingering on his nipples and the side of his neck, sucking and nibbling, going slowly, languorously, taking his time. Tonight was their reward for the sheer unpleasantness of the past few weeks and they had started early, giving them plenty of time to rest and recover before starting in again. Leo intended to make Jed see how very much he loved him before the night was over.


He had another purpose in mind too – this was a way of reconnecting Jed with the pleasure his body could experience after the pain first of his illness and then of the week’s punishments. He wanted Jed to remember that he was entitled to this bone meltingly tender sex and the most exquisite sensations that Leo could visit on his eager, willing body. Now Leo was in his element, burning a trail of kisses all over Jed’s torso, his hands everywhere, stroking and kneading and tweaking until Jed began whimpering with need. Leo took the hint and prepared Jed slowly, taking his lover to the edge of ecstasy and back again before finally putting him out of his misery and entering him with one smooth thrust. Still Leo kept the pace deliberately slow – he didn’t want this moment of re-connection to be hurried or rushed – he wanted to savour it like the feast it was. He looked down into Jed’s eyes and smiled at his friend, who was gazing back at him with an expression almost of shock on his face, as if he had forgotten just how good this could be – or just how much he had stood to lose by his behaviour a few weeks previously.


“Let it go,” Leo whispered to him. “You’ve been punished. Let it go.” Jed’s expression cleared and he nodded, his hands stroking Leo’s back as Leo rocked to and fro inside him, barely moving, just inching their two bodies back and forth. Leo dipped his head and wiped the last traces of uncertainty from Jed’s eyes with a long, lingering, loving kiss. He loved being this close to Jed, buried deep inside him, able to taste the slightly salty tang of his skin and to lose himself in the musky scent of the man. He took Jed slowly, skillfully and utterly willingly to climax and then they both lay there, bodies still entangled and limbs entwined.


Leo thought that Jed had never looked more attractive than he did like this, naked and sprawled beneath him, utterly uninhibited. This evening’s activities had at last managed to shift those terrible images of Jed bending over the armchair with sweat beading his forehead, or lying in his bed, his face deathly pale, his eyes shadowed with pain and his skin clammy. Leo reached out and stroked Jed’s face affectionately.


“I’m glad you’re well now,” he murmured.


“I’m fine.” Jed smiled up at him. “In fact I’m better than fine. I feel like a million dollars right now. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed and just plain taken care of in all my life.” He grinned and stretched beneath Leo like a cat.


“That’s good,” Leo grinned. “Because in a moment we’re going to start all over again.”


“No complaints here.” Jed grinned back at him. Leo moved sideways and took Jed in his arms and they both lay there gazing at the ceiling, wrapped up in each other, exhausted by recent events but happy with the way they’d been resolved.


“Leo…” Jed began and then he stopped.


“Mmm?” Leo replied lazily, squeezing Jed to encourage him to continue.


“Are we okay now?” Jed asked. “I mean, I know I screwed up but we dealt with it didn’t we and it won’t happen again – so we’re okay now aren’t we?”


Leo smiled and rolled Jed over to face him – it was rare that anybody got to see Jed’s more vulnerable side but he knew he had just witnessed it. “Oh yeah,” he murmured, tracing his fingers over that beloved face. “We’re okay now – we are, most definitely, okay.”


The End




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