June 17th: 2. Chapter Two



June 17th, 2002


“Leo! You remembered!” Jed said, waving his arms extravagantly as Leo entered the kitchen. Leo sighed and rolled his eyes.


“Let’s not do this again, sir. It wasn’t all that much fun first time around. You’re wearing an apron,” he observed.


“And you, I see, are still wearing your work suit,” Jed commented, gazing at Leo’s dark grey suit with an air of ever-so-slight disapproval.


“You wanted me to change?” Leo raised an eyebrow. Jed shrugged.


“Oh I don’t care, Leo, but I rarely get to see you in jeans these days and I miss the old, casual, Leo. You know, blue jeans, boots, open necked plaid shirts…”


“Is that why you keep going on at me about keeping a change of clothes in my office for when we work late?” Leo grinned.


“Maybe,” Jed said with an air of someone who doesn’t want to give too much away.


“Well why didn’t you come straight out and say it?” Leo groused. Jed grinned and turned back to the stove. He had changed into a pair of navy chinos and a blue polo shirt, mainly because they were comfortable but also because on this anniversary he wanted to differentiate between Jed Bartlet, President of the United States and Jed, Leo McGarry’s lover. He suspected that Leo didn’t care about such subtleties although he was also pretty sure that at some point in the next few weeks Leo would show up wearing blue jeans and an open-necked plaid shirt. He wouldn’t say anything, he’d just do it, and they’d both know why.


“Here, come and smell this.” Jed lifted the lid on a saucepan and beckoned Leo over.


“What is it?” Leo ventured cautiously, bending slightly to sniff.


“It’s chilli. Now, I know that you and everyone else in the entire universe like to make fun of my cooking but I think we both secretly know that it’s actually quite good,” Jed said, replacing the lid on the saucepan. Leo leaned against the kitchen counter and surveyed his old friend with a fond smile on his face.


“Where’s Abbey?” He asked.


“She’s gone to stay with Liz – you know she always makes herself scarce on June 17th,” Jed told him.


“What about the staff?” Leo looked around the empty kitchen.


“I told them all to go away.”


“They hate it when you do that,” Leo remarked.


Jed ground some pepper into the saucepan and then took a taste of the chilli and nodded to himself. “I know but I’m the President and I figure that I should be entitled to spend some time in my own kitchen every once in awhile.”


“Well technically speaking it’s not your kitchen, it’s the White House kitchen,” Leo commented, sneaking a look in one of the other saucepans on the stove.


“Leo – shut up,” Jed ordered.


“Yes, sir.” Leo nodded.


“And don’t call me sir, Leo. It’s June 17th for god’s sake. You promised never to call me sir when we were in bed together.”


“Well in case I missed something we aren’t…sir,” Leo grinned.


“You’re just playing around with technicalities now – and it’s only a matter of time anyway.”


“Yeah,” Leo’s grin broadened somewhat lasciviously and he glanced around. “What about the security staff?” He asked.


“I told them to go away too,” Jed replied. “Although I think they only went down the hallway.”


“They hate it when you do that as well,” Leo commented.


“Leo, I don’t care if the world and his wife disapprove of me wanting to spend an evening like an ordinary human being. I want tonight to be special – I’m getting tired of half hour quickies in your hotel room with you hissing ‘sssh’ in my ear every time I give so much as a low groan of passion. Tonight we’re spending the entire night together, just like every other June 17th for the past 40 years.”


“39,” Leo said. Jed raised an eyebrow. “Technically it’s 39 because that first year we didn’t actually make love until June 26th as I recall,” Leo said. “We always celebrate the anniversary of when we first met and not when we first made love.”


“I see you can remember some dates if you try,” Jed commented dryly.


“I’ve already told you that I can remember this one,” Leo replied smoothly. “You just don’t like to put it to the test.” He stepped back a bit and looked at his old friend, a mischievous smile spreading across his features – a smile that Jed knew very few people had ever witnessed. “So, we’re alone, huh?” Leo said.


“Yeah.” Jed grinned at him.


“Hmmm.” Leo leaned forward and Jed wondered how it was possible that at the grand old age of 57 that particular gleam in Leo’s blue eyes could still make his skin tingle and his groin fill with a warmth that shot all the way up to his heart. “Sooo,” Leo said, his lips grazing Jed’s neck suggestively. “Wanna fuck?”


June 17th, 1970


Jed glanced at his watch. He had been waiting in the hotel bar for three hours and he had gone through boredom and was now starting to get genuinely worried. He wondered whether to go up and check the room again in case Leo had gone straight there when a movement over by the door caught his eye. His eyes travelled over the handsome stranger in the Air Force uniform, then dropped back, disappointed, to his drink once more. A few seconds later the stranger sat down beside him. Jed scooted up a bit, annoyed at the interruption and with the other man for invading his space.


“So, no kiss hello then?” A familiar, slightly gruff voice asked in an undertone. Jed looked up and straight into the blue eyes of the handsome Air Force officer sitting beside him.


“Leo?” He said, and then…”Leo!” He grabbed the other man by the lapels of his uniform and gazed at him, his eyes roving over Leo’s face, and down over the toned body encased in its uniform. He could feel the hardness of Leo’s muscles even through the uniform – Air Force life had obviously made him fitter and tougher than ever. Jed fought down a wave of envy – Leo was out in the world, fighting for what he believed in, while Jed was stuck at home, struggling to make ends meet on his small lecturer’s stipend while Abbey started out as a doctor and they both juggled the childcare arrangements for their baby daughter.


“Oh, so you do recognise me?” Leo grinned. “I was beginning to think you’d forgotten me.”


“It has been too long,” Jed agreed, shaking his head.


“A year.” Leo nodded.


“I know – when I said we should spend every June 17th together I didn’t mean that was the only time during the year we should meet up,” Jed commented, his eyes still devouring his friend’s face. It was always the same, this electric charge of passion and connection that he felt whenever he was with Leo, and yet still it always took him by surprise. He had never felt the same about any other man – had never taken another male lover or even wanted to. He was heterosexual in every other area of his life apart from his relationship with Leo. He had tried not to question it – he knew, deep in his heart, that his relationship with Leo was non-negotiable. It was a constant in his life, something he needed. Even when their busy lives meant they barely got to see each other, when they did meet up, Jed was reminded all over again why his relationship with Leo was so important. A few years after meeting Leo he had met Abbey at college and had felt a similar surge of emotion towards her as well. It had confused him at first – how could he possibly feel so strongly about two such different people? Was there room for both of them in his life? He had tried hard to choose between them, had chosen Abbey, wanting the comfort and security of a normal life, without all the attending problems and issues that arose from his relationship with another man – but in the end it had been hopeless. He had confessed to Abbey about his relationship with Leo, and how he didn’t think he could live without it. She had looked at him for a long time, then nodded, and said, “Well then, Jed, I’d better meet this Leo McGarry.” She had met him, and the two of them had gotten along fine, in a kind of spiky, slightly jealous way – but what they both had in common was that they loved him, and they wanted him to be happy. Jed wasn’t sure what he had done to deserve two such understanding people in his life, two people who were so devoted to his welfare, but he guessed that he must have done something right by both of them for them to care so much about his happiness. Abbey had thought about it for a couple of days and then told him that she was happy to share him with Leo – on two conditions.


“One, this is just Leo we’re talking about. You tomcat around with any other man and we’re through, Jed.”


“Just any other man?” Jed had questioned. “Does that mean I have carte blanche to tomcat around with any other woman?” He grinned. Abbey fixed him with one of her Looks and that wiped the smile off his face extremely fast.


“Try that and see if you can walk after I find out,” she murmured. “I should remind you that I’m training to be a doctor and I know exactly where to dig the heel of my shoe to cause the most pain,” she said pointedly.


“Understood.” Jed smiled at her. “Did I ever tell you how much I love you?”


“Not often enough,” she smiled back. “Honestly, Jed. I can see that you and Leo have something special together – I can’t stand in the way of that. You’ve known him longer than you’ve known me – I’m flattered that you want me enough to even try to give him up for me but we both know that won’t work. He’s too important to you.”


“What’s the second thing?” He asked, drawing her to him and kissing her soundly on the lips.


“Just keep me informed. Don’t let anything you do with Leo be a secret,” she told him. “I don’t want you skulking around behind my back because you’re scared of hurting me. I know there will be times when you spend more time with him than me, and vice versa and I promise I’ll try not to get jealous when I feel like I’m the one who drew the short straw. I love you, Jed Bartlet – but I have other things in my life. I’m not the little woman sitting at home and I won’t be lied to. Promise me you’ll always be honest with me.”


“That is one thing I definitely can promise, Abbey,” he had told her, kissing her again.


So he and Abbey had got married, and Leo had, naturally, been best man. At first he’d continued to see quite a bit of his old friend, but then Leo had joined the Air Force, determined to fight in Vietnam. Jed had talked to him at great length about that – it had been one of the biggest intellectual arguments they’d ever had, rendered all the more passionate by the fact that Jed was scared stiff of losing his friend.


“Jed, when we met I was participating in a debate about US isolationism,” Leo had protested. “That wasn’t all talk – I honestly believe that the US has a duty to get involved in the affairs of the world. You saw what happened in World War 2 – if we hadn’t gotten involved there…”


“Leo, this isn’t World War 2,” Jed argued. “It isn’t anything like it.”


“I believe in this, Jed,” Leo told him, his blue eyes flashing. “And what does all the rhetoric mean if we don’t put our beliefs on the line and follow them through? It’s all very well to say I’m in favour of the principle of other young men risking their lives for a war that I believe in, but I have to put my money where my mouth is or I can’t hold my head up high. I don’t want an easy life, Jed, I never have. I want an honest one – I want one where I’m true to myself and my ideals. That’s why I’m still with you, after all.” He grinned. “It would have been a lot easier and a lot more sensible to say nothing of socially acceptable to ditch you and find a woman to spend the rest of my life with.”


Jed shook his head. “I do understand that, Leo. I’m not going to try and talk you out of doing something you believe in. I just wish…” He hesitated, then pulled Leo into a hug. “Just come home safely, Leo,” he whispered, burying his face in his friend’s neck and taking a deep inhalation of his lover’s scent, worried that this might be the last time he ever smelled it, ever touched Leo’s skin, ran his hands through that wispy blond hair, or looked into those sharp blue eyes, those eyes that missed nothing and understood him so well.


Now that conversation seemed a very long time ago, and this man sitting here in his Air Force uniform was someone so changed that Jed’s eyes had initially passed over him, dismissing him as nothing more than a handsome stranger. Jed took a closer look at his friend, trying to figure out what exactly about him was so different. There was something about those eyes, something that held a warning, or a barrier, and Jed knew instantly that there was a distance between them that had never been there before.


“I need a drink,” Leo commented, raising his hand to call the bartender over.


“I’ve spent three hours in this bar, Leo, and I don’t want to spend another second longer,” Jed complained. “You can’t come in here looking like this in this goddamn sexy uniform after I’ve existed a whole year on just letters and expect me to sit there and watch you have a drink.”


“I need a drink,” Leo repeated, his lips crinkling up at the edges anyway.


“Then buy a bottle and bring it up to the room. I can’t wait,” Jed ordered brusquely.


“Yessir!” Leo tipped up his cap in a mock salute, paid for a bottle of whisky, and then followed Jed up to the room he had booked.


The room was small, dank and cheap but Jed didn’t care about that. He charged through the door, turned in one quick motion, pulled Leo in by the lapels of his uniform, slammed the door shut behind them, and then pinned Leo to the wall with a kiss that sent that familiar megawatt charge of electricity through them both. Leo responded with equal vigour, his hands grabbing Jed’s ass as his tongue plundered forcefully down his lover’s throat. They parted for a second, coming up for air, their breath coming in heaving gasps, eyeing each other speculatively, and then, without speaking, went straight back in for another deep, long kiss. Jed felt Leo’s hands disappearing down the front of his pants and the next thing he knew his pants were on the floor and his cock was being expertly massaged to climax. He came all too quickly, in a way that was reminiscent of their first time, and then sank to his knees, undid Leo’s pants and took his lover’s cock in his mouth, relishing the taste and feel of it after a year’s deprivation. Leo’s climax was just as swift as his own had been and then they both gazed at each other, still panting, Jed still on his knees and Leo still leaning back against the wall. There was silence between them and it felt so wrong to Jed. There was never silence between them – they always had far too much to talk about.


“So,” Leo commented after several long minutes. “How’s Abbey?”


“She’s fine.” Jed nodded.


“And little Lizzie? How’s my god-daughter?” Leo questioned, doing up his pants and opening the bottle of whisky he was holding. Jed felt somehow rejected – their initial quick coupling had just been a prelude to the long lovemaking that they usually enjoyed. He didn’t know why Leo was making small talk and getting dressed again.


“She’s fine too. Leo…”


“You want some?” Leo took a long swig of the bottle, his lips making sensuous contact with it in a way that made Jed’s recently sated cock begin to twitch again. Then he offered the bottle to Jed.


“No. I want you.” Jed got up and went to sit on the bed where he began unbuttoning his shirt. Leo watched him, those sharp blue eyes brooding and watchful. Jed suddenly felt uneasy, as if there was a caged tiger in the room instead of Leo, the man he loved more than any other in the entire world, a man he knew better than any other – or at least he had thought he did. Now he wasn’t so sure. Leo watched him get undressed, that whisky bottle plastered to his lips as he took generous gulps from it. He looked utterly dangerous and sexy as he stood there, his eyes shadowed, and his tautly toned body encased in his uniform, still, unmoving, looking at Jed as if he was prey.


“Are you coming over? I want to talk, Leo. It’s been a year,” Jed said. Often they would just lie on the bed, naked, and talk in between love making sessions. Jed loved their physical intimacy but their mental and emotional intimacy was at least as important to him – it was the lubricant that kept the wheels of their relationship turning so smoothly.


“I don’t want to talk,” Leo said dangerously, walking over to the bed. “I wanna fuck.”


Jed suddenly wondered who this man was and began to think he had been right in his first estimation of Leo as a handsome stranger. Maybe it’s just been too long, he thought to himself, as Leo prowled over to the bed, the whisky bottle hanging from his hand. Leo put the bottle down on the nightstand and sat down on the bed. He didn’t even undress – he just reached for Jed, his hands claiming him as if he was a prize, something to be devoured whole, like a starving man attacking a meal. Jed didn’t even try to fight him off – somehow he recognised that this was something that Leo needed, that there was something hollow in Leo’s soul, a gap that needed to be filled, and if he was the instrument by which his friend gained some peace then he was happy to offer himself up. Leo wasn’t gentle – his hands, hands that could fly a F-105 at high speeds over enemy terrain – were insistent and rough on Jed’s body. The buttons on his uniform were hard, cold and unyielding against Jed’s warm skin as Leo turned him over and reached into his pocket for lube.


“I bought some on the way here,” he growled, his teeth scraping the back of Jed’s neck. “Figured we’d be needing it.” Jed had brought some too, and somehow he had the feeling that Leo was lying – a quick look at the tube of lubricant convinced him that this had not been a hastily bought item. For a start, where the hell was Leo going to find a shop selling lubricant at such short notice and in addition, there was less than half a tube of it, so Leo had obviously used it already – on someone else. Jed’s heart missed a beat. They’d never talked about exclusivity – Jed knew that as a married man he was on weak ground there. He could hardly insist that Leo remain faithful to him if he was sleeping with Abbey…and yet…and yet…somehow he thought that they had an unspoken agreement that while they might form relationships with women, they wouldn’t sleep with other men. Jed knew, as Leo entered him roughly from behind, that there had been no such agreement. Leo had definitely had other male lovers – and recently. Was this the kind of soulless sex he was having with them, Jed wondered? And why the hell did he think he could get away with it with him? He was Jed Bartlet, he and Leo had something special – didn’t they? This clearly wasn’t the time to talk about it – Jed braced himself as Leo thrust into him, hard, an edge of desperation in his movements, as if they were a pair of animals rutting. All the same, hard and edgy though the sex was, Jed couldn’t help but relish the feel of Leo’s cock inside him again after so long without. It was a need for him too – he needed to feel Leo’s hard length, needed to be pounded within an inch of his life, and yet, as he gazed around the dirty room, he knew deep inside that what they were doing was something just as unclean.


Leo gave Jed’s cock a few cursory tugs until Jed came, and then finished off himself, coming inside his lover’s body. Then he withdrew, much to Jed’s intense disappointment – he loved it when Leo stayed inside him after their love-making, and they shared precious moments of intimacy. Leo rolled over and reached for the whisky bottle again and Jed watched him, feeling increasingly angry.


“Can we talk now?” He asked.


“Sure. About what?” Leo took a lazy hit on the bottle and gazed at the ceiling.


“Christ, Leo, you’ve been gone a year – and you’ve barely written these past few months. I didn’t even know if you were receiving my letters or if you had been shot down or captured or even if you were dead,” Jed remonstrated. Leo’s eyes flashed with some emotion Jed couldn’t understand. “I didn’t even know if you were going to show up here tonight – I didn’t know if you got my letter telling you where we going to meet – would it have hurt you to have replied just to let me know? And then you show up three hours late, looking like this and behaving like this.” Jed shook his head.


“Behaving like what?” Leo turned his face towards his friend, his speech slightly slurred.


“Like a fucking animal!” Jed roared, getting up. He wrapped a blanket around his body and moved away, wincing slightly as he realised how sore he was. “You didn’t even apologise for being late – where were you, Leo? Did you hit the bars before you came here? Are you drunk, Leo?”


Leo gazed at him with a hard look in those blue eyes. “Not nearly drunk enough, old friend,” he whispered. “Not nearly drunk enough.” Those words sent shivers down Jed’s spine. It wasn’t so much what Leo said, as the way he said it.


“Christ, you didn’t even get undressed. You fucked me like I was a fucking animal,” Jed snarled. “How many others have you fucked like this, Leo? Anonymous strangers in anonymous hotel rooms – is that all I am to you now? Is that all we have?”


“You’re being dramatic – as always.” Leo studied the label on the bottle of whisky intently, not meeting his friend’s eye.


“This is me you’re talking to, Leo,” Jed said in an exasperated tone. “What the hell happened to you?”


“What do you mean what happened to me?” Leo shot back angrily. “You’re the one who couldn’t wait to get me through the door before you jumped my bones, Jed. Don’t sit on the fucking moral high ground pissing down on me. I don’t need it – okay?”


“Okay. Yeah, okay.” Jed got up and walked angrily over to the window.


There was silence for a long time, and then Jed heard Leo sigh behind him. He heard his friend get up and then a few seconds later a pair of hands found their way around his stomach and Leo’s chin came to rest on his shoulder.


“Hey. We don’t have long – let’s not argue,” Leo said softly. “I’m sorry. It’s just…this is what we do, isn’t it? We meet up, we make love…that’s what we do, Jed.”


“And we talk, Leo. We talk,” Jed told him, glancing sideways at his friend. The shadows in Leo’s eyes became even denser and he felt Leo shrug.


“We are talking, Jed.”


“Tell me about Vietnam. Are you still flying the same plane? The F105?”


“The Thud? Sure.” Leo’s grip loosened a fraction. “You still teaching?”


“For now. I’m working on a research grant.”


“Good. That brain of yours is too good to waste on those kids for the rest of your life,” Leo commented with a grunt.


“Hey, I thought I was going to be your Chief of Staff when you made President. Are you withdrawing that job offer, Leo McGarry?” Jed replied, relaxing into their old banter, feeling the familiarity warm him, like slipping his hand into a comfortable, worn old glove.


Leo’s grip slackened even more. “Job offer still stands, Jed,” he said softly, but there was no fire in his voice any more, and no belief. Jed knew that something very fundamental had happened to Leo McGarry – he was a changed man. They always used to talk about politics with a passion that matched their physical passion and they both genuinely believed that one day they might make it to the very top. It wasn’t just idle fantasising – they believed it.


“Good.” Jed nodded, wondering how he could get to the root of what was bothering his friend. Leo snuggled closer to him and kissed the back of his neck wetly. They were quiet for a long time; Leo’s arms were strong and warm around Jed’s body but Jed didn’t know how to breach the unexpected silence. His relationship with Leo had never involved silence before and he didn’t know how to handle it.


“So,” Leo said finally, clearly as unable to bear the silence as Jed. “Wanna fuck?”


June 17th, 2002


Jed gazed at Leo, the past standing between them as if it were only yesterday. Leo’s scent was as familiar to him as his own and Abbey’s, and his lover’s nearness made his skin tingle with need. The warm hum of fizzing water from the saucepan beside them hissed in the air and Leo’s blue eyes bored affectionately into his soul. They had been here so often, on this date, renewing the bond they’d made when they’d barely been more than children, and each time it brought something up, something new or something old – a memory or the creation of a new one.


“I was just kidding,” Leo said softly. “Jed, you don’t have to remind me about June 17th – I always remember. If I don’t often get you a present it’s because I have no idea what to get you. Presents aren’t really my thing. You know that.”


“Yeah.” Jed smiled. “Leo, when did you last even go in a store?”


“I have no idea but however long it’s been it hasn’t been long enough.” Leo grinned. He reached out and placed a proprietary hand on Jed’s ass.


“They have the internet nowadays. You can shop online,” Jed pointed out.


“I’m too busy running the country,” Leo countered.


“And I’m not?” Jed raised an eyebrow.


“You have people to do these things for you.”


“Oh, you think I went to Charlie and said, ‘Here’s a 100 bucks, please go out and buy an anniversary present for Leo McGarry to celebrate our 40 years of intimacy together?’” Jed raised his other eyebrow.


“I would so love to see Charlie’s face if you said that,” Leo laughed, his hand stroking Jed’s butt insistently.


“If you do that for much longer then we won’t even get to eat,” Jed commented, making no move to stop the caress all the same.


“Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing – d’you remember the days when we couldn’t wait to get our hands on each other the moment we were alone together?” Leo said.


“Yeah, but then we’d often been apart for months. Now, we get to have sex every few days,” Jed replied. “And besides, we’re getting way too old to be that horny.”


“Speak for yourself,” Leo retorted. “So what was the longest time we ever went without seeing each other?” he mused.


“A year,” Jed said softly. Leo glanced at him, his blue eyes full of memories.


“Ah. Yes,” he said sadly.


June 17th, 1970


“No, I don’t.” Jed pushed Leo’s questing hands away. “I’m way too sore for a start.”


“I’m happy to bottom.” Leo shrugged.


“Since when?” Jed asked incredulously – Leo invariably went on top and it suited them both well enough.


“Since whenever.” Leo shrugged again.


Jed sighed – holding a conversation with this Leo was like walking through maple syrup and he’d had enough of even trying.


“I’m going to get some sleep,” he muttered, returning to the bed. “How much leave do you have?”


“Just tomorrow and then I have to report back.” Leo took another swig out of his whisky bottle. Jed’s heart fell. Just a day? They only had a day together? He couldn’t bear the thought of parting from Leo so soon when something was so very wrong between them – or was it between them? Had they outgrown each other or was the problem just Leo and this weird, uncommunicative mood he was in?


“Come here,” Jed said, deciding to try again. Whatever had happened to Leo, he was his oldest and best friend and he deserved that someone made an effort with him – if he wouldn’t help himself then the least Jed could do was to make him know that he was loved. He opened his arms and Leo came towards him. He sat on the side of the bed and Jed drew him down and wrapped his arms around him, covering them both in the blanket.


“Here, let’s get you undressed,” he said, his hand going to Leo’s shirt, which he started to unbutton. Leo’s hand came up and grabbed his wrist hard.


“No,” he said sharply, and then, more softly. “I’m fine like this. I don’t want to get cold.” The room was warm and it was the middle of summer – Jed didn’t think there was any way that Leo could get cold but it clearly wasn’t a good time to push his lover on this. He knew Leo of old – his friend could be the most stubborn, obstinate man in the world when his back was against the wall – and right now, it seemed as if his back was pressed right up close against the stone, leaving neither of them with much room to manoeuvre. Jed did the only thing he could; he held Leo tight against him, kissed his lover’s neck, and whispered to him over and over again that he loved him until gradually he felt the hard lines of Leo’s body start to relax. At some point they fell asleep.


Jed woke halfway through the night and gazed around, disoriented. He wondered briefly where Abbey was and then reality kicked in and he realised why he had woken; Leo was making strange noises – and he wasn’t safely wrapped up in his arms any more. He’d somehow managed to roll over to the other side of the bed and was curled up in a ball, his hands covering his head as if he was being attacked.


“Leo?” Jed whispered softly, uncertain what to do.


Leo was clearly asleep, but there was a sheen of sweat on his face and he was muttering to himself in a strangled, sobbing tone that broke Jed’s heart.


“Leo,” he said again, reaching out.


Leo came to with a start, gave a bellow of sheer fear, and then leaped off the bed and stood, breathing heavily, by the table. He looked at Jed as if surprised to see him, and then, without warning, he bent over double and was violently sick. Jed winced as waves of whisky scented vomit assaulted his nose. He got up, went over to his friend, and rubbed gentle circles on his back as Leo heaved his guts out.


“It’s okay,” Jed muttered, wondering privately if it was, or if it ever could be again.


When Leo had finished, Jed grabbed a towel from the grubby en suite shower room, and cleaned up both Leo and the mess on the floor. Leo sat down, shaking his head, one arm resting limply on the table.


“I’m sorry, Jed,” he said, utterly dejected, his tones full of despair. “I’m so sorry.”


“That’s okay.” Jed sat down opposite his friend and reached out and covered Leo’s hand with his own. “Do you want to tell me what’s going on now?” He asked gently. Leo’s blue eyes met his own and Jed knew that more than anything else in the world Leo didn’t want to talk about what was going on, and, equally, that he would, because while he didn’t want to he needed to, and Jed was the only person on this planet qualified to listen.


“I’ve lost my way, Jed,” Leo said softly. “I don’t believe any more.”


“Don’t believe in what? In the war?” Jed asked.


“No…it’s worse than that,” Leo replied, a haunted look in his eyes. “I don’t believe in anything, Jed. Nothing. All those things we used to talk about – politics, education, religion, race…I don’t care about any of it any more. How can I talk about something I don’t care about any more, Jed? I know what you want from me but it isn’t there any more. I’m empty inside. Numb.” He gazed at Jed imploringly, his eyes full of despair.


“What happened to you out there, Leo?” Jed whispered, squeezing Leo’s fingers hard.


“I saw things, Jed – things that made me question myself. I was so sure that I was right, that America was right…but you know something? We’re not always the good guys. We do stuff that we shouldn’t. I genuinely believed we were helping the South Vietnamese but when I got over there I saw how different it really was. I began to question whether we had a right to interfere and I asked myself how I could have been so wrong,” Leo said softly. “I struggled with it for a long time – I still believed partially in what we were doing – intellectually maybe, but I stopped believing it inside, and at some point…at some point I stopped believing in anything at all. It’s easy, Jed, really easy if you try. You numb one part of yourself so that you can keep going and pretty soon all of you is numb and you can’t feel anything.”


“Leo, you’ve been fighting out there for a long time. You’re just tired,” Jed said softly. “Anybody would be in the circumstances.”


“I’ve lost so many friends, Jed – friend after friend, and good men too, lost to a war that looks as if it’ll never end and all in the cause of a hugely corrupt regime.”




“I was dreading seeing you,” Leo whispered and Jed felt as if someone had physically punched him.


“Why?” He shook his head.


“Because I knew you’d be like this. Unchanged, still with that stupid light in your eyes and that need to save the entire fucking planet,” Leo snapped. “You’re always the lucky one, Jed. You have a wife, a kid…you’ve moved on in your life and I’m stuck in mine. I don’t even know what I believe in any more. I don’t have any certainties left. You have everything, Jed and I have nothing.”


“You’ve still got me,” Jed replied, squeezing Leo’s hand again. “Is that why you behaved like this tonight? Because you wanted to make sure I couldn’t have something I want? That I couldn’t have you?”


Leo shook his head. “I don’t think I was thinking anything that clearly, Jed.”


“Leo, when you came into the bar downstairs I was envious of you,” Jed told him forcefully.


“Envious of me?” Leo raised his head, a dull look in his eyes. “Why?”


“Because I felt like you were the one moving on with your life and that I was standing still. I’m not doing anything I want to be doing, Leo. Somehow, life just got in the way of all our plans. I’m married, sure, and I have a daughter who I adore, but…everything else is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I don’t know how to get on the path I want to be on. There always seems to be another goal to aim for but I seem further away than ever from fulfilling any of my dreams. Money’s tight so both Abbey and I are working all the hours god sends and I don’t see as much of Lizzie as I’d like.”


“Well at least money isn’t something I have to worry about.” Leo gave a self deprecating shrug. “They just keep putting it in my account and I never have a chance to spend it on anything except liquor.”


“You’re drinking way too much, Leo,” Jed commented.


“I know. It helps.” Leo shrugged.


“In the short term,” Jed pointed out.


“I don’t even know if I have a long term, Jed,” Leo said softly. “I don’t know how I’ve survived this long. I go out there every day and wonder how the hell I’m still alive.”


“And the anonymous sex?” Jed asked. “Does that help too?”


Leo raised his eyes slowly to meet those of his friend. “How did you know?” He asked, his voice sounding almost toneless.


“I guessed. Tonight had a feeling of being rehearsed, as if it’s something you do often – but you never did it like this with me so I figure you learned it someplace else.” Jed felt as if someone had plunged a knife into his gut and twisted, very slowly.


“You’re jealous?” Leo sounded surprised.


“Yes, I am,” Jed replied heatedly. “I’m jealous of every man you touch, Leo McGarry, jealous of every man you sleep with, every man you kiss. Who are they? Do you even know their names?”


“I usually prefer not to,” Leo replied, his lips twisting in distaste. “Jed, I have never yet had sex with a man and wished it wasn’t you.” He paused and then continued, his voice full of pain. “I get lonely, Jed. Without you, being in that goddamn hellhole, doing something I’m not sure I believe in any more…I get so fucking lonely. I want you. I want to feel you, to smell you and touch you and make love to you. While I’m fucking faceless strangers I can imagine they’re you, just for a short while.”


“I guess I should be flattered.” Jed made a face. “I don’t know what to say, Leo. I can’t be there with you and I wish you could be here with me but that isn’t going to happen – not for awhile anyhow – so we have to find a strategy to help you deal with all this.”


“A strategy?” Leo laughed out loud. “Oh, Jed, you have no fucking idea – you still sound like a wannabe politician who thinks everything can be solved with strategies and manifestos.”


“I won’t give up on you, Leo McGarry,” Jed said quietly. “Even when you give up on yourself, and even when you do your damndest to push me away. I won’t ever give up on you.” He squeezed Leo’s hand again, tightly, and Leo looked at him with the faintest glimmer of hope radiating in those blue eyes.


“I’m so tired, Jed,” he whispered. “I just want to rest.”


Jed got up, went to kneel in front of his friend and put his hands on Leo’s shoulders.


“Hey,” he whispered. “I got you. I’m still me and you’re still you somewhere inside there, Leo. I know you are.”


The mask faltered for a moment, and then vanished, melting away, and suddenly Jed found himself looking at Leo McGarry again, his Leo McGarry, the 17 year old boy he had fallen in love with years ago. Leo reached out a hand and gently smoothed Jed’s hair away from his forehead, an old, familiar gesture. Jed leaned into it, and rubbed his face against that caressing hand.


“Why did you stop replying to my letters, Leo? Why didn’t you lean on me when all this was going on inside that dumbass brain of yours?” Jed smiled at his friend. “I could have helped.”


Leo shrugged. “I didn’t want to worry you; you were thousands of miles away and besides you have other responsibilities now. You have Abbey and Lizzie – they need you more than I do.”


“No, that’s not true,” Jed told him, straightening up and getting to his feet. “You’re part of my family too, Leo, and you’re just as important as Abbey and Liz.” He rested his hands on Leo’s head and pulled his friend against his belly, holding him there. Leo came easily, beyond fighting, beyond anything right now, just needing to be loved and Jed knew that he could do that. It wasn’t hard to love Leo McGarry. It never had been. “You should have told me,” Jed told his friend firmly, stroking his fingers through Leo’s hair.


“You know how you hate not being involved,” Leo said with a shaky laugh. “I thought if I told you I’d wake up one morning and find you’d hitched a ride all the way out to Thailand to yell some sense into me. Doesn’t mean I don’t love you, Jed,” he murmured apologetically.


“Show me then.” Jed took a step back, and, grasping both Leo’s hands in his own, pulled his friend to his feet. He put his fingers on Leo’s shirt and began, slowly, to unbutton it. Leo just stood there, allowing Jed to undress him. Jed pushed Leo’s shirt back from his body and found a shiny purple mark on his left shoulder that hadn’t been there before. He paused, and then examined it with his fingers.


“What’s this?” He asked.


“Shrapnel wound.” Leo shrugged.


Jed gazed at his friend searchingly, saw in Leo’s shadowed eyes something he had known, deep in his heart, from the very first moment Leo had stepped into the bar downstairs looking so much like a stranger, earlier that evening. “You got shot down, Leo?” He asked.


“Yeah – 4 months ago,” Leo said softly, and then, hurriedly, after hearing Jed’s sharp intake of breath, “It’s all part of the job, Jed. Thud pilots are supposed to clear out anti-aircraft and SAM batteries to clear the way for other aircraft, and that means making ourselves targets.”


Jed felt his stomach clench in distress. “That sounds incredibly risky,” he whispered.


“It is. I told you, we lose a lot of good men that way…and some of the green kids coming up don’t have the experience to know how to stay alive…you have to try to protect them as best you can or they don’t live very long.”


“So you ran some risks?” Jed commented, not remotely surprised. Leo shrugged.


“I guess I got careless. I got tagged with anti-aircraft fire and lost my plane out from underneath me.”


“Were you hurt anywhere else?” Jed ran his fingers over Leo’s body, searching for more wounds.


“I’m fine – just a couple of cracked ribs, a few cuts and bruises and one hell of a sore back from when I bailed out. I was just damn lucky that I was picked up by a rescue chopper. It isn’t a big deal, Jed.”


“It is to me.” Jed’s fingers found Leo’s ribs and trailed over each and every one of them, as if reclaiming them. Leo rested his head against Jed’s shoulder, and let him finish the caress.


“I think, deep inside, that I was even grateful that it happened,” he murmured.


“Grateful?” Jed drew back, and took Leo’s face between his hands. “Grateful? For being shot down, Leo?”


“No, for making me feel something again, even if it was only pain. I hadn’t felt anything for such a long time you see, Jed,” Leo said, his voice raw.


“Oh, Leo.” Jed felt as if his own heart was breaking and he pulled his friend close and kissed him fiercely. “Leo, please, don’t give up on life, on the world, on us. Please. I can’t promise you that I can wave a magic wand and make all this go away; you and I both know that I can’t do that. All I can do is love you, Leo. It’s all I’ve ever been able to do. Please don’t say that’s not enough now. Please.” His eyes were beseeching. “Please,” he whispered again. “I’ve never known anyone like you, Leo. You’re part of me – the best part of me maybe. I can have faith enough for both of us, Leo. I can believe for both of us, and love for both of us until you start feeling something again, just don’t give up. Trust me until then, okay?” He took Leo’s face in his hands again. “Trust me to do that for us and don’t give up.”


Leo gazed at him like a man slowly waking from a nightmare.


“I’ll try, Jed,” he whispered.


“If the drink and the sex get you through then that’s fine. I’m not walking in your shoes and I’m not about to give you a hard time about it,” Jed said urgently. “Just be careful, Leo – and remember that there is something good waiting for you when you come back home. There is something to live for. I promise you that.”


Leo was silent, and then finally, he nodded. “Okay,” he whispered hoarsely.


“Come here.” Jed led him to the bed, and finished undressing him, then pushed Leo down on the mattress and sank down beside him. He took Leo in his arms and began, very slowly, to make love to him. Leo, usually such an active participant in their lovemaking, was strangely passive and compliant, as if he had finally given up responsibility for a great weight that he had been carrying alone, for far too long. Jed made love to him with every inch of affection and adoration he possessed. He covered Leo’s body with his own, kissed his mouth for a long time and then moved lower, his lips trailing over the round, purple scar on his shoulder. He went lower still, sucked on Leo’s nipples and was gratified when Leo arced up into him, moaning softly. Leo was already erect before he took his cock in his hand and pumped it firmly. He spread Leo’s thighs, and licked his balls for a long time, arousing his friend thoroughly, before reaching for the lube.


“You ready, Leo?” He asked, kneeling between his friend’s legs. Leo gave him that twisted Leo grin that Jed loved so much, and reached out to caress the side of his face.


“Sure,” he said softly.


Jed inserted a lubed finger into Leo’s ass and Leo kicked his legs out even wider to allow easier access. Jed smiled – Leo so rarely ever liked to bottom, but on this occasion, it just felt right – and, he thought, it was something his friend seemed to need right now.


He entered Leo slowly, looking down into his friend’s eyes as he did so. Leo smiled up at him, encouraging him on, and raised his hand to caress Jed’s back. Jed leaned forward to claim another kiss and Leo responded eagerly. They made love slowly, with more affection than passion. This wasn’t about being horny, about getting each other off, the way it had so often been – this really was about making love, literally making love. Jed wanted to show Leo that he was loved with every single atom of his being. He wasn’t sure, but he thought that at some point during that long, slow, love-making session, a hint of light returned to Leo’s eyes, and the shadows receded a little. It wasn’t the best sex they’d had, or the most explosive, but it was the most tender and the most intimate, and later, after they’d both come, Jed wrapped his naked body around Leo’s and held his friend tightly.


“You must have been given leave after your first tour of duty,” Jed whispered. “Why didn’t you come home then, Leo? I could have helped. I could have been there for you.”


Leo reached up and touched the hand that was wrapped around his chest. “I couldn’t face you, Jed, knowing what I’d become. I spent my leave drinking in seedy bars and picking up strangers for sex – men or women, it made no difference to me. I wasn’t even sure that I could face you tonight – that was why I was so late. I only turned up in the end because I know what a goddamn fuss you like to make about this particular anniversary.” Jed gave a snort of amusement – he knew Leo thought he was hopelessly romantic – it was a source of much bantering between them and always had been but somehow Leo needed his brand of naïve romanticism to balance out his own much darker world view, just as Jed needed Leo’s level headed pragmatism to puncture his own occasionally over-sentimental and folksy view of the world. “I had to move heaven and earth to get leave as it was and I knew you’d be devastated if I didn’t show. I couldn’t do that to you,” Leo continued. “I wasn’t so numb that I could do that to you, Jed.”


“Leo, I hate to see you like this. Will you at least promise me that you’ll reply to my letters,” Jed said.


“You think I need an anchor? I can take care of myself, Jed,” Leo murmured, but he sounded so very tired.


“I think we all need an anchor occasionally, a rock, someone to lean on. There’s no shame in that,” Jed said softly, kissing the sweat-dampened hair on the back of Leo’s neck. “One day you can do it for me, but right now it’s something I can do for you. Do we have a deal?”


Leo was silent for a moment, and then he nodded. “Okay,” he whispered.


They didn’t leave the hotel room all the next day or night – they just stayed in bed, talking and making love. Jed thought that maybe it did some good. The Leo he said goodbye to the following morning was a little brighter, a little more like the sparkling-eyed, 17-year-old boy with the impish grin who he’d first fallen in love with. Jed didn’t kid himself that their problems were over though – Leo was still damaged, still doubted himself, still had a wound in his soul that Jed wasn’t sure could ever be healed.


The following morning they took a shower together, and then kissed each other goodbye before leaving the room. Leo’s kiss was as full of electricity as ever and he clung onto Jed as if he never wanted them to part. Finally, they tore away from each other and gazed at each other for a long time before Leo reached for his bag.


“You go, Jed. I’ll get the check,” Leo said.


“No, that’s not fair. I’ll give you half.” Jed opened his own wallet, and sighed at the meagre contents. Cheap though the room was, money was so tight that it was an extravagance he really couldn’t afford right now. His father was adamant that his son stand on his own two feet and refused to give him any financial help at all, and although Jed respected that, it was hard making ends meet.


“I mean it.” Leo took Jed’s wallet out of his hand, closed it, and put it back in Jed’s pocket. “Jed, we each do what we can for each other, right? You did what you could for me in this room and I can do this – I have the money. I might not have a whole lot else but I have that. One day our situations might be different, then you can pay – hell, I’ll insist.” Leo gave a faint ghost of that twisted grin that Jed loved so much.


“Okay.” Jed gave in gracefully. His last sight of Leo was of a handsome Air Force officer, no longer a stranger, striding out of that room in his uniform, his back straight and his head held high, even if his eyes were still full of shadows.



~ I love receiving friendly feedback! If you enjoyed this story, please leave a comment below. ~

Submit a Comment

No Comments on June 17th: Chapter 2


Buy Xanthe's original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet now!

Paperback on Amazon

E-book on Amazon

Smashwords in various formats

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons