June 17th: 3. Chapter Three



June 17th, 2002


“I thought we’d eat in the Lincoln bedroom,” Jed said, steering Leo along the corridor. “As it’s a special occasion.”


He opened the door to the bedroom, and guided Leo inside. Leo stopped on the threshold, took one look, and then tried to turn around and walk back out again.


“Uh-uh,” Jed said, shoving him into the room, grinning broadly. The entire room was literally filled with red candles, all flickering away merrily, and there was a cosy table set for two.


“Jed, you shouldn’t have,” Leo commented. Jed laughed. He had lit an entire truckload of candles not because he particularly liked candles himself but because he knew it would exasperate Leo and he enjoyed teasing his unromantic lover with excesses of this kind. They had a familiar, comfortable, ongoing bickering contest about Leo’s lack of romance compared to Jed’s excess, and both played up those particular characteristics far more than Jed suspected they actually felt them in order to enjoy the ensuing fallout from the other.


“I told you it was a big one, Leo,” he grinned. “40 years. You really weren’t expecting me to let it pass without a grand gesture or two were you?”


“I could only hope,” Leo grimaced, gazing around the gently glowing room. “I guess it beats some of the dives we’ve spent this anniversary in over the years though,” he commented, sitting down at the table.


Jed served the chilli onto plates from a side table he’d set up earlier, and then sat down and watched while Leo took a tentative bite out of his dinner.


“So, do we have a verdict?” Jed leaned back and surveyed his friend. Jed rarely cooked for Leo – he had frequently cooked for Abbey and the girls over the years but he and Leo rarely had a chance to spend an evening alone together in any place that had a kitchen. Leo savoured his mouthful, a thoughtful expression on his face. “It’s good isn’t it?” Jed grinned, piling up his own fork. “You know it’s good but it kills you to say it.”


“Are you going to give me a chance to reply or have you already decided?” Leo asked.


“Go right ahead,” Jed invited, making a face and waiting for what he expected would be some kind of put down.


“It’s delicious, Jed,” Leo told him sincerely.


“Hah!” Jed grinned delightedly. “Hah!” He said again, lost for words. Leo rolled his eyes.


“Is this going to be the level of the conversation all evening?” He asked.


Jed took a bite out of his own meal and sighed happily. Leo was right – it was delicious. He was pleased, even though it really wouldn’t have mattered if it wasn’t, but this anniversary was a big deal to Jed. 40 years was a long time to have sustained such an intense and occasionally volatile relationship as the one he had with Leo. In recent years it had slipped into something very comfortable but there had been times over the past four decades when it hadn’t always been so easy. What had sustained them throughout their long association was the fundamental knowledge that they loved each other and had a connection with each other that was as inexplicable as it was intoxicating. Their relationship was as necessary to their lives as the air they breathed and the food they ate.


“Forty years. God that makes me feel old,” Leo commented, his eyes crinkling up at the edges as he smiled at his lover.


“You are old, Leo. You’re lucky I don’t ditch you for one of those bright young things we employ,” Jed commented.


“Ah, so which one would you pick if you had a choice?” Leo bantered, grinning widely. “Let me guess – how about Sam?”


“Why Sam?”


“He’s a good looking kid, and you seem to have a thing with him.”


“I do not have a thing with Sam!” Jed protested.


“Sure you do. You’re always dropping by to give him little pep talks. You so have a thing with Sam.”


“If I have a thing with Sam it’s an entirely proper and above-board paternal thing,” Jed countered. “Unlike the thing you have with Josh.”


“I do not have a thing with Josh!” Leo complained, sounding outraged. “My god, he’s just a kid!”


“So is Sam. Perhaps we can both agree that we have entirely respectful mentoring-type feelings towards both Josh and Sam and leave it at that,” Jed grinned, knowing neither of them was being remotely serious.


“Hmmm, maybe Josh and Sam have a thing with each other,” Leo commented with a sly grin.


“Well, that’d be nice for them but I doubt it,” Jed shrugged.


“Why not?”


“Because not everybody is as lucky as we are, Leo,” Jed said softly. “I don’t think relationships like this come along that often. I don’t think broad-minded wives, and a strength of companionship and depth of emotion this powerful, lasting for this long, are the norm. I think we’re lucky – very lucky. I know you always laugh at me for insisting that we celebrate this particular anniversary every year but we have a rare thing, Leo, and I don’t ever want to take that for granted.”


Leo gazed at him silently, his blue eyes full of emotion, but he said nothing. Instead he grunted, and then pulled his gaze away and glanced around the room.


“The candles aren’t so bad,” he commented.


Jed smiled to himself.


June 17th, 1993


Jed sat at his desk in his study reading through some papers. He glanced at the clock with a scowl of annoyance. It was nearly 8pm and Leo was long overdue. His lover had been scheduled to arrive earlier in the afternoon to spend a few days with Jed at the New Hampshire residence – Abbey had taken the girls on an educational trip to Washington to tour all the museums on purpose in order to facilitate Jed and Leo having a few days together. Jed wasn’t unduly worried – he knew Leo worked hard and might have been delayed getting away but all the same it had been 21 years since Leo had last showed up late for their anniversary and he felt a slight knot of foreboding in his gut. Last time this had happened, something bad had been going on with Leo – did his lateness this evening presage something similar?


Jed glanced at the faded photo he kept on his desk of two boys talking animatedly at the Boy’s Nation summer camp nearly 30 years previously and smiled. They’d had their ups and downs over the years but their relationship was still as strong as ever.


When Leo had finally been discharged from the Air Force he’d stayed with Jed and Abbey for awhile. That hadn’t been easy but Abbey had been 100% behind Jed on the need to support Leo during a difficult time. Slowly but surely Jed had been able to work some kind of magic with Leo. He drew his friend out of the shell he had withdrawn into, got Leo involved in the local political scene, and introduced him to some influential people in the area. Leo’s beliefs had returned, but Jed was never entirely sure that his confidence had. Leo had always been so sure of everything, but now there seemed to be a bitter, nagging, nugget of self-doubt at the back of his still sharp and inquiring mind. Finally he’d grown tired of trespassing on Jed’s territory and had taken himself off to Washington DC to make full use of his law degree and get involved in the politics there. He had made a lot of money in law but his real passion had always been politics and after many years his career had culminated in him being appointed Secretary of Labor – a job that Jed had heard he was exceptionally good at. Their paths crossed politically a few times, and they still met regularly to talk, to make love, and to renew their friendship. However long it was between their meetings, Jed always felt the same way whenever he saw Leo; his skin always tingled, and the knowing, sparkling light in Leo’s blue eyes always made him want to tear his friend’s clothes from his body and make wild, abandoned love to him. Later they would always talk, talk, talk – arguing passionately, disagreeing, agreeing, but always in the spirit of intense intellectual debate. Even when they disagreed profoundly it never affected their friendship – they were too close and appreciated each other’s intellect too much for that.


Jed had been delighted when Leo had phoned him soon after leaving New Hampshire and told him that he wanted him to meet someone.


“Her name’s Jenny and I asked her to marry me,” he said, sounding both bashful and happy at the same time. “The poor girl must be crazy because she said yes.”


“Leo, that’s fantastic news!” Jed said, and he’d meant it despite the little knife of jealousy that had twisted in his gut. He had always been the jealous type – more jealous than Leo, whose pragmatic approach to politics also extended to his love life. “We must meet her! Bring her to dinner soon.”


Leo had practically brought her straight over and Jed had found Jenny shy but eager to please. She didn’t possess anything like Abbey’s intellect, but she did have a warm, homely quality to her that Jed could understand Leo being attracted to. She didn’t want a career – she wanted to stay home and take care of Leo, and Jed could understand that too. He knew all too well what she saw in Leo McGarry – the deep core of vulnerability hidden beneath the brusque, sharp-eyed, pragmatic exterior. Oh yes, he knew exactly what attracted Jenny to Leo McGarry, from the way Leo could make you feel as if you were the only person in the room worth listening to by the intensity of his stare, to the way his hands and tongue made love to every inch of your body, claiming it for his own. There had been a slight wariness in Jenny’s eyes when she’d been introduced to Jed, and though he did his best to put her at her ease, he sensed that there was something about him that she disliked, or distrusted.


“So,” he’d asked Leo after they’d eaten, when they were alone together, both women having retired to bed. “You’ve told her about us?”


“Yes.” Leo nodded. “I told her as soon as we started getting serious. I said our relationship was non-negotiable and if that bothered her then we’d best split up before one of us got hurt. She had some problems with it at first but…I think she got over those.” Leo shrugged. Jed shook his head – he knew that Leo didn’t feel jealousy in the same way he did, and, he suspected, the way Jenny did. Leo hadn’t seen the look in Jenny’s eyes when they’d first been introduced but Jed had, and he understood it all too well. Back off, it had told him, making it clear she saw him as a rival for Leo’s affections. Jenny would share Leo if this was the only way to have him, but only so long as his relationship with Jed never threatened her place as Queen Bee in his life.


The marriage had been fine for awhile – Jed had been the first person a deliriously happy and excited Leo phoned when his daughter, Mallory was born barely 9 months after the wedding – but afterwards Jed got the feeling that things weren’t going so well between Jenny and Leo. Leo never said anything but Jed knew he worked himself too hard and also that he was drinking again – never a good sign with Leo. The last few times Jed had seen his friend Leo’s drinking had bothered him enough to chide Leo gently about it – but Leo had downplayed Jed’s concerns and Jed wasn’t sure how much he should interfere. Leo’s drinking certainly didn’t seem to affect his career, which went from strength to strength, but that hollow, shadowed look was still there in his eyes; if Jed was honest he knew it had never entirely gone away after Vietnam. He knew Leo still occasionally suffered from back pain from the injuries he’d sustained in ‘Nam, and he wondered if he drank partly in order to deal with that.


They’d both done well – Leo’s sharp mind and ability with money had meant that he’d built up a tidy fortune, and Jed sometimes, in his more distrustful moments, suspected that was why Jenny stayed, although he was aware that might just be his jealous mind doing her a disservice. Jed’s money worries had eased after his father died, bequeathing a fair amount of money to his son – certainly enough for Jed to capitalise on, particularly as Abbey’s career had taken off, and they were both earning good money. Later he had achieved his own career success, with a Nobel prize for Economics under his belt, a tenure at Dartmouth and, finally, the governorship of New Hampshire which helped him feel that he had gone some way at least to realising his earlier political ambitions, even if it wasn’t anywhere near the lofty heights he and Leo had dreamed about all those years ago at the Boy’s Nation Camp.


Through it all, his relationship with Leo had remained a constant in his life – Jed still got excited every June knowing that they’d have at least a night together, and hopefully a couple of days; in this busy time when they both had families and high powered jobs that took up all their energy, it was a relief to touch base and just relax with each other, especially when their meetings had become so few and far between…which made Jed all the more annoyed that Leo was late. He glanced at the clock again, torn between anxiety and annoyance. Supposing Leo had had an accident? Supposing…Jed didn’t even like to think about it, but supposing his friend had been drinking and then had driven on down here? He didn’t think Leo would drive if he was drunk, but Leo’s drinking was spiralling out of control and Jed often worried that he would make a mistake one day, and slip up as a result of his alcoholism…because that’s what it was. He had flinched away from saying so directly to Leo’s face, but it was getting to the stage where he knew he’d have to say something. At that moment the phone rang, breaking into his reverie.


“Bartlet,” Jed answered, hoping it was Leo.


“Jed?” The voice on the other end of the line sounded strangely fragile and Jed’s mood changed immediately to one of concern.


“Leo – where are you?”


“I…I’m not sure. Jed…I’ve…my wallet has been stolen. Someone jumped me from behind,” Leo said.


“Christ – Leo, are you okay?”


“I’m fine. I have a bump on my head from where I fell but it’s nothing serious.”


“Leo, you must know where you are!”


“I’m close. I stopped for a drink on the way,” Leo told him. “Then…I was going to get a taxi the rest of the way, Jed, I wasn’t going to drive.”


“Oh hell, Leo, are you drunk?” Jed demanded. “Why the hell did you need to stop for a drink on the way when you knew you’d be here soon? Damnit, Leo!” It suddenly occurred to Jed how very close to the edge Leo must be if he couldn’t even make their anniversary without needing a drink.


“There’s a bar called…Raymonds? And a restaurant with a big red, plastic chicken outside,” Leo said. “There’s a motel too – I’m in the motel parking lot.”


“Okay – I know where you are,” Jed said. “Hold on there, Leo. I’ll be about 20 minutes.”


It was pouring with rain as he got into the car and drove to his rescue mission, torn between anxiety and anger towards his old friend. He found Leo sitting in the motel parking lot, the purple bruise on his forehead dissected down the middle by a small red cut oozing blood, the rain plastering his greying hair to the side of his face. Jed got out of the car and checked Leo over anxiously – and it was only when he was sure that his friend was fine that his anxiety spilled over into anger for what seemed to him to have been an entirely unnecessary incident.


“Get in the car,” he said brusquely. Rightly judging the level of Jed’s anger, Leo didn’t so much as attempt an apology. He just gave a faintly sheepish smile and climbed into the car, reeking of alcohol and cigarette smoke and the musty smell of damp coat.


“We will talk about this, Leo,” Jed promised. “If you think I’m going to stand by and watch you screw up your life then you’ve got another think coming.


“Yes, Jed,” Leo sighed wearily, resting his head on the window, and staring out at the rain-swept landscape outside, looking like a half-drowned puppy waiting to be kicked.


“And don’t think you can do that cute, vulnerable thing either,” Jed admonished. “You always do this, Leo, always make us feel that we have to protect you from the consequences of your drinking or that we’re not allowed to say anything about it. Well I’m not doing it any more. This time you face up to it.”


“Yes, Jed,” Leo agreed, way too easily.


“I mean it, Leo. I’m not just talking – this time I’m really going to make you face yourself. Christ, I can’t believe you did this on our anniversary. Why the hell did you stop for a drink when you knew you were coming to me?”


“I don’t know. I just felt like one.”


“So this means we have to spend the entire evening arguing instead of having sex and that makes me doubly pissed off, Leo,” Jed snapped.


“We don’t have to spend the evening arguing – we could skip straight to the sex,” Leo commented hopefully.


“In your condition I doubt you’re even capable,” Jed replied scathingly.


“I’ve been capable when I’ve been in a hell of a lot worse condition than this,” Leo riposted.


“Well more fool whoever you were with at the time then because frankly the thought of kissing you when you stink of alcohol and you can’t even stand up straight is not all that alluring, Leo.”


“Oh, fine. I really don’t care,” Leo groused, banging his head against the window again. Outside the rainfall had turned into a full-blown thunderstorm, the skies as dark and glowering as Jed’s mood. They drove the rest of the way in silence. Leo got out when they reached the governor’s mansion and walked very slowly, and very deliberately up the steps, clearly wanting to prove that he wasn’t as drunk as Jed was making out. Jed watched him with a bitter expression on his face. He knew exactly how drunk Leo was – there wasn’t anything he didn’t know about Leo McGarry. He followed Leo into the house, put a hand on his friend’s shoulder, and propelled him angrily into the kitchen.


“Sit down,” he ordered curtly, shoving Leo into a chair. Leo sat, and then rose again.


“I need to go to the bathroom,” he muttered.


“I said, SIT DOWN!” Jed roared. Leo glared at him mutely for a moment, rebellion radiating from his hard blue eyes, and then sat. Jed turned on the faucet, poured Leo a large glass of water and thumped it down on the table. “Drink it,” he ordered. Leo glared at him again but lifted the glass reluctantly to his lips all the same. Jed looked in the kitchen cupboards for the medicine box that he knew Abbey kept somewhere in the general environs. All the family’s medical ailments were dealt with by his wife and for some inexplicable reason she chose to store the box in the cupboard in which Jed felt it least belonged. He located it with much cursing and then slammed the cupboard door shut. Leo winced. Jed ignored him and began running some water in a basin. He grabbed a cotton ball out of the box, soaked it in the water, and then returned to the table.


“Hold still,” he said curtly, grabbing Leo’s head in his hands and applying the cotton ball none too gently to his friend’s wounded head.


“Ow! Fuck, Jed,” Leo complained, pulling away.


“I said, hold still. I have virtually zero patience with you right now, Leo McGarry so do as you’re damn well told,” Jed told him sharply. Leo submitted to Jed pulling his head back and bathing the cut thoroughly, before covering it with a band-aid.


“It’s just a small cut – but you’re lucky that you don’t need stitches,” Jed growled. “Did you get a look at whoever robbed you?”


“No.” Leo shrugged. “I told you they jumped me from behind.”


“I expect they saw you drinking yourself stupid and thought you’d make an easy target once you left the bar,” Jed told him. “Stay here and don’t move. I’m going to call the police.”


“Oh don’t fucking bother. They’re not going to find this guy now,” Leo snapped.


“I don’t care – a crime has been committed and I happen to believe that’s a bad thing that should be reported to the authorities whether or not the victim was damn well asking for it or not,” Jed rapped back.


“Well I don’t want to talk to the police,” Leo retorted.


“Right now I don’t give a flying fuck what you want, Leo,” Jed told him. “But somehow I doubt they’re going to drag all the way out here in a thunderstorm to take the statement of a deadbeat alcoholic so you’ll probably get your own way on that.” His tone made it clear that that was the only thing he intended Leo to get his own way on this evening.


“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You just keep talking, Jed. That’s what you’re good at,” Leo growled at him, clearly stung by the alcoholic comment. “I’ve never known anyone have so much to say and so little worth listening to.”


“And I’ve never known anyone have so much trouble hearing one simple truth!” Jed shot back.


“And what fucking truth is that, Jed?” Leo sneered.


“That you’re an alcoholic,” Jed said quietly. “That you need help. That if you continue drinking like this you’ll kill yourself. That you can’t stay in denial any more because I won’t damn well let you!”


“That’s four things, Jed. Can’t even keep that simple can you?” Leo growled. “I want to leave.” He got up, and then hung onto the table, unsteadily, as he swayed.


“Yeah, right.” Jed gave a bitter laugh. “You can’t drive – you can’t even walk right now, Leo and I’m not getting you a goddamn taxi. You are going to stay here and we are going to work this out whether it takes all tonight and all tomorrow to do it.”


“There you go being dramatic again,” Leo replied with a laugh of his own. “Don’t be ridiculous, Jed. You can’t keep me here. This is the Governor’s mansion for god’s sake.”


“I wouldn’t care if it was the White House,” Jed shot back, “you’re not moving until I say we’re done, Leo.”


“No, I’m going to say it. We’re done, Jed!” Leo shouted. “We’re done. We’re through. We’re over. I’m going.” He began walking towards the door. Jed stepped in front of him.


“You’d rather walk out on thirty years of friendship than admit you’re an alcoholic?” Jed asked. “You love liquor more than you love me, or Jenny, or Mallory?” Jed leaned in close, incandescent with anger.


“Get out of my way, Jed,” Leo snarled.


To be fair, Jed always remembered that it was he who made the first move in this fight. He put his hands out and shoved Leo back. Leo reacted angrily, flailing out with his fists and pushing Jed off balance. Seriously furious now, Jed grabbed Leo around the waist and tried to physically force him back onto the chair. Leo grabbed Jed around the back of the neck and tried to pull him forward to throw him off balance. Jed gave a howl of pain and Leo elbowed Jed aside, and reached for the handle of the door.


“You don’t damn well walk out on me, Leo!” Jed yelled, grabbing Leo’s shoulder and swinging him around…and a few seconds later something very hard made contact with the side of his face, and he felt himself going down. He landed on the floor in a heap, aware of a dull, throbbing pain in his jaw. The room swam for a moment and when it finally came to a halt he found himself looking into Leo’s shocked and horrified eyes.


“Oh shit. Jed…I’m sorry. Are you okay?” Leo slumped down on the floor beside him and took his face in his hands. “Jed? Jed?!” He said frantically.


“I’m fine…just a bit dazed…” Jed replied, shaking his head to try and clear it, pushing Leo’s hands away. “That’s one hell of a right hook you’ve got there, Leo.”


“You’re bleeding. Oh Christ.” Leo looked around helplessly. Jed put his hand gingerly up to his face and found the blood dripping down the side of his chin. His mouth felt strange and he worked the jaw a couple of times to make sure it wasn’t broken and then ran his tongue gingerly around his teeth – and found one of them wobbling precariously.


“Damnit, Leo. You broke one of my teeth,” he complained, reaching inside his mouth to find the loose tooth beyond repair. It came out in his hands and he held the bloodied stalk up for Leo to see. Leo just sat there, looking utterly stunned and then he buried his face in his hands. Jed gazed at him for a long time, and then rested his head back against the kitchen cupboard that he was propped up against.


“Oh shit,” he said.


Finally, after several long minutes, he reached out with a sigh, clapped his hand roughly around Leo’s neck, and drew him close.


Jed wasn’t sure how long they sat there, sprawled in a messy heap of tangled limbs and bloodied shirts, Leo’s shaking body clasped against his own chest. Outside the storm raged unabated but inside he thought that maybe things had calmed down a bit. There was still a long way to go though. After what had to be at least an hour of total silence, Leo took a long, shuddering sigh, and sat up. He winced as he looked at Jed’s blood stained face, but to his credit he didn’t look away. He just stared, glumly, at Jed for what seemed like another hour. Still neither man spoke. Then, eventually, Leo ducked his head slightly.


“If you want me to leave then I’ll go,” he whispered.


“If I want you to leave?!” Jed snapped, still managing to sound furious despite the fact that his jaw ached and his mouth felt weird. “Leo, we just had this fight because I don’t damn well want you to leave! So no! Do not, under any circumstances, leave, because I promise you that if you go now then I’ll never forgive you.”


“Okay.” Leo whispered with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “D’you think that maybe we should get up now?”


“I don’t think I can move right at this precise moment,” Jed replied. His entire body felt like a sack of potatoes and he ached in places he didn’t even know existed.


“Hah.” Leo gave a short, bitter mirthless laugh.


“What?” Jed raised an eyebrow. “You’re finding this funny, Leo?”


“No – just thinking that somehow, and I don’t know how, you always manage to manoeuvre yourself onto the moral high ground. Bastard.” Leo made a face.


“You obviously have something to say – why don’t you get it all off your chest?” Jed suggested, in a slightly dangerous tone.


“Why not? You want to talk about my drinking and that’s fine, but let’s also talk about your insufferable smugness, Jed. Is there anything in your life that doesn’t come up smelling of fucking roses?” Leo growled.


“I don’t know why you’re complaining. What have I got that you don’t have?” Jed replied. “You have a powerful job – you’re Secretary of Labor for god’s sake! You’re an extremely wealthy man, you have a beautiful wife and a lovely daughter. So what exactly are you so angry about?”


“I’m angry about us – no, I’m angry about you, Jed,” Leo told him furiously. “You have this fantastic relationship with Abbey, you have this great fucking life. I always feel like I’m some kind of footnote to your happiness while you…you’re central to mine.”


Leo’s eyes were almost belligerent as he said that. Jed licked some blood from his split lip.


“You have Jenny,” he said.


“It’s not the same as what you have with Abbey and you know it. I never found that, Jed,” Leo sighed. “God knows I looked – I’m so sick of always being the poor relation in this friendship. The person you pick up and dust down and feel sorry for.”


“I don’t feel sorry for you right now. I feel seriously pissed at you but I don’t feel sorry for you,” Jed snapped.


“If you and I didn’t see each other you’d survive,” Leo said morosely, continuing with his theme. “You’d still have Abbey and god knows one great relationship is all a man needs in his life. I’m just some kind of optional extra. I love Jenny, but let’s not kid ourselves that we have the same kind of relationship you and Abbey have. I can’t talk to her, Jed, not really, not the way I talk to you. You’re the only person I’ve ever met that I can really talk to…and you have Abbey. You can talk to her. You don’t really need me.”


“I have spent the past month looking forward to this anniversary, Leo, so don’t tell me who I do and do not need,” Jed replied angrily.


“Yeah, you look forward to your dabble in rough trade,” Leo grinned, but it was an ugly grin. Jed knew it was the liquor talking but that didn’t make it any easier to hear. “You like it when I get rough with you, Jed. You like it when I take charge, when we get really physical, when I fuck you so hard into the sheets that you scream. I guess that’s the only thing you can get from me that you can’t get from Abbey.”


“Leo, I swear to god that if you keep talking like this I won’t be the only one with a bloody jaw,” Jed replied.


“Oh please. I may be drunk on my ass but I could still take you in a fight any day,” Leo said dismissively.


“That may well be so,” Jed replied. “But I have righteous anger on my side and I think you’ll find that lends a man a certain degree of strength in a situation like this.”


“Righteous anger. Yeah. Is there anything you don’t feel righteous about, Jed?”


“I don’t feel righteous about you,” Jed said softly. “I don’t feel smug or superior, Leo, although I can see that I might look that way to you occasionally. I love you, Leo and I want you to be happy. I’ve always wanted that. I can’t stand to see you throw your life away like this. What happened? What the hell happened to us, Leo?”


“We got old,” Leo sighed, “and we never did all the things we said we were going to do.”


“We’re not that old. Isn’t there still time?”


“Time? Yes.” Leo shrugged. “But maybe not the ambition.” He shrugged again.


“We both did okay, Leo,” Jed commented. “I’m Governor of New Hampshire and you’re Secretary of Labor. I think we’re both ambitious enough.”


“But are we ambitious enough to go all the way to the top, Jed?” Leo asked. “Because I don’t think I believe in that fantasy any more.”


“What happened to that 17 year old kid who believed in that dream?” Jed asked softly.


“Oh hell, Jed, we were so fucking innocent and stupid back then that it’s painful to even think about it,” Leo snapped. Jed felt as if his friend had punched him all over again – he still thought fondly of those young boys they’d once been, and it pained him to hear Leo be so dismissive.


“Well I still believe,” Jed replied fiercely. “Leo, is this still about ‘Nam? Because you know I think it is – at least partly. That’s when you started drinking like this. That’s when you gave up on your dreams. It seems to me that everything you’ve done since then has just been going through the motions.”


“I don’t know.” Leo shrugged. “I feel like I’m only half alive some of the time, Jed. If I was with you all the time, maybe I’d find a way back to believing again but you and I both know that’s unrealistic. Drinking…drinking numbs all these feelings – it helps me to function, Jed.”


“You’re not functioning, Leo. You’re barely existing,” Jed told him softly. “This isn’t a life – it’s a charade. You have to face up to what happened in ‘Nam. You have to come to terms with it.”


“You want me to go to rehab,” Leo said, looking at his old friend steadily.


“Yes I do.”


“You want me to see some fucking shrink to whom I’ll pay a fortune just to hear that the war fucked me up, or my childhood fucked me up, or my relationship with you or Jenny fucked me up and that’s why I feel this way.” Leo shook his head.


“You won’t know unless you go,” Jed told him. “Leo, I’ve never felt more alive than when I’m with you, not even when I’m with Abbey and that’s the honest truth. You have a way of making everything vibrant and more colourful somehow. When I’m with you I see all the possibilities and it excites me. I still feel the same way about you that I felt when I was 17, Leo. I still feel like you’re the smarter one, the quiet one who has it all figured out, the one all the other guys look up to, the one person more than any other in this world who I want to impress. I always thought you’d run for President one day. I really believed that, Leo – and watching your career up on the Hill, I’ve never been more convinced of it.”


“No.” Leo shook his head. “I stopped wanting that a long time ago, Jed. I’m not the right man for the job.”


“Why not?” Jed asked.


“Well, apart from anything else,” Leo said, very, very slowly, “I’m an alcoholic.”


Jed felt a tingle creep up his spine at those words and recognised how incredibly important this moment was. Leo had been in denial about this for so long that he had despaired of ever getting his friend to admit the truth.


“Yeah,” he replied. “Yeah, you are. Question is – what are you going to do about it?”


“What can I do?” Leo said, shrugging his shoulders helplessly. “I just hit my best friend, the person I love most in the world. In the circumstances I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that never happens again. I’ll go to rehab. I’ll commit to honestly and truly getting well. I’ll own up to what I am and try my damndest to beat this thing. I’m sorry, Jed.” He reached out and plucked the bloodied tooth from the floor. “I’m really sorry,” he whispered.


“Hell, I won’t miss that old tooth,” Jed said grimly. “And if that’s all it cost to get you to this point then I’m happy to donate it to such a good cause.”


“In the interests of full disclosure…there’s something else I should tell you,” Leo muttered.


“I can’t believe there can possibly be anything else,” Jed declared.


“Yeah. There is.” Leo shrugged. He reached into his pocket and took out a small bottle of pills.


“What are they?” Jed frowned.


“Valium.” Leo shrugged. “When I said I wanted to go to the bathroom earlier it was because I wanted to take these and I didn’t want you to see.”


“What the hell are you taking valium for?” Jed demanded.


“For the same reason I drink,” Leo replied. “I’m addicted to them, Jed. They help me get through, you know?”


“Oh shit.” Jed sighed. “When did all this happen, Leo? Was I not paying attention? Was I not a good friend? Did I not call you often enough or take enough interest in your welfare?”


“You did fine, Jed. I screwed up my life all by myself,” Leo replied gruffly. “I didn’t need any help from you.”


“But will you accept my help in getting better?” Jed asked softly. “Because I’ll do whatever it takes, Leo. You’re the only one who can do this but I’ll be right beside you all the way.”


“Okay.” Leo managed a faded smile. “Now, d’you think the big argument is over because I ache and this floor is hard and I’d really like to go to bed. With or without you – and although I know you have every right to never want me to touch you again I’d prefer it to be with you. I figure we’re both too beat to do anything very much but I would like to sleep beside you all the same.” Leo gave an embarrassed smile. “It is our anniversary after all.”


“Now he remembers,” Jed sighed. “Leo, I’ve never spent our anniversary night apart from you and I don’t intend to start now.”


Leo nodded, only the relieved expression in his blue eyes showing how much it meant to him that Jed hadn’t rejected him. Leo got to his feet, held out his hands, and hauled Jed to his feet. They walked none too steadily out of the kitchen and up the stairs to the guest bedroom, arms wrapped around each other partly to keep themselves from toppling over and partly because they needed to be close right now. They were too tired to even undress, and instead fell into the big double bed fully clothed. Leo pulled the blankets over them, and they reached for each other, finding comfort just in being close, and were asleep within seconds.


Jed woke the next morning to the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Leo was sitting on the bed next to him in his bathrobe, smelling of soap, freshly cleaned teeth and aftershave.


“Hey. How are you feeling?” He asked, handing Jed a cup of coffee.


“Like the Labor Secretary gave me a good right hook last night,” Jed replied, reaching up to pat his sore jaw.


“Sorry.” Leo winced.


“It’s okay. It doesn’t hurt much – just aches.” Jed shrugged. “I see no reason to go easy on you about it though.”


“Fair enough. I thought you might like to know that I’ve been making a few phone calls,” Leo said. “I called the police and reported last night’s robbery – I’ll drop by and give them a statement later today.” He paused, took a deep breath, and then continued. “And I’m booked into the Sierra Tucson Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Facility for the day after tomorrow. I figured it’d be nice to have at least a day with you before I throw myself into the lion’s den.”


“Leo, I’m very proud of you,” Jed said softly, putting a hand on his friend’s arm.


Leo nodded, and then cleared his throat, gazing at Jed thoughtfully.


“You know…I already took a shower but you look as if you could do with one. How about you do that and then I fuck your brains out?”


“Romantically put, Leo, as always,” Jed said with a little chuckle. “However, can I just say at this point, before we go any further, that in reference to what you said to me last night, you are not my ‘dabble in rough trade’. I like our love making any which way it comes – hard and fast or slow and gentle. Just as long as it’s you; that’s the important ingredient.”


“Okay. I don’t know why I said that. I was just mad at you last night because you were calling me on my drinking problem.” Leo shrugged. “So, if that’s out of the way, can I fuck your brains out now?”


“Sure,” Jed replied wincing as he tried to get up off the bed. “Although I don’t think I’m exactly going to be all that agile in the sack.”


“When were you ever?” Leo questioned incredulously. Jed opened his mouth to protest hotly and Leo grinned slyly. “Had you then,” he said.


“You did not!”


“I so did.”


Jed was relieved to dispense with his bloodied, slept-in clothes and then step under the steaming hot shower. He was surprised when Leo took off his bathrobe and joined him in there but gave a sigh of contentment as Leo’s strong hands came to rest on his shoulders and started giving him a firm, tender massage. “Oh god that feels good,” he murmured, leaning into the caress.


“Well, it’s the least I can do in penance for robbing you of one of your teeth,” Leo said, his fingers finding all the knotted tension in Jed’s muscles and easing it out. “Here, turn around. Let me check out that cut.” He pulled Jed around, gently examined his split lip and then slipped a finger inside Jed’s mouth to check there too. “It’s okay…doesn’t look so bad now the water’s washed the blood away.”


“Just go easy on the kissing,” Jed told him with a grimace.


“I will.” Leo leaned in and deposited the softest, most gentle of kisses on Jed’s lips. Jed sighed, and wrapped his arms around Leo’s body, loving the hard planes of it. Even though Leo had been doing some hard living in recent years, he still had a washboard stomach and tightly toned pecs – that just seemed to be the way he was built. Jed knew he was verging on flabby by comparison, especially around the midriff, but Leo never complained or even seemed to notice. Leo picked up the soap and lathered Jed’s body with it, pausing to drop a kiss here or there on his friend’s skin and Jed felt himself starting to relax under the familiar ministrations.


“Where are the lube and condoms?” Leo asked, his hands moving slowly, languorously, caressingly over Jed’s body.


“You’re going to fuck me in the shower?” Jed questioned with a raised eyebrow.


“Why not?” Leo grinned.


“Okay.” Jed grinned back. They’re in the cabinet.”


Leo left the shower for a couple of seconds and returned with the lubricant and condoms. They had started using condoms in the 80’s. Leo had told Jed that he hadn’t had sex with another man after their June 17th, 1970 anniversary and Jed believed him, and he knew Leo had only had a couple of liaisons with other women before meeting Jenny. Jed had always remained faithful to Leo and Abbey – he’d never even been tempted by anyone else. Even so, they’d decided to use condoms, not because they really thought they were in danger of contracting any kind of sexually transmitted disease, but out of respect for their wives.


“Hands against the wall, big boy,” Leo said, guiding Jed forward.


“Big boy? Have you been watching porno movies, Leo?” Jed chided.


“Nah, I just thought it might turn you on if I talked dirty,” Leo grinned.


“Well it doesn’t – it just makes me want to laugh and in case you haven’t noticed I’m already plenty turned on!”


Jed put his hands on the wall, spread his legs wide apart and thrust his ass out hopefully.


“Hmmm…I’ve missed this.” Leo ran his hand over Jed’s ass, fondling it, and Jed sighed and put his head back so that the water ran down his face, soothing and caressing him just as Leo was doing. He felt his butt cheeks being firmly parted and then, instead of feeling Leo’s cold, lubed finger, he was startled to feel his lover’s warm, wet tongue instead.


“Oh shit!” He whispered. Leo gripped his buttocks in both his hands and continued rimming Jed for a long time until Jed thought he was going to melt into the water and disappear down the plughole. “Oh god that’s so good, Leo,” he murmured as Leo’s talented tongue plunged inside him. Leo took him to the very edge of ecstasy before finally releasing him, and a few seconds later Jed felt his lover’s lubed finger being inserted inside him.


“Oh for god’s sake cut the whole stretching routine and get your cock inside me,” he demanded, unsure whether he could wait a single second longer to feel Leo’s hard length pushing into him.


“Uh-uh. I’ve hurt you enough for one anniversary,” Leo told him.


“Okay…but hurry!” Jed said, resting his arms on the wall and laying his head on them.


A few seconds later he felt the tip of Leo’s cock nudge into his body, and then his hips were grasped firmly in Leo’s hands and he pushed back, needing to feel that familiar length inside him. He loved that moment when Leo was fully inserted, and he paused, and the two of them just enjoyed the sensation of closeness. He could feel Leo’s chest against his back, his entire body covering Jed from behind and it felt so good. Then Leo began to move; his hands gently caressed Jed’s body, playing with his cock, rubbing his nipples, and fondling his balls. He kissed Jed’s neck and nibbled on his earlobes from behind, and then, slowly, he began to thrust. This felt exquisite, the hot water pounding down on him from above and Leo pounding into him from behind. Leo took his time, making sure that Jed was utterly aroused and totally lost in the sensation of their love-making. Leo was a good lover in whatever mood he was in, but Jed had never known his friend to take quite so much time, trouble and care as this. Three times Leo brought him to the edge of climax and three times made him step back from the edge so they could continue making love. The days when they could expect to come 5 or 6 times in one night were long gone and now they liked to savour the experience for as long as possible.


Then, finally, just when Jed thought he could take no more, Leo gave him an orgasm that made everything flash a blinding white colour and his entire body felt as if it had died and been transported to heaven. He was dimly aware that Leo was holding him up, and then he felt himself being walked out of the shower, and wrapped in a towel. They staggered over to the bed and threw themselves down on it, their arms still entwined, their faces pressed together.


“That wasn’t bad,” Jed murmured.


“Not bad?” Leo protested. “It was fantastic!”


Jed grinned lazily. “Had you then,” he said.



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