June 17th: 5. Chapter Five



June 17th, 2002


Jed opened the silver wrapping paper carefully, taking his time, not wanting to damage whatever might be inside. He smoothed away the paper to reveal a sturdy brown wooden box. He gazed at it, and then glanced up at Leo with a question in his gaze.


“Open it,” Leo said with a shrug, sitting back down at the table. He looked nonchalant but Jed knew him well enough to know that was just a mask. Leo McGarry was nervous – and that of and by itself was a rare event.


“Okay,” Jed said lightly, pushing his glasses more firmly on his nose. He gingerly opened the box and gazed at the contents inside. There were four small parcels within, each of different size and shape, and each wrapped in white tissue paper. Jed frowned, still none the wiser.


“You have to open this one first,” Leo said, pointing to a long, thin item.


“Okaaay.” Jed picked up the object, felt the shape and size of it through the tissue paper wrapping, and then grinned. “It’s a pen,” he said. “You bought me a pen, Leo?”


“Why would I do that? You have dozens of pens,” Leo replied in a slightly grumpy voice. “Yes it’s a pen, but this one’s a special pen. Open it.”


“I’m savouring the moment,” Jed chided, fingering the tissue paper thoughtfully. Leo rolled his eyes. “Hey – I’ve waited 40 years for this!” Jed told him. “I want to get the maximum mileage out of every single second.”


“Okay. If you must.” Leo crossed his arms over his chest and waited. Jed eased his fingers under the tissue paper and took out the pen. He stared at it for a long time, memories flooding back.


“Oh, Leo,” he whispered, hating the fact that he was sure he had tears in his eyes. He traced the writing on the side of the faded, burgundy pen with a shaking finger: J. Bartlet. “What does the J stand for?” he whispered, remembering.


“It stands for tolerance, education and equality of opportunity for all men and women whatever their colour, religion or bank balance,” Leo told him. “I believe it also stands for Jed.”


“Oh god. You must have thought I was the most insufferably priggish and precocious kid you’d ever met,” Jed sighed.


“Yeah. I did,” Leo agreed with a laugh. “But you were kind of cute – all that floppy hair and those earnest, eager eyes. Kind of like an overgrown Labrador puppy.”


“Thanks!” Jed snorted. “How the hell did you end up with this?”


“You gave it to me, remember,” Leo said with a grin.


“I’m sure that was just to borrow – not to keep,” Jed complained.


“So I borrowed it – and now I’m giving it back,” Leo told him. Jed continued to stroke his fingers over the pen, re-living the emotions of those heady few weeks at camp so many years ago. “Mrs. Landingham gave me this,” he murmured.


“I didn’t know.” Leo looked surprised. “I’m sorry – I’d have given it back to you before if I’d known.”


“Don’t be.” Jed smiled. “I expect I’d have lost it a long time ago if you hadn’t kept it. Now that she’s gone, it feels good to see it again, and remember that it was a gift from her – and also to recall the circumstances in which I gave it to you.” He looked at the pen for a long time, and then glanced up into Leo’s watchful eyes. “Thank you, Leo,” he whispered.


“Keep going.” Leo gestured with his head to the box.


“Is this whole box full of things you’ve stolen from me over the years?” Jed demanded, trying to tease because if he didn’t he thought the emotion of the occasion might overwhelm them both.


“No…at least, not exactly,” Leo grinned. “You need to open this one next.” He pointed at a slim piece of tissue paper. Jed reached into the box and gently plucked it out – it was as light as air and he looked at Leo in surprise.


“You’re sure there’s something actually in here?” He asked.


“I’m sure.” Leo nodded.


“Okay.” Jed flicked the tissue paper aside to find a single, yellow, aged piece of paper inside. On it, in faded, barely legible ink, was the name of a hotel, with the word ‘Receipt’ printed in dark letters underneath it and the date June 19, 1970 handwritten on it, next to the scrawled legend: $39.


“You insisted on paying,” Jed said, looking up. “I didn’t have much money so you wouldn’t let me pay anything for that room.”


“You saved my life that anniversary, Jed,” Leo told him softly. “You might not have known it at the time, but you did. If I hadn’t seen you for those couple of days I would have gone back to the war and done my damndest to get myself killed.”


“I was so worried about you. Boy, $39 doesn’t sound like a lot now but in those days I guess it was quite a sum.”


“Especially as that room was such a dive,” Leo agreed, chuckling.


“I can’t believe you kept this stuff, Leo,” Jed commented, looking at his old friend with new eyes. “Even after all this time you can still surprise me.”


“I like to keep you on your toes,” Leo said, inclining his head.


“Did you collect something from every anniversary?” Jed asked, amazed.


“Yes.” Leo shrugged. “But I picked the four items that meant the most to me for this gift. It’s supposed to symbolise one from each decade but you’ll find two from the 90’s and none from the 80’s – I guess we didn’t have any really significant anniversaries in the 80’s.”


“I blame the Republicans,” Jed grinned. “They were running everything back then.”


“Yeah. I think it’s always safe to blame the Republicans,” Leo agreed.


“So, which one do I open next?” Jed asked, surveying the two remaining tissue wrapped items in the box.


“The little one.” Leo pointed with a wince. “And before you do, can I just say ‘sorry’ again.”


“Oh god…it’s not…” Jed rolled the tissue paper open and laughed out loud when a tooth fell out onto the table. “Well, I told you I wouldn’t miss this tooth, Leo and I guess I was right. I can’t believe you kept it though!”


“It seemed appropriate…and when I was really having trouble staying off the liquor it gave me something to focus on. Didn’t always work, I’ll admit,” Leo shrugged, grimacing slightly, “But most of the time it did.”


“And, uh, as I recall,” Jed said, “I had the best sex of my life that anniversary.”


“It was pretty good,” Leo agreed. “Maybe we should have big fights more often if the make up sex is going to be that fantastic.”


“Uh, no – I want to make it into old age with at least some of my own teeth,” Jed replied and they both laughed. “One more.” Jed gazed at the box, not wanting the trip down memory lane to come to an end. He pulled out a small, hard, round object and disposed of the tissue paper wrapping to find himself holding a button bearing the legend ‘Bartlet and McGarry for America.’


“It still has the bent pin from where you stepped on it,” Leo pointed out.


Jed gazed at the little collection of mementoes with an amazed expression on his face.


“Leo, I’m speechless,” he said at last.


“We’d both be very surprised if that were really the case, Jed,” Leo commented.


“Yeah!” Jed chuckled. “No, Leo, I’m not speechless – I’m delighted and touched and…probably verging on the kind of sentimental babbling that makes you want to hide under a rock but I can’t help it.”


“I take full responsibility for my actions in giving you this particular gift, Jed,” Leo told him. “I’ll bear the sentimental babbling without too much complaining.”


“This gift is so perfect.” Jed traced his fingers over the four items on the table in front of him and then looked at his old friend sharply. “Why, Leo,” he said, “I do believe you’re a romantic at heart.”


“I was afraid you’d realise that,” Leo sighed. “I guess my cover is blown, huh?”


“Every year, Leo? You collected something from every anniversary?” Jed asked, still trying to get his mind around that fact.


“Yes.” Leo shrugged. “Sometimes they weren’t particularly interesting but there’s one from each June 17th. I was paying a lot more attention to this particular date than you ever gave me credit for, Jed.”


“I stand corrected, Leo.” Jed shook his head, and gave a little whistle. “So what will you take from this year’s anniversary, Leo? Apart from the cufflinks that is.”


“This I think.” Leo pointed to the red wrapping paper. “Or maybe one of these goddamn candles.” He grinned. “You said 40 years was ruby, so that has some significance. I thought…” He hesitated. “They’re yours to keep. You can do what you like with them, but I thought if you wanted I could put them back in the box I keep them in with all the others and if you wanted to see them you just have to ask.”


“That sounds perfect to me,” Jed said, nodding. The real gift hadn’t been the items on the table in front of him after all – they’d been the emotions behind them and the shared reminiscences they’d created.


“And now…” Leo said, getting to his feet and coming to stand by Jed’s chair. “We dance.” He held out his hand.


“We do what?” Jed asked incredulously. “We don’t dance, Leo. We’ve never danced. We don’t do dancing.”


“Jed, over the years I’ve indulged every single one of your romantic whims,” Leo told him, waving his arm around the candlelit room to illustrate this point. “And now that I’ve outed myself as a closet romantic it’s payback time so get your ass over here and let’s dance.”


“Okay.” Jed said, removing his glasses and accepting the proffered hand. “You do actually know how to dance right?”


“Only with a woman but we won’t be doing that kind of dancing so that won’t matter,” Leo replied with a wicked look in his eyes. He swung Jed around, pulled him in close and put his hands on Jed’s ass. Jed decided he could handle this kind of dancing and put his arms around Leo’s waist and angled his head in for a kiss. They danced silently, feet barely moving, kissing as they went, and Jed realised he was being steered, none too subtly, in the direction of the bed.


“You sure your security detail is down the hallway and not outside the door?” Leo asked, nibbling Jed’s earlobe.


“Mmmm. I’m sure,” Jed replied, his hands squeezing Leo’s ass appreciatively to encourage more earlobe nibbling.


“It always feels weird when we make love in the White House,” Leo commented. “As if it’s wrong or something.”


“Why, Leo, who can stop us?” Jed said, with a raised eyebrow. Leo gave a low guffaw as he remembered a 17-year-old boy asking that question 40 years before.


“You’re right. What with you being the President and me being ‘the power behind the throne.’” He grinned. “And of course it’s purely in the interest of academic study,” Leo added, and Jed laughed out loud.


“Oh yeah. Our interest in academic study is what started this – and led us all the way here,” he observed, burying his face in Leo’s neck and inhaling the familiar smell.


“I thought…” Leo said, massaging Jed’s buttocks through his pants, “that as we have all night you might like to do the honours first…then we can change around when we’ve both recovered and got our energy back and probably had a nap as well – taking into account our advanced years…”


“Speak for yourself. Tonight I feel like I could go on forever,” Jed replied, swaying in time to some music he was hearing only inside his own head, loving the feel of Leo’s hard body pressed up close to his as they danced. “Are you sure about this though, Leo? You don’t usually want to bottom.”


“Well tonight I do,” Leo said.


“Okay.” Jed grinned. “I like having you at my mercy.”


“Don’t let the power go to your head, sir,” Leo smirked.


“Don’t call me sir, Leo. We had a deal, remember,” Jed told him and then he gave a little “ooof” of surprise as Leo pushed him onto the bed and began undressing him. They undressed slowly, although Jed thought that from the look in his eyes Leo remembered the first time they’d made love, and how they had been so excited and aroused that they hadn’t even been able to hold out until they had removed their clothing. He still had no idea why Leo and no other man made him feel like this but after 40 years it wasn’t a question he asked himself very often these days. He pulled Leo down on the bed beside him and took his turn in undressing his friend, removing the gold cufflinks first, and putting them safely on the nightstand. They took a long time undressing each other, kissing frequently as they went, fingers moving sensuously across fabric and flesh, caressing each other lovingly as they went about their task.


After 40 years Jed thought that he and Leo fitted together like a hand in an old, worn, favourite glove. They knew what turned each other on, knew where to kiss and how hard to stroke, but, as tonight had proved, even after all this time they could still surprise each other. Jed rolled Leo onto his back and sat astride him, holding Leo’s hands above his head, and then he devoured Leo’s body, surprising them both with his energy and passion. Jed gave a satisfied smile as Leo arched up underneath him, and writhed into his caresses, moaning softly as Jed tormented him thoroughly with his tongue. Jed reached for the lubricant and condoms, which he’d placed in readiness in the nightstand drawer, then pushed Leo’s legs open and played with his ass for a long time, alternately rimming and fingering his lover, and then, when Leo was making gurgling noises in the back of his throat, Jed judged that now would be a good time to move things on. He put a condom on his cock, pushed Leo onto his side and spooned up behind him, then put his arms around Leo’s body, pulling him close so that Leo’s back was resting against his chest. He parted his buttocks gently and entered inside him; Leo made another gurgling noise so Jed judged that he must be doing something very right. He rocked into Leo’s body and then paused, just as Leo always paused with him.


“Feel good?” He murmured.


“Oh yeah…” Leo replied, placing his hands over the hand Jed had on his abdomen, and caressing Jed’s fingers lightly.


“For me too,” Jed whispered, kissing the side of Leo’s face. Leo closed his eyes and then they were rocking together, completely lost in the moment. When Jed closed his eyes he could still see Leo’s face, could see Leo’s face in all its manifestations, right back to when he had been a freckle-faced kid of 17, 40 years ago. He could see the bright, intelligent eyes of the scholarship student, the gaunt, haunted, features of the Air Force pilot, the twisted, shadowed smile of the jaded politician with an alcohol problem, and the sharp, driven face of his campaign manager and Chief of Staff who knew him almost as well as he knew himself. Almost. When Leo had found out about his Multiple Sclerosis he had been both shocked and hurt – to say nothing about worried for his friend’s health. Jed didn’t ever want to see that betrayed expression in Leo’s eyes again. He thought Leo had forgiven him for that, thought he understood; they were neither of them perfect, both had behaved badly in their time, as that tooth on the table testified, but through it all their love had remained as strong as ever, that sense of connection never faltered, and the electric current running between them could still make then tingle when they first made love after spending any amount of time apart.


Jed made love to Leo gently, tenderly, carefully, like the old friends and lovers they were. They still had their moments of passion but both would admit they were slowing down, and not as energetic in the bedroom as they had been once. Still the sex was as good as always, and Jed made sure he brought Leo off first before coming himself. Then he snuggled up even closer to his friend and just held him, enjoying the thrumming sensation of Leo’s heartbeat under his hands.


“Happy 40th anniversary, Leo McGarry, you old romantic,” he whispered into his friend’s ear.


“Happy 40th anniversary, J. Bartlet,” Leo said. “Remind me what the ‘J’ stands for again?”


Jed snorted. “It stands for what it always stood for, and it also stands for Leo McGarry’s very contented lover.”


“Ah,” Leo said, turning his face so that Jed could see the impish smile he knew very few people had ever seen, and which reminded him so clearly of a sunny day 40 years ago. “You know, you should have finished what you started in the Oval Office earlier today, Jed. You should have told the senior staff exactly what the significance of June 17th, 1962 is,” Leo told him still grinning wickedly.


“Yeah,” Jed chuckled. “I can just see their faces…but then again,” he mused, “who would have guessed that this evening would be the culmination of the events of an ordinary June day 40 years ago? I suppose, like you said to our senior staff earlier, it’s worth remembering that extraordinary things can happen on the most ordinary days, Leo. The events of history can turn on a single chance meeting, and the whole course of the world can be changed by one event. Imagine a world where Abbott never met Costello, where John Adams and Thomas Jefferson…”


“Jed?” Leo turned to face him, his hand coming to rest on Jed’s thigh, his blue eyes shining with both love and amusement.


“Yes, Leo?”


“It’s time for you to shut up now.”



The End


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