Lifeline: 2. Chapter Two


Tuesday Morning


“Leo – I thought you weren’t coming in this morning,” Jed said with a frown as he poked his head around Leo’s office door to find his Chief of Staff seated at his desk, working.


“No, you told me I wasn’t coming in this morning – I said I was and I did,” Leo replied. He looked a lot better than he had the day before at least, Jed thought. He had called Leo the previous evening and had been assured that his friend was recovering but he remained unconvinced; he still felt that something wasn’t quite right, but he was unable to put his finger on it. His friend seemed guarded and their telephone conversation the previous evening had been short and brusque. Jed shook off the feeling – Leo was sitting here, right in front of him, looking as right as rain, so his Leo-radar was probably just off.


“Hey – are you busy this evening?” Jed asked, plunking himself down on Leo’s couch. It was early, and even Margaret wasn’t in yet; Jed liked it when they had the place to themselves – he felt they could be *them*, and relax a little.


“I don’t think so. Why?” Leo removed his glasses and glanced at Jed questioningly.


“I’ve been stood up.” Jed grimaced. Leo raised an eyebrow and Jed gave a heavy sigh and began to elaborate. “I had this surprise meal planned for Abbey,” he said. “I’ve been…well, kind of short tempered lately…”


“Just lately?” Leo teased. Jed made a face at him and continued, undeterred.


“So, I organized this special meal for her to smooth things over – I discussed the menu with Rene in some detail…”


“He must have loved that,” Leo interrupted.


Jed fixed him with a firm glare. “Will you let me finish?”


“Sure.” Leo grinned.


“I made sure he’d be serving all her favourite foods, set aside an entire evening in my schedule for some uninterrupted downtime, and…”


“Forgot to check with her office that she’d actually be free tonight,” Leo finished for him.


“How did you know?” Jed asked in an astonished tone. “And don’t you dare give me that ‘I know everything’ line. It may be true but it’s *annoying*, Leo.”


“It was just a wild guess,” Leo told him, that grin tugging at the corners of his mouth again.


“Sometimes you are just so smug,” Jed complained.


“And you’re very predictable,” Leo retorted.


“Hmm, well, as it turns out she’s not only not free but she isn’t even going to be in town so I’m stuck with a massive feast, carefully selected for its more, uh, aphrodisiac properties,” Jed grinned, “and nobody to eat it with.” He did his best to look mournful, rejected and abandoned in the hope that it would soften Leo’s notoriously hard heart.


“So, what will we be eating then?” Leo said with a resigned sigh.


“You’ll come?” Jed gave a delighted grin.


“Sure. I don’t mind being second on your list of people to lavish exotic meals on,” Leo said, with a wolfish grin.


“Exotic, *romantic* meals, Leo,” Jed corrected him. “There’ll be candles and everything – and I’ll instruct Rene to set up the table in one of the guest bedrooms so you might as well plan on staying the night.”


“Ah, you haven’t even given me dinner yet and already you think you’re gonna get laid,” Leo lamented. “You must think I’m easy.”


“You *are* easy, Leo,” Jed pointed out. “I’ve been sleeping with you for over 40 years so I should know.”


“Yeah, well, I’ll just say, ‘pot, kettle and black’ and leave it at that,” Leo replied, putting on his glasses and glancing back at his work.


“Are you sure you’ll be up to an exotic meal after yesterday?” Jed asked, getting up.


“Sure. It was nothing. I’m over it.” Leo waved a nonchalant hand in the air.


“Okay – oh, I spoke to Debbie and she re-scheduled the Vietnamese ambassador for Friday at 4 – she’ll get Margaret to put it in your diary.”


“Okay.” Leo nodded, absently.


Jed gazed at him. “Sure you’re okay?”


“I’m fine, Mr. President,” Leo told him, glancing up again. Jed hesitated, that nagging feeling returning. He’d known Leo a long time and his Leo-radar had rarely been proved wrong – so why was it ringing such huge alarm bells in his head right now?


“Okay.” He nodded, still unsure, and returned to the Oval Office. He wished he could put his finger on what was bugging him. It was something about the expression in Leo’s eyes – they were guarded, shadowed, evasive even, and while Jed had seen that expression in them before, usually when Leo was doing some complex political manoeuvring, he hadn’t seen it directed at *him* in years. He was halfway to his desk when he remembered something and wandered back. “Leo – come by about 8 this evening and…” he began. Leo glanced up sharply and folded away the piece of paper he had been reading, as if he didn’t want Jed to see it. “Anything interesting?” Jed asked lightly, too far away to see what it was.


“No – just…nothing.” Leo shrugged, slipping it into his pocket.


“Okay.” Jed nodded and went back to his office. At least Leo hadn’t figured out that the meal thing had been a ruse. He wanted to spend some time alone with his old friend – Leo’s health scare a few months previously had been a big wake up call to the President, and Jed had decided that from now on he wasn’t going to take any chances where Leo’s welfare was concerned. He had Abbey to look out for him but Leo didn’t have anyone; Jordan was too new in his life for her to have assumed that role, so Jed figured it was down to him to make sure that his old friend and lover was okay. Maybe if they were alone together, and had a chance to really talk, he’d find out why Leo had that shadowed look in his eyes.






Leo lay on the ground, trying hard to remember to breathe, as the VC surrounded him. He put his hands slowly on his head, making it clear he wasn’t attempting to reach for a weapon, and then waited, his heart in his mouth. It would be so easy for them to just pull that trigger and then he’d die out here, in the jungle, alone save for these strangers. They’d probably just leave his body here – strip his uniform and boots and anything valuable, and dump his corpse to rot. He might never be found. He knew guys that had happened to; guys who just disappeared after being shot down. Maybe he’d be one of those guys whose personal effects were boxed up and sent back home, who were never spoken about again because everyone was scared the bad luck would rub off on them.


The VC officer was shouting at him but Leo couldn’t understand what he was saying. He was nudged to his feet and stood up straight, telling them his name, rank, and serial number in what he hoped were calm tones, designed to defuse the situation. The man glared at him and spoke again. Leo shook his head, and repeated what he’d said. He was half way through reciting his serial number when his captor punched him hard on the jaw without warning. Leo sagged to the ground, and tried to protect himself as best he could as his captors kicked him several times. They stripped off his survival vest, watch, and the small, gold St Christopher medallion which had been a gift from his Mom and which he wore around his neck – these items were seized like bounty and handed around, and then his arms were bound tightly behind his back. He was dazed by the time they dragged him to his feet, and he lost track of the time as he was half marched, half dragged through the jungle. Next thing he knew he was thrown into the back of a truck with hands still tied behind him, his jaw streaked with his own dried blood. He tried to roll over in order to relieve the knifing pain in his back, but one of his captors misinterpreted his movement and shoved the butt of his rifle at him. He felt his head snap back and heard a sharp cracking sound…and after that everything went black.


Leo regained consciousness only briefly during the next few hours. Whenever he woke, the various aches in his body combined to send him back into a fitful, half-dazed slumber. Then the first tendrils of light began to heat the truck and he woke again to find his cheek crushed up against someone’s boot and a rifle pointed perilously close to his head. He closed his eyes and tried to remember his training, tried not to think about the reality of having been captured by the VC. He knew the prison camps around here were likely to be makeshift and brutal. The only good thing about landing in the South was that if he wasn’t marched immediately over the border he might stand some small chance of escaping and being picked up by friendly forces.


A little while later the truck came to a rumbling halt and Leo was dragged out of the back, pulled into a rundown complex of small buildings, hauled along a filthy, rancid smelling hallway, and thrown into a dark room at the end of it. Someone bent over him and cut the ropes on his arms, and then the door clanged shut behind him and he breathed a sigh of relief that for now, at least, they were going to leave him alone.


He lay face down on the cold floor for a few moments, winded from the journey and the various blows that had been landed on him since his capture. He thought he was alone, so he jumped, startled, when he heard someone clear his throat. He glanced up, blearily, trying to focus as the room swam around him, and a tall, lanky figure came into view.


“Captain?” A voice whispered.


“Mo…” His throat was too dry to say the name so he swallowed and tried again. “Morelli?” He managed to croak, still trying to focus on the hazy figure beside him. Morelli was lying on his back, his shoulders resting against the wall.


“Yeah. It’s me. You look like shit, man,” Morelli told him.


“Believe me, that’s nothing to how I fucking feel,” Leo replied. “Could you help me up?”


“No.” Morelli shrugged. Leo raised his head and gazed at him quizzically. Morelli’s face finally sharpened into focus and he was able to see where the young Lieutenant was gesturing. He glanced down and winced as he saw the awkward angle at which the other man’s leg was resting.


“Did they…?” Leo began but Morelli stopped him, shaking his head.


“It was my own fucking dumbass fault – I did it on landing. I blacked out when I bailed from the plane and still wasn’t with it when I hit the ground – hell, I misjudged where the fucking ground was.” Morelli gave a grimace. “It didn’t take them long to find me – I could barely move.”


“Shit.” Leo gazed at the broken leg bleakly. Morelli had to be a lot of pain, but he didn’t think asking about it would help so he just took a deep breath and dragged himself up by his arms, hissing as the movement sent a wave of pain through his shoulder and back.


“How about you, Captain? Are you okay?” Morelli nodded in the direction of Leo’s shoulder and he glanced down to see that his flight suit had been ripped open and was soaked with dried, encrusted blood.


“Shrapnel wound,” he grunted, glancing around. They were in a small, dank cell, with no windows and no lighting, although some light managed to creep in through cracks in the walls, doors and ceiling so it was just bright enough to see. The place stank of urine, and there wasn’t any bedding either – not so much as a blanket. Leo hoped this would only be temporary accommodation.


Having taken his bearings, he crawled over to Morelli’s leg to inspect it further. His head ached so much that he thought it might fall off his shoulders but he knew that his own condition was far less serious than the younger man’s. He crouched beside Morelli and gazed at the leg; it was a bad, open fracture – he could see part of the bone sticking out of the skin – and in conditions like this, and without urgent medical treatment, Leo thought it was likely that the Lieutenant would lose it.


“Is there a doctor in this place?” Leo asked.


“I have no idea. They sure as hell haven’t sent him along if there is.” Morelli shrugged, his face sickly green in hue.


“Have you seen anyone?”


“No. Only the guys who brought me here.” Morelli shook his head. “Captain…please…is there anything you can do…?” He gestured with his head in the direction of his leg. “It hurts so fucking much.”


Leo took a deep breath. “Okay…look, I’m no doctor, Franco – I’ve had the same basic first aid training that you have – but I can try and pull your leg out so that the bone pulls back into the skin.”


“Please – just do it, Captain,” Morelli begged. “Please.”


Leo nodded, and examined the leg thoughtfully. The only thing he could do was to reset the bone as close to where it was as possible. It wasn’t the best solution, but it was a stop gap. He wished he had some water to wash the area but he didn’t and he doubted they’d be given any in the near future either, so he’d just have to go ahead without. He put his hands on the leg, and gazed at Morelli.


“Ready?” He said. “On the count of three. One…” He didn’t wait until he reached three and pulled the leg out on the count of two instead – a trick his father had taught him when he was a small boy with plasters that needed tearing off grazed knees. Morelli gave a low yowl of pain, but Leo had managed to reset the bone and, while it still had to hurt, Leo knew it would be a little less agonising now. He used his handkerchief to tie a makeshift bandage around the wound, but it wasn’t anything more than a temporary measure. Morelli’s face was white as a sheet, and his eyes were closed, sweat beading his forehead. Leo wasn’t sure if he’d passed out or was just coping with the aftermath of his none too gentle first aid treatment but he decided to leave the other pilot alone. He glanced down instead at the shrapnel wound in his own shoulder, and gently probed it with his fingers, wincing slightly as he did so. It was painful, but there was nothing left in there now that he could find. There wasn’t anything he could do so he decided to just try and forget about it. Then he slowly crawled over to the wall and came to rest against it with a grateful sigh, glad not to be moving any more.


Morelli shifted beside him, muttering something under his breath.


“Are you okay, Lieutenant?” Leo asked.


“You said three,” Morelli whispered.


Leo gave a faint smile. “I lied,” he replied. “How you doing?”


“A little better.” Morelli nodded. “Thank you, Captain.”


They were silent for a moment, and then Morelli spoke again.


“Captain, what will they do to us?” He asked. “I’ve heard stories…seen the guys they’ve paraded…y’know, for propaganda.” Morelli turned to face him, and Leo was reminded again that even though the Lieutenant was only a few of years younger than him, he hadn’t been fighting this particular war for very long. He looked like such a kid and those two or three years made all the difference. Leo knew he’d grown up these past few years, had gone through experiences that had changed him radically from the idealistic, enthusiastic young man he’d been when he’d first arrived out here to fight this war. Now, he felt cynical, world weary and infinitely old compared to this 22 year old kid sitting beside him.


“Yeah,” he agreed. “I’ve seen those pictures too.” He had received the same training in survival, evasion, resistance and escape that Morelli had, and they had both been briefed on what to expect if captured, but he figured that in his semi-delirious state Morelli might well not remember some of the details of those briefings.


“Those guys didn’t give their confessions willingly. They were tortured,” Morelli added, shivering. Leo didn’t reply. “Do you think they’ll torture us?” Morelli asked.


Leo shrugged. “I think they’ll interrogate us,” he replied.


“Is there a difference?” Morelli asked.


Leo shook his head. “I don’t know, Morelli, but it sure as fuck doesn’t do us any good thinking about it.”


“No.” Morelli shivered again and Leo knew the kid had to be in shock from his broken leg.


“They’re more likely to want details of what we know than a confession,” Leo murmured.


“Well that’s okay because I don’t know a damn thing,” Morelli muttered.


“Sure you do,” Leo grunted. “And if they ask, you should tell ’em,” he said. They’d been given instructions on this subject too, but he doubted Morelli remembered that either in his current state.


“What?” Morelli swivelled his head to face him.


“Franco – that leg of yours isn’t going to mend itself. You might have already lost it,” Leo told him, as gently as he could. “If they offer you medical treatment as a price for information then you should take it…don’t tell them anything important – just give away the small, stupid stuff.”


“That’s fucking crap!” Morelli snapped. “Sir,” he added belatedly. Leo grinned at him in the semi-darkness. The lieutenant was so young, idealistic and full of shit. He reminded him of himself – and not so long ago either.


“Where are you from?” He asked, trying to change the subject.


“New York.”


“Your folks still there?”


“Yeah. They have their own restaurant. I used to wait tables there.”


“Bet they’re proud of you,” Leo commented. He wasn’t entirely sure his own Mom and sisters were proud of him. Mostly, like Jed, he suspected they’d have preferred it if he hadn’t come out here to do this, and recently he had been thinking they were right.


“Yeah.” Morelli grinned. “You?”


“My Dad died years ago. My mom and my sisters live in Chicago.”


“And that friend of yours? The one with the baby?” Morelli asked. That reminded Leo of Jed’s letter and he reached into his pocket and fished it out, delighted that it had survived intact.


“He lives in New Hampshire.” Leo shrugged.


“Any girls waiting for you back home, Captain?”


Leo gave a faint grin, and caressed Jed’s letter with his fingers. “Oh yeah, Lieutenant. Too many to fucking count,” he replied.


The day wore on and there was nothing to do except sleep, talk – and worry about what was going to happen to them. Morelli’s dark head fell against Leo’s shoulder, although whether the younger man was sleeping from shock or exhaustion Leo wasn’t sure. He sat there, trying to come to terms with this sudden reversal in his fortunes. Like Morelli, he’d heard all the stories about what the VC did to captured American soldiers, and he knew their situation wasn’t good. He wondered whether this was it – whether he’d die out here, so far away from home. What would his Mom say when she was told he was dead, he wondered, unable to stop himself imagining the worst. And his sisters. And Jed? Leo shivered, easily able to imagine Jed’s reaction…and yet, and yet…his friend had a wife, and a new baby – how big a dent would his death seriously have on him? Sure, he’d be upset for awhile, but he’d get over it. Leo didn’t kid himself that he meant as much to Jed as Jed meant to him. Glancing at Morelli to make sure he was asleep, Leo opened Jed’s letter and began to read.


I’m working on a research grant right now. There’s a chance of a job in London at the LSE but I don’t want to talk about it too much in case it doesn’t happen. It wouldn’t be for awhile yet anyway – not until next year – but it’s pretty much my dream job as it’d give me the opportunity to do my doctorate and get some real research work done – maybe even work towards a book. To be honest, we could do with the money. Abbey can’t work right now for obvious reasons and I need to do something or we’ll be in trouble. I lied earlier about the heating. It didn’t break down – we just couldn’t afford to pay the last bill. Abbey’s threatened to wheedle some money out of Dad but I refuse to let her so we had a pretty big argument about it. But damnit, Leo, I feel I should be able to provide for my own family and I’ll be damned if I go running to him. I’m sure he’d give us the money but there would be strings attached, and I don’t want to have to deal with any of that shit.


Leo sighed and shifted slightly, trying to lose himself in the contents of the letter so that he could forget about his current predicament. He wished Jed didn’t have to worry about money – Leo had always had a way of making money stretch – Jed called it a gift and Leo didn’t think he was accusing him of being tight, just very good at managing his finances. Since he’d been in ‘Nam there had been little enough to spend his salary on except liquor, and while he’d done his fair share of drinking, he’d saved up a good deal of his salary. He always sent a generous amount home to his Mom and sisters every month, but there was enough for him to send some to Jed too – if he’d accept it, which Leo knew he wouldn’t.


I wish you could have been here at Christmas. Abbey was as big as a house by then (she just leaned over my shoulder and slapped me around the head for that comment – something for which I’m blaming you, my friend) and I refused to allow her in the kitchen. She thinks I was being gallant but really it’s just that I think my cooking is better than hers. It was just the two of us on Christmas day – Mom got snowed in and Jon is busy with some girl he’s found. We asked Dad but he refused – I gotta admit I was relieved about that – I always feel on the outside of his and Abbey’s mutual admiration society and I know the money issue would’ve come up.


The one thing really missing was you – d’you remember Christmas last year? You brought that huge turkey and we didn’t realize until Christmas morning that it wouldn’t fit in the oven? We spent an hour hacking it down to a manageable size while you kept pouring eggnog down our throats? I swear we were all drunk off our asses by the time we ate the damn thing – Abbey keeps telling everyone who’ll listen that I’m allergic to eggnog but I think she just doesn’t like how drunk I get on it. Anyway, Abbey and I had a quiet Christmas this year preparing for Lizzie’s arrival, but we both missed you and the fun we had last year. I hope that wherever you spent Christmas you had a great time and raised a glass of eggnog for us as we did for you. I thought you might call – I’m guessing it’s pretty hard for you out there right now but I want you to know we missed you.


Leo gave a guilty sigh as he read that. He could have called – but he hadn’t wanted to remember the previous year so he’d spent most of Christmas day in a bar getting completely plastered and would have been too incoherent to have called Jed in any case.


Leo, there’s some sappy stuff coming up, so you might want to have a drink before reading on. At the risk of upsetting that unsentimental, unromantic heart of yours, I want you to know that I think about you every day. It’s particularly hard at the moment – having Lizzie and wanting desperately to show her off you. I think about you flying those damn planes. It still freaks me out that you can do that y’know! Maybe one day you’ll take me out flying? I’d love that – and you’d love showing off how cool you are behind the controls.


Leo grinned. There was something so quintessentially Jed about that statement – always reaching for the sky even though Leo knew for a fact that the reality of being up in the air in a small plane would freak his friend out. Jed was big hearted, kind, and smarter than most people he’d ever met put together, but he was secretly afraid of speed, enclosed spaces, and anything that looked like it might be even vaguely capable of whisking him off into outer space. Leo doubted he’d be able to get Jed to even sit in the cockpit of a Thud, let alone go for a flight in one.


“Hey…” Morelli murmured sleepily beside him, and Leo folded the letter and slipped it back into his pocket. “Did I miss anything?” Morelli asked.


“Nah. They haven’t even looked in on us to see how we like the accommodations,” Leo told him with a wry grin. “Which is a shame because I’d like to complain about the lack of bedding and a sea-view. Maybe we could ask them to move us to another room?”


Morelli gave a snort of amusement. “How long’s it been?” He said.


Leo sighed. “Not nearly as long as it seemed – probably no longer than an hour.”


“Is that all?” Morelli bit down hard on his lip. “You were reading your friend’s letter?” He asked.


“Yeah.” Leo nodded.


“He sounds like a good friend. You miss him?”


“Yeah.” More than you’ll ever know, he thought.


“I write to my mom but not very often – she complains but what can you do?” Morelli said, spreading his hands in a very Italian gesture. Leo grinned.


“Yeah. I don’t write so much either,” he said. “Jed…he writes every week.” He shook his head. “I used to write back about the same…but not lately.”




Leo turned to find Morelli’s brown eyes shining feverishly in the semi-dark of their dank, unlit cell.


“I don’t know what to say to him any more,” he murmured. “Me and Jed – we never had any trouble talking – hell, he’s the kind of person who never shuts up.” He grinned, promising himself that he would never again roll his eyes at one of Jed’s long-winded trivia-fests. If he got out here alive, he’d gladly spend the rest of his life listening to Jed talk – if it meant he’d get to see his friend again, to be with him, and talk to him, and make love to him.


“If you get out of here…” Morelli gazed at him, his forehead glistening with sweat. “Would you tell him about this?”


Leo stared at him for a long time, wondering what Jed’s reaction would be to learning he’d been shot down and captured, not wanting to even think about the look that he knew he’d see in Jed’s expressive blue eyes.


“I don’t know,” he murmured. “I really don’t know.”




Tuesday Evening


Jed left the office at 7.30 to make sure that everything was in place for the evening, giving Leo stern instructions not to be late. The bedroom looked beautiful when he arrived – the table was set up and there were a few discreet candles burning. Jed had waited until the last minute to tell the chef that Abbey had been called away and therefore he was dining with Leo instead – it wasn’t the first time this had happened and nobody thought anything of it. Jed lifted the lid on one of the bright silver platters to inspect the contents and took a little taste – chicken in an oyster sauce, perfectly cooked, with a consistency that melted in the mouth; he couldn’t have done better himself he thought with a satisfied smile – well, maybe that wasn’t *quite* true as he always thought he could do better himself, but even so, it was pretty good. He was interrupted in this food reverie by a pair of hands sneaking around his waist, and he straightened, startled.


“Leo? I didn’t hear you come in!”


“You were too busy trying to find something wrong with the dinner so you could tell me how much better you’d have cooked it,” Leo pointed out, not removing his hands from Jed’s waist. Jed grinned at him over his shoulder.


“You know me far too well,” he grinned. “Is it my imagination or are you actually early? Usually I have to bribe you to attend anything approaching a romantic meal and where…” He disengaged himself from Leo’s grasp and gazed at his friend enquiringly, “…is your cell phone? The cell phone that’s usually stuck to your hand so you can receive all those last minute but incredibly urgent calls and to pander to your constant need to be updated by Margaret every 2 seconds?”


“My cellphone’s in my pocket,” Leo told him, rolling his eyes.


“And there was I thinking you were just pleased to see me,” Jed purred lasciviously. Leo sighed, heavily.


“That joke is SO old. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that my cell is switched off.” He grinned at Jed, then reached out, pulled the President close, and delivered a firm kiss to his friend’s mouth. Jed went, willing but utterly startled. This wasn’t usual Leo-like behaviour. Usually Leo liked to make a huge fuss about having to leave the office early, the over-abundance of candles, and anything else he could gripe about, before they settled into a nice meal, some civilized conversation, and, finally, bed. Bed didn’t usually come first – they were a long way past the need to jump on each other the moment they were alone.


“What was that for?” Jed asked as the kiss ended. “Not that I’m complaining but…”


“You looked…” Leo hesitated and then gave a wolfish smile, “…enticing – bending over to taste the food. Now that was a fine sight.”


“Hmm.” Jed gazed at Leo, puzzled. “Okay,” he said uncertainly, thinking it had been a long time since Leo had spoken to him like this. There was a distinct twinkle in his friend’s blue eyes that made him tingle all over like he was 17 years old again.


“C’mere.” Leo said, and he pulled Jed back for another kiss, his hands exploring Jed’s body thoroughly as he opened his friend’s lips with his tongue and plundered his mouth with considerable enthusiasm. Jed found himself holding onto Leo’s hips for dear life as his friend’s energetic probing continued. He finally managed to haul himself back from the brink as Leo’s hands began to urgently insinuate themselves down the back of his pants.


“Whoa! Leo!” Jed drew back, fending off Leo’s questing hands with his own. “Hey, can’t we eat first?” He asked. “Not that I’m not flattered but I’m also hungry, and this food is far too good to waste.”


“Hmmm.” Leo’s hand remained resting on his butt, stroking insistently. “Well I suppose we could eat first but I’m happy to taste a completely different dish right now.” His other hand moved to the front of Jed’s pants and massaged his cock through the fabric. Jed took a deep breath.


“Leo – we have all night. Let’s eat first, okay?”


Leo gazed at him for a moment, and then nodded. “Okay,” he said with a shrug. He sat down at the table and Jed served up the meal, chatting away as he did so. It was only when he sat down and started to eat that he realized that Leo had barely said a word. His friend’s eyes were following his every move though, in a way that was almost disconcerting – and strangely familiar. Jed tried to remember when he had last seen Leo behave this way; something about Leo’s behaviour tonight was jogging a memory, he just couldn’t place it. Jed continued talking but it was clear that Leo wasn’t interested either in the conversation or in the food. He kept his gaze fixed firmly on Jed, and the President felt that all he had to do was say the word and Leo would leap on him and make love to him. A part of him thrilled to the knowledge that they still had the power to do this to each other after all these years; it reminded him of the early days of their relationship when they’d had to snatch their pleasure wherever and whenever they could, which had lead to some interesting encounters in places that made Jed blush now he looked back on it. That had been decades ago though – now they were a little too old for such behaviour and anyway, they had a nice comfortable bed and the knowledge that they wouldn’t be disturbed all night. There was no need for any urgency.


“So you’re sure you’re okay?” Jed asked, in an attempt to entice some chat out of his friend. Leo was always the quieter one of the two of them but he was a good conversationalist and whenever they were alone together the conversation flowed like water. It had always been this way; the fact that they always had so much to say to each other was one of the reasons why they had connected so strongly in the first place. Whenever Jed was away from the White House, he’d make frequent phone calls to Leo, or Leo would call him. Neither of them ever mentioned to the other that they could barely get through a day without talking on the phone; it was just a fact of their relationship.


“I’m fine.” Leo sat back in his chair, gazing at Jed as if he wanted to devour him. Jed noticed that he’d only pushed his food around his plate.


“Because…you know, after what happened when you had the flu a couple of months ago, I wanted to be sure…”


“I’m not going to collapse in the Oval Office again,” Leo interrupted, with a roll of his eyes. “I just ate something funny that’s all.”


“Nobody else got sick,” Jed pointed out. “You ate something from the cafeteria right?”


“I was unlucky.” Leo shrugged.


“Okay.” Jed gazed at Leo suspiciously; he had the disconcerting feeling that Leo wasn’t being honest with him, but if Leo wouldn’t tell him what was really going on then he couldn’t make him. However, long years of dealing with Leo had given him some ideas on how to manage his friend. Leo was a patient man – far more patient than Jed – so waiting him out wasn’t really an option. However, what Jed lacked in patience he more than made up for in determination; he’d hang on in here until he saw a chink in Leo’s armour and then he’d make his move.


Leo had moves of his own he wanted to make – and the minute they finished their coffee he got up, went over to Jed’s chair, and placed his hands on his friend’s shoulders. Jed experienced that familiar Leo tingle as his friend began to run his hands down his arms, and he felt Leo’s warm breath on the back of his neck, and then a familiar wetness as Leo licked him there, sending arousal shooting through every nerve in Jed’s body. Jed couldn’t help it – it always turned him on when Leo was this enthusiastic about sex and he loved how arousing Leo still found his body. It was one of those things that he’d been embarrassed about for many years, and, while he was long since over that sense of shyness, when Leo was this insistent Jed was still a little freaked out by how much he enjoyed it. He made a little sound and began to move away from the table but Leo grasped his arms firmly in his hands.


“Stay there,” he whispered in Jed’s ear. “I want to undress you.”


“Over the dinner table?” Jed queried, trying to make a joke of it and failing as his choking voice betrayed how turned on he was by that thought.


“Yeah. I want to get you out of that suit, out of being the President, and make you squeal.”


“I don’t…” Jed began but it was too late to protest as Leo’s hand slid down the front of his pants and caressed his hardening cock. “Squeal!” He finished in what was a distinct squeal.


“Sure you don’t,” Leo whispered, sounding darkly seductive, as if a stranger had taken over Leo’s body and was now making love to Jed in his place.


Jed did a half-turn, and glanced at his friend over his shoulder, but Leo didn’t seem to be there. He looked like he did when he’d been drinking – back in the days when he used to drink. There was almost a mask in place, and the usual calm, good natured Leo that Jed knew so well was hidden behind it. Jed was turned on and startled in equal measure. He knew Leo, his Leo, wouldn’t do anything to hurt him, but all the same there was something edgy about the situation.


“Leo…” he began, but he didn’t get a chance to say anything else as Leo grabbed his face and subjected him to a long, passionate kiss. His hands wandered urgently over Jed’s body as he kissed him, and when he finished Jed didn’t have time to draw breath as Leo pulled him to his feet, his fingers ripping at the buttons on Jed’s shirt while his lips went back in for another steamy kiss. Jed kissed him back this time; it was impossible to resist Leo when he was this focused on sex, and Jed was finding it too thrilling to want to stop his friend, although the nagging thought remained, at the back of his mind, that this was unusual behaviour for Leo, and that memory tantalized him again, just out of reach.


Leo had Jed undressed in microseconds, and then he bundled him physically over to the bed. Jed wasn’t any lightweight, but Leo was sinewy and his strength, when he chose to display it, always took Jed by surprise. He pushed Jed onto the bed and then climbed on top of him and began making love to Jed, passionately and urgently. Jed sighed, loving every second. He wrapped his arms around Leo’s back and returned his friend’s kisses with passionate ones of his own, but Leo wanted more. He raged over Jed’s body like a tempest, kissing, licking, biting and sucking until Jed did exactly what Leo had predicted and started squealing and mewling with pleasure. Their frenzied love making seemed to go on for hours – Jed wasn’t sure he had the stamina to keep up with the pace his friend was setting but Leo was relentless. At some point, and Jed wasn’t sure when as everything seemed to pass in a blur of hazy pleasure, Leo found the condoms and lube that were kept stowed in the nightstand, and then he was kneeling between Jed’s thighs and the next thing Jed knew his legs were over Leo’s shoulders and Leo was entering him, urgently, his movements fast and needy. Jed lay back and gave into the utter bliss of the sensation. He didn’t think he’d ever tire of this; from the very first time they’d ever made love, leaving his entire body boneless with pleasure, he had loved it. Jed gazed up at Leo as his friend thrust into him, and it struck him that Leo was still wearing that mask. His friend’s eyes were glazed over, and he wasn’t looking at him the way he usually did; usually he gazed down on Jed with a look of fond affection in his eyes, but tonight – tonight he looked…lost. There was no other word for it. He looked as if he wasn’t even there, as if he was miles away, and yet at the same time he seemed oddly vulnerable and desperate.


“Hey, slow down…we have all night,” Jed whispered, reaching out a hand to caress the side of Leo’s face and draw his friend back to him. Leo looked startled, and then grinned.


“Going too fast for you, old man?” He teased.


“No, I’m just saying – we can take our time. What’s the rush?” Jed pointed out as Leo thrust back into him with another fast movement of his hips.


“No rush…just that we might want to do this all over again later,” Leo said with a wolfish smile.


Jed gazed at him in surprise; usually once in a night was all they managed these days but Leo clearly had other ideas.


“Okay, you’re really putting me through my paces,” he grumbled amiably.


“Can’t keep up?” Leo panted.


“Wondering what the headlines would look like if you collapsed of a heart attack and died on me at this precise moment in time,” Jed pointed out. “Leo…you usually like to take things slow…” He was panting himself throughout this speech but Leo ignored him. His hand was wrapped urgently around Jed’s cock, and he pumped away until neither of them was able to hang on any longer and they both came. Leo collapsed on top of him, and they lay there for a very long time, getting their breath back. Then Leo shifted and withdrew from him, before wrapping his arms around Jed’s body. He rested his face on Jed’s chest, and, with a little sigh, closed his eyes. Jed’s hands came to rest on Leo’s back, and he gazed down at his friend, still surprised. Leo was clinging onto him like a drowning man clutching a rock, as if he was genuinely scared that Jed might disappear. What on earth had tonight’s frenzied love making been about, Jed wondered? He stroked Leo’s back gently, picking up a feeling of intense vulnerability from his friend that he couldn’t help but respond to, although Leo didn’t say a word. Something was bothering him though, judging by the way he had his arms wrapped so tightly around Jed’s body.


“Hey, we should talk,” Jed murmured softly.


“I’m too tired to talk. That was great wasn’t it? It was great,” Leo replied in one of his typical avoidance strategies that Jed was familiar with after 40 years of intimacy. He wondered for a moment whether Leo had been drinking again; was that why he had been sick the previous day? He hadn’t smelled any alcohol on his friend’s breath, either yesterday or today, but was that it?


“Leo,” he said softly. “Did you fall off the wagon?”


Leo glanced up at him, a surprised look in his sharp, evasive blue eyes. “No.” He shook his head and then laid it to rest on Jed’s naked chest once more. Jed squeezed him comfortingly with his arms.


“You can tell me,” he said encouragingly.


“I haven’t been drinking, Jed. I just wanted to make love to you tonight – what the hell is wrong with that?” Leo snapped. “You didn’t seem to have any objections ten minutes ago.”


“And I don’t have any now. It’s just…you don’t seem yourself.”


“I’m fine,” Leo told him, but he wrapped his arms even tighter around Jed’s body, as if he feared he was going to be swept out to sea and Jed was the only thing holding him anchored in a safe harbour.





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