Old Friends Chapter 1



Something was wrong. Leo hadn’t worked as the White House Chief of Staff for nearly 4 years without having an almost instinctive feel for the running of the place and the people who worked here; and, most of all, he hadn’t been the lover and best friend of this man sitting beside him for 40 years without knowing when something was bothering Jed Bartlet. Leo glanced at the man sitting beside him, trying to figure out what was going on inside the President’s mind right now. Leo was adept at multi-tasking and could concentrate quite adequately on the somewhat long-winded National Security Briefing they were both sitting through while at the same time pondering what to him was the more urgent issue at this moment in time – what was up with the President?


Jed certainly looked tired – he had shadows under his eyes but it was the expression in his eyes that concerned Leo more. Something was troubling his old friend, and while Leo knew that Jed could talk for America (and frequently did) on virtually any topic under the sun, he also knew that when Jed was troubled by anything that went very deep he held it close, and rarely confided in even those he loved and trusted most.


Leo watched his friend out of the corner of his eye, trying to figure out what might be going on. It had all started a few days ago, after the Iowa caucus, but for the life of him Leo couldn’t figure out what had happened between then and now to cause Jed to withdraw into his shell like this.


He knew that Jed wasn’t listening to the briefing – his mind was far away, and that was rare of and by itself; Jed never daydreamed through meetings – his mind was far too sharp, lively and enquiring for him to want to miss anything. Leo recapped the meeting in his own mind, committing the salient points to memory, and then stiffened as he glanced back at the President: Jed’s eyes were closed. Admittedly the National Security Briefing had gone on a long time and was tedious – but all the same, Leo had never seen the President actually fall asleep in any of his meetings before. He nudged the President’s knee surreptitiously and Jed’s eyes flashed open. He glanced at Leo with a defensive expression as if to deny that he had been sleeping. Leo raised an eyebrow – it was all done very quickly, and Leo doubted that anyone had even noticed, but it just served to confirm Leo’s suspicions that something was wrong; something was very wrong indeed.


“Thank you, gentlemen,” he said, bringing the meeting to a close. “I think we’ll wrap this up here.”


“Leo, there are still a few…” one of the generals began.


“We’ll reschedule. I think we covered all the important points,” Leo said smoothly, casting a look in Jed’s direction to make it clear to his friend that while the meeting with his security advisers might be over, his meeting with Leo hadn’t yet begun.


The room cleared slowly, and Leo followed the last man to the door so he could close it behind him, and then he turned back and gazed at his friend. Jed turned away, grabbing his glasses, and walked back to his desk. Leo remained where he was. Jed put his glasses on, picked up a briefing document from his desk, and settled down as if he was going to read it. Leo continued waiting. Finally, after several long seconds, Jed glanced up.


“I was just resting my eyes, Leo,” he growled, the warning tone in his voice making it clear that this wasn’t something he wanted Leo to pursue.


“Sure you were.” Leo shrugged.


“It’s been a busy few days,” Jed continued.


“No busier than usual.” Leo spread out his arms. “What’s going on, sir?” He asked gently.


“Nothing!” Jed replied, too heatedly and too quickly. Leo sighed – they weren’t going to get anywhere with Jed in this kind of mood. He knew that all too well from long experience. “Don’t make a big deal out of this, Leo.”


“Okay.” Leo smiled pleasantly, and walked over to the desk. “So…” He paused and glanced at his friend, with a different look in his eye – one which he knew, from equally long experience, that Jed invariably responded to. “Abbey’s away,” he commented neutrally. They never spoke about their personal relationship in the office, but they had developed a kind of code that they both understood well enough.


“Yeah. She’s at the house in Manchester for a couple of weeks seeing the grandchildren and doing that charity thing she’s been talking about non-stop lately,” Jed said. He met Leo’s gaze for a split second and then looked back down at the briefing document he was clearly only pretending to study. Now Leo knew something was up. He had never known Jed fail to respond to the way he was looking at him right now.


“So, I’m just saying…usually when Abbey’s away…” Leo shrugged. He knew that while Jed adored his wife’s company, he also cherished whatever time he could spend alone with his old friend, and whenever Abbey was away he invariably made a beeline for Leo’s hotel room or invited him over to the Residence for intimate tete-a-tetes. Abbey understood about their relationship and although she led an extremely busy life in any case, Leo knew that she often left town so that Jed would be able to spend some time with his old friend. They had operated this arrangement for 40 years, and it always seemed to work pretty well. Yes, Abbey had had the lion’s share of Jed over those 40 years, but Leo wasn’t complaining; they’d both had wives and families that they loved and wanted to spend time with and while their relationship was intensely important to both men, it was one that had, by necessity, had to incorporate a lot of give and take.


“Yeah. Well…like I said…I’ve been busy,” Jed said curtly. Leo gazed at him impassively, knowing when he was being lied to. Abbey had been gone for three days and as yet Jed hadn’t made a move on him, so what with that and everything else, all Leo’s alarm bells were ringing very loudly right now.


“Sure.” He shrugged. “I’ve been pretty busy too – but I’ve got a free night tonight. I’m looking forward to it. Thought I’d order something nice, eat in my suite, put on some music, have an early night…”


“Sounds good,” Jed said tersely, as if he wasn’t really listening. “Enjoy it. I’m going to work late – I have a stack of papers to read through tonight. ” He pointed to a pile of reports, head down, still not meeting Leo’s eye. Leo nodded and then walked quietly back to his own office. He didn’t need to say anything more; he had issued the invitation and Jed had rejected it. Jed never rejected an invitation to spend some private time with his lover when Abbey was out of town, so something was clearly troubling the President – and Leo intended to get to the root of it.


Leo left the office early, and he made a point of sticking his head around the door to the Oval Office to say goodbye before going. Jed glanced at him, a curious expression on his face – one part hunger the other part annoyance. Leo wasn’t sure what that was about; he had seen the hunger before – Jed had a habit of devouring him with his eyes when he was in the mood for sex – but the annoyance was harder to place. He wasn’t sure whether Jed was annoyed with Leo or with himself – or with someone else entirely.


“I’m just leaving,” Leo said softly.


“Yeah. Okay. See you tomorrow, Leo,” Jed said, waving his hand dismissively.


“You’re sure everything’s okay, sir?” Leo asked, testing the waters to see if the President’s mood had improved in the past few hours.


“Oh for god’s sake, Leo – I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds! Everything’s fine!” Jed exploded at him.


Leo gazed at him steadily. “Okay,” he said calmly, deciding that Jed still wasn’t in the right mood to share whatever was going on inside that convoluted brain of his. He’d give his friend another day and then he’d start insisting. Jed didn’t always like being pushed but he needed it sometimes and Leo was one of the few people he would allow to push him.


Leo went back to his hotel suite and did exactly what he’d said he would do. He took a nice long bath, put on the dark burgundy silk bathrobe that had been a gift from Jed on his birthday the previous year, and then sat down to a leisurely dinner by himself, with Simon and Garfunkel crooning melodiously from the stereo, and a well-thumbed copy of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man propped up in front of him. Leo had never lost his affection for the great science fiction authors of his youth, and frequently returned to them when he had a spare moment. He rarely had the time to give his full attention to getting into a book by a new author – it was more his habit to dip in and out of old favourites, re-reading passages that he particularly enjoyed. He finished his dinner, read some more, then glanced at his watch; 11.30 pm. He had hoped that Jed would change his mind and join him, but it was too late for that now. Leo wandered into the bedroom, book in one hand, glass of water in the other, and got into bed. He leaned back, relaxing, allowing the music to wash over him.


Time it was and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences


Leo sighed – it was at times like this that he wished he could have a drink. A nice, long, slow draught of cool beer, or a short, sharp shock of warm, rich whisky with a slight after-burn. Or maybe just a nice bottle of red wine, full and fruity…


Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; they’re all that’s left you


Leo gave a wry grunt, and took a sip of his water instead. Memories. Yeah – he had plenty of those. He frowned – was that what was going on with Jed? Something from the past? Leo closed his eyes, recalling the pained look in Jed’s eyes when he’d spoken to him earlier; defensive, guarded, lost in a memory of a different time and place…


Leo knew he must have fallen asleep because he woke with a start at the sound of a loud knock on the door. He glanced at his watch – 1am? Who the hell had come calling at this time of night? He got up and went to the door – only to have it knocked out of his hand the moment he opened it by the full force of a minor presidential whirlwind.


“Leo – something urgent has come up that we’ll need to spend the next several hours talking about!” Jed proclaimed loudly, entirely for the benefit of his secret service agents who had positioned themselves outside Leo’s hotel room.


“Uh, okay,” Leo said, closing the door and putting the chain on it just to be sure. The minute he was done, he found his robe being grabbed and then he was pulled forward and into a deep, long, and extremely hungry kiss. He recovered enough to put his hands on the President’s sweat-pant clad ass, and pull the other man close, but this kiss was Jed’s all the way. Leo had long since learned how to roll with the punches as far as his mercurial lover was concerned, and he was happy to submit to having his mouth thoroughly explored by Jed’s tongue and his entire body groped through his robe before he was, finally, released. “So, you wanted to talk?” Leo said, when he had gotten enough air into his lungs to speak.


“No, I don’t want to talk, Leo. Did you think I came all the way over here at this time of the night to talk?” Jed protested. “I just said that for their benefit.” He nodded with his head in the direction of the door.


Leo rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I figured that – but I thought you might actually want to talk, Jed, seeing as how it is 1 O’ clock in the morning and I did invite you over here this evening for a nice dinner, an invitation that you declined. So I thought maybe you wanted to talk about why you think it’s okay to wake me up in the middle of the night to service the Presidential needs without so much as giving me the benefit of your company for a civilised evening meal first,” Leo snapped, a bit more grumpily than he really felt. “I’m not some kind of battery operated sex toy, Jed. You can’t just storm in here like this and expect me to perform for you on cue.”


Jed gazed at him for a moment, and then, clearly deciding that Leo didn’t mean it, he grinned.


“Sure I can, Leo,” he said.


“Yeah?” Leo raised an eyebrow, his tone of voice extremely dangerous.


“Yeah.” Jed laughed, but there was an edgy, restless quality to him that Leo didn’t like.


“What makes you think so?” He asked quietly.


“That robe isn’t very concealing, Leo,” Jed told him smugly. Leo glanced down and sighed at the visible sign of his erection. “So, you may not be battery operated but it looks to me as if this particular sex toy is ready to go all the same,” Jed purred, grabbing hold of Leo again and kissing him once more.


Jed, in this mood, was like a force of nature and there wasn’t much that Leo could do except submit again to those questing hands and that exploring tongue, aware all the time that Jed was manoeuvring him into the bedroom. They came to a halt by the bed, and Jed stopped kissing Leo for just long enough to shove him backwards onto the bed and then he climbed on top of him, undid his robe, and, straddling Leo and holding his arms above his head so he couldn’t escape, went back in for another kiss. Leo gave up – clearly they weren’t going to talk about anything until Jed had got what he had come here for, and he had to admit that he was enjoying the sensation of Jed holding him down and kissing him so passionately. Their love making was usually a lot less urgent these days and it was nice to be reminded of a time when they hadn’t seen each other in months and couldn’t wait to get their hands on each other. Jed drew back again and Leo took advantage of his lover being out of breath to push up and roll Jed down underneath him, then went back in and kissed Jed this time, impressing on his lover that he wasn’t going to get things all his own way this evening. Jed responded vigorously, his hands reaching under Leo’s open robe and finding his ass, which he proceeded to stroke firmly. Leo grunted, and Jed pushed up, surprising him, and now Leo found himself on the bottom again, with all of Jed’s solid body weight planted on top of him.


“Oh shit,” he groaned. “We’re getting too old for this kind of thing, Jed.”


“Brings back memories huh?” Jed grinned down at him, holding Leo’s arms above his head again. Leo smiled – as young men they’d frequently wrestled and tussled during their love-making sessions, each of them vying for supremacy in a battle neither of them ever won.


“Yeah,” he commented, gazing at his lover, wondering if Jed was ready to talk, but Jed’s eyes were full of that fiery distraction that told him he’d get nothing sensible from his old friend just yet. “Why don’t you get undressed?” Leo suggested pragmatically, and Jed’s grin broadened.


“I’m only letting you up so I can get my pants off,” he explained to Leo as he took off his navy blue sweater and threw it on the floor. “It’s not because you won or anything because I won that round.”


“I didn’t even know it was a contest,” Leo grumbled amiably, propping his head up on his hand as he watched Jed get undressed.


“I’m just saying, that’s all,” Jed told him with that same edgy look. “I’m not a pushover, Leo. I can hold my own.”


“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but yeah,” Leo scowled. “Whatever.”


“I’m just saying…because I think you always assume I’m some soft liberal from New England who never had to use his fists to fight for anything.”


“We’re advocating street brawls now?” Leo asked, surprised. “We’re extolling the virtues of solving disputes by recourse to fisticuffs? These are our values now?”


“No, I’m just saying that you’ve always had this kind of superior thing going on, that you’ve been out there, you’ve fought in a war, and you’ve got into the occasional fist fight in your time and you think I’d crumple into a shivering ball of cowardice if anyone came at me with an iron bar or anything.”


“An iron bar?” Leo frowned. “Who is going to come at you with an iron bar?”


“Or anything.” Jed waved his hand impatiently. “It doesn’t have to be an iron bar. It could be anything.”


“A sock?” Leo suggested, as Jed threw his socks onto a nearby chair.


“Leo, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously,” Jed griped, climbing back onto the bed.


“I would if I knew what the hell we were talking about.”


“I’m talking about you always assuming that you’re the tough one, the street fighter, you know,” Jed told him, lying down beside his friend and reaching out a proprietary hand, which he placed on Leo’s hip. Jed’s hand was large and meaty and Leo liked the feel of it lying heavily on his skin.


“I don’t think I do know,” Leo mused. “I mean, I don’t think I’ve been in a fight since, well…” He coloured and shrugged.


“Yeah, since you slugged me in 1993 – don’t think I’ve forgotten about that, Leo because I haven’t,” Jed said, fingering his jaw where Leo had hit him in fit of a drunken anger when Jed had called him on his drinking problem several years previously.


“Well it doesn’t still hurt for god’s sake!” Leo snapped as Jed continued milking the moment for far too long in his opinion. “That wasn’t a real fight, Jed, although I’m happy to apologise again if that’s what’s been bothering you. I was going to say that I haven’t been in a fight since I got back from Vietnam. I don’t think either of us are exactly street fighters are we?”


“What do you mean it wasn’t a real fight? You mean because I went down and didn’t hit you back?” Jed bristled, ignoring everything else Leo had said and focussing on that one comment. “I’m saying I could have, Leo, but I chose not to because you’re my friend and I didn’t want to hurt you…and as I recall at the time you were very scathing about my abilities as a fighter and said you could take me any time.”


“Well I could,” Leo said with a shrug as if stating such an obvious fact that there was little point in discussing it further. Jed glared at him. Leo gazed back, bemused. “Jed?” He questioned. “What are we arguing about because I think I’ve lost track.”


“Why do you assume you could take me in a fight?” Jed asked, that edgy look intensifying.


“Because…” Leo paused and shrugged, not wanting to inflame the situation which while still fairly harmless at the moment, looked as if it could escalate. “Jed, it’s nothing personal. I’m not sure it’s anything to boast about either but…”


“But…you think of yourself as something of a scrapper, huh, Leo? You’re the one who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, while I’ve sat in my gilded cage in my ivory tower all my life,” Jed continued heatedly.


“I’m not sure you should put all those clichés together in one sentence,” Leo observed. Jed leaned forward and pulled Leo’s robe roughly from his shoulders. He grabbed Leo’s face in his hands and kissed him again, biting down on his lip.


“Ow!” Leo shoved him off. “Jed – if you wanted rough sex you should have just said so. I can get plenty rough if that’s what this is about.”


“Yeah, it’s always about you getting rough for me isn’t it?” Jed snapped. “Well supposing I want to be the one getting rough, Leo?”


“That’s fine – I’m sure I can handle you,” Leo grinned. Jed sighed and rubbed his face wearily.


“I’m just saying…I’m just saying I’m not a pushover, okay?” Jed shrugged. “I can stand up for myself.”


“Who the hell said you couldn’t?” Leo frowned. “I’ve seen you take people apart with nothing more than a look and a few well chosen words, Jed. You can wield words like a lethal weapon.”


“That’s not what I’m talking about!” Jed exploded. “I know I can do that, Leo. I’m talking about the fact that you think I can’t hold my own in a proper fight.”


“Oh for god’s sake! I’m not arguing about this. Did you really wake me up in the middle of the night to have this particular discussion, Jed? Because I’m fine if we’re going to have sex but this conversation is starting to feel really old.”


“Fine.” Jed got up and opened the nightstand beside Leo’s bed, finding the condoms and lube that were there. He flung them onto the bed, and then glared at his lover. “Fuck me,” he ordered peremptorily.


“Fine,” Leo slung back, no longer sure if he was even in the mood. Jed got on his hands and knees and waited there expectantly. Leo frowned – they did occasionally use this position but it wasn’t his favourite as he preferred to be looking at Jed’s face when he made love to him. He sighed, and ran a gentle, caressing hand over his lover’s back and ass.


“Fuck the foreplay and just do it, Leo,” Jed commanded in a terse tone. “I want you inside me now.”


“Okay, let’s back up a few pages,” Leo said, “and I’ll remind you of the fact that I’m not your wind-up sex toy, Jed. You don’t point me in the right direction and press a switch to make me go. “


“Oh okay, do whatever you want but hurry,” Jed muttered.


Leo knelt forward and put his arms around Jed’s stiff body, wondering what the hell this was all about. It seemed to him that Jed had deliberately engineered this argument although he had no idea why. What response had Jed wanted from him or was he just in a monumentally bad mood and wanted to take it out on someone? Was there something behind his assertion that he could hold his own in a fight or was it all just angry words about nothing? Leo pressed his lips to Jed’s skin, enjoying the sensation of touching his lover as he always did. There was something about touching Jed that made his skin tingle – always had and after 40 years he assumed it always would be this way. He’d had other lovers, male and female, but Jed was special. He was the one Leo loved best; he had been his first love, and, if he was honest, his one true love. Jed had been the first boy he’d made love to, and it had never been the same with anyone else. He knew that Jed had only ever had sex with two people in his life – himself and Abbey – and he was humbled by that knowledge. There was a depth of loyalty and caring in Jed’s heart that he sometimes did his best to disguise, perhaps for fear of getting hurt, but Leo had known him far too long to be fooled. Leo’s deep, abiding love and affection for Jed over-rode his current disgruntled mood and he kissed his lover’s skin softly, relishing the feel of it beneath his lips, so warm, golden and sensual. He heard Jed give a sigh and his lover’s body relaxed underneath him. He was glad for that – if he’d just entered Jed and fucked him cold as Jed had ordered, he thought they’d both have felt bad in the morning. He trailed his lips down Jed’s spine and Jed moaned and backed up against him. Leo squeezed some lube onto his finger and gently inserted it into Jed’s ass and Jed backed up against him even more, panting a little and groaning in earnest now.


“And don’t you dare tell me to shut up,” Jed hissed. “The security agents won’t come in.”


“They will if they hear you shrieking like a banshee the way you sometimes do,” Leo commented. “They’ll probably think I’m killing you.”


“I do not shriek!” Jed responded hotly. “I have never shrieked like a banshee in my entire life, Leo.”


“Had you then,” Leo grinned, slapping Jed’s butt affectionately. The old, familiar bantering eased the atmosphere between them and Leo felt Jed almost visibly melt back against him, letting down the barriers. The tight sphincter loosened against his fingers which was another reason why he was glad he hadn’t just fucked his friend when ordered – Jed had been way too tense and tight for that to have been a pleasurable experience for him. Leo moved his free hand under Jed’s body and stroked a nipple, and then went down lower and took hold of Jed’s cock in his hand.


“Oh shit…” Jed sighed. “I need this, Leo. I really need you inside me…”


“Good things come to those who wait,” Leo said in a way that he knew was infuriating.


Jed gave a bark of exasperated laughter. “You’re just a sadist at heart, Leo McGarry,” he commented.


“Sure I am,” Leo grinned, moving his fingers rhythmically inside his lover’s body.


“Oh god that feels good…” Jed said, putting his head back, gasping as Leo’s fingers moved inside him to the same rhythm as Leo’s hand was milking his cock. “Oh shit…Ohhhh!”


“Banshee,” Leo teased.


“Bastard,” Jed replied.


“Is that any way to talk to a man who has three fingers up your ass?” Leo said reprovingly, wiggling said fingers in a way that made Jed sigh happily.


“Leoooo!” Jed said in a tone halfway between a complaint and a scream of pleasure.


Leo decided to put his friend out of his misery, and pulled a condom onto his ready cock, slathered a large amount of lube on it, and then slowly entered his lover’s body. Jed gave a strangled shout and pushed back some more. Leo grinned.


“You really *do* need this don’t you,” he murmured, going very slowly, teasing Jed maddeningly.


“LEO!” Jed yelled, in his best tone of presidential outrage.


“I could make you beg,” Leo commented, placing his hands on Jed’s hips to steady himself.


“I could make you look for a new job in the morning,” Jed riposted. Leo grinned, and, taking purchase on Jed’s hips, thrust himself deep inside his lover, right up to the hilt. This always had the effect of stopping Jed from saying anything coherent, and instead Leo listened to the always nice sound of his lover’s heartfelt mewlings of pleasure, which were emanating from Jed’s throat in an undulating frequency. Leo stopped for a moment, just enjoying the view of Jed with his head slung back, his hair dripping with sweat, his entire body poised, and the muscles in his back rippling slightly. Then, he reached under his friend’s body, took hold of his cock again, and, with firm thrusts of his hips began pounding in and out of Jed’s ass in time to pumping his cock. Jed became even more vocal now, and Leo hoped the room was as sound-proof as he felt a suite this expensive should be. They were both lost in the sensations of their love making now and there were no words for several minutes as they enjoyed each other’s bodies in a way they had been doing for 40 years. Leo felt as if he belonged inside Jed, their bodies fitting together, moving at one with each other. He paused, buried inside his lover, and lowered his head to the strong, broad back in front of him and licked off some of the salty sweat he found there, then nibbled his way towards Jed’s neck, and nuzzled at his hairline. He loved the area where Jed’s thick hair met the nape of his neck, loved the scent of it and the feel of it against his lips…reluctantly he pulled back and began thrusting again and within seconds he felt Jed shuddering and his warm come flooded onto Leo’s hand. Leo thrust a few more times and then felt his own climax taking him. It was good – but then it was always good, Leo thought to himself as he came deep inside his lover’s body and then came to rest, his hands wrapped around Jed’s torso, his cock still buried deep inside him, his face resting on Jed’s back. They were still for a moment, and then Leo withdrew and toppled sideways onto the bed, drawing Jed against him.


“You always make me feel young again,” Jed murmured.


“Yeah. You too,” Leo said, pulling Jed around to face him, and capturing his lips in a loving kiss.


“Thanks, Leo. I’m sorry…about earlier. I was just…hmm, maybe I just needed this more than I thought,” Jed commented, snuggling in closer.


“Maybe,” Leo replied with a sigh, wrapping his arms around his lover and holding him tight. Whatever was troubling him, Jed still didn’t want to talk about it.


They lay there for awhile, happy and sated, and then Jed pulled away from Leo, swung his legs over the side of the bed, and reached for his sweatpants.


“Where the hell are you going?” Leo demanded.


“Home.” Jed shrugged, pulling on his pants.


“Jed, are you out of your mind? It’s nearly 3 am!” Leo protested.


“I have a driver, Leo. It’s not like I’m going to get ambushed or anything on my way home.”


“Well, you know, if you did then I’m sure you could take ’em,” Leo commented with a grunt.


“Yeah, yeah. Okay.” Jed waved a hand in Leo’s direction.


“Jed – stay,” Leo said, putting a firm hand on Jed’s naked shoulder. “I mean it. I’m not wild about you barging in here at 1 o’ clock in the morning and then shipping straight out again when we’re through.”


“Leo – we often have quickies,” Jed objected.


“I know – but usually after we’ve had a meal together or at least spent some time together and not usually this late so that we miss out on virtually an entire night’s sleep.”


He felt Jed stiffen under his hand and wondered what the hell that was about.


“The secret service agents will wonder…” Jed began.


“No they won’t,” Leo snapped. He got up, pulled on his robe, and walked out of the bedroom and into the living room of his suite. He unlocked the door, pulled it open, and addressed himself to the agent outside. “It’s late – he’s going to be staying the night in the spare room,” he told them, and then, without waiting for a reply, he shut the door and put the chain across it again. Jed emerged from the bedroom, his hair ruffled, still bare-chested, with an annoyed look on his face.


“You think they bought that?” He asked.


“I don’t care – they’re your security detail not your father – they don’t need to question what time you’re going to get home,” Leo replied. Jed’s jaw did a slight clench and Leo felt that once again he’d hit on a sore spot. He was getting tired of tip-toeing around Jed’s mood without knowing what the hell was going on.


“So you’re lying to the secret service now? Or am I really sleeping in the spare room?” Jed raised an eyebrow. “Actually that makes sense. That way we can both get some sleep and you won’t have to put up with my snoring…”


“We’re both sleeping in the second bedroom – unless you wanted to sleep on the wet patch in the main bedroom?” Leo commented, wondering why the hell Jed had just suggested sleeping alone when he knew that his old friend loved nothing more than curling up warm and naked against him after sex, revelling in just being close and having Leo all to himself – a rare enough occurrence these days. Leo put an arm around his lover’s naked shoulder and drew him into the other room. He had an extensive – and expensive – suite, complete with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a small dining room. He occasionally had to entertain here and sometimes various of his family members came to stay, although not very often because he was usually too busy.


Leo steered Jed into the bed, took off his robe again, and got in beside his lover. He shivered against the cold sheets after the comfortable warmth of the bed they’d made love in, but Jed was as warm as toast and before long they were both cosy and comfortable together. Leo shut his eyes, enjoying the fact that he had Jed all to himself for a whole night for once – or at least what was left of the night. Jed relaxed against him, but he could still feel the tension in his lover’s body. He stroked Jed’s chest affectionately, and his friend sighed and pressed back against him and before long Leo had fallen fast asleep.


He woke just before 5, disoriented, wondering what he was doing in the second bedroom and then remembered and reached out for Jed – only to find that he was alone in the bed – and in the room. He could hear the very faint sound of music and got up, reaching for his robe again. He opened the door to the living room and found his lover lying wide awake on the sofa wearing the grey sweatpants he’d arrived in and one of his own tee shirts which fit Jed well enough as they were of a similar size. Simon and Garfunkel were softly tinkling from the stereo.


“Hey – did I wake you?” Jed looked up anxiously. “I’m sorry, Leo. I didn’t mean to – I turned the sound right down. I borrowed a tee shirt – I was too hot in my sweater. Why do they keep these places so ridiculously well heated?”


“Jed…” Leo came and sat down beside him on the sofa. “It’s 5 am,” he murmured.


“I know. Why are we whispering, Leo, seeing as we’re both awake?”


“I don’t know. Mostly I’m wondering why we’re both awake though,” Leo replied. Jed shrugged and raised his hand, in what Leo knew to be a clear attempt to distract him from this line of discussion.


“Hear this, Leo?” Jed asked, a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. “This takes me back. Old friends…” He sang along. “‘Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy…Old friends, Memory brushes the same years. Silently sharing the same fear…’ That’s us, Leo – old friends,” he commented.


“Old friends who aren’t being honest with each other,” Leo said softly. There was a long silence and then:


“Yeah.” Jed gave a long, slow sigh. “I’m sorry, Leo.”


“So how long has it been?” Leo asked.


“Since when?” Jed shrugged, still not meeting Leo’s eye.


“Since you last slept,” Leo said softly. Jed studied his fingers for a long moment.


“If I tell you, you have to promise you won’t yell at me,” he murmured.


“How long, Jed?” Leo repeated firmly. Jed sighed again.


“Including tonight?” He asked, glancing at Leo from under his eyelashes, looking like a little kid.


“Yeah.” Leo reached out and put a firm but reassuring hand on his lover’s neck and massaged gently.


“Four nights.” Jed made a face and flinched, waiting for Leo’s inevitable reaction. Leo stopped massaging Jed’s neck. “Okay, that’s a long silence. Leo? Hello?”


“I’m counting to ten. You told me not to yell at you,” Leo replied. “Oh what the hell, I’m going to anyway. FOUR NIGHTS, JED? Four! How the hell are you even still functioning right now? God, no wonder you’re in such a bad mood all the time. Four nights? And don’t think I don’t know that you stayed away from me because you knew I’d wheedle this out of you – so that means you were deliberately keeping it from me. At what point were you going to mention this little bout of insomnia, Jed? When you keeled over in front of the senior staff? Or on national television so the entire country could talk about how your MS was kicking in and making you unfit to be President?”


“See, this is why I didn’t tell you,” Jed growled.


“No, you didn’t tell me because you knew I’d ask you questions and I will. Why aren’t you sleeping, Jed?” Leo squeezed Jed’s neck, requiring a reply.


“I have no idea.” Jed shrugged.


“Oh don’t play this game with me, Jed. You’ve been prone to insomnia all your life and there’s always a reason. What’s it about this time?”


Jed shrugged again.


“Jed.” Leo squeezed his lover’s neck once more, trying to get him to look at him.


“Leo…I really don’t know. I just can’t switch off. I’m tired – I’m so tired I could weep, but the minute I lie down and close my eyes I feel as if I’m wide awake. Nothing works – I took a sleeping pill last night but still didn’t sleep – although I think it did kick in during that National Security Briefing earlier.”


“Oh, you mean when you were just ‘resting your eyes’,” Leo commented acerbically. Jed winced.


“Yeah. Sorry about that, Leo but I knew you’d make a big deal out of this and I thought it would pass.”


“But it hasn’t,” Leo said softly.


“No.” Jed sighed. “I left the office soon after you did – went to the Residence and straight to bed in the hope of catching up on the sleep I’ve missed…but I just lay there, tossing and turning. Gave up around midnight and came over here instead.”


“Yeah, because if you can’t sleep there’s no reason why I should be allowed to after all,” Leo commented grumpily.


“I’m sorry, Leo,” Jed said and he sounded so abject that Leo couldn’t stay angry with him.


“Jed, sometimes I swear you’re impossible,” he sighed, moving his hand down to clasp his friend’s shoulders and bring him in close. Jed came, clearly wanting the affection and comfort that his lover could give him. Leo turned Jed’s face towards him and kissed him lovingly on the mouth. Jed leaned into him, resting against Leo’s chest. Leo stroked his lover’s hair, having made his decision.


“Jed, I’m going to bring someone in. Someone for you to talk to,” he said.


“What, you mean a shrink?” Jed frowned, pulling back. “Leo, I’m not in need of psychiatric help for god’s sake!”


Leo stood his ground – he knew this idea wouldn’t go down well, but he was determined. “You need to talk to someone – nobody can keep functioning without sleep, and you’re the President of the United States – there’s too much riding on your shoulders for you to start falling asleep in important meetings. Sleep deprivation causes mood swings and difficulty making decisions – that’s a pretty lethal combination for a man in your position.”


“I’ll call Abbey. She might be able to…”


“You mean you haven’t spoken to her about this already?” Leo interrupted, feeling his anger rising again.


“No – she’s enjoying herself in Manchester with the grandchildren. I’m not going to worry her.” Jed shrugged.


“Or maybe you thought she’d ask the same questions I asked,” Leo said, studying his friend carefully. Jed’s eyes flashed dangerously.


“Leo, I’m not seeing a shrink,” he said firmly, pulling away so that they were no longer in body contact.


“Yes you are,” Leo replied, equally firmly.


“Leo, could I point out that you’re not my boss – just the reverse in fact,” Jed snapped.


“Don’t you dare pull rank on me when we’re alone like this, in private, just a couple of hours after making love, Jed,” Leo said, in a dark, dangerous tone of voice. “Don’t you damn well dare.”


“This isn’t an issue about us, Leo. It’s presidential,” Jed snarled.


“Oh, explain that to me please!”


“If word gets out that the President is seeing a psychiatrist…”


“You think I can’t do this without anyone finding out?” Leo growled.


“You mean like the way you went to rehab without anyone finding out?” Jed threw back.


There was a stung silence. Leo gave Jed a hard glare and he could see from Jed’s expression that his friend knew he had gone too far.


“I’m just saying…” Jed adopted a more reasonable tone of voice. “I’m just saying, don’t tell me to do this like it’s an order, Leo. You don’t give me orders. You don’t tell me what to do.”


“Yes I do,” Leo said calmly. Jed’s eyes flashed angrily. “Sometimes I do,” Leo continued. “Jed – there’ve been times in my life when I’ve needed you to be there for me and you have. You’ve told me the hard truth and you’ve stood firm when I needed you to, even when I didn’t want to listen to what you had to say – and there have been times when I’ve done the same for you. This is one of them. This isn’t going to go away by itself. You have to see someone.”


Jed’s jaw had settled into a hard line although Leo could tell that his argument had gone some way to persuading his friend.


“I don’t think it’ll help, Leo,” he said, shrugging. “I really don’t.”


“You will talk to someone, Jed,” Leo said softly. “Are you sure you don’t know what this is about?”


Jed looked at him for a moment, and then shook his head, some invisible barrier coming down over his eyes. “No, Leo,” he murmured and Leo knew he was lying. This wasn’t the first time he’d been lied to by his lover and he doubted that it would be the last. While Leo had been hurt that Jed hadn’t told him he had been diagnosed with MS, he had understood why because he knew the man so well; the truth was that Jed didn’t like to admit to being weak. That folksy charm hid an iron will and a need to transcend the stresses and weaknesses that other men succumbed to. He was a man of infinite compassion and he understood weakness in others – had understood Leo’s weakness all too well back in 1993 when he’d supported his friend through rehab – but Jed Bartlet didn’t like to show any weakness himself. Leo thought he knew why as well – 40 years was a long time to know a man as intimately as he’d know Jed Bartlet, and he had an understanding of his friend’s psyche that was matched only by his friend’s wife.


“And you can’t talk to Abbey?” Leo pushed.


“I just told you I don’t know what it’s about,” Jed replied, a shade too fast.


“Okay.” Leo shrugged. “Well, if you won’t talk to me and you won’t talk to Abbey, then you’ll talk to a shrink.”


“I can’t,” Jed replied, shaking his head.


“You can,” Leo told him.


“I won’t,” Jed flashed back, a trace of petulance in his eyes. Leo’s expression hardened.


“You. Will,” he said, with a note of finality in his voice. They stared at each other for a long time, and then, finally, Jed broke. He sighed, and rubbed his face wearily.


“Who?” He asked, a catch in his voice.


“Stanley Keyworth.”


“Stanley Keyworth?” Jed frowned.


“The guy I called in for Josh. He’s good, he knows what he’s doing, and he’s got the kind of personal style I think you’ll respond to. He didn’t go easy on Josh – he’s combative, and he won’t take any of the shit you’ll throw at him.”


Jed’s eyes flashed again.


“You know what you’re like, Jed,” Leo continued implacably. “You need someone who’ll stand up to you or you’ll walk all over them – I expect you’ll try to walk all over Stanley but I think he’s strong enough to take you.”


“He’s a trauma specialist,” Jed pointed out. “Insomnia isn’t his area.”


“He’s a shrink, and a good one. We know he’s good at his job and we know he’ll keep his mouth shut.” Leo shrugged.


“I really don’t want to do this, Leo,” Jed told him miserably. Leo smiled, sensing the battle was all but over. He pulled his old friend close and kissed him again.


“I know,” he said. “And you know something else – I really didn’t want to go to rehab, Jed.”


Jed sighed. “Yeah. I know,” he replied. Leo got up and retrieved his cell phone.


“You’re calling him now?” Jed queried, a note of panic in his voice.


“Sure.” Leo nodded, putting through a call to the White House to get the number he needed.


“Leo, it’s 5.30 in the morning!”


“Yes it is – and that means it’s another night the President has gone without sleep. His Chief of Staff didn’t get much either,” Leo commented. “We’re calling him, Jed. I want you to talk to him before another night passes.”


“Oh, right – you think I’ll talk to him and then, hey presto, I’ll be able to sleep again?” Jed argued, spreading his hands wide.


“I have no idea – but the sooner we get him here the sooner it’s likely that you’ll get some rest and then maybe you’ll ease up on the grouchy bear routine.”


“You think he’ll be able to just drop everything and get over here?”


Leo raised an eyebrow. “When the White House calls I expect him to do just that, yes,” he said firmly. Jed gave a wry smile.


“Well, as long as I’m not the only one getting his ass kicked by Leo McGarry tonight,” he commented. Leo rolled his eyes, then walked into the main bedroom and dialled the number he had been given. The phone rang several times and then a sleepy Doctor Keyworth answered. His tone woke up considerably when he realised who was calling and he agreed, with only a little firm insistence on Leo’s part, to clear his schedule, arrange a flight, and be in Washington DC by late the following night. Leo didn’t enlighten him as to who he’d be seeing – in fact he subtly implied that it was Josh he was worried about, and not the President. He decided that it would be a good idea to let Josh seem to be giving Keyworth a tour of the White House when he arrived – that was the best way to get him into the Residence. A meeting like this couldn’t take place in the West Wing – it was far too sensitive for that. No, it would have to take place in the Residence. As always, Leo’s active mind was one step ahead as he considered the best way to go about the arrangements and he was confident that this was as discreet as he could make it.


Leo finished with the call, and then returned to the sofa. Jed gazed at him mournfully as he came in, a hangdog expression on his face. When he wasn’t being the President of the United States, when he was just being Jed, his Jed, the one he’d known since they were both 17 years old, then he really could be very endearing, Leo thought with a sigh. He shook his head, still wanting to be angry with his lover but a memory of a boy with thick dark hair and gentle if impatient blue eyes made it impossible. Right now, Jed was that boy again, and Leo never could resist him when he looked like this. Leo picked up Jed’s bare feet, sat down on the sofa still holding them, and then began massaging them with his fingers. Jed sighed and relaxed back into the sofa, a smile playing over his mobile lips. It felt good being just Jed and Leo again, when so often nowadays they were President and Chief of Staff. It felt good to touch base and remember the wealth of shared experiences and mutual affection that bound them so inextricably together after all these years.


“You know – we have a couple of hours until we need to be at the office…and seeing as we’re both awake…” Leo grinned. Jed looked at him from out of those infinitely tired eyes and grinned back.


“Leo – I’d choose you over sleep any day,” he said.





Jed parked his car and ran into the bus station as fast as he could, hoping he wasn’t late. His stomach was churning and he was still cursing the damn car under his breath. Sometimes it started and sometimes it didn’t and it had to pick today, of all days, to decide to be difficult. He’d managed to get it going eventually but it had taken nearly an hour and while he’d left plenty of time for this particular journey, he was still a few minutes late. He hoped Leo’s bus hadn’t arrived already, leaving his friend waiting. This reunion was fraught enough as it was; Jed hadn’t seen Leo for a year and he was uncertain what to expect. They’d met the previous summer at Boy’s Nation, had fallen in love and slept together in a way that still shocked Jed when he really sat down and thought about it. When he was apart from Leo he found it hard to believe that they had really done all the things he remembered them doing. He knew he’d been swept along on the wave of some strong emotion but it all seemed so unreal now. He had been corresponding with Leo ever since, and always looked forward to his friend’s long, intelligent letters with a passion that never seemed to fade. Now, after a year apart, Leo was coming to stay for the summer, and Jed was overwhelmed by a combination of nervousness and excitement so acute that he thought his entire body would burn up.


He had struggled with his feelings this past year, trying to convince himself that they weren’t as strong as he thought, that this was just a passing phase. He had never felt like this about any of the boys at school, had never looked at boys the way he looked at Leo, and he was confused. He wasn’t sure what to expect from this reunion – would he still feel the same way about Leo, or had the spell of that magical summer passed? Maybe their feelings could only exist in a certain place and time. Jed wasn’t sure what he wanted – he longed to feel that tingling, electric charge that he remembered so well, but at the same time his feelings and the implications of falling in love with another boy scared the hell out of him. What would his family say if they knew? Did this mean he was homosexual? Would he never have the wife and family he had always assumed would one day be his and all the happiness that went with them? Lost and confused Jed had turned increasingly to his religion for answers, and the one answer that came up each time was that he had to end his relationship with Leo. He tried not opening Leo’s letters but was too weak willed to resist – Leo’s letters were his lifeline in an emotionally sterile life. His relationship with his father was difficult and at times painful, and Leo gave him an easy affection he had never known before. He found himself longing for those letters too much not to open them. Then he tried to make himself reply in an offhand way, to snub Leo, or dismiss whatever he said in a brusque fashion, but Leo always wrote back with a steady affection – he didn’t seem to have the confusion and mood swings that Jed was beset by. So now, a whole year later, Jed was waiting to meet Leo at the bus station with no idea what to expect.


The bus was fifteen minutes late, by which time Jed’s emotions had been stoked up even more. He stood with his hands in his pocket, wondering what would happen, wondering how he’d feel seeing Leo again after all this time, wondering whether Leo had changed – or, more importantly, whether his feelings for Leo had changed. He searched the passengers getting off the bus with some impatience, and his heart missed a beat as he caught sight of a familiar stocky figure and a blond head. Seemingly not of his own volition, he found his feet moving swiftly to meet his – what? Friend? Lover?


“Jed?” Leo had seen him and now Jed found his feet were running faster, and he was charging across the bus station towards the other boy. “Jed!”


Jed stopped a few feet from the youth he hadn’t seen for a year and studied him, trying to gauge his own emotions, trying to figure out what he was feeling, but all he could think about was how Leo was as attractive this year as he had been last year. His hair was shorter – shorn into a crop, but those blue eyes were still sparkling, full of quiet amusement, that quirky mouth was smiling that familiar impish grin, and that strong jaw was still jutting out obstinately.


“Leo!” He closed the remaining distance between them and gazed at his friend, transfixed. Leo held out his hand and Jed took it – and immediately felt that erotic, electric charge leap straight through his skin and all the way to his groin. He’d never known that just shaking someone’s hand could cause this reaction but it always happened with Leo and that hadn’t changed. He wasn’t sure if he was relieved or annoyed about that. Leo shook his hand vigorously and then leaned forward and whispered into Jed’s ear:

“All I can think about is how much I want to kiss you right now.”


Jed felt a tingling on his skin and a humming of the blood in his veins and then he knew that nothing had changed. It didn’t matter that a year had passed since they’d last set eyes on each other, or that he was scared by the intensity of what had happened between them last summer – when he was with Leo all his doubts disappeared.


“Me too,” he whispered back, meaning it, and Leo grinned at him and squeezed his hand even harder. Finally they broke apart and Jed found that he missed that erotically charged touch of skin on skin so much that it actually physically hurt. He grabbed Leo’s small suitcase from his friend’s hand and walked as close to Leo as he could on the way to the car, their shoulders and thighs occasionally brushing each other and each time sparking that electric current running between them. By the time they reached the car, Jed was in a fever pitch of excitement and he knew that Leo felt the same. He slung Leo’s case in the back of the car and they both got in. Jed turned the key in the ignition and Leo winced as the car made a grinding sound in response.


“What’s wrong with your car?” He asked as Jed turned the key again.


“I have no idea. I’ve taken the thing apart but it still doesn’t work,” he sighed.


“I’ll fix it,” Leo said confidently.


“You know about cars?” Jed asked in surprise. Leo shrugged.


“A little. I bet that between us we can fix it,” Leo grinned, with an infectious confidence. There was no room for any doubt whatsoever in his voice – and Jed knew that Leo totally and absolutely believed that they could fix the car.


Jed gazed at his friend in a haze of hero worship and then gave a peal of delighted laughter. Leo looked at him for a moment, and then joined in.


“Oh god I’ve missed you,” Jed said, still laughing stupidly. “Nobody else is like you.”

“Yeah,” Leo said softly, and he put his hand over Jed’s where it was resting on the steering wheel and they both gave a startled gasp as a jolt of that same erotic charge ran through them once more. “I was counting down the days until I got here.”


“Did you worry?” Jed asked suddenly.


“Worry?” Leo frowned.


“That it might not be the same? That it was just one of those things? That we’d both have changed?” Jed blurted out. Leo looked surprised.


“No, I wasn’t worried about that, Jed,” he said softly. “I don’t think I’ll ever worry about that. It’ll never happen.”


Jed felt strangely calmed by his friend’s assurance. It was if Leo had put his finger on some essential element about their relationship – it was something that neither of them had any control over. It was a constant in their lives and always would be. Nothing could ever change the way they felt about each other. Not now, and not at any point in the future. It almost had the feeling of being somehow ordained, or decreed, although whether by fate, chance or God, Jed was unable to say. He turned the key in the ignition again and this time the engine sprang into life. They talked non-stop as Jed drove them back to the school.


“Did you know that the day after tomorrow is June 17th?” Jed said, glancing at Leo.

“So?” Leo shrugged. “What’s so important about that?”


“We met last year for the first time on June 17th!” Jed told him, his dark hair flopping into his eyes. “I can’t believe you don’t remember that!”


Leo suddenly broke into a wide grin and he reached out to flick Jed’s hair off his forehead. “Had you!” He laughed. Jed frowned at his friend in annoyance.



“I know we met on June 17th last year. It was the first day at camp. You were wearing jeans and a blue shirt,” Leo told him confidently. “And the first thing you did was argue with me non-stop for half an hour so yeah, I remember, Jed. You’re a tough person to forget!”


“So why…?” Jed began grumpily.


“Because you’re cute when you’re angry,” Leo grinned. “And because you are waaaay too gullible and that makes you lotsa fun to tease.”


“I’ll get you back for that,” Jed said, feeling impossibly happy. There was something about being with Leo that just felt so right.


“Oh yeah?” Leo grinned at him sideways.


“Yeah!” Jed proclaimed, little realising that he was starting a battle that would last for the rest of their lives.


“Jed…” Leo glanced around the quiet country road they were driving along. “Is there anywhere we could go?”

“What…you mean to…?” Jed glanced at his friend only to find that Leo was looking at him with a particular expression in those blue eyes that made Jed’s mouth go dry and his stomach flip.


“It’s pretty quiet out here,” Leo said seductively, putting his hand on Jed’s neck and stroking gently. “And I don’t think I can wait much longer. I’ve wanted you from the second I saw you at the station and if we don’t pull off somewhere soon then I’m going to have an accident here.” He grinned in the direction of his pants. Jed swallowed hard and glanced around.


“We’re about twenty minutes from the school. There’s a little road just down here that nobody ever uses – it leads to an old mine and it’s completely hidden by trees,” he said.


“Sounds perfect,” Leo told him, with a smile of such sexual hunger that Jed’s cock hardened instantly.


Jed put his foot down and drove the next couple of miles to the turning as fast as he could, as eager as Leo was to renew their relationship. The turning he had mentioned was perfect, completely hidden from the road and never used by any other cars as it didn’t lead anywhere. Jed drove half way along it, and then stopped the car, and Leo grabbed him the moment he put the hand brake on.


That first kiss almost stopped Jed’s heart. Leo’s lips were both familiar and unfamiliar. He remembered now the exquisite joy of kissing Leo, of feeling those insistent lips against his mouth, of the smell of Leo, the taste of him, and the feel of those hard, young muscles against his own hard, young body. Leo’s hands fumbled insistently at Jed’s shirt and he pulled it open. He stroked Jed’s chest and then went lower, tugging at Jed’s belt insistently, his mouth still devouring Jed’s mouth. Jed wrapped his arms around Leo and slid his hands down the back of Leo’s pants, finding Leo’s ass. Leo’s cock was digging into his thigh and his own was so hard that it hurt. Leo fumbled down the front of both their pants for a second, intent on releasing their cocks from their prisons, and then their liberated cocks rose up, unfettered, and clashed against each other. Jed came there and then, just from the feel of Leo’s cock against his own, and Leo thrust against Jed and came a few seconds later, his tongue still halfway down Jed’s throat. Jed sagged against Leo, utterly exhilarated and they sat there panting, the upholstery of the car sticky with their semen.


“Oh god,” Leo whispered, kissing Jed’s cheek. “I’ve missed you so much.” He took Jed’s face in his hands and kissed him again and again, and each time he pulled back their eyes met and they gazed at each other, lost in a haze of adoration. Leo ran his thumb over Jed’s lip and Jed trembled as his skin zinged with an almost painful erotic charge.


“I missed you too, Leo,” he replied, his hands still caressing Leo’s ass. Leo smiled and Jed’s heart missed a beat


“I’ve been waiting a whole year for this. Oh god – it’s always so much better with you than with anyone else.” Leo brushed Jed’s hair with his fingers, still smiling at him fondly, and Jed felt a pang of jealousy.


“Have you been seeing anyone?” He asked, trying to make it sound casual. Leo shrugged.


“There was a girl. Debbie. We had some fun and it was good but it wasn’t like this.” He frowned, as if he truly was unable to make sense of it. “It’s never like this with anyone else,” he murmured, going back in for another kiss. Jed pushed him back.

“How do you meet all these damn girls?” Jed growled.


Leo grinned and shrugged. “Did you get to fourth base with David Wheaton’s sister yet?” He asked.


“No – I didn’t even get to first base with her,” Jed snapped. “She wouldn’t look twice at me.”

“Why not?” Leo sounded surprised. He traced his fingers down over Jed’s exposed collar bone, giving Jed the shivers.


“Because…” Jed struggled to find the words as Leo’s hand went lower.


“She doesn’t know what she’s missing,” Leo grinned, his hand tracing patterns on Jed’s flesh, making Jed tingle and burn and having the effect of rendering his cock instantly hard again, and anything he might have said in reply was lost as they spent the next twenty minutes making out all over again.




“Ah, the last meal of the condemned man,” Jed commented, as he sat down at the dining table in the Residence late the following evening. Leo sat back in his chair and gazed at him impassively, his cell phone pressed to one ear. Jed ignored him and continued with his theme, picking up the lids of the dishes on the table to investigate the contents. “Ah, green beans. Isn’t it tradition that the condemned man gets food that he actually likes, Leo? There are far too many vegetables in this meal and I don’t like green beans – a fact that I’m sure the entire world knows. You’d think that for a last meal they could have done better.”

“You are not going to make me feel sorry for you, sir,” Leo said smoothly. “You’re meeting a psychiatrist not a firing squad.”

“Is he here?” Jed began piling food onto his plate.


“His plane just touched down. He’ll be here soon.” Leo put his cell phone down on the table.


“Don’t let me keep you from working, Leo,” Jed told him, waving his hand around. “I know you’re a very busy, very important man. I also know that you’re only here right now to make sure that I keep this appointment.”

Leo nodded grimly. “That’s right, sir.”

“There’s no need, Leo,” Jed shrugged. “I told you I’d see him and I will. I might not like the idea but please note that I’m doing as you say and you can therefore stop breathing down my neck.”

“Sir…there’s something we need to talk about before you see Stanley,” Leo murmured, leaning across the table.


“Shouldn’t we call him Doctor Keyworth? If he’s going to be poking around inside my psyche I would at least like to be reminded of the fact that he’s fully qualified to be there,” Jed said, knowing he was being deliberately difficult about this but unable to stop himself.


“It’s not like he’s doing brain surgery, sir,” Leo commented calmly. Jed sighed and rested his fork on his plate, gazing at Leo.


“Leo…” He began.


“You’ll see him. He’ll be here soon,” Leo told him, clearly having rightly predicted that Jed would try, one last time, to get out of this.


“I don’t like shrinks, Leo. I don’t like this whole modern habit of wallowing in our own problems, giving in to our self-obsession. It’s indulgent,” Jed snapped.


“I thought that way once too,” Leo replied, “but I went to rehab because it was the right thing to do and let me tell you it isn’t all touchy feely crap. I had to face up to some hard issues at rehab and I’m the stronger for it. I think…” He hesitated.


“Oh by all means go on, Leo,” Jed prompted. “Give me the benefit of your vast wisdom and experience on this.”


His petulant tone seemed to sting Leo who gave him an irate look and continued with some heat in his voice.


“Okay. I will. I think that a man can go through his entire life without ever facing himself, sir. I think there are some things a man would rather put in a box and never look at than tackle head on. And for a lot of people that might be fine – it’s a coping mechanism and sometimes it works…until you hit a wall. I hit a wall with alcohol and you hit one with your sleeping. Then you have no choice but to get that box out and open it up – you can’t circumvent the process, sir. Or at least, if you do, you’ll just keep on banging your head against the same wall – and in an election year you have to ask yourself whether that’s a liability you can afford.”

“But once the box is opened up, you can’t close it again either,” Jed commented.


“Yes, sir. Is that what you’re afraid of?” Leo asked softly.


Jed paused, with his fork raised to his mouth. Was it? He put his fork down and gazed at his old friend thoughtfully. “Maybe, Leo,” he murmured. “Maybe.”

“You hit a wall, sir,” Leo told him. “And you’ll keep on hitting it until you look at what’s in the box. It might be tough, but you can handle it.”


Jed gazed silently into space, wondering, privately, whether Leo was right about that.



“Hmm?” Jed glanced at his friend again, still lost in his own preoccupation.


“We have to talk about something,” Leo told him, leaning across the table in an almost conspiratorial manner, speaking in low tones. “I don’t know what’s going on for you right now, but there’s no point us calling in Stanley if you aren’t going to be honest with him.”

“What do you mean?” Jed frowned.


“I mean that no part of your life can be off limits to him,” Leo said softly. Jed threw his cutlery down on the plate where it made a loud, clattering sound.


“Damnit, Leo. This is a monstrous invasion of…”

“Sir,” Leo raised his hand. “Let’s keep this quiet shall we?” He said, glancing at the door.


“Oh excuse me, Leo – I thought you were the one just advocating that I share the most personal and intimate details of my life with a complete stranger!” Jed snapped.


“Sir, I’m just saying that if you need to talk about us – about me and our relationship – then that’s fine. You might need to,” Leo told him urgently. “Stanley is a fine psychiatrist and I have no doubt whatsoever that he’ll keep this completely confidential. I’m saying that I don’t mind, that’s all. Just do what you have to do.”


Jed took a deep breath; he felt as if all the wind had been taken out of his sails and he was humbled by what Leo had just given him permission to share with this stranger who was coming to his house. They had been lovers for 40 years but this secret was theirs – it belonged to them both and they had always had an unspoken agreement that it was to be shared with nobody except the closest of family members.


“Leo…” He reached across the table and covered Leo’s hand briefly with his own. “Okay.” He nodded. “Okay.” He gave a short, bitter bark of laughter. “Okay – I’ll see this guy and I’ll…” He paused, tried to avoid Leo’s sharp, knowing blue eyes, and failed, as he always did in the end. “I’ll do my best to open the box, Leo. I promise,” he murmured.


“I know you will, sir.” Leo gave him a smile that warmed him all the way through. Jed gazed at his friend moodily. He wished he could explain to Leo what this was all about – wished he could explain it to himself. He knew what had started it, but he was less sure what had turned it into this obsession that was making it impossible to sleep. Maybe it would be easier to talk to a stranger than it was to talk to Leo or Abbey on this particular subject. Maybe…Or maybe it was easier not to talk about it at all. He really didn’t want to dredge all this up again. Not after all these years. It had been buried – locked up in that box that Leo talked about. Was it really necessary to get it out and examine it? Couldn’t it just stay there?


The sound of Leo’s cell phone broke through his reverie. He watched as Leo spoke for a few minutes and then turned back to him.


“Sir, he’s here. Josh is taking him up to your study.”

“Okay.” Jed picked up his glass and took a deep sip of wine.


“Sir…” Leo got up.


“You go on ahead, Leo. I’ll be there. Just give me…just give me a few minutes alone,” Jed told him. Leo gazed at him steadily for a moment and then nodded. As he walked past Jed on his way to the door, he rested his hand on his friend’s shoulder for a second, and then was gone. Jed gazed at the remains of his dinner glumly, trying to gather his thoughts. His conversation with Leo had changed everything; he knew how to play people and he had intended to walk his way through this, to give the easy answers and to get rid of Stanley Keyworth as fast as he could. Leo would never know… but now… now he had promised Leo he would look inside that box and he didn’t break the promises he made to Leo. “Damnit,” Jed muttered under his breath. “Damn you for this, Leo and damn Stanley and damn Toby and damn…” He trailed off and gazed into space again for a moment, shaking his head. “Damn,” he whispered. The past pounded in his head, demanding his attention and he was getting so tired of pushing it away and pretending it didn’t matter.


Jed took a few deep breaths and then got to his feet and walked up to his private study. Josh and Leo were both talking to man with intelligent brown eyes and a no-nonsense manner. Jed stiffened, feeling combative and adversarial, sensing immediately that this man was clever – it would be hard to hide anything from him even if he hadn’t given his promise to Leo…but he felt stung all the same. He didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to be discussing his own personal, private thoughts with some stranger.

Leo and Josh made their excuses and left the room. Leo paused beside him on his way out and they exchanged a glance and a brief word, and then his old friend and lover for 40 years left, and Jed was on his own in the lion’s den.


He was not, however, going to give in that easily. He wasn’t going to just sit here and spill his guts to this man with the knowing brown eyes and deceptively soft-spoken manner. Dr. Stanley Keyworth would have to prove to him that he knew what he was doing first before Jed would trust him with any personal details about his life.




“Mom’s away for the summer,” Jed told Leo as they climbed the stairs to the house, which was adjacent to the main school building. “She and my aunt – her sister – have this yearly rotation thing. Aunt Sal comes to stay with us one summer and my mom goes to her place the next year. She said to say ‘hi’ and that she was sorry to have missed you and instructed me to put you in the spare room, here.” He opened the door to a small room at the end of the landing and Leo glanced in and nodded.

”And where are you?” Leo asked, his lips grazing Jed’s ear as they stood pressed up against each other in the small doorway.


”Just across the hallway,” Jed grinned, pointing.

”Good. Not far to travel then,” Leo murmured.


“Yeah. These are the only two bedrooms up here – Dad sleeps on the landing below and Jon’s bedroom is the little one next to his so we’re all alone up here in the attic,” Jed pointed out, grinning as Leo stroked his ass, still standing too close, invading his space in a way that made Jed’s body tingle with need all over again, despite the fact they’d already made love three times on the journey home.


Leo tore himself away and threw his suitcase down on the bed. He sat down beside it, gazing at it thoughtfully, and then glanced back at Jed and beckoned. “Come here. I’ve got something I want to show you,” he said. “Close the door.”

”Leo – we can’t…I mean, not here, not during the day. It’s too much of a risk,” Jed hissed.


“It’s okay – I wasn’t suggesting that – tempting though it is.” Leo grinned up at him. “Come and sit down, Jed. There’s something I wanted to talk to you about.” Jed joined him on the bed, and Leo opened up his case. He removed a couple of tidily packed items of clothing and then pulled out a small tube and held it up.


“What is it?” Jed asked.


“It’s lubricant,” Leo told him, reaching out a hand and resting it on the nape of Jed’s neck, kneading gently.


“Like…for a car?” Jed frowned, glancing at his friend. Leo’s lips turned up at the corners in a twisted grin.


“Kinda…but not,” Leo told him. “Jed…you know there’s a lot of stuff we haven’t done, right?”


Jed gazed at him – somehow he was pretty sure that Leo wasn’t referring to going to college or books they hadn’t read.


“I…I dunno.” He shrugged.


“Don’t get me wrong,” Leo said softly, his hand still massaging the back of Jed’s neck. “I love what we do together, when we’re on our own – and if that’s all we ever do then it’ll be enough for me. But…I’m just saying there’s other stuff we can do if we want. Stuff we could try.”


“Like what?” Jed asked, gazing at the tube in his hand in terrified fascination.


“Well…” Leo removed his hand from Jed’s neck and took the tube of lubricant from him. He opened it, and smeared a small amount onto Jed’s fingers. “It makes it slide easier…stops it hurting,” he murmured, gazing at Jed steadily. “I read about it. We could try it and see if we liked it but only if you wanted to.”

“You mean…?” Jed felt as if he should be shocked – only he wasn’t. He wondered what it would feel like to have Leo’s cock inside that part of his body, or to be inside Leo in such an intimate way. They’d sucked each other before, and frequently jerked each other to climax with their hands…but this was something else, something much more important.


“Does it disgust you?” Leo asked, his blue eyes never leaving Jed’s face.


“No…I mean…no,” Jed sighed. “But I know it’s wrong, Leo. Everything I’ve ever been taught tells me it’s wrong but then just letting you kiss me and suck me is wrong and however much I tell myself that it doesn’t *feel* wrong when you’re doing it.”

”Jed, is it wrong because your faith says it’s wrong or is it wrong because you know it’s wrong in your heart?” Leo asked him. Jed shook his head.


“My faith isn’t separable from my heart, Leo,” he replied. “And you’re a Catholic too.”


“I know…but I don’t have faith, Jed. I stopped having faith when Dad blew his brains all over the garage,” Leo told him with a shrug. Jed gazed at his friend, sensing Leo withdrawing from him, as if bracing himself for rejection. Leo had told him about his father’s death before, but always in cold, clinical terms, like recounting a story that had happened to someone else. Jed had never seen a glimpse of the wider impact that his father’s death had had upon his friend.


“Are you saying you don’t believe in God, Leo?” He asked.


“I’m saying I don’t know.” Leo shrugged. “I know you have faith, Jed, and that’s fine, but don’t expect me to think and feel the same way as you. I want you – I want you in every way it’s possible to have you, and I’d like you to feel the same way. I’ll understand if you don’t want to do this because it disgusts you or scares you but I won’t understand if you hide behind your faith because we’ve done enough already and where was your faith then?”

Jed gazed at his friend for a long time. He had never seen Leo like this and it fascinated him. There was a wounded quality to Leo’s soul that he had kept carefully hidden. Up until now Jed had always seen Leo as a fixer, possessed of an amazing amount of confidence and the brains to justify it. Leo was someone who could keep up with his own intellect, the first person he’d ever met who he could really talk to. Sometimes when they were talking Jed felt as if he was flying, soaring into the air, free and unfettered; nobody had ever made him feel like that before and it was exhilarating. Now he could see that Leo had a darkness in his psyche, a pain that didn’t go away, something he guarded fiercely, like his namesake lion, and didn’t let anyone get close enough to see. Jed felt honoured that Leo had shared that side of himself with him – and he had no intention of letting Leo down.


“Leo…I respect that. I haven’t walked in your shoes…I don’t know what it’s like to live through what you’ve lived through. You hardly ever talk about your father, Leo.”


“No.” Leo gazed at his own hands and shrugged.


“If you ever wanted to then I’d like to listen one day,” Jed said softly.


Leo nodded. “Thanks,” he murmured.


“As for this.” Jed put the tube into Leo’s open palm and closed his hand around it. “Bring it to my room tonight, when everyone’s asleep. I want you too, Leo – in every way possible,” he added, echoing Leo’s words back to him. Leo’s blue eyes shimmered and he rested his forehead against Jed’s. Jed put his hands around Leo’s shoulders, feeling oddly grown up. Up until now, despite the fact that they were the same age, Leo had always seemed to be the older one, the worldly one, the one who had lived and experienced so much more than he with his sheltered upbringing, and yet now, for the first time, Jed felt as if that situation were reversed – and he liked the feeling of strength and being needed that gave him.


“Hey – is that Leo?” A voice asked from the doorway. Jed drew his arm away quickly and turned to face his little brother, resolving to be more careful about displays of affection in future.


“Yeah. I’m Leo.” Leo grinned at the small, sandy haired boy.


“This is Jon,” Jed said, waving a hand at his brother.


Jonathan didn’t look a whole lot like him – he had his father’s paler skin and colouring. Jed was fond of the kid; Jon looked up to him and was well behaved, kind of quiet, and very bookish. Jed loved passing on some of his favourite books to his brother and talking about them afterwards. 


“Dad says not to be late for dinner,” Jon instructed Jed.


“We won’t be,” Jed replied with a nod.


“Only…” Jon made a face. “Uncle Simon dropped by earlier.” He didn’t elaborate but Jed understood the warning well enough.


“Oh. Right.” Jed sighed.


“Okay! See you then, Leo.” Jon gave a cheery smile and then ran off.


“Nice kid,” Leo commented.


“Yeah – for a kid brother he isn’t too bad,” Jed grinned.


“He doesn’t seem to have a lot to say – unlike his brother,” Leo observed. Jed burst out laughing.


“He’s never been exactly chatty. He reads a lot and sometimes he comes out with these startling observations that make us all wonder what the hell kind of stuff he’s borrowing from the school library – but he’s a good kid. Dad dotes on him.” Jed frowned absently, and got up. “Speaking of which – I should leave you to unpack. Dinner’s in about 15 minutes and Dad hates it when we’re late for meals. He’s got a real thing about it.”


“And I take it he doesn’t like your Uncle Simon?” Leo raised an inquisitive eyebrow.


Jed gave a wry laugh. “Nope. Uncle Simon is big in New Hampshire politics and he throws his weight around a bit. He enjoys making Dad feel small and parochial I think. Mind you, Dad hates it even more when Uncle Jack visits!” Jed grinned. “I like them both – Uncle Simon always has these really amazing stories to tell. He’s smart – we have great conversations. I wish he’d drop by more often,” he commented wistfully. “If he and Dad were on better terms then I guess he would, but Dad is always in a bad mood after either of his brothers visit so I suppose it’s better that they don’t come by more often. Anyway – if he is in a bad mood then we’d better not be late for dinner.”


“Okay.” Leo smiled broadly, and put the lubricant back into his case with a knowing smile in Jed’s direction. Jed felt a wave of erotic excitement sweep through his entire body. He could hardly wait for the evening to be over so that he could experience this new thing Leo had planned. He grinned at his friend stupidly.


“I’m so glad you’re here,” he murmured, wondering how he’d survived the previous 12 months without Leo by his side.


“Me too,” Leo replied softly. “Me too.”




Jed took a deep breath as he closed the door behind Leo and then he turned and introduced himself.


“I’m Jed Bartlet


“Stanley Keyworth.”


“I guess we knew that.”


“Yes, sir.”


“I’ve been having trouble sleeping.”


Such deceptively easy words but what did they hide? Jed walked impatiently around the room while Stanley asked a series of gentle questions. His own replies were facetious, difficult, smart ass – he knew that, but he couldn’t stop himself anyway.


“Well, Mr President…um…tell me about the nature of your sleeping problem,” Stanley asked.


“I can’t sleep.” Jed shrugged.


“What happens when you try to sleep?”


“I stay awake,” Jed shot back.


Stanley didn’t even blink. He had to know he was being toyed with, but he ploughed on regardless. Jed felt a brief moment of shame – this guy had been brought here not knowing who he had been called to see. He’d been given no time whatsoever to adjust to the idea that the person in need of his help was the President of the United States no less, a President who was doing his best to give dumbass answers to all his questions – a president who was only here under duress because his best friend and lover of 40 years had insisted. This wasn’t even Stanley’s area of expertise, but Leo trusted him and Leo didn’t trust people easily so Stanley was stuck with the highly unenviable task of getting into Jed Bartlet’s psyche, and right now Jed knew he was making that task as hard as he possibly could.


“How long has it been?” Stanley asked.


“Four nights,” Jed replied. Stanley didn’t react quite as violently as Leo had, but his eyes registered his concern all the same.


“You haven’t slept in four nights?”




“Must be hard.”



“Have you tried taking a sleeping pill?”

Jed nodded. “The third night.”


“And it didn’t work?”


“Not until the next morning in the middle of a National Security briefing.”


A light flashed in Stanley’s eyes and for the first time Jed got a glimpse of himself and the situation as this man must be seeing it. This was no longer abstract – this wasn’t just a case of a man not getting a good night’s sleep; this was something that could affect national security – this was important. Stanley hadn’t signed up for this and he was taking some time, feeling his way, trying to figure out the best way of approaching his difficult, obstructive patient, a patient who just happened to be the President of the United States.


“Well, that’s no good,” Stanley commented neutrally.


Jed found himself unable to sit still. He got up and walked impatiently around the room as they talked, found himself a cigarette and lit it. He was feeling a little bit ashamed of himself but all the same, he knew that he couldn’t behave any differently. He answered Stanley’s questions about his smoking and his physical health, all the time knowing he could cut them both to the chase if he wanted to, and spare Stanley all this tedious questioning – and himself all the equally tedious replies. Only he couldn’t. He couldn’t because he needed to make Stanley work for this.  He couldn’t because he wasn’t sure he wanted to start this, and open that box Leo had told him he had to open. He couldn’t because he was Jed Bartlet.


Jed turned on the television. He knew that in part he was trying to impress Stanley with his status, trying to show this psychiatrist that he wasn’t weak, that despite his insomnia he was still in charge, still in control. He hadn’t called a psychiatrist here because he couldn’t handle his own thoughts and emotions. He could. He watched on the White House closed circuit TV link as CJ handled a question and answer session with her usual adept skill and then turned back to Stanley. The psychiatrist didn’t look impressed. In fact he just looked curious, as if he realised that entire charade with the TV had been for his benefit. Jed checked himself – had he been showing off? Showing off his status and his importance in a way that his father would have scolded him for – or worse.


Jed poured himself a glass of water, trying to distract himself from that train of thought. Stanley talked to him, his questions puncturing Jed’s attempts to keep on top of this, to keep Stanley from getting close to anything dangerous. He found himself answering more irritably now and checked himself, sliding instead into another of his age-old coping mechanisms – telling an anecdote. Stanley sat back comfortably and listened but he had that psychiatrist’s trick of watching you closely as you spoke and it unnerved Jed. What if even this harmless story about Arthur Miller was somehow betraying some aspect of his psyche? Damn but he hated this. Stanley’s brown eyes were boring holes into his soul and he could almost hear Leo growling at him: “For god’s sake, Jed. I didn’t call the poor man all the way up here from San Francisco for you to tell him about Arthur Miller. Just get on with it will you, because if you don’t I’ll damn well kick your ass.”


“I can’t sleep,” he said with a sigh. “I can’t sleep. I’ll be tired, I’ll lie there, and it doesn’t happen.”


“What happened four nights ago?” Stanley asked.


“I won the Iowa caucus.”


“Anything else?”


“That’s not enough?” Jed shot back glibly, still deflecting, still keeping himself safe.


“Mr. President,” Stanley sighed, finally calling him on his behaviour. “If you were any other patient…”


“Say what you’d say to any other patient,” Jed said wearily, finally accepting his fate. Leo had said this guy was tough, that he’d call him on his bullshit, and now, finally, he thought he might have pushed Stanley’s patience to its limit.


“I’d say screw around if you want, but it’s your money, it’s about to be my money, and I sleep fine,” Stanley said firmly.


Jed gazed at the ceiling for a long moment, struggling with himself. He could still hear Leo whispering in his ear: “Jed – now would be a good time, before we all lose patience with you. This guy has a life you know. He isn’t going to stick around forever waiting for you to spill your guts – President or not he’s going to give up on you if you don’t start doing some serious talking.”


“I had a conversation with one of my aides that night after we got back from Iowa,” Jed said with a sigh, still gazing at the ceiling, unable to meet Stanley’s eye. “He called me on something.”




“Well I guess we talked about a lot of things. Who we thought the Republican challenger was going to be, and incumbency and campaign strategy…strategic overview…” Somewhere in his head he could hear Leo’s growl of sheer exasperation with his delaying tactics, and finally, he snapped. “…But the long and short of it is that my father never liked me at all.”


There was a long silence. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Stanley nodding, acknowledging that they had reached the crux of the problem.


“Well, at least we’re closer to my area now,” Stanley commented.


Jed felt his anxiety rising and he took a mental side-swipe at Leo. “Yeah, I thought you’d enjoy that,” he said.


“What exactly did your aide say to you?” Stanley asked, taking Jed by surprise.


“Aren’t you going to ask me why I think my father didn’t like me?” He raised an eyebrow, still trying to keep control of this conversation.


“You can tell me that if you want, but I’m more interested in what your aide said that upset you so much that you haven’t been able to sleep for four nights,” Stanley said calmly.


“My father was a headmaster of a large boy’s boarding school which I, as his son, attended,” Jed told him, ignoring the question. Stanley nodded. “It was an unusual upbringing in that respect, I’ll admit,” Jed continued. Stanley threaded his hands together in his lap and waited. “But I got a first class education and while my relationship with my father was formal, I don’t think it was unusual in that era.”

“Sir – what did your aide say?” Stanley asked in that same calm, insistent tone of voice. Jed ignored him.


“My mother had her own life – I adored her but I didn’t spend much time with her; and before you ask, that didn’t bother me – none of the other boys at the school saw their mothers much after all.” Jed swung the water around in his glass thoughtfully.


“You’re not answering the question, sir,” Stanley pointed out.


“I’m a politician, Stanley. We make an art form out of not answering the questions we don’t want to answer,” Jed replied with a wry grin and then could have kicked himself for giving too much away.


“Why don’t you want to answer this one?” Stanley asked, too smart not to have picked up on Jed’s mistake.


“Because…I’m not sure it’s relevant,” Jed parried, feeling himself sinking fast. He remembered his promise to Leo and psyched himself up. He could feel himself putting one hand on the box, and faltered. “Toby was reaching. He didn’t know anything.”


“What did he say, Mr. President?” Stanley pressed. “What was the question that upset you so much that you haven’t slept in four days?”


Jed felt himself trying to open the box but it was hard; the lid was heavy and it hadn’t been opened in a very long time.


“Sir?” Stanley pushed. “What did Toby say?”


“He…” Jed gazed at the contents of his glass. He saw Leo’s face, heard Leo’s dry tones. You have no choice but to get that box out and open it up – you can’t circumvent the process. “He…asked me if my father hit me,” Jed finished. He took a sip out of his glass and glanced over at Stanley.


“And what was your reply?” Stanley asked softly. Jed shrugged.


“Yes. I told him yes.”

“Okay. Yes.” Stanley nodded thoughtfully. Jed felt himself bristling.


“It wasn’t unusual in those days, Stanley. Sons had a very different relationship to their fathers than they do today…it was normal for…” He trailed off and then rubbed his eyes wearily. “No, it wasn’t normal, even for those days. He didn’t just hit me – sometimes he punched me. Toby said it was because he didn’t like me very much and that’s a truth that I think I’ve known for a very long time but I just didn’t want to face until 4 nights ago. Not just that he didn’t love me – he didn’t actually like me.” Jed was silent for a long time. “That’s the crux of it, Stanley. My father didn’t like me – Toby said that’s what people do when they don’t like you. They p…” Jed stopped. Stanley’s eyes filled his vision, brown and steady, not without compassion but firm all the same. Jed struggled with it for a moment and then continued.


“He liked my brother, Jon, but he didn’t like me. Jon wasn’t noisy like me – he didn’t ask questions, didn’t talk too much. He and my dad were more alike – quiet, undemonstrative people. I was more like my mom – and my dad and mom didn’t get along too well. Dad never hit Jon.” Jed shrugged, fighting back a sense of desolation. “Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad about that, but now I’m wondering what it was about me that annoyed my father so much. Why did he dislike me? Why did he hit me?” Jed bit on his lip and shook his head. “Mostly it was just a slap around the face, a backhander – those were what I thought of as his equivalent of a ‘sharp word’.” Jed shrugged. “But then…occasionally…just occasionally…” It was tempting to stop this – to stop it right now, to backtrack and charm and sweet-talk Stanley into accepting that this wasn’t so big a deal after all. There were places in his memories that Jed didn’t want to go, places that had been private, personal, known only to himself and his father – something they had shared, experiences they had spoken of to nobody until Leo had come along 40 years ago and changed all that. Leo…Leo who had changed everything. Leo who was still changing everything, Leo who was insisting that he look inside the box – Leo who already knew what was in the box because Leo knew just about everything there was to know about him. Jed took a deep breath, and tried again.


“There were occasions when it was a lot worse. I’d like to think that they were spontaneous eruptions of anger but the truth is that they weren’t. Sometimes it felt as if he’d planned them. He’d call me to his study about something – usually something I’d done but not anything that I could have anticipated would upset him.” Jed paused again, shaking his head. He was aware that Stanley was sitting very still and he wanted to laugh. This all sounded so melodramatic. It was years ago – it didn’t matter now. He’d long since stopped being that teenage boy who couldn’t fight back. And yet…and yet…


“It was almost formal – like a ritual. He’d call me in, close the door behind me, and lock it – and I knew then that it would be bad. If he locked the door then I knew it would be bad. He’d start off with a few cold words but there was a look in his eye and I knew that whatever I said and whatever I did this was going to happen and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I used to try anyway – I used to try different ways of getting him to stop. Sometimes I’d shout at him and argue, while at others I’d be conciliatory, and reasonable…but nothing made a difference. When he had that look in his eye I think he just needed to hit me and it didn’t really matter what I said or did. I annoyed him. There was something about me that brought out the bully in him but I couldn’t stop being me so what could I do?”


Jed was silent for a long time but Stanley didn’t say anything – so eventually he continued.


“His ‘sharp words’ inevitably involved him slapping me hard around the face without warning, but these sessions were different. When he locked the door…” Jed put his glass of water down because his hand was shaking. “When he locked the door, I’d be scared – I knew what was coming next. Whenever I went into a room alone with my father I never shut the door. Not ever. I always left it open in case he was in one of his moods – just in case.”


He nodded to himself, lost in memories of a time long gone.


“He rarely punched my face during these sessions – I guess, looking back, that he didn’t want people knowing what he did to me – didn’t want any visible signs, although…god, that sounds so pre-meditated and I find it hard to believe he was thinking so coherently.” Jed sighed. The truth was closer to the fact that he didn’t want to think that his father had made such a cold-blooded decision. It was easier to believe the man just lost his temper than to think that he planned those sessions so meticulously. “He punched me, and if I went down he’d sometimes kick me…and then it would be over. I’d hear him unlock the door and he’d leave me in the room. The next time I saw him he’d be back to normal – he never mentioned what happened and I never referred to it. It was kind of like our secret, although he never told me not to tell anyone. He just seemed to know that I wouldn’t. And, to be honest, who would I have told?” Jed shrugged and glanced at Stanley.


“How old were you when it started?” Stanley asked softly.


“I’m not sure – in my teens,” Jed raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“He didn’t hit you when you were younger?”

“No…not beyond a light smack here or there when I was naughty as a small kid. The sessions behind the locked door didn’t begin until I was 12 or 13.”

“And when did they end?” Stanley asked.


Jed hesitated.

“Sir? When did they end?”

“When I was 18.” Jed shrugged.


“Do you know why they ended?” Stanley pressed in that quiet, calm way of his. Jed turned back to his drink, desperately wanting the cool water, but his hand was still unsteady and he didn’t trust himself to pick up the glass.


“Why is that important?”


“Well, I wondered whether you felt you still had unfinished business with your father or whether…”

“No. It was over. We moved on,” Jed said tersely.


“Then why, after 40 years, are you having sleepless nights about it?” Stanley asked him softly. “What aren’t you telling me, sir?”


Jed gazed into space for a long time, and then he turned back to the psychiatrist with a wry smile on his face. “Stanley, everything I tell you is confidential right?”

“Of course, sir.” Stanley nodded patiently.


“Why should I trust that?” Jed asked. “What’s to stop you going straight out of here and phoning a newspaper?”


Stanley gave a smile, those brown eyes of his looking wryly amused. “I’d never work again if I did that, sir. Who would trust me?”


“Stanley, I could tell you something that, if you sold it to a newspaper, could earn you enough money that you wouldn’t have to work again for the rest of your life anyway,” Jed told him.


“Ah, but I love my work, sir.” Stanley shook his head. “And I think you know what it means to love your work – I’m not just talking about liking what I do, about feeling pretty glad that I’ve got a good job to go to every day and enough money to pay the bills – I’m talking about loving it; about living and breathing it. My work isn’t just a job to me, sir – it’s much more. I think you understand that because I think you feel the same way. Take away my work and you’ll take away a part of me and all the money in the world wouldn’t be enough to buy that back.”

It was an impassioned speech coming from this supremely dispassionate, dry witted man and Jed knew, instinctively, that Stanley wasn’t lying. No, Dr. Keyworth was a kindred spirit, and for the first time since this conversation started, Jed began to trust him. He sat there for a moment, thinking about it, and then, finally, he nodded.


“Okay, Stanley,” he said. “I’m going to make you really earn that exorbitant fee you charge now.”




“What the hell took you so long?” Jed whispered fiercely as Leo closed the bedroom door behind him and slipped inside.


“You said to wait until everyone was asleep,” Leo replied, crossing the room to where Jed was sitting, impatiently, in bed.


“If you’d waited any longer they would all be waking up again!” Jed grumbled. Leo gazed at him with that calmly implacable gaze of his, radiating steady good humour. Jed felt like hitting him. “Did you bring it?” He asked as Leo sat down on the bed beside him. Leo rolled his eyes.


“Damn. I knew I’d forgotten something,” he said in a sarcastic tone and then, with a shake of his head. “Yes I brought it – you are so high strung, Jed Bartlet.”


“I am not! I just want to damn well get on and try this and don’t appreciate you keeping me waiting half the night!” Jed snapped.


“High strung.” Leo shook his head sagely. “Like a race horse.”


“You’re comparing me to a horse?” Jed growled – although at this moment in time his nerves were so frayed from anticipation that he would have argued about anything. Leo grinned at him.


“Not just any horse – a very valuable, very handsome, very nervy thoroughbred. With a thick, dark mane,” he added, pushing Jed’s hair off his forehead. Jed snorted.


“Any jokes about mounting said horse will *not* go down well right now, Leo,” he hissed, burning up with nervous excitement about what they had planned.


“I wouldn’t dare,” Leo grinned, grabbing Jed’s head and kissing him firmly on the lips. Jed surrendered to the kiss, feeling Leo’s solid sense of calm transmitting itself to him through his lips, soothing him. He shivered, thinking about what they planned to do next, and Leo pulled back and looked at him with a quizzical expression.


“Jed? You’re shaking. We don’t have to do this you know,” he whispered.


“I want to do it, damn it,” Jed snapped. “I just…do you think it’ll hurt, Leo?”


“I don’t know. I was hoping it would feel good but I think there might be some pain first before we get to the good bit,” Leo said. “Jed – I can go first if you want. We don’t have to do it the other way around unless you’re sure. This is supposed to be good, Jed, not an ordeal!”


Jed went very still, gazing at his friend in the glow of the moonlight that was glancing through the windows. Leo was wearing a pair of navy blue pyjamas and a dark green robe and his short, wispy blond hair was tousled. How could he explain this to Leo, he wondered? How could he explain to himself that he wanted this with an almost feverish hunger, that he didn’t want to wait another second, that he had been fantasising about what it would feel like to have Leo inside his ass ever since Leo had handed him that tube of lubricant earlier. He grabbed hold of Leo’s neck and pulled him close, kissing him again.


“I want to go first,” he whispered. “I want to feel you moving inside me, Leo.”


“Okay,” Leo replied, with a slow, burning smile. “I’ll be careful, Jed. If it hurts then just tell me and I’ll stop.”


Jed nodded, and then went back in for another kiss, his fingers fumbling to remove Leo’s pyjamas. Leo slid under the covers of the bed and before long they were both naked.


“This feels good. I like it best when I can feel your skin under mine,” Leo whispered. “I love the way your skin feels.” Leo had a particular tone of voice for when they were in bed and it made Jed harden instantly. Leo’s voice was low, dark and seductive and he seemed to take such immense pleasure in Jed’s body. Jed wasn’t sure why, but somehow it turned him on knowing how much he turned Leo on. It had amazed and embarrassed him at first that Leo would say such obviously affectionate and admiring things about him when they were making out, but his body invariably responded. Leo made him feel sensual and admired, and he responded like a cat being stroked, loving the attention.


Leo’s hands were as knowing as ever as they caressed Jed’s body, soothing some of his anxiety away. Jed might have been impatient and nervous but Leo seemed completely unfazed by what they had planned. He was as attentive as always, his lips and hands exploring Jed’s naked body in a way that hadn’t been possible in the narrow confines of the car. Jed had discovered that Leo was something of a connoisseur – their quick, urgent couplings were very necessary to both of them, but after their initial sexual need had been satisfied, Leo liked to linger and take some time really making love rather than just having sex. Jed’s entire relationship with his own sexuality thus far had been stroking his cock to orgasm and it had therefore taken him completely by surprise to find that Leo’s interest was not just in that part of his anatomy. Leo’s tongue and fingers had found parts of his body that responded just as eagerly as his groin did to any kind of erotic attention and Jed was amazed by what he had learned about his body from Leo’s skilful hands. He felt much clumsier by comparison, much less sure of himself. He hoped he gave Leo some of the same pleasure that Leo gave to him but he suspected that he didn’t. Leo didn’t complain – he seemed to like exploring Jed’s body almost more than having his own body explored, but Jed still felt guilty about it. He knew that Leo had had a lot more practice and experience than he had but even so, he didn’t want to be a lousy lay.


“How do we do this?” Jed asked, as Leo’s hands went dangerously close to his buttocks. “Do I get on my hands and knees?”


Leo frowned. “There are various ways but I was thinking you could put your legs on my shoulders – I want to look at you when I’m doing this.”

”Why?” Jed asked blankly.


Leo shrugged. “I dunno. I just do,” he replied. “Anyway, you aren’t ready yet.”

”Leo I have been waiting here in a state of nervous anticipation for the past two hours so don’t tell I’m not ready!” Jed protested angrily. Much to his surprise, Leo burst out laughing.


“Like I said – high strung,” he chuckled, his hands exploring Jed’s body thoroughly as he spoke, making it impossible for Jed to respond with the indignation he was feeling. “When I said not ready, I mean I want to prepare you first. So it hurts as little as possible,” Leo said, turning Jed onto his front and leaning over to grab the lubricant from the nightstand.


“How are you going to…ooooh,” Jed hissed, as his buttocks were parted and a cool finger played with his anus for several seconds and then gently slicked inside his body. “Oh shit,” he whispered.


“How does that feel? Does it hurt?” Leo asked anxiously.


“No…it feels…really nice,” Jed murmured dreamily. He rested his head on his hands and opened his legs wider, enjoying the sensation of Leo’s finger sliding in and out of his body. He wasn’t sure why he was allowing Leo to do something so intimate – if anyone else had done this to him he knew he would have hollered the place down but he trusted Leo not to hurt him. He felt a greater pressure on his anus and then squirmed as Leo pushed two fingers inside him.


“Okay?” Leo whispered, stroking Jed’s buttocks lovingly.


“Yeah…don’t stop, Leo. It feels…” Jed bit on his lip. He knew it *should* feel wrong but instead it felt intensely pleasurable. He liked the fact that it was Leo doing this to him. Leo with his sturdy good sense, and implacable sense of calm; Leo with that quirky sense of humour who he could rely on to make him laugh; Leo who always seemed so steady even in the face of Jed’s more explosive moods; Leo whose very touch sent a charge of electricity down Jed’s nerve endings and deep into his groin. Somehow, knowing that Leo’s fingers were inside him and that Leo’s cock would soon be there instead, made Jed feel unbearably turned on. His own cock was now rock hard with need and he found himself pushing back onto Leo’s fingers in a way that felt positively shameful, like a cat on heat. Leo inserted a third finger but Jed was now so relaxed that all he could think about was that he wanted much, much more. He backed onto those fingers urgently, quivering with tension, making little mewling sounds in the back of his throat.


“Whoa…” Leo murmured, in an amused tone. “This feels good then, huh?” He began moving his fingers in and out of Jed’s anus and Jed gave a gurgle of sheer pleasure.


“You have no idea…” Jed sighed, hanging onto his orgasm by a thread. “We should have jerked off first, Leo. I don’t know how long I can hold this. It feels so…intense.”


“I love the way you look when you’re like this,” Leo grinned. He trailed the fingertips of his free hand down Jed’s spine and Jed shivered with sensation.


“Oh god, Leo…you have to do it now,” he said.


“Okay…but tell me if it hurts,” Leo warned. Jed nodded, and then could have wept when Leo removed his fingers from his ass. Leo turned him over onto his back, and Jed quickly put his legs on Leo’s shoulders. He studied Leo as the other boy pulled him close, and parted his buttocks. Leo’s shoulders were sturdy beneath his ankles and his close cropped blond hair looked almost silver in the dimly lit room. Leo reached for the lube and then paused, grinning down at his friend.


“This is going to be so good. You look so damn edible lying here waiting for me like this,” he purred. Jed’s already hard cock almost went into spasm. He thought this moment would last forever; Leo kneeling here, a sparkling light in those blue eyes of his, looking down on him so affectionately. Jed watched, fascinated, as Leo applied a generous amount of lube to his pulsing erection. Leo’s cock looked so big and swollen that he couldn’t imagine that it would even fit inside him but he longed to feel it moving inside him in the way Leo’s fingers had moved.


“Ready?” Leo whispered, positioning himself. Jed nodded, his dark hair flopping into his eyes. Leo grinned, and, leaning forward, deposited a burning kiss on Jed’s lips, and then he grasped Jed’s buttocks in his hands and slowly nudged his cock into his entrance. Jed gasped – his first thought was that he had been right, that Leo’s cock was too big to fit inside him, that this was going to hurt…there was a moment of brief but intense burning and then, suddenly, Leo seemed to slip right inside him. Jed felt as if his body was being impossibly stretched. His ass seemed to be filled and there was a pressure building up that he wasn’t sure he could bear. He was just about to cry out, to tell Leo to withdraw, when his body seemed to adjust, and the pain receded. Now he was assaulted instead by a spark of pleasure, as if something deep inside his ass was being stimulated by Leo’s cock.


“Okay?” Leo said, pausing. Jed grinned.


“Okay,” he replied. “Keep going. I want to feel all of you inside me.” Leo nodded, and, leaning forward, slid the whole way in with one smooth move. Jed gasped out loud and reached out blindly, clutching at Leo’s hips frantically.


“Jed? Is that okay? Jed?” Leo asked anxiously.


“Oh god – don’t stop!” Jed moaned.


Leo grinned, and ducked his head down to claim Jed’s lips in a deep, loving kiss. Jed thought he was about to pass out – all he could feel was Leo’s cock deep in his body and Leo’s tongue in his mouth. Then Leo pulled back and began slowly thrusting in and out and Jed lay there, utterly abandoned to the sensation. He had never known something could feel so good; now his cock wasn’t his main focus – he was transfixed instead by the starbursts of sheer fizzing pleasure that were emanating from deep within his body. He lost track of what was happening but at one point he knew he cried out so loudly in pleasure that Leo put his hand over his mouth and hissed at him to be quiet. Jed wasn’t aware of much else after that, except that he was transported onto a different plane of pleasure to any he had ever experienced before. He was lost in the sensation of Leo inside him, transfixed by the sight of Leo as he thrust into him, his lips slightly parted, his blue eyes locked with Jed’s, his sturdy, muscular chest covered in a thin sheen of sweat. Jed knew the event had reached a climax, could hear Leo’s gasp as he came, felt the warmth of his own come on his belly and Leo’s come trickling out of his ass, but through it all, the one thing that stayed with Jed was the expression in Leo’s eyes; Jed had never felt so incredibly loved before in his entire life. Every single atom of Leo’s being seemed to be focussed on him, and he radiated a sense of such total adoration that Jed was lost in it.


Then it was over. He was dimly aware of Leo withdrawing, and that his ass felt hollow and empty and sore. Then Leo was lying down beside him; he wrapped Jed in his arms, pulled the sheet over both of them, and kissed the back of Jed’s head, inhaling the scent of his hair in a way that sometimes made Jed laugh and push him away but which now just felt extremely nice.


“So, we won’t be doing that again,” Leo commented pragmatically as he nuzzled.


“Wha…?” Jed turned his head in bleary amazement.


“Way too much noise,” Leo said with a shrug. “And very messy. Not really worth it for all the effort.”


“Leo McGarry if you…” Jed began in a heated tone and then he saw the grin on Leo’s face. He thumped Leo on the thigh with his fist in mock protest.


“Had you then,” Leo said, laughing.


“In more ways than one,” Jed replied, and then they both laughed out loud. “Seriously,” Jed murmured, several minutes later when they were both calm again. “Was it as good for you as it was for me? How did it feel?”


“You can try it tomorrow night,” Leo said. “Although if I react the way you do then I can see we’re always going to be fighting over who gets to give and who gets to receive.” He grinned. “But it was good – it felt amazing, really tight, so much sensation.”


They were both nearly asleep when a thought occurred to Jed. He elbowed Leo in the ribs and Leo pinched his ass exasperatedly in response.


“Leo, it’s nearly 3 am,” Jed whispered.


“So?” Leo replied grumpily.


“So, that means that tomorrow is June 17th.”


“Yeah. You woke me up just to share that startling observation with me?”


“Yes.” Jed turned over in the narrow bed and gazed at his lover. “I was just thinking – we should do something special to mark the occasion, Leo. You know you said that things would never change between us? That we’d always feel like this?”


“What? Sleepy?” Leo grumbled.


“You know what I mean,” Jed remonstrated, elbowing Leo in the ribs again.


“Yeah. Okay.”


“Well, our lives are going to take us to different places – we’re going to different colleges soon for a start.”


“You’re going to Notre Dame and I’m going to the University of Michigan,” Leo pointed out. “They’re hardly at opposite ends of the universe. We could meet up every so often.”


“I know, but our lives will change – so I’m just saying that we ought to have a plan about meeting up. I want you to promise you’ll spend every June 17th with me,” he whispered.

”What?” Leo frowned.


“Every year, no matter where we are, or what we’re doing, I want you to promise that you’ll spend every June 17th with me,” Jed said urgently.


“Why?” Leo growled.


“Because it’s our anniversary,” Jed told him.


Leo rolled his eyes and tried to bury his head under one of the pillows. “Oh god. You’re a romantic,” he sighed.


“Yeah,” Jed grinned, removing the pillow from Leo’s head. “Humour me.”


“Will you let me get some sleep if I do?” Leo asked.


“Sure – only for another couple of hours though. Nobody usually comes up here but you should be gone by 5 just in case.”


“Okay.” Leo closed his eyes again. Jed waited a few seconds and then poked him in the thigh with his finger.


“Okay to June 17th or okay to being gone by 5?” He asked.


“How did you get to *be* this annoying?” Leo said, opening one eye.


“I’m a high strung, very valuable, very handsome thoroughbred,” Jed replied with a grin. “I think you should just agree to whatever I say or I might race off with some other jockey.” Leo’s eyes narrowed. Jed’s grin widened. “Had you then,” he crowed. “And as for June 17th – just consider it one of those things you don’t have a choice about.”


Leo sighed heavily, then wrapped his hand in Jed’s hair and pulled him close for a thorough kiss.


“Okay,” he said softly when he released him.




Jed took a deep breath, and then launched into what he had to say, what Leo had told him he had to say, without pausing for air along the way.


“Stanley, I was 17 when I met Leo McGarry. We became lovers and we have been ever since, wives and girlfriends along the way not withstanding. I love my wife and my family, and I love Leo. I’m fairly sure that he feels the same way about me.”


There was a long silence. Jed gazed at the contents of his glass. Damn you, Leo, he thought to himself. Damn you and your stupid box. This is one of those things that’s just between us. It’s not something that other people can understand. It took me long enough to get my head around it and now I have to parade it out here for this guy to pick apart and analyse? I hate this!


“Don’t you have anything to say, Stanley?” He asked finally, unable to bear the silence any more. “No expressions of amazement? No comment to make? It isn’t every day you hear that the President of the United States has been sleeping with his Chief of Staff for forty years.”


“No it isn’t.” Stanley gave a wry smile, “But you’d be surprised at some of the things I’ve heard during my career. I wouldn’t say this was the most amazing thing – not by a long shot.”

“Oh, so we’re pretty ordinary are we?” Jed felt unaccountably annoyed.


“I wouldn’t say ordinary, no, sir.” Stanley shook his head. “I was just wondering why you chose to tell me about Leo in connection with your current problem. Does Leo have anything to do with this? Was he there when Toby spoke to you a few nights ago?”

“No. Leo doesn’t know any of this. I didn’t tell him about the conversation with Toby. He doesn’t even know why I’m having sleepless nights.” Jed shook his head.


“Why not?” Stanley asked softly. “You’ve been close to him for 40 years after all. I’d have thought he’d be one of the first people you turned to about this. Him or your wife.”


“I won’t bother Abbey.” Jed shook his head.


“So why not bother Leo? You’re still close?” Stanley’s gaze was intent.


“Yeah.” Jed made a face. “As a matter of fact it’s all his fault that I’m seeing you, Stanley. He said much the same thing as you did – if I wouldn’t talk to him or to Abbey then I had to talk to someone. I didn’t want to see you, you know.”

“I figured.” Stanley grinned. “You have a fairly combative approach to this whole process, sir.”


“Yeah. Well – just so you know. None of this was my idea. Leo had to drag me here kicking and screaming all the way – metaphorically speaking anyway.”


“So, why didn’t you speak to Leo about what Toby said?” Stanley asked imperturbably.


“You don’t let up do you?” Jed grimaced. “You don’t get sidetracked. You’d make a good reporter, Stanley. Ten minutes on Capital Beat with you and many a seasoned politician would be tied up in knots.”

“Sir. You haven’t answered my question,” Stanley said. Jed sighed.


“I’m so damn tired. Four nights without sleep – is it going to be five, Stanley? Can you really help me or am I just spilling my guts for nothing?” There was silence. Jed sighed again. “Oh god forbid that any of you people ever give anyone a straight answer to anything. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him, Stanley. I don’t know. Maybe I just didn’t want to bring this whole thing up again. It was a long time ago and maybe I’m just in – what’s the word you people are always using? – ah, yes, denial. Maybe I was in denial about it. I just thought it would all blow over and things could go back to the way they used to be.” He knew he was gabbling, speaking too fast, knew that Stanley would infer something just from that. God how he hated these shrinks, always looking at you and pulling you apart, trying to find out what was inside, picking and prodding away until it made him want to…


“I don’t want to see that expression in Leo’s eyes again, damnit!” Jed roared.


“Which expression, sir?”


“The one where he feels sorry for me. The one where he thinks I’m weak and can’t take care of myself!”


“Is that how you’re feeling, sir?”


“I’m the most powerful man in the world, Stanley,” Jed snapped, clenching his hands into fists.


“I know.” Stanley nodded. “That must be a pretty good place to be for a kid who gets beaten by his father. Nobody gets to have any power over you now, do they, sir? Nobody gets to make you feel weak. Nobody gets to kick you when you’re lying on the floor, or to slap you around the face for saying something they don’t agree with. You found a place where nobody could make you feel that way again, a place where you’re strong and invincible and people respect you. Nobody, nobody locks a door on you and uses you as a punching bag any more. Everything you say is listened to, every word hung upon – you don’t feel you’re wrong just for being alive, or that you’ll be ignored even if you’re screaming and sobbing in pain…and then look what happened. You found yourself feeling that way again anyway. You’re the most powerful man in the world but it isn’t enough. Inside, you’re still 15, 16, 17 years old, and you can’t get your father to stop hitting you.”

Jed gazed at Stanley, his mouth open in surprise.


“And you won’t talk to the only two people in the world who don’t treat you like you’re a king because that would mean admitting to yourself that even if you are the President of the United States you can still, occasionally, feel weak and powerless inside,” Stanley finished softly.




“Leo…” Jed knocked on his friend’s door and then opened it to find Leo already washed and dressed, lying on his bed reading a book. Jed grinned, pleased that, like him, Leo seemed to thrive on very little sleep – they’d certainly had little enough the previous night.


”Hey.” Leo put the book down and gazed at Jed with a look of searching affection. “How are you feeling?” He asked, his sharp blue gaze giving the question a meaning beyond the obvious. Jed smiled.


“Fine.” He glanced at the hallway to make sure nobody was around. “Sore, but pretty good apart from that.” His grin widened. “Leo – I’m not sure how you feel about this but would you come to church with me today?”


Leo frowned. “Jed, I already told you…”

”I know – it’s not for that reason. There’s something I wanted your opinion on. I won’t tell you what until after.” He grinned mysteriously. “Apart from anything else, everyone goes – my father will probably ask questions if you don’t go and there’s someone I’d really like you to meet.”


Leo thought about it for a moment and then shrugged. “Okay. I guess I could go,” he sighed. “I thought this was a big protestant school though.”


“It’s a non-denominational service.” Jed shrugged.


“And this person you wanted me to meet?”


“I want to see what you think of her.” Jed gave another mysterious grin.


“It’s a ‘she’?” Leo raised an inquisitive eyebrow.


“Yeah, and that’s *all* I’m saying,” Jed replied with a laugh.


Jed watched as Leo got changed into a more formal shirt and tie – he had never seen Leo in formal clothes before and his heart lurched. Leo looked very grown up – more grown up than he did, he was sure. Then they went downstairs for breakfast which was a silent affair as his father liked to read the Sunday paper in peace over breakfast and Jon had his face buried in a book as usual. Thus far, Jed wasn’t even sure that Leo had impinged on his father’s consciousness; he was just another boy to a man who dealt with a multitude of boys on a daily basis. Jed hoped that he wouldn’t be like this during Leo’s entire visit – his father could, occasionally, when he was in one of his good moods, be a very interesting dining companion. He had a tendency to hold forth and lecture rather than engage in conversation but Jed had learned a lot that way. Leo didn’t seem to find his father’s silence surprising or rude though – he spent most of the meal grinning slyly at Jed in a way that reminded Jed of the previous night’s activities and sent a thrill through his veins. All the same, Jed couldn’t help wishing that his mother was here so that Leo could see that his family weren’t all so introverted. He missed his Mom when she was away. When she was here at least there was some good conversation over the dining table.


After breakfast they walked over to the church. It was a sunny day, and Leo, despite his current lack of faith, certainly knew all the words to the hymns and the required responses to the prayers. Jed closed his eyes and allowed his own prayers to soar with the music. Last night he and Leo had done something that his faith told him was wrong, but it hadn’t felt wrong. It had felt very right. He prayed to God for guidance, wondering whether God was telling him to become a priest – this was something that had been on his mind for a little while now, and he revisited it often, playing with the idea. It seemed to offer such peace – and an escape from the turmoil of the strong emotions he felt for Leo. Jed also knew there was a little part of him that longed to do it just to spite his father – he knew his father was still angry with him for having chosen his mother’s religion over his own, and he knew that becoming a priest would be a sure-fire way to assert his own independence even if that meant annoying his father even more – and that was very tempting too…and yet…and yet…Jed was by no means convinced that this was the path God had chosen for him. He had the sense that he was destined for something else, and he wasn’t sure what, just that it was important and that it would be a momentous undertaking – and that Leo was somehow a part of that destiny in a way he didn’t yet understand.


After the service, they filed out into bright sunshine, to be immediately accosted, as Jed had known they would be, by a familiar voice, calling across the courtyard.


“Jed! I want a word with you!” Jed grinned at Leo and turned.

”Hello, Mrs. Landingham.”


“Oh, you have a friend.” Mrs Landingham looked Leo up and down and Leo did exactly the same to her, before finally holding out his hand.


“Dolores Landingham, this is Leo McGarry. I met Leo at Boy’s Nation last year,” Jed prompted her as she looked as if she was trying to place Leo.


“I thought you didn’t go to school here,” she commented, still giving him that appraising look. She glanced at Jed and then back at Leo and for a split second Jed felt as if she knew exactly what they’d done the previous night, and then, as if Leo had passed some special inspection she was giving him, she broke into a wide smile.


“I’m staying for a few weeks.” Leo smiled back at her, as if she had passed *his* test as well.


“How did you enjoy our service?” Mrs. Landingham asked, gesturing with her head towards the church.


“It was fine…but it wasn’t a non-denominational service,” Leo said glancing at Jed. Jed gazed back at his friend in amazement and then burst out laughing.


“It isn’t is it? I told you it wasn’t, Mrs. Landingham,” he said in delighted tones.


“I guess I walked straight into that one,” she said briskly, as Jed danced around jubilantly.


“No – Leo didn’t know! I was going to ask him but you beat me to it! He doesn’t know that I don’t think it’s a non-denominational service either. I’ve been saying this for ages, Leo, but nobody listens to me,” Jed grumbled.


“Well that’s because you say so much – you can wear a person down through sheer volume of words, Jed, and never mind what you’re actually saying,” Mrs. Landingham commented.


Leo laughed out loud at that and Jed shot him a mock-hurt look and then they *all* laughed. Jed felt a warm sensation in his stomach – he had desperately wanted Leo and Mrs. Landingham to get along and they were already behaving like old friends.


“Catholics don’t say ‘for thine is the kingdom, the power and glory forever and ever,'” Leo pointed out.

”That’s *it*!” Jed said, dancing around again. Mrs. Landingham gave him a reproving stare but that wasn’t enough to stop him.


“Well, if it really bothers you that much you should take it up with your father, Jed,” she sniffed. Jed stopped dancing and shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets.


“Maybe I will,” he murmured, an iciness descending on his mood, unwilling to tell them that he already had.


“And while you’re at it, you could raise the issue of equal pay which I happen to think is even more important,” Mrs. Landingham added.


“What’s this?” Leo turned to Mrs. Landingham with a gleam in those blue eyes of his and Jed could tell that his friend was intellectually excited by what she’d said. Mrs. Landingham’s eyes gleamed equally in response, as she scented an ally to her cause.


“I’ve been talking to Jed for quite some time about the inequality of pay among the staff,” she said in those quick, clipped tones of hers. “Do you think it’s fair that the female teachers are paid less than the male teachers for exactly the same work, Leo?” She asked. Leo shook his head thoughtfully.


“No, I don’t, Mrs. Landingham.”


“Well then – perhaps you could get Jed to speak to his father about it. I’ve been trying for weeks but somehow he never seems to get around to it.” She gave Jed a reproving glare and he sank his hands even further into his pockets, unwilling to offer any explanations.


“Did you give him figures?” Leo asked and Jed found himself meeting Leo’s steady gaze, amazed by how in tune they were.


“I sure did. I’ll dig them out and bring them over for you to look at too, Leo – no, scratch that, why don’t you two boys come over to my place for lunch? My two are away camping with their father and I could do with the company.”

“That would be very nice, Mrs. Landingham,” Leo said, glancing at Jed for confirmation. Jed sighed, seeing he was outflanked – he was hardly dismayed by the invitation to lunch but he dreaded a whole afternoon of the pair of them nagging him to speak to his father on the issue of equal pay for the school staff. He was delighted by how well they were getting along though. Mrs. Landingham seemed to sense in Leo the same kind of kindred spirit she had sensed in Jed – maybe that was why they all got along so well.


Lunch at Mrs. Landingham’s house was completely different to any meal that took place under his father’s auspices. Jed was in his element as he and Leo helped Mrs. Landingham in the kitchen, chatting away endlessly between them, although Jed had to admit that he did half the talking and Mrs Landingham and Leo shared the remaining half between them. He was in heaven though – these two people were on his wavelength and he felt completely at home with them. He could relax in a way he couldn’t with his own family. It occurred to him as he watched Mrs. Landingham in an acerbic exchange with Leo that they had similar personalities – both of them had cool, calm exteriors which hid passionate natures, both of them used humour to keep people at a distance until they got to know them – and both of them had a protective attitude towards him. He wasn’t sure that he needed protecting, or why he brought out that side of their personalities, but he did know that he felt very blessed that two people who he liked and respected so much had a high opinion of him, and cared about him in return. He wasn’t sure he really deserved it, but it made him feel good.


“Mrs. Landingham is right,” Leo said, frowning as he studied the figures she had thrust under his nose. “The female staff is being underpaid.”


“There, see.” Mrs Landingham gave Jed a disapproving glare.


“I know. I never disputed your figures, Mrs. Landingham,” Jed shrugged. “I just don’t know what you want me to do about it. I don’t run the school.”


“Your father does,” she pointed out. “I thought you were going to speak to him about this, Jed. I thought you’d made up your mind to do that.”


“I was going to.” Jed shrugged, and turned back to the stove, where he stirred the gravy, his previous good mood fading as he fell back into silence. Mrs. Landingham glanced at Leo who gazed thoughtfully at Jed.


“So what happened?” Mrs Landingham asked. “Did you speak to him, Jed? Did he knock you back? Is that what happened?”


Jed looked up at her sharply, reacting to her choice of words, and then saw by her expression that she hadn’t meant anything by it and shook his head. “No. I never said anything to him, Mrs. Landingham. There wasn’t a right time. He…it has to be the right time or he won’t listen. I know him. If I ask him at the wrong time he might take against the idea completely and that wouldn’t help our cause any.”


Leo was still gazing at him thoughtfully in a way that was starting to make Jed uncomfortable.


“Would it help if I was there?” He asked suddenly. Jed frowned. “I mean, you could bring it up and I could back you up, Jed. If he saw it wasn’t just you asking, if he saw there was a wider issue, then he might be more open-minded about it. I’d like to help here – my mom came up against this kind of pay discrimination after my dad died and it was tough on us for awhile.”


Jed considered Leo’s offer, his mood lightening by the second. If Leo was there then his father couldn’t hit him – and he was pretty certain that would be the outcome if he tried tackling his father on this issue alone. He couldn’t be sure because he never could predict his father’s moods. Sometimes he’d say something, sure that his father would react angrily, and instead he’d get an approving glance and a word of praise, and at other times he’d say something he considered to be fairly innocuous only to be met by a stiff backhander that threw him completely off balance. It was the uncertainty that always unnerved him. If he could only *tell* how his father would react then it would be easier knowing what to say and when to say it. Jed wasn’t sure how his father would feel about this equal pay issue and he had been so cold towards him since Jed had written that article for the school magazine criticising the banning of certain books from the school library that Jed hadn’t felt it was wise to attempt to interfere in any other aspect of the running of the school. However, with Leo by his side he was sure that he could put a good case for equal pay – there was something about Leo that made him feel that he could do anything at all, and Jed knew that if he could only have a few minutes to argue his case that his own passion and the sheer rightness of his arguments would win his father over. He couldn’t see how any intelligent person could defend a system that was so obviously unfair and just plain wrong.


“That might work,” he mused thoughtfully, nodding at Leo. “Let’s do it! Let’s do it tonight!”


Mrs. Landingham gave Leo a big grin. “My, you’re quite the miracle worker aren’t you, Leo McGarry,” she said, in a deeply impressed tone. “I’ve been asking for weeks and then you come along and wave your hand and Jed jumps to it.”


Jed could feel his skin colouring and he purposefully turned back to the gravy, hoping that Mrs. Landingham hadn’t noticed.


“He just knows a good cause when he sees one,” Leo commented, deflecting the observation gracefully away from more dangerous areas. He changed the subject, and soon had Mrs. Landingham thoroughly engaged in discussing the current political situation. When he next passed Jed, he put a hand briefly on Jed’s arm. It was a tiny gesture but it made Jed’s skin tingle with that familiar Leo buzz, and, looking around, he flashed a big smile at his friend, remembering how it had felt the previous night when Leo had been inside him, remembering the burning intensity in his friend’s blue eyes as he’d looked down on him. Jed felt a warmth start in his groin and flood through his entire body. Somehow, he had a feeling that everything was going to be okay with his father. With Leo by his side he felt ten feet tall – and he knew that he couldn’t fail.




“You think this is about me not wanting to appear weak?” Jed gazed at the carpet sightlessly.


“No, as a matter of fact I don’t.” Stanley shrugged. “I think you not wanting to talk about it is, but I don’t think what’s bothering you has anything to do with that. Sir – your father’s been dead for a long time. Nobody has hit you in forty years…” He broke off as Jed stiffened slightly. “Or maybe I’m wrong about that,” he amended.


“Toby thinks I let the pitch go by. He thinks I try to please people, that I try to soften things out because I need my father’s approval.” Jed shook his head. “He doesn’t know about me and Leo. I long ago stopped needing my father’s approval.”

“But you need Leo’s approval instead?” Stanley ventured.  Jed sighed and shrugged.


“Leo’s my touchstone. When I’ve done well…he makes me feel that he’s so damn proud of me.  You don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of Leo McGarry’s praise, Stanley. He isn’t like me – he’s quiet, understated – if he says you’ve done well then by god he means it. You should watch the staff sometime – they’d walk through hell and high water for Leo. He’s one of those people. They all vie for his attention, for his praise – it isn’t obvious, but it’s always there, that undercurrent of people striving to do well for him, to earn one of those brief words of praise that make you glow inside. That’s the kind of person he is. He was always like that…and I’ve spent most of my life doing the exact same thing – trying to impress him.”


“I think that even an uninformed observer of your presidency would say that you have a similar tendency to bring out the best in your staff yourself,” Stanley commented. “I’m hazarding that a word of praise from you is as treasured as one from Leo.”

Jed shrugged. “I should damn well think so – it has to mean something if the President of the United States says you’ve done well after all, and I don’t in any way have an undersized ego. I know I’m a good leader – I know they all bust a gut to do well for me.” He grinned. “I’m not in competition with Leo over this,” he murmured. “I’m just trying to explain why Leo is important. He isn’t some kind of father figure – we’re too close in age for that for a start. I didn’t fall in love with Leo because I wanted some kind of stable male role model to gaze on approvingly while I showed off – what happened with Leo when we were 17 was like a lightning bolt from the sky; I couldn’t have avoided it if I’d tried. If I’m honest nothing much has changed in that respect. I still feel as if I’ve been hit by that lightning bolt, even after all these years. Leo’s place in my life has always defied my understanding but I don’t question it any more.”


“You did once?” Stanley asked, conversationally.


“When I was a kid, yes.” Jed shrugged. “Who wouldn’t?”


“Why is your relationship with Leo on your mind in connection with what Toby said to you, sir?” Stanley asked softly.


Jed shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m just talking – just trying to fill in the gaps. You started all this,” he said defensively. “You’re the one who keeps asking questions. I haven’t a clue where we’re going. I kind of hoped that you did – isn’t that what I’m paying you for?”


“How did the beatings end, sir?” Stanley said, taking him by surprise by returning to the question he hadn’t answered earlier.


“You never give up, do you, Stanley?” Jed grinned.


“Not when it’s important, sir, no. How did they end? Did they just trail off as you got older, or did something happen to draw that part of your life to a close?”


“Oh something happened all right.” Jed glanced sideways into those intelligent brown eyes.


“What happened, sir?” Stanley pushed gently.


“Leo happened,” Jed replied. “And that’s all I’m saying. If you want to know anything more I suggest you ask him.”

“Maybe that would be a good idea,” Stanley commented. Jed glanced up, sharply. “I often arrange for people’s partners to attend therapy sessions where I think it would be helpful,” Stanley said.


“You want to drag Leo here?” Jed asked incredulously.


“Do you have any objections?”


Jed thought about it for a moment and then he gave a slow, malicious smile. “No, Stanley, I don’t,” he said. “None at all.”


Stanley smiled and nodded. “Okay then,” he said.


“Although this really isn’t about him,” Jed added. Stanley nodded again.


“I know that,” he agreed. “But some of it is.”


Jed shrugged. “I’m just saying, don’t get hung up on Leo. None of this is his fault. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m sure you’re going to say I’ve got unresolved issues with him, or with my father, or with Abbey, or Toby, or anyone I ever talked to, but hell, Stanley, this is real life. We all have unresolved issues with someone – there are some things that are better left unsaid.  I have a job to do and I’d like to do it to the best of my ability.” They were silent again. “I don’t want all these doubts, damnit!” Jed roared suddenly. “I need to move on. I need to get some sleep and then tackle whatever it is that comes next. I need to make decisions, I need to achieve…I can’t sit around on my ass examining who said what to who when there are more important things at stake!”


“It can’t be easy being you,” Stanley commented.


“I told you…” Jed began wearily.


“I don’t mean the job, I meant you know, being inside your head.”


“What’s wrong with my head?” Jed asked, annoyed. He felt so tired, not just from lack of sleep, but from all this talking. They’d been at this for close to two hours and he still hadn’t quieted the noisily partying demons in his head. He sniped back and forth with Stanley for a few more minutes, both of them circling each other warily, although Jed felt that it wasn’t a fair fight – he was all too well aware that he was disadvantaged in this particular battle. Jed had noticed there was a pattern to their interaction. First they’d parry, each of them fighting their particular corner and then Jed would offer up some part of his soul, sacrificing it on the altar of the great god of psychiatry. Then Stanley would back off for a bit, gentling him, calming him, before launching some huge blindside of psychiatric insight at him that left him reeling. It was exhausting and he was too tired to be on his best form, too tired to defend himself properly…and yet, conversely, he could feel himself becoming addicted to the process, addicted to the way those sharp brown eyes gazed at him so intuitively, as if they could find the raw wound at his core and heal it, and he thrashed around, hating the process but wanting that healing too bad to give up on it.


“We’re done for the night,” Stanley said suddenly, surprising him.


“What?” Jed glared at the psychiatrist. First the man had come in here asking him all kinds of impertinent questions and now he was shipping out before they resolved anything? What kind of a charlatan profession was this?


“We’ve been here for two hours – it was a double session – we’re done for the night.”


Jed felt an unaccountable sensation of loss. He wanted to close in on this problem, damnit, to wrestle it to the ground and put it to bed for the night, to get back the peace of mind Toby had shattered 5 nights ago. Stanley couldn’t ship out now. Christ – when he thought of what it had taken for him to agree to this in the first place!


“Stanley, I hate to put it this way but I’m me and you’re you and we’re done when I say we’re done,” Jed said firmly, pulling rank without any compunction at all.


“No,” Stanley replied with a sigh. “I think you could use some assistance right now, sir. Use me, don’t use me, but all I can offer you is this: I’ll be the only person in the world other than your family that doesn’t care that you’re the President. Our time is up.”


And with that he left the room. Jed remained where he was for a long moment, and then he got up and reached for his cigarettes. His eyes alighted on the picture of his father that he kept on the desk, and he tried his best to fight down the memories but it was no use. Leo was right – some things just wouldn’t stay in that box no matter how hard you tried to keep them there.




Jed was jumpy as they walked back to the house later that afternoon. He was full of enthusiasm for their plan to address the equal pay issue, but also on edge about it too – for reasons he wouldn’t tell anyone, not even Leo.


“Are you sure about speaking to your father tonight, Jed?” Leo glanced at him with that thoughtful, quizzical look in those blue eyes of his, seeming to have picked up on Jed’s mood.

“Yeah. Tonight – while everything we talked about is fresh in my mind, while I have all this enthusiasm!” Jed grinned excitedly. “This is something I can actually *do*, Leo,” he exclaimed. “This is something where I can actually make a difference.”


“Okay.” Leo grinned amiably, but his eyes were alight with the same fire that Jed was feeling. This kind of stuff enthused them both – and Jed knew that it was as much meat and drink to Leo as it was to himself.

They ate dinner, and his father seemed to be in one of his more benign moods. He finally noticed Leo for the first time and asked him a series of questions about his school and family while Jed looked on, full of pride as every quiet, considered answer Leo gave marked him out as a friend to be proud of. There was really nothing about Leo that his father could object to. His brother was sent to bed at the end of the meal but Jed and Leo hung back.


“Dad – I wanted to talk to you about something that came to my attention recently,” Jed said cautiously.


“Hmm?” His father glanced at him absently across the dinner table. Jed glanced at Leo and took some courage from the steady, blue-eyed gaze that was fixed on him, supporting him all the way.


“It’s about the way the staff at the school are paid,” Jed continued.


“You have a problem with how much I pay my staff?” His father’s attention was now firmly fixed on him and Jed swallowed hard, then continued.


“No – well, not in general, but the female staff is paid less than the men,” Jed said in a firm tone.


“And your point is?” His father glanced at Leo with a frown and then back at Jed.


“That it isn’t fair.”


“Well if you’re comparing kitchen staff with teachers who have spent years studying at college then…”


“I’m not,” Jed interrupted. “I’m talking about staff who are paid different wages for broadly doing the same kinds of work – the female teaching staff is paid less than the men.”


“Ah, this is about you wanting to put the world right as usual, Jed,” his father said in a sneering, patronising tone.



“Jed, are you telling me how to run my school?”


“I think Jed is just concerned about equality, Mr. Bartlet,” Leo put in smoothly.


His father’s head swivelled and he gazed at Leo sharply. “I know my son, and I think we’ll find this is less about equality and more about him liking the sound of his own voice – as usual,” he snapped. Jed felt his face flush as the humiliation of that comment sank in. He didn’t even dare meet Leo’s eye, feeling utterly small and worthless. This definitely wasn’t going as well as he’d hoped.


“He does have a good case,” Leo said, not backing down in the face of Mr. Bartlet’s wrath. Jed glanced up, startled by Leo’s steady defence of him.


“Ah. Well, I’m always happy to hear a good case, well argued,” his father said smoothly. “Leo – please leave the room. I’d like to talk to Jed about this in private – we’ll see if he can convince me of his ‘case’ without your help.”

Jed’s heart sank – he could guess what was going to happen next and he fought down a wave of panic. Strangely that panic was directed more at Leo than his own fears about his father’s mood. He didn’t want Leo to witness anything of what happened between him and his father – it was too humiliating, and he couldn’t bear for Leo, of all people, to see it.


Leo hesitated. He looked at Jed intently, and Jed knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if he asked Leo to stay then he would, regardless of the weight of his father’s authority and position…but Jed had no intention of asking Leo to stay. He nodded at Leo, and grinned, implying that he and his father just wanted to have a heated discussion on the topic in private. Leo gazed at him uncertainly for a moment and then, when Jed gestured with his head towards the door, Leo rose, and, with one last look at his friend, he left the room. There was silence for a long time, a silence broken only by his father slowly tapping his spoon against his coffee cup.


“So, you want my school to be uncompetitive,” he said finally.


“No, sir. I’m saying that…”


“Yes you do, Jed. You have simply no idea what the real world is like. You live in a fantasy world, boy,” his father said coldly. “Idealism is all very well but you need the money to pay for it. If I pay more than the market rate for my female staff then I won’t be able to compete with other schools. The fees will have to go up and I’ll lose pupils.”

“Education isn’t just a matter of money!” Jed objected. “If a school has a good reputation then even if the fees are fractionally higher that won’t matter.”


“*If* a school has a good reputation? IF?”


Jed bit on his lip recognising his father’s tone. Everything had been a prelude to that one comment, the one thing that would make his father angry and he had, unwittingly, just said it.


“This school has an excellent reputation, Jed.”

“I know that, sir. I wasn’t saying…” Jed began, but he stopped when his father got up and walked towards the door. His heart sank – and he knew that all discussion was now at an end. He watched as his father locked the door and then turned back towards him.


“Please, Dad…I only meant…” He got up, scared by the coldly furious expression in his father’s eyes. His father said nothing, but he stalked towards his son, every movement one of barely controlled anger. “It isn’t idealism…it makes good sense. If you pay the female teachers the same as the men then you’ll attract better quality staff and…”


His father’s fist flew out and caught him a sharp blow in the ribs. Jed gasped and doubled up. He took a step back, trying to get away, and his father grabbed him around the upper arm, and pulled him forwards. A backhander slapped his jaw and his arm was wrenched out of his father’s grasp as he went back, losing his footing as he fell against a chair, sending it flying in the process. His father leaned over, took a fistful of his hair and landed another punch on Jed’s stomach. Jed tried to ward him off with his hands but even so a couple of his father’s furious blows made contact with him. He doubled up, protecting his already aching ribs and stomach, and felt two more blows on his back as his father kicked him, and then, just as suddenly as it had started, it was over. His father straightened up and looked down on him with barely concealed loathing. He took a deep breath and the cold, angry look that had been in his eyes lifted, to be replaced by a more familiar expression of distance. He glanced at one of the chairs that had fallen over in the tussle and gave a grimace of annoyance.


“Tidy this room, Jed,” he said, and with that he turned on his heel, walked over to the door, unlocked it, and left the room. Jed stayed where he had fallen for a moment, trying to get his breath back. His ribs and stomach hurt and his head ached from where his father had pulled his hair – clumps of it were lying on the floor. Jed picked them up and put them in his pocket, and then got up. He tried to calm down, tried to take deep breaths, but his knees felt wobbly and he wasn’t sure whether he could walk. He took a shaky step towards the table and then sank into the nearest chair. His first thought was that Leo mustn’t see him in this condition. He couldn’t bear for that to happen. He had been so sure of himself, so excited, so full of his plan to raise this issue with his father, and now he felt like a crowing bird, knocked off his perch for daring to be so full of himself. Hubris, the ancient Greeks had called it and he could have kicked himself. Hubris was exactly what it was. He only had himself to blame. He sat there for a long time, trying to ignore the dull, aching sensation in his ribs, and then he got up, and began listlessly tidying the room.


It was late when he returned to his room. He didn’t turn on the light, wanting only to creep beneath the covers of his bed and forget about what had just happened to him, but a soft voice broke through his reverie, startling him.


“Hey. How did it go?” Leo asked. Jed stopped short, and was just able to make out the shape of his friend, sitting on the bed, his blond hair and his teeth about the only things visible in the dark.


“Uh…fine. I just…he wasn’t ready to listen but I think maybe we planted the seed of an idea in his mind. Maybe when he’s had some time to think about it.” He sat down on the bed. “He’ll probably come around in a couple of months’ time and then he’ll pretend it was all *his* idea!” Jed said, trying to sound as normal as possible.


“Yeah!” Leo laughed. “You were gone a long time.”


“Well, you know, I wanted to give him all the facts and figures. He can be a bit intimidating but once you get talking to him he’s not so bad,” Jed shrugged. “Sorry about him sending you out of the room but I think he felt ganged up on. It was better talking about it privately, just him and me.”


“Jed…” Leo’s voice was soft, and Jed couldn’t bear the sound of it.


“I’m really tired, Leo. I just want to go to bed. We can…another time, can’t we?” He said.


“Sure. I just…” Leo glanced at the alarm clock by the bed. “It’s just it’s after midnight and I know what a fuss you wanted to make about this particular date.” He glanced at Jed, and Jed could just make out his white teeth gleaming in the darkness.


“What?” Jed frowned. “Oh yeah!” He laughed. “We can…maybe tomorrow night,” he murmured. “It’ll still be June 17th then – if you come over here early enough anyway. I’m really tired now, Leo. Maybe you could sleep in your own room,” he said, in a low tone.


“Okay. Sure.” Leo’s voice sounded uncertain. “Jed…” he began again.


“I’m just tired,” Jed said quickly, wanting Leo to be gone so that he could crawl into bed and be alone with this. He had developed a routine over the years and it worked for him. He just needed some space, some time alone to smooth things out in his mind, and then everything would be fine. He’d be quiet for a few days but he’d bounce back. He always did.


“Okay.” Leo got up, and as he walked past he put out a hand towards Jed’s shoulder. Jed flinched, causing Leo’s hand to miss his shoulder. Leo hesitated, and then leaned down and kissed Jed’s cheek. Jed remained stock still, feeling like a statue – inside and out. Everything felt numb and he needed Leo gone before he started feeling anything again. Leo hesitated again and then walked slowly to the door. He said goodnight and then he went, leaving Jed alone. Jed sat there for a long time, unable to move, and then he kicked off his shoes and crept under the covers of the bed, fully clothed. He hugged his arms around his body. If he closed his eyes he could feel where every single blow had landed. He welcomed the throbbing pain in his body – he liked to concentrate on it because then he didn’t have to think about anything else.


Jed lay like that for a long time, just hugging his ache to himself. Then the numbness started to fade – he tried to hold onto it but the tide of desolation was too strong and in the end he had to give into it. It was then that the tears started to fall. He wept as silently as he could, hoping that the pillow would muffle the sound, his body scrunched into a ball of pain, and he was so caught up in his misery that he barely heard the door open and close again. He was dimly aware of footsteps and then someone got into the bed beside him, and wrapped him up in his arms. Jed didn’t speak because he couldn’t – but he couldn’t stop crying either. It was too late for that. Leo didn’t speak either. He just held him while he cried himself out and Jed was suddenly aware that being held made a difference. The desolation he had felt began to recede a little. He turned his head and cried into Leo’s pyjamas, hating himself for being so weak and pathetic but unable to stop the emotions pouring out all the same. Then, finally, he was done, and he found himself lying on Leo’s chest. Leo was lying on his back, his arms wrapped loosely around Jed’s body, one hand endlessly soothing his damp hair away from his eyes. Jed wasn’t sure how long they laid like that but he was grateful that Leo wasn’t asking him any questions.


“My dad drank a lot – he and mom were always fighting and I know he had other women,” Leo said softly, breaking the silence for the first time. “I envied you your family, Jed. When I first met you and you told me all about this place, and how you lived here with your family, how you had so many good, stable people around you. I envied you so much. My dad didn’t have a whole lotta time for me between the booze and the women.”


“My father has time for me,” Jed murmured. “I know he and mom don’t get along and that’s why she goes away so much. I guess he gets lonely. Sometimes…when he forgets that he always has to be in control of everything, then he can be fun. He used to take us on these fantastic picnics when we were younger. He taught me to swim. He…” Jed found that even now he couldn’t share this with anyone, not even Leo. It was too personal. He wondered what had happened to the man he’d known – the father who hadn’t started hitting him until he was old enough to talk back. Was that it? Was it that simple? That he just didn’t like that Jed wasn’t a little kid any more, easily impressed by his father’s intellect, a little kid who did what he was told, had no opinions of his own, and never answered back? Or was it to do with his Mom? She was usually around – at least sporadically – during the term, when his father was too busy to spend much time with her, but she disappeared most vacations. When she was here there was a tense, tight-lipped atmosphere between his parents. Jed had sometimes wondered if they would get a divorce, but his mom was Catholic and his father had his position as headmaster to think about – a divorce would undoubtedly be a scandal in the small, school community. So they carried on with what was clearly a sham of a marriage – even Jed could see that. Sometimes when his father was feeling lonely he’d come and talk to his eldest son – not about anything personal, but they’d have a quiet conversation and Jed loved those times although they were few and far between. He treasured the memory of those moments after sessions like tonight, and hung onto them mentally because he got to see a side of his father that he longed to see more of – but whenever he thought they were getting close, his father always pulled back. Jed wished he knew a way of bridging the distance between them, and becoming the son his father wanted him to be. If only he knew what he was doing wrong, he’d do anything to put it right. He tried to push down the memory of his father’s icy, angry eyes, and the jumbled, pain-filled images of himself lying on the floor doubled up, warding off his father’s blows, and began talking to distract himself.


“He just shouts that’s all. I don’t know why I’m crying. He just shouts. I guess…I was hopeful that this time he’d listen but he shouted.” Jed held on tight to Leo, wishing he didn’t have to lie, but this was something he couldn’t talk about – not even to Leo.


Jed closed his eyes, rested his chin back on Leo’s chest, and allowed Leo’s hand to soothe him some more. In fact his father hadn’t shouted; he’d barely raised his voice. His attitude during these sessions was always one of cold, agitated fury, like a mist had come down over his eyes, making him into someone else. After he was done, he always looked at Jed with loathing – as if he hated Jed for having made him lose control.


“Yeah,” Leo murmured, still soothing Jed’s hair with his hand. “Yeah.”




Leo glanced at his watch. The President had been ensconced in his study with Stanley for nearly two hours. How much longer would it take and what was happening in that room? He wished Jed could have confided in him but he knew his friend all too well. Jed didn’t confide the stuff that went really deep unless he was forced into it. He’d always been this way and Leo wasn’t expecting him to change any time soon. He’d known Jed lie and obfuscate rather than tell the honest truth about something that was hurting him. Sometimes, just occasionally, he was caught out in that lie, but Leo wondered how many times he wasn’t. He thought he’d become adept at spotting a Jed falsehood when he saw it, but Jed was as good at concealing his hurt as Leo was at ferreting it out, so maybe they were even on that score. It was strange coming from a man who was so disarmingly honest in most other respects. Jed wore his heart on his sleeve – it was easy for people to see when he was in a good mood or bad, when he was happy or angry or amused…but nobody ever got to saw when he was in pain, not unless you were Leo McGarry or Abbey Bartlet and you managed to either wheedle or goad it out of him, and even then there were no guarantees that you’d be successful.


Leo pondered his earlier conversation with Toby. All this had something to do with what Toby had said to Jed five nights ago, after the Iowa caucus. Toby wouldn’t say what the substance of that conversation had been – just that it was ‘personal’ and Leo had guessed that much already anyway.


He glanced at his watch again and then got up, buttoning up his jacket as he did so. He walked up to the Residence and waited in a chair along the hallway – not right outside the study – Jed would hate it if he thought he’d been spied upon – but near enough that he’d be able to see Stanley leave. He sat there for about ten minutes and then heard movement and voices near the door. A few seconds later Stanley left the room – he had to pass Leo on his way out and Leo stood up, and waited. Stanley gave a start of surprise as he almost bumped into him and Leo fell into step beside him.


“So, your stuff is in Josh’s office. We’ll swing by and pick it up. We’ve booked you into a room in my hotel. I’ve arranged a car for you – we can ride back there together,” Leo said in a conversational tone.


“Hmm.” Stanley glanced sideways at him. “You do know that everything we talked about in there is confidential don’t you?” He said.


“Stanley, I went to rehab. I know how these things work,” Leo said with a faint grin. “Can you tell me if he’s going to be okay?”

Stanley frowned, and then nodded. “I can work with him,” he said. “I think I can help him. If he trusts me.”


“He trusts you,” Leo said with a nod.


“And if he didn’t, somehow I have the feeling you’d make him,” Stanley commented. Leo gave a wry chuckle.


“I don’t know what he’s been telling you but nobody makes Jed Bartlet do anything he doesn’t want to,” he replied. They walked in silence back to the now deserted West Wing, and stopped in Josh’s office to collect Stanley’s bag.


“Leo…” Stanley paused as they were about to leave and put a hand on Leo’s arm. “I think it might be a good idea if you joined us in our next session,” he said.


Leo gazed at him, dumbstruck. “He wouldn’t tell me what this is about. Is it something to do with me? How can I help?” He asked.


“It doesn’t appear to be about you – at least not directly – but it’s clear to me that you have a bearing on it, and there’s something that he needs to figure out that relates to you. I’d like you to attend the next session. I think he’d be more forthcoming if you were there.”


“I don’t think this is such a good idea.” Leo shook his head. “He might talk to you because you’re a doctor and you don’t…” He hesitated. “Don’t love him,” he said finally with a shrug. “But if I’m there he’ll clam up for sure.”


“I don’t think he will.” Stanley looked at Leo for a long time with those steady brown eyes of his. “I suggested it to him and he’s okay with it. We could just try it and see. If it doesn’t work then we haven’t lost anything. How do you feel about that? He was pretty adamant that he was only talking to me because you insisted – do you have a similar loathing for psychiatrists?”

Leo gave a wry laugh and shook his head. “I can tolerate ’em,” he said. “But I’m not the one having sleepless nights, Stanley. He is. If it’ll help I’ll join you, but I don’t know how it’ll help – that’s all I’m saying.”


“Okay then. I’m seeing him again tomorrow at 10 pm.”


Leo sighed. “I’ll be there.”


Stanley smiled and patted his arm. “It’s really not that painful,” he said cheerily.


“Kind of in the same way having a tooth pulled isn’t really painful,” Leo muttered under his breath. Stanley grinned and Leo escorted him to the door. “Y’know…I think I’ll let you take the car by yourself,” Leo said, pointing out the car that was waiting for him by the door. “I’ll catch you tomorrow morning.”


“Okay.” Stanley gazed at him thoughtfully.


“It’s been four nights,” Leo said, almost defensively. “Tonight will make it five unless you’ve worked some miracle on him in the past couple of hours.”


“My miracles don’t usually work that fast,” Stanley said with a wry shake of his head.


“Well then. Five nights.” Leo shrugged.


“I understand.” Stanley smiled and got into the car.


Leo turned and walked slowly back to the Residence. He found Jed where he knew he would be, in his bedroom, standing by the window looking out.


“Hey,” Leo said softly, closing the door behind him. Jed glanced back at him over his shoulder.


“Hey,” he murmured. He looked utterly weary but his shoulders seemed a little less hunched and dejected.


“So, I just saw Stanley,” Leo commented, going to stand beside him.


“Laid in wait for him more like,” Jed snorted.


“Yeah.” Leo shrugged. “He says – and I’m still not sure how you managed to do this – that I’m roped into the next therapy session.”

Jed grinned at him, a faded, exhausted grin. “Well, what’s sauce for the goose, Leo…” he said.


“I knew you were mad at me but not this mad,” Leo groused. “Jed – do I get to know what this is about, or do I have to wait until tomorrow?”


Jed glanced up at him, a strange expression on his face. “I don’t know why Stanley thought it would be a good idea for you to come to the session tomorrow but I don’t have any problems with it,” he said.


“So you’re not going to answer my question?” Leo pushed. Jed shrugged, and gazed out of the window again.


“It was a very long time ago, Leo,” he said. “He wanted to know how and why it stopped. He kept asking. That’s why he wants you there.”


“How what stopped, Jed?” Leo asked, not moving, not taking his eyes off his friend.


“The thing with my father. When he used to hit me.” Jed swallowed down the last contents of his glass of water and put it on the table.


Leo felt his heart do a flip inside his chest. Not *this*. Not after so long. He felt some familiar emotions rise inside him and struggled with them for a moment.


“Damn it,” he swore under his breath.


“See, I knew this would happen,” Jed sighed. “I knew you’d do this.”


“Do what?”


“Get angry,” Jed snapped. “You always get angry. First with him and then with me and finally with yourself and then we have an argument and you won’t listen.”


“I listen,” Leo said, stung. “I don’t understand why you defend him but I listen.”


“And you get mad.”


“Because I never got to say everything I wanted to say to him,” Leo snapped.


“How would that have made anything any better?” Jed asked incredulously. “He was my father, Leo. I loved him.”


“He didn’t deserve you,” Leo said in a hard tone.


“Well, he got me all the same.” Jed gave a bitter little laugh.


“Why has this come up now?” Leo asked despairingly.


“It doesn’t matter. Leo, I don’t want to talk about it any more tonight. I’m done with talking. I hate this damn stupid box you had me open. I want to be alone. I just need some time and space.” It was said in such a reasonable tone of voice that anyone else would have been fooled but Leo just gazed at him steadily.


“I know what you think you need and you’re always wrong,” he said. “You think that if we all go away then you can push it back down but you never can, so you might as well have someone with you while you’re hurting.”


Jed gazed back at him glumly. “I’ve known you too long. You know where all the bodies are buried,” he said.


“Come here.” Leo opened his arms. Jed hesitated for a moment and then, with a sigh, he gave up and walked into them. Leo closed his arms around his friend’s body and held him, rocking him gently against his chest. After a little while, Jed started shaking. Leo soothed calming circles on his back with his hand and whispered to him, little meaningless words of comfort. Jed clung to him, his sobs low and choked, his tears flowing into Leo’s jacket. It reminded Leo of the first time they’d done this, 40 years previously. It was always hard getting Jed to admit he was hurting; you couldn’t do anything except be there for him, waiting patiently until he was ready to open up. Finally, the sobs died away. Jed stood there, pressed against Leo, both of them rocking slightly, Leo’s hand tangled in Jed’s damp hair, gently soothing it. Neither of them moved for a long time.


“I’m too old for this,” Jed murmured finally.




“I’m so tired, Leo.”


“Yeah. You should go to bed.”


“I won’t sleep,” Jed predicted.


“You might. I’ll watch over you.” Leo led Jed over to the bed and pushed him down. He knelt and undid Jed’s shoes and pulled them off, along with his socks. Then he took hold of Jed’s sweater and Jed lifted his arms like a little kid so that he could remove it. He unbuttoned Jed’s shirt and pulled it from his shoulders, then undid his jeans and helped him out of them, before finally laying his old friend down on the bed and pulling the blankets over him. He kissed Jed firmly on the mouth, and smoothed his hair some more. Jed closed his eyes.


Leo removed his jacket, placing it over the back of a nearby chair, and then sat down on the bed beside him. Jed moved over automatically and put his head on Leo’s lap and Leo wrapped his arms around him and leaned back against the headboard, closing his eyes. He was tired but not as tired as Jed was right now, and he wouldn’t sleep while his friend remained awake. He stroked Jed’s hair softly as they lay there, watching over Jed as he’d promised he would. The President sighed and his body relaxed a fraction. Leo smiled, and gazed down on his old friend absently, finding the boy he’d once known in the features of the man. Jed’s hair wasn’t quite as thick as it had been back then but it was pretty close – he’d been luckier with his hair than Leo. Jed’s face, his scent, and the feel of his body were so familiar to Leo.  Jed’s eyes were closed, his breathing deep enough to show that he had completely relaxed under the watchful gaze of his lover, but not so deep as to show that the President had fallen asleep. Leo ran his hands gently through Jed’s hair; Jed kept his bangs shorter now than he had as a boy but there was still plenty to stroke. Leo missed those longer bangs though – he had enjoyed flicking that dark fringe out of his friend’s eyes.


Sometimes, when it was just the two of them like this, Leo felt a sense of wonder kicking in. Was it really possible that Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry had done this? Had they really become President of the United States and Chief of Staff? How could those two kids have grown up to do something so weighty, historic and important? Two kids who only played at politics back then, who laughed and wrestled with each other and talked endlessly, energising each other with the sheer joy of their shared intellectual passions – and then there was the physicality of their relationship. Leo could remember urgent kisses in a dorm, and snatched moments in a car. He could remember fumbling fingers and hot, hasty, caresses. He could remember a time when his breath caught in his throat when he so much as thought about Jed, when it was painful to be near his friend because all he wanted to do was make love to him. What had happened to those two boys? This wasn’t the first time Leo had asked himself that question – he remembered the last time as if it were yesterday; he had been gazing down at his friend’s injured body in a hospital room after Jed had taken a bullet at Rosslyn.


Leo had done one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do in his life that day, in that hospital room. Discretion had dictated that he just stand there, watching, his emotions closing in around him when every instinct in his body had been screaming out his pain and distress at witnessing his lover lying there, injured. Jed had, in typical Jed fashion, managed to satisfy both discretion and emotion by drawing Leo towards him, and kissing him firmly on the cheek. His hand had lingered on the side of Leo’s face for a moment, burning him with its imprint, giving Leo the strength to keep going through the next few hours.


Leo continued gently stroking Jed’s hair. Even on his hospital bed, Jed had been making jokes, smoothing over the true horror of the event, minimising his own feelings until he could deal with them in his own time, when he was alone. Now he was hurting again, in a different way, and was trying to hide beneath that Jed Bartlet veneer of invulnerability, as he always did. Only Leo knew how much maintaining that charade had to be costing him.


End Part 1


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