Title: Direction Home (aka the "untitled 3some story")
Author: Dafna G. (beruria@eskimo.com)
Pairing: Jed/Leo/Abbey
Rating: PG-13 (or "R" if the idea of a 3some is a squick)
Written: Heh. I started this 2 years ago, but let's say November 2002 for most of it.
Archive: Ask first, please.
Summary: In the wake of the shooting at Roslyn, the first lady decides they've all wasted enough time.
Note: I started this two years ago, right after first seeing the Season 2 premiere. So, some of the assumptions about various relationships are based on the knowledge I had then.
Dedication: This never would have been started without Kemuri and it would never have been finished without Jae. Along the way, many people found the first part on my Web site and begged me to finish it. Sorry it took me so long. :)

*****************

Direction Home by Dafna G.

It was the first state dinner after the shooting and everyone was just glad to have an excuse to get dressed up and eat very expensive food at the government's expense.

Well, almost everyone.

"Josiah Bartlet, stop poking at your food and just eat it."

The president of the United States glared at his wife and then went back to moving his fork around his plate like a 6-year-old hoping no one will notice he's not actually eating anything.

"I don't know why I can't have real food," he grumbled, shooting an envious look over at his wife's salmon. "It's been 3 months and they still have me eating this --- " Words apparently failed him.

But not for long.

"I mean, prisoners eat better than this," he continued.

Abbey Bartlet sighed and looked out at the floor where Toby was dancing with CJ. He was bravely attempting to twirl her -- and since she was 9 feet tall this involved him contorting his arms until it looked like he was trying to make a jump shot. Still, they made a cute couple. Hmm Š

"Š in fact, I bet if I were a prisoner I could sue over this."

"Jed, please just shut up."

"Where's Leo?" he asked, still grumpy. "I bet he'd let me steal his salmon."

"Over there," she motioned with her head to the far court of the dance floor where the White House chief of staff was engaged in private conversation with a good-looking man in his 30s.

"Is that Congressman Merrill he's talking to?" Jed asked. "Why is he talking to Dan Merrill? We don't need him for anything at the moment."

"Hard as this is for you to believe, I'm sure Leo can talk to members of Congress without a bill being at stake."

"I didn't even know they knew each other," he grumbled, still watching as his chief of staff laughed at something the congressman from Oregon said.

"I sat them together tonight," Abbey said. "I mean, Leo doesn't have Jenny anymore, and Dan isn't with anyone, so Š"

"Yes?" The president tapped his fork against his plate impatiently.

"Dan Merrill is really awfully good looking, don't you think, Jed?"

"I'll bear that in mind the next time I want to get fair housing legislation passed. What are you talking about, Abbey?"

She waited for the other shoe to drop.

It dropped.

"Abbey!"

Thirty heads turned. The president lowered his voice, and said again: "Abbey!"

"What? It's just dinner. It¹s not like I bought them a weekend at the Hilton."

"Abbey!"

"Stop saying that. Look, they're enjoying themselves, aren't they?" The first lady gestured toward Leo McGarry and Dan Merrill. "Which is more than can be said for some people here tonight."

"Oh now I'm supposed to relax," Jed said, gulping heavily on his wine. "With you arranging a gay blind date for my chief of staff in front of half of the Washington press corps. My heterosexual chief of staff, I might add."

Abbey shot him a look.

"He's been married for almost 30 years!"

"So have you."

The first lady of the United States sipped serenely at her water glass while the president choked over his wine. Six people ran up to see if he was all right. He waved them all off, glaring at his wife as he did so.

"You're insane, you know that, right? I'm married to a mad woman."

"What exactly is so hard for you to believe? That Leo would Š"

"Oh, we are not having this conversation here," Jed interrupted his wife. He looked feverishly around. "Why isn't there ever a national security crisis when you need one?"

Abbey continued to eat her salmon.

"Anyway, you're wrong."

Abbey started to say something but her husband stopped her. "We're not talking about it, it's not important, but I just want it to be known that you are, in fact, wrong."

And with that, the president turned to the French Prime Minister seated at his other side and began discussing the farm problem.

Abbey smiled, noticing that even as he talked about tariff wars her husband's eyes kept drifting back to the corner where his friend of 40 years was talking with the congressman from Oregon.

Leo leaned over Dan Merrill suddenly, bending his head down close.

The president stopped his protectionist policy rant in mid-sentence.

"Charlie!"

"Yes, sir."

"Go over and get Mr. McGarry for me, will you?"

"Yes, sir."

Abbey looked at her husband, who was doing his best to ignore her. "You don't even know why you did that, do you?"

"I have urgent matters to discuss with my chief of staff," he said.

"Like what?"

"Urgent classified matters."

"Well, you'll have to do better than that in a minute," Abbey said. "He's on his way over."

Leo was in fact making his way to the head table, progressing about as fast as a White House chief of staff could through a crowd of politicians, journalists and contributors. He paused to talk to a distinguished-looking man standing by the bar.

Jed growled softly.

"I really don't think you have to worry about the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Jed. Oh, look, it's custard." Abbey began eating her dessert, waiting for the floor show to start. This was going to be fun.

"Mr. President. Mrs. Bartlet." Leo nodded at each of them.

"Leo. Š Leo. Š"

"Yes, sir?"

"Leo. Š Leo . Š"

Abbey rolled her eyes.

"Leo, what's the matter with you," Jed said finally. "Can't you see my wife wants to dance? I apparently can't even move without a doctor's note," he paused to glare at Abbey, "and I rely on you to take my place when I'm incapacitated."

"Isn't that the vice president's job?" Leo smiled.

"Only for the easy stuff, like running the country." Jed smiled at Leo. "Handling my wife requires a man of sterner material. Besides, you've more experience in the area."

Abbey giggled at the look of horror on her husband's face as he realized what he'd said. Leo didn't seem to notice anything amiss but Jed looked like he was about to have a heart attack. He reached under the table and pinched her, hard. She stopped giggling.

"Mrs. Bartlet, would you care to dance?"

"I'd be delighted to, Mr. McGarry,"

Leo led the first lady to the dance floor, casting an amused look back at the president.

"What was that really about, Abbey? Were you trying to talk to the French Prime Minister's wife about birth control?"

"Why do you always think I'm about to create an international incident?" She put her arms around Leo as they started moving to the music. "Maybe I just wanted to dance with you." Abbey looked up at him and fluttered her eyelashes.

Flashbulbs went off around them.

"Oh great," Leo grumbled. "When the president sees that picture on the front page of the Style section tomorrow will you remind him that this dance was his idea?"

"He'll just be relieved it's not Dan Merrill." Abbey's mouth quirked, struck with the image.

"What?" Leo looked down at her. "I know you're not having a thing with Carol Merrill's son, who is, after all, like 12, so, I mean. Š " He cleared his throat and said again, "What?"

"He's 33 and what did you think of him?" Abbey said, ignoring Leo's confusion.

"He's a lot like his mother," Leo smiled in recollection. "It was nice talking about the early days with Dan, thank you for sitting him next to me."

"You still miss her." It wasn't a question.

"Yeah, she was some lady. And a heck of a congresswoman. I learned almost everything about politics from her. " Leo looked down at Abbey and smiled. "Of course, I also have a thing for short feisty women, as you know."

Abbey smiled up at him and fluttered her eyelashes again. Flashbulbs popped again.

Leo groaned. "At this rate I'm going to be lucky if we don't wind up on the front page of the New York Post."

She patted his shoulder reassuringly. "As long as it's not the Advocate, Jed will be fine."

"What?" Leo stopped in the middle of the dance floor and stared at her. "Is that what you meant by being relieved it's not Dan Merrill?"

She smiled and waved as Tim Russert and his wife danced around them. She nudged Leo with her hip. "Keep dancing, Leo, we're drawing attention."

He started leading again, somewhat mechanically. "My god, Abbey, I mean Dan Merrill? The man's definitely straight. Well, as straight as possible for a liberal Democrat from Eugene."

"Jed doesn't know that," Abbey said. She steered Leo away from crashing into the bandstand. "Actually, his concern seemed to be that you were straight."

Leo stared at her. "What?"

Abbey smiled. She was really enjoying this, "He said, that quote, 'you'd been married for almost 30 years.'"

"Well, not for much longer, now."

"I know." She squeezed his shoulder. "But you're missing the point, Leo. He referred to you as his 'heterosexual chief of staff.' "

"What?"

"Would you stop saying that?" Abbey was getting irritated. "Honestly, you're as dense as Jed, sometimes."

Leo took a moment to digest this. His eyes narrowed.

"This thing with Dan Merrill? You didn't do anything to encourage this ridiculous idea, did you?"

Abbey didn't say anything.

"That's why he called me over, isn't it?" Leo groaned. "Abbey!"

She rolled her eyes. "You sound just like him, too."

"Yeah, well, as the president was so kind to point out, I've had almost as much experience dealing with you as he has."

"Yes, and on that topic Š " Abbey patted his shoulder and beamed up at him.

Leo's eyes narrowed. "Abbey, what are you up to?"

"Doesn't it strike you as odd that my husband thinks of you as heterosexual?" she asked, dodging the question.

Leo sighed.

"That's not an answer"

"Abbey, this isn't 1965," Leo said. "It's the year 2000. It's been a long time since, you know."

"Are you telling me you never think about it?"

Leo sighed again. "Do we really have to do this, Abbey? Can't some things just, you know, go unsaid?"

"That's not an answer." Abbey's face had turned more serious.

Leo looked around to make sure none of the press corps were within earshot.

"Of course I think about it," he hissed. "Happy?"

"Think about it how?"

Leo rolled his eyes.

"No, I'm serious. Think about it like, 'I used to listen to the Chiffons, but that was when I was young and dumb," or "Boy, I like the Beatles just as much now as I did back when I was young and dumb.'"

"The Beatles?"

"Or, you know, Bob Dylan."

Leo stopped breathing.

"For example." Abbey smiled her Cheshire Cat smile again.

"Yes," Leo hissed. "I think about it. Yes, I think about it like the Beatles. Yes, I think about it every time I hear that damn Dylan song."

Abbey patted his shoulder again. "Good."

They danced in silence.

"Does he think about it?" Leo said finally.

Abbey sighed.

"Are you telling me you brought this up and he doesn't think about it? Abbey, my god --"

She waved her hand at him. "No, no, that's not what that sigh meant."

She rested her head on Leo's shoulder a minute, enjoying the smell of cologne and finely tailored wool.

"I'm not doing this very well, am I?" She looked up at him. "No, don't answer that."

She sighed again."I don't know, it was easier 35 years ago, all I had to do was get the two of you drunk and drag you off to bed."

"You planned that?" Leo stopped dancing again and looked at her, aghast

"Oh, Leo," Abbey looked up at him, her lips curving slightly. "Of course I planned that. You think it was a coincidence that -- " She stopped and shook her head.

"Look, you're right -- we're different people now, I didn't mean to bring up that week so directly. I'm not suggesting the three of us take a bottle of Tequila and retire to the residence with a copy of "Highway 61."

"Thank god," Leo murmured.

"But Leo," she said, her voice soft but steely, "he needs you. And you need him. And you both need to stop pretending that your need for each other ends at the door marked 'best friend.'"

Leo looked like someone going under for the third time. "Abbey Š"

"I'm tired of wasting time," she said, her eyes fierce. "Jed could have died and so could have you.

Leo exhaled. "Ah."

"Yes, 'ah'," Abbey said. "Or did you really think I didn't notice that you were the only person my husband kissed the night he was shot?"

"Abbey, that was Š I mean, he was just trying to reassure me."

"Oh, Leo," she sighed. "I really am screwing this up." She moved into his arms and they started dancing again.

"I'm not upset, I'm not jealous, I'm not threatened, honest. I think I was threatened 35 years ago, and maybe my motives then weren't the purest."

"I thought you just had a thing for a man in uniform." A hint of a smile crossed Leo's face.

"Well, that too." Abbey smiled back. She reached up and touched his cheek. "All I'm saying is, I think the two of you should talk."

"I wouldn't even know how to begin."

"Well, you could start by calling him 'Jed,' for once."

Leo snorted.

"Seriously, aside from the night we told you about the MS, when was the last time you called him 'Jed'? You probably don't even remember."

"Of course I remember, it was the night of the Chicago primary. We were seeing Josh off at the airport and then he lost his mind and dragged me into the bathroom and --" Leo suddenly remembered where he was and stopped.

"Do go on," Abbey said, her voice practically a purr.

"Never mind." His ears started turning red. "You want us to talk, we'll talk."

"That's all I want."

"Is it?" Leo looked down at her, his eyes troubled.

She smiled. "You don't still have that uniform, do you?"

"Abbey!"

 

Leo paused at the entrance to Mrs. Landingham's office and watched as she and the president argued about his diet again.

It'd been more than two weeks and Leo hadn't done anything about Abbey's order to talk. She was obviously giving him time, though; if she had lost her patience he would have found himself locked in a closet with the president.

And the president? Well, he showed no signs of declaring his love for Leo on the Truman balcony but he'd noticed that Jed seemed to take pains to stand at some distance from him when they walked now. And when they were making up a delegation on the free trade thing, he'd had to bite his lip to keep from smiling at Jed's suggestion that Dan Merrill would make a fine congressional representative on the team going to Brussells for three weeks.

Well, what did he expect, he thought. They'd had 35 years worth of practice at not talking about this -- should one assassination attempt really make all that much difference?

Jed turned halfway toward the door, his hands in his pockets, and cocked his head at Leo. "You need to see me?"

"No, it's .. " Leo gestured with the folder in his right hand, "It's just something for Josh. An easy assignment, to, you know Š"

Jed took off his glasses and walked toward him.

"Is he going to be all right?"

"He's going to be fine."

"It's his first day back, isn't it? I'll go with you."

"No, really, Mr. President, I'm Š"

"I'll go with you," Jed said, placing his glasses in his jacket pocket. "And while I'm gone, Mrs. Landingham," he said, walking out the door, "you can be thinking about the error of your ways."

Leo shared a look with Mrs. Landingham and then hurried down the hall after the president.

"You're sure it's not too soon?"

"It's not too soon, sir."

"Abbey said it was OK?"

"Abbey said it was OK."

The president paused on the rim of the bullpen and they both looked at Josh, hunched over a document Ed was showing him. He looked thinner, but healthy.

"Let me go talk to him, Leo." The president touched his shoulder and walked across the room toward Josh and suddenly Leo was reminded of the eve of the Chicago primary.

He'd stood in the O'Hare terminal that night two years ago and the thought flickered briefly in his head that he should be the one walking over to Josh. It was he, and not Jed, after all, who had known Josh's father. And now he was dead and one old friend of Leo's was left to comfort the son of another.

But that's what leaders did, Leo thought. Empathy. Perhaps it wasn't studied at the kind of schools Jed and Josh had gone to, but empathy was as great a part of leadership as ambition and integrity. Watching Jed talk to Josh, it struck Leo that here, in miniature, was why Jed Bartlet was going to be a great president.

He shook his head. AA had made him sentimental. Or possibly it was just age.

Leo looked up as Jed approached. "Is he going to be all right?"

"He's going to be fine," Jed said.

"Good."

Jed turned toward him. "Leo?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm ready."

Leo felt his face break out into a wide smile. Or maybe it was just Jed Bartlet.

Leo felt his face smiling again in memory, as the raised voices of Jed and Josh arguing about the trade bill brought him back to the present.

He had another reason to remember that night, of course. It was, MS revelation aside, the last time he'd called Jed anything other than "sir" or "Mr. President." It was also, and he grew hot under the collar just thinking about it, the only time other than that one night in 1965, that they'd touched in a way that not even they could pretend was platonic.

Jed had, as Leo had told Abbey, "lost his mind" and dragged him into one of the airport's bathrooms. And then proceeded to kiss him so far into distraction that Leo was amazed he'd recalled Jed's name at all. He'd barely remembered his own.

Leo had put up a fight at first, realizing that Jed was only doing this to make a point. Taking childish revenge for Leo's refusal to call him by his first name. But feeling those hands against his head and the nibbling against his closed lips -- well, Leo couldn't resist the one drug he'd never gotten enough of.

And so he'd opened his mouth and gave into the sensation. Returned Jed's caresses and told his saner self to go fuck itself.

"Jed," he'd cried out. "My god, Jed Š"

And then reality had come crashing down as Jed withdrew, his eyes blazing with triumph.

"Now, I'm ready," he'd said and Leo bit his lip in an effort not to cry out.

But Jed was right. He was going to rule the world and Leo was going to be by his side while he did it. He'd let his need for comfort escape his control already once on this campaign, with disastrous results. He was a better man than that, he told himself. He was --

"Leo."

Leo blinked. Jed was standing in front of him. So was Josh. The president looked amused. Josh looked concerned.

"Thanks for joining us, old man," the president said, waving his hand in front of Leo's face. "Do you have time to join us in the mess for lunch?"

Leo smiled. It had all worked out OK in the end, hadn't it? Jed was president and he was at his side and he hadn't touched alcohol or Jed in two years.

"Sure," he said. "Lunch would be great."

*******************

Jed stood behind his desk and watched Leo sort through papers on the coffee table, looking for the memo they'd been discussing.

It was so easy to just fall back into this, he thought, pushing his glasses up his nose almost absently. Paperwork, briefings, if this was Monday it must be the education plan, and it was so easy this way, to ignore the whole "I almost died" series of self-revelations that Jed wished would just go away.

Oh for the unexamined life, Jed thought, and then grimaced. Yeah, maybe the Platonic ideal wasn't the best imagery of the moment.

Dammit, Abbey, he thought. We were fine before. Not everything in life is perfect. Some things you want you don't get and that's called being a grownup.

"What have you ever wanted, Josiah Bartlet, that you have not received?" He could heard his wife's mocking tone of voice from here. Right. No self-pity. He was a Bartlet, after all, and she was right. They did get what they want. Mostly.

"Leo."

"HmmmmŠ?" Leo didn't turn his head, still engrossed in the papers.

"Leo." Jed raised his voice.

"Yeah, hang on, I think I've found it," Leo still didn't turn his head.

"I love you, you know that don't you?" Jed blinked in surprise at himself. Huh. He didn't know he could say that out loud.

Leo dropped the papers he was holding and this time, Jed noted with satisfaction, he turned toward him.

"Sir?"

"'Sir?'" Jed scowled. "I say, 'I love you,' and you say, 'Sir?'"

Leo's face became a smooth blank before Jed's eyes. "I love you too, sir."

Jed sighed. Right, if it was this easy, they'd have done it 35 years ago. He picked up a pen and tapped it against the edge of the desk. When he looked up, he saw Leo was starting to back out of the room.

"Leo!"

He stopped.

"I -- " he waved his hands around. "I don't know, really. But, " he waved his hands around again. "It seemed important to say that, I guess."

"Thank you," Leo said in a tone so distant Jed thought he might as well be back in Vietnam.

Leo left the room and Jed sighed. He didn't think this was what Abbey had in mind when she suggested talking. He walked over to the stack of paper Leo had been sifting through. He bent down to pick them up and he could smell Leo's expensive cologne on the freshly cut sheets of paper.

Dammit, Abbey, he thought. What do you want from me? The last time we tried to talk about this we didn't speak for three years.

******************

"Abbey's sorry she couldn't make it," Jed said, clearing his throat. "She had a late class and Š"

"Yeah, I know," Leo said, hitching his duffel over his shoulder. "She told me."

"Yeah." Jed shoved his hands in his pockets and looked around the airport, anywhere but at Leo, almost a different person in his Air Force uniform.

Jed spotted several other guys in uniform, each noticeable as a khaki island in a sea of civilian technicolor. He was dumb, Jed thought, not to realize that of course there'd be other military personnel aboard Leo's plane. It made it more real, somehow. There really was a war. Leo really was about to go fight in it.

He cleared his throat. "Look, Leo, about the other night."

Leo turned away. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Uh, yeah. That whole thing where you disappeared for three days and turned up this morning with the hangover that killed Tokyo kind of tipped us off," Jed smiled and tried to make it a joke.

Leo turned toward him and Jed took a step back, startled by the coolness of Leo's expression.

And then Leo smiled, but it wasn't his trademark wide grin. It seemed smaller, less happy.

Leo chuckled. "Look, Jed, I'm sorry. We were all loaded and I hadn't been with a woman since before basic. Let's chalk it up to stupid things we'll never tell our grandkids about and leave it at that."

But, Jed thought. But Š

"I mean," Leo said, "It's not like you want me around screwing up the good thing you and Abbey have going, right?"

Leo stared at Jed and Jed stared back, confused. What was Leo saying?

"Right," Leo said. "That's what I thought." He hitched the duffel strap a little higher and pointed with his shoudler. "I've got to go, anyway." He paused. "Take care of yourself, Jed. And of Abbey." He paused, then turned and walked away.

"Leo." Jed found his voice.

Leo turned back toward him.

"Be safe," Jed said, and cleared his throat. "Um, I don¹t have too many friends like you, you know."

"Right," said Leo, and walked off.

**************************************

"The first lady told you what??"

Charlie backed away, nervous. "Hey, it didn't seem an unreasonable request to me. She just asked that all the staff back off while she's in France." He paused and when Leo didn't interrupt he felt emboldened to continue.

"I mean, you know how the senior staff get sometimes," Charlie said. "They know the first lady's gone, so they just walk into the residence at all hours of the night. And she's worried that he won't get enough sleep -- which he really needs right now, Mrs. Bartlet says. For the recovery and all."

Leo had a feeling he knew what Abigail Bartlet thought her husband needed and it wasn't sleep.

"So," Charlie continued, blithely unaware of Leo's steadily raising blood pressure, "since he's going to be all alone up there, she asked me to ask if you could maybe spend the night up there, just in case something goes wrong."

"Why me?" Leo asked, knowing perfectly well what the real answer was but curious how far Abbey had taken this charade.

"She said something about he sometimes gets restless and you know how to settle him down," Charlie said.

Leo looked in the mirror on the wall in his office and grimaced.

"Something about how you'd done it before?"

Oh please, Leo thought bitterly. Why didn't Abbey just tie a bow on him?

*************************************

Men were basically pretty dumb, Abbey thought. I mean, she liked men, don't get her wrong. They were smart and funny and yummy-looking and the occasional one or two were even worth a second date. But when it came to actually understanding anything about anything important, they were pretty dumb.

Take her boyfriend Jed and his best friend, Leo McGarry. Whom she'd never met before but who Jed hadn't stopped talking about since she'd met him. To hear Jed talk, Leo was James Dean and Bobby Kennedy, put together.

What he hadn't mentioned, Abbey thought, was that Leo thought Jed was the second coming of Christ.

Leo had shown up three days ago to spend the last week of his leave with them and it didn't hurt her opinion of him that he looked good enough to eat in that Air Force uniform. I mean, a girl could look, right?

It was sort of cute, at first. Jed would tell a story about Leo saving a kitten from up a tree and then Leo would top that by telling her how Jed was the smartest counselor at Camp Marist and even the priests asked him for advice.

And it would have been even cuter that they were so in love and so oblivious about it if one of them hadn't been, well, her boyfriend. And her future husband, she had been pretty sure of up until a few days ago.

Jed laughed at something Leo said and leaned into him, his arm around Leo's waist. Abbey rolled her eyes. Men, she thought. Dumb as doorposts.

She licked her fingertip and flicked a page over in her Chemistry textbook. Well, she thought, maybe the best thing to do was confront this head on. She looked over at the two of them. They were already halfway drunk anyway. Maybe she should stop studying and put on some music. And, like, join them.

An hour later, she was dancing with Jed, while Leo mixed more drinks. A half-hour after that, she was dancing with Leo, when the new Dylan song came on the radio.

"Slow dance!" Leo shouted and she smiled a Cheshire cat smile and let herself be drawn against him. She didn't say anything as Leo ran his hands down her back. And she didn't say anything as they turned and she caught Jed looking at them, his eyes fogged over with lust.

She turned back to Leo and moved even closer to him. He started to push one leg between her skirt and then stopped, as if he realized who he was dancing with. Abbey made a sound of protest and straddled the leg on her own. Leo let out a soft exhale of breath, but didn't stop her.

Abbey beckoned to Jed over Leo's shoulder. He came eagerly, but uncertain and when Abbey indicated she wanted him to dance at her back, he did so stiffly until she leaned into him and dragged his hands around her waist.

She lost track at that point. Somehow, Jed's hands wound up around Leo's waist. Somehow, her shirt got pushed down so that each man could suck at her collarbone. Somehow, Jed lost his shirt. Somehow, she lost her bra.

She does remember this. Just before the doorway to the bedroom, Jed said, "Leo?" very hesitantly, almost shy. Leo leaned in and kissed him with a sweetness that stole her breath away. And then he picked up her hand and kissed it. She squeezed his hand, took a still-stunned Jed by the other hand and led them both into the bedroom.

********************

OK, Leo thought, no problem. He'd spent the night in the extra bedroom of the residence any number of times. No problem.

He'd just sip his soda water, read his book and then in the morning he could report to Charlie that he'd done as Abbey asked and since the president was fine, he should have no problem spending one more night alone.

Anyway, these chairs really were comfortable. And he'd been meaning to read the new John Adams biography for a year.

The doors to the sitting room sprang open and the president of the United States came through them, grumbling under his breath as he undid his tie.

"What are *you* doing here?" Jed asked peevishly.

Leo rolled his eyes. "You mean Abbey didn't fill you in on the latest step of the plan?"

Jed paused, mid-tie. "What plan?"

Leo sat up in the easy chair and threw his book on the table. He'd really had enough of the Bartlet family lately.

"Right." He didn't know whether to be exasperated or pissed. He settled for irritation. "Like your whole declaration of love in the Oval Office wasn't part of Abbey's great big scheme to --- " he broke off. He needed to be standing for this, he thought.

"Look," Leo said, staring down his friend. "I love you. I've always loved you. I want your hot, hot body. Now." He took off his jacket and began undoing his belt buckle. "OK? Can we go have sex, now? Because apparently that's what Abbey has decreed we must do to celebrate the fact that you're, you know, not dead. So fine, let's go."

Jed's face had grown increasingly paler as Leo spoke.

"Get the hell out of my house," Jed said.

Leo paused, holding his belt in his hands. "What?"

"That's what you think this is about?" Jed said. "Sex? You think I said, 'I love you,' so you would --- just so I could mark, what, my escape from death?"

"Abbey told me Š" Leo had lost his angry edge, but he still felt manipulated.

"Abbey told you what?" Jed asked, then raised a hand. "No, never mind. You probably misunderstood her, anyway."

"Did she, or did she not, suggest to you that in the wake of being shot, you were reminded that the one thing the great Josiah Bartlet had not acquired, was me?" Leo asked, feeling very tired all of a sudden.

Jed offered a half-smile. "It's true that I don't handle the concept of 'denial' very well."

Leo glared. "Yeah, well, some people can have it all. I'm not one of them. But you know, apparently you are, so let's get it on, already."

"Leo," Jed said. "It's not about that."

Leo raised his eyebrows.

"I mean, yes," Jed smiled sheepishly, "you standing there holding your belt is giving me all sorts of X-rated ideas, but I need you in my life for much more than that."

"I am in your life," Leo pointed out.

"Yes, but I'm not in yours," Jed said, quietly.

Leo exhaled. Jed pointed him to a chair and he sat, watching his old friend pace around the room.

"Look, forget about 35 years ago," Jed said. "That was drunken and dumb."

Leo flinched.

Jed held up his hands. "It wasn't dumb to do it -- it was dumb to do it the way we did. We used you, really."

Leo felt his mouth turning up at the corners. "I recall having a pretty good time, actually."

"You had such a good time that you left in the middle of the night and spent the next three days drunk," Jed said.

Leo sighed.

"And it was dumb," Jed continued, "to let you think that you were somehow extraneous to the equation. You asked me at the airport if I wanted to screw up a good thing with Abbey." He stared at Leo. "As if you, me and Abbey wasn't the best possible thing there ever could be."

"But I was dumb, and I was scared, and goddammit, Leo," Jed said, his voice raising, "I was younger than Sam, for god's sake!"

Leo did smile, then. "So was I."

"Yeah, well, we'll get to your behavior later," Jed said, grumpy. "I'm trying to explain my own, now."

Jed cleared his throat. "Anyway, I love you. You're a part of me. Abbey loves you, too. You're a part of us. I want you in my life, in our life, in any way that works for you. And *that* is all I've been trying to say." He paused and looked around the room. "And if my wife cooked up some cockamamie scheme to get us in the same room so that I can say it, well, good, frankly. Because I've been trying to do so for more than 30 years and I never seem to get it right."

"You're doing pretty good, now." Leo said. He smiled. He reached up and touched the corners of his mouth. This was the real thing, he thought. A decanter of Scotch so deep he could swim in it.

Jed cleared his throat, again. "Uh, I'm not saying sex *can't* be part of the deal, or anything. I mean, some sort of demonstrative kiss here, would be very -- "

Leo laughed out loud. "I love you, you great big overly analytical idiot." He paused. "I love Jed Bartlet. I love Jed Bartlet. I love Jed Bartlet."

"OK," Jed said, grinning, "now you're freaking me out."

"Just checking," Leo said, his smile dimming. "I mean, it's not just that I felt like I was the presidential nookie prize or something, you know. Or even that at all, really. I don't -- "

He paused and squared his shoulders. "I'm not like you two, you know. I'm not very good at being happy. I don't have the gift of -- I don't know what it is, exactly. For me, happiness was something I found in a bottle. Or later, in the blissed-out haze of Valium."

Jed looked at him. "Love isn't an addiction, Leo. Addictions make you lose yourself. Love helps you find it. "

"I want very much to believe that."

Jed walked over to Leo's chair and kneeled in front of it, resting his hands on Leo's arms. "I want very much to make you believe it."

***********************

The two men watched the sunrise together.

"Abbey's back today."

"Yeah, I know."

"She's going to take credit for all of this, isn't she?"

"Pretty much."

"OK, what we need is a plan."

"For revenge?"

"No, no, for appreciation. But, uh, she doesn't need to know that at the outset."

Leo smiled. "Plans, I'm good at."

<end>

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