Title: Six Months Too Long
Author: Jo
Feedback email: ai731@yahoo.com
Pairing: Jed/Leo, implied Jed+Abbey
Rating: NC-17 for a fairly graphic description of m/m sex
Archive: Yes
Series/sequel: No
Disclaimer: not mine, don't sue
Warnings: None
Summary: Events of the past year catch up with Leo
Notes: Set towards the middle of Season 2. This is my first West Wing story, feedback would be very much appreciated.

Six Months Too Long by Jo

Jed Bartlet poked his head around the door into Mrs. Landingham's office.

"How long have I got before my next meeting?"

"Ten minutes, Mr. President."

"Good. I'll be in Leo's office. See that we're not disturbed unless Canada invades Michigan or something."

"Yes, sir."

Jed strode across the Oval and through to Leo McGarry's office.

"Leo, have you got a minute?"

"Yes, Mr. President" Leo said, looking up from the file he was reading. At the expression he saw on his friend's face, he took off his glasses and leaned back in his chair. "What is it, sir?"

Jed perched one hip on the corner of Leo's desk.

"Abbey is away this weekend - she's at a thing in San Francisco."

"A thing."

"Yeah, a thing. I want you to spend the weekend at the residence."

Leo gave him a long, expressionless look.

"It's been too long, Leo." Jed said.

"We have work to do on the Social Security bill." Leo said thoughtfully, with a perfectly straight face, but a hint of a gleam in his eye.

"We do? Yes, we do, and we should do it this weekend at the residence."

"Six months" Leo said, looking at Jed levelly.

"Huh?"

"It's been six months."

"Way too long." Jed grinned widely, and got one of Leo's small, lopsided smiles in return.

"Right. I've got a meeting with the Belgian ambassador."

"Yes you do."

"I'll go meet with her, then." Jed said, walking back to the Oval Office.

"You do that."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jed opened the door between his and Leo's office and wandered in, hands in his pockets.

"You ready to go?"

"Yes, sir." Leo said, closing the file he was reading and putting it on his desk.

"Did you bring an overnight bag?"

"Yes, sir." Leo said, getting up from his chair, and picking up the small bag from the floor next to his desk.

"It's the weekend, Leo. More importantly it's our weekend. It's 'Jed' until nine o'clock Monday morning."

"Yes, sir." Leo said teasingly, his eyes twinkling.

Jed tried to look exasperated, but couldn't help but grin.

"C'mon then," he said, making a point of holding the door wide for Leo.

"Yes, Jed."

They walked to the residence in companionable silence.

"Why don't you go up and get settled," Jed said to Leo, "I'll change and get the kitchen to send us up some dinner. What do you want to eat?"

"Something light, I had a big lunch."

"OK, see you in a few."

Leo let himself into the large comfortable guest suite on the third floor of the residence, where he had spent more than a few nights over the past two years. He dropped his bag by the bed, and paused, remembering the first time he and Jed had made love in this room.

[Flashback]

Leo sighed, and tossed the report he had been reading on his desk. He dropped his glasses on top of the file and scrubbed his hands across his face, then looked at his watch. A slight smile came to his lips. He got up and walked across his office, opened the doors that joined it to the Oval Office and looked in. The President was nowhere to be seen, but the patio doors were open, and Leo could smell a faint hint of cigarette smoke. He followed his nose and stepped quietly through the patio doors. Leo stood behind Jed, watching him silently as he took one last drag and tossed the cigarette away.

"What is it Leo?" Jed asked in a tired voice.

"Nothing, sir."

"You came out here to watch me smoke." He sounded exasperated, and he still hadn't turned around.

"Yes sir."

Jed turned to face his friend, and saw the expression in Leo's eyes. Jed's face softened, and he stood there for a moment quietly regarding the man in front of him, then he reached out and put one hand lightly on Leo's shoulder, his eyes saying everything he couldn't speak aloud.

"I know, me too." Leo answered the unspoken words.

"Soon Leo." Jed promised. Leo shrugged, as if to say, 'We knew it would be like this'.

"Soon." Jed repeated, then dropped his hand and turned to go back inside.

True to his word, a few days later, Jed found an excuse to kept them both working late into the night.

"OK, we're done here. I'll see you tomorrow." Leo said as he stood to leave.

"It's late. Call Jenny and tell her you're staying at the residence."

"Sir, that's not a good idea." Leo objected.

"Leo, please." Leo knew that it was a bad idea, that he should have refused, protested that it was too risky, but looking into Jed's eyes he couldn't bring himself to. He made the phone call, then let Jed lead him across to the residence, and up to the third floor. Jed sent the secret service agent away, and ushered Leo into the corner guest suite, closing the door firmly behind them.

Leo turned, about to object, to argue, to explain why they shouldn't be doing this. He opened his mouth to speak and Jed stuck his tongue down Leo's throat. It had been a very good night.

[End Flashback]

Leo was startled out of his reverie by the door opening to reveal Jed in chinos and a polo shirt. Jed turned and said to the secret service agent,

"Go guard me from the other end of the hall, will you? I promise to scream really loud if Mr. McGarry attacks me with a soup spoon."

Jed closed the door firmly behind him, then walked purposefully over to his Chief of Staff.

"What part of 'weekend' are you having trouble with, Leo?" Jed asked, reaching up to slip Leo's suit jacket off his shoulders. Leo tried to take the jacket from him, but Jed shrugged him off.

"Let me," said softly, "Please."

Jed folded the jacket neatly over the back of a chair; and then gently loosened Leo's tie and slid it off. It joined the jacket. He carefully slipped his fingers into Leo's shirt collar and undid the top button. Then Jed took one of Leo's hands in his, and started to unfasten his cuff links. Jed paused, recognizing them as the pair he had given Leo for his 50th birthday. He looked up to see Leo smiling his small, slightly crooked smile, as if he were asking to be excused for showing this touch of sentimentality. Jed undid the cuff link, and its mate, and carefully set the jewelry on the bedside table. Then he went back to the shirt cuffs, and turned up one, then the other. Rather than step back to admire his handiwork, Jed raised one hand to his friend's face. Cradling Leo's cheek, he leaned in for a kiss. It was a soft, sweet touch of lips. Leo brought his arms up around Jed and drew him into a hug. Jed sighed and melted into the embrace.

"Six months is way, way too long." Jed said into Leo's ear.

"Oh yeah--" Leo answered, but anything else he was about to say was interrupted by a knock on the door. The two men stepped apart and Jed turned to answer the door. A waiter pushed a covered trolley into the room.

"Will there be anything else, sir?"

"Not tonight, Billy, thank you. Go have a nice weekend."

"Yes sir, thank you sir," the waiter answered as he left.

Jed closed the door firmly behind him, and turned back to Leo.

"Where were we?"

"We were agreeing that six months is way too long. Dinner smells good."

"I thought you had a big lunch," Jed was slightly annoyed at Leo's interest in the food.

"I did. You, however, had a sandwich from the commissary. Sit. Eat." Leo said, transferring the plates of food to a small table in the corner of the room.

"And you know this because?"

"Mrs. Landingham told me."

Jed sighed and sat down. "She's worse than Abbey. Hell, she's worse than you."

"How's Mallory?" Jed asked as they both began to eat.

"She's fine." Leo answered. Silence fell between them for a minute.

"How's Zoey?"

"Zoey's good."

"I think we'll get a majority on the Roads bill without any trouble." Leo offered.

"Oh, no you don't. No talking about work. Not until Monday morning. We are taking this weekend off. Unless someone declares war on us - and I mean a country that actually has an army and some guns - I'm not working this weekend, and neither are you."

"So, what do you want to talk about?"

"Anything - we used to talk through the night, Leo."

"We used to talk through the night about politics and what was wrong with the world and how we would change it if we were in charge."

"Point taken." Jed paused, put a forkful of food in his mouth and chewed, regarding his lover thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "Let's talk about us."

"Us." Leo parroted incredulously.

"Yeah, us. You know, you and me. Us."

"Jed, in all these years, we've had exactly three conversations about 'us'. The one where I convinced you that we weren't going to hell for what we'd just done together." Leo grinned a little at Jed.

"The one where you tried to convince me to break up with you so that I could propose to Abbey." Jed shot back.

"And the one where you convinced me that we could still do this," Leo waved his fork to indicate the two of them, "while you were in office."

"Not touching you for four years was never an option."

Leo shrugged, "That still doesn't mean this is a good idea."

"And I still don't care whether it's a good idea or not."

"We gonna re-hash you proposing to Abbey next?"

"Sorry," Jed's voice softened, "I just worry sometimes... We never get a chance to talk."

"What do you want me to say to you?"

"I don't know, whatever you want to tell me. Whatever you can't tell me in the West Wing."

Leo put his cutlery down neatly on his plate, and Jed looked up from his food to find Leo regarding him steadily.

"I love you more than I have words to say."

Jed looked into Leo's bright eyes. "Leo, I..." and for once in his life Josiah Bartlett utterly failed to frame a reply.

"It's OK Jed, I know." Leo said, his voice rich with sincerity. He looked down at his plate for an instant, then met Jed's eyes again. "I want all of you tonight. If... if you feel up to it. I know it's been a long time..." his voice trailed off, but he didn't drop his gaze.

Jed looked at his best friend, his lover. Leo had just said, using a delicate euphemism he had come up with long ago, "I want to fuck you."

Jed reached his hand out toward Leo and laid it on the table, palm up. Leo put his hand in Jed's and they both gripped tightly.

"Leo, I'm yours." Jed said. A moment later Jed was out of his chair, and pulling Leo into his arms. Leo held on tightly, almost clinging to him.

That was unusual for Leo, as was the open declaration of love. He showed his love daily with actions, but seldom with words. Something must be very wrong, but Jed knew that he couldn't press Leo on it; that the best he could do was to make Leo feel safe, and loved, and hope that Leo would tell him what was the matter.

Jed trailed soft kisses along Leo's jaw. Leo turned his head to capture Jed's lips with his. They kissed hungrily. Jed brought his hands to the front of Leo's shirt and began to undo the buttons. He pushed the shirt off his shoulders, and Leo dropped his arms for a minute to shrug it off. Jed put one hand on the small of Leo's back, fingers splayed, and ran it slowly and smoothly up his spine and into his short graying hair.

Jed broke the kiss and dipped his head to kiss, lick, and nuzzle Leo's neck. Leo tipped his head back a little to give Jed better access to his throat, and a low rumbling growl escaped his lips. It had never ceased to amaze and delight Jed how sensually Leo responded to having his throat kissed. Jed paused and raised his lips to his lover's ear.

"I'm going to mark you." It was part warning, part promise, part request for permission.

Leo's only response was to slide his hands down to Jed's ass and pull their groins into closer contact. Jed could feel Leo's cock starting to stiffen and he smiled as he kissed back down to Leo's throat. Picking a spot just above his collar bone, where his shirt collar would hide the mark, Jed tormented Leo's skin with tongue, lips and teeth. Power, dominance, and pain had no place in their lovemaking. This was a ritual; Jed would mark a spot on Leo's sensitive throat, and then for the rest of the night he would go back to that spot over and over, until the slightest brush of lips or fingertips would make Leo moan. For as many days afterwards as it took the mark to fade, Leo would see it every morning when he put on his shirt and know that he was loved.

Leo growled again, halfway to a moan this time, and tightened his hands on Jed's ass. Jed trailed kisses back to Leo's ear.

"Bed?" Jed suggested, careful not to make it sound like an order.

Leo drew an audible breath. "Not yet. Take your shirt off. I want to feel you."

Jed smiled and disengaged his arms just long enough to peel his shirt off and drop it to the floor. Leo's hands were on him, skimming his chest, dancing over his ribs, and finally kneading his back and drawing him close, as Leo pressed skin to skin with a soft sigh.

Many years ago, the morning after the first time they made love, Jed had made a discovery. He woke first, to the sight of Leo stretched out asleep next to him. The early morning sunlight streaming in a window transformed the young man's slim body into a work of art. Jed, whose mind would have otherwise started on self-recriminations, was transfixed, and began to explore with his hands, lips, and tongue. Leo had woken up to Jed lightly sucking one hardened nipple and tracing the muscles of his abdomen with light fingertips. Leo, for whom sex had always been a matter of physical release, had never been touched that way by anyone, male or female. He had moaned a low, rumbling, contented-lion-in-the-sun moan, and Jed thought it was the most incredible sound he had ever heard. By the time Jed had explored every inch of Leo's body, he had reduced his friend to a quivering mass of nerve endings and need.

All these years later, Leo still craved the connection of skin-on-skin; and Jed could still reduce him to moans and quivers with simple touches. Under the gray suits and suspenders, behind the mahogany desk and the glasses, past the steely eyes and the cutting wisecracks, Leo McGarry was a sensualist. His body was a unique, beautifully crafted instrument from which Jed Bartlett alone could draw beautiful music.

Leo's hands found Jed's belt buckle and undid it and his chinos. He eased the pants and boxers down carefully over Jed's erection, and let them drop. Leo settled his hands firmly on Jed's hips, and started to get down on his knees.

"Leo..." Jed looked down.

"Let me," Leo said softly, looking into Jed's eyes, "Please."

Jed cupped Leo's face briefly in one hand, and then dropped his hands to Leo's shoulders, knowing from experience that he would need the support.

Jed moaned as the wet heat of Leo's mouth engulfed him. Leo loved doing this for him, and he did it with a devotion that bordered on reverence. Of all the ways Leo showed his love, from standing quietly and solidly at his friend's shoulder, to not backing down in an argument, to the gleam in his eye that Jed knew no one else had ever seen, this was how he pledged everything that he was. For a while, nothing in the world existed for Jed except Leo's mouth and the sensations it created as he swirled his tongue lightly, and drew Jed in deep.

But Leo was bringing him too close to the edge. Jed tightened his grip on Leo's shoulders, and pushed back. Leo looked up.

"I want you inside me." Jed whispered.

Leo nodded, the same curt nod Jed saw ten times in the course of any working day, and it made him smile. He slid his hands under Leo's arms to help him up, then down Leo's flanks to the waistband of his trousers. Jed unfastened Leo's pants and slid them down his slim hips, then pulled his lover to the bed.

They took time arranging covers and pillows, divesting Leo of his shorts, and making themselves comfortable. Leo dug a small tub of vaseline out of his bag and set it open on the bedside table. Lovemaking at 55 wasn't the energetic tumble it had been at 22, but they had learned that slow and sensual could be even more rewarding than fast and furious had once been. Leo reached for Jed, but Jed gently pushed him onto his back, smiling down at him.

"You're still beautiful." he said, skimming his finger tips slowly from the point of one slim hip up along a taut stomach to a dark nipple.

"And you're still crazy for thinking so."

"Sssh." Jed stopped Leo's mouth with a kiss, and let his hands roam. Leo closed his eyes abandoned himself to his lover's touches. After all these years, it still surprised him that Jed, who was a complete klutz at just about everything else, could do such things to him with his hands. Leo sighed and floated, until the touches began to make his need more urgent. He put one hand lightly on Jed's back, and ran his fingers slowly down to Jed's ass. Leo opened his eyes and looked up at Jed.

"Yes." Jed answered the unasked question. He kissed Leo once more, then moved until he was laying on his side, his back to Leo. Leo dipped his fingers into the vaseline and quickly slicked himself. Then he spooned up behind Jed, his well greased fingers delving gently between Jed's buttocks. Jed hitched up one knee to give Leo better access, and then settled back into the embrace with a contented sigh. Leo slid his other hand under Jed's shoulder and wrapped his arm around Jed's chest, holding him tightly. Jed had always loved to feel Leo's wiry strength when they made love. Like the mark on Leo's throat it wasn't about dominance but rather an expression of the complete trust they had in each other.

Leo slid the tips of two fingers into Jed's ass, making him moan softly.

"Good?" Leo asked quietly.

"Oh yeah, real good." Jed replied.

Leo dropped a light kiss on Jed's shoulder and gently pushed in a little further before withdrawing his fingers and teasing Jed's opening for a minute. Jed whimpered a little in protest, and Leo slid his fingers back in, a little deeper this time. Leo took up a slow rhythm that was almost an internal massage: in, twist, press, twist, press, out; slowly and gently in time to his own and Jed's matched breathing.

"You like that?" Leo whispered, his voice gravelly with desire.

"You know I do. S'wonderful, Leo."

"I love you like this. So soft and warm," Leo said, pressing gently into Jed with his fingers, "so relaxed and open and ready for me."

Jed's breath hitched. It drove him crazy to hear Leo talk to him like this while they were making love, as Leo very well knew.

"I'm gonna slide into you so easily, and go so deep." Leo brushed Jed's prostate with his knuckles and Jed gasped.

"You're gonna be so hot and tight around me." Leo's gravelly voice continued to murmur in his ear, "I'm gonna stroke inside you, long and slow and deep." Leo brushed Jed's prostate once more and Jed moaned.

Leo dropped another light kiss on Jed's shoulder, and withdrew his fingers. Leo shifted his hips into position and eased the head of his cock between Jed's asscheeks. With one long slow thrust he buried himself in his lover, then paused, holding Jed tightly.

"Feels so good Leo, so good."

"Yeah." Leo replied, not able to form anything more coherent. Leo wrapped his slick hand around Jed's erection, and he began to thrust. Long and slow and deep, as he had promised, matching his thrusts with slow strokes of his hand. Leo tightened his arm around Jed's chest, and he could feel Jed surrendering to the sensations. Safe in his lover's embrace, Jed gave himself over completely, holding nothing back. Leo kept his pace slow, his hand on Jed's cock matched his rhythm, and his arm across Jed's chest kept his lover's body anchored to him.

Leo began to stroke faster as his need built, until he was pounding into Jed with a strength he didn't know he still had. Jed gasped and came in Leo's fist, and Leo muffled the cries of his own release in Jed's shoulder, thrusting until he was utterly spent. Finally he was still except for his labored breathing. For a long time he didn't move, holding Jed tightly to him, but finally he sighed, and carefully disentangled his body. Jed turned over slowly, then reached out to stroke his lover's cheek gently. The contented smile on Jed's face faded as he saw Leo's eyes fill with tears.

"Leo?" Jed whispered, concerned, "Leo, what's wrong?"

"I got a little wild there, towards the end. I'm sorry." Leo said in a ragged voice, avoiding the question, and letting Jed know he wasn't ready to explain.

"Leo, it was wonderful." Jed laid his hand gently on Leo's cheek, then leaned in and kissed him softly. He gathered Leo into his arms and gently rubbed his back for a long while.

"You ready to tell me now?" Jed eventually asked.

"I'm going to lose you. The MS, or an assassin's bullet, or God knows what is going to take you away from me. We've had forty years; that should be enough. I should be grateful, I know. Most people don't get a fraction of the joy you've given me in that time. But I know I'm going to lose you and sometimes that scares me so much I can't breath."

Jed swallowed the lump in his throat and continued rubbing Leo's back in small circles for a minute before he could trust himself to speak, then he pulled back slightly so that he could see his friend's face.

"Leo, I need you to promise me something. If I do go first, there are going to be some people who are going to be hurting, and I need you to promise me you won't shut them out. Abbey and Zoey, Josh and Charlie and Toby; they're all going to need you. I need you to promise me that you'll love them for me. And that you'll let them love you."

"Jed..." Leo's voice cracked, and his eyes grew bright again with tears.

"Promise me Leo, please. Promise me you will go on living after I die. Promise me you won't crawl into a bottle or throw yourself off a bridge. Promise me you will love my family for me when I'm gone."

"I promise" Leo whispered, his tears spilling over. Jed pulled him into his arms, cradling Leo's head against his chest, stroking his hair, and crying with him.

Two days later Jed was sitting up reading in bed. Abbey came in and climbed in next to him.

"How's Leo?"

Jed glanced at Abbey, then put his book down, and took off his glasses. He put both on the bedside table, and folded his hands in his lap.

"His heart is in about a thousand little pieces; but I think he's gonna be OK."

"My God, Jed - what did you do to him?"

"I got MS, then I got shot."

"But that was... months ago."

"Yeah. And remember how upset you were, and how many screaming matches we had? Remember how long it took for us to get over that? How much talking and crying and reassuring each other we did? Leo hasn't had any reassurance. He hasn't had anyone to hold him when he needs to cry."

"I didn't realize."

"I didn't realize soon enough."

"What did you do for him?"

"I tried to show him know how much I love him, and I made him promise to live if I died."

"That wasn't kind."

"I love him too much to be kind."

"He needs you." Abbey said, "He's been doing a great impersonation of a rock lately, but he needs you. I'll go away for a bit, sometime soon."

"Thank you Abbey, but you don't need to do that; we'll be OK. All of us."

"Jed, I do need to. I owe it to him." Jed started to say something, but Abbey interrupted, "Do you remember in 1985, when Leo went to Germany for five months?"

"Yes..." Jed was puzzled.

"He did that for me."

[Flashback to 1985]

Leo McGarry walked into Abbey's medical office.

"Thank you for coming Leo."

"Sure Abbey, what's up?"

"There isn't an easy way for me to ask you this, so I'm just going to be straight; and before you ask, no, Jed doesn't know anything about this. Leo, I'd like you to give me a blood sample. For an AIDS test."

Leo regarded Abbey for a minute, then said,

"My understanding is that the first AIDS patients were identified in 1981."

"To the best of our current knowledge, yes."

"The last time I had sex with a man who wasn't Jed was 1968." Leo said, looking at Abbey stonily.

"You were in Vietnam in 1968."

"That's right."

"Vietnamese men, or..."

"Americans. Possibly a Canadian or two - I didn't ask to see their passports. Military personnel."

"I see. And how just many of these men did you sleep with?"

"None. I didn't sleep with them, Abbey, I fucked them." Leo was angry, and his voice was strained as he tried to keep himself under control. "The only man I've ever slept with is Jed. The only man I've ever held in my arms is Jed. The only man I've ever kissed is Jed. The only man I have ever loved is Jed. And I would never, ever do anything to hurt him, or you." Leo said, rolling up his sleeve.

"Leo..."

"Take your sample."

"Leo..."

"Take your goddamn sample. In case they're wrong about when it started."

Abbey took the blood sample, and put a dressing on the puncture.

"Leo I'm sorry. I should have... I should have found a way to discuss this with you. I got scared."

"Abbey if you're not OK with this, with us, I'll walk away."

"You can't do that."

"I can if I have to."

"No, you can't. It would break his heart. I won't hurt him either. I love him too, you know."

"I know you do. And he loves you. Every bit as much as..." Leo trailed off.

"As he loves you. I know that, I do. I forget sometimes."

"Abbey, I'll go away for a bit."

"Leo, no."

"Just for a bit. A few months. I'll arrange something."

"You don't have to do that."

"It's done."

"Thank you, Leo."

[End Flashback]

"Jesus." Jed breathed, as Abbey finished explaining.

"I needed you then. He needs you now. I'll go away for a bit, so that you have more time for him, and we'll find a way to get him and you up to New Hampshire for a couple of days."

"That's not going to be easy." Jed said, shaking his head.

"No, it's not. But it's important, so we'll find a way." Jed reached out and took Abbey's hands, and then brought them up to his lips.

"I am the luckiest man in the entire universe."

"You got that right, bucko - don't you ever forget it."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jed walked through the open door of his family cabin in New Hampshire, shaking the rain out of his hair, with Leo two steps behind him. Jed nearly collided with Ron Butterfield who was on his way out.

"The premises are secure sir, and we've set up a perimeter."

"Thank you Ron. Are your men going to be warm enough out there?"

"We'll be fine sir, thank you," Ron said, heading out the door and closing it behind him. Jed took off his coat, and tossed it over the back of the couch. A cheery fire was crackling in the fire place, making the room warm and cozy, in contrast to Leo's icy demeanor.

"So, how long did it take you to plan this little debacle?"

Jed looked over at Leo, not in the least bit surprised he'd been rumbled. Jed threw himself onto the couch before answering.

"A couple of months - but Abbey did all the hard work; I just did what she told me to do."

"You didn't need to do this Jed. I'm fine."

"I know, that's what I told Abbey, but she said she owed you - for Germany in 1985."

"Jesus," Leo breathed.

"Yeah, that's pretty much what I said when Abbey told me about it. Anyway, it's done now, so why don't you come here and sit down and relax." Jed patted the cushions on the sofa next to him.

"I don't need to be coddled," Leo said angrily.

"No, you'll just bottle your feelings up, and be strong, and not need any help or comfort from anyone. Heaven forbid Leo McGarry should show any sign of humanity or weakness." Jed shot back at him.

Leo looked at Jed stonily, furious with him.

"My name is Leo, and I'm an alcoholic and a drug addict," he said.

"Dammit Leo, I'm not asking you to unlock the closet and let all the demons come out to play. You've had a hell of a year. I've had a hell of a year, and you know as well as I do that I never would have made it without you being right there to support me every minute of every day. All I'm asking is for you to let me support you for a change." Jed's voice softened, "Can't you let me carry the burden, just for a little while?"

"I don't know. I don't know if I can do that," Leo said regretfully.

"Why not?"

"Because if I put it down, I don't know if I'll have the strength to pick it back up again," Leo answered harshly.

Jed suddenly understood that Leo's greatest fear was that if he let go, even for a moment, that it would all come crashing down, and that he would somehow fail his friend.

"You're not going to fail me Leo."

"I wish to God I was as sure of that as you are."

"You don't need to be sure. I am. Now, would you please just take off your coat and come sit down."

"I don't think that would be a very good idea, sir."

"Leo, I didn't go to all this trouble - Abbey didn't go to all this trouble - so that you could stand on the other side of the room and call me 'sir'. What's wrong?"

"Did you even stop to think what this is going to look like?"

"What are you talking about?"

"This. It's going to look like exactly what it is."

"What it is, is the President of the United States and his Chief of Staff spending a working weekend in New Hampshire."

"You know what I mean, sir."

"You're getting paranoid in your old age my friend. I'm a happily married man. So were you up until a year ago. We both have grown children. I'm a grandfather for God's sake. If anyone starts to wonder - which they won't, because there's no reason for them to - 'planning to invade Canada' will be a hell of a lot higher on their list of what we might be doing here this weekend than 'boinking like rabbits'."

Leo stared at Jed for a minute after the diatribe ended, then rubbed his hands across his face.

"You're right Jed, I'm sorry. Sometimes I..."

"It's OK, I understand." Jed paused for a minute, "You know, some days, when we're in a meeting with the staff; you'll be sitting across the table from me, and I'll look at you, and just for a minute, I can't begin to understand how everyone else in the room could possibly fail to see what you are to me."

Leo's face softened, the last of his anger and tension seeping away.

"People see what they expect to see," he said quietly.

"Uh huh. Come and sit down now?" Leo took his coat off and hung it on the back of a chair, then walked over to stand in front of Jed.

"Thank you." he said.

"As I keep saying, it's Abbey you need to thank."

"Oh I will, don't worry." Leo sat down on the sofa next to Jed, then sighed and leaned into his shoulder. Jed put his arm around Leo and pulled him close. Leo snuggled into the embrace.

"Even it they saw this, all people would see is an old man comforting his best friend."

"Most people."

"True. I wouldn't be surprised if Charlie knows. He seems to know most things about me."

"Sam might have guessed."

"Sam Seaborn? Why would he have guessed?"

"Sam's gay, he might have noticed some things..."

"Sam's gay? But there was that call girl - and wasn't he engaged before he came to work on the campaign?"

"Yeah, but Sam's cut from the same cloth as I am. He's in love with Josh."

"Josh! But Josh isn't... is he?"

"No, Josh most definitely isn't."

"How do you know?"

"I just know. I think the word they use for it these days is 'gaydar'."

"Cute." Jed was silent for a minute "Poor Sam. I wasn't, you know, before we... maybe..."

"It's not the same. Josh, much as I love the boy, is a train wreck waiting to happen when it comes to relationships. It would never work out," said Leo.

"Now you see, I don't get this sort of office gossip. How come you get this sort of office gossip?"

"I get it from Marguerite, not that I have any choice in the matter."

"Ah. Does she know about us?"

"Yeah."

"And she's OK with it?"

"Yeah. She spits in your coffee whenever you yell at me, though."

"You're kidding. Please tell me you're kidding." Leo grinned 'yes' at him.

"Ron knows." Jed said pensively.

"He'd have to. Either that or be deaf."

"Hey - we're not that loud." Leo raised his head off Jed's shoulder for a minute to look at him.

"Well, not often."

Leo settled back into Jed's arms, and they are both quiet for a while, staring into the fire. After a bit Leo said softly, "Jed?"

"Yeah?"

"Wanna go be loud?"

[fade to black]

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