by: Baked Goldfish
Character(s): Jed, Leo
Summary: He's understood ever since they first met.
Author's Note:This is, uh, very obviously pre-White House.
"You don't understand," Leo tells him. He is drunk, and maybe a little stoned. "You just don't."
He doesn't understand. It is raining out, chilly, and reminiscent of damp stonework in a medieval dungeon. It is dark, and the sky is depressed and gray as the thunder rumbles sullenly and the rain melts off the clouds and onto the oozing earth below. It is late fall, New Hampshire, 1978, and Jed Bartlet is being told that he doesn't understand.
He is smoking a cigarette, and exhales the smoke loudly as he lets Leo inside. He doesn't understand. Abbey is at one of her medical conferences, and has taken their two daughters with her as a vacation for them. Leo is here, drunk and maybe stoned. He is soaking wet in the light drizzle. "Come inside."
"Jenny - Jenny doesn't understand, either," he says, and he kisses him. A taste passes between them, one of nicotine and scotch. They don't understand; Jenny and Mallory and Abbey and Elizabeth and Eleanor. In that strange, bitter taste he hears that they don't understand. He can feel Leo pulling the cigarette out of his hand, can see him pull away and draw on it, can see his cheeks hollow out as the tip flares red and angry. It is destruction.
He dumps his dark suit jacket onto the chair in the hallway, and it stays there for a moment before inching to the ground. Neither of them bother to pick it up, as it has been on the ground already that day, and couldn't possibly get more crumpled than it already is. "She told me she doesn't understand," he says bitterly, and Jed takes his cigarette back. It's midday, and the house still smells of bacon and eggs and hot buttered toast. "She told me last night, that she and Mallory are gonna go because she doesn't understand me."
"Okay," Jed says, and he's heard it all before; Jenny always comes back. It's 1978, and she's come back three times already.
"You don't understand," Leo snaps, bitterly, and he walks down the hall a bit before stumbling into a wall. Jed is right behind to catch him, with his cigarette hanging from his mouth and both hands open.
"Yeah," he mutters around the cigarette, guiding Leo up the stairs. He doesn't understand.
"You... " He stops on the third to last stair, and looks at Jed. "Everybody has a father." He stares at him, pupils dilated and dark inside hazel rings. It's been fifteen years. "You couldn't understand."
Jed nods, and grips the white railing with one hand as he puts his other hand in the small of Leo's back. He couldn't understand, and he guides him up the remaining stairs. His skin is wet under that self-consciously long-sleeved shirt; he doesn't seem cold, though, and Jed wonders if it's the alcohol that's screwing with Leo's ability to feel the chill.
"I want to forget," he says when they reach the top of the stairs. "That's why I... that's... " He pulls the cigarette from Jed's mouth, and kisses him again; there's that same strange taste between them, and he's understood ever since they first met. The door opens behind them.
It is midday, in New Hampshire in 1978, and it is like many other days before it. It is raining, and cold, and Jed understands what it means to need something more than life itself. He understands what it means to crave someone every moment of every day, what it means to be under the influence. He pulls Leo's shirt off, and his thumbs brush against the raised, jagged five-year-old scars on Leo's wrists. Years and years and years later, he will still cover them up in long-sleeve shirts and dark suit jackets, and right now the soft touch against them make Leo jolt.
"You," he gasps, and he opens his eyes and pulls them to the dishevelled bed.
"All right," Jed says, weary. He knows this will be nothing but a quick fumble, but he follows, unable to turn away.
It takes a moment, because Leo is drunk and high, but soon he is on his back and Leo is inside him like a needle beneath the skin, pushing until that moment of sweet release. He is dizzy, but through the tunnel vision he can see a moment of normalcy return to Leo's eyes; for that moment, Jed has made him forget.
"Yeah," Leo says when he catches his breath again, and he rolls to the side. He's rubbing his eyes, and Jed stares at him. The rain is still coming down outside, a cacaphony like an untuned piano, and it is still only midday. The sky is still dark, the house still smells of breakfast.
Leo is asleep now, and Jed Bartlet has understood forever.
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