LC, September 2002
elsielamb@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Not mine, more's the pity. Thanks to J for beta and title. Written for the September 2002 JedandLeo list challenge.

Incurable

The next time Leo looked over to say something, he saw that the President had dozed off. His head was resting back against the seat; his shoulder brushed against Leo's as the limo passed over a stretch of rough road. He might have just been resting his eyes except for the way his neck had gone limp, letting his head shift slightly toward Leo as the car turned.

Leo sat very still and watched him. Streetlight and moonlight passed through the rain-spattered windows, shadows rolling gently across features gone soft with sleep. And counting his friend's easy breaths, he kept telling himself that it was peace he saw there, not exhaustion. Or even if it was exhaustion, it wasn't...it didn't mean he was...

There was plenty of time.

He told himself that to the rhythm of breath. He wished it the way he wished the Serenity. Say it enough and you make it come true. Fake it 'til you make it.

For a second he was glad he hadn't found out before. Just for a second he envied the self he had been, the guy who got picked up off muddy asphalt by Jed Bartlet and had spent the rest of his life in ignorant bliss at his side, taking every problem in hand and making it go away. But now—

He leaned his head back against the seat and tried not to think about it, watching him, sitting so close, breathing in, breathing out. He thought forcibly about nothing. The quiet steady sounds lulled him. Pulled at him. Covered him. Leo blinked...blinked again, longer...let his eyes go shut. And in the dark he was back in that bedroom, his best friend apologizing in a voice gone shaky and choked with tears. Lost there in a worn T-shirt and a sea of blankets. But now, this time, when he looked at Jed and told him not to worry about it, he could see inside him, he could take these problems too and erase them with his hands. It was what he did; it was why he lived. He could reach over and just...take him up, somehow, not just with his arms but with his whole self. He could say don't worry, and he could mean it all along the line, don't worry about me, don't worry about apologizing, don't worry about relapsing-remitting any damn thing, because I got it. I got your back. I got you. And in that darkness he felt warmth turn to heat in his arms and against his face, his body, blazing bright as a comet. So good it hurt. So good he couldn't breathe.

He gasped awake.

He wondered for a dazed second if he had shouted. But nothing had stirred. The car rumbled toward its destination; light and shadow dappled in and out of the windows. Jed was resting there, close enough to practically sleep on his shoulder, a soft lock of hair fallen across his forehead. Still half-caught in dreams, Leo let himself look, hungry, pride and protection aching in his chest.

The limo made the last turn and Jed opened his eyes. He looked steadily at Leo, and it wasn't the President there, it was Jed, and Leo stared, caught, pinned for a long breath beneath that piercing, tender regard. I dreamed I could help you, he thought wildly. I dreamed I got a turn to pick you up off the ground. I dreamed I called you by your name.

"Are—" Jed cleared his throat and turned to look out the window. "Are we home?" His voice was strong and steady.

"Yeah," Leo said softly, as if someone were still sleeping. He bent to retrieve his briefcase.

The Secret Service agent opened the door and lifted a sheltering umbrella. Jed briskly stepped out, and then leaned back into the half-darkness of the car for a moment, the floodlit bulk of the White House looming behind him. "Waking up to all this—"— he grinned and waved one expressive hand— "—sometimes it still seems unreal, you know?"

Leo smiled, just a little. "I know."

The President ducked out of the car and vanished into the Residence, trailing guards in his wake.

Leo rubbed his eyes and got out more slowly, turning up his collar against the misty drizzle. He'd go to his office and work for a while. There were still some problems he could make go away.

Even if they weren't the right ones.

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