Jon can easily picture the look on David Axelrod's face when he told Rahm whatever he told him. Patient, long-suffering, with maybe a touch of fake understanding.
Rahm, don't fraternize so much with the media.
Rahm, stop fucking Jon Stewart. He's got a small dick, said it himself on TV.
Rahm's words come slow and nonchalant, but carried by such a thin voice. His trouble ripples through the sea of static between their shitty cellphones and laps at his heart like a cold wave.
"They just think we hang around together from time to time, something like that," he's saying.
"Don't freak out, no one's seen us together."
"I don't. They could air sex tapes on Morning Joe for all I care," says Jon as a couple walks past him on their way to Sunday brunch.
He turns his back to the street and plugs a finger in his ear, trying to be alone with Rahm.
"… bet CNN would."
"'Course they would," says Jon with a snort. "They'd bring an expert panel to analyze your moves. But seriously, how do they know?"
"I used that joke you made the other day to make Hoyer feel cheap about that two-third majority bullshit. The one about the 9/11 fireman."
"The one you said on air two days later, yeah. Word for word. So I guess that's how they know we talk."
"Oh. Oh, Okay. Wow," says Jon, looking around for nothing in particular.
A couple is waving at him from the breakfast place across the street. He shows them the palm of his hand and forces a smile on his face.
"So you're stealing my jokes?"
"Oh come on, isn't it why you make them in the first place?" snarls Rahm with that biting pipsqueak voice Jon's grown so completely addicted to. "You make them hoping I will throw them in their faces, don't deny it. You get that look on your face. You even raise your voice a little bit, as if they were hiding somewhere behind my fucking shoulder and you wanted to make sure they can hear."
"I... Yeah, you're right. God, I'm an asshole."
He's an asshole, because he's always amazed to see how perceptive Rahm is. It shouldn't be a surprise anymore, they've been sleeping together for six months now.
"I never thought you'd actually do it, though."
"Motherfucker. You don't even write your own fucking jokes anymore. How was I supposed to know you'd use that one on your show? You never do that. You never tell me jokes you're about to use, you tell me those you've used everywhere already. You suck."
The thought of Rahm in a meeting with his inept colleagues, repeating his words with the faith he usually has in carefully crafted talking points makes Jon's throat tighten. Just when he thought he couldn't like that Beltway hack any more than he already did.
"How did he react?" he says after a second.
"Very well. Gave himself whiplash. I had a very nice crowd, too."
"Look, I'm very sorry. I'm – I'm so fucking sorry," mumbles Jon as he gives a tiny kick to an empty Powerade bottle lying near the restaurant's brick wall. "I never thought you'd- "
"Nah, the fuck are you apologizing for. I've seen you reuse the same joke on three different talk-shows, I should have known you weren't done with that one yet. It was a good one, I should have known."
"Yeah. You know… Don't get me wrong, this sucks, but… it's kind of awesome, in a way."
"Son of a bitch. You're proud of yourself now, aren't you? You son of a bitch," fumes Rahm as Jon laughs.
"Well, I have people citing my words in the White House…"
"Ha! They heard it from me first, so now they think YOU'RE the one – they all think you get your best jokes from me, now!"
"Like hell they do," says Jon with a snort.
"You fucking fraud. Leeching off my genius comedic mind without giving proper credit."
"They must have been so fucking awed to hear you say something that's actually funny. I wish I was there to see that."
"Me too," says Rahm wistfully. "Then you would have seen my delivery's better than yours. I could have made a career out of it."
Jon laughs at the memory of Rahm's terrible timing and repertoire.
"I'm sure there's a niche audience somewhere who'd really dig your brand of comedy. I can see you being a hit with the hipster crowd."
"I already am. All the interns think I'm the shit. It's happening right now, you're just too blind to see it. You're the past, Stewart. I'm the new generation."
"You so totally are. But you know, it's not like I've got the platform to leak whatever astounding bit of information you could give me, if you actually told me anything. We've never done any real reporting, we're not gonna change our format after ten years."
"They know full well, that's not the issue," says Rahm flatly.
"It never crossed their minds that you could actually leverage this? Not that it would work, but you could tell them you'll try to win me to their side. Even more than I already am, that is."
Jon doesn't even know if he's still bantering or downright pleading at this point, and he realizes that he doesn't care one bit.
"Nah, we let media hacks say whatever they want. We're not the Bush administration."
"Yeah, well, that's not like we've got any kind of relevance anyway. That was just… some silly idea. That might have let me shag you a few times more."
"You don't understand, Stewart," says Rahm with that higher, abrasive voice he has when he's got to explain one of those bouts of irrationality that seem perfectly transparent to him. "The problem's not that you're from the media. The problem's that it's you. As a person. Did you listen to what I said? I've used one of your jokes against my colleague. It's not my place to do that. I'm not supposed to even FEEL like doing that. I'm a politician. Not an angry clown, not an activist, not some Code Pink fucknut. Do you understand?"
"I… Yeah. I think I do."
"They say I've changed."
Those words make Jon hate himself. They're the ones he's dreamed to hear, but now that Rahm says them, they make him sound like he's broken. Worse yet, Jon has never felt the change. It's all his work, and he's seen nothing.
"Have you?" he asks carefully.
"I've always had opinions of my own, always been able to keep them from affecting my work," says Rahm gruffly. "But it's getting tougher these days."
"You've always looked a hundred percent on board with everything, though. To me."
"Well, I wasn't always. Most of the time I would have done things differently. I guess you got what you wanted, Stewart, I –"
Jon waits for the rest, but it never comes. Bastard always catches himself before saying too much.
"Look, maybe if you kept me busier I wouldn't have so much time to inflict my worldview on you? What I'm saying is… you know, just keep your dick in my mouth and everything will be fine?"
"Most intelligent thing I've ever heard from you. But seriously, no. I mean, it would be a nice solution if the problem really was your mouth, but I think it's your face as well. I see your face and it puts me in that mood for days."
"My whole career is an attempt at shaking away the mood my own face puts me in," says Jon mindlessly. Then he realizes Rahm was getting somewhere and he's derailed him for a tired joke, like the imbecile he is. "Never thought center-left leanings were sexually transmissible, though," he tries.
"They're not, believe me. I've had my lot of lefties back in the days. If I were to be totally honest, I think it was already there. I've slept with you in the first place because of what you're about. It certainly wasn't for your physique anyway."
"Okay, so the problem is you, not me or any part of my face... Right? But what I don't get is… Why are we even having this conversation? Not… I don't mean- What I mean is, it's none of their fucking business who you sleep with, is it? Members of the government still have human rights, last I've heard. Or did they make you sign some paper saying you'll have to sleep with, and only with, whatever partners they'll assign you?"
"It's not their decision!," yells Rahm, exasperated. "Fuck, I'm not five. They've got no business telling me who to see, and they know it. The decision's mine. We just kind of discussed, and I made a decision. Not to see you again."
"Then why the hell did you make it sound like it came from them?" says Jon, and he'd be the one yelling now if he wasn't on the corner of a busy street. Not that it could make him appear any less engaging, considering the way he's pacing right now. "The way you told me this, they were the meanies keeping you away from me. You made it sound like you were grounded, for fuck's sake. I'm not the one working for the government, I don't know how they deal with those things. I just have to believe whatever you say!"
Rahm is silent for a moment, long enough that Jon feels the need to check his phone and move around a bit to get the signal back.
"I guess I didn't want to sound like I'm dumping you. I wish I didn't have to."
Jon watches as the Powerade bottle he's just kicked disappear under the wheels of a cab with a crunch.
"... you give such good head," Rahm is saying.
"Fuck you. No, really. Always cheapening the moment, always –"
"Fuck, I'm sorry. You're right, that's not –"
"That's fine," says Jon, and he's got to remove his baseball cap just to run a hand through his hair. "That's… I guess I understand."
"Thanks. I knew you'd be- I knew you wouldn't make a huge thing out of it."
He kind of is, but he wouldn't achieve anything by informing Rahm of this. He'll just spend the rest of the week trying to find a pack of cigarettes in his coat pocket.
"I'm just sad I won't have anybody telling me lightbulb jokes about every member of Congress now," he says, because he's just been dumped by his post-divorce rebound fuck and he's trying to revive the banter like the loser he is.
He can tell Rahm's trying too, but the guy's never been too good at it. They'll have to say goodbye because they're both failing to come up with a joke.
It's Rahm who does it, after a few seconds of charged, frantic silence.
"So that's it. That's it, Stewart," he says with the same voice he'd use to conclude a fucking PowerPoint presentation. Jon can even picture him throwing his pen back on his office desk as he says this, on a pile of overflowing manila folders standing dangerously close to a cup of cold coffee.
"Alright. Take care?"
"Yeah, you too. Bye. I-"
Jon stares at the cellphone's black screen for a few seconds, catastrophed. He was about to get it, he was about to finally hear those words, maybe, and he had to hang up too soon.
He debates calling back for a full five minutes, standing on the corner like a schmuck, blocking people who are trying to cross the street.
When he finally beats down the bout of retroactive pride that tells him not to ruin the much needed appearance of self-respect his lightning-fast finger might have given him, Rahm doesn't answer.