”Look,” Tony says in the aftermath of everything, his grip on power so tactile it makes Gordon choke, ”you can have everything you want. Anything you ask for, I will give you. Just not this.”
The leadership is Tony's now. Gordon might not have accepted it yet, might not accept it for years and years and years to come, but it's true. Everything belongs to Tony now, apart from his own loyalty.
Tony is close and they're alone, and Tony's hands touch his arms, soothing and far too intimate. It makes Gordon bristle, and Tony stares at him with wide eyes, shocked, because when Tony used to crowd him, touch him like this, he used to welcome it. Tony still hasn't caught up on how things have changed.
Gordon sets his gaze firmly on Tony, and he knows neither of them will budge.
”This won't work without you,” Tony tells him. ”I need you.”
”Anything I want?” Gordon asks.
”Of course,” Tony answers, with relief so clear in his voice Gordon wants to laugh.
Like everything's been made okay; like he himself has finally accepted defeat, when in fact, he's only accepted a new challenge. He doesn't know which of them is the bigger fool for believing the other one.
Tony's hands are back on him, fingers stroking through layers of fabric.
“I know you think Peter's with me now,” Tony begins, full of hesitation, “but he only did what he believed was best for the party. You won't hate him for it, will you?”
“I should think that's between me and Peter,” Gordon says simply.
Tony smiles. “I trust you two will patch things up.”
The edge of manipulation is sharp but leaves no mark against Gordon's skin – he doesn't care for Peter's betrayal, as Tony's is still so present on his mind. He hasn't got the energy to hate Peter, at least not right now.
Tony is smiling. Gordon is not.
”This is Peter Mandelson,” Neil tells them, but in a way that says that Peter is the future of the party – future of politics.
Gordon doubts this but Peter impresses him; Peter talks in a considered tone and eager manner, and there's supreme wit behind it all, wrapped in loyalty to the party. Though different, it feels like they're cut from the same cloth. The more they discuss things, the clearer it becomes that they share a vision – they both understand the party has got to be able to move forward, if it seeks to survive and govern. Peter takes to him, and he returns the feeling, more eagerly than he'd like, perhaps. All his typical reservations about people are thrown out the window; he trusts Peter, just as he trusts Tony.
Tony likes Peter, too; unlike Gordon, he does so without the hesitation.
”Should I be jealous?” Tony asks, jokingly, when Gordon mentions Peter, getting Peter's opinion on something, making sure Peter has a say on how something is communicated.
Gordon pauses at this.
Tony laughs. ”Don't tell me you can't see it. It's so obvious.”
”I don't concern myself with such unimportant things,” Gordon replies. ”What Peter does in his private life is none of my business.”
”Certainly,” Tony agrees. ”But Peter's like us, in a way. He hasn't got a private life.”
Gordon smiles. He doesn't tell Tony everything and in return, he's certain Tony doesn't share everything with him, either. Tony's sneaked past some of his barriers; Tony will never get through all of them.
“This is fine,” Tony tells him after the first time they kiss, “I love you so much.”
The words come easy to Tony, almost too easy, and Gordon doesn't say anything in reply as Tony laces their fingers together.
“I love you,” Tony repeats, almost like he's talking to himself. “So this is fine.”
Gordon's never denied him anything.
“Before you say anything,” Peter begins the phone call, “I know Charlie fucking did it.”
“Charlie leaked it, you fucking did it,” Gordon replies. “You can only blame yourself for this, Peter.”
Peter has been forced to resign but as disgraced and thrown aside as this makes him, he still won't say a word against Tony. Peter is a loyalist, and since Tony is the party he serves now, whatever Tony does can surely only be right.
“I should have known you'd be like this,” Peter says.
Silence falls between them, but Peter doesn't hang up. Eventually Gordon softens his approach.
“I'm sure this is merely temporary,” he tells Peter. “Tony is already looking into ways of getting you back.”
“Will you talk with him?” Peter asks.
“You can speak for yourself,” Gordon retorts.
Peter lets out a sigh. “You're right. You're right. Thank you.”
Gordon mutters something in reply, and the line is disconnected.
Anthony Blair is wide-eyed but smart, and openly impressed by whatever meagre natural talent Gordon has at what he does, having slogged through the swamp of Scottish local politics. They're both new, and they're both already sick of being in opposition, and hopelessly determined, so it's no surprise they gravitate towards one another.
Within months, Tony calls him a friend. Gordon agrees to the label, though not as easily as Tony does.
Everything seems effortlessly simple for Tony, and slowly Gordon grows to understand that for all their similarities, they are two very different people. Tony is always quick to agree with him, but usually on his own terms. Their conversations are passionate and driven, and endless, starting every day in their shared office.
“I'm lucky to have you, aren't I?” Tony asks him one morning, and Gordon feels strange at the notion of ownership, and yet flattered by the admiration in the younger man.
But if he's truly honest with himself, it's Tony who's got the pull, the charisma that draws people in. He himself is drawn in, and it's nothing he can help.
He receives a note from Tony.
Weekend away. Post-election loss, we need to recuperate. Peter will join us.
They talk strategy all evening long and Gordon writes notes to present to John on Monday, and Peter writes down better-written notes, and Tony calls Cherie and goes to bed early. At something o'clock in the morning, Peter raises some issue which they disagree on, and they discuss it and no conclusion is reached.
Peter's finger tips are cool against his knuckles and he doesn't shake away the touch, even when Peter shifts closer, and Gordon forgets what it was they were discussing moments earlier.
He says Peter's name and Peter leans in to kiss him. There's a pause in his brain where he just stays in the kiss in all its strange gentleness, and then he pushes Peter away, because he can't, he simply can't.
Peter doesn't ask for a reason, of which there are too many, and not one of them that he doesn't love Peter.
Things are difficult enough. They're in opposition. Tony's in the other room, Tony who's got this pull on people around him, Tony who Gordon has never had to deny anything from.
He barely sleeps and pretends to forget, and the next day, they're much more productive in their ideas than the previous night. He's forced to meet Peter's gaze and it doesn't feel like anything, doesn't feel like anything at all, but it confirms to him that politics is easy – it's the people that make it all very difficult.
He goes to bed early after Tony's encouraged him to drink, and later he's woken up by Tony, in his bed, kissing him and through the wine Gordon can taste Peter. He doesn't tell Tony 'no', as he's never had any reason to, but it's different this time.
The next day, he meets Peter's eyes and feels something – guilt and ache, but these are not problems he wishes to confront. He doubts strongly whether they are problems at all.
He pushes them aside.
“I,” Peter begins, “I don't know what to say.”
“What do you want?” Gordon asks.
He knows that Peter has resigned again. He finds it very hard to care. Cruelty underlines so many of his actions now; he will not be sympathetic to those who are not sympathetic to him.
“Please,” Peter says, and the strain in his voice is evident. “Just .. please.”
So Gordon sits back and listens, just listens, and when Peter has finished talking, he says nothing, then, too.
“Thank you,” Peter says and Gordon's answer is a sharp intake of breath, as he begins to think of how to phrase his words, but by the time he knows what to say, Peter has ended the call.
A year in power and Tony meets him alone.
Tony gives him power, and Gordon takes it, and uses it – at times against Tony.
He operates independently, and if Tony has any complaints, he's either too scared or too eager to keep their fragile friendship together to voice them. This suits Gordon; he does not care for these frivolous personal considerations – only politics matters.
Tony sits close to him but they longer touch; that part of the relationship is buried.
It's the hardest phone call he's ever had to make. Peter stays quiet at the other end of the line as Gordon continues on, saying everything but the very thing he ought to admit: I need you right now.
He feels a strange disgrace in doing this, but doesn't lack pride, even as he acts out the sickening pretence of forgiving Peter. Does he forgive; can he ever? It doesn't matter at this point, as all that matters is the future, and Peter can help him with that.
Peter can because Peter has to.
”Of course I'll return,” Peter says, an acceptance that rather than releasing the knot of tension somewhere deep in Gordon's chest, adds to it, but Gordon ignores this.
”Thank you, Peter.”
They're not quite friends but Peter makes a decent show if it, and Gordon wonders whether he's done the right thing. He is at times accused of confusing blindness with certainty; of being so sure he knows best that he fails to count in the possibility he doesn't know at all, or in fact can't know for certain.
Peter, to his benefit, tries to make this all very easy on him. Peter brings insight but does not force his viewpoints, and it's almost like they're back in the 80's, disagreeing but agreeing on principle, agreeing that they've got a common goal. Whatever things can be said against Peter, of which there are plenty, at the very least he's a loyalist to the party. Even one led by Gordon.
They discuss arrangements of Peter's return late into the night, so late that the topic of discussion turns personal, as much as Gordon dislikes it. Perhaps it's healthy for them to air these things, poisonous though they may be.
“You didn't have to say yes,” Gordon tells Peter. “There was a lot of bad blood between us.”
Peter's expression betrays nothing, even when Gordon himself isn't sure whether the past tense is completely warranted.
“I like to think it wasn't as bad as people made it out to be,” Peter says. “You and Tony--”
“Tony,” Gordon interrupts him, and the word still tastes unpleasant on his tongue, “Tony used to tell me he trusted me, and like a fool I believed him.”
“Tony--” Peter begins, but Gordon is not willing to hear it.
“--used to tell you he loved you, yes, and perhaps like a fool you also believed him.” Gordon is almost shaking with fury, but it's a dead fury at this point.
“Didn't I love you?” Peter asks.
There's something raw and painful about the question, but Gordon knows better than to think it honest. So he takes a step back, puts that distance of formality between them. They may be friends, but they could never be friends as they used to be.
“You can be a great asset to the party once again, Peter,” he says. “I look forward to it.”
In the great scheme of things it doesn't matter whether it's true. And from Tony he's learned that rather than the truthfulness of the emotion, more important is the fact that it's expressed.
All in all it's quite sick that he should have learned anything from Tony at all.
Tony is fast losing his shine, and so Gordon prepares for the takeover. Things aren't good between them, but he thinks they could be worse. There's still communication, as fraught as it is with bitterness and things gone unsaid. They hate each other but not as much as the people around them hate one another, these camps that form around them full of loyalists firmly attached to them, and always willing to brief against the opposing camp.
The same man who won them elections is now the party's biggest source of rot, and if Gordon wants to cut Tony out, it'd only be for the best.
It isn't out of a grudge.
It isn't personal.
He isn't selfish because that is Tony's modus operandi, playing people for his own benefit until they drop like flies around him, exhausted from their purpose, and still willing to gasp praise for Tony with their last breaths.
Gordon isn't like that.
At least, he hopes he hasn't become that.
It's simply an observation Gordon makes, about Peter seemingly spending more time alone with Tony as of late. Typically, it's all three of them together – they're close, perhaps even up to a fault, Gordon realises as Peter's hand moves over his own.
“I won't leave your side,” Peter says with conviction.
Gordon feels uncomfortable with the phrasing. It was simply an observation.
“Unless you drive me away,” Peter adds casually, and Gordon detects the playfulness now.
“I'll do my best not to,” he replies.
It's not a promise he thinks a lot before making, and it's one he forgets about almost immediately after.
“Your tie,” Peter says. “It's off-kilter.”
“Only by a little,” Gordon replies, and meets Sarah's eyes.
She smiles, even though this is the end. Well, it's an end of one kind. End of his government does not signal the end of much else.
“Do you want me to fix it?” Peter asks. “There is still time.”
“It's fine,” Gordon assures him.
“It won't be perfect,” Peter says.
Gordon says nothing.
“But at least we tried,” Peter concludes and then it's time.
“Tony's won,” Peter says, all smiles. “Finally.”
We've won, Gordon wants to correct him. New Labour has won.
“Tony's won,” Peter repeats.