Barack Obama is the face of hope.
It's excellent marketing, and from what Rahm can tell it's based on real things. Barack Obama is fresh and youthful, and doesn't stink like undeserved entitlement. His voice is warm and he uses it to say words that mean something. Forced is the last word you can describe his smile with.
Barack Obama is a package that works, but Rahm Emanuel is a cynic. He sticks by his party and stands behind his candidate, but it takes him a while to decide on his own opinion. It takes him a while until he starts believing in Barack Obama himself.
It takes the day of the inauguration, and seeing that Barack Obama is just as nervous and scared about what lies ahead as the rest of the world is.
"Chill out," Rahm says and swats him on the shoulder. "You'll be all right."
Barack Obama looks surprised before nodding, accepting his encouragement. It's the first time he makes Rahm smile.
Rahm doesn't see the rainbows and the unicorns that the rest of the world sees when they look at Barack Obama, but he sees there is a real person behind the phenomenon, and for him that is a lot. He watches Barack Obama fumble with his oath and walk away both the President and a real person, and becomes a believer.
Believer or not, Rahm expects it to take longer for him to warm up to Barack on on a personal level. He's almost disappointed when it doesn't.
A lot of that is due to how much Barack loves Michelle.
Rahm has never been into the celebrity couple craze, but it's hard to ignore how awed the Obamas still are about each other, the tender touches they sneak to each other whenever they can. Ignoring the way "I Just Called To Say I Love You" blares out whenever Michelle calls Barack is even harder, not to mention the excited skip Barack gets in his walk when he knows she's near. The rarity of it is the only think that keeps it from being nauseating.
A politician who is still crazy about his wife. How is Rahm not supposed to respect that?
"Nervous?" he asks Barack when Michelle leaves for her first solo trip, noticing how hastily the other man sets the videochat up on his computer. Barack nods his reply, slumping back in his chair.
"I don't like it when we're apart," Barack says, meeting Rahm's eyes with his usual sincerity. Rahm smiles and drags a chair over to Barack's desk, joining him in his wait.
"Relax, it's just temporary." He brings his knuckles close to Barack's face, who blinks at them curiously. "Knuckle crack war?"
His knuckle cracking is something that drives Barack frequently crazy, but after a few cracks Barack starts getting into it, even sitting up erect as he starts drawing the loudest cracks out. Rahm starts wondering if he has unleashed a beast when Michelle interrupts them:
"If I have to listen to that when I get home, you'll be sorry." She's frowning at them when they turn to look at the computer screen, and Rahm can't help but tremble a little when she narrows his eyes at him. "Especially you."
He doesn't even think about testing her, and that's when it's sealed. Rahm Emanuel has become friends with the Obamas.
Eventually, they spend enough time together that Rahm becomes a regular house guest. That's how he first ends up in the Obama bedroom.
"His mouth is open, yeah," he hears Barack say, his voice both far away and close like a "fuck you!" shouter's in the crowd. Rahm can feel that his jaw is indeed hanging open, but he doesn't have the strength or the will to pull it close.
"Snoring? Not anymore." Rahm is about to frown at that when he feels Barack's hand on his jaw, moving it gently to its place so that he's no longer drooling on the pillow. It's one of those nice gestures that Amy gave up on after realizing he would do what he wanted anyway, and Rahm makes a noise of protest when Barack withdraws his hand. That prompts a reaction: "I think he just winced. What does a wince signal?"
The silence that follows worries him enough for his body to start stirring, but not fast enough. What he hears next helps him pick up the speed.
"Cold water? We have that." Barack sounds like his mouth stretches from ear to ear, after which he shouts: "Miche! Do we have a bucket any-"
"Good morning!" Rahm yells, bolting up. He sees that Barack's amusement is slightly disturbed by the wet spot Rahm left on the pillow, but that doesn't hinder Barack's smile when he meets Rahm's eyes.
"Good morning to you too," Barack says, and offers his cell to Rahm. "It's Amy. Wanna talk to her?"
Rahm lifts his hand, and the act is exhausting enough to make him yawn. He lets it drop and calls out instead: "Wanna talk to me, Amy?"
He hears her laugh, and thinks how he hasn't heard her do that nearly enough lately.
"Maybe later," she replies, pouring coffee in the background. She must still be in her robe. "Talk to you soon."
"I assume that means no drinking games in a while," Barack says after the call cuts out, setting the cell to rest on Rahm's sleep-tousled head. It drops down into Rahm's lap with a smack when his head droops forward, waking him up for good.
"I guess not." He yawns again and grabs the cell, dragging himself out of the bed. "Thanks for sharing your bed."
"You're welcome." Barack smiles, then turns stern as he points a finger at Rahm's face. "Don't make it a habit."
Rahm gasps. "Habit? No." He brushes past Barack, looking for his clothes. "The true hobo sleeps under the sky."
Barack laughs behind him, and while he doesn't sound like Amy, he's not bad to listen to.
Barack is not bad to listen to, and he's not bad to look at. Neither is Michelle. That becomes a problem.
Rahm has spent most of his life barking at cars and politicians, but as much as his opponents would like to deny it, he loves Amy. He keeps himself in check whenever she says he's going overboard. He never interrupts her when she has something critical to say. If her toes peek from the sheets in the morning, he never misses a chance to kiss them.
Rahm loves Amy, and even when his job takes him far away he has no intention of stopping. That doesn't stop him from finding the Obamas attractive.
I find Obamas attractive, he texts Amy one morning, and prepares to smother himself with a pillow.
He is testing how it feels to his face when Amy replies.
That's a natural phenomenon.
Rahm laughs, but knows better than to take it as an approval. He sends her another text.
I mean very. I fantasize about them.
He presses send, and experiments on having the pillow cover his face entirely. He's on his way to pressing it down when the reply comes.
So do I. Do you still love me?
Does he still love her? Do horses shit? Is the sun still up in the sky? Of course.
He grabs the pillow again, but choking on it has already lost its charm. He's in the middle of fluffing it up when his cell vibrates again.
Then you're officially okay.
Rahm sighs, and allows himself to flop down on the bed. He lies there for a moment before something occurs to him.
What are your fantasies like?
The morning is wasted after that.
In the beginning of the year, Barack told him the thing he dreaded the most about his job was the WHCA dinner. Now that the dinner is on, Rahm has no clue why.
Barack Obama being a funny man is no news to Rahm, but he can't deny Barack has never been on a roll like this. Rahm watches as Barack launches a joke after joke, each of them smashing their targets into fits of laughter. Rahm is no exception when Barack makes his Mother's Day crack, though it's the Republican jokes that really get him near tears. He searches Barack later in order to let him know that, and finds him whispering something to Michelle. That something is so interesting neither of them notices Rahm until he's standing behind Barack, leaning close to Barack's face as he whispers:
"Break it off, kids. The media is watching." His lips bump against Barack's skin with every word, and the softness he feels makes him wonder if Barack uses moisturizers.
"If not before, it's watching now." Barack turns around a bit to rest his arm around Rahm's shoulders, pulling him to a half-hug. "But do we care?"
Not giving a shit what other people think has been Rahm's way of life for a long time, so the answer for him would be yes. But he knows it's different for the Obamas. "I don't know, they're probably dying for a sex scandal by now," he says, and holds onto the back of Barack's arm instead of grabbing him from the waist like he wants to.
Michelle chuckles. "Sex scandal?" The chuckle grows into a giggle, and she draws away from Barack to step to Rahm's side. "I think this is needed for that."
She wraps her arm around his waist, and holds him firm enough for him to feel just how toned she is, and warm. Rahm bites his lip, and knows that this is when he should walk away. He can't make himself move.
"Scandal it is," he says, and his arm slips around Michelle before he has a chance to stop it. His other arm is wandering too, feeling the shape of Barack's shoulders.
"We should probably avoid that," Barack says, and Rahm should probably be relieved. His hopes probably shouldn't get up when Barack looks him in the eye, and Michelle rubs his side in a way that is more than friendly. "Afterparty at my place?"
No. No would be the right answer. "Let me check with Amy."
She can't possibly say yes. Rahm might, the dog he is, but Amy is Amy. All he'll get from her is long distance ass-kicking.
Have fun, she replies, and his excuses are gone.
Rahm doesn't mind.
The following morning, Rahm wakes up first. He takes that as an universal hint to leave.
He makes it out of the White House and he makes it to his car, and after a moment of fast breathing he makes it inside the car. His foot is too nervous to make it to the gas pedal immediately, but it settles, and then Rahm is driving away. He tries not to think about how he can still taste them everywhere in his mouth.
His cell vibrates the moment he's far enough to start calming down, like an approaching judgment. He drives to the side of the road like the good citizen he is before checking his messages.
Still near? Come for breakfast.
The anxious emotion inside him dissolves into relief, and so does the rest of Rahm. Everything is okay. They're okay.
The best way to keep it that way would be to drive forward.
Be right there, Rahm replies, and turns the car around.