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Love and Devotion

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Bob Woodward is getting smashed and Carl Bernstein has no idea what to do about it.

Not that there’s any reason he needs to do anything. Bob’s a grown man. Of the two of them, it’s Woodward who is considered the adult, the steady one. Carl knows his own reputation tends to include words like, “immature,” “temperamental,” and occasionally, “that miserable cocksucker who scooped my story.” Little do they know.

At the moment, he’s not thinking about sex of any kind, which might surprise some of those who consider him one of the biggest pussy-hounds in DC. He’s too busy worrying about the number of drinks Bob has downed since they arrived at the Round Robin several hours earlier to join other Post staffers in celebrating the resignation.

It’s hard not to see it as a victory, no matter how many times they’d insisted that the point of the Watergate reporting was not to attack the President. This is Nixon after all; Tricky Dick, himself. The man who'd been the political bad guy almost as long as Carl can remember, going back to his time as one of McCarthy’s henchmen and of course the campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas. To Carl, it’s a small measure of revenge for what Nixon did to Alger Hiss. The other reporters have similar inclinations, invoking the American soldiers still dying Viet Nam, the protesters shot at Kent State and the recent agony of the ’72 election. Bradlee himself practically did a jig on the bar when he arrived and is still around somewhere, holding court, telling stories about Jack Kennedy and downing shots of Jamieson’s like the hardy Irish soul he is.

Even demure Mrs. Graham made an appearance, congratulated them all on a job well done and lifted a glass of Champagne, saying her late husband would have been proud.

So why the hell is Woodward sitting there knocking back Dewar’s and looking like he's going retch or cry or something. OK, sure he always told the various Watergate sources he was a registered Republican to gain their trust. Maybe it was even true. There’s still a difference between having some right-of-center sympathies and feeling remotely sorry for that bastard, Nixon, much less feeling guilty, if that’s what’s going on.

Fine. If Bob wants to go on some weird self-flagellation kick, that’s his own business. Let him drink himself insensible and pay the price in the morning. No skin off Carl’s tuchus. Except it is. Bob’s his partner. They’ve been through so much together since that first adversarial encounter in the newsroom. They’re “Woodstein,” and that means it’s up to him to have Bob’s back, even if Bob wants no part of his concern and has already offered one slurred rebuff to Carl’s suggestion that he might want to pace himself a bit.

Maybe what’s really bothering Carl is the sight of Bob looking so trashed. He hates to admit how much he envies Bob’s all-American boy good looks, especially that blonde hair and the classic WASP profile. Always cool.

Not now though. There’s a lock of hair falling into Bob’s eyes and their usual alpine blue is already bloodshot. The tie’s gone askew, his sleeves are rolled up, and he looks to be an unshaven, sweaty mess. Carl’s always held the belief that goyim could hold their liquor. Bob’s sure as hell putting the lie to that one, and whatever the reason, Carl is feeling a rising sense of panic at the sight. Panic mixed with something else he’s not sure he wants to admit to himself. The sight of Mr. Perfect falling to pieces is stirring the part of him he keeps extremely private. Reporters have bad enough reputations. They might be known as degenerate gamblers, lushes and womanizers, and no one would bat an eyelash. The thing he’s experienced in the darkest corners of DuPont Circle would end his career in a heartbeat and he’s hardly inclined to take Woodward down with him, in the unlikely event he’s remotely interested.

“Bob?” Bob continues considering the universe inside his shot-glass, seemingly deaf to Carl’s querulous entreaties. “Do you want me to call Frances?”

Frances might be able to talk Bob down from whatever mental clock tower he’s currently climbing, but her absence from the impromptu soiree lets Carl know that she might not want the job. Carl has only observed them together from a safe distance, but he knows that the lifestyle of a journalist isn’t conducive to anything resembling a happy, healthy relationship. Case in point being what had once been a carefully cultivated façade of happiness with Carla until she surprised him with his packed suitcase and a letter of scathing goodbye. He might have played that lothario role a bit too well, but it still beat the alternative.

“Hell no!”

At least that’s some kind of response. He takes the barstool next to Bob’s and takes out a pack of Marlboro’s. He lights one of his own and puts the pack down next on the bar. Bob grabs for it, and has a lighter at the ready, another bad sign. Carl doesn’t bother trying to hide most of his vices, whereas Bob can go through months of self-righteous sobriety and healthy eating, accompanied by virulent anti-smoking lectures that fail to go over well in the traditionally nicotine-infused atmosphere of the Washing Post Newsroom.

Damn if the sight of Woodward’s lips around a cigarette isn’t just marginally more exciting than the sight of him drowning his sorrows, whatever they may be, in whisky.

“Bob,” he tries again, remembering that he is an investigative reporter and should be able to out-think a subject who is way past three sheets to the wind. “What the hell’s the matter? Please tell me you don’t feel sorry for that bastard?

Woodward seems inclined to ignore this line of inquiry.

“Either drink with me or get lost.”

He considers the lousiness of the first idea as opposed to the impossibility of the second. Two Manhattans later, he’s trying to remember what he was so worried about, which starts him worrying again. Bob has put down at least two additional shots and is looking even more trashed and therefore even more…

NO! He’s not going to let his mind go down that particular dark alley. He is going to be the responsible one. He’ll have the bartender call a cab. If Bob wants to leave, that’s fine and if not, he’ll take himself home and be back in the newsroom fresh as a fucking daisy in the morning to start collecting quotes for the Sunday edition.

Carl is feeling well-pleased with this plan of action when he notices that Bob’s attention has shifted. He’s no longer fixated on the bottom of his glass, or the mirror behind the bar, or even on the lighter that had been holding his gaze. Now he’s looking intently at Carl and when Carl tries to meet the gaze and stare him down, he realizes he’s in a losing battle with himself.

“Take a picture; it’ll last longer,” he whispers, dredging up wit from the schoolyard of Montgomery Blair High School, and deciding it’s definitely time to go and maybe a walk will do better than a taxi.

“What if they break us up?”

“Huh?” OK, maybe he finds Bob a bit alluring, but he doesn’t need that kind of emotional baggage levied on him, and…wait a minute. He’s just showing his own hand if he responds in kind when clearly that’s not what Bob means at all.

“The story’s over. Watergate’s done. Nixon’s going, Ford is in. New administration. Fresh start. They’ll make you the Whitehouse correspondent and stick me back on the City Desk. We won’t be working together anymore.”

Where does he even start to dissect that mishegos? First of all, they have a book deal with Simon & Schuster, including a looming deadline and changes that might need to be made to accommodate the latest development. And from a purely practical standpoint, not even the dimmest small-town editor would think of breaking up a team so notorious they had their own nickname and had just more or less taken down a sitting president. If anything, they’ll probably be spending more time together.

He tries conveying some of this to Bob, eventually maneuvering him out of the bar and into the muggy August night that is creeping toward morning. He knows he’s talking too much, but that’s his way. Carl is a spell-binder which is just a nice way of saying bullshit artist. If you can’t blind them with brilliance right? He figures if he talks enough, and keeps Bob on his feet as they wander not quite aimlessly, then Bob will sober up enough for Carl to feel safe leaving him on his own again.

It’s a great strategy, except the more he talks, the more realizes how strong those two drinks were, or how much is pouring out of in him the euphoria of beating Nixon, or just all the things he’s thought about Bob in the past two years and never had the nerve to say before. Perhaps he’s counting on Bob’s state of inebriation being strong enough that nothing will actually register.

“…so yeah, man. It’s just this piece of the story that’s over and that’s nothing. There’s so much more to come. They could still prosecute him, you know. Half the guys in jail could turn state’s evidence. Dean is definitely a loose cannon. Besides, after we finish the book, we’ll have to go on a tour, and I’m sure we could get another deal. Maybe we’ll even get some more dough out of the whole thing. In other words, you ain’t never getting rid of me. We’re in this boat together, so don’t even think about rocking it, cause you know, I love you.”

“What?”

He’s shocked himself silent. He has no idea where that last bit came from and he doesn’t mean it that way. Sure he loves Bob like guys who’ve been down in the trenches love each other, and maybe he’s looked at him in the way that he’s looks at certain guys who he hopes never to see in broad daylight and when he does run into them in the real world it’s inevitably awkward as hell, but he certainly never meant to come out and say something like that.

“Nothing,” he mutters, running a hand through his hair and realizing that the humidity is now manifesting as gloppy raindrops.

“What about the boat.”

“Don’t rock it, man.” Carl warns in his most serious voice, not sure who he’s really trying to put the fear of God into.

Bob doesn’t seem half so drunk now, but he’s getting wet, and Carl thinks it would be good to get them both out of the rain. He doesn’t see any cabs around. He squints at a street sign and realizes that what seemed to be meandering has actually taken them closer to the bars that he doesn’t want anyone to know he frequents. There’s a hotel nearby, as well. Nothing so fancy as the Willard, but far more suitable to discretion and privacy, unless of course there’s a police raid, which is still always a possibility.

“Carl…”

Bob’s voice has gone husky and his hands are gripping Carl’s forearms…and holy fuck, he’s trying to pull Carl towards him for…God knows what, and Carl is not prepared to find out on street in Washington DC, even at this late hour. Especially since the celebrations are still to be heard pouring out of bars and restaurants. There may be mourning in some quarters, but Nixon burned most of his bridges a long time ago. The Republican leadership had no desire to have Milhouse as a millstone around their necks in the midterms. He makes a mental note to follow up on the story that Goldwater himself led the delegation to the Oval Office to tell the soon-to-be-former President it was time to go. Then he returns to the matter at hand.

“Look, Bob, don’t freak out. I didn’t mean anything by it. Just guys, you know. We’re a team. Let it go man…let’s just get you home.”

“What if I don’t want to let it go?”

“Oh boy!”

This is getting crazier by the second, as the rain gets harder and his paranoia increases. He doesn’t think they’ll be recognized. He and Bob might be household names, at least in certain quarters, but their faces are mostly unknown. Even Bob’s movie-star caliber good looks will only be noted in terms of his personal attractiveness.

Car horns are honking and music is pouring out of open windows and through the haze of droplets and alcohol, Carl is looking at Bob’s increasing dishevelment and feeling his self-control melting into the generally frenzied atmosphere. He guesses they’re about three blocks away from the Hues Hotel on 16th St, and he knows the night manager there. He also knows it likely to be quite the party there as well. It’s Friday night and it’s this particular Friday night. Shelter from the storm, he tells himself. That’s all.

Bob has become more docile and lets Carl lead him. Carl wonders if Bob is playing up his state of inebriation in order to accidentally brush against Carl as they move through the revelry. Carl wonders if this is their generation’s VE day, and if he’ll end up remembering this night as a political victory or something else.

When they arrive at the hotel, Jesse at the front desk manages to simultaneously give Carl a room key, while giving Bob a very thorough look-over. Carl tries not to let feelings of possessiveness overwhelm him. He hasn’t earned that, not by a long shot. Bob appears indifferent to the whole thing. Either he’s too drunk to notice or too used to being admired by men and women alike.

Carl waits for a comment about the venue or the fact that he is so readily familiar with this kind of hotel in this part of town. He and Bob have never discussed such things, beyond Bob’s concerns about his relationship with Frances and an occasional allusion to the fact that Carl’s marriage broke up because he couldn’t keep it in his pants. The assumption has always been that they were two happy, healthy, normal, most emphatically heterosexual men, who just happened to have lucked into the story of the decade and spent the better part of two years living in each other’s pockets.

One question remains; being the better interviewer, even in his cups, Bob asks it first.

“Now what?”

“Now we get you dried off, so you’re not sneezing in Larry Spivak’s face on Sunday morning.”

Carl makes good on his promise by marching into the bathroom and grabbing a bunch of towels. He catches his own reflection in the mirror and tries not to ask himself what Bob Wooward would see in him anyway. He’s not a troll, and since his divorce, has been on Washingtonian Magazines list of DC’s most eligible bachelors two years in a row. He’s just not Bob. And oh, yeah, he’s a guy. There’s still a possibility that Bob’s weird outburst is actually about their professional partnership, and this night is going to end up with war stories and one of them sleeping on the couch.

He finds Bob on the bed, jacket off, shirt undone just enough to reveal a light dusting of sandy colored chest hair and a small cross that seems to have been placed there just to fuel some of his most secret fantasies. He should really throw Bob the towel, instead of sitting on the bed himself, getting in close enough proximity to keep up the “drying off” story, if that’s what’s really going on.

Bob may be drunk, tired and wet, but he’s also strong enough to pull Carl on top of him and into a fierce embrace, faces close enough to smell the alcohol on Woodward’s and feel the heat of him through two layers of wet clothing. At the very least, he no longer needs to worry about the possibility that he’s taking advantage of an unwilling partner. He’s tried to be a gentleman with his lady friends, and never touched a woman, who wasn’t absolutely in control of her faculties at the time, but the rules on this side of town are different and usually one or both participants have downed enough booze to use “plausible deniability” in a way the CREEP crowd had never imagined.

Carl is getting lost in the kiss, in the idea that Bob Woodward, of his own free will is lying on top of him, his fingers tugging at Carl’s hair. The memory of Bradlee snarling at him to get a haircut flits through his mind, along with gratitude that he withstood the mighty roar and kept his shaggy locks, so that he could have this moment. Then his mind goes back to the moment only to be distracted again with curiosity about how much experience Bob has with this kind of thing and what expectations he might have. Is he a total neophyte on a lucky streak or has he once again managed to one-up Carl, but leading the same kind of secret life, even more convincingly?

By the time he’s back in the moment, his lips feel bruised and if he’s relieved for the opportunity to get his breath back, he’s then stunned to realize that Bob is removing his own Chinos and simultaneously positioning Carl and himself to take things to the next level.

He’s never imagined…well, in his darker, lonelier moments….but honestly never like this.

Carl licks his lips and swallows, excitement and trepidation making his heart pound, still not sure this is happening or that it should be. Maybe he should give Bob one last chance to turn back.

“Bob…are you sure?”

“You said you loved me.”

He can’t help smiling, perhaps with a bit of chagrin. He might be a gentleman, but he’s also been a manipulative bastard from time to time, using virtually the same words toward the same end. He does love Bob, maybe as much as he’s capable of loving anyone, and he still feels an intense sense of competition, a need to impress. If Bob wants a blowjob, Carl is determined to provide one that makes Bob forget that Frances even has a mouth.

On the other hand there’s exhaustion and alcohol and anxiety, all of which could lead to a performance problem, none of which seems to be affecting Bob whatsoever. Carl is facing Bob’s long, hard, uncut cock, and once again, he can’t help wondering if he’s going to wake-up from an extremely protracted wet dream to find out that none of it was real.

It doesn’t matter, because real or fantasy, he’s still going to give it his all. His mouth makes contact and that first jolt of reality, of the smooth rod of flesh parting his lips, nearly has him just as hard. He closes his, loses himself in the scent and takes it deeper, reaching around to knead Bob’s buttocks at the same time, not daring to let his fingers move too close to Bob’s ass. No need to raise that issue. Right now it’s about his mouth and Bob’s cock, moving together, like a ship on the ocean, getting in a rhythm, the same way they used to shoot ideas back and forth when crafting a story.

He can do this. He is doing this. Sucking hard, hearing Bob’s ragged responses, flicking at the head until Bob’s voice is pleading at a near whimper, and then starting the cycle again. Carl is sweating, feeling Bob harden even further against his tongue and wondering how long this can go on, because he honestly never wants it to end.

Carl knows instantly when Bob is going to come and what he has to do to prepare. He even anticipates just how far Bob will thrust into his mouth, almost in tribute to the namesake of their most notorious source.

Yes! It’s going to happen. Carl Bernstein is going to make Bob Woodward come in his mouth. Bob is gasping, panting, and thrusting.

“Yes, yes, yes! Oh my god! So good. Carl. Please. NOW!”

And it does happen. And he does take it all.

There are silent tears of joy and satisfaction leaking from the corners of his eyes. He waits until Bob is utterly still and spent, before letting him go. Bob practically melts into the bed as he rolls onto one side.

The towels come in very handy to take care of the come and sweat that need to be dried off. Carl isn’t sure if actually came, or just drifted into a state of bliss beyond the need for orgasm. Either way, he feels utterly fulfilled and at peace, especially as he hears the welcome sound of Bob’s soft, regular breathing, perhaps truly sleeping, or maybe just relaxing. I did that, he thinks, smugly, as he delivers a delicate kiss to Bob’s warm shoulder before turning over to his own preferred sleeping side.

He still has no idea what will happen in the morning. There’s every possibility that the sober light of day will make this all vanish and the smaller chance that this will be a regular thing, in which case, Mr. Woodward has a lot to learn about discretion and self-preservation, lessons Carl will be happy to teach him.

At least he knows one thing: Woodward and Bernstein will always be a team, no matter what.