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Blow Out

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AJ sipped his scotch as the baseball game droned in the background. Esther was in New York and Andy was at Camp David, and for once he didn't have to be at work beating the fires back to a smolder. They never went out entirely, but occasionally he was granted a reprieve. He was spending this one at home, drinking a little too much and spending too much time with his thoughts.

What made it so hard was that he actually liked her. He had liked Mary too when Andy had first introduced them. Andy might have the political instincts of a fruit fly sometimes (normally around things that he felt were no one else's business, or were pointlessly insulting, or were just too damned trivial for his ideals), but he had excellent taste in women. Or women had excellent taste in Andy. Either way, Andy was a lucky man. He liked the second one because it gave him some credit too, not that his own taste was ever in doubt.

But he had gotten used to having Andy to himself and jealousy wasn't becoming in a man of his age, so he had resolved to be happy for Andy and happy for Sydney and happy for Lucy, too (it was old fashioned but he thought a girl needed woman around). So if that meant that next time he wanted to push Andy up against the pool table, he had to restrain himself, then so be it. And if it meant that the next time that Andy invited him up to dinner when Sydney was out of town, he had to decline, then that was okay too. He could do that. He could be the better man. Right now, Andy was running for reelection and then Andy would be getting married (again) and somewhere in there, they would go back to being the friends that they had been since college, drinking beer and betting on basketball and ignoring everything that had come after.

He stared morosely into his glass, watching the ice melt. He could see the water swirling and mixing with the scotch. It was hypnotic and several long minutes passed before he managed to look back up at the score, five to nothing, and take another sip.

He pushed himself out of his chair, the one that would be perfectly molded to his back if only had had more time to spend in it, and walked to the window, rubbing the middle of his spine. If this chair wasn't perfect, it was because the one at his desk in the White House was, and if this view wasn't the one his eyes sought, it was because they, too, were used to a different one, a more perfectly manicured lawn, a better tended garden, a brighter shade of paint.

It was easier to be virtuous there, surrounded by the better angels of a glorified past. It was easier to push aside the physical, to convince himself that he and Andy had really never been more than good friends, united by shared ideals and a single cause. Grandness and importance had a way of creating distance, even as it brought them closer in other ways and when they had to choose between having a quiet moment and saving the world, the world always won.

But if it was easier to be virtuous, it was also equally easy to be wicked, and the storied history that surrounded him held those temptations too. It was easy to get so disconnected that suddenly people didn't matter any more and only winning was important. Winning at any cost, and making deals with the devil to get there. He was careful to guard against those sorts of excesses, both in himself and in Andy (he thought it must be worse for Andy, yet somehow it seemed to affect him less), careful to remind both of them that sometimes how you won was more important than actually winning and careful to heed Andy when he tried to return the favor.

In his living room, staring out at the grill on his back porch, it all seemed vaguely ridiculous and vaguely unreal. Ultimate good and ultimate evil were a long ways away, and the regular kind was much more apparent, much more tangible.

Sydney was good for Andy and Andy was good for Sydney and occasionally having sex with your chief of staff was a good way to ensure that you never got elected to anything ever again, whether you were running for President of the school board or for President of the United States. Having gay, adulterous sex with your chief of staff... well, there was no telling what might happen if that came out. They'd end up in the character debate to end all character debates and there wouldn't be a road high enough to get them out of the mud. Even if they somehow won, they would never accomplish anything else ever again.

With enough scotch and baseball and barbecues he might eventually forget that accomplishing things mattered, that he actually did have the opportunity to change the world and that wasn't something he could forfeit for what would surely be a temporary happiness. He was glad that he wouldn't get that chance, because that happiness would surely be followed by a level of resentment that he simply couldn't fathom. He was grateful that Congressional recesses only lasted for a month and that slow news cycles were even shorter. It was Saturday afternoon and he would be back to his angels and demons by Monday morning.

He looked to the phone, thinking about calling Andy, but they had already talked that morning and there wasn't anything worth reporting. He would only be interrupting Andy's time with Sydney and Lucy, and while he could come up with some excuse, it just wasn't right. He bypassed the phone in favor of more scotch as he settled back into his chair, trying to get comfortable. There had to be a better game on. This one had turned into a blow out.