This multipart, fictional story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation. Any fictional characters' resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. If you are offended by graphic descriptions of homosexual sex, what the hell are you doing here? Bye, bye.
A very special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing. Finally, a shout-out to Emoe for the final tweaks to get the story 'just right.'
If you have any comments or suggestions for the author, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support Nifty!
Chapter 18, Two Steps Forward - One Step Back
"I guess this goes under the category of good news - bad news." Jerry had asked Dex to join him for a Friday afternoon review of the Stone situation. "While your report concerning the successful relocation to Atlanta of the boy and his mother is positive, the initial intervention with Congressman Stone was a bust. He absolutely denied having any involvement with a boy...ever...and told our man to 'fuck off' before storming out."
"It seems like Stone is wrapped up in a combination of denial and deceit. I'm glad that the Brown family is out of his reach."
"Nobody will ever be able to follow their trail. That should piss off the good congressman when he has his flunkies try to find them."
"I added the additional evidence to the files and sent copies of everything to Phil by messenger late this morning...as you requested." The Chicago AOI team had obtained copies of the boy's medical records from the private convalescence home. Jon Brooks had told Dex that it was best not to discuss how the files had been obtained. "So, um, what's next?"
"Looks like Mandy Burns and Phil Tortello are next up in the batting circle. I asked Phil to bring her up to speed after our man briefed her. Phil called a little while ago and said that Mandy was very upset and, to use her exact words, 'would chop off his balls in a nano-second if Stone tries to play her for a fool.'
"Kyle said she could be feisty if pushed into a corner."
"The only person that will be in a corner will be Stone by the time this is over. Mandy's setting up a meeting with him for tomorrow morning at ten and will use her persuasive powers to convince him that resignation from Congress is not a choice. They'll both be in town this weekend."
"Stone knows what the subject will be?" Dex asked.
"Not directly...but I'm sure he can guess. However, when the minority leader beckons, you respond. I want you to be available with your lawyer's hat on. When 'push comes to shove' - and it will - you should be available to join the meeting, representing AOI, and verify all the facts. Kyle was officially brought into the loop and is aware of Phil's involvement. In fact, Kyle will accompany you to the minority leader's office suite before the meeting. The plan is for Mandy to meet with Stone and have Phil in her office as a witness. You'll be in a holding pattern nearby and called in if Stone is insistent on continuing his denial."
"Looks like I've got my evening planned for me. I really want to be prepared with a presentation that will be convincing...that we mean business."
"Plus filling in the rest of the pieces with Kyle. I'm sure that there is probably a message from him when you get back to your desk. Oh, yes...if Congresswoman Burns needs you to help tidy up things, you should plan on helping her out. It could be here in Washington or elsewhere. She may need assistance in Chicago and I'm assigning you to her for as long as it takes. Ah, we're finished unless you have something more to add?"
"Naw, I'm fine. I...oh, by the way, I did want to mention that Kyle and I have decided to accept Geoff Timmons' generous offer to use that apartment over on Q Street. Having a new place and our growing, um, relationship is perfect timing."
"Now that's great news. This will make the Timmons family very happy."
"I better also call Phil to coordinate the meeting. This will be a big weekend."
"And I'm sure a successful one. Good luck, Dex"
Phil was pacing back and forth in his office in an open shirt and sport jacket ensemble he had put on for the Saturday meeting. Before him was a more casually dressed Kyle while Dex was in a dark blue blazer and tie. He thought the guys made great looking couple and was proud that they had all become close friends. 'We should all get out for dinner after this mess is concluded,' Phil decided.
"I'd better get out front and greet the congressman when he arrives." Phil glanced at his desk clock and noticed it was 9:45 a.m. "After we are in the office, I'd appreciate you being posted outside with your files," he said to Dex. "If you're needed, timing may be important to get you in the office ASAP."
'You need any extra copies? I've got more with me." Dex pointed to his briefcase and furrowed his brow.
"Thanks, but Mandy and I thoroughly reviewed all the evidence and documents that you sent over yesterday. We have those for reference."
"You want me to stay in here?" Kyle asked.
"No, after Stone gets here, you can wait with Dex at one of the desks. I don't want him to be distracted by seeing you guys when he arrives." Phil looked at his two friends who nodded affirmatively. "Well, here goes."
Phil exited his office, went to the reception area and swung open the main door. He stationed himself by sitting on the edge of the receptionist's desk and scanned the Post's Saturday morning front page. As he turned to the Style section, Phil heard footsteps echoing in the hallway: leather shoe soles clicking on the granite floor. He carefully folded the paper back into a manageable form and stood as Congressman Augustus Stone came into his sightline.
"Good morning, Congressman." Phil scanned the agitated expression on Stone's face and noted the puffy, red eyes. 'Probably had an intense relationship with Jim Beam or Johnny Walker last night,' he thought.
"Harrumph," Stone growled as he walked by without acknowledgement.
"She's expecting you," Phil replied just a little too upbeat as he followed the natty congressman through the empty outer office area to Mandy's corner suite.
"Gus, please come in and sit down. There's coffee on the side table if you wish." Mandy remained seated and offered no smile or hand.
"No, um, I think that I know what the subject of this meeting will be. If this is about the absurdity of this boy back in Chicago, we might as well end this charade right now." Stone stared at her and clinched his teeth.
"Sit down and listen to me, Sir," Mandy said with an authoritative edge.
Phil pulled back an armchair and motioned for Stone to be seated. He knew the man was wound very tightly and decided that he would take a chair near Mandy in case there were any sudden physical movements on the part of the agitated visitor.
"Mandy, I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Barney a couple of days ago...what has been suggested is sheer bullshit. I didn't have anything to do with touching that kid. I will also say 'fuck you' and end this meeting. As you know, I get along just fine in my district and don't need you or anyone else to tell me how to manage my affairs." Stone grabbed the arms of his chair and gripped them tightly.
"Let's get one thing straight: you walk out of here and I call a press conference with all the major papers and cable networks. The next thing you know, in addition to being the lead story in tomorrow's papers, is that you'll be served with an arrest warrant.
"You're bluffing, you miserable bitch," Stone bellowed back. I don't have..."
"Shut up and contemplate what I'm saying. Phil, ask Mr. Tate to come in."
Phil nodded and moved to the door rapidly. He looked out and said in a loud voice, "Congressman Burns is expecting you."
"Yes, Sir," Dex replied. He stood, straightened his tie, grabbed the heavy briefcase and followed Phil into the inner sanctum.
"Congressman Stone, this is an associate with AOI. His firm, with which I'm sure you're familiar, has done all the investigative work. I think the term is 'water-tight' with regard the evidence concerning your crime."
"Crime? Fuck, the boy isn't even in school or in Chicago," Stone shot back with rage.
"Sir, you're referring to the boy who was the alleged victim?" Dex asked.
"Congressman, how do you know the boy has vanished? The boy's name has never been disclosed to you." Dex continued to stand and used a corner of Mandy's desk to set his briefcase. He slowly opened the case and pulled out several files. "Here's what I know." Dex proceeded to lay out in a legal manner all the evidence. He carefully omitted any witness names when reviewing testimony.
Phil had never seen Dex in a professional way. This was a good friend and partner of Kyle's who could boogie down with the best of them in full party-mode. This was a good friend who was his charming, effusive self at dinner. This was a good friend who had survived a serious, life-threatening situation this past summer. And now...this was a good friend and Alpha brother who was expertly cutting to shreds any remaining conceit and false bravado of the cowering person sitting in front of them. He looked at Mandy and silently nodded. Mandy smiled slightly and nodded back.
"And so, Congressman Stone, I believe the decision is yours to make. My advice is, if the offer to resign is still on the table, quietly take it and go. The evidence has been thoroughly reviewed by our senior legal department and AOI stands behind the documents. By the way, the boy is safe in another state." Dex paused for a moment before continuing, "If you do resign and avoid any trial, there is still one more thing to discuss."
"Um, ah...and that is..." Stone said with a small voice.
"Billy will need funds to continue his education through college. You will be expected to deposit enough money into a special account so that his needs for education, clothing and books will be covered for the next several years. In addition, the boy needs counseling to deal with the psychological damage you inflicted."
"We're looking at a minimum $300,000, deposited Monday in a special account at the Northern Trust. The account number is on the agreement."
"We can, Sir." Dex loudly enunciated the last word. "From what we can gather, 300 grand is 'chump change' for you. But we are prepared to back up Congressman Burns' allegations at her press conference later this afternoon...if that's the route you choose."
"You seem very confident, Mr. Tate." Stone tried to muster one final offense but couldn't create any energy in his voice and body language. He slumped back in his seat and sighed.
"Here are the documents that you need to sign concerning your agreement to these conditions in contributing to the fund for the boy. If you renege, on Monday by noontime, Washington time, the F.B.I. will be involved. I also assume that Ms. Burns' plan to inform the press is not an empty promise."
"Gus, my advice is to sign the document and plan on submitting your resignation today. You can put whatever spin you want on it but I want you to announce this no later than 3:00 p.m. I expect to read about this in tomorrow's Sunday Trib." Mandy leaned forward and clasped her hands.
"Alright, alright. I'll sign the fucking agreement." Stone grabbed a pen from the desk and rapidly scribbled his signature at the bottom on each of the three copies. Mandy and Phil both signed as witnesses.
"I will be calling the mayor to discuss your sudden resignation and review potential candidates to run for your vacated seat. One final word of advice. I wouldn't get too cozy with your alderman and police gofers because I plan on letting the mayor know about the few rotten apples involved in this disgrace. However, everything will be very quiet and they will all go down. Probably a good time for you to enjoy that beautiful home I understand you have in Puerto Vallarta."
"Are we through? I...I've got some things to do." Stone slowly rose from his chair and took a copy of the agreement.
"We'll issue a statement around 4:00 p.m. that will be polite and very vague," Mandy said while remaining in her seat. "You have the funds transferred into the account by noon on Monday."
Stone glared at the three people in the office, turned about and walked out of the office with his head down.
"That was very difficult. But it was made easier by your skillful assistance, Mr. Tate." Mandy stood, turned on the Burns winning smile and extended her hand.
"Knowing what that man did to the young boy was motivation enough." Dex walked over to the desk and took Mandy's hand and added, "But, in the final analysis, I was just doing my job."
"And a job well done." Phil walked over and patted Dex on his back. "I suppose that there's no harm in adding that Dex Tate shares a special place with certain people in this office. We are friends and..."
Just then Kyle walked in and said, "That was one upset, defeated man who just left." Kyle grinned broadly. "Can I assume that the mission was accomplished?"
"Mission definitely accomplished. But I am curious about Dex's connection with my office. Phil eluded to something in that order just as you came in, Kyle."
"Well, um...Dex is...ah, my boyfriend and partner." A reddening complexion slowly flushed Kyle's smiling face. "The most important person in my life."
"Dex, I guess that 'welcome to the family' is definitely in order. Come over here and give me a big hug." Mandy opened her arms and Dex walked around the desk for the 'official' embrace. "Thank you for the very thorough investigation and presentation. After the elections, we will definitely have to enjoy a dinner together...on me."
"We would like that very much." Dex walked over to his partner and firmly grabbed Kyle's hand.
"But first we still have some work to do on this situation. Would you be available to meet with the mayor in Chicago on Monday? I need you to give me a thorough review of the investigation you supervised."
"Mr. Sebastian made it very clear that I was to be in your service, M'am. It means that I'll probably need to travel tomorrow."
"Kyle, would you make arrangements for Dex. Book two seats - first class - to Chicago tomorrow and a room at the Four Seasons. I've got discretionary funds to handle that."
"Two seats? Kyle asked with a questioning frown.
"In case he needs press liaison, I think that you should accompany him. Don't you agree, Phil?"
"It's a very wise decision. And I'd like for Dex and Kyle to meet a couple of friends of mine...if they have time."
"Oh, I think that they should plan on returning sometime Tuesday or Wednesday. That'll give them a chance to meet with the mayor, give him a thorough rundown and see a little of Chicago."
"Congresswoman Burns, I think I'm going to enjoy wrapping up the operation at this end," Dex said with a smile. "I've gotten pretty used to packing on short notice."
"Very well, then." Mandy returned to her desk and picked up the phone. After consulting with her Blackberry, she dialed a number on her desk phone. "Ah, good morning. This is Mandy Burns. May I speak with the mayor?"
While Dex and Kyle waited at Reagan National to board the American Airlines shuttle for Chicago, they read the Sunday papers. The Trib and Sun-Times treated the sudden resignation of Congressman Augustus Stone as the lead story while others used it as front-page 'top of the fold' news.
"It's not surprising that neither Chicago paper was very disappointed that Stone was resigning. He was one of those political embarrassments who just kept getting elected. I guess the bottom line is that he brought home the 'bacon' for his district and the constituents turned their head at his excesses," Dex said.
"The asshole should feel fortunate that he's not being frog-walked by the F.B.I. in front of TV cameras. I loved the hypocrisy of his statement saying that he wanted time to spend with his family. Ha...I'm sure enjoying a few boys for hire in Puerto Vallarta is more like it. From what I understand, his wife lives in Chicago and makes herself available for public outings." Kyle just shook his head.
"The charade of the wife is just for the consumption of the local evangelical churches. And then he had the gall to vote against gay issues. What a crock of bullshit."
"From what I keep hearing, there are other congressmen and a senator who live double lives while they're voting against any legislation that is supportive of the gay community."
"It'll catch up with them someday. There's a guy with a blog who loves to 'out' guys like this. He's even after gay staffers who work for right wing congressmen."
"I just would have liked to see Stone prosecuted for raping that kid," Kyle said with just a little irritation in his voice.
"We'd all like to see him fried. But a trial would've meant our witnesses - Billy Brown and Dr. Bennett, among them - being dragged into an unwanted spotlight. It would have been too long and messy. By the way, I'll probably be spending most of the morning and lunch with the mayor, tomorrow. What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to get together with a couple of buddies from college for lunch somewhere in the Loop. Between meeting Phil's contacts and sightseeing, you and I will have plenty of time afterwards. I've also got a few press liaison things to do over the next couple of days so we're 'stuck' in Chicago until Wednesday."
"Being 'stuck' is hardly the case. I've already given AOI my schedule and the boss is fine with it. We've got to make room for the architectural cruise up the Chicago River. And I definitely want to check out the Frank Lloyd Wright studio and home in Oak Park. Is that okay?"
"They're both a must and the weather is supposed to be very warm this week. Funny...what we called 'Indian summer' as a boy we now refer to as global warming," Kyle said with a laugh. "Seriously, if Mandy does become Speaker of the House after the elections, maybe we can get the Kyoto Initiatives back on the table."
"From what I hear, it appears that a sea change in Congress is coming up with you guys taking the driver's seat. Your life is going to be very busy if this comes about."
"Our polls show that the likely voters are really pissed about the Iraq war...and the corruption issue is something that's not going away. Mandy's cautiously positive that this could translate into a victory for us. But it's only the last week of September and they always talk about an 'October surprise.' I'm sure the GOP has got something up their sleeves."
"The surprise can work both ways, buddy. I mean, um, I told you about a blog concerning this guy Foley from Florida and these strange emails that he sent to an ex-congressional page. What I read just bordered on being inappropriate for an adult - especially a congressman - to be saying to someone underage."
"I guess it goes under the category of 'stay tuned.' When we get back home, I'll mention this blog to Phil and Mandy. Even though Foley is a Republican, Mandy wouldn't mind cleaning someone's clock if behavior like this has gone unchecked."
"She's going to be a big influence in Congress for a long time. I just wish I could vote for her."
"Babe, I've got a few vacant lots with addresses if you want to register and vote in Chicago." Kyle winked and squeezed Dex's arm."
"Naw, she doesn't need any help from me. Plus I need to add my vote to the new guy running for mayor in the District."
"Oh, by the way, Phil mentioned something unusual to me when I spoke with him this morning. He wants me to have lunch with Mac and him next Friday. There's a guy from the Vice President's office - um, a Toby something or other - that'll join us."
"Ah, yes...that would be Toby McGill. He heads up the legal staff." Dex looked at Kyle and shrugged in a non-committal manner.
Wonder what that's all about?"
"Sounds like Phil has something planned. Maybe it's just some bridge building with the administration? My advice is to go with the flow."
"I guess you're right. If Mandy does become Speaker, having contacts with the other side could be useful."
"Very useful," Dex replied with a passive tone in his voice. He looked up when the gate agent announced that they were ready to board first class passengers and those needing special assistance. "Babe, looks like our Chicago adventure is ready to get underway."
As promised, Phil arranged for Dex and Kyle to meet his friends, Jerry Franklin and Bill Saunders. In turn, they arranged for a casual dinner on Monday night that included Dr. Russ Bennett and Trev Winston. The 'six degrees of separation' had definitely provided new pals in the Windy City.
Dex had an instructive and productive meeting and a working lunch with the Mayor at City Hall. Afterwards, he sat in the Mayor's office and listened with awe as the wily politician barked orders to underlings on the telephone. By the time he left the office to join Kyle, heads had rolled and patronage had been snatched away. It was definitely a case of pigs flying or a cold day in hell for one certain alderman's pet projects and protected crony city jobs. In the police department, sudden demotions and retirements were quietly executed. As far as a casual observer could see, it was only 'business as usual' in Chicago.
Tuesday night they decided to have a simple dinner in their small suite at the Four Seasons. One of Kyle's fraternity brothers was now a manager at the hotel and had been able to upgrade their reservations at no extra charge. Dessert was consumed in a large Jacuzzi. While the warm water quietly pulsated a pleasurable rhythm, the two men lay together - Dex with his back against the chest of his partner - with glasses of French bubbly in their hands. A plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries and macaroons sat on the ledge.
"Hon, I guess this is as close to a honeymoon as we're going to have," Kyle said in a whisper into Dex's ear. His free hand casually stroked Dex's stomach.
"Yeah, our own mini-bridal suite." Dex snickered and moved closer into Kyle's chest. "That was really nice of your friend. I enjoyed meeting him for cocktails when we got back from Oak Park."
"The next time we get back here, we'll meet more of my old friends and get to know the new guys better."
"Although I think that any travels to Chicago should wait until springtime."
"Brrrr, I know what you mean," Kyle replied. "Plus we've got a big project coming up with the move. I'm really anxious to get settled in the new place."
"I'm planning on giving my 30-day notice when we return. I figure that we can use the entire month of October schlepping stuff from our apartments. I can borrow an AOI panel van for the big stuff."
"It's great that we don't have to rush. This election is going to keep me busy and you'll probably have a new project very soon."
"Babe, this is going to last for a long time. There's no reason to rush." Dex set down his champagne flute and gently took Kyle's away from his hand. He rotated around so that he could kiss his partner while exploring the lower regions of a vulnerable, willing body.
"Especially what you're doing down there," Kyle said. He placed his hand on the back of Dex's head and pulled him closer. "But why don't we dry off and continue our 'discussion' in the bedroom?"
"Um, I think that I'm looking forward to this discussion." Dex slowly rose and helped Kyle stand up. Once steady, he took the two champagne flutes and offered one to Kyle. "Here's a toast to our future. Let's face the challenges and rewards of a relationship together."
"Here's to the next chapter of our lives." Kyle lifted his glass and lightly touched Dex's glass.
"I'll drink to that."
Two months later...
Dex and Kyle were putting the final touches for Thanksgiving dinner at their new apartment on Q Street. They had completed the move earlier in the month and decided this was an ideal time to invite Phil and Mac: a combination housewarming gathering and holiday feast.
By the time the computers, books, museum poster art, photographs and other personal possessions were in place, the Q Street dwelling had become the semblance of a home. However, Geoff Timmons' gift of a certificate to purchase original art at the District Fine Arts gallery allowed the residence to become 'their' home. Dex and Kyle carefully selected a variety of pieces, representing emerging artists using oil, watercolor and mixed media, to hang on the mostly-bare first floor walls.
"Great smells in here, babe," Dex said as he walked into the kitchen from the living room. It was 4:00 p.m.; Phil and Mac were expected in an hour. He had been stocking the wet bar and getting the fireplace ready.
"I'm just following all the instructions from Whole Foods." Kyle had convinced Dex that they should take a foolproof route and order dinner from the nearby specialty food store's catering department. "Everything is ready to be re-heated while the turkey finishes roasting around five. I figure that we'll have a cocktail and sit down around 5:30 p.m. You're goin' to carve...right?"
"Yep. The Tate legacy of butchering the bird has been passed on from father to son. Sharp knives, hopefully no finger cuts and definitely no jokes about 'how you like your meat'." Dex smiled and kissed Kyle on the neck.
"I'll save that for later."
"I'm glad we made an emergency run over to Crate and Barrel for some larger serving platters and dishes," Dex added. They had previously made a serious dent into their household budget by adding to and upgrading the existing basic china, glassware and flatware inventory.
"We've definitely gone beyond pizza and nuked dinners for one. Maybe we can plan on an official housewarming party after the first of the year and invite all of our friends?" Kyle removed the foil from the turkey and closed the oven door.
"Probably should make a date soon. With Mandy now the Speaker of the House, we've got to get our bid in early." Dex smiled and thought about Kyle's excitement when the Democrats creamed the GOP at the polls three weeks earlier. He was even prouder when Kyle was officially appointed to the position of press secretary. Phil was now the Director of Communications.
"I'd say after the State of the Union address. Gotta make sure everyone's going to be in town." Kyle put the sausage, apple and raisin stuffing in the warming oven, along with the creamed spinach and the maple sweet potatoes. "These will be ready when we sit down."
When the doorbell rang an hour later, Dex and Kyle were relaxing in the living room with a glass of chardonnay, lazily watching the crackling fire in the fireplace. They both went to the entry and opened the door.
"Welcome to our home," Dex said when Phil and Mac walked inside. The two couples exchanged hugs and light kisses. "Let me take your coats." It was typical late fall weather and there was a moist chill in the air.
"Whoa, this place is terrific," Phil said when he walked further into the apartment. "I guess I don't have to tell you that you really found a fantastic home."
"We're getting a consideration on the rent for managing the other apartment units." Kyle hung the coats in the entry closet and continued, "Come on in and order your poison. The bar is pretty well stocked."
"I'll make drinks and give you a tour, if you'd like," Dex added. He observed that Kyle's casual, throwaway line about the rent consideration seemed to satisfy their guests.
"A tour...definitely...and a glass of white wine. This is a great neighborhood and not too far from my place. Phil and I hope to find something in this area."
"If the two of us can find time. We've pretty much decided to wait until late winter before we start looking." Phil walked into the living room and smiled when he saw the glowing fireplace. "Since we're doing the bird thing, I'll have white wine for the evening."
"Speaking of birds...go ahead without me. I've got a few finishing things to do for dinner. Check the joint out and I'll see you guys in the living room."
Dex poured two glasses of wine for their guests and topped off Kyle's and his glasses. Kyle took his wine and went back to the kitchen while the others walked upstairs to the second floor spaces.
"Okay, who'd you have to blow to get a bathroom like that?" Mac asked when they all had regrouped after the tour. Mac was sitting with Phil on the couch while Dex occupied a large, overstuffed chair.
"Guess the owner just has good taste in that area," Kyle said with a laugh as he entered the living room. "You two must stay over some night just to experience the shower." He sat down on the arm of Dex's chair and placed his hand on his partner's shoulder.
"The four of us in the shower? Rather hedonistic, don't you think?" Phil replied. "Or am I just being prudish?"
"In your dreams, Mr. Tortello. I've got my hands full with your associate." Dex reached up and squeezed Kyle's thigh. "And word on the street is that you've got your hands all over a certain White House lawyer."
"Who'll be definitely out of a job in a couple of years. By that time, maybe Phil will be working at 1600. Mandy's profile is pretty high." Mac looked at his hosts, raised his glass and took a sip.
"Between Hillary, Barack Obama and Mandy...that's pretty heavy-duty artillery," Dex said. "Unless, of course, the Dems don't end up cannibalizing each other and eating their first born."
"We've hopefully learned our lesson about broadening the tent and being more middle-of-the-road." Phil placed his arm around Mac and continued, "There's a little thing called Iraq that has to be dealt with...first. The neocons pushed Dubya into the war and we've got to figure out how to get the hell outta there. Except for Mandy and a few others, most of our leaders are too busy sticking their finger into the wind to get a read on public reaction."
"Seems that everyone's looking to the Baker-Hamilton committee for all the answers. Just more C.Y.A. maneuvers from our esteemed Congress. Talk about a gutless group...on both sides," Mac said, shaking his head.
And '43' is primarily concerned about salvaging some sort of legacy." Phil held Mac tighter. "It's going to be a tough couple of years."
"Wouldn't be surprised if he tries to blame the whole mess on Cheney." Kyle stood and walked across the room before continuing, "I'm going to retrieve the turkey and all the trimmings. Give me five minutes and come into the dining room."
"Five minutes, it is. We don't want to piss off the chef." Dex looked at Kyle fondly and quietly said, "Thanks, babe. I'll light the candles just before we sit down."
Banter continued about the events leading up to the election results with neither Phil gloating nor Mac being remorseful. The consensus was that the Republicans completely turned off the 'swing' independents and right wing party faithful by the disgraceful performance of the past four years.
"Iraq aside, Katrina was a wake-up call that all was not right," Phil said. "Add that to the corrupting influence of the lobbyists and the Foley fiasco...voila, the voters revolt."
"Then, as a sideshow, we get the sanctimonious Reverend Ted and his troubles with the male hooker spread over the news the weekend before the election." Dex shrugged and shook his head. "And the prostitute wasn't even cute."
"The shame is that the lobbyists on K Street are still in business; they're just changing parties," Mac added.
"Bill Clinton said the other night that we - the Democrats - were not given a mandate; we were given a chance. The question is: do we compromise with the president to achieve something? Or lay out an agenda to run on in the 2008 campaign?" Phil looked at Mac and shrugged.
"I suspect it will be a little of both. The bigger question is whether my boss will really compromise? The Vice President still has Dubya's ear." Mac winked and took a sip of his wine.
Out of the corner of his eye Dex saw Kyle bring out the turkey and nod. "Guys, the man with the bird has given me the high sign...and it's not 'the bird'." He stood up and gestured for Phil and Mac to proceed to the dining room. While the guests found their seats, Dex lit the votive candles and dimmed the overhead lighting.
Dex looked around and smiled at the table laden with traditional, delectable Thanksgiving fare, surrounded by his closest brothers. It was only fitting that Kyle and he had their two best friends as the first to cross the threshold of their home. 'This is an evening that has moved our friendship to a new level,' he thought. What started as a casual - planned and unplanned - meeting at a local bar last spring had grown into a lasting bond that would probably stand the test of time...regardless of politics du jour.
He extended his arms in a silent signal that everyone should hold hands until the circle was complete. Before bowing his head to offer grace, he smiled with satisfaction as he noted the sparkle of the gold, tiger's eye stone rings on each of the men at the table.
'We've come a long way...but we've got a long way to go,' Dex thought as he closed his eyes.
THE END - finished 11/22/2006
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