Enemy of My Enemy
Tal Bauer © 2016
All Rights Reserved
Eyes slid sideways, the staff from the East Wing of the White House all seemingly hovered in the lobby, waiting to catch a glimpse of Ethan as he entered.
Ethan pushed through, nodding and giving his best tight smile to the crowd.
“Relax,” Daniels breathed at his shoulder. “You’ve got your constipated agent face on.”
Ethan threw a glare Daniels’s way.
“These are your people now.” Daniels’s eyebrows arched high as he nodded to the mass of humanity.
His people. Jesus. The office of the first gentlemen, all his. Swallowing, Ethan tried to smile again, though he couldn’t fight the nerves clutching at the back of his throat.
Daniels stayed by his side as he escaped up the stairway to the second floor of the East Wing. On the quieter second floor, the office of the first gentleman made its home. Oil paintings of former first ladies hung on the walls, and at the end of the hallway, a large corner office overlooking the Kennedy Garden, opposite the Oval Office, sported a shiny brass doorplate, reading, “First Gentleman, Ethan Reichenbach.”
“Fuck me,” Ethan breathed. Just last Monday he’d been moody and grumpy with Jack on their nightly Skype call, bemoaning his exile in Iowa. He’d been frustrated, missing Jack and Levi and Scott and everything about DC, and Jack had offered him the impossible.
He’d dismissed it out of hand; he didn’t want to be a freeloader. The first gentleman earned no income. It was a ceremonial position only. He’d be an anchor on Jack’s neck. An albatross. They were trying to stay out of the public’s eye, not catapult into it. There had never been an unwed first gentleman before, and certainly not a gay first gentleman. The whole idea was a disaster. He’d already done too much damage to Jack’s presidency.
On Wednesday, he’d flown to DC, stood in the Oval Office, and told Jack he’d take it. He’d resign from the Secret Service and move back to DC, ending his exile. He’d move in with Jack. They’d build a life together. No looking back.
That new life started immediately. They’d danced the night away at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, and Ethan had torn up his return ticket to Iowa. Thursday he’d faxed in his resignation. Friday he and Jack took an early day, spending the weekend ensconced in the Residence as Pete released the announcement to the world.
And now, this.
It was almost too much. Ethan turned away, breathing hard as Daniels gripped his shoulder again.
“This is history, man.” Daniels smiled, warm and bright, and Ethan’s nerves screamed. “I’m so damn proud of you.”
Damn him. Damn Daniels. Ethan closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and opened them to glare hard at Daniels. “This is insane,” he grunted. “I don’t deserve this. I’m not this guy. I shouldn’t be here.”
“That’s exactly why he fell in love with you, and why you are here.” Daniels gave him a gentle shove, pushing him down the empty hallway to the office that bore his name. “Get going. Your staff is waiting inside.”
His staff. Jesus.
The heavy white door whispered over plush carpet as he entered his office. Inside, one man and four women rose together from two pale-blue silk couches facing each other before a large desk. They smiled and waited, silent.
He froze until Daniels jabbed him in his kidney. Ethan strode behind the couches to the wooden chair sitting, obviously, for him. He nodded to his staff and tried to smile. “Good morning. I’m Agent—”
Clearing his throat, Ethan quirked his eyebrows at his staff as Daniels grinned from the back of the room. “Sorry,” he said. “I’ve got to get used to dropping my old title. I’m Ethan. Ethan Reichenbach.”
The smiles from his staff were indulgent, grins and nods that told him that yes, dummy, they knew exactly who he was.
“Please, sit.” He fumbled a bit, waiting for his staff to sit and then remembered that they were waiting for him. A bobbing half stand, and then he sat, embarrassment burning his cheeks as he tried to clear his throat again and bear it.
Daniels covered his grin with the palm of his hand and looked away.
“Can you all tell me a little bit about yourselves?” Ethan nodded as he unbuttoned his suit jacket and tried to sit comfortably in the ornate—but heinous—chair.
“Mr. First Gentleman,” said an older woman with short red hair curled into wide, fluffy rolls perching around her face like a football helmet. “Let me be the first to greet you with your new title.” She smiled warmly at Ethan, her hands clasped in her lap and ankles crossed just so. Her immaculate red suit was pressed and starched, and a string of pearls hung at the hollow of her neck, just below a fold of aging skin starting to sag.
Mr. First Gentleman. Jesus. He flushed from head to foot and squirmed.
“Please, Mr. Reichenbach will do just fine.”
“Mr. First Gentleman,” she gently corrected him with an incline of her head. She would have been a socialite contemporary of Nancy Reagan and carried herself with a class that proved it. “My name is Barbara Whitley, and I am the White House social secretary. I serve at the pleasure of the office of the first gentleman.” Another warm smile and Barbara’s head tilted. “And please let me say that I am absolutely delighted to be working for you, Mr. First Gentleman.”
The gentleness radiating from Barbara calmed Ethan, just a touch. “Forgive me, Ms. Whitley. I may have protected the president, but I’m not up to speed on the full breadth of your duties.”
“I am responsible for the planning of all social events at the White House, in coordination with you, of course. From something as simple as an afternoon tea all the way to a full state dinner.”
Jesus. That was a big job. Ethan blinked. “I have to admit,” he said, shifting in his seat again, “I’m not really one for afternoon tea.”