Talkin' The Talk
Character(s): Sam, Nancy McNally
Summary: "Why isn't he ever this good at it when it counts?" #1 Random Acts of Conversation Series
There was only one person in the Mess.
"Is this seat taken?" She'd meant it teasingly but apparently, seeing Sam's face and his total lack of reaction, it was a good thing she'd asked. "I'm sorry, Sam. I didn't mean to intrude." Backing up gracefully, the National Security Advisor began to turn away.
"God! No, Nancy. Sorry, I was... I wasn't ignoring you!" Sam stammered, charmingly flustered. He closed his laptop with a satisfying snap and stood. "Please." Indicating she should take the seat he was offering.
"Are you sure...?" Nancy hesitated.
"Please. You... you have no idea how much I would enjoy your company right now," Sam assured her, pulling the chair out a little more to accommodate her.
Lowering herself into the seat, Nancy waited for Sam to return to his own. "Having a bad night?" she asked.
"Clearly," was Sam's simple reply. Looking towards the entrance to the Mess momentarily, a self-deprecating smile rose to his lips. "I was hiding, actually. Though, everyone knows I come down here, so; that's really not one of my better plans."
Sipping her coffee carefully, Nancy quickly and expertly took stock of Sam. Not exactly the Sam she was used to. The shirt was pressed, as usual. Tie only slightly loosened, even at this hour. Sleeves neatly, precisely rolled up. But there were new lines around his eyes, creases around his mouth. His skin looked paler than she'd ever remembered seeing before. Normally impressively blue eyes watered down by the subdued light. He somehow gave the impression of being world-weary and childishly vulnerable at the same time.
Swishing around the water remaining in the bottle he held, Sam offered another tired smile before speaking. "Are you done for tonight? I mean, the thing. I know you can't talk about it. I was just wondering. You know... forget it, forget it..." Sam's words drifted off, a flush of color creeping up his neck.
"Well, I'll be writing a report until next Tuesday, but yeah. It's safe to sleep in your own bed tonight. Or, wherever you sleep." The words startled them both, mild shock reaching each of them simultaneously.
"Well, shit," Nancy chuckled easily, her laugh throaty and gentle. "I'm not in the habit of inquiring about your sleeping arrangements, Sam. Though, I enjoy hearing the speculation from time to time," she finished dryly.
Groaning elaborately, the blush now fully realized on his cheeks. "Oh god... Who do they have me with now? I swear, there's... there's nobody left except - " Sam's eyes went wide. "You know what. There are a few people left, and to tell you the truth, I don't think I could handle...."
They were both laughing now.
When the sound of their laughter had dwindled to a few sighs and snuffles, Sam looked at Nancy with a twinkle in his eye that had previously been absent.
"Have they ever.... I was just curious. ...Never mind."
"You and Leo?" Nancy proposed with barely concealed humor.
"Jesus, Nancy! I thought we weren't going there!" Shaking his head, chiding her. "No. I just... If anyone ever thought I'd have a chance with, um, you know a real woman." Sam tilted his head back and took a healthy swig of water. Lowering the bottle, he licked at his lips with a slow slide of his tongue.
That was on purpose, Nancy realized suddenly. Taking only a moment to assess the vibe coming across the table, she carefully swirled a finger through the dark liquid in her mug.
Rising from the table to freshen her coffee, Nancy spoke over her shoulder. "I'm assuming a man like you wouldn't really consider a child like Donna a 'real woman,' am I right?" she suggested.
Sam watched her intently before answering. "Donna is not my... let's just say... her age has nothing to do with the fact that I'm not attracted to her. N- Not... that she isn't attractive." Stuttering slightly.
"So you have no problem with disparate ages?" Nancy wanted to know. Returning to the table, she pursed her lips and blew lightly on her steaming beverage. "Either way," she added.
Squinting across the table, a clear smile playing at his lips, Sam cocked his head. "You do know that there's been a well-documented cultural shift towards men establishing lasting relationships with women anywhere from 6 - 20 years their senior. I can get you the numbers," he offered only somewhat sincerely.
"Well, thank you for making it sound so clinically acceptable, Sam." Nancy countered quickly, her own face mockingly solemn.
"I'm just sayin'," Sam shot back, "It wouldn't raise any eyebrows. You know; me and Leo." The next moment was filled with their comfortable laughter.
The laughter dying, Nancy laid her forearms on the table and leaned in toward Sam. "So, with all the wild rumors, have you ever...?"
"I state unequivocally, and for the record, as a civil servant appointed by the President of the United States, as well as being an officer of the court, I have never once had an untoward relationship with Leo McGarry," Sam declared. Right before they fell into laughter again.
"No really, Sam," Nancy resumed when she'd recovered sufficiently. "The age thing doesn't bother you? 'Cause it's gettin' harder and harder for this widowed mother of two to get a date these days," she teased.
"Well, I rather think that has more to do with the fact that you're, you know, the National Security Advisor than anything else." Sam's somewhat awkward attempt to reassure her failed miserably.
"But no," he continued. "In fact, the most significant relationship of my life was with an older - ...someone older. Slightly older. Not so much older," he qualified clumsily.
"I'm glad to hear you're such a liberal-minded guy."
Sam let his eyes answer for him, then drained the rest of his water. Climbing out of his seat, he paused for a moment directly above Nancy. "Can I get you anything while I'm up?" he inquired before beginning to turn away.
Looking around the room as if just now noticing where she was, Nancy considered when her last meal had been. "They have anything down here besides leftover tuna casserole?" she asked.
A knowing grin appeared on Sam's face. "I could whip up a sandwich, if you'd like. Or, there's always some fruit. I'm... I'm getting a beer." The way he cocked his eyebrow made it a question.
"I'll take that beer," Nancy responded readily. "And if there's an apple."
Already opening refrigerated compartments, banging through drawers, Sam seemed to be finding everything he needed. "Don't they feed you in the Sit Room?" he wondered. "You know, it's all very mysterious to me. I always imagined they had a pretty nice spread in there."
Accepting the beer Sam offered, Nancy shrugged.
"Is it true there's a secret tunnel and a bunker with, like, a big round black velvet covered bed left over from the Kennedy years?" Sam asked reverently, then took a deep draft of his beer.
Shaking her head back and forth, Nancy matched his gesture. "Sam, Sam, Sam," she began, wiping the corner of her mouth with her thumb. "I can't go giving away that kind of classified information. But maybe I'll give you the nickel tour sometime."
"Well, I've got plenty of time tonight." A deep sigh seeped out of Sam. Checking his watch, he seemed to be calculating something in his head. "The President should be landing in... oh, another four hours."
"And you have to stay?" Nancy asked with surprise.
"You're not the only one with an occasional thing that keeps them here overnight."
"Oh, so it's about that, now, is it?" Nancy chuckled merrily. "Your thing is bigger than my thing?"
"Are you asking, or just repeating rumors again?" Sam retorted quickly.
Nancy's smile broadened, and she raised the bottle to her mouth in a failed attempt to conceal it. "Four hours. You could go home and get at least a few hours sleep before you have to be back," she suggested helpfully.
Sam was shaking his head before she even finished. "Nah. I've got plenty to keep me busy here. If I crash now... What about you? Can't your report wait until morning?"
"I'm going to have to brief the President, so, no. Besides, my house is all the way up by American U." Nancy began absently slicing the apple Sam had brought her, handing him a juicy wedge.
"Mm, thanks. You have a nice house," Sam said.
Slightly surprised, Nancy paused and looked carefully at Sam. "You've been to my house?" She tried to recall when that was.
"I was in the car when we dropped you off after - Um. I went to a reception.... The time...." Sam's eyes were darting around the room for an escape hatch.
Recollection dawning on her, Nancy choked out a husky laugh. "Oh my god. I forgot! Sam, you can't still be embarrassed about that?" Wonder in her voice.
"It wasn't one of my finest hours," he stated plainly.
Nancy was still chortling jovially. "You really shouldn't... I think you handled the whole thing very well, Sam. I never thought you should have paid for the dress. And it was in poor taste for the Ambassador's wife to take your check."
"Well," Sam seemed to brighten a little. "The maid did manage to sew the skirt back onto the part that was still on her body. But really, the money was in hopes of keeping the whole thing quiet. I never thanked you for not telling anyone. If Josh had ever found out.... if Leo...." A pained expression flashed across his face.
Trying to suppress her mirth, Nancy chewed thoughtfully on another slice of apple, stealing measured glances at Sam. The lines around his mouth seemed to have softened. And the ones around his eyes struck her more as laugh lines now than the debilitating fatigue she'd seen earlier. But his pallor was still almost alarming, compared to the usual healthful glow she remembered.
"What are you doing on the 12th?" Nancy asked suddenly.
Taken back slightly, Sam blinked a few times before answering. "Uh. The 12th?" He thought about it for a second. "I don't actually know. When is the 12th?"
"It's a Saturday, and I'm having a few people at the house, a reception for Kalamu Ya Salaam."
"The writer?" Sam sounded impressed, and sat forward in his seat slightly. "He has some really interesting ideas about community-building and the future of the arts." It only took him a minute to consider his answer. "Are you serious? I'd love to meet him."
Sam's enthusiasm told Nancy she'd been right to issue the invitation. "Wonderful. And dress is casual, so you don't have to worry about stepping on the hem of anyone's gown," she added with a twinkle. And to see Sam blush again. "This time you can see the inside of the house as well."
"I'm looking forward to it. It's a big place."
"Well, you know, I needed room for the round bed."
"Is there black velvet involved?" he asked mischievously.
Nancy cackled appreciatively. "My bedroom is... surprisingly girlie." She considered Sam cautiously before continuing. "Yours?"
"Surprisingly manly," he replied without missing a beat.
"So, that puts that rumor to rest," she informed Sam.
He pursed his lips, and blushed once more.
They sat quietly, sipping their beers, sharing the rest of the apple. Sam yawned a few times, and kept glancing at his watch. Nancy chewed methodically and felt the long day's tension ease away from her as if carried on a current.
The shrill bleating of Sam's pager coincided with Josh's raised voice coming from the hallway. "Sam!" he hollered. "I know you're in there." Appearing at the door, Josh paused momentarily when he saw Nancy. "Ma'am. Sorry, am I interrupting something?"
Exchanging quick, amused glances, Sam and Nancy rose from their seats together. "Not at all, Josh," Nancy assured him. "Sam and I were just planning our next rendezvous." Reaching out to pat Sam's arm affectionately. "Thanks for the beer." She lowered her voice for him and winked discreetly. "It's been fun, Sam." Beginning to walk towards the door, she added, "My office will be in touch about the 12th." She passed Josh and nodded to him before turning back to Sam. "And if you want to bring someone, I happen to know Leo's free." And with that she was gone.
"The 12th? Leo? What the fu- " Josh sputtered, coming to Sam's side.
"Forget it." Sam waved a hand in the air, a satisfied sparkle dancing in his eyes. "Did you need me?" Scooping up the bottles and the knife.
"Always. So... you have a 'date' with McNally, huh? What was that thing with Leo? What happens on the 12th? Toby's looking for you. We need a statement for tomorrow...." Josh began babbling, as Sam smiled at him benignly, and led them out of the Mess.
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