Title: What Didn't Happen
Pairing: Abbey/Nancy McNally
Distribution: How much do I owe you for hauling it off?
Spoilers: Up to and including Liftoff
Email: exfilia at livejournal dot com
Note: for lil_ani, with whom I made a deal for Abbeyfic, and for Jillian's rodentfic challenge on TWWStateoftheUnion@yahoogroups.com
What Didn't Happen by Exfilia
This was not happening.
Nancy McNally seen a lot of things during her time in the White House that she wished had not happened. They had. But this, this wasn't happening.
There was not a mouse peeking at her from behind the clawfoot leg of an antique writing desk in the hallway outside the residence as she waited to brief the president. There were no bright black eyes, no whiskers twitching with every move of a curious nose, and above all no bare wormish tail lying along the floor behind the creature that wasn't there.
It couldn't be there, because if there was a mouse across the hall from her Nancy was going to have a screaming hissy fit, and that would somewhat tarnish the hard-assed image of the president's National Security Advisor. No one liked to think of a woman recommending a tactical nuclear strike in the first place. A woman who wigged out at the sight of a rodent... no. There was no mouse there.
Of course, if Nancy had a battlefield nuke to hand, the place where that mouse wasn't would have glowed in the dark for all eternity.
Nancy wasn't going to think about that, though. She was going to turn around and face the door and wait to be admitted.
Except if she did, that mouse that wasn't there might sneak up on her.
"Dr. McNally?" Charlie Young looked at her with the same 'this is not happening' expression that Nancy was probably wearing. "Is everything all right?"
"Fine," said Nancy in a squeak that would have done the mouse proud. Charlie looked as if he might pursue it, but the door opened and Dr. Bartlet appeared.
"He's in the shower, Nancy," she said. "Come in and have some coff... Charlie, there it is!"
"The mouse, Charlie, under the desk, see? Catch it!"
Okay, this wasn't happening either. There was an entirely different reason for the president's body man to be creeping toward the desk, one hand moving to keep the nonexistent mouse's attention while the other arm curved in behind it. There was...
Something touched Nancy's arm, and she squealed like a schoolgirl. Secret Service agents up and down the hall went for their weapons before they saw what was happening. None of them dared to laugh, but Nancy imagined that she would be the topic of break room conversation for some while.
"That did it!" said Charlie. The mouse's wiggling nose extended past the young man's thumb, and the lashing tail stuck out past the heel of his hand. "Scared him right to me."
"Thank you, Charlie. Put him in the cage, would you? It's my grandson's pet," the First Lady told Nancy, "and naturally he let it loose in the White House." The hand that still rested on Nancy's arm squeezed gently. "Come have something to drink," she said.
"Phobias are nothing to be ashamed of, Nancy. You work for a man who's afraid of height, speed, fire and close spaces. The Chief of Staff once had the Secret Service check her car for snakes. You're in good company." Firm pressure on Nancy's shoulder sat her down on the sofa, and a glass of whiskey materialized in her hand.
"When I was little," Nancy said, "we rented a cabin at a state park and I opened the cabinet under the sink and there was a rat. Not a mouse, a great big...." Nancy found herself shivering, and she took a gulp of her drink. "It ran right at me. It was just trying to get away, of course, but I thought it was chasing me. My brothers beat it to death right there in the kitchen. I couldn't sleep without a light for months."
"I don't expect it was much fun for the rat, either." Nancy took another sip of the whisky, letting it burn down her throat and maybe put some of the steadiness back in her spine. "Daddy made the boys scrub that floor, and scrub it...."
The First Lady didn't say anything, but she put an arm around Nancy's shoulders and pulled her close.
"I can't be going to pieces in the White House, though," Nancy said.
"It really wasn't that big a deal."
"Not this time. We read 1984 in high school, and you know that scene where they... I threw up. In class."
"Have you spoken to anyone about it?"
"Mama sent me to a therapist after I got sick. The guy wanted to do that thing where you get a little closer to what you're afraid of each time. He had a cageful of white mice with nasty pink eyes, and he put his hand in there and pulled one out by the tail. It was jerking around every which way." Nancy shivered. "I ran out of there, and I never went back."
"Your therapist was an idiot. There's getting you to face your fear, and then there's pure torture. No wonder you're upset."
"This," Dr. Bartlet said, resting her hand on the folder in Nancy's lap, "it couldn't wait until morning?"
"Only if you want to deal with an outbreak of radiation sickness in subsaharan Africa."
"That wouldn't be good."
"No, ma'am." Nancy finished the drink, and thought she was okay. Then Charlie came back through the room, sans mouse, and Nancy shivered at the thought of the hand that had touched the creature.
"Nancy," said Dr. Bartlet. "I'll make you a deal. You handle shooting wars and security breaches and whatever else happens that I don't want to know about, and I will deal with mice. Okay?" She cupped her hand around Nancy's cheek and the warmth of her touch sank in like a balm. Nancy felt herself smile, then blushed as her strained nerves stretched in an entirely different direction. Dr. Bartlet smiled at her.
"Are you sure you're all right?" she asked Nancy.
"Yes, ma'am," said Nancy, only this time it was a whisper husky with more than whisky. She started to turn away, but the firm hand made her face the other woman, face the First Lady whose smile was filled with unexpected delight.
"Sometimes, though," Dr. Bartlet said, "it's good to face things. It can be stimulating."
"Yes, ma'am." Stimulating was the word, all right. Nancy could smell the First Lady's perfume. She could feel the warmth soaking through their clothing and into her skin. She could almost taste the dark red lips.
"It can be delightful," Dr. Bartlet whispered, and the hand trailed over Nancy's throat and slipped under the neckline of her blouse.
The whole encounter might have gone, right then, in a direction that Nancy wasn't going to think about, but the bedroom opened and the president stood there toweling his hair and watching what Nancy was doing with his wife.
"Mr. President," she said as she stood to face him, twisting the folder in her hands, "at twenty-two hundred this evening...." She stuttered to a stop when the First Lady laid a hand on her arm once more.
"I'll leave you to it," she said, "but we'll talk some more about this tomorrow. All right, Nancy?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Nancy. She wasn't sure which 'this' was involved, but she wasn't about to ask the woman in front of her husband. In fact, she wasn't going to think about it at all. She would call the next day and tell the First Lady she was trying therapy again, and that she was grateful for her assistance tonight.
As for the rest, it had never happened.The End
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