"Is that why every single one of you has beer in a minifridge?" Donna leaned her head on the doorjamb, coat slung over her forearm.
"Hmm?" He didn't look up from his desk, littered with the entrails of a report that she had carefully bound not six hours earlier.
"The beer. In the minifridges. You, Sam, Toby."
"Well, because on-call kinda means at-work, I don't really think we could get away with getting drunk."
She titled her head away from the jamb, a smile spreading. "You get drunk off one beer?"
"No," he replied, looking up and folding his hands on top of the stack of papers, a pencil sticking out from between laced fingers like a sandcastle flag. "But after several beers, I tend to find my judgment impaired just a hair."
"So you sit here alone and drink one beer from your minifridge?"
He went back to reading, resting his forehead in his hand just-so, to be both comfortable and taking full use of the desklamp. "No. The beers in the fridges are not for consumption whilst each of us is individually on call."
She squinted, suspicious of how detailed a negative answer that was. There was a loophole here.
"So what exactly are the beers for?"
"The beers are for communal consumption."
"Which you do not do when you're on call. Singly."
"Exactly. Communal being my operative word there," he mumbled, still not looking at her.
"Sooo…when do the three of you communally consume your beers?"
His tie was loosened, his hair looked like he'd had a rough day, and he was in that quiet mood that never tired of her questions, but he was never not in the mood to tease. He propped his chin on the hand that had supported his forehead, and spoke, his words slightly muffled by his fingers.
"What is, this, twenty questions? I thought you were going home?"
"I am. I just realized, just today, that all three of you have secret minifridges, and maybe you and Sam having minifridges of imported beer…"
"You looked in Sam's fridge?"
"…wasn't enough to get on my radar…"
"You have radar?"
"…but Toby too? It's strange, is all," she trailed off, suddenly interested in the fuzzing of her coat.
He smiled, watching her. It was like she didn't want to go home or something, and he wondered if he kept her here too late too often. She had "nested" in that cubicle out there, and he wondered if, like him, she didn't have a home to go to so much as a place to sleep between working hours.
"If I tell you, you can't tell anyone. State secret. Classified stuff."
Her head snapped up, and she looked shocked for a moment before she saw the faint smile on his face behind his fingers and her shoulders slumped. "No it's not."
His smile grew wide enough to dimple his cheeks. "No, really. Secret stuff."
She looked interested again, her body leaning into his office just that teensy bit. "I promise I won't tell."
He snorted softly through his nostrils, and then leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind his head. "Look under my couch."
She hesitated, and then furrowed her brow the tiniest bit, but then she stepped into his office, and he watched as she crouched in her pencil skirt (he kept meaning to ask why it was a pencil skirt and not a pen skirt or a quill skirt, just to see if she had an answer), flipping up the flap of upholstery that skirted the ground and hid the secrets of whatever lie beneath the couch. He watched as she peered underneath into the darkness, the semidark of his office and his single desk lamp not providing enough light, no matter how she tried to tilt her head. She finally just reached under the couch and slid out a narrow rectangular box.
"You have a board game under your couch."
Her dismissal made him sit up straight in his chair and speak with disbelief lacing his works. "Not just a board game! In fact, it's hardly a game so much as a polygraph of the mind."
She stood up, the box rattling in her grasp, and appraised him queerly. "A polygraph of the mind."
"You do know a polygraph is meant to know whether you're telling the truth or not. Saying 'a polygraph of the mind' is repeating yourself."
"Okay, poor choice of words. But, by the way, a polygraph actually measures things like blood pressure and heart rate, which vary predictably when a person is telling the truth or lying."
"People can trick those things, you know."
"Okay, so you've played poker right?"
He smiles and asks the question that he always asks after the first one. "Strip poker?"
"Joshua Lyman!" She admonishes jokingly. "That is none of your beeswax."
"Did you just say 'beeswax'?"
"Yes," she replies with a satisfied smirk.
"Okay, moving past the third grade, Miss Moss," he jibes, pretty sure that was the first time he ever called her that. "Okay. So when you play poker, you have to be able to trick a polygraph, be a good bluffer, have a strategy."
"Have you ever played chess?"
"No, but I've seen it played. I know you have to have a strategy."
"Ok, then like chess. But there's also the bluffing and boasting of a poker game. It's strategy and throwing the other guy off and knowing that an entire game is won or lost based on Asia and New Guinea."
"Asia and New Guinea?"
"And this relates to the beers how?"
"Ok, this is where I take your solemn oath of silence." He can tell she is amused by this train of thought, and smiles at her attempt to sober her grin with regards to the oath of silence.
"Okay. Oath of silence. Cross my heart and hope to die."
"Okay," he leans forward on his desk, and looks both ways, as though someone might overhear in the silence that is the west wing after 10pm. "Three men of unimaginable power sit at a table and decide the fate of the free world."
She's quiet, pressing her lips together, looking at him as though she's pretty sure he's pulling her leg. He's not, but that's just the hype. "With beer and a board game."
"Have I stressed that this is no ordinary board game? It is a battle of wits!"
She chuckles, and turns around, setting it down on his couch. "You are full of it. Good night."
"Wait," he says into the stillness. She turns to face him, her face now relaxed for her exit, the merriment of their exchange already fading. "Did you want me to teach you how to play?"
"Will there be beer?"
"Go get it out of Sam's fridge. Last time I looked, there wasn't anything in there. He's stocked up and has been holding out on us."
# # # # #
Twenty minutes later, his desk has sacrificed a playing space, and she is still in her work clothes, his tie is draped over a chair, and they've divvied up the armies. Her beer, a Heineken Dark, has barely been touched, while he is half-way through his.
The rules were simple enough to explain, and she has not asked a single question. Instead, she phrases them like statements – "so I have to just hope I roll a seven or better now" and pairs them with looks at him, wherein he replies with a tilt of the head. He smiles, enjoying how she immersed herself in the game, and he finds it amusing to realize that when she concentrates, she bites her lower lip. Her tell and the way her eyes dart around the board, lingering just a tad too long here and there, gives away her strategies. But unlike chess, it is not just strategy, but chance that factors into this game, hence dragging poker into his comparisons earlier.
"So you and Toby and Sam get drunk and move roman numerals around an old map?" She asks, taking a sip of her beer.
He presses his lips together and raises his eyebrows. "Yep."
"And by decide the fate of the free world, you mean the color coded world of cardboard and plastic armies."
"Men talk shop. We get things done. And we have the ear of the most powerful man in the world."
She stares at him blankly. "That frightens me."
He shrugs and takes a drink of his beer. "Now that I'm thinking about it sober, it kinda frightens me too."
The roll of the dice is in her favor more often than not, but he beats her anyway.
"Next time you'll have to get more creative. Choose a different country. See what fits your dictatorial style."
She smiles, and gets up from his desk, leaving her half-finished beer. "It's 1am. I conceded a few turns ago."
"Oh. Well the commitment to strategy over sleep is an acquired trait."
"One I hope to never acquire. I like my sleep."
"Hey, am I ever going to get my shirt back?"
"You said you slept in it and had to wash it, that's why you didn't give it back right away."
"Yeah. It's at my apartment."
He just nods. "Since I kept you up so late, don't worry about coming in til 8."
"Aww, that's sweet of you," she says sarcastically with a smile.
"I'm a sweet guy."
"No you're not."
"No, I'm not. But I do a damn good job of faking it," he grins, dimples visible on both sides.
She returns his grin with one of her own, and with an offhand wave, and a "goodnight Josh", the sound of her heels recedes, and he hears the swish of a the door.
He sits back in his chair, and thinks about how comfortable the silence was, how smart she really is (she held out quite well for a beginner), and how much he likes her toothy grin. A keeper, definitely.
# # # # #
As Donna Moss starts her car, she smiles to herself. Her boss has incredibly adorable dimples, and she finds that she gets a slightly giddy in her stomach feeling thinking about his loosened tie and messy hair.
She knows that, like all infatuations, it will fade soon enough. But for now she kinda likes that she has a little crush on her boss.
A/N: Originally this story was to evolve into a game of "Never Have I Ever", but as it went along, it seemed they weren't quite ready for that. It felt newer than drinking games. Also, I may or may not be enticed to write about one of those summits of great minds, imported beer, and RISK...