Title: side five, backhand side five, fist pound
Fandom/Pairing: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Matt/Harriet
Rating: G
Summary: They have a handshake. No real timeline/spoilers.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters. I just own the words.


They have a handshake. Side five, backhand side five, fist pound. He wishes there were better words to describe it, but that's it. He wishes there were better words to describe the way it is invading his thoughts right now.

A handshake. Not a secret handshake—an every show handshake. An everyone who has ever worked in this studio has probably seen this handshake. A handshake that he and Danny do occasionally too, and sometimes the other cast members get in on it. Some people think it's a cast handshake.

But it's their handshake.

He feels dumb. The last time he had a handshake with someone he was nine years old. It was secret then, a way to get into the clubhouse. They always called it a clubhouse when really it was an abandoned parking lot and really anyone could just walk in. (Homeless people did sometimes. Some of them were surprisingly helpful when discussing girls and cooties.)

So having a handshake with Harriet Hayes at the age of 34 seems a little ridiculous. And thinking about this handshake for half an hour when he really needs to be cutting lines from the Pinocchio sketch seems incredibly ridiculous.

It doesn't help that James Blunt has been rehearsing You're Beautiful.

Matt can't stop thinking about her.

He can't stop thinking about her and he can't stop thinking about their stupid handshake. She's mad at him this week—he said something mean about Christians and meant it (surprise there)—and she hasn't been touching him. It's not like she touches him all the time, but a hand on the shoulder, a tug on the sleeve. Their knees might bounce together if they're sitting next to each other. She ruffles his hair. But not this week. This week she's been avoiding him and treating him altogether professionally and it's driving him crazy.

Because now all he can think about is that she's going to have to touch him.

She has to. They've done it every show they've worked together on, mad or not, in love or not (when was he not in love with her?), and so they'll have to. It's a tradition. (And from what he knows of Judaism, tradition means a lot. Right?)

So he's thinking about the smooth palm of her hand and trying to remember the type of lotion she uses. It smells like peaches. And he's thinking about the back of her hand, and how he actually knows it, how there's a freckle on her middle knuckle and a scar on her ring finger from a Thanksgiving gone wrong. He's thinking about the way that hand used to hold his, the things that hand used to do with him, and he is epically failing at cutting lines from the Pinocchio script.

He's surprised he doesn't have a bruise from how often his head has dropped to his desk.

"For God's sake, just apologize to her already!" Danny says from the doorway.

Matt raises his head, looking somewhere between nauseous and defeated.

"I don't say anything I don't mean, Danny. I—"

"Then tell her you love her and get it over with. Because she's falling flat and you're not even done with the sketch and there's seventeen minutes to live."

He's already out the door before Matt has a chance to respond. One more forehead to the desk and then he'll finish with Pinocchio.


Four minutes to show now. Sketch is done, teleprompted, everything it needs to be.

Matt's hands are sweaty.

He's wiping them on his suit jacket and on his dress pants and on paper towels in the bathroom, but his hands are sweaty and it's not going away. Harriet's hands are going to be soft and smooth and smell like peaches and his are going to be sticky and clammy and gross. His forehead's beginning to hurt and it cracks like lightning when Danny yells, "Huddle!"

Danny says something Matt doesn't register and Simon says something Matt doesn't register and Matt wonders if Tom minds that the hand he's currently holding is sweating like two rats in a wool sock.

Pep talk finished, Matt slips behind the set of the cold open. He considers making a break from it, no handshake, no Harriet. But he's not actually mad at her, and it's him that has to get back in her good graces, not the other way, so he sticks around.

She finds him soon enough. Her eyes are serious.

Side five. Backhand side five. Fist pound.

Her voice is serious too. "You get that I'm still mad at you? That the handshake doesn't change that?"

He laughs at her.

"You'll always be mad at me and you'll always forgive me and we'll always do the handshake before every show," he says. His hands aren't sweating anymore. "I'll remember it when I'm ninety and you're still mad at me because I hate Christmas music that's actually about Jesus. We'll do the handshake and you'll say you're still mad at me but I'll say something ridiculous and you'll get that look in your eye and I'll watch you walk away and everyone will wonder when I'm going to tell you that I still love you."

Her eyes soften and her head tilts to the left the way it does sometimes. He's lucky he didn't think of that when he was supposed to be cutting lines. He would have accomplished nothing.

She grabs his hand and squeezes as someone says thirty seconds. He watches her walk away.