Author's Notes and disclaimer: So, after watching the last two episodes of Series 3 awhile back, I came to the following conclusions: (a) Steve Fleming has a pervert-moustache, (b) Steve Fleming is uber-creepy around Nicola, and (c) I now ship Malcolm/Nicola like it's my job. This fic is my attempt to merge these conclusions and to describe a scene that the shipper in me likes to believe could've occurred in the time between 3.07 and 3.08. As expected, there are massive spoilers for 3.07. Although there is some pretty foul language in this, I'm still going to keep it "T," because apart from the language, I don't think there's anything else that would merit an "M" rating. And finally, I don't and will not ever own The Thick of It.

Politics: Nothing More and Nothing Less

Reluctant as he was to leave the comfort of his sofa for even a moment, Malcolm Tucker knew he had no real choice. There was something he needed to do, something he needed to be sure of before he returned to the rest of his long, tedious day.

He moved over to the telephone, reflecting on how much he missed his Blackberry in times like these. The landline was so cumbersome with its long, tangled cord. Though—now that Malcolm really thought about it—the cord would prove incredibly useful if he ever wanted to strangle someone. For a moment, he fantasized about wrapping the coils around Steve Fleming's weaselly little neck and squeezing tightly.

He quickly dragged himself out of this undeniably intoxicating daydream and refocused his attention on dialling the phone number he wanted.

He certainly wasn't going to talk to Nicola herself about this; there were still too many hard feelings there. Meanwhile, Ollie wouldn't be able to keep his smug Oxbridge mouth shut, Terri was probably still too busy celebrating his "resignation" to even think of answering her phone, and Robyn was worse than useless. So that left Glenn—not exactly the ideal informant, but still the best DoSAC had to offer.

Finally, the phone stopped ringing, and Malcolm heard a voice on the other end.

"Glenn Cullen."

" Hey, ye walking advertisement for funeral parlours, I need a word."

" Malcolm? Is it really you? Why are you calling? What's been going on?"

" Never mind me. How have things been with ol' DoSAC lately?"

" Er…well… we're…" Glenn hesitated for a moment, unsure what—if anything—he was allowed to share with the erstwhile spin-doctor. Eventually, he decided to say something—reminding himself not to give away too many details. "To be totally honest with you…. it's completely shit. We're all worried for our jobs and our sanity. But we're trudging along as best we can." He paused before continuing. "She really misses you."

There was no need to ask whom Glenn meant. "Did she tell you that?" Malcolm hadn't spoken the name aloud since that last day at No. 10, and he had no intention of changing that any time soon.

"No, but she doesn't have to; it's that obvious. She's glummer now—more so than usual, I mean. Doesn't smile or laugh at all, seems like she's just going through the motions for the most part. She's much quieter too. Course Fleming isn't helping matters."

"I can believe that. Man's only good at one thing and that's being a complete and utter bastard 24/7. So, tell me, has he tried to nail her yet?" He tried to keep his tone casual, tried to pretend that this wasn't the whole reason he'd called in the first place, tried to convince himself that the answer didn't matter one way or another.

" Nicola? Nail her for what? She hasn't done anything terribly stupid or questionable lately—been keeping a low profile since the crime stats scandal."

" I didn't mean 'nail' her in that sense. I meant…well…ye know…. sexually… Has he…has he been…tryin' it on with her?"

" Seduce" wasn't the word; it implied that the person in question had at least an iota of charisma—which could not even the most liberal-minded person could have said of Steve Fleming.

In any case, Malcolm wasn't going to put it past the bastard to try something. Even if Fleming had no real interest in Nicola personally, he might still do it to get back at Malcolm; as if forcing his rival to "resign" in disgrace wasn't cold-hearted enough, screwing the man's protégé would provide the perfect final blow to his victim—even more so if he'd known that Malcolm saw the DoSAC minister as something more than a professional liability.

But Malcolm had gone out of his way to ensure that no one would ever know; he'd even spent a great deal of time and effort to hide the truth from himself. After all, He was Malcolm-fucking-Tucker after all—the Dark Lord of Downing St—and Malcolm fucking Tucker didn't have weakness—especially not weaknesses in the forms of frumpy, forty-something female cabinet ministers.

And yet, why had it hurt him so much when she'd refused to lie for him in front of Nicholson and Fleming? It shouldn't have surprised him that much. She was already knee-deep in this shit; she wouldn't want to become involved any further than she already was. It hadn't even been much of a "betrayal" as betrayals went. In his time, Malcolm had alternately dealt and been dealt much crueller hands.

Somehow, he couldn't help but feel like she'd stabbed him in the heart anyway. After all, she owed everything she was to him. He'd saved her arse far more times than anyone should have had to; he'd taken fucking ridiculous amounts of time and effort to help her reach what little potential she had. And how had she repaid him for all he had done for her? For all he would've done for her?

He doubted he'd ever be able to forgive Nicola for what she'd done, but that didn't mean he was going to leave her to the mercy of Steve Fleming's lust. No one deserved that.

" Has he been flirting with her, you mean? Yeah, he has. Has he wanted to do more than that? It wouldn't surprise me. Has he had the opportunity? No. Nicola's a bit frightened of him, and so she tries to get me or Ollie or Terri to stay with her at all times whenever he comes in"

Against his better judgment, Malcolm heard himself sigh in relief. He should've known that Nicola would try to fight Fleming off.

" Don't fucking call me 'sweetheart!'" Malcolm felt a smile gradually forming on his face as he remembered. God, he missed her spirit!

However, Nicola's hatred of Fleming wasn't going to be enough to keep the bastard away from her forever. Sooner or later, there'd be a situation from which Ollie or Glenn or Terri couldn't save her.

Malcolm himself had had countless opportunities to seduce Nicola if that had been what he'd wanted. He thought of all the car rides, the late nights bent over paperwork. Good God, he'd even been alone with her in a hotel bathroom once. He wasn't even totally sure she'd have resisted if he had made a move.

Not that he ever would've. It would've been political suicide for both of them. What was more, she was already married to another man, was the mother of that other man's children.

Of course, none of that was going to stop Steve Fleming. The words "professionalism," "decency," " morality," and "family,"—like all words containing more than one syllable—weren't even in the idiot's vocabulary. Neither was the word "consent." That thought scared Malcolm most of all.

And if that arsewipe touched so much as a frizzy hair on Nicola Murray's glum little head…. Malcolm would have to make sure his revenge was doubly severe.

Because he was going to return, damn it. He was a fucking phoenix; that's what he was. While everyone was burning to a char, Malcolm Tucker would be biding his time—waiting for the perfect moment to rise from the flames stronger than ever, waiting to dig his razor-sharp claws into Steve Fleming's ugly face and shave off that stupid little moustache.

" Just make sure it stays that way. Don't ever leave her alone with him for even one fucking second—do ye hear me?"

" I hear you loud and clear, Malcolm." He paused. "Does Nicola know how much you care about?"
"Care? Who says I fucking care? No one besides ye Glenn, cause I don't."

"But why else? I mean, you're gone now. She's no longer your responsibility. Most people would just say screw it, and never look back."

" This isn't about caring, especially caring about Nicola bloody Murray of all people. This is politics, Glenn, nothing more and nothing less. I may be gone for now, but ye and I both know that it's only temporary. I'll be back one of these days, and the absolute last thing I need when I do return is fucking DoSAC in shambles."

"I think it's a little late for that, Malcolm. It's seems we're always in the middle of some crisis or another."

" Well, just don't let anything get more fucked up than it already is."

"I'll do my best."

"And Glenn, this conversation never took place. If I hear even a single fucking syllable to the contrary…"



"But I really think you should call Nicola. She's really worried…"

Malcolm didn't hesitate a moment before hanging up the phone.