August 2013 A/N: Hey there. So this ... Is fluff. A whole lot of it, wrapped thick in dialogue. These stories started as me working through the characters, getting to know their voices, and filling in their back stories for a much longer piece, with actual plot, that I'm working on. But these started to take over and are just so delightful and quick and easy that I thought I would share. I'm unclear how quickly I'll be updating, and I doubt that they will follow a chronological order. They presume that Don and Sloan start dating in November/December of 2011 (so, in show parlance, super-soon). I have every expectation that canon will run roughshod over them (potentially starting tonight), but I'm OK with that.
Title is from Ray LaMontagne's "You Are the Best Thing." I've been listening to him a lot as I think about the Newsroom. Characters are not mine. Many details from the back stories (Nobel Prize in economics, a dad who yells at squirrels, a dad with a long-term mistress) are freely and cavalierly borrowed from Sorkin with love as well.
November 2014 A/N: Hey guys, me again. Just going though and updating everything for consistency, and adding some of my own commentary on where the characters were to each. Nothing new to see here! But if you want to read again, feel free. This is my favorite piece I've ever written, and I hope you enjoy~Jo.
Both of us have known love before
To come on on promising, like a spring, then walk on out the door
Our hearts are strong and our, our hearts are kind
Let me tell you just exactly what is on my mind
-Ray LaMontagne, "You Are the Best Thing"
The thing about this thing with Sloan is that once they actually determine that it's a thing, it's a big thing that doesn't seem like a big thing, which makes it almost a bigger thing (granted, determining that it's a thing does take a while, and is kind of awkward). His relationship with Maggie always felt a little like two pieces from the same puzzle that looked like they should snap together but didn't, and the effort to try and make them go together was always kind of exhausting. But in his normal state of stupidity, he equated that feeling of effort — and he had never worked so hard in a relationship before — with something being a Big Thing (capital letters intentional).
But with Sloan, things just settle. Six weeks after he drunkenly kisses her during marathon coverage of Syria and the Greek economic collapse and the presidential race, he's buying kale and she's stocking his favorite beer, and things are so low-key that most of the office — his ex, in particular — doesn't seem to know what's going on. It's certainly not a secret — they come in and leave together often enough — but if he kisses her at work, it's in an office. Mac squeezes his arm once and says, out of the blue, "This is good for you. For both of you," and Elliot seems to think he's nicer and appreciates that, but otherwise it's barely acknowledged.
He likes this. It's refreshing, to know where you stand in a relationship and where you want to stand in the relationship. It makes everything else so much easier, and more comfortable, and almost even empowering. It feels adult, and he's strangely not scared of the commitment. He's should be scared, but isn't, and that's kind of awesome.
So when he pops into her office to see what she's doing for lunch (which is early dinner, given their schedules) and she answers, "Going out with my mom, actually — I forgot she's in town for work," his first response is, "Can I come meet her?"
She cocks her head and the papers the folder she's holding slide out as her grip goes lax. As she starts to gather them up, she says, "Don — you've got a full — she's only in town for a few — you want to meet my mother?" She's skeptical-stunned at that.
And the goddamn thing is, he really, really does. He's seen her photo on Sloan's bookshelf, with her three sisters and her dad, and he wants to get to know her, and make her like him, and get to figure out more about what makes Sloan Sloan. He knows that her mother is Asian — Japanese, he assumes, given Sloan's command of the language — and very, very short, especially next to her very, very tall, very, very WASPy father. And that's it. That's all he knows. "Yeah. I do, actually. What's she in town for?"
"A conference," Sloan repeats, brow furrowed, as she continues to arrange the papers. More amused than exasperated, he gently takes them from her hands to alphabetize them for her, so that she'll look at him. She rests her hands on her lower back, appraising him.
"Oh yeah? What's she do?" he asks, tapping the stack of papers vertically on the desk before handing them back to her.
"She's a lawyer," she says, tucking the paper underneath her arm.
"What type of lawyer?"
"Human rights law," Sloan replies. She puts down the papers and moves to grab her trench coat, and he follows her. "She describes herself as a sex-positive feminist legal activist."
"Excuse me?" he asks, because he is not expecting that.
"She mostly focuses on sexual issues — women's rights to abortion, safe prenatal care, to not be sold into sex slavery, condoms in third-world countries..."
"Sex," she states matter-of-factly. "That thing we do, about five to eight times a week, usually at night except for weekends, depending on if you fall asleep with your computer or not?"
"That was one time, and — seriously?"
"Yes. She grew up in San Francisco in the Sixties. Kind of inevitable, I guess."
"What's your dad do again?" Because it's beginning to be clear he's going to have to seriously prep for meeting him.
"He's an economist," she raises a shoulder at his raised eyebrows. "My upbringing was not weird at all."
"Do you not want me to meet your mom? Because it's completely fine if you don't," and he means that.
She chooses her words carefully. "The last guy — the only guy, actually — that my mother has met was Topher," she starts, referring to the scummy stockbroker ex-fiance she broke up with three and a half years ago. "And Topher didn't meet either of my parents until we'd been dating for a year. And he met my dad first, and my dad is much less scary. So knowing that, if you don't want to meet her, I understand —"
"That's not what I asked," he interrupts, taking a step into her space. "I know this is a thing, meeting the mom, I know that's a thing. And if you don't want to do that thing yet, I get it. That's OK. I just want you to know that when you want me to, I would like to meet your mom." He doesn't know where these words are coming from — god only knows he's never felt this way about meeting anyone else's mom, and if he knew that today was the day he was going to feel this way, he would've put on a newer flannel shirt and maybe even tried to do something with his hair — but whatever. He means it. He wants this.
She starts to break out into one of those crazy whole-face smiles he doesn't get enough of, and he starts to grin back because he knows she'll say OK, and instead of waiting for words he just pulls her hips to him and starts kissing her. But before it gets very fair, the door opens, and she jumps back, surprised, "Mom! Hi," she steps away from Don, and he swallows a smirk and shoves his hands in his pockets, because that wasn't how he actually envisioned meeting her mom. "I thought I told you to meet me at the restaurant."
"You did," her mother says breezily. "But my hotel was right around the corner, so I thought, hey! Why don't I see where my important and successful daughter seems to spend all her time," she smiles at him, a hint of bite at the corners. "Now I think I know why she spends so much time here, though."
"Mom, this is Don Keefer, the executive producer of Right Now With Elliot Hirsch …" she trails off. "And my ... boyfriend," she checks with him, testing out the word, and he shrugs in agreement. It's what he is. There's tacit agreement, and there's no time to date anyone else, and they spend every night together, but he actually doesn't think he's heard her use that phrase yet. "Don, my mother, Nanami Sabbith."
"Call me Nami," she says, holding out a hand. She is tiny, with a Hillary Clinton-type coif and a Hillary Clinton-type pantsuit. He suspects that she probably actually knows Hillary Clinton. Sloan, who is not that tall, towers over her in her three-inch heels. "Will you be joining us for what my daughter refers to as lunch?"
"Well, I would like to," he says. "If that's alright with you." He feels the need to ask her permission.
"Of course. I look forward to learning more about you. Or anything about you, really, given that I didn't know you existed until I saw you tonguing Sloan," she smiles too pleasantly, and he is a little scared.
"We should get going, then," Sloan says quickly. "We both need to be back by seven." He helps her put her coat on, and then holds the door for them, because he would like to make a good first impression. Her mother leads the way out, and as he puts his arm around her, she twists to whisper in his ear: "Remember she will gladly explain, in detail, the process of female circumcision. Do not ask her about her work unless you want details."
He's turned his own face so that the chances of her being overheard are diminished, and as they're walking down the corridor like this, all twisted up and cheek-to-cheek and secret-y, he notices Maggie. He doesn't even have time to make eye contact with her, but she stops in her tracks and he can see her putting two and two together. But soon enough they're out the door, and Sloan, who has slipped her hand between their bodies to take his, starts directing her mother the two blocks to Sushi Zen. Sloan makes small talk about the conference, asks about her mother's presentation, and suddenly they're at the restaurant.
"Your father and I had dinner with Spencer last weekend," Nami says as they take their seats. "Brent is going to be transferred to the D.C. branch soon, they think. They're coming out next month to look at houses."
"I can't imagine Spence in winter," Sloan says, in a forcefully cheery voice. "She's the most stereotypical California girl."
"You lived in New York for a while, though, right?" he asks, surreptitiously putting his hand on her thigh, though he's pretty sure Nami notices. Still, Sloan relaxes. He knew that she'd gone to high school in California, but got the feeling she grew up in New York.
"We did, but left when she was in first grade for Japan, and then we moved to California when she was in sixth grade. And she moved to L.A. for college and hasn't left since. I don't think she's owned a winter jacket since the early Nineties."
"She hasn't," Nami says, smiling. "I don't even know if she owns gloves. So, Don, do you have any siblings?"
"Three, two brothers and a sister," he says. "Mitch works in real estate in Philadelphia, where we grew up. He's got three kids. Adam's a freshman at Cornell, and Lily's a sophomore in high school."
"Much younger," Nami observes, snapping her chopsticks apart.
"Half-siblings," he amends.
"Your parents are divorced?" she asks.
"No, my dad had a heart attack." He decides he should probably tell the whole story, though, so he amends, "But Adam and Lily are his kids anyways. I didn't know about them until they were in elementary school and he had passed away." Sloan actually doesn't know this part, and her hand moves to cover his. "Great kids, though."
Nami raises her eyebrow. "Sounds like an admirable move."
He shrugs. "It was easier to get to know them than to be angry at a dead guy. So," he cracks open his menu. "What should we order?"
Sushi Zen is their go-to because it's quick, and he manages to make Nami laugh four times during her interrogation, which he considers a success. He decides he likes Nami: she's sharp, very observant and aware, and wants the best for her daughter, even though she made a few jokes at Sloan's expense. She's much more outgoing than Sloan, and even more direct, if that is possible. Nami asks a thousand too-personal questions (how working together affected their jobs, whether or not he'd ever been arrested, details about his first relationship) but he can tell Sloan loves her mom a lot. He pays, which pleases Nami and makes Sloan roll her eyes.
As they're walking back, Nami announces her intention to stay through the show and watch, which Sloan seems to have no choice but to agree to. Once they're back at ACN, though, he has to go work with his team for Elliot's show while Sloan needs to prep for NewsNight. Nami gives him a hug and makes it clear that she will be stopping by to say good-bye later — he presumes after she's cross-examined Sloan.
Post-rundown, he's catching up on the 98 emails he received while gone and looking at the final draft of the night's script, four cable networks humming in the background of his office, when a shadow crosses his door. Assuming it's one of his APs, he yells, "Yo! No locks here!"
Instead of one of his APs, though, it's one of Mac's: Maggie. Crappity-crap-crap-crap. "Hey," she says, wringing her wrists as she stands in his doorway.
And even though he knows exactly what she wants, he goes, "Mags. What's up?"
She nods her whole body a few times before speaking. "Not much," she says.
"I saw you guys got Gingrich's spox, nice get," he says, tapping his pen.
"Will's excited," she says, almost automatically. "I just — I had a wondering. I saw — I saw you and Sloan and a woman who looked a lot like Sloan but older, and I'm not just saying that because she's Asian and Sloan is somewhat Asian, I actually didn't know Sloan was Asian until Neal said so. But they actually had very similar noses and cheek structure —"
"That was Sloan's mother," he cuts in, knowing that these things could last forever. "Her mother's in town for work."
"Oh. That was, in fact, my first logical deduction," Maggie says, hesitant and blushing. "And you and Sloan —"
"We were taking her mom out to dinner before the show."
"And that was my second logical deduction, based on the time and that you were wearing jackets. You were both taking her out, though—"
He decides to just confront it. Letting her dangle might sound satisfying, given how their relationship ended, but it's really not. "We were both taking her out because Sloan and I are dating and I thought I should get to know her mom."
"Wow," Maggie says, taken aback. "That was —I mean, that was my third logical deduction, but I mean — you said that. Out loud. Pretty normally. In a normal tone of voice, I mean."
He decides to give her another break. "Yeah. We've been seeing each other for a while now."
"A while," Maggie trails off, because the time between September and January really isn't that much of a while.
"For about six weeks."
"So actually not that much of a while," Maggie says.
He shrugs. "Depends on the definition, Maggie."
"True. Are you … That's great, first. Sloan's great."
"Thanks," he says, because Sloan is awesome, but he adds, apologetically, "We've kind of been keeping it a bit under wraps, because, you know, the work environment."
"Me," she says flatly.
"You. Will. Mac. Elliot. Charlie wouldn't be super-thrilled, I'll bet. Sloan is sometimes is on my show. A lot of things make up the work environment, so because of those lots of things we decided to, you know, not make out in the control room."
"You know, I thought it was weird you were coming in so early. And that she was staying so late. So you guys are coming in together and leaving together, which means you're spending every night together, and you're meeting her mom after six weeks. That's … that's really serious. That's, like, a serious commitment. A really fast serious commitment, I mean, you didn't want to meet my parents after four months —"
"Maggie, isn't your show on the air?" They really don't need to go down this road.
"You're right. It is," she says, then straightens her spine, which can only mean one of her Girl Friday speeches. He used to find them adorable, now he just finds them tiring. "Anyways. I'm — I'm never going to be able to actually make up for the way I treated you and how … how I messed everything up. But I'm … really happy that you're happy. I really, really am."
"Maggie," he breaks in, "We weren't working. We weren't. At all. It was scary, how fucking bad we were at the end. I mean — it was over before I asked you to move in with me. Asking you … that was desperate, of me. We were so fucked up. I wanted it, to work, with you, really badly, but just because I wanted it to work. And instead of talking about it and trying to work out, or, you know, cutting loose … I wanted it to work, and it wasn't. We stayed together too long. We wanted to be more serious than we actually were. And that was mostly my fault. So I'm sorry. So … quit beating yourself up about that."
Maggie flails a little bit. Finally, she just says, "Thank you." He nods and smiles and she starts to leave and he gets back to his script, when she turns around and says, "Actually, can I ask you one more thing?"
He leans back in his chair, because she is clearly not leaving until he listens to her, and says, "If you don't think Mac will kill you for not doing your job, sure."
"Is it me?"
"Is what you?"
"Me. Is this because of me?"
"Me and Sloan? No." He really doesn't want to get into it, because he is Capital-H Happy. Sloan is harder to date than Maggie, in a lot of ways, but also much, much easier. Sloan is a more challenging person, for him, than Maggie. She sometimes says inappropriate things — she said I love you waitnoItakethatback after their second real date — and she works too hard, and doesn't back down from an argument, and she's smarter than him and somehow more stubborn, and she's sometimes distant and hard to read and doesn't really like to relax. But the relationship itself is a lot simpler. He's not worried about how she feels about him, or that she might like another guy more, or that he's somehow not giving her what she needs. The biggest argument they've had thus far is when she wanted to use his legs to keep her freezing-cold feet warm, and he just wanted her to put a damn pair of socks on. He knows they'll have a bigger fight, eventually, but he and Maggie could fight about every damn thing. He doesn't know if it's age — Christ, he's 34 — or the experience of having dated Maggie, or their personalities, but the actual act of being with Sloan is much easier. It just feels ... more equal.
"No, of course not," she replies, and the way she rolls her eyes, he's almost offended. "Us. And … Jim. And Lisa. It's just lately, I kind of feel like I'm the type of person that repels perfectly nice people."
"You're a perfectly nice person," he says, wishing he could do his work.
"I know!" she says. "I buy coffee for homeless guys and volunteer at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving. But that's different. Do I keep pushing people away?"
"I just said that the end of our relationship was both of our faults. I would recommend you leave it at that."
"Right, but I moved in with you instead of breaking up with you, even though I knew I had … feelings toward Jim. But you're meeting Sloan's mom after six weeks of dating, when you would barely say hi to my parents after four months. Jim went on the campaign trail to get away from me. Lisa got a subletter on Craigslist that smells like bananas and moved to Bushwick."
"Jim went on the campaign trail because, as I recall, you told him and an entire bus full of crazy tourists that you wanted to break up with me for him and then you changed your mind," he says, getting irritated. "And then you lied to his girlfriend about everything. So yeah, in those examples? You don't look so hot. I don't get what you're trying to ask me though."
"Do I drive people away?"
He sighs, pushing down his pen. "Look, let's take you and me off the table, because you apologized and I apologized and we're moving on and I'm happy," he emphasizes the happy. "And with Jim and Lisa — you gotta ask them. And you have to figure out what you really want, and how you want to say it. Because guys? In general? Don't do well with indecision. They need things in black and white. We're simple that way. OK? Now, go do work. Your show is, like, half over."
She's a little struck. "You really like her, don't you?"
He pauses. "Go, Maggie."
She finally leaves, thank God, and he finishes the script, calls two field producers to confirm their times and finds his graphics editors to check out their work. Then he wanders down to watch Sloan's piece from behind the TelePrompTer (no way he's going into the control room with Mama Nami), notes for Elliot's segments in hand. As Sloan hops off the chair post-segment, she catches his eye and smiles.
"Looking good up there," he says, following her as she struts off.
"You came in to hear me say about three sentences," she retorts as they head to her office.
"All of which were highly intelligent insights into the Greek economy. Where's your mom?" he says, looking around behind him.
"She'll want to finish watching the show. She has a thing for Will."
"Did you tell Mac?" he jokes as she flips on the lights in her office.
"Her 'thing' is that she wants to ask him questions about his relationship with his father and whether or not his mother hugged him enough as a child."
He winces. Less cool. "Speaking of psychoanalysis, how do you think dinner with your mom went?"
She kicks off her shoes and sits on the edge of her desk, smirking. "Well, actually."
"Yeah. She thought I looked satisfied."
"Why wouldn't you be satisfied? You have a job you like, a killer apartment …"
She cocks her head. "Not that kind of satisfied, Stanley Straightlaced."
Oh. "Oh. You mean — like, wow. What did she say, exactly?"
"'Sloan, he seems nice. You look very satisfied,'" Sloan recites as he reddens. "Seriously. You're really lucky you missed my mother's Sex Ed 101. It involved props." As he's trying to imagine what that possibly entails, she grabs her gym bag from her desk and sheds her blazer jacket and skirt, exchanging them for a pair of black jeans and a Duke zip-up over her navy cami. "Is your show locked down yet?" She yanks her hair back in a clear 'going home, want bed,' do, and pulls her ACN News cap on top.
"Mostly. Are you going to stick around?"
"Mmm, I kind of want to head home early and watch from the comfort of bed? My mom exhausted me," she looks up from pulling on her boots. "Is that OK?"
Though Maggie says they come in together regularly, the actually don't do it super-frequently, since Sloan gets in freakishly early to go to the gym. But she has honestly stayed through the end of his show every night, or met him at Hang Chew's, since spending the night together went from periodic to frequent to a matter of course. Besides being just nice having her close, this has also meant that they haven't exchanged keys. He knows her laundry is in his machine and her leftover cheesecake is in his fridge, so they're definitely going there tonight. But she doesn't have a key.
"Yeah, sure," he says, pulling out his key ring clumsily. " Here. I should — I'll make you one tomorrow. You should have a key."
She laughs, a little awkwardly, sifting the keys into her fingers. They clink. "That would be the practical thing to do."
He kisses her. "Sounds good. Should I say good-bye to your mom?"
She checks the clock. "Yeah, if want to. And if you've got a minute." She raises her eyebrows apologetically. "Though you really shouldn't, since you should have a job to do."
He puts his hands on her shoulders and spins her out of the room. "All the time in the world."
"That's not comforting," she replies. "You're a decently important person."
"So I probably have 90 seconds. But I've already given Elliot his text for approval. I am ahead of the curve tonight."
"Look at you, all star," she teases, pushing open the door to the control room. Will is wrapping up for the evening, and Nami is standing close to Mac.
"Hey Mom. What'd you think of the show?"
"There's a great deal more pacing than I anticipated," she remarked. She looked at Don. "Do you pace when you're producing a show, Don?"
"Oh yeah. One time Sloan caused me to basically throw my headset."
"Wait when was that? I'm fantastic."
He stares at her. "Are you kidding me? Fukushima?"
"Oh. Yeah, that was not such a good night." She grimaced. "Anyways, Mom, I wanted to introduce to Will, and then I'll take you back to your hotel, how's that sound?"
"Yeah, and I have to get ready for the 10 o'clock, but I just wanted to say that it was great to meet you."
"It was nice to meet you as well, Don. I will be accompanying my husband back to New York next month; hopefully we will see you then."
"Oh, yeah? What brings you back east?"
"Sloan's father will be testifying in front of the U.N. Economic and Social Council on sustainable economic development models."
He's a little taken aback, and makes a note to google her father. "Wow. That sounds exciting. We'll see you then," he smiles. "Alright, I gotta run."
"See you later," Sloan says, and he kisses her cheek.
As they watch them walk out, Mac punches him in the shoulder. "She likes you! She really, really likes you!"
"Please, try and sound more surprised," he says dryly. He really has to go find Elliot.
"I'm happy! Whose idea was dinner? That was big. This is good, Don. This is so good."
"You're like a British Laker Girl, you know."
"I could do a jig," she crows. "I called it! I am like Vanna White, revealing truth."
He stares at her. "That's a terrible metaphor," he says.
"Not my best," she agrees.
"Question," he asks. "Sloan's father — do you know what he does, exactly?"
She stares at him. "You've heard of microfinance?"
"Of course," he says.
"He made it scalable, among a few other things," she says. "So he won the Nobel Prize. He's also the dean of Stanford's business school and the former head of Goldman Sachs' Asia offices. Joseph Stiglitz is her godfather. Both Ben Bernanke and Paul Krugman were in her parents' wedding. It was probably the last time they actually got along, man."
He stares. "How did I not know this?"
"I don't know," Mac replies. "It's on her Wikipedia page."
"I'm not going to wikipedia my … Sloan."
"Your Sloan?" Mac smirks at his reluctance to say girlfriend, which is entirely predicated on the fact that they are still in the control room. "And there you go. That's why you didn't know."
"She said he was less scary!"
"Well, yeah, because she's his favorite," Mac reasons. "And they just kind of talk economic policy in Japanese the whole time, according to her. For everyone else he's probably a little intimidating, though."
He rolls his eyes. "Just a little. I'm going to get Elliot ready."
Elliot is already sitting in the chair, reviewing his notes, since Terri's show is routed out of Washington. "Did you know Sloan's dad had a Nobel Prize in Economics?" he asks without preamble.
Without looking up, Elliot says, "Well, yeah. It's on her Wikipedia page."
"I give up," Don mutters.
He heads home as soon as he can that night, texting Sloan to unlock the door shortly before midnight. He finds her (as he could have predicted) already in the bedroom, one of his commandeered flannel button-downs and her trendy hipster glasses on, two economic journals (her 'bedtime reading') and four newspapers around her (only two in English), her laptop open, the TV on, tea and the half-eaten piece of cheesecake on the floor on her side of the bed.
"Good show," she smiles. "Elliot did really well with the phone hacking story."
"Thanks," he says, stropping down to his boxers and climbing into the bed next to her. "What do we have here?" He picks up one of the newspapers written in Japanese and pretends to read it. She curls up and puts her chin on his shoulder as she reads the text to him, in Japanese. After a few paragraphs he turns and kisses her temple. "How long did you guys live in Japan?" he says.
"Five years," she says. "Fourth grade through eighth grade for me. And then I did a year abroad there in college and two, altogether, during my Ph.D."
"Your two Ph.D.s," he says.
"Yeah, but I did them concurrently," she says, as if that makes it somehow less impressive that she has a doctorate in economics and another in finance.
"What was it like, living there?"
She shrugs. "Depends on the time. When we were younger, it was just like being in America, except for family vacations we would go to Indonesia."
"Did you go to a Japanese school?" he thinks about the ones he's seen, the long rows of miserable-looking students.
"God no. We went to the international lycee — except for the Japanese class, our classes were all in French and English, one day English, one day French. We had to go to Japanese school all day on Saturdays, though. I hated it."
"You got fluent with once a week lessons?"
"The lessons were just for reading and writing. We always spoke it at home, even when we were living in the U.S. It was important for my mother."
"Did she grow up in Japan?" he hadn't detected an accent.
"No," she sighs. "Her mom was born in Japan, but moved to San Francisco in the 30s. Her dad was born in the U.S. to Japanese immigrants. They were both raised in exclusively Japanese communities, and they met while they were in the camps."
"The internment camps."
"Yeah. So they raised my mom and her brothers to be fluent in Japanese, as kind of a fuck you, I think. Then my dad learned Japanese starting in high school, so we all spoke Japanese growing up. When my dad got the job in Japan, they thought it would be good for us," she cocks her head. "Why all the questions?"
"I don't know," he answers honestly. "I liked meeting your mom today."
"She really liked you," she says. "I didn't know about your dad. You didn't have to tell her." She leans back slightly, puts a thin arm on the headboard. "I'm sorry. I should have stopped her."
"It's not your fault, I never told you," he says reasonably. She's patient and waits for him to continue. "He had a development business, he built malls around Philadelphia in the 70s and 80s. He and my mom got married because they were Catholic and she got pregnant with Mitch. They were never particularly happy together," he sighs. "I'm pretty sure he cheated throughout their marriage, but his relationship with Gina was pretty permanent — about 12 years, I think. They broke up when their kids were little and Mitch and I were in college, and he died a few years later. She came to the funeral, turns out my mom knew about her … Yeah. It wasn't pretty," he sighs. "Adam was nine, Lily was six."
"And you wanted to have a relationship with them?"
"I mean, we all hated him for it. My mom was just … devastated. And I figured … I thought we would still hate him, and that wouldn't be good since it would just make everyone miserable. But if we got to know them as real people, kids are generally cool — you know, when they're not being brats — and that way I wouldn't hate them or my dad. Plus Gina was pretty freaking overwhelmed — even though they'd split a few years earlier, my dad had still been providing for them, and then he didn't put them in his will, obviously. So she needed all the free babysitting they could get."
She kisses him softly. "That was … That's awesome. How are they now?"
"They're good. My mom still isn't crazy about them, but both she and Gina have remarried, or married, in Gina's case, so that makes it easier. They basically treat each other as their ex-husband's other ex-wife. Mitch took the longest to warm up to them. He had just gotten engaged when Dad died, and I think it kind of took a lot out of him, you know? But Melanie really helped him through that, and now Lily babysits for their kids. Adam's at Cornell. He's pretty much a bro — he played lax in high school, wants to go to law school, pledged Kappa Sig, looks really stupid in popped collars a lot. But he's a good kid. Lily's a lot artsier. She wants to go to NYU and drink a lot of coffee, you know? Her nails are either neon green or black and she writes really bad poetry but is actually pretty good artist."
They've rarely talked about family or friends, have just had this really insular, intense relationship, one that's their apartments and Hang Chew's and ACN and sometimes a really expensive Japanese place, and he honestly knows very little beyond what he knew before they started dating. It's nice. He wants to learn more. "What about your sisters? There are three, right?"
"Yeah," she rolls her eyes. "I'm the oldest. Spencer is two years younger than I am. She's the one that can't handle cold weather. She went to UCLA, did Teach For America right out of college. She's the founding principal at an all-girls high school in South L.A. now. Her husband, Brent, is a lawyer. They have a two-year old daughter, Hanna. They want a big family, so we keep expecting them to announce they're pregnant again. And then there are the twins … Sutton and Sawyer."
"Sloan, Spencer, Sutton, and Sawyer Sabbith," he winces.
"My maternal grandmother is an old-school WASP — Miss Porter's, Radcliffe, DAR. Plus, once you have a Sloan and a Spencer you can't just have a Hillary or an Alex, you know? So, Sutton and Sawyer," she laughs. "They're the youngest — they just turned twenty-five," she sighs. "I barely know them. Sutton just started medical school, at Harvard. She did the Peace Corps right out of Brown. She wants to cure infectious diseases. Sawyer is getting a law degree at Yale, after getting a Master's in engineering at MIT. She wants to run for office some day."
"So if your mom is the scary one, what's your dad like?"
She wrinkles her nose. "He's a lot like me, I think. Give him an econ journal and he's happy for hours. Mom is definitely in charge of everything at home. Dad's a bit of a dork — he's lived in California for almost 20 years but he doesn't have a clue who the Kardashians are. He works too much. When he's not working, he likes to play golf. He rolls his own sushi while wearing a kimono and gardens and collects wine bottles and likes first editions of Dickens. He's this goofball academic in dad jeans, yelling at the squirrels in the gutters."
"And he's the dean at Stanford's business school?"
She's quiet. "Did you read my Wikipedia page or talk to Kenzie?"
"Both," he admits, because he did scroll through her Wikipedia page during a pre-taped segment during Elliot's show.
"Yeah. I mean, he works hard, is really smart, and loves what he does. And a lot of unexpected, good stuff followed."
"Nobel Prize is pretty good stuff."
"I swear, you meet him, and the first three things he'll talk about are the squirrels in the gutters, Hanna, and how my mother called his secretary and got the candy bowl replaced with a fruit bowl."
"And the fourth?"
"How to solve poverty in Africa."
"He probably has some pretty good ideas."
"He thinks he does," she laughs, then reconsiders. "He does." She leans over to kiss him, and he starts unbuttoning the buttons on her (his) shirt to slide his hands down around her hips.
"So he's coming to town in a few months."
She pulls back, slightly annoyed. "Ok, A — I didn't know that till my mom mentioned it today and B — seriously? Your hand is down my shirt and you want to talk about my dad?" She shoves his shoulder. "Not cool."
He laughs, flipping them as he works the shirt off her shoulders. "Won't happen again," he promises.
Commentary: So this was actually the very first piece of "Newsroom" fic I wrote, even before the two one-shots I posted six years ago (hyperbole). I started it even before the second season premiered and now, looking back at how my writing style has evolved, I'm almost a little embarrassed at how clunky and thin a lot of it reads to me. I still like this, because the Don/Sloan interaction is solid, but a lot of the character notes (esp. Maggie and Mac) feel horribly off (I totally tried to tweak them, but not significantly).
I always knew this would be the first one I posted because I wanted to get a lot of the exposition about their families out of the way (usually, I wrote out of order; for instance, I wrote the last one posted probably eighth or ninth but held it till the end). I wanted to do that both to lay the groundwork for the rest of the story, but also as a shorthand for how serious they've gotten so quickly: Particularly for Don, this isn't something he talks about with just anyone (in the headcanon, he never even brought up most of this to Maggie, for instance). And Sloan is clearly loathe to introduce her parents to anyone post-fiance, which I think is pretty clear here. So it went first to help us dive right in. And from a writing standpoint, it also helped me learn a lot about these two characters as they were going to be in this piece.
One of my major aims in writing each of these oneshots was to start (usually) with something that should be a significant milestone in a relationship, like meeting the mother, and subvert that by having the oneshot really be about something else. In this case, meeting Nami wasn't necessarily the important event, but the conversation they have in bed about their families — quiet, private, and accompanied by cheesecake — is the bigger, relationship-solidifying event. It's one of those quiet, solemn moments that, I hope, becomes very foundational to their relationship by sealing their bond. In that way, it's also foundational to this piece.