these things i've never known
five things that (probably)(didn't / don't / won't) happen to don & sloan.
pt i: remember when we first met (and love was just a bet)
He sees her across a crowded room.
(yeah, it's a cliché. sometimes the best ones are.)
It's New Year's Eve, and ACN is welcoming 2009 with its customary newsroom party. Don isn't generally the biggest fan of these things, but Don is a big fan of free beer and watching his co-workers embarrass themselves, and really, he has nowhere else to be.
He knows who she is, obviously. The newsroom is no better than a high school cafeteria when it comes to gossip and innuendo, and the new financial reporter with two PhDs and legs for days has generated more than her fair share of both. She's navigating it well, he thinks, although why he's come to that conclusion now he's not entirely sure. She's been at ACN for probably four months, but they're in such different orbits that he honestly can't remember giving her much thought at all.
(but he's a perceptive guy. he sees things. and he sees her do her show at two and four, dispensing advice and predictions he won't even pretend to wholly understand while seemingly unfazed by the mass amounts of bullshit that come with the territory of being a beautiful professional woman, and he finds her fortitude far more impressive than her legs.
maybe he's given her some thought after all.)
It's 11.42pm and he's had just enough beer that properly introducing himself to her seems like an excellent idea. Don's well aware of his own reputation around the office. He's smug, he's stubborn, he's difficult to work with. He's also usually okay with it. It's not that he's a bad guy, it's just that nice guys don't get anywhere in this business and Don, Don wants to get somewhere. He thinks that Sloan, who must have crushed more than a few egos to get to where she is and who is currently standing on her own and fiddling with her Blackberry in a pose that suggests she's even less comfortable at this party than he is, might understand.
It still takes him another half a beer to act.
In the twenty-seven seconds it takes him to cross the room to get to her, he considers his potential opening lines. Ends up reaching her before he can decide on one. Goes with a classic.
She smiles, the mildly confused smile of a person who's pretty sure they've been mistaken for someone else.
"Hi. I'm Don. Uh, Don Keefer. I'm a producer on…"
She nods. "I know."
They drift into a silence that is almost definitely completely awkward. He considers his next move. Can't really come up with anything. Don cultivates his self-assured-bastard newsroom persona with alarming credibility, but confidence is a trick that took him years to master.
(she undid it in forty-nine seconds and he doesn't know what to make of that.
something tells him he's going to be giving her a lot of thought from now on.)
Then she shakes her head. "Fuck. Sorry. I thought that since I knew who you were that you also… I don't… Sloan. Is me, I mean. I'm Sloan. Sabbith."
The difference between her totally composed television persona and this… whoever this person is is spectacular. It's endearing. It's totally fucking confusing and like any good journalist he immediately needs to figure it (her) out.
"It's okay, I did, actually. Know who you were. Kind of. But it's good to meet you, Sloan Sabbith."
He gestures vaguely at her Blackberry and her glass of flat champagne and her solitude. "This not really your thing?"
"You know, I've only been here a little while. And New Year's Eve sucks in general. But it was this or watching the ball drop from my couch. Or, one of my students did invite me to a house party, but that invitation seemed neither appropriate nor enticing."
"You're a professor as well?"
"At Columbia. Just one class a semester now, though."
"How'd you move into reporting?"
"College seniors are surprisingly easy to teach. They listen. They want to listen, for the most part. I thought taking on the general public might present more of a challenge."
Don nods. He gets it. He might be on the other side of the camera, but the kind of news he wants to produce has always been about – been for – the people. Whether they like it or not.
"So why are you here alone?"
He chokes a bit on his beer. "Wow. You don't want to segue into that topic of conversation?"
She shrugs, unapologetic. "I'm not that great at segues. You would have noticed."
"Because going there directly went so smoothly for you."
"Did you want to make small talk about the canapés instead? I could do that. Or I could tell you about federal banking regulations. They're really my only three conversation starters."
"What kind of parties do you go to that 'federal banking regulations' are considered a good conversation starter?"
"Economics conferences, mainly. But I think it could have worked on this crowd. I think I could have sold it."
"There's no crowd. There's me."
"Let's not get caught up in the math." She's smiling at him more genuinely now, and he notices the freckles on her nose as it crinkles. He thinks he's enamoured. He's never been enamoured before so he can't be positive, and he's open to the possibility that it's partially the beer talking, but Sloan Sabbith is standing there with her bad economics jokes and her seeming inability to carry a normal conversation and her ever-widening smile, and this has to be what it feels like.
He goes for it.
"I'm here alone because I didn't have anyone to bring, obviously."
"People say you're kind of an asshole. Although so far, I have to say, it doesn't seem to be true."
It's been eight and a half minutes and somehow he's already not offended by her blunt candor, so he just chuckles, because really? "You have interesting interpersonal skills, you know that?"
"I've been told as much, although usually in harsher terms."
(he's had the pleasure of knowing plenty of women in his life. dated quite a few of them. was born to a particularly remarkable one. none of them have ever simultaneously frightened and fascinated and frustrated him the way she's managed to in the last nine minutes.)
They lapse again into a silence that's a little less awkward than the last. Don's not quite sure where to go from here. Women are supposed to let you know if they're into you, right? There's a… signal. There should be a signal. He's fairly certain he's not sensing a signal, and although she's small, he's also fairly certain that she could beat him up if she wanted to. But it's 11.59pm and her eyes are warm and he hasn't wanted to kiss a woman the way he inexplicably wants to kiss this woman in a really long time.
(eight… seven… six…)
She turns to raise her champagne glass in a mock toast, and the beer's emboldened him and the little smile playing on her face is encouraging him and his brain's saying "fuck it fuck it fuck it", so he takes the last step forward and kisses her as the clock strikes and the room erupts.
The stars don't come out. The earth doesn't stop moving and the lights don't dim. It's not that kind of a moment. But she kisses him back and her body presses a little more against his and it's a pretty damn good way to ring in midnight.
(she also doesn't punch him. in about three and a half years, he'll look back and be very grateful for that.)
Nineteen minutes ago he'd convinced himself that he'd never even thought about her.
It's 12.01am, and for a moment, the incontrovertible cynic in Don believes in something a little bit like fate.