these things i've never known

five things that (probably)(didn't / don't / won't) happen to don & sloan

modelled after the decade-old 'five things' meme that spawned so much good fic back in the day, a series of unrelated stories that diverge from canon at various points.

this chapter contains continued abuse of parentheses, capitalization, and many other standard conventions of grammar. also some angst and a weird extended weather/fire/lighthouse metaphor. or something.

pt ii: the world does not stop turning round (there's no big tragedy)

Genoa ruins them. In more ways than one.

Charlie, Will, and Mac all resign, the media equivalent of a dishonourable discharge. Their senior staff follows very shortly after. Because that's what they do. They take the hit and stand strong in their solidarity; steadfastly, unequivocally believing in doing the right thing.

(doing the right news. look how that worked out.)

But solidarity only goes so far in the face of scandalized unemployment, and one by one the participants in their broken little experiment scatter across the world like shards of glass from the wreck that NewsNight became.

Mackenzie disappears in a frenzy of promises to stay in touch that she and Sloan both know are equally well-intentioned and improbable. Will catches the first cross-country flight available to a media relations firm in California still willing to have him. Maggie goes back to Uganda.

Jerry Dantana doesn't get a cent from ACN.

(he got everything else.)

And for a blessed short while, Sloan and Don hold the centre. They drink beer on her balcony and continue a rather half-assed fantasy football league – Don's adamant that the commissioner can't have a team, Sloan reminds him that she's the only other person involved and that one team by definition doesn't make a league, Don questions her definition, and a cushion is thrown – and absolutely under no circumstances do they talk about ACN.

For a minute, Sloan begins to think that they'll actually make it. That somehow they became the eye of this storm. That the spark that's been smouldering between them since Fukushima will ultimately become a blaze, and that the two of them will sustain each other because the storm has to pass at some point. It's a meteorological certainty. Sloan can work with certainty.

(she just forgot about the path of destruction in its wake.)

There's a moment one night, after four and a half beers and a failed attempt at trading her quarterback for the rest of his team, when the blaze almost ignites. It ends up feeling less like a new beginning and more like a survivor's desperate attempt to pick through the ashes for anything that's salvageable from the past.

It flickers and burns out.

Two weeks later, he takes a job in Chicago. "It's the second city!" he says with forced cheer, as though that didn't mean departing the first city. He tells her he's leaving, and she waits for the punch line.

(she knows this, keeps it somewhere in that place at the back of her mind that's reserved for those things she knows but doesn't want to: it's not just the city he's leaving.)

She wills her face to school into something resembling impassivity, and as far as she can tell she's about 80% successful.


She doesn't need to ask him why he's going, and she doesn't know how to ask him to stay. They've been here before, but she doesn't have his confidence in the difference three days can make to their situation. Sloan understands statistics and certainties, and she's never been able to break Don Keefer down by either.

(she wishes the rise and fall of people's emotions were as easily chartable as stocks, or half as predictable.)

In three days his number's been disconnected and without walking the twenty-four familiar blocks she knows that someone else's books are lining the walls of his apartment. Sloan's broken up with – been broken up with by – her fair share of boyfriends. Even a fiancé, once. Don was neither, and it never hurt like this before.

But the storm still passes.


The storm passes and Sloan debates her options. Staying in New York is non-negotiable. It's where her life is, and someone has to be here for when the others eventually find their way back, when the dust has settled. She'll be their lighthouse. By virtue of her (almost) impeccable resume and her (completely) unarguable screen presence, she ends up being offered primetime positions at any number of networks.

(sometimes she checks the weather forecast for illinois, as if the windy city will blow him back, and on clear nights she can't help but hope, just a little.

but they're separated by more now than geography and cloudy skies.)

She accepts tenure at Columbia instead and spends her days dedicated to teaching the next generation of economists to be better than she is. In more ways than one.

(the lights don't guide him home.)