DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Seriously, the cast of The West Wing belong to Warner Bros. and I'm only borrowing them for some free daydreaming that I wrote down).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The third in a series of stories introducing Kate Harper and establishing her as 'one of the gang'. Post ep missing scene for Episode s5 ep 19 'Talking Points'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com

Day One Down
By ncruuk


"I haven't made a mistake Kate." The sudden interruption to the silence made Commander Kate Harper's head snap up, followed by the rest of her as she succumbed to years of military training and stood at parade rest in deference to her superior.

"Ma'am?" Smiling at her serious new Deputy, Dr Nancy McNally pivoted on her heel and came into Kate's office, placing her handbag on the coffee table which was currently covered in a stack of files that Kate hadn't quite finished unpacking and sorting.

"How on earth did you survive in the CIA?" asked Nancy, changing conversation topic quickly to something she hadn't realised was intriguing her.

"By not getting killed?" suggested Kate glibly, only to continue, "I'm not sure I follow Ma'am." Sighing, partly out of frustration but mainly with amusement, Nancy tossed her overcoat in the direction of her handbag and, glancing towards the small cupboard in the corner that she knew doubled as a fridge asked,

"You stocked the bar yet?" as she sat down in a chair.

"Umm no, but it seems the room came with beer and soda, unless you drink Navy Rum Ma'am?" offered Kate nervously, remembering the bottle of rum she had in her crates somewhere which had been a parting gift from a Royal Navy Commander some time ago.

"Beer's fine…" began Nancy, enjoying the look of surprise that crossed Kate's face, closely followed by panic, "… as long as you've got a way of opening it, I can live without the glass," she offered, correctly understanding her reluctant host's problem.

"Here you go Ma'am," said Kate simply a few moments later, passing the chilled open bottle to her Boss and, after a moment's pause, opening one for herself, she sat in another chair alongside Nancy.

"So tell me Kate," began Nancy, relaxing her back in the chair and idly crossing her right leg over her left, the beer bottle dangling from her left hand, "how did 'top in her class' at Annapolis Ensign Harper manage not to get killed whilst in the CIA?"

"I don't follow…" began Kate cautiously, knowing better than to try and argue the CIA label – Naval Intelligence was different to the CIA… sometimes.

"You walked round State and the West Wing today and I lost count of the number of times people used to dealing with the military were surprised by your Naval manners – why didn't someone kill you when you were at the CIA?" In the quiet moments that followed, Nancy carefully sipped her beer and watched as Kate's face showed absolutely nothing which in a weird way, told Nancy far, far more about Admiral Fitzwallace's protégé than any file or phone call ever could. Finally, after taking a healthy swig of her own beer, Kate looked at Nancy and the National Security Advisor was shocked at how much emotion and expression was, for a split second moment, in her eyes before the calm, professionally neutral façade returned, along with an answer.

"Contact lenses, occasionally a wig but usually hair product."

"Excuse me?" Despite the seriousness of Kate's tone, Nancy couldn't help but find humour in the unintentionally cryptic response. Deciding to trust her instincts that, for whatever reason, her Boss was tonight in possession of enough spare time to share her sense of humour, Kate stood up and went to open the office's cupboard that served as a wardrobe, returning to her seat holding her US Navy dress uniform hat, which she held out for Nancy to take.

"I don't follow…" began Nancy, putting her beer bottle on the floor so as to be better able to examine the hat, a hat she had never before been able to consider like this having had a decidedly civilian career, even if most of her colleagues were military.

"Undercover I wore contact lenses pretty much always and most of the time some sort of changed hairstyle…" began Kate, only for Nancy to interrupt as she caught on to Kate's point.

"…that required hair products. I'm guessing regulation uniforms require regulation hair?" she asked, holding up the hat to emphasise her point.

"Something like that…" agreed Kate awkwardly, taking another swig of her beer as she accepted the hat back from Nancy, only to toss it across the office so it landed gently on the coat stand by the door.

"Impressive party trick… you do that for all the girls?" asked Nancy teasingly, having a pretty good idea what she needed to say, especially when she saw Kate's eyes widen at the tease.

"Kate, I know telling you to relax is like telling Leo McGarry to take a vacation – not going to happen without medical intervention, so that's not what my advice is, even though you do need to relax – you need to become a civilian advisor to the President of the United States, one whose voice is just as loud, if not stronger than the four star advisors from the Joint Chiefs. You'll get there, I know you will," reassured Nancy, smiling at the frown that now crossed Kate's face as she considered Nancy's words and the potential horror that brought as she began to fully understand Nancy's point – Commander Harper Deputy NSA had to be prepared to disagree with the Joint Chiefs which meant she had to step outside the Naval protocols that had regulated her life, regulated… some of her life…

"Why don't you come to work for me wearing your contact lenses for a bit Kate…" suggested Nancy, giving Kate time to consider the advice by draining her beer.

"Thank you…" the comment sounded incomplete to Kate, seeing as it lacked the Ma'am but it was something she had to get used to again, and maybe the contact lenses, clear ones so they wouldn't confuse security, maybe that would help her transition speed along, "… I think I'll try that."

"Good. Now, I'll leave you to finish unpacking but remember what Admiral Fitzwallace has told you and what I said earlier," began Nancy, putting her empty beer bottle on Kate's desk and starting to pull on her coat, only for Kate to grab it and hold it for her. "Thank you. Remember, neither of us made a mistake in making you Josiah Bartlett's challenging voice of reason on foreign and domestic security policy. We did make one mistake, which you will have to deal with though…"

"Only one Ma'am?"

"That's your last Ma'am Kate," warned Nancy before continuing, "we didn't respond to the change in world politics and their impact on foreign and domestic policy advice fast enough. The President is used to having Leo tell him what to do because Admiral Fitzwallace and I have told Leo what can be done and everything else we treated as just politics. You need to be a part of the Senior Staff Kate, a Senior Staff that doesn't want you and doesn't understand that it needs you – they think they manage just fine without you and are led by a President who hates new people…"

"I think I understand…"

"Do you?"

"I'm in the information loop but out of the decision making loop, a decision making loop made up of Senior Staffers who won't want to realise they are not qualified to make those decisions due to lack of information and can't bring a new person into the gang once they do realise…"

"Like I said Kate, I'm sorry I didn't sort this out sooner…"

"Don't be," said Kate straightforwardly, escorting Nancy to the door.

"I don't think empty platitudes suit you Commander."

"They don't, it isn't… sooner wouldn't have meant me." It could have been said arrogantly or aggressively yet it wasn't and Nancy understood, as Admiral Fitzwallace had understood once they realised their problem. They'd had to wait four months for the CIA de-briefings and cover stories to be put in place, but it was worth the wait.

"Talk to CJ Cregg," advised Nancy as she prepared to resume her journey home.

"I think I can cope with the boys club," muttered Kate although she did look sheepish at the realisation she'd probably latched onto a rather insulting and superficial justification for what was the latest in otherwise extremely insightful and sensible advice.

"I know you can, I was talking about the girls club… good night Commander!" And, as quickly as Kate's still and silent office had been disturbed it returned…

The End

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