After a while, Nadine murmurs, "Mike, what are we doing?" His arm feels heavy on her waist - maybe oppressive. She hasn't decided yet.
"Resting," he says, his voice slightly muffled against her skin. He lifts his head. "Unless you wanna go for round three? I need some time, but I can go down on -"
"What? No, that's not..." she fumbles. "I mean - maybe - but that's not what I was talking about." Her face heat up a little, which is a little ridiculous considering everything. She turns in his arms so that they're face to face. He looks amused. "I mean, what are we doing?"
He traces the length of her arm with a light touch and considers the weight of what she's trying to ask. "We're… dating," he says. Simple.
She quirks an eyebrow. "Because that went so well the first time."
"That was different."
"But it really wasn't." Besides the fact that he was married then and isn't now (and okay, that is a big difference), everything else really is more or less the same. And she can't allow herself to jump full-in on whatever this is when there is a very real possibility that they will simply implode again. "We still work together," she points out, "and I don't think you ever really forgave me for getting you fired ten years ago."
"That's ancient history. I forgive you - okay?" He brushes a lock of hair away from her face tenderly. "And I would submit that we are not exactly the same people we were a decade ago."
She'll concede that. "So then how do we do this?"
"Why don't we just see where it goes?" he says, and kisses her shoulder. "It'll be our little experiment."
She considers that. "I guess that's okay."
"Good." He pushes her flat on her back and starts kissing his way down her body, making her giggle and moan all at once. "This can be the first test…"
3.22 - Revelation
There are more dinner dates, and they often end in sleepovers. She's still a little skittish about doing anything more than that (movies? mini golf? ice skating? It all seems a little kitschy) and he doesn't push her, which she appreciates.
She stays over at his house more often than he stays at her condo - generally for the convenience. He lives closer to the State Department than she does.
But tonight is the eve of her departure for the G20 Summit in Rome, and they are both at her condo so that she can pack. He lounges on her bed and watches her flit around the room, pulling clothes off hangers and zipping tiny toiletries into her makeup case. Gordon is calm in the corner. Her place isn't necessarily pet-friendly, but Gordon has always been so good that it hardly bothers her.
"Which one?" She holds up two floor-length evening gowns. Staffers do not attend the state dinner, but it's important to come prepared for any possibility regardless.
"The red one." He gestures to the one in her left hand. "You look fantastic in red."
The corners of her mouth lift in a half-smile. His compliments are free and frequent.
She seals the preferred gown into a garment bag and places it as the final item in her suitcase before swiftly zipping everything away. Then she heaves the suitcase off of the foot of the bed and crawls up the mattress, plopping down next to Mike.
He immediately throws a leg over hers and pulls her in closer. "Dinner when you get back?" he queries. "I'll cook."
"I'd like that."
He lightly strokes her bare hip; the skin is exposed where her shirt has ridden up a little. "And call me when you land tomorrow. Please."
She twists around to give him a little peck on the lips. "I will."
True to her word, Nadine calls him once she's arrived at the summit and has settled in her room.
And then later he calls her, frantic, when he gets wind of the drone bombing in Rome.
She's quick to reassure him that they're all fine; she's fine.
"That's a little too much excitement for a banking forum," he says, still sounding a little shaken.
She chuckles, and promises, "The rest of it will be appropriately boring."
She's wrong, though.
The evening of the state dinner, she, Daisy, Matt, and Blake are tending to unresolved business in an empty meeting room when they are rushed out of the building by Diplomatic Security and into the first of the Secretary's SUVs. The rest of the building's inhabitants follow them out in a chaotic deluge.
From the window, Nadine sees President Dalton being whisked into his own vehicle, and a minute later their own door opens and Secretary McCord clambers in, nearly tripping over the hem of her bright dress. The agent closes the door behind her and climbs in front.
"We have to wait," McCord orders tersely to her agents.
Agent Kendall, at the wheel, glances up at her through the rearview mirror. "We can't stay more than a minute, ma'am."
"Where's Jay?" Daisy queries.
"Getting the building's HVAC system shut down." Elizabeth's brow furrows with worry. "He needs to get out of there fast."
They all wait in tense silence when Blake suddenly exclaims, "There he is!" And Elizabeth opens the door so that Jay can dive inside. Kendall tears away the very next second.
It isn't until, following all of the chaos of the thwarted biological attack, they are safely on the plane flying back that Nadine finally has a free second to herself. She uses it to check her phone - several missed calls, and over half of them from Mike. News of the summit evacuation is only just beginning to hit international news outlets, but she bets that he'd learned of it practically in real time. He's probably been beside himself for the intervening interminable hours.
She excuses herself to the back of the plane and dials him back.
He picks up halfway through the first ring, skipping right over the pleasantries. "Jesus, are you guys alright?"
"We're all whole," she assures. "I think the only casualties are the two terrorists who tried to deploy the bioweapon."
"Well thank god for small miracles. Are you in the air?"
"Yes. We land late tonight."
"Good. Well, call me if you need anything, or want the company. I'm around, okay?"
"Okay; thank you."
"But I'm sure you're exhausted." He's right; and if she gives herself a second to actually feel it, she'll be out in an instant. "I'll let you go; I'm sure Bess has a million things for you to do."
"Yeah; talk soon." She hangs up and walks back to the main cabin. There's still work to be done; she can be exhausted later.
The Secretary barely glances up from the sheaf of paper in her hands as she says, "Nadine, will you and Jay start calling your contacts at Interpol? I wanna have those guys identified by the time we land."
"Yes, ma'am." She slips right into work-mode, settling into the pace that's being set by everyone else. They're all just as exhausted as she is, but also just as tireless. There's weak coffee in the carafe on the table - Blake had done his best with the limited resources on board - but they're all mostly feeding off of the low-humming energy of each other. And possibly jet fumes.
She thinks she'll take up Mike on his offer for company, even though she knows it'll be the middle of the night by the time she reaches her condo. She feels a little bad for making that kind of request of him; for dragging him out of his bed and into hers at an ungodly hour, and not even for anything fun. Just sleep. She needs sleep. But she likes falling asleep next to him, and after the day she's had, she doesn't think anyone can blame her for wanting a little comfort.
The plane lands some hours later, and it is indeed incredibly late by the time she gets back to her condo. Mike is already waiting in front of her door when she drags herself out of the elevator, and she musters a small smile for him, feeling instantly warmer.
"Hey," he murmurs, "come here." He takes her bags out of her hands, setting them on the floor, and folds her into his embrace. She leans into him and breathes in the scent of his soap, faint and clean on his skin.
They stand there for what feels like an eternity. Mike finally steps back, takes her bags and her keys and unlocks her door, holding it open for her to walk in ahead of him. She heads straight for the bathroom, starting the shower and stripping out of her clothes. She hears the faint sound of Mike moving around her bedroom; putting down her things, opening drawers, and moving around the space with general familiarity.
She washes the trip off of herself, and re-emerges into her room wrapped in nothing but a towel. Mike is waiting for her with a clean set of pajamas - a tank top and sleep shorts - which he hands to her with a soft kiss to her temple. She murmurs her thanks and drops the towel, pulling them on gracelessly before sinking onto her bed with an appreciative groan.
He climbs in behind her and wraps his arms around her waist, getting as close to her as he can. He presses affectionate kisses to her shoulder and Nadine breathes deeply, soaking up his warmth and comfort. She's asleep in a second.