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Fortune Depends

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0600 hours

The electric light is unflattering to say the least. Sam Cassidy looks into her bathroom mirror and sees dull eyes staring back at her, set in a face too lined to be her own. Her forehead and everything to the left of her nose is already made up - nothing too audacious, lest she become more than a silent part of the scenery - the rest is bare. She rubs foundation into her skin with practised movements.

In a minute she's going to call Ollie, if he doesn't get there first. She's left her phone next to the sink in an attempt to resign herself to this necessity, but it hasn't really worked; she still feels a new weight sink in her stomach every time she sees it out of the corner of her eye, every time she hears in her mind the panicked sound of her boss' voice. It's not that Sam dislikes Ollie, in fact she finds him rather endearing, but she can't stop thinking of him as a third-year who's accidentally been appointed headmaster. He makes her uneasy. Still, just about everything makes Sam uneasy these days, so maybe that's unfair.

She finishes with her make-up, taking longer than necessary to store it all away in her handbag, then rounds on the phone. This is your job, woman, for god's sake. She calls Ollie with one tap of the screen and double-checks her reflection while waiting for him to pick up. When at last he does so, it's with a barked "Hello?" that tells her all she needs to know about the day ahead.

"Morning, Ollie," says Sam, with as much patience as she can muster. "Just wondering if you still want those new immigration notes for Dan, the ones you sent me last night."

Ollie is patently not having a good day, which is impressive, considering that it's only six in the morning. "Of course I want the fucking notes," he mutters. "I'm hardly going to change my fucking mind about them overnight, am I?"

"That's exactly what you did the night before, so I just thought I'd better check, that's all."

"Yeah, well, thanks a lot, Sam, but as it happens I'm perfectly capable of doing my job without - well, not without your assistance, that's what you're paid for - look, bring the notes, okay?"

Sam taps the sink with her fingernails and sighs. "Okay. Is there anything else?"

"Yes. Yes, hang on a minute..." There are background noises of some kind, though Sam prefers not to speculate. It sounds like a toaster being excavated with a fork. "Apparently Julius Nicholson's having second thoughts about the hashtag for tonight," says Ollie after a few seconds of this, having managed to avoid electrocution. "He's left it bloody late in the game to say so. Obviously that's got to be nipped in the balls ASAP."

"What kind of second thoughts?"

"Oh, you know, the usual Nicholson Own-Brand Bullshit." Further rattling accompanies his explanation. "Taste The Difference, the difference being that his ideas are the intellectual equivalent of mouldy Mini Cheddars to my five-star fucking ratatouille. If Julius had his way, Dan'd be out there in fucking cricket whites and a bowler hat, so keep them as far away from each other as James Corden's nipples, yeah?"

This is fine by Sam. Charming as he is, she never really trusted Julius, even before what he did to Malcolm; she'd be happier if he'd never got involved in the campaign, though of course with Ollie being what he is, they need all hands to the pump. You'd be surprised at how few willing pairs of hands are left in the party that don't have shit all over them, but Julius' are among them. "Of course. So, we're sticking with 'danisourman'?"

There's a smash that signifies, in Sam's imagination at least, the accidental demise of a toaster. "Fucknuggets!" Ollie groans, adding, "The man, Sam, Dan is the man!"

"Sorry..."

"Everyone knows he's our man; that's not the point. We've had the t-shirts printed now anyway. It'll be fine so long as Julius keeps his nose out." The sneer is clearly audible in Ollie's voice. "Since he went out of his way to accelerate the schedule for this week, I've got about fifteen seconds to think of something fresh to round off Dan's PR rehabilitation thing on Today. Listen, Sam, I've got to go..."

"See you at work," says Sam mildly, but Ollie has already hung up. She puts down some food for her cat, pulls on her shoes, makes sure she has her aspirin and locks the front door behind her.