"It helped lead to the largest sustained period of economic growth in U.S. history. A sixty-year expansion of the middle class, the largest increase in productivity and the largest increase in median income. We also won World War II, put a man on the moon and a computer in everyone's lap. And you know what happened next?"
"We cheated on the perfect guy with the guy who dumped us?" sniffled Mackenzie.
"Oh, my god, Kenzie. Shut up about Will, already," said Sloan, then grabbed the lapels of Mac's cardigan and kissed her.
It was an awkward kiss. Mac's red wine went sloshing all over the tabletop and soaked the wine list, while Sloan put her elbow in the butter and nearly knocked over one of the candles. But it did get Mac to stop crying, so that was something.
It also got a shell-shocked stare. "Okay, maybe that wasn't the best idea," said Sloan, hands still fisted in the fabric of her top.
"Maybe not," echoed Mac. She didn't sound sure. "I mean, I am your boss."
"This is true."
"Although," said Mac slowly, "Will is my boss."
"And Jim is Maggie's—"
"Let's not even go there."
"Do you want to get out of here?" said Sloan.
Mac chewed on her bottom lip. A few loose strands of hair fell out of her bun and hung in gentle waves around her face; her makeup was mostly subdued but the mascara made her still-red eyes look wider, almost doll-like. "Where do you want to go?"
In the middle of removing Mackenzie's bra with her teeth, Sloan paused to say, "Why did you agree to serve on an economics panel in the first place?"
They had ended up in Sloan's apartment, giving her the opportunity to change into a cute blue camisole set. Mac was stuck working with the sensible underwear she'd worn to work. At least it was black and sort of sexy. She hadn't forgotten everything during her time in Afghanistan.
"Do we have to talk about this now?" stammered Mac. "I don't know if you're aware of this, but not everyone can focus on both fiscal policy and counting your freckles at the same time."
"Why would I count my own freckles?"
"Are you doing this on purpose, or—"
"It's not a fiscal question," said Sloan, her voice slightly muffled by the way she was nuzzling the slope of Mac's neck. "It's a logistics one. No news producer is going to be an expert on everything they produce. No reasonable person would expect them to be. You don't have to admit that you know as much about the economy as a first-grader, just say 'sorry, that's not my strongest subject, call me back...'"
She paused as one of Mac's moans got unreasonably loud, and continued when the noise level was back down to heavy breathing.
"...'call me back when you have a panel about how the news covers the wars'?"
"Because nobody cares what's going on with the wars anymore," snapped Mac. "Not the reporters, not the viewers, not the Paley Center, not the politicians who've realized they don't need to give military families more than lip service to get re-elected, not Will with his mission against the Tea Party that only involves domestic issues, not anybody!"
She broke off. The shrill echo of her final words lingered in the bedroom.
"Should I shut up and go back to taking your clothes off now?" said Sloan.
"Yes," said Mac wearily, cupping the back of Sloan's neck and tangling fingers in her thick dark locks. "Please do that."
"You know, I've never done that before."
"What?" said Sloan, eyes still closed. "No. Sure you have."
"I mean, I've done that in general," Mac allowed, leaning harder into the post-coital backrub. The warm tones of Sloan's bare shoulders under her hands made a lovely contrast to the severe dark pillows they were resting against. (A lot of Sloan's décor was severe and dark.) "But not that specific thing, the one you did with your fingers."
"It's called fingering."
"Right." Mac frowned. "That would make sense."
"You know that's one of those lesbian-friendly things that you can also do with a boyfriend, right?"
"In theory, yes!" Mac realized she was pouting, and made a concerted effort to stop. "How did you know I had slept with women before?"
"Oh, come on. It's obvious."
"How is it obvious? Since when?"
"Since the day you hired me? You made a point of commenting on my legs. When I'm on TV, I sit behind a desk. Nobody sees those legs but you."
"That doesn't prove anything. I could have been repressed. You didn't know."
"And you go to the same nail salon I do."
"That's a coincidence, sure, but it doesn't mean—"
"Kenzie. It's not a coincidence. That's the lesbian nail salon."
Mac dug her (nicely finished, she thought, and not in a sexual-orientation-specific way) nails into the muscles of Sloan's back. "Don't be ridiculous. It's just a nice salon with a sense of style that I happen to appreciate."
"Who's your stylist?"
"Christine...okay, you're right, I can see it with Christine. But she's not the only one there!" said Mac stubbornly. "There's also...well, there's Val, and...okay, but Nicki...."
"She goes by Nic now," Sloan pointed out.
"Oh, all right! Maybe it is the lesbian nail salon. But it wasn't on purpose!"
"Uh-huh. Sure," said Sloan. "Mmm, that's nice. You wanna go a little lower?...Perfect."
Sloan was frying eggs in her bathrobe when Mac stumbled into the kitchen, eyes still half-closed and hair a wild mess. She had put on one of Sloan's oversized T-shirts, and it wasn't immediately obvious whether she'd finagled her other undergarments back on underneath it.
"Coffee's over there," said Sloan, pointing with her spatula.
Mac shuffled over to the coffee pot and stared at it. There was a red line on her cheek from where she'd slept funny on the edge of one of Sloan's pillows.
"You want me to pour you some?"
"Yes," said Mac slowly. "You'd better do that."
She brightened up after a few minutes of downing undiluted Colombian from one of Sloan's mugs (it was printed with a basic supply-and-demand curve, and captioned "ECONOMISTS DO IT WITH MODELS"). Outside over Brooklyn, clouds gathered to the east and a couple of pigeons fought with each other. Sloan flipped her eggs onto a plate and started frying a couple more.
"Do you really think," said Mac, toying with her fork and looking absently out the window, "that the credit for us going to the moon can be traced directly to an economic policy choice?"
"I may have exaggerated a tiny bit there," admitted Sloan, pouring one egg over a slice of all-but-burned toast. "It was a heat of the moment thing."
"Mm." Mac used the edge of her fork to slice up one of her own eggs. "Because I was just remembering how Will, when he was in the heat of the moment, gave that same credit to the great and trusted newscasters who were on TV at the time."
"Is it a good thing that you're associating me with Will right now?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"For one thing, he didn't say newscasters," Sloan reminded her. "He specifically said the great men."
"So he did." Mac frowned. "He really can be an ass sometimes, can't he?"
"And here I was starting to think you'd balance your checkbook before you figured that one out."
Mac fixed her with a full-on pout, full lower lip and dewy eyes and everything. "It's very rude to tease a lady with PTSD, you know."
Sloan winced. "Oh, god, sorry. Was that triggering, or...?"
The pout melted into a sparkling smile, all the warmer for her makeup-free complexion and hair going every which way. "It was absolutely nothing. You hereby have executive permission to tease me all you like."