sparsenicjade
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Thanks to belladonnalin and emmytie for helping me with these.

Nancy was not, by nature, a shouter. She had been raised better than that. Her mom reminded her of this every Thanksgiving, when she found herself taking on the same tone she used in the Sit Room to get her brothers to pass the damned turkey. The problem was, that voice got results. Whether it was making a room full of older white men--and one notable black one--sit up and listen, or getting her brother to give over the bird, it got her what she wanted. Sometimes it got her what her country needed.

When President Bartlett had appointed her, upon being introduced to Fitz--not Fitz then, General Fitzwallace, and herself just Nancy, plain, old Nancy in her mind--he'd asked, "What are you doing here?"

"Sir?" she'd asked, keeping her voice even. She had learned early that it wasn't just intimidation that could be used against her, but confusion and worry as well.

"What's your goal, your point, the reason you'll show up if the phone rings at three?"

Nancy had narrowed her eyes, perfectly willing to let a little bit of her anger show, just enough not to be considered out-of-control. "The best defense of my country possible, Sir." She didn't keep her edge entirely to herself.

Fitz had laughed, a small, dry-but-felt chuckle. "Oh yeah, you'll do. You'll do."

Most of the time, Nancy had found, getting people to listen was all about volume and tone.

***

Nancy had served more than one administration. Maybe she hadn't been as high up or well-regarded, but it didn't negate her years of service. Serving under a conservative administration was its own sort of challenge, with the obvious disregard her superiors were willing to show for her. The armed services were full of people who had never met someone unlike themselves until they showed up at boot camp, people who hadn't had so much as a solid roof over their heads for most of their lives to people who'd gone straight from their gated communities to Westpoint, with a legacy to show for themselves. Nancy could handle honest anxiety and mistrust. She might not like it, but she could handle it. Generally, if she worked steadily enough, she could crack people's preconceived notions, get them to see her, if not apply the lesson to other women, other Blacks.

White liberals were an entirely different ballgame. The problem with white liberals--one of the problems--was that they knew they were liberal, they didn't always know they were white. (The ones who did seemed to have enormous amounts of guilt about this, and so pretended to be unaware.)

Nancy knew she didn't look like most of the people around her. If she'd wanted to look like the people who were surrounding her, there were plenty of jobs she could have chosen that didn't involve being around people who professed to being colorblind only when there was color to be seen. There were days when she honestly believed that if one more person looked past her while talking to her she was going to make good on her arms training.

When President Bartlett had appointed her, there hadn't been any thought of turning him down. Aside from her own ambition, and the idea of the agendas of thought she might be able to push forth, the man clearly needed help. He had no military experience, and very little military faith that he could be hard when needed. Nancy hadn't really had an opinion on that issue. She hadn't felt she needed one--she could be hard when called upon, persuasive when needed.

All the same, she hadn't been able to help rolling her eyes at her best friend, who had laughed and said, "At least this one has a woman on his staff, Nance."

Nancy had been willing to give him that.

***

As it turned out, the real difference between working in the Bartlett administration as opposed to some of the previous ones was that people were more likely to hear her different tones. Not always, of course. She had to train Sam Seaborn up, and Josh Lyman was going to be a work in progress, she could tell. Luckily, they weren't really the ones she had to worry about. It was nice if everyone could be kept happy, of course, but that wasn't really her job. Being able to communicate with Leo McGarry? That was definitely in the description--the first paragraph, even.

Leo, though, wasn't what one would expect out of an old-time, white male, Boston-born politician. He didn't speak when he didn't need to and he also didn't listen when he wasn't being given good information. The inverse of that was that he did listen when he was being given what he needed, and he didn't much care whose mouth it came out of. Nancy liked Leo, had liked him pretty much from the moment he had shaken her hand with a firm grip and said, "Welcome. Nice to have you."

She'd said, "Good to be here, Mr. McGarry."

He'd said, "Leo," and they'd gotten to work.


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