Title: Dinner

Author : Robyn

Disclaimer: I spoke to Aaron Sorkin, and it's all arranged. We'll have shared custody. No, really, it's not just the drugs talking. What do you mean, mental?

Summary: Dinner with Mallory's folks. Poor Sam.

Rating: PG? I'm not sure. Nothing that hasn't been said on the show, unless the bad-word fairies possessed my keyboard.

Spoilers: Uh? Well. I guess there might be some for the Mallory stuff in season 1. Definitely teeny ones for Leo and Jenny.

Archiving: Go for it.

Notes: I wrote half and then left it for a month and finished it yesterday. Don't kill me if it sucks, and I apologise whole-heartedly to those who get this more than once, and I hope it's not too big to cram in one mail. Flip said I could post it!! Blame Flip! All flames to Flip! *g*

"And remember," Mallory said for the hundredth time that evening, "This is the first time in months I've gotten Mom and Dad in a room together, so don't screw it up." "I won't," Sam said. "They promised to be civil to each other," Mallory informed him proudly. "Did they mention being civil to me?" Sam asked miserably. Mallory looked at him, a puzzled expression on her face. "They didn't actually say anything about that, no." "Oh, good."

The doorbell rang. "It's them!" Mallory said, happily. "It's our first dinner with my parents!" "First?" Sam repeated. "Get the door!" "It's just that your use of the word 'first' would seem to imply that you expect there to be more, you know, dinners with your parents." "Door!" Mallory hissed. "I'll get the tea." "Right." Sam set his shoulders and strode over to the door, muttering: "My territory. This is my apartment, so it's my territory, so I can't be intimidated." He took a deep breath, and flung the door open. "Leo, Ms McGarry –" He stopped short, glanced around, and stepped into the hall. "Josh, what the hell are you doing here?" "Buddy!" Josh said, happily. "Amigo!" It's said that once in a while, everyone gets a flash of their possibly immediate future. Leaning away from Josh's alcohol-laden breath, Sam had a flash of his. "Oh, God," he groaned, softly. "How did you get drunk this early on a Friday?" Josh leaned forward and slung an arm around Sam's shoulders conspiratorially. "Listen," he slurred, "I bet you wanna know why I'm here." "No, I just want you to go away as quickly as possible," Sam assured him, shooting frantic glances up and down the hall. Josh giggled good-naturedly. "You're such a kidder. See, I kind of..." Josh looked around as if checking they were alone, and leaned even closer to Sam, who tried in vain to lean away. "I forgot where I live," he stage-whispered. "And Donna was on a date." His forehead creased in confusion as he added, "But I don't think it was very polite of her to throw me out like that." "Josh, I don't have time to run you home-" "It's not like I was intruding. The guy was a boring conversationalist anyway. I just wanted to, you know, liven things up a little." "And Mallory will not let you stay here with her parents coming, no way." "And then," Josh's eyes widened, as if he couldn't quite believe what had happened. "For no reason, her date just started yelling at me. And then..." He sniffed sadly. "Donna yelled at her date for letting me in in the first place, and threw me out."

It occurred to Sam that Josh had no intention of leaving any time soon – and even if he had, he probably wouldn't make it to the elevator. He ducked back into his apartment. "Mallory!" "I'm just making tea!" Mallory's voice drifted from the kitchen. "Okay, just checking!" Sam dashed out again, grabbed Josh and manhandled him through the apartment into his bedroom. "A bed!" Josh said, delighted, and flopped down on it, face-first. "Great, yeah, thanks for the help. Mallory's gonna kill me." Sam rolled him over onto his back, tugged off his shoes, flung the covers over him, and sprinted into the living room, slamming the door behind him.

Mallory was looking around confusedly. "Where are my parents?" "Uh... That wasn't them at the door." "It wasn't?" A hint of anger crossed her face. "Well, why didn't you tell me to stop making tea when you shouted?" "I, I just figured they'd be here soon anyway, and it would be nicer to have the tea on hand, so you don't have to leave me alone with them." Mallory narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Who was at the door, then?" Sam looked at her blankly. "It was... the... landlord. He thought I asked him to fix my leaky tap, but I don't have a leaky tap." Mallory stared at him searchingly for a moment longer, then relaxed. "Well, they'd better come before the tea gets cold, or you can make a fresh pot." "Of course," Sam agreed, relieved.

She opened her mouth to quiz him about the landlord, but was stopped short by the doorbell ringing again. "Get the door," she ordered. Sam nodded, went to the door. "My territory," he reminded himself, wiped his sweaty hands on his trousers, and opened the door, preparing to welcome the parents of his girlfriend. "Sam!" Leo barked, before he had a chance to say a word. "Leo," Sam said, weakly. "Have you finished the President's remarks for Monday yet?" "Yes, sir," he said, feeling like a schoolboy whose teacher calls him at home to see if he's done his homework. "Good!" Leo gave Sam a friendly clap on the back and pushed past him into the apartment, leaving Sam to deal with Jenny. "Hello, Mrs McGarry," he said, tentatively trying his charming smile. "You're not coming on to me again, are you?" she snapped. "Of course not, ma'am!" Sam said, stumbling back a step in shock. She smiled at him. "I'm just kidding, young man. And call me Jenny, if you're going to date my daughter." "Certainly, ma- Jenny. Won't you come in?" Sam stood aside as she entered, and leaned on the door as he closed it, feeling rather weak at the knees. "My territory," he whispered. This thought, spoken aloud, steeled him enough to show his guests to the living room and invite them to sit down. They did, and there was a brief silence during which everyone stared at him expectantly.

He stared back, until Mallory held up both her index fingers to form a letter. "T?" he wondered. "Oh. Tea. Tea! Anyone want tea?" Mallory glared at him. "I mean, er, please, allow me to get you some tea," he corrected himself, almost-smoothly. "There's tea on the table," Leo pointed out, as Sam got up to go to the kitchen. "Table," Sam repeated blankly. "Right." "I'll pour it," Mallory offered, knowing that Sam would only spill it all anyway.

"So," Jenny said, looking around disapprovingly. "This is where you live, is it?" "Yeah," Sam said, happily. "My humble abode." "No kidding," Jenny muttered. "Jed really doesn't pay you enough, does he?" Sam swallowed. "I'm very happy working for the President." "As long as you find time to spend with Mallory." "Oh, Jenny," Leo snapped, "are we going to make this about us?" "I was merely saying-" "Civil!" Mallory shouted. "If you recall, we all agreed to be civil!" Mercifully, the conversation was then steered away from relationships and Sam's apartment in the safer direction of what the two staffers would have to deal with at work the next day. This kept them occupied until the oven timer went off. "Food!" Sam announced. "I'll go and get it, shall I?" "I'll be in to help in a second," Mallory told him. He nodded and gratefully made his escape.

"Ow! Stupid oven." Sam was tempted to drop the dish, but that would ruin all his hard work, so he carefully set it on the counter before running cold water over the burn on his arm. Mallory rushed in. "What are you doing? They're starving!" "Yeah, coming," he said. "No! You haven't even carved the chicken!" "Carved it?" Sam repeated blankly. "I know you carve turkeys, but I always thought chicken was... self-slicing..." "Haven't you ever done this before?" Mallory snapped. "For the hundredth time, no." Sam sulkily pulled out a knife and started carving the chicken. Whoa, he thought, that's a sharp knife. I'd better be careful to not – "Ow!" Sam dropped the knife and stared at his finger. Oh, God, he thought frantically, blood. It must be open to the bone. I think I'm gonna pass out. "Sam, why'd you stop?" Mallory asked, peeking over his shoulder. "Oh, no, the chicken's not done." "The... pain..." he rasped, leaning weakly against the counter. "You're bleeding on the food!" she cried, jerking him away. "Come on, you wimp, get that under the tap." "Ow, ow, ow," Sam chanted as she switched on the water. She ignored him. "Got any plasters?" "Uh, no, I used the last one yesterday." She groaned. "Never mind. We'll think of something." She looked around and added, "Where's the rest of the food? Didn't you make any, like, vegetables?" Sam looked blank. "Vegetables?"

"So that's four of the set meals, then," the delivery man for Sam's favourite Chinese restaurant repeated. "Yeah. Better bring some extra spring rolls. Oh, and fortune cookies! Thanks." Sam gave Mallory a sheepish grin as he hung up the phone. "Come on, Mr. Stupid," she said, pulling him into the living room by his finger, which stood out from the rest of his hand on account of the huge bandage wrapped around it. "Don't worry, Sam," Leo said, cheerfully, "I'd rather have Chinese than your cooking any day." Jenny just smiled indulgently. "You should follow a diet more like the President's, Leo," she said. "This really isn't healthy." Sam gave a sickly smile. "We eat takeout most days anyway, Ma- Jenny." Jenny frowned. "All the more reason to change your diet." "Mom, cut Sam some slack," Mallory said. "He's trying his best." There was a brief, awkward silence.

"Why don't I light a fire?" Sam suggested brightly. He was very proud of his fireplace. There was general agreement that this was a good idea, so he gathered some wood from his, well, pile of wood, and knelt in front of the fireplace and started trying to build a viable fire. He never had been very good at it, and what with the finger, he was having less luck than usual. After five minutes, Jenny knelt beside an intensely concentrating Sam and said, "May I try?" "What?" Sam said distractedly, turning to face the speaker. The long, lit match that was in his hand turned with him. "My hair!" Jenny shrieked, leaping up and running in circles, beating frantically at her head. Leo tackled her and held her still until he could put out the flames. "Shh," he said, gently, "It's okay. You're okay." Jenny shuddered. "My hair," she sobbed. Leo stroked her back soothingly.

"I'm so sorry," Sam whispered, for the twenty-seventh time (Mallory was counting). Jenny, who had had time to regain her composure, gave a watery smile. "It's really quite all right, Sam. I'm sure my hairdresser will be thrilled to have a chance to change my hair at last." Sam hung his head guiltily. "Was that the food?" Leo asked, to avoid another apology. Sam nodded miserably. "Well, let's eat, then!" he said, with forced cheerfulness.

"Try these," Sam said enthusiastically, offering Jenny a container. He was trying very, very hard to make up for setting her on fire. "Mmm," Jenny said, who was perfectly willing to let him. "These are great. What are they?" "They're these little prawns," Sam said. "They do this thing where they-" Jenny had stopped chewing. "Prawns?" she said around the food in her mouth. "Spit it out, Jen, quick," Leo said, hurriedly giving her a napkin before turning to glare at Sam. "Are you trying to kill her? She's highly allergic to prawns." Sam gaped for a second. "...Sorry..." he managed, in a very small voice. "It's fine," Mallory said, hurriedly, "she didn't swallow any. Did you, Mom?" "I don't think so." Jenny wiped at her mouth with the napkin, forcing a smile. "Why don't we open the fortune cookies?" "Great," Sam said, handing out the cookies with relief. He was unable to suppress an eager smile as he broke open his cookie; he loved these things. "You will live a long and happy life," Mallory read, pleased. "What's yours say, Sam?" "You don't want to know," Sam said, disconsolately. "Yes, I do." "No, I mean..." Sam handed her the fortune, which read, "You don't want to know." Mallory giggled. "That's funny. I thought they only put good fortunes in these things." "So did I," agreed Leo, whose fortune promised love and riches. "Mumph mumph," said Jenny worriedly, whose fortune rather inaccurately predicted good health. "Oh, no," Leo said, frowning. "Is your tongue swelling up? She must have swallowed some of that prawn," he added, looking at Sam accusingly. "We'll have to get her to the emergency room." Sam leapt to his feet. "I'll get my keys," he announced.

His bedroom door burst open.
"Leo!" Josh garbled, swaying slightly. "I thought I heard your voice. I wanted to talk to you about... Uh..." He stopped, frowning. "What's he doing here?" Mallory hissed. "He, he, uh..." Sam was too distracted trying to "I don't feel too good," Josh groaned. He stumbled forward a few steps, then collapsed, landing neatly in the fireplace. "Josh!" Sam abandoned his search for keys to pull his friend out of the fireplace, smothering the flames licking around his shirt with his hand. "Ouch!" he added, since fire tends to be painful to touch. "Keys!" Leo yelled, cradling Jenny. "I can't find them!" Sam yelled back, cradling Josh. "Take mine!" Leo snapped, pulling keys out of his pocket and tossing them to Sam. "Well, let's go, then!" Sam shouted, leaping to his feet and promptly falling over Josh, smacking head-first into the ground. "I think you should drive, honey," he added, holding the keys out to Mallory without lifting his face off the ground. "Right," Mallory said. Time to take charge.

Sam lay on a couch in the waiting room at the hospital with his head in Mallory's lap. "Four stitches," he said, referring to his cut finger. "I gathered," Mallory said. "And you wanted to make it better with a plaster." "It was a temporary measure." "And a burn." "Only first degree." "I'm sorry I set fire to your mother," Sam said contritely. "That's okay." "I'm also sorry I poisoned her." "I'm sure she'll live." "I'm sorry I let Josh in." "He's your friend," Mallory sighed. This was not the first time they had had this conversation. The doctor said Sam was suffering from a mild concussion, and to bear with him. "I'm sorry I didn't cook any vegetables." "The Chinese was fine." "But it poisoned your mother." "Your cooking would probably have poisoned all of us." "I'm not that bad," said Sam, affronted. "Of course you're not." There was a pause.

"Four stitches," Sam said, examining his finger. "If you don't shut up you can damn well take your head out of my lap," Mallory said, losing patience. Fortunately, Leo chose that moment to enter the room, hand in hand with Jenny. "She's fine," he said to Mallory. "I'm fine," Jenny agreed. "I'm moving back in," Leo said. "We're going out to dinner," Jenny corrected. "Don't think too far ahead." Leo grinned, shrugged. "What about Josh?" Sam asked, from his prone position on the couch. The doctor, conveniently, chose this moment to enter the room. "Fine," he said. "Well, okay, he's drunk as a lord. But, he'll be fine, other than a nasty hangover in the morning." "What a pity," Leo said, thoughtfully, "since after he left I arranged a meeting with a senator for eight a.m. tomorrow." Sam snickered softly. Leo let it slide. "I'm going home," Jenny decided. "Care for some company, milady?" Leo asked. Jenny smiled sweetly. They left, arm in arm.

"There you go," Mallory said, smiling after her parents, "you're worth something after all." Sam grinned and snuggled down into her lap. "You should go home, too. Care for some company?" Mallory shook her head gravely. "I'm under strict instructions to drive you home and make sure you stay there." "That would require you to stay, too." "It would, at that." Sam sighed happily. "Okay, then. You know," he added, then paused. "What?" Mallory asked affectionately. He looked up at her lovingly, and said, "Four stitches." "If you don't shut up, I'll make you have dinner with my folks again." "You wouldn't." "Watch me." "You wouldn't put your parents through that." "Wouldn't I?" Sam wilted. "I'll shut up." "Good." "I'm just saying..." "I'll drive you home now." "...You said it was fine..." "Come on, up you get." "... And it required four stitches. That's all I'm saying." Sam rubbed his head as he got to his feet, extending a hand to Mallory. Mallory stared at him until he dropped his eyes, then said, "Shut up." He hung his head. "Yes ma'am." And he managed to shut up all the way home.


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