Category Aby Abbie
Disclaimers: These characters belong to Aaron Sorkin and not me.
She looked up when he walked into the room, her pale face even whiter in the false glow of the desk lamp. "Did you fix . . ." she started to ask, then stopped herself when she saw his expression. "What?"
He pushed the door to the small study closed behind him and sat down at the end of her table. "C.J. - lost a reporter."
The corners of her mouth worked slightly in confusion as she considered this. "Did - I'm sorry - she misplaced one?"
"No." He rubbed a hand over his face and turned toward the darkened window. "He was killed in the Congo."
"Oh God." Her tone was flat, too surprised to carry much feeling. "Is - what . . ." She took a deep breath, unsure of what question to ask. "What's going to happen?"
Sam shook his head slowly. "I don't know. We were going to - there are backchannels, you know, but he was already . . ."
There was silence between them, and then Ainsley swallowed and asked, "Is she okay?"
His eyebrows jerked upward nervously. "She's - his wife is in her office. He has a baby daughter and a three-year-old son . . . I think Donna's been crying in the bullpen for the last five minutes and Josh is locked up in his office - I don't . . ."
She frowned, staring at his hand where it lay on the table. "What's the matter with Donna?"
"She talked to his wife - something - I don't know, maybe it's . . ."
"Josh?" Ainsley guessed quietly.
"I don't - maybe. Seems kind of far-fetched, doesn't it?"
"I don't know."
"I mean, not everything can remind her of Josh, right?"
"No," she said slowly. "But a violent attack on a man whose wife is sitting there in front of her . . ."
There was another silence, and she asked, "Where's C.J.?"
"Still in her office with the reporter's wife, I think. And his boss." His expressive eyes rolled toward the ceiling, and she saw the weariness that hadn't been in evidence earlier. "She'll probably be there for a while . . . her kids, the woman's kids, are at home with - somebody, and - I don't even think the President's heard anything about it."
"Where's he been?" she asked immediately, and then bit her tongue when she saw his look. "Sorry."
"No, no." He frowned deeply. "He's just been - he's been in meetings."
She was unwilling to push, and he didn't say any more. She sat staring at the book still open in front of her, pulled out of her reverie when he said, "I - they were trying, through channels, but . . ."
His voice was growing ragged and breathless. She laid a hand on top of his and said, "It's okay."
"It really isn't," he replied quietly.
With some effort she turned his hand over and laid hers back in it, lacing their fingers together. "There probably wasn't anything anyone could have done, if he was already killed."
"I know," he said. "I know, but his wife is in C.J.'s office, and . . ."
She squeezed his hand and felt him return the pressure after a moment's hesitation. They were sitting in silence with their hands locked strongly together when the door opened and Josh stepped in.
The half-light threw shadows on the contours of his face and his rumpled hair. "Charlie said you were here," he said quietly, seemingly out of respect for the atmosphere.
Sam didn't let go of Ainsley's hand, but held it a little tighter. "What's happening?"
Josh exhaled and slipped his hands into his pockets. "They're taking Janet home - C.J. wanted to find her a place here, but she wanted to go home to her kids."
"How is she?" Sam whispered.
"She's - Janet's left and now she's trying to calm Donna down. They're in my office."
"Ah." That explained why Josh was here.
And obviously Josh picked up on his tone. "Hey," he said, sounding as injured as the situation would allow. "I can handle the crying stuff."
Sam twitched one eyebrow reflexively. "Sure." Before Josh could react he asked, "Are you - what are you doing, right now?"
"I'm doing nothing right now," Josh replied. "So I'll probably - go home, you know, after . . ."
It was at that particular moment that everyone seemed to remember Sam was still clasping Ainsley's hand across the table. Before he could let go Josh said, "Well, I'll let you guys . . ." He didn't finish, but instead opened the door and waved oddly. "'Night."
When he was gone Sam and Ainsley looked at each other and took a deep breath almost in synchronization. "What are you going to do?" she asked.
He sighed. "I don't know. I mean - I don't think anyone wants me for anything. I don't know."
She gave him that nervous half-smile of hers. "Hell of an end to the day."
"And you thought your biggest problem would be demeaning me."
He laughed a little, more with his eyes than with anything else. "Yeah."
There was another pause, and she coughed a little to break the quiet. Before she could think of anything to say he began softly, "Look, about that . . ."
"Oh God, Sam." She pulled her hand out of his grip and stood up. "Would you stop?"
He looked up at her with something like confused abandonment. "Where are you going?"
She glanced around the room. "I don't know." Emphatically she sat back down. "Just cut it out."
"No, I'm not - I mean, I'm serious." He reached over and tapped one finger on the back of her hand. "I don't know whether I want it to be like that."
She met his gaze for a long moment, her eyes widened and her head shaking slowly. Finally she said, "I'm totally lost."
"You don't want it to be like what?" she repeated.
He frowned. "I said I don't *know* if I want it to be like that."
She threw up her hands in frustration. "Like what?"
"The - teasing. Joking. Glib commentary. Whatever."
She shook her head again. "Sam, we've been over this . . ."
"I'm saying I don't know whether I want that to be the range of our interaction."
Her eyes darted to one side in slight confusion, her mouth curving into a little smile. "Well, I wouldn't mind if you actually listened to me occasionally, but otherwise . . ."
"That isn't what I meant." He paused. "And I listen to you."
She frowned. "I know."
A moment passed. "Sam, what are we talking about?"
He sighed again and shook his head. "I don't know."
"Okay." She patted his hand. "I think I should let you go home and get some sleep. We can finish the UN thing tomorrow, if you'll be here."
"I will," he whispered. "I'm sure - we'll probably have to look at the speech again, once the news gets out about Bill Price."
"Right." Her hand was still covering his. She squeezed it and started to stand. "Okay then."
She stopped, looking down at him. "Yeah."
"Are - what are you doing now?"
She shrugged. "Going home?"
"You weren't - ah - did we interrupt a date, earlier?"
"Were you at the dinner with someone?"
"Oh." She shook her head without asking his reasons. "No."
She allowed a tiny smile to play across her lips. "Thought you didn't like to pry."
He tilted his chin up, his eyes crinkling. "Maybe I do."
"Hmm." With another wry smile she stepped away from her chair. "Okay."
"You want to go get a drink?"
He asked abruptly, and it took her a moment to react. "Now?"
"It's only -" He looked at his watch and grinned. "One."
She looked surprised, but nodded. "Okay." ***** ***** They walked in near-silence to the bar a few blocks away, making only occasional conversation about nothing important. When they reached the door to the bar it was standing open, and groups of DC twentysomethings were smoking around the entrance. Fairly loud music poured out, and as they approached a group of girls in tight pants and scanty tops exited, holding onto each other and laughing. As they passed on the sidewalk one of them pulled the others up short and said, "Hey! Aren't you Sam Seaborn?"
Sam exchanged looks with Ainsley, who looked neutrally back at him. He turned to the girl and said, "Yes."
"You're cute," she said before bursting into giggles. Then she tugged on her friend's arm and the whole group ran past, laughing hysterically.
Sam stood a bit stunned on the sidewalk. Ainsley grinned and patted his back. "Poli sci students?"
"Probably." He looked again at the entrance to the bar, and then back at her. "What would you say to a quiet cup of coffee instead?"
Her forehead wrinkled as she looked at her watch under the streetlamp. "What's open at this hour?"
"My apartment?" Immediately he held up a hand. "That's not a proposition. I only live in Georgetown. I can drive you back for your car later, or you could . . ."
"I didn't drive," she interrupted. "So . . ."
"So I'll drive you home later," he said.
She grinned. "So really this whole late-night melancholy thing is a ruse to get me back to your apartment."
"I assure you -"
"Sam," she laughed. "It's okay. I don't feel like going home now, I won't sleep."
"I don't think I could either," he replied. He jerked his head back toward the White House. "My car's in the lot."
As they reached the lot he pointed her toward his car with a hand at her waist. "Wow," she said, her eyebrows lifting in the shadow. "How long have you had this?"
"About five years, actually." He clicked the door lock and waited for her to get in, shutting the door carefully after her. When he slid into the driver's seat he added, "Of course now if I got into an accident I could barely afford the repairs. Have to drive carefully."
She laughed. "That I understand."
His apartment was in a pretty Georgetown townhouse which made Ainsley question his professions of government-salary poverty. "Not exactly what I expected," she commented as they stepped through the apartment door.
"What did you expect?" he asked, holding out a hand for her coat.
She gestured around at the furniture. "Something a little more . . . early bachelor?"
He smiled and headed for the kitchen. "My fiancee picked out most of it when I lived in New York. I moved it down here after the election."
He turned and frowned slightly in her direction. "You say that like you mean something."
She shook her head, embarrassed at her near-sarcastic tone. "Sorry. I heard - something, around the State of the Union. She was a journalist?"
"Yeah." He turned on that and ducked out of the room. "Coffee?"
"Please." She followed and leaned against his kitchen counter, which was immaculate except for the pile of old Washington Posts on the corner. "The blonde woman who was with you at the party?"
"Yes," he said. His tone was a little short and she immediately apologized.
"Sorry, I don't mean to pry."
That made him laugh. "Right." He waved the empty coffeepot at her. "She, uh, won't be writing the article after all."
"Yeah, I heard that."
He gave her a look across the kitchen. "You hear a lot."
"I have an extensive network of spies. You know, in preparation for the overthrow."
They both laughed shallowly as he pushed the button on the coffeemaker, and he gestured before him for her to return to the living room. "So, it didn't work out?" she asked as gently as possible.
He dropped onto the couch with a dry smile. "No. Can you really picture me married to a Vanity Fair reporter?"
"Yes," she replied without hesitation, taking in his perfect suit and movie star looks. Then she shook her head, thinking of his single-minded devotion to work and his impatience with social customs, despite his politeness. "No," she amended with a shyer smile. "I guess not."
"Yeah." He sighed and leaned back into the couch cushions. "But on the upside, I have great living room furniture."
She laughed obligingly, and he continued, "She - she didn't seem to think what we were doing was . . ."
"What?" she prodded carefully.
He shrugged. "I don't know. It didn't seem like any of it mattered to her - I mean, I was engaged to her for a year, I know politics doesn't matter much to her, but I thought - it didn't seem like anything we were doing was important. She didn't seem to think I was doing anything."
Ainsley hesitated for a moment, unsure of whether she should be taking part in this conversation. "Okay."
He turned his face toward her and grimaced. "Sorry. I didn't mean to -"
"It's all right."
"You know, we do this every year."
"Do what?" she asked.
"We hit this - rut. Where it seems like everything we do gets blocked, or stopped, or is just - damned - trivial. We talk about raising the level of discourse, improving quality of life for the working poor, all that . . . and all that happens is negotiations and compromise, and Category A countries and people getting kidnapped from under our noses."
"It wasn't exactly under your nose," she replied. "Aren't there travel advisories for Americans in the Congo?"
"Tell that to his wife," he murmured.
She looked away and brushed hair out of her face. "Yeah, I know." He rubbed his forehead in the quiet and she asked, "What do you usually do?"
He looked as though she'd just woken him. "Sorry?"
"Every other year when you got into the same rut, what did you do?"
He smiled ironically and waved his hands around in grand circles. "Re-inspired ourselves."
"How?" she asked, not ready to let him be completely facetious.
Sam turned toward her again, the sarcastic glint in his eyes fading a bit. "Well, when all's said and done we still believed in him. And then last year - well, there wasn't exactly time to . . . not with the announcement and Mrs. Landingham, and - it felt just as stagnant, but there were things we had to do."
"You said you still believed in him."
He looked confused. "Yeah."
She looked at him meaningfully. "In the past tense?"
He closed his eyes and leaned back again. "No." After a pause he added, "The coffee stopped dripping." He got to his feet and she followed him into the kitchen.
"Cream and sugar?"
"Yes, please." She leaned against the counter again. "Is C.J. going to be okay?"
He gave her a strange look as he poured two cups of coffee. "I guess."
She shrugged. "You seemed like you would know."
"She'll be fine."
"What about Donna?"
"Ainsley, I really don't -"
"Sorry," she said before he could finish. "I just - you know, I don't know them that well."
"It's rough times."
"I know," she said softly.
"I know you do," he said. "I didn't mean to - I know what you've been doing." He stirred the sugar into both cups a little too vigorously. "It's just - it's hard enough to get anything done without us getting dragged into defending ourselves at every turn."
"I know," she repeated. "Trust me, I know. You guys screw up and I spend all my time threatening first-year clerks."
He gave her a real smile along with her coffee cup. "Sorry."
"Oh, sure." She took the cup from him, her eyes shining. "I think you enjoy it. That way I don't have time to point out your egregious policy errors."
"Is that what we hired you for?"
"I thought you hired me so I'd stop doing it in the press," she laughed.
"And see how well *that* turned out."
"Hey, at least now I'm diplomatic about it."
"Yes, you are." The look between them grew warm, and he gestured the way back to the living room to avoid an awkward moment.
When Ainsley looked at her watch again it was almost two-thirty. "Oh my God," she said, rubbing her eyes. "No wonder I'm tired. So much for me letting you get some rest."
"It is late," he said with something like regret in his tone. "If you want to go I'll drive you."
She got to her feet slowly and reluctantly. "I hate to drag you out. You must be exhausted. I'll call a cab."
"You shouldn't do that at this hour," he protested.
"You think cab drivers are less trustworthy late at night?" she asked.
"I think the cab driver's not going to make sure you get into your apartment safe," he countered.
"Who do you think does that on the average night?" she asked, amused despite herself.
"You aren't leaving my apartment on the average night."
"So that makes you responsible for me?"
She held his stare for several seconds before rolling her eyes. "Okay."
He got up and took a few steps toward the closet where he'd hung their coats, before stopping and turning back to her. "Do you want to stay?" he asked abruptly.
Her eyes widened in surprise. "I'm sorry?"
"Would you stay?" he repeated less forcefully. He was beginning to look nervous about it.
The flirtatious look she gave him told him that she wasn't offended. "What happened to this not being a proposition?"
"It still isn't," he said with the awkward confused-professor look that somehow always made her want to straighten his hair. "Just - for company."
"For company?" she echoed, looking as if she might burst out laughing any moment.
He shrugged. "There's no way I'm going to fall asleep right now - not easily. And I really don't want to be alone."
She stopped smiling and her forehead wrinkled again. "This can't be uncommon, right? For a day to end badly?" Her tone had dropped to something almost tender and definitely sympathetic.
Because of her tone he replied simply, "No."
"So what do you usually do?" She let the corner of her mouth turn up again. "You know, when you can't take home a friendly Republican."
"Is there such a thing?" He laughed quietly and she laughed with him. "Seriously?" She nodded. "Fall asleep on Toby's couch? Get really drunk?"
"Hmm. As attractive as those alternatives sound . . ." She exhaled and shook her head. "You want me to stay?"
"Yes," he replied softly. Something around his eyes changed then and he asked, "Do you trust me?"
The expression on her face was stunned. "Of course."
"I told Celia we were friends, you know."
The non sequitur tripped her up for a moment. "We are," she replied finally.
"Yeah," he said quietly.
She nodded, breathing in the sudden awkward tension. "Okay."
"We just . . ." He stopped, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Most of the time it seems like with any other female friends I've - any other friends I've had, and then sometimes it . . . doesn't."
Now she really wasn't sure where he was going with this. "Well, we haven't known each other as long as - you and C.J., for example."
"I guess." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Will you stay?"
She nodded again. "Yeah."
"Okay," he said, sounding quietly surprised, somehow.
She smiled at his perplexed expression, crossed the room and touched his arm uncertainly. "You all right?"
"Sure," he said too simply.
Ainsley's smile deepened until he matched it, and then she reached up to the back of his neck and rubbed him gently with her fingertips. "Should at least try to get some sleep," she said softly.
"Yeah." For a moment he let his hand rest on her waist, then he broke away and pulled her toward the hall. "Is this weird?" he asked as they started to walk.
He stopped and faced her again. "Do we know each other well enough for me to ask you to stay with me?"
She was caught by surprise again and said only, "Sure. Yes."
As they started to walk again she added, "I will say, though, that of all the weird nights I've had since coming to work at the White House, this definitely tops the list."
Some of the tension had evaporated and he dropped a hand on her shoulder. "Thanks."
At the doorway to his bedroom he stopped and asked, "I could give you a t-shirt, shorts, something?"
"Sure," she acquiesced easily. He extracted a pile of clothes from a drawer and handed them to her with all the natural awkwardness of the situation. "Right back."
By the time she had taken her turn in the bathroom as well, he was puttering oddly around the bedroom, turning on reading lights close to the bed and turning off the standing lamp. "Hi," she called from the door.
"Hi," he replied, blinking at her as if he wasn't sure where she had come from. Then he cracked a smile and held out his hand. "Come on, I've kept you up long enough."
"I'm fine," she answered quickly, but she had to fight a yawn as she took his hand.
He smiled. "Sure. Come on."
She slid slowly under the covers, watching him carefully. He sat down on the other side of the bed and asked, "Lights on? Off?"
"You need to stay up for a while?" she asked in return.
"I don't know."
He sounded so clueless that she really wondered what he did on those other nights when something big had gone wrong. She reached out and put a hand lightly on his back. "Why don't you turn the lights out and flip the TV on for a bit?" she suggested. "There's got to be a terrible movie on."
His shoulders jumped and she could tell he was laughing a little. "Okay." He grabbed the remote off the table beside his bed, clicking the TV on and simultaneously reaching with his other hand to turn off the bedside lamp. "You want to get the other one?"
She flipped off the light on her side while he settled back beside her. The TV was turned to CNN and they both stared in silence at a photo of Bill Price. "I guess it broke already," she whispered.
"Yeah," he replied.
She touched his wrist. "Maybe something other than the news."
His eyebrows lifted humorlessly. "Right." After skimming through the channels he landed on a rerun of Law and Order. "My God, is this on twenty-four hours a day?"
"On about six different channels."
He gestured with the remote. "Okay?"
"Sure," she said brightly.
He tossed the remote aside and settled himself down against the pillows. After a truly awkward pause he stretched his arm out around her, cautiously pulling her against him. "All right?" he whispered.
"Yeah," she whispered back. Very slowly she draped her arm across his waist and shifted herself closer to him. Eventually he wrapped his other arm around her as well, curling his body around hers with his hand resting on her hip. Without either of them looking away from the flickering television screen, her legs slid along his and she nestled further into his embrace. He leaned his cheek against her hair and she gently caressed the arm that held her. "Try to fall asleep," she murmured.
"Yeah," he said quietly. It was the last thing she remembered clearly before falling asleep. ***** ***** Ainsley woke to the phone ringing. She opened her eyes slowly, experimentally. Sun was pouring in through the open blinds and Sam was beginning to stir beside her. A tilt of her head told her that the phone was on her side - also that it was seven-thirty - and she pulled an arm out from under Sam's to reach for it. Careful not to make a sound, she prodded him with the receiver until he took it from her and grumbled, "Hello?"
Josh, not surprisingly, had a fairly loud phone voice. She couldn't quite make out words, but she could tell that it was him. Sam scrubbed a hand over his eyes as he said, "Around one. Yeah. How's . . . okay. Did Toby say anything about . . . oh. All right."
Ainsley found it mildly hilarious that he couldn't finish a sentence. He looked down at her then and smiled as if seeing her for the first time. "Sure," he told Josh. "Then you know what, I'm going to stay out until the afternoon. He'll be with Andi at least that long and . . . right. Okay. See you later." He passed her the receiver and she hung it up carefully before turning and asking a bit uncomfortably, "Josh?"
"Yeah." He, on the other hand, didn't seem to be feeling awkward at all. "Toby's going up to the Hill for the morning to meet with Andi - Congresswoman Wyatt . . ."
"His ex-wife," Ainsley supplied.
"Right. Which means we won't be doing anything to the speech until he gets back, and there's nothing else for me to do right now but fix my notes on the bill, so I'm not in that much of a hurry." He gave her another smile, which she couldn't help returning, and then squeezed her shoulder. "Come on, I'll make you breakfast."
"Really?" She sounded as though he'd suggested rock-climbing in the Grand Canyon.
He turned a look of mock hurt on her. "I can cook."
She shrugged with a broad grin. "Okay."
As it turned out, he was telling the truth. Unlike those of most men she'd dated recently, his refrigerator actually contained edible and healthy food. "Vegetables," she commented in approval as he opened the crisper drawer. She poked him gently in the side. "Suddenly so many things make sense."
He looked up at her suspiciously. "Like what?"
"Like how you work at a desk all day and look like that."
If someone had told her that she could make Sam Seaborn blush, she wouldn't have believed it. He gave her a self-conscious smile and said, "Good genes. Back up and let me out."
Within minutes he had a very respectable-looking omelet cooking over the stove. She had finished putting on coffee and was watching interestedly over his shoulder. "Any minute now," he warned distractedly, "I'm going to accidentally fling a hot piece of pepper onto you."
"I'm watching," she promised.
He laughed. "Just don't sue."
It was at that particular moment that she remembered she was still wearing his thin, much-too-large V-necked t-shirt, and he realized he could see easily down the front of it as she stood beside him. Without taking her eyes from the pan she crossed her arms over her chest, almost pulling it off casually. He quickly jerked his attention back to the eggs and pretended his face was heating up because of the stove.
He found, unfortunately, that things only got worse. He had honestly asked her over with nothing more in mind than friendly company, just as he had teased her the night before with no conscious forethought. But he had long ago noticed her as an attractive woman, and this sudden awareness of real sexual tension between them had altered the atmosphere considerably. She had turned away from him to pour the coffee, and now he was noticing the way she'd rolled his shorts over at the waist - probably to keep them from falling down, but it also had the effect of making them quite a bit shorter. They weren't by any means provocatively short, but he was being treated to the sight of more of her long legs than usual. By the time they'd seated themselves at adjoining sides of his table he had noticed that she had light freckles on her thighs, and he was beginning to think he might be doomed.
Ainsley was trying to eat eggs - which she complimented honestly and vigorously - while keeping her shirt from gaping too much, and was far too occupied with that to notice his discomfort. She had, however, noticed his truly adorable early-morning tousled hair and the well-toned muscles not quite as apparent beneath his suits as they were in t-shirt and shorts. If Sam wondered why she was staring quite so hard at her plate, he didn't ask. For her part, she was trying not to offend him by accepting his perfectly platonic request for company and then leering at him like - well, like a drunk poli sci major who watched too much CNN. She definitely should have known this would turn out to be a bad idea, but she and Sam had managed to convince themselves that they had a mature adult friendship that included teasing of a sexual nature, without including - anything else of a sexual nature. This, she reflected, was probably something that deserved a bit more thought.
"So," he said in a last desperate attempt to get his mind off her legs, "now that we're not distracted," (so much for that, he thought), "explain to me why I'm correcting my notes again?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Because you didn't do it the first time I told you to?"
"I found out about the - the reporter."
"You'd have had it done already if you'd been listening."
"Ainsley . . ."
"You copied the wrong number, Sam, it's not that big a deal. Except that if you sent it that way to the Hill they'd use it as evidence of your incompetence."
He swallowed a mouthful of egg thoughtfully. "I don't usually need to give them any help with that."
She only laughed and took a demure sip of her coffee.
"So what do you think?" he asked. "Now that you've read it."
"Of - the bill? Your notes?"
"I think it's okay." She set her cup down and played with the handle absently. "You think it's okay, right? I mean, it sounded that way."
"You don't sound completely confident."
He frowned. "I don't know how I feel about setting restrictions on our repayment of years of overdue . . ."
"Dues?" she supplied.
That made him smile, sort of. "Yeah. I mean, to some extent, shouldn't we just - pay them?"
Her body language conceded his point, but she said, "I think as the home of UN headquarters and a leader in its founding, the US has some role in regulating its policies."
"The UN wasn't founded so that the US could control the other countries in it."
"Wasn't it?" Ainsley asked pointedly.
He held her eyes for a long time before shrugging. "Okay, you may have a point there."
"That doesn't make it right."
"I didn't say it did."
"And doesn't each new administration have the right to decide how it's going to respond to the policies of previous administrations, even when it comes to relationships set up in the past?"
He'd gotten a trifle defensive, and Ainsley registered gentle surprise. "Yes."
Sam looked slightly embarrassed and slid his fork around his plate. "I just - the rest of the world hates us enough sometimes without . . ."
"It's lonely at the top," she said without irony.
He spread his hands on the table. "Then shouldn't at least all the . . . whatever, the Category A countries support one another? Or, at least, the ones we like?"
"Sure," she agreed with a laugh.
"Then shouldn't we pay our dues and get it over with?"
"We are," she said. "We just want to make sure we're investing in something that works."
"Or that we can control."
This time she shook her head, holding his gaze. "Sometimes we don't have to control everything."
"Sure we do. We're us."
"How comfortable," she asked slowly, "would you be with a UN that didn't include significant US input?"
"Not very," he replied finally.
"See," she grinned, standing up to carry her plate to the sink. "You're playing your own devil's advocate here, but you really do prefer to be in control."
"What can I say? I'm power-hungry." Matching her smile, he joined her at the sink. This, he realized instantly, had not been a well-planned move. He was now standing entirely too close to her again.
"So are we?" she asked unexpectedly.
"Are we what?" he responded, dragging his head back from wherever it had been.
"Investing in something that works," she replied, but her voice got oddly quieter somewhere in the middle as she turned to look up at him. He was suddenly very aware of the rise and fall of his chest with each breath.
"I - think so," he stammered a little in reply. "You want to - keep your friends close to you."
"Friends?" she repeated, turning off the faucet and wiping her hands on her thighs.
He wanted very much to ask if they were still talking about the UN. "Well," he replied. "I guess you never know - strange things happen between friends, sometimes."
"I guess," she repeated as he dried his own hands on a dish towel. They were facing each other now, leaning against his counter.
"I - you know, you can never tell when something's - going - to . . ." He was definitely past the point where he'd begun to sound stupid. "Oh, hell." In one quick move he had his hands at the back of her neck and her waist, pulling her body hard against him as he kissed her.
She gave a startled cry when he grabbed for her, which was quickly stifled by his lips on hers. By the time she recovered and lifted her hands to grasp his biceps, he realized what he was doing and pulled away as if burned. "I'm sorry!" he exclaimed, bringing one hand to his lips as he ran his tongue over them. Her taste was doing nothing to restore his sanity. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he repeated in shock.
"It's okay." Her hand was on his chest in a gesture that was probably meant to be reassuring, and she was gasping for air. "It's fine."
"I didn't mean to . . ."
"You didn't?" she asked.
"I -" He looked down at her expression and his voice changed. "Oh."
She still had a hand resting over his heart, which he was sure was beating out of his chest, and she hadn't quite gotten her breathing under control. He placed one hand over hers and used the other to draw her closer, bending his face to hers again. This time she reached for him as well, wrapping her free arm around his neck.
Their kisses were very, very sweet but unexpectedly tentative - probably because neither of them could stop talking long enough to kiss properly. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" he asked against her mouth.
"Not really," she managed to reply.
"Well," he said, moving down to the angle of her jaw, "we don't really work together. Not technically."
"I certainly don't work *for* you," she murmured, her eyes still closed.
"There's that whole friends thing . . ."
She moaned very softly as he began to explore her neck with his mouth. "Sam, I have other guy friends. I haven't been very tempted to do this with many of them."
"I would hope not." He backed up and looked at her seriously until she opened her eyes. "If we can tease each other, in - a sexual way, and still be friends and work together when we have to, then wouldn't you think we could . . ."
"Probably," she said, giving him a small, very serious nod. "You don't lose intellectual respect for the women you date, do you?"
He stroked her lower lip with a gentle finger. "It's been a while since any of them stuck around long enough for me to find out."
She shrugged. "Okay."
This time he kissed her deeply, with no words getting in the way. Her lips parted for him and then he was exploring her mouth while his hands roamed over her body, and her knees grew weak enough that she leaned heavily against him. He felt her hands touching bare skin as she inched them under the hem of his t-shirt, and finally he broke away from her, his hands caressing her face, long enough to whip the shirt over his head and toss it around the corner into the hall. Her face registered her approval (it was more like openly horny amusement, actually), and her hands came to rest on his skin with a touch that tingled. She rubbed her fingertips in the light dusting of hair, not quite scratching him, and grinned at the look on his face.
"So, you planning on sticking around?" he asked almost casually, putting both arms around her waist again.
He didn't quite know how to read the look she turned on him, but it was a combination of warmth, intimacy, arousal, and something that was not either sympathy or pity, but close. Instead of answering, however, she ran her hands over his chest and asked, "How long are you going to want me to?"
Her fingers were brushing over a nipple, and he was having a hard time thinking straight, but he lifted one hand to her face and stroked the other up her side. "How does a really long time sound to you?"
He bent and kissed her then, so it was a long while before she was able to say, "Sounds like you're pretty sure, there."
"Well, I have a lot of evidence to go on." He nipped lightly at her bottom lip and made her gasp before moving on to her neck. "I could tell you about it, but I'd rather show you."
"Sounds like a plan," she breathed as his hands crept up under the back of her shirt. He pulled away, leaving her frowning in disappointment, but took her hand and led her back to the bedroom. ***** ***** When he turned to look at her he saw that her nipples were showing prominently through his shirt, and decided that it was a good thing they were doing this because that shirt had never covered much anyway. Now at least it was irrelevant. He reached out and took the hem in both hands, pulling it over her head and throwing it aside. She took a deep breath as he stared openly, which showed him the outline of her ribs through her thin torso. Her breasts were small and high, which he'd suspected, but it was hard to tell exactly through a work blouse or a sweatshirt. His shorts were low on her waist and he had a perfect view of her body, from the delicate bones at her shoulders to the narrowness of her waist and the soft curve of her hips.
He reached for her at last and kissed her again, reveling in her taste while his hands mapped the bare skin laid out for him. Her skin was as smooth as it was white, and he was fascinated by the contours of bone and muscle under his fingers. With one hand tracing her spine, the gesture serving to hold her close to him, he slid the other up to hold her breast in his palm. It was a fairly perfect fit. He stroked his thumb over the sensitive nipple, making her groan into his mouth, and he smiled as he kissed her even more deeply. His mouth devoured hers as his hand massaged her breast forcefully, and her hands dropped to his hips to pull them against her as she kissed him back.
By now she felt him hard against her stomach, and the answering throb between her legs was growing insistent. She needed him to touch her very, very soon. She slipped her hands under the hem of his shorts, caressing his bare ass while he made ragged noises of approval and tangled his tongue with hers. Not for the first time she wondered incidentally when he found the time to work out, but those questions definitely took second to her immediate need. She reached back up and pulled down the waistband of his shorts until she couldn't reach any further, and then he took over, pulled them down, and kicked them off.
The air was filled with the sounds of gasped breathing and moans of need, of kissing and skin on skin. Without breaking the kiss she groped between them, found his warm, hard length and wrapped her hand around it. Her other arm held him tight as she explored his completely naked back and rear, the hand between them stroking hard. He made a noise between a yelp and a whimper and his hand on her breast tightened almost painfully. "Stop," he groaned finally. "Stop now."
She ignored him and continued to pump steadily, her thumb stroking over the head until he jumped. Desperately he picked her up and just about tossed her back onto the bed, which was still turned down. He leapt over her and covered her body with his, pinning her wrists to the mattress with his hands as he kissed her.
She didn't fight very hard, finding the passivity exciting for a change. She'd definitely been with one too many guys who expected her to do all the work. Her hips lifted into him and she writhed in urgency as he explored her mouth and then moved down to her neck. His teeth caught and scraped just hard enough and she whimpered as he traveled down to the valley between her breasts. "Sam, please," she gasped, and then his mouth closed over one nipple and she squeaked eloquently.
She was small and his motions were passionate and needy. He had a good portion of her entire breast in his mouth, while she wriggled beneath him gasping for more. His tongue and teeth worked diligently as his mouth created suction and she arched back onto the pillows in surrender. Finally, as she cried his name and begged for something unspecified, he released her hands and lifted himself enough to peel the shorts and her underwear down her legs. She kicked them off frantically and he returned to her body, moving his mouth to the other breast while his hand dropped between her legs.
She opened them for him, practically whining with need as he caressed up and down the soft insides of her thighs. When he stroked through her curls he felt heat and dampness, and he groaned out loud, vibrating against her breast, as he parted her and touched her most sensitive places. The wet heat surrounding his fingers was almost unbearable and he found himself moaning her name in tandem with her cries.
The air in the room had grown warm and musky with the smell of sex. Two of his fingers pulled back the skin over her clitoris expertly while his thumb rubbed over the exposed tissue. She jumped, gasping loudly, her thighs jolting on either side of him. "Oh God, Sam," she cried, her hands tangling in his hair. He decided both that she was amazingly responsive, and that she had been with some fairly incompetent men.
His thumb flicked over her clit until her gasps turned to incoherent pleading, and then he rocked back onto his heels so that he could free his other hand from supporting himself. Keeping up the rhythm on her clit, he probed two long fingers deep inside her and crooked them upwards. She whimpered, her hands clutching at the sheets, and her legs parted further around him.
He continued his dual rhythm unrelentingly, feeling her arousal increase. His eyes were torn between the erotic sight of her naked body writhing on the bed, her face tight and flushed and her breasts arching into the air, and the utterly primal vision of his fingers slipping in and out of her. Her hips rocked with him and her legs wrapped around his crouched body, and finally she pleaded, "Oh, Sam . . . inside, now . . . please."
"Shh," he murmured, speeding up the motion of his fingers.
She thrust her hips into his hands, but she cried out, "No, I want you inside me when . . . please - oh - please, Sam, now."
His entire length throbbed and he couldn't deny her any more. He eased his fingers out of her, still stroking lightly over her clit, and asked, "I - I have condoms in the nightstand . . ."
"Yeah," she replied. She took a deep breath and pulled herself to a sitting position, reaching for the drawer. He took the packet she handed him, unwrapped it, and slipped it carefully but as quickly as possible over himself.
"You're not on the pill?" he asked casually as he finished.
"Makes me sick," she replied. "Is that . . . ?"
"Oh, it's fine," he replied. She lay back down and he crawled over her, positioning his hips between her spread thighs. "I didn't ask," he began awkwardly, " . . . you said you wanted to come - with me inside . . ."
"Yeah," she said, meeting his eyes and stroking his upper arms where they held his weight over her.
"Will you, this way?" he asked.
Her eyebrows lifted briefly in surprise, and he quietly reinforced his opinion of her previous lovers. "I'm really close," she said, moving her hands down to his hips. She held his eyes entrancingly. "I'm right there - I'm so ready for you, Sam, please."
He swallowed, hard. "Okay." He freed one hand to reach between her legs and open her gently, and she slipped one hand around to guide him into her. She cried out, but in pleasure more than pain, as his head slipped through her opening, and moaned softly as he pressed all the way in. He closed his eyes, taking his weight back on both elbows, and whispered, "God, you feel so good."
"So do you," she murmured, caressing his back and hips. "Move now, please."
"I won't hurt you?" he asked, although he didn't think he could wait another second.
"No, it's fine now," she answered, her hands roaming insistently over his ass. "It's just been - I don't do this every day, you know."
"I'm glad," he said.
"Possessive, are we?" She clenched her muscles around him and tore a loud groan from his throat.
"You bet." Still keeping his weight on his elbows, he raised one hand to stroke hair off her face. "Sure it feels okay?"
She matched the gesture, lifting one hand to caress his face. "Sam - you're inside my body. It's you. It feels amazing."
This time his face registered his surprise, and gratitude. "Okay," he whispered as he bent to kiss her lips. He pulled slowly out of her, then pushed back in, out slowly, then back in. Her little noises of delight enthralled him as he stroked into her, and when he saw her mouth drop open in pleasure he memorized that angle and hit the same spot again and again.
Her hips began to move erratically, her hands clutching at his shoulders, and she cried, "Sam - God - Sam, please . . ."
"Shhh," he soothed her again. "We have all the time in the world." Plus, if he went any faster he had a feeling this would not last very long.
"Sam," she gasped again, "I need - faster . . ."
He lifted a hand to her face again. "Relax. It'll be better." His hips never stopped moving as he murmured gently but raggedly, "I want to learn you - learn your good spots - how you like to be -"
Her sudden cry cut him off, and her hands clenched on his skin.
"Okay, see, that was a good spot," he said with a tight smile. "Let's see if I can - again . . ."
"Sam!" she screamed, bucking her hips up as he stroked just the right place inside again.
"Guess so," he panted. He twisted his hips experimentally. "You know, I think you're a little off center."
"Great," she gasped sarcastically. "I think you're - having too much fun with this."
"If you think it's possible to have too much fun with this, you've been sleeping with the wrong people," he managed to moan.
"If you can speak - complete sentences - doing something wrong," she returned.
"It's - what I do."
"You have other talents," she groaned, tightening around him again.
He sat up and slipped both hands under her hips, lifting them up. He pulled most of the way out then and teased her with just a few inches pushing in and out, so that he could rub his tip right on her most sensitive spot inside - and incidentally last a bit longer in the process. She responded to the new pressure instantly, her hips thrashing in his grip.
"You feel so amazing," he murmured as he thrust. From this vantage point he could see her body again, which was a definite plus. "I can feel you all tight and warm around me, caressing, and pulling . . ."
Ainsley was whimpering and crying his name, gasping and pleading with new urgency. Her hips bucked even more erratically and he could tell she was close. He kept his hold on her, watching her hands clutch at the sheets and stroking in and out, in and out as her thighs rubbed against his sides.
Suddenly her whole body tensed and arched into the air, and she threw her head back with a cry. While the first wave of her orgasm still rushed through her body he lowered her hips and moved back on top of her, thrusting in to the hilt to fill her as she came. Her throbbing walls clutched at him and he moaned in pleasure, pumping in and out of her hard and fast now. Her arms wrapped around him and she held him tight, crying out, "Oh my God, oh my God," over and over.
When she had subsided a little he slowed his strokes, meeting her eyes and enjoying her languid expression. She frowned in confusion and loss when he pulled out of her, but before she could ask he instructed gently, "Roll over."
Her eyes widened and she asked, "What?"
He patted her stomach. "Roll over."
She looked a bit apprehensive, but his tone though intense was reassuring and she still felt incredible, so she rolled over onto her stomach. As she propped up her head on her arms, he parted her legs and slid between them, entering her as his body lay over hers. He slipped in and out experimentally a few times, then his hand slipped under her and found her clit. As she gasped at the direct pressure on her still-sensitive tissues he began to thrust, stroking in and out while rubbing her clit.
She grasped the benefits of the position immediately; besides the intimacy of the full-body contact it allowed him to thrust into her very hard without hurting her, and made it easy for him to stimulate her with his fingers at the same time. With the extra help of his hand buried between her legs and the erotic sound of his desperate groans as he pounded her into the mattress, she came again more quickly than she'd ever thought possible. The second round of pulsing brought him over the edge and he groaned in release, pumping in and out of her as he finished.
For a moment he lay on top of her, both of them unmoving in sex-induced shock. Without words he withdrew and went to dispose of the condom, washing off as well as he could. By the time he returned she had rolled over onto her back and was waiting for him under the covers, her face deeply flushed and her breathing not yet back to normal. He slipped into the bed and covered them both before wrapping his arms around her and kissing her deeply.
"So," she said, hiding her slightly embarrassed face in his shoulder. "That was good."
She dropped little kisses over his chest, neck, and shoulders. "So that this-is-not-a-proposition thing worked out well."
"It wasn't," he grinned, running his hands over her back.
"I believe you."
"I don't think you do."
He brushed her hair back. "Are you completely exhausted?"
"Pretty much." She scowled at him. "Wipe that smirk off your face."
"Sorry." He hugged her tighter. "I wasn't planning on going in for hours yet, we can get some sleep."
"Okay," she replied easily, settling into his arms. "Hey, when we go in later, can we tell Celia we . . ."
He cut her off with a firm kiss.