Supposed to Beby Allison
Disclaimers: They have never belonged to me and they still don't, because Aaron's still writing the show.
"I mean this in the least offensive way possible, you know that, but I just don't get it."
Sam carefully set his beer down on the table and spread the ring of condensation around with one finger. "What don't you get?"
"You. And her." Josh was quick to add, "I like her. I like her a lot, and it's not that I can't picture you being attracted to her or that I can't see someone really - liking her, it's just that I'm having a hard time picturing why it is that you two work."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "You and me both."
Josh frowned. "You seemed pretty sure about it last week."
"I am sure about it," Sam replied quickly. "I mean, I'm sure about being with her. But I'm not sure why we work." He sighed and raised his glass again. "But then again, does anyone ever know that?"
"Maybe not," Josh shrugged. "But . . ."
"There has to be a reason why you're with her, doesn't there?"
Josh shrugged again. "With me there was always a reason."
"Josh, when was the last time you had a relationship that lasted more than a month?"
"Mandy?" Josh asked as if not sure of the answer.
"Yeah, and how well did that work out?"
He looked as if he might be about to argue, but then he subsided and said, "Point taken."
"What if I asked you why you like Donna?"
Josh looked alarmed. "I don't like Donna."
"I don't mean *like* Donna, I just mean like Donna. If I asked you to tell me what particularly about her makes you value her as a person, could you do it?"
Josh frowned. And frowned. Finally he lifted his head and said, "No. I mean, I could list a lot of good things about her, but none of them is really why I like her. She's just - Donna."
"Exactly." Sam smiled at him over his glass rim. "Some things don't have a reason."
Josh was getting his happy-but-vaguely-sarcastic look now, the one he usually reserved for when Donna had done something that was essentially incomprehensible but also entertained him. "But I still don't get how you went from thinking she was evil incarnate to . . ." He motioned with a pretzel. "I mean, you really hated her."
"Sure," Sam conceded. "So did we all, for about ten minutes. You remember what I told you after Joyce and Brookline. I explained all that at the time."
"You said you felt bad because you thought your unprofessional attitude may have trickled down through the rest of the staff," Josh reported. "You didn't say the incident made you want to start picking out china patterns."
"No," Sam agreed, looking just a little pale. "And, that thing about the china patterns? Don't ever say that again."
Josh looked troubled. "I thought it was -"
"It is serious, just - don't say that again."
"Is this about Lisa?"
"No, Sam . . ." Josh took another long swallow of beer and looked at him intently across the table. "Are you afraid if you talk about marriage she'll leave you?"
"No, but we've only been officially together for three weeks and I think talking about marriage is a bit premature!"
Sam seemed a little too tense, so Josh decided to let the subject drop. Before he could say anything else, though, Sam added, "I am a little afraid."
"That she'll leave?"
"Not so much that, as . . ." He played restlessly with a napkin. "I'm a little afraid I'm the type you get engaged to for a while, but not the type you actually marry."
"Have you talked to her about it?" Josh asked gently.
Sam looked at him skeptically. "Yeah. 'Ainsley, I know we've only been together for about five minutes, but I'm a little concerned that you wouldn't marry me if I decided to ask you at some point in the future.'"
"Well, when you put it that way."
Sam shook his head. "It's not a big deal. I just need to, you know, keep talking to her."
"Yeah," Josh replied softly.
Sam looked at the table for a long moment. "You remember that Saturday back in January when we were running around trying to spin the Shallick thing? Right before Toby left for Kansas City?"
Josh's brow furrowed in thought. "Yeah, I think."
"You remember how I was gone for most of the day?"
"I went to take the Branson hearing testimony over to Ainsley's. Ginger was going to go, but she was sick, so I went instead."
"I remember that now," Josh replied. "Ginger said you looked like you were going to kick her ass."
"I was trying to -"
"Ainsley's, not Ginger's," Josh clarified.
"Oh." Sam looked down sheepishly. "I was."
"She was sick." Sam frowned into his near-empty glass. "That's why she wasn't in. Really sick, I mean - she was in a lot of pain."
Josh looked legitimately worried. "There's nothing . . ."
"No, she's fine," Sam answered. "It's a, you know, female -"
"Got it," Josh said quickly. "So?"
"Well, she was really sick. And I felt bad because I had gone over there to yell at her . . ."
"So the knight in shining armor strikes again?"
Sam glared at him. "You were the one who asked how it happened."
"So," Sam continued. "I stayed and took care of her a little. I mean, it wasn't a big deal, but we kind of - we kind of bonded. I felt like I knew her better after that, and not just because I'd seen her pretty much at her worst. We'd never really talked about anything but work before that. But I told her about Lisa, and she told me about some Republican jerk who she dumped because he insulted us -"
"No way!" Josh exclaimed.
"Yup." Sam grinned. "Learn something new every day, huh?"
"So anyway." He swallowed the last of his beer and looked down at the table. "I also kind of held her a little. You know, on the couch. It - I only did it to comfort her, because it seemed like the thing to do, but after a minute I realized I really wanted to hold her."
"It was nice," Sam said softly. "I mean, partly it was nice because she was in so much pain that she wasn't arguing with me . . ." He grinned. "I mean, not nice that she was in pain, but the silence made the niceness possible."
"I get it," Josh replied.
"The thing is," Sam continued, "I knew ever since the whole Brookline/Joyce thing that she and I had made some kind of connection - a twisted, perverse connection, but a connection all the same. Whenever we worked together it was like - we couldn't stop fighting, but we knew we should be fighting with each other and not anyone else. Does that make sense?"
"No," Josh said, beaming, "but go on."
Sam looked about ready to stick his tongue out at him, but he got over it. "Anyway. It occurred to me while she was lying there on my lap, and I was . . ." He actually blushed. "I was kind of stroking her hair and - well, you know - it occurred to me that if I really didn't like her on some subconscious level, that even if I felt guilty for being mean to her I still wouldn't want to touch her like that."
"That does make sense," Josh commented.
Sam nodded. "So that made me think about her a little differently. As someone who, if we stopped talking about politics, I might be able to be friends with."
"When do you ever stop talking about politics?"
Sam laughed. "Well, that's why nothing happened right away. But after the thing with the GDC I was pretty upset -"
"I went looking for Donna, but she was -"
"Soliciting royalty," Josh said dryly.
"Right. So I went down to Ainsley's office. I don't know, I guess I figured that if I'd seen her at her lowest, it would be okay to . . ." He finished the sentence with a vague gesture. "Plus we had a pretty nice conversation at her apartment, and I just kind of wanted to talk to someone."
"I guess it went pretty well," Josh commented.
Sam's eyes lit up, making his best friend smile in response. "Josh, she was - she was just amazing. I never expected that from her, but she was exactly what I needed. She dragged me out to dinner and made me talk about why I was mad at Toby, and she said -" He paused, deciding to keep that to himself. "She said some pretty great things about me, and about all of us. I guess I realized that she was really on our side, that night. That's what did it. And that she was on my side, which I never would have thought before."
"Sam," Josh said, looking mildly amused, "three days after the GDC speech you and Ainsley got into a shouting match in the hallway. Donna hid in my office for fifteen minutes."
"Yeah," Sam said, smiling at the memory, which only amused Josh more. "We still fight all the time about work. But now I know she can disagree with me about politics and still not want to see me get smacked down."
"I learned that about her around November," Josh laughed.
"I was carrying around a lot of baggage," Sam said defensively. "She didn't humiliate you on cable."
"True." Josh signaled to the waitress for another round. "So have you been seeing her since then?"
"No, only really since Valentine's Day."
Josh looked close to laughter again. "Valentine's Day, huh?" he teased.
"Stop it," Sam warned. "I asked her out. We had been spending a lot of time together, mostly dinner or coffee after work, and I was curious - I liked her, I thought, and I definitely found her attractive, and I wanted to see if we would work on an actual date."
"Obviously it worked."
"It did." No more was forthcoming. The two men fell silent for several minutes, nursing the new beers the waitress had brought and contemplating the previous conversation. Halfway through his drink Sam asked, "You know when I knew I was in love with her?"
"When she went into your office the day Shallick's interview came out?" Josh guessed. "We never knew how she calmed you down."
"After that, actually," Sam replied. "Although that was fairly - it was only a couple days after our first and only actual date, and we hadn't talked much since then. We had a huge fight when she came in, she accused me of not trusting her, I accused her of siding against us - it was pretty bad. But we got so worked up that we basically wound up confessing that we wanted a relationship." Sam laughed quietly to himself. "Only time I've ever had that conversation while screaming."
"So that was when you knew?"
"No, after." Sam was still smiling a very private smile. "I knew then that I liked her and wanted to give it a try - I knew I had a little crush on her, maybe. And we kissed - a lot - in my office, which we hadn't really done before, and I definitely knew we had chemistry, but I wasn't in love with her."
"So what happened?"
"I went to her apartment after work that night. I had just found out about the Brookline and Joyce thing, and I went to tell her and let basically let her coddle me while I whined. I knew she would."
Josh smiled at that. "So?"
"We talked about keeping our relationship under wraps till the scandal potential blew over - that was when we decided not to have sex until after the lawsuit thing was resolved. But that was kind of incidental to the important part."
"That was the first night we went to bed - without having sex, you understand. We had only just gotten together, and here we were having this - I mean, in some ways it's kind of more emotional than having sex, because sex can be only physical, but you don't spend the night just holding someone unless you . . ."
"Yeah," Josh agreed a little wistfully.
"It was just - that experience of -" Sam gave up and tried again. "I knew we had physical chemistry. I knew we could have good conversations. I knew she was a nice person. But I didn't know how she acted in a romantic relationship - I mean, I didn't know how she would treat a . . ."
"Lover?" Josh supplied.
Sam blushed again. "I guess. It was like - I knew how she treated me at work, and I didn't know if that would be different?"
"It was different?"
"It was totally different." Sam leaned back in his chair. "She just - she -" Once again he found himself speechless. "I never could have imagined Ainsley being as affectionate - in the non-smothering sense - as she was. And we're not at all talking in a sexual way. I mean just - the experience of not knowing what to expect, and then having her hold me the way she did, and the way she touched me . . ." He gave Josh a self-conscious look, but there was happiness in his eyes. "I knew when she held me that I was in love with her."
"Have you told her?"
Sam laughed. "You know, that's always such a big deal. When do you say 'I love you,' how soon is too soon, when will she expect you to say it, what happens if she says it - this time, it just slipped out. We had a fight, and I was afraid I might be losing her, and I just said it without meaning to, without thinking about it - just said it."
"She didn't say anything, but I think it made a difference." Sam was quieter now, and staring down at his hands.
"So has she . . . ?"
Sam met his eyes and said very softly, "A couple days ago."
"You remember the exact day?" Josh was amused again, but he could also tell this was important - especially since he knew Lisa had hurt Sam more than Sam would ever admit.
"And all the times since," Sam almost whispered.
"I'm glad," Josh replied just as quietly. Then something occurred to him, and feeling the need to break the somber mood he said, "So, the lawsuit got dropped a couple days ago, didn't it?"
"Yeah," Sam replied.
Sam met Josh's suggestive look with a frown. "No way. I'm not telling you -"
"I'm not talking locker-room details, Sam," Josh said exasperatedly. "Just . . ."
"Yes," Sam replied calmly.
Sam's eyebrows knitted together. "You said no details."
"I don't want details, just - it went okay?" Off Sam's look he added quickly, "I mean, emotionally and all that stuff. Things are still good?"
Sam relaxed and he smiled a little at his friend's concern. "Yeah, things are good."
Josh nodded, not pressing further.
It burst out. "Josh?"
Sam grinned. "Like a religious experience, Josh."
His friend grinned back. "As it should be."
When he entered the darkened apartment, a little self-consciously using his new key, he saw a strip of light coming from under the bathroom door - the light she'd been leaving on so he wouldn't trip when he came in. He turned it off as he walked into the bedroom, stripping by the light of the street lamps coming through the window. She was asleep on her side facing away from him. In t-shirt and boxers he slipped under the covers and eased his way to her side, trying not to wake her - it was late and there'd be plenty of time to see her in the morning. She felt his warmth and instinctively moved into his arms, whispering sleepily and without opening her eyes, "Hey."
"Hey," he whispered back, holding her close and kissing her forehead. "Sorry. Go back to sleep."
"It's okay," she murmured back. "I like to know you're here."
"Yeah." He smiled in the dark and kissed her again as she drifted off. "Goodnight." As he heard her breathing even out he added, just barely audibly, "I love you." Then he settled in among the pillows, cradling her with him, and closed his eyes, thinking of how he'd described their relationship to Josh. Just supposed to be with each other instead of anyone else - fighting or otherwise.