Going Publicby Allison
Disclaimers: These characters belong to Aaron Sorkin and not to me, and I am only borrowing them for my own personal amusement and no financial gain whatsoever. This site closing thing is a little scary.
He turned to find C.J. chasing him down the hallway while making a concerted effort not to slip coming around the corner in her heels. "Yeah?"
"Bob Allan is dead."
Sam frowned. "Really?"
"I thought Bob Allan was immortal, or cryogenically frozen, or something."
"Then I guess he thawed, because he's dead."
"The funeral's on Thursday," she continued.
"We're all going."
That made him pause. "He's a Republican. Or was. Maybe they're still Republicans after death."
"Yeah, but he was an old Republican and a faithful public servant and we owe it to the wife and family to . . ."
"The thing is . . ."
"There's a thing?" Sam asked.
"There's a bit of a thing."
"Bob Allan was friends with Dreifort."
"Dreifort's staff worked with Allan's."
"So Ainsley's probably going to want to go."
Sam looked confused. "Okay."
"That's the thing."
He still looked confused. "It's a funeral, C.J. If she wants to go . . ."
"Whom," he corrected automatically, ignoring her glare. "Why does it matter . . ."
"Because it's going to be a bit of a public thing if she goes with you."
"It's a funeral, nobody's going to -"
"The Republicans on Dreifort and Allan's staffs will notice she's with you and not them, and -"
"It'll get out in the press." He rubbed his forehead with one hand. "Does it matter?"
C.J. shrugged. "That's up to you and Ainsley."
"You're not going to -"
"It's up to you. I'm ready for the press, but it's your lives if it gets out before you wanted it to."
"Yeah." He took a deep breath and looked away from her down the hall. "I should go talk to her."
"Okay." He offered C.J. a little smile. "Thanks."
When he knocked on Ainsley's door her "Come in" sounded distracted. He found her at her desk, frowning over a newspaper. "Bob Allan is dead," she said as he entered.
"Yeah," he replied. "C.J. just told me."
"The funeral's on Thursday."
"You going?" he asked casually.
Her frown deepened. "I guess. I knew him pretty well when I was working for Dreifort."
"We're all going too."
"We?" she asked, looking up finally.
"Senior staff. And probably a few others. The President thinks -"
"Sure," she replied, understanding immediately. Sam reflected that dating someone else in politics was nice in that way - it saved so many words.
"So, I got a question," he said, not knowing whether this was the best way to broach the topic.
"Okay," Ainsley said.
He paused, starting several times and stopping himself before finally pouring out, "C.J. wants to know who you're going to go with."
"Who I'm going to go with?" she echoed.
"Yeah. To the funeral."
"I got that," she replied drily. "Why does C.J. care who I go with?"
"Because if you go with me -"
"My friends on Dreifort's staff will notice and it'll be a thing," she caught on.
He sat on her desk. "She said it's up to us. I say it's up to you. If it is a thing, you're the one they'll accuse of switching sides."
"Yeah," she said thoughtfully. She looked up at him and grinned. "So it's okay with you if I go with Bruce and Harriet?"
He blinked, taken very much aback, but replied, "Um - sure. Of course."
"Sam!" She laughed and got to her feet, glancing behind him to make sure the open doorway was empty. "I'm kidding."
She laughed again and took hold of his lapels with both hands. "If you're going, I'm going with you. It's a funeral, not a political event -"
"It is a political event, Ainsley."
"Well, it shouldn't be." She pulled on his jacket to emphasize her point. "And if I want to go to a funeral with my . . . whatever, I should be able to."
"Your whatever?" he asked, hands on hips.
She sighed. "I hate the word 'boyfriend,' Sam, it makes it seem like we're in junior high."
"Okay," he replied a little too pleasantly. She eyed him.
"Sam . . ."
"I will go with you to the funeral, if you swear not to walk over and introduce me to Henry Shallick as your girlfriend."
"How do you do that?" he asked, dismayed.
"I will not tell Henry Shallick you're my girlfriend."
"Or anyone else."
"Or anyone else." He smiled and covered both her hands with his. "How do you like 'lover?'"
"How do you like chastity?" she replied.
"I've heard it's the only foolproof method of birth control."
She couldn't keep a smile off her face as she pretended to hit him. "I'm going with you," she said again.
"Could get ugly."
"Let's see. Since meeting you I've been accused of sleeping my way into the White House, abandoning my political principles for sex, and exchanging sex for having my enemies fired. Uglier than that?" She rose up on her toes and kissed him lightly. "If someone says something, C.J. will spin it and we'll deal."
"And you'll have to tell your family."
"I have to tell them sometime."
"You'll have to tell them you lied before."
"I didn't lie before. I said I wasn't sleeping with you, and I wasn't. Well, not in the commonly understood sense of the word."
"Yeah." Sam slipped both arms around her waist, careless of the open doorway. "You're sure?"
She nodded. "I'm sure. I'll sit with you, we won't say anything, we'll just act like it's no big deal. That was the plan, remember? The only thing different about this is it's a political event."
"You're right," he replied, smiling.
"Shut up." Still grinning, he leaned down and kissed her, deepening the kiss when he felt her wrap her arms around him and start rubbing his back between his shoulder blades, trying to pull him closer.
A cough made them jump and separate hastily. Leo met their reddened faces with a smile. "Hi there," he said from the doorway.
"Hi," Sam replied while Ainsley contemplated hiding under the desk.
"Ainsley," Leo said, his tone amused, "I came to see if you had a minute to tell me about the hearings, but if you're busy . . ."
"Why didn't you have Margaret call?" she asked, trying to will the color out of her face.
"She's off doing something," he replied airily. "And I thought, I haven't visited Ainsley in a while. Probably gets lonely down there."
She could feel her face getting hotter and hotter. "I have a minute. I have several minutes. As much time as you need."
The smile Leo gave her was friendly. Sam turned and said quietly, "I'll see you later." Glancing at Leo, he started to go, then said, "Oh, what the hell," and turned to give Ainsley a quick kiss before he left. As he passed, Leo grabbed his sleeve and asked softly, "Everything going okay?"
"Everything's fine," Sam replied, darting a look over at Ainsley, who was searching her file cabinet for the information Leo wanted. "Better than fine."
"Good," Leo replied, patting him on the back. "That's good."
*Sure, fine,* Sam thought as he exited the office. *Except I could jump her right now.*
The National Cathedral was packed for Senator Robert Allan's funeral. Sam and Ainsley hesitated as one at the door, causing C.J. and Josh to ram into them and Leo to walk into C.J. "Can we stop with the domino thing?" the Chief of Staff asked impatiently from the back of the group.
"Yeah," Sam replied, stepping out of the way. "Except Ainsley and I are going to go in a little after you."
"We are?" she asked.
"Yeah," he confirmed. "Because I don't think you want to walk in there as part of the White House entourage. Sitting with us is bad enough."
She acknowledged this with a lift of her eyebrows. "If you say so." She stepped out of the way and let the rest of the senior staff through, Leo squeezing her arm as he passed and whispering, "It'll be okay, kid."
After a moment Sam reached down and took her hand. "You're going first," he instructed. "I'll be right behind you. Just go sit with Leo."
"Right," she replied as he let go of her hand. She walked into the church with a confidence she didn't feel, carefully not looking to either side. Leo was on the end of a pew with exactly two seats left in it, about six rows back from the front behind the family. She slid into it without hesitation and without looking up until Sam sat down beside her. With eyes straight ahead she asked softly, "Are people looking at us?"
"No, they're looking at you," he whispered back.
"Just kidding," he said almost apologetically. "A couple people looked, but they've been distracted by now."
Across the room were the few people who might have been looking specifically for Ainsley Hayes, and as predicted they were the ones most surprised that she was sitting with the White House staff instead of with them. They were probably unaware that the unassuming young woman seated behind them, in a conservative black dress and with looks unexceptional enough to pass unnoticed, was the assistant to the White House Deputy Chief of Staff. Donna Moss was sitting quietly and praying Ainsley didn't look over and catch her sitting behind her old friends from Dreifort's office. C.J. had planted her as a spy, wanting to hear if anyone noticed Sam and Ainsley and figuring no one who hadn't been to the White House would recognize Donna. Their conversation, as Donna reported it to C.J. and C.J. reported it to Sam, went along the lines of:
"Hey, here comes Ainsley." Donna rolled her eyes at the redhaired woman's gossipy tone.
"Is that Seaborn behind her?" the man asked.
"Yeah. He looks better in person."
"He's even more arrogant in person."
"I don't think she sees us."
"She'll look for the Justice and he'll tell her we're back here."
"You think she'll have the guts to talk to him?"
"Just because she deserted? She'll probably still say hello. She's got that Southern politeness thing."
"You think he'll talk to her?"
"I don't know. Hey, is she going over to Leo McGarry?"
"Yeah - wait, is she sitting with him?"
"Oh my God."
"Seaborn's sitting with her."
"Serves her right for sucking up to McGarry."
"You think she has to deal with him a lot?"
The smirk on the man's face as he turned to his companion was vile enough that Donna remembered it. "From what I read in the paper, she's had to 'deal with him' quite some since taking that job."
"Bruce, the paper printed a retraction."
"Because the White House busted their ass. They wouldn't have printed it in the first place if there wasn't some truth."
"Don't say ass in church."
"You just said it."
"You think she's really sleeping with him?"
"I don't think she wants to, but I bet she is anyway."
"Isn't that sexual harassment?"
"You think she's gonna pull that? A Republican charging a Democratic White House with harassment? It'd look like sour grapes and any judge would throw it out."
The woman shook her head. "He's such an arrogant jerk."
Donna had a remarkable memory - and a little notebook hidden in the hymnal in her lap. She conveyed this information to C.J. as quickly as she could in the back of the church after the service. C.J. caught up with Sam outside by their cars and dragged him away from Ainsley for a moment to repeat everything to him.
He glanced over to where his . . . whatever was chatting with Josh and Donna. "Bastards," he muttered.
"I'm guessing you don't mean Donna and Josh," C.J. replied.
"It's not funny, C.J."
"You knew it was going to be bad, Sam," she said gently, touching his arm. "Talk it over with Ainsley. I'm sure you can fix this. Anyway, they didn't sound like they were planning on talking to anyone. According to Donna, they're treating this like something everybody knows about anyway - which means they won't bother to spread it."
"I wouldn't be so sure," he grumbled. "Okay. Let me talk to Ainsley."
Ainsley frowned for a while after he'd finished relating Donna's spy work, and her eyes tightened in a way that made him take her hand and rub it between both of his - hidden, of course, by the open door of his car. "Okay," she said finally. "Here's the plan."
"There's a plan?"
He could have sworn she looked like she might be enjoying this. "There's definitely a plan."
"We're not together in the press yet, remember."
"Yeah." She nodded slowly. "It's going to stay that way."
Bruce and Harriet looked slightly alarmed when Ainsley came over to them at the little reception in the Senate office building, but their surprise quickly turned to a sort of sadistic pleasure. "Ainsley," Bruce exclaimed. "We saw you at the church, but you didn't come over."
"I didn't see you," she lied easily. "I saw Leo and headed right for him. I guess you must have been behind us."
"How's life at the White House?" Harriet asked.
"Great," Ainsley fairly chirped. "Now that everyone's gotten used to having the Republican around." If this was going to sound real, she was going to have to tell some of the truth.
"We saw in the papers you had some trouble," Bruce said with feigned concern.
Ainsley waved that off. "Sam Seaborn had some trouble. I didn't really have anything to do with it. And anyway it was stupid and the whole thing just blew over."
"The paper seemed to think you had a lot to do with it," he put in.
Ainsley laughed. "The paper? The paper was duped by a couple of guys who couldn't read the White House harassment policy. C.J. Cregg took care of that for us."
She had chosen her phrasing carefully. "So C.J.'s a friend of yours?" Harriet asked curiously.
"Oh, sure," Ainsley replied breezily. "I mean, now that I've been there for a while we've all become friends." She smiled. "It's a very homey environment." *Only because everyone who works there practically lives there.*
*Right on time,* she thought, hiding her grin. Instead she managed a cheery smile and said, "Sam! Come here, I want to introduce you to some friends of mine." As he got closer she said calmly, "Bruce, Harriet - Sam."
She thoroughly enjoyed the sick look on Bruce's face as he was forced to shake hands politely with Sam Seaborn. "How are you doing?" Sam asked happily, glancing at Ainsley. Maybe she was right - this was kind of fun.
"I'm - good," Bruce managed.
Before anyone could say anything else, Sam slipped an arm around Ainsley's waist. He hesitated just long enough for her former friends to take in the picture - and it was quite a picture. Sam in his most conservative dark suit, hair combed back in the way that tended to make Ainsley's knees weak; Ainsley with her fair hair over her shoulders and her face pale above her black dress. They looked like a Washington power couple. Sam leaned down to her and said, just loud enough so Bruce and Harriet could hear but softly enough that it sounded as though it was meant to be an intimate remark, "C.J.'s ready to go. Her car is back at the White House and Josh already left with Donna."
Ainsley looked up at him with a smile. "Okay."
"Did you come together?" Harriet asked, unable to contain herself.
Ainsley beamed. "We're carpooling. Save the environment and all that. It was nice seeing you both." She turned back to Sam. "Let's go."
At his car she stopped and whispered, "Are Bruce and Harriet following us?"
He tried to look nonchalantly over her shoulder. "Yeah, they came out and they're kind of watching us."
"Good." Before he could say another word she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him soundly, right beside the car. When he found the strength he pulled away and choked, "What happened to keeping us out of the press?"
"I changed my mind," she replied.
His eyebrows shot up. "Okay. You're going to tell your parents?"
"I'll call them later tonight."
"You're okay with that?"
Her arms were still around his waist. "I'm great with that," she answered.
A tiny smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Okay."
She didn't bother to see whether Bruce and Harriet were looking before kissing him again. "Do you have to go back to work now?" she asked, her voice low.
"No," he replied, confused. "I was lying about C.J. - she went with Josh and Donna."
"Good," she said, running her hands up and down his arms. "So we can go home now?"
His eyes widened as he got her point and his voice rose a note. "We can go home right now."
"Good." She released him with a smile. "Get in the car."
"Yes ma'am." He ducked in and started the engine hastily, reminding his hormones to stay calm until they made it home. Over her car door Ainsley waved gaily at Bruce and Harriet before climbing in after him.