Disclaimers: None of these characters are mine except the ones you've never seen on TV. I'm making no money here.
Her door swung open of its own accord, creaking on old hinges while she crooked an eyebrow in its direction. Then it became apparent that the door had in fact not opened on its own; Sam was slumping against the wall behind it and sort of rolled himself into the office. He slumped into a chair without looking at her and grumbled, "I'm being subpoenaed."
"My parents are coming."
"I mean, I knew this would happen eventually, of course," he continued, "but it's just that I wasn't expecting it so - what?" His eyes suddenly opened a little wider and he took in her pale, stunned expression.
Her hand was still resting on the receiver of the phone. "My mother called me at work to tell me that they're coming this weekend."
"She called work?"
"Apparently she thought it was an emergency. Under the circumstances she thought I might be in need of some immediate assurance that my family were coming to my aid in this time of trial."
Months of dating had conditioned him well, but not perfectly. His mind took a second to catch up to the end of her sentence before he was able to reply, "What time of trial?"
"The Raleigh paper carried an article about me being on the investigative legal team for the White House defense, once the Special Prosecutor has been named."
"And your parents - wait. Ainsley!" His eyes narrowed at her and he leaned forward unconsciously in his chair.
"Yeah," she said weakly.
"How did you not tell me - how did *anyone* not tell me about that?"
She winced a little. "Oliver Babish only told me about it myself a few days ago, and I didn't want to -"
"How many days ago is a few?" he probed suspiciously.
"I know!" she replied defensively, sitting back in her desk chair. "But you were so stressed out, and I didn't want to add to the -"
"How would knowing that you were working on our defense add to my being stressed out?" he demanded.
"I thought you might worry."
"I would not have!" He sat back. "I would have."
"So you - what, said Don't tell Sam'?"
"You know, saying my name in that tone is not going to change the situation, Samuel."
He arched an eyebrow at her. "Hey. Don't call me that."
"You weren't complaining last time."
"Last time was a very different situ- wait. Did you say your parents were coming *this* weekend?" Sam had begun to look faintly ill.
"It's Thursday now."
"So they're coming in two days!"
"No?" He frowned at her for a moment, and then his brow suddenly ironed out and the color drained from his face. "They're coming tomorrow?"
"I can't help it!" she cried out, gesturing alarmingly. "They just called and told me they were coming. I had not a lot of say in the matter."
"Oh, this is not good," he muttered to himself, sinking back in the chair again. "This is not good." He sat up very straight suddenly. "Is your father going to want to kick my ass?"
"For what?" she asked, beginning to sound afraid herself.
"For getting you into this?"
"Oh." Relief washed over her features. "I doubt it. I would have been in this even without you."
"Well, that's true." He sighed heavily. "That gives us not a lot of time."
"Well, to get whatever stuff of mine out of your apartment - why are you shaking your head at me?"
"Because we're not getting your stuff out of my apartment," Ainsley replied firmly.
"We're not," she repeated just as firmly.
"You told your mother we were... ?" he asked in disbelief.
"Well, I hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but the extra toothbrush and the men's jeans in your bedroom are going to be a pretty big clue."
"I know." She nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and looked down at her desk.
"Hey." He got up out of the chair and went to sit on the desk, taking her chin to tip her face up to his. "What are you thinking?"
A tiny but affectionate smile crept over her face as she reached up to stroke his hand. "I'm not going to have the conversation with them, but I don't want us to hide either. Does that make sense at all?"
"Of course," he reassured her, bending down to press a quick kiss to her lips. "Whatever you decide. Just keep in mind that if your father beats me up, my body might be out of commission for a while."
That had the desired effect; Ainsley cracked up and lost that pale, horrified look. "I'll bear that in mind."
"See that you do." He was giving her the intimate smile she knew well, the one that always led to his bending down to kiss her. Her eyes drifted shut contentedly at the first familiar taste, but she pulled away fairly quickly. "Sam," she said a little reproachfully.
"I know." He straightened up and hopped off the desk. "You want to tell Oliver that the secret's out? So people can actually discuss the defense team around me?"
"Sam, it wasn't -"
"I know," he said, reaching out for one last touch to her hair. "And I think you trying to protect me is kind of cute."
"Get out of my office."
He laughed. "Yeah." At the door he paused and turned around, another very familiar look on his face. This one usually made her want either to cry or hug him. "Ainsley... " he began, a little smile gracing his lips.
She returned it from her spot across the room. "Yeah. Me too," she replied quietly.
His smile blossomed into a full-fledged grin. "I'll be a little late tonight, I think."
"I should be at home in case my parents call," she considered.
"I'll come over, then?"
"Okay." One last intimate smile and he was gone, leaving her to sigh heavily over the prospect of her family's descent upon DC. At the very least, she would have to clean. A lot, she thought, picturing Nora Hayes's spotless house - rather more spotless with the four children out of it.
Friday night found them sitting anxiously side-by-side in the waiting chairs of the Southwest gate at National Airport (Ainsley had called it Reagan once; Sam had threatened bluntly to withhold sex if she ever did that again). Their eyes were glued as one (or two) to the flight status board, which was now indicating that the Hayeses' plane should have just landed. Periodically Sam's hand would drift over and cover Ainsley's; then he would get nervous and move a bit aside, putting some space between them.
"Sam," she said finally, "this is not the junior high church mixer. We don't need to leave room for the Holy Spirit."
"Your Republican parents are about to get off that plane," he said very tightly, gesturing toward the window. "Not to mention your large Republican brothers."
"Who said they were large?" she asked, amusement making her forget her own nervousness momentarily.
"I guessed," he said darkly. Then, hopefully, "Wait - they're not large?"
"No, they are."
"I have to tell you," he said, sinking back into his seat, "this laughing at my pain thing? Not good."
"You're not in pain yet."
"Yet?" he repeated, his voice going up several tones.
Suddenly the smile left her face. "Oh God."
He followed her line of sight to the collection of people - mostly summer tourists, families with small children - getting off the flight from North Carolina. Right behind a cute family with tiny twin boys was a very tall man - very, very tall - in his sixties with sandy blond hair mixed with grey. Even under the thick beard and eyeglasses, Sam recognized the scowl on his face. It was the same one Ainsley got when she was confused about something. Sam's heart skipped several beats as his gaze jumped to the two men behind him. They were equally tall, one maybe an inch shorter than the other. The bigger and huskier man was blond as well; the smaller had blondish-auburn hair. They both showed a strong family resemblance to their sister, but Sam nearly gasped aloud when the crowd around them thinned and he got a glimpse of the woman holding onto their father's arm. Her hair was dark red but her features were Ainsley's, almost the exact older copy. She was perhaps (if it we re even possible) a little more delicate, and maybe a little more formal about her carriage. But there was not a shred of doubt in his mind - if he had met Nora Hayes on the street, he would have known that she was Ainsley's mother.
Beside him, Ainsley swallowed hard and rose to her feet. The family had not yet spotted her, but she called out quickly, "Dad!" and headed in their direction. Immediately the two brothers rushed her; the smaller one picked her up and hugged her tightly, saying something that Sam couldn't hear. The large brother - or rather, the larger one - ruffled her hair in a brotherly gesture that almost countered the effect of his menacing glare around the room. Sam took several deep breaths, having a very good idea for whom that glare was meant. Meanwhile, Ainsley's mother surveyed her daughter and said calmly, "You look all right, dear." Sam had the feeling this was high praise.
When the rest of the family had finished greeting her, they stepped back a fraction and she faced her father in a sudden silence. He frowned a little as he looked her over, and it seemed as though Nora held her breath until her husband opened his arms and hugged his daughter. Only then did his face crack into a warm smile, and he held her away from him and said, "Hi, sweetheart."
"Hi," Ainsley replied a bit more quietly than usual.
"You look a little thin," her father appraised.
"I'm fine," she said hastily.
"It doesn't look bad." Her father took another step back, still looking at her, then reached out to touch her chin. "You look like a grown-up all of a sudden, since Christmas."
For the first time Sam smiled, as Ainsley turned beet red. The smile didn't last long, as her father's deep voice boomed out in more pronounced accents, "So, where's this Seaborn person?"
He could have sworn that Ainsley paled a bit as she turned and motioned toward him. Obediently he headed for the group, mentally preparing to lift his hands in front of his face if necessary.
"Dad," Ainsley said slowly. Sam had noticed that in the family group she tended to address only her father. Maybe it was a Southern thing, or a conservative thing - or maybe just a Hayes thing. "This is Sam," she said, managing to hold her voice steady.
Taking his cue from Ainsley, Sam made eye contact only with her father and held his hand to him first. He really wanted to hide behind Ainsley, but he had the feeling that showing weakness would be like sprinkling blood in shark-infested water. "Mr. Hayes," he greeted, somehow managing to keep his own voice calm.
"Mr. Seaborn," the older man replied stiffly, taking his hand in a painfully strong grip.
"Sam," he corrected, making every effort to return the strength of the handshake.
"Sam," Mr. Hayes repeated without any signs of giving his own first name, "my wife, Nora." Ainsley's mother extended her hand delicately, seeming as though she would rather not, but Sam thought that might be her usual mannerism. Her steel-blue eyes narrowed as she examined his face; then for some reason she relaxed and said, "Pleased to meet you, Sam."
"My sons, Patrick and Ryan," Ainsley's father indicated, gesturing at the two men standing with their mother. Ryan, the smaller and younger brother, gave Sam a thorough looking-over while holding his hand tightly, but after a moment he had a hearty smile for his sister's boyfriend and said rather boisterously, "Hey, Sam." Patrick, the older brother (the one, Sam remembered with a nervous tremor, who had a gun), gave him a stern look while they shook hands and said nothing.
"Ainsley's sister was unable to accompany us," her father said. Something about his statement was a little too careful, but Sam chose not to ask questions.
"Well," Ainsley said, looking uncomfortably at the tense, silent group and at her petrified boyfriend, "should we go?"
No one spoke on the way out of the airport, and Sam's blood pressure climbed steadily with every passing second. He was so intent on avoiding Patrick, and so relieved when the brothers were drafted to walk with their mother and her suitcase, that he didn't even notice Ainsley's father coming up behind him. By the time he realized, it was too late - the brothers were far ahead - not that he wanted them, either - and Ainsley seemed to be in quiet conversation with her mother about the cut of her suit. A heavy hand clamped down on his shoulder, and a deep Southern voice said, "So, Sam - you look a little nervous. Is there something wrong?"
"No!" Sam replied too quickly. "Not at all!" God forbid the next words out of the man's mouth should be are you trying to hide the fact that you're sleeping with my daughter?'
Ainsley's father gave him a predatory smile. "I recognize you from TV."
"Yes, sir." He didn't quite know what to say to that.
"You're wrong about high school sex education."
Well. Obviously bluntness and non sequitur were hereditary traits. Sam raised his eyebrows and said, "Ainsley thinks so, too."
"I know she does," her father replied with a dangerous edge to his voice. Apparently it was time to have the political conflict conversation. Things were moving along with a frightening rapidity.
"She once called me a liberal mouthpiece intent on filling our schools with promiscuous Young Democrats who liked us better because we let them have sex," Sam ventured, wondering too late whether Jeff Hayes would allow his daughter to speak that way.
Ainsley's father frowned. "This was - before you two started your... relationship?"
He made "relationship" sound a bit sordid. Sam flinched, but he replied, "Actually, sir, it was last week."
There was a horrifying moment of dead silence between the two men, and then Ainsley's father threw his head back and roared with laughter. His daughter turned around in alarm, but seeing her father's smile she quickly returned to conversation with her mother and let Sam and her father sort this out. "God, that is Ainsley for you," her father said, still chuckling. "I have to say, there, Sam, I was a little worried that she might have -"
"Started agreeing with me because we were involved?" Sam ventured, his tone indicating what he thought of that theory.
"Or pretend to agree with you," her father said. The laughter was gone from his voice and he was looking sternly at Sam.
Sam shook his head. "Ainsley's not that type," he said firmly. "And frankly, if she were that type I wouldn't be dating her."
Jeff Hayes nodded very slowly. "How do you think she looks?" he asked, jerking his head toward his daughter.
The question was bizarre, but Sam read it as a test. He thought about replying, "Mr. Hayes, your daughter looks beautiful to me every minute of every day," but instead he decided to go out on a limb. It seemed to him that a different approach just might be the answer. "Well, Mr. Hayes," he said, "I think she looks pale. She wasn't feeling well earlier this week and she was up most of the night on Wednesday, but she seems to be feeling a little better now and I know she caught lunch today." Too late Sam realized that in trying to demonstrate his care of Ainsley, he'd inadvertently implied that they spent the night together. Before he could backpedal, her father's hand clasped his shoulder again.
Sam stopped to look the older man in the eye, and Jeff Hayes asked quietly, so that Ainsley couldn't hear, "So you're looking after her?"
Sam took a deep breath and replied, "Sir, she frequently takes very good care of me when I need it, and I only hope I'm caring for her as well."
Her father nodded and released him. "Okay." As he started walking again he added, "And you can drop the sir.' It's Jefferson - Jeff."