Late Night Conversationsby Gigi K.
Spoilers: "Someone's going to Emergency . . ."
Sam set the receiver in place, leaned back and simply stared at the phone. The brief conversation with his father had helped - some. He was still hurt and angry, not to mention disappointed. His world still felt tilted on its axis. But the edge was gone. He'd begun to resign himself to accepting it.
Pushing back in his chair, he noticed the red light on his phone indicating a voice mail message was lit. His first impulse to ignore it was quickly overruled by his sense of responsibility. Hastily, he accessed the system, tapped in his extension, password and menu codes to access new messages.
"Hey Sam. It's Ainsley. I just called, well, I . . I called to see if you were okay. I heard about your father and I saw you down in the cafeteria earlier, and well, I didn't know if you'd want to see me. I just wanted to see if you were okay. I know it's not really my place, but if there is anything I can do, I'm here."
He sat there amazed, just staring at the phone. She was worried about him; he could hear it clearly in her voice, along with the uncertainty.
Glancing at the clock, he figured she was long gone by now.
"I should probably call her anyway, leave her a voicemail," he explained to himself as he pulled out his Rolodex. "I wouldn't want her to think I didn't appreciate her concern or anything," he justified as he lifted the receiver and tapped in her extension.
Sam was startled to hear the tired, drained voice of the actual person and not the standard pre-recorded greeting.
"Ainsley? What are you still doing here?"
"Sam? You know, I could ask you that same question?"
Sam smiled against the phone at how the amusement seemed to put life back into her voice.
"I wanted to make a call before leaving to join Josh, Toby and Donna."
"You wanted to call me, at this hour, before joining Josh, Toby and Donna?"
Sam sighed while leaning back into his chair, his hand unconsciously twisting the phone cord.
"No, actually, I called my father. I saw the message light as I was leaving and thought I should leave you a message, so you know, you wouldn't think I didn't appreciate it or anything."
The silence seemed to drag out before he heard her say in a quiet voice, "I wouldn't have thought that, Sam. Really."
"I'm glad," he answered, "Ainsley, you never answered my question."
"Question?" She sounded honestly perplexed.
"Why are you still here at this hour?"
"Oh, just had to finish some reviews for the OPA."
"Why don't you just pack it in for the night and go home. I am sure it can wait until Monday. Better yet, why don't you come with me? This might be your best chance to see what a fool I can make out of myself when totally drunk."
"Yeah, Josh and Toby are determined to get me drunk and then make sure I go home and sleep in my own bed."
"Your own bed, as opposed to . . ."
Sam paused, the sighed. "The couch in Toby's office."
"Ainsley, I don't really want to talk about it." His voice sounded weary, even to his own ears.
"Okay Sam, but if you do, you know, later. I'm available."
"Thanks. So, you are coming?"
Sam heard her slight groan over the phone and smiled, amused.
"I can't, Sam. I really should finish this. I really don't want to have it hanging over my head all weekend. You should get going. I'm sure your friends are waiting."
"Okay, I guess I should go then. Bye."
"Good Night, Sam."
"I, well, thank you, really."
"You don't have to thank me Sam."
"Yes I do. You were concerned, and that means a lot to me."
"Sam, it wasn't too long ago that I needed a friend, remember? You put everything aside and were that friend. And you've continued to be my friend."
"You make it easy, Ainsley. I like being with you." Sam paused for a moment, "What are you doing tomorrow? I was thinking of maybe renting a few movies and getting some takeout. Nothing fancy. I just want to avoid the world for a while. I could use some the company of a friend?"
The line grew silent again and Sam could almost visualize Ainsley biting her lower lip.
"I'd like that, Sam, on one condition. Let me make dinner for us."
"I think the last time I had food that didn't come frozen was at Thanksgiving. All right, you have a deal. I'll call you in the morning?"
He listened to the sound of her breathing quietly, "Nothing. I'll talk to you tomorrow. You should go meet your friends before they start to worry."
"Probably. Goodnight, Ainsley. Don't work too long, okay?"
"Okay. Night, Sam."
He waited until he heard the click as the connection closed. Smiling, he replaced the receiver.
Shrugging on his coat, he made his way out of the West Wing; he felt like his world was finally beginning to right itself again. Tomorrow was beginning to look like it might be a really good day after all.