Midmorning Conversationsby Gigi K.
Spoilers: "Someone's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail"
It was the incessant ringing of her phone that threatened to pull her from the warm, content, relaxed indulgence that was sleep. Then, it was the annoying sound of her voice on the pre-recorded answering machine message. Finally, it was the amused, yet slightly melancholy sound of Sam's voice that pulled her from her sleep-induced haze. Or rather, the thrill that ran through her when she heard his voice. Reaching over, she grabbed her phone and cut off the offending machine.
"Morning Sam. What time is it?"
Pulling herself into a half-sitting position, she fumbled to locate her alarm clock on the nightstand.
"Around 11 am. I woke you?"
"Yeah, it's okay. How are you?" Giving up her search for the clock, she snuggled back down into bed, content to just listen to his voice and too tired to worry about the implications.
"Aside from a moderate headache, I'm okay, which is surprising considering that most of last night is a blur."
Ainsley chuckled softly. Sam sounded more like the man she knew, which meant his night out with his friends had done its job.
"Yeah, well, I bet you didn't eat anything yesterday, did you? Alcohol went straight to your head." Her words were slightly mumbled from her semi-awake state. With her eyes closed, she could visualize the amused expression she was sure was on Sam's face. The image of his lips curled like he was trying not to smile and the amused fleck in his eyes caused her heart to flip in her chest.
" . . . are you still up for today? Cause if you would rather cancel and get some rest, I would understand."
His hesitant words finally seeped into her clouded mind. He sounded sad and unsure of himself and her heart swelled with the desire to take care of him, to be a haven for him away from all the things that hurt him.
"Sam, what's wrong?" She pulled herself into a fully upright position in bed, her heart rate increased slightly with concern.
"Nothing. It's just . . I . ."
Hearing his frustrated sigh, Ainsley changed tactics.
"Come over, Sam. I'll jump in the shower and should be dressed and mostly finished by the time you get here. We can talk then, figure out dinner and everything, okay?"
Ainsley anxiously waited through the moment of silence on the phone, hoping she hadn't read him wrong.
"Yeah, okay. I'll be over in a few minutes. Thanks, Ains."
Did he just call her "Ains?" Her mind spun as the implications of him shortening her name started to work its way through her heart.
All her life people had tried to shorten her name and call her either 'Ains' or 'Lee.' She let very few get away with it - for the most part only her older brother. But something in the way Sam said it was different, endearing and it made her heart jump in her chest. Or maybe it was just that it was him saying it.
"Sam, you're my friend. You don't need to thank me," she said softly, smiling into the phone. "I'll see you when you get here."
"Okay, Bye Ainsley."
Fifteen minutes later, the part of herself that Ainsley considered the most sensible was spinning with the ramifications of her earlier feelings and impulses. Her reactions had been much stronger than she'd been prepared for, stronger than if Sam was just a friend like she'd been telling herself.
Having pulled on a pair of blue jeans and socks, she grabbed her favorite natural, cable-knit oversized turtleneck from the closet and tugged it over her head. Dropping onto her bed, she ran her fingers through her still wet hair.
"What are you doing?" She asked herself. "This could be bad, really bad." It could be really good - it could be great, a tiny voice whispered in her mind. "It could be incredible, " she smiled while acknowledging the possibilities.
She knew she liked him. She looked forward to their debates, even the ones that could easily pass for arguments. Hell, she?d baited him into most of them. Like when she?d reversed his position, instead of the simple summarization he?d requested. Then there was the whole State of the Union fiasco. She was sure everyone one on the set had known she had, at the least, a crush on him based solely on how she greeted him. And then there was the whole Bossa Nova in a bathrobe. She?d tried not to think about what might have happened if the President hadn?t shown up. Actually, she just tried not to think about it all together.
Truth be told, she'd known this coming for a while now.
It was the sound of the door buzzer that brought her out of her musings.
* * * * *
A quick glance at the clock revealed told her it was just after Noon, and that Sam was at least half an hour late. Jumping up, she walked quickly to her door and hit the intercom.
"Yeah, it's me. Sorry I'm late. Got detained."
"It's okay. Come on up. My apartment is to the left on the second floor."
Quickly, Ainsley removed the chain and unlocked the door. "Okay, let's not do anything stupid. The man's had a really bad week, had his reality shaken up, he needs stability, not more upset - so no going all weird on him. Just be his friend," she whispered to herself before opening the door and leaning against the door jam to wait for him.
She could hear him climbing the stairs, the rhythmic thudding, like he was taking them two at a time. As he turned the corner, she got her first view of him dressed casually in jeans and leather coat.
She could have sworn her heart actually skipped a few beats when he looked up and smiled brightly at seeing her waiting for him. From a distance he looked happy, and she felt a warmth flow through her seeing that expression on his face.
"Hej Sam," she called as he came closer. When he was halfway to her, her heart skipped a beat for a second time - this time, however, it was due to the invisible force that seemed to tighten around it. The constricting sensation in her chest caused entirely by the sadness that was well masked in his expression, but clear - at least to her - in his eyes.
She found herself forcing her smile to remain in place while not reaching out and wrapping her arms around him. She stepped back and allowed Sam to proceed her into the apartment, turning her back to him momentarily while closing the door.
Ainsley mentally schooled herself, fought the desire to comfort him and pushed down the sudden sense of anger at whatever or whoever had caused such sorrow in Sam. For as long as she'd known him, she'd never really seen him in such a state, and that in and of itself was unnerving to her.
"Let me have your coat, Sam." Ainsley called as she turned to face him.
Silently she watched as he pulled off his coat and handed it to her. Taking it, she quickly hung it in the closet before gesturing toward the interior of the apartment.
"So what do you want for lunch? I have some Rotisserie Turkey we can use for sandwiches, or we could do tomato soup and grilled cheese? I'm not sure what else I have."
"Turkey sounds good. So what did you have in mind for dinner?" His tone was conversational with his usual cheery inflections.
"Not sure," Ainsley said as she started pulling food from her refrigerator. "Do you want tomato, mayonnaise and lettuce?" She asked, looking up from a crouched position in front of the fridge.
Sam was leaning against the counter watching her, a small but genuine smile on his face. "Yeah, sounds good." Moving toward her, he reached down to take the items from her, "Here, let me help."
'This is ridiculous; all we did was brush hands. I'm acting like a silly schoolgirl with a crush. Get a grip!' Ainsley mentally chastised herself, but she couldn't deny the tingle that ran through her at the simple touch of Sam's hands as he took the food.
"Sam, what happened?" Ainsley asked a bit tentatively as she rose and walked the few steps to the opposite counter. She glanced over at him, waiting for his reply, as she busied herself taking plates and utensils from their respective places in her kitchen.
Sam turned toward the counter and busied himself with removing the turkey from the plastic container, opening the mayonnaise and plastic wrap from the lettuce. "I'm not sure what you mean, Ainsley. Nothing happened, not really - aside from the fact that I found out my whole damn life has been a lie." He sounded like he was stating a fact, more sad and resigned than bitter.
Grabbing the rye bread from her breadbox, Ainsley deposited it with the other food items and moved to stand next to Sam. Reaching out, she brushed her hand against his arm. "Sam," she began, her voice expressing her sadness over the situation.
"Don't. I don't want your pity. I just . . ." He said, his voice hinting at the anger and pain that lay beneath the surface.
Ainsley turned him forcefully with the hand that still rested on his arm, the fingertips of her other hand moved to cover his lips gently.
"I don't pity you, Sam, at least not in the contemptuous sense." She paused, dropping the hand from his lips. "Do you remember the night I told you that I couldn't stand one more disappointment from the White House? Did the fact that we were barely acquaintances - and not really even civil ones stop you from feeling compassion for me?" She waited for his reaction, a subtle nod and slight smile, before continuing. "Then why is it so hard to think that I could feel pain for you? That I might want to do something to help ease it? You have a good heart, Sam - a big heart. I don't like seeing you get hurt, even unintentionally.
Stepping away from him, Ainsley grabbed two mugs from a cabinet and set the on the counter. "I think we need hot chocolate," she stated jovially as she pulled a gold container and a steamer out of her pantry.
She looked over at him, smiling. She could read the question that was clearly expressed on his face - how did we go from pity to hot chocolate?
"When I was little, my mom always made me hot chocolate when I had a bad day or something hurt me and we would talk it out. When I hit the evil teen years, she would make me hot chocolate when she thought I was hurting. It was her way of saying she was there when I needed her, when I wanted to talk, without pressuring me. It always made me feel better. It still makes me feel better, even when I make it for myself. I think you need some hot chocolate, Sam."
Sam shook his head, a small, amused smile on his lips. "Tha . .," he paused, placed the knife he'd been using on the counter and walked over to where Ainsley was standing preparing the hot chocolate. Gently, he turned her toward him and enveloped her in a hug, briefly tightening his arms around her and kissing the top of her head, before totally releasing her and returning to his former place at the counter.
"Uh, Sam?" Ainsley asked pleased, but bewildered.
"I figured you'd hit me if I said 'Thank you' again - so . . ."
"Oh, okay." She replied, smiling to herself as she turned back to the metal pitcher containing the milk and powdered chocolate. Ainsley allowed her mind to wander while she steamed and frothed the mixture. Her body tingled from the brief embrace. Her smile widened as she recalled the feel of his hard body against hers.
"What are you thinking about?" Sam asked, trying not to laugh
Ainsley turned toward him. He was leaning casually against the counter watching her with a bright smile, one that reached to his eyes.
"What do you mean?" she replied, even as her body betrayed her. She cursed her fair skin as the telltale heat spread through her body, and she prayed he didn't notice the blush she was sure colored her entire body.
"Sandwiches are ready." Sam mercifully changed the subject.
"Why don't you take them into the living room. It's easier than cleaning the work off my table. Go on, I'll bring napkins and the hot chocolate."
They both settled into opposite corners of the sofa, eating in amicable silence.
"My mom called. That's why I was late." Sam said.
"How is she doing?" Ainsley asked conversationally, wanting to ease some of the pressure off of him.
"She says she's fine. She's not. She can't be." He paused, sipping the hot chocolate. "It just," he paused, searching for the words to complete his thought, "I started thinking about Lisa. One day we are planning our wedding, the next she's calling it off. She couldn't understand how I could give up my partnership to work for Barlett's campaign. I always wondered why my love wasn't enough. Why weren't we enough?"
Ainsley could hear his voice growing tighter as he talked, his final words barely a whisper. She could see the pain of old wounds resurfacing mingling with the fresh hurt as his eyes began to glisten with unshed tears.
Taking a deep breath, Ainsley placed her own mug and plate on the coffee table. Sliding over next to Sam, she tucked her legs underneath her to be on eye level with him. Gently, she took the mug from his hand and placed it on his plate. Turning back to face him, she saw the depth of pain that this situation was causing him and felt her eyes begin to burn with unshed tears. Tenderly, she wiped away the few stray tears that had escaped his eyes, then reached out to gather him in her arms. Time seemed to cease as her perceptions narrowed down to just Sam. She felt his body gradually relax against hers. Felt his arms snake around to hold her body as the dam finally crashed down and he let himself finally cry.
Ainsley wasn't sure how long they had remained like that, or when exactly Sam's tears had stopped. She'd been content to just stay where she was hold onto Sam. The fact that he'd felt comfortable enough with her to let go like that had endeared him to her even more. Kneeling there, holding him in her arms, she'd realized just how easy it would not only to love him, but to fall in love with him.
* * * * *
She felt him pull back slightly, but not completely out of her arms. She sat back a bit, raising her eyebrows questioningly.
"When I was younger, my mom would make me plain lasagna to celebrate or when I was sad. It was my favorite food." Sam said in explanation. Reaching over, he pulled her legs out from under her. Sinking back into the corner of the sofa, Ainsley felt him pull her with him, tucking her against his body. "I hated all the vegetables and meats my father liked in it."
"I think I can handle lasagna." She said half into his shoulder. Tilting her head back so she could look into his face, she continued enthusiastically, "Do you have a lasagna pan? If not, I have one. What about salad? Do you like Caesar salad?"
"Caesar salads good. I like Caesar Salad." Sam laughed, leaning his head down to whisper closer to her ear. "Can we have garlic bread, too?"
Ainsley tapped him playfully on the chest, then shifted to look up at him again.
She felt the soft touch of Sam's hand along her cheek moments before his lips descended, brushing delicately against hers. Instinctively, her hand moved up his chest, curling around his neck as she pulled her body against him. The feel of his hands caressing her back and hips sent waves of pleasure coursing through her body. Pulling away slightly, Ainsley broke the kiss, resting her forehead against his, overwhelmed by the intensity of sensations elicited from her body by his touch.
"I've wanted to do that for a long time. I almost gave in when I saw you dancing in that bathrobe."
Her body still humming from the kiss, her mind still preoccupied with the sweet sensations that had swept over her, Ainsley was only able to groan in response to Sam's statement. Dropping her head, she collapsed against him, burying her nose against his neck and she moaned, "Please don't remind me of that night."
She felt his arms wrap around her tightly as he held her to him. Periodically, his hands would caress her back or her hair.
"You know he didn't mean to upset you, right? I mean, he was just giving me a hard time. It amuses him. Besides, I was asking for it."
Sam's arms grasped her waist and gently set her away from him. "You know that right? He respects you and I think he wants to like you, as well. He really wouldn't have bothered to go to your office that night, with everything that was happening, if he didn't."
"You were asking for it?"
"Yeah, well I kind of mentioned to him that you hadn't had the chance to meet him yet and that he owed me because I was right and he was wrong."
"You told him that? You said that to the President of the United States."
Sam looked sheepishly at her, "I also might have told him, when he asked what he should say to you, that he should tell you that you weren't hired because you were a blonde republican sex kitten."
"Sam!" Ainsley cried, hitting him playfully on the chest.
"Sorry?" He said, meekly.
Ainsley laughed. "Just for that Mr. Seaborne, I get to pick one of our movies this evening."
"I guess I can live with that." He said, nodding and smiling.
Ainsley smiled back at him unconsciously. She could feel how relaxed and content he was from the contact that remained between their two bodies. And his smile was genuine, reaching clear to his eyes.
On impulse, she leaned forward, embracing him in a tight, but brief hug. Moving back quickly, she placed a light kiss on his cheek before jumping off the sofa. Grabbing his hand, she pulled him to his feet as well.
"Come on, we got shopping and movie renting to do," she said rapidly as she walked to her closet and pulled out both of their coats. Tossing his to him, she added, "And you still haven't answered my question."
He looked at her, bewildered.
She laughed and rolled her eyes, "Lasagna pan, Sam, do you have one?"
"Oh, yeah. Got one. Haven't used it in years, but its in my kitchen somewhere."
"Okay." She answered, snatching her purse from the table beside her front door. "Let's go," Ainsley chirped, turning to him to show him out the door. She was just about to close the door, when she thought of the gold jar of Ghirardelli chocolate, and the milk steamer sitting she'd left on her counter.
"Be right back," she called, dashing back into her kitchen. Quickly, she placed the jar and the steamer in a paper tote bag.
"Forgot something," she said as she locked her door.
She walked down the hall of her apartment complex. When she reached the stairs, she realized that Sam wasn't behind her. Looking back, she saw him standing halfway down the hall, just watching her, an intense expression on his face - one she wasn't familiar with.
He smiled and slowly walked toward her, stopping just inside her personal space. Ainsley could feel her heart rate escalating as their eyes locked on each other. She smiled when she felt him weave his finger with hers and squeeze her hand. With gentle pressure, he pulled her along with him down the stairs, not saying a word.