Thoughts and Conversationsby Gigi K.
Archiving: If I haven't given you permission already, just ask. I will probably say yes.
Author's Notes: This is the third story in my conversations trilogy. I have been using them to attempt to bribe Allison into writing . . . I want my vignette!!! ;) Side note, this thing just keeps getting longer and longer . . . Since this story finishes this trilogy, I wanted to send a big thank you out to those who helped me with this by sending feedback and letting me bounce ideas off of you and such. I wish I could name you here, but alas, those emails are saved at home and I am at work (and really should be working, I have meeting in an hour.) Just know I appreciate you all - and will name you later!! I want to give special thanks to Allison for being patient and for saving my A$$ from embarrassing mistakes that spell check doesn't catch/ or messes up. Her humor has also been vastly appreciated and I may just steal a page from Perri and post one of her beta's -- trust me, the girl can be very funny!
It hadn't taken Sam long to grab three movies he wanted to see from the New Release section of Blockbuster and to find "Somewhere in Time," the movie that Ainsley had requested. He pulled into the parking lot a full fifteen minutes before he was supposed to meet her inside the grocery store.
Turning off the engine, he left the battery on to power the radio. Slumping back into the seat, and just listened. With his eyes closed, he let his mind go blank. Within seconds, images of Ainsley flooded his mind. He saw her trying to entice him to dance. He saw her leaning on the desk outside his office, her eyes sparkling mischievously. He saw her smiling at him from her doorway, and he saw the sadness in her eyes when she recognized his pain.
His mind slowly registered the song playing softly over the radio and he laughed. His dreams had been broken, and there she was standing beside him and he hadn't seen it until now, when it was hitting him over the head.
He'd known he was attracted to her; there was no doubting that. He liked her, he supposed he always had, he'd just needed to get past his hurt pride before he could admit it. What he wanted to know now was if what he saw in Ainsley was genuine. What he needed to know was if the strength of the emotions pulling at him were unaffected by the events of the past five days. Or were his mind and heart just trying to fabricate something out of a good friendship to replace the disillusionment? He hoped not.
He'd been surprised by her phone message the night before, even more so by the concern and compassion he heard in her voice. No, that was wrong. He'd expected her to be concerned since they were friends. And he knew she was a compassionate person. It was his reaction to hearing those qualities in her voice that had surprised him. The fact that her voice had been a soothing balm to his aching heart was a pleasant shock.
His first real coherent thought that morning had been to call Ainsley. He'd wanted to hear her voice. But Josh had been there and he hadn't wanted to deal with his questions. When Josh had left, Sam promptly called her. The delight that swept through him when he'd heard her sleepy hello had stunned him. It shouldn't have, but it did. Recently, he realized, he'd been happy more and more to hear her voice or to see her.
Sam smiled, recognizing the signs that he'd been falling for her long before his world went to hell in a hand basket.
He'd felt so comfortable with her at her apartment that morning. He'd found immense pleasure in performing mundane tasks, like making lunch, by her side. Truth be told, it had even felt good, liberating, to be lose his control with her. It had been a relief to discover that he could be a cranky jerk and she wouldn't run, that she would understand. He expected that from Josh, Donna and Toby, but he hadn't been sure how she'd react.
And when he'd hugged her, it had just felt right to him, like a haven.
He definitely hadn't expected to melt down in front of her. Usually it took quite a bit before he lost control over his "I'm fine" fašade. It had taken 3 days of hiding from the pain of his father's betrayal, plus being "kicked in the teeth" by reality twice that day to get him to explode. Thank God Donna was a good friend, and that she was, well - Donna. Everyone else would have called him a jerk and not cared about what lay beneath the surface. Well, everyone, but Josh, Toby, maybe CJ and Cathy - and Ainsley. Okay, so the President and Leo would have cared - but there was no way in hell he would ever have lost it in front of them.
And he doubted he would have cried in front of any of the others.
This afternoon, all it had taken for him to be so completely undone was the tenderness in her expression when he finally told her about his mother's call. It had taken weeks of dating to feel as close to and as comfortable with Lisa as he'd felt to Ainsley. That scared him.
Sam glanced at his watch and realized it was time to meet Ainsley. Pushing his darker emotions down, he cut off the engine and exited the car.
Clearing the entryway, he veered to the right into the produce section and scanned the area for a certain blonde figure.
It was her laugh that first caught his attention. Ainsley was standing by the lettuce display holding a head of Romaine lettuce in her hand, clearly paying more attention to the woman talking to her than the produce.
He found his attention fixated on the graceful movement of her hands as she gestured while speaking; the way her head tilted to the side while listening to the other woman. He watched as she casually deposited the lettuce into the cart, moving over to grab a few cloves of garlic without taking her attention from her companion.
He couldn't take his eyes away from her. His heart, body and mind warred over his desire to walk up and wrap his arms around her. He wanted to feel her body against his. He wanted to breathe in the scent of her shampoo. He wanted to hear her voice.
"Control," Sam whispered to himself. He needed to take this slow. It was too important. Taking a deep breath, he started to walk toward her.
Ainsley turned and looked over her shoulder and smiled seeing him. Her eyes glistened mischievously. "Hi Sam." She called.
Standing next to her now, he allowed his hand to brush lightly against her back, knowing it would be harder, at the moment, not to touch her at all.
"This is Lauren. She used to live next door to me. We were just talking about the yummy things in the produce section."
'She didn't just say that did she? Oh god, look at her eyes. She has that look. Why do I get the impression they weren't talking about fruits and vegetables?' He shook his head. 'Two can play this game.'
He wrapped his arm firmly around her waist and pulled her back against him. He was definitely going to enjoy this. "Oh, I agree." He lowered his head closer to her ear level and spoke in a voice that was soft and husky enough to be suggestive, yet loud enough so that he was certain that Lauren heard. "Do you have everything we need?"
"Yes," she responded, a slight catch in her voice.
Sam smiled. Looking up at Lauren, he extended his hand, "Nice to meet you."
Lauren smiled back, "Nice meeting you. Ainsley - I call you." Sam could see that she was fighting not to laugh.
"Yeah, okay. Bye Lauren." Ainsley managed as Sam directed them toward the checkout lanes, his arm still draped around her waist.
* * *
Ainsley unpacked and organized the groceries on the counter, her mind sorting through the events since leaving her apartment. Sam had been so sweet. A perfect gentleman, although considering his knight-in-shining-armor complex, it hadn't surprised her. The only time he'd been remotely devilish had been thanks to her own baiting.
Ainsley smiled at the memory. She'd just gotten through explaining that she was helping a friend through a rough day when Sam had walked into the store. Lauren had just about melted. Teasing Sam had been fun as well. His expression had been priceless, not just for the amusement factor, but she'd seen the light in his eyes sparkle a little more. The trip through the line had been uneventful, and Ainsley had enjoyed the continued physical contact with Sam.
"What can I do to help?" Sam asked.
"Well, where do you keep the pots, pans - mixing bowls, utentils - things like that."
Sam quickly moved around his kitchen, pulling things from various cabinets.
"Don't tell me - you organized the kitchen yourself, right?"
"Yeah, why?" He answered, confused.
"Only a man would put a mixing bowl in the pantry, Sam." Ainsley laughed.
Sam looked back at her sheepishly and smiled. "Yeah, well I only use it when I bake."
It was Ainsley's turn to be surprised. "You bake?"
"Don't tell anyone," Sam responded. He walked over, placing the mixing bowl on the counter top next to her. "One of my family's traditions. Mom and I would bake holiday desserts the night before the "official holiday." Dad would always work late, so it would be just Mom and me." Sam paused, as if realizing the implications of his statement for the first time, then continued trying to sound normal, "She taught me how to make King's Cake, Apple and Pumpkin Pie - and Sweet Potato Pie, that was always my favorite. Not really dessert though. We always had that with dinner."
He was smiling, the memories were obviously good ones, but she could see the tainting of the happiness in his eyes. She felt her heart sink, wondering how many good childhood memories would be tempered now with this new knowledge. The worst part was she knew there wasn't anything she could do to change it.
Putting on a brave face, Ainsley teased him, "Well in that case, next time you are on dessert duty! I have never been able to match my mama's apple pie. I 'm beginning to think she is holding out on me."
He gave her a half-smile, which she returned. Grabbing the large pot from the stove, she quickly filled it three-quarters to the rim and placed in on the burner, set it to medium-high and added a bit of salt and olive oil. She checked her watch to mark the time then turned back to Sam.
He'd stepped back to give her room and now leaned against the opposite counter, arms crossed casually across his chest. She could tell he was doing his best not to get too dragged down. She wanted to hug him and tell him it would be okay, that she would be there - it just wasn't her place. They were friends, and maybe they could be more. But they weren't there yet.
Reaching out, she took his hand, lacing their fingers together. "So what movie do we watch first?" With a gentle tug, Ainsley pulled him out to his living room.
"What do you think - Remember the Titans, . . ."
The phone rang. Sam groaned and walked over to check the caller id box. "It's Josh," he said.
"Well answer it, Sam. I'll leave you alone." Ainsley replied, squeezing his hand before releasing it and walking back to the kitchen.
* * *
Sam watched her walk away. The phone rang again and he flipped the cordless phone on. "What do you want, Josh?"
"So is she there?"
"She? Josh -"
"How did you, oh god, what did I say?" He whispered.
He could hear Josh laughing at the other end of the phone. "I'm not saying a thing. If you don't remember, I'm not telling!"
"And just how is it that you remember any of last night?"
"O'Doul's. Remember, Donna - Ms. Don't Let Josh Have Any Fun - was there. She only let me have one real beer."
Sam laughed at that. "So, what do you need?" he asked, trying to avoid the original question long enough to get through the French doors that led to his balcony.
"Sam. Ainsley, is she there?"
"Yes, she's here. Why?"
"So, what's going on??"
"Nothing is going on, Josh."
"Yeah, right. Spill it my friend. You like her, don't you?"
"She's my friend, Josh, that would imply that I like her."
"That's not what I mean."
Sam turned around, leaning back against the railing. From his vantage point, he could catch a few of Ainsley's random movements. From what he could tell, she looked like was dancing, well, more like keeping time to music as she went about preparing the food.
He heard Josh, but at that moment Ainsley walked out of the kitchen with a mug in hand and set it on the table. Sam found himself captivated by her movements. He groaned softly when she turned, giving him a view of her backside as she walked toward the hall closet.
"Oh, Sammm? Buddy!"
As she disappeared around the corner, Sam's muttered to himself before replying to Josh with a laugh, "She's great, Josh. How did I not notice it before?"
Just then Ainsley reappeared, his jacket slung over her arm. Passing the table, she picked up the mug and continued to walk toward him.
Sam could hear Josh snickering and the muffled sound of his voice - like he had his hand over the phone. He heard a minor scuffle and laughed, Josh had obviously dragged Donna in today as well.
"Samuel Seaborne, don't screw this up! She likes you."
Yep, Donna. "Screw what up, Donna?" He asked, fighting the laughter. He could hear Josh's muffled, "What, you aren't going to tell him the signs?," in the background as he stepped forward to open the door for Ainsley.
He watched her place the mug down on a patio table and then hold his coat out to him.
"I don't need to tell Sam the signs. I'm sure He can figure them out for himself." Sam heard Donna shoot back at Josh. "Now, Sam - is Ainsley there?"
"Uh, yeah, right here. Hold on." He said, half amused, half perplexed. "Donna wants to speak with you," he said, holding the phone toward an equally bewildered Ainsley.
"Hi Donna. What can I do for you?" Ainsley asked while pointing to the mug with an expression on her face that clearly indicated - "Drink - Now."
He watched her as she nodded, occasionally looking over at him. When he saw her shiver slightly, he put his half-full mug down, then reached out and pulled her against him. Feeling her relax against his body, he closed his eyes, wrapped his arms around her, and enjoyed the sensation of sharing his warmth with her.
He opened his eyes and looked down at her when he felt her turn around in his arms without moving away from him. She was smiling.
"No, It's okay. Actually, would you like to meet for a late lunch tomorrow? We could talk more then." "Yeah, okay. 2 o'clock. I'll see you there. Bye, Donna."
She held the phone out to him, "She's going to let Josh back in his office now. I'm going to finish the lasagna."
Sam wasn't sure if it was impulse or instinct, he just acted. He tightened his arms around her and lowered his lips until they met hers. The kiss started gently, tentatively. It felt his heart pounding in his chest as she responded, deepening the kiss as she wrapping her arms around his neck.
He broke away when the muffled sound of Josh's voice over the phone drifted to his ear. Reluctantly, he reached up and took the phone from Ainsley's hand, which was still wrapped around his neck.
"Josh, hold on for a minute, okay?" Sam said, not giving Josh a chance to speak, he hit the hold button and tossed the phone to a nearby patio chair.
Wrapping his arm back around Ainsley, he smiled.
"You should finish your conversation with Josh. I should go finish dinner." Ainsley said softly, smiling brightly.
Sam held her tighter and rested his forehead against hers.
"Sam." Her voice was soft, beckoning him to look at her. Gently, she reached up and caressed his cheek, her face fairly radiated love back at him. "Talk to Josh. I'll finish dinner. Then we talk, okay?"
He nodded and released his hold. She remained for a few seconds, smiling at him before stretching up on her toes to kiss him briefly, twice. Then she stepped away, back to the door. She turned once to smile at him and for a second he thought she was going to say something.
Instead, she gestured toward the phone before stepping through the threshold and closing the door behind her.
Picking up the phone, Sam hit the hold button again.
"Help?" Sam said, his voice raising an octave.
"I kissed Ainsley. I mean I really kissed Ainsley. It felt good Josh, the don't-ever-want-to-come-up-for-air kind of good. I wasn't about to throw her down on the ground or anything, I . . it just . . . "
"Sam, you're rambling. I get the idea. Look . . ."
Sam anxiously ran his fingers through his hair, waiting for Josh to say something.
"Do you want some backup? I mean, Donna and I could come over later, run interference."
Sam took a deep breath. He wasn't sure he wanted anyone else around. He hadn't felt like he had to pretend anything with Ainsley. On the other hand, he didn't want to push things too far, and while she didn't seem too upset by anything that had happened today - quite the contrary actually - he really didn't want to destroy a good thing before it really got started.
"I'll call you back in a minute, Josh. I need to talk to Ainsley."
"Josh, thanks." Sam said, then turned off the phone.
Picking up the mug that had been sitting ignored on the table, he walked into his home, heading straight for the kitchen.
He could see Ainsley placing her cell phone back in her purse and walking back over to the mixing bowl.
"Ainsley?" He asked, leaning against the edge of the wall.
"Hej Sam. Finish talking to Josh?" She asked, continuing to mix the cheese in the bowl. She was putting on an "everything's normal" front, but Sam could hear the tightness in her voice.
"Yeah, well, kind of. I told him I would call him back." Sam walked over to stand behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
Her motions stilled instantly. He quickly pulled back his hand. "I'm sorry," he whispered, not sure what else he could say.
Ainsley turned around and looked at him. "You have nothing to feel sorry for, Sam. I am the one who should be apologizing. I shouldn't have let myself get carried away like that. I promised myself I wouldn't let that happen."
"You didn't want that to happen?" Sam could see the hurt in his voice reflected in her eyes.
"No, Sam. I mean . . ." she sighed and closed her eyes. When she opened them, she stepped forward and closed the distance between them. "I wanted to kiss you Sam. I didn't want you to be hurt again. I admit, I find you attractive. Not like I could deny it now, anyway. But first and foremost, you are my friend and you've been hurt. Your life's been shaken up. I wanted to be here for you, be your friend and now I've totally bungled it by kissing you on your balcony. I just wanted to be the kind of friend you needed." The last part was whispered brokenly, and Sam could see the beginnings of tears in her eyes.
"In case you are forgetting, I kissed you - and not for the first time today either." He said, gently brushing the tears from her cheeks. "And you *are* my friend." He let his hands fall to her shoulders, "You are exactly what I needed today. You've been supportive all day, you were here when I needed you, no questions asked. The thing is, I think I want to be more than friends."
Ainsley looked up at him, "Sam?"
"I like you, Ainsley. I realized today that I've had feelings for you for a while. I've just been to stubborn to admit to them." He paused, "It's just . . Can we take this slow? I don't want to screw this up. I don't want to lose you as a friend."
Ainsley smiled, then wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him. "I think I can handle slow," she said. He slipped his arms around her, hugging her back and lifting her feet from the ground in the process.
Ainsley laughed, "Okay, you can put me down now, Sam."
"You need to call Josh back."
"No, I don't. He can wait."
"Sam, he is probably driving Donna up a wall. Call him back."
"Can I invite him to dinner?"
"I think that is a very good idea, but only if you include Donna in that invitation."
"Will you put me down now?"
He took a deep breath, then released his grip allowing her to slide down his body. "I'm going to call Josh now."
"Okay. I'm going to finish making dinner. Then maybe we can watch one of the movies."
Sam smiled, and watched her work. Picking the phone off the counter where he'd discarded it earlier, he tapped in Josh's direct line.
* * *
"I'm telling you, Josh, the Redskins need to get rid of Deion Sanders. He has in NO WAY earned his salary." Sam said, shifting unconsciously to accommodate the woman sleeping by his side. He slipped his arm around her, brushing his fingers along her shoulder.
Looking down at her, he smiled. She looked so lovable - irresistible - curled against his shoulder. Not for the first time that evening, he considered what an amazing woman she was. She'd prepared dinner, chatted companionably with Donna and played the perfect hostess. Somehow, she even managed to show up with a smile, a quick, baiting retort or simple touch just when his mind would start to wander, just when he needed the reassurance.
"Yeah, well with any luck, he won't re-sign." Josh answered, his voice slightly hushed. "So?"
Sam sighed, hearing the unspoken question in his friend's voice. He'd been trying to keep a conversation of random topics going, to hold off the inevitable.
"Are you sure about this Sam?"
Sam grinned and he laced his fingers with hers where they rested above his heart.
"Yeah, Josh. I really think I am." He said softly.
He felt Josh's concentrated stare and knew what his friend was looking for - signs of uncertainty.
Sam felt his whole body release a tension he'd been unaware of when Josh leaned back in his chair, seemingly satisfied and shifted his attention to his assistant. Sam glanced over Ainsley's head to see Donna curled up in the opposite end of the sofa, sound asleep.
"Think it was the conversation?" Sam asked, amused.
Josh laughed as he rose from his chair and grabbed a blanket out of small chest that sat beside the sofa. Sam watched quietly as Josh gently covered Donna and stroked her hair as she settled into the added warmth.
"Josh?" Sam heard Donna whisper, half-asleep. "What time is it?"
"Just after midnight. I should probably get you home." Josh responded softly. Sam smiled secretly when he noticed that Josh's hand caressed Donna's leg as he spoke.
Sam heard Donna shifting her position and then muffled mumbling as Josh pulled her to her feet.
"Come on, Sleeping Beauty."
Sam glanced down again at Ainsley sleeping against him. He hated to move her, but manners overruled desire. Carefully, he pulled his body out from under her, propping her against one of the sofa cushions.
Walking to his foyer, Sam retrieved coats, exchanged thank yous and goodnights then watched to make sure they reached Josh's car safely. With a final wave, he closed and locked the door.
Quietly, he walked back to the living room and crouched down beside the sofa to watch Ainsley sleep. She looked so peaceful that he hated to wake her. Instead, he watched her, and let the feelings of belonging and peace that had been missing for so long from his life begin to take their place again. This time, he chose not to question the source of the emotions.
He watched as her eyes fluttered open and she smiled sleepily at him. He gladly took her offered hand and resettled himself beside her at her unspoken request. Sam heard her contented sigh when she'd gotten comfortably curled against him again.
"Josh and Donna left?" She asked, stifling a yawn.
"Yeah, a few minutes ago. Josh wanted me to tell you he expects you to cook for him more often. He thinks we should make this a regular thing."
Sam smiled at the uncertain hopefulness in her voice. He tightened his arm around her shoulder, hugging her to him. "Really." He said, and then placed a soft kiss against the top of her head.
"I enjoyed it, too, Sam. It reminded me of home, of my family. We used to do family dinners on Fridays. I haven't been to one since I left," Ainsley said, trying to suppress another yawn, "for college."
"Okay - bedtime for Ainsley. There is a big, comfy bed in my guest room just for you." Sam teased as he stood and pulled her to her feet. He suppressed a laugh at the pout on her face before pulling her against his chest and gathering her face in his hands. Leaning down, he kissed her softly before pulling away to see her smiling at him, her eyes sparkling.
Ignoring caution, Sam leaned into her again, feeling her arms wrap about his neck as their lips met. His skin tingled where her fingers brushed against the skin at the back of his neck and head. Sam groaned, pulling Ainsley tighter against him as the sensations triggering a deeper stirring.
His hands drifted down her back, cupping and massaging her bottom as he held her against him. He tasted the wine that lingered on her breath when her lips opened and he felt her tongue brush against his.
Time slowed, and Sam wanted nothing but to feel her against him. His hands began to trail back up her body, slipping under her sweater to feel the silky warmth of her skin.
"Ainsley." He whispered, as he kissed the side of her neck.
"Yes, Sam?" Ainsley asked, as she shifted her body against his.
The sound of her voice, hushed and breathless, nearly stole the last bit of control Sam had. One hand journeyed up her body, stroking her stomach lightly as it moved up between them and caressed the underside of her satin-clad breast.
God, he wanted to touch her, feel her skin against his.
"Sam?" Ainsley moaned, "Is it too late to change my mind about taking this slow?" She pulled back from him, her hand drifting to lift his chin so their eyes would meet.
Even with his muddled mental state, Sam immediately noted her kiss-swollen lips and how the flushed skin on her face set her passion-darkened eyes off like jewels. He felt his heart thudding in his chest as he struggled to control his breathing.
"Dear God, Ainsley, please don't tempt me!" Sam moaned, still unable to separate his body from hers. He felt her drop her head to his shoulder.
** ** ** **
Ainsley felt him set her body away from his and groaned at the loss of contact. Taking an additional step back, she let her eyes roam over his body. The undisguisable effects of their activity on his body were immediately noticeable, and she felt herself smile, raising an eyebrow.
"Ainsley, have mercy. Not the grin, please."
"The grin?" Her grin widened as she teased him.
Ainsley was surprised when Sam suddenly grabbed her, twisting her around until her back was pressed against his chest and his hands crossed under her sweater against the bare expanse of her stomach. She doubled over instinctively, shrieking and laughing where his hands brushed sensitive ticklish spots just under her ribcage.
"Well, isn't this interesting." He laughed as he continued to tickle her.
Eventually, Sam stopped his assault and Ainsley felt her body begin to relax as she caught her breath.
"If I say 'Thank You,' will you please not hit me?"
Ainsley felt the warmth of his breath against her neck. "Yeah, I think I can let you thank me this once." She responded to him teasingly.
"Thank you, Ainsley. Today was good, better than good actually. I'd say today was great."
She felt his arms tighten around her again in a brief hug and found herself admitting that she liked the feel of his arms around her almost as much as she liked to kiss him.
"You're welcome, Sam." She said, sincerely. Titling her head back, she gave him a gentle, brief kiss.
"Okay, Guestroom for you, Ms. Hayes." Sam said, turning her around and holding her at a slight distance with his hands on her shoulders. Gently, he pushed her toward the stairs.
As they reached the stairs, his arm slipped around her waist. Ainsley happily reciprocated, wrapping her arm securely around his waist. Smiling, Ainsley leaned her head against his shoulder as they climbed the stairs together.