The Double Dateby Gwen Hunter
DISCLAIMER: The usual. James and Darren are mine. Josh, Donna, Sam and Ainsley are *not* mine. Neither are Leo, Toby, or any other West Wing character I might mention. I'm just having my fun!
You know, I'm really glad they finally diagnosed Josh with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because now he's being treated for it and seeing a psychiatrist. So now he's pretty much back to being just a pain in the ass, instead of being a bastard.
"Donna," he says impatiently from his doorway. "Didn't you hear me yell for you?"
"Yes, I did," I answer calmly. "Along with the rest of the staff. Oh, by the way, the First Lady called from the residence and asked you to keep it down."
"Ha, ha. Funny. You should have been a comedian."
"Did you need something Josh?" I look at him guileless. Or at least I think I do. Because he pierces me with a gaze that says he doesn't buy it.
"I need the folder on the Import/Export mandate," he sighs.
"It's on your desk," I insist.
"No, it's not."
I get up from my desk and march into his office. I dig through the pile of folders on his desk and pull out the one in question. "Yes it is," I snap as I wave it in front of his face. He snatches it out of my hand with a grunt. Sometimes, I swear, he sounds just like Toby.
I glance at my watch, which is telling me it's 5:30 in the evening. "Josh, I have to go."
He is halfway into his seat when he stops to look at me. "What?" Then he decides to sit the rest of the way.
"You know," I say slowly. "As in leave the building. Ainsley and I are supposed to meet some friends."
"What is it with you and Ainsley? In the past couple of weeks you two have gotten chummy," he says with curiosity.
"Well, we have some things in common. And besides, she's kind of alone around here."
Josh gives me this look that just screams 'whatever.' "We're nice to Ainsley."
"Yes, but she doesn't have many friends since agreeing to come to work for the White House. So I've taken the time to get to know her. Is that a bad thing?"
Donna looks at me expectantly, one eyebrow arched rather elegantly. Of course I don't think it's a bad thing. And I tell her so. Ainsley Hayes is a very nice person, once you get past the Republican thing. And she has given her all to this administration. Besides, Sam likes her. Although with his track record, that in its self is not enough to comfort people.
"So the two of you are going to meet some friends. Just a bunch of girl talk planned?" I chuckle.
She's smiling strangely when I look up at her. "We don't plan on ignoring our dates," she answers.
I sigh and drop my head into my hands. "I hate to disappoint you, Donna. But we need to work through dinner." Where did that come from? I was fine letting her go, until she said the word "dates." She and Ainsley are going on a double date? And no, I am not jealous. Not one bit. Why would I be jealous? I never get jealous of Donna's string of losers.
"Josh!" she snaps and I look up at her in surprise. "Funny how you didn't mention that until you find out I have a date!"
"Donna, I knew you'd be upset. I'm sorry, I wouldn't feel so bad if it were a night out with the girls you had to cancel, instead of your date." Wow! I said that with a straight face. Gotta give me credit for that one.
Clearly, she doesn't believe me, because she's giving me her "evil death glare." I try to feel sincerely guilty, but I'm always right about her dates being losers. Like her last one with Todd. She didn't say anything, but an off-hand comment Ainsley made the day after that made me believe Todd confused Donna for Ainsley. Because Donna had asked her if they looked alike.
"Ainsley is probably going to have to cancel anyway," I add, pulling out my trump card. I happen to know Leo assigned her to help Sam with the Education Credit proposal. "She has to work late with Sam."
"How come she hasn't called me?"
"Probably hasn't been able to yet," I shrug.
Donna sort of "hmmphs" at me and announces she's going to the mess to get dinner. She sure gave up easy. That worries me. "And don't even think about asking me to bring you anything," she says as she slams the door.
Then I decide to call Sam to guarantee Ainsley is going to stay late tonight. I know, I'm a depraved individual, but hey, I'm an evil genius. And you know it.
"Sam Seaborn," I hear over the phone line.
"Hey Sam," I hear Josh's voice. "If Ainsley's with you, pretend I'm Leo. I've got something to tell you."
I glance across my desk at Ainsley, who is poring over the Education Credit proposal.
Ainsley's head snaps up. "Is that Leo? I need to ask him something."
I shake my head and hold up a finger while Josh explains to me about the double date she and Donna have planned.
"It's a big mistake," Josh says. "You know Donna's taste in men."
"Yes, I do," I sigh.
"We'll be doing them a favor if we keep them away from the losers tonight."
Turning away from Ainsley, I resist the urge to smile. "Will do, Leo. I understand completely."
I hang up before Ainsley can protest. "He had to go," I say. "And he wants us to research something for a possible policy change."
"Sam!" she says with exasperation. "I have a date tonight."
"I know. And I feel really bad, but it looks like you're going to be here most of the night." I told her that lie completely straight-faced. Didn't crack a smile. You should be impressed.
"Sam," she sighs. "What is this possible change in policy?"
I remember Charlie's idea from a few weeks ago about giving tuition incentives to become teachers. Good ol' Charlie, he didn't know his idea would save my ass tonight. "The president wants us to look into the feasibility of tuition incentives for anyone who wants to go to college in exchange for teaching in a public school we send them to for three years."
"I see," is all she says. I search her face for any indication of what she thinks.
"You don't like it," I say, a bit peevishly. The woman has that affect on me.
She gives me a long-suffering look. "I didn't say that. I don't think it's horrible, if that's what you want me to say."
"I want you to be truthful," I snap. Okay, she is really pushing my buttons tonight! God, how does she always get me so riled?
Sam's looking at me like I'm the enemy, again. I think I should be used to it by now, but I'm not the enemy. I work for them, but I feel like they don't trust me sometimes.
And I thought Sam and I were becoming friends. He even asked the President to visit me in my office. Although I wasn't thrilled with him at first, but he meant well. I've even forgiven him for the "blond, Republican sex kitten" thing. Yes, I know he was the originator of that comment.
"Sam, I don't think it's terrible, but I'm not sure it's good either. Hence, a good reason to research whether it can work." I fight the urge to sigh. Some days it's so hard to face a hostile Sam. It really does hurt, kind of like a vise squeezing my heart. Rather poetic sounding, that thought, isn't it?
He loses the "Ainsley's the enemy" look, and has the grace to look shame-faced. "I'm sorry," he says softly. "I shouldn't have spoken to you in that tone."
Did I ever tell you that when Sam speaks softly like he just did, my insides turn to Jell-O?
"It's okay," I say faintly, after my insides solidify. "I know you didn't mean it."
"No, it's not okay," he says a bit forcefully. "I shouldn't treat you so badly. You don't deserve it."
"I'm hungry," I blurt out. I really am, but I just want to change the subject. "I'm going to the Mess," I state as I stand to leave. "Would you like me to bring you anything?"
He looks at me with a smile and I think my heart just skipped a beat. I really wish he wouldn't do that. It throws me completely off. "No, thank you. You'd probably eat my food on the way back."
I have to laugh at that. "I probably would," I agree. "I'll be back in a few minutes." I look at that smile again and feel the sudden urge to run to him and kiss him. Oh, Lord! I need to eat. It must be the lack of sugar.
I am sitting in a chair across the desk from Josh. He's not looking at me, because he's too busy studying the file on the Import/Export mandate. Josh tried to appear sorry for making me break my date, but I'm not buying it. He usually tells me I have a lousy sense when it comes to men. Sometimes I think he's envious of the men I date, but that's just wishful thinking. You know, hoping that he'll tell me I can't see these other men because he's the one for me. And then he pulls me from my chair into his arms and kisses me senseless.
But he's not doing his usual "you have no sense when it comes to men." Tonight, he says nothing. He has me worried. Either he's sick or something, or he's pulling his "evil genius" crap.
Ainsley ran into me down in the mess and told me she had to work late on the Education Credit proposal with Sam. She had hoped to be wrapped up before then, but Sam got a call from Leo with some idea or another that had to be worked out in the proposal.
So we had to cancel our dates. Can my life suck any worse?
"Donna," Josh says, finally looking at me. "I know you're irritated that you had to cancel your date, but I was doing you a favor. You and Ainsley should thank me."
"Excuse me? Thank you?" I ask skeptically. "How do you figure that?"
He leans back in his chair, locking his hands behind his head, and props his feet up on the desk. "You and I both know your track record," he explains, and I begin to get angry. I know where this is headed. "You've had a parade of losers you call dates. You have *no* luck with men."
"You know, I get tired of you telling me all the time, that I have no self-worth and no sense when it comes to men! Which sometimes, I wonder if I really *don't* have any sense when it comes to men, because I'm still working for you!"
He looks at me in shock. I've never yelled at him like this, but to tell you the truth, it feels good to get it off my chest. "And furthermore," I add, "I don't think Ainsley will appreciate you insulting her taste in men."
I rise from my seat. "You know, I'm not obligated to stay here. You can do the work on your own." I leave him there with his mouth hanging open.
I don't think Donna's ever yelled at me, at least not that I can recall. You know, now I feel guilty. Even worse than when she called me "Deputy Downer." And I did feel guilty, but I had other things on my mind. I had my meeting with Matt Skinner about the thing.
I really don't mean to say these insensitive things to her. They just kind of, I don't know, slip out. I hate hurting her feelings. Makes me feel *really* small. You know, ant size.
Donna has left my office because I was a pig and hurt her feelings. Why do we always hurt the ones we lo . . .like, the ones we *like*.
Donna is such a good woman, and I sometimes wonder what she's doing with an ass like me. She could work for anyone. But she chooses to stay with me. How did I luck out?
Will she leave the building? I look to see her coat gone from her desk.
And I realize she's heading to Sam's office right now. To talk to Ainsley.
Sam is crunching figures for the tuition incentives, so he's not looking at me. He seemed genuinely sorry that I had to cancel my date tonight, but I swear there was something else in his statement. I just can't put my finger on it. I'm not entirely sure he's actually that sorry. It's weird and it makes no sense, I know. Maybe it's just my feelings for him getting in the way, hoping he'll grab me in his arms and say he doesn't want to lose me to another man.
Okay, I've been watching *way* too many romance movies with Donna. This is why I needed to go on this date tonight.
He finally looks at me, and a strange smirk plays across his face. "I know you think missing your date is a bad thing, but it's really not."
My eyebrows draw together. "And how do you figure that?"
"Well, you would have been bored out of your mind. It would have been a lousy date with a lousy guy."
"Oh gee, Sam," I say dryly. "You're my knight in shining armor, saving me from this horrid lousy date."
"Ainsley, really," he sighs. "What do you know about this guy? Is he a Republican?"
"I don't know. But he's not in politics, which is a refreshing change in this town."
Sam looks at me with doubt. "Politics is who you are. You need a man who understands what it is you do," he explains like he would to a child. Now I take back everything - *everything* - I said about him taking me in his arms. I am really pissed at him right now!
"You have to admit, you are a little naive," he continues. "This guy could be some psycho ax-murderer."
"Do you think so little of me!" I say, my voice rising with each word. "This is not some man I picked up at a bar. A friend of Donna's introduced us a few weeks ago. It's not like we're . . ."
"You're not what?" he snaps. "Sleeping together? I would hope you're not that naive! Look in the mirror, Ainsley. Men look at you, and that's what they want - sex."
He couldn't have hurt me more if he slapped me in the face.
"Sam," I say as calmly as I can. "You can finish the damn proposal on your own." I get up quickly from my chair and slam his door on my way out.
That really got out of hand. I don't believe I said those things to her. Every god damn time, I say something cruel and mean to her without thinking. I feel like such a slug.
Her personal life is none of my damn business. Even though I might want it to be. No! No, no, scratch that idea. I will not go there. I cannot go there. We just don't mix. That's why we could never date. I'm a Democrat, she a Republican. She's conservative and I'm liberal. Those are combinations that don't work. Okay, sometimes - rarely though - they do.
I feel like I should go after her and apologize, but the moment she left the room, any energy I had left me.
What the hell am I supposed to do now? I can't leave it like that. What can I do? I'm just afraid to see the hurt in her eyes. Hurt that I put there.
Oh, shit! She's probably going to Leo to explain why she can't work with me on the proposal.
"Ainsley!" I exclaim when I meet up with her outside Sam's office. "I thought you and Sam were still working on the thing.
And now I notice she looks like she's ready to cry. Which is, I'm sure, how I look. "What's wrong?"
She looks down at the floor and swallows before answering. "Sam, well . . . he said some things."
"What things?" I ask softly.
"They were . . . mean."
I look at her surprised. Sam's usually very sweet.
She looks at me and notices I look as upset as she does. "Did Josh say something?" She learns fast.
"Josh always says something," I say bitterly.
"We should call James and Darren and see if they can meet us for drinks," I say suddenly.
A slow smile spreads across Donna's face. "We should," she agrees. "I think it's exactly what we need."
She picks up Cathy's phone and dials James' number. "James, hi. Listen, Ainsley and I are really sorry about having to cancel because of work, but we finished up earlier than expected. So do you think you and Darren could meet us for drinks?" "Yeah, we know that place." "Great, see you there in twenty minutes." She replaces the receiver and smiles.
"All set?" I ask as I begin to smile.
"Yeah, they'll meet us at that bar a few blocks form here."
"Great. I could really use a drink."
"So could I."
I arrive at Sam's office to catch a glimpse of Donna and Ainsley leaving. This feeling in the pit of my gut tells me I know why they're leaving and where they are going.
Tapping on Sam's door, I crack it open. "Hey."
"Hey. I was hoping you were Ainsley," he says, kind of staring off into space. Not a good sign.
"Did you and Ainsley get into it?"
"Yeah. I said some stupid things, so she left."
"I just saw her heading out with Donna."
His eyes snap over to my face. "Really?"
"Yeah. And you and I both know where they're going."
"Well, technically not where, but yeah."
"Let's find out where, 'technically.'"
He looks at me strangely, then shoots out of his chair. Grabbing his jacket he practically shoves me out the door.
Josh and I follow Ainsley and Donna to the bar a few blocks from the White House. Last time any of us were here, Ainsley and Donna had to take Josh and I home. We were drunk off our asses.
We take a booth off to the side. We can see their backs, so they can't see us. Well, unless they look for our reflections in some of the windows. I can't help but notice Ainsley's reflection in one of said windows. She's smiling that smile that makes me want to kiss the corners of her mouth. Okay, steer away from that train of thought, Seaborn.
"Why can't these women appreciate the fact that we're trying to look out for them?" I ask turning toward Josh.
"I know," Josh agrees. "We're men, and we know what men want."
He and I look at each other as it dawns on us.
These guys could take Ainsley and Donna home, and the girls are upset with us and can be taken advantage of. Not to imply that they are weak-minded or anything - I can hear CJ in my head, yelling at me for being a male-chauvinistic pig.
I can tell Sam's thinking along the same lines as I am.
Donna could come in to work tomorrow and tell me she had a great date with this guy and he spent the night with her. He was charming, sweet, blah blah blah. And I'll feel so stinkin' lousy because I said these awful things - once again - and she wanted to prove to herself that I was wrong.
I know - pretty self-centered of me. But it's what I'm afraid of.
Donna's reflection is laughing a something "Mr. So-Not-Josh" says.
I lo . . . like, I like her laugh. I want that laugh to be reserved for me. So call me a caveman; call me a fascist. Whatever you feel applies to me. I can take it. But that's how I feel.
Ainsley is giving this man her warmest smile. The smile I wish she'd reserve for only me. She seems to be enjoying herself, and that is upsetting me more than I want to admit.
I swear, if I hear office gossip tomorrow about her having a fantastic date, I'm going to tear my hair out. I don't want to think about that. And I don't want to think about what I'm really feeling toward Ainsley.
I just can't think about all the implications right now, or I might do something drastic.
Or Neanderthal, like throwing her over my shoulder and taking her to my cave . . . uh, apartment.
I saw him - rather, his reflection - the minute he walked in with Josh. Donna tapped her foot on mine under the table to let me know she saw them too.
I am so angry with him right now, I could march over there and rip him to shreds. But I don't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he got to me.
I find myself concentrating more on his reflection, than the conversation happening at our table. God, could I be anymore pathetic. The man is not even my boyfriend, but it seems my whole world has become centered on him.
I need a life!
I know the look on Ainsley's face well. I've worn it plenty of time before. It's the look that says, "I've fallen for this demented, handsome man who drives me to the brink of sanity." It hurts to realize you love them, and they won't let themselves feel the same.
Josh won't. That's what hurts the most. He could, but he won't.
His reflection in the window is frowning. He's scared I'm going to take this guy home and let him have his way with me. So typically Josh. Thinking my wounded feeling will chase me into some man's bed. He can't allow himself to think of me as anything but a friend, but no other man can have me.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
The girls are leaving with their dates. I kick Sam under the table and hide behind a menu. He does the same.
As soon as they are out the door, we are out of our booth, hurrying to the door.
I glance both ways down the sidewalk to see which way they went.
Josh nudges me in the ribs with his elbow to get my attention. He's spotted them.
We casually stroll a few yards behind them, trying to look innocent to any passer-by. Innocent is very hard for Josh to pull off convincingly - by the way.
At least we aren't trying the whistling thing.
The nerve of that man! He and Sam are following us. I managed a glance over my shoulder to confirm that. I really wish he would step out of this limbo he's living in and decide whether he should just stay friends with me or if he should make a move to take our relationship to the next level.
Because until he decides, I'm not staying in limbo with him.
Sam and Josh are still following us. It's . . . I don't know what to call it. But I'm sure in Sam's *deranged* mind he feels I should be flattered. And I must be as insane as he is, because this small - very small, very tiny - piece of me is slightly flattered. I know he must have some romantic inclination toward me for him to behave this way.
But I'm entitled to a love life, with or without him being a part of it.
They are strolling in the park now. Isn't that sick? I mean, how cliched is that? Sure, it's sweet and I'm sure Donna appreciates the sentiment, but come on! This guy is bucking for one thing and one thing only.
And if he tries to instigate some make-out session with her, the hammer's coming down!
Okay, I really don't understand why I'm so obsessed over Ainsley's date. It's not like we're going out and I have any reason to feel jealous. But I am insanely jealous right now!
And if *Romeo* doesn't take his arm from around her waist, I'm going to tear it off and beat him over the head with it!
"Hey Donna," James says quietly. "I didn't want to worry you and Ainsley, but we're being followed by two really sleazy guys."
I want to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
"I noticed them too," Darren adds.
Ainsley gives me this "kill-me-now" look.
Darren and James quietly usher us around a corner where we are out of sight, and they lay wait for Sam and Josh. Donna looks a little worried, and I feel it too.
This could get ugly.
She and I trade troubled looks and wait for the "fireworks."
We are waylaid by their dates when we round the corner. Donna has this look on her face I can't read. I hate not being able to read her.
"Excuse me," Donna's date growls at Sam and I. "You've been stalking us during our walk, and I'd like to know why."
The man's an Einstein. We've been stalk . . . er, I mean watching them the entire date.
"They're nobody to worry about," Donna insists hurriedly.
Ainsley's nodding her head in agreement.
"They're just a couple of boys from work," she drawls, looking at me oddly.
He date looks at her doubtfully. Oh, come on Ainsley. Dump the doofus. He obviously doesn't trust your opinion of me.
"You don't have to worry about them," she adds.
Donna looks a mixture of sadness and anger - much like Ainsley. "Yeah, nothing to worry about here."
I don't know what just happened, but Ainsley and I are walking past Josh and Sam, our arms linked with our dates. What will happen tomorrow?
I almost feel sorry for Sam and Josh, because they look so lost as they watch us walk away. But what did they expect, some teary-eyed exclamation of love?