Into the Jungleby Nikki
Disclaimer: All characters except Paterson belong to the great god of writing, Aaron Sorkin, and all his producing partners, affilliates, etc. Paterson is mine.
Josh Lyman sat in his office chair, reading a memo, when his assistant, Donna Moss, came in and sat down in the chair across from him. Ignoring her, he kept reading the memo without looking up. After a couple of minutes of silence, Donna began to get impatient.
He stopped reading and looked up. "Yeah?"
"I've been sitting in your office for like, ten minutes now."
"Yeah, I noticed." Josh went back to the memo.
"So why didn't you ask me what I needed?"
Josh looked up again. "'Cause I was sort of hoping you would go away eventually," he offered with a grin.
"Josh," Donna whined.
"And by the way, it was like three minutes."
She stopped, confused. "What was?"
"You were only sitting there for three minutes. You said ten."
"I rounded up," Donna deadpanned.
Josh sighed and put down the memo, folding his hands on his desk and turning his attention to Donna. "What?"
"What do you know about the thing with Paterson?"
"I don't know anything about the thing with Paterson."
"Really?" Donna tilted her head to the side quizzically.
"You're the Deputy White House Chief of Staff and you don't - "
"Donna, I was in the middle of reading something. Was there a point to this lovely interlude?"
Donna scowled at him. "Sam wants to know about the thing with Paterson."
"What does he need to know about it?"
"He needs to know what the thing with Paterson is."
Josh looked at her. "He doesn't know anything about it?"
"No, hard as it is to believe, he actually knows less than you do."
Josh sighed. "Go find C.J. and ask her about it," he instructed, turning his attention back to his memo.
"Hey, Josh." C.J. Cregg poked her head around the door just as Donna was standing up.
"Never mind." Josh placed the memo down again. "Donna, go do... whatever it is that the federal government pays you to do."
"Can the federal government pay for me to take an early lunch?"
"Will you come back on time?"
"I'm taking an early lunch, Josh," she called over her shoulder as she left his office.
Josh made a "go away" sign at her retreating back. He turned to C.J. "What's up?"
"Leo wants us in his office."
"To talk about the Paterson thing?"
"Yeah, he wants to send someone over there because if Paterson goes ahead with this speech, it's going to mean -"
"C.J., now might be a good time to tell you that I have no idea what you're talking about," Josh pointed out as they started down the hallway.
C.J. stopped walking. "You don't know about the thing with Paterson?"
"What, exactly, do you know about it?"
"I know that there's a thing with Paterson that I don't know about, although, to my credit, I have to point out that Sam doesn't know about it either," Josh finished triumphantly, seeing Sam walk out of his office.
"You don't know about the thing with Paterson, either?" C.J. asked Sam as he joined them and they continued walking.
"Where did they find you people?" C.J. asked as the three walked into Leo McGarry's office.
"I'm actually not sure where they came from. I think they just walked in here one day and no one had the heart to kick them out," Leo answered, grinning.
"You should have asked me, I would have done it," replied Toby Ziegler.
"Okay, this thing with Paterson. I want to -" Leo began.
"Leo, Josh and Sam don't know about the thing with Paterson," C.J. offered.
Leo peered quizzically at them. "Really?"
Josh threw his hands up in the air. "Why is this such a big deal?"
"I'm just saying... geez. Anyway, Congressman Paterson is giving a speech to the Patent Protestors League in which he accuses the federal government of -" Leo started, but was cut off.
"Hold on a sec," Josh interjected. "The Patent Protestors League?"
"Yeah, they protest patents that they feel are unjustly certified." Sam clarified.
"And this is, you know, a real organization?" Josh asked in amazement.
"Anyway, Paterson is unhappy about the patent system. He feels that it leans more towards federal agencies, such as NASA, as opposed to individuals."
"So, he sees it as an example of bureaucracy taking over the individual in the private sector."
"He's going to make a federal case out of the way patents are distributed?" Sam asked in disbelief.
"He's trying to," Leo affirmed.
"It's ridiculous. It'll get people worked up for no reason."
"Yeah, try telling him that," Leo scoffed. "I want to send someone up to the hill to talk him out of it."
"I'll go," Sam offered.
"Nah, I was going to send Ainsley," Leo announced.
"Ainsley?" Sam asked, surprised.
"Yeah. It'll be good, 'cause she's a lawyer."
"I'm a lawyer, too, Leo."
"Aw, Sam, don't be jealous," Leo teased. "I'd just feel better if this came from the White House Counsel's office. I think Paterson will react more to a White House Counsel."
"I'm not jealous," Sam pouted. "But Leo, are you sure you want to send Ainsley, specifically?"
"Well, because, she's young, and, and, naive," Sam stumbled. "And Paterson's sort of a, well,"
"Sam," Leo warned.
"He's got a reputation for being -"
"Paterson's a pig," Josh offered.
"Yeah," agreed Sam.
"Hey! This is a United States Congressman you're talking about!" cried Leo, offended.
"I'm sorry, Leo, but it's true." Josh replied.
"You hear these stories of young girls - interns - who quit working for him, saying he attacked them," Sam continued.
"I'm not sending Ainsley to work for him, Sam," Leo pointed out. "I'm just sending her for a half-hour long meeting. Although I do find your concern for her touching," Leo added, with a note of sarcasm in his voice.
"I'm just saying, are you sure you want to intentionally send a young, pretty, innocent girl into trouble?" Sam asked.
"Are you doubting that Ainsley can take care of herself?" Leo asked.
"No, I'm doubting that Paterson can keep his hands to himself," Sam responded evenly.
"Did you say pretty?" Josh asked suddenly.
The room dropped to silence as Sam felt a blush creeping up his neck. "What?" he asked weakly.
"Before, when you were talking about Ainsley being in trouble. You said young, pretty, and innocent."
"No, I, ah, I said, uh, young, and pretty innocent. You know, as a qualifier to innocent. Not really innocent, but pretty innocent nonetheless. It was part of a clause. Not the word pretty by itself, you know... " Sam trailed off as he felt himself beginning to ramble. He focused his attention on a loose string of his jacket cuff, ignoring the eyes he felt boring into him.
"Well," started Leo awkwardly, trying to fill the silence. "I think Ainsley's a big girl - she can take care of herself. After all, Sam," he tried not to laugh, "she held her own against you."
C.J. snickered. Sam shot her a glare as he felt his cheeks grow hot again. "Ha ha. Are we done now?" he asked, trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.
"Yeah, we're done." As Josh, Toby, and C.J. filed out of the office, Leo touched Sam's elbow. "She'll be fine, Sam. She's a big girl."
"Yeah." Sam turned on his heel and walked out of the office. When he reached his own office, he leaned against his desk and sighed. He had a bad feeling about this. A very bad feeling.
* * * * * *
Ainsley Hayes paused in front of the big oak door. She checked the slip of paper with the office number on it. Screwing up her courage, she knocked on the door.
"Come in, come in!" boomed a voice from inside the office.
With some trepidation, Ainsley pushed the door open and stepped into the office. Her first sight of Congressman Robert Paterson was not what she expected at all. For one thing, he was a lot bigger than she was prepared for. 6'3" easily, with broad, linebacker shoulders and beefy arms, Paterson had skin that was too tan for this time of year, and a shock of golden blond hair. At first glance, he was quite intimidating, especially when he came around the desk to shake Ainsley's hand.
"You must be Ainsley Hayes," he declared, grasping her hand in a handshake that almost made her wince.
"Y-yes, I am," Ainsley replied, finding her voice.
"I'm Robert Paterson. Call me Bob. I must say, you certainly are a welcome change from the usual suspects the White House sends over to the Hill." He passed by Ainsley on his way to shut the door and brushed her arm on the way back.
"How is that, sir?"
"Well, for one thing, you're a lot prettier than Sam Seaborn or Josh Lyman," he guffawed, laughing at his own joke. Ainsley managed to smile weakly. In truth, she had no idea how to handle this man, and uncertainty was something she was not used to dealing with.
"Well, Congressman, let's get started, shall we?" Ainsley reached into her briefcase to remove a file, and was shocked to find Paterson staring at her chest when she looked up at him. "Congressman?"
Without missing a beat, Paterson looked up and smiled an oily smile. "Yes?"
"Um, the...patents." Ainsley stuttered, flustered, handing him the file. As he put on his reading glasses, Ainsley squirmed uncomfortably in her chair. When she got back to the White House, she would have to kill Leo for putting her in this situation.
* * * * * *
"So you see, Sam, it's obvious that the President shouldn't..." C.J. trailed off. "Sam?"
Sam blinked a few times to jar himself from his thoughts. "Hmm?"
"Have you heard a word I've said?"
"What? Oh...sure. I was just..." Sam fluttered his hand idly.
"You were a million miles away just then," C.J. pointed out, a cross between concern and annoyance.
"Oh, sorry," Sam apologized, giving her a half-smile. "I just...C.J., would you mind if we break for lunch now? I need to..."
"Lunch? It's only eleven o'clock, Sam. Isn't that a little early for lunch?" C.J. peered at him disapprovingly.
"It's just...I just remembered some things I need to drop off at the Hill."
"Send Kathy or Ginger."
"No, I really need to deliver them in person. There're some things that need further explaining."
"Why can't you just write a note?"
"It would be too difficult. It wouldn't be clear, they'd just get more confused."
"Sam, you're the Deputy Communications Director. You write a significant percentage of the President's speeches. A note would be too difficult?"
"C.J., I just - I need to go."
C.J. sat back in her chair resignedly. "Okay. Go."
"I'm sorry, C.J. -"
"Sam, just go." C.J. shooed him away exasperatedly. Sam practically ran out of her office, stopped to grab a folder from Kathy in his bullpen, and headed out of the White House.
* * * * * *
"I'm just looking out for the 'little person' here," Paterson explained, pacing around the room. "I'm sorry, but I just can't back down on this speech," he finished, placing a hand on the arm of Ainsley's chair.
"Well then, Congressman, I will take this all back to the White House. I can assure you you will be hearing from Leo McGarry very shortly," Ainsley replied in a clipped tone. She made a move to get up, but Paterson planted his other hand on the other arm of her chair, effectively trapping her in the chair.
"Now don't be in such a hurry to leave. I could be open to compromise, you know." His hands slid up the arms of the chair until they were even with Ainsley's shoulders. "I'm sure we must be able to work something out," he goaded her, reaching out his thumbs to her shoulders.
"Congressman Paterson -" Ainsley began in outrage, pulling forward. Like a flash he had his beefy hands on her upper arms, clasping her in a vise-like grip and shoving her back down into the chair.
"Now you listen, missy. No one talks to me in that tone of voice. I'm a United States Congressman, and I demand to be treated with respect," he menaced. Seeing the dangerous glint in his eyes, Ainsley felt the first splinter of fear. "However, if you'd like to be a little nicer, I could make this a pleasant afternoon for both of us," he continued in a sickeningly propositioning voice, sliding his hands to her rib cage, just below her breasts. He slipped his knee in betwen hers before she had time to react, and had her pinned down under him in no time, like the champion wrestler and football player he had been in college. Ainsley started to scream, but he snapped one hand over her mouth instantly.
"You listen to me," he growled. "You scream, and anyone comes in here, you know you'll lose your job. The disgrace of offering sexual favors for political cooperation will ensure that you will never work in politics again. Not to mention the sexual harrassment suit. Now, we're going to have a little "business meeting."
Ainsley tried to pull away from him, but he was close to twice her size, and she was no match for his strength. "Get off of me," she hissed through clenched teeth as his hands ravaged her shirt, while she struggled uselessly. Paterson worked the first two buttons of her shirt open before he stopped to slap her hard across the face.
* * * * * *
Sam hurried down the hallway towards Paterson's office. He should have known better than to let Ainsley go into the jungle unprepared. He hoped fervently that he wasn't too late, and that he could get her out of there before Paterson did anything to her. As he reached the closed door of Paterson's office, Sam paused to listen. If Paterson was behaving himself, and Sam stormed in there without reason, he would have some serious explaining to do.
From inside Sam could hear a lot of rustling around, some grunts and mumbles, and a chair leg squeaking. He already had his hand on the doorknob when he heard Ainsley protesting, "No...get off me!" followed by the splintering crash of glass breaking.
Without another moment's hesitation, Sam pushed the door open and stormed up to Paterson, stepping over the broken paperweight on the floor. "What the hell do you think you're doing, you filthy son of a bitch!" he shouted, grabbing Paterson by the shoulder and pulling him off of Ainsley, who was crying. "How dare you attack a young lady like that! A White House Staffer, nonetheless! You have no idea how damn lucky you are that I'm here right now instead of the President, because he would probably kill you. As it is, I'm going to have you thrown out of the building so fast your head will spin." Sam was fuming, standing right in Paterson's face, and Paterson was mad as hell.
"Who the hell are you to come barging in here! What Ms. Hayes and I do in our business meetings is none of the White House's business!"
Before he could say another word, Sam hauled off and decked him right in the face. Ainsley gasped. Paterson fell back against the wall, holding his nose. "You little -"
Sam swung again, this time catching him just above the eye. Paterson crumpled to the ground. "You'd better start packing your bags, Congressman, because you'll be back home within a week. You can bet your ass there'll be legal repercussions from this, you rotten piece of trash," Sam growled at him.
He turned around, taking Ainsley gently by the elbow and propelling her into an empty office across the hall. He locked the door before turning around to face her.
"You okay?" he asked softly.
Not trusting herself to speak, Ainsley nodded.
"I don't just mean physically. I don't know exactly what he did to you, but I just want to be sure..." Sam looked at her hesitantly.
Ainsley shook her head. "He didn't rape me, Sam, if that's what you were getting at."
Sam let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Thank God," he whispered. It didn't look like he had, but Sam realized that you could never be sure with Paterson.
Ainsley took a deep breath, trying to stay composed and professional, which wasn't easy to do, seeing as how she couldn't seem to stop crying. Sam watched her closely, then realized what she needed him to do. "Ainsley?" Sam asked, holding out his arms.
Sobbing, Ainsley came over to him as he folded her into a hug. She cried against his chest as he wrapped his arms solidly around her. When the sobs subsided, Sam pulled back to see her face. "Better?" he asked. She nodded, sniffling. Sam reached for the box of tissues on the desk and offered it to her.
"Thank you." She took a tissue and dabbed at her eyes with it. Seeing the blackened tissue, Ainsley realized that her mascara was running. "Oh shit." Ainsley laughed through her tears. "I must look incredibly scary. My-my mascara is running, and my hair..." She reached up and felt her hair. "Oh god."
Sam smiled. Her hair was slightly disheveled, but he was glad she could laugh about it. He found himself laughing with her, when he suddenly noticed that the first three buttons of her shirt were open. "Uh, Ainsley?" Sam felt his neck grow hot.
"Your, uh, shirt." Sam pointed to her shirt.
Ainsley looked down and turned a tomato-y shade of red. "Oh. Turn around for a minute, would you?"
Sam obliged. "Are you decent?" he called.
"Well, my shirt's buttoned, if that's what you mean. I'm sure I still look like a fright."
Sam turned back around. He studied her for a moment. Her eyes were red, still with traces of smudged mascara around them. Her blond hair looked rumpled, as if she had just woken up. Her blouse was wrinkled, understandably. Sam met Ainsley's eyes. "You look beautiful," he assured her, his eyes never leaving hers.
Ainsley laughed. "Thanks, Sam, but I know I look pretty bad." She crossed over to him, putting her arms around him again. "Thank you, Sam, for rescuing me. I was never so happy to see anyone in my life when you came in there," she told him quietly.
Sam tightened his arms around her. "You're welcome," he whispered. They stayed like that for a while, and Sam found himself enjoying it a little too much. He broke away from her and ran a hand through his hair to hide his uneasiness. "Are you ready to go?" he asked abruptly, walking over to the door.
"Sure," Ainsley replied quickly. The two stood there, across the room from each other, neither one of them moving. Finally, Sam opened the door.
"After you," he offered shakily. Ainsley just nodded and walked out into the hallway. Sam followed behind her silently. His mind was reeling from the moment he had just shared with Ainsley. He had only meant to comfort her, but having Ainsley in his arms just felt so...right.
Ainsley took a deep breath. What had happened back there? For a moment, she thought she might be...falling for Sam Seaborn. Of course, that was ridiculous. But there was that moment in his arms...Ainsley steeled herself against the memory. She squared her shoulders, determined to convince herself - and anyone else - that there was nothing between her and Sam. If only she was so sure...
Sam shook his head to clear his thoughts. This was ridiculous. But maybe...Sam wondered if she had felt it too. He dared to steal a glance at her. She looked confident and assured, same as always. Deciding he was crazy, Sam continued walking.
Neither one of them said a word on the way back to the White House.
* * * * * *
Sam closed his laptop computer and got up from his desk. It had been a long day, and he was definitely ready to go home. His mind was still reeling from his encounter with Ainsley earlier. Sam paused, wondering if she was still in the building. He checked his watch. It was nine o'clock; there was no way she would still be here. Sam shook his head. "What is wrong with me?" he muttered. Sliding his arms into his coat, Sam reached for his pager and cell phone and shut off the light.
"Hey, Sam." Sam looked up to see Josh coming towards him.
"Josh." Sam was surprised to see his friend working so late. "What are you still doing here?"
"Oh, I had to finish some phone calls. What about you?"
"Just finishing up the draft of tomorrow's speech."
"Ah." They continued walking out of the west wing. "What were you and Paterson talking about?"
Sam stopped walking abruptly. "Paterson? When did I talk to Paterson?"
"Just now. I saw him walking through the hallways, I assumed he was coming from your office." Josh looked at Sam strangely. "Sam?" Josh laid a hand on his arm. "Hey, buddy, you all right?"
Sam snapped back to reality. "Oh...yeah. I'm fine." His thoughts were racing through his mind. What was Paterson doing here?
"Yeah. I'm gonna...I need to talk to Ainsley for a second."
"Everything okay?" Josh looked worried. Sam was white as a ghost, and Josh thought he detected little beads of sweat around his hairline.
"Yeah." Sam started to walk back in the direction he had come, then turned back around. "Josh," he called out.
"Stick around for a few more minutes."
* * * * * *
Ainsley was tired of working; she wanted to go home. It had been a horrible day, but she felt the need to finish up this memo about the patents. There wasn't much to write; the meeting had obviously been left unresolved. Someone would have to meet with Paterson again, but it sure as hell wouldn't be her. She was almost done when she heard a knock at her door. She stopped typing and looked at the door.
"Who is it?" she asked with a hint of trepidation.
"Oh." Ainsley hurriedly smoothed her hair down. "Come on in," she called.
The door opened and Sam stood there, looking slightly embarrassed. "Hey."
"How are you?"
"I'm fine," she replied nervously.
Sam reached behind him and closed the door. "How are you, really?" he asked quietly, leaning over her desk.
"I'm fine, Sam," she repeated. "Really." She gave him a convincing smile.
"Yes, I'm sure, Sam." She started to ramble nervously. "I've come to accept the fact that just because I happen to be young and blond, people are going to think they can take advantage of me. It's what comes from this typical, male-oriented, machismo, patriarchal society in which we live. But I'm through being a victim, I'm -"
"Whoa, whoa," cried Sam, holding up his palms in mock surrender. He laughed, his blue eyes twinkling. "I get it."
Ainsley blushed. "I'm sorry. When I get confronted, I get nervous. When I get nervous, I start talking fast. When I start talking fast, I end up rambling."
"I know." He smiled. "Anyway, I'm leaving now. I left Josh waiting for me upstairs."
"Okay. So...now I'm leaving."
"Okay." She went back to her work.
Sam just stood there in the doorway.
Ainsley looked up. "I thought you were leaving."
"I am," Sam replied.
"Sam, I have work to do."
"Bye." He walked out and closed the door behind him. Ainsley shook her head, smiling.
* * * * * *
She was still smiling a few minutes later, when there was another knock on the door. She looked up, surprised. He probably forgot something, she told herself.
"Come in," she called.
When the door opened, Ainsley felt her blood run cold. This time it wasn't Sam. Congressman Paterson stood in her doorway, his face red, his fists clenched.
Ainsley swallowed nervously. "Congressman Paterson," she started diffidently, keeping one hand on the phone in case she needed to call for help.
"You...little...bitch!" Paterson spat out.
"Now, Congressman -"
"You got me suspended from Congress for a month!" He grabbed her arm and yanked her out from behind the desk, pulling her grip off the phone.
"Don't give me your excuses, you -" Growling something unintelligible, he slapped her across the face so hard that she fell backwards against the desk. Before she could get up, or even duck, he threw a punch that landed just to the right of her eye. She knew instantly that she could expect a black eye in just a few hours. Out of her other eye, she saw him wind up to throw another crushing punch. Before she could scream, Paterson's arm was yanked backwards, spinning him around and pulling him off of her.
It was Sam, lunging at Paterson with such force that Ainsley almost wanted to tell him to stop. Almost. Without warning, Paterson went after Sam, hitting him twice in the stomach before Sam got another punch in.
"You little shit. You think you're so high and mighty, well, I'll show you what happens when you mess with Bob Paterson!" Paterson slammed his fist in the direction of Sam's stomach, but Sam was ready for the punch and managed to dodge the blow.
With a sudden burst of energy, Sam pinned Paterson to the ground, all the while hammering away at his face until blood flew.
Ainsley screamed from her position against the wall. Sam was going to kill him. Even if it was self-defense... She reached forward to pull Sam off of Paterson.
Just then, Josh burst into the room, followed by two policemen. Another was close behind. Josh and one of the officers held Sam back, while the other two locked handcuffs onto Paterson's wrists. They were about to put handcuffs on Sam, too, until Ainsley cried out, "No, don't. He was...he was trying to help me."
The two officers looked at each other and nodded, dropping Sam's wrists. "Are you okay, miss?" asked one officer, whose name tag read "Livingston."
"Yes, I'm fine," she replied quickly, although her hands were shaking and she could feel her eye swelling up.
"Get him out of here," one of the other policemen ordered, pointing at Paterson. Livingston and the third officer nodded. They dragged Paterson out of the room, reading him his rights on the way.
"Ainsley?" Josh asked.
She turned to him and looked him squarely in the eye. "He attacked me in his office this afternoon."
Josh felt sick to his stomach. "Oh, God."
"Sam came in and pulled him off me. He had Paterson thrown out of the building, and suspended from Congress for a month. Paterson came back in here tonight to get back at me. Sam was trying to help."
"Okay," interrupted the other policeman, Officer Matthews. "We're going to need statements from both of you." He indicated Ainsley and Sam. "We could do it at the precinct, but there's really no reason why we couldn't do it here. Okay?"
"Do you need a statement from me?" asked Josh.
"No, you can go."
"Oh, that's alright, I'll wait with them."
"Well, actually, we'd like to keep this as private as possible," Officer Matthews explained.
"Josh, go." Sam spoke up weakly, holding an ice pack to his forehead. He was still out of breath from his tangle with Paterson.
"What's going to happen to Paterson?" Josh asked.
"He'll spend the night in jail, then be arraigned tomorrow morning. Someone will come bail him out sometime tomorrow."
"Okay." Josh looked satisfied. "You guys sure you're alright?"
"We're fine, Josh."
"Okay." Josh left.
"Now," Officer Matthews began, folding his hands on the desk as he made himself comfortable in Ainsley's chair. He looked at Sam and Ainsley, who were seated in the two chairs facing the desk. "Why don't we start at the beginning?"
* * * * * *
Half an hour later, the exhausted three walked out of the White House. Officer Matthews climbed into his car. The policemen had come in unmarked cars so as not to arouse suspicion. Sam and Ainsley watched as he drove away.
"So," began Sam.
"So," repeated Ainsley.
"It's been quite a day," Sam remarked ironically.
"The understatement of the century."
Sam fidgeted with his coat. "Do you want to get a cup of coffee or something?" he asked lamely.
"No, no coffee. How about a drink?" Ainsley asked with a smile. "I could sure use one, and I bet you could, too."
"You're right. I know a place just around the corner from here."
"Nah, I know a better place." Seeing his surprised look, she laughed. "What? You think only Democrats know where to find a good drink?"
Sam laughed with her. "Fine, then. Your choice, milady." He offered his arm to her, and they made their way down the street.
* * * * * *
"So I'm racing this catamaran, and I'm clearly in the lead. I can see the finish line straight ahead. I turn around to see if anyone's even close, and of course, just as I turn around my boat hits a wave. The next thing I know, I'm spitting out seawater and my boat went ahead and won the race - without me." Sam shrugged his shoulders. "Needless to say, the officials didn't count it as a win. Apparently the rules say that the driver must be in the boat when it crosses the finish line," Sam joked forlornly.
Ainsley giggled. They had gone out to a bar that she knew of, and Sam had been regaling her with stories for the past hour and a half. At eleven-thirty, they had admitted that they were a little tipsy, and Sam had offered to walk Ainsley back to her apartment.
For the next few minutes, Sam and Ainsley walked in silence. At one point, Sam's arm brushed against hers, and he felt his pulse quicken. He stuck his hands deep into his pockets and put the thought out of his mind.
Ainsley was having a harder time keeping her balance than Sam. She tripped, and Sam grabbed her arm to steady her. She felt a tingle run up her spine at the pressure of his hand on her elbow. "You okay there?" he teased. Ainsley nodded. She took a deep breath and tried to ignore her sudden case of the shivers.
They weaved along, neither one saying anything, just enjoying the other's company and focusing on not tipping over. Suddenly Ainsley laughed out loud, breaking the silence. She clapped a hand over her mouth, trying to stop laughing.
"What's so funny?" Sam asked.
In between laughs, Ainsley choked out, "I was just...thinking...if C.J...could see us...now. She'd...kill us."
Sam laughed, remembering his past instances with C.J. "She would. Two White House staffers wandering around drunk at this hour of the night? She'd have a heart attack, and then when she recovered, she'd kill us."
That was enough to send Ainsley into another fit of laughter. She doubled over, hysterical. Sam found that it was contagious, and the two of them stood there on the street, laughing. Ainsley straightened, still laughing, and began walking again, feeling better than she had all day. Sam followed her, chuckling quietly to himself.
Ainsley slowed down in front of a brick building with geraniums in the window boxes. "This is my stop," she pointed out, still giggling. She stepped up onto the first step, so that Sam had to raise his eyes to her level.
Sam looked up. "Oh," he said simply. Then, as quickly as it had started, the laughter subsided. Neither one of them moved a muscle, just stood there standing at each other. A sudden tension hung in the air between them. Sam found that he didn't want to leave. Ainsley found that she couldn't bring herself to send him away.
Sam moved first. He took a step forward, shifting his weight nervously from foot to foot. "Well, uh..." he trailed off.
"I..." Ainsley swallowed anxiously.
"I guess I'd better go now." He started to leave.
"Sam!" He turned around at the sound of his name. Ainsley suddenly felt embarrassed at having called him back. She stepped off the stoop and looked up at him. "I just...I wanted to ask you a question," she began, almost shyly.
She took a step closer to him. "Why did you come back to my office tonight?" she asked softly.
Sam felt his mouth go suddenly dry. "I - uh," he stammered.
"The second time, after you told me you were leaving. Why did you come back?" Ainsley took another step towards him and raised her chin to him.
"Ainsley," Sam said quietly. "Don't."
"Why, Sam?" She took yet another step forward.
He looked away. "I think you know why," he said hoarsely. For a full three seconds, he didn't look back at her. When he dared to look at her, he found her staring at him with those big, innocent eyes.
"Do I, Sam?"
"Yeah," he responded, his voice gravelly and low.
She took the final step toward him, her body only an inch or so away from his. She rested her fingertips lightly on his arms, tilting her face to him. Her voice was barely more than a whisper. "Why?"
Sam wanted to respond to her; he was a man more of words than actions, but he found he couldn't bring himself say anything. Instead, he just leaned forward - it didn't take much - and pressed his lips to hers, so lightly that she almost thought she had imagined it.
He pulled back quickly. "I should go." He turned to leave.
Ainsley reached out and touched his arm. "Sam," she whispered. That was all he needed. He swung back around, pulling her tightly into his arms and crushing his lips down on hers. Ainsley gave a little gasp of surprise, then relaxed against Sam's strong arms around her waist.
They stood there, kissing, for what seemed an eternity before they broke away reluctantly.
Sam cleared his throat. "Well," he began. Ainsley looked up at him. "That was...interesting." He smiled down at her.
"Yes, it was." Ainsley's head was spinning more from the kiss than the alcohol. She sat down on the steps. Just the day before, he had been some Democrat that she had beaten in a debate and was stuck working with, and now he was...what, exactly?
"Sam?" she asked just as Sam asked "Ainsley?"
"You first," they replied in unison.
Ainsley laughed. "You can go," she offered graciously.
Sam sat down next to her on the steps and began to fidget nervously. "Well, what I wanted to say was...that, you know, I didn't want this to be a thing that...because I -"
Ainsley cut him off. "Sam, you're rambling worse than I usually do," she pointed out with a smile.
Sam smiled embarrassedly and ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah." He took a deep breath. "I just wanted to make sure that you knew that this wasn't because I was a little tipsy. I mean, I know we've both had a couple of drinks, and I wanted you to know that I would have done this...kissed you...even if I was sober."
Ainsley felt her smile grow bigger. He could be so sweet at times. "Thank you, Sam."
"For being honest with me."
"Oh. You're welcome." Sam paused, trying to decide if he should ask her his next question. "Did you - I mean, did you kiss me because you were drunk?" he asked hesitantly. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear her answer.
Ainsley shook her head. "No. I kissed you because...well, it felt like the right thing to do." She blushed. "Because it was something I had been wanting to do."
Sam felt his heart skip a beat. "Y-you did?" he stammered.
"Yeah." Ainsley decided it was time to ask her question. "What happens now, Sam?"
"You mean, with us?"
"Well, I definitely wouldn't mind kissing you again." Sam grinned. "Maybe next time we could even try it indoors." Ainsley chuckled softly. "Seriously, though. We go back to work tomorrow, deal with the hangovers and the questions from everyone in the building, and go out to dinner tomorrow night."
"Sounds like a plan," Ainsley replied. "And the next night?"
"Same thing," Sam answered softly. "Only without the hangovers."
"Sam," Ainsley whispered. She couldn't believe he was willing to deal with all the interrogations just for her. "There are going to be a lot of questions. Maybe even an article or two."
"I don't care. Do you?"
"No." She leaned in to kiss him again. When Sam pulled away, his face was flushed.
"If I don't go now, I may never leave," he told her, his voice husky. He stood up, never taking his eyes off her face. "We'll continue this tomorrow," he said, bending down to kiss her.
"Promise?" Ainsley asked with a smile.
"Yeah." Sam turned away and started down the street with a new spring in his step.