by Puck and Zillah

Rating: PG-13 for this part, NC-17 eventually.
Pairing: Sam/Ainsley, Sam/Other
Spoilers: Pretty basic for seasons 1&2, especially In the Shadow of Two Gunman
Summary: "I'll tell you one thing, Sam. No woman calls up her ex fiance on a whim. Not without something on her mind."
Note: No one ever wants to be the first to step into the abyss. I'm sure there's a lot of people out there who haven't been able to keep a creative thought in their head this week. I'm sure there's people who want nothing less then to read fan fic. But this is something Zillah and I have been working on for a couple weeks and I thought a lot of you might need a little distraction. Hope you enjoy.

One surprisingly boring day when Sam was just considering leaving early he got a phone call. When he answered he heard a voice he never thought he would again. "Sam?"

He blinked a moment. "Lisa?"

"Hi," she said softly.

"Wow, I. . .how are you?"

"I'm good. I'm doing. . . Um, I'm in town. There's a thing for one of the charities I do things for and I'm here for the weekend."

"You're in DC?"

"Yeah. For the weekend."

"We should. . .we should get dinner or something."

"I'd like that," she said softly.

"How's tomorrow night?"

"That would be great."

"Say seven? I'll pick you up at your hotel?"

"That's great. I'm staying at the Embassy Suites. In Friendship Heights."

"I'll be there at seven."

"I can't wait."

After then hung up, Sam stared at the phone for a good ten minutes, not sure what he should think or feel.

Josh wandered past and saw the odd look on his face. He stopped in the doorway. "What happened."

"I'm having dinner with Lisa."

"Lisa? Your ex girlfriend Lisa?"

"Lisa, the woman I almost married."

"Why are you having dinner with her."

"She's in town."

"But why are you having dinner with her."

"I haven't seen her in years, and she's in town. Don't look at me like that."

"This is a dumb idea."

"It's just dinner!"

"It's gonna get you all worked up."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"You know what it means."

"Why do you have such a problem with her?

Josh shrugged. "Instinct."

Sam glared at him. "Because you have such wonderful instincts when it comes to women."

"Better then you."

"It's just dinner."

"I hope so."

"Just dinner."


Ainsley was already eating when Sam arrived in the mess for their usual lunch. "Sorry I'm late."

She smiled when she saw him. "It's okay. I started without you, though, I was hungry."

"Josh is mad at me."


"I'm having dinner with my ex-fiance."

She blinked, a forkful of chicken salad halfway to her mouth. "Oh. You are?"

"Yeah. And Josh doesn't like her."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. He never has."

"Huh." She finally got the fork into her mouth and busied herself chewing a while. She could understand why, say, she wouldn't like the woman, but she couldn't think of a reason Josh wouldn't. "When are you going out with her?"

"Tomorrow night."

She nodded. "You know where you should take her? Does she like sea food? There's this place in Dupont Circle called Front Page. They have great sea bass."

"Thanks. Have you been to every restaurant in the city?

She smiled a little weakly. "A lot of them."

"Thanks for the advice, I'll try it."

"Anytime." She pushed her chicken salad away and dove into her cheesecake. "So she's in town?"

"Just for the weekend. . .Do you think seeing her is a bad idea?"

"I don't know. Maybe not. You told me the break up was fairly amiable. Maybe you could be friends or something."

"As amiable as you can be when you call off a wedding."

She smiled at him. "Maybe she's come crawling back." She studied him to watch his reaction.

"Yeah. Now that I'm no longer 'wasting my time'."

Ainsley shrugged. "Would you want her back?"

He picked at his sandwich. "I don't know."

She polished off the last of her cheesecake and looked over at the buffet, considering another slice. "I'll tell you one thing, Sam. No woman calls up her ex fiance on a whim. Not without something on her mind."

"It's not like it was a drunk-dial or something."

"You don't have to be drunk to be lonely."

"Don't I know that."

Silence fell a few minutes. Ainsley finally got up and got another slice of cake. She sat down again. "Well, if you need someone to talk to afterwards, you can call me."

That got her a genuine smile. "Really?"

She grinned. "Well, of course."


"What are friends for?"

* * *

Lisa was waiting in the lobby of her hotel on the third story of an upscale mall. She smiled and stood when she saw him. "Hi, Sam."

"Hey. How are you?"

"Good." They stood awkwardly a moment. This was the point where old friends usually hugged or something. She reached out and squeezed his hand. "You look good."

"Thanks," he said, before pulling her close and hugging her.

She melted into him like she always had, squeezing him tight. "It's so good to see you again, Sam."

He kept an arm around her as they walked. "Are you hungry?"

She grinned. "Yeah. Did you have anywhere in mind?"

"Do you like seafood?"

"I do, yes."

"A friend of mine recommended a place." He took her outside, to the same little sports car he'd had when they were together.

She laughed when she saw it. "Oh, my God. You kept it."

"I *love* this car." He opened the passenger side door for her.

She slid inside, sighing as she sank into the leather upholstery. "Oh, me too."

He gunned the engine and pulled out into traffic.

She laughed again. "This car was always a bad influence on you."

"So tell me, what have you been up to?"

"Not much. I'm working for a couple charities as a funds organizer. I was. . ." She paused, swallowing. "I just got out of a relationship."

"Is that why you called me?"

"No. No, of course not. I was planning on calling when I got down here no matter what." She sighed. "He broke it off just as I was leaving."

"Was it serious?"

She looked down. "We were engaged."

"Oh. . .wow. I'm sorry."

She shrugged. "Do you think it's worse to be engaged twice and unmarried then to get divorced?"

"I don't know. Possibly."

She slumped a little. "I know. . . the first time was my fault, I know that. But. . . this one I thought it was okay. He seemed so happy with me."

"I thought you were happy."

She looked down. "I guess you never know anybody, really."


She looked out the window at the people on the street. "Are you happy now?"

"I adore my job."

She smiled. "Good for you."

He parked in front of the restaurant and helped her out. "I don't know how I was ever happy being a suit. I mean this. . .I'm actually doing something, Lisa."

She smiled at him, squeezed the hand he was holding. "It's amazing seeing you like this. You're much more alive then when you were a lawyer."

"See, and I thought you preferred that guy."

"I prefer you."

He looked down at her for a minute, then grinned. "Okay."

She slid her arm through his as they went into the restaurant. Over the meal they caught up on all the past years. He'd forgotten how easy she was to talk to.

She ordered the sea bass and a glass of white wine. When the meal was over, despite the great conversation, Sam couldn't help but notice her plate was still half full and she wrinkled her nose at the idea of dessert. He'd never noticed what a small appetite she had. She did offer to pay for her half of the meal. "I don't want you to feel obligated. This wasn't a date."

"I'll get the check," he said firmly.

She blushed. "Are you sure?"


"Can I even do the tip?"

"If you insist."

"Thank you." She dug some cash out and left it on the table. He settled the check and led her out. She smiled up at him. "I had a really good time."

"Do you want to. . .I don't know, get coffee or something?"

She nodded. "I'd like that."

"Do you like cheesecake?"

"Not really. . . I always find it too heavy."

"You just haven't had the right kind. You gotta see this place, it's right under your hotel. They have every flavor under the sun."

"The Cheesecake Factory? I noticed that. I didn't know you liked cheesecake."

"I have a friend who's been a bad influence."

"Same one who suggested the restaurant? Is he a food critic or something?"

"No, she's just a bottomless pit. She eats more than me, Lisa." He laughed a little.

She smiled, glancing up at him. "Girlfriend?"

That made him laugh harder. "God, no. We have far to antagonistic a relationship."

She smiled. "You found someone to argue with."

"It's entertaining. So . . . cheesecake?"

"Sure, I'll give it a try."

"You'll like, I promise."

She beamed at him. "I trust you."

* * *

Sam actually beat Ainsley to their table the next day. "Hey."

She ran a hand through her hair, setting her tray down. Her make-up didn't do a lot to hide the bags under her eyes or her slightly haggard expression. She smiled as she sat. "Hey there."

"Are you okay?"

"What? Oh, no, I'm fine, I didn't sleep well last night. There was a Hitchcock marathon on one channel and I tried Lifetime and for some reason they consider Unsolved Mysteries television for women so then there were ax murderers in ever corner." She waved a hand, smiling. She always thought she was a bad liar but he seemed to be falling for it. "How was the date?"

"Interesting. I took her to the Cheesecake Factory and she only ate two bites."

Ainsley's jaw dropped. "The communist."

A small plastic box materialized from somewhere. "I brought you a piece."

She beamed. "Which flavor?"

"Peanut butter cup."

She squeaked and took the box from him. "You know me so well."

"I thought you'd kill me if you knew I was there and didn't get you some."

"I certainly would." She took a bite of the cake and melted, making a purring noise.

It was too bad her eyes were closed, because the mesmerized expression on his face was priceless.

She took two more bites of cake before opening her eyes and grinning at him. "So, what did Lisa have to say?"

He blinked. "What?"

She waved a hand. "Your date. Was I right, did she want something?"

"She was engaged, and he just left her."

Ainsley took another bite. "Would a crack about karma be inappropriate?"

"Our break up was mutual."

She shrugged. "Is she okay?"

"She seems okay. She looks tired."

"Breakups are hard on the dumpee."

"Yeah. We're going to get dinner again tonight."


"It's her last night in town."

"Oh." She polished off the cheesecake in a few quick bites. "It's nice of you to be so. . . nice to her."

He shrugged a little. "Part of me always wondered, you know?"

"I understand. Everyone's got that one that got away, right?"

"Yeah." He looked at his watch. "I gotta run. See you tomorrow, okay?"

"Yeah. Sure. I'll be here."

He gave a her a little wave and strolled out.

Ainsley looked down at the plastic box, a few smears of chocolate still on the bottom. She scooped them up on her finger and sucked it clean. She wasn't going to survive another night waiting for a call that wouldn't come.

* * * * *

He took her to a Thai food place in Adams Morgan. Ainsley had taken him there a few months ago. It was the only good Asian food place in the DC area. On the ride home Lisa dropped the other shoe. "I have an opportunity to move to DC."

He looked over. "What?"

"One of my charities, they asked me to move down here and work. More money and I think I'm getting burnt out on New York." She glanced at him. "Do you think it's a bad idea?"

"I think we've been handling being in the same zipcode quite well."

She smiled. "We certainly have been." She glanced over at him. "I was wondering if you'd help show me around or something."

"I'd be happy too. Washington is a cool city."

"I like what I've seen so far."

He parked under her hotel. "I'd like it if you stayed," he said quietly.

She met his gaze a long moment. "Do you want to come up?" she whispered.

He dipped his head, dropping a gently kiss on her lips. "Yeah."

She shivered and smiled at him, sliding out of the car. She slid her hand into his as they went to the elevator.

He didn't kiss her again until they got inside her room. She wrapped her arms around his neck kissing him deeply, again, and again. She brushed her lips over his pulse point. "I've missed you."

He sighed, hands coming up to unzip the back of her dress. He tugged it off and she skimmed her hands under his jacket, sliding it off his shoulders. She stepped forward to kiss him again, unbuttoning his shirt.

She tasted the same, which was strange after all these years.

They stumbled over to the bed and fell on top. Her nails stroked down his spine, then she buried her fingers into his hair. He dragged down her hose and panties, and she reached for his belt buckle when he laid back down. When he reached for condoms she stopped him, something that had never happened before. When he raised a questioning eyebrow she simply gave him a reassuring smile and rolled him on top of her.

"Lisa--" he started.

"It's okay," she whispered.

"But. . ."

She stroked his hair. "I want to be with you. All the way. Nothing between us."

"You are on the pill, right?"

"Yeah. No worries."

He lifted her hips up and slowly slid inside her. She shuddered, wrapping her arms and legs around him, kissing deeply. He lifted up her hips, moving slowly. God, it felt good.

Her hands moved over him as she rocked up to him. She came with a little whimper, nails digging into his back. He groaned, letting go and coming with her. She kept herself wrapped around him, face pressed into his shoulder.

Sam rolled off of her, keeping her tucked close. She sighed softly, resting against him. "Thank you for coming up."

He rubbed her back gently. "Are you going to stay?"

"I have to go back to New York to tie up some loose ends. I should be back here permanently in a couple weeks."


She smiled at him. "I'm glad I called you."

He kissed her hair. "So am I."

She cuddled close to him, letting herself drift to sleep.

* * *

Ainsley was sitting at their table when he got there. She smiled when she saw him, but then it faltered. There was something different about him. Something partially smug and partially guilty in his expression. He looked. . . well he almost looked. . . like he'd gotten some.

He grinned at her. "hey."

She blinked rapidly a few times. "Hi, Sam."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. How are you?"

"I'm. . .I'm great."

"How was the second date?"

"It went good. She's. . .she's going to stay in DC."

"She is? Why? When?"

"She got a job offer. She'll be here permanently in a few weeks."

"Wow. That's. . . are you gonna keep sleeping- seeing her?"

He turned a little red, and then she knew for sure. "I think we're. . .I think something is happening."

She swallowed. "Congratulations."

"Thanks. We'll see how it goes, you know?"


"Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine. I'm just distracted. I have a thing I'm working on and it's. . . I'm distracted."

He frowned. "Okay."

"I'm. . . I'm gonna go." She got up, holding her tray. "I'll see you later."

His frowned deepened as he watched her flee.

* * *

That night, when most of the West Wing had gone home, Ainsley appeared in Donna's cubicle.

"Hey," Donna said brightly.

"Do you like Sam's ex, Lisa?"

"I've never met her, but Josh can't stand her."

"She's back in town and Sam slept with her."

Donna frowned. "Oh did he."

"Yeah. I could tell. He had a 'I got some' expression on today. With a little 'and I'm gonna get more soon' around his mouth."

"You like him, don't you?"

"Oh yes."

Donna sighed. "Come on, let's go get a drink."

"Thank you."

She put on her jacket and called out, "Going home, Josh," she walked past his office.

He looked up. "With Ainsley?"

"We're getting drinks."

He frowned. "Something wrong?"

"Just girl talk."

"Oh. Have fun."

"Hey, Josh?"


"What do you think of Sam's ex-fiance?"

"I hate her with the heat of a nova."

Donna held up her hands to Ainsley as if to say, 'See?' "Thanks, Josh," she called.

"See you tomorrow."

"He slept with her didn't he?"

"Ask him yourself. Goodnight, Josh!"

He made his cranky, frustrated face and waved at them.

Donna hustled Ainsley out the door, and they caught a cab. She slumped in the cab and then in the booth they got at the bar. She ordered a mudslide, much to Donna's surprise. She'd never seen her drink anything but Pink Squirrels. Ainsley shrugged. "More alcohol, still sweet."

Donna laughed. "Okay."

"I guess everyone knows I like Sam, huh?"

"Everyone but Sam."

"Maybe I should have said something, but. . . We had this thing, you know? We had this flirty banter thing. And I thought one day one of us would get the nerve up to ask the other to get a drink after work. And then. . . it would be the next step. And from there we'd go to the next one." She sighed. "I didn't think some anorexic, stick figure with no soul would swoop in and take him from me."

"He was such a mess after they broke up."

"Why is he going back to her?"

"I don't know. Because he's a man."

"He's lonely," she whispered.

"Aren't we all?"

"I certainly am."

"We can fix this, Ainsley."

"Do you really think so?"

"You have to win him before she gets him for good."


Donna frowned. "I need to work on that."

"But you'll help me?" she asked hopefully.

"Damn straight. And we will be victorious."

She grinned. "Thank you."

"Drink up, Ainsley, it's time to plot."

She clinked glasses with Donna and took a long swallow.

It took Lisa almost a full month to get back to DC. She lucked out, finding a nice apartment near GW she could move into immediately. She got rid of her place in New York, tied up all her loose ends and confirmed her new position. She talked to Sam every few days, keeping him up to date. He in turn, kept Ainsley up to date. Much to her dismay.

Once Lisa got settled in the constant chatter about her abated, though Ainsley still had to listen to occasional date recap. Mainly they discussed their usual topics, food, politics, movies, literature, things like that.

That was, assuming, Sam actually showed up for lunch.

When he was fifteen minutes late Ainsley went up to look for him. She was met in the lobby by Donna. She took one look at her and knew. "The anorexic stick figure with no soul is here, isn't she?"

"She isn't that skinny."

"Allow me my prejudice."

"You wanna see her?"

"Yes. I have to make him feel guilty. He stood me up."

"Come on, come on."

She followed Donna into the Communications area. Sam was in his office with a pretty brunette woman. She was almost a full head taller then Ainsley, but they were built the same. Ainsley was heartened to see that Sam did appear to like small breasted women. She cleared her throat to get his attention.

He looked up, looking slightly guilty. "Hi, Ainsley. I'm sorry, I got held up. . ."

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I didn't feel right eating if you were up here dead of a coronary or something."

He grinned, and it seemed just for her. "Ainsley Hayes, you'd eat a Big Mac at your own funeral."

Her mouth twitched as she tried hard not to smile back. "But not at yours."

"Well, that's good to know. Ainsley, this is Lisa. Lisa, Ainsley."

Lisa held a hand out to her. "Nice to meet you."

Ainsley shook her hand. "You too."

"I've heard a lot about you." She smiled. "Mainly about your preferences in food."

Ainsley smiled. "Well, it's hard, you know, just eating whatever I want and not gaining an ounce. I could never have the kind of control you must have."

Sam gave Ainsley a strange look.

She smiled prettily at him. "I'm going to go back downstairs and eat. I'll see you around. Nice meeting you, Lisa."

"You too," she said uncertainly.

Ainsley turned and headed out.

Donna was just down the hall, and she did a little dance when Ainsley came into sight.

"If there is one thing Southern women can do it's compliment and insult in the same sentence."

"That was brilliant."

"Thank you. I think he knew I was being catty, though."

"So? Shake him up a little."

"Okay. I'm going to go eat something now. I need my strength." She paused. "Have the rest of you been mean to her?"

"Josh has been. . .well, Josh, in full force."

"I feel sort of bad for Sam. He must be very confused."

"That's what's funny. . .he's not. He's completely oblivious, which is pretty standard for Sam but funny nonetheless."

Ainsley shook her head. "I bet you wonder what I see in him."

Donna grinned. "Don't need to."

"So you understand."

"Have you ever seen him without a shirt on?"

She smiled a little dreamily. "Yeah."

Donna grinned. "Wanna go get lunch?"

"I'd kill for some lunch."

* * *

The next day Ainsley had a surprise visitor. Lisa sank into her guest chair and smiled. Ainsley watched her, stunned. "Hello," she finally squeaked out.

The brunette smiled. "Bet you're surprised to see me."


"I've always believed in knowing what my competition is."

Ainsley swallowed. "Competition?"

"Let's not beat around the bush, okay? That's something that men do. We both know what we're talking about."

"Yeah." She pushed a pen across her desk with the tip of her finger. "I had a nice thing going on before you came to town."

"I know. He thinks highly of you. Talks about you all the time."

Ainsley glanced up at her. "This would be easier if I could dislike you."

Lisa smiled. "I think. . . under different circumstances, we could have been friends."

"Yeah. I wish we could be but. . ."

Lisa waved a hand. "If anyone on earth knows the knots Sam Seaborn can tie a woman into, it's me."

"God, yeah. I think it's the eyes."

"Or the quirky little boy grin."

Ainsley couldn't believe she was having a girl talk with this woman. "Or when he goes on one of his dorky little lectures."

Lisa laughed. "Have you gotten the dental hygiene speech yet?"

"I had no idea my teeth were my best friends."

"And the man has every major highway memorized. His brain is like Map Quest or something."

Ainsley chuckled and they sat in silence a few minutes. She really could like this woman. It was a little scary and depressing. "At least neither one of us is expecting the other to be all noble and offer to give him up."

Lisa studied her. "No," she said softly. "Neither one of us is expecting that."

"So. I guess the only thing left to say is let the best woman win." She held her hand out to shake.

Lisa studied her a long moment. Then she reached out and shook her hand firmly.

* * * * *

Ainsley, for the first time since they'd started the tradition, had begun to dread lunches with Sam. Because all he seemed to talk about was Lisa.

"Hey," he said, like always, as he sat down.

She smiled. "Hi Sam."

"I burned a pot at Lisa's last night because I've never used an electric stove before."

She shook her head, chuckling a little. "Most people have trouble with gas."

He blinked at her. "You know, she said the exact same thing."

"We must think alike," she murmured. "What were you trying to cook?"


"Isn't that a little complicated for you?"

"She's trying to get me to eat healthier."

Ainsley frowned. "You're in fine shape."

"But I do eat bad."

"You eat fine. Your job isn't exactly condusive to a vegetarian lifestyle."

"Not vegetarian. Just healthier."

"Humph. I think you eat fine."

"Well, yeah, compared to you."

She stuck her lower lip out, looking at him with a wounded expression.

"It wasn't an insult. What is with you lately?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You've been. . .I don't know. Strange."

"I'm acting the same as always."

"Are you one of those people?"

"What people?"

"People who continue to insist they're 'fine' when they're not."

She looked at him, chin tilted defiantly. "What could possibly be wrong with me?"

He looked at her intently. "I don't know."

She looked down at her food, pushing it around her plate. "I'm not hungry anymore. I'm going back to work."



"Please talk to me."

She looked up at him, amazed that he really didn't get it. He really didn't see. How can anybody be this oblivious? She rubbed a hand over her eyes. "I have to get back to work."

He looked down. "Fine."

"Bye." She got to her feet and left.

Sam went upstairs to Josh's office. "There's something the matter with Ainsley."

He looked at him. "You're just now figuring this out?"


"Oh, Sam. Samuel, Sam, Sam. Close the door. Have a seat."

He frowned. "You really sounded like Donna just then."

"I spend a lot of time with her and sometimes you're as dumb as me."

"Okay, I'm really confused right now."

"Ainsley likes you."

"Likes me?"

"Yes. As we used to say in middle school, she *likes* likes you. And you've been flaunting Lisa in front of her. And it's about time she got tired of it."

"I haven't been flaunting. . .we're friends."

"Sam. . . when you were in high school or whatever did you have a girl who was sort of a friend but you had a crush on her. But she was dating someone else. But she didn't realize you had a crush on her so she'd tell you all about her boyfriends and her dates and you'd feel like an insect?"

"Yes." His eyes widened. "Oh. . ."

"Aha, you got it."

"I never knew."

"Yeah. I know. But she did. And Lisa knows. That's why they snap at each other."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. They're fighting over you."

"I have two women fighting over me."

"Yeah. Your life is hard."


"Do your diamond shoes pinch your feet, too?"

He made a face. "Josh."

"You'd be amazed how organized women are about these things."

"They're organized?"

"Yeah. Ainsley's got a movement going. It's called A.Y.L.N.- Ainsley Yes, Lisa No. Donna's making buttons."

And then he heard a voice from the hall yell, "Can I really?"

Josh shook his head. "Sure."

Sam just looked sort of shell shocked. "This isn't funny, Josh."

"Yeah. You wish I hadn't told you?"

He rubbed his eyes. "I don't know."

"I always thought you liked her, too."

Sam just looked down, looking miserable. Because he did.

"I'm sorry."

"I'm gonna. . .I'm gonna go now."


He stood, slowly, and he walked out, slowly.

When Sam got home that night, he was tired and drained and nothing in his head made sense.

Lisa had dinner ready. He'd given her a key a few weeks ago so she could come by and cook for him. She really was worried about his health.

"What'd you make?"

"Grilled chicken and asparagus."

He blinked. "Okay, come on, we're going out."

"What? Sam I just finished dinner."

"I really need something that tastes good tonight. Have you ever had Ethiopian food? Ainsley swears it's 75% butter, so I suppose not, but--"

Lisa sighed heavily. "Can we do it tomorrow? I have this all ready."


"What's wrong?"

"Bad day is all, and I just wanted some good food. Don't worry about it."

"And if Ainsley likes it, it must be good food."

He head came up. "What?"

"I'm just noticing that you're in the door two minutes and you talk about her. I think I've yet to have a conversation with you where she hasn't been a topic."

"We're friends."

"You don't talk about Josh nearly this much."

A small smile touched his mouth. "Josh has less to say."

She stared at him a moment. Something crossed her face. "You know what, go get your good food. I'm not hungry anymore."

"What is your problem?"

"My problem is the man I'm dating talks about a pretty blonde girl constantly. I'm sick of it. I don't want to hear about Ainsley Hayes and her eating habits, restaurant preferences and opinions."

"I am allowed to have female friends, Lisa."

"Not ones who want to get in your pants."

"What Ainsley wants is not my problem."

"It's nice to know you're not denying it."

"What do you want me to say to you?"

She faltered, then spoke softly. "Tell me she doesn't mean anything to you."

He shut his eyes. "I can't."

She swallowed hard. "You want her back."

"I didn't say that."

"I can tell. It's the way you talk about her and the way you look at her. I can tell, even if you can't."

"We're friends."

"You're more then that. All this time. . . I never even thought that the crush would go both ways."

"Jesus. It's not like I'm cheating on you."

"Well, if you do I know who my first suspect will be."

"I'm sorry Lisa, you throw me out of your life and show up three years later-- what, did you expect me to be sitting here, still mourning you?"

"I didn't force you to take me back, Sam. If you had someone you could have told me."

"I didn't have someone. I just had a good female friend. Then you come and it becomes some kind of damn competition."

"For the love of God, Sam, I know you're not stupid. She didn't start wanting you because I came. And whatever you feel for her didn't start in the last month either. Why can't you just admit it?"

He turned away, not answering.

"Yeah, that's the answer, Sam. If you don't look at me it won't be true anymore."

"I don't have anything to say." He picked up his coat. "I'm going out."


"Lock the door when you go." He left and slammed it behind him. She stumbled back into a chair and put her face in her hands.

* * *

Ainsley was in her pajamas, getting ready for bed, when there was a knock at her door. Wondering who on earth it could be she wrapped her quilt around herself and went to it. "Who's there?"


She undid the locks and opened the door. "What's wrong?"

"Bad night. Can I come in?"

"Of course." She stepped bad. "Are you okay?"

"Not really." He stumbled a little, and she realized he was a bit drunk.

She caught his arm. "What happened?"

"I wouldn't eat my vegetables."

"You fought with Lisa?"



"Would I be drunk if I wasn't?"

"No, I guess not. Maybe you should eat something."

He plopped on her couch. "She's mad because I talk about you every day."

Ainsley sank to the couch next to him. "You do?"

"I was telling her about the Ethiopian food, and she just blew up."

"I'm sorry, Sam."

"She wanted me to tell her you didn't mean anything to me. How could she ask me something like that? Doesn't she understand?"

She touched her cheek. "Sometimes women. . . jealousy is a natural reaction."

"I couldn't tell her what she wanted to hear."

"Because I mean something to you?"

"Of course you do."

She smiled and rested her head on his shoulder. "You mean something to me, too."

He kissed her hair. "Why didn't you tell me?"

She swallowed. "I didn't know how."

"I wish you had."

She sighed, then got up. "I have ice cream. Fudge Brownie. You want some?"

"I'm not hungry but if you'll eat some it will make my night."

She blinked. "You want to watch me eat ice cream?"

"I love watching you eat. Especially if it's something where you close your eyes and suck it off the spoon."

She stared a him a moment, telling herself he was drunk and would not normally be saying this. "Okay. I need ice cream now." She turned on her heel and headed for her kitchen. He grinned and followed.

She pulled the carton out of the freezer and pulled the top off, sticking it in the microwave for ten seconds as she got out a spoon. When she sat at the table the ice cream had softened enough to get the spoon in. She dug out a bite and ate in, closing her eyes despite herself.

"Ainsley, that is the most erotic thing on earth," he whispered.

"Have you honestly never had a girlfriend that likes food?" She took another bite, licking the spoon clean.

"Few make it the art for you do."

"It's a gift," she murmured around a mouthful of chocolate and brownie.

"I'll say."

She glanced up at him and he saw he was making her nervous. She took another tiny bite, a mere sliver of ice cream sliding between her lips. "Why do you think freezers don't have lights in them? Or are there some that do? I don't remember."

"Ainsley?" he asked quietly.

"Yes?" she whispered.

"May I kiss you?"

She licked her lips and looked up at him. "Yes."

He grinned and leaned over, touching his mouth to hers.

She shuddered and leaned into him, kissing him deep.

"You taste like chocolate," he whispered.

She smiled. "I usually do."

Sam groaned, kissing her again. She wrapped her arms around his neck. He stood, pulling her up with him. She whimpered a little, kissing him hard. He could feel so much in her kiss. Desire and need, some of the nervousness he'd seen in her eyes.

He kissed her ear and whispered, "I want you. You know that, don't you?"

She shuddered again. "I do now."

"May I do more than kiss you?"

She pressed her face into his shoulder. "Please do."

He took both of her hands and pulled her back to her bedroom. She followed him eagerly, not even worrying about the carton of ice cream melting on the table. She kissed him a few more times on their way. He stopped right in front of her bed and began unbuttoning her pajama top. She watched his face, her eyes luminous, then reached out and started undoing his shirt.

Silently they undressed each other, both just watching the other, touching skin lightly and gently.

Her fingers danced on him, studying every contour, the lines of muscle and tendon on his arms, the pattern of dark hairs on his chest, trailing down his stomach and beyond. She didn't touch him anywhere interesting, but for some reason her almost innocent exploration was as erotic as her ice cream.

"Ainsley," he gasped.

She pulled her hands back immediately. "Did I do something wrong?"

"You're amazing."

She smiled, touching him again. "Really?"

He grinned. "Yeah." He lifted a hand to cup her breasts.

She squeaked, going on tiptoe to put herself closer to him. He kissed her hard, arms coming around her and pressing her to his chest. She nuzzled his mouth, arms wrapped tight around him. She settled herself so every inch of her touched him.

He backed up, and together they fell onto the bed.

She hugged him, head on his chest. She listened to his heartbeat, kissing his skin gently. He shifted her, his mouth working a path down her body. She made a quiet noise in her throat, fingers weaving through his hair again and again.

He kiss each nipple, her stomach, her thighs, the same light exploration she'd done of him with her hands. He could feel her shivering with the caresses. She kept making noises, whispering his name.

"Tell me what you want, Ainsley."

"I want you. I have for so long. I've thought about this. . ."

He bit the skin of her inner thigh gently. "Just like this?"

"No," she whispered. "I could never have thought of this." His mouth moved up and she tried to shy away. "Sam. . . you don't have to."

He held her hips down. "Hey, I have daydreams to fulfill too, you know."

"About me?" she squeaked.

"Yes. Let me taste you," he said softly.

She chewed her lip. "Okay. . . but I'm not. . . not used to that."

"Have you ever done it?"

Her fingers drummed on the mattress. "Well. . . not really."

He grinned a little, and then he touched her with his tongue. She gasped, hips bucking. He sucked a little, the spelled out her name.

She whimpered a little desperately. "Jesus, Sam." She tried to pull out of his grip when it got too much. She felt him ease a finger inside of her and crook it upwards. She let out a little cry, shaking. "Sam," she wailing, climaxing around his finger.

He lifted his head and grinned, watching her. "See?"

She smiled, still trembling. "So good."

He kissed her mouth gently, settling his weight on top of her. She wound her arms around his neck, opening her legs to cradle his hips between her thighs. She kissed him tenderly. He slid inside her easily. They fit so well.

She sighed softly, moving her legs around his waist, arching up to him. He moved slowly, opening his eyes and looking down at her. Wanting to watch her, to see her face. She smiled up at him, looking about as happy as he'd ever seen her. She stroked his cheek gently, moving with him.

He'd never done it like this before, but he just held her gaze. He couldn't look away. She was with him in this, looking deep into his eyes. She started to tighten again, lifting her hips up a little faster. He felt her nails begin to dig into his back and knew she was close.

He groaned, it was a struggle to keep his eyes open. To hold on. "Ainsley," he gasped.

She stroked his cheek again and he felt her begin to shake again. She whispered his name over and over as she began to pulse around him.

"Oh God," he growled, letting go, pushing himself deep into her as he did so. Ainsley held him tightly as they both came down.

"You are absolutely amazing," he whispered, and he wasn't talking about sex.

She kissed his shoulder. "You too."

He rolled off her, not letting go. "Can I stay tonight?"

"You certainly may," she murmured, snuggling close.

He pulled the covers up around them. "Goodnight, Ainsley."

"Night, Sam."

* * * * *

Ainsley woke up the next morning trapped between two muscular arms and an equally muscular chest. She made her happy purring noise and snuggled closer to the chest. She felt his fingers sift into her hair, massaging her scalp.

She smiled, sighing. "Morning."

Sam sat up slowly. "Morning."

She stretched, rolling on her bad to beam at him. "Sleep well?"

He nodded, looking distracted.

"Something wrong?"

"I just. . ." He rubbed his eyes. "I have to find Lisa and make sure she--"

Something shifted in her eyes. "You have to find Lisa?"

"Yeah." He got out of bed and searched for his clothes. "A lot was said last night, but I don't think I actually--"

"Oh my God," she said softly. "Oh, my God. I thought. . . last night. . . and the first thing you say is you have to find Lisa?" She was shaking. She felt sick. "You just came here last night because you were drunk." She clambered out of bed, sheets wrapped around herself.

"Ainsley. . .Wait, you don't understand. I didn't mean--"

Her mouth was trembling. "I don't *believe* this. I lust after for three years and all I get is a drunken one night stand because you had a fight with the anorexic stick figure with no soul." She started backing away, towards the bathroom. "I think I'm going to be sick."

He came towards her. "It's not like that."

She hit the bathroom door and held a hand up to stop him. "I'm going to take a shower. I want you gone when I get out."


"Go." She wrenched the bathroom door open and stumbled inside. She closed the door and leaned against it, sliding down. She buried her face in her knees and started to cry.

He could fix this. He had all the time in the world to make it up to Ainsley. After he did what he needed to do. So he threw the rest of his clothes on and left.

When she heard the front door close she got up and went back to the bedroom. She picked up the phone and called work, taking a personal day. She was about to crawl back into bed when she realized it smelled like Sam. And them. And sex. With a little noise the tore the sheets off and buried them in her hamper. Then she got into sweats. She was going to need ice cream. And tissues. And chick flicks.

* * *

"I really fucked up."

Josh didn't even look up from his computer. "What did you do to Ainsley?"

"I slept with her."

That got his attention. "What?"

"Lisa and I had this huge fight-- about Ainsley-- and I went to a bar. Then I went to her place."

"And you slept with her?"


"It that why she called in sick?"

"She called in sick?" He collapsed into one of Josh's chairs. "Oh, God," he moaned.

"Babish was up here griping about associates who couldn't have personal crises on their own time."

"She threw me out before I could explain."

"You must have said something to set her off."

"I was trying to tell her I had to go and break up with Lisa for good."

"Wouldn't this make her happy?"

"She wouldn't let me finish a sentence."

Josh studied him a moment. "You really fucked up."

"I know," he said miserably. "And I don't even understand how."

"You need to fix it. Or I think Donna will kill you."


"Which one do you want?"


"Dump Lisa. Beg Ainsley's forgiveness."


"You're actually taking my advice?"

"It's what I was going to do anyway."

"Just thought you'd come double check?"


"Well, I agree with you. Go get her."

* * *

Ainsley curled herself on the couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry's. She hit the play button on her VCR and watched the opening credits of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir roll on her screen. From nowhere her cat, Biscuit appeared and jumped on her lap, purring and eyeing her ice cream. Ainsley petted her soft fur a moment. "Where were you last night? I could have used a level head."

Biscuit merely purred and stuck her head in the ice cream carton. Ainsley sighed and spooned some of the ice cream into the lid and gave it to the cat. "If Sam were here he'd lecture me on the dangers of chocolate on cats. And he'd tell me you were too fat."

Biscuit looked up from her snack and gave her mistress a questioning look.

Ainsley scritched her under the chin. "So, I guess it's a good thing he's not here, isn't it?" Biscuit purred and went back to her snack.

* * *

Lisa left work early that day, unable to concentrate. She sat in her living room and looked through an album full of pictures of her and Sam. They looked so happy in all of them. The perfect couple. Everyone had called them the perfect couple. She would have been a good lawyer's wife. She would have been a good politician's wife. She sighed deeply. She would have just been a good wife.

When a knock came at her door at six that evening she knew who was on the other side.

"We need to talk."

She let him in. "Yeah. I know."

"I really don't know where to start. . ." he said softly.

"Did you go see her last night?" There was no recrimination in her voice, just some strange sadness.


She swallowed. "We're over, aren't we?"

"We were over last night," he replied.

She nodded, looking down. "What's the matter with us, Sam? We look so good on paper."

"My parents looked fabulous on paper."

She looked at him again. "I guess we're lucky we never got that far."

"We never should have started up again. We had good reasons for parting ways."

"Yeah." She looked like she was going to cry. "I just. . . we were. . . I thought maybe this time."

"What do you see in me?" He asked her after a moment.

She swallowed. "You're a good man. One with ideal and goals. That's so rare you don't understand. You take care of me but you let me be myself, too. You were the first man I ever met who could do that."

"If you like my idealism so much, why did you want me to stay a corporate lawyer? Is it only something to be proud of because I work at the what house? What would you do if I quit tomorrow and decided to write a book-- which may or may not ever sell?"

"I was scared. I was young and I'd had this life all set up in my head. And suddenly you were talking about moving to DC and working for this longshot. . . I got scared. And I had my mother and my friends in my ears telling me if you were doing this now god help me when you hit mid life."

He smiled a little. "I'll probably change careers again."

She managed to return the smile. "I'd like to think that time I wouldn't have been scared."

He sighed. "We can't change the past, and we can't fix this in the present."

"I know. I don't want you to be unhappy. And I don't want to be unhappy either."

"I'm so sorry."

She swallowed. "Me too." She stepped forward and hugged him. "If you ever meet anyone just like you, send him my way, okay?"

He closed his eyes. "I promise."

She pulled back and their were tears on her cheeks. But she smiled. "I hope you're happy with her. You deserve it."

He kissed her forehead. "Good luck," he said softly. "And thank you."

She nodded. "You're welcome."

He looked down at her for a moment, and then he left.

* * *

Ainsley had spent the day on the couch with Biscuit, ice cream and a stack of weepy movies. She finished her second pint of cookie dough and An Affair to Remember when there was a knock at the door. She blew her nose and went to it, Biscuit running off to one of her hiding places. Ainsley stopped with her hand on the knob. "Who is it?"


She leaned against the door. "Ainsley's house of comfort sex is closed. Go somewhere else."

"Please let me explain."

"I don't want to hear it."

"I had to make sure she understood we were broken up, Ainsley. I had to. I can't be like my father." His voice caught at the end.

She slumped a little. "The first thing you said when you woke up was her name. Do you know what that felt like?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like you thought."

"Have you settled your affairs now?"

"Yes. I swear to God, I'm yours now."

She played with the door handle a moment, rattling it, then pulled the door open slowly. She was a mess, hair in a messy bun, no make-up, dressed in a blue terry cloth robe with white felt clouds sewn onto it. She had bunny slippers on her feet. "Are you sure?"

"If. . .if you still want me."

She licked her lips. "I do."

He reached out and pulled her into his arms.

She sighed, wrapping her arms around him.

"I didn't mean to hurt you."

"Don't do it again."

He smiled. "I promise."

She kissed his cheek. "Good."

"Can I ask you something?"


"Do you care that we look bad on paper?"

She looked confused. "No. I have no intention of writing us down."

He grinned, kissing her with all his might. "And is it okay if I don't always want to be a politician?"

"Of course it is, I love you no matter what."

She felt as much as heard him sigh. "I love you, too."

She looked up. "You do?"

He blushed a little. "Yeah."

She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him deeply.

"Mmmm, you won, Ainsley."

"Apparently I'm the better woman."

"Yes you are."

"Would you like to stay tonight?"

"Tonight and many more nights."

She beamed. "You're welcome."

"Did you call out today because of me?"

"Yes," she said softly.

"I'm sorry," he said again.

"I needed a pity day."

"I'll make it up to you."

"We could have a make me feel better night."

"We could start now."

"I'm at your disposal."

He stepped back and held out his hand for her. She slid her hand into his. He grinned and pulled her back towards her bedroom. She giggled a little as she followed eagerly.

He shut the door and captured her mouth, hands going to the tie of her robe. She let it slide off her shoulders, leaving her naked except for her bunny slippers. She started to unbutton his shirt.

"Sex with a woman wearing bunny slippers is not something I ever pictured before."

She looked at him. "But still somehow sexy, right?"

"Only you." She grinned at him and went on tip toe to kiss him. She tasted like chocolate, and he grinned.

She finished his buttons and pushed his shirt off his arms. She tugged his undershirt up and broke away from him as she pulled it off. He had to help her with that, he was so much taller than her. He let his arms drop after she threw it to the floor, and just looked at her. She smiled warmly and touched his chest, lightly, the way she had last night.

"Was it really as good as I remember?" he whispered.

She grinned. "Better."

Sam kissed her again, pulling her back to her bed. She pushed him down first, so he sat on the end. Then she sat on his lap, wiggling to get comfortable. She drove her fingers into his hair and kissed him deeply. He flattened his hands on her back pressing her against him. She rocked on him, every so slowly, kissing him roughly. He made a strangled noise, holding her even tighter. She let her mouth drift down his throat, tasting his skin. He felt her shiver.

"You're going to kill me."

She smiled. "I like the way you feel," she whispered.

His hands roamed her body, "I like the way you feel, too."

She shivered again, arching into his hands. He shifted her, depositing her on the bed and standing up to rid himself of his pants. She realized she was still wearing her bunny slippers and toed them off before scooting back on the bed. He laughed, kicking off his socks and shoes, then the pants, and climbing onto the bed with her.

She pouted at him, but wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him down for a kiss. He ran his hands along her legs, pulling them around him. She shuddered, nails raking over his arms. "I love you," she whispered.

He reached between them and touched her gently, slowly. She arched into him, pleasure flooding her. His thumb rubbed her clit in small circles as he eased inside her. She whimpered softly, nails digging into his shoulders. She bit her lip, then his, arching up to him. He moved slowly, holding her hips. She looked up into his eyes, like she had the night before, holding his gaze.

He smiled at her, remembering too.

She stroked his cheek. "Even better," she whispered.

He kissed her, and then he had to close his eyes because he could barely take it anymore. She bucked up to him, whimper, very close. She held him tight as spasms began to shake her. She whispered his name again and again as she came. He let go as soon as he felt her begin to tighten around him, collapsing on top of her as it took his break away. She held him to her, pressing her face into his shoulder.

When his breathing finally slowed, he asked, "You want to go out and get some dinner?"

She grinned. "Cheesecake Factory?"

"Even better."

She kissed him. "I'll eat all the chocolate you want."

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