Visiting Time: One Centuryby Puck and Zillah
Disclaimer: Ainsley, Sam and the gang aren't ours, they're Mr. Sorkin's, sir. Nana, Robert, Becca (Yeah, she's back, eventually) and Ainsley's whole, fascinating family, are ours.
Ainsley got the invitation the second week of May. It didn't say anything about a guest but Ainsley knew her family. If she didn't bring someone she'd never hear the end of it. She didn't want another weekend of questions she had no answer too. It took two days to get the nerve up to ask him.
"Sam? Would you do a favor for me?"
"Sure, what's up?
"My great-grandmother is turning 100 the last week of June. I have to go for the big party. I was wondering if you'd come?"
He blinked. "What?"
"I don't want to deal with another weekend of 'No man, hmm? You know, when I was your age I was married ten years and had five children.' If you come no one will bug me."
"So you want me to pretend we're dating?"
"You don't have to. We could just say we're friends."
She smiled. "You're cute and will make my sister and cousins jealous."
He grinned. "You think I'm cute?"
"Sam, every straight female who has ever met you thinks you're cute."
His grin widened. "True."
"Is your ego fully inflated now?"
"Yes. Full enough that I'll go with you."
She bounced. "Oh, thank you. You'll love it. Nana lives in this big old plantation house on the bayou. You'll just go nuts when you see it, it was built in 1838 and it's only been a renovated on the inside to bring it up to date. Oh, you like seafood right? Shrimp, oysters, crawfish, like that?"
She grinned. "Good. I'll tells you times as soon as I get tickets."
"Wait. . .Ainsley, isn't your family going to hate me?"
She stopped at his door. "Oh, I don't think so. My dad might. My mother's family is way too bizarre and southern to worry about me bringing a Democrat to the party."
"And how will introducing me as your friends help your singleness problem?"
"I'm going to say, 'Hi everyone, this is Sam.' No one will be rude enough to ask and they can assume whatever they want."
"So I am pretending to be your boyfriend."
"We're just not stating otherwise."
He laughed out loud. "I'm fine with it, I just want you to admit it."
She pouted at him. "Fine. I'm desperate and alone and to get my family off my back we're pretending you're my boyfriend."
"Okay, but one day I may collect a similar favor in return."
"Okay. Just give me notice on dates so I can clean my desk."
"Her birthday's the 21 of June, that's a Thursday. I'd like to leave Friday the 22, so we can settle in. Saturday's the party, then we can go Sunday.
"I'll let you know times in a week or so."
She smiled. "I really appreciate this, Sam, thank you." She blew him a kiss, and was gone.
* * *
Their plane was half an hour late. Ainsley had talked to her family, who were also coming in on Friday, and insisted on renting a car and driving in. A few other relatives had flown in, but most were close enough to simply drive in on Saturday. Ainsley wanted to give Sam the nickel tour of New Orleans and prepare him for the arduous task of meeting her family.
On the long windy road through the swamps she brought it up. "My family is sort of. . . well some of them can be. . ." She sighed. "We're hicks, okay? We're swampies. Those redneck jokes that were so popular a few years back? Quite a few of them apply to various cousins and aunts and uncles."
"But you live in a mansion?"
"It's a family estate."
"Interesting. Are they going to hate me?"
"No. But if anyone offers you possum, they're not kidding."
She tossed him a smile. "In the South, no one asks if you have crazy people in your family. They ask which side it's on."
"Are they going to ask about *my* family?"
"In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you my mom's family, the Henneseys, are from Boston."
"Oh, don't worry, they're gonna call you Yankee."
He just looked nervous. "O-kay."
"But I don't think they'll shoot you."
His eyes got huge.
She chuckled. "Here we are." She pulled onto a private drive marked by iron gates. She wound up a long, tree lined drive almost five minutes before the house came into view.
"Oh. . .wow."
Ainsley grinned. "Welcome to Whispering Stars." She found a parking space along the drive and climbed out, pulling her suitcase out of the back. "Come on," she said, heading for the door.
"The house is incredible."
"Nana can give you the whole pedigree if you get her started." They climbed the front steps and Ainsley pushed open the huge wooden door. "Hello?"
A tall, heavy set man came into the foyer. "There you are, we were wondering."
Ainsley grinned. "Daddy!" She threw herself at him, receiving a fierce hug that lifted her off her feet. He put he down and she turned to gesture at Sam. "This is Sam. I hope it's okay I brought him."
Her father faltered almost imperceptibly. "Of course, it's fine." He held out a hand. "Nice to meet you, Sam."
Sam shook it. "You too, sir."
"Is that Ainsley?" a voice, heavily accented, came from the other room. It was followed by the appearance of a tiny, bird like old woman who looked like a stiff breeze would tip her over. But she stood straight, to her full height, which was barely over four feet tall. "You're late."
"My plane was-"
"Bah, damn contraptions. Should have taken the train, you'd have been here on time."
"It would have taken a day and a half."
"But you'd have been here on time." She shuffled forward and gave her a fierce hug. "Now, introduce me to your gentleman."
"Nana, this is Sam Seaborn. Sam, this is my great-grandmother, Rose Lucille Andreas Stillfield."
Rose peered at him. "I've seen you on television. You're a good talker, young man."
Sam grinned. "Thank you."
"Too attractive for your own damn good, though." She turned back to Ainsley. "Are you hungry?"
"I made your favorite. My special gumbo."
Ainsley's eyes lit up. "Really?"
"Yes. You and your beau get settled in. Dinner'll be served soon."
He grinned when Nana left. "Your beau?"
"She's a hundred." She picked up her bag. "Come on. Which rooms should we use, Daddy?"
"You'll have your usual, Nana set it up special for you. I'll show Sam to the green guest room."
Sam nodded seriously, wanting not to offend this man in any way-- funny considering he and Ainsley weren't really dating.
Ainsley looked up at him. "I'll come get you for dinner." She head up the stairs and turned left at the top, while her father led him right.
Robert Hayes pushed a door open to reveal a masculinely decorated room, forest green a dominant color. It had a large antique wooden bed. "Here you are." He peered at him. "Ainsley didn't mention you were dating."
He blinked. "Well, I. . .um. . ."
"But I guess she learned the hard way that when she shares her personal life with her mother she gets bridal magazines in the mail." He clapped Sam's shoulder. "To be honest I'm glad to have another outsider here. I'm still getting ostracized for having carpetbaggers in my family tree."
Sam grinned. "I'm used to being the token Yankee. When I went to Duke I was warned not to try fraternizing with the local girls."
"You went to Duke, did you? Be sure and mention that." He headed back to the stairs. "Ainsley will get you for dinner. I hope you're hungry."
"I take it the appetite is an inherited trait?"
He grinned a little. "Oh, you'll see." He headed downstairs.
Sam had enough time to unpack and get a little settled before Ainsley came to get him for dinner. She led him downstairs, across the foyer, through a parlor and into a huge formal dining room. A large wooden table ruled the center of the room. It was laden with enough food to feed an army. Ainsley's eyes lit up.
"How many people are here?"
"You, me. Nana. Great Aunt Sissy, Mom, Dad, my sister Becca. My cousin Abby, her husband and baby daughter. So, nine and a half."
"Didn't they make too much food?"
Ainsley grinned at him. "Oh, no, this looks about right."
"Are you kidding?"
"We're good eaters in this family."
Rose came in from another door, holding a steaming cauldron of gumbo. She sat it on the table and went over to them, slipping her arms through Sam's. "Come over here and sit by me, young man. I want to make sure you get enough. You're positively wasting away. Ainsley!"
"You don't feed this boy, do you? I taught you better." She shoved Sam into a chair and took a seat at the head of the table. Ainsley sat on his other side. The rest of the family trickled in and Ainsley introduced him. He noticed her sister raise her eyebrows and give him an appraising glance.
Ainsley leaned over to whispered in his ear. "When Nana says so, just pick up the nearest dish and serve yourself, then pass it to me."
"I'm familiar with table manners, thank you."
She smiled. "Just warning you."
Rose glanced at them, then regarded the family. "I want to thank you all for coming here and sharing one quiet meal before the rest of the horde gets here. Dig in."
At her words everyone's arms snapped out and grabbed a serving dish.
Sam was startled by the semi-chaos that ensued. He really had pictured southern gentry eating slowly and delicately. Not like people who hadn't seen food in days.
Ainsley dumped a portion of black eyed peas on her plate and passed it on, then looked at him expectantly. She smirked at his befuddled expression.
Rose has noticed to and started serving him. "Honestly, Ainsley, where do you find these men? Eat like birds."
"I'm okay. . ." Sam started.
"Hush, boy. No one has an empty plate at this table." She piled huge amounts of food, some of which he didn't recognize, onto his plate, not to mention a bowl of gumbo and a bread plate. It was definitely more food then he ate in a day, let alone a single meal. He scanned the table and realized Nana had actually gone easy on him. Some of them had two plates worth. Ainsley's father gave him a conspiratorial wink and began to eat.
Sam shook his head, took a deep breath, and dug in.
It was good. It was very good. Spicy, but wine and water were as plentiful as the food. And despite the amount none of it was so heavy as to make him feel stuffed. He didn't clean his plate, as many of the women did, but he felt he did pretty good.
Rose took the opportunity to chat with him. It had been a while since she'd had a fresh audience. "So, Sam. . . is that short for Samuel or Samson?"
"Samuel. Um. . .who names their children Samson?"
Rose sniffed. "It's a good, strong name. A biblical name. Means something. Unlike Ainsley." Out of the corner of his eye Sam saw Ainsley's mother cover her eyes with her hand. Ainsley just rolled her eyes. This was apparently an old argument. Rose went on. "What can you tell me about your family?"
"Well . . .my parents are divorced. I'm an only child."
Rose waved a hand. "I mean your history, son. Where are you from? Where's your family from? How long have they been there? Anyone in the war?" She drawled the last word out, more then most words, so it was about three syllables and had an 'h' at the end.
Ainsley smiled. "I'm sorry, I should have warned you there'd be a quiz."
His eyes widened. "Okay. . . Well, I'm from San Diego. My mother's family is Irish, from Massachusetts, and Spanish from, well, California. And I know the Seaborns came west during the dust bowl."
"Massachusetts, eh? Ainsley, you brought a Yankee to my table?"
Sam heard Ainsley's great-aunt sigh in exasperation. "Honest to God, Ma, it's been a hundred and forty years. Let it go."
"My Granddaddy fought in the war. He lost a brother in it. War's plagued this family almost two centuries, we remember our past."
"Someone in Nana's family's been in ever major American war," Ainsley said softly.
"Wow," Sam said. "We have some family from Missouri, but I don't know if that counts."
"It's better then nothing," Rose informed him, getting up to get dessert.
Ainsley smiled at him. "You're Spanish?"
"I do have black hair."
"I thought you were black Irish, maybe."
"Are you disappointed?"
"No," she said quickly.
"She thinks it's sexy," Becca piped up. "Ainsley likes that ethnic look."
"Becca!" Ainsley said.
"Do you really?"
She was bright red. "I guess."
"Oh, admit it. There's not a blonde among your boyfriends. You like the tall dark and handsome thing."
"Becca if you think-"
"Rebecca Ann Hayes you shut your mouth right now before I start spilling your secrets on the table." Rose set a huge chocolate cake on the table and glared at her great-grand daughter. "Ainsley's man preferences ain't no one's business but her and Sam's."
Ainsley made a pained noise and hid her face in Sam's shoulder. Sam started to laugh and reached up to stroke her hair.
"I'm just so glad I brought you."
"So am I," he said quietly.
She lifted her, head, looking surprised, then smiled.
"I mean it. My family is horrible. Yours is great."
Rose placed a huge slice of cake in front of him, then Ainsley. Ainsley grinned at him. "We feed you better, too, I bet."
She took a bite of cake and almost purred in contentment. He grinned at her, almost forgetting about his cake entirely.
Rose watched them with a knowing smirk she hid in her cake. * * * * * After the table had been cleared Sam was kidnapped by Rose. "Ainsley says you like history, how about a tour?"
"I would love a tour."
"Excellent. Ainsley, why don't you help with the dishes, you've seen it."
She blinked. "Okay," she said, sounding confused as Rose drug him away.
"Ainsley's not coming."
"No, I want to have a little chat. Just you and me."
Now he looked a little scared. "Yes, ma'am."
She led him through a hallway and showed him a painting. "This is my granddaddy, in his uniform. Reginald Matthew Andreas. Served his state proudly. You and Ainsley aren't really dating, are you?"
His eyes got huge. "Um. . ."
"She's very demonstrative with her men. Hand holding, leaning, kissing. But aside from that one time at dinner, she hasn't touched you. So I figure she finally got tired of being the single one at the table."
"Well . . .I. . .um . . ."
"She knows you from work, yes?"
"You like her though."
"I. . .it's complicated."
"Pish. Only complicated if you make it so." She led him to another room, a library. "My book collection. Spanning my whole life. Most of them first editions. You're welcome to look through them if you want."
"Thank you," he said softly.
She led him through a sun porch, then out onto the porch into the balmy Louisiana air. "I like you," she told him. "You make her smile. The last one didn't."
"Must have been a real shithead to keep Ainsley from smiling. Er-- pardon my language."
She laughed. "One hundred years on this earth I've heard it all, Sam." She shook her head. "I didn't like the last one. He didn't even try to eat his plate full. And he was always talking about himself. She was with him too long. Made her serious, cautious."
"I've never met the man. . .but I'm guessing that she was smarter than him and he hated that."
"Very few men smarter then my Ainsley. She takes after me, you know."
"She's, well, she's wiped the floor with my ass more then once. Though thankfully only once on actual national television."
Rose cackled. "I saw that. You were sweating quite a bit." She headed back into the house, stopping at a small end table to pick up a framed photo. "This is my wedding picture." She handed it to him.
It was of a man and woman in wedding garb, standing very stiff and straight. The man had his hands on her hips and was unsmiling, as everyone in old photos seemed to be. The girl, Rose, was trying to look serious, but a smile danced in her eyes and around her mouth. She looked shockingly like Ainsley.
"You look just like her," he said softly.
"Yes. I was seventeen there. Holland and I were married for sixty-two years nine months, till his death in our bed upstairs. Wasn't a day we didn't argue or a night we didn't make up in all those years. Never two people more in love."
Sam wasn't sure what to say to this, so he just nodded.
She smiled at him. "You find someone who argues and makes love equally as well, you keep them around, Sam. You remember that."
He blinked. "I will."
"Good boy." She put the picture on the table again. "Now, to get to her room from yours, you just climb out the window to the trellis. Climb across that to the magnolia trees and move across them to the porch roof. Her rooms the first window.
Sam's mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out.
"It sounds tricky but then, you're not even wearing a corset."
"Um. . .Um. . ."
She patted him. "She's probably done with the dishes. You should go see her."
"But. . ."
"Oh, there's one more thing I wanted to say where Ainsley and her father couldn't hear."
He looked terrified that he was about to get further instructions about sex from a hundred year old woman. "Y-yes?"
"I voted for your Bartlet, and I will again. Republican was Lincoln's party."
"I. . . thank you."
"You're welcome. You go on back to the library, I'll send Ainsley in." She shuffled off.
He stood there, frozen in the hallway.
Ten minutes later Ainsley found him. "Hey, you okay? I thought you were in the library."
"I had a very interesting conversation with your grandmother."
"Most people do."
She sighed. "I figured she would."
"So then why are we doing this?
"The rest of the family doesn't."
"You don't mind, do you?"
She beamed. "And I will owe you."
He grinned. "Good."
She took his hand. "Wanna wander around the library? There's a couple first additions you'll drool over."
"I'd like that."
She tugged his hand and led him off.
* * *
Sam awoke the next morning to the smell of food being cooked. He dressed and went downstairs to find the kitchen full of women. Literally full. It was a little disconcerting.
Ainsley broke from the crowd, flour dusting her face. "Hi. Are you hungry? Breakfast is on the lanai."
"I'm still full from dinner."
"Are you sure? Great aunt Sissy made muffins."
"I thought you ate biscuits in the South."
"There's those. Also grits, flap jacks, chipped beef, scrapple and fruit. But I prefer muffins."
"Well, they take all the stuff that's left over after sausage, hot dogs and cat food, mix it all together with cornmeal, mold it, slice it and fry it."
She watched horror cross his face. "You're making that up."
"I'm afraid not, honey." He noticed her accent had gotten seriously worse.
"And you eat this?"
"You eat hot dogs you buy from men on the street who don't speak English or shower."
"You're eating something that is below grade of dog food!"
"So is McDonalds."
"Are they going to make me eat it?"
"No. Stick with the muffins."
"Good. I'll have some biscuits."
"Okay. I have to help with cooking. The men are down at the fishing hole getting crawfish."
"Am. . .am I expected to go fish with them?"
She rubbed his arm. "You wanna hide in the library?"
"Won't they think that's. . .I don't know. . .wimpy?"
"Probably, but if you'll be uncomfortable you shouldn't force yourself."
"I don't know how to fish."
She paused, considering this. When she'd invited him she hadn't thought about this aspect of the day. "You like kids?"
"Depends on the kids."
"My cousins kids. Ages nine to baby. Someone has to watch them. Usually we have some of the teenage girls do it but they want them to learn the recipes. I was thinking, we'd be heroes if we volunteered to do it."3
"Isn't that even *more* wimpy?"
"No, that's taking an excuse to spend the day with your girlfriend while the rest of them are stuck at a smelly old fishing hole."
He grinned. "Sounds good."
"Great." She took his hand and led him to the lanai to get him some biscuits, then to a casual living room full of kids. She sent the two teenage girls to the kitchen and introduced him to the kids.
Sam started a rousing game of go fish with the older kids while Ainsley took care of the babies. She fed them, changed them and started rocking them. When Sam looked up from his fifth game of cards she was standing by the window, holding her cousin's baby and singing softly, some sweet song he thought he recognized from a Disney movie, made all the sweeter by her accent. The baby was staring at her in utter fascination.
He just watched her for a moment. "You're good with babies," he said.
She smiled. "Big family." The baby had drifted off and she set him in a make shift crib.
"You want lots of kids?"
She grinned. "Oh yeah. Lots and lots."
"Define lots and lots."
"Four at the very least-"
"That's not too bad."
"But no more then ten," she finished.
Sam blinked. "Oh."
"Do you want kids?"
"Four or five at the absolute most. . .but I'm not getting any younger, you know?"
"Yeah, but you can keep going for years. I have a limit."
"I don;t want to be an old man with little kids."
"You better get on with it, then."
"Yeah, with the secret wife I haven't told anyone about."
"You could have whoever you wanted, Sam. You're the only senior staffer to have had a date in a year."
"Two," he said.
"Still a better average then Josh."
Sam's mouth quirked. "Josh has his own reasons for that."
"He lust for his assistant."
Sam grinned. "Hey, I'm getting hungry, is lunch soon?"
"Yeah. Come on, we'll scrounge something up." She slid her hand into his.
"What do we do with all these kids?"
She winked at him. "Kids! Lunch!" They cheered and ran out, heading for the kitchen.
"I bet you were a cute kid."
"I was chubby."
"That sounds cute."
She blushed. "I'm sure if you asked Nana would whip out the old home movies."
On cue, Nana seemed to appear out of nowhere. "Would you like to see some pictures?"
"Oh God," Ainsley squeaked.
"I would love to."
Nana slid her arm through Sam's and led him to the parlor. Out of a cupboard she pulled a large photo album. She sat on the fainting couch and patted it so Sam sat next to her. She opened it to reveal pictures of a little, blonde, pigtailed toddler who hadn't quite gotten rid of her baby fat yet.
"Ainsley, you were adorable."
She was blushing. "This is so unnecessary."
Nana turned the page to a series of shots of toddler Ainsley standing on a chair at a table, holding a turkey leg proudly in her hands, beaming.
"Ainsley, you're like the guy from Law & Order, you're eating something in every shot."
"Sam," she whined.
"She loved my roast turkey," Nana told him conspiratorially. She flipped a few more pages, taking Ainsley through her first days of school and few of her holding a baby Becca. Near the end she started slimming out. At about twelve she looked awkward and was usually hiding from the camera. Then at thirteen she filled out and looked like the stunning woman she would become. But she still had food in every shot.
"You really were an adorable child," Sam told her.
She blushed. "Thank you."
Nana hopped up. "Oh, Ainsley dear, where are your deb ball pictures."
"Oh, Nana, no."
"Hush, child." She pulled out another album. "Here we go." She handed it to Sam. On the front page was an 8x10 of Ainsley in a white gown, gloves, hair and makeup professionally done. She had a rose corsage on her wrist.
"You had a deb ball?"
"Yeah. It's tradition."
"She was beautiful. All the men trailing after her."
"I can just imagine."
Ainsley blushed. "Horny sixteen year olds are easy to impress."
Nana shook a finger at her. "False modesty is unbecoming in an attractive young lady. You're breathtaking and you always have been."
"I second that," Sam said without thinking.
Ainsley looked at him in surprise. Nana just smiled and got to her feet. "I hear the women calling me. Girls can't cook my birthday dinner without me." She shuffled out, shutting the door behind her.
Ainsley was still staring at Sam.
"What?" he said softly. "DO you think you're not."
"No. . . well. . . no one has said that in a long time."
"You could say it more often."
He stood up. "I think you're beautiful."
She smiled. "I think you're handsome. And sexy."
Sam grinned. "Really?"
"Yeah," she said softly. "Especially when you're coming to my rescue."
He leaned across the couch and kissed her gently. She sighed and kissed him back.
He lifted his head a moment. "Later."
She grinned. "Okay."
"Let's go find lunch."
"It won't be hard to find." * * * * * Dinner was at seven and it was a little different from last night's. Nana had decided her one-hundredth birthday party was too dignified for the usual chaos that was dinner. She'd hired waiters to serve the food they'd cooked. The table had had leaf upon leaf put in, until it sat almost thirty, then other tables had been set up so that everyone above the age of twenty could sit in the room. The children were in the parlor. They weren't interested in adult speak, anyway.
Nana had also decided everyone was to dress up. Ainsley was in a blue silk dress and Sam had been able to wear his suit, much to his delight. The rest of the family had gone with their personal definitions of dressed up. Sam was trying not to stare at Ainsley's great uncle, who, in a white suit, bore a striking resemblance to Col. Sanders.
When everyone had been seated Nana stood at the head of the main table. She scanned the room, immediately commanding silence. She smiled. "I've lived one hundred years," she began. "I'm sure for most of you that seems like a very long time. To me it's just a lifetime. Just like any of yours. I've done some things, but there's things I haven't. You know they won't let 'seniors' skydive." There was laughter.
"One hundred years. It's only a lifetime, but I think about the things I've seen and it seems so long. I've seen five wars. Out lived a husband, four siblings, two children and even one grandchild. I was alive before planes, before cars were common, before television, atomic bombs, computers, cell phones and the Internet. I was born at home, as were all my siblings and some of my children. When I was born a rich man was one who made $5000 a year. We only had forty-five states. Drive by shootings were around, but they were on horses. You could buy marijuana, heroin and morphine and the corner store and Coca-Cola had cocaine in it, not caffeine. The number one cause of death was pneumonia and influenza.
"When I think about that. All the things I've seen, the things that have changed, it makes me a little sad. Because I'm forced to wonder what I've done in my one hundred years. And really, it hasn't been much. In one hundred years no one will know my name."
She paused and took a sip of wine. "This thought depressed me for all of two seconds. Then I looked around this room. I see doctors, lawyers, firefighters, police officers, a lieutenant in the US marines, a painter, a writer and even someone who works in the White House." Ainsley ducked her h ead, as had all the other family members Nana had mentioned. Nana kept going. "I see loving mothers, providing fathers, good kids and squabbling sibling. I see my legacy, and the mark I will make on the word. So when I die, and Saint Peter asks me what I did with my time on earth I will tell him that I had twelve children. They gave me thirty-eight grand children. They gave me eight seven great grand children. And, at last count, they had given me twenty-one great great grand children. That's one hundred and fifty-eight people who are alive because of me. And that is the mark I will leave on this world."
She lifted her glass. "You, all of you and all the ones who couldn't make it tonight, are the reason I was born. So that you can make your marks on this world, make this place better. Make me proud, the way you have every day of your lives." She smiled. "Here's to another hundred years." There was laughter, and cheering as they sipped their wine in toast. Sam saw tears in quite a few eyes, including Ainsley's and Nana's. She wiped them away and rang a bell, calling the waiters to bring in the food.
* * *
After the dishes were cleared and Nana had gotten the last of her presents Ainsley took Sam for a moonlight walk on the property. It was a clear night, just a little balmy and the smell of the flowers in bloom was intoxicating. She held his hand, walking deftly along a path she'd traveled her whole life.
He peered at the shadows in the distance. "Hey, Ainsley?"
"Yes?" she murmured.
"What the hell is that out there?"
She followed his gaze. "The derricks."
"Derricks? Like, oil derricks."
"Yeah. They found it in the beginning of the century. It's where we get our money from. Why Nana could keep the house."
"Not exactly a majestic view, though, is it?"
"That's what the front is for."
Sam laughed. "I see."
"They're kinda hypnotic if you watch them long enough."
"So that's what your do for fun around here."
"That and whittle. And play the banjo. And have you ever seen Deliverance?"
"Can we go back inside now?"
"I'm just kidding."
"Really? Cause I'm man enough to admit I'm scared of swamp people."
She laughed brightly and got up on her toes to kiss him. "I'll defend you."
"With your hidden super powers?"
"I'm very tough. I'm my Nana's girl."
He laughed a little. "I'm man enough to admit I'm scared of your Nana, too."
"She's an imposing figure." They turned and started heading back for the house. "She likes you, though."
"Does she? Even though she knows?"
"Yeah. I can tell. She thinks you're good for me."
"I like her too. She voted for Bartlet."
Ainsley blinked. "She did?"
"I don't think I was supposed to tell you."
"I wonder why she told you."
He shrugged. "I don't know. She told me Republican is the party of Lincoln. I really thought that was one of the few things you got going for you, too."
She laughed, she couldn't help it. "Thanks."
They climbed up the back steps of the house. Nana met them as they came in. "Have a good walk?"
Ainsley felt like she was coming in after curfew. "Yes."
"Excellent. Why don't you scoot on up to bed? I want to talk to Sam a little bit."
Ainsley looked up at Sam. "Okay." She let go of his hand. "Goodnight."
"Night," he said, frowning.
She waved a little, then went upstairs. Nana led Sam into the parlor where she'd showed him the pictures of Ainsley earlier. "When I first realized you were pretending to be together I didn't think much of it. You're both attractive. You work together. Natural to be drawn together. But I've been watching you two and I've realized something. The two of you are good together."
"Well, I. . ."
"I like you. I do. You seem honest. You're too good looking for your own good, but it hasn't appeared to affect you too adversely. But Ainsley's my girl. My favorite. And the last man she let herself get serious about broke her heart. She came here and cried for a week. I know her, she's stubborn. She's not going to let herself get hurt again. So you have your work cut out for you."
He looked down. "There's more to that than you know."
"Politics come and go, dear. The one you only get one shot at. You let it go and you kick yourself the rest of you days."
"Are you speaking from experience, ma'am?"
"I found my one when I was twelve. Holland lived across town from me. Daddy didn't like him, he was older then me and poor. But I fell in love fast and hard. The next year he went to the war that was supposed to end them all. I was helpless to do anything but pray and hope. He came back, eventually, older, wiser, but still my love. I had him for sixty-two years. It's been twenty-two years and I still mourn him. So I know a little about loss and regret. And I know there's nothing in the world that would make me give those years with him back. And there's nothing in the world I wouldn't give to have a single day more. I took my shot and I didn't give up, even though my father and a war tried to keep us apart. Don't you let some politics stop you."
"I won't," Sam said softly.
She smiled warmly and he saw the young woman she'd been. And, in a strange way, he saw the old woman Ainsley would become. For some reason that wasn't a bad thing. She patted his arm. "Good. That's good. Now go get some sleep. I've kept you long enough."
Ainsley hadn't been asleep that long when she became aware of the fact that someone was sitting on the edge of her bed. She opened her eyes slowly and focused on the slightly darker shadow right next to her. She shrieked a little and kicked at it.
He leapt of the bed. "Shh! It's just me!"
"Sam!" she hissed. She reached out and switched on the overhead light. "What are you doing?"
"Nana told me how to sneak in here."
She blinked at him. "You climbed over the trellis?"
"And into two magnolia trees," he said proudly.
"And didn't kill yourself?"
"Do I look dead?"
"You could be a ghost."
He touched her arms with warm fingers that were surprisingly calloused for a silver-spoon lawyer. She blinked down at his hand. "What are you doing here, Sam?"
"Following some good advice someone gave me."
"What has Nana been telling you?"
"Not to let a good thing go."
"Oh," she said softly.
"Oh? That's all you have to say?"
"There was a lot of emotion in that oh."
"Good or bad?"
She smiled finally. "Good."
He grinned. "Oh."
She laughed softly and bent forward to kiss him. Sam sighed, wrapping his arms around her. She sank into him, sheets falling down to her waist to reveal a thin cotton and lace night gown. Added to the huge antique bed she was in and the old fashioned lamp on the nightstand she looked like a turn of the century lady.
He blinked. "You always sleep in that?"
"No. Just when I'm here."
She waved a hand. "Goes with the ambiance."
She eyed him. "You're teasing me, aren't you."
"It is a tad covering. Does it go to the floor?"
"Yes," she drawled out.
"Can I see?"
She looked at him uncertainly, then climbed out of bed, the gown falling to her feet.
He grinned. "You can't even see your toes."
"You're definitely teasing me."
"I like your toes. They're cute."
"You like my toes?"
"Thank you." She smiled slyly. "This night gown does have one upside."
"What would that be?" She shifted so she stood directly between him and the lamp. The light turned the thin cotton transparent and Sam could see every curve of her body. He could also see the night gown was the *only* thing she was wearing.
She watched his mouth fall open.
"Not quite as funny now, is it?"
"You like it better now?"
"I'll like it even better off."
She grab handfuls of the cotton and hauled it up, over her head, and tossed it aside.
And Sam just stared.
"Sam? If you're waiting for me to do a dance. . ."
"You *are* breathtaking," he whispered.
She blushed all the way down to her breasts. He stood up, coming close and kissing her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him deeply.
"How thin are these walls?"
"Very thick. It's an old house."
He lifted her up and set her down on the bed. "Good."
She clung to his shoulders. "Yeah."
He kissed the corner of her mouth, her cheek, her throat, working his way down. She wove her hands into his hair, tipping her head back on the down pillow.
"Mmm, and you taste good, too."
"I probably taste like the chocolate cake we had for dessert.
"You smell like peaches."
She made a purring noise of pleasure. "Thank you."
He cupped her breasts in his palms, rubbing his thumbs back and forth across the tips. He really did had rough hands, in a good way.
She shuddered. "Are your fingers like that from the boat?"
"Yeah. All the ropes and stuff. Is. . .does it bother you?"
"No," she whispered. "Feels good."
"Okay." He took one nipple in his mouth.
She gasped, arching up to him. His hand slid down over her stomach, between her legs. She purred again, lifting her hips to him. He stroked her slowly, rubbing one finger over her clit.
She whispered his name, shuddering with growing pleasure. He kissed her, pushing two fingers inside her.
She let out a cry, clutching at him. "Sam," she gasped.
Slowly he withdrew his hands and stood up. "Hang on."
She whimpered. "Where are you going?"
"Condom." He fished his pants off the floor.
"Do you have to?"
He turned around. "What?"
"I'm on the pill, I have been for years. Do you have to wear the condom?"
"I didn't know that. . .what do you mean, do I have to?"
"I know some men prefer them. My last serious guy refused to have sex without one."
The corner of his mouth lifted. "Then he either didn't trust you or he needed. . .help in a certain area."
She frowned, confused. "What?"
He shook his head. "Nevermind. I don't need it unless you want me too."
"I want to feel you," she said softly.
He settled back down onto the bed. "Okay."
"Don't you?" She sounded so uncertain.
He kissed the tip of her nose. "More than anything."
She smiled, kissing his mouth. "Good."
He touched her knee and she opened her legs for him. He kissed her mouth as he pushed inside her. She moaned softly, nails piercing the skin of his shoulders. She smiled at him, kissing him hard.
"You feel. . .really, really good."
She shivered and he felt it where they were connected. "So do you."
He took a deep breath and began to move. She let out a soft, unintelligible noise and arched up to him. She moved with him, slow and steady. He braced his elbows beside her head, feeling her hips rise to meet him. She looked up at him, passion clouding her eyes. Then they fluttered shut as it got too much.
She got tighter around him, and he held his breath. She started to shake and tightened even more. She whispered his name as she came around him, hard. He moved harder and faster, for just a few moments, before he lost whatever control he had and spilled inside her. She held him tight, pressing her face into his shoulder. He signed, lifting his head to kiss her mouth.
She smiled sleepily at him. "That was nice."
"Mmm, nice is an understatement."
"I'm crushing you, aren't I?"
"I like it," she said with a smile.
"You won't if I fell asleep like this."
He rolled off of her without letting her go. She smiled, going to her side to stay in his arms. Sam relaxed, his eyes drifting shut as he breathed in her scent. She settled against him, falling into sleep.
* * *
Ainsley awoke to the nagging feeling that someone was watching her. She assumed it was Sam, but opened her eyes just to check.
And met her sisters amused blue gaze. She sighed. "Hi, Becca."
"Good morning. Hey, Sam."
His eyes opened. "What. . .oh my God." He scrambled backwards, so far and so fast he fell off the opposite side of the bed.
Becca leaned over to peer at him. She smiled a little and looked at Becca. "Didn't that hurt?"
Sam made a noise and yanked the sheet of the bed to cover himself.
Ainsley snorted a little. "Did you want something?"
"Breakfast is served. On the lanai."
"There's French toast."
"We'll be down soon. Go now."
Becca grinned at Sam once more and hopped off the bed, sauntering out.
Sam remained on the floor with his sheet. Ainsley lay on her stomach to look down at him. "Come back here, Sam."
"Nope, I think I'll stay down here."
"Fine, I'll join you." She slid off the bed in a flurry of covers.
He made a oofing noise when she landed on top of him.
She grinned at him. "Morning, Tiger."
"They can't see me here from the door."
"You think someone's going to come at you with a shot gun, don't you."
"It crossed my mind."
"Nana won't let them."
"I'm thinking your dad could kill me with his bare hands." He noticed her kissing his chest. "Umm, Ainsley. . ."
"I love morning sex," she murmured into his skin.
"Oh no, absolutely not. . ."
"Please?" She dipped her tongue in his navel. "You taste good."
"But. . .well. . ." His body was sure interested, anyway. It was making it hard to think.
She smiled. "Oh, don't bother fighting, honey."
She kissed along his hipbone and took him in her mouth. He groaned, closing his eyes. She tortured him a few moments, then climbed up him, sliding him inside. She purred in pleasure, kissing him. He grabbed her hips, moving her faster.
She braced her hands beside his head moving swift and hard she bit her lower lip, driving herself higher.
"Ainsley," he gasped, pulling her down so he could kiss her.
She pushed herself down hard, climaxing hard around him. He jerked up, coming with her. She rested her forehead on his, grinning.
"Well, now I really can't move."
"What about breakfast?"
"I can still move." She sat up.
"And I can starve, huh?"
"I'll bring you a muffin."
"Mmm, okay. No, wait, I can get up."
"So soon?" She asked with a wide grin.
She got up and went to the dresser for clothes.
He sat slowly. "Is it safe?"
"We're alone, Mr. Bond."
"Hey, your ass isn't the one on the line."
She glanced over her shoulder. "You checking out my ass?"
"You just realized that now?"
She beamed. "I never pegged you as an ass man."
"Often times I am. And I also. . ." He frowned. "Hmm, there's no good way to say this."
"Well. . .yeah."
She smiled. "I appreciate it." She pulled on a tank top and shorts. "Are you coming to breakfast nude?"
"Going in my clothes from yesterday probably isn't a good idea either."
"I'm sure everyone's downstairs. You can go change."
He found his clothes on the floor and put them on. "Okay."
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. "Thank you for last night."
"Thank you, too."
She kissed him again and stepped back. "I'll see you downstairs."
He grinned and ducked out
Ainsley went downstairs and ignored the smirks from Becca and Nana. She served herself a stack of French toast, smothering it with jam and syrup. She took a seat next to Nana and began to eat without a word. Sam came down a few minutes later and quietly got breakfast.
Nana looked from one to the other, then broke out in a wide grin. Becca noticed and started to chuckle. Sam turned bright red. Ainsley beamed widely. The rest of the family exchanged glances, came to the same decision and hid their smiles in their breakfast.
Except for Ainsley's father, who was glowering at Sam.
He stared at his plate, not looking at anyone. Ainsley slid a hand over and took his hand squeezing his hand tightly in a sign of solidarity.
Nana reached over and smacked the back of her grandson-in-law's head. "Stoppit. Let the young ones have fun."
"Oh, God," Sam mumbled.
Ainsley wasn't quite sure what to do. She felt horrible he was embarrassed. But this was her family, and she was used to them. She leaned over and kissed him gently, the rested her forehead on his shoulder. The rest of the family smiled at the display of affection and went back to their food so that they were no long the center of attention.
"Is your father going to kill me?" he whispered.
"No. I think he likes you."
"Sam, seriously, don't worry about it."
"Okay," he mumbled.
After dinner her relatives started to trickle out. Ainsley and Sam went upstairs to pack. "Are you okay?"
"They all knew."
"Yeah, Southerns have a sense for this stuff."
"Are you upset?" she asked softly.
She smiled. "Ready to go home, though, huh?"
"Yeah, I really am."
"This will continue when we get home, yes?"
He stopped and looked at her. "Of course."
"You don't care the problems it will cause?"
"It won't be that bad."
She stepped into his arms. "Good."
He kissed the top of her head, holding her close.
"This was a good trip."
"Let's get going. We can get home and. . . celebrate being home."
"Nana must be happy."
"She loves it when he plans work."
"I'm gonna go get my stuff together."
"Me too, I'll meet you downstairs."
Even though she had twice the packing time, Sam was downstairs well before Ainsley.
Nana came in from the kitchen. "Waiting for her to pack?"
He grinned. "Yeah."
"Did you enjoy your stay?"
"Very much so."
"Good. I'm glad. You didn't miss your shot."
He blushed. "No."
"Good boy. I hope she brings you back to see me again."
Sam grinned. "So do I."
Ainsley appeared just then, lugging her suitcase. "Ready?"
He took the suitcase from her. "Ready."
She hugged Nana tightly. "Thank you for having us."
"I always love to see you, darling."
Ainsley kissed her cheek and stepped back. Nana moved and hugged Sam tightly.
"Good grip," he murmured.
"Hush, boy." She pulled his tie so he bent over and kissed his cheek.
"Take care, he said softly.
"You too." She patted his cheek. "You can call me Nana."
He grinned. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Safe trip." She waved from the steps as Sam and Ainsley walked down to the car.