I'm not really sure how I got home tonight. I vaguely remember leaving my basement office in the White House and hailing a taxi, but that's about it. As for the rest, well, it just kind of passed in a haze of regret and recriminations. And now I'm just lying on my couch in my bathrobe -- mine this time and not one borrowed from the women's locker room at the White House -- while my world crashes down around my ears.
Sam was right. I was on an adrenaline high tonight. I thought that I had done so well on 'Capitol Beat'. That had always been a dream of mine, to be in public representing the views of the President of the United States. It hardly seemed to matter at that moment in time that I'm a Republican in a White House of Democrats or that I hadn't really wanted this job in the beginning. *I* was representing the President of the United States. Me, Ainsley Hayes.
After my bravura performance, I had gone out to the sculpture garden to relax and unwind. Nothing wrong with that, right? Nothing except that I had managed to sit on a bench with a wet paint sign, which is how I had ended up out of my clothes and in a bathrobe from the locker room. Then I had decided to have a drink and continue unwinding in the privacy of my office. It's not like anyone ever goes down there anyway. Then Sam showed up.
I guess I was feeling a little tipsy from my drink and the adrenaline rush, because I was dancing around my office, waving my drink, to 'Eso Beso' and trying to get the straight-laced Sam Seaborn to dance with me. I still can' t figure out whether he was amused or embarrassed by my conduct. Sometimes I just can't figure that man out.
I mean, after the way I had showed him up when we first met, you'd think we' d fight like cats and dogs. But he actually defended me when those guys that left that dead plant in my office. What were their names again? Oh, yeah. Joyce and Brookline. Anyway, he fired them. They had lied in testimony before Congress, so that probably had something to do with their being fired. But I'd like to think that their insult towards me had a lot to do with it as well, but I'm not entirely sure why I want to believe that. And I believe he had orchestrated that little get together in my office with the senior staffers when they serenaded me with Gilbert and Sullivan.
Anyway, I was having a lot of fun and I think Sam might even have loosened up eventually, but then everything fell to pieces in about two seconds flat. The President of the United States, whom I'd never met before and who probably scares me more than Lionel Tribbey ever could, just happens to show up in my office in the basement. Had he ever even been in the basement before tonight? The President of the United States came to see me and I came off like a blithering idiot. If he'd offered me a shovel, I would have cheerfully dug myself a hole and buried myself in it.
I couldn't believe that this was happening to me. Just a few hours earlier, I'd been telling Sam that I'd never met the President and that honestly I was scared of meeting him. Then the President just happens to show up in my office? The whole episode had Sam Seaborn written all over it. I honestly don't know if I should kill him for doing that to me or let him off the hook since I know that he thought he was making things easier for me by initiating my first meeting with President Bartlet. I don't know why, but he's really sweet that way.
I guess it doesn't really matter now. I may be the Bartlet administration's token Republican, but I still serve at the pleasure of the President and let 's just say that any confidence the President might have had in my abilities probably disappeared in less time than it takes to say 'bipartisan relations'. I'm surprised there weren't agents or guards or whatever showing up at my office with a box for my things.
I'm startled out of my morose revere by a knock at my door. Lacking any desire to get up and answer the door just to tell whoever it is to go away, I yell out, "Go away. I'm not accepting any visitors." About a half a second after I say it, it occurs to me that the neighbors might not appreciate my shouting at this time of night. But it shouldn't happen again, since the person on the other side of the door probably took the hint.
Then again, maybe not, I think as the knocking starts again. I'm still not getting up to answer it. If I ignore them this time, maybe they'll go away. The knocking stops and just when I start to breathe a sigh of relief, I hear a voice calling, "Ainsley, it's Sam. Please open the door."
I sit straight up on the couch. Sam Seaborn's probably the last person I want to see right now -- well, maybe the second to the last after the President -- but some unknown force compels me off the couch and to the door. I release the chain and lock on the door and open it a crack, attempting to smile at him while my life's falling apart.
When I'd left Ainsley's office earlier, she'd looked frozen, like a deer caught in the headlights. If anything, she looks even worse now, like a lost little girl who's lost everything. I lift up the paper bag I'm carrying and ask in my most sympathetic voice, "May I come in? I brought something for you."
She looks undecided for a moment and I actually worry for about a half-second that she might slam the door in my face. After all, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that I was responsible for tonight's disastrous little meeting. If I were her, I'd probably want to slam the door in my face. But finally, she steps back and pulls the door open enough to let me in, leaving me to close the door and lock it behind me as she walks back to the couch, her shoulders slumped.
I sit down next to her on the couch and set the bag on coffee table in front of us, but she makes no move to take it and see what's inside. Instead, she 's leaning back against the back of the couch and looking down at her hands in her lap. I might sit here all night watching her be depressed, so I begin in my most apologetic voice, hoping to break the ice, "Ainsley, I'm sorry. . . ."
Suddenly, she jumps up from the couch and begins pacing in front of me on the other side of the coffee table. It's a reaction. Not quite the reaction I was looking for, but a reaction nonetheless. Now the question is, what kind of reaction am I looking for from Ainsley Hayes?
"Sorry?" she exclaims, turning sharply on her bare foot to cross in front of me again. "What exactly are you sorry for? Sorry that I hadn't met the President? Sorry for setting up that little meeting? Sorry that I was so humiliated? Tell me, Sam. What exactly are you sorry for?"
I guess I deserve all that, all that and more. I shrug and reply, "I don't know exactly. All of it, I guess. But I didn't exactly set up that meeting. I merely suggested to President Bartlet that you have worked at the White House for three months and hadn't met him yet and that if he ran into you in the halls, he should introduce himself and tell you what a good job you're doing for us. I didn't expect him to show up in your office like that." Okay, so I didn't put it quite like that, but I'd never *really* expected him to repeat that 'sex kitten' remark.
She stops her pacing and turns to look at me, her hands folded across her chest, her expression torn between castigating me some more or apologizing for her outburst. After a long moment, neither of us looking away from the other, she flops back down on the couch, playing with the belt of her robe as she looks down at her lap again. "I never thought I'd care this much," she says softly, her voice trembling.
"Care this much about what?" I ask. I hate the forlorn expression on her face. I hate the fact that I'm the one responsible for it. I want so much to take her in my arms and make that expression go away. Only, I can't figure out why. She may have annoyed the hell out of me when we met, but I' d like to think we've become friends over the last few months. And that's all we are, right? If it were CJ or Donna sitting next to me, I'd want to comfort them too, but not that much. I just can't figure out why I care so much more what Ainsley thinks and feels.
"I'm not sure," she replies, her voice still soft and tiny and I have to strain to hear her. "All of this. It's always been my dream to work for the President of the United States. I just never thought it'd be for a Democratic President and a Democratic administration. I didn't even want this job in the beginning. After I did accept it, I figured 'It's just a job'."
"No, it's not," I reply, cupping her chin in my hand and turning her head so I can look her in the eyes. Her eyes are glistening with unshed tears and it hits me hard, in ways that I'm not sure I want to even think about. "Working for the White House is never just a job."
"I know," she agrees, smiling weakly at me. "And all of you have been so wonderful to me, despite our rocky start. Well, maybe not Mr. Tribbey, but. . . .I love my job. It may not have been what I've always envisioned for myself, but I do love my job. And now I may have just lost it."
"Ainsley, nobody's going to fire you," I assure her, rubbing my thumb across her chin. I'm not sure why I'm doing that, but it feels good to touch her, too good to stop. "You're bright and intelligent and articulate -- most of the time -- and you're an excellent attorney. So you had a bad night tonight. Everybody has one once in a while, even the President of the United States."
"Yeah, but the President of the United States didn't just embarrass himself tonight in front of his boss," she replies.
"Yeah, but remember, you're talking about the same President who had an accident on his bicycle," I reply, grinning. She manages to respond just a little to the joke and I breathe a little sigh of relief. Maybe I can cheer her up yet.
She turns her head away and I drop my hand, flexing my fingers nervously. I'm not sure why I should be nervous around her, but I am. She finally looks at the bag on the table, fingering the brown paper. "So what did you bring me?" she asks.
"Why don't you open it and find out?" I counter, taking the bag and setting it on her lap. She slowly lifts the flap on the bag and peaks inside, then lets out a little squeal of delight.
"Fresca!" she exclaims delightedly, lifting the six pack of cans out of the bag. "Why would you bring me Fresca?"
"Well, I know you like it and you always complain that you can't get it at the snack bar," I explain, pleased with her enthusiastic response. "So I thought it would cheer you up." It's different, but then again, so is Ainsley. And her reaction is all the confirmation I need that I made a good choice.
"Thank you," she says, setting the six pack and the bag back on the table and wrapping her arms around my neck. I'm momentarily startled, but then I pull her closer and return the hug with enthusiasm.
After a moment, she pulls back slightly and manages at last to give me a genuine smile. "That's the sweetest thing. . . ." she says. Then I'm startled once again when she leans towards me, pressing her lips to mine in a gentle kiss.
I'm kissing Sam Seaborn. Oh, my God. I'm kissing Sam Seaborn! I should put a stop to this. I don't know what has come over me. We shouldn't be doing this. But the rest of my body isn't listening to my mind's rationalizations and I deepen the kiss, pressing myself even closer to him as I part my lips, accepting his tongue's gentle invasion. He tastes so good, just as I've always imagined he would, and I find that I need more -- so much more. I want to feel and taste everything about him.
I cling to him, my fingers clutching his suit coat as his fingers tangle in my hair. I close my eyes, losing myself to the sensations of his mouth moving hungrily over mine, to the tightening in the pit of my stomach. So lost am I that it takes a moment for it to register when he breaks off the kiss. My eyelids flutter open and I look into his eyes intently. There's a strange light in his eyes that I've never seen before and it startles me as I realize that he's as caught up in the emotions swirling between us as I am.
Nervously, I bit my lower lip and say, almost apologetically, "I don't know what just came over me." Yes, I do, but now that reason is returning, I'm not so sure if all this is such a good thing.
"Yes, you do," he replies, tracing my lips with a finger. My lips part just a little and I lick my lips, my tongue brushing against his fingertip. I want to taste more but I'm afraid that if I ask for more. I might wake up and find that this is all just a dream, as it has been so many times before. "You've got to admit there's always been sparks between us."
"I showed you up on national television the first time we met," I whisper, my mind still trying to override my body's desires. But it's not working and I really don't want it to. I just want him. I think I have since the beginning.
"A little humility's a good thing," he replies. I'm not so sure he believes that, but it's sweet of him to say and it makes me fall just a little bit further. "I mean, you're beautiful, smart, passionate in your beliefs. . . ."
"Which are different than yours," I interrupt, even though I could care less about that right now. Republicans, Democrats, none of it means anything. But this thing between us, it could mean everything.
"Does that really matter right now?" he counters, his other hand playing with the end of my robe's belt. I take in a deep breath, willing him to pull it free and to take what I'd so willingly offer to him.
"No, it doesn't," I reply. The hand by my mouth moves and his arm is around my shoulders, pulling me hard against him once more as his mouth swoops down over mine again, his kiss hungrier and more insistent. I moan a little against him as I feel the cool room air against my bare skin where my robe has fallen open, the belt having been unfastened, and I realize that he does want this as much as I do. My hands slip into the small space between us and I fumble with the buttons of his coat, but I can't seem to get my fingers to work properly.
His lips have left mine to nuzzle against my cheek as his hands move over my stomach and something deep inside tightens in anticipation. "Shall we take this to the bedroom?" he asks, his hot breath causing a tingling sensation that I don't want to let go of. I wonder if we could lock ourselves away and forget all about the outside world and everything that should come between us. But I won't think about that now.
I rise from the couch, pulling him up with me, his mouth never breaking contact with my skin as we stumble towards the bedroom. Finally, I manage to get the buttons of his coat undone and I push it off his shoulders, stopping there so that he doesn't have to remove his roving hands from me, not yet anyway. I'm not ready to give up the sensation of a thousand nerve endings all humming in excitement and desire at his gentle, but insistent touch.
Before I realize we're there, we are tumbling onto the bed, our mouths fusing together again as we roll over so that I'm on top of him, my stomach pressed against the hard bulge in his pants. I rock against him, taking delight in the harsh moan he offers. I lift my head up, my breath sounding harsh to my ears, just studying him, memorizing every curve and contour of his face. If we never experience this again, I want my memories to last me a lifetime.
He rolls us over again and I instinctively wrap my legs around his, not carrying that he's still fully dressed. He studies me for a moment as I studied him and I dare to hope that this isn't just a roll in the hay for him either. The spell is broken when he asks, almost nervously, "Are you. . . .is it okay. Protection, I mean."
It amazes me that Sam Seaborn, of all people, would be nervous about something like that. It's not like he's never done this before. In fact, one of his relationships ended up becoming quite public. But it touches me in a way that I'm not really sure I can explain. "It's fine," I assure him, not explaining further. I don't really want to think about the practicalities of the situation right now. Actually, I don't want to think at all.
He takes me at my word and then he's kissing me, driving all thoughts from my mind, leaving nothing but pure emotion. I arch against him as he slides down my body, his mouth latching on one hardened nipple, gently tugging. I gasp a little as I prop myself up on my elbows, allowing me to reach for his zipper. I manage not to fumble too much as I unfasten his belt, pulling it from the loops before tossing it aside. As his mouth continues to work it's magic, his hands join mine and he helps me unfasten his pants. I slip my hands inside, starting at the back, moving over firm muscles, moving forward until one hand covers his hardening erection, straining to be released. I can feel his breath catch as I move my hand up and down, massaging him harder.
He pulls away from me and moves off the bed, swiftly removing his clothes as I sit up, shrugging the robe from my shoulders. I bit my lower lip as he stands before me in all his glory. Suddenly a bit nervous, I reach out hesitantly and touch him, trailing my fingers lightly up and down his length. He's large, but not overly so, well proportioned to the rest of him. I look up at him and tell him, "You're beautiful." I'm sure it's not quite what he was expecting to hear, but I think he blushes slightly at the compliment. Or maybe it's a trick of the moonlight streaming through the window. I can imagine anything in the moonlight.
"So are you," he returns, leaning over me as I fall back onto the bed. His mouth promptly finds my other breast, repeating the same slow torture as before while I close my eyes, my hands moving over his strong back, committing to memory how he feels under my fingertips, the soft moans he makes as he responds to my caress.
So wrapped up in my explorations, I barely notice as he moves down my body, my hands automatically moving up as he moved down. But then his mouth nuzzles my dripping center and I nearly come up off the bed, my hands curling around the bed covers as his tongue moves against me, lapping up my juices. Then he finds my clitoris and flicks the tip of his tongue against it. "Oh, Sam," I gasp in a voice I don't even recognize. Did that heavy, languid sound really come from me? I've imagined this so many times in the last few months, but the reality is so much more than I ever thought it would be.
My body tenses with the coming explosion, but I fight against it. The feeling is intense, but I still want more. I want to be wrapped around him, to fall with him as he takes me over the edge for the first time. There'll be time later for other things, or I hope there will be. Wrapped up in the heady sensation of passion, I can believe that this can and will last forever.
"I want," I murmur, my mind blanking as he drives me ever so close to oblivion.
He lifts his head and I moan at the loss. I force my eyes to open and find him looking at me intently, his face damp. "Tell me what you want," he encourages me.
The fog lifts from my brain just enough for me to manage to mumble, "Inside me. I want you inside me."
He smiles just a little as he moves over me, propping himself up on an elbow as he brushes my hair from my face. He's so tender, much more so than I imagined. I have to believe that this is just a beginning. I lift my hips against his and he easily slips inside me as I exhale a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding.
I pull my lip between my teeth as he begins to move against me, wanting to close my eyes and concentrate only on the torrent of feelings being unleashed, but I can't tear myself away from his unwavering gaze. His eyes are beautiful too, glittering and growing darker with passion, and I want to memorize this part of him too.
I move my hips against his in perfect time to his thrusts, growing harder and faster the closer we get to paradise. His lips part slightly, his breath coming in sharp pants as his body tenses, but I beat him there, quaking hard as my climax rips through me, tearing a harsh cry from my lips. One last firm push and he's unleashing everything he has into me, his entire body trembling as he collapses against me.
My hands slowly move over his back, offering comfort as he comes back down from the intense high. We lie here for a moment, neither of us apparently willing to tear ourselves away from this. But eventually we must pull away. But not now. He rolls us over so the I'm resting on top of him, my head on his shoulder. I close my eyes and try not to think about what tomorrow, and reality, might bring to us.
Ainsley looks a little surprised when I walk into the bedroom, wearing my shirt and pants from last night, carrying two cups of coffee, a garment bag hanging from one finger. She sits up in bed, pulling the sheet up under her arms, as I hold out one cup to her which she accepts with a small smile. I lay the garment bag down at the foot of the bed and sit on the edge of the bed next to her, sipping my own coffee as I watch her over the rim of my mug. Does she regret what happened between us last night? I can't quite interpret the look in her eyes and it worries me more than I ever thought it would.
"Thank you," she says, taking a cautious sip. She meets my gaze and begins, "I thought. . . .no, I'm sorry. I shouldn't say what I was about to say." She looks down at the cup in her hands, suddenly unable to look me in the eye.
"Thought what?" I ask. "That I would be gone when you got up?" Or did she hope that I would be gone? I don't really want to think about that possibility, but I just might have to.
"No, not really," she replies, her words tumbling out as they usually do when she's nervous. "I didn't think you'd be gone. . . .well, maybe I did, but not because I thought you'd left. I thought I'd wake up and this would all be a dream and you had never been here at all and that none of this had happened and. . . ."
Once Ainsley gets started like this, she's often hard to stop, so I do the only thing I can think of to shut her up. I kiss her. When I pull back, I smile and ask, "Now, did that feel like it was a dream?"
"No," she says quietly, her voice hopeful. "I. . . .I just was worried. . . ."
"Sometimes you worry too much," I counter, my smile taking any sting she might get from my words. "I couldn't just leave, not after last night. Not after what we shared."
"I wasn't sure," she begins, the doubt creeping back into her voice. "I wasn't sure if you had really wanted this or this was just some kind of comfort after what had happened."
"Ainsley," I say, setting my mug on the nightstand, then taking hers from her hands and setting it aside as well. I brush her hair back from her face as I continue, "When I said last night that there have always been sparks between us, I meant it and not just in a Republican/Democrat butting heads kind of way. I like you. A lot."
"I like you, too," she tells me. "I think I always have, even when I was wiping the floor with you and you looked so shell shocked about it." She laughs at her joke and I join in, relieved that she seems to be relaxing.
"So would you like to go out with me?" I ask, the words out of my mouth before I really have a chance to think about what I'm saying. I'm not usually one who just goes on instinct, I can't in my job, but it feels so right in this case.
"'Go out with you'?" she echoes, looking stunned by the question, even as I see a hopeful light in her eyes. "You mean, like on a date? Isn't it a little late. . . . I mean, don't people usually date before they do, well, this?" She gestures at the bed, blushing a little.
"I hardly think we're conventional people," I counter, "not with each other at least. But I don't want you to think that. . . .well, I know you were hurting last night and it might have occurred to you that this was just comfort sex or something like that."
"The thought never occurred to me," she replies. "I just was afraid to hope that this was any more than a wonderful dream. So now what?"
"Well, unfortunately, there's some stuff going on at the White House and I really need to get in early," I tell her sadly. I wish I could just spend the day her with her, but my job doesn't allow me that luxury. But someday soon, I intend to make that up to her. I gesture towards the garment bag. "But we'll come back to this and soon. I usually keep a change of clothes in my car. I never know when I might be stuck pulling an all-nighter or have to stay overnight somewhere suddenly. So if I could just borrow your shower. . . ."
"What do you mean 'no'?" I ask, surprised at the decline. Then she laughs, a beautiful sound that has me smiling.
She wraps her arms around my neck and leans close to me, her lips just millimeters from mine. "You can't borrow it," she explains, smiling. "But I wouldn't mind if you'd like to join me for my shower."