Disclaimers/etc: see part 1
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(cue Donna's voice) Previously, in "What Kind of Fool Am I?"...

C.J. talks with both Sam and Donna to decide what they're going to do. They both admit that That Night didn't feel like a fluke. Sam is fully ready to go talk to Josh - when he opens the door and guess who's heard everything?.....

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Josh wandered idly, pain wrought full upon his face. What the hell was happening? His best friend and his assistant... no, this wasn't the Twilight Zone. Josh pinched himself just to be sure. Ow.

He wandered aimlessly, not wanting to go back to his office. Everything was different. It was like waking up in a new world, and he was still a bit blind.

How, how could they have done this to him? he wondered. They knew he would feel betrayed, and Sam knew damn well how he felt about Donna. But –

Josh stopped himself as he realized where he was. Subconsciously, he'd wandered down to the basement. And he now stood right in front of the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue. Without thinking he pushed open the door.

Ainsley jumped when she saw him walk in. "Omigod, Josh!" A hand flew to her chest. "You scared me."

"Sorry."

Once recovered, Ainsley seemed more herself. Josh was struck anew by how much she looked like Donna. "Something I can help you with, Josh?"

"Yeah, actually." Josh hesitated for a moment, then, to his surprise, told Ainsley the entire tale.

Ainsley didn't look surprised when Josh finished. "I can't say that's a shock," she said grimly. "I knew he wasn't interested in me anymore after this morning. We had a meeting and he didn't even look my way."

"Really?" Josh felt doubly stupid. "I didn't guess."

Ainsley shrugged. "What can you do?"

"Not a lot, I s'pose." Josh's tone was nonchalant, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to tell that he was bleeding.

Ainsley spoke gently. "Josh, things happen."

That got him. "What exactly does that mean; can you tell me?" Josh sighed. "Things happen. No shit, Sherlock. But why do things happen and why is my best friend falling for my assistant?"

There was only response for Ainsley. "Josh," she said quietly, "why do you care at all?"

He had been about to expound further, but the soft question stopped him cold. "Why do I care who Donna dates?" Josh echoed. "Because she's my assistant." It sounded weak, but it was the best he had. "If she's unhappy, she won't work well, and then my days will be chaos."

"But Sam isn't like the so-aptly-named "gomers" that Donna dates."

"You know what, Ainsley? In my opinion, a gomer is anyone she dates who isn't –"

Josh stopped dead just as the look on Ainsley's face gave him away. "Josh," her eyes said, "talk to her." She knew damn well what he'd been about to say: *A gomer is anyone she dates who isn't me.*

Slowly he shook his head. Yes. I'll talk to her.

"Good." And with that Ainsley turned back to her work, leaving Josh a bit stunned.

"Ainsley," he said, "aren't you going to go after Sam? I mean, aren't you going to talk to him?"

She pushed her glasses on top of her head. "Josh, you know what?" She shrugged. "I'm a pragmatist. If it's happening this way, it's happening this way for a reason. There are other men."

Josh was a bit put off. "Ainsley... forgive me... but that sounds... well, cold."

"I know." The look she gave him triggered something in the depths of his mind. Smiling sadly, Ainsley told him, "Call it a coping mechanism." She paused. "I liked him a lot, but I'm not about to get into a girl fight over Sam. Besides," she added, genuine smile creeping across her face, "it must be something subconscious, but Donna *does* look a lot like me."

Josh had to laugh. "It's subconscious." He looked at the Republican with a new measure of – oh, God, was that *respect?*

Ainsley saw it as well, and looked away. "Josh," she said, sensing the awkwardness between them, "will you go talk to your assistant?"

"Yeah, I will." As Josh headed for the door, though, he turned back, wearing a small smile. "You realize that I'm going to have to owe you here."

Ainsley's grin was eloquent. "Why else do you think I helped you?" She twirled a pencil idly between her fingers. "I was close to kicking you out of my office. Such as it is."

"Really." But all the mirth was gone from Josh's voice as he finished. "Thanks, Ainsley. Really."

She shrugged. "Nothing you all wouldn't do for me."

That sounded hollow to Josh's ears, and for the first time he felt a bit ashamed. *Wise up, Lyman,* he told himself, chagrined. *Republicans are people too. We gotta help her out a little more.*

"Hey, Josh," Ainsley said by way of a goodbye. "One more thing."

"Yeah."

"You really were a good date."

Josh, for the first time in a long time, didn't know what to say.

"Goodbye, Josh." Ainsley waved him out and turned back to her work. He left, lost in thought.

She's not so bad after all.

Now to talk to Donna.

Chapter 9

 

 

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