This is just a big piece of nothin' that came about when I was bored in school.

Early Morning Traditions and Surprises

By Red

Disclaimer: The West Wing gang don't belong to me and thank goodness they don't. I'd probably lose one or two of them somewhere in the chaos that is my study.

Author's Note: This came to me after discussing "And Surely." with some other Sam fans.

SPOILERS for "And Surely.", "In This White House", "The Midterms" and everything before that in a general way of speaking. This is *not* a romance story, but there is friendship and hints of attraction.

* * * * * *

She told herself that leggy blondes didn't stay that way without exercising at least a little. Even then, it wasn't really enough to drag herself out of bed and get into her jogging outfit. But the cute guy she always managed to encounter while on her jog was.

With a groan, Ainsley rolled out of bed and stumbled over to her dresser to yank out her sports bra and the matching shorts. It wasn't really warm enough outside for the outfit, but she knew if she got to working hard enough, she'd appreciate the cooler clothes.

Within ten minutes she was out the door and headed for her car. She lived in a nice neighborhood, but there was very little in the way of decent scenery so she traditionally drove over to the Potomac where she could follow - she shied away from the word "stalk" - the gorgeous man she had encountered since the first time she had gone for a run there.

The drive was just long enough to warrant her taking the car instead of running over. The moment she was parked, she was out of the car and scanning the vicinity to see if he was around. The path alongside the river's banks was a long one, but she was confidant she'd find him - she always did.

A slow smile replaced her worried frown when a dark-haired man of average height rounded the nearest bend and came into view. It was him. She felt the familiar surge of attraction before she gave way to a scowl of annoyance. As usual, he was hidden behind sunglasses, a baseball cap, a hooded sweatshirt, and track pants. Why was he so modest? She was sure he had nothing to hide. She could tell, even with her limited view, that he had to have a great body.

With a sigh she stretched, watching carefully as he passed by. She hurried through her routine and casually trotted over to the path. As usual, her timing was excellent and rewarded her with the perfect view of his backside as they ran. Getting up early enough for a jog before work was well worth this show.

They jogged along for half and hour without incident. As relieved as she was that he was somehow oblivious to her always being behind him every day, she sometimes wished he'd turn around and notice her.

Of course, as soon as she had the thought, she'd lock it away and kick herself. She wasn't like this. She wasn't needy or horny. She didn't drool and moon over random men she caught sight of in a park. But, even so, she found herself out and about at 5:00 in the morning to catch a glimpse of her jogger. There was just something so appealing about him that drew her to him.

Lost in her thoughts, it took her almost a full minute to realize he was on the ground only a few yards down the path. Eyes wide, she sprinted up to him without thinking.

"Oh my God, are you all right?" she asked breathlessly when she arrived at his side where he was still lying on the ground.

The man groaned but nodded slowly. "Yeah, wasn't watching where I was going." he trailed off as he twisted to face her.

Ainsley stared in shock, her eyes unblinking as she shook her head. "Sam? What are you doing here?" she demanded accusingly. She stood with her hands on her hips, glaring down at him.

Sam frowned as he slipped his sunglasses off to get a better look at her. "Gee I don't know, Ainsley. I *thought* I was going for a morning jog, though it's possible I could be wrong. What did you *think* I was doing?" His cheeks were flushed with exertion and embarrassment, and even in her shock and indignation, Ainsley had to admit that it made him look even cuter.

'Even cuter?' her mind screamed. 'Sam Seaborn is *not* cute!' She shook her head. "I guess I just didn't recognize you, on account of your hat. and sunglasses. Are you planning on robbing a store Sam, because if you are, I think I should advise you as an Assistant Counsel member that - "

"Shut up, Ainsley," Sam grunted, interrupting her. Self-consciously he removed his San Francisco 49ers hat and set it on the ground next to his sunglasses. Running a hand through his hair restlessly, he looked around. "I really gotta stop coming here."

Ainsley watched him try to stand for a moment before she bent down and grabbed his elbow to help him. She still couldn't believe that her handsome jogger was none other than Sam Seaborn. "Why *do* you wear all this, Sam? It's really not that cold enough to warrant a sweatshirt, even though it is November, and it's too early for the sun to come out." she let her voice peeter out as he glared up at her.

Wincing as he stood and found that he couldn't put any weight on his right ankle, Sam sighed heavily. "I used to jog here without them, but then a few people recognized me and I really don't like being followed, you know?" he looked over at her and raised an eyebrow at her blush. "Ainsley? Something the matter?" he asked, shifting from annoyance to concern.

Shaking her head, the blond waved off his question. "What's wrong with your ankle? You're favoring it Sam. Did you sprain it? If you did you should really go to the hospital and get it looked at, trust me. These kinds of things can turn ugly fast."

"I'll go to the hospital, ok?" Sam relented, cutting her off again. She was a likeable enough person, he supposed, but they really did have to do something about the way she rambled. She was worse than him that way.

Ainsley nodded, biting her lip. She shivered briefly in the cold morning air and stared absently-mindedly at the way his hair was sticking in every which direction now.

They stood there in silence for a few moments before Sam cleared his throat and met her eyes hesitantly. "Uh. Ainsley, do you think you could drive me? I don't think I could with how much my ankles hurting right now."

She stared at him for another minute before shaking herself out of her daze. "Sure, Sam. Um, did you drive here?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah, did you?"

Ainsley nodded back. "We can leave my car here. It really isn't that big and it might be uncomfortable for you to sit in with your ankle hurting." she trailed off uncomfortably.

"Sure," he muttered. He watched as she stooped to pick up his hat and glasses and then tried taking a step without putting pressure on his right foot. "Ow!" he cursed. "Dammit, that hurt!"

Ainsley was at his side in an instant, gripping his elbow and holding him upright. "Here, let me help you," she offered solicitously. He nodded as he regained his balance. Hesitantly she slid one arm around his waist and drew his arm around her shoulders, suddenly conscious of how little she was wearing. Swallowing her embarrassment, she helped him hobble back down the path towards the parking lot of the park.

It took them ten minutes when it should have taken them two had they been jogging. They were both panting when they reached Sam's silver Durango. He leaned against the hood of the SUV for a moment as he fished out his keys from one pocket and tossed them to her.

Efficiently she unlocked the passenger-side door and helped him up into the seat, and then rounded the vehicle to get in herself. "To the hospital we go," she murmured as she started the engine.

* * * * * *

"I can't believe it takes that long to take X-rays," Sam grumbled as Ainsley drove them to his apartment. "Three hours. You realize that we're now spectacularly late now, right?"

Ainsley nodded, all to aware of their current truant state. She was just glad she didn't have to check in with anyone necessarily when she got to work. Unless Lionel Tribby had actually come looking for her, she could just sneak down into her basement office unnoticed. She winced as she glanced over at the man next to her. She knew he had probably missed several important meetings already and Leo and Toby would probably be waiting to dig into him as soon as he walked - or hobbled - in.

"I'm sorry I've made you late for work," he sighed.

Smiling, Ainsley shook her head. "It's all right. I doubt anyone will notice." She really didn't mind. Their morning adventure had given her new insight to the man she had previously associated with arrogance, an inflated ego, and a contemptuous outlook. Sam had none of those things at all. He was the furthest from having any of them that she had ever encountered. It was refreshing.

An incessant beeping shattered the peace of their quiet drive. "I was wondering when they'd get around to hounding me," Sam muttered to himself as he twisted around in his seat to grab his pager from where it lay on the car's floor in the back. Realigning himself in his seat without bumping his foot, he read the message left for him.

"Oh hell," he groaned.

"What?" Ainsley asked worriedly, glancing over at him in concern briefly.

Sam ran a hand up his face and into his hair. "There's a situation back at the White House with Josh. They want us both back there now."

"It said all that?" she asked incredulously. It had looked like a short message.

Sam smiled at her. "It was in short hand. You'd better take a right up here. It's the fastest way."

Ainsley nodded and did just that before something occurred to her. Eyes wide with horror, she turned her head to face him. "Sam, I can't go in like this! I'm hardly clothed!"

Raising an eyebrow, Sam looked her over. "You can go out in public like that, run in front of dozens of perfect strangers, and wait around in a crowded hospital like that without a care, but you can't go into work?"

Biting her lip, Ainsley took a sharp turn at the next light. "Sam, it's the White House! There's such a thing as decorum! I can't waltz in there looking like this! I can't!"

Sam shrugged, laughing now. "Sure you can. Once Josh passed out drunk in his office and he had to wear my foul weather gear for a meeting with this woman, Joey Lucas."

"This isn't funny Sam!"

Stifling his laughter with great effort, Sam sighed. "Don't worry about it. If it makes you feel any better, I've got a jacket in back you can wear, so you'll only have to worry about the shorts."

Ainsley calmed herself and nodded, concentrating on her driving, trying to remember all the correct turns. Something else occurred to her suddenly. "They asked for both of us?"


She frowned in thought. "How'd they know I was with you?" she asked anxiously.

Sam shrugged nonchalantly. "They probably just guessed since we were both gone. I don't know, Ainsley, but I wouldn't worry about it. It's not like we can get in trouble. well, too much trouble."

Drooping back into her seat, Ainsley wished she weren't driving so she could curl up in a little ball. "How can I not worry about it, Sam? Not only does the Senior Staff, and most likely the President as well, think that I'm playing hooky, but they think I'm playing hooky with you!"

"You don't want to play hooky with me?" Sam asked, shooting her a hurt look.

"You know that's not what I meant," she groaned, making another sharp turn and almost hitting the car in front of them that wasn't going as fast. Quick breaking and sturdy seatbelts saved their lives.

With a death grip on the "oh shit" handle, Sam eyed her. "You're really stressed out, you know that? You need to learn how to relax."

She shot him a look. "Look who's talking Mr. Ballistic. I get some dead flowers and you run off and start firing people. Do you realize what kind of rumors you've started?"

Sam grinned. "Get used to it. Rumors spread like the plague in the West Wing. And I was only sticking up for you. No one should be working in the White House, let alone my bullpen, if they're pulling stunts like that."

As he spoke, Ainsley divided her attention between watching the road and watching him. Sometimes he forgot that he really was in a position of authority. He never acted like it. It struck her as odd, and a bit intriguing.

The rest of the drive was passed in silence until they arrived in the White House parking lot. Gingerly, Sam slid out of the car and pulled his crutches and a jean jacket from the back. He smiled as Ainsley shrugged it on. It looked like she had raided her father's closet.

He was still smiling, much to Ainsley's dismay, as they made their way quickly as possible from the sign-out station to the Roosevelt Room where they had been directed by the Secret Service.

"What the hell?" Josh exclaimed, startled, as they burst through the doors. Leo, CJ, Toby and the President all stared wide-eyed at them.

Blushing furiously, Ainsley found herself for once unable to speak, and had to turn to Sam with a pleading look. "We were out jogging, and I tripped and sprained my ankle," Sam explained with a smile. "Ainsley happened upon me by coincidence and was nice enough to take me to the hospital. We were on our way back when you paged me." He eyed them. "What's the emergency?"

* * * * * *

Glancing up as Ainsley entered his office, Sam smiled warmly at her and gestured for her to take a seat. She gladly did, draping herself in the chair in front of his desk, wrapping his jacket around herself tightly.

"It's over?" he asked hopefully.

Ainsley nodded with a sigh, rolling her head on her shoulders. "Yes it's over. Finally. You guys have a real knack for getting into trouble, you know that? I haven't even had time to go home and change yet. Does trouble just come looking for you?"

Chuckling, Sam shook his head and stood to round the desk. It took all his concentration not to trip on his crutches in the small space. Leaning against the desk's front edge, facing her, he folded his arms over his chest and shrugged. "I think it pretty much knows where I am most of the time. Josh it must have a tracking device for."

As drained as she was, Ainsley had to laugh at that. "You never get tired, do you?" she asked with an arched eyebrow, eyeing the way that he still managed to look energetic and upbeat, even dressed in running clothes and after hours of non-stop rescue work.

"Oh I get tired," Sam assured her. "I've just learned how not to make it so obvious all the time." He grinned mischievously. "We can't all drag ourselves around like zombies," he laughed, pointing to behind her, outside his office.

Ainsley turned and shared his laughter as she caught sight of Toby and Josh dragging themselves through the bullpen, grumbling to themselves, slumped over, and snapping at any junior staffers foolish enough to approach them.

"Can you imagine what it'd be like if the *entire* Senior Staff were like that? Toby and Josh regress into. well, that," he gestured out at them, "Leo's kind enough to hide from us most of the time when he gets tired, but otherwise all that happens with him is that his temper worsens." He snickered as Ainsley winced. "CJ gets on a caffeine high, or drunk. I've never been sure which. But she's pretty much out of it most of the time."

"And what about you? What do you do when you get tired?"

Sam grinned and shrugged. "Me? I sleep with call girls and hit on my boss' various female family members."

Ainsley stared at him. "You're joking, right?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah. When I do that, I'm wide-awake. Actually, Toby says I'm my most coherent when I'm running low on sleep."

Standing, Ainsley stretched. "Well what do you say I drive you home, and then catch a cab to my car? I've never wanted to leave this place in so much of a hurry before."

Sam turned to his desk and started gathering his things. "What? Has the mystical air already faded for you?"

Ainsley took his briefcase from him helpfully as they left his office. "After a day like this? Yes."

Their laughter trailed after them as they left the building. They never noticed the heads that turned as they passed, or the bemused expressions of the rest of the Senior Staff at their friendly banter. A bond was forming between the two isolated staffers - the baby and the Republican. No one else could really understand it, and for once that bothered neither of them.





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