TITLE: "After Hours"
AUTHOR: Wolf of a Star
RATING: G, I think? Just some curse words, so maybe PG.
ARCHIVE: Sure, what the hell.
CATEGORY: A day at work, just a little late, so people are less inhibited. These people all need to switch to decaf.
DISCLAIMER: They're Aaron's, I'm just putting down what I think would happen if Ainsley was deprived of sugar and everyone was up too late for their own good. By the way, I know nothing "happened" between Sam and Ainsley, but they make a damned cute couple.
SUMMARY: First person from Ainsley's point of view. Nothing else told!
FEEDBACK: Greatly appreciated. firstname.lastname@example.org
"Oh, and Ainsley? I want a speech for tomorrow's banquet on my desk by tomorrow morning."
I protest feebly. "Sir, it's eleven. You want it done by tomorrow morning?"
He gives me the look. "Yes. Tomorrow morning. You're a big girl, you can handle it." He sweeps out of the room, leaving me a little stunned behind him.
Oh, great. Like I don't have enough things going on, without my boss trying to kill me with work. And if it has anything to do with the fact that I'm the only Republican in the building….Well, of course it does. Just look at my excuse for an office! No self-respecting janitor would accept this as his office, let alone a lawyer who graduated with honors from Harvard!
I sigh to myself and turn back to my laptop. The air-conditioning vents are rumbling above me like usual, as I finish one page, then the next, then the next. They're sort of loud, but I've gotten used to it-sort of. If anyone can get used to loud air-conditioning vents above your head. I glance at the clock on my laptop reflexively. The numbers stare unfeelingly back at me. Wow, I think. Midnight, exactly. I've never been here that late.
The vents suddenly stop.
I look up, a little frightened. The silence is so pervasive you could probably hear my heart beating across the hallway-if there was anything across the hallway, of course, besides a brick wall. There is no sound whatsoever in the room.
"Okay, Ainsley, think rationally," I reassure myself out loud. "They must automatically shut off the vents in the West Wing at 12 AM, because no one sane is here that late." My voice is echoing. Screw this. I unplug my laptop prepare to haul it up ten floors to the bullpen near the Oval Office. At least more insane people will be up there, I rationalize.
Five minutes and three elevators later, I am in Sam's office. His stuff is still here, so he's occupied somewhere, and it was the only desk available, I tell myself. Of course, there's just no way that there might be some other reason-some other personal reason that I'm in Sam's office.
I'm still arguing with myself, when Donna melodramatically flings open the door, and then stops short upon seeing me. You know, she's sort of insecure about the fact that I look almost exactly like her. Well, how many blondes with alabaster skin are there in the world, after all?
"Ainsley? What are you doing up here so late? Sorry for disturbing you, by the way." She's contrite.
"Just working. It was getting lonely down there," I admit. "Why are you still here?"
Donna rolled her eyes playfully. "Josh has taken it upon himself to teach me how to waltz before I leave today, so I'm trying to find sedatives."
"Yeah. Isn't he totally cracked?" she remarks with pride. I stifle a laugh and turn back to tapping on the keyboard, and silently sing to myself, Donna and Josh, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Not like I'm complaining. She can have Josh. Although it appeared that she had always had Josh.
Donna is looking at me a little strangely, and I hastily wonder if I had really said all of that to myself. I can hear Josh yell, "Donna? Donna!"
"You better run," I stage-whisper.
Donna smiles dreamily. "Maybe one day I'll let him catch me…"
I roll my eyes. Good Lord, how obvious can she be? I continue the speech, except now I'm editing. Goddamn it, there's another mistake. What time is it?
The tapping of the keys was just starting to wear on my nerves when the door of the office next door-separated by a very thin wall, I might add-slammed. I winced, involuntarily shifting my fingers and creating an incomprehensible scrawl of a word after the phrase, "Our goals…"
"SAM!" yells Toby's unmistakable voice. I wince again. It appears that Toby has been deprived of coffee…or maybe sugar. Maybe there's a candy bar somewhere I can give him. The door to my temporary refuge is unceremoniously flung open. Toby does a double-take, then asks, "What the hell are you doing here? Where's Sam? Where's CJ? Why the hell am I up at 12:30 AM? What is happening to the world?"
"I can answer one of those. I'm here because I'm working late and was getting bored."
"Bored? Now? There are three ambassadors from the former state of Yugoslavia here tomorrow and there are at least three people scheduled to speak which I, alone, have to write speeches for, because the other guy that's supposed to be helping me is incompetent!"
The speech really isn't worrying me, it's his uncontrollable swaying. "Uh, Toby, maybe you need to sit down…" I say, motioning him into a chair. "Listen. I'll find Sam for you, and maybe Ginger can get you some coffee," I say as soothingly as anyone can at half-past twelve at night. "Um. What else do you need? Besides sedatives?"
He mumbles, "CJ. If you would. And Ainsley, what did you do to your hair?"
"Why, what did I do?" I take a quick glance into my compact. "Jesus Christ, what DID I do to my hair?!"
"Ainsley, I thought you knew about Jewish religion to not say that in front of me…." He nods off in the chair, giving me enough time to panic because my hair has somehow become a lot darker than it usually is. "What the hell is up with my hair?"
Remembering what I have to do with Toby, I shove my compact back into my purse and yell, "Ginger? Bonnie? Someone!!"
Ginger pokes her head in. "Um…"
I sigh. "Never mind. He needs coffee, CJ, and Sam. I can get Sam and CJ, but is it okay if you-"
"Yeah, sure. Don't worry about it." She disappears, presumably to get coffee for the poor mind. I dig out a candy bar from my purse leave it there, strolling around trying to find at least one of them. I check CJ's office, where Gail is merrily swimming, but the room is dark. Damn, where is that woman? Then I see her, talking on the phone. God, she's tall. She's about a foot taller than I am. It's intimidating!
She's off the phone now, looking a little distraught. "CJ?"
"Ainsley. Hello. I thought you were Donna, and I was thinking, if Josh wants to see me one more time tonight, I'd probably have to kill him. That's why I'm just staring here."
I laugh. "I sympathize. My totally wonderful boss gave me a speech to write an hour-and-a-half ago."
She grins. "Why do we take this crap? I mean, first these stupid ambassadors, and then the Rose Garden Committee calls and says that it's going to freeze tomorrow, so they won't be able to have the reception there because the roses will look bad. Of all things."
We entertain ourselves with that for a while, then I say regretfully, "Oh, Toby wanted you, even if Josh didn't. He's half-dead with exhaustion. I think he might have been delirious, but you'd better check. Oh, and he wants Sam. Where is Sam, do ya know?"
"Are you his official errand girl for the day?" She looks at me curiously.
"He wandered into Sam's office, where I was working, raving like a lunatic. It's sort of a mercy to him."
"I'm on it. And I think Sam is with Leo. Not sure, though."
Oh, no. Leo?
I trudge on, finishing one candy bar and feeling a little better. There is nothing, I swear nothing, better for you than two Milky Ways followed by a chocolate malt. I don't have a chocolate malt, but I have enough change to buy a Yoo-hoo. I wonder if that's the same?
I walk in the general direction of the vending machines. Oh wait, I have to get Leo from Sam's office. Or Sam from Leo's office. Wow, I'm tired.
Must. Have. Sugar.
I buy the glucose-filled Yoo-hoo and chug it down, immediately feeling a little energized. Now, to find Sam. Hmmm…
I pass an open doorway, barely glimpsing the people in it. Wait, that wasn't Charlie, was it? No, it couldn't be. However, Zoey is here for the night…oh whatever.
My hair! I forgot about it. I run into a bathroom and steal a towel. I hope no one will notice. I wrap it around my head, only to realize that whatever is on my hair is coming off. "Dust?!" Frantically wiping it off, I run down the hall.
Leo's office. Finally. What time is it now? 1? 2? 5? I am soooo tired. "SAM!!" I yell through the door. "I don't care what you're doing, Toby asked me to get you, and I have!"
Sam yanks open the door. "Ainsley? Why are you here so-what happened to your hair?"
"I don't know. Toby wants you. Are you urgently busy?" This entire time, I have no idea how I'm remaining coherent, considering that I'm exhausted and that whenever I'm around Sam I get a little incoherent. Damn, he's hot. I hope I didn't say that out loud.
"Um…not really." I'm noticing he's not opening the door. Who else is in there? Maybe Mallory.
"Well, he's sort of delirious and collapsed on your couch and said he wanted you and CJ. It might be important."
"You were in my office? No, wait, I don't want to know. Just as long as you didn't drink that and eat those two in there, I don't care. And please tell me your hair didn't get like that in there."
I'm still wiping it off, and I give him a look.
He pulls the door shut and fiddles with the knob for a moment. Whatever, I'm going to fall asleep! We head back to Toby's office as I explain the current situation of the office. In front of Sam's office, however, things have fallen apart. Donna is sitting on the floor with a full champagne glass in her hand, back against the cubicles. Josh is holding the bottle and doing the strangest little dance in front of Toby's office, with his shirt buttons undone and his tie somewhere else-on Donna, I realize.
"Oh, no." I say.
"Donna, you let him get drunk?" Sam reprimands.
Donna shrugs. "It was a reason to celebrate. Would you look at them? They finally are not fighting with each other and actually flirting. It's a record!"
Sam and I peek into his office, where Toby and CJ are conversing quite normally. Wow, I think. I guess they make a cute couple. Not as cute as Josh and Donna, of course, but that's just my opinion. I really don't know if they like each other at all. I don't even know if CJ and Toby like each other. They're just talking, after all. Still. It would be interesting.
Sam laughs covertly. "Do you think he still wants me?"
"Even if he did, it would be criminal to disturb him," Josh mentions, still jumping around.
I bite my lip. "Damn. My laptop with my speech is in there."
"Oh, don't worry about it," grins Sam. "I was just talking to Leo. They changed the schedule because the Rose Garden froze or something. No reception."
I slap my forehead. "I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
"Laugh, definitely. We're having way too much fun. Sit down, you two! Charlie and Zoey have disappeared, but I think they're with us in spirit." Josh pours us glasses. I hesitate, but seeing Sam take one, I start to grin. Toby and CJ suddenly stop talking, and CJ pokes her head out the door. "Champagne? I'd be delighted." She seats herself.
"Oh, fine." Toby sits, under protest.
I smile, and take the champagne from Josh. "Why, thank you," I say with my decided Southern accent, and seat myself next to Sam. "I propose a toast…to us. Because we work so hard for this country, and for everyone in it, until one AM." I raise my glass. Sam's glass goes up enthusiastically.
"You know, she's right. We go through too much trouble for all of this." Everyone raises their glasses. "To us!" I say.