Title: Vertically Challenged

Pairing: Annabeth/Ainsley The West Wing

Rating: NC-17

Archive: The usual suspects, everyone else ask.

Summary: Set after the events of 'Requiem.' Annabeth and Ainsley grieve.

A/N: Oh yes, I did. I can't even believe the muse let me do this. The idea was floating around in my head for months, but I started watching the rest of my WW DVD's and it just came. Unbeta'd, so I apologize for any mistakes. I've never written these characters before, so it may be complete shite.

Annabeth Schott was short. She had been short her entire life. She had had thirty some odd years to grow used to the simple, unalterable fact that she spent a large percentage of her waking hours looking up at other people. It was a fact that had caused her a great deal of consternation as a young adult and was the impetuous for a great many of her personality quirks. Annabeth found growing up that her short stature, along with her delicate figure and long blonde hair caused people to perpetually underestimate her. They looked down on her – literally – and it pissed her off. So gradually, Annabeth Schott learned to use other's preconceived notions to her advantage. She learned to fight tooth and well-manicured nail for every inch. And she learned that occasionally, being short had its advantages.

Perhaps it was because of the angle, or just that people were so busy looking over her head, but she saw people – the good, the bad, the talent, the fear – everything. It was something she had always been able to do, but as Annabeth advanced in her career, she honed it into a true skill and wielded it until she had the respect of her peers and a job she'd only dreamed about as a young woman in college.

But nothing could change the simple, unalterable situation of her height.

Which is possibly why the sight of Ainsley Hayes, Republican, lawyer and well-known Beltway player, on her knees, green eyes flashing up at her, was so unbelievably, impossibly, gods be damned arousing.

They shouldn't be here, and they shouldn't be doing this but as Annabeth's fingers turned white where she gripped the desk and her back arched as Ainsley's delicate hands gripped her thighs hard, opening Annabeth to her wicked, knowing tongue, Annabeth was unable to remember precisely why.

Somewhere, in the back of her ever-rational, never-ceasing mind, Annabeth understood that had either of them been sober; had they not been aching, bleeding internally from the deep, cutting grief of losing a friend, a mentor and a truly great man, they would never be here. On any other day, at any other time, Annabeth Schott and Ainsley Hayes had far, far too much to lose to risk even a hint of scandal associated with their names and neither was the kind of woman who could normally find comfort in the impersonal, fleeting physical connection with another. But this was not any other day, or any other time, and the glistening facets in Ainsley's eyes mirrored the pain Annabeth knew shimmered in her own and called to her.

And too, Annabeth was nearly numb from the liquor: her body warm and loose and her entire awareness was centered on Ainsley's tongue and lips, until the ache they created eclipsed her grief and she could no longer tell where she ended and Ainsley began.

With each sure stroke of that gentle tongue Annabeth lost more of the world around her, until her muscles gave way and she collapsed back against the desk – her desk – and Ainsley let go of one of her thighs only to slide elegant fingers into her. The sensation was too much for her body to handle and Annabeth's awareness dissolved into beautiful, sparkling nothingness for a long, glorious moment.

She came back to herself with Ainsley still kneeling, wearing only a hungry look in her eyes.

Somehow – she wasn't quite sure of the physics involved – they ended up on Annabeth's couch, bodies pressed together in a tangle of silky skin and slender limbs, seeking mouths and blonde hair. Ainsley had been passionate, almost feral when she'd torn Annabeth's clothes off earlier, but there was a softness and a vulnerability to the Republican as she begged Annabeth softly that nearly broke the press liaison's heart.

She shared Ainsley's grief, but the only thing Annabeth could do to assuage it was to offer forgetfulness, and so she sank into Ainsley, parting the silken evidence of the other woman's desire and burying herself deep into the intoxicating, wet heat of Ainsley Hayes.

Annabeth reveled in the feeling of satin skin beneath her body, of taught muscle and soft curves. She drank in the taste of Ainsley's mouth and the small, breathless, needy sounds the Republican made as she slid her hand in and out, slowly twisting and stroking, making Ainsley writhe. There was little grace to their motions, just raw, unfettered need, and yet the sight of Ainsley's release – the feel of her body bowing under Annabeth – was breathtakingly beautiful.

She'd lost track of how many times they'd come, but it was with a distinctly weak arm that Annabeth dragged the blanket off the back of her couch – a couch she was never again going to be able to look at without remembering the feel of Ainsley's hands roaming her body – and wrapped it around herself and the woman who she was currently sprawled atop.

Over time, Annabeth had learned that being short did occasionally have small advantages as well. As she tucked her head under Ainsley's chin and the Republican wrapped her arms around Annabeth and they both fit perfectly on the cream colored piece of furniture, the press liaison realized this was one of them.

Surprisingly, it was Ainsley who broke first. Slender arms tightened around Annabeth and the smaller woman heard a tiny hitch under her ear where her cheek rested on the swell of Ainsley's breast.

The hitch turned into a gasp and then a small sob. Raising her head, Annabeth felt her heart twist in sympathy as she watched Ainsley struggle not to cry. The sight tore at the last of her own, already fragile barriers and tears sprang unhindered to her eyes.

Neither spoke, they just held each other and let their grief wash from them.

Gradually, the tears passed and Annabeth raised her head again. Ainsley's eyes were red and the glistening tracks of tears were still visible on her flushed cheeks. Unable to resist the urge, Annabeth pressed her lips there and kissed away the glittering lines, then lowered her head to Ainsley's chest and kissed the dampness where her own tears had fallen.

"I miss him so much," she whispered, her voice hoarse and raw.

"Me too," Ainsley's accent was rough but her fingertips were gentle where they wiped away Annabeth's tears.

Annabeth knew she should get up, get dressed and get out of this room. But the suit lying rumpled on the floor was the one she'd worn to the funeral and right now, the thought of putting that cloth against her skin – her skin that was so wonderfully pressed against Ainsley's – was intolerable. Ainsley's hands were stroking slowly through her hair and along the curve of her spine and although the sadness still hung over her, there was a peace to the moment that was comforting to Annabeth.

She looked at Ainsley and saw exhaustion and sadness and the same need to be with someone that she herself felt, and so with a last look to make sure the door was locked Annabeth tucked her head back under Ainsley's chin, feeling the Republican draw the blanket around them as she snuggled deeper into Ainsley's body.

Outside that door, the world rushed forward. People grieved and people worked and soon both would intrude on the two women, but Annabeth intended to put that moment off as long as possible. One of the advantages of being short she had learned, is that sometimes, if you were lucky, people overlooked the fact that you weren't around. As she listened to the steady beat of Ainsley's heart, Annabeth hoped that this was one of those times, because she intended to keep hold of every possible second in Ainsley's arms.

Somehow, she had a feeling Leo would approve.