Cold Blast - part 22

By Cathy

 

 

"I swear to God, Sam, if he calls me one more time this hour, I'm going to go over there and beat him senseless," Donna said through clenched teeth.

"How many times has Josh called you?"

"Twelve times last hour so far, ten in the last hour. Is it my fault he hurt his back and can't move?"

"Donna you have my deepest sympathy and I know how you feel. Mara twisted her ankle last night and it hurts to put weight on it, so I confined her to the couch with an ice pack. She's called me six times so far to whine about how bored she is. Now she wants me to create a bill making Jerry Springer illegal since it insults her intelligence and is contributing to the dumbing of America."

"Sam, let's go grab a cup of coffee and take it out to the rose garden where the phones don't ring."

"I have a better idea Donna. Does Josh have Instant Messaging?"

"Yeah. Remember how he use to pop up on us when he was recovering?"

"How could I forget? I know for a fact that Mara is online. Call Josh and tell him to turn his IM on."

Donna picked up Sam's phone and dialed the number she knew better than her own. "Hey, Josh. It's me. Stop calling me, we are having phone problems, turn on your IM."

"Good idea, Donna. I won't get a crick in my neck from holding the phone. Talk to you in a minute."

"'Kay. Now what, Sam?"

Sam entered his program and sent Mara a message.

- Hey! How's it going?

- Did you guys pull PBS funds or something? I can't find anything intelligent to watch.

- No. Toby actually got them more money last year. Want to hear something funny?

- 'Kay

- Josh just said that Canada would have been better off if we won the War of 1812.

"Oh, Sam. You are so deviously brilliant."

"Thanks Donna."

- HE WHAT?????

- He's at home today too and bored, so he's been bugging me on IM all morning.

- Give me his IM so I can kill him!

- Sure it's "JoshuaJoshuaJosh".

- 'Kay I'll order Chinese for dinner.

- TTFN, Honey.

Sam signed off from IM and grinned at Donna. "That should keep them both busy well in to the night. One argument will lead to another and they'll be searching the web to mail each other articles and we won't have to listen to either of them."

"Sam, have I told you lately that I love you? I can finally get some work done. I'm buying you lunch."

"I never say no to free food, Donna, and it will give me a chance to ask you something."

"'Kay, I'll come over around one."

"'Kay."

Sam smiled, imagining the verbal warfare that would be flying over the World Wide Web in the next several hours. He returned his attention back to the speech he was working on. He had a meeting later that afternoon with the Commerce Department. He was going to tell them that the President did not support their claim that Canadian softwood lumber was being unfairly subsidized and to present them with the evidence the President used to make his decision. He hoped they would just drop the matter, but he had little confidence in their intelligence.

Sam and Donna went to diner a few blocks from the West Wing and ordered cheeseburger platters. Donna took a long sip of her Cherry Cola, then looked at Sam.

"So, what did you want to talk about?"

"When is your lease up?"

"End of January. Why?"

"Well, Mara and I are moving in to the mansion on Saturday and my lease is only up in July. The rent is really good and the neighborhood is much safer than yours is. We want you to move in and I'll cover your rent until February."

"Sam, that is very sweet of you, but I don't think I can afford your rent. I can just manage to keep my head above water now."

"Donna, what are you paying in rent now?"

"$750."

"Well, my rent is only $800. Talk to Josh. He'd be happy to give you a $100 a month raise to have you living somewhere safer." (I'll happily pay the extra $100 a month without you ever knowing it.)

"You think? I really do like your apartment."

"Donna, if he says no, I'll give you the extra fifty a month. I'm letting my landlord know I'm subletting in the morning."

Donna leaned over the table and left a kiss on Sam's forehead. "Thanks Sam. You're the best."

"It's the least I could do for the woman buying me lunch."

"So I won't hear so much as a peep from Josh for the rest of the day?"

"Nope."

"That seals it, Sam. I do love you!" Donna laughed.

"I'll remember that if Mara gets sick of me and tosses me out."

Donna smiled "That will never happen, Samuel. We should get back."

"Yeah, we've got a country to run."

Sam couldn't contain his laughter when he walked in to the apartment and Mara was furiously tapping away at the keyboard.

"Is that still Josh?"

"Hi, Honey. Yeah, I'm insulting the Mets."

"Why?"

"It's fun!"

Sam shook his head and took the notebook off Mara and started typing.

- Josh, playtime is over. Mara's got a date with me in our bedroom.

- TOO MUCH INFO SAM!!

Sam laughed.

- 'Night.

- 'Night. Tell Bu she's still a witch!

Sam shut the computer down and joined Mara at the dinning room table. After stuffing themselves with Chinese food and joking that they'd be starving two hours later, they cuddled up on the couch and talked the rest of the night away.

The rest of the week flew by and Sam wasn't surprised to find Mara up before him Friday morning. She denied it, but Sam was sure she had to be the tinniest bit nervous about becoming an Ambassador. Her ceremony was scheduled for four, just after C.J.'s afternoon press briefing. Mara had agreed to do an interview with Danny afterwards and a small reception would be thrown for her at six. Sam knew she'd rather skip the reception, but he kept reminding her that a lot of an Ambassador's work was done in social settings. Mara had made him promise to not leave her side all evening.

"Good morning, Madam Ambassador."

"Good morning, Deputy Communication Director."

"Nervous?"

"Nope," Mara lied.

Sam got out of bed and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly. Sam spoke softly in to her ear.

"Mara, I promised Dr. Bartlet that I wouldn't let you put up your defensive shield with me. You know admitting that you are a little bit nervous for your first day at a new job doesn't make you weak."

"I guess I'm a little nervous about the social aspect of this job. I hate crowded parties, Sam, and from the look of my schedule this month alone, we have 5 cocktail parties and 3 formal dinners to attend."

"We?" Sam asked.

"If you think I'm not dragging you to all of these, you've got another thing coming."

"So, you get the title and I get dragged around like a puppy dog."

"I think that's fair. Actually, you get out of one of the cocktail parties at the French Embassy. I'm bringing Margaret since she speaks French so fluently."

"Cool! Now I only have to find you 4 other escorts......."

"Sam, do you enjoy having sex with me?"

"You know I do."

"Well, for every event you manage to get out of, I don't rock your world for two weeks."

"You are so cruel."

"That's Ambassador Cruel to you, chump," Mara laughed.

"I've got to go get dressed. You want to have lunch with me?"

"Sure, since I've got this nervous energy going on, I'll make something and bring it in."

"Cool. I actually have never had a picnic in my office."

"Go get dressed. I'll see you in a bit."

Sam turned Mara around, cupping her face in his hand and leaned his forehead against hers.

"You are going to be the best Ambassador Canada has ever had, Miss Whitford and I love you."

Mara sighed, "Thanks, Sam. What would I do without you? I love you too. Now get."

Shortly after one, Mara breezed in to the West Wing, dressed to kill with a picnic basket in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. She was oblivious to the gapping jaws and lustful stares from White House employees. As usual, Sam's door was wide open. He was busy talking on the phone when he caught sight of Mara and involuntarily whistled his approval.

"Damn, you look hot, Mar!"

"Thanks, ready for lunch?"

"Yeah. Close the door." Sam took the picnic basket out of her hands and set it on his desk.

Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her in for a long slow, teasing kiss. "Is that what you are wearing for the rest of the day?"

"Yeah. What? You don't like it?"

"Oh, I love it. In fact, your making me hungry for you, not lunch but... Yeah, you look great."

"Sam?"

"Mara, do you feel sexy, confident and ready to kick butt?"

"Yeah."

"Then you are dressed perfectly. So, what did you make?"

"Greek pasta salad, grilled vegetable sandwiches, honey mustard potato salad, grapes and cheese. And for dessert, chocolate cherry chews."

"Should I just get you a straw for the wine?" Sam teased.

"That would be great," Mara retorted.

They had just started eating when Sam's door opened and C.J. walked in. She took Mara's fork from her and dug right in to the Greek pasta salad.

"Oh, Mara this is... oh so... Damn, this is good."

"What did you want, Ceeg?" Sam asked.

C. J. ignored Sam's question and picked up a sandwich. Mara snatched her fork back and rolled her eyes at Sam. There was a knock on the door and Donna walked in.

"Oh, yum. Cheese. May I?"

"Donna, you have to try the pasta salad. It's amazing," C.J. said between bites.

"Sam, you better grab a sandwich before C.J. scarfs them all up," Mara suggested as she handed Donna her fork.

Sam chuckled when Mara took a long swig of wine straight from the bottle. He wrestled his fork off C.J. and brought a fork full of potato salad to Mara's lips. Donna thought everything was great, but she was in the mood for cheese and grapes. Mara seemed more interested in the wine than anything else, so Sam keep putting food in to her mouth. The last thing they all needed was a drunken ambassador. Mara had to give up her bottle twice to Donna and twice to Sam, but she pretty much finished it on her own. Once C.J. was finished eating, she had to leave for a briefing and she took Donna with her.

"Alone at last," Sam said with a grin

"I'm just surprised C.J. didn't ask what was for dessert."

Sam took the container out of the basket and studied the bars. He took a large bit and moaned his approval.

"Oh, Wow! Mara these are incredible! How did you make them?"

"It's a chocolate chip cookie crust, cherry pie filling and then drizzled dark chocolate. They are gooey, but worth the mess," Mara answered as she popped one in her mouth.

A few minutes later, Mara had made herself comfortable in Sam's lap and was feeding him and kissing the chocolate off his lips when the door opened.

"Bu's contagious, you know," Josh teased.

"Go jump in some hot oil, one fry short," Mara retorted.

"Josh, what the hell do you want? Every time I try to lower Mara to the desk, someone walks in."

"Well, first of all, Sam, you shouldn't be having sex in your office, and second of all, lock your door you dolt."

"Josh?"

"Oh, yeah, umm.. Those look good," Josh helped himself to a chocolate cherry chew. "Have you got the final figures on the appropriation's committee's recommendations?"

"Those aren't out until Monday, Josh. Now get out!"

"Oh." Josh grabbed another two chews and left leaving the door wide open.

Mara got up, closed, then locked the door and pulled the blinds closed on the window separating Sam and Toby's office, before returning back to Sam's lap."

"There. Now, where were we?"

Sam kissed some chocolate off Mara's lips and they spent the next half an hour devouring chews and each other until the incessant pounding of Toby's rubber ball against the glass drove them both insane. Mara reluctantly got off Sam's lap and tucked her top back in to her leather pants. She left Sam's office and walked in to Toby's, intercepting the ball before it came back to him.

"I swear to God, Toby, if I get a migraine, I'm putting your head through that window!"

"Sam had the phone on DND and the door is locked."

"Uh Duh. We were having lunch."

"From the look of you, Mara, I bet Sam was more interested in you than food."

Mara smiled sexily at him, "Toby, that's a given."

"So Brat, are you nervous?"

"A little bit."

"Good, politics becomes dangerous when you are too comfortable. Mara, I feel like throwing up between the moment I head to the Oval with a speech until the President has it. Even if I know it's a killer speech, I'm still nervous. Standing at the precipice and wobbling keeps you on your toes."

"Thanks for the new perspective, Tobs."

"Anytime, Brat. I'll be there when it happens."

"I'm glad. Since my family couldn't care less, I'm happy my friends will be."

"Four, right?"

"Yeah."

"'Kay. I'll see ya then. I'm going up to the Hill with your boyfriend."

"Mara, Mrs. Bartlet wants to see you," Ginger said from the bullpen.

"Thanks, I'm on my way."

Mara made her way down to the East Wing and the First Ladies Office. She waited a few minutes until the door opened and Abbey smiled at Mara.

"Hey, kiddo. Come on in."

"What's up, Doc?"

"I wanted you to have some tea with me and I was wondering what you were wearing."

"Abbey, do you think I look all right? Sam started to suggest it was a bad decision, then he changed his mind."

"I think you look great, Dear. Your pants aren't skin tight, while form fitting. Your top isn't showing any cleavage and it shows off that gorgeous heart necklace. That color looks wonderful on you. It makes your eyes look like emeralds. The question is, are you comfortable?"

"Yeah, I picked it out. I love this necklace. Sam gave it to me on the way back from Nassau."

"Mara, you are an unconventional politician. You are the youngest Ambassador to ever serve. You are young, vibrant, sexy and strong. Why on earth should you look like some boring middle aged conservative school marm? I was kind of hoping you'd wear a short leather skirt."

Mara laughed and squeezed Abbey's hand. "Would you go change for me?"

"What do you have in mind?"

"Your long chocolate brown leather skirt?"

"I could do that. I wore it last week."

"You know, I liked having to wear a uniform in high school. I knew what I was wearing every day and no one ever said 'Hey, didn't you wear that five days ago?' Some mornings, I just want to crawl back in to bed instead of deciding what to wear."

"Mara I understand you completely. If I wear the same thing twice in a month I hear about it. No one seems to care if I like something."

"I say we start a pact right now, that we will wear what we feel like wearing, when we feel like wearing it. I wear the red dress once a month. It's comfortable, I look great in it and it generally intimidates men to such to a degree that they stay away from me."

"It didn't deter young Samuel."

"That's because he'd already fallen in love with my acid tongue and sardonic wit."

"I hear Capitol Beat wants you on a panel with Sam."

"Yeah. I said I'd only agree if it was Josh."

"I'd pay good money to see that," Abbey laughed.

"I'm doing 'The View' with C.J. the day after you and Jed. "

"I didn't know that. Where are they shooting?"

"That would have required me to actually be listening to C.J. at seven yesterday. I heard the first ten words, then my mind went on to other things, like the fact that I should still be in bed smirking, cause Sam's at work already."

"Have you ever been a morning person?"

"Nope. My brain refuses to function before 7 and it will run on limited capacity until about 9, 9:30, when it decides to wake up. I'm not a night person either, which leads me to believe I'm a brunch or high tea person. Sam's ability to not only function, but debate at 7, freaks me right out. I want to slap some tired grumpiness in to him with a two by four."

"You were quite grumpy on Air Force One."

"Speaking of hitting someone with a two by four, I wanted to attack your husband, but by the grace of the Secret Service, he lived."

"I've never argued that he can't be a big old freak."

"A long winded, fact sucking, know-it-all who relishes being awake when the civilized world is wisely asleep."

"Mara, stop dwelling on a 5 am take off. That Hoover is going to accept your credentials as Ambassador in an hour."

"'Kay, I'm fine now. I couldn't properly vent at 5 am, it's now out of my system."

"Speaking of freaks," Abbey said with an 'I'm staring at one right now' look.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm a freak, Sam's a geek. We could have our own TV show."

"I'm going upstairs to change, you coming or what?"

"I'll be your wing woman."

"Mara, stop spending so much time with Josh and Toby," Abbey laughed.

At ten to four, Mara, Abbey and the Secret Service cut through the West Wing and stopped at Mrs. Landingham's desk.

"Afternoon, Ma'am. Mara."

"Hi, Mrs. L."

"Hello, Mrs. Landingham. Is he ready for us?"

"He will be in a minute. Mara, would you like a cookie dear?"

"Yes, Please."

Mara was still munching on her cookie when she felt Sam's breath on her neck and smiled when she left a soft kiss on her cheek.

"So, how did the meeting go?"

"Not bad. Toby bashed in a few heads. I think they'll come around and see it our way. Hi, Dr. Bartlet"

"Hello, Sam. You have great taste in jewelry."

"Thanks."

The door to the Oval Office opened and Abbey, Sam and Mara walked in, followed by Mrs. Landingham and Donna, who had dashed down the hall to make it on time. C.J, Toby, Leo, Margaret, and Josh were sitting down looking bored to tears.

"Ambassador Bu is here," Josh said with a grin.

"Josh, even you can't rain on my parade today."

Mara recognized the Official White House photographer from Killer's catnapping incident and deducted that the suit beside Jed must be from the State Department.

"Ah! Good Mara, you showed up. I had visions of you making me wait just to make a point."

"Now, would I do that to you, Jed?" Mara asked trying to look as angelic as possible.

"I guess I don't need to introduce Miss Whitford to you, Sir," Tom said.

"No, Tom. Miss Whitford and I go way back. Has it been 15 years already?"

"Actually, I think it's fourteen, Dear," Abbey corrected. "Tom, Mara is the fourth Bartlet daughter."

"Hi, Tom. What's your last name?" Mara asked.

"Chilton, your excellency."

"Please, Tom, call me Mara."

"As chief of protocol, Ma'am, I'm afraid I cannot do that."

"I feel a sudden need for a drink" Mara muttered.

"Mara, you might need this." Donna handed Mara her letter of credence.

"Thanks, Donna. How did you end up with this?"

"Cheryl sent it to Sam for safe keeping and I liberated it just before the envelope was going to be used to take lunch orders."

"Thank you, Donna. Once again, I'd like to lobby that you get a promotion. Can the Vice President be replaced?"

"Only in my dreams," Toby muttered just loudly enough for C.J to hear and put a huge grin on her face.

"Tom, let's do this before she starts inquiring about replacing me."

"Mr. President, it is with pleasure that I present her excellency Mara Whitford of Canada and by the request of the Secretary of State ask that you accept her credentials from Prime Minister Jean Luc Chouinard as Canada's Ambassador to the United States."

Jed took the piece of paper out of Mara's hand and smiled, "Mara, I accept your letter of credence from Prime Minister Jean Luc Chouinard and by affixing my (The brat isn't even paying attention, she's watching Sam!) seal and signature, do hereby declare you to be an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Congratulations Mara."

Jed pulled Mara in to a big bear hug and whispered in to her ear, "I'm so proud of you."

"Just remember from here on out, it's all your fault since you talked me in to this."

"My turn." Abbey wrapped her arms around Mara, giving her a big hug. "Congratulation, Sweetie."

"Thank you, Abbey."

"Congratulations, Ambassador Gorgeous," Leo said affectionately, leaning over to kiss Mara on the forehead.

Mara was congratulated, hugged and kissed until only Sam remained. He walked up to her, congratulated her and chastely kissed her on the lips. Mara was just about to complain when Sam whispered in her ear.

"I'll congratulate you properly when Tom and the photographer are gone."

"Promise?"

"Umm hmm."

"Mar,a I believe Danny is waiting for you. I'll see you at the reception. The rest of you get back to work."

"Wait! I want them in my picture."

"All of them?" Jed asked.

"Yeah. Then I want one with you and Abbey and then we'll throw in Sam. Oh, and that one doesn't get released to the pool."

Jed and Abbey stood on both sides of Mara with one arm around her. Sam placed himself just behind Abbey and slid his hand to rest on her back. Everyone else squeezed in on either side. Jed and Abbey excused themselves and had Jeff take a picture of just Sam and Mara. They faced each other holding both hands and Jeff decided that having eyes only for each other would make a better picture than asking them to look at him.

Sam escorted Mara down to the Mural Room where C. J. had arranged for Danny to conduct his interview. Mara was still waiting for her kiss and sighed loudly when she noticed Danny was already sitting down waiting for her.

"Danny, couldn't you have been five minutes late just once?"

"Sorry Mar... I mean Ambassador Whitford."

"Danny, I know and like you. Call me Mara or else."

"Yes, Mara. Would you mind if I visited the bathroom before we start this interview?" Danny asked with a 'make it fast' grin.

"That would be no problem, Danny."

Mara closed the door behind Danny and looked expectantly at Sam. "I'm collecting on that promise now, Mr. Seaborn."

Sam pulled Mara into his arms, kissing her forehead, both eye lids, her nose and both cheeks before engaging her in a long erotic deep kiss that left Mara feeling weak in the knees.

"That was worth the wait, Sammy."

"Mara, just remember Danny is one of the more decent members of the press, but don't forget for one moment that he IS THE PRESS. 'Off the record' is a good phrase for you to remember."

"Sam, I appreciate the reminder, but I do know quite a lot about dealing with the press."

"Mara, if Danny offers advice, don't pull a Josh. Promise me you'll take it. You may be use to the press, but the dynamic is a little different here. The Media is convinced that the American Public needs to know everything. I've long admired how the Canadian Press never gets hung up on the sensational stuff for long. They know when to move on. They know that addressing third world debt is more important than speculating on what I was doing with Laurie."

"That's simply because Canadians, on a whole, are far more intelligent than Americans," Mara said with a smirk.

"Josh was telling me about that part of your marathon IM session. The two of you crack me up."

"What, no comment, Samuel?"

"Mara I'm intelligent enough to know that it's just easier to let you think what you want to think."

"You're a smart man Sam Seaborn. A bit of a wuss, but...."

Sam stopped Mara with a fast kiss that had just ended when Danny opened the door to the Mural room. Danny rolled his eyes and took a seat while Mara made sure there were no signs of her lipstick on Sam.

"See ya later."

"Umm hmm. I'll meet you at your office."

Just as Sam was leaving, Donna came to the door with a tall glass filled with what looked like a strawberry milkshake for Mara.

"Oh, that looks great, Donna."

"Yeah, they should serve these in the Mess. This is for you from Mrs. Bartlet. She told me to tell you it's just what you need so you don't feel ill at the reception."

Mara noticed the 'get it?' look Donna was giving her, but she wasn't sure what she was supposed to get.

"Donna?"

"Mara, if you don't want it, I'll drink it. You know Leo wanted it and I told him no way."

The lightbulb finally went off over Mara's head and she got that the drink was spiked to soothe her nerves. "Thank you, Donna. It should settle my stomach nicely."

"Sorry for keeping you waiting, Danny."

"No problem, Mara."

Mara sat down and took a small sip of the drink and wondered what was in it, because she couldn't even taste the alcohol.

"I'm sorry, Danny. Would you care for anything to drink?"

"No, I'm fine, thanks. There's a pitcher of water over on the table if I need it."

"Kay. I guess we should start this thing."

"I'm sure you would like to know the print format of this interview."

(Dang! I didn't even think about that.) "Yes, I would."

"It will be a written introduction followed by 10 to15 printed Q & A's and then my summation."

"I know the answer, but I'll ask any ways. Do I get to pick which questions are used?"

"That's cute, Mara, and the answer is NO."

"Just checking, cause you never know unless you try."

"Do you mind if I tape this for accuracy?"

"That depends. Can you assure me that it won't be spliced together to put words in my mouth?"

"Yes, I can give you that assurance. This tape is for my personal use only."

"It's fine with me then."

"Mara, your lack of experience in the Diplomatic Core is very obvious. Why do you think the Prime Minister appointed you?"

"My boss appointed me because he believes I'm the right person for this position. While I may have never served in the Department of Foreign Services, I'm no stranger to International Politics. I am still the highest-ranking Senior International Policy advisor to the Prime Minister, a post I've held for nine years now. I've racked up so many Aeroplan Miles that I could circumnavigate the world countless times. I love my country! I agree wholeheartedly with the UN that there is no better place on earth to live than Canada. I have always advocated, promoted and defended Canadian interests around the globe. I have no qualms about knocking some heads to get what I want. I never back down from a challenge and I make things happen. Someone once said that I'd be their weapon of choice in a political battle. That is why I am the Canadian Ambassador to the United States."

(Good answer, Mara.) "You have a reputation for a quick wit and a quick temper. I was told that getting on your bad side is not a place anyone in their right mind wants to be. How do you react to the fact that you scare people?"

"While, I like to think I'm perfect, Danny, but I know I'm not. I do have a temper and I'm very proud of my sarcastic wit. I cannot, nor will not, tolerate fools. I have no patience for idiots. I love to debate, but refuse to engage in debate with people who think stating the same point over and over again is debating. I've spent countless hours sitting around a room debating with Conservatives and while I often do not agree with them, these are intelligent, passionate people who believe as strongly as I do that they can make Canada an even better place to live. I don't really care if I scare people. I am who I am. If intimidating you helps me to get you to do what I want, it's a bonus."

"You said last year and I quote: 'In this day and age, there is such a culture of political correctness that you have to stop and wonder how much is too much. When citizens complain that the YMCA shouldn't have put up a Christmas tree in it's lobby, you just have to stop and say 'Get a life people. Use your brains before you speak and look up what the letters mean. I'll save you the time! It's Young Men's Christian Association.' Do you still hold that view?"

"Hell, yes! Much was made of the fact that I'm a devote Roman Catholic and that, of course, I'd think it was ridiculous because I think Christmas Tree's should be on every street corner. I would have said the same thing if citizens complained about a Menorah in the lobby of the Canadian Jewish Council. I just used that as a blaring example of P.C. going amuck. You can never please everyone and in trying to be politically correct, the only thing you accomplish is being so diluted and wishy washy that you can't help or please anyone. People take offense to the stupidest things these days. Get upset if you're called 'boy' or told that if you're pregnant, you can't possibly think straight. Don't whine because I say the firemen came and put out the fire. Don't get highly offended because someone says 'Ah, you're an American instead of a Cuban-American. If you are Japanese, you are NOT a Jap, but Japanese'. Being aware that one should never use racial slurs is very important and in that case, I'm all for political correctness. It works when it is truly needed."

"How do you view relations between Canada and the United States?"

"Right now, we have a fairly strong and friendly relationship. Our countries share the world's longest undefended boarder. There is room for improvement and I welcome being able to work with the current administration to form a more mutual and equally beneficial relationship. My priority, of course, will be to continue advocating, promoting and defending Canadian interests. I intend to bring a greater understanding of the unique issues that face Canadians in the 21st century to Washington. American politicians need to understand that you can't tap our massive natural resources and whine about Toronto being Hollywood North and Vancouver, Hollywood West the next day. "

"What is the nature of your relationship with Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn?"

"Danny, if you are serious, this interview is over."

"Come on, Mara. They are going to find out, especially if the Department of Commerce decides to proceed with its complaint that Canadian softwood lumber is unfairly subsided."

"Off the record now, Danny." Mara picked up the tape recorder, rewound it and hit erase right after her previous answer.

"Fine, we're off the record."(Now I know why she scares people. She looks ready to eat me for lunch.)

"Danny, I'm in love with Sam. Someday, I will marry him and we'll raise our children together. He's my 'real thing'. Our relationship will not affect the smooth running of this country or my Ambassadorship. I keep my private life private and until C.J. says she doesn't comment on the personal life of White House employees, the fewer people who know the better. I promise, Danny, if you help me out on this, when the time comes, you'll get a big exclusive."

"Mara, while I..."

"Danny, I've been on your side trying to convince C. J. that there is no harm in her dating you. That both of you conduct yourself to be above reproach. Are you going to sit there and tell me that you can't offer me the same consideration by putting a lid on this?"

"Fine. For the moment your secret is safe with me. Could I have my tape recorder back?"

Mara handed him the recorder back and took a long sip of her strawberry smoothy.

"Mara, you've known the Bartlet's and several key members of the Senior Staff for years. How do you think this will work to your advantage?"

"I really don't think it will give me much of an advantage other than the fact that I know the players and trust them. The advantage is personal for me. I'm not going to get lonely and when I start missing my house or the Rideau Canal, I will have a great number of people to distract me. The Bartlet's think of me as their adopted fourth daughter, but that doesn't mean they won't give me a little tough love when I need it. The President will look at me one day and say 'Mara, you know I love you, but there is no way in hell this government can agree to that'. I won't be getting any preferential treatment."

The interview continued and Mara was fairly sure she knew which questions would make it to print and she was fairly pleased with the way the interview turned out. She couldn't help wondering what else Danny might have asked her if he didn't like her, but she was sure some other reporter would eventually ask those questions.

"So Danny, how did I do?"

"Pretty good, but I have a suggestion for you for the next time."

"Shoot."

"For a politician, you are actually a little too forth coming. You didn't really need to tell me that you were a devote Roman Catholic. Another reporter might have said: 'Then how did you feel when a man, who you think of as a second father, refused to commute a death sentence last year?'

"I would have said that the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death is paramount in my faith. We are human beings, not God, and we will all get what is coming to us in the end. Jed was wrong and he knew he was wrong. He now has to live with his decision and he will have to answer for it."

"You just did it again, Mara. The next question would be: 'You do not support a women's right to choose, Ambassador Whitford?"

"No, Danny I categorically do not support a women's right to terminate the life of an innocent baby. If a woman is too young to be a mother or too busy she should not have been fooling around and put herself in the position to become pregnant in the first place. I know that is easier said than done, but you have to take responsibility for your actions. I have much more sympathy for women who are raped or are told that it is either their life or the baby's, but I still think it's wrong. I wouldn't' hold it against these woman, but I'd never say it's 'Okay, I understand' either. Danny, you can use those questions and my answers. I don't care."

"Are you sure?"

"Danny, my beliefs on those two issues will never change and having them in print again will not make my life any harder. Do you think I should mind?"

"From a PR position, I wouldn't be surprised if your press secretary wants to murder you come the morning. I think your willingness to be open and frank is great. Reporters dream that public figures would be more open and honest. We just tend to take advantage of the situation. That's why I'd warn you to pause and think before you answer every question."

"Well, Danny as Washington, DC, is about to find out, I'm not your average politician. Do I even look like your typical Ambassador? I'm sure I'll set tongues waggling in the establishment and not make too many friends, but we've entered a new century and I intend to shake up the Diplomatic scene and kick some butt. I'll take your advice to heart though and if you ever think I need warning or made a big mistake, don't hesitate to point it out to me."

"A politician welcoming criticism, you're right, you aren't your father's politician," Danny laughed. "I have to tell you, I think you look amazing by the way."

"Thanks, Danny."

"Anytime. You're going to make life very interesting in this city, Mara, and I can't wait to join the ride."

"I think you better fasten your seat belt then, cause it's going to be one wild one," Mara said with a big grin.

Mara left the Mural Room and headed straight for Sam's office. She found him hunched over his laptop typing away. He had yet to notice her and Mara took advantage of the time to study him. His tie had been loosened, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows and his glasses were slowly creeping down his nose. His hair had that rumpled look from running his hands through it and a small tuff was standing up. Mara had noticed it was looking a little long and thought a hair cut was in order. He clicked his teeth together and Mara chuckled to herself about his obsessive dental hygiene habits. Mara rarely brushed her teeth before bed while Sam never missed an evenings brushing. She had to admit his teeth were very white and his smile was dazzling. Sam sighed in frustration and Mara could tell he was deleting something and starting again. Mara thought of the conversation she had with Cheryl.

A few days earlier, Cheryl had asked Mara, out of curiosity and total boredom at work, when she thought Sam was the sexiest. Mara laughed and told Cheryl the answer should be when he was making love to her or in the shower, but while she found him highly tantalizing at those times, they weren't moments that made her bite gently into her lower lip and get lost in lustful thoughts. After letting Cheryl guess then having a good laugh and wondering about her best friend's mental stability, Mara had confessed she thought Sam was the sexiest with his glasses on, head bent and writing.

There was just something undeniably appealing and sexy about Sam in writer's mode. Maybe it was the passion he had and the desire to make the world a better place. Maybe it was that his intelligence and poetic nature melting in to one. Maybe it was the lazy way he didn't pay much attention to his punctuation until much later. Maybe it was her knowledge that he was working on a piece of art. Sam painted pictures with his words and brought them to life like know one she's never known. One of these days, she'd have to tell him he had replaced Edith Wharton as her favorite writer. Maybe that was it: that she'd get to read whatever he was working on. Mara smiled to herself and decided it was probably all the above put together in a man who loved her completely, without question.

Sam had looked up and noticed Mara watching him, but she seemed in another world. Wherever she was, she must be having fun, he thought, given the sexy smile on her lips. Mara lost in thought was a sight to behold and Sam wished he could skip her reception and head straight for home. Josh had teased him earlier about being a kept man for moving in to the mansion and giving up his freedom. Sam was surprised that he had no feelings about leaving his home of almost three years. He was already thinking of the apartment as Donna's place and the moving trucks weren't arriving until morning. The mansion was beautiful and grand, quite fitting as an Ambassador's residence, yet it still maintained that cozy home feeling. He had fallen in love with its Victorian charm as quickly as Mara had. It dawned on Sam that he was lost in thought and he looked up to see if Mara was looking at him like he'd lost his mind. She wasn't.

"Hey, what are you smiling about?" Sam asked.

"Just thinking about you and how lucky I am to have found my real deal."

"Wow, that's a pretty big expectation for me to live up to, don't you think?' Sam asked with a grin.

"Oh, Sam. You're already the real thing. You don't have to do anything to live up to it when you're already it. Whatcha working on?"

"My speech for the Disney teacher's thing."

"Cool, can I read it?"

"Sure." Sam hit save and pushed his chair back knowing Mara would sit on his lap to read the screen. "So how did the interview go?"

"Well C.J. will probably come over in the morning to beat me on the head, but I thought it went well and so did Danny."

"That should make me worry, but for some reason I'm not. How are your nerves holding up?"

"Surprisingly well to tell you the truth. I have no idea what was in that drink Abbey had made for me, but dang, it's working. There must have been a big old shot of something in there, but all I tasted was strawberry smoothie."

Sam tried to watch Mara's face in the screen, but he couldn't tell what she thought until she sniffed and wiped the tears away from her eyes.

"Oh, Sam. That was amazing. It makes me want to go be a teacher. It makes me want to put my money where my mouth is and give a huge chunk of money to schools. This speech needs to make the six o'clock news, Sam."

"Really?"

"Yes, and I better speak before you do, because there's no way I'm getting up there after this speech."

Sam smiled and left a kiss on Mara's neck. "You are slated to speak after me and I have an idea for the first part of your speech, if you'll let me write it for you."

"Sam it would be both a honor and a privilege to speak your words."

"Well, you just made my day."

"So exactly who will I be meeting in five minutes?"

"My guess would be various members of the press, folks from the State Department, Senators, Congressmen, the Speaker, Hoynes and his senior staff and other people from the White House that neither of us knew existed."

"That's a small reception? Dear God, what does C.J. consider big?"

"You'll be just fine and I'll be right beside you the entire time."

"Please tell me they serve champagne at this reception."

"Yes, they do, you lush," Sam teased.

"I can't help it Sam, crowds freak me out."

"I know. I'm just tesing."

"I'm just getting irrational, ignore me."

"Are you ready to face the music?"

"Ready as I'll ever be. Let's go before I change my mind."

Sam turned his light off and gave Mara a quick kiss, holding her hand until they were about to step in to the room. Donna was standing near the door and gave Mara another hug.

"This is so cool! My friend is an Ambassador now."

"Yeah, I think my friend being the Deputy, Deputy Chief of Staff is pretty cool too. Shouldn't you be inside drinking?"

"I figured that Sam walking in with two blondes on his arm wouldn't look as suspicious as walking in with you clutching his arm. We've got a plan so it doesn't look like you two are madly in love. "

"A plan?"

"Yeah, the two of you are going to be the best kept secret in the White House. Even 'one fry' is going to help."

"Thanks, Donna. Was this your idea?"

"Actually, I went to C.J. and she was thinking the same thing so we worked out operation CD."

"Thank you," Sam and Mara said at the same time.

"Donna, let's go find C.J.. You both deserve a special toast from me."

"Free food, free drinks, I'm in," Donna laughed.

"Take a deep breath, Mar, then just breathe," Sam said.

Mara started to move and stopped to make the sign of the cross. (Thank you, God, for these people and for my Sammy. Please keep them all safe.)

Sam nodded at the guard who started the introduction. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mara Whitford, Ambassador of Canada."

Chapter 23

 

 

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