Cold Blast - part 23

By Cathy

 

 

Sam reached his hand in to his binder to pull out a pen while briefing the President about the latest poll numbers. The pen felt funny in his hand, but he didn't give it a second thought. He heard CJ snort next to him, ignoring her as he usually did. The pen waved in the air as he spoke and Jed could no longer hold back his laughter.

"Nice pen, Samuel," Jed chuckled, causing everyone to break out laughing.

Sam looked down at the Powerpuff Girls pen in his hand and started laughing.

"Jenna was playing around with my stuff last night. I found a pink glitter gel pen earlier and one of those butterfly shaped hair clips. That child is a whirl of constant motion and energy."

"She's smart as a whip, if I remember correctly."

"Yes, sir. She is. She was correcting Mara's grammar last night. You should have seen the look on Mar's face. It was priceless."

"Mara hates to be corrected let alone by a six year old," CJ laughed.

"What did Bu say?" Josh asked.

"Something alone the lines of 'I'll bring you over to my office in the morning'. Jenna said 'Aunty Mara, you should say "I'll take you to my office in the morning"'. Mara was not amused."

"I bet. So Sam, do you think the number's are soft?"

"No, sir. I think they are pretty solid. Josh and I were talking about it earlier and I think that we should take this approval and push forward with our education initiative."

"Fine Sam, the ball is in your court. Go for it! Josh is at your disposal if you need him."

"Thank you, sir. Donna is almost finished with the Smithsonian, so I was wondering if I could have her."

"No one can have my Donna, Sam. I need my Donna. I'm counting the days down until she's finished and I can have her full attention again."

"Donna's yours Sam, and Josh, I don't think Donna would appreciate being refereed to as your possession. You can all go. Mrs. Landingham, what's next?"

"Sam, I can't believe you just did that to me! You already have Kathy! Why not take Bonnie or Ginger?"

"Kathy can't run my office and do all the work I need done. I'll ask her to coordinate with Donna so we have you covered. Josh, have you ever noticed the enormous potential Donna has? We tease you, but Donna could do your job. If we are reelected, I want Donna to have a senior position Josh. Don't you? She wouldn't be your assistant anymore, so you could date her."

"You forget Sam that without Donna, I'd never get to leave the office to date her."

"I suggest you get your butt organized, Josh. You've got two years. I have faith in you," Sam said with a smirk.

Kathy came walking down the hall, looking for her boss. "Sam?"

"What Kathy? And no, I don't have any more cookies left."

"You've got a visitor. A little visitor with attitude. She asked if I'd be a doll and get her a drink since her Aunt told her she couldn't wander around."

"Yeah, high with blonde hair and blue eyes?" Sam asked.

"Uhuh."

"Jenna," Sam and Josh said together.

"Good. Then one of you can take care of her drink order. I have better things to do with my time."

"Josh, could you go get a Wild Cherry Pepsi or a Dr. Pepper for me?"

"Sure, why not. I have many important things to do, but I don't feel like doing any of them. You want anything?"

"Something bad for me."

"Sugar?"

"Yeah. I'm thinking sugar and chocolate would be a great combination."

"Kay. I'll see you in a bit." Josh turned and headed for the mess.

Sam walked in to his empty office and checked under his desk. He found a little black purse and wondered where Jenna had disappeared. Kathy hadn't returned to her desk and Sam was about to begin a search when he heard a familiar giggle. Sam stopped at Toby's door and tried to hide his shock at seeing Jenna sitting on Toby's lap while he read a speech to her.

"Uncle Toby, shouldn't there be a comma here?"

"You're right, Jenna. Thanks."

"Isn't that a dangling participle? "

"Not funny, Brat."

Jenna started giggling, "I thought it was. The look of abject horror on your face was funny."

"Abject? Jenna, how old are you again? 30?"

"I'm not your average six year old, Uncle Toby. I have a brain, a vocabulary and a passion for politics just like Aunty Mara. When I get older, I'm going to be Prime Minster of Canada."

"Prime Minister Rugrat, you shouldn't be bothering Toby," Sam said with a grin.

"Hey, Unca Sam! I guess no one should be surprised to see you here. 'Uncle Sam wants you!'"

"I have one word for you Jenna: redundant."

"I'm helping edit for Toby."

"Oh, well then, you'll need this." Sam went over to Toby's drawer, pulled out a red sharpie pen and handed it to her. "Go wild, kiddo."

"Sam, Jenna's really not bothering me. She's fine in here until I have to go up to the Hill at noon."

"Are you sure? You think you can keep your temper in check that long? Unlike me, she literally bites back."

"Hey, Billy told me to bite him. If he didn't mean it, he shouldn't have said it three times!"

Sam and Toby looked at each other and started laughing, remembering Mara's almost identical reasoning for biting Josh in the Oval. Jenna looked at the two important adults in front of her and wondered if they needed a good nap. A minute later, they managed to compose themselves and return to a normal conversation.

"I can handle a room full of Republicans, Sam. I think I can handle a six year old for two hours."

"Just remember, Toby, that our six year old is more intelligent than an entire room of Republicans. She idolizes Mara, so...."

"She has pain in the ass tendencies. See you later, Sam."

Sam looked at the paper in Jenna's hand, noticing several red marks and she had just wiped out a sentence. (Serves Toby right.)

"Fine. Have fun you two. Josh is going to bring you a drink, Jenna."

"Thanks, Sam."

Josh was sitting across from Sam's desk, holding a paper plate with a large slab of chocolate cake.

"Hey, where's the rugrat? "

"The cake looks great Josh, thanks. Jenna is editing Toby's speech. Go on in, give her the
Dr. Pepper and take a look at all the red marks she's putting on the pages. You have to see it. Toby's going to have a cow."

"I can't miss Toby having a cow. Just save me some cake."

A few minutes later Josh returned grinning from ear to ear. "Oh, Sam, that was just priceless! Jenna is arguing sentence position with Toby and she's right. It sounds better her way."

"Toby kicked you out for agreeing with her, I bet."

"Yup! He told me to go do whatever it is I do around here. At the moment, it's eating cake with you."

"I wonder what meeting Mara got sent to in Baltimore? Jenna just said she will be late getting home and that to save her some take out. We were supposed to go Christmas Tree shopping tonight."

"Why don't you and Jenna go find a great tree and surprise Mara with it. Donna and I will go with you if you want. I think I'm going to buy Donna a tree this year. She was telling me that she misses decorating the tree with her family."

"That's a good idea, Josh. You should go find her a gorgeous ornament and get it engraved."

"I'll think about it. Well, since I've ruined my appetite now, there is nothing left to do but get some work done. I'll let Donna in on the plan. See ya at this afternoon's staff meeting."

Sam got back to work and didn't even notice Jenna sitting in front of him until she coughed a little bit. He looked up and found the pint sized Mara leaning back in a chair, legs up on his desk reading.

"Hey squirt, Toby getting on your nerves?"

"More like the other way around. Geez Louise, he's stubborn! He said I did a hatchet job on his speech and I countered by saying I was just getting rid of dead wood!"

Sam grinned, "So he kicked you out?"

"Basically, he suggested strongly that I help you out with your writing, since you actually needed help."

"Toby doesn't handle criticism well and just between you and me, I think he's jealous of my talent."

"Shouldn't that be you and I, not me?"

"No, you can't say I, I," Sam said authoritatively, while wondering if Jenna was right.

"I guess."

"What do you think of us going to get a tree as scheduled tonight? We'll have it all set up for Mara when she gets home."

"Sure, then the tradition will remain of getting a tree on Wednesday. We let it settle for two days, then decorate it Friday night."

"We'll be in California Friday night, so maybe we will decorate it on Thursday night."

"Disney is going to be fun! I hear you can get on a ride that's like a hand glider. Can we go see Doc Bartlet later?"

"Sure." Sam picked up the phone and dialed Kathy. "Can you check with Lily to see if
Mrs. Bartlet has time to see Jenna today?"

A few minutes later, Kathy came in to remind Sam he was expected in the Roosevelt Room and also told him that Mrs. Bartlet wanted the two of them up in the residence for lunch. Sam put what he was working on away, found the files he'd need and brought Jenna over to see CJ.

"Hi, Princess Ceeg," Jenna said cheerily.

"Hello, Princess Jenna. I heard you were visiting my fair Kingdom."

"How did you know?" Sam asked.

"Josh normally doesn't drink Dr. Pepper and I happen to know that Jenna is addicted to it. You want to hang with me for awhile Jenna Benna?"

"Sure. You want me to do anything for you?"

"You could kill the press."

"Not on an empty stomach," Jenna giggled.

"You can check my briefing notes for Carol's spelling mistakes."

"Cool." Jenna took the notes off CJ and got to work.

"Thanks Ceeg. I'll be back for Her Royal Highness after my meeting."

"No rush Sam, we have fun together."

Sam slid in to the Roosevelt Room and started the meeting. Twenty Deans from the countries leading Universities were hanging on Sam's every word. As Sam continued to outline their proposal, he was encouraged by nods of approval and decided to go a little further than planned.

"Teachers deserve to be as revered as Movie Stars and Athlete's. Those who dedicate their lives to education should be making amazing salaries, allowing more time for hands on education. Our government is seriously committed to education and we would like a serious commitment from you. Would you all be willing to establish scholarships to allow twenty teachers to be educated and trained for free next September? We would commit to pay the tuition for an additional forty students at each of your institutions. You would be the cornerstones of Initiatives in Education. CJ Creeg would introduce you all at this afternoon's briefing as trail blazing beacons of hope. So are you with me?"

"Sam, for the record, I'd like to state how proud I am to count you among our alumni and Princeton is with you."

"Thank you. Dean Simms, I know having Josh Lyman as one of your own isn't always a good thing, but how about it?" Sam teased.

"Could we say he's from UCLA?" Dean Simms laughed back. "I'm with you, Sam. We have to make up for unleashing Josh on the world."

Five minutes later, Sam had every Dean's signature on the Education Initiative and asked them to wait for a moment. Sam strutted down to the Oval Ofice and stopped to give Mrs. Landingham a kiss on the cheek. "Who's da Man?" He asked her with a big grin.

"I'd have to say today, Sam's da man," Mrs. Landingham answered with a grin.

"Can I see him?"

"Sure, Sam. Go on in."

"Charlie, come with me please."

"What's up Sam?" Charlie asked as he followed Sam in.

"Sam?" Jed asked.

"Sir, I hold in my hands a signed commitment from 20 of this countries leading Universities to support E.I. program. They've agreed to not only support us, but to donate 20 seats each for next September."

"So, you got an extra 400 seats Sam. Well done! I'm proud of you, son."

"Thank you, sir. Charlie had a great idea."

"Yes, Charlie had a great idea. See Charlie, sometimes we can make things happen. If you have any more brilliant ideas, we'll take them."

"Not at this moment, sir."

" Then what are you waiting for? Go find some! Are they all still here, Sam?"

"Yes, sir. They're in the Roosevelt Room."

"Let's go thank them. Leo!"

"Yes, sir." Leo patted Sam on the back and whispered, "I'm proud of you, Sam. Damn good work."

"Thanks, Leo."

Sam stood back and watched as the President shook each Dean's hand, thanking them for being willing to take the first step. An immense feeling of pride coursed through Sam's body and he wished Mara could have been there to see it happen. He tried to get her on the cell phone but it was out of range. Jed decided to invite all the Deans to the Oval Office for pictures, leaving Sam alone with his thoughts. 400 extra seats brought the total to1200 instead of the initial 200 they had started with. Sam was confident that with the corner stones set, it wouldn't be hard to persuade other universities to join the Initiative. He decided his goal would be 5000 seats for the next fall semester. Sam headed back to his office and wondered why there were so few people at their desks. He found out when he rounded the corner to the communications bullpen.

"Sam Seaborn everyone!" Leo announced with pride and Sam was greeted by a thunderous applause.

Kathy came up and left a kiss on her boss's cheek. "Way to go, Sam!"

"Thanks for getting them all here, Kath."

"You did good, Spanky," CJ said giving her friend a bear hug.

"Good work, Sam! I'm sure Dean Simms came on board when you mentioned me."

"Yeah Josh, he said they owed it to the country to make up for unleashing you on America."

"So you guilted them in to it! You're learning," Toby chuckled.

"Yea! Unca Sammy! Aunty Mara asked me to give you this." Jenna pulled a note out of her purse and gave his leg a big hug.

Sam leaned down and pulled Jenna up in to his arms giving her a big hug. "Thanks Princess Rugrat."

"OK! Back to work folks. Sam, I want you and CJ to work out what she's going to say at the briefing. " Leo patted Sam on the back one more before leaving.

"My office, Sam."

Sam put Jenna down on CJ's couch and opened the note from Mara.

I knew you'd make it happen!
Congratulations
I love you.

Sam smiled at the note before tucking it in to his pocket. They worked on the briefing notes until lunchtime and Sam brought Jenna up to the residence. Abbey congratulated Sam and held both her guests as a captive audience telling them stories about her school days. Jenna stayed with Abbey after lunch and Sam returned back to work. He found Donna sitting in his chair sipping on a hot chocolate.

"Hey, Donna."

"Hey, Sam. Josh said you needed to see me."

"Yeah, you'll be done with the Smithsonian on Friday, right?"

"Uhuh."

"I want you to start working with me on the E.I. starting Monday."

"Sam, I'd love to, but I can't leave Josh."

"You'll still be working for Josh, but you'll be helping me too. Leo is going to get you your own assistant so the work load won't kill you."

"Josh agreed to this?"

"The President didn't give him much choice."

"Sam, what are you up too?"

"Nothing."

"Samuel, don't make me beat it out of you."

"Donna, this is a really important initiative and I wanted the best help I could get."

"Thanks, Sam, but I want the rest of the story."

"Donna, if we are reelected, I want you to have a senior staff position. This will make it hard for anyone to say you don't deserve a big promotion."

Donna gave Sam a long hug and wiped a tear away from her eyes. "Sam, I don't know what I did to earn you as a big brother, but I'm honored and glad you adopted me. Oh, by the way Sam, it's when we get reelected."

Sam smiled, "See Donna, you are already thinking like Senior Staff."

"See ya tonight."

******

Mara smiled wearily at the guard outside her home. She hoped that everyone was asleep because after the day she had, she wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone. She quietly opened the door and the strains of Bing Crosby singing 'White Christmas' filled the living room. She noticed Sam stretched out on the couch with Jenna in his lap telling her a story. He stroked her hair and the gentle speaking voice he was using melted Mara's heart. Jenna had just fallen asleep so Sam slowly got up to carry her up to bed.

"Hey, you're home. Jenna wanted to wait up for you, but she didn't make it," Sam whispered.

"What did you guys do tonight?"

"We got you a surprise."

Mara turned and noticed the seven-foot tall pine tree for the first time. "Oh, Sam! That's so sweet. The tradition isn't broken. Thank you." Mara left a soft kiss on Jenna's forehead and followed Sam upstairs.

She heard Sam go back downstairs after tucking Jenna in, so she changed for bed and wandered in to the kitchen. Sam was pouring a mug full of hot chocolate and sprinkled some cinnamon on top.

Sam looked at Mara and thought she looked tired and troubled, but adorable in a pair of navy silk pajama's with gold piping. The sleeves were too long so her hands were barley visible.

"You look so cute in those P.J's."

"Thanks, Baby." Mara took a long sip of the warm liquid. "Yum, just how I like it."

"You look beat and well, what's wrong? I figured you were gone so long that you'd be in need of a good comfort food for dinner. It will take me about two minutes to fix some KD for you."

"KD? Sam, that's like my all-time favourite comfort food."

"I know, and I know just how you like it. Not dry and glumpy like Dani. You like a bit of cheese soup."

"Sam, you are the best boyfriend on the face of the earth."

"Do you want to eat in here or the living room?"

Mara pushed herself up on the counter and wrapped her legs around Sam's waist. She shared a few forkfuls of Kraft Dinner with him, thanking him with a long slow kiss. The phone rang and Sam reached over to grab it.

"Yeah."

"Hey, Sam. Is Mara home yet?"

Sam handed her the phone and mouthed Donna. "Hey, Sweetie! S'up?"

"Did you just get home?"

"Yeah and I'm heading for bed, what's up?"

"Well, Josh and I went tree shopping with Sam and Jenna and then I joined Sam and Jenna for hot chocolate while Josh said he had to go back to work to get something. I got home and a gorgeous six-foot pine I had liked was sitting in my living room in a stand with a note hanging off it. The note said: 'On the First day of Christmas, my Joshua gave to me, a Christmas Tree in a stand'."

"Ah, Donna. That's so sweet. He's going to do a Twelve Days of Christmas for you."

"I know. I started crying. He's so sweet when he's not being Josh. This was more of a Sam thing to do."

"Yep, it is the thoughtful time involved type of thing that Sam would do. Let me know what you get tomorrow, Donna. Night."

"Night."

"Donna like her tree?"

"Yeah, she loved it. Did you know Josh was doing a whole 12 Days of Christmas for her? 'On the first day of Christmas my Joshua gave to me a Christmas tree in a stand'."

"That's cute. I knew he was getting her the tree. I didn't know it was only part of a gift."

"Well, Donna is touched beyond belief."

"Sweetie, you look beat. Let's go to bed."

"Are you packed?"

"Yeah. Jenna and I got ready before I started telling her the story of Princess Jenna and the Snow Fairies."

"Kay, I'll pack in the morning. Sam, you are so wonderful with Jenna. You are going to make a great Daddy."

"Thanks, but it's easy when you have a great kid like Jenna. Remind me to tell you about her and Toby today. It was priceless."

"So did Abbey tell you she changed her plans so we could hitch a ride with her on Air Force One?"

"Yeah. She told us over lunch. Jenna was thrilled! So what were you doing in Baltimore?"

"I wasn't in Baltimore, Sam. That was just the story. I was in Langley."

"Virginia?"

"Yeah."

"Sorry."

"Thanks. It wasn't fun. Leave the dishes. I'll do them in the morning."

"Wait, if we are leaving at lunch time tomorrow, what about decorating the tree?"

"I got Leslie to change Jenna's return flight. She's going home on Tuesday now."

"Ah, I was wondering how you'd manage to be in California and not disappoint Jenna at the same time."

"Never mind Jenna. Decorating the tree is one of my favourite Christmas activities."

Sam smiled at hooked his arm around Mara's back as they walked upstairs to bed. He knew Mara couldn't tell him what went on during her trip, but he was wondering why she'd been called in to the CIA Headquarters for the day.

*************

Sam was too busy trying to get everything done in time to leave, that he never had a chance to ask Leo if he knew anything about an incident that would have brought Mara to the CIA. Josh stopped by just before lunch to show Sam the ornament he bought for Donna and Sam teased him about being head over heals in love. Josh denied it vehemently, but Sam remained unconvinced. Just as he was leaving, Donna stopped in to let Sam know she was going to start working on the E.I. in the morning and to show him her latest gift.

Sam opened the box to find another note card with a red velvet loop. The card read: On the second day of Christmas my Joshua gave to me two turtledoves. Inside the box, he found two small boxes of Dove soap and two individually wrapped Turtle's chocolates.

"Who knew Josh was this creative? I can tell by the beaming smile on your face that you approve of this, Donna."

"I can't believe Josh would spend all this time working out the 12 days, let alone actually doing it. It's so sweet of him. I'm going to invite him over to help me decorate the tree tonight."

"Just the two of you?" Sam asked with a grin.

"I asked a few people to join us, but they all had plans and you and Mara are leaving the city so, yeah, just the two of us."

"Have fun. I'll bring you back an ornament from Disney."

"Thanks. Have a good time."

Sam looked up again and found Abbey standing at his door. "Come on, Sam. I don't like to be kept waiting."

"Dr. Bartlet?"

"You're coming with me, Sam. Mara and Jenna are going to meet us at the airport."

"Oh, I guess that makes sense. Can you give me a second, I don't want Mara to forget my speech."

Sam quickly dialed home, catching Mara just before she walked out the door. He told her where the copies of both of their speeches were and asked her to grab the book he left on the desk on the study. Sam walked out to the limo with Abbey and sunk back in to the seat.

"Dr. Bartlet, you haven't seen the house yet have you?"

"No, Sam. I wanted to give you and Mara a chance to get settled first. Mara mentioned something about keeping Thursday night open, so I think Jed and I will be joining you for dinner."

"It's amazing what she's done to the house in such a short time. I think my favourite room is the study. I loved her study in Ottawa and she has managed to almost completely recreate it. She even found these great wooden boats that she put up on the shelves."

"I'm glad you like that room so much, Sam. Mara told me she wanted the study to be yours. It was the first room she worked on. I heard you asked to run the E.I. with Donna. I presume that would explain why she is walking around grinning like a mad woman."

"It may be a little part of it, ma'am, but I think it's Josh's Christmas presents that has her in such a good mood."

"I know Josh's watch sucks, but I didn't realize he couldn't read a calendar either."

Sam laughed, "He's actually doing a 'Twelve Days of Christmas' them,e so he's only a day or two early. I guess he figured weekends in to his plan."

"Hmm... I never would have figured Joshua would be a creative gift giver. You on the other hand, Sam, fit that description. Have you bought Mara anything yet?"

"There's one special gift that I found for her, but it isn't ready yet. It's actually hard to buy for Mara considering she's wealthy enough to buy whatever her heart desires. I decided to go with more whimsical gifts for her."

"Such as? Sam, you can tell me to mind my own business, but I'm curious."

"That's OK. I don't mind. I bought her an original cell of Tigger bouncing from Winnie The Pooh. A stuffed Tigger holding a purple fish. A carton of cinnamon Altoids. I filled a large glass cookie jar with those pink and blue gel licorice candies that come in all sorts. I went to her hotel and asked for a card key that I had made in to a key chain for her."

"Oh, that's a good one Sam! How much do you want to wager that she'll loose it," Abbey laughed.

"I'm sure she will, so I won't let her put any important keys on it."

"She'll love all those gifts. I finally got around to getting all the family pictures copied, so I'm making albums for Mara. You know, Sam, as I was looking through those early pictures, it's hard to believe Mara hasn't always been in our lives."

"I've noticed how well she can worm her way in to people's hearts. I'm starting to think that's her true gift, not her political brilliance."

"You may have something there, Sam. I see a car, but no Mara and Jenna."

"They are on the plane, I bet. Jenna is probably inspecting it to see if it meets her standards."

"That child reminds me so much of Mara. I guess that was what she was like as a child."

"Mara says Jenna's vocabulary is astonishing for her age and Mara hadn't given politics a thought till high school, but even she admits it's like looking at old home movies."

"Well, at six, Mara didn't know a Prime Minister or a Governor who became President. Anything in the world must seem possible for Jenna. I wish all children could feel like that."

"That would be great if every child could not only think the sky was the limit, but actually believe it. I wonder...."

"Sam, I know that look well. Whatever little idea that is zooming through that brain of yours right now, will work if you implement it properly."

"Thanks, Dr. Bartlet. Let me figure out what needs to be done and then I'm coming straight to you to be the spokesperson."

"I accept in advance, Sam. Now let's go rescue the flight crew from Mara and Jenna."

*****************

Once the flight was in the air, Mara left Sam and Jenna to their game of hide and seek, and sat down beside Abbey.

"Someone didn't sleep too well last night."

"No, I was exhausted, but I just couldn't stay asleep for very long. Jenna was starting to grate on my last nerve and I know it's because I'm over tired."

"I assume this has something to do with your trip to Langley."

"So, who has the big mouth? Jed, Leo or Sam?"

"Jed. He told me your signature was forged on an Ambassador's authorization to travel letter."

"Uhuh. The forms were old and the letter was signed the day I was sworn in. It just so happened that the immigration agent was suspicious, so he asked to check that their papers were in order so they could reenter Canada after their visit. The agent knew the letter was an old form and he figured on my first day, it was unlikely I'd see the inside of the Embassy, let alone sign a letter. To top it all off, he had worked with me on the G-7 and knew that wasn't my signature. He notified US customs and let them go. They were arrested when they tried to enter Washington State."

"Thank goodness for that eagle eyed agent. I'm sure they didn't want into the US just to do some sightseeing."

"No, and even though I told the CIA I didn't want to know what they were suspected of, they told me anyway. That is what kept me from sleeping."

"Sorry, Sweetie. Why don't you go up and take a nap Mara? You know Jenna is going to want to hit the park as soon as you arrive."

"I think I will or I'm going to be miserable the entire weekend. Tell Sam to let me sleep, please."

"Sure, Mara."

Twenty minutes later, Sam returned without Jenna and sat down beside the First Lady. Abbey finished the page she was reading and turned to look at Sam.

"You seem to be missing a playmate, Samuel."

"She's up in the cockpit probably trying to talk the pilot in to letting her fly for a minute or two. Where is the tall kid?"

Abbey rolled her eyes, "Your girlfriend is upstairs trying to catch up on her sleep."

"Ah. Abbey, can I ask you a question? A medical question."

"What's on your mind, Sam?"

"Mara usually falls asleep within ten minutes of us going to bed. She gets almost eight full hours of sleep during the week and probably ten on weekends. Yet, she's always tired. This morning, I can understand, she was tossing and turning all night long. I dropped by her office last week before going to the Hill, and she looked like she was ready to fall asleep at her desk. I know she takes thyroid pills every morning, but she's hyper, not hypo. So, that doesn't make sense. I'm wondering if she could have that chronic fatigue syndrome."

"It's being called Epstein Barr these days, Sam and I suppose it's possible. I really think Mara just needs to get a thorough blood screen done. Her thyroid hormone levels are probably out of whack. She is on a pretty strong dosage since her metabolism was incredibly fast. The older you get, the slower your metabolism gets. Mara is closer to 40 than 20 now, so my guess is that her dosage is too strong now and making her hypo. I'll order her butt in to GW after the holidays."

"Thanks, Abbey. I mean Dr. Bartlet. Sorry Ma'am."

"Sam, I know you feel more comfortable calling me Mrs. or Doctor, but I really don't mind if you call me Abbey when we aren't playing First Lady and Deputy Communications Director. OK?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"I suggest you go find Jenna before she talks and charms her way in to flying this plane."

"I was thinking she's been up there too long. We'll be back."

*********************

Four short hours later Mara, Sam and Jenna were checking in to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. It reminded Mara of a luxurious turn of the century lodge and the stone fireplace looked like a great place to curl up in front of with a good book. The hotel Manager came out to welcome Mara and escorted them up to the Presidential Suite. The room offered a stunning view of the new Californian Adventure Park, as well as Disneyland. Jenna ran into the master bedroom and claimed it as her own.

"I don't think so, Rugrat. You are in the other room," Sam said with a grin before swooping her up in to his arms and tossing her on one of the double beds in the second room.

Jenna came scurrying out and playfully punched Sam in the stomach. "Let's go, let's go! The park hasn't closed yet. We can get a ride or two in, at least."

"Jenna, aren't you hungry?" Mara asked hopefully.

"Fun first, food later. Come on, I'll race you to the elevator, Unca Sam."

"Jenna!" Mara shouted as the door was opened. "Relax and calm down or you're going to bed now, young lady. We have to wait for our security escort first."

"Oh," she said with a pout.

"I don't think you'll be pouting when we are brought in through the exit to skip the lines."

"Wow! Your job actually comes with perks! Cool."

Mara wanted to ring Jenna's neck, but she settled for treating her 6 year old, going on 26 years old cousin to her full 'this should make you feel one foot tall' sarcasm. Mara looked at Sam and he knew Jenna was going to get it. 'I've been there Jenna, I'll buy you an ice cream later,' he thought.

"Yeah, like having the First Lady alter her plans so she can give me a lift on Air Force One? Getting to take my whipper snipper cousin to work with me for a week. Hmm? A Prime Minister calling you Jenna Benna, perhaps? How about taking her to Paris or to hang with a rock stars family? Try getting her the BackStreet Boys autographs, not to mention fifth row seats. Jenna Elizabeth Monroe, I've sworn to your mother that I'm not turning you in to a spoiled little princess when I'm in charge of you. I hate to admit it, but I was wrong. I love you as if you were my own, Jenna, but go put your jammies on, cause you aren't going anywhere tonight."

Jenna's quivering lip broke Sam's heart, but he knew better than to mess with Mara. He thought she was being a little mean, but he had to admit Mara did let her get away with murder more than once in the last week. He figured it had to be hard for Mara to set limits when she got away with almost everything herself. He was about to say something when there was a knock on the door. Sam went into Jenna's room instead.

Mara walked over to the door. "Yes?"

"Secret Service, Ma'am. Los Angeles Office."

"How many agents?"

"Two."

Mara opened the door barely a crack. "I need both of your I.D's."

"Here, 1+1=3781."

Mara checked over the I.D's and dialed Ron to verify the information and description of the agents. "Ron, can I ask one of them to stay with Jenna? I just grounded her and Sam and I want to go ride the Ferris Wheel."

"Mara, can't anything ever be easy with you?" Ron sighed.

"Nope."

"Mara, I swear, if Rick tells you to jump, you don't ask why. You have to promise me you'll say how high or which way. I doubt you are in any danger especially since your travel plans were drastically altered, but your safety is my concern."

"I promise Ron, I'll even do it with a smile."

"Fine, let them in and pass the phone to Rick."

Mara opened the door and let the agents in. "Rick, Ron wants to speak with you."

"Butterfield?"

"Yeah."

(Holy Cow this girl is connected.) "Yeah, Ron."

Mara walked away and found Jenna sitting on the edge of one of the double beds, tightly hugging her stuffed Eeyore that went everywhere with her. Sam was sitting back on his knees on the floor so he was almost in perfect eye level with Jenna.

"Jenna, I know this sucks. I wouldn't be too happy if I was you right now, but I'm afraid, Madam Prime Minister, that you have no one to blame but yourself. I warned you that Mara had an awful day at work yesterday and got very little sleep. Now, I don't get to go have fun and I was behaving. The first rule of politics is that your actions affect others, so you better make damn sure your actions are the right ones. Mara really needed a chance to unwind and now she's stuck in here too. So you've ruined all of our nights. This isn't the end of the wor...."

"I'm sorry, Unca Sam. I didn't mean to ruin everything, I really didn't. Please don't be mad at me. I'm really sorry and...." Jenna's sentence faded in to a sob that broke both Sam and Mara's heart."

"Oh, Jenna." Sam pulled her in to his arms and hugged her tightly. "I'm not mad, I promise. You know as well as I do that if Mara was in a better frame of mind, you would have gotten the sarcasm without the punishment. You deserved the sarcasm, Rugrat, and since it's just two hours of park time you're missing, consider this a pretty easy life lesson. Now, go out there and apologize to Mara and admit you deserved some form of punishment."

Sam wiped the tears away from her eyes and left a soft kiss on her forehead. Jenna rubbed at her eyes and noticed for the first time that Mara was standing at the door. She picked up her Eeyore that had dropped to the floor when she clung on to Sam.

"Jenna?"

"I'm sorry, Aunty Mara. I guess I was acting like an impatient spoiled brat. I was just so excited to be here that..."

"You left your brain on Air Force One?" Mara asked with a smile.

"That about sums it up. Sorry."

"Apology accepted. Jenna, you know you are still grounded for the night."

"I know. I'm sorry I messed up your night too."

"Well, Prime Minister Jenna Benna, since this is my Dictatorship, I get to make the rules. I don't think it's fair that Sam and I have to sit here twiddling our thumbs while you are being punished. So Sam and I are going to head over to Paradise Pier until the park closes or our Secret Service Agent is ready to toss me in to the water, whichever comes first. Agent Parker is going to stay here with you. If you behave yourself, Sam and I will bring you something back. If you don't behave yourself, you'll be spending all day tomorrow grounded while we play. Comprise?"

"Yes, Mara. Do I hafta stay in here?"

"No, but you can't leave this suite and you have to listen to Agent Parker, you know the system is in effect."

"Kay, you better get going then. Thanks, Unca Sam."

"Anytime, Jenna."

Mara introduced Jenna toAgent Parker and went over the rules of her behavior with him. She kissed Jenna on the cheek and followed Rick out the door.

"What's the system?" Sam asked on the elevator.

"Jenna has to listen to whoever's in charge of her unless they try to harm her in some way. Then all bets are off and she knows that self-protection is more important. Sue and Steve set this up so she'd know that no one could harm her, try to make her lie, etc."

"Good plan. You know, I can't believe you walked out that door. Not that I'm complaining."

"I was mean, but she'll get over it. It will be a cold day in hell before she ever takes the privileges and opportunities I give her for granted though. So Rick, do you get to ride with us or do you have to stay on the ground?"

"Ground."

"Sorry, we'll buy you a Mickey shaped ice cream to make up for it."

"Thanks, but that isn't necessary, Ambassador Whitford."

"Rick, you're doing me a favour, so it's Mara and unless you hate ice cream, I'm buying you one," Mara said with a grin.

"Humor her, Rick, it's much easier," Sam chuckled.

"I've been married for six years, Mr. Seaborn, I've got the humoring down pat."

Sam gave him a sympathetic look and stuck his tongue out at Mara.

"Sam, if I've told you once, I've told you a million times, don't wave that thing at me unless you intend to use it," she replied with a devilish grin.

Rick chuckled. Ron had warned him that Mara was a handful and would probably drive him to drink before she left his protective custody, but so far, he liked this unusual public official.

"Sir, may I suggest you use it on the Ferris Wheel, considering the elevator door is going to open any second and there could be press out there."

"CJ Creeg got to you didn't she? Call me Sam, please."

"No, Sam your Press Secretary didn't get to me, but I think she'll approve. My job is to try to keep you two from drawing attention to yourselves. There's a golf cart waiting for us with a Park host. So, where do you want to go first?"

"Ferris Wheel," Sam and Mara said simultaneously.

Mara behaved herself, so the park actually closed before Rick wanted to toss her in to the water. He was however getting impatient as she ran around the World of Disney Store buying an obscene amount of merchandise.

"Umm, Sam, do you realize she has a Tigger fetish?" Rick asked as Sam was tying and retying a two-foot tall Eeyores ears.

"He's even on her P.J's, so yes, I've noticed Tigger is one of her many quirky fetishes. A word of warning, never get between Mara and candy."

The words were no sooner out of his mouth when Mara came romping down the aisle with a Mickey shaped lollipop in her mouth and four store employees following closely behind carrying everything.

Rick and Sam looked at each other and started laughing.

"What?" Mara asked, not bothering to take the lollipop out of her mouth.

"Nothing. Are you done buying out the store?"

"Yeah."

"We can just charge all of this to your room and deliver it to your hotel door sometime tomorrow morning."

"Oh, that would be great and we can get out of here."

"No, please ring it all up, We'll take it with us," Rick interjected.

"But..."

"Mara."

She looked over at Sam and got it. "Yeah, actually, now is better. Good idea, Rick."

"Thank you, Mara."

Forty minutes later the door to the hotel suite opened to reveal Agent Parker sitting on the floor coloring with Jenna. She leapt up from the couch and ran over to the door watching the seemingly endless parade of bags being left by the door. Mara gave the bellhop a generous tip and Rick secured the door.

"Holy cow! Christmas has come early!" Jenna exclaimed.

"Nice try Jenna, but I think 99% of this stuff, Mara bought for herself," Sam said dropping the enormous bag he was carrying.

"So, Agent Parker was Jenna a good girl?"

"Very good, Ambassador Whitford. She's a remarkable girl."

"I had fun, Aunty Mara. I missed being in the park, but Agent Parker is cool."

"Thank you, Jenna."

"Then, I guess you can have this." Sam pulled the two-foot Eeyore out of the bag.

Jenna picked up her Eeyore that was sitting between her and Agent Parker on the coffee table and walked over to Sam.

"Look E, it's your Mommy or Daddy! He's the same size as Aunty Mar's Tigger. Thank you so much, Sam."

"You're very welcome Jenna. How did you know I picked this out?"

"It's a Samism?"

"A what?"

"A Samism, something that just says Sam did this. Aunty Mara would have gotten me a medium Eeyore, a Tigger cause she's still trying to convince me I picked the wrong character to love and some candy that would work out to be about the same price. That would have been a Marism. You went straight for what I loved and got me the biggest one you could see."

"I see."

"Jen, I'm starving, do you want anything from room service?" Mara asked.

"Nah, Agent Parker and I had a cheeseburger with fries and sour cream. We shared a big strawberry sundae too."

Mara looked at Sam. "Yup sounds perfect to me. I'll order."

"Rick, you want to join us?"

"Say yes! I want to finish colouring with Agent Parker. Pleeeeease?"

"How could I say no to that offer? Make that 3 cheeseburgers, Sam."

An hour later, Rick and Tom said goodnight and assumed their rotating position of guarding the hotel door. Jenna had been sent to bed after Sam gave her the next installment of Princess Jenna and the Snow Fairies. The last time Sam checked on her, she was fast asleep with her book resting on her stomach. He removed the book and left a soft kiss on her forehead before picking Eeyore off the floor and putting him back in Jenna's arms. Mara came out of the master bedroom, wearing forest green silk pajama's with an embroidered Tigger holding a mug of steaming liquid on the pocket.

"You like?"

"You look very cute, Mar."

"Wanna take it off me?"

Sam chuckled, "I thought you were tired?"

"I got a second wind after eating. It's amazing how when you actually eat you suddenly have some energy."

"Give the girl a Nobel Prize," Sam teased.

"You going stand there giving me sass all night, or you going to relieve me of these P.J's?"

Sam picked her up, carrying her in to the room and tossed her in the king sized bed.

"That answer your question, Brat?" He asked as he closed the door so they wouldn't disturb Jenna.

***************

Mara woke up the next morning feeling sleepy but very happy. Sam had kept her up most of the night but she wasn't complaining. Her hand hit something cool and she turned over to see what it was. She picked up the piece of paper, but couldn't read it. At times like this, Mara hated being blind as a bat. After stumbling around for five minutes she finally found her glasses and smiled at the note Sam left behind.

Morning Beautiful,
I tried to wake you but you were in another world.
I took Jenna over to Disneyland and we'll be back for you at noon.
I invited Rick in to the living room since I know you hate having people outside your door. Order something to eat because Jenna and I will grab something.
Love You,
Sam

"Riiiicccck?"

"Yes, Mara?"

"I'm hungry, could you order me a large pulp free orange juice, French toast with maple syrup and a bowl of berry's while I take a shower and get dressed. Order what ever you want for yourself."

"Sure."

Sam and Jenna entered the suite just after noon and found Mara and Rick sitting on the couch facing the door. Mara had changed in to faded jeans, a white T-shirt and had a sweatshirt wrapped around her waist. Her ever-present sunglasses were on top of her head. Sam was wearing his jeans, a white T-shirt and a beige suede shirt. Mara got up and wrapped her arms around his neck, giving him a long kiss.

"Thanks for letting me sleep in," she whispered.

"I finally wore you out for a change," Sam snickered quietly.

"Yeah, you did handsome."

"So, did you have fun Jenna and go get a sweater."

"Lots of fun and it's really not that cold out."

"Jenna, humour me since we won't be coming back until late tonight."

By the time the party of three returned just before midnight, Mara was wishing Sam could have carried her up to the room instead of Jenna. They had spent the entire day on the go until California Adventure closed at eight, then they returned to Disneyland for the third time until it closed at ten. After a long dinner in the Rain Forest Cafe and then a visit to La Brae Bakery Cafe for dessert, they walked back to the hotel.

Sam placed Jenna gently down on the bed, tucking Eeyore under her arm and covering her up. Mara was already in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin. Sam changed for bed, brushed his teeth and slid in next to her and was surprised to feel her cool skin.

"I thought you were exhausted?"

"I am. I just didn't have enough energy to put my P.J's on. Good night, Sam."

"Night. I'll let you sleep in. Just remember, my mom is coming down to have lunch with us."

"Umphf," Mara mumbled, not listening to what he said as she wrapped her arms around him and promptly fell asleep.

Chapter 24

 

 

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