"I swear to God, CJ. I'm never ever going to be able to look Sam's mother in the eyes again," Mara lamented before dropping her head on CJ's desk.
"Come on, Mar, it couldn't have been that bad."
"I walked out of the bedroom in a tiny little black, lace slip asking Sam if he'd rather have me for lunch, instead of pizza with Jenna! The slip makes my little beige dress look down right puritan!"
"Ouch! What I'd like to know is why is Sam still living? I would have murdered him for not telling me his mother was in the living room."
"I couldn't very well kill him when his Mom was hanging around, now could I? Then I couldn't off him in Jenna's presence or the Secret Service for that matter. No, I'm going to get Sammy back by dragging him to the Spanish Embassy Party Wednesday night. Sam's Spanish sucks and I speak it fluently, so it'll be fun."
"So boring Sam to death is your revenge?"
"No, Sam trying to understand and follow my conversation is going to drive him bonkers and frustrate him to hell. That's my revenge."
"Personally, I think Spanky deserves a harsher sentence, but hey, he's your pet seal, not mine. Now I have exactly three hours off before I have to be back here, so let's go shopping."
"My driver is waiting for us. We can grab something in the food court to eat."
"So, what do you think of Josh's 'Days of Christmas'?"
"I think it's so sweet that I find it hard to believe Josh was the mastermind behind it. I guessed the three French pens and the four calling cards, but the five gold spray painted rings from a ring toss game were pretty impressive. Today is six geese a laying. I'm really interested in this one."
"I want to see ten lords a leaping!" CJ laughed as she tossed on her coat and quickly left the West Wing with Mara before she could be stopped.
Sam looked up to see a huge grin on Donna's face and a rather large green cardboard box.
"If that's food, I want some."
"It's not food, Sam. It's the sixth day of Christmas." Donna placed the box on his desk.
Sam peered in to the box and found six Ty Canadian Geese Beanie Babies lying down on their sides. He picked one up, playing with its floppy black legs before putting it back on it's side in the box.
"Too bad they aren't edible, but they are cute nonetheless."
"Yeah. Mara is still mad at me for the whole Disneyland fiasco, so she didn't feed me last night."
"Sam, you should know better than to mention your mother will be there for lunch just as Mara is drifting off to sleep. CJ would be in here measuring you for your coffin if you'd done that to her."
"Yeah, I was glad Jenna was around. Mara had to behave until she left yesterday afternoon. Are you heading towards the mess?"
"No, but since I liked your speech at the Disney Awards so much, I'll go down and get you something. Give me a twenty."
Sam just handed Donna his wallet and took one of the geese out of the box. "I'm holding this one hostage until you return with my wallet and food," Sam said with a grin.
Donna laughed, "You're holding yourself hostage."
"I named them all. The first row is Jed, Leo and Josh while the second row is Sam, CJ and Toby."
"Donna, I need to give you more work if you have time to name stuffed geese."
"What was that, Sam? You aren't hungry anymore? I should just buy myself something pretty," Donna retorted.
"Evil, thy name is Donnatella," Sam muttered and went back to work.
A few minutes later, Josh was hovering over Sam with an anxious grin on his face. "Well?"
"Well what, Josh?" Sam asked.
"You know, did Donna show you her gift? Hey! What are you doing with one of the geese?" Josh asked, as he noticed it sitting on some papers.
"Donna loved her little gift and apparently, I'm holding the one she named after me hostage until she brings back my wallet and some food."
"She named a goose after you?"
"Yeah, she named them Jed, Leo, Josh, Toby CJ and Sam. You need to keep her busier, Josh," Sam laughed.
"You gave Donna your wallet? Are you crazy?"
"Josh, do you even know where your wallet is? Every time I walk by your area, one of your staff members is tossing it to you."
"Of course it's..." Josh searched his empty pocket. "Well it must be in my desk drawer."
"How did the tree trimming party go?"
"Pretty good, we drank eggnog, ate a ton of cookies and I let Donna talk me in to watching 'The Bishop's Wife'."
"The original I hope, with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven, not the Whitney version."
"Sam, you sure you aren't a girl?" Josh chuckled.
"What? My mom loved Cary Grant, so growing up we watched all his movies. Besides, the remakes are never as good as the originals."
"You are a freak, my friend."
"This coming from Physics boy? Not only are you a freak, Josh, but a geek as well."
Donna cleared her throat at the door to announce her presence and stepped around Josh to put a tray in front of Sam. He looked at the chicken salad sandwich, green salad, slice of chocolate cake and coffee while his mouth watered.
"Donna, you won't get me a cup of coffee, but you'll bring Sam lunch AND coffee? I'm afraid, Miss Moss, you are forcing me to launch a formal grievance."
"Do I look scared Josh? You'd freak if I ever brought you a cup of coffee anyway. I've brought you lunch countless times. In fact, you owe me lunch today. I'm craving super size fries from McDonalds."
"Sounds perfect to me."
"Sam, you have a tray full of food from my assistant in front of you. You don't need fries."
"Josh, as a fry short, you should know there is always room for fries," Sam said with a grin.
"That's it! No fries for you at all, my friend."
"Josh, you are going to get Sam Super Size fries or you'll have to deal with me all day long. The geese are cute by the way, thanks."
"So you named one after me I hear. Which one? I bet the best looking one right!"
"Try the dopiest looking one," Sam teased.
"Nope, the one with the most delicate system. One of the geese just didn't want to stand up so I figured he was the one."
"Sam's right, you do have too much time on your hands with your own assistant. Come on, Goose Girl, we're making a run to MacDonald's."
Sam was minding his own business a few hours later, heading back to his office after a meeting, when he felt the cool slap upside the head that could only be from one person. Well, actually only one woman.
"Ouch, what the hell was that for, Ceeg?"
"You committed a crime against the Sisterhood and Mara let you off too easily. That was my say in the matter."
"Easy? She left me to starve last night and she's dragging me to some hideous Spanish Embassy party."
"Exactly, she's letting you off way too easy. You were hungry and you have to be charming, while standing next to Mara in some gorgeous little thing she'll undoubtedly be wearing. Yup, you need to ask for a Presidential pardon for that one, Spanky," C. J retorted sarcastically. "Oh, by the way, I saw Donna's geese and I'm, by far, the most attractive one."
Sam dared not to make a crack since he didn't want to be on the receiving end of another CJ special. He waited till she was long gone and rolled his eyes. His phone was ringing when he made it back to the office.
"I saw that, Samuel, and you're on my list again."
Sam hung up the phone with a dazed look on his face. Toby stood in the doorway wondering what was going on.
"Earth to Sam. Come in Sam."
"Toby, did you ever run a check to see if CJ was a witch?"
Toby chuckled. "What did she do now? Read your mind, have eyes in the back of her head? Did she guess what you were going to say and say it for you? Or did she put a curse on you and suddenly something is hurting?"
"All I'm saying, Toby, is that we better keep a close eye on her and if she starts planning trips to Salem, we should all run. No wonder she liked Mara's purse so much, it was a black cat."
Toby laughed, "Sam, don't let her hear you say that or she'll be asking to borrow some eye of newt to put a spell on you. The party is Saturday night at eight right?"
"Tell Mara I loved the invitation. The snowman lighting up was a cute touch."
"She made them herself you know. The details she's going in to for this party would exhaust Martha Stewart. She's baking all these mouth watering appetizers and deadly desserts and I'm not allowed to touch them. Mara can be so cruel when she wants to be."
"Sam, woman are cruel, then you die."
"Toby, if I thought you believed that for a second, I'd sick CJ on you. One of these days ,you old cynic, you'll meet another woman who makes your heart skip a beat and she'll be insane enough to date you. Then you'll be singing a different tune."
"Dear God Sam, you've turned in to one of them."
"One of them?"
"Yeah, one of those insanely happy, in love people who thinks everyone needs to be in love."
"Fine, be grumpy, Toby. I don't care. You are partially right though, I am insanely happy and madly in love."
"Thank you, Sam, you just made me loose my appetite. Get back to work!"
Sam found Mara in a much better mood when he walked in the door shortly after eight. The living room smelled like warm gingerbread and he noticed five square cakes cooling on the baking rack. (Great, more food I can't eat and I love her Gingerbread!) A collection of Christmas songs was playing on the stereo and Mara was singing along.
"I'm home!" He yelled in to the kitchen. "I don't suppose I could have a piece of Gingerbread for dinner."
"Nope! These are for the party Sam. Have some patience, the party is only four days away."
"Hey, that sounds like David Bowie."
"Maybe because it is? "
"Wait a sec, that's Bing Crosby?"
"Samuel Norman Seaborn! Don't tell me you've never heard my all time favourite Christmas song!"
"'kay, I won't."
"Oh Sammy, did your parents raise you in a cave?" Mara picked up the tiny remote and started the song again.
"That's pretty. Great message."
"Yeah, it's called 'Peace on Earth/ Little Drummer Boy'. It's from one of Bing's Christmas specials. I love it! Remember when I said Jon always gets me to sing for him at my Christmas Parties?"
"Well, this is always his first request. He does Bing and I do Bowie. He just called to ask me to join him for 'Christmas in Washington' tomorrow at the Kennedy Center."
"So, no Spanish party?" Sam asked with hope.
"No, I had to decline, but trust me, revenge will be mine."
"Wow, you're going to get up in front of the entire audience and a television audience of millions and sing?"
"Yeah, Sam and when I'm done, Ainsley isn't going to correct me and kick my butt," she replied snidely.
"What? Are you going to stand there and tell me it didn't happen, 'cause CJ 's shown me the tape."
"I see you're still pissed at me."
"No, Sam. I'm trying to show you what an insensitive ass you just were. Thank God I don't get stage fright, you moronic geek!"
"Oh, but face it, you're still pissed at me."
"Do you really want to go there, Sam? Because if you do, I'll go there, but it's going to be you who comes out of this bruised and bloody, not me. So you wanna go thirteen rounds with me, Pretty Boy?"
"Sure, why not since you just pissed me off! I hate it when I'm called a Pretty Boy. I've got a degree from Princeton and Duke and I'm sick and tired of being dismissed as the kid or Pretty Boy!"
"I've got degrees from McGill, Oxford, The London School of Economics and I've lectured at McGill, Yale, Harvard and taught in London, so DEAL WITH IT! Sam, try going through life as a leggy blonde who wants to be treated seriously, then you can whine about being a Pretty Boy!"
"I don't know why you had problems, Mara, considering you castrate most men in the first thirty seconds of a conversation!"
"Keep it up, Sam, and you'll be next! I was waiting for that. Tell me, does every man pull out the 'Bitch card' when they know they can't win an argument? I'm smarter and I'm not going to let the Alpha male push me around, so I'm a Bitch? You think I don't know that's what you were thinking when I was chewing you out that first day? "
"Actually, Miss Know-it-All, I was wondering what you'd do if I ran my finger across your lips and kissed you!" Sam yelled back.
"Oh, really?" Mara yelled back in disbelief, forgetting it was Sam she was currently having a battle royal with.
Sam shook his head in disbelief and softened his voice. "Yes. Hard to believe, I know, and I'm currently questioning the sanity of the thought, but that's really what I was thinking."
"Really?" Mara asked quietly.
Sam watched the fury in Mara dissipate as quickly as it had the first time they met. "Yeah, really."
"I don't know. I guess, subconsciously, I knew you were the one. I was more worried that you'd kill me for staring at your lips, than insulting your country."
"You know, Sam, you're too damn good at diffusing my anger. It's not fair. I'm sorta sorry for the Pretty Boy comment."
"Sorta sorry? Geez, thanks ever so. Come here, you evil witch and greet me properly."
Mara pretended to ponder the request before taking the two steps towards him and playfully smacking him upside the head . She grinned and pushed him back against the wall giving him a quick, but highly effective kiss.
"The abuse I take from you, girl. One of these days........."
Sam looked at her, expecting to see Mara's usual smug grin. He wasn't prepared to be looking into the scared, teary eyes of a child. Mara's emerald eyes that usually shined more brilliantly than the gem, had gone dull and flat as the tears welled up and spilled down her cheeks. Sam's heart broke and he quickly pulled her in to his arms. Her tears kept coming and her shoulders started to shake as she began to sob silently. Sam just held her tighter and waited until she seemed to be calming down a bit.
"Mar, I was just teasing you. Please stop crying, you're breaking my heart."
Mara looked up at him with her tear stained face. "Sam don't ever joke about that. Promise me you won't ever do that again."
"I promise. Mar, what's wrong?"
She sniffled a few times, wiped at her face and stayed silent. Sam gently wiped the tears from her eyes and rested his forehead against hers before kissing the tip of her nose. Her lips started quivering again, so he bent down and swept her up in to his arms bringing her over to the couch. Her arms were still wrapped around his neck and her face was buried in his shoulder.
"Mara, what's going on? How can I help if I'm clueless?"
"Sorry Sam, I'm just tired and my emotions are out of whack."
"Now, bear in mind that I'm asking this as a clarification. Is it that time of month, Miss Mood Swing?"
Sam braced himself for a swat, but Mara simply laughed. "No Sam, that was two weeks ago."
"When you were yelling at me because you couldn't find a box of Tiggers or Jenna's flight information?"
"Yeah, because, well it was your fault. You probably distracted me with a kiss and made me lose my mind," Mara said with a grin.
"That's right, everything is always my fault. I keep forgetting that," Sam said sarcastically. "Now, back to the matter at hand. Being tired is part of it, now tell me the whole story."
"It's stupid, Sam."
"Probably," Sam teased." I'll be the judge of that, now spill it."
"I don't have nightmares often, but when I do, my greatest fear always presents itself."
"Yes and no."
"'kay Mara, you are going to have to help me out here."
"We get in to this huge fight in the middle of a thunder storm and I just won't give it up. You get so fed up with me that you tell me you've had it. You aren't teasing, you're serious and you tell me I'm more trouble than ten women and I'm just not worth all the aggravation. You toss your house key at me as lightening strikes and you tell me Toby will come to collect your things."
"Oh, Mara," Sam sighed.
"You leave me Sam, in the middle of a park with the thunder booming and the lightening cracking." The tears started again as she thought about it.
Sam pushed her forward, forcing her to look him straight in the eye. "Mara Whitford, I'd never leave you in the middle of a thunder storm. I don't care how much I'd want to murder you, I'd never do that to you. Mara, you are a royal pain in the ass, but I love you. Would you stop waiting for the other shoe to drop and just face the fact that I'm madly in love with you and I don't ever intend on letting you go, let alone telling you to. If anyone needs to worry here, it's me, not you."
"Sam, I'd never leave you. I love you like I've never loved anyone in my entire life. I'd sooner choose death than leave you on my own accord. I'm not going anywhere, Samuel Norman Seaborn."
"We seems to be at an impasse. You won't leave me and I won't leave you. So, why don't we call it a draw and you can prove your love by letting me eat gingerbread for dinner."
"Aaaah! You don't love me, you just love my gingerbread," Mara laughed, sliding her left leg to straddle Sam, splaying her hands on his chest.
"If I confess, does that help or hinder my chances?"
"With me or the gingerbread?"
"I guess I should answer that very carefully."
The sparkle was back in her eyes and the look of righteous indignation on her face make him chuckle. He went underneath her hands and slowly started unbuttoning her shirt.
"Does that answer your question?"
"Umm hmm," she muttered, as Sam started kissing her.
Mara's shirt was on the floor with Sam's and they were fully reclined on the couch when the doorbell rang. Mara told Sam to ignore the bell and whoever it was would go away and continued kissing him. The doorbell never stopped and Sam finally rolled out from under her and went to get it.
"Sam, tell whoever it is that their life is over."
Sam opened the door and found an auburn haired beauty on the other end with a suitcase beside her. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her sunglasses were perched on top of her head.
"Well, you have to be Sam. Nice abs! I take it I'm interrupting something?
"Go away! We don't want any!" Mara yelled from the couch.
Dani walked in and caught sight of her sister lying on the couch with her jeans unbuttoned and just her bra on.
"See Sam, I told you she'd rear her ugly head at the least opportune time!"
"Ah Mar, you can have sex with Sam later. Aren't you going to say hello?"
"Hello Dani, can't you ever call and confirm a visit before hand?"
"There's no fun in that. Nice tree and you might want these." She bent over and tossed the two shirts on the ground at her.
Mara glared at her sister and slid her top back on simply tying the bottom in a knot and handed Sam his own.
"Her timing really does suck." Sam whispered.
Mara gave her sister a big hug and slapped her upside the head. "Dani, you really should have called. I only have two guest rooms and they are going to be occupied tomorrow afternoon. If I'd known, I could have made arrangements. Now you're going to be on the couch tomorrow night."
"Mara, you can't have just three bedrooms in this mansion."
"Sam's study is up there and I already converted the largest room in to my wardrobe room. There's nothing in there, but my fainting couch and a chair. I have two guest rooms with a Queen bed and two doubles in them."
"Who were you putting up, because Cheryl said she was going to stay at the Ritz with her sister. Did you know Mandy was divorced?"
"Yeah, that was like two years ago and I'm putting Jon, Dorthea and the kids up."
"What, you didn't think I'd show for your Christmas party?"
"I knew you'd show. I figured it would be Saturday, when I'll be running around like a fool. I thought that you'd call and say you're at the airport and to go pick you up. I was going to have you put your stuff upstairs and send you home with CJ for the night. They are leaving Sunday morning."
"Oh well, I'll go crash with CJ tomorrow night then. I'm starving, got anything to eat?"
"I'm hungry too, Mar," Sam added.
"I made lemon chicken to go with the left over rice from the other day."
"I don't like your lemon chicken. Can you make me an omelet?" Dani asked, knowing the answer she'd get.
"No, but you can make you own, you ingrate," Mara replied with a grin.
"How can you not like it, Dani. It's better than any Chinese restaurants."
"She doesn't like lemon."
"Oh, nothing lemon?"
"Nope. I don't mind lime, but I hate lemon flavouring. I smell and see Gingerbread though. I love that."
"Get in line. We can't touch it since it's for the guests," Sam said sarcastically, earning him a swat from Mara.
Dani started laughing, "Oh Sam, you never mess with Mar's party foods. She damn well nearly broke my wrist once, swatting my hand away from an icing bowl. Even I'm not brave enough to mess with her in the kitchen during party prep."
"I'm starting to see that. I told Toby how cruel you were being. He just laughed, actually, he said, 'Women are cruel, then you die.' I told him I'd sick Ceeg on him if I thought he was serious."
"Ah, Toby was just being Toby. You know he still loves Andy, they just can't live together. That wedding band has never come off his finger."
"Yeah, he's actually told me that himself. It's easier to get thing out of a drunk Toby, but even then he'll only share so much."
"Hmm, we should set him up with Mandy."
"Toby doesn't do set ups," Mara and Sam said together.
"Yeah, and while Mandy is sarcastic as hell, she's an upper, not a downer. They'd murder each other."
"Opposites attract, you know."
"Dani, Toby's marriage failed because he's a workaholic. Mandy's in Ottawa. Logistically, it could never work."
"Actually, she's a New Yorker," Dani and Mara answered.
"No, perish the thought. Mandy's a Canuck, but she works for Harper Collins New York. She's a senior editor for them."
"Oh, makes sense now," Sam muttered before returning to his food.
Dani sat down at the table with her omelet and gave her sister the full medical update on her leg and promised Mara that the Doctor's actually did tell her she didn't need the cane anymore. Sam excused himself after dinner to do some work, and Mara and Dani sat in the kitchen for another hour or so talking until Dani started yawning.
"Pick a room and put your stuff in my wardrobe room. I'll call CJ and let her know she's going to have company."
"Thanks. Sorry it didn't occur to me that someone other than Cheryl would be staying with you."
"Dani, you know that it's not that I don't want to see you. Why do you think it drives me nutso when you just show up unannounced? You never stop to think that you may be screwing up a plan. Now, I'm happy you're here, but an hour ago I wanted to be on the couch with Sam. I would have kicked CJ out of here without a second thought. I would have told Abbey her timing really sucked and she would have taken the hint and left."
"I don't take hints, do I?"
"No, you don't. I love ya, but some days I want to murder you."
"Believe me, the feeling is mutual. I'm going to bed so you and Sam can go have all the sex you want. I promise I won't even tell you to shut up since I'm trying to sleep," Dani said with a grin.
Mara swatted her. "Go to bed, you bloody loon."
"Yeah, yeah, your Royal Snarkiness."
Mara stuck out her tongue and laughed. She quickly cleaned up the kitchen and wrapped the gingerbread up in plastic wrap so they'd stay moist. She looked at the last eight inch square cake and cut it in half. She wrapped the other half up and hide it. She slid the plate into the microwave for twenty seconds and brought it upstairs with her, placing it on her bedside table. She changed for bed and wandered in to the study to get Sam.
"You done yet?"
"Yeah, just give me another few minutes. I'd like to know why you don't seem to have anything to do other than cook for your party and go to parties?"
"Because of all the parties, an Ambassador is generally too tired to do anything of any importance in the holiday season. The end of this week sort of unofficially marks slack off time till the new year. Come on, even you guys put things off till January 2nd."
"Yeah, but we have work to do right up until the 24th."
"Even on the Hill, we'd goof off around this time. Maybe it's because we have Thanksgiving at the proper time, not to signal the Holiday buying season. You guys slack off at the end of November when we are working so that we can slack off later."
"Nah, you're all just a bunch of slackers who are more interested in Hockey than what's going on with the national debt," Sam teased.
"And to think I brought you a piece of gingerbread. What was I thinking?"
Sam's eyes lit up and he quickly shut the computer down. "Really?"
"Yes, really, but now I don't think you deserve any."
"I'll do anything you say for a piece."
"Anything?" Mara laughed wickedly sounding like the devil incarnate.
"Uhuh," Sam laughed.
"Well, I could use a pedicure and when aren't my shoulder's all tense?"
"You've got it."
Sam looped his arm around her back and walked in to their room. He was surprised to see half of the cake on the plate.
"Mara, I figured you'd give me a sliver, not half the cake."
"You are getting a sliver the rest is for me," Mara teased.
Mara put the plate in the middle of the bed and tore it in half with her hands. She broke off a piece and slowly savoured it.
"Dani makes you that crazy that you have to eat your party food?"
"Yes, I normally eat a platter full of stuffed mushrooms when she shows up. I love her to death, Sam, but she drives me nuts. I irritate the hell out of her too. We know each other too well and we are two of a kind."
"Oy... and I have to live with you both until New Year's? Never mind you, I'm going to need double the party foods to survive."
Mara laughed and fed Sam a piece of cake before kissing him tenderly. It didn't take them long to finish every morsel of the cake. Sam finally got up to change after giving Mara a neck massage and painting her toes a metallic pink and slid into bed.
"You know, since Dani's timing sucks and Josh's watch sucks, we should set them up and find someone more worthy for Donna," he commented as he slid his arms around her.
"Sam, we are two of a kind, except I'm the older wiser sister. 'One Fry' would be mashed potatoes when Dani got through with him. Besides, even though she won't admit it, Donna's got her heart set on Josh."
"She named a goose after me."
"Yeah, I heard and apparently CJ thinks hers is the cutest one of them. I've got one of those geese. Actually, I have the Beanie Buddy big one too."
"I haven't seen it. Is it in your office?"
"Yeah, the two of them are on a lower shelf. Josh is being quite creative."
"Uhuh, and he hasn't asked for help once. Toby and I keep expecting him to ask, but he hasn't and as far as I know, CJ isn't helping him either."
"Wonders never cease. Sam, I really am sorry about earlier. You're not a Pretty Boy. You're a gorgeous, intelligent, capable man and I love you."
"Apology accepted and not necessary. Mara, I forget that at the drop of the hat you can become so insecure. You have to try harder to suck it up and roll with the teasing, especially when you are tired and in a mood. You laughed in Disney when I told your teacher I'd drop you like a hot potato if she asked."
"You're right. I'm just so tired lately and so stressed out about work and trying to make it my Embassy. I dropped a box of paper clips on the floor yesterday and I swear, I was about to start crying."
"So you cry in utter frustration?"
"Yeah and, or break things."
"I'm telling you that you should go check out an anger management class with Toby."
"I break a few things, toss a binder across the room, no biggie."
"I give up. You'd be perfect for Toby. You could break things together," Sam laughed.
"Too grumpy for me. No, Mr. Seaborn, you do quite nicely for me, thank you very much."
"The feeling's mutual. Now go to sleep. You're going to need your strength to deal with your sister."
The last contact Sam had with Mara was the kiss he gave her before he left the house. A crisis had come up with Bill 620 and he spent his day on the hill with Josh, trying desperately to advert it. Sam never imagined that when he signed on to write speeches for the campaign that he'd become the Deputy Communications Director, a trusted Domestic Policy Advisor, one of CJ's spin doctor's and at the moment, a disaster recovery specialist. Mara hadn't even called, which lead him to believe that she was either at rehearsals for "A Washington Christmas" or in jail for murdering her sister. He was fairly sure it was the former, since Dani had only been in town for sixteen hours.
CJ had offered him a few words of advice about how to deal with Mara while she was dealing with Dani, and offered to ask Dani to spend the week with her instead of a few days. Sam knew it wasn't purely out of the kindness of her heart and found out that Dani was great at wrapping, and CJ was going to use her to wrap all her Christmas gift. The idea tempted Sam, but he decided that if he ran into trouble, he'd seek Dani's guidance.
When Sam got back, Kathy handed him a slew of messages, putting Mara's on the top. He laughed when he read it. Kathy always wrote down exactly what Mara said and she never seemed to mind. In fact, she'd give the message a grade on her cute scale factor. This message got an 7.
No, I haven't killed her!
"Where the heck is Mara? I haven't been able to get hold of her all day. Even her cell is off."
"Did you try home?"
"Yeah, no answer. "
"Well, Jon and Dorthea came in this morning, so maybe she's getting them settled. Try again."
"Dial for me."
It took five rings but the phone was finally picked up. "Dani?"
"What's up, Sam?"
"Is Mara still there?"
"You just missed her. She had to run over to the cleaners. What's up?"
"CJ wanted her."
"Ah, put heron."
Sam gave CJ his phone and went out to get a file he needed from Bonnie. Donna was standing at her desk talking and smiled at Sam.
"Got a sec?"
"Sure what's up?"
Sam followed Donna back to her cube and she pulled what looked like a page from a children's book out of a manilla envelope. Sam took one look at it and chuckled.
"I was wondering how he was going to pull off 'Seven Swans a Swimming'."
"Do you think Josh will like this?" Donna handed Sam a black box that held a stainless steel Timex Indiglo watch."
"He'll like it a lot. Donna, how could you afford this?"
"I got a 50 % off scratch card from J.C. Penny."
"Ah. Josh would love anything you got him, Donna."
"I guess. Well, I better go change if we're going to be on time tonight."
"See ya in a bit."
The first chance Sam had to see Mara was when Jon introduced her after singing 'Blue Christmas'.
Sam leaned over to whisper in to her ear. "The Angels must be envious; you sound better than a heavenly choir."
"Ah, Sam. That's so sappy, but it's working. We have a date in our bed when this is over," she whispered back.
"We have guests."
"They'll deal," Mara responded with a sexy grin.
Mara surprised Sam by lingering in bed on Saturday morning. He knew she had tons of last minute details to attend to, but she was still wrapped around him, tracing the outline of his jaw.
"'Ten Lords a Leaping' should be tonight. I can't wait to see what Josh comes up with."
"You're totally in to this 'Twelve Days' thing."
"Yeah, I am. I'm a sucker for grand romantic gestures, even though the gestee and gestor swear it's platonic."
"The two of them are crazy for each other, but just won't admit it. Donna all but admitted it to me, but she won't go and ask Josh out. And he has no problems telling everyone else to bite him, but he won't tell Donna how much she means to him. I've given up."
"They'll come around eventually. Think you can manage to make toast without burning it?"
"I'm fairly confident I can swing that."
"Great go start toast and I'll meet you in the kitchen when I've taken a shower or when the smoke alarm goes off, which ever comes first."
"Oh, ye, Have a little faith."
"In your cooking skills? You're darn tooting!"
"Hey, my chicken didn't kill you."
"It could have been a fluke," Mara laughed and quickly fled to the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, Mara found scrambled eggs, back bacon and toast sitting on the kitchen table. Sam was nursing a large cup of coffee in one of the Tigger mugs Mara had brought back from Disneyland.
"See, my Tigger obsession pays off."
"Yeah, I can drink two cups at once. Notice the absence of D.C.'s finest firemen and yet, breakfast is on the table?"
"'kay, you aren't as useless as Ceeg in a kitchen, I'll give you that."
"Can I help you with anything?"
"Yeah, I want a white Christmas. Could you figure out exactly who you have to bribe to make that happen and bribe them."
"How about I just get rid of the deficit instead? It would be a much easier task."
"I want snow, Sam. There is usually an inch or two on the ground in Ottawa by now. It sucks Sam, it really sucks. I've never seen a Christmas Eve without snow. In Toronto, a few times, it melted as soon as it hit the ground, but it still fell."
"Sorry, Mara I can't help you there. I was thinking more along the line of putting glasses out or helping you move furniture around."
"You have gifts to wrap, why don't you do that. I'll call you when I need you."
After several hours, trips to the grocery store and a few errands later, Sam sent Mara up to change while he waited for Josh, Charlie and Toby to show up to help him carry out his plan. Sam heard the rumbling of a truck, looked out the window and breathed a sigh of relief. Josh pulled his car up to the curb and let Charlie out before he went to find a parking space. Josh came back with Toby and they had just started to get to work when Mara's car and driver pulled up and let Jon and his family out. Jon offered his help and Dorthea promised to keep Mara away from the front of the house. They worked quickly, aided by the security force, and forty minutes later, Sam's surprise was done. He promised everyone a good stiff drink and let them in to the house.
Mara came out of the kitchen and noticed the guys lounging on the couch, drinks in hand. She sensed a cover up, but wasn't sure what nefarious little deed they had been involved in. She decided to take advantage of the time to give some of her gifts out. She called Josh in to the kitchen, first laughing at the look of horror on his face. She handed him the small box wrapped in blue paper with little gold stars of David on it.
Josh looked at her quizically, and flipped open the card that read 'To: One Fry, Happy Chanukah, Luv Bu'.
"Luv Bu?" Josh asked with a smug grin.
"Oh shut up, you useless twit and just open the damn gift!"
Josh chuckled and unwrapped the box, pulling out a blue pager with the Mets insignia on it.
"Hey, thanks! This is cool!"
"Josh, it's not an average pager. It's only good for transmitting the scores of Mets games. It's on about a minute delay and gets updated after every at bat."
"Oh wow, that makes it really cool! Thanks Bu!"
"You're welcome. Just don't go showing it off yet."
"You got Toby a Yankees one?"
"'Kay, your secret is safe with me."
"Hey, how did you do with 'Ten Lords a Leaping'?"
"Donna will show you, I'm sure. I haven't seen her reaction yet."
"Josh, for what it's worth, I'm impressed."
"That and two bucks will get me a coffee at Starbucks," Josh teased.
"Josh, don't forget, I know where you live and I have access to the key," Mara taunted back.
Mara gave a grateful Toby his gift, as well as two box seats to the Yankees home opener next season. Toby was touched and gave Mara a long bear hug until Sam wandered in to the kitchen and asked if there was something they needed to tell him. Mara laughed while Toby insulted his Deputy and returned to his drink.
The doorbell rang and Mara noticed the lights were turned on outside. She thanked Sam and opened the door. Sam watched in amusement as her eyes lite up.
"Quite the winter wonderland you have going there Mara," Abbey commented as she stood at the door with her husband and Ron.
Mara didn't know what to say. The entire front yard was filled with snow and there was even a snowman to the left of the entrance way complete with a plastic top hat, a corn cob pipe, coal eyes and a large black button nose. Mara recognized the brown mitts as her own with a tartan scarf she'd been given years ago. She turned to look at Sam as tears rolled down her cheek.
"Hey, you weren't suppose to cry."
"Oh, Sam, that's what you were up to! I love you! This is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. You made it snow."
"Well, actually, I raided every arena in the Beltway. The grass will probably be flooded by the morning and..."
Mara silenced Sam with a long passionate kiss. "Oh Abbey, have you ever seen such a romantic gesture?"
"I've seen a few, but come to think of it, it's been awhile Jed."
"I'll get you for this, Samuel," Jed teased as he made his way into the house.
CJ and Dani came along the sidewalk with two large bags filled with wrapped presents, stopping to admire the snow scene before them. Sam ran down to hold the gate open for them.
"'kay, this snow wasn't here yesterday. I was tired, but I wasn't wasted."
"This looks like the job of one Samuel Norman Seaborn to me," CJ laughed.
"Yes, with the help of his snow elves, whom I better go thank," Mara yelled from the doorway.
"The house looks amazing from the outside, Mara. It's the most festive house on the block."
"Thanks, sis. Did you find..."
CJ walked into the Victorian mansion, expecting to be impressed, but she was amazed at the minute details Mara had gone to. The banister of the spiral staircase with decked out in garland and lights, as was the hearth of the fireplace with stockings hanging for every invited guest. CJ squeezed one and discovered it was full before rolling her eyes as she noticed Mara had strategically placed hers next to Danny's. Soft Christmas music was playing on the stereo and Mara had turned the simple bar top into any guests dream. She had arranged chilled bottles of Vodka in long ice sculptures with random sprigs of holly, mint leaves and cranberries frozen between the layers of ice. A floating wreath of cranberry and mint ice floated in a festive punch. Crafts of hot chocolate, eggnog and mulled apple cider were clearly labeled and cinnamon sticks, ground nutmeg, chocolate shavings, whip cream and ground cinnamon were all on display, just waiting to be used. Her mouth watered and she didn't know where to start. She had seen the magnificent 7 foot pine tree a few days ago, but it seemed to be more magical looking now that the entire house was set for Christmas.
The glass table behind the couch had been cleared and a variety of hors d'oeuvres where placed amongst mini artificial trees and a scattering of menorah candles. Mara came out of the kitchen with a tray filled with large glass mugs that were usually used for Irish coffee.
"Mara, this house is... Martha Stewart would be beyond impressed. Can I help you?"
"Nope, everything is pretty much under control. Everything that should be served warm is in the ovens and everyone else should be here soon, it's only ten to eight. Here if you want cider or hot chocolate, use your own mug."
C. J noticed that the glass mugs had each person's name painted on them in red or green. "'kay .I'm just going to kill you now because you did those by hand didn't you?"
Mara laughed, "Ceeg, it's easy! I have glass paint and I just used a thin brush to write the name, then heated it in the oven to set it. It took me two hours tops."
"Right and those stockings, the ice displays, all the food, the carol book I know you put together with the year on them. I keep telling you to recycle, but no you personalize each one and date it."
"I can't help it, Ceeg. Christmas is my favourite time of year and I look forward to hosting this party every year. The little touches are as much for me as they are for my guests. I also thought it would make Leo's life so much easier if alcohol wasn't added to anything and he could easily keep track of his glass."
"Well, when you put it that way, the glasses are a good idea, you freak of nature. How about I made us a Bailey's hot chocolate."
"Sounds delightful, just don't forget..."
"You want cinnamon before the whip cream and sprinkled on top, yeah, I know. Hey, do you have parfait spoons for the glasses?"
"I knew I forgot something. I'll be right back."
The doorbell rang twice before Sam reached the door and looked at the cluster of his fellow west wingers. Donna and Bonnie were examining the snowman while Margaret, Kathy and Ginger were standing on the top of the steps rolling their eyes. Danny and Leo were standing at the gate and Donna left her inspection to let them in.
"Thanks for coming. Step right up or freeze, it's your choice," Sam laughed.
"Hey Sam, you know I've heard about Mara's Christmas parties and how she goes all out, but to make it snow?"
"Actually, that was my doing, Leo. Mara misses the snow, so I arranged for her to have some."
"Ah, boss, that's so sweet." Kathy smiled at Sam and gave him a quick hug. "Thanks for including me."
"Kathy, who else would we invite to make sure there aren't any desserts left?" Sam teased.
"Me," Ginger and Bonnie replied together.
"Hey, Sam, am I really the only member of the press invited?"
"No, Danny the press wasn't invited period. For some illogical reason, Mara likes you, so she invited you."
"Funny Sam. It's my natural charm, drives all the ladies crazy."
"It's not your charm that drives me crazy, Daniel," Carol shouted from the gate.
Sam chuckled and walked back down to let Carol in the gate. Sam closed the door behind them and brought all the coats down to the basement and hung them up in one of the empty garment boxes from Mara's move. By the time Sam made it back upstairs, the party was in full swing and Sam was trying to figure out who wasn't there yet. Toby was on his way downstairs with Mrs. Landingham and Ainsley's coat.
"Oh, thanks, Toby. I'll do that."
"Mara wants you in the kitchen, Sam. Don't worry I'll do it."
Sam found Mara, CJ, Abbey and Donna in the kitchen laughing while shifting food on to trays. Dani was bringing them out to the party. Sam stole a stuffed mushroom off Dani's tray and stood in front of Mara.
"My lady summoned me?"
"Yeah, Sweetie, we thought you'd like to see 'Ten Lords a Leaping'."
Sam looked expectantly at Donna who started laughing and opened a little square box pulling out a stack of paper dolls linked together. Donna held them out and started laughing again. Everyone started to laugh when they saw Josh had found ballerina paper dolls in various jumping positions that he coloured in different colours and pasted a black and white head shot of Lord John Marbury over each face. Josh heard the laughter, noticed who was conspicuously absent and headed towards the kitchen. Abbey was wiping the tears from her eyes and shook her head at Josh.
"Josh you are certifiable and that was funny as hell. I have to bring Leo in here to see this."
"Actually, Ma'am, Leo caught me colouring them last night and after we stopped laughing he helped me finish them."
"Which one?" Donna asked with a grin.
Josh pointed to the eighth pink Ballerina with golden hair and grinned wildly.
"Josh and Donna, I'm out of the loop. What was after the six stuffed geese lying in a box?"
"A page from a children's book with seven swans swimming in a lake, then eight coupons for one day maid service with eight half cartons of chocolate milk and nine was nine Arthur Murray dance lessons in a card of nine Rockettes dressed in Santa suits on the cover."
"Very creative of you, Josh."
"Thank you, Dr. Bartlet."
The door bell rang for a fourth time and Toby still didn't see Sam or Mara, so he went over to open the door.
"Holy cow, could you go any slower?. "A thin brunette with long hair exclaimed sarcastically.
Toby rolled his eyes and looked at the other woman with dark blonde hair who was chuckling. She looked familiar to Toby, but he couldn't place her.
"Hello! Are you going to keep us standing out here all night, Kojack?"
"Mandy! Sorry Toby, my sister has been living in New York for way too long and she's been deprogrammed of her polite Canadian nature."
Toby recognized the voice and smiled back. "Hey Cheryl, I was wondering if that was you. Obviously, you are the fairer sister."
Mandy snorted and pushed past Toby, giving him a better look at her long hair that was actually closer to dirty blonde in the light. Cheryl gave Toby a quick hug and followed him in to the living room.
"Wow, Mara has out done herself. I've been to every one of her Christmas parties and this one is by far the prettiest. The snow has to be Sam's contribution right?"
"Yeah, we helped him spread it around just before the party started. Mara was touched and practically hugged me to death for helping out. Can I get you a drink?"
Toby couldn't help looking at Cheryl's evil sister in the mirror behind the bar, as Mara greeted her with a big hug and took her coat, revealing a slim black velvet pencil skirt and a snug gold knit sweater. Cheryl noticed where Toby's gaze rested and sighed.
"She's a real piece of work, Toby. You know, people wonder how I can not only tolerate Mara, but love her as my best friend and the answer is easy. I've been dealing with a 'know-it-all, over achieving, workaholic' big sister all my life. Mara has this big kid side to her that makes her fun to be with. Mandy has her moments, but she can't stop telling me what to do."
"Cheryl, speaking from experience, older siblings can never just butt out of your life. It's part of our genetic makeup to look after you even when we know you are doing fine without our input."
"Like I haven't heard that a million times."
"Well, here's one more for you; we really are wiser than our punk kid brothers or sisters," Toby added with a smirk that earned him a slap on the arm before Cheryl went to find Mara.
Toby watched in amusement as Donna made a point of introducing Josh to Jon's wife, Dorthea, and chuckled as she kept peppering her sentences with the word 'wife' and 'happily married'. He decided to go sit beside Ginger and Bonnie for a minute and headed for the chair Carol had vacated. He had just settled down when Mandy tripped on his feet and stumbled in to his lap.
"This seat is occupied in case you haven't noticed."
"Well, if you'd keep your big feet out of the way..."
"You know what they say about big feet," Toby teased.
"What? Big feet, little hair?" Mandy retorted with a take that look.
"Tell me, were you Mar's role model for her frosty bitch mode?"
Mandy laughed despite the knock, "Didn't your mother ever teach you that if you have nothing nice to say, that you should just shut up?"
"I was busy that day, what's your excuse?" Toby countered.
Bonnie and Ginger exchanged looks and fled before having to witness yet another one of Toby's outbursts. Toby and Mandy kept exchanging zingers until his leg was starting to fall asleep and he pushed her off him to her feet. Mandy was so busy arguing that she forget she was sitting on his lap and made a grand show of fixing the pile on the back of her skirt. Mara and Sam had noticed them attacking each other and Mara couldn't help meddling.
"So Tobs, did Mandy tell you that she loves the Yankees?"
"You do?" Toby asked as Mandy sat down in Ginger's long ago vacated place.
"I have season tickets actually. I hate having to miss a game."
Toby looked impressed and Mara walked away grinning. "Mara gave me a Yankees pager system as a Chanukah gift. I'm too busy running the country to get to the games, but I follow them religiously."
"So, you are to blame for the ills of the country?"
"No, that would be the Republicans."
Mandy laughed, "Greatest Yankees team ever?"
Toby answered her and they got in to a long passionate debate, forgetting everyone else in the room. Mara watched Josh standing nest to Donna near the Christmas tree with one arm resting loosely around her back as they examined the different ornaments on the tree. Mara offered to take a sleepy Stephanie up to bed where her brother had headed the hour before. She tucked Stephanie in and headed down the stairs where she met Sam on his way up.
"Long time no see stranger."
"I was looking for you."
"Well you found me, handsome."
Sam wrapped his arms around her neck, resting his forehead against hers. "Your party is an undeniable hit. Everyone is having a great time, even Ron is relaxed and jovial. You throw one hell of a party, Miss Whitford."
"Thanks Sam, but I sort of wish they'd all go home and leave us alone already."
He chuckled before giving her a tiny kiss that turned in to two, that turned into fifteen minutes of hot and heavy kissing witnessed off and on by their amused guests. CJ finally made her way up the stairs and told them to rent a room or return to the party. Jon handed Mara a Vodka spiked punch at the bottom of the stairs and pushed her in the direction of the grand piano. Mara opened the piano bench and pulled out the carol song books CJ was teasing her about earlier. She gave Sam half the stack and walked around handing them out to everyone before sitting back down beside Jon and singing.
Toby and Mandy slipped out just before the singing was over and Toby drove her back to the Ritz, where they sat arguing and trading barbs until the bar tender turned off the lights and threatened to lock them in. Toby walked Mandy over to the bank of elevators and wished her sweet dreams. He heard the elevator ding as it opened and rounded the corner. He was surprised to feel an arm on his that pulled him back in to the recess of the wall and before he could think, let alone protest, Mandy's lips glided across his in a erotic teasing kiss that Toby was powerless to resist, so he simply returned it. Mandy smiled, quickly heading back towards the elevator.
"Try to sleep now, Toby. Pick me up at noon for lunch."
Toby stood with his mouth gaping until the elevator closed and he rubbed his chin in amazement. It had been so long since a woman had stirred his passions and intellect at the same time. He had half a mind to not show up for lunch to teach her a lesson, but he knew he would be the one who'd be sorry for missing the meeting.
CJ and Dani left shortly after two, having stayed behind to help Mara and Sam clean up, thus guaranteeing first dibs on leftovers. CJ fully intended on having triple chocolate raspberry cake for breakfast and Dani was having cheese rolls and bacon wrapped scallops. Mara turned off the lights in her nearly spotless kitchen and then on the tree. Sam was waiting for her at the top of the stairs and flicked the white lights out on the garland. Mara sighed happily and leaned against Sam who swept her up in to his arms and gently placed her on their bed.
"I'm not going in to work at all tomorrow, so don't worry about anything. I'll get up, make breakfast and I'll bring it to you in bed around eleven."
"Of course. What else would I bring you for breakfast. You have to tell me where you hid the fifth one though."
"It's wrapped up in the far cupboard on the shelf above Killer's food tins."
"'kay. Hey, where is Killer?"
"Curled up with Stephanie. 'night, Sam. I love you."
"You aren't going to change?"
"Nope, too tired," She mumbled.
"Sweet dreams, my fire breathing dragon. And I love you too."
Mara was all ready fast asleep when Sam joined her ten minutes later, but it didn't take her long even in her sleep to sense his presence and move in to his arms. Sam brushed her hair out of her face and sighed contentedly. He'd given up trying to figure out how Mara sensed he was in bed with her, but every night when she found her way in to his arms, he could finally let go and give in to sleep. He wondered how he ever slept before she walked in to his office yelling at him that bright October day.