Cold Blast
Part 27

By Cathy


Mara woke up with a stiff neck and tried to work the kinks out. She noticed Josh watching her and smiled.

"Mmmpf .. Morning."

"Couldn't keep your drool to yourself, now could you?" Josh asked with a sleepy grin

"Sorry. Sam calls me a Saint Bernard some mornings. You should be flattered, it means I got some quality sleep."

"A simple 'thanks' would have sufficed. If you'll get off me, I'll go find us some coffee."

"I want pulp free..."

"Orange juice, yeah I know."

Josh left the room, muttering about drooling and demanding dragons, while Mara simply ignored him. She bent over and left a tender kiss on Sam's forehead.

"Good morning, Sweetie. Well, my Christmas sucked thanks to Dani and yours sucked too obviously. I think the pod people have captured Josh, because he is being down right sweet to me. I'm starting to see why you keep him around as your best friend. You know even in this horrible lighting, my engagement ring sparkles. Oh Sam, I wish you'd wake up so I could yell at you for scaring me to death."

"Oh, yeah, there's an incentive to wake up."

"Hey, Tobs. What are you doing up so early?"

"Early? It's seven o'clock, Mara. Oh wait, I forgot you only get up at nine. How is our patient?"

"Still the same. Josh went to get coffee and juice."

"Yeah, I caught him in time to place my order. So how are you doing?"

"I'm worried, I still hate my sister and my heart is still shattered."

"I'm worried too. I know better than to tell you to give your sister a break and I volunteer to help you put that heart back together. Mara, you may be far from home, but you have an extended family here who will go to the ends of the earth for you."

"Thanks, Tobs. Did you know Sam was going to propose to me?"

Toby took a long look at Sam. He looked like he'd been sucker punched by Josh again. His skin was so pale and Toby could hardly believe 'his Sam' and this Sam were one in the same.

"No, he kept us all in the dark. Mara, you should go home and get some sleep. You look paler than Sam."

"I totally agree with Toby," Abbey said from the door.

"I smell breakfast," Mara said quickly, attempting to change the subject.

"Nice try, but I'm serious, Mara. You don't look very good."

"Bu, they didn't have... Hello Ma'am."

"Joshua, you don't look much better than Mara."

"Drool really isn't a good look for me." Josh joked.

Mara took the bottle of juice from Josh and fished around in her purse until she found the tiny tea strainer. She rested it on the top of the bottle and looked up to see everyone staring at her.

"What? I really hate pulp so I'm always prepared. Thanks Josh."

"Mara, I have an egg, ham and cheese bagel for you and scrambled eggs with cheese for Josh. You can eat, then you are both barred from this hospital for five hours."

"Aaabbbbey, you can't do that!" Mara whined.

"Whining doesn't work on me, Mara. Toby and I will stay with Sam. You both should go take a shower, have a nap and change. Trust me, Sam will still be here when you get back."

"Josh, you should really go spend time with your Mom."

"If I've got to go, Mara so do you," Josh countered.

"Abbey!"

The First Lady turned around slowly and gave Mara her patented 'do as I say or I'll make your life a living hell' look.

"What?"

"Five hours from the second I leave this room till the second I walk back in?"

"You had to push didn't you? No, from the minute you get home till the minute you leave home. Another word Missy and I'm upping it to six."

"I guess I better eat my breakfast before it gets cold," Mara muttered dejectedly.

Abbey rolled her eyes. Mara reminded her of a pouting six-year-old who had just been told she couldn't eat ice cream for breakfast.

Josh couldn't help grinning to himself. It was the first time he had seen anyone put Mara in her place. Of course, Abbey in a mood scared everyone, including her husband and no one was dumb enough to cross her. Josh quietly ate his eggs, wondering if Sam ever won an argument with Mara.

Mara was deliberately chewing each bite 32 times to prolong the length of time she had with Sam. When she was finished, her juice and only half a bite left, Abbey pulled Toby and Josh out of the room.

"We have to stick to the five hour rule with Mara. She's going to need some tough love because the first thing she forgets about in a crisis is her own well being. The rule will apply to all of you. I'm not going to let Mara argue that none of us have to follow the rules."

"Considering we still have a country to run, staying away for five hours won't be a problem," Toby replied.

"Toby, when it comes to this, I'm in charge. You will all sleep, you will all leave the White House at a half decent hour . Don't make me do nightly rounds."

"Mrs. Bartlet..."

"Tobias, I am fully aware that the State of the Union is coming up and I don't want to hear it! We almost lost Josh, we're holding a vigil for Sam. The entire lot of you are my extended family and I'm not about to lose one of you on my watch! You people give me stress headache's just watching you work! My husband owes you a great deal of thanks and so does this country, but enough is enough! You will find some balance or I'll fire your asses so fast you head's will spin! Oh and Josh, I don't care if I can't technically do it, believe me, I can and I will."

"Ma'am, I swear I wasn't even thinking it."

"Good, now please extend an invitation to your Mother to have lunch with me before she leaves, at her convenience."

(Oh great, why not invite Donna too? I'll be lucky if I get any say over my day. FLOTUS having a pow wow with my Mom? Oh Sam, help! This is just bad on sooo, sooo many levels!)

"I'll be happy to, Ma'am."

"Tea might be lovely. Don't you think, Toby?"

"Oh, yes, delightful. I'm sure Mrs. Lyman would love it," Toby said with a smirk.

(Your ass is grass, Ziegler!)

"I'll drop Mara off, Dr. Bartlet."

"Thank you, Josh."

Abbey gave them both a look and went in to move Mara along. Josh waited until she was inside the room before turning around to swat Toby.

"Hey!"

"Oh, like you didn't deserve that? I'm telling CJ you think she's more interested in spouting off feminist crap than doing anything for women," Josh threatened with an evil grin.

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Watch me, Toby. Now, what do you have to say for yourself?"

"Sorry," Toby mumbled.

"That's better. Now, go get Bu for me."

Mara looked like she was afraid to move, as she stood beside Sam holding his hand. Toby looked to Abbey for guidance and she nodded her head. Toby came up behind Mara and squeezed her shoulder. He pondered the situation for a few seconds, said a silent prayer and sighed.

"Mar, I swear on my honor, nothing bad will happen to Sam in the next five hours. I'll berate him for scaring us all, I promise."

"'kay. I'll be back."

"I know."

Abbey handed Mara her purse and gave her a hug. She watched a brief flash of panic and fear flash in Mara's eyes and wanted to cry, but she had to be strong for Mara.

"Sweetie, clock is ticking. Go."

Mara took one last look at Sam and walked out the door. Josh was waiting for her, car keys in hand.

"Mar, you're coat. It's cold out."

"I don't care, Josh. I'm too numb to feel. Let's just get out of here so I can get back."

Mara didn't say a word in the car, she sat silently staring straight ahead while twisting her engagement ring from side to side on her finger. Josh was two blocks away from the mansion when Mara finally spoke.

"Josh, I can't."

"You can't what?"

"Go back to the house. I'm not ready."

"You want to go to Ceeg's?"

"No, she's there."

"The Residence?"

"No."

"Work with me here, Bu! You can crash at my place. My Mother will make you a cup of tea and I'll ignore you."

"Fine."

Josh couldn't believe it, but he hated a quiet Mara. She didn't say a word the rest of the way. She got out of the car as soon as it stopped and stood on the top step of Josh's brownstone. Josh was starting to get worried.

"Mara?"

"What?"

Josh sighed in utter frustration, waving his hands in the air.

"Would you insult me? Yell at me, do something that requires more than a couple of words? I think this must be the first sign that the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse must be near, but damn it woman, speak!"

She couldn't help it, she had to laugh. She didn't think his hair could be anymore of a disaster if it tried. She'd never seen him so frustrated. His shirt was still stained with her drool and he looked wiped out. He was looking at her like she was insane and she couldn't stop laughing. Josh finally gave up, opened his door and walked in to the apartment.

"Mom, I'm home and I have a lunatic with me. Hide the good china!"

"Joshua, there is no need to shout and you don't own any china."

"Oh yeah, but still..."

"How's Sam?"

"He still hasn't woken up."

"What did you do to upset Donna this time?"

"Donna isn't the lunatic, I'm talking about this time. Mara is the lunatic." Mara walked in still giggling.

"I'm sorry, Josh, but go stand in front of a mirror and start waving you arms wildly. I defy you to not laugh."

"Son, you sort of look like a mad scientist."

"Well, the laughter beats the silent treatment, I think. Mom, this is Sam's Mara. Bu, this is my Mom, Jean Lyman."

Jean swatted her son in the arm. "Joshua, I taught you better manners than that! It's a pleasure to meet you Madam Ambassador. Please excuse my son."

"Don't worry Ma'am, I always ignore Josh. It's a pleasure to meet you and please call me Mara. I'm so sorry your visit has been ruined."

"It's not your fault, dear. There's no need to apologize. I'd be disturbed if my son's thoughts weren't with his best friend. If I can help you in any way, just ask."

"I hear you make a great cup of tea?" Mara asked.

"Coming right up. Sit down and relax Mara. Josh?"

"Yeah, I'll have a cup. I've got to check in with Donna. I'll have her bring you a change of clothes, Bu."

"Thanks."

"Mara, I've heard so much about you that I feel I've known you forever."

"You're smiling, so it couldn't be from Josh."

"Donna loves you to pieces, so I knew to ignore the ramblings of my boy. Sam is a great judge of character and I hear he's asked you to marry him. Congratulations."

"Thank you, Ma'am. Do you talk to Donna often?"

"Once a week. After the shooting, I left Josh in her capable hands and she promised me she wouldn't let anything else happen to him. Joshua is so lucky to have her. How she puts up with him is beyond me?"

Mara chuckled. "Yeah, he is more than a handful. Josh and I have this interesting love to hate each other thing going. I must confess that despite my best efforts, I've come to adore you son. Please don't tell him that or his ego truly will not fit in the West Wing."

"You didn't hear it from me, but I believe the feeling is mutual. How do you take your tea, dear?"

"Milk and three sugars please."

*********Meanwhile********

"Hey, Donna."

"How's Sam?"

"What, no hello?"

"Hello, Josh. How's Sam?"

"No change."

"Well, his condition hasn't deteriorated, which is a blessing. Where are you?"

"My place."

"Where's Mar?"

"Charming my Mom, which is not a good thing."

"Oh, thank God. Josh, you can't let her near the house until they clean the street."

"Huh?"

"Sam's blood stained the concrete. I didn't notice it until I ran out to get something from my place this morning. It freaked me out, Josh. I could only imagine what Mara's reaction would be."

"Oh, God. I was two blocks away when Mara decided she wasn't ready to set foot in the house. Call city works and order them to send a blaster out."

"I did that ten minutes ago. They didn't want to send anyone out, since it's a holiday, but I told them it was a direct order from the White House. How's Mara doing?"

"Not too good. She's trying to stay strong, but she isn't doing a great job at it. She's constantly twisting her engagement ring and slips in to these long silences. She looks paler than Sam and Dr. Bartlet is worried about her. She's imposed a five hour rule forcing Mara to leave the hospital for five hours."

"How are you doing?"

"I've been better, that's for sure. I'm worried and scared, but someone has to be strong for Mara."

"I'm sorry, Josh. I'll pack an overnight bag for Mara and head over. You need anything?"

"Nah. See you in a bit."

Josh hung up the phone and wandered back in to the living room to find Mara and his Mom talking quietly.

"Josh, your tea is on the counter. How's Donna?"

"Fine. She sends her love and she'll be dropping by later."

Mara finished her tea and set the cup down on the coffee table. She popped a shortbread cookie in her mouth and stood.

"Josh, if you don't mind, I think I'm going to take a nap. Thank you for your hospitality, Mrs. Lyman."

"You're welcome, dear."

Mara kicked her shoes off and climbed on to Josh's made bed. She messed around with the pillows until she was comfortable, but she still couldn't rest. She turned over and noticed a large stuffed gray donkey sitting on a chair. The door opened and Mara looked at Josh.

"Sorry, I'm going to take a shower and I need new clothes."

"'Kay. Josh, pass me the donkey."

"Huh?"

"I want the donkey that's sitting on the chair."

"You can't keep Webster."

"Webster?"

"Yeah, that's his name and he doesn't like drool."

Josh gingerly picked up Webster and handed him to Mara. "Be careful Web, she bites."

"How long have you had Webster?" Mara asked ignoring Josh's comment.

"Since I was ten. My parents gave him to me for my tenth birthday. Apparently, I saw him in a store window and gave my Mom grief about him."

"He's very soft," Mara stated as she ran her fingers through the plush.

"Yeah, well don't drool on him."

"Josh?"

"Yeah?"

"Could you stay until I fall asleep?"

"I hear it's easier to sleep when you're not debating."

"You could start talking physics and I'll be out in five minutes."

"You think you're funny, don't you?" Josh asked as he propped a pillow up against the headboard and sat back on his bed. "How about you close your eyes and I'll stay until you are asleep."

Twenty minutes later, Donna was knocking at Josh's door and Jean let her in. After hugging, Donna sat down and asked where Josh was. Jean informed her that the last time she saw him he was going to his room. Donna carefully opened the door and smiled at the scene in front of her. Josh had made himself comfortable lying down and was fast asleep, one hand on the donkey's head that was cuddled in Mara's arm. Donna wished she had a camera. She closed the door and went back to the living room.

"Josh joined Mara for that nap."

"Good, he was pretty wiped out. So how are you doing, Donna?"

"Okay, I guess. I'm frightened for Sam and heart broken for Mara. I got to the mansion last night and cried for hours. Sam means so much to me, Mrs. L. Did Josh tell you Sam snatched me away from Josh to help him with the Education Initiative?"

"Yes dear, he whined about it for over an hour. I told him he should be happy for you. He said he was, but he didn't want to loose you."

"No one else wants to handle Josh, so I can never go too far. The new assistant doesn't like him and I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't come back in the New Year."

"Is he that difficult?"

"He's a pain in the butt on a good day, but to be fair, I've spoiled him rotten. He's use to having me anticipate his needs. If he has a three o'clock meeting with Senator Holmes, I know he'll want the latest statistics on drunk driving in Oklahoma, the numbers for agricultural subsidies and an update on how the Sooner's football team is doing. I also have to threaten him with death if he goes to have a thick juicy steak without me."

"He gets informed when the meeting is and that's all without you."

"Exactly. I'm going to head over to the hospital. Would you tell Mara I'll see her later?"

"Would you mind if I went with you Donna?"

"Of course not. I'll leave Josh and Mara a note."

*********

Mara groaned at the sunlight that was blinding her. She moved to pull the covers over her head and realized that there were no covers. She pushed at the figure across from her.

"Sam, honey, close the bloody blinds!"

The words had just registered with Josh when he heard Mara choke back a sob. He didn't know what to do, so he got up and pulled his curtains closed. He sat back on the bed and shook Mara.

"Breathe Bu or you'll pass out!"

It took Mara a few moments to force air into of her lungs and start breathing. She buried her head in the pillow and started crying again.

Josh didn't know what to do so he leaned over and started gently stroking her back. Her shoulders had stopped shaking, but he could still hear her crying softly. He tried to lighten the moment. He gave her a little push and ticked loudly.

"You know Mara, most woman don't wake up in tears after sleeping with me. You really are a freak."

Mara looked up and the part of her face not obscured by her hair seemed to be locked in a scowl. Josh reached over and brushed her hair away from her face, but it only fell back.

"You have way too much of that stuff," he muttered.

"You're just jealous that I have a full head of hair, unlike you."

"Mara, is there any chance you're pregnant because your hormones are big time out of whack?"

"I'm not very good in a personal crisis, Joshua. I'll negotiate a Middle East peace plan with no problem, but I don't deal well with emotions, especially my own."

"I can relate to that. I'm going to go take that shower."

"Josh, would you do me a favour?"

"Sure, what?"

"Go find Donna and tell her that the press will have a field day, CJ will want to kill you, but you don't care. Tell her that life is too short and that you can't let another day pass without her knowing you love her."

"Are you insane?" Josh sputtered uncomfortably.

Mara sat up Indian style and faced Josh. She reached out and held his hand in hers

"Josh, don't even try to deny it. Your face positively lights up when she enters a room. You sabotage every one of her dates. You call her in to help you when you don't need help, you just want to see her and annoy her. You love her Josh and for reasons I can't comprehend, she loves you back. Don't waste another day. Go find her. Gather ye rosebuds, Joshua."

"Mara, last time I heard that, a romantic disaster ensued."

"Oy, go get the girl, Josh!"

"Bu, that's easier said than done. I'm not good at declarations of love. I need Sam for this. I promise when he wakes up, I'll get him to help me. This requires Sam's words and my strict memorization and adherence of them."

"Josh, ya think Donna won't figure out they're Sam's words? Believe me, she'll treasure, 'Me Tarzan, You Jane' more than a rehash of Cyrano. Put it in writing if you don't trust your mouth. Josh, one of the first things Sam taught me was that love is a leap of faith and I trusted him to catch me. You've got to trust that Donna won't let you hit the ground."

"I do, but I can't make a move like this without Sam. Who do you think Donna will want to go rush to with the news first? I'll give you a hint, it's not you or CJ."

"Fine, consider the subject dropped temporarily. I guess you better go take your shower."

Mara got up and read the note Donna left. She peered in to the fridge, and the cupboard and smiled. By the time Josh wandered into the kitchen, Mara was dividing a box of Kraft dinner into two bowls. She sat down on the couch with hers and grinned at the smirk on Josh's face.

"Yearning for a blast back to college days?"

"I went to University, Josh, and I happen to love KD."

Josh simply rolled his eyes and dug into his lunch. Mara changed into the clothes Donna brought her and they were back at the hospital five and a half hours after they had first left it. Toby was sitting beside Sam's bed, staring off into space. Mara put her hands on his shoulders and gave them a squeeze.

"I'm back and you kept your promise."

"Yeah. I yelled at him for ten minutes. I may be the wrong person to do that since he's getting good at tuning me out."

"Tobs, trust me you're impossible to tune out. Here, this is for you." Mara dug a piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to him.

Toby recognized Mara's flowing penmanship and knew the phone number was from New York City from the area code.

"Are we going to play twenty questions or will you tell me what this number is for?"

"It's Mandy's cell phone number. She told Cheryl that the phone would be on just in case you feel like talking. Call her, Tobs."

Toby smiled ruefully, "I just might do that, thanks."

"Is Abbey still here?"

"I think she's in the private waiting room with Josh's Mom and Donna. I'll go tell her you're back." Toby stood to give Mara her chair back.

He wasn't counting on Mara throwing her arms around him and giving him a long hug. It seemed that she was holding onto him as if her life depended on it, so he didn't move even though she was starting to crush him.

"Mara, he's going to wake up," he whispered softly and mercifully, she released him.

"Toby, I'm not good in a personal crisis."

"I've noticed," Toby said wryly. "Mara, if it helps, I don't think anyone is good at this stuff."

"Abbey's good."

"She's a mother, Mara. I think it comes with the territory. How's Killer doing?"

"I don't know, I couldn't set foot in the house. Josh brought me to his place."

"You know, Mara, I hear pets are very perceptive and it might be a good idea for you to spend some time with the little guy tonight. You'll both feel better."

"I'll think about it, Toby. So when are you going to call Mandy?"

"I'm going to tell Dr. Bartlet you're back." Toby made a hasty retreat.

*********

Abbey stayed around for a few hours before heading back to the White House and Mara sent Toby off to call Mandy. She watched a steady stream of medical personnel file in and out of the room, going about their business, paying little attention to her. She finally convinced Josh to take his mother and Donna out to get something to eat. She was finally alone with Sam and wished more than anything that he'd wake up and start debating with her.

She held his hand in hers, gently rubbing her thumb over his knuckles. The steady beat of the heart monitor was somehow soothing as she knew it meant he was still alive. She watched his chest slowly rise and fall as she had hundreds of times before, when she woke up in the middle of the night. The white tension bandage covered most of his hair and although his colour was slowly improving, he still resembled an albino.

She gently kissed his cheek and remembered the time Sam stayed up with her all night long, as her hacking cough kept them both awake and wondering if she indeed would cough up a lung. He tried to make her laugh and rubbed her back as pain shot down it. Sam had teased her that she couldn't do anything half way, that she even coughed at full force. Mara sighed and looked down at him.

"Oh, Sam. It's so easy to be brave and tough when I know I can crumble in you arms in private. Please, wake up, Sam. I'm a mess. I can't even remember my security clearance passwords. The Prime Minister's top international policy advisor doesn't have a clue what's going on in the world and she can't get access to the briefs cause she can't remember the password. Hell, Sam, I can't even remember my yahoo email password!"

"That can't be good," Josh said from the door.

"Hey. I thought I sent you home?"

"Bu, do I ever listen to you?"

"No, because you're a moron."

"Maybe, but I know what my password is. Donna might have to unfreeze my screen ten times a day, but I do know that much."

"So, do you want a medal or a chest to pin it on?"

"Ouch! It's probably mushy now, but I brought you a chicken salad sandwich from Verona."

"Did Sam tell you they were my favourite?"

"No, actually I was in his office looking for his contact book when you were in Disney and I found another notebook, actually it was a 'Tigger' notebook and it was just filled with your favourite things. For some reason, the chicken salad sandwich stuck in my head."

"He was keeping a book of my favourite things? How sweet is that?"

"Sickeningly sweet if you ask me."

"It isn't, you dork! You know it wouldn't be such a bad idea to start a notebook for Donna."

"Yeah, right. Speaking of Donna, I believe you were the intended target audience for this magazine."

Mara looked at the Bride's magazine and smiled. "You sure this wasn't for her?" she teased.

"Donna may schedule my work life with little to no input from me, but I think she'd have to clue me in to the fact that we ere engaged at the very least."

"Who said it was you she planned on marrying? I hear Mark McGrath is heading this way in February."

"Evil, thy name is Mara Whitford."

"And your point would be?" Mara asked with a smirk.

"That you are evil to the core. You going to eat that sandwich or not?"

Mara unwrapped the wax paper and looked at the baguette that had been cut into thirds. She handed Josh a third and started eating. She had one bite left when Josh looked over at her, so she offered it to him. Josh shook his head, so she popped it in her mouth.

"I don't suppose you brought a bottle of vodka with you?"

"No and the liquor store is closed."

"Thanks for the sandwich, Josh, but you can go home now.

"I'll stay, Bu."

"I'd rather be alone, Josh. I'll see you in the morning."

"'kay. Call if you need anything and I'll see you later."

Mara pulled the chair up beside Sam's bed, held his hand and began talking to him until her eyes grew heavy and she finally fell asleep. She woke up at five and couldn't fall asleep again. Her arm hit the magazine and she turned on the bedside lap to flip through it. She wasn't impressed until her eyes hit a rich coral pink strapless gown with a heart shaped bodice and inspiration struck. Mara borrowed a clipboard and paper from the nurse's desk and began scribbling furiously. By the time CJ and Donna showed up at eight Mara had planned a formal ball from invitations and favours to desserts.

"Plotting world domination again?" CJ asked with a smirk.

"Cute, actually keep Valentine's Day free. I'm throwing a ball at the Embassy."

"What? Mara have you been siphoning Sam's Demerol? There's no way you can do that in less than two months."

"I'm not stealing Sam's drugs and just watch me. I've already planned the entire thing out."

Donna and CJ looked at each other, silently agreeing that Mara had flipped her lid. CJ picked up Mara's notes and scanned them quickly.

"Mara, it's going to be impossible to get a ball room this late in the game." Donna said.

"I don't need a ball room. I'm going to throw it in the rotunda of the Embassy. Oh, it's black tie and red, white or pink gowns for the ladies."

"Would lavender work?" Donna asked

"Let me guess, my lavender vintage Valentino?"

"Uhuh."

"You've just been itching to wear that dress. I guess it would be really mean of me to say no."

"Yes, very mean indeed. It might cause me to confuse you with Joshua."

"Spanky and I are going to have a little discussion while you're gone, Mara."

"I'll drive you home Mara or we could go to my place or..."

"No, home is good. Killer must be wondering what's going on. CJ, take good care of him."

"I promise."

Donna noticed that Mara didn't say much in the car and that she indeed twisted her engagement ring over and over again instead. Donna parked right in front of the house just in case she hadn't noticed any missed spots after the blasting. She wondered if Mara would want to see where Sam was hit, but Mara went right through the gate and in the house. When Donna entered, she found Mara sitting on the living room floor, hugging Killer. After a few minutes, the cat had had enough and wormed its way out of her arms and dashed towards the kitchen. Mara started to get up and Donna waved her down.

"I'll do it, Mara. Why don't you go have a shower? I'll make you something for breakfast."

"'kay."

Mara really didn't feel like moving, but she made her way up the stairs and in to her bedroom. She could still feel Sam's presence and sat down on his side of the bed. She hugged his pillow and spent a few minutes willing him to wake up. The tears came while she was in the shower, so she let them flow as the warm water beat down on her. By the time she finished drying off, she was utterly exhausted, but she just couldn't get into their bed. She tossed on a pair of leggings and one of Sam's sweaters and padded down to the first floor.

"I was just going to check on you. Go sit down, I'll bring it out."

Mara looked at the mushroom omelet and Donna's smiling face and knew she had no choice but to eat it. She didn't really taste it, but just ate it to be left alone. Killer jumped up to see if there was anything he wanted to mooch, decided there wasn't and sat down on the top of the couch.

"Sweetie, is there anything I can do?"

"Not unless you have success waking up comatose patients."

"Wish I did. Your mail is starting to pile up."

"Donna, would you go through it for me. Bills go in the kitchen drawer and my cheque book is in there too. If you want to write them I'll endorse them. My appointment book is under Sam's computer in the study. You can tell which invitations have to be declined and discard them."

"Sure, I'm going to camp out in the study then. If you need anything just holler."

"Thanks Donna, for everything."

Donna smiled and gave Mara a long hug. "That's what friends are for."

Mara made herself comfortable on the couch and Killer got behind her legs, falling asleep immediately. Mara sighed and shook her head at her crazy cat, wishing she could fall asleep that quickly. Her thoughts turned to Sam and how he was the best sleeping aid on earth.

The moment she felt the warmth of his body against hers, his hand gently stroking her hair she knew sleep was only moments away. She finally fell asleep, and that was only because of the emotional exhaustion.

*******

An hour later, Donna found Mara sleeping on the couch and decided she wasn't going to wake her up. The sheer amount of invitations Mara received boggled her mind. She knew that Mara wouldn't go anywhere until Sam was awake and that she wouldn't want to leave him alone. She had penciled in Mara's Valentine's Gala and accepted a few invitations for late February and March. She also couldn't resist accepting an invitation for a reception thrown by the Monaco Consulate in New York and writing her own name in as guest. Donna smiled to herself, thinking about Josh's reaction to her jetting off to New York to meet the Crown Prince of Monaco.

She checked her e-mail from Sam's connection and decided Sam wouldn't mind her scanning his subject lines. She also had to remind him that saving his password wasn't a good idea. She came across two with the Education Initiative and opened them. One was a commitment from Brown University to donate 4 places and the other, an inquiry from the University of Ohio at Cincinnati. She answered them both signing off as Co- Director of the Presidential Education Initiative. Donna sighed, she wanted Sam to see her sign off the e-mail, she wanted to give him a great big hug for believing in her, she wanted to see his humble half smile that said 'I didn't do anything', when everyone knew he had.

"Oh Sam, Sam, Sam. This isn't going to be fun without you. Please come back to us. I'll bring you coffee everyday."

"I think that would make more of an impact on Josh," Mara said from the study door.
.
"Hey, I was just...."

"Bargaining? Been there, done that."

"When did you wake up?"

"A few minutes ago. Checking Sam's e-mail?"

"Umm yeah. I hope it's OK. I mean, I didn't have to break in, Sam saved his password."

"Yeah, I'm always telling him it's not a good idea, but he says it's in his sight or in here. He thinks I'm not a threat."

"He knows you aren't a threat, Mara. We all do. Do you think they'd let anyone else roam the halls of the West Wing? How many times has the President called to ask you what you thought about an international situation?"

"Since I've been here or while I was in Ottawa?"

"If you have to distinguish, there's my answer. I hope you don't mind, I'm not snooping."

"Of course not, Donna. I was going to ask Josh to do it, but I figured he'd be busy enough stepping in for Sam. I didn't know if Kathy would feel comfortable being that involved, so I was going to ask Leo to have you do it."

"If it's okay with you, I thought I'd keep Sam's seat warm. I'd get a lot more done if Josh couldn't just holler for me."

"If I were you.... well, I would have murdered Josh long ago so that's not a good example. Yeah, any distance you can put between you and Josh can only be a good thing."

"You know, I'm not buying that 'I hate Josh' stuff anymore, from either of you. I know you like each other."

"Donna, breath one word and your name will be mud. "

"You ready to go back?"

"Yeah."

Chapter 28

 

 

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