For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Sam gets a raise at Gage Whitney and surprises Lisa with two tickets to paradise.

On Thursday, Sam finished up a deposition quickly and Lisa took off early from her job staffing for the American Ambassador to the United Nations early to pack. By midmorning Friday, the two were landing in Key West. Sam splurged on a rented beach house rather than a hotel; they were celebrating after all. Rather than wasting time unpacking, the two changed and headed straight for the ocean as soon as they arrived at the little house.

Dashing across the hot sand in their bare feet, Lisa reached the cooling surf first. Sam barreled into her and the two fell to the wet sand as another wave crashed the shore. Lisa landed on top of him. "Sweetie, you're all wet," she said with a smirk as the water retreated. Sam blinked a few times, tried to clear his nose of the salty water, and sat up.

"Why'd you stop?" he asked.

"I was waiting on *you*, you slowpoke," she said, getting to her feet and heading out into the water. "Comin'?" she taunted. She jumped a crashing wave as she continued to head further out. Sam stood and charged after her. As soon as the water was deep enough, he swam for her. As she watched his swimming strokes, she felt something brush her leg. At first, she thought nothing of it: a fish, seaweed, debris of some sort. When her leg started burning, she knew something was dreadfully wrong. "Sam?" she asked frantically. He surfaced close to her, blinking the saltwater from his eyes. "Sam?"

"What?" he asked, instantly concerned at the tone of her voice.

"I-I don't know, I... My leg..."

"Lisa, what is it?"

"It *hurts*," she said as tears started springing to her eyes. He picked her up in his arms and stood—the water only came up to mid-chest on him.

"What happened?" Sam asked, lifting her over a crashing wave.

"I don't know. I was just there and all the sudden it just..." He started walking back towards the shore. "God, Sam, it hurts."

"Did you twist something? Or—"

"No, it just... It *burns*, Sam." Setting her down on the sand, he knelt in front of her to take a look.

"Oh," he said quietly.

"What?" she asked.

"That appears to be a jellyfish sting."

"A what?"

"Oh, you know. The thing that swims with a peanut butter fish—jellyfish." She tried to smile but couldn't. "Corny, I know." He stood and held his hands out to her. Dripping wet, the two slowly walked up to the beach house in silence.

"I'm sorry," she muttered as they reached the back porch where their towels were waiting.

"For what?" he asked, toweling his hair.

"I just managed to ruin our *entire* weekend."

"You didn't; an inconsiderate fish did."

"Sam, we just *got* here, I mean—" He tossed his towel back on the chaise lounge and pulled Lisa to him, shaking his head slowly.

"Don't blame yourself. I can't tell you how many times *I've* been stung by pesky jellyfish. There are dozens of other things we can do." He kissed her lips quickly before ordering her to sit on one of the chairs and watch the relaxing waves. She did as she was told, trying desperately to forget the pain in her leg, as he went in search of the medical kit. He returned a moment later and knelt in front of her, tending to her leg. He didn't dare tell her that her sting was one of the worst he had seen in his lifetime.

Occasionally glancing at her face as he worked, he wondered about the ring box tucked away in his suitcase. He had been carrying around the box for almost a month, halfway surprised that she hadn't accidentally stumbled upon it. Finished with her leg, he stood up. "Is that it?" she asked.

"You want me to do more?" She shrugged. "It still hurts?" She nodded; he could see tears building up in her eyes. Bracing his hands on the top of the chair, he leaned down and kissed her gently and meticulously. He wanted to help her get her mind off the pain in her leg and his mind-boggling kiss most certainly did the job. "Don't go anywhere," he whispered. She opened her mouth to respond but wound up nodding her agreement.

Sam disappeared into the beach house. He rummaged through his suitcase until he found the ring and slipped it in his swimming trunks pocket. Taking a deep breath, he wanted nothing more than for her to be his wife. He wandered into the kitchen, glad he had made some preparations with the rental center in Florida. The refrigerator and pantry were stocked with various items, including fresh fruit. He grabbed some lemons and a knife, watching Lisa from the window.

He returned to the back porch with two tumblers of lemonade with neon straws and brightly-colored umbrellas in them. Lisa's eyes were closed, sitting on the deck chair with her injured leg propped up on the railing in front of her. She was, by no means, resting peacefully. He traced the icy cold glass from her ankle up towards her knee. "Hey," he said as she opened her eyes. She stood. "Sit back down," he tried as she took the glass.

"Thank you," she said, smiling at the cute drink and ignoring his order to sit. She looked out at the ocean, sipping on the tangy refreshment. Sam walked up behind her, putting his free arm around her, holding her close. She leaned against him. As he watched the waves, he wondered how he should propose. The down-on-one-knee method was classic and would probably assure him a wide-eyed look from Lisa. He had almost dropped the ring in her drink but decided against it. With his luck, she'd choke on it. "It's beautiful here," she said softly. He nodded. "Warm, sunny..."

"Very different from New York right now."

"A perfect way to celebrate a raise... Getting far away from it all," she said with a faint grin.

"I've always wanted to take you sailing."

"You've taken me sailing," she said.

"I'm not talking about in New York on the Hudson. That's not sailing; that's floating on debris. I'm talking about *sailing* on the ocean with miles of blue-green as far as the eye can see. Well, with the occasional island popping up on the horizon... But sailing, where you have to use charts or, at night, celestial navigation instead of going merely by sight as we've done, basically just trying to avoid the other boaters and the banks."

She turned in his arms to look up at him. She was always amazed at his way with words, even with her knowledge from the day they met that he wanted to be a speech writer. He never ceased to amaze her, painting words as an artist would oils or acrylics, mixing tonal inflection like blending for new, amazing colors. He could launch into the reading of a normally boring legal brief but, with the way he spoke, his vocal nuance, she knew he would have her entranced. "You want to share that moving experience with me?" she asked quietly. He nodded, thinking about the ring in his shorts pocket.

"Though I don't see how sailing is necessarily a 'moving' experience aside from the literal but that wasn't how you meant it, was it?" She smiled, shaking her head. She balanced her tumbler on the railing before putting her arms around his neck.

"Have I told you lately just how much I love you?"

"Not in the past ten minutes, no," he said, grinning.

"I should fix that." She stretched up on her toes to kiss him. When she put her drink down, he should have done the same. As the kiss continued, the less aware he became of anything but her, least of all his lemonade. It slipped from his fingers, falling into the sea oats that lined the beach house porch. "I love you, Sam," she whispered breathlessly when the kiss finally ended. "I love you more than you'll ever know."

"I think I have a pretty good idea," he whispered.

"You know you'll be running Gage Whitney before too long; you do know that, don't you?" He shook his head. "Oh, right... Because you'll have to change the name: Seaborn Gage Whitney. Or, you could drop the Gage Whitney part altogether." He smiled but wrinkled his nose. "You don't believe me? Sam, you are this close to becoming partner," she said, showing a fraction of an inch between her thumb and index finger. She could tell he didn't believe her yet. "I've seen you in court; I've read the briefs. They'd be dumb not to furnish you one of those cushy corner offices."

Lisa clipped the last syllable of her sentence because of the look in Sam's eyes. He didn't have to say things to make her heart flutter. The love, the passion in his eyes alone made her heart race. She hoped she was sending the same signals his way. He took her hand and pulled her over to the lounge chair. He kicked back and gently tugged until she lay with him. She snuggled into his embrace, resting her head on his chest.

"I love you," he whispered after a long, quiet moment. It was too late, though; she was already asleep. When he realized that, he couldn't help but smile. Maneuvering carefully, he pulled the ring box from his pocket and opened it, looking at the sparkling diamond. He removed it from the box and gently picked up Lisa's left hand from his chest, slipping the ring on her finger. He planted a tender kiss on her hand before placing the box on the deck floor. The ocean waves had an oddly hypnotic effect on him—they always had—and he, too, fell asleep.

Stay tuned...

Fins Up - 3




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