For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: At the wax museum dedication, Sam gets a little ribbing from his fellow staffers about coming out of Mallory's room that morning until she comes along and silences them. While talking outside, Sam says that he still admires her father, and that the argument was natural, and that he's not upset. All the while, Leo overhears without his knowledge. At the aquarium, C.J. falls into the stingray tank. Back at the hotel, Bartlet gives everyone a two and a half hour vacation.

Sam had finished changing into swimming trunks when he heard a knock at his door. Abandoning his sunblock, he answered the door. "Mal," he grinned upon seeing Mallory, who had also changed into her bathing suit.

"Hey, Skipper. Heading down to the pool?"

"The ocean," he said, nodding in its direction. "I'm pretty sure I won't get a chance to go swimming for a while so I figured I'd take the opportunity. Want to come with me?"

"Swimming? In the ocean?"

"Yeah."

"After going on that lovely little tour through the tank where sharks swim over your head?"

"The sharks really scared you, didn't they?"

"I think it's their teeth," she said. "Or their beady little eyes... Or the sneaky way they swim. I don't know; they just freak me out."

"If there were sharks up here, the lifeguards would have everybody up on the beach. Trust me, I'll be fine. Why don't you come with me?"

"I'd go with you to the pool," she said.

"Why not the ocean?"

"I don't mind walking in the sand. I just don't really like getting in where there are other creatures swimming with me... Other people, I don't mind. Just fish..."

"I wouldn't ask you to go down there if fish would be bothering you nonstop."

"But, after the lecture on jellyfish... I don't know, Sam."

"Have you ever been swimming in the ocean?"

"Not really, no."

"You'd come all the way to the beach and not swim in the ocean?"

"That was my plan."

"That's an awful plan."

"You don't have to abide by it. By all means, go swim with the fishies."

"If you're sure."

"Yeah," she said sadly. She wanted to be with him, though. "Can I ask you something?" she asked.

"Sure."

"In the aquarium today... What was wrong?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You got *really* quiet for a while when we were on the moving sidewalk."

"I did?"

"Yeah. You did."

"I was just thinking," he said.

"About what?"

"The Newseum," he said quietly

That explained why he held her close. That explained why he was silent for a long time. That explained so much. She crossed to him quickly, hugging him. "I was scared that night, too."

"Yeah?"

"My father was there... The girl who is practically my sister. The man who is practically my uncle. The man I'm in love with... I didn't know anything. They didn't release anything for the longest time," she said to his bare shoulder. "I heard what hospital it was first. I didn't know who had been hurt. I didn't know until I got there that Josh had been shot, that the President had been shot."

"And then I avoided you," he said, ashamed.

"I was just thanking God that you were still alive," she whispered.

"You were?"

"Of course I was," she said.

"But I avoided you."

She smiled a little. "You were scared of me."

"I wasn't scared of you per se, more of what you would do..."

"Yeah, I went off and dated a guy I didn't like in hopes to annoy you."

"It worked."

"Yeah," she said weakly. "I thought... You told me the other night that you don't think about the assassination attempt much."

"I don't. I did for a while. Everyone did, I think. Toby wanted to make those kinds of groups register with the FBI."

"But the First Amendment—"

"Yeah, we talked him down from that one. Josh put his hand through a window and yelled at the President. I tried to get Josh to sue West Virginia White Pride. I had every intention of leading the legal team."

"But now...?"

"Now... Now we've all mostly gotten past it. But that doesn't mean that we don't think about it occasionally."

"But in the middle of the aquarium tour?" she asked, pulling back to look in his eyes.

"You said something about being under dangerous things. I made a connection, I suppose—sharks to shootings."

"You're okay. Everybody else is okay."

"Yeah. We are."

"So, we're going down to the ocean for a swim?"

He looked at her strangely. "I thought you didn't want to go."

"Well, I didn't want to pet a stingray either but I did anyway. You didn't want to ride a roller coaster necessarily but you did. I've never actually been more than ankle deep in the ocean, so... why not?"

Sam smiled brightly at her and grabbed his beach towel. "We have two wonderful hours to ourselves. This is going to be great."

Mallory certainly hoped so. But if she could stand to pet a stingray, she figured she could handle a little swimming in the ocean, especially if Sam was with her.

Hitting the sand, they dropped their towels and shoes off near a lifeguard stand before going down to the water's edge. Mallory followed Sam hesitantly until she was up to her waist, whereupon she stopped.

"Mal?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"You okay?"

"It's..." She had to search for a word for a moment. "Grainy."

"Sand and shells and brine... Great fun, come on," he said, grinning at her.

"It's also a little cold."

"The swimming pool would be, too."

"Actually, since it's inside, it's heated," she said.

"It's May. Of course it's a little chilly still."

"And this isn't bothering you? I thought you were used to warm temperatures, Mr. California."

"I grew up surfing and sailing and swimming. This doesn't bother me at all," he said, dropping down to his neck in the water. He took her hands in his and gently pulled her deeper into the water. "Y'know, if you come down here, into the water, it's much warmer."

"Yeah, but... There are fish down there."

"Mallory," he said lightly, smiling at her. She allowed him to pull her under the water up to her shoulders. "Is this so bad?"

"No, I guess not," she relented. "You grew up swimming and sailing and surfing, huh."

"Yeah."

"Like swim team?"

"In high school and Princeton," said Sam with a nod.

"Were you any good?"

"I have a couple medals, yes."

"Really?" she asked, looking at him quizzically.

"Yeah."

"Really," she said as he pulled her closer to him.

"That surprises you?"

She shrugged lightly. "A lot of things surprise me. Like the White House Deputy Communications Director not being able to tell me who the Roosevelt Room is named for."

"You're going to bring that up?" he asked, seeing the mischief in her eyes.

"It surprised me greatly."

"I somehow get the feeling that your mother did that to me on purpose. I remember vividly Cathy telling me that she requested me to take her place on the tour. Your mother doesn't like me. At all."

"Sure she does," said Mallory. "Otherwise she wouldn't have requested you."

"I hit on her once. Leo was furious with me."

"I'm sensing a pattern here—you hit on my mother, you hit on me... You haven't hit on my Aunts Josie or Elizabeth, have you?"

"No, can't say that I have."

"Any of my cousins?"

"I don't think so."

"You're sure?"

He started laughing as they bobbed along with the swells. "Well, fairly certain. Of course, it's entirely possible that I didn't know who they were at the time."

She rolled her eyes and playfully pushed him away from her. Releasing her, Sam went sputtering under the water—intentionally of course. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart skipped a beat until she saw him surface. "So, I'm glad things with you and Dad didn't explode too badly," Mallory said.

"So am I," he said, brushing his wet hair out of his face. "Seriously, I think your dad is great. Just, this morning, we didn't see eye to eye, which isn't the first time. When his... history came out and I wrote the Presidential statement of support—"

"And that was an amazing statement."

He smiled. "He really wasn't pleased with my actions. I've done a lot for your dad but it doesn't compare, really, to what he's done for me," said Sam. "Including... Including letting me see his beautiful daughter," he added quietly.

"Dad doesn't make those decisions for me."

"Still."

"Yeah." Something beyond him caught her attention. "Hey, um, Sam..."

"Yeah?"

"That... That looks to be a really big wave," she said, pointing behind him.

Sam turned around to see the large wave that was starting to crest. He stood up, the water coming to just above his waist. He pulled Mallory to her feet as well. "You should see them in California," he said. "Much higher, but still."

"We're not going to go under it, are we? I mean, we're not going to be dragged out to sea or anything... right?"

Sam looked at her. "It's just the ocean, Mal."

"It's *huge*."

"That it is," he said. "Ready?"

"What are we doing?"

"Going to jump over it."

"We're going to *what*?"

"You've really never been in the ocean, have you?"

"No really, no," she said nervously.

"Ready?"

"Sam..."

"When I say jump, you're going to actually jump. You're not going to move, just a straight up jump. When you come down, the wave's gonna be moving on inland. All right?" he asked, turning his back to the sea, making sure Mallory was facing the shoreline as well.

She nodded. "O-okay."

Sam watched the wave over his shoulder with a knowing eye, feeling the water rush back for the power of the wave. Mallory plugged her nose just in case. "Jump."

Even with Mallory's jump, the water rolled over her shoulders, getting the back of her head but never came anywhere close to her mouth or nose. She opened her eyes, thankful to have survived and turned, expecting to see Sam at her side. He wasn't there.

Her heart started racing, almost like it was pounding to get out of her chest. She got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. "S-Sam?" she called anxiously. Looking around, she saw Sam washing up on the shore.

As soon as he got to his feet, he started walking back to her. She started out to meet him.

"Hey," he said.

"What the hell did you do?"

"I'm sorry?"

"How'd you end up up here?" she asked.

"It's called body surfing."

"Don't leave me."

"What?"

"Just don't... Don't do that again," she said, on the verge of tears.

"Mallory?" he asked, pulling her into his arms. "What is it?"

"Just don't do that *ever* again," she said quietly, hugging him.

"I won't; I promise," he told her softly. "Just... what is it, Mal? Why?"

"Just don't," she said as tears started falling freely from her eyes.

"C'mon," he said. "Let's head up to the beach for a while, hmm?" She nodded and pulled back. He looked at the tears streaking down her cheeks in confusion. Taking her hand in his, he led her out of the water and up to where their towels were waiting on them. They dried off a little before Sam spread his towel on the ground and sat down, allowing Mallory to sit in his lap. "You want to tell me what's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said.

"Mallory, you don't cry over nothing."

"Just... I don't want to talk about it," she said, unable to look out at the Atlantic.

"I want to help you but I don't know what's going on. Help me understand so I can do something for you."

"There's nothing going on."

"I scared you. I don't quite know how I managed that but I'd like to know... So I won't do it again."

"Just don't leave me alone in the water like that," she said quietly.

"Mallory..."

She looked in his eyes and he could see she was on the verge of crying again. "Just don't."

"I won't. At least, I'll try not to but, again, if I don't know *exactly* what you want me to do and what you don't want me to do, I can't be one hundred percent certain I'm going to be able to do what you want me to do."

"It's nothing."

They sat in silence for a while, letting the sounds of the waves crashing and the other tourists float over them.

"You want to head back to the hotel?" she asked finally, quietly.

Sam looked at his watch. It was five; they didn't have to be ready to go until six. "Sure," he said. They stood, gathered their belongings and started for the wooden bridge that would take them back to their hotel.

As they rinsed the salt and sand off at the showers near the swimming pools, Mallory looked at him. He had been exceedingly quiet since they left the ocean. He had held her, calmed her down, but seemed distant after that. "We've still got some time, right?" she asked.

"An hour or so," he said, turning off the water.

"Want to go up to the pool?" she asked. "Looks like the Secret Service have the indoor pool protected again."

"Do you want to?" he asked, not wanting to upset her any more than he had.

"Yeah."

"Okay."

As they started for the door, Mallory found his free hand and wrapped one of hers around it. The Secret Serviceman at the door acknowledged their presence with a nod before announcing their arrival in his sleeve.

"Pacific and Boston are coming in."

Sam looked at Mallory with a smile. "Boston?"

"What?" she asked. "You've never been 'Los Angeles?'"

"No," he said, opening the door for her. "They like sticking to 'p' names for me." They walked inside, leaving the door to close on it's own. "Pumpernickel, Palmetto, Princeton, Pacific..."

"Not 'Punk?'" she asked, smirking.

"Maybe next time."

"Hey, you guys!" called Zoey from the pool.

"Hey, Zoey," said Mallory as she dropped her towel off on a chair. Sam put his belongings with hers, then caught her arm.

"Would it bother you if I jumped in?" he asked her quietly.

"Signs say 'no diving,' Skipper."

"Jumping is very different from diving."

"Says who?"

"Funk and Wagnel... Webster... American Heritage..."

She rolled her eyes playfully at him, but turned serious. "Just don't hit your head on the bottom."

"Don't worry," he said, kissing her quickly, which prompted Charlie to whistle and Zoey to applaud.

Sam and Mallory both looked at them for a moment before back at each other. "Go on," she said before climbing down the stairs into the pool.

As Sam walked around to the deep end, Zoey and Charlie made beelines for the shallower waters, not wanting to get splashed. "Aw, guys," said Sam before jumping in, causing a moderate splash. He swam underwater all the way to Mallory, surfacing right in front of her.

"You know how to make an entrance, don't you?" she asked.

He grinned before leaning in to kiss her, a slower, longer kiss.

Zoey and Charlie looked at each other before Charlie spoke up. "Get a room, you two," he teased.

Stay tuned...

~ Lines from the next installment:

"What happened to being consistent? Talking down the Christian Right *and* the GDC?"

Chapter 11

 

 

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