For notes and disclaimer, please see part one. Apologies for the delay.

Previously, on the West Wing: During Sam's time off, he and Mallory head down to the ocean, where she gets irrationally upset about his leaving her in the middle of the ocean while he rides a wave. After some time sitting on the beach in silence, they head up to the pool for the rest of the time, and join up with Zoey and Charlie, who pick on their public displays of affection.

After dinner and another show, the White House troupe returned to the hotel after eleven. The Senior Staff congregated in Leo's room for an evening meeting. "Because those of us who are Catholic will be leaving for Mass in the morning, we're going to go ahead and cover tomorrow's schedule tonight," said Leo.

"Hold on for another twenty minutes, and we can call it a morning meeting," said Josh, looking at his watch.

Leo chose to ignore Josh's comment. "There is a breakfast that will be held in the lobby, starting at seven. The President will meet and greet with some of the other hotel guests and workers. Luckily for you guys, it's optional."

"If we go, do we get Brownie points?" asked C.J.

"I know it's late, people, but if I'm not interrupted with snide little remarks, you can all be in bed by midnight." He looked quickly at Sam. "Preferably alone."

"Leo," said Sam as he held up his hands in surrender.

"We're going to Mass at nine," continued Leo. "Instead of having another service at eleven, there will be a luncheon—again, it's optional, though the President requests that all of you attend *at least* one of them."

"If we go to both, do we get Brownie points?" asked C.J.

"I can make sure a picture of you falling into the stingray tank makes CNN every fifteen minutes. Do you want to continue that line of questioning?"

"Forget I asked."

"After lunch, the President is going shopping. C.J., we've got a list of the few reporters we want following," Leo said as Margaret handed a piece of paper to the Press Secretary.

"Are we following him on his shopping spree?" asked Toby.

"Yes. Bring your checkbooks. After shopping, there's a meeting at the civic center, where the President will be speaking."

"Are we going to have a short sit-down prep before the speech?" asked Sam. "Fine-tuning with the President?"

"Twenty minutes, mostly in the limo," said Leo.

"Great," groaned Toby.

"Hey, you do remember the campaign a couple years ago, right? Begging for minutes, doing re-writes on the hood of the nearest car? You're complaining about twenty minutes in the back of a limousine?"

"Fine," said Toby.

"Moving on, dinner is at the Sea Captain's House."

"They have really good shrimp," commented Sam.

"What was that?" asked Leo, taking his glasses off.

"I, um... That's where Mallory and I... went to dinner... last night," Sam said hesitantly.

C.J. couldn't take a step back. Besides the fact she was sitting down, her chair was against the wall of Leo's small hotel room. Everyone in the room watched Leo and Sam cautiously, particularly Leo. Leo eyed Sam for a moment before slipping his glasses back on

"So, after dinner, we're making a trip to the Family Kingdom."

"Really?" asked Josh, grinning.

"Zoey wants to go. We're staying for forty-five minutes. We've cleared it with the park and the Secret Service, who will be sending in a couple more agents from the South Carolina office just in case. It is open, it is airy, we're going to stay very briefly."

"Do we all get to go?" asked C.J.

"No Brownie points comment this time?" asked Leo. C.J. shrugged. "Yes. You are all invited to go. You can all stay after we leave if you want, because, after that, that is the last scheduled stop. We'll go back to the hotel, where the President will make some phone calls and we'll deal with the press. Don't forget that take-off is at five, we'll head out to the plane by four-thirty, no later."

"So, that's it?" asked Josh.

"That's it. Get out of here. Good night," said Leo.

~~~

Sam slept in, bypassing the breakfast. He wasn't afforded much time to sleep in, getting phone calls from the church from various people. C.J. asked for statistics that she had left at the hotel. Leo asked for an update on an overseas matter that was breaking—some sort of terrorist act against Israel by the Palestinians. Mallory called once, just wanting to wish him a good morning.

Passing Josh in the hallway, Sam spoke. "Aren't you going to lunch?"

"I went to breakfast this morning, Sleepy Beauty. I'm about to go enjoy my vacation before going shopping with the President. Have you ever been shopping with the President?"

"Not that I recall," said Sam.

"Two Christmases ago—a rare bookstore. Delightful fun, let me tell you."

"Okay," Sam said, heading for the elevator.

"Hey, Sam," called Josh.

"Yeah?"

"Give Mallory a smooch for me."

Sam sighed.

"You knew this would happen, buddy."

~~~

Sam showed up to the church fifteen minutes before eleven, meeting up with C.J. outside. She was busy talking to Toby on her cellular phone. "Am I the only one who didn't go to breakfast?" asked Sam.

"Yeah," C.J. said, covering the microphone on her cell. "And I'm going to get out of here as soon as humanly possible. Toby! Yes, I'm getting questions about the situation in Israel. Are we doing anything? Has Admiral Fitzwallace called? Are we getting involved somehow? I mean, I know he can't go down to the Situation Room right now but..."

Sam wandered off, heading towards the nearest crowd, assuming (and doing so correctly) that the President was in the center of the group. He listened to the President answer questions and connect with people. His attention was really elsewhere—scanning the faces for Mallory. After several minutes, Bartlet glanced around and saw Sam, smiling to acknowledge his presence. With a subtle gesture that only Sam caught, Bartlet signaled the Deputy Communications Director to the location of the Chief of Staff.

"Hey, Leo," Sam said.

"There's nothing like Southern food, Sam," Leo said, looking at his plate filled with mostly fried-chicken and heavy coleslaw.

"Are you telling me I should've gone to breakfast?"

"That's what I'm telling you. Although, I don't know... As many trips as we made through the South since I convinced President Bartlet to run all those years ago... I've *never* been able to develop a taste for grits. Maybe it's just me," he said.

Sam smiled. "No, you're not the only one."

"Josh can put it away like there's no tomorrow."

"Josh has strange eating habits. Who else likes their hamburger burned until it's a charcoal briquette?"

"Good point."

"Do I need to be doing anything?"

"Besides gaining ten pounds with a single plate of lunch?"

Sam smiled. "Yeah."

"Right now, I think we're okay. Pretty much just keep your eye on the crowd. Keep the President away from any people with questions we're not prepared to answer yet."

"Like re-election."

"Exactly," said Leo. "And get yourself a plate."

"Okay," said Sam.

"Aren't you going to ask?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Aren't you going to ask about Mallory?"

"I was curious."

"She's inside," he said, nodding to the church.

"She okay?" he asked, concerned. His thoughts turned to the worst: maybe she wasn't feeling well and was surrounded by a couple Secret Servicemen. Maybe it was the heat. She had been born and raised in a cold state. He was from California and liked the heat and humidity. Of course, it was still May and not entirely that hot. Perhaps she fell and was sitting somewhere with her foot propped up and iced down.

"She's talking with some of the kids. Keeping them entertained while the rest of us do the mundane political thing."

"It isn't mundane."

"To those eight-year-olds, you better believe it is."

"True," said Sam with a chuckle.

~~~

Sam and Leo were both frazzled, having tried to keep up with the President during the luncheon. As they climbed into the limousine with Mallory, Zoey, Charlie, and the President, Sam and Leo both sighed heavily.

"What?" asked Bartlet.

"You stuck to most of the talking points, Mr. President, and for that we are grateful," said Leo.

"Most?" repeated Bartlet.

"Doesn't matter; we're going shopping now," Leo said unenthusiastically.

"You sound thrilled."

"Mr. President, I could use about two rolls of Tums right about now."

"How'd you hold up from the food, Zoey?" asked Bartlet, turning to his daughter.

"It was fine."

"Charlie?"

He shrugged. "It was good, I guess. Not as good as some of the other events we've been to, but tolerable."

"Sam?"

"Well, I'll be visiting the gym quite a bit when we get home," he said. Mallory placed a hand on his arm, squeezing gently. He seemed to be in fine shape to her.

"Mallory?"

"Fine, sir."

"See, you're the *only* one complaining, Leo."

"Sam's comment wasn't a complaint?"

"No."

"Why not?"

Bartlet eyed Sam for a moment. "Sam's comment was appreciative of Southern cuisine."

"Appreciative of the gym back in D.C.," said Leo.

"Which was it, Sam?" asked Bartlet.

Sam glanced back and forth between the President and his Chief of Staff. "Is there anyway I can stay out of this conversation?"

Bartlet contemplated Sam's question for half a second before answering. "Okay, sure," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"You're letting him off the hook?" asked Leo.

"I'm not going to hold it over him that this isn't his favorite cuisine."

"But you will hold it over me?"

"Yes."

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

"I have to be consistent in the back of my limousine, driving to some place called Eagles that sells trinkets and swimming suits?"

"Well," said Leo. "Yeah."

"Oops."

~~~

Mallory and Sam strolled around the racks of Myrtle Beach tee shirts, their hands loosely entwined. Bartlet was giving a pair of tourists the low-down on his foreign policies while the rest of the Senior Staff stood around and watched.

"Is Dad still giving you a hard time?"

"Not really."

"Good."

"He looks at me sometimes, and I'm not sure whether he's going to fire me or shake my hand."

"I'll talk to him."

"You don't have to. We'll figure out our boundaries eventually."

"Before or after the President is re-elected?"

Sam shrugged.

"Have you ever had a pet, Sam?" she asked as they stopped by the tank of hermit crabs.

"I had a fish once. Zip."

"Your fish was named Zip?"

"Yeah."

"What kind of fish was he?"

"I have no idea. He was white, had a big tank."

"So I bet you visit Gail all the time."

"Whenever I get the chance. I always try to drop off something for the tank. I found a little podium once. Gail seemed to like swimming around it."

"You should get a hermit crab," she said, leaning down to watch one creep over the shell of another crab, heading for the water dish. "Put it on your desk. It'd scare Republicans off."

"I doubt that," he said with a light laugh.

"You never know. I had a dog once," she said. "Penny."

Sam smiled faintly. "What breed was she?"

"A basset hound. Adorable little dog with big ears. Dad brought her home after a drunken argument with my mother the night before. When Mom told him to get a hobby besides drinking, she didn't think he'd bring home a pet. Mom and I wound up doing most things for Penny, but she was a great dog."

"I always wanted a dog. Dad said they were too much trouble."

"Well, not too much." One of the crabs started climbing up the mesh wire cage. "You should get that one and name him Claude."

"You think so?"

"Yeah."

"What if he escaped and made the long journey to Toby's office? Toby would squish poor Claude before he knew what hit him."

"Don't listen to him, Claude," Mallory said, standing up straight again.

"I'd be de-Claude," Sam said, proud of his pun.

"Maybe you need a talking parrot instead," she said.

"Aargh, matie," Sam said, squinting his left eye closed.

Stay tuned...

~ Lines from the next installment:

"Because Sam knows if he doesn't bring her back in one piece, you'll skewer him on the Washington monument," Bartlet said with a grin.

Chapter 12

 

 

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