For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Mallory and Zoey spend part of their day shopping. Josh convinces Sam that he should go after Mallory, and see if he can get a little time off from the President, who agrees to give Sam the afternoon off. On the way to dinner that night, Sam gets an idea as to where he and Mallory should go.

Well after dinner was over and night had fallen, the President was tucked away in his hotel room. Charlie, Zoey, and a large Secret Service detail went to a club while the president's staff remained in the hotel as well. Sam sat on the balcony of his room overlooking the ocean, stretched out on the lounge chair. With his eyes closed, he inhaled the salty air, pining for home.

He loved working for the President; he loved the hubbub of Washington, D.C. There were some drawbacks, of course, but there were also drawbacks to California living. He opened his eyes, remembering the phone call he had gotten some months ago from his father. Maybe when President Bartlet was no longer in office, he would find a nice little coastal town on the Atlantic rather than the Pacific. It was the ocean he truly loved, not the earthquakes of California or the thoughts of his father's infidelity.

Standing up, he looked out at the splashing waves. He hadn't been given the chance to walk in the sand since they had arrived earlier in the day. Walking into his room, he changed into a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, grabbed a flashlight from his suitcase, and walked down the stairs barefoot before exiting the hotel and heading for the water.

Mallory had been sitting on her balcony, letting the hypnotic rhythm of the waves relax her. When she saw Sam start to cross the small wooden bridge from the hotel parking lot to the shore, she stood and called to him. "Sam?"

He stopped and turned around. "Mal?"

"Wait up!" she called before disappearing into her room.

He sat on the railing and waited for her, looking out at the water. He didn't even notice she had caught up to him until he felt a hand on his shoulder. He jumped a little then turned to her. "You do have stealthy flip-flops," he said, looking down at her feet.

She smirked. "I told you."

"Anyway," he said, "hi."

"Hi," she said softly. "Mind if I join you?"

"Sure," he said, sliding off the railing.

"Where are we going?"

"Oh, I don't know. I just wanted to come down here, to the sand and surf. I don't know if I'll get a chance to again before we leave."

"You never know," Mallory said as they reached the soft sand.

Sam couldn't help but smile at the familiar feeling of the sand between his toes. Switching on his flashlight, they started down towards the ocean, where the waves kissed the shore. Mallory's sandals sunk into the damp sand, so she quickly stepped out of them, hooking them over the fingers of one of her hands.

After walking for a while in silence, Mallory finally spoke up. "It's a beautiful night," she commented.

"Yeah, it is."

"You must've seen dozens of nights like this, though."

"Sort of. Except the directions are reversed. North is south and south, north. So, as beautiful as the night is, it's a little... strange for me, being opposite like this." He looked at her in the soft light. He had never been for a walk along the shore with her before, with any woman he really cared about.

Mallory nodded then asked, hesitantly, "It's not weird that I'm with you?"

"Oh, no," he said quickly. "I'm glad you came along."

"You know, Skipper, you're not stuttering anymore."

He grinned a little. "I guess I'm cured."

"Guess so," she said as their free hands found each other, lacing their fingers together.

"Mallory, are you... Are you still upset?"

"About what?" she asked curiously.

"The picture," he said, looking down at the sand.

She stopped and turned him to face her. "No," she said.

"You're not?"

"I was for a while. But I knew that nothing had really happened. I just... got mad because I was envious."

"Envious?" he asked.

"I wanted... I wanted to be in your arms like that," she said softly. She wanted to add that she still did but decided she'd hold off on that.

"Y-you did?"

"You're stuttering again, Skipper."

"I thought you'd never forgive me after the picture. Seeing you at the Kennedy and you said you were still upset, I... God, Mallory, you have no idea how sorry I am."

"I should apologize, too, Sam."

"Why?"

"Richard."

He mulled that over for a moment. "I'm not following you."

"I did went out with him to make you mad... One of my 'childish moments' like you talked about on Air Force One, I guess."

He let that comment sink in before asking. "Was the 'quite a lot of sex' statement one of those, too?"

She wrinkled her nose as she confessed. "Yeah, it was."

"So... What happens now?"

"I was thinking... Maybe we could go to dinner tomorrow night." Sam opened his mouth to speak. "Now, before you say anything," she said quickly, "I already cleared some time tomorrow night through my father. They're going to that medieval place and I figured we could go... somewhere else."

"And Leo said okay?" asked Sam in moderate shock.

"Yeah. Do you want to go to dinner with me tomorrow night?"

"I would love to," he said, smiling. "Would you like to go to the amusement park with me tomorrow afternoon?"

"What?"

"I cleared my tomorrow afternoon through the President," he said, laughing lightly.

"You mean that, somehow, we worked it to where you're getting half a day of vacation?" she asked.

"Apparently so," Sam said. "Do you?"

"I'd love to," she told him, her eyes sparkling up at him. "And I'm honored that you want to spend all that time with me."

"There's no one I'd rather spend my free time with," he told her honestly, slipping his arm around her.

"We going to continue our walk, Skipper?" she asked softly.

"Sure," he said.

They started walking again, his arm around her and her arm around him.

"I have to tell you, Mallory... I've really missed being able to call you, to talk to you."

"There was nothing stopping you."

"Well, yeah, there was: shame."

"Don't worry about the picture, Sam. I'm okay with it."

"I wish I knew that *then*."

"Well, I still would have raked you over the coals somehow, so maybe it's better you know it *now*."

"Probably," he said.

"Tell me what I've missed," she said. "What things have happened in your life since the picture came out? Since the shooting?"

"Well," he said. "Toby and I have been at odds off and on, starting with a drop-in to a kick-ass speech I wrote."

"He ruined your speech?"

"He killed it."

"Bastard," muttered Mallory.

"It's over now, though. Everything's relatively back to normal."

"Well, okay," she said.

"And then... Then there was the phone call from my dad." His tone flattened. His gaze shifted back to the sand at their feet.

"What happened?" she asked softly.

"Long story short, he's been sleeping around for some twenty-eight years."

Mallory stopped walking. "Oh, Sam," she breathed. "Why didn't you call me?"

"I thought you were still seeing the hockey player."

"I'm so sorry I wasn't there for you," she said.

Sam shrugged and looked out at the water, past Mallory. "It's over now," he said sadly.

"Obviously not," she said, gently guiding his face to where he was looking at her. The pain in his normally vibrant blue eyes cut through to her soul.

"Really, Mal. It's... It's a complicated story. I-I just..."

Mallory took his hand and guided him back up to the dry sand and sat down, pulling him down to sit beside her. "Tell me," she said.

He turned off his flashlight and licked his lips. "Where do I start?"

"Anywhere you want to," she said softly.

"I never knew, Mal. I never once suspected. Twenty-eight years means he started seeing this woman in Santa Monica when I was... when I was three," he said.

~~~

It was three o'clock in the morning when Mallory and Sam strolled back up to the hotel. Sam was feeling emotionally drained from talking at length about his father, as well as how he had coped after the assassination attempt at the Newseum. Mallory was tired but very glad that they had been given the opportunity to talk. She had a feeling they would be talking quite a bit more that afternoon and evening.

"Good night, Sam," she whispered as they walked up to his room.

"I can walk you to your room," he said.

"Don't be silly," she said. She leaned up and kissed his cheek softly. "I'll see you at one?" she asked.

He nodded. "Just don't tell anybody... President Bartlet asked me to keep it quiet."

"Dad said the same thing about dinner," she said.

"I've never had a nicer walk," he said, catching her hand in both of his.

She hugged him. "Me neither," she said. Sam slowly released her, allowing Mallory to walk three doors down to her room. Before either entered their hotel rooms, they held each other's gazes.

"G'night," he mouthed to her.

She smiled sleepily before disappearing into her room.

~~~

Sam was nursing a cup of room service coffee when he joined the morning Senior Staff meeting in Leo's hotel room at seven thirty.

"All right, we're doing the civil rights rally in an hour. To get the President there and prepped, we're heading out in about twenty-five minutes," Leo said. "We'll be leaving by eleven to have lunch with mayors from several surrounding cities as well as Myrtle Beach at one of those calabash seafood places."

"Which one?" asked C.J.

"Does it matter?" asked Toby.

"The press will want to know," C.J. said.

Margaret handed Leo a piece of paper. "Benjamin's Seafood Calabash. Happy now?" asked Leo. C.J. nodded. "Great. After lunch, tee times begin at one thirty. The President will tee off first, with me and a US Senator and a US Congressman from South Carolina. Toby and Josh, you guys are playing with State Senators Tommy Couch and Vicky Roth."

"Wait," said Toby, looking at his Deputy and the Press Secretary. "Don't Sam and C.J. get to play eighteen holes, too?"

"Oh, no," said C.J. "We're back at the clubhouse with the press."

Sam sipped his coffee, not willing to tell C.J. she'd be handling the press alone. After all, the President sort of swore him to secrecy.

"After golf, two hours of free time, followed by a trip out to Medieval Times, that dinner show."

"After dinner?" asked C.J.

"As far as I know, C.J., nothing. More free time. Don't quote me on that; you may want to tell the press that it's TBA. Any other questions?"

"Are we getting fed at this rally?" asked Josh.

"As I understand it, we'll have bagels, sweet rolls," said Leo. "But rather limited supplies so a quick order to room service isn't out of the question. And I see Sam has taken advantage of it."

Sam lifted his cup of coffee before continuing to sip.

"Do you have anything you want to add to the meeting?" asked Leo.

Sam thought for a moment then shook his head, never saying a word.

"Are we done, then?" asked Leo.

Everyone nodded and the Senior Staff meeting broke up. Sam headed for the door first, followed closely by Josh.

"You okay, buddy?" Josh asked as they left Leo's room. Sam nodded. "Did you lose your voice during the night?"

"No," said Sam. Though, with the hours he spent talking to Mallory during the night, it was a little surprising to him that he had any voice left.

"You've been unusually quiet," said Josh. "Are you sure everything is okay?"

"I'm just a little tired," he said, before draining his coffee.

"Everybody was in their rooms by ten, which is highly unusual on a trip. Seems like there's always a fund-raiser to attend, a party to go to, people to talk to."

"Yeah," said Sam, yawning.

"You want some more coffee?"

"I'd love to take a nap."

"When did you go to sleep?"

"Sometime after three," he said.

"What were you doing up so late?" asked Josh. "Man, I was in bed before twelve, which is, y'know, highly unusual."

"Mallory and I went for a walk," he said.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"And you didn't get back until three?"

"We wound up talking."

"Sounds like."

"I told you—when we start talking we don't seem to stop."

"You going to be able to stay awake?"

"Oh, yeah," said Sam, shrugging. He looked at the bottom of his ceramic cup, wondering if he should order a refill.

"Morning, Sam. Josh."

Both men turned to see Mallory tying a wrap around her waist over a purple bikini. Sam's eyes grew; he was definitely awake now.

"Good morning," said Sam, vacantly throwing away his mug.

"Going for a swim?" asked Josh, frowning at Sam's impulsive move to throw away a perfectly nice coffee cup.

"The Secret Service has cleared the swimming pool. Zoey's down there now," said Mallory. "They're not all that comfortable letting her go down to the ocean for a swim apparently. At least not yet, so yeah."

"Well, I'm going to find... breakfast," Josh said, glancing back and forth between Mallory and Sam. Neither one was paying much attention to him again.

"Bye, Josh," Mallory said, smiling.

"Yeah," he said, turning on his heel and walking away.

"Sleep well, Skipper?" she asked.

"Better than I have since Dad called me, actually," he said.

She smiled. "Good," she said softly, running her fingers along his necktie. "I can't wait until this afternoon."

"Me either..."

"Sam, you cut that paragraph *again*?" barked Toby from the door to his room.

Sam groaned lightly.

"Just keep thinking about this afternoon," Mallory whispered to him. "I'm sure that you won't think of Toby once when we go out today."

"Okay," he said. "Have a nice morning."

"You, too," she said. She squeezed his hand supportively. "Good luck with the bear."

He laughed lightly before they went their separate ways.

Stay tuned...

~Lines from the next installment: "Oh, no. If I die, I'll die with you, happy," he said with a forced smile.

Part 5

 

 

 

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