Title: A Slow Boat to Nowhere
Author: Beth
Series: Wild Ride
Category: J/S and OFCs (now I have three)
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I created the girls, but I borrowed the boys from Aaron. I will return them from whence they came - eventually.
Archive: Just tell me where
Feedback: Always appreciated: elatshaw@earthlink.net
Summary: There's a boat; there's sailing; and, oh yeah, someone falls off.
Notes: This is technically the fourth in a series that as yet has no name. Sometime soon, I hope to actually think of a name for this monster, but anyway, it's kind of like jumping off a cliff without a parachute if you haven't read, at the very least, "Mr. Seaborn's Wild Ride" and "The First Time". There wouldn't be a comma in the damned thing if it weren't for Julian, and as always this is for her.

*************

A Slow Boat to Nowhere by Beth

2003

Sam had given up on ever getting Carrie into bed. He would get her settled down, and before he could even sit down she would pop back up in his living room wanting a drink of water or a stuffed animal he couldn't find or another hug. So far, he'd had to call Josh every night to help him get the little girl to go to sleep - he didn't know what Josh did, but whatever it was always worked. He picked up the phone wearily and dialed Josh's number. When Josh answered, Sam said one word -- "Help" -- and hung up the phone. He knew Josh would understand, and when Josh showed up about twenty minutes later his faith in their ability to communicate was confirmed.

"What's the problem, Sam?" Josh asked as he breezed into the room. Sam's apartment had clearly been taken over by his little girl. The normally neat living room was strewn with toys, blankets, and assorted pieces of clothing, and Sam looked like he had been hit by a truck.

Before Sam could answer him, the little redhead popped around the corner and propelled herself straight at Josh. "Up Osh, Up."

Josh swung the little girl up into his arms, laughing, as he said, "Well, little bit, what are you still doing up? Isn't it past your bedtime?"

Carrie said "No" as Sam said "Yes," and Josh just grinned at both of them. He motioned for Sam to follow him as he headed toward the bedroom, and said, "Okay, little one. It's time for bed. I think it's Daddy's turn to tell you a story tonight."

Sam looked at him questioningly, and Josh laughed. "What, you thought it was my charming personality that was putting her to sleep? That I have a secret plan to fight sleeplessness tucked up my sleeve? No such luck; I just tell her stories about her mother, about Sarah, about you - well, the g-rated ones anyway. I can't believe that you, the guy who writes for a living, didn't think of this. How in the world did you learn to love reading anyway?"

Sam shrugged and said, "Self-defense. I was short, skinny and geeky. And if it hadn't been for a book and a girl with red hair, I probably wouldn't have survived first grade - let alone high school. But that's a story for another day - probably when this little redhead is ready for school. What story should I tell?"

"Well, I've always wanted to know about the cell phone incident - you know, when I had to call Lisa," Josh said hopefully.

Sam looked at him and grinned. "Ah yes, the beginning of the end, as I like to think of it now, or the beginning of the beginning, or something like that. The story actually starts before the cell phone thing." He watched as Josh settled Carrie into her bed and pulled the covers up under her chin.

Josh looked at Sam and said, "Okay Daddy - all proper stories begin with 'once upon a time'; don't use first person; and remember the age of your audience. You can start now."

"Guess that's my cue. Okay, Once upon a time . . ." And Sam's memories of a certain sailboat, a redheaded woman, and a cell phone took over.

1997

Sam was tired. He felt like he had been on a treadmill for months - constantly moving. He wasn't even sure what he was doing anymore or why he was doing it. He was supposed to marry Lisa in September, and at this moment he couldn't remember why he was going to do it. He was going to make partner at Gage Whitney, too. He should be feeling so good about all of this - but all he felt was dead inside. He needed to get in touch with himself again - he knew how to do it, but he didn't know how to accomplish it. He hadn't done more than speak on the phone with either Kel or Josh in at least a year. Several months before, Kelly had apparently called to let him know she would be in New York, but he had never gotten the message. Then Kelly hadn't even bothered to tell him the last time she was in New York - she said she didn't see the point. She had gone down to DC, spent some time with Josh, and headed back to LA. Sarah had been the one to tell him that Kel had been in New York at all. His two best friends were now spending more time with each other than they were with him; somehow that didn't seem right.

He was startled out of his reverie by the ringing of his phone. The number indicated it was Lisa. "Hey Lis, what's up?" He listened to her ramble on about china patterns, guest lists, and some thing she wanted him to do this weekend. "Listen, Lis. I was just offered the most awesome opportunity," Sam said, crossing his fingers. "One of the partners has a boat and offered me a week on it. Next week. I'd like to go." He listened to her complain about how much she hated sailing, and said, "No, I was actually thinking of going by myself. Hire someone to crew for me. I know you don't like to sail, and that's okay. Think of it as a last chance for me to do this before we get married and you have all my weekends tied up with other stuff." He knew that would get her. She'd already convinced him to sell his boat; he knew she would feel that she owed him this. "Thanks, Lis. Love you too." After hanging up the phone, Sam made some quick calls to rent a boat down in the Keys. Kel wouldn't be able to resist the Keys - him, maybe, but sailing the Keys, never. After a couple more "making arrangements" phone calls, Sam dialed Kel's number, hoping to catch her before she made it into her studio.

No such luck, but he might have an easier time with Sarah anyway. "Hey Sarah, it's Sam. Is she taking calls?"

"Hi Sam. Now really isn't a good time. I think the last time I brought you up she said something about you, polar ice caps, and hell. Though that may have been three separate issues; sometimes it's difficult to tell," Sarah laughed to ease the sting in the words.

"So she's really mad at me this time, is she?"

"Well," Sarah was tempted to lie to him, but she knew he'd piece it together without her help anyway, "the work isn't going well. She's already switched from cello to heavy metal this morning. There's more paint on the walls than on the canvas, and it's been that way for the last few weeks. That last New York trip really got her down, and, yeah, she's still mad about the other one. You know how she gets - let me just say though that I thank God daily that she's pissed at you and not at me."

"Shit. I didn't know she was here. Sarah, I would have found the time if I had known. You know that - can't you convince her of that?" Sam begged.

"She called. She left you a message. You never called her back. I can't convince her those things didn't happen. I tried to tell you before, Sam; she didn't buy that you didn't get the message. I've tried to help you, and it hasn't gotten either of us anywhere. All it accomplishes is getting her ticked at me, so you're going to have to fix this one yourself."

"That's what I'm trying to do, Sarah. I swear it is, but either I need to talk to her or I need you to give her a message. Just a message, Sarah, you won't have to defend me. Can you get her attention over the music?"

"I think I can. What do you want me to say?"

"Say: Sam; Kel; boat; Keys"

Sarah chuckled, "Yeah, that might get her to talk to you. Let me run upstairs and shout at her - with any luck, she'll be down to talk to you in a minute."

Sam could hear the music remarkably clearly when Sarah set down the phone - he often marveled that Kel had eardrums left at all. He still didn't have any answers about the phone message he never got, though he suspected - as he knew Kelly did - that Lisa had elected not to give it to him. He heard someone picking up the phone, and he unconsciously crossed his fingers.

"Hello? Kel - is that you?"

"The Keys, Sam? I thought you sold the boat," Kelly's tone was flatter than Sam was used to hearing.

"Well, yeah, I sold the boat, but I've got a rental - ready to go. Next week - we've got it for seven days with an option for seven more if we want it. I've got a ticket for you from LAX to Miami - open return. All you've got to do is get on the plane, and I'll meet you there."

"You seem awfully sure I'm going to go for this," she said somewhat hostilely.

"No, I'm not sure at all. I just tried to eliminate every possible objection you could have. Kel, please come. I can't remember the last time we got to spend any time together. I know it's my fault, and I'm trying to fix it the best way I know how. Please, Kel," Sam pleaded. He could just see the gears turning in her mind as she tried to decide whether she wanted to fly cross-country to go sailing -- with him.

"Who's going?" Kel's voice shifted from hostile to skeptical.

"You and me. Just the two of us, I swear. Please, Kel. I'm begging you - go sailing with me." He tried to sound as pathetic as possible.

"You sound mighty desperate there, Seaborn," she started to giggle, "Guess I can't let you out on a boat by yourself - God knows what would happen. You'd either drown or end up in Cuba, and I don't want that on my conscience. The Cubans would never survive. Give me the flight times - I'll see you in Miami."

*****Miami International Airport*****

Kelly walked into the airport terminal, shouldering her backpack. She was rapidly scanning the crowd for Sam. Well, she was rapidly scanning the crowd for a large group of women, which would lead her to Sam. It didn't take her long to find him - as suspected he had several women hanging on his every word. She tried to catch his eye, but knew she would have to resort to more drastic measures. She shifted her backpack slightly and sauntered over to the group of women. She worked her way through the crowd and grabbed Sam in a big hug.

"Hey handsome - been waiting long?" She planted a kiss on his cheek while he slipped his arms around her waist to return the hug, and to slide the backpack from her shoulder.

"Not too long. Let's go get the rest of your luggage and get the heck outta here," Sam said as he began to steer her through the airport with a hand on her back.

"What rest?" Kelly looked genuinely confused, "We're going sailing, right?" When Sam nodded, Kelly continued, "So all I should need are a couple of bikinis, a pair of cut-offs and my deck shoes, right? Oh, and enough sun block for the entire state of Florida."

"Well shit, Kel, sometimes I forget how low-maintenance you are. I've gotten the car already so we can just head for the boat," Sam said as his cell phone started ringing. He glanced at the number and gave Kelly an apologetic look as he accepted the call. "Hey Lis. What's up?" Sam listened as Lisa talked about her day and everything that she had done for the wedding in the six hours or so since he'd left. He made it to the car without getting another word in the conversation. Kelly followed him, and held her hand out for the keys. Sam cleared his throat, and Lisa stopped talking long enough for him to say, "Look, Lis. I need to get on the road if I'm going to make it to the boat today. I'll talk to you later, okay?" After he hung up the phone, Sam looked over at Kelly to apologize.

"Don't waste your breath, Seaborn. Let's just get out of here, okay?" Kelly pulled out her sunglasses and settled into the passenger's seat. They had made it about twenty minutes down the road when the phone rang again. Kelly glanced down and saw the New York number. "Oh for God's sake, Sam."

After another long conversation, Sam attempted to convince Lisa that she should only call him again if it was a true emergency. Once Sam had hung up the phone, Kelly picked it up and gave him a long look, "May I use this for a bit?" When Sam nodded, Kelly dialed Josh's number.

"Hey sweetie," Kelly said.

"Huh? Kel? Is that you? I thought you were going sailing with Sam."

"We're in a car and we're driving to the boat right now. I wanted to check something with you, though. You still have a law degree, right?" Kel asked with a hint of a laugh in her voice.

"Okay, you have Sam with you. A bona fide lawyer, and you're calling me with a legal question. Did you hit your head or something? Did he?" Josh asked cautiously.

"We're fine, Josh. Stop worrying. I just wanted to check something, and I don't think Sam will give me an honest answer."

"Well then, shoot."

"What are the rules about drowning someone? Am I committing murder if I shove him off the boat and let him drown, or can that be considered an accident?"

"Short answer? Yeah, that's murder."

"Damn. Well, you can't blame a girl for trying," Kelly said, laughing.

"Are you two going to be okay down there? Do you need me to come down and meet you someplace? Maybe referee?"

"We'll be fine. I promise I'll let him live. We'll check in again sometime," Kelly hung up the phone, leaned back in her seat, and closed her eyes. She must have fallen asleep because the next thing she knew Sam was gently shaking her.

"Kel - time to get up, sleepyhead. Assuming you actually want to sail the boat, that is." Sam grinned at her as she was waking up.

"You know, Seaborn, when you trip over something and crack your skull, don't expect any sympathy from me. I would have been just fine if someone in this car could remember the time difference between the east and west coast when he buys plane tickets," Kelly growled playfully at him.

"I don't think I appreciate the fact that you're assuming I'm going to hurt myself. I have managed to go places and not injure myself," Sam said.

"Really? When?"

"Several times."

"Name one."

"I went to Duke and I didn't get hurt."

"Um, law library. Third day. Book from the top shelf. 7 stitches. Ringing any bells?" Kelly was grinning evilly at him.

"You never forget anything, do you?"

"Neither do you - I just don't give you as much ammunition, that's all," she said as she grabbed her backpack and got out of the car, "Now, you said something about a boat, right?"

"Sure did," Sam said as he popped the trunk and pulled out a couple of duffle bags.

"Multiple bags, Sam? And *you* think *I'm* high maintenance?"

"One bag has my stuff in it. The other bag has the stuff that you didn't bring that you'll decide you need in about three days. It isn't like I haven't sailed with you before." Sam led the way to the rental office, signed the appropriate paperwork and picked up the necessary charts and slip number.

"So what's the plan, Seaborn?" Kelly asked as they boarded the boat and stowed their gear in the cabin.

Before Sam could answer her, his cell phone rang again. He glanced at the number, sighed, and took the call, "Hey, Lis." He listened as Lisa talked and watched Kelly as she started the process of moving the boat out of the slip. He knew Kel was getting ticked off - the way she was performing each of her tasks with careful deliberation, as if she hadn't done them a thousand times before, was a dead giveaway that she was beginning to regret coming. Shit. This was not the way to reconnect or repair the damage that had been done in the past year. "Look, Lis - we're about to set sail, so I need to go." He hung up quickly and slipped the phone back in his shirt pocket. Kel pretty much ignored him when he tried to help, which frustrated him even more - now he was feeling utterly superfluous on his own trip, and that sucked. "Do you think you could possibly not do this when we are going to be spending the next fourteen days together?"

"I thought you said seven with an option."

"Semantics. I figured you would want the whole fourteen."

"Not at this rate." With that Kelly went back to focusing on the tasks at hand. She was less interested in arguing with him at this moment than she was in getting out of cellular range. In a few minutes, they had cleared the main harbor and were heading toward open water.

"Do you think it would be possible for you to get along with her in my lifetime?" Sam said before he had a chance to think.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Kelly's eyes were glinting dangerously as she attempted to retain control of her temper.

Sam chose to ignore the danger signs and pressed on. "You've never even given her a chance."

"I've never -- A chance -- How am I supposed --" Kelly spluttered, then took a deep breath and tried again. "How am I supposed to give her a chance if she never gives you the messages that I'm in town?"

Sam sighed. "It wasn't her fault, Kel. I told you something must have happened with the answering machine. Why won't you believe me?"

"One freak answering machine accident I'd buy. But continuous freak accidents *every* time I come to town. Even you have to admit that pushes the boundaries of coincidence." As if on cue, the phone rang again. "This has to stop, Sam."

Sam nodded, but answered the phone anyway. After another brief conversation with Lisa, he hung up. He looked over at Kelly who seemed to have calmed down.

She stretched out a hand and with a smile asked, "Could I borrow your phone for a few minutes, Sam?"

Sam handed her his phone without protest. She walked away from him as she was dialing, so he could neither hear nor see whom she called. She was sitting as far up on the bow of the boat as she could without falling in the water. She was speaking very quietly to whoever it was. When she finished with her call, Kelly looked up to see Sam studying her. She smiled at him as she deliberately dropped his cell phone over the side of the boat.

"Now I'm interested in fourteen days," she said as she slipped past him.

"What the hell did you do that for?"

"I'm out here to spend some time with you. Not spend some time watching you talk to Lisa on a damned cell phone. We aren't going to get a whole lot of time to talk and figure out what's going on with you, if you spend every non-sailing minute we have with a cell phone attached to your ear. You didn't have the guts to solve the problem, so I did. Now deal with it."

"What makes you think there's something going on with me?"

"You dragged me across the entire United States, got me on a sailboat alone, and you want to try to convince me that something *isn't* up?"

"We sail alone all the time."

"Man, you really are trying to avoid the issue aren't you? Sam, we haven't gone sailing just the two of us since you met Josh. Before you jump all over that, I love Josh to death and he's fun to sail with, and I am not complaining. I'm just saying, for you to decide to leave Josh home tells me there's something going on."

"Fine. Are you planning to tell me who you called?"

"Sure. Josh."

"Umm, why?"

"Because he's good at relay. He's calling Sarah and letting her know everything is okay. He's calling Lisa, when he's pretty sure she's out, and telling her answering machine that your cell phone cut out while he was talking to you, so she might have some difficulty getting through." Kelly snickered as she told him the last part.

"Some difficulty - there's an understatement," Sam sighed.

"Why don't we relax for now? When you're ready, you can talk to me or you can not talk to me - whatever. I'm here and I'll be here for the next fourteen days. Now, I'm hungry - what did you do for food?" she said as she wandered down to the galley to check out the whole food situation. Sam had had the galley stocked with all of Kelly's favorites - she was a sandwich kind of girl (mostly because she couldn't boil water without it becoming an incident) and he had made sure there were plenty of choices.

They spent the next few days sailing, swimming, and generally enjoying themselves. Sam hadn't been this relaxed since he'd started at Gage Whitney. They spent the evenings reminiscing. It was exactly the kind of time Sam needed, and after several days he felt relaxed enough to talk to Kelly.

They had anchored the boat, and she was just coming up the ladder from a morning swim when he decided to approach her. She grabbed her towel to dry her hair and then spread it out so she could lie out on the deck. Sam came up carrying a couple of cans of soda and sat down next to her.

"Hey," he said somewhat tentatively.

She looked up at him and recognized that he was ready for the conversation she assumed he had brought her out here for. "Yeah?"

"Can we talk for a while?"

"Yeah," Kelly said as she opened her soda.

"What am I doing, Kel?" Sam asked in a pained voice.

"I don't know, sweetie. You're becoming the perfect lawyer. You are going to make partner at a well-respected law firm. You are engaged to the perfect lawyer's wife. From the outside it looks like you have the world by the tail."

"So why am I miserable?"

"Because it isn't what you really want," Kelly said confidently.

"How do you know?"

"Sam, sweetheart, we've known each other all our lives. You weren't meant to be one in a cast of thousands any more than I was. It's just taking you longer to find your niche, that's all." Kelly knew she wasn't quite saying what he wanted to hear, but she wasn't going to reassure him into a miserable life.

"So you don't think I should marry Lisa," he said speculatively.

"I didn't say that, but that you did says something, Sam. Do you love her?"

"Yeah, I do."

"Are you in love with her?"

"I don't understand what you mean."

"God - sometimes I forget that you can be such a guy. There is a difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. Think about it: I love you possibly more than I've loved anyone in my entire life, and I'd do just about anything for you. But I'm in love with Sarah. My feelings for her are complex, exciting, and charged with a kind of energy that my feelings for you aren't. Does that make sense?"

"And if I don't feel for Lisa what you feel for Sarah?"

"You and I are different people, Seaborn. You're practically a genius; I'm an artist. I'm -- to put it nicely -- tempestuous; you are a great deal more emotionally stable. I do tend to create emotional storms when I'm around, so maybe you shouldn't feel the same way that I feel, but I think - no I believe - that if she doesn't stir something in your soul then you are making a huge mistake marrying her." Kelly sighed and continued, "But, if you decide that she's what you want, that she's the missing piece of your soul that you were meant to find, then I will support your decision completely. All I want is for you to be as happy as I am."

"You don't think I'm happy, do you?"

"You just said not five minutes ago that you were miserable, but to answer your question: no, I don't think you're happy. But it isn't my opinion that counts, Sammy." Kelly unconsciously reverted to his childhood nickname. "What do you think?"

"I think I don't know what I think. I'm doing all the right things, Kel. I 'm making all the right choices, and yet I feel like - I don't know - like I 'm missing something."

Kelly studied Sam for a long minute before she said anything. She was doing something rather out of character by weighing her words carefully, but she finally decided that she either had to say something now, or she was never going to say it, "You know I know about Princeton, right?"

Sam looked at her blankly for a second, "The school?"

"Not exactly, Sammy. You know what I mean - who you were dating or, more precisely, who you weren't dating." Kelly almost laughed at his shocked look. "Oh, for god's sake, you couldn't possibly think that it would in any way bother me - except maybe that you tried to keep it a secret from me. You should know, for future reference, that you can keep nothing from me, so you shouldn't try ever again, okay?"

"I --, uh --, okay - how is that applicable now?" Sam felt like this conversation was spinning rapidly out of control, and he could not figure out where Kel was heading with this.

"Do you need me to go slow? Are you seriously telling me that you don't know what I'm talking about?"

"I know what you're talking about. You are alluding to my relationship with Mike, but again, I don't see the relevance to now."

"Well, it's a better example than Ted."

"So what, this is now Kel drags every relationship I've ever had out and hashes it through?"

"No - I just want to consider all the evidence."

"And Mike is better as an example because?"

"Because if I use Ted as an example, you'll say it was a summer fling - an experiment. If I use, what was his name - never mind - if I use what's his name that was a much longer relationship, and I think it demonstrates my point more clearly."

"And your point is?"

"I've seen how you look at Josh. 'Nuff said?"

Sam started to say something and stopped. He kept opening and closing his mouth - staring at Kelly in something like a state of shock.

Kelly grinned, "Have I actually rendered *you* speechless, Samuel? I think this may be a first for me," Kelly smiled happily. "Let me savor the moment for a second." She paused. "Okay, moment savored. Now let me back up. You insisted I meet a guy who was an absolute asshole - something that in the entire history of our friendship you have never made me do. You went to incredible lengths to make sure I would not turn that guy into a pile of mush on the side of the road when I did consent to meeting him. You worked hard to make me like the guy. You encouraged me to become a friend to this guy independent of you -- again something you have never done for as long as I've known you. You have gone to an immense amount of trouble to forge a bond between two people who you consider your best friends. The real kicker, though, is that you haven't invested even a modicum of that time in forging any kind of bond between your best friends and your future wife. That's the most telling thing of all to me."

Sam continued to stare, but said, "And all of that means to you?"

"That you have stronger feelings for Josh than you do for Lisa, and I think she knows it too." Kelly figured that she had unleashed most of her arsenal at this point, so she decided to throw out the rest of her theory too. "I think Lisa knows that you aren't really in love with her the way she is with you and that the only way to keep you is to isolate you from us. I think she perceives me as a threat, and though I doubt you've told her about Princeton or Ted she senses that Josh could be a threat too. How am I doing so far?"

"If I said I think you spend way too much time thinking about my love life?"

"I'd say I only do it because I love you and I want you to be happy. Let me ask you another question and then I'll shut up - I promise." Sam nodded, so Kelly asked, "Does Lisa know I'm on this boat with you and that we are otherwise alone?"

Sam looked at the deck, not daring to meet Kelly's eyes, and said, "Nope. She probably thinks you're in California. She thinks I hired a crew, and she doesn't know I rented the boat. She thinks I borrowed it."

"Sammy, you lied to her - multiple times. Don't you see that this is a serious problem? And before you say it, no, I haven't ever lied to Sarah about something important. A surprise I didn't want her to find out about ahead of time, yeah; something like 'oh by the way I'm going to go sailing with someone you think has designs on me,' never. It's a matter of trust - trust that apparently doesn't exist in your relationship with Lisa." With that, Kelly gave Sam a hug and left him to his thoughts.

For several days after the discussion, Sam and Kelly pretty much ignored the fact that they had even had it in the first place. They continued cruising, swimming, and talking, and then it happened. Sam was working with the rigging, but he wasn't paying too much attention to what he was doing. Kelly looked away for a second, but looked back when she heard Sam yell something, followed by a loud splash. It took a moment for her to realize that Sam was no longer on the boat.

She quickly went to the side and found him swimming for the ladder. Once she was sure he was okay, she started laughing. By the time Sam made it up the ladder, Kelly was laughing so hard that she had collapsed on the deck.

"You know, I don't think it was that funny," Sam said in a disgusted voice as he started searching for a towel.

"Are you okay? Did you hurt anything?" Kelly got out between giggles. "Exactly how did that happen?"

Sam had one hand on his head and the other on his back as he said, "Well, I think I hit my back on the rail, and I may have hit my head too. And to be honest, I don't know how it happened. I guess I lost control of something."

Kelly came over and checked Sam's head, then pulled up his shirt to get a look at his back, "Well, there's a cut on your head, but my quasi-expert opinion is that you won't need stitches. Your back's got some bruises and I bet you're going to hurt something serious tomorrow. Why don't you go take some advil and bring me the first aid kit - I'll patch you up and then you can take a nap."

"And leave you to sail the boat yourself - that's crazy," Sam protested but broke off with a groan at the pain in his head.

"Better plan - why don't you stay here and I'll go get the stuff, okay? And on second thought, no advil - I want to get your head checked out first." Kelly was worried that he might be somewhat concussed, and she was trying to strategize how she was going to get the boat back to the slip without Sam's help. She hadn't been kidding when she said it had been a while since they had sailed just the two of them. She had gotten used to having Josh around to pick up the slack when Sam hurt himself. Kelly patched Sam up and then convinced him to just sit and watch while she navigated back through the harbor to the slip.

She got him checked out - no concussion, thank goodness -- then rented a hotel room for them to hang out in for the last few days. She had been right; Sam was really stiff and his back hurt from the fall, and that made him grumpy. A grumpy Sam was not a fun person to spend time with, so she spent a lot of time on the beach without him. But the third morning they were in the hotel he grabbed her hand as she passed him on her way out to the beach. "Kel, would you stay with me today, please?"

"Sure, Sammy. What's up?"

"We're leaving tomorrow, and I wanted to make sure we're okay."

"We're fine. Why wouldn't we be fine?"

"We haven't talked about what we talked about since we talked about it," Sam said.

"Umm, do you think you could be a bit more vague there?" Kelly said, laughing, "I don't know what else to say about that. You're going to do what you think is right. I'll be right there to support you - no matter what you decide."

"I'm going to ask you something, and you can refuse to answer if you want to, okay?" Sam said. At Kelly's puzzled nod, he continued, "Where does Josh fit in to what you were telling me about me before?"

"Do you mean do I know if Josh has feelings for you?" When Sam nodded, Kelly clasped his hands in hers as she said, "Oh Sam - I don't know. He's really hard for me to read. Remember that first dinner? When I said the thing about you saying he was cute? He blushed. He always asks about you. I think there might be something there, but I don't think he knows what to do about it, or even what it is. The only way to know for sure though is to ask him, but you've got to figure out the Lisa thing first. I'm heading to DC tomorrow; I could feel him out for you if you want me to."

"I thought you were going back to LA."

"Change of plan; I think you lawyer-types call it quid pro quo. In order to convince Josh to call Lisa about the phone thing, I had to agree to meet this guy that Josh is working for. Some Senator who thinks he wants to be President. Somehow Josh thinks if I meet him, I'll want to work on a campaign or something. It's not going to happen, but I'll play nice. I'm going to drag Josh to a couple of museums, and then I'll head home. Do you want me to see if I can find out anything?"

Sam shuddered at the thought of Kelly working on a campaign, and then said, "No, just leave it alone, okay? I've still got the whole lawyer-slash-Lisa thing to figure out. I don't want to complicate things more than they already are."

When they parted company the next day, Sam was more relaxed than he had been in months. Kelly was still concerned, but at least she knew he was thinking about what he really wanted and wasn't just going to accept the life that was burying him alive. She went to DC, met Hoynes, and was singularly unimpressed. Although she'd promised Sam that she would not interfere, she did plant the seed that Josh might want to make an effort to see Sam in the near future.

A couple of months later, Kelly still could not believe what she had started with that one suggestion. Josh had gone to see Sam on his way to New Hampshire. The next thing she knew, Sam called her to tell her that he had quit his job, ended his engagement, accepted a job as a speechwriter for Josiah Bartlet, and was happy for the first time in a long time. Oh, and he asked her if she would consider supporting Bartlet - he was, after all, the real thing.

2003

"The end," Sam said quietly as he realized that he had in fact put his daughter to sleep. Josh grabbed his hand and they quietly stole from the room, flipping off the light as they went.

When they got to the living room, Sam noticed that Josh was snickering. "What?" Sam whispered.

"Kel was one of a kind, wasn't she?"

"Oh, I don't know. That little one in there seems more like her everyday. Aside from the eyes I'm not sure there's much of me in her at all," Sam sighed and tried to suppress a shudder as he thought about the frightening possibilities that those similarities would present in the future.

Josh studied Sam for a bit - thinking about what he wanted to say - weighing his words carefully. Finally he said, "I see pieces of both of you in her. She's extremely -- almost frighteningly -- smart for a two year old. She has your social skills - think about how she went around the Oval that first day - that's you, not Kel. She looks like Kel, but she acts like you. Hell, even the way she doesn't want to go to bed at night is just like you - although I have to admit that was something you and Kel shared. And that's another thing: you and Kel were an awful lot alike in a lot of ways, so things that you see as Kel, people who know you will see as you. It's going to be fun to watch her grow up - to see how much like each of you she turns out to be."

"And how much she picks up from you. There's that whole environmental influence thing, too," Sam said.

"And you think that's a good thing?" Josh asked seriously.

"Well --" Sam began his eyes twinkling with merriment as he barely contained his laughter.

"Oh shut up. So am I staying or going - it's getting late," Josh asked - though he already knew the answer.

"You know I want you to stay -"

"Yeah, I do, but you have one bedroom and Carrie's sleeping in there and -"

"I'm sorry," Sam said as Josh headed for the door.

"You know it's okay. We're still adjusting to having her around. It's going to take some time for all of us," Josh said as he turned back toward Sam who had followed Josh to the door, and they kissed good night. It was a kiss that communicated all the frustration, passion, and love that they felt, and it left them both wanting more. But Josh knew he had to go, so he let himself out of Sam's apartment before they forgot about the little girl in the next room.

Sam leaned against the door after he closed it behind Josh. He knew something was going to have to change, but he wasn't sure how to go about it. These were the times he missed Kel the most - she would have known what to do. She would have made a couple of phone calls and had everything all set before he could have fully articulated what he needed. This time he would have figure out how to make whatever he wanted to happen on his own - he just wasn't even sure how to start. He turned out the lights and headed off to bed - he'd think about this tomorrow, maybe.

END

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