Title: Handling Sam 2
Author: Mellyjane40
Rating: PG –13 to R Some adult situations but nothing too graphic.
Spoilers: General spoilers for seasons 1-4
Pairing: Sam/Josh
Summary: AU – Post Bartlet Administration. Issues raised in Handling Sam 1 return to haunt Sam struggles with a new health issue.
Author's Notes #1: Vicki kindly let me have a second solo attempt and take out Sam and Josh out for a spin. I am not a medical expert and all information about Sam's illness has come from various medical websites.
Author's Notes #2: This is for all my good friends Vicki, Abigale, and Mrs J who encouraged me all the way. A big thank you goes to Coupdepam, Mrs J and Jen for kindly beta-ing this for me (and wading through very suspect punctuation!).
Disclaimer: The West Wing and its characters belong to Aaron Sorkin and NBC. Anyone else belongs to me.
Archive: All our stories can be found at http://www.angelfire.com/ok5/samnjosh/
Feedback: Please! I would love to know what you think, good or bad as long as it is constructive. My address is mellyjane40@hotmail.com

Handling Sam 2 by Mellyjane40

Takes Place in November, 2016 - 8 months after SIB2

The Residence – Saturday Evening 7pm

Josh had it all arranged. The Mural Room was lit with candles with the best White House china and glass, a lovely floral display in the middle table and the best silver service. Not that he knew any thing about floral displays, but even he had to admit it looked pretty. CJ had pointed out the freesias, lily of the valley and pale pink roses, a perfect setting for the reception for the returning diplomats.

He sneezed into his handkerchief as he'd wobbled out of his bedroom and into the hallway dressed in his dressing gown.

"Where do you think you're going?" The stern but loving voice of his partner made Josh swing round and nearly loose his balance and he gripped onto the doorframe.

"Hey!" Sam hurried down the corridor of the residence and grabbed his lover by the arm to steady him. "I left you with strict instructions not to get out of bed unless someone was with you."

He guided Josh back into the bedroom and helped him back into bed. Sam gave him a loving smile as he tucked his partner in and cleared up the crumpled tissues from the bedside table, put the lid on the medicine bottle and turned off the television. Josh watched him with a half goofy expression of love and sheer tiredness at the effort of getting out of bed.

"Thank you, sweetheart," he croaked.

"Well you didn't want an embarrassing episode do you? The shot the Admiral gave you was similar to the stuff I had in London when we proposed."

Josh grinned.

"You were bouncing off the ceiling, if I remember."

"Yes, but that's not as embarrassing as you announcing you were going to the Oval and falling flat on your face." Sam kissed his partner tenderly on the head. "I thought I was the klutzy one of this partnership."

Sam felt his partner's forehead, which was moistened with beads of sweat.

"Hmm. Has Admiral Smith taken your temperature? You're still warm."

Sam disappeared into the bathroom and came back with a damp towel which he applied to Josh's forehead.

"Better? I've got to get ready for this thing. Mom sent her apologies again today."

Josh gave a weak smile and settled back against the plumped up pillows. The feeling of light-headedness he'd felt in the corridor was gone, leaving him feeling lethargic. The coolness of the towel was a refreshing balm to his aching head as he watched Sam go over to their wardrobe and pull out his jacket with tails and dress shirt and tie and head towards the bathroom.

"Where are you going?" Josh sat up against the pillows as a bout of coughing overtook him. He fell back again.

"I am just gonna to let you get some sleep in peace."

"No, get dressed in here. This is the nearest I can get to seeing you undressed I've been…so dope...d."

Josh's eyes began to close and then he was awoken by the sound of voices in the bedroom.

"How is he?" CJ's was in hushed tones.

"He's zonked out. The doctor gave him another injection," Sam replied keeping his voice low. "Come on let's go."

"Sam?"

Sam turned around at the sound of Josh's voice. He crossed over to the bed and perched on the side by his partner. Josh's eyes gleamed at the sight of his partner resplendent in white tie and tails.

"CJ and I are going to this thing. Here," Sam took the cloth by Josh's bedside table went into the bathroom, came back and wiped his partner's face. "There. I'll be back by elevenish, try and get some sleep. Jamie's in bed."

"You look good." Josh leaned against his partner, "I can't smell you. You always…smell so…good. Thank you for doing…thi...s...I-"

The words where uncompleted, as Josh fell asleep again. Sam lowered him back against the pillows. He offered his arm to CJ, who looked elegant in a gown of midnight blue taffeta, as they went downstairs towards the East Room. As they stood waiting as their names where announced, a couple of the female guests perked up with excitement at the sight of Sam as he entered the room.

"Ah, we're in for a treat tonight. I thought it would just be the President."

"Joan! Show some respect for the President. God, some people would give their hind teeth to meet the President," her friend admonished her.

"I know but the err…do we say First Gentleman or what? He rarely does these functions on his own. I'd be happy to gaze under those blue eyes. Ohh look," She clutched her friend's arm, "He's coming this way."

Sam gave a warm smile that melted the hearts of both woman and silently prayed that by the evening it would not become too fixed. ___________________________________________________________

Two Days Later – the West Wing. 10am.

There were days when Alex Kingston, the fresh faced and youngest member of the Lyman administration, almost hated his job. Usually it was on occasions to do with the First Family and the questions the press would fire at him. Alex scratched the bridge of his nose and stared down at the column of the New York Times. He hoped that after the kidnap of Sam's son last year and his emotional breakdown at the beginning of the year, that now every thing was relative calm. The sudden thud of the New York Times on his desk broke in to his reverie.

"So how are we going to spin this?"

A furious Kelly Sullivan the pert Deputy Communications Director stood in front of him, arms folded. Alex swallowed the remains of his cooling coffee and read the leader column that Kelly pointed to and paled slightly.

"Oh god," he muttered standing up and grabbing his jacket from the back of his chair. "We have to see Toby now!"

Toby Zeigler the senior consular to the President and his Communications Director looked up in surprise at his two younger members of staff as they hovered outside his office.

"We can't go on like this for much longer Toby!" Kelly was the first to speak thrusting the offending article under her boss's nose.

Toby looked up from his desk. It was proving to be one of those days when he wished it was when he was back in the days when he and Sam had been worried about finding `their talent' and crafting the message of President Bartlet.

"Someone needs to speak to the President. Sam mustn't see it."

Toby gave a snort from his briefing papers.

"Keep it from Sam, and how do you propose to do that and why should we?"

"Well how are you going to explain this then? Remember the situation in January? God the spin we had to put on Sam's great escape!"

"Kelly!" Toby thundered, "When you're in my office you won't talk like that! Whatever problems the President and his partner had in the past they are none of our business. Our job is to make the best of it and remember Kelly you were away for most of January so were unable to appreciate the strain he was under. If you'd known Sam as long as some of us you'd know the…"

"Oh, yes, I've heard all about that. About his wife and how he's brought up his son," Kelly shot back at Toby. "Recently it's just been one thing after another with them and I..."

"You what!" Toby almost spat.

"Well, I always knew there'd be trouble with this partnership. I tried to warn you back in November that we'd have to package Sam, give him something to do."

Toby's response was to shuffle his papers and stand up. Kelly almost backed away and almost toppled backwards onto an assistant's desk and made a hasty retreat to her office.

"Well. That approach was tried just before the inauguration remember? So I think if we put that option to the President it will be given short change."

"Toby, we do need an answer," Alex added in a softer tone. "I don't know how long I can keep the press from asking questions."

Toby rubbed his forehead and sank down in his chair and picked up his phone.

"I know Alex. I'll speak to CJ."

Alex gave Toby a grateful smile and turned to leave and closed Toby's door behind him.

"CJ. Yes. You saw the article too? We need to see the President."

_____________________________________________________________________

The Oval Office 3:15 pm

"Mr President." CJ tentively knocked on the door to the President's bedroom the Oval Office with Toby beside her.

Josh looked up from the pile of briefing documents that were scattered around the carpet by sofa and indicated that they should draw up two of the chairs. CJ gave a steady glance taking in his appearance. His hair was sticking up and his brown eyes were puffy and his nose red but he had a bit more colour to him.

"How are you, Sir?"

Josh gave a weak smile and took out a hankie and blew his nose.

"Well this flu doesn't seem to be clearing up." A bout of coughing over took him and CJ hastily went to fetch a glass of water by the bedside table and helped him to sip it.

"You should really be in bed Sir," CJ gently chided him. "Admiral Smith said not to resume all your duties for another week."

"I am fine CJ. To tell you the truth I am sick of staying in bed but if you hear Sam's back can you give me a heads up. He'll-" Josh stopped at the exchange of glances his eldest friends gave each other, "What is it?"

"Err, Mr President, we wanted to see you earlier but I understand from Donna you've been asleep most of the day."

"Yeah, it's really knocked me out." Josh's eyes travelled to the newspaper in Toby's hand. "I take it I am not going to like what's in there."

"Neither is Sam sir, but we've plugged a hole in the damn so to speak by asking Suzi to confiscate all newspaper's at his Office."

Toby handed Josh the newspaper. He scanned it, his face reddening in anger.

"With the dawn of a new administration and a first family we were promised by President Lyman a family that was like us. Working partners with hectic life styles but finding the time to bring up a child. The kidnap of Jamie Seaborn last year is of course evidence of the love for a father for his son. However, since President Lyman took office what of his partner Sam Seaborn? What important cases has he tried, we are told he is at his law firm most of the working day but he has few official duties except a handful of social functions. Perhaps his attendance at the reception of returning diplomats is foretaste of things to come a more traditional role as a decorative appendage to the President."

"You've seen it then?"

Josh and his senior staff turned round in surprise at the voice of Sam and Josh eased himself out of his chair, but found himself grabbing hold of the arm of the chair and sat down heavily.

"Sit down!" Sam commanded, "You're not going anywhere."

"Sam, how did-" Josh broke off with another fit of coughing.

Josh allowed himself to flop down on the sofa. His legs felt strangely weak and he took another sip of water.

"I came in via the private entrance as I am sure that there were members of your staff who'd love to warn you of my arrival. Give you time to sugar coat this!"

Sam took the newspaper and waved it in the air. His face muscles where tight, the blue eyes dark with anger, his body language tense.

"How did you see it Sam?" Toby asked.

"Well it seems that your plans went astray a little, Toby. I was up when my usual morning selection of paper's where not at my desk. Fortunately for Suzi meetings kept me in the boardroom for most of the day."

Sam threw the newspaper with an air of contempt in the trash can.

"I found a copy lying on the back of the limo." Sam cast a look at his partner who was beginning to loose the colour he'd began to regain in the past two days. "CJ Toby, if there's no official business would you mind leaving us alone for a little while?"

"Yes sure, Sam," CJ and Toby chorused, hastily getting to their feet. Sam's voice was pretty neutral quite calm and not clipped when he entered the room which was a sign of anger. So it didn't seem as if the President was in for an ear bashing, but nevertheless they made a hasty exit.

"Ok. Let's get you in to bed."

Sam walked over to a tall chest of drawers and pulled out a pair of clean boxer shorts and a grey tee-shirt and then helped his partner back on to his feet. He wrapped an arm round Josh's waist who allowed himself the luxury of leaning against his partner and then being eased gently onto the bed.

"Have these sheets been changed today?"

"Dunno! Too tired to get out of bed," Josh mumbled.

"Hmm, well let's find out."

Five minutes later Josh allowed himself the luxury of stretching his aching limbs against the fresh cotton sheets as Sam fussed around him, ordering fresh juice and some toast and a lightly boiled egg for his partner.

"I bet you've had nothing to eat today have you," Sam chided as he started to climb out of his suite and into a pair of casual pants and a black jumper.

"Not hungry," Josh pouted.

"Well, now," Sam crossed over the room to take the toast and orange juice from the steward and set the tray on the bedside table. "You're gonna eat something, then if you feel up to it, Jamie and I will keep you company."

Josh looked up at his partner with a puzzled expression. Sam had seen the article he knew from his lover's body language when he entered the room that he was livid with anger. Instead now all he saw in the blue eyes was love and concern. He took his partners hand.

"Sam, we need to talk about the article. The press will ask questions." Josh's voice rose in agitation.

Sam put a piece of toast in his partner's mouth.

"It's ok, I'll ask Alex to say I've seen it and if they care to, the press can see a copy of my schedule for the past week. That will show them I am no decorative appendage." Sam grinned, "I have to say I did look good though."

Josh laughed in relief and found himself enjoying the toast and orange juice and watching the news with his partner. As his eyelids began to close, Sam carefully climbed out of the bed picked up his briefcase and crept down the corridor to his study. He pulled out his mobile phone.

"Suzi, its Sam, sorry to ring you at home. The President? Oh recovering slowly. Yes I'll give him your regards. Suzi, can you dig out the William's file for me. What Alan as first chair? No," Sam crossed over to the door and closed it, "I am going to take the lead on this one.

______________________________________________________

Two Day's Later: Office of Seaborn & Associates. 11:30AM

Sam surveyed the neat pile of documents on his desk. Suzie had an established routine letters to be answered immediately, files to be read through and a list of scheduled engagements either at work or at the White House. Suzi entered with a mug of coffee and handed it to him.

"Tony's asked to have moment with you."

"Yes." Sam gave a sigh. "I feel bad about the William's case. I need to give him something else to work on. Can you buzz him and tell him that I'd like to see him?"

Suzie nodded and went back to her room. Sam took a sip of his coffee and stared at the William's file with Suzie's notes of the case typed up on the front. His mind though was not on the nuances of the case, but his need to take first chair in the Williams case.

Sam's eyes travelled round the room and in particular to three photographs on a nearby bookcase. There were three in antique silver frames, Josh and Jamie taken in Italy, Jamie laughing at Josh's attempt to build a sandcastle and one of Geena and Francesca with a baby Jamie in Italy. Geena was holding Jamie and pointing to Sam who took the picture with his mother sitting in a seat by the pool, "Look there's Daddy, are you going to smile for him?"

Sam turned hastily towards the picture of Josh taken on Inaugural Day. They'd arrived back at the White House, Josh was seated behind the desk used by President Bartlet and former presidents looking slightly bemused as the formal photographer recorded the day's events.

Sam shuddered and turned back to the file, part of him wished he hadn't agreed to take the case on. He felt disloyal to Josh, creeping down the corridor, lying behind closed doors. He let his eyes travel down the documents, William's was so clearly innocent , this was the opportunity to prove not just to himself but to the American press that he could still stand up and argue a case in court.

Sam sighed as the thought of the headlines and the interest of the President's partner taking the case would conjure. He could hear Josh's voice now, `No! No way sweetheart!' The unconditional love of Josh was humbling but at times overwhelming.

"Sam," the voice of his associate Tony broke into to his thoughts and Sam sat up in his chair forcing his thoughts to the present.

"Hey, come in have a seat."

Half an hour later a more buoyant Tony left the room with a new case under his arm and a team allocated to work with him.

Wound up by the stress of keeping the news from Josh about the Williams case, Sam fiddled with his tie as a sudden urge of madness seized him and he felt a need to escape. Just for once he longed for the freedom he'd had at Gage Whitney to go outside grab a hot dog and walk the streets completely blending in with the crowd. Despite the attempt on his life, the walls of the office were closing in on him and the outside calling to him.

He got up and walked purposely to the door. Suzie was not at her desk; he gave a sigh of relief and hurried outside, into the corridor and down the stairs. He saw Chris and John seated in their office beside the reception desk especially created for them as a rest room with TV, tea and coffee making facilities, books magazines, and a sofa for when Sam was occupied. They had their heads in magazines, as normally Suzie would alert them if Sam was leaving the building. With a crafty smile Sam slipped out past the reception hall and past the receptionist who was busy with a call, the sunshine of a Washington midmorning beckoned.

"Mr Seaborn!"

Sam tried to pretend he hadn't heard the security guards and the cries of Chris and John as he hurried down the steps and onto the streets. He had only gotten a few metres when the agents caught up with him.

"Mr Seaborn, what are you doing?" Chris asked him his eyes scanning the busy street full of lunchtime workers, enjoying some sunshine.

"I need to walk. I needed some air and to walk."

"Sir, you can't."

"I'm only going around the block. I need to think and I need to walk."

"I'm sorry Mr Seaborn but after last week we can't let that happen," Chris told him sympathetically. They were used to Sam's impulsive nature when he was working and he was often found wandering through the building when he was working on something.

"I'm not a child," Sam muttered as he turned around to head back.

"No sir, but the President would have our hides if anything happened to you," Chris grinned.

"He would too," Sam agreed and gave Chris an apologetic smile. "Ok, let's go back inside."

They headed back into the building and Sam went back up to his floor, shoulders sagged in defeat and he headed not to his office but to the boardroom with soundproof glass, the smell of leather, oak polish, and tasteful prints on the wall. He shut the door on the sounds of life and sat down in his usual spot, middle of the table and put his head in his hands, giving himself a few moments of peace and quiet.

After a few minutes he got up and went back to his office to find Suzie back at her desk.

"I hear you escaped," she grinned but noticing Sam's pale tense features her tone changed "Are you alright?"

"Yeah I'm ok. I just wanted some fresh air and Chris stopped me."

A few minutes later Suzie entered the room with a plastic pot of pasta salad and a tall glass of orange juice and two Advil's.

"There you go. Take these. I am sure looking after The President recently has kept you awake for the past few nights."

"Thanks Suzie." He looked up from his paper work and flashed her his special smile.

"Can you get Mrs Seaborn on the phone for me?"

Sam turned to the pasta and ate with gusto and took the Advil and a few moments later his line one extension buzzed.

"Hi mom. Josh? He's getting better. What? No. I am fine. Why am I calling? Well mom, I need your advice."

Sam settled back in the chair as he relayed the events of the past two days. As he heard her calm measured tones in response he found his knotted muscles in his shoulders slowly begin to untangle.

___________________________________________________

The Same Afternoon – 5pm

"You have to sit down and talk to him darling. If you want to take on the William's case then do so. I think Josh's issues are more with your safety than anything and you have to assure him that you are aware of risks..."

Sam replayed the conversation with his mother in his head as he packed away his briefing notes, and some official correspondence as the President's partner he'd brought to work. As he made down the steps into the early sunshine, he was unaware of the serious faces of Chris and John who walked closely beside him. Sam stopped.

"What is it?"

"Just get in the car Mr Seaborn," Chris replied grimly.

Sam went to look around, as far as he was aware there was no sign of trouble but suddenly Chris grabbed his upper arm slightly to propel him down the stairs and John held back and walked behind them.

Chris's hand never left Sam's arm as he focused on the car door and as the driver agent stood by ready to open it for him. Why where Chris and John so jumpy, yes he knew it was their duty to protect him but what had they seen? He felt his body tense then freeze at the sound of a pistol shot; he hadn't heard it since Rosslyn. He felt a bullet fly past his ear; he was lifted off his feet and pushed headlong into the car with Chris on top of him as another, bullet lodged in the side of the car.

"Jesus! Lay still Mr Seaborn."

The car sped off with Chris still on top of Sam; it was not until they were halfway down the street that he allowed Sam to sit up.

"Mr Seaborn, are you ok"?"

Please god no! Chris silently prayed wondering if his charge had been shot, how they would break it to the President and Jamie.

"I...I...think so."

"Excuse me sir," Chris expertly ran his hands over Sam's body and gave a sigh of relief.

"Ok," he pulled out his radio, "Yeah it's me. Any clues? No, report to David. Princeton unharmed. Repeat Princeton unharmed. We're on our way back to base."

Sam looked around the car, which was speeding through every red light towards the White House.

"Where's John. Was he hit?"

"He's stayed behind to check the scene. We'll be back in a couple of minutes, Sir."

Sam gave a nervous laugh.

"We've practiced this so many times, but this is the first time...thank you."

"I was just doing my job."

"Still…thank you," Sam ran a hand through his hair, "Does the President know yet?"

"David will inform him of the…situation."

Sam leaned back against the padded seat and closed his eyes to try and sooth his taut body. How was he going to persuade his partner now that he could do the William's case? A film crew had been filming two yards down from his Office and so the news would be on all the major networks. As the car drew up outside the entrance to the West Wing by the crowd of staffers who'd gathered to welcome him back, he knew he'd have to face a sick volatile, frightened Josh.

Handling Sam 2 Part 2 – The Residence

Sam hurried through the lobby of the West Wing stopping to reassure staffers that he was well. Donna met him at the entrance of the Oval Office with Jamie. Sam opened his arms and Jamie hurtled into them. His nose was slightly pink from crying and his blue eyes had a wide- eyed frightened look Sam had not seen since his kidnap.

"It's ok Jamie," Sam gently released his son's grasp and carried him in to the Oval Office and sat him down. Julia, Donna's senior assistant, came in with a large glass of coke, which earned her a special if watery smile from Jamie. Sam let Jamie take a few sips and accepted a mug of coffee from Donna.

"Are you okay Daddy? We saw it on TV and then David burst into JJ's room and JJ went sort of funny and I called for Aunt CJ," Jamie babbled.

Sam held onto his son's arms.

"Tiger slow down. I'm fine. That's why I have Chris and John with me, to make sure I am safe. You know that is not always possible but this time it worked."

Jamie took a deep breath and nodded. Sam gave him a warm smile. "Now tell me what happened when JJ saw the news."

A few moments later Sam ran down the corridor of the residence to their bedroom. He burst into the room and stopped, seeing Josh in the bed. Admiral Smith was beside Josh who was breathing rapidly into a paper bag but he pulled it away when he saw Sam.

"Sir, keep on breathing into the bag for me," Admiral Smith instructed.

"Sa...m," Josh wheezed

Sam with a `can I?' took the paper bag from Admiral Smith and positioned himself beside his partner. He propped Josh against his shoulder and placed the paper bag over his mouth.

"There. Now all you're going to do is to breathe slowly in and out. I'm here in one piece. Okay!"

Sam hoped his voice was firmer than the emotions inside him. Coming on top of the shooting, the sight of a pair of anxious brown eyes in pale features staring up at Sam scared him. Sam coaxed his lover's shaking body through gentle breathing exercises, all the time the brown eyes were fixed on him.

"It's okay darlin', just breathe nice and slowly. That's it," Sam said quietly as he felt Josh's heart rate starting to slow. "It's okay."

Josh eventually loosened the death grip he had on Sam's hand and Sam moved to the other side of the bed whilst the Admiral checked Josh over again, before taking the bag away

"How do you feel now, sir?"

"Better," Josh said still slightly breathless.

"Mr Seaborn, may I have a word with you?" Admiral Smith asked. Sam nodded and gave Josh a reassuring smile.

"I'll be right back, call if you need us."

Sam and the doctor left the room. "What happened? I got a garbled message from my son," Sam asked immediately shutting the bedroom door behind them.

"Yes, he was with the President when the attack started. When I arrived he was struggling to breathe properly because his lungs are still congested after the flu but once the news came on his attack worsened.

"Is it his heart?" Sam asked, anxiously.

"No, no, I believe the President had a panic attack. They can be extremely frightening at the time and feel similar to a heart attack but his heart is fine. Mr Seaborn, you should know he didn't want to tell you about this."

"No. One question, what was he doing just before this happened?"

Admiral Smith shifted his gaze momentarily. "I was told he had decided to get up and attempt to look over some briefing notes. His assistant told him in no uncertain terms `no' and was about to call you." Sam smiled as he pictured the stand off between his partner and long time secretary. "Then there was the news of the shooting which had him demanding information about you and your agents. Mr Seaborn, the President should really be admitted to hospital for tests."

Sam's eyes widened and he drew the Admiral to a sofa that overlooked the large half circled window.

"Is the Pres...? Is he that bad?"

Sam could feel his own heart racing through the shock of the shooting and now here was the possibility of his partner being admitted to hospital.

"Mr Seaborn," the grave blue-green eyes stared compassionately at Sam. "I'll be honest with you. The congestion in the President's lungs is taking longer to clear and what with his operation in 2000 after the collapsed lung. I'd like him to have a more thorough examination."

Sam repressed a shudder and rang his fingers over his face. "Yes." He stood up. "I'll talk to him, but you know that the President can be very stubborn." He gave a slight smile at the thought of his partner's reaction. "He'll fight me all the way."

"Well. If you could call and let us know when the President is ready I'll phone through to Bethesda and make the arrangements. It can all be done with the minimum of fuss."

"I'll do so, thank you Admiral."

The Admiral finished packing his bags as Sam walked him to the lift that led to the Residence.

"Are you okay, Mr Seaborn? We heard that there were bullets fired."

Sam gave a startled look then a warm smile. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

"Well if you feel any after effects, shock, just let me know."

"I will thank you again."

Sam went back into the bedroom all ready to give his partner a gentle scolding. One look at Josh's deathly pale face, still wheezing slightly changed his mind. Sam crossed over to the bed and plumped up his partner's pillows and helped Josh to sit up slightly.

"You know I was about to give you a reaming for getting out of bed too soon," Sam gently admonished. "How do you feel now?" he added stretching out on the bed by his lover and taking his hand and giving it a gentle kiss.

Josh groaned in response but added a grudging, "Not too bad."

"Not too bad?" Sam raised an eyebrow in surprise, "C'mon darlin' you can do better than that. WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?" The angry tirade escaped from his lips before Sam had the chance to compose himself.

Sam's facial muscles tight with anger partly from the shock of the shooting and his sick partner softened at the sight of Josh. He seemed to have shrunk in the bed at the sound of his lover's anger, the defensive posture of hands on hips and accusing blue eyes.

Sam swung his legs off the bed and went to get changed into comfortable clothes and swore to himself for shouting at Josh as he rummaged through his wardrobe for some clothes. He allowed a moment to pass knowing full well the brown eyes were trained on him. Finally Sam turned around as he climbed into a pair of jeans and took out an old Princeton sweatshirt.

"You look like shit!" Sam pulled his sweatshirt over his head, "And before you call Donna up to convince me you weren't trying to get up, I know what happened."

"You're magnificent when you're angry. I wish you'd come and lecture my Chiefs of Staff sometimes."

"Don't you dare try and sweet talk me!" Sam lectured as he began to tuck the sheets in around his partner. "You're sick. You need to rest. God, Josh...Don't you get it?"

"Are you cross with me or frightened from the..." Josh broke off with a fit of coughing.

Sam's anger was forgotten as he helped Josh sit upright, gently rubbing his back, until the coughing subsided.

"Yes, I was frightened by the shooting, but this is not the time to discuss it," Sam insisted, "What we do need to talk about is you going into hospital for a spell. Admiral Smith was saying that your lungs are still congested."

"Sweetheart, I am not going into hospital," Josh wheezed. "What sort of message does that send to the American public?"

"That you're human. God, you've marched me off to hospital enough times," Sam grumbled as he stomped into the bathroom. He poked his head back around the door.

"And the message that the leader of the country cares about his health." Sam came back with a damp cloth and laid it on Josh's head whilst he called the steward and asked for fresh juice to be brought up.

Josh looked up at him. "I don't need to go into hospital; you're doing a good enough job. All I all need is the tonic of those blue eyes."

Sam sat back down on the edge of the bed and gently mopped the pale features of his lover.

"Come on darlin'. This is me remember? Now tell me, how do you really feel?"

"My head is pounding, can you pass me that bowl because I think...ah…" Sam looked down as Josh's light lunch was deposited on his shoe, "and I think I could outdo you in the fainting department," Josh replied with a weak grin as Sam removed his sneakers and headed back towards the bathroom.

Sam came back with a face cloth and a glass of water. "This is no time to joke and besides…" Sam broke off at the knock on the door. "Here sip this." He gave Josh the glass before going to the door.

The steward appeared with a tray of orange juice and a silver platter which Sam peeked underneath. Josh wrinkled his nose at the smell.

"Not boiled fish again," he pouted.

"You'll get this in hospital…but I think toast is…Sam Seaborn." Sam finished in irritation as the phone interrupted their conversation. "Sorry Admiral. Yes I've spoken to the President…"

"I haven't…" Josh wheezed as his partner put a finger on his lips to shut him up.

"Yes will do. A press statement will need to be issued so…yes, I'll do so…thank you…I'll call you when he's ready."

Sam put the phone down and dialled another number all the time stroking his partner's hair with his other hand and making soothing noises.

"Donna. It's me. Can you get CJ, Toby and Alex up here now please? Why?" Sam looked down at the thin body wracked with spasms of coughing. "The President is going into hospital…Yes…Call the Vice President in as well."

3 Weeks Later – The Residence

"Daddy!" Jamie charged into Sam's study which he shared with Josh. "We're back!"

Sam leaned back in his chair took off his glasses and smiled. "I could hear you down the hallway. You sound like a herd of elephants sometimes."

"Do I?" Jamie pouted as he went to turn on the TV in the corner of the room.

"Jamie if you want to watch TV do it in the other room. I am trying to work." Sam remonstrated turning his attention back to his documents.

"Haven't you finished yet? You sent JJ and I off to the game because you wanted to work."

Sam stared down at his files. One case stood staring at him, the Williams case. Still an issue but the past three weeks of hospital visits and a cranky invalid Josh had pushed the case to the back of his mind.

"Jamie, for the past three weeks I've been taking you to the hospital so you could visit Josh and in between those visits performing extra social functions which fall to the President. Where in my busy schedule have I had time for my practice?"

"Not much. But Nana did say she'd help out," Jamie agreed thudding down on the sofa and swinging his legs. He was dressed in pleated corduroy black pants, his favourite grey wool and cashmere jumper. After a few minutes of staring into space he stood up. "I'm going to find Sherlock. Are you having supper with us?" Jamie asked.

"Nana was busy with her business and Aunt Joan was sick remember?" Sam replied with a distracted air as he fingered the Williams file. He gave a sigh; Josh would have to be approached but not just yet.

He looked up from the paperwork. "Where is JJ? I hope you didn't tire him out."

"No, Daddy."

"Good. The doctor said he could return to light duties, but he's been very ill. You don't know how near we came to losing him do you?" Sam tried to keep his voice from wavering at the memories of, "Severe respiratory tract infection." The Specialist had laid heavy emphasis on the words and accusing glances at Sam and Admiral Nelson for not bringing the President in sooner.

Jamie stood by the doorway to the study, shuffling his feet.

"But we nearly lost you three weeks ago Daddy and you seem to have made light of the situation," his voice was suddenly quite small.

Sam looked up, startled, "Jamie, why are you talking like that? Where'd you hear this?"

"Nowhere," Jamie replied sullenly.

"Jamie," Sam said his tone warning.

"Well. JJ might have said something this afternoon. But he asked me not to say anything! Must go and find Sherlock!"

Jamie shot out of the door before Sam could detain him and he turned his attention to his paper work. He was too tired to be furious with Josh but Sam kicked the side of the desk in frustration. After enduring a battery of x-rays, blood tests being placed on a nebulizer, and under an oxygen tent on two particular bad nights, Josh was still fretting after his partner.

Sam banged his head on the table then grimaced as he remembered the two Advil he'd taken earlier to prevent a migraine. He picked up the Williams file and stared at the analysis attached, not taking in the words as they danced before his eyes.

The case was five weeks away but the chief medical specialist at Bethesda had frightened Sam by intimating that Josh's recovery would be a lengthy progress. Sam knew the risks of upsetting his partner three weeks into his fragile recovery and his mind was racked with indecision and guilt at taking the case.

Part of him knew that he was exhausted from the strain of being a partner, parent and taking extra duties of the First Gentleman (how he hated that title). Sam allowed his head to loll back against the leather chair as he cringed at the memory of the reception for Foreign Correspondents two weeks ago.

"Let me tie it for you, Sam," Donna pleaded as she stood in the hallway of the residence with a hyper Jamie who'd tried to help but had succeeded in nearly strangling his father. A stern rebuke had sent Jamie hovering on the fringes of the private sitting room watching Sam with anxious blue eyes. Donna elegant in a black lace cocktail gown turned with a reassuring smile to Jamie.

"Jamie, can you go and get your father's gold cufflinks. The ones JJ gave him last year."

Sam turned the mega wattage charm on her and visibly relaxed.

"Thanks."

Donna finished tying the bow and stood back to admire her handiwork.

"There. I promised the President you'd look regal. You know he was on the phone about ten times making sure that I'd fix it right. God, as if I haven't had enough practice over the years."

"Daddy, here they are."

Jamie opened the small leather box and took out a pair of gold cufflinks. Sam took them his hands fumbling as he did so.

"I'm never good at this," he muttered to himself.

Before Donna could help him, the smaller hands of his son, had threaded the oval blue enamel, gold cufflinks with Sam's initials engraved in the middle, through the holes on the collars of the dress shirt. Jamie stood back with a triumphant look on his face.

"JJ rang me as well and I practiced with Aunty Donna!"

Sam bent down and he hugged his son.

"I am sorry about earlier on. It's just been a long day," he kissed his son on the forehead." You are a good boy Jamie and I'll tell JJ tonight…"

"Sam!"

Sam stood up and looked up in surprise at Donna's exclamation.

"You're not going back to see the President are you? You haven't had a decent night's sleep since he went into hospital."

"I sleep at the hospital," Sam replied defensively.

"That's not sleep. Sleeping in the bedside chair is not proper sleep," Donna retorted.

She stared at the President's partner and someone she counted as a best friend. The usual handsome good looks had a haunted air of dark circles under the eyes.

"The President doesn't sleep well when I am not there," Sam replied as he shepherded his son towards the living room. "Now Jamie, I will be up at various intervals to check you've done your homework and not spent wasted hours on the internet chatting to your friend Mark."

"Ok Dad. I'll be in bed by nine, I promise. Have a good evening."

Sam smiled.

"Well it's the Foreign Correspondents dinner but I'll try."

He kissed his son's forehead and left Jamie who out of the corner of his eye was waiting for Sam to go so he could email Mark and gossip about the day's events in school. ________________________________________________________________

The image of a sunny natured boy who'd soon forgotten a row with his father disappeared and Sam shuddered as he recalled the events that had happened later on that evening in the Blue Room. He'd made a witty speech, drank a toast to the health of the President then every thing had gone down hill.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mr Seaborn. I was saying that the President-" an elegantly dressed lady from the British Daily Mail newspaper stared intently at Sam glassy eyed expression. "Are you feeling ok?"

Sam forced himself from thoughts of a comfortable bed freshly turned down sheets and a night not spent by a wheezing sleeping partner. Almost immediately he flinched at the thought of even daring to think of not spending a night by his lover. He took a sip of wine and tried to focus on what the journalist was saying.

"Yes I am feeling well. It's just been a tiring few days." Sam glanced at his watch "Will you excuse me it's getting late and I must check if our scamp of a son is in bed."

He was aware that CJ and Donna where casting anxious glances from across the room. He tried to smile but it was a pale imitation of the usual Sam Seaborn charm. Still it gave him a means of escape as Donna was pointing to her watch and mouthing Jamie.

Sam turned around to the elegant display of a swan carved in ice to put his glass down, his stomach, already in knots from the tension of the past few weeks, was quaking at the acidity of the wine.

"I've gotta to get out of here," he muttered as the need for sleep was turning into a recognisable swaying wooziness of the lack of a proper meal and a half eaten Coronation Chicken salad at the reception.

"Oh Christ! No not here!" Sam begged himself as he started to feel cold and sweaty at the same time. He grabbed hold of the table cloth to steady himself as the crash of the ice swan glass and china broke into the grey and spinning Blue Room.

Unaware that Donna and CJ where starting to cross the room at the ashen colour of his face, with a heroic effort Sam clung to the table, fearing that if he let go pictures of the President's partner prostrate on the floor would appear on the front cover of the morning papers. Aware of the journalists and staff gathered who were trying not to stare; Sam felt the presence of two familiar suited men came up next to him and a pair of gentle female hands unknotted his pale trembling hands from the centre table.

"It's ok. Sam we'll deal with this." CJ whispered and then stood back as he was steadied by his agents Chris & John who made almost a whooshing sound as he was whisked out into the corridor, so quickly his feet didn't touch the ground.

"Come in here Mr Seaborn." They led him into the Red Room away from prying eyes.

"Have to get back…" Sam murmured as they pushed him into a rather ornate couch in padded red silk and quietly shut the door leaving him in peace and quiet.

A few moments later Sam lay back marvelling about the fact that a simple faint could bring out such sympathy and soft administration in Donna & CJ, who were virtually tripping over their high heels to out do each other in their administrations. CJ who had done battle with Prime Ministers and embittered senators, propped his feet up so blood could be restored to his swimming senses, and deftly removed his bow tie so he could breath.

Donna who had stood up to Josh's rants and stopped the most persistent of hangers on who wanted access to see the President, pressed a damp cloth to his face and gently supported his head so he could sip cold apple juice with crushed ice she'd brought into the room.

During their administrations their gentle voices urged him to take it easy and to breathe deeply. Small pieces of toast with hot butter were brought in by Julia who was promptly sent out to check on Jamie. To his surprise Sam found himself supported in a half sitting position and allowed himself to be fed small bits of toast which is all his protesting stomach could accept.

All the time their looks of tender concern reminded Sam that he should have accepted his mother's offer to stay over and look after Jamie whilst Sam carried on looking after Josh. But, no, he had to try and be superman but there was something comforting about the mothering instincts of two of his closet friends. A soothing balm to the usual anxious hovering of Josh, when he was ill.

He knew he babbled something about trying to be a good partner and CJ made soothing platitudes about it being okay, everyone knew he was under strain. But it was like CJ was talking to him as if he was underwater the words came out in half formed sentences. He surprised himself by bursting into tears of exhaustion and stress of the past three weeks and being swept up against CJ's chest, until he could cry no more.

At the words of bed and rest he allowed himself to be hauled to his feet by Chris & John who appeared as if by magic. Sam found himself caught up in the same whooshing sound again and soon was in the residence divested of his tux by CJ and Donna and guided into his white tee-shirt and boxer shorts and gently tucked in between the cools sheets.

"Thank you," he muttered to the fading shapes of his friends as sleep finally welcomed him.

_____________________________________________________________________

Sam sighed as the image faded away and he returned to staring at the Williams case. CJ was as good as her word; she'd taken care of things. Together with Alex she'd used considerable charm and offered personal interviews with the President and Sam if the news of Sam's episode as she referred to it was not mentioned in the morning papers.

On Sam's strict instructions, Josh was not told of the incident and Sam had resumed his visits watched over by CJ & Donna who gave him packed nutritious meals to take to the hospital, and both personally inspected the box each evening to check there were only crumbs.

Sam leaned back in his chair and winced at the stiffness of his back from sitting in the same position for some time. One thing from the incident that had concerned him was that the dizzy spell at the reception was not the last time he had experienced it. Twice he'd felt himself grabbing a chair if he stood up quickly. That would be another issue to tell his partner. For now though fire and the ancient central heating set on its maximum blast made the study uncomfortably warm and Sam allowed himself to be lulled to sleep by the gentle ticking of the 18th Century French Ormolu clock on the mantelpiece.

"Sam," Josh entered the study glancing at the clock which struck 7pm. He stopped and smiled tenderly at his sleeping partner. Glasses slipping off his nose, mouth open slightly gently snoring. He crept over to him and put down a cup of coffee, as he did so he saw the Williams file. Slightly curious as to its contents he peered over his partner's shoulder and paled at the words in Sam's elegant handwriting. His eyes then travelled to the desk and a note of a doctor's appointment for a week on Tuesday.

Not trusting himself not to start rowing if he woke his partner up. Josh moved swiftly towards the door and went to ring Donna to see if she could tell him any thing about the half whispered rumours he'd heard at what happened at the Reception for the Foreign Correspondents.

Handling Sam 2 Part 3.

Seaborn & Associates – Monday Afternoon - 1 pm

Sam sighed as the board meeting came to an end and his colleagues shuffled out leaving him in relative peace. He tugged at his tie as the warmth of the building compensated for the chill of the November wind and rain out side, which buffered Washington worker's as they went about their business.

The telephone behind the table rang and as Sam stood up to answer it the room slightly tilted. The phone stopped ringing and he sat down heavily putting his head in his hands. This was now the third dizzy spell in a matter of two weeks since the Foreign Correspondents dinner and Sam made a mental note to jot it down so he could explain it to his doctor the next day. What worried him that this was now hot on the heels of a second fainting spell.

Sam leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes mentally chiding himself for not picking up on the aura he'd sensed before his dizzy spell, the change in atmosphere, a heightened sense of differences in colour and sounds in the board room. One of his colleague's ties seemed an amazing shade of blue and the simple act of a pen falling to the floor seemed magnified to his ears. Sam took some deep breaths and slowly raised himself to his feet and sighed with relief as the room stayed upright. He picked up the phone which showed that Suzi his secretary had been the caller. He assured her that he hadn't forgotten his 2pm appointment and that he was heading back to his Office.

The second fainting spell Sam mused as he ambled back to his office (a habit he'd not grown out of from his days in the West Wing) had come the Thursday before his and Josh's making up weekend at Camp David. He'd been sitting at his desk, wondering why a print on his wall seemed more vibrant in colour than usual. On standing up to speak to Suzi, he'd felt shaky, the room disappeared and a few moments later he found himself sprawled over the desk. Trembling, he'd staggered over to his drinks cabinet and poured himself a small brandy, gulped it down and hurried into his private wash room to restore some colour to his pale cheeks. Checking out side he breathed a sigh of relief that Suzi was not at her desk. He'd stumbled over to his over stuffed sofa and twenty minutes later, when Suzi arrived back from lunch, he managed to appear the immaculate and in control image he presented to the world.

He was sure that Donna & CJ had filled her in on his episode at the Foreign Correspondent's function. Over the past three weeks Suzi had popped into check on him at every opportunity. Lunch was deposited in front of him, usually a filling fare of pasta or a turkey sandwich or piping hot fish on a bed of salad and a roll.

Sam's stomach flipped as he recalled the weekend at Camp David. It had followed the week after blistering row with his partner, in the Oval Office. Frayed tempers over the tensions over Josh's illness and the shooting by Sam's car came to a head. A stinging blow to his cheek, the shocked faces of CJ & Donna as Chris and John separated them. Tears from his fragile partner, an embrace and making up sex and an after glow they still basked in.

The weekend was meant to be a rest but was anything but; constant making up sex and late night conservations with his volatile partner who wanted constant reassurance that every thing was fine between them. Then when he had a chance to catnap Jamie demanded an equal amount of attention and Sam came back feeling more exhausted than before he went away.

The second fainting spell in a matter of weeks coupled now with two dizzy spells was a warning Sam deliberated and he'd made an appointment with his private doctor at the law firm rather than consulting Admiral Nelson. If he'd hadn't left his diary out that day when Josh and Jamie had returned from the gym then…

"Sam!" Suzi's voice interrupted his thoughts. "There you are."

"Hey! Was I ambling again? Sorry I was just…you know."

Suzi smiled and with an easy manner of a long term friendship took his arm and guided Sam into his room.

"I know you, and how you like to wander the corridors, as long as you weren't making the great escape. You scared the wits out of Chris & John last time."

"No I was lectured on the dangers of that by the President and Jamie," Sam replied ruefully as he leafed through his messages.

Suzi laughed and consulted her watch.

"It's 1:15 and you haven't had lunch." Suzi tutted as she went back to her room. Sam followed her. "I am sure you have it in hand. You've been…well, err hovering these past few weeks. I am quite capable of ordering lunch," Sam pouted.

"Yes well after what happened, Donna said..." Suzie trailed off noticing Sam had stopped following her. "Sam? Are you ok? You don't look well."

Sam knew it would be idiotic to lie to his secretary who knew him so well and he was unable to shake off the sense of faintness he felt after his dizzy spell. The aura he'd felt in the boardroom returned. Suzi's lunch sat on her desk and the intensified smell of cheese made him feel unsteady.

"Suzi, can you do me a favour and get some lunch from the canteen."

"I can ring and order it if…" Suzi went to pick up the phone.

"No, it's ok I feel a little shaky and just need ten minutes to myself in some peace and quiet. "

"Ok," Suzi replied staring doubtfully her boss. She noticed a slight sway, the tired blue eyes, and the little beads of sweat forming on his forehead. "I don't like leaving you."

Suzi went to take his arm and lead him to her chair but Sam patted her arm and moved away towards his room.

"I'll be ok. I just need to lie down for a while," he assured her trying hard to ignore the fact that his mouth felt parched and he had an increasing sense of urgency to get away from the smell of the cheese.

"I'll go now," Suzi said as her phone rang. "Yes. Ok. Look. Can …"

Sam started to walk into his office tugging at his tie and half listening to what she was saying. It was so hard to concentrate when his head felt like lead and his legs like rubber. If I can just make it to my couch was his last coherent thought as the lights went out.

"Are you sure you're all right now." Suzi demanded as she handed Sam's shaky hands a cup of coffee.

Sam his feet stretched out on the sofa, with his top three buttons on his shirt open, gave a weak smile up at his secretary who had a petrified look on her face.

"Yea…" Sam wiggled his toes, "a bit light-headed"

Suzi pulled a chair over and sat down in front of her boss.

"You scared me. I was on the phone ordering some food; you were backing away from my cheese sandwich as if it was going to attack you. Then I heard a thud and turn round to find you flat out on the floor."

Sam brought the coffee cup to his lips aware that it rattled furiously in his hands.

"Sorry," he apologised as Suzi perched herself on sofa beside him and steadied the cup. "I feel well washed out after these spells. The feeling can last all day sometimes."

"Thank God Alan was in the building, he came up straight away but you were mumbling and stirring by the time he reached you."

"I must send him a thank you note. I know he's a trained first aider but can you remind me?"

"Yes, I will but this is not the first time it's happened in the office is it?" Suzi demanded as gently as she could. "A few weeks ago I came back from lunch and you had a slight pallor and well a sort of funny dazed look."

Sam nodded and handed Suzi back the cup and laid back the cushion.

"No it's not." Sam admitted "This is the second spell in the Office and you know about the one at the White House Correspondents do."

"Sam when you transferred the Office from California to Washington I saw you almost dead on your feet with exhaustion because you'd ploughed all your money into the business and you so desperately wanted to succeed. I kept it from Josh that there were times you were so homesick for California and paranoid about Jamie settling in a new state." Suzi briskly leaned her boss forward and pumped up cushion behind his head. "So if there's any thing you afraid of now it's best to open up now instead of bottling it up."

Sam closed his eye's for a moment, in his state of lassitude the last thing he wanted to do was to do was to open up to his secretary who he counted as a best friend, but her expressive dark eyes, so like Geena's were close to tears. He could never stand to see a woman cry and Geena had played on that more than once during their marriage.

"Suzi every since I've worked I've presented an image. Smart suites, crisp shirts, I followed my father's work ethics. Keep up an image and people will respect you if nothing else."

"It's something I've always admired about you," Suzi agreed "But you are regarded as a lion amongst your peers Sam. Respected for your hard word, some ruthlessness when it comes to deals, image isn't every thing."

"Yes," Sam countered, "But I am also the President's partner. I hate the title of First Gentleman but I still have that image to keep up. What does it look like if I am staggering around or falling at a function?"

"It's not every function is it? Just once at the Correspondence function and then Donna tells me you didn't hit the ground you just had a dizzy spell."

"Suzi!" Sam sat up in his agitation "I grabbed hold of a table cloth and sent an iced swan crashing to the ground. Chris and John had to virtually carry me out."

"It wasn't reported in the news paper, CJ told me she was able to work the journalists, you've got most of them eating out of your hand."

"Yes," Sam replied bitterly, "But it's now been two occasion's in the Office what if it had happened in court!"

"Well it wasn't." Suzi replied matter of factly "I can…" She stopped as the phone went in her Office and ran over to answer it.

"Hello Donna. The President wants to speak to Sam."

Sam sank deeper into the sofa and groaned oh God Josh! His head was swimming and the last thing he wanted to speak to his partner. Suzi brought the phone in and handed it to him.

"It's the President," she mouthed.

Sam smiled weakly and took the phone.

"Hey! What's wrong?" Sam rolled his eyes "Nothing escapes you does it? I err. I…" Sam took a deep breath, his stomach fluttered, "I collapsed…yes I am ok now…yes…"

Suzi shut the door on her boss and sat down and picked up her own private phone.

"Alan its Suzi. He's feeling a little wobbly but better. Yes, look, could you tell me about what happened today. Why? Oh I just want to be prepared if it happens in the future."

The good secretary that she was Suzi began to take notes in a small note book she'd kept from the day she'd started to work for Sam his likes, dislikes so she could be the efficient secretary she prided herself on being.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Residence 5pm

"But daddy I don't understand" Jamie repeated for the third time as he sat on the bed next to Sam. His blue eyes staring at his father in puzzlement as Sam shifted in the bed and drew his son closer.

Sam's head throbbed from his collapse and he still felt exhausted. Jamie had arrived home upset to find his father in bed and with Admiral Nelson taking his blood pressure, muttering and writing things down on a chart. With a nod in Josh's direction Jamie had been led downstairs to be distracted by Donna.

"Jamie, sometimes there is no explaining why these things happen." He ruffled his son's hair. "You've seen me fall down a couple of times haven't you?"

Jamie put his head to one side in consideration and started to count the number of times on his fingers. He held up five fingers. Sam laughed.

"Well perhaps more than once," he conceded.

"Mostly, yes but before you've sat up and then been better not in bed," Jamie persisted.

"Jamie!" Sam replied amazed at his son's perceptiveness, "God I swear you're getting more and more like JJ…"

"What's this about me?" Josh asked entering the bedroom and crossing immediately over the bed to kiss Sam gently on the lips. "How are feeling sweetheart?"

"Exhausted but we'll talk later on," Sam replied with a `not in front of Jamie' look at his partner.

"Talk about what?" Jamie piped up.

"Never you mind," Sam admonished gently glad that his son was distracted from asking him more questions about his health. "I know your supper will be ready why don't you go down to the dinning room and see if it's there."

"Ok." Jamie clambered off the bed and ran out of the room as his Labrador puppy Sherlock lumbered after him.

Sam watched his partner as Josh began to climb into a pair of jeans and a sweat shirt, bemused at the reaction of is partner to his collapse. When Sam had felt well enough to go home, he'd been met at the private entrance by Josh not demanding why Sam hadn't wanted to see him. Just a loving partner with a tender kiss on the forehead and loving soothing words as he'd guided Sam into the residence. It also puzzled Sam that Josh had watched silently but anxiously as Sam had surrendered himself to various medical tests. Urgent meetings called him away but Sam was sure that Donna's frequent visits all afternoon were on Josh's instructions.

"Darlin…" Sam began to be interrupted by the sound of footsteps and Jamie entered with his supper on a tray.

"I thought I could share it with you," Jamie announced as he sat down on the sofa but was more interested in turning the television on. "I've got cheese burger and chips tonight."

Sam was about to admonish his son for bringing his food into the bedroom but as Jamie had been upset by his collapse thought better. Suddenly Sam laid weakly against the pillows as the scrambled eggs and toast he'd eaten an hour previously now felt as if they were on fast spin inside his stomach.

Josh turned round and watched astonished as his partner, as white as a sheet, and a far away expression in his eyes lurched towards to the bathroom. Josh hastily turned on the cartoon channel to distract Jamie from the retching sounds coming from his lover.

Tuesday Afternoon – 2pm

Sam lay back on the sofa and his eyes travelled over the ceiling of Josh's private sitting room/study in the Residence. Here he was again subjecting himself for the second time to the uncomfortable sensations of a blood pressure test with Dr Jameson who'd been his private doctor since he'd returned from Washington to live with Josh.

After some discussion with Josh it was decided that Dr Jameson should come to the White House for a private consultation.

"I just can't see why I can't go to the doctors like any other normal person, all this secrecy, Chris and John smuggling me in through the back entrance yesterday." Sam had argued as he lay on the sofa after his trip to the bathroom after managing to persuade Jamie that it was ok to play on the internet for an hour. "Sam we went through this. Think of the attention you would have got had there been press around." Josh tried to placate him. "I only fainted for God's sake." Sam muttered. "Yes and today we're going to find out why." Josh gave a snort of anger, "and it's not like this was the first time in months. I managed to drag it out of you that this is the second time in two weeks plus a few dizzy spells you conveniently forgot to mention."

Sam wiggled at the discomfort of having lied to Josh who sat watching the doctor's administrations with the same silent concern as yesterday. His mind drifted back to their conversation just before the Admiral's arrival. "Josh, promise me you're not going to shout and pressure the doctor in any way. I don't want any of the 'I'm the President' speeches. Just be the loving partner you were last night." "Whatever you say sweetheart." Josh had replied, slightly stunned by Sam's speech. "Over the past two weeks I've come round finding myself either sprawled over the desk or prostrate on the floor. I try and kid myself that it's no big deal but I am scared." Sam had almost whispered in his fear and confusion at what had happened. Josh had scooped him in his arms and…

"Mr Seaborn." The doctor's voice brought him back to the present. "You can sit up now."

Sam sat up and tried to do up his shirt but his fingers trembled as every thing seemed an effort as the washed out feeling of yesterday still remained. The fire in the study was roaring away and as Sam looked up to ask Josh to help him the room swayed. Sam felt his head slump back against the sofa, his eyelids felt weighty, but at a gentle patting of his cheeks they opened as Sam stared at the hazy shapes of his partner and doctor.

"Can I move away from the fire?" Sam heard himself say his voice sounding thin to his own ears.

He found himself being helped to his feet and eased into another chair by the concerned faces of Josh & Dr Jameson.

"Sorry," he slurred, "Every thing is a bit of an effort today. Felt a little bit woozy." He smiled reassuringly up at Josh's worried face as he leant forward to help Sam with his shirt. "Don't worry I am not going to faint."

"Mr Seaborn, Mr President, we can continue this consultation later. Mr Seaborn should be…" Dr Jameson's began.

"No!" Sam sat upright feeling more alert away from the heat of the fire. "Mr Seaborn is fed up with being in bed."

"Mr Seaborn…"

"Peter you've known me for 15 years. Why is it I am suddenly Mr Seaborn?"

Dr Jamieson glanced in the direction of the President and then around the study at the trappings of the Office of the President. Josh's picture's with various monarchs and head of states where scattered around the room. A few moments later the atmosphere in the room had lightened after coffee had been brought in and Josh assured the doctor that he was just the same as he'd always been. He pulled his chair closer and took hold of Sam's hand.

"Can you give us any idea of what is wrong with Sam? He all but admitted he's just had another dizzy spell."

"Well Mr…Sam there is no doubt you are in a state of exhaustion especially and no wonder after I hear the recent stress you where under following the President's illness. Looking at your medical file before I came here I see that you've been in this predicament about a year ago."

Sam explained about his breakdown and ran his fingers over his face.

"Do you think I might be heading for another one?" Sam finished and felt his partner give him an encouraging squeeze of the hand. "I just can't seem to explain these sudden fainting spells." "Looking at your medical records I can see that you suffer from vasovagal attacks known commonly as fainting spells. You are what I'd term as a fainter. Some people faint when they have blood drawn, or when they witness a frightening scene, or have an emotional stress." Sam shot a warning glance `don't you dare start' at his partner's face as it twitched with amusement.

"I am sure Sam you can relate many an episode," Dr Jamieson carried on smoothly "But, some people find they faint either once or twice a year or go for long periods without an episode."

Sam nodded in agreement.

"Yes." Josh broke in impatiently then with a warning glance from his lover changed his tone. "But what about Sam's recent episodes, three episodes in this month, what if they become more frequent? Shouldn't he have some tests?" Josh tried to sound if he was in an ordinary cabinet meeting and not a panicked lover talking to his doctor. Dr Jameson nodded in agreement.

"Well if I can explain what happens in an attack. The blood vessels dilate, but instead of your heart rate speeding up to compensate, it slows down. The result is that your blood pressure falls, your brain does not get enough blood, and you pass out. There are many types of the official term of what is known as syncope.

Sam and Josh listened intently as the doctor explained the differences between vasovagual syncope and cardiac syncope.

"So, what, you think mine are not cardiovascular?" Sam asked wincing under the pressure of is partners grip at the mention of the words heart arrhythmia and a disorder of the heart's pumping rhythm.

"From what you described to me about your episode at the Foreign Correspondents function, yes I would say your episodes have been vasovagal. You exhibited the same sensations victims with this type of syncope feel before they pass out. Suzi reported you looked pale and clammy and you told me you felt nauseated for a few moments before you fainted. Alan said in his notes that you had a slow pulse. Sam suddenly frowned in consideration.

"Yes, but I also felt something else before my first fainting and dizzy spells in the office."

Dr Jameson looked up from his notes sharply and Josh shivered at the heightened sense of anxiety in the room.

"What sweetheart? What did you feel?" Josh took his partner's and kissed it. "I promise I won't freak."

"It was an aura a sense of change of the atmosphere in the room," Sam explained.

"On the first occasion I remember looking up and the colours of the prints on my wall seemed more vivid than usual. I suddenly felt hot then cold, then I found myself sprawled over the desk."

"Ok this is a whole different ball game, I was going to say that under the enormous pressure you've been under the dizzy spells and faints have been your body's reaction to the stress. But some vasovagal patients do report such a sensation before they faint. Sometimes observers of an unconscious patient observe jerking movements for 2-5 seconds. If they last for longer then there can be an underlying cause such as epilepsy or heart-"

"Epilepsy!" Sam breathed his eyes taking on his frightened rabbit expression and Josh felt the pressure on his hand increase. "We don't in my family...Jamie!"

The doctor leaned forward and patted Sam's knee reassuringly. "There is no need to panic Sam," he replied soothingly. "Alan reported that you had a slight twitching movement that lasted for about two minutes. Many patients who report auras have no seizures at all. Look on the aura as a warning that it's time to lie down and put your feet up."

Josh felt the grave eyes of the doctor trained on him and straightened his posture in defence.

"Mr President I'd like you to become very familiar with the signs so they almost become second nature. Sam may not have another episode for months or even years but when he's spoken to me in the past I get the impression you react to each incident as if it's the first time."

Sam glanced apprehensively at the doctor at his stern tone of voice when talking to the President but Josh seemed to be paying rapt attention to every word that was spoken. Sam relaxed in his chair. "You ask about tests Mr President. Beta-blockers, pacemakers have been used to try to prevent such fainting spells but the results with each have been only partially successful. I don't like to put patients on a medication for their whole life if fainting spells occur only rarely. Instead, I try to teach patients to recognize a vasovagal spell when it is coming on, sit down, and also try to raise blood pressure by crossing their legs and tensing their muscles in their arms and legs. With that approach, many people can reduce the chances that they will have fainting spells when under psychological stress. However, as Alan reported signs of a seizure Sam, I'd like you to send to hospital where I can run some tests." "WHAT!" Josh exploded "YOU TELL ME TO RECOGNISE THE SIGNS BUT…" Sam eased himself to his feet.

"Peter, can you excuse us for one moment I am just going to take my partner outside?"

With as much strength as he could muster Sam pulled his red faced lover out into the corridor and towards the sofa in the front of the large half circle window.

"You promised me Josh," his voice low, angry and controlled, "You were doing so well then you just have to start yelling."

"Sam I-" he began contritely.

"No!" Sam tried to shout but it came up more like a whimper. "I am too tired; I can't stand up without feeling as if I am going to keel over. My head is like red coals of fire and my stomach feels as if someone has forgotten to turn off the spin dry cycle. Now when we've finished with Peter please call mom without alarming her and ask her if she can come and look after Jamie."

Sam sank down on to one of the sofas and put his head in his hands. "I should have called her when you were ill. I tried so hard darling." Sam looked up, close to tears, as Josh knelt down beside him and drew him into an embrace.

"I am so sorry sweetheart." Josh released Sam and kissed his hands. "When Suzi rang me I wanted to be with you, as you were with me when I was ill. Instead I had to sit and talk about fish! Then when Donna told me you were on your way home she told me not to yell but to cosset you."

Sam's mouth twitched with amusement and he kissed Josh's hands back. Josh began to rub his partner's cold hands gently.

"Cosset darlin?"

Josh laughed and the tension evaporated, he helped Sam to stand and kept an arm lightly around his waist.

"I wanted to be there when you came around, to give you iced water, make you comfortable. Show you how much I love you as you did me the nights you sat up and helped feed me oxygen."

"But this is a different ballgame. Josh you were…"

Josh stopped and kissed his partner's slightly pale lips.

"No Sam! No, this isn't a different ball game, no making my illness more of a big deal. Every time you've gone down I've freaked and your mom once told me off for that. I am going to be with you every step of the way as you where for me."

Sam allowed himself to be drawn into a tighter embrace and sighed with pleasure as he felt the warmth and smell of his partner envelope his worn out body. Josh kissed his partner's forehead stood slightly back and traced a loving finger across a pale cheek.

"Shall we go back in?" Josh's voice wavered as he spoke. "Yes. But remember to play nicely with Peter," Sam kissed his partner on the nose and deciding as worn out as he felt now was the time to lighten the atmosphere. "Oh yes remember as you said you wanted to be with me yesterday; well you're on a promise now!" Sam teased.

"Promise? What promise?" Josh feigned mock innocence.

"Yes, to catch me when I fall. I'll try not to injure your back." "Get back in there!"

Josh gave his partner a little shove back into the study as Sam turned round and for the first time in a few weeks Josh was treated to the fall wattage of a mega watt smile. Dr Jameson looked up and smiled as the couple he'd known for years sat down opposite, his patient beginning to lose the haunted look he'd had at the beginning of the session.

Handling Sam 2:Part 4.

Four Days Later

"Now Mr Seaborn" a young blond haired nurse hovered over Sam, "I just want you to lie back and relax."

Sam didn't bother to respond, his mouth felt dry with nervous tension. Relax! How could he do that strapped up to a table that looked like something out of Dr Frankenstein's chamber and wired up to various machines that bleeped away? If he felt nervous, he felt sicker at the thought at the panic his partner was working himself into outside in the waiting room.

Dr Jamieson approached Sam and almost did a double take, he'd known Sam for nearly 15 years but there were occasions when it was like staring at Jamie. Sam's hair was peppered with grey and there were extra laughter lines around the eyes, but the essence of youthful innocence hung around the blue eyes that stared up at him. No wonder the President of the United States was pacing up and down the waiting room nearly having kittens.

"Hello Sam." Dr Jamieson pattered Sam's knee. "I see you're all wired up. Good, you didn't eat any breakfast did you?"

"No." Sam almost whispered.

"Good." The doctor tried to keep his tone brisk but professional and to forget that it was his friend and the President's partner and to treat Sam as an ordinary patient.

"The electrodes which are attached to your chest and back will provide EKG read-outs of your heart's electrical activity during the procedure."

Sam tried to concentrate as Dr Jamieson in measured terms explained how the table would be raised and what they were looking for, but not even the soothing music in the background could steady his nerves. As the process began and he felt himself being brought upright at various degrees, he concentrated on the soothing tones of the nurses who carried on a conversation in hushed voices about the state of Sam's blood pressure and vital signs.

"Ok Sam, you are now at an angle of 60 degree's." Dr Jamieson's measured tones broke into the music and the conversation between the nurses stopped. "I am going to keep you there for about 30 minutes. We're going to take some more readings so if I can ask you to lie still and quiet during that period. If you feel any sensations of light headiness let me know and we'll bring you back to a lying down position."

It was a rather uncomfortable feeling Sam concluded after a few moments, like pushing a bike up hill. He let out several yawns and the room spun dizzily and his vision began to blur slightly.

"Blood pressure 91 down to 60 now…"

The words spoken by Dr Jamieson began to fade away as Sam struggled to break the straps that held him to the table as his heart began to pound and the familiar sensation of his knees buckling with the overwhelming sense of wanting to lay down before he fell down come over him.

"Peter," Sam swallowed, his voice sounded distant but the face of his doctor and long time friend wavered into view as Sam found himself laying flat on his back staring at the ceiling. The machines he was wired to were turned off.

"Hello Sam. How are you feeling?"

"Light-headed," Sam replied softly.

"Good, that's what we wanted. I am going to keep you in this position, just complete a couple more readings but I'll release the straps."

Sam found himself with the usual feelings of weakness and confusion after an episode and allowed his eyes to close.

"Mr Seaborn," Sam opened his eyes to see the blond nurse standing over him. "Would you like any thing to eat or drink?"

Sam licked his dry lips and remembered CJ and Donna's soothing administrations at the Foreign Correspondents' function. He muttered, "Juice," and a few moments later after some juice and biscuits he felt able to swing his legs over the table. He smiled weakly up at the doctor.

"I won't be recommending that experience to any one," he joked.

"Most people would agree," Dr Jamieson replied as he read over his notes from Sam's test. He looked up at the huddled figure with pale features and his forehead glistening from a few drops of sweat.

"Ok. I don't need to ask if there's anyone to drive you home. The President is practically about to go into orbit in the waiting room."

Sam gave a weak laugh.

"He does fuss, but you know that already."

"Well look, I have a free hour this afternoon can I come and see you at the White House?"

"Yes." Sam allowed himself off the bed and wobbled over to the cubical to get changed out of the hospital gown. A few minutes he emerged the immaculate Sam Seaborn that Dr Jamieson knew so well. Black leather jacket, grey turtle neck jumper, black pants and black shoes.

"I'll come and see you at 4pm if that's ok." Dr Jamieson said as he ushered Sam to the door to the waiting room.

As he went to the open the door, Sam stopped and gave his friend an anxious look.

"It's not my heart is it?" Sam nodded in the direction of the door, "He… well you know my partner so well Peter, that will be the first question I'll be asked."

Dr Jamieson patted his friend's shoulder reassuringly.

"No it's not. But you will have to make some change in your life style. I'll explain further this afternoon."

As Sam opened the door a grey and white blur that was his partner enveloped Sam in his arms and a torrent of muffled words "Are you alright? What happened?" came from Sam's shoulder. He gently released his lover but put his arm around his waist.

"Josh, Peter is still here," he gently reminded Josh.

Josh gave Dr Jamieson a sheepish grin.

"Sorry you know what I am like by now. What happened do you have any results of the test yet? Is it his heart?"

"No Mr President, it's not his heart."

"Peter is coming this afternoon to explain. Will you be free?"

"Yes," Josh replied as he shook hands with Dr Jamieson and then with one hand gently resting on his partner's shoulder guided him out into the corridor. The doctor smiled at the discussion between the President and his partner. "When we get back home you're going straight to bed." "Joshua! I have work. Three day's I've missed and there's a lot of catching up to do." "Tell me Samuel how do you feel?" "Like shit."

The swing doors closing behind the entourage to the clinic obliterated the rest of the conversation.

________________________________________________________

The Residence 4pm

"How's that darlin?" Sam murmured in Josh's ears, as he sat back in the sofa and allowed Josh's head to rest against his chest.

"Mmm. Lovely. You do the best shoulder rub. I swear Mason has a personal vendetta against me; he sat opposite me in the Roosevelt Room, almost leaning over the desk, banging on about fish quotas. Hey hang on a second." Josh sat up and turned around in Sam's arms. "I am the one who should be looking after you."

Sam bent down and exchanged a tender kiss, then pushed Josh's head back on his chest.

"You have been, along with Donna, CJ and Mom left yesterday with a long list of instructions which I am sure Donna has memorised. I've not been allowed off this sofa since we got back."

"This reminds me of the Hilton," Josh replied wistfully. "I wish we could lock the door and pretend that the world doesn't exist."

"I remember the Hilton very well darling because once again you had me prisoner on the sofa or in bed."

"That's because…" Josh put his head up for another lingering kiss, "You get yourself into a pickle because you get so stressed out that you forget your own health."

Sam opened his mouth to refute Josh's remarks but the phone ringing and Josh announcing Dr Jamieson was on his way to the residence led to a frantic smoothing down of Josh's shirt. As Donna ushered the doctor in he found the found the two lovers sitting relaxed on the sofa. Josh's hand in Sam's his complexion had returned to its near normal Californian glow.

After some preamble about Jamie and school, Dr Jamieson accepted a cup of coffee and pulled his notes out of his briefcase.

"Well Sam, I can confirm that my initial diagnosis was right. You have neurally mediated hypotension, which is known by the following names: the fainting reflex, neurocardiogenic syncope, vasodepressor syncope, the vaso-vagal reflex, and autonomic dysfunction."

Sam stared in confusion at his friend then at Josh who took his hand and pulled him closer.

"The neutrally mediated hypotension occurs when there is an abnormal reflex interaction between the heart and the brain, both of which usually are structurally normal. Do you remember how I explained why people faint and in what circumstances?"

Both Sam and Josh nodded.

"Well," Dr Jamieson carried on, "In individuals with neurally mediated hypotension, there is a `miscommunication' between the heart and the brain. Just when the heart needs to beat faster…" Dr Jamiesion took a sip of his coffee, "to pump blood to the brain and prevent fainting, the brain sends out the message that the heart rate should be slowed down, and that the blood vessels in the arms and legs should dilate. These actions take even more blood away from the central part of the circulation where it is needed. In response, individuals feel light-headed or may faint because not enough blood is getting to the brain." "You told me in the hospital that the tilt table was to determine my susceptibility to the episodes I've been having? What do the tests show?"

"The reason why you were slowly inclined upward to an angle of between 60 and 80 degrees and kept up for around thirty minutes is that it provides a constant low stress gravity that should be easily tolerated by a person with normal autonomic function. However in your case and many other's patients with poor autonomic control, this relatively mild stress will provoke a sudden fall in heart rate and blood pressure."

"I remember feeling very dizzy then you'd lowered me to the ground," Sam reflected.

"In your case it took you three minutes into the 30 minute time when we had you at 60 degrees to faint. Some of my patients have been known to experience symptoms of faintness in one or two minutes. So it seems that you have a poor automatic control and this explains why when you came round from your second faint your mental abilities where somewhat foggy and you took a couple of days to recover."

"Dr Jamieson, at our last meeting you said I should look out for trigger signs. I am still confused what should I be looking out for?"

"I am glad you asked that Sir." The doctor pulled out Sam's file. "Sam and I went through all the situations where he's fainted and we came to the conclusion there are a combination of stressful factors."

"Such as?"

"In some patients it only takes the slightest drop of blood and they are on the floor. However, many with the problem have symptoms resurface or worsen at busy or stressful times. Such as rushing for a meeting on a hot day and forgetting to drink. In Sam's case so far it seems that his pattern of fainting is very much along the lines of a combination of stressful factors lines or in times of illness or at the site of a gory accident."

"Daddy fainted once when he took me to casualty with a crayon up my nose!" Jamie piped up as he came charging into the room and hurled himself on his father's lap.

"Hi Uncle Peter!"

"Hello Jamie. How are you?"

"I'm good. Are you talking about Daddy's visit to the hospital today? Nana rang Daddy she said she'll call you later. Hi JJ!" Jamie scrambled over to Josh and hugged him and turned to hug Sam.

"Jamie don't you ever pause for breath," Josh teased as Jamie made himself comfortable between Sam & Josh.

"Sometimes, Uncle Peter, does daddy have to go back to hospital?"

Dr Jamieson found himself staring into the anxious blue eyes in a mop of hair that Jamie swiped back.

"No Jamie he doesn't, but you can be a big help to daddy as there may be times he may need your help. Not often I hope."

"You want me to look after daddy if he falls down. Well I do that already!" Jamie announced proudly giving Dr Jamieson and his parents his winning smile.

"I know you do," Sam kissed his son's forehead, "But Uncle Peter and JJ and I do need to discuss some grown up stuff so if you go and finish your homework I'll let you have supper in here ok?"

"Ok. I promise if it's cheese I won't bring it in here!"

Jamie scrambled off the sofa and charged out of the bedroom and thundered down the hallway. Dr Jamaieson gave Sam and Josh a quizzical look.

"Cheese?"

"Ah yes it seems that it might be my unusual reaction. Hang on a moment," Sam lowered his voice, "It's unusually quiet from my son's bedroom there should be the noise from the TV which I am…"

Sam opened the door and Jamie stood as innocently as he could chatting to a security guard but with one ear to the door.

"Jamie you forgot to shut the door behind you," Sam said with a warning glance as with a muttered "Oops" his son fled down the corridor.

__________________________________________________________________

The Next Day – Seaborn & Associates 11AM

"I think it's going to be a quiet day," John remarked as he sat down on the sofa in the waiting room Suzi had made up for Sam's detail. "Princeton has no outside engagements and is leaving work at 4pm."

Chris Rawlins the younger of the two men looked from a copy of the Washington Post and stretched his leg out in the reclining leather chair.

"It's been anything but recently," he commented, "What with the recent episodes and hospital stay."

"Well. It's what we signed up for and I must say I've felt sorry for him on occasions from what I've seen of Eagle recently." John rolled his eyes, "Least said and all that."

"Princeton's been looking pretty sick recently. Did you hear what the tests where about I wonder if..." the sound of the telephone that connected them to Suzi's office rang, "Hi Suzi. Is he going…oh shit not again? On our way!"

John leapt to his and charged after his colleague, up the stairs to the first floor where Sam's suite was. They charged into Sam's room to find a healthily looking Sam being helped off the floor by a slightly miffed Suzi.

"Oh! Hi gentleman. Suzi there was no need to call Chris and John, but since you're here can you stay a moment?" Sam replied in mortified tones as he smoothed down his crumpled suite.

"Well what was I to think! Suzi tried to keep her voice on an even keel, "I walk into my room to find you lying on the floor with your feet resting on the table! God knows I've had every reason to panic recently."

Sam patted her shoulder.

"I know, I am sorry, but Josh has been reading up about the signs and wants me to practice getting down on the floor quickly." A slight crimson blush appeared on Sam's face as he handed Suzi and his agents a neatly typed sheet. "I am sorry fellers but the order is from on high."

"No it's ok Mr Seaborn, it's best for us to be prepared so we can give you as much dignity as possible. It's happened to me on a couple of occasions and it can be very embarrassing," Chris replied. His earnest eyes met Sam's as a new bond of shared sympathy was formed between them.

"Well that's good to know. I am so grateful to you all for the way you've looked after me these past few days." Sam replied softly averting his eyes and walked over to his desk from behind which he produced two large elaborately wrapped bouquets of pink roses and handed them to Suzi with a kiss on the cheek.

"I know you love roses. Donna & CJ loved theirs and I think they feel that you're part of the club now."

Sam turned to Chris & John, "Guy's you wouldn't appreciate flowers and I know David's rules about gifts so I've sent Angela and Joan flowers in thanks for all the extra hours you've put in."

Chris and John took them knowing their wives would be pleased. Both their partners knew what to expect as Sam was a stickler for sending little gifts to their wives usually wrapped in an elegant box with a thank you note with the seal of the President. A present from the President's handsome partner was opened with squeals of delight and invitation's to White House functions were proudly shown to friends and displayed prominently in their formal sitting rooms.

A telephone call interrupted the words of grateful thanks and Suzi and the bodyguards filed silently out of the room. John turned to Chris as they made their way down stairs to their waiting room, as soon as they were inside the room John shut the door.

"What was that between you and Princeton?" John demanded.

"I've fainted before; I know what it's like. I just wanted to let him know," Chris replied defensively. "I feel sorry for him; life with Eagle is not always a bed of roses."

"Look, it's not our place to feel sorry or become too close to them and while we may comment about their relationship it's none of our business and we shouldn't make assumptions."

"I know," Chris mumbled, crestfallen at his friend and partner's mild rebuke.

"Look. I know Princeton thinks a lot of us, especially after what happened with Huckleberry but let's not get too involved or it makes the job harder.

Chris nodded and as he had, by nature, a sunny temperament he was soon caught up in debating with his partner the finer points of a recent match between Michigan and Indiana State.

_____________________________________________________________________

Upstairs, as Sam dealt with a lengthy telephone call with a client, Suzi proudly arranged her flowers and stood back to admire them. Her phone rang and she smiled as she recognised Donna's number.

"Hi Donna. Yes he's fine. No I won't tell him. Yes I got flowers as well. So I am part of a club now…" Suzi laughed, "Back to normal. Yes, well, I suppose you could say that, but at least next time I'll be prepared. The President thinks he can look after Sam on his own."

Sam looked up as a gale of laughter came from his secretary's room.

Handling Sam 2: Pt 5 –8 Months Later.

Washington DC

Sam smiled at his bodyguards as he climbed into the back of his limo from a meeting with one of his clients across town. Washington wilted in the sixth day of a heat wave. He leaned back in the car, for once glad that his position as the President's partner ensured he did not have to suffer the underground with other wilting commuters.

"The White House?" the chauffer enquired.

"No thanks. The office please. I have some paperwork to do this afternoon," Sam replied as he rummaged through his briefcase and without thinking let out an expletive.

"Anything wrong Mr Seaborn?" Chris turned round in his front seat anxiously.

"I don't suppose there is any chance of taking a quick detour to the drug store?" Sam asked hopefully.

"Well sir, you know we don't like your unscheduled stops." Chris reminded him.

"It's no good any way," Sam replied regretfully, "I don't have my prescription with me. So it's back to the office."

Sam leaned back against the padded seats and closed his eyes. His stomach was pitching and rolling not helped by the rather wilted sandwiches he'd been offered apologetically at a lunch meeting for clients in the Williams case. It hadn't helped that their air conditioning was broken either and to Sam, breakfast seemed a long time ago.

Eight months after what Sam called his `episodes' any immediate signs that he was susceptible to another episode had him looking for an escape route as soon as possible. So when the meeting had ended he'd politely refused the offer of coffee and fled out to the welcoming air conditioning of his car.

Since November there'd been one dizzy spell but no more trips to the floor not that the watch dogs that were Suzi, Donna CJ and his family allowed them. Dr Jamieson had him on a very mild dose of Florantif. Sam put the incidents down to stress but followed Dr Jamieson's instructions of an increased intake of salt & water regime, but today was proving to be one of those days when two of his props, the water & medicine were not to hand.

"Mr Seaborn we're here." Chris's voice broke into Sam's thoughts and he opened his eyes and blinked as he looked up at Chris politely holding the door open.

As he went to climb out, Sam felt as if his legs wouldn't support him and his stomach lurched uncomfortably. Sam immediately sat heavily back in the car and instinctively dropped his head between his knees to stop the tunnel like vision he felt himself sucked into.

A few minutes later Sam found himself wobbling into his office his elbows firmly held by Chris and John to stop him tilting forwards. He flopped onto the sofa, thanked his agents and closed his eyes as Suzi sprung into action calmly and efficiently ordering food and hot coffee and popped a barley sugar sweet into his mouth.

"Oh Sam!" Suzi admonished as five minutes later she watched her boss demolish fresh turkey sandwiches and hot sweet coffee. She waved his prescription in front of his nose with an offended air. "When did you run out of these?"

"I really don't know," Sam replied as he stretched his feet out on the sofa and closed his eyes.

"You do know that if you miss taking these, the risk of fainting spells is likely to increase? You're the health nut of this office and I can't believe you've forgotten. Your bottom drawer is like a mini pharmacy!"

Sam winced as her tone of voice went up a notch and Suzi's voice softened as she quietly moved round his office putting his phone on silent and closing the blinds. She disappeared into her room and Sam heard her converse with Donna in soft tones.

"I suppose you've been reporting back to the club." Sam tried to sit up and fell back against his cushions. "God I'm meant to be going to this fundraiser this evening. I promised him."

Suzi turned off the overhead light and stood with her arms folded by the door.

"I told Donna your meeting was running late. This fundraiser has been marked in red ink for days so I know how important it is." Suzi consulted her watch, "its 4pm. I'll let you sleep till 5pm then I'll make sure you're refreshed before you go home."

"Thank you," Sam mumbled as felt his aching body sink into the softness of the leather and fell asleep as he debated new ways to thank Suzi for her kindness and efficiency. ______________________________________________

The White House – 7:30 PM

"Are you sure, because I can go with out you?" Josh asked as he wandered out of the bathroom with his brown shirt open and his chocolate silk tie dangling around his neck.

Sam looked up from putting his shoes on and with a loving smile walked over to his partner and began to do up his tie.

"You never give up do you?" he replied lovingly as the brown anxious eyes stared back at him. Sam finished tying the knot and felt himself being drawn into a tight embrace. Sam buried his head in his partner's shoulder and let himself be held. Both men took comfort from such intimate moments, many a time Sam found himself soothing a furious partner in such a way. The smell of his lover's woody and spicy aftershave and the sound of the regular heartbeat soothed Sam's taut nerves.

"I don't know how you found out. Suzi told Donna I was running late that's all."

Josh laughed and released his partner as he walked over to claim his jacket from the bed.

"What did you hear of Suzi's conversation?"

"Nothing much," Sam admitted, "I was kinda woozy all I wanted to do was sleep."

"Well," Josh replied as he helped Sam on with his jacket keeping a hand gently against his back as they walked into the corridor and towards the lift. "Suzi reported to Donna you where running late but Donna knows when Suzi is upset and dragged it out of her. You have a wonderful secretary there sweetheart don't be mad with her."

"I won't," Sam said as they stepped out of the lift and made their way towards the entrance where the limousine was waiting with accompanying riders, "But there was no air conditioning at my meeting, lunch was appalling and I felt sick. Honestly darlin' that was all it was."

Sam kissed his partner's hand reassuringly in the darkness of the car.

"Ok. Well I can't be mad at you when you look seriously hot in that suit," Josh commented, "but I wish you didn't look so buttoned up. It's so airless tonight."

Sam said nothing more as the limo purred away from the White House and drove through the streets of Washington and towards Mclean Virginia. If he told Josh about the empty pill bottle his partner would hit the roof and an irascible Josh was the last thing he needed. The effects of the Advil Suzi had given him before he left the office where wearing off and the turkey sandwich rolled inside his stomach.

"Oh I didn't tell you did I?" Josh's voice broke into Sam's troubled thoughts and he sat upright against the padded seat to pay attention to what his lover was saying.

"Tell me about what?" Sam replied licking his dry lips.

"Mason. CJ had him in her office. Now he's finished off sounding off about fish quotas it seems he's turned his attention to the Education Bill."

"Well, it's gonna pass anyway. CJ told me it may be close but there's enough support on the floor of the House to swing it our way," Sam remarked staring out of the window as the motorcade swept up a drive to an impressive looking Colonial style house. "God Josh look at this house! How much did Masterston raise for the Democratic Party last year?"

"About seven million," Josh replied as he leaned forward and gave Sam a loving kiss on the lips then a searching look. "Are you sure you're ok?"

"Yes," Sam tried to sound convincing.

"You look a little pale and…" Josh was silenced by a return kiss.

"You know how I am after an episode, washed out for a day a so. Darlin I wouldn't have come if I didn't think I was fit enough."

Sam pulled his jacket down and climbed out the door the agent opened for him.

"Ok. But promise me if you feel…"

"Joshua!"

"If you feel ill you'll let Chris and John drive you home," Josh instructed as he climbed out of the car. "I can't deny though how much I appreciate you being here tonight. There are so many senators here that are undecided. So…" Josh squeezed his partner's hand and held onto it as they walked up the driveway, "With your passionate dedication to education issues you'd help further the cause."

"Glad I can be of help. What with the Office taking up much of my time I've got out of the loop a bit…" Sam stopped as they made their way to the door flanked by Josh's agents Kevin and Andrew and Sam's. "What were you saying about Mason?"

"Only that he asked CJ if you were going tonight, which surprised me. John how nice to see you!" Josh exclaimed as he greeted his distinguished host.

There was no further opportunity for a private conversation as Sam found himself swept up into the crowd that milled around in the hallway and greeting acquaintances that went back to the days of the Bartlett administration.

Masterston Residence – 9 pm

Sam emerged from the downstairs private washroom of his host's room pressing a handkerchief to his lips.

He'd been doing so well, smiled and shaken hands with important contacts. Passionately set out his and Josh's views about the Educational Reform Bill and discussed with some ladies, not so interested about politics but eager to meet the President's partner, how Jamie was doing at school.

The buffet had been his undoing. It was enough that his head felt there was an iron band wrapped around it, but his stomach had settled into a gentle rocking motion that made him feel queasy. It was the smell of the elegant cheese platter that set the agitated feeling of nausea. Sam trying to ignore an attack of the cold sweats with as much dignity as he could muster, politely asked were the nearest washroom was and on very shaky legs tried to walk calmly through the corridor before they crumbled.

He looked around and discovered that most of the guests had gone into the garden and looked at his watch. Josh was due to give his `drum up support speech' and Sam leaned against the cool marble balustrade to regain his bearings. It was hard keeping an immaculate, masculine image when all he wanted to do was to let the marble floor swallow him up. With a sigh Sam pulled his tie straight, and with a reassuring glance at Chris and John who stood at the parameter of the hallway he made his way towards the garden.

Walking towards Josh with a reassuring smile it suddenly became more fixed and polite as Senator Mason a small neat sandy haired man in his late forties stepped in front of him.

"Mr Seaborn," Mason's voice was silky smooth but with a distinctive Charleston drawl. "Does my $500 buy five minutes of your time?"

"Normally yes," Sam replied politely, "But the President is about to speak and under the circumstances I…"

"It seems the President has been waylaid," Mason commented as he and Sam watched the hostess descending on Josh and guiding him further down the garden, "And I hope you forgive my rather abrasive manner on the phone. There are some issues I get carried away with and my rudeness was uncalled for. So is there anywhere we can talk in private?"

"Ok," Sam looked at the contrite expression of the senator, "Here is good as any place," Sam wirily replied. A slight breeze that had started up made him feel less clammy and if he could just spend a little more time out in the garden the light-headed feeling would pass.

"No what I'd like to say is private," Mason insisted and Sam found the senator's hand on his arm and he was hustled towards the patio. "There must be a library or something."

Chris and John who had hovered on the fringes by an elegant box shaped rose bed stepped forward protectively.

"No it's ok," Sam removed Mason's arm firmly and stepped back. "Guys it will be ok. If the President is about to start his speech can you get Andrew to buzz you?"

"Yes Sir," Chris replied shooting a distrustful glance at the senator. "We'll wait outside whatever room you're in. Kevin or Andrew can find us."

"Mr Mason." Sam turned back to the senator and smoothed down his jacket, "I will listen to what you have to say, but I will not be hustled in that manner."

The senator stood back fuming with silent anger but followed Sam onto a patio and through large windows into the formal sitting room.

Sam went to sit down in one of the leather chairs by the window but stood up as Mason walked towards the door.

"Not here, too many people can walk by."

Sam rolled his eyes as Chris and John caught up with him and tried to ignore their silent anger as they followed Sam and Mason out into the corridor. The host's daughter wide eyed with excitement at meeting Sam assured him he'd get some privacy if he used the library and pointed towards a room down the end of a corridor.

"Ok, Senator," Sam opened the door to the library and stood on the threshold, "I'll give you five minutes. But, I've already told you that the President's mind is made up on this matter."

Mason merely gave a bland smile and as Sam gave instructions to Chris and John to wait outside, he strode into the middle of the room.

"Oh he will listen to what I have to say after I've finished," Mason muttered.

"Sorry did you say something?" Sam asked he closed the door behind him.

Mason turned round with a bland look on his face.

"I was just commenting on how the other half live," he replied smoothly as he fingered in his jacket pocket and gave a sigh of relief as he felt a card in the inner pocket of his jacket.

_____________________________________________________________

9.15pm

Mason finished pacing up and down the library; he'd hardly drawn breath from berating Sam about the disadvantages of the Education Bill. How were new tutors to be recruited, there was a shortage already and the budget deficit was stretched far enough to subsidise new tutors. Sam had patiently explained the Government's position with a polite goodbye.

"I haven't finished with you yet!" Mason cursed himself for raising his voice which would give the opportunity for the secret service to burst in. He took a deep breath and felt for the reassuring symbols of the reason for his meeting.

"Ok," Sam replied and with an effort he pushed himself away from the ornate Louis XV desk and glanced at his watch. "I've given you more time than you've deserved," he admonished.

After twenty minutes of being back in a stuffy room with no open windows the clammy feeling that Sam experienced in the garden had returned. If he could get back into the cool of the hallway and find a place to sit he could escape the cloying smell of polish and Lilly of the Valley flowers displayed on the coffee table in the middle of the room. Their combined effect set off a wave of dizziness as Sam grabbed the desk to steady himself.

"You know Mr Seaborn, that's not the answer I was expecting to hear. But," Mason gave an exaggerated sigh, "I'll just have to try another argument."

"No..." Sam gave a sigh of relief as a knock on the door and Chris's head popped round.

"Mr Seaborn you asked Andrew to buzz you when the President is about to speak. He asked where you where and I said you where talking to Senator Mason."

Sam gave Chris a wide special smile of `thanks' and turned to Mason as Chris shut the door.

"I think you've said enough and the President is about to speak so if you'll excuse me." Sam went to walk towards the door the thought of the coolness outside installing a burst of energy in his body and temporally dispelling the dizziness.

Sam blinked in surprise as Mason's contorted features appeared in front of him

Sam felt himself thrown against the wall almost as if he was a piece of paper. Normally Sam would have easily defended himself but in his weakened state he found it hard to regain his bearings as the room spun around him.

"Perhaps if I mention American Society for Family Values to you," Mason replied, "You'll pay a little more attention to what I have to say?"

"You're not…" Sam's voice sounded high and shrill to his own ears, "Three days of hell you put my family through"

Sam staggered to his feet and lunged forward to Mason, his sense of dignity forgotten as images of the time of Jamie's kidnap which still provoked nightmare's flashed in front of him; "Please let me speak to my daddy!" Jamie's white pinched face when he was being rescued from the deserted house and the shivering little body he'd held in his arms.

"Mr Seaborn. I think you're being foolish," Mason replied. "You're obliviously not well, so let's get you sitting down."

Sam found himself being supported onto a sofa and felt the overwhelming need to sit down before he passed out. Sam allowed his head to fall back against the padded chair as he tried to fight off the sensation of the room disappearing from him.

" Now I'll just pop this…" Mason took placed a card in Sam's jacket breast pocket. "You can reconsider your situation when you're feeling better."

"What the fuck!" John's voice shattered the thick pain of glass that Sam seemed to be watching the events through. Chris charged in behind him and stopped his mouth open in amazement at the sight of a prostrate First Gentleman on a leather sofa with Mason bending over him.

"Mr Seaborn is feeling faint, it's so warm in here," Mason calmly explained with an outraged expression as Chris shoved him to one side to attend to Sam. "I was just about to call you."

Mason stood watching then noticing that the white card was visible and soon be noticed looked to make his escape.

"I'll go and get some water for Mr Seaborn. He didn't look at all well this evening perhaps I shouldn't have kept him talking. There again I can stand the heat but it doesn't take much for some people to…"

"Thank you Senator," Chris broke in impatiently his eyes darting around the hallway thankful that all the guests were in the garden listening to Josh give his speech, "We can take it from here."

Sam raised himself into a half sitting position but his brain felt like cotton wool he groaned in his frustration that his brain could not function enough to explain what happened. His vision dimmed as Mason sidled out of the room and he began to let go of consciousness.

"It's Ok Mr Seaborn," John soothed, "The President is on his ...Oh Jesus!" John stared in shock at the purple bruise forming on Sam's right eye, "Mr Seaborn!" He shook a semi-conscious Sam gently, "What happened?"

"I know!" Chris ran towards the door. "Mason!" Chris turned round wildly, "It was him. I should have noticed. He's not gonna get the water…he's-" Chris beat the wall in his frustration, "Mr President!"

Chris stood aside as Josh ran into the room and dropped to his knees by his partner and took Sam's cold hands in his and began to rub them gently. He looked up at John his brown eyes anxious and John swallowed nervously.

"Mr President, we have a situation."

"Yes I know," Josh turned his attention back to an ethereal looking Sam, "Sam why didn't you tell me you felt ill."

"No Sir I am sorry…" John continued, "We have to get you and Princeton out of here immediately."

"Mr Seaborn, do you think you can stand?" Andrew asked urgently, "Mr President we have to leave now if-"

"Andrew please! Give him a moment for him to get his bearings. What's so urgent? Mr Seaborn nearly passed out that's all," Josh demanded as he rubbed his partner's hands more vigorously.

"How do you feel?" Josh asked tenderly, "God your hands are like ice."

"Thirsty," Sam mumbled licking his dry lips.

"Mr President the building is secure and we've got him!" Chris burst back into the room, "There's extra security standing by but we'd be happier if you and Mr Seaborn were back at the White House."

"Got who?" Josh replied in a distracted manner as he sat down on the sofa next to his partner

"Mason Sir, he was caught two blocks way! Police are hauling him in for questioning."

"Here Sam," Josh's softened as he guided the glass in Sam's trembling hands between his pale lips, "Chris why have you arrested Senator Mason? All he…J esus!" Josh cried as Sam's bruise seeped through his dismay at finding his partner in a semiconscious state, "Your eye! Did you collapse and fall or….oh holy shit!"

Sam nodded as no words were needed. He simply nodded.

"He'll … I'll personally see…" Josh yelled catching to take some deep breaths to control his erratic breathing as Chris hastily shut the door to stop the guests from prying. Josh swung round to face Chris, "This is not meant to happen! How could someone get that close to my partner and assault him!"

Sam winced and his partner's expression immedialty softened as he drew Sam towards him. Josh let his breathing calm down as Sam made feeble attempts to rub his back.

"Don't yell. I am not up to it," Sam said softly, "I told Chris and John to wait outside."

"You're in a state, but you always end up looking after me," Josh looked up at the contrite secret service agents, "I am sorry but the thought of what he did or could have done to Mr Seaborn…" He turned back to his partner, "Tell me everything when we have you home safe. Can you stand?" Sam nodded again and he felt Josh's arms around him.

Sam slowly got to his feet helped by Josh and then gently extracted Josh's arm from around his waist.

"It's ok, I've got you," Josh whispered putting an arm back around his partner's waist, "Remember, I said I'd never let you fall?"

"I can do it," Sam insisted.

"Sam listen, you've had some kind of episode. Let me help you." Josh tried to support Sam but Sam removed his arm again.

"No Josh. I will walk out of here…on my own."

"Ok," Josh sounded doubtful. "I am sure Alan will have been told what's happened. There must be extra police surrounding the roadways by now, but we'll walk out together. When we get home we'll tell Jamie you had a dizzy spell and knocked into something which should explain the black eye."

"Thank you," Sam murmured as he swayed towards his partner. Josh caught and steadied him as he lovingly did up his partner's tie and kissed the slightly moist forehead.

"There. Not too tight?"

Sam shook his head and once again steadied himself against his partner.

"Whoa. Sam you're all over the place, sit down while I speak with John."

"If I sit down I won't get up," Sam affirmed and let his lover keep an arm around him and guide him towards the door. Chris opened it and Josh gently propelled Sam into the corridor.

"Alan," Josh guided Sam towards the Senator.

Sam stood by as Josh said his farewells to his host. Sam allowed the senator's wife to fawn over him but it was as if it was through a thick pain of glass, no sound came form her lips. The sounds of guests in the background, gossiping about what they understood had happened in the study seemed distant and unreal. He must have said goodbye to the host because Sam soon found himself being guided out into the driveway.

"How're you doing?" Josh enquired,

Sam gave him a ghost of an `I' am fine' smile and gripped hold of his partner's hand.

"John!" Josh barked.

"I want David in the residence waiting when we get back. He's gonna explain to me how this can happen…Sam!"

Josh went to catch his partner as he lurched forward.

"Sorry so tired…" Sam's apologised as Chris and John and Josh's detail sprung into action. Josh found himself hustled towards the car and Sam was whisked off his feet and gently deposited into the car so that he found himself staring into anxious brown eyes.

"You caught me," Sam whispered.

"What was that sweetheart?" Josh enquired tenderly as he brushed away a few strands of hair from his partner's face. "Sam?" he repeated as his partner's face had a slack peaceful look and Sam went limp in his arms. Worried that his partner had fainted he gently shook him relieved that Sam stirred in his arms and muttered something about sleep. As the motorcade sped through the streets of Washington Josh stared out into the darkness as he plotted how to flush out every hate organisation and bring them to accountability.

The Next Morning 10:00AM – The Residence

"Hey Peter thanks for coming." Sam emerged from the sitting room of the residence and shook hands with his friend. He was dressed in a light blue open necked shirt and black pants.

"Christ Sam, what happened last night?" Peter exclaimed at the sight of the right eye of his friend almost obliterated by a black and purple bruise.

Sam grimaced and ushered his friend into the sitting room and sat down in front of a coffee table with a formal White House Coffee set laid on it. After they'd made themselves comfortable Sam explained what had happened to cause the bruise.

"How did Josh react?" Peter asked as he laid his cup on the table.

"Well, I was pretty out of it for much of the time, but all hell broke loose and much to my embarrassment Josh and I were hustled into our limousine."

"We were hustled Sam, because you were on the verge of collapsing." Josh's voice from the door made Peter stand up.

"Good morning Mr President."

"Peter, I wish you'd stop treating me so formally. In here, in private, I am still Josh."

Peter shook his head and sat down.

"I'm sorry but I couldn't address you as Josh."

"It's okay, Peter," Sam said with a knowing wink as Josh sat down next to him and took his hand, "He likes it when I call him Mr President some times."

"Samuel, after what happened last night I don't know how you can be so cheerful this morning."

Sam's face darkened and Josh mentally kicked himself for being tactless.

"I am trying to pretend that every thing is normal Joshua," Sam retorted, "I want my life back." Sam got to his feet and started to pace restlessly. "That's all I want. I'd like to be able to go out with out remembering pills, to eat and not get stressed out so that when some senator decides to take a swipe at me I can fight back!"

Josh stood up and drew his partner into his arms.

"I know," he cooed softly then turned to Peter, "That's why we called you, is there anything you can do?" Josh begged over the top of his partners head. "He's been taking the pills, following an increased salt intake but he still has these fainting spells."

Peter saw a look that Josh couldn't see of pure panic on Sam's face and immediately deduced that Sam had missed a prescription.

"Well Mr President, I need to do a brief examination on Sam as it's time for his three month check-up. I'll call you when I am finished and we can discuss any alternative medication."

"I am free till eleven and so I'll stay," Josh announced as Sam gently extracted himself from his lover's embrace.

"No," Sam replied firmly kissing Josh on the forehead, "I'd rather if you have any free time you'd wander the halls a bit to find Jamie and make sure he's doing his duty as an intern today. I told him he can have a new TV/DVD for his bedroom if he earns some money towards it."

"I should stay;" Josh said stroking his partner's cheek "You're still not right after last night. What if something happens?"

"What could happen?" Sam replied taking his partners hand and squeezing it. "You still think I am about to keel over every five minutes?"

"No, of course not but...you still look a bit...fragile after last night."

"Sometimes Josh, you sound like a character out of a Victorian novel." Sam gave Josh a gentle push towards the door. "And I am not some wilting Victorian heroine. Though I said it once before that you'd like me to be the wife of this partnership!"

"I'm trying to be supportive, that's what you said you wanted instead of ranting and raving."

Sam gave an exasperated sigh and rolled his eyes towards the ceiling.

"Peter, will you excuse us one moment. I need to have a word with my partner in private." He took Josh's hand, "You outside!"

Josh found himself yanked into the hall and pressed up against the wall and kissed senseless.

"Now, doesn't that prove I am not fragile?" Sam released him and Josh put his hand against the wall to steady himself. Josh nodded as Sam smoothed his partner's rumpled shirt.

"Yes," Josh breathed, "Sam, I just…I love you that's all."

"I know," Sam replied tenderly, "and I love you, but I do need to speak to Peter by myself. After all I'm not present at your medical examinations."

"True," Josh agreed as he let Sam walk him to the lift.

"Well then, go and find Jamie and by the time I am done with Peter we'll have lunch together."

"Okay."

Sam watched the elevator door shut and turned to walk back to the sitting room but as he did the hallway darkened around the edges and began to tilt. Sam felt himself being guided into a chair by an agent.

"Go and get the doctor!" Sam vaguely heard one of the agents instruct the other.

Peter appeared and Sam felt his head being pushed between his knees.

"Okay breathe slowly." Sam took deep breaths, "Nice and slowly. Okay let's see if you can raise your head."

Sam leaned his head back against the chair his face ashen. Peter sat down in a chair next to him.

"Sam, when did you last fill your prescription?"

"Three weeks ago." Sam ran his hand over his pale features. "I've been so busy Peter, what with the Williams case."

"So this is why you wanted The President out of the room." Peter chided. "He was right your not looking at all well."

Sam said nothing but after a few minutes allowed his friend to help him to his feet and back into the sitting room. A few minutes later after his blood pressure was taken, Peter sat down with his arms folded, staring intently at his friend.

"No wonder the President has a hard time with you." Peter admonished. "You should be in bed but look at you. Up and about; for god's sake you have a condition."

"Hey! Wait a moment Peter, you told me when I had the tilt table test that there is nothing wrong with my heart!"

"Wait a moment, Sam; did I say anything about your heart?"

Sam had the grace to look contrite.

"No," he mumbled sounding like Jamie who'd just received a scolding.

"Okay," Peter crossed over and squeezed his friends shoulder reassuringly, "I can help you Sam, but you're gonna to have to work with me from now on."

"I am sorry….it's just that..." Sam gave a sigh, "I used to be in control, have an image. No matter what life throws at me on the surface I am the immaculate Sam Seaborn. Remember the days when I worked for President Bartlet. The monogrammed shirts, expensive suits, though I never paid attention to the label."

"Listen to me," Peter soothed, "I now where you're coming from but image isn't everything."

"Yes it is!" Sam rebuked "I've been conscious of the fact that Josh and I hide so much of what we are as a private couple." Sam took a deep breath. "We can't kiss, dance, so we don't give certain groups enough ammunition to attack us with. Parade Jamie and Mom so we can hide behind some pretence of family life. But wait- the First Gentleman has been falling down every five minutes! Hardly good for the masculine image is it!"

"Listen." Peter sat down and pulled his chair close to Sam. "I know you're stubborn and you get angry with Josh for fussing over you. But like it or not you have a condition and just as some people suffer from say diabetes your condition inconvenient as it is, is vasovagual syncope."

"I know but…"

"Sam, there are no buts about it," Peter interrupted, "I am sorry to be so persistent on this but listen to someone with 22 years of experience in a medical profession. Whether it is a particularly hot and humid day, or it is receiving a vaccination, you will pass out unless you take the proper precautions -resting, breathing deeply, and staying hydrated

"What about the pills?"

"Well…" Peter consulted his notes, "You're on Flortinf but if you miss just one prescription that can increase the likelihood of low blood pressure which can cause fainting spells. No wonder you were bouncing off the wall just then."

"Isn't there anything else that can be done?" Sam begged, "I am grateful to Donna and Suzi for reminding me about my prescriptions but there are times I just plain forget."

"Flortinf can cut down the spells but not eliminate them, so there's always the opportunity even when you're taking your medication that you may faint." Peter rubbed his forehead. "There is though, one other option and that is to consider a pacemaker."

Sam's face brightened.

"I've read up about them do you think it could be of help in my case?" he asked eagerly.

"I'd like to monitor your case for another month or so if that's okay. If you remember to take your pills and the fainting spells decrease then I am not over-keen on surgery. There is some debate amongst my profession as to if pacemakers can reduce the number of episodes. I'd really like you to learn to recognise the signs. However if you have another spell or two whilst taking the pills we'll review the situation."

Peter started to pack his bag and raised an eyebrow as Sam stood up to escort him to the elevator.

"I'd be happier if you were in bed. After your spell yesterday your blood pressure is a little low which is why you just had that dizzy spell. Remember, you're not a young man which is why it's harder to sit up from a spell and shrug it of as one of those things."

Sam sighed, "Okay." He clapped a hand on his friend's shoulder and led him into the hallway, "But I want you to do something for me."

"What?" Peter asked as he climbed into the elevator.

"I am coming downstairs with you so I can explain further but I do need you to ring Mark for me and…"

The doors shut and on the two agents who stood by staring into space and desperate trying not to look as if they were ear wigging on the conversation between the First Gentleman and his doctor. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Washington DC – Monday 4pm

"This is highly irregular, Sam," Mark Wyatt, Sam's best friend and co-founder of Seaborn and Associates, gave a weary glance up and down the road a few blocks from the entrance to the West Wing.

"Your impersonation of Chris and John is getting more and more accurate by the day," Sam replied dryly as he took the keys to the car from his friend and climbed in. "You know the drill?"

Mark nodded grimly. The fact that his friend looked as if a few days best rest was more in order than a drive through Washington was nagging at Mark to snatch the keys from Sam's hand and to call the White House

"I am not to ring Donna until four-thirty and to tell them you'll be at the Lincoln memorial. How did you sneak out?" Mark asked as Sam climbed into his friends BMW and gave a sigh of satisfaction at sitting behind a wheel for the first time in two and a half years.

"I'll tell you about it, but not now. They'll soon rumble that I've gone so I best make a move. " Sam glanced anxiously in the rear view mirror.

Mark rubbed his forehead worriedly as Sam shut the door and turned the key in the ignitition.

"Sam, you will take care?"

Sam looked up with a dazzling smile, "Thanks for everything. I promise to bring your car back in one piece Mark."

"Not the car! You! I've had my ear chewed by The President when we went sailing and forgot to radio in when I brought you home drunk after Ted's stag night."

"I will return the car safely and I promise Josh will not bawl you out." Sam's face sobered, "I just have to do this one thing."

Mark leant forward and patted his friends arm.

"I understand," he replied reassuringly, "Patrick is only two but I understand." He drummed on the side of the car as a couple of businessmen appeared in the street. "Okay, you better go or you'll miss him."

Mark watched as Sam drove off into the busy Washington street's and began to walk slowly back towards their Office as he debated if Sam's escape had been noticed and how he would break the news to Donna.

Sam drew up a few yards down from Jamie's school and parked a few blocks away and walked towards the corner of the street where he could watch Jamie leaving school without being observed. He was dressed in pair of faded jeans, a sweatshirt borrowed from Mark and a worn pair of sneakers. Parents who came to collect their children from school failed to recognise the normally smartly dressed partner of the President of the United States who on occasions collected his son from school.

Sam watched intently waiting to see the familiar mop of black hair and the boundless energy of his son amongst the excited babble of his class mates. Jamie was the first to be seen as he ran out of the school and was excitedly chatting to his friends pushing back a mop of hair and hoisting his backpack over his shoulder. Sam watched with a fond smile as Jamie smiled up at Alan and Peter who he'd nick- named the twins because of the similarity of their dark swarthy looks. He accepted them as part of his circle as he had Chris and John who transferred on a permanent basis to Sam's detail.

Part of him wanted to run over and scoop Jamie up to reassure himself that what had happened at the fundraiser was a nightmare. Though, Sam argued with himself, if he appeared with Chris and John he would have alarmed Jamie, who was very observant for his age and had picked up on the undercurrents of tension at the breakfast table the night after the fundraiser.

"Daddy, if JJ's not mad with you this morning, why is he cross with everyone else?"

"Jamie, you know how JJ reacts. He's just upset that I had a migraine but still went out to the thing."

"Oh," Jamie replied unconvinced as he stirred his Cherrios in his cereal bowl. Sam had been unable to face the doubtful blue eyes and buried his head in the newspaper.

Soon Jamie was inside the official car, it pulled away and Sam gave a sigh of relief. Jamie was safe, Mason, for the time being, was no threat so he could relax. As Sam climbed into his car and started to head towards the Washington Monument he found himself brushing away some tears that misted the road in front of him.

The Washington Monument - 4:25pm

Sam sat on the steps of the Lincoln memorial enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and the sense of anonymity as tourists and workers passed by. He politely took a photograph for a group of Japanese tourists and queued up with other tourists for ice cream. Unlike Josh who no longer carried money, the nature of Sam's business ensured he carried credit cards but no money. However Mark had slipped a few dollars in his friend's hand as he appreciated his need to escape the goldfish bowl life existence of living in the White House.

Now enjoying the warmth of the sun on his face Sam felt the stirrings of an inner peace he hadn't experienced for months. He'd come to the park often in his days of working for the Bartlett administration, mostly early in the mornings when he'd sat with a coffee and a bagel watching the joggers in the park. Sam frowned as he looked down towards the World War II memorial erected during the previous president's term of office. Not that Sam was opposed to memorials but it spoiled the magnificent view down to the Washington Monument. Sam remembered the images from Martin Luther King's `I have a Dream' Speech.

"Mr Seaborn?" Chris's voice interrupted Sam's thoughts and he gave a smile and glanced at his watch. "I thought you'd find me sooner than later."

"John is waiting down by the limousine, "But let's say I went the long way round so you could have a bit more time to yourself."

Sam looked regretfully at his ice cream.

"Couldn't I just finish my ice cream? Enjoy some sunshine? Look at this Chris," Sam waved his hand across the vista, "When do you have the time to appreciate this?"

"Mr Seaborn, I think I am causing enough attention people will start to recognise you and we don't know who may be lurking," Chris replied agitatedly.

"Chris, I queued up with tourists!" Sam retorted as he saw John advancing up the steps towards them his face dark with concealed anger.

Two business woman one, petite and red haired the other taller and fair haired in smart trouser suites stared and looks of recognition appeared on their faces. A buzz started around the monument.

"Vicki, that's the President's partner Sam Seaborn. God, he's better looking in the flesh."

"See!" Chris said triumphantly.

"Mr Seaborn!" John said in low but barely concealed angry tones, "Please come with us now."

Sam reluctantly got to his feet and gave the woman who stared at him a devastating smile. He started to walk back with Chris behind him and John in front. He turned and noticed that the woman was staring after him her lips slightly parted in surprise. He caught the words, "I thought he was in a relationship! Did you see the way he…"

Their voices faded away as Sam was propelled gently down the steps and towards the official car. As the door shut Sam glanced wistfully out of the window as the monument began to disappear.

"We've arranged for Mr Wyatt's car to be delivered to him," John said from the front of the car as Sam continued to stare out of the window at the busy Washington rush hour traffic.

"Sorry?" Sam broke out of his reverie.

"Mr Wyatt's car will be delivered to him," Chris gently explained.

"Okay, thank you."

Sam went back to staring out of the window his mind a jumble of thoughts and images that were circling round his brain. From now on he'd see the Washington Monument from the White House or out on official duties. He'd escaped once to California and found no peace there so what was he looking for? Jamie's kidnap, the shooting at his car and then Mason all proved Josh right, that he and Sam were the target for anyone who had a grievance with the Lyman administration. Sam rubbed his hands over his face; the events of the day and the previous evening were catching up on him. He knew he'd hurt Josh and the realisation was slowly drawing on him that perhaps a type of semi-detached existence from the White House was not possible. If he and his partner could reach a compromise, perhaps if he let Mark take first chair on the Williams case, handed over some of the responsibilities of the running of the firm to Mark, he and Josh could come to some arrangement and he could still have a role to play in the White House. It was this thought that kept Sam occupied as the car sped towards the White House.

_____________________________________________________________________

Three Weeks Later - The Mural Room

"So, is it Mr Seaborn who is doing a solo interview or is the President with him?" Sandy Reid enquired of a harassed looking Press Secretary who was known to be a bit of a klutz and was picking his way across the wires and cables to her.

"No," Alex replied as he made his way safely to the newly upholstered green satin sofa's where the interview would be conducted, "It's just the First Gentleman and yourself. Please though, Sandy…"

"Yes I know…"

"Well you mentioned it last time on the flight back from Maine and the President bawled me out about it."

"Yes, but Mr Seaborn's health is of interest to my viewers and there have been reports of hospital visits and tests."

"And," Alex replied as patiently as he could, "If I have any news to report it will be done through official channels."

"Okay," Sandy replied in softer tones, "I'll drop it, but I'm warning you Alex, there have been rumours about an incident at the Richardson fundraiser last month and then Mr Seaborn was spotted at the Washington Memorial."

Alex ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.

"I've…" he looked up gratefully as Julia poked her head around the door, "They're on their way?"

Julia nodded.

"Just leaving the residence now and Jamie's with them, he's going to be part of the interview."

"WHAT! Why the hell didn't Kelly say anything to me! Hang on there Sandy, I'll have her ass…" the usually mild mannered Alex muttered to himself as he headed towards the door without paying due care and attention to the cables. ___________________________________________________________

"Will you stop that!" Sam exclaimed as for the fourth time Josh stopped his partner in the hall way and smoothed the already creased free shirt and straightened the tie.

"What?"

"Fiddling with my tie!"

Josh laughed and pulled his partner into his arms. Sam was crisply dressed in a charcoal grey suite, pale blue shirt, and a darker shade of blue tie. Josh was dressed in a navy blue suite with a similar shirt and tie to his partner's.

"It's just that you're about to go and do this interview and...No you can't improve on perfection. But this is something big."

"Joshua, it's not like I've done these interviews before. But…" Sam leaned forward and kissed his partner, "This is the first time in ages the President's partner has been involved in the educational programme for disadvantaged children."

"I am gonna to be part of it," Jamie piped up in excitement hopping down on one foot. He was dressed in a smart pair of pants a jacket and a check shirt and his blue eyes bright with excitement.

"Can't think of a better helper, but we can hardly call you disadvantaged can we?" Josh smiled down at his adoptive son and ruffled his hair. "But this is your daddy's show Tiger, we are just going to film some family shots then your dad will do the interview. Hello Alex, what are you doing down there?"

Josh looked down in astonishment at his press secretary who had tripped over a cable wire and was sprawled over the floor with Sandy Ried trying not to laugh tripping over the wires in her high heels to help him up.

"Alex, I thought I was the klutzy one round here." Sam joked as he gave Alex a helping hand.

"Mr Seaborn," Alex smoothed down his suit, "We're ready for you. Can I ask what is this about Jamie and the President, if I'd known sooner I'd have been better prepared."

"Alex, I am sorry it was a last minute arrangement," Sam apologised. "Sandy's crew is just going to take some informal footage of the President with Jamie and me. After all, the theme of this interview is education and families. Then we'll discuss my whistle stop tour to visit schools in some of the major cities"

"Mr President, if we could take some shots in the Oval Office perhaps you at your desk with your family?"

"Okay, Jamie can you remember not to set off the panic button under my desk again and sit still when asked to?"

"Okay JJ," Jamie replied as he charged ahead of the group through Donna's room and into the Oval Office.

"He's still as energetic as ever Mr President."

Sandy commented whilst they waited for Sam to finish conferring with Alex.

"He is," Josh agreed as Sam crossed over to his partner and found a hand slipped into his and the group strolled towards the Office at a more leisurely pace. As they were about to enter the Office Josh stopped and turned to Sandy and Alex.

"Can you just give me a few minutes with my partner?"

"Yes sure," Alex said, "I'll just go into the Oval Office and check the equipment, make sure Jamie hasn't played with it."

Josh guided Sam outside on the patio and down a little way so they were hidden from prying eyes. For a moment neither spoke as Sam took Josh's hands in his and drew him closer.

"I needed that," Josh breathed after a moment kissing his partner's hands. "No words, just the way you look at me. Do you remember in November before the inauguration when we couldn't keep our hands off each other...ohhh more sweetheart!" Josh murmured in pleasure as Sam released a hand and ran it through his lover's hair.

"It's like that time darlin'" Sam agreed, "Sometimes all I can think about is you, our bed and rumpled sheets on a Sunday morning. No deadlines." Sam prized Josh's lips open and kissed him thoroughly.

"There!" Sam stood back and rubbed Josh's hand against his cheek. "You look more relaxed now. I know you're worried about me and you're bursting to say something but I am fine."

Josh laughed and shook himself out of the stupefied state he was reduced to when Sam was in one of his horny moods.

"You know me so well. But the lights from the TV cameras can be hot and if you feel uncomfortable let Sandy know and-"

"Joshua!"

"Say that again?" Josh begged as Sam took his hand and led him to the door of the Oval Office.

"What?" Sam stopped with his hand on the door to the Oval Office.

"My name. You put so much emotion just into my name…"

"God, are you gonna to be like this throughout the interview!" Sam muttered as he let Josh walk past him.

"All day," Josh replied with a smirk as he swaggered into the Oval Office and the cameras recorded a happy and relaxed First Family.

Handling Sam 2 - Part 7

Toby Ziegler's Office – The West Wing – 10.30pm

Toby looked up at the knock on the door. He thought most of the staff had gone home as it had been a quiet day. "Come in."

Josh opened the door and Toby immediately went to stand. "Sit down Toby, we're on our own. Why are you even still here?"

"Just catching up." Toby closed his legal pad. "Weren't you heading to the Residence sir?" He asked as Josh sat down. He pulled open his tie and undid his top button as he relaxed back in the chair.

"I was…I wanted to speak to you alone. Sam's gone to Jamie's parent teacher's association evening and I thought…" Josh's voice trailed off.

Toby sensing that Josh had something on his mind so he pulled out a bottle of scotch. "Care to join me?" Josh nodded and Toby poured them both a glass. "Ok what's on your mind?"

"You're going with Sam to Florida?" Toby nodded, "I just…he'll kill me if he knows I've done this…will you keep an eye on him? Just look out for signs of an episode, try and check he's taking his medication without him knowing you're doing it."

"Sir, Sam's an adult Sir." Toby pointed out even though he knew he would be keeping a close watch on his friend anyway.

"Yes I know but he's so focused on this education plan that he'll get involved and he'll forget. Just…for my peace of mind just keep an eye out for him." Josh's voice wavered.

"Sure."

"Oh yes one other thing" Josh's tone of voice brightened, "best keep him away from cheese too."

Toby almost spluttered his scotch in surprise. "Cheese!"

"Yes, cheese. It has...let's just say that Sam and cheese aren't getting on well at the moment."

"Well I knew he had an aversion to Big Block of Cheese Day but this is taking things a little too far."

Josh sat back down in the chair and picked up his unfinished scotch. "Well it all goes back to a couple of months ago when his episodes began. Hasn't he told you any thing about them? I know he's pretty close to you."

"He's told me the bare details but that's all. It's like he wants to hide it and forget about it." Toby sat back and cradled his glass in his hand. "Well if I am going to accompany him around Florida you better tell me every thing."

Josh settled back in the chair and began relating the events in Sam's office and the fundraiser as Toby's face grew more and more bemused.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hotel Suite - Florida

"Toby..." Sam said warningly as he read through his schedule for the day.

"All I'm saying is you've pushed yourself these past two days, maybe you could cut out one of the visits." Toby replied patiently.

"I'm fine." Sam told him determined to ignore the start of the headache he could feel. "We only one day left and I am not letting those attending the fundraiser down."

Toby sat down next to his long time friend and took the schedule from Sam's hand. He consulted his watch.

"Ok its 5:30 and you're due to be at the school at 7pm. It's a five minute journey to the centre from here, so you can lie down and close your eyes for an hour."

Sam opened his mouth to protest.

"Before you say any thing." Toby waded in "Just remember that I am even older than you and need my rest too. It's not like the days of the first Bartlet campaign where we could push our bodies to the limit and well, just about get away with it."

Toby closed the curtains and smiled as Sam lay down on the bed and curled him elf in to a protective ball.

"Well one thing I do know is Josh was right to send me along." Toby muttered as he moved softly over to the door "We haven't grown out of the brotherly instincts have we?"

There was no reply from Sam and Toby quietly shut the door behind him and went into the next-door suite. He pulled out his phone and dialled Donna.

"Hey Donna it's me. Is the President…Sir! You were by the phone…" Toby sat heavily on the bed and groaned inwardly "Where's Sam - he hasn't rung?" Toby took a deep breath "He's lying down…No…Mr President, calm down…Yes he's fine - we didn't get back from the reception till 2:30 am and he has a headache. His pills? No I haven't checked. Yes of course I will and I know he's gonna ring you tonight. Yes. Thank Mr President."

Toby sighed and shut the phone; this trip was proving a strain. On the one hand he had to deal with a nervous Sam with some sort of a heart condition, eager to prove himself to the American public and his partner, making last minute amendments or completely rewriting speeches in the car. Sitting up after two late night receptions making changes to the last important function they were due to attend at (will need to think of something here). Then there was his volatile partner watching his every move, mindful of his lover's health but at the same time wanting to please him and allowing him to promote the government's new educational package for disadvantaged children.

Toby stretched out on the bed and closed his eyes. Just five minutes he told himself as he let the blissful silence outside in the corridor wash over him.

6:50 pm

"Shit!" Sam exclaimed as he tore down the hotel lobby furiously trying to do up his bow tie with Chris, John and Toby trying to keep up with him. "I know I should not have persuaded you to let me have a nap." Sam stopped. "Look at me!"

Toby stepped forward and deftly tie Sam's bow tie then gently took him by the shoulders.

"Calm down." He instructed. "We'll be there on time. It's only five minutes to the centre."

Wild blue eyes stared back at the older grave expression of the Communications Director.

"Toby I…"

"Listen to me. You needed that sleep and so did I. Now we've prepared a real barnstormer of a speech to end this trip with."

Sam grinned back.

"We have haven't we?"

Toby nodded.

"It's been a long time little friend."

"I've never forgotten." Sam replied softly as he found himself gathered in a warm hug by Toby. "But am I still Robin?"

"You bet. But seriously Sam I've got you this far and by God I am gonna to deliver you back to Josh in one piece." Toby said as he followed Sam through the hallway and down towards the waiting official car.

"Have you taken your pills?" Toby asked as Sam disappeared in to the car.

"Yes." Sam replied emphatically grateful that for once he could tell the truth.

Old School Square Cultural Arts Centre - 8:45 PM

Sam sat down as the warm applause of school governors and teachers and representatives who had gathered to hear the President's partner speak on the need to develop a new approach to meeting the needs of disadvantaged children, resounded in the reception hall. He was amazed but gratified to see Toby stood up and joined in the enthusiastic applause for Sam's speech and both friends gave each other thumbs up

As Sam glanced at his speech to see if he'd delivered all the main arguments of the education policy he blinked as the words danced in front of his eyes. I am just tired it's been a long day and…Sam's thoughts stopped as he found himself mesmerised by the vibrant red of a passing woman's scarf. As a wine glass fell to the floor, Sam watched fascinated as it shattered in slow motion and the sound of smashed glass seemed to reverberate around the room. Please! Sam silently begged as he recognised the signs of an aura that usually preceded an episode, at least let me get outside.

"Feeling ok?" Toby leaned over to his friend noticing a slight increase in pallor in his friend's complexion.

"I've a headache coming on." Sam admitted as he closed his eyes. "Toby…"

"Can someone get Mr Seaborn a glass of cold iced water and some Advil?" Toby commanded as a waiter walked by.

"Yes sir." The waiter scurried away.

"Ok when you've taken the pills we're out of here we can both do with an early night."

"Toby!" Sam protested "There are plenty of people I've yet to meet." He glanced at his watch and blinked as the hands on the watch wavered. "It's only 8.50 I can't leave yet."

"Sam you worked the room on your arrival and Josh doesn't stay long after these types of functions so I don't see why the First Gentleman should."

Sam gave Toby a grateful smile and pushed back his chair.

"Look I am going outside to get some fresh air and before you say any thing Chris and John will be with me. By the time I am back hopefully the water will have arrived and I'll feel up to one more circuit of the room."

"Sure. You feel ok?"

"Yea. Just the beginnings of a headache, that's all. I took my pills this evening so there's no need to worry about me keeling over."

I hope not! Sam mused as he got to his feet grateful that the room didn't spin which usually followed a warning sign. He made his way off the podium and regretfully found himself caught up amongst a crowd of well-wishers and hangers-on eager to catch the attention of the First Gentleman.

Toby sat back in his chair and pulled out a cigar from inside his jacket pocket. He puffed contentedly as he reflected on the speech. Tonight he felt a nostalgic longing for the days of the Bartlet Campaign when he and his deputy had shared the odd cigar, not that he'd ever admit it to Sam. When Sam had resigned his Office in 2003 and moved to California he'd left a void which successive Deputies had been unable to fulfil and it was no surprise to him that when Sam moved back to Washington with Josh they slipped easily back into a big brother little brother relationship.

Toby watched as Sam networked with those who'd paid $300 to contribute towards funding for the Democratic Party. Josh was worrying too much he concluded; he'd notice Sam slump in his seat after the speech but as he scanned the crowd and saw his friend, Toby concluded that apart from a slight pallor Sam looked in control. The headache Sam complained of couldn't have been the effect of cheese; he'd steered Sam clear of the cheese platter. What was it with Sam and cheese? Toby mused as Josh's words temporally dispelled the chatter of the delegates in the centre.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "He's suffering from poor automotive control Toby."

"Yes I know that he told me that much but what this with him and cheese!"

Toby listened incredulously as Josh had explained that some triggers for vaso-vagal attacks were highly unusual. "So what am I looking for?" "Well I've only witnessed one attack but he gets a funny look on his face and turns pale."

"Funny look!" Toby exclaimed.

"Yea kinda glazed, far-away. Look Toby I know this sounds weird but he threw up in the bathroom. I went to stop Jamie from seeing him in such a state and when I went to check on Sam I found him out cold on the floor. It took a few moments for him to come round."

Toby looked up and suddenly it struck him that he couldn't see Sam - not that he was like a dog on a leash but he'd made a promise to Josh and there was a fragile air about Sam these days. He stubbed out his cigar in the ashtray and from his advantage point from the top table he scanned the reception room again. Chris and John hovered on the fringes so Toby reckoned that Sam must be in amongst the crowd and gave a sigh of relief as he saw Sam deep in conversation with a tall distinguished gentleman. A closer look at Sam's pallid features sent him hurrying down from the platform.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amongst the crowd the smell of cigarette smoke, combined with alcohol and cloying aftershave and perfume had shifted the beginnings of Sam's headache into a higher gear.

"Yes I will pass on your good wishes to the President." Sam reassured John Peters the co-ordinator of the evening's event. "Excuse me but I must just step outside a moment and…"

"Mr Seaborn!"

Sam kept a fixed smile on his face as an overweight man, his black jacket straining over a large stomach, bore down on him.

"Excellent speech."

"Thank you. You are?" Sam enquired politely, as he found himself backed up against the wall - the smell of beer on the breath on the senator making him feel queasy.

"Alan Connor. I've paid over a thousand bucks to the Democratic campaign and I just want to let you know…Ah, I was afraid I'd missed the coffee and biscuits thank you."

Sam noticed that a waiter handed Mr Connor a plate of cheese and biscuits. Toby had discreetly spoken with the hotel and informed the catering manager that Sam had an allergy to cheese. Now, to Sam's dismay a large piece of cheddar cheese was waved in front of his nose. He took a deep breath and tried to back away from the smell but the senator kept in front of Sam and blocked his path.

"Why is it I attract the most obnoxious of the Democrats?" Sam thought as he took deep breaths and tried to listen politely to the gentleman, but the aroma of cheese and its association with recent events intensified the feelings of queasiness.

"Are you listening Mr Seaborn?" Mr O'Connor demanded, waving a piece of cheese in Sam's face for emphasis...

"Yes but do you mind if…." Sam felt his stomach heave and his eyelids fluttered as red spots blurred his vision.

"Oh no I am not letting you go!" came the terse response "I go to a lot of these functions and I find that as soon as I try to speak to the big wigs they disappear at the first opportunity."

."Mr Connor…" Sam began in a voice that was so weak it could be hardly be heard against the babble of the crowd. He froze in mid sentence as his vision started to blur and he broke into a cold sweat as the familiar sensation of flight or fright swept over him leaving him rooted to the ground.

"Mr Connor." Toby's firm voice broke into Sam's fear and panic and he felt a firm hand on his arm steadying his rubbery legs. "You will excuse me if I take Mr Seaborn away for a few moments."

"Mr Ziegler I really protest! I've paid out a 4000 thousand dollars and…"

"And Mr Seaborn is nearly dead on his feet with exhaustion. He's been up for three nights with very little sleep and now if you'll excuse us." Toby could barely conceal his irritation with Connor as he pushed the protesting gentleman to one side.

"That's not my concern!" Mr Connor protested.

Toby aware that Sam was swaying to side to side like a dislodged pin ball in a bowling alley, kept a tighter grip on his friend's arm.

"Do you think you can stay on your feet for a minute with out falling down?" Toby enquired gruffly alarmed at the dazed expression in Sam's eyes that Josh had described. "I'll go and get you a chair and there must be a doctor who…"

"Blurggh" was the answer from Sam as he lurched forward and promptly deposited his meal over Toby's tux and highly polished black shoes. Both men looked at each other, Toby tried unsuccessfully to hide his usual air of exasperation but a look of sympathy won the day at Sam's ghostly pale complexion and he stepped back from the mess on the floor.

"Well if this is what we can expect from the President's boyfriend. Can't hold his drink and is falling all over the place!" Connor exploded.

The whole reception room went deathly quiet and every one turned round in surprise and shock.

"Mr Connor may I remind you who you are talking to and to treat Mr Seaborn with respect." Toby held on to Sam's arms tightly as he lurched forward. "Ok let's get you outside. Is there a doctor here?" Toby's voice rose higher in his agitation.

"I need some air….lie…down." Sam heard his voice distant above a high-pitched ringing in his ears, his legs buckling as his need to lie down became more urgent.

"Sam just hang on in there just for a moment! Chris, can you help me with Mr Seaborn?" Toby looked up at Chris and John who had finally made their way through the guests. "Sorry - about to pass…" Sam's voice trailed off as he found himself making feeble movements to push Toby to one side so he could get some air. But now the familiar sensation of being sucked in to the grey swirling vortex overwhelmed Sam and the faces of the concerned guests faded into blackness. The whole room watched in horror as the First Gentleman stumbled. As he crumpled towards the floor he was deftly caught by his agent Chris who helped break his fall. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Sam made weak movements to regain consciousness, he heard fragments of muted but heated instructions. "Loosen his tie!"

"What do you think I'm doing…?"

"Any one called an ambulance…think he's stirring!"

Sam forced his eyes open to see all the blurred and unreal faces that stared down at him. He moved his head to the side looking for Toby but instead found himself staring in to the calm face of a pretty redhead with a pointed face and compassionate blue/green eyes.

"His pulse is a little thready and he's somewhat clammy but he's breathing and starting to come out of it. Shall we give Mr Seaborn some privacy?" The warm but commanding tones of a British accent seemed less distant to Sam's ears.

Sam, in his humiliation and panic at the fact that he had collapsed in the middle of an official function, kept his gaze on her face as the redhead took his pulse and the people that stared down at him shuffled away to far corners of the reception hall.

"There that's better isn't it?" the woman said soothingly "Don't want people gawking at you. They all mean well but I'm sure you'd like some peace and quiet."

"To...b…y?" He managed to form the words, which came out as a whisper.

"It's OK Mr Seaborn. Mr Ziegler…. Ah you're here." The lady broke off as two male paramedics knelt down on either side of Sam. "Mr Seaborn fainted about five minutes ago. My name is Dr Alison Carter and…"

Sam feeling less of an exhibit in an art gallery allowed the voices of the paramedics and the doctor to fade away as he floated into the grey mist that hovered around him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Following Day 11 PM

"Move over sweetheart," Josh whispered in his partner's ear as he climbed in to their bed in the Residence.

Sam grumbled and shifted from a sprawl that took most of the bed to his side as Josh crawled in beside him and they fell in to their usual sleeping position, arms wrapped around each other.

"You've woken me up. I'd just nodded off then." Sam replied indignantly.

"Sorry sweetheart, but you were taking up rather a lot of the bed." Josh apologised. "Didn't you get any sleep when you got back? I left Donna strict instructions that you were not to be disturbed."

"Try telling Jamie that." Sam replied extracting himself and sitting up against the headboard. "No it's no good I can't sleep now."

Josh leaned over to his bedside cabinet and turned on his lamp, which cast a soft glow on his partner's tired pale features.

"Now I've woken you up and it's not like you've had much sleep recently what with the Japanese Trade delegation here."

"No I got some shut eye yesterday afternoon - we had a free hour before the reception and Donna frog marched me up here." Josh positioned himself so that he was at a level with his lover. "Isn't it funny how we both had someone looking after us yesterday?"

"It is." Sam agreed. "Toby was quite enjoying himself." Sam laughed. "I think deep down he loved the opportunity to boss me around again."

Sam pulled Josh towards him and kissed his partner's forehead. He looked down tenderly as Josh's head was nodding down towards his chest.

"Darlin', you're half asleep!" Sam helped get Josh on to his side and leaned over him and turned the lamp out.

"No…" Josh stirred and tried to sit up again as Sam pushed him down. "Should get sedative…for…you..."

"It's ok. I'll just lie here read a bit." Sam soothed "Josh?"

No response except snoring came from his partner. Sam smiled kissed his partner's cheek, which brought more stirrings and mumblings. Sam climbed out of bed and took his dressing gown from the hook on the door. He padded softly out in to the corridor with a smile at the secret service agent on guard and made his way to the study.

Sam sat down at the antique desk and opened his briefcase and from a pocket took out a small embossed card. He took the card and went over to the leather sofa which had been in their Washington Town House. He settled himself down, pulled his dressing gown around him, and stared down at the card thoughtfully as he recalled the previous night's events.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Thank you. I can't thank you enough for not sending me to hospital."

Sam emerged from behind a screen in the sick room of the centre leaving his bow tie dangling around his neck. "The fuss every one was making." He gave a shudder.

Dr Carter, who was smartly dressed in a black silk cotton cocktail dress smiled warmly at him and watched as Sam finishing doing up the buttons on his shirt. Noticing that his hands fumbled as he tried to do up his shirt she began to help him. Now that everything was in focus Sam noticed that she had shoulder length bobbed hair and he found himself almost hypnotised by expressive sea green eyes.

"Well sometimes there's no need to make a big deal out of it" Dr Carter replied in gentle but matter of fact tones." You fainted and made a full recovery within five minutes, so there was nothing to worry about. Your blood pressure was a little low but the paramedics gave you the all clear."

"I still can't thank you enough. You were so calm and efficient the way you got every one to go away. It can be…."

"Humiliating?" Dr Carter laughed. "Yes it can be. People are worried but also seem so condescending."

"The last thing I want is to be treated like an exhibit in an art gallery, its bad enough living in the White House – sometimes it's like living in a gold fish bowl." Sam finished tying up his shoelaces and flopped down in a chair with a sigh. "God I am so wiped out and I've got to go out back there."

"It's ok." Dr Carter reassured him as she down beside him. "Most of the guests have gone and you don't have to go just yet if you don't feel up to it."

"I've gotta go. Toby's waiting outside and am I sure he will have rung my family by now."

Sam looked down in surprise at an alabaster hand on his arm.

"Before you go, may I be forward and ask are you what I would call a frequent fainter?"

"I've had my moments." Sam replied testily and stood up.

"I am sorry perhaps I should mind my own business. But your face as you came round was one of sheer panic, and I can help you. Wait there."

Dr Carter almost sashayed across the room to her sparkling evening bag and pulled out a card. She gave it to Sam.

"Look if you want to talk to someone about your experiences I trained in medicine but I am also a doctor of psychology."

"I really don't think…" Sam began in irritation as his head throbbed and the thought of bed, even a hotel one, was inviting. He shook hands with Dr Carter and found somehow that his hand lingered in hers and it was difficult to walk away from her compassionate gaze.

"Ok I'll promise I'll think about it." Sam relented as he left the medical room at the centre he found himself turning back and giving her a friendly smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sound of the ancient central heating gurgling broke into Sam's thoughts and he glanced at the small desk clock which read midnight. Still awake, Sam went back to his desk and took a report from his briefcase and began to read. A gentle shaking of his shoulder, the blurry face of Josh and the fact he was in a suit made Sam blink in surprise.

"How long have I…?" He wiped the sleep out of his eyes and tried to focus.

"Sweetheart you've been asleep here and it's 6:30 am. I've got a staff meeting at seven." Josh replied gently as he helped Sam to his feet and slipped an arm around his waist. He led Sam back into their bedroom. "Where do you think you're going?" Josh protested as his lover plodded towards the bathroom.

"Have a bath gotta get…" Sam let out a huge yawn. "Jamie up."

"No it's only 6:30 am and you're going back to bed. You arrived home yesterday a pale wreck and I don't call sprawled across the desk proper sleep." Josh replied as he led his partner back to bed.

"Too tired to argue…love you." Sam mumbled as he let his partner help him off with his dressing gown and tuck him in. "Need to tell you what….hap...in...Florida."

"Toby filled me in sweetheart and I am so proud of you."

Josh kissed his partner's forehead and sat down beside his lover.

"You are?" Came a sleepy voice "Despite the thing?"

"Just makes me even prouder." Josh replied smugly.

"Shouldn't you…staff…meeting?" Sam tried again.

"I am not leaving till you're asleep. As soon as you sleep I can go down stairs. Donna will get Jamie up and see he has breakfast."

Josh smiled as there was no reply. Sam looked at his most vulnerable when he was asleep; the lines around his face were smoothed out and he looked young like the boy/man he'd met in their early days in the hill. No wonder he was a protective, possessive and sometimes jealous partner; at times like this he wanted to just be Sam's lover and not the President who only saw his partner when he could squeeze in a few minutes between meetings.

Josh tiptoed out of the room and left strict instructions with the staff in the Residence not to wake his lover. He then put on his public face, adopting a slightly arrogant swagger and confident expression as he strode towards the Oval Office.

Handling Sam 2. Pt 8 – The Next Day. "God what am I doing here?" Sam thought as he climbed out of his unmarked car and Chris and John surveyed the surrounding streets of elegant townhouses in Georgetown.

"Mr Seaborn." Alison Carter, dressed in a brown cashmere jumper and brown suede pants and boots, glided out of her red front door and down the steps to greet her guest.

"Call me Sam."

"Ok." She took his arm and Sam found himself enveloped in her cool crisp scent as guided him towards the house. "Let's get you in before the curtains next door start twitching."

Sam laughed and followed her in to a cool marble hallway with raspberry coloured walls with an elegantly curved banister leading to the upper floors. The light from a large stained glass window from the first run of the stairwell flooded the hallway.

"Normally I'd use my office," Alison said as she opened an oak door into a formal sitting room, "but for special guests this is my favourite room."

Sam looked around in awe at the old wooden oak floorboards; a large pastel rug with a huge cream sofa matching chairs placed either side of a huge antique fire place. A selection of antique furniture and prints on cream walls created an air of elegance.

"I'll just get your secret service agents settled in the den. There's a TV in there and I've left coffee and sandwiches for them. Is that ok?"

"I am sure it is? Isn't it guys?"

Chris and John nodded as Alison ushered them out of the formal living room.

"Let me show you the way…"

Alison's voice faded as the door closed behind her and Sam found himself wandering around the room. He peeked in through a set of open doors at a dining room with panels of discrete floral wall paper and white French antique furniture. A small chandelier hung over the table.

"Not my husband's favourite room. It's too floral for his taste." Alison explained as she entered the room. "As it's an unusually warm day shall we have lunch out side?"

"Sure. I'd like that." Sam eye fell on a picture of a distinguished man in his late fifties in a silver frame on a small table by the doors to the patio. "Is that your husband?"

"Yes. I met Richard in 1995 when I came to visit friends in Chicago. He's a consultant at Chicago Hope and I completed my medical training there. Now…" Alison stepped out on the patio "you go and sit down and I'll bring lunch out."

"There's no need…" Sam found himself being gently pushed into a padded chair. s "I can help you." He tried to stand up but Alison pushed firmly at his shoulder.

"No sit there. You still look exhausted." Alison's nonsense tones allowed Sam to sink in to the softness of the seat. "I rang the White House to find out what you like to eat; is cold turkey and salad ok?"

Before Sam could reply his hostess hurried towards the dining room and in a few moments returned with turkey salad and home-made lemonade served in elegant china and crystal cut glasses.

"There!" She announced. "Now enjoy lunch then we can talk about what happened in Florida."

Sam allowed himself to relax, enjoy the lunch and enjoy the warmth of the sun on his face, as he and his hostess indulged in general conversation about the weather, their families and touched on the educational issues Sam had raised in his speech.

_____________________________________________________________________

"You know." Sam commentated after they'd finished lunch "Your house is similar to the one the President and I shared before the inauguration."

"I saw pictures of in various magazines and I saw you being interviewed there. It looked like a lovely family home."

Sam nodded.

"It was." He said wistfully as he looked appreciatively at Dr Carter's manicured lawn with curved flower beds and another sunken patio at the end with a barbecue. "We had a slightly larger garden than yours to allow room for Jamie to play. He still has so much energy. Sam sighed "I don't know where he gets it from. I `m kinda well…these spells leave me wiped out."

"You looked pretty drained before the speech at the reception." Alison commented and leaned forward and touched his arm. "Look we've skirted around the subject of Florida, but I can help you if you want me to."

Sam frowned.

"I am not sure how. I've spoken to my doctor who has run all sorts of tests."

"Yes. But your doctor discusses your medical symptoms but has any one ever sat down and talked about how you feel emotionally?"

"I spoke to Suzi my secretary once, after I had an episode in my office but that was interrupted by a call from Josh."

"Have you ever discussed it with the President?"

Sam gave a rueful laugh.

"When we can find time to fit it in to our busy schedules! If we see each other it's usually over a hurried breakfast in the morning and in the evening when he's stretched out on the bed asleep over briefing papers."

"Well?" Alison glanced at her Cartier watch. "I don't know how much time you have to spare…"

"It's ok." Sam reassured her. "I just don't know where to start."

"Easy. Just tell me about your episodes when they started and how you feel emotionally after them."

Sam found him self drawn in to the compassionate gaze of her sea green eyes and gave a smile.

"What is about you?" He said in puzzled tones "I am gonna be telling you feelings I haven't told my mom about." Sam laughed. "I sounded about fifteen there didn't I?"

"Sam, we all need to open up to someone sometimes and you'll find that can be to some one you aren't involved with emotionally. . Now…" She poured out another glass of lemonade for Sam "no more procrastination, tell me every thing."

"Your garden…"

"Sam." Alison warned.

"No your garden; I said it was similar to our house in Washington. Jamie had a play house and Toby Ziegler helped me build it. It was a hot day like today and Josh nagged me not to work in the heat and I cut my self." Sam paused.

"Go on." Alison urged leaning forward in her seat.

"It wasn't the first time I'd ever collapsed, but I remember my feelings so vividly. One moment I was staring at the blood gushing from my hand, then every thing went black and I found my self on the grass with my head on Josh's lap."

"How did you feel?"

"That's the funny thing. I felt kinda light-headed but peaceful, and that's the last time I ever did. Since then my recent episodes have been stressful."

"When did you experience these feelings?"

Sam drained the rest of his lemonade and his face darkened.

"Two years ago when Jamie was kidnapped, the events are etched on my memory."

"I saw your TV interview." Alison sympathised "You and the President looked ill. I can't begin to imagine what you went through."

"I passed out the morning after the news. After a night of not sleeping and being in shock I took a tumble. Came round to find a doctor standing over me and Josh in full panic mode. All I wanted to do was fade away but at the same time I knew that I had to stay awake for Jamie."

There was silence for a few moments as Alison stood up and Chris and John watching the events from the window mouths dropped in surprise as she took a trembling First Gentleman in her arms and rocked him back and forwards.

"There. It's ok." She soothed. "I bet this is the first time you've ever spoken of your feelings to any one?"

Sam shook his head.

"No, on Josh's insistence I saw a counsellor but I admit I was pretty defensive at the time."

"Right," Alison helped Sam to his feet. "I think you need a strong cup of coffee - you barely touched your second lemonade. I think I see where I can help you. But…" Alison shivered "It's getting cold. Let's finish the discussion inside."

Sam found himself helped to his feet and allowed her to take his arm.

"I am usually not this helpless. I am…"

Alison stooped just before the patio doors.

"You're on the brink of exhaustion. Come…" She took his arm "When did you last have a break?"

"Can't remember." Sam mumbled.

"Well you need to think about having one and soon. But come inside and we'll talk some more."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ten minutes later over the aroma of strong aromatic coffee and some fancy looking biscuits Sam finished explaining his recent fainting spells.

"So you see there are two types of episodes. One's where I get these auras and go in to a deep faint. When I am out cold I'm weightless and floating in this cocoon of a kaleidoscope of colours - it's very peaceful. It takes some one shaking me to come round and I am wiped out for days."

"Do you have a headache after those?" Alison asked as she elegantly bit on a wafer biscuit.

"Yes on the two occasions they've happened, once in n Florida and once in my office. My doctor was concerned that auras might be a warning of epilepsy but nothing came out of the EKG test I had."

"Auras can be signals of migraines and some people who have migraines faint on occasions so you could be experiencing the same problems there."

Sam nodded.

"It was strange though as in the past when I'd passed out after a minute or two afterwards I'd wake up refreshed. One occasion in Oregon on the campaign trail Josh was doing a speech I was standing at the back of the hall as I'd been canvassing in a shopping mall and arrived late. I'd done something I never usually do and skipped breakfast. When I arrived at the centre there were no seats. Not that usually a problem but on that occasion I suddenly felt hot and bothered and knew if I could lie down and faint every thing would be ok."

"What did you do?"

"My main concern was not to let any one see me. So I excused my self, managed to slip outside and find a quite spot in the corridor. I slid down a wall and passed out on the floor. No body saw me no one knew what happened, I woke up felt better and returned to the speech."

"No body guessed?"

Sam shook his head.

"Josh had just finished, asked me if I'd just arrived. I could truthfully say yes. He squeezed my hand as we don't kiss in public, said that I looked pale and before I could answer he was called away and went with out so much as a backwards glance at me."

"Hmm." Alison poured another cup of coffee from a solid silver pot and handed it to Sam. "From the way your hands are shaking that episode is more of a big deal then you thought but I don't think it is about the fainting - it's about your relationship with the President."

"That's not up for discussion." Sam snapped as he went to stand up. "You've been very kind but…"

Alison stood up took his arm.

"Sam. Sit down. You're wound up like a coiled spring. I am not going to even consider asking about your relationship with the President."

"The President and I are very happy."

"I know you are." Alison replied. "I saw him interviewed about your trip to Florida and his eyes lit up. There are areas though I think you want to explore but are afraid to, but it's time to put these episodes into perspective. I notice you wince at the word faint."

Sam raised his eyes in awe.

"You see through every one don't you?"

Alison laughed.

"I am a counsellor, Sam. I am trained to look in shades of grey but let's move on as you Americans say. But first of all can I just say that you look constricted, your tie looks as if it's strangling you so..." she leant forward and before Sam could protest undid his tie. "Now that's better isn't it? Sit further back in the sofa and I'll just pop this cushion behind you."

Sam found himself drawn in to the enigmatic gaze of Dr Carter and stared at her in wonder.

"Normally if Josh does that I accuse him of hovering. With you its well like mothering and my mom is a no-nonsense…I'm telling you more about my self than I should and I…"

"Sam just sit back and relax." Alison announced firmly "Let's focus on your episodes and see if we can look at your problem from a different angle."

"I can't see how." Sam replied defensively.

"You've said it your self a few moments ago for the First Gentleman to faint on more than one occasion in public is not good for your public image or your self esteem. But unfortunately from what you told me you have low blood pressure which gives you a greater tendency towards fainting spells. But I like to think of it in another way - you're a swooner."

Sam nearly spluttered his coffee over the table. Alison laughed and took the cup from him and they looked at each other and started laughing.

"There that's lightened up things a bit." Alison said as she handed Sam a fresh cup of coffee. "You have to look at what has happened as a natural occurrence.. Some people are sensitive to periods of heat, lack of food, standing too long and the nervous system can't cope so it shuts down."

"Yes." Sam began patiently. "But it's embarrassing!"

"It was mildly so before you became First Gentleman and I can understand why, especially with the Mason incident…" Alison crossed over to join Sam on the sofa and gazed earnestly at him. "But at the moment if you continually stress about these episodes they'll increase."

"Why?"

"At the moment your nervous system has become conditioned to shutting down at the slightest incident. If you learn to treat these incidents as an inconvience but something you have to live with then you'll find the episodes will become fewer."

"That did happen for a while." Sam agreed "But after the Mason incident I kinda of got paranoid about them again."

"You see what I'd mean? You started to accept your situation then because of one unfortunate incident you're back to square one."

"So I need to reassess the thing again." Sam said slowly in realisation of what Alison said. "Peter, my doctor, did suggest that if the spells persisted I could have a pacemaker but as there is nothing wrong with my heart he's reluctant."

"Well, try this then. If you're in a situation where you have a tendency to faint with you it's normally sight of blood and lack of food or beginnings of a migraine, stress..."

"Normally yes." Sam agreed.

"Well in those situations think well I' m feeling a light-headed, I might faint, but I am not going to make a big deal about. The feeling might go away or if the faintness creeps up on you as you've just explained there's no way except to lie down."

"People though, the fuss, staring at me helpless." Sam responded miserably. "It's what we discussed after I passed out."

"Sam," Alison said gently "I am afraid you'll have to except that it happens to every one who faints no matter or what they are. Most fainters admit it is very embarrassing but learn to live with it."

Alison patted Sam's knee at the woebegone expression on his face.

"There's no need to be embarrassed, Sam. I said you're a swooner and they are usually be caught by someone or are able to look dignified in the act. This makes the event more graceful than a faint, which can be clumsy; fainters usually knock something over in their fall. You did a classic swoon in Florida and the women lapped it up."

Sam blushed scarlet and gave a bashful smile.

"The way you went down half the teachers wanted to sign you up for amateur dramatics, and women fought to fan you with table napkins. I heard one woman say how charming it was.

Sam's lips twitched in amusement.

"There I've least made you smile. You can always guarantee that if you pass out you will have the undivided attention of women and you've admitted enjoying the administrations of women after you've collapsed."

"I am not always so graceful in other matters. I can be a real klutz." Sam mused.

"Really?" Alison arched an eyebrow in surprise "To be serious for a moment, all you need to do is tell someone you feel unwell and your status as First Gentleman will get you priority treatment."

"I hate that title." Sam said emphatically. "But I see your point." He arched his head on one side in consideration. What can I do about cheese and my reaction?"

Alison frowned in consideration.

"I think again in your emotional stress your brain has become conditioned to associating cheese with feelings of faintness, simply because when you had your first aura the heightened smell was cheese. We need to condition you that every time you smell cheese your not going to pass out."

"Ok." Sam stood up "If you want to ring Suzi and she'll arrange another appointment." He suddenly gave a special smile "It's funny I feel light-headed but in a pleasant sort of way."

"That's the relief of talking to someone about how you feel." Alison affirmed as she comfortably took his arm and guided him to the door and in to the hall way. "I could see after you recovered at the fundraiser that you desperately needed to talk to someone. It just happened to me. I'll just go and get your agents."

"I am glad it was." Sam replied sincerely as he watched her climb the stairs.

As they walked out and towards Sam's car he stopped in thought.

"What about my occasional auras before I faint…" Sam gave a wide smile. "There I said the word. How would you explain those?"

"Let's get you inside your car. The curtains next door are twitching and my neighbours will be dining off your visit for weeks. Besides your agents are getting nervous."

Sam climbed in the limousine and opened the window.

"Well I think they are warning signs of a migraine; I did a lot of research before your visit about fainting and triggers and an aura or fainting can precede a migraine. So you may not experience them very often."

Sam climbed out of the car and kissed Alison warmly on the cheek and whispered a heartfelt thank you and received a warm hug in return. She stood and watched as Sam got back in the limousine and it purred away. As she turned to go inside her next door neighbour, a tall thin woman in her forties, shot out of her front door almost breathless with excitement.

"Was that the First Gentleman? God Alison you're a dark house entertaining the President's partner and not inviting me!" The indignant neighbour babbled. "I'd kill to have him on my guest list. Wait till I tell Andrew."

"Joan, the First Gentleman's visit is in a strictly private capacity and if the details of his visit are leaked, Richard and I will see to it there are very few guests on your list."

"Alison I didn't mean to I…"

"No Joan I am sure you didn't so let's leave it there shall we?"

Alison swept up the driveway and closed the door and walked back in the living room where the smell of coffee and the distinctive smell of Sam's aftershave mingled in the air. She sat mulling over the events and smiled in pleasure not at the social cache of having the First Gentleman in her house but enjoying the company of someone she'd admired from afar.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two Weeks Later.

Alison Carter finished pouring out her morning cup of coffee and spread some honey on her toast. As she turned her attention to the pile of post and she barely heard her husband announce he was going to take a shower as she opened a parcel with a White House franking stamp on it. In side wrapped in tissue paper was a small leather bound book tied with a blue ribbon and a white envelope with her name in Sam's elegant handwriting. "It was Peter's birthday the other day and I went shopping for a Victorian Medical book. I also found this and it's an appropriate way of thanking you for putting every thing in to perspective for me. Turn to page 27. Warmest regards. S Seaborn. Alison turned her attention to the book a faded slim leather bound book entitled. Mrs Hodgkin's a Guide to Her Daughter on Social Etiquette 1859, after Alison read the introduction from Mrs Hodgkin's that the advice given was not always available in some of published books on etiquette; she turned to page 27 and smiled as he read the title. "Proper Conduct During a Swoon."

"It is quite fashionable to faint in public these days and indeed young ladies of 15 to 20 frequently swoon. Moreover young ladies are secretly not a little proud of the number of times they faint and many houses or hotels have fainting room's or couches where they can recover in privacy. A lady is never taken by surprise or unprepared so if you feel faint in public, the art is to demonstrate your distress as elegantly as possible. Gracefully cross your left leg over the other, wipe the back of your left hand across your forehead in a theatrical way, while bending your right leg to the ground and smoothly letting your body follow to the floor with your arm slowly following after. This will take a little practice but it is customary for young ladies to practice their swoon so they are prepared for the eventually. Your obvious distress will indicate the need guide for a gentleman to assist you to a couch or to be revived with smelling salts you should always carry for such eventualities."

A piece of white house note paper fluttered to the ground and Alison smiled at what was written "this page had Josh and I laughing especially the chapter entitled Wifely Duties. S."

As she went to slip the notes back in the envelope she noticed a stiff white card and as she pulled it out an invitation for her and Richard to attend a state dinner for the Prime Minister of Australia landed on her lap.

"Wow!" Alison looked up as her husband bent over and kissed her forehead. "It seems you made quite an impression on the First Gentleman. What did you talk about?"

"Darling you know I can't talk about my consultations but let's just say there might be a few more of these."

"Really? Well I've gotta dash. Don't forget Richardson's tonight 8pm."

A quick peck on the cheek and as the door slammed Alison found her self drifting towards the formal sitting room with the book clasped to her chest. This is ridiculous she told her self as she drifted around the room fiddling with ornaments, her gaze drawn constantly to where Sam had sat. I am 41 not 14 she told herself as she reluctantly picked up a pink petal on the floor which was all that remained from a large bouquet of pink roses she'd received after Sam's visit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Residence- The Next Day.

"Sweetheart have you seen my briefing on the trade deficit?" Josh grumbled as he tore around the private dining room, his tie dangling, hair sticking up at all ends.

Sam looked up and handed a blue folder to him.

"Here it is. It's an interesting situation and I…"

"Why would you be interested in reading it?" Josh exclaimed snatching it from Sam's hand.

"Joshua, since when have I been precluded from reading your briefing memos? Jesus I worked for President Bartlet for…" Sam was silenced with a kiss and a gentle ruffle of the hair.

"Yes well…if I remember it was eliminating the penny at one stage. I don't have time for one of your rants." Josh replied absentmindly as he did up his tie. "You have enough to do with the educational programme. Now I have go and run the country."

Before Sam could reply Josh was gone, swept up in a flurry of staff that hovered by the doorway. Hurt and boiling with anger Sam turned his attention to a thank you letter from Dr Carter in sloping elegant handwriting on expensive white paper with a hint of her crisp scent.

He'd sent an invitation to the reception and had decided to tell her there that his visits should end. There was something very dangerous about that enigmatic stare and the tranquillity of her house where he felt cocooned from the pressures of his public life. Later on, sitting in his claustrophobic office in the East Wing, wounded by Josh's treatment it came as no surprise that he heard himself ask Suzi to ring and make an appointment with Alison.

HS 2 Pt 9

Dr Carter's House – Georgetown.

"It's good of you to see me," Sam said as he allowed Alison Carter to help him off with his grey raincoat.

"I had a cancelled appointment," Alison admitted.

It was on the tip of her tongue to say that she would have cancelled an appointment to see Sam but the cool professional side of her was in control. She was wearing a woven matte jersey fluted skirt and matching peaked lapel jacket in a soft camel colour with a hint of a deep chocolate vest and string of pearls and pearl stud earrings. Sam gave her an appraising glance.

"You look really elegant in that outfit – that colour really suits you. It brings out the colour of your eyes."

"Thank you," Alison replied with just a slight blush. "I wish it wasn't raining as we could sit out side…Sam…" she said softly as she noticed the First Gentleman closing his eyes and trying to steady himself. "Are you ok?"

"He's…I…" Sam's chest heaved and he felt his chest tightening as the hallway and Dr Carter's started to shrink in front of him. "He doesn't mean it but…feel sick."

"Sam, you're not making any sense," Alison replied calmly, taking Sam's arm and leading him in to her formal sitting room. She deposited him on the sofa and Sam slumped in a miserable heap his head in his hands.

"Ok," Alison knelt down in front of him and laid her hand on his forehead and tutted. "You're clammy and I bet you have the beginnings of a migraine?"

"Yes," Sam murmured. "Shouldn't be here." He founded himself staring in to Alison's compassionate gaze and his heart lurched. "Knew you'd understand."

"Whether you should or shouldn't be here is immaterial - you're here now. So let me look after you," Alison replied briskly getting to her feet. "Lie down whilst I make you something that I know will stop you from feeling sick." She gave him an affectionate smile that sent Sam's heart reeling again. "And we'll banish that migraine of yours."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"What is that?" Sam asked as a few moments later Alison handed him a cup of hot green water in a china mug with painted flowers around the rim.

"Peppermint tea - it's very good for an upset stomach and it's got feverfew leaves in it. Feverfew is an herb used for migraines," Alison said as she turned to a tray with a linen cloth. "Let it cool for a moment and lie back."

"Yes mom." Sam muttered as he felt something cool being pressed on his forehead as the familiar crisp fragrance of her perfume wafted over him.

"There. Lie still." Alison soothed finding her fingers wiping some strands of hair from Sam's forehead. "Keep it on your head for a few moments whilst I'll fix you a sandwich and see to your agents."

Later after the tea was drunk, the sandwiches had been eaten and they'd skirted round the reason for Sam's visit, Alison crossed over to sit down beside him, took the cooling mug from his hands and laid it on the coffee table.

"Now once again you've done a good job of pretending you're fine when it's plain to see that your any thing but."

Sam stared into the mesmerizing gaze of her sea green eyes and found his throat was almost dry with a sensual feeling of dizziness.

"Sam." A gentle whisper, a glimpse of creamy skin and a hint of cleavage that Sam found himself thinking it would be nice to be held against. Not the masculine hardness of Josh but a more comforting feeling from his past of the softness of a woman who… "Sam are you ok?" Alison's voice broke into his swimming senses.

"Huh?"

Alison took his hand.

"You were off somewhere in your own private world."

Sam found squeezing her hand and admiring the long tapered hands finished with finger nails neatly shaped and expertly manicured in red nail polish.

"It's a worn out theme…you don't want to hear it." Sam replied finding his voice.

"Sam you trust me don't you?"

Sam nodded and went to release his hand, his blue eyes widening in surprise as Alison kept hold of it.

"Ok you know I am under an oath of patent confidentiality; as I said before you don't have to tell me every thing …but if you want to, to use the words of a famous TV shrink "I am listening."

"He…he emasculates me." Sam gave a sigh of relief that the thoughts he'd kept bottled inside were out in the open.

"What?"

"He loves me but suffocates me at the same time because he's paranoid about my safety. So he restricts my movements and it's like we get stuck in a groove with arguing and can't change the record. It's little things mostly - thoughtless words or actions, and this morning was one of those times."

"He being the President?" Alison coaxed gently squeezing his hand as Sam stared blankly into space.

"Yes, he made reference to my past which I was professionally at my lowest," Sam replied woefully. "I should be used to it by now…but…"

"But they mount up don't they? Words unintentional but wounding all the same till you get to thinking what's the point."

"Yes they do." Sam admitted and allowed himself to relax under the soothing balm of the sympathetic gaze as he found himself charting the complexities of his relationship with Josh. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Oval Office

As Sam was cosseted by Dr Carter; Josh looked up from his paper work to see Donna hovering in the doorway. Her face wore her hound dog expression.

"Yes." He almost snapped. The meeting about the trade deficit had dragged on and his head unaware that he and Sam had been acting in unison as he closed his eyes against the throbbing pain in his forehead.

"What have you said to him this time?" Donna exploded.

Josh stared at her opened mouth.

"I hope you mean that WITH DUE RESPECT." Josh winced at the sound of his raised voice. "Mr President." He finished quietly.

"I am sorry," Donna apologised "but Suzi's upset and in tears."

Josh stood up and grabbed his desk, and like Sam in the lobby of Dr Carter's house, the Oval Office room spun.

"Sorry my head…" Josh moaned closing his eyes. "He's not fainted."

"No but Suzi said he rushed out of the East Wing looking pale and upset." Donna stared at her boss and friend. "And you don't look good either. Hang on. Julia, the President has a free hour and is going up to the Residence he's not to be disturbed."

"Donna what did Sam say to Suzi?" Josh grabbed her arm his eyes misty with the pain to his head and frustration.

"I'll tell you when you're more settled in the Residence."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So tell me." Josh asked after a few minutes ensconced in the Residence with Donna taking of his shoes and putting his feet up on the sofa in his sitting room.

"Well…" Donna handed him a mug of coffee and a Danish. "I went to see Suzi to see her about co-ordinating our diaries, she feels isolated over there and…"

"Just get to the point, Donna," Josh snapped.

"I found Suzi in tears." Donna replied as she took an ice pack and some Advil from a steward. "She said that Sam had appeared that morning looking very upset and muttering to himself about pennies and things never changing."

Josh's mouth dropped open and Donna took the opportunity to drop one of the Advil in his mouth.

"He's upset about that!" Josh exclaimed after he'd swallowed the pills. "Sam was about to go into one of his rants about the economy and I was in a rush. I didn't think he'd be upset - it was so long ago."

"Sir." Donna placed an ice pack on his head and sat down in one of chairs and pulled it forward. "That was one of the worst periods of his life, President's Bartlet's MS, his father's affair and the fact that most of the staff shoved all the crackpot stuff on his desk. Surely you remember."

Josh closed his eyes and laid his head back against the sofa.

"Yes I do but I can't be responsible for every time I say something that upsets Sam. He's an adult as you and every one else keep reminding me," Josh said pointedly.

Donna looked down at the carpet as she considered another angle to take and she remembered her conversation with Suzi.

"He's going to her!" Suzi's indignant voice in-between sniffles. "He used to talk to me and now he's had three appointments with her in the past two weeks!"

"Who?" Donna had asked as she gathered Sam's distraught secretary into her arms." Who's Sam been seeing?"

"Dr Carter!" Suzi almost spat the words. "He met her at the function - she helped after he passed out. He used to talk to me about things, now he's sent her flowers and a gift and he's there now!"

Donna had listened, patiently comforting Suzi, promising her she'd find out more about Dr Carter and together they'd found information on her on her website and found themselves staring in to her enigmatic stare. Both women stared at each other in astonishment. "She's…Oh!" Suzi stared wide eyed at Donna. "You never met Geena did you?" Donna shook her head. "No but I've seen pictures and…" Donna stared back at the mysterious stare "she has an air…yes that stare it's exactly like her's."

"Well are you gonna sit there all morning staring at the carpet?" Josh's petulant tones broke in to Donna's thoughts. "As I said Sam's an adult; he's perfectly capable of looking after himself. Sometimes… oh…it was just that I knew he'd start moralising about our stance on this issue and I just wasn't in the mood for it."

"Yes but there are ways and means of saying telling him, Sir, and he's in a fragile place right now."

"How?" Josh frowned "I can't keep tiptoeing around him just because he's passed out on a number of occasions. He's gotta start getting to grips with this." Josh grumbled closing his eyes again and conveniently forgetting his own feelings of tenderness the morning after his partner had returned from Florida.

"Yes, Mr President." Donna began patiently "and Sam's a lot happier since he hasn't had another episode since Florida. He's put them down to stress following your illness and is determined to move on."

"There you are then. Hang on?" Josh threw the ice pack to the ground. "How come he told you that and not me?"

"He hasn't told me. Suzi asked him about his visits to Dr Carter that's what he told her."

Josh sat up and swung his legs over the sofa his eyebrows knitted together in concentration.

"Dr Carter? I don't know her. Sam hasn't…wait…once yes."

"He brought her a book and…"

"Yes on Victorian etiquette, why? Well that's Sam. But we laughed about some chapters." Josh interrupted Donna "He mentioned her briefly but I took he visited her once to thank her."

"Sir." Donna swallowed nervously "There have been flowers and 3 visits since his last. Alex got a question in the press room this morning and wants to see you this afternoon before his 4 o'clock briefing."

"I wanna to see him NOW Donna!"

"Yes sir." Donna replied hurrying into the hallway to use the telephone on the antique cabinet. "How am I gonna tell him she's on the guest list and he's there now?" Donna muttered to herself as she dialled Alex's number.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"How do you do that?" Sam said at the same time Josh was demanding to see Alex. "I just have to look into those eyes of yours and I am telling you…" Sam broke off.

They stared at each other as Alison broke away in her confusion as she found herself lost in the pain and hurt of beguiling blue eyes, framed by the longest eyelashes she had ever seen. She stood up and crossed over to the fireplace.

"I told you I am a counsellor," she said hastily staring into the empty grate. "I am trained to get people to open up to me."

"Yes." Sam agreed. "Look how you've got me to open up to you. Two weeks ago I wouldn't have agreed to discuss my relationship with Josh."

"Perhaps I've done too good a job," Alison admitted. "You've got me hatin…. No!" She gave a little cry and put her hands to her mouth in horror. "I don't…I voted for him!

"You mustn't hate him." Sam pleaded getting up to stand beside her and he laid a hand on her shoulder. "It's not his deliberate intention to hurt me. You don't know him; he's just…well, Josh."

Alison turned round and found her self staring in to the passionate sincerity of Sam's blue eyes.

"No I am sorry I went a bit far there, usually I don't make personal assumptions but you looked ready for another collapse and there's something about you …"

"What is there about me?" Sam teased moving his hand down to her arm.

Oh God! Alison screamed silently, please don't smile at me like that - I am in so much danger here. Both Alison and Sam jumped as Sam's pager beeped and with an apologetic smile Sam read the message. "You're needed back at the White House. Suzi."

"I am sorry." Sam apologised "I've gotta go. Photos with the Prime Minister of Australia. "What were you gonna to say?"

"It's nothing." Alison reassured him moving slightly away from Sam and stared out rain lashing on the patio and murdering the last of the season's roses. "I'll go and get your agents," she said in a flat tone of voice swiftly walking towards the door.

Sam leaned forward to open it for her and their hands touched and he stared down at them, mesmerised. Those delicate hands smelling faintly of perfume assailing him with memories of smaller but dainty hands that had taken his in a restaurant in California and soothed away the familiar hurt of Josh.

"There is something about you too," Sam murmured as Alison found herself swaying towards Sam so she could enjoy the tang of his aftershave. As past and present became blurred Sam found his right hand slipping easily around her slim waist. "You..." He let go of the door frame and allowed his other hand to caress her cheek As his mobile beeped again Alison took the opportunity to extract herself from his embrace; opened the door and walked briskly in to the hallway.

"I'll just go and get your agents." Alison hurried upstairs so Sam couldn't see she was close to tears with frustration.

Both agents watched as Sam, sheltering Dr Carter under his umbrella, hurried towards his car, his arm around her waist but not touching. Chris and John exchanged knowing glances as Sam climbed in to the limousine. He shook Dr Carter's hand and seemed reluctant to let it go.

"I am sorry." Sam whispered. "About the thing...I…"

"The thing?"

"We use it to refer to a situation or problem we don't want to face." Sam explained.

"If you referring to the situation we discussed. It's not a problem. I told you I am here for you. "

"Are you coming to the state dinner tomorrow?" Sam's face peered hopefully from inside the limousine. The same trusting blue eyes that had stared up at Alison from the floor of the center in Florida tugged at her already fragile heartstrings and they snapped, leaving her breathless.

"Yes," she breathed as she withdrew her hand and shut the door and allowed the limousine drive away. Unaware that Sam had turned in his seat to see her go back in side; Alison hurried inside into the formal sitting room and threw herself on the sofa and, feeling like a frustrated teenager, burst in to tears.

_____________________________________________________________________

The Residence

Sam stared around the sitting room feeling unsettled by the sudden transference from a world of femminity where he felt masculine and cherished to the male territory that was his and Josh's life. His partner's clothes lay scattered over the bed and a bottle of aftershave lay opened on the tall cabinet. Sam crossed to the chest of drawers and picked the bottle up. The scent was pure Josh in all his contradictions, warm and comforting but with an edge that was sharp and unsettling. The scent of Alison still lingered on his shirt and Sam sniffed his tie remembering his surprise at watching her run up her driveway as the limousine had pulled away. Had Alison been crying or was it the rain against her cheeks? He hadn't meant to make her cry he'd apologise…

"Sam thank god!" Sam turned round to see Donna standing in the doorway to the Residence. "He's on his way up and he's in a bad mood. You'd better get ready - Prime Minister Readon is due in ten minutes and its photos in the Mural Room." Donna stopped and stared in surprise at the distant expression on Sam's face as he fingered his tie.

Oh God he's been to see her!

Donna took Sam's arm and marched him into the bathroom and ran some water in the sink.

"Sam, you smell of perfume." She shook his arm slightly and sighed in relief as her close friend came slowly back into the present. "He's in a bad mood; he's had a migraine but he doesn't know about where you've been." Donna helped Sam off with his jacket and gave him another prod towards the bathroom.

"You're not looking very hot either so I am gonna to help you get ready OK?"

Sam nodded distractedly and headed towards the bathroom and Donna started rummaging through his wardrobe.

"You're blue Armani, ok?"

"Yes." Sam found his voice and stared at his reflection in the mirror; a slightly dazed bewildered expression and not the assured expression he presented to the world. "Oh god…" Sam muttered "What the hell am I thinking of…she's…just a friend." He told himself but was aware of his conscience mocking him. "If she was just that you'd walk away now wouldn't you?"

Sam slapped some cold water on his face and washed the scent of Alison away down the plug hole. He allowed Donna to help him in to Josh's favourite suit and with the familiar scent of his own aftershave in his nostrils he slipped into his public role.

"For god's sake!" Donna stopped just before they reached the Oval Office and straightened his tie. "Sam I know there is something wrong with you when you're not your immaculate self. What is it with you two? I had to dress Josh for this press conference."

Sam gave a slight smile.

"Donna I…"

"Sam don't say anything." Donna replied hastily before her friend allowed himself to unburden himself. "I don't know what's gotten in to you at the moment. What I do know is - remember when I found you in a state after Jamie was kidnapped?"

Sam nodded.

"Well, where ever you are at the moment; just for the next hour or so remember that you are the First Gentleman and what ever Josh has said or done he needs you now. So…" Donna nodded to the Secret Service Agent who opened the door to the Oval Office "Go and dazzle them."

Sam entered the Oval Office found himself staring in the wounded brown eyes of his partner. Josh was alone and Sam pecked his partner on the cheek and took his hand.

"Where the hell were you?" Josh hissed withdrawing his hand in silent protest. "I had Suzi page you twice!"

"I had…." Sam cleared his throat and was about to lie to his partner, but his stomach heaved at the thought and he changed his mind. "I'll tell you later but this is neither the time nor the place."

"Oh we will talk about it Sam." Josh retorted as he and Sam walked in to the Mural Room crowded with journalists, a TV crew and the Prime Minister and his aides and senior staff from the West Wing.

"Not now." Sam replied with a smile plastered on his face. "Public faces time Josh."

"Prime Minister Readon how good to see you again." Sam shook the hand of the Australian Prime Minister as the TV cameras began to record the event.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dr Carter's Town House.

"Darling you better hurry up, they're about to go over to the White House in five minutes."

Richard Carter shouted up the stairs to Alison who appeared at the top of the stairs in a casual pair of beige pants and terracotta scooped necked cardigan and matching vest and casual beige pumps. Round her neck she wore a chunky stone amazonite bead necklace with a faceted cherry quartz pendant with a gold claw clasp and matching earrings.

"I'm coming." Alison hastened down the stairs and kissed her husband on the cheek.

Her husband stared intently at her.

"Well you look better than when I dropped in this afternoon. It's not like you to be crying because you've had a migraine. You're always so stoic."

"That's because you love your calm capable wife." Alison replied lightly, aware that she moved slightly away as Richard went to put his arm around her.

"Where are you going?" Richard asked in surprise as his wife turned back towards the stairs "I have CBS on in the living room."

"I thought we be comfortable in the den." Alison replied airily.

I can't go in there! He's there! Every where I look I can see him.

"Sweetheart. Come on!" Richard Carter insisted "there's a fire blazing away and, hang on, why you all are dressed up this evening?"

"Oh" Alison looked down at her clothes. "I thought we were going out this evening you mentioned something about that new restaurant in Georgetown?"

"That's tomorrow…."

Ridiculous getting dressed up because he's on TV; Alison rebuked herself as her husband's words faded away and she settled herself on the sofa. Was it her imagination or did his aftershave linger on the cushions?

"I said I am hoping that they going to offer me that post in Chicago or here at GW. Alison are listening to me!"

"Pardon? Oh I am sorry darling what did you say?" Alison forced herself to concentrate on what her husband was saying.

"Never mind I'll tell you later. God Alison I don't where you are these past few weeks you're off in some sort of a daydream half the time…" Richard paused to look at the TV screen "Oh look they're going over to the White House now."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Prime Minister Reardon how are you enjoying your visit to America?" Sandy King from (need to ask Vicki her station.)

"I' am really enjoying my self. Today I visited the Australian Embassy and on Wednesday the…."

The Australian Prime Minister's voice was cut off by a hiss and crackle and embarrassed technicians stepped forward to sort the problem as Andrew Morton for CBS apologised for the break in transmission. Sam and Josh exchanged humiliated glances, both jolted out of their private misery as Prime Minister Reardon stepped back to confer with his aides.

"What the hell do I call him again, First Gentleman?"

As Andrew Morton announced they were going back to the White House the Prime Minister's scathing tones were broadcast to the American public. The cameras shot round to the rigid posture of the First Gentleman and caught the furious face of the President and sick expression of the Prime Minister.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Residence 11pm

"What the hell do I call him again, First Gentleman?"

The words of Prime Minister Readon were still ringing in Sam's ears as he eased his aching body in to the large king-sized bed and listened to the sounds of his lover in the bathroom. If any thing had brought home to him the unusual nature of the Lyman presidency it was those words. Sam closed his eyes and opened them as all he could see was the shocked expression of every one in the room. He'd seen awkward gazes before at functions; slight aside glances, whispers amongst the sycophantic words. Just after he thought he was being accepted for what he was; not just the President's partner but a passionate advocate of Democratic beliefs and a lawyer of international reputation. These areas of his life had made up for the petty insults he'd faced before.

"Sam," Josh's apologetic tones interrupted his thoughts. The potential row that had been brewing through out the afternoon had been cut short by a few ill-timed words. "Are you asleep?"

Sam turned around from where he'd been staring at the numbers of the bedside clock slowly counting the minutes.

"No."

"Sam what can I say." Josh said in contrite tones as he climbed into bed. "The Australian Ambassador called four times to apologize. Prime Minister Readon is mortified. I am gonna to…."

"No Josh. What ever you are gonna to do just drop it." Sam replied in dull tones as he turned to face the clock again. "It's not like I haven't heard comments like that before."

"I know sweetheart." Josh laid a hand on his partner's back. "We do need to talk about today - about what I said this morning."

Sam found himself stiffening.

"No it's ok Josh. Let's just write today off as one we'd rather forget."

"Sam"

Josh's body scent surrounded him, reminding him of his claustrophobic life. Sam found himself shifting away to the farthest side of the bed.

"So it's come to this - a few ill chosen words today and you can't bear to touch me. Jesus, Sam, living with you can be a pain and a pleasure sometimes."

Sam shuddered at involuntarily hurting his partner.

"No darlin." His voice softened. "It's just that I had a migraine today and I am a little listless. You know me when I've had one every thing is out of kilter." Sam took Josh's hand in apology.

Josh edged closer to his partner.

"I had one today." Josh admitted. "Bit of a dizzy spell."

"Darlin!" Sam pulled Josh to towards him and stroked his hair trying to inhale the essence of his Josh but another scent still invaded his senses. "Not trying to be superman again where you? Dashing from one meeting to another?"

"Yes. Then Donna pointed out the error of my ways today about what I said to you this morning."

Sam kissed his partner's head.

"I said let's forget today ever happened. I'd rather you got some sleep - the thought of you being ill with stress and having tests on Dr Frankenstein's chair makes me shudder."

"Sam I…"

"No Josh rest." Sam commanded as he stared into the darkness close to tears with tiredness and frustration.

"Hmm my masterful Sam!" Josh muttered happily as his eyelids closed.

If he's happy with a simple `let's drop it' from me Sam mused in the darkness why can't I be brave and walk away from her? He closed his eyes and immediately a comfortable sofa invaded his dreams where there was no sniggering, no pretence of a semblance of dignity; just a bewitching pair of eyes and soft gentle hands to sooth his hurt pride.

Handling Sam Part 2: Chapter 10

The State Dinner. – The East Room.

"I am so glad Mrs Readon couldn't make this trip" Sam said in heartfelt tones as he escorted Alison on the space cleared for dancing in the East Room. "Usually I have to do a duty shuffle around the floor with the wives or partners."

He gazed appraisingly at her outfit - a strapless ball gown which showed off her creamy elegant neck and shoulders. The dress of midnight blue had a beaded bodice, boned and trimmed with black lace which trickled down one side, with a gather on the other side. The skirt was full and sweeping.

"You look ravishing!" Sam commented as he smiled at other guests on the dance floor who tried hard not to stare at the vivacious redhead in his arms.

Alison smiled at the memory of purchasing the gown in Barney's. The dress had cost an obscene amount of money. But the pleasure of it being wrapped in tissue paper and packed in an elegant box and tied with a bow; made her feel very fluttery and not her usual composed self. "Is for a special function Madam?" The sales assistant had enquired as she packed the dress amongst the tissue paper. "It's for the state dinner." Alison replied then leaning forward she added in conspiratorial tones. "I had a personal invite from the First Gentleman!" The assistant, a lady in her thirties, gave a broad smile "Oh he's come in here with his son a few times they are so charming!" Alison had nodded in agreement and almost floated out of Barney's with a pair of high heeled midnight blue shoes that sparkled with diamante.

"Thank you." Alison's dropped her eyes demurely then slowly raised them. "You don't look so bad yourself."

"Josh and I used to like these functions - we used to preen about in the early days, but now they've become a bit of a chore." Sam turned his full wattage smile on her. "But," he leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "You're making this one a pleasure."

"Flatterer." Alison replied. "But if Richard was here I'd be dancing with him and you'd have to find some other partner, or watch from afar as the President is doing."

Sam glanced in the direction of Josh who had come back to the East Room after being called out to be briefed about a railway crash in New Orleans. He was chatting to a senior aide of President Readon's staff and gave his partner the briefest of glances.

"Oh you'd be next on my list." Sam replied turning his gaze back to Alison. "You don't think I'd go to the trouble of inviting you and then not dance with you.""

"No." Alison breathed, almost reeling from the intense gaze the First Gentleman was giving her. "I do wish you wouldn't look at me like that!" she hissed.

"Like what?" Sam teased as he pulled her tightly towards him as he manoeuvred the steps of the fox trot around a slower couple. "You're a friend, a very special friend. People can make of it what they want. I've never let any one dictate to me who my friends are."

"Sam, you know full well you are not looking at me the way a friend should and it's being noticed." Alison replied, wishing she could go all Victorian and fan her self to calm her reddening face and conflicting emotions.

"Well perhaps I have a little crush on you." Sam teased; his blue eyes suddenly alight at the rush of adrenaline of exacting a little revenge on his partner and the thought of his masculine image being boosted by the bewitching redhead in his arms.

The tempo of the band slowed down to a waltz and Sam kept his arm around Alison and led her off the dance floor.

"I think two dances would invite comment don't you?"

"Ye...s" Alison stuttered feeling light-headed with a guilty pleasure but deflated at the thought that physical contact with Sam was at an end.

"But I am going to show an old friend around the White House." Sam announced firmly to curious guests who stood by the entrance, and putting his hand firmly under Alison's left elbow he propelled her out of the East Room.

Donna, standing next to Josh, watched as he stared miserably as Sam walked out of the room with the attractive redhead.

"Mr President." Donna tapped him on the arm. "You have other guests to see." She gently reminded him.

"He…" Josh caught his breath "the way he looked at her - he hasn't looked at me like that in a while."

"Sir I don't think it's what you think it may be."

"DONNA!" Josh lowered his voice as the other guests turned round in surprise. "It's exactly what it looks. He's falling in love with her!" Josh spat the final word out.

"No Mr President it's not." Donna replied reassuringly. "It may be wishful thinking on her part but from Sam's point of view I think it's something different. Look…" Donna broke off as CJ advanced towards Josh with an aged senator wheezing on her arm. "Just put your trust in Suzi and I - can you do that?"

"Yes." Josh replied in unconvinced tones.

"I'll explain every thing later." Donna explained patiently "Just go and speak to Senator Wilkins - he's due to retire soon and by the looks of him is about to expire on the floor. He worked for President Johnson so should have some tales to tell."

Donna watched as Josh made his way over to CJ and then she rustled in her brick red silk Armani dress over to Suzi who stood over the other side of the East Room. Her face was as miserable as Josh's as she fiddled with the strap of her black silk off the shoulder Vera Wang gown.

"Ready." She whispered conspiratorially.

"Yes" Suzi sniffed.

"Oh Suzi! Come-on we'll have them back together if not tonight by tomorrow at the latest."

"I know." Suzi whispered as Donna led her out of the East Room "God I thought I'd be caught out when you sent me upstairs to look at the video of Jamie's first steps."

"Suzi, you are an old family friend. It was natural that you should go into the Residence. I am often in there running errands for the President."

"Yeah, it's in a good cause. She has Geena mannerisms and from what you told me about the former Mallory O'Brien, I can see the attraction for redheads."

"You bet I am right. Now let's go and put a bit of lipstick on and we'll give them a few moments together. Let's give her a few moments to live in her dream world then we'll bring her back down to earth."

"Donna!" Suzi giggled and hiccupped.

"How many of those have you had?" Donna exclaimed and she took the champagne glass that her friend had picked up from a passing waitress.

"Just a couple to steady my nerves."

"Well that's enough for now." Donna replied firmly taking the drink from Suzi and giving it to a passing steward. "We need a clear head so let's go somewhere quiet and go over the plan."

"Ok." Suzi allowed herself to be marched down the corridor and into the Green Room Donna looked around and pulled out a picture of Geena she'd managed to photocopy from a formal photo in the private dinning room of the first family.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Blue Room

"Sam when you said a tour I didn't think it be just two rooms." Alison commented as she glided around the Blue Room staring with interest at the blue silk upholstery fabric with retains of gold eagle medallion on the chair backs. "We've done the Red Room or do you…"

Alison turned round to find Sam standing beside her as he pulled her around and she found herself swept up in a waltz as the music from the band drifted down the hallway.

"I wanted to have a slow dance with you." Sam replied "and as Jamie keeps on reminding me this is a reception room so it's as good as place as any."

"Sam" Alison gently reproached him. "You know why we can't dance together like this." She tried to extract herself from the First Gentleman's arms but found her self pulled closer and gave up the fight as she laid her head on his chest.

"Remind me?" Sam prompted as the song came to a halt and he guided Alison to an ornate gold padded eighteenth century sofa and sat down beside her. "Are you thinking of yesterday cos I can't stop thinking about it."

Sam stared at the hand he took in his - the long tapered hands of Alison, so different his partner's firm assured, masculine grip. The combination of her delicate feminine hands and sensual perfume, and the sound of Dancing in the Dark drifting up from the reception were a heady cocktail which left Sam's rational side abandoned as he became a swooning romantic.

"There is something about you; your mannerisms, the ways you make me feel so totally at peace with myself and the world." Sam his voice wavering with emotion.

Alison stared at his firm hand and shifted slightly away but her eyes remained locked to the gaze of the First Gentleman - a gaze of such longing that it made her head spin.

"I just don't know where I am any more but I get the feeling that both of us…" Sam gave a sigh. "If I just do this…" Sam leant forward and for the second time in two days Alison felt Sam's lips touching hers; sensual yet with a masculine hardness she'd imagined during restless nights when Richard had been called out on duty at GW

She could feel Sam's desperate need as his lips slid over hers. Whilst her head was telling her how that this was a mistake; that they were both married; that Sam was her patient – her heart was beating rapidly as they continued to kiss. When Sam sucked her bottom lip between his, and she opened her mouth for him she moaned slightly – the noise an acknowledgment of how good his mouth felt on hers – and how wrong it was.

Sam had moved closer to her on the couch as they kissed. Releasing her hand he reached out his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him. God, her waist was so tiny; the curve of her hip so soft and feminine. He remembered days of sun and of laughter; of romantic dinners for two and then three as Geena insisted that baby Jamie came with them wherever they went…good times, good times…

It was the small moan that came from the back of Alison's throat that made Sam release her, and he buried his face in the comforting smell of her hair which, like her eyes, reminded him of Geena. Yet there was no fresh tang of oranges and lemon mingled with the smell of talcum powder that had lingered around their bedroom; but a more musky smell that assailed his senses.

It left him confused and feeling slightly sick as the music from the band playing "Witchcraft" broke into his memories. . Memories of his mother's villa in Italy; a pleasant warm evening and a gently teasing… JOSH! His mind screamed as he caught a glimpse of the gold wedding band on his left hand.

"Sam." Alison clipped British tones, not Geena's musical voice, or even Josh at his most tender. Sam released Alison and stared miserably into space.

"I am sorry…I" He began hoarsely.

"Sam. The President is looking for you."

Sam looked up to see Donna standing by the doorway with Suzi hovering at her side.

Sam stared in bewilderment around the Blue Room.

"It's ok, go to him, Sam," Alison coaxed, squeezing Sam's arm. "He needs you. If someone could order me a cab…"

"No!" Sam grabbed her hand. "I need to talk to explain." He turned pleading blue eyes towards her and Alison melted.

"Ok go but go see him first." She urged "I'll wait here I `m sure Ms Moss and Mrs Kimball can look after me."

Sam hastily got to his feet and shot out of the room, a feeling of nausea and shame spreading through his body. Alison opened her midnight blue silk drawstring purse glittering with diamante and with trembling hands applied some lipstick and grimaced at the accusing faces that stared back at her in her compact mirror.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Next Day Saturday – 11AM

"I am so glad you came," Sam said in heartfelt tones as he helped Alison off with her cashmere coat in the Residence. "I needed to explain."

"Sam." Alison replied sincerely "You don't need to explain any thing."

"Look…" Sam took Alison's and guided her in to the Yellow Oval Room. "I do need to talk to you and I thought it best that you came here."

Alison nodded as she gazed around the pale muted yellow and gold colours of the furnishings and decorations. She was wearing a pencil chocolate coloured skirt and a pale tangerine beaded sweater with a tonal floral design. Simple gold earrings and a plain gold necklace completed the ensemble.

"This is a lovely room!" She enthused not noticing that Sam was trying hard not to gaze at her shapely legs in high brown court shoes.

"Is it?" Sam replied blithely "Josh and I hardly use it; we tend to use the West Wing more or own private sitting room. Mom's always nagging us to be a bit more formal but I thought you'd appreciate it. Look I've got a fire blazing as well and some lunch."

"Thank you." Alison sat in the chair indicated by Sam as a steward poured a cup of coffee in crested White House china and handed her a cup.

"Alison I really wanna apologise for last night." Sam said earnestly as he took a cup of coffee from the steward. "Thank you." He waited to the steward had left the room leaving a tray of sandwiches, coffee and small pastries on a tray by the door.

"Sam. There is no need to apologise I told you this morning on the phone and when I arrived."

"Alison how you can simply dismiss last night as an unfortunate incident! We're both married and we…we."

"Kissed each other." Alison finished off calmly "and it was a most enjoyable experience to be kissed by the First Gentleman."

Sam in a very rare gesture ran his fingers through his hair and began to pace up and down the room.

"Oh god; why do you have to make it so easy for me!" Sam exclaimed. "I am mortified by what happened. I didn't get much sleep last night."

"Sam." Alison put her cup down and crossed over Sam. "What do you want me to say?"

She looked into the wild blue eyes pleading with her and took Sam's hands in hers.

"That I am upset?" Sam shook his head and allowed himself to be led to a pale yellow sofa. "Wished it had never happened?"

"No it's just that…well I argued with Josh and he's guessed about us." Sam finished miserably.

"Sam. There is no us and never has been." Alison gently admonished. "Yes there was a spark of attraction but deep down you were looking for a shoulder to cry on over your recent difficulties with the President…"

"And you?" Sam prompted.

If I told you I went home and cried like a baby all night what would you say?

"Me?" Alison stared down at her polished finger nails trying hard not to blurt out her churning emotions. "Well despite the glittering Washington circle I move in and my job… I get lonely."

"Really?" Sam said in astonishment as he patted her hand. "I find that hard to believe."

"Richard is so often away and you started to pay me frequent visits and with flowers and a book on Victorian etiquette and your distinguished looks - well you can turn any girl's head."

Sam turned crimson and they both laughed and the ice was broken.

"Oh you're so easy to tease Sam." Alison "But seriously…" Her voice sobered "That is the case; I was lonely and let's say that in Florida you fell into my lap. Deep down I'd say you're a romantic and things have been a little wanting in the romance department."

"Well you know all about Josh and I, so I guess you're right. But you with that expression of yours."

"What expression Sam?" Alison prompted.

"Ohh…I …don't…Yes!" Sam cried triumphantly. "I know a man can gaze under that soothing balm of yours!" Sam leapt up and began pacing again. "You with your elegant way of dressing and your calm manner! You turned my head too! You're very bewitching."

Alison gave a wide smile.

"Thank you Sam. But please can you sit down? You're making me dizzy with all this pacing up and down."

Sam dutifully sat down and gave her a sheepish grin.

"There that's better." She soothed "God what is with you - you're so wound up half the time."

"I am so sorry." Sam muttered "I don't seem to know who I am any more. I was a loving husband/wife/whatever of my relationship with Josh but recently…every things so topsy-turvy."

"We've discussed that, Sam, you've had a bit of a health scare recently and your issues with the President - well that can be cured by getting away from…" Alison waved her hand around the Oval Sitting room "all this and talking over all the issues you both have.

"But," Sam sighed, "it didn't help…I did fall for you a bit."

"Yes." Alison patted his knee. "We both felt initially attracted to each but are mature enough to see it for what it was - a harmless crush. You said it yourself last night whilst we were dancing."

"I wish you wouldn't make it so easy for me." Sum muttered as he crossed over to the tray and picked up the sandwiches and offered one to Alison.

"Sam if we both went round beating ourselves up over a minor indiscretion what good would it do?"

"Yeah, but I…"

"No, Sam," Alison put her plate down. "No we are not going down that road again."

"Then where are we?" Sam replied morosely "I've really screwed things up with you and I really do like you and I'd like to see you again."

"You haven't screwed things up Sam" Alison said in sincere tones. "I'd like us to be friends. You have other women friends - Donna, Suzi: God they were so protective of you last night. But we have so much in common - a similar taste in literature and we agree on politics. But if you feel it's wise for us not to meet again," Alison's voice broke, "then it's been a privilege to know you for these last few weeks."

"No." Sam took her hands and squeezed it gently. "I'd like to be friends. "But give it a month for things to cool down with Josh. Then I'd like you to meet him and Jamie."

"I'd like that." Alison replied taking a bite in to her sandwich staring down at the floor and wishing for the third time in three weeks that the First Gentleman would stop her feeling like a quivering Victorian female. I'm going to put that book away when I get home, Alison promised her self.

For half an hour they sat in companionable silence drinking coffee and eating sandwiches. Alison consulted her watch and put her plate down.

"Do you have to go?" Sam said in surprise as he got to his feet.

"No I have a little more time besides there's one last thing I can do for you." Alison leant over the side of her chair and pulled out a photo from her brown Channel handbag. She handed Sam the photocopied picture of Geena that Donna had given her the previous evening.

"I agree with Donna that we don't look exactly alike but I can see what she means about the eyes."

"Look at it Dr Carter" Donna had insisted as Alison had taken the picture with shaking hands. "Suzi and I have seen old home movies and you have an air of his late wife." "His wife did several years ago what have I..?." Alison stared at Donna and Suzi as realisation dawned over her. "No we're just good friends that's all?" "Is it?" Suzi shot back spitefully. "Suzi!" Donna admonished. "Dr Carter…" "Alison please." "Alison I apologise for my friend but we've both worked for the President and Mr Seaborn for many years and we'd hate to see them split; besides there's Jamie to consider - he adores them both." Alison let the photograph flutter to the floor and put her hands up to her reddening cheeks "You don't think the First Gentleman and I!" The accusing looks on Suzi's and Donna's faces confirmed her suspicions.

"So you see." Alison finished "I do think a part of you wanted to recapture what you had you had with Geena." She took Sam's hand in her and looked in to his blue eyes with an expression of shame and sorrow. "Sam, tell me about your wife." Alison said softly.

"Where do I begin?" Sam stared at the photo. "She was so different from any other woman I'd dated. She'd look at you as if your were the most important person in the world. She had a mercurial temper - it was always sunshine and showers with her but she mended my broken heart when Josh began an affair with Amy…" Sam took a deep breath.

Sam stared in to space, locked in his past, and Alison patted his arm encouragingly as she noticed the tears forming in his eyes she gathered the First Gentleman up and as with the occasion in her garden rocked him back and forwards as he sobbed out the details of Jamie's birth and the car crash which had ended her life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You see that feels a lot better doesn't it?" Alison smiled at Sam as he helped her on with her coat in the hallway of the Residence. "I am surprised you never spoke to any one about it before."

"I did." Sam admitted as he took her arm and began to walk towards the lift "I'll walk you to your car."

"Ok but you haven't answered my question."

"I did once. You probably heard about my break down a year ago. Every thing came to ahead after Jamie was kidnapped. I'd never spoken to Josh about Jamie before – about how special he was. But every thing came to a head at Christmas when we gave Jamie a puppy and he said it reminded him of Watson, Geena's old family Labrador."

"I read about your trip to California and how you crashed your car. Sam what were you thinking?" Alison scolded.

"I don't think I knew where I was or what I was doing but I was given a wake up call and after Josh and I came back to Washington I sought some help. But…" Sam stopped as they neared the entrance to the Residence and rested both his hands on Alison's shoulders. "After Geena died I felt I had to be strong for Jamie's sake and mom and I very rarely spoke about it. I've never opened up to any one as I've done with you." He went to kiss Alison on the lips and stared in surprise as she stepped back.

"No Sam on the cheeks like good friends do!"

Sam laughed and allowed himself to linger around the calming, feminine scent for a moment as he kissed Alison on both cheeks then gently released her.

"Thank you! I will be in touch I promise."

Alison gave him a wide smile and climbed into her car and poked her head out of the window.

"I know you will. Now go and arrange a break with your family I want to read about how relaxed and happy you look."

Sam leaned over the window.

"I am so glad it was you who helped me."

"Yes." Alison replied briskly as tears were welling in her eyes. "Me too, now go!"

She started up the engine and pulled away watching Sam as he stood waving, the smile on his face as brittle as hers; but she thought absentmindedly looking good in a pair of jeans; and a grey polo necked sweat shirt. As she drove into the streets of Washington, and an Abba song with the words of love and loss played on her car radio, she pulled into a side road and sobbed her heart out. A few minutes later, make up repaired and with her usual composed features, Alison drove home. She hurried up the driveway and up to her peach bedroom of Victoriana furniture and antique lace and from a bedside cabinet and pulled out the Victorian etiquette book Sam had given her. After reading the inscription with a smile she crossed her to writing desk and as she'd promised herself in the White House locked the book away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

4PM

"Did you have a good time?" Josh smiled at Jamie as he climbed in the official car after shaking hands with the Captain of the USS Bartlet.

"Yea!" Jamie stared excitedly out of the window and gave the Captain a winning smile as the car drew away from the dock yard at Bethesda. After nearly three years in the White House he'd never got over his excitement of travelling in a motorcade with accompanying riders and police sirens.

"You could have brought your friend Mark with you." Josh said as he glanced at some briefing notes he'd brought to read during the ride back to the White House.

"Mark has the flu but I like it best when it's you and me and Daddy!" Jamie's large blue eyes welled with tears at the mention of Sam.

"Hey Tiger what is it?" Josh pulled his adoptive son close to him and put his briefing notes to one side. "You had a lovely day and got to wear your jacket just like mine!"

"I wish Daddy could come with us; but he's so angry recently and he goes out and won't take me with him. He used to take me every where with him."

"Well not every where Jamie, but what if I told you your daddy is ok and I've been a jackass…" Josh groaned inwardly as he recalled how he and Sam had argued over old ground of imagined slights and his partner's role in the White House. "Joshua I remember telling Leo once we are absolutely nowhere and why is it I have this feeling of deja vu all the time?" Joshua; not a loving exclamation of his name, but clipped hurt and heart sore; the blue eyes staring accusingly at him.

He'd not mentioned Dr Carter; Donna had warned him against it and told him that the matter was taken care of and not to open a can of worms.

"But" Josh continued "I'll fix it I promise. After all I came and got you from California and your daddy from New York once. Remember?"

Jamie replied with an expression of yes I've heard it all before but snuggled up to Josh as they looked at the souvenir programme of the day's launch of the ship and the goody bag that had been presented to Jamie. As they pulled up at the private entrance to the Residence a harassed Donna dressed in her Saturday work clothes of a red jumper and formal black pants and court shoes met them at the entrance.

"Hello Donna I thought you were taking Patrick swimming this morning." Josh said in surprise as he climbed out of the car.

"Hi Aunt Donna I am just gonna to find Daddy and…"

"No Jamie" Donna held a hand out to stop Jamie charging in the Residence. "Daddy's gone out for a while. Patrick's with me today in my office why don't you go and tell you about your trip?"

"OK!"

As Jamie shot off in the direction of the entrance to the West Wing Josh took one look at Donna's worried expression and took her inside the entrance to the residence his stomach churning.

"It's Sam what's happened now Donna?" Josh ran his fingers threw his hair "I thought you'd fixed it last night?"

"Yes I did Mr President but your not gonna like this. I came in to catch up on some paper work. Sean has an ear infection and can't go swimming. I went upstairs to see Sam as I knew he had an appointment today…"

"With her?" Josh interjected.

"Yes but as I keep telling you that's finished well they left and I over heard her say something about her leaving town."

"Donna I swear you have this place bugged!"

"Well I just happened to…"

"Never mind about all that! What's up with Sam?" Josh exclaimed almost about to go into orbit with frustration.

"Your not gonna to like it."

"Just cut to the chase will you Donna!"

"He's errr…gone out?"

"Yes well he's an adult and as long as he's got Chris and John with him I am ok with that."

Donna sighed.

"I can tell you he's not gone out with Dr Carter but as he left I asked him where he'd be if you asked where he was and he gave me a kinda funny look."

Josh arched his eyebrows.

"Where?" His voice was dangerously low.

"He said he was going somewhere he was going to get drunk and in relative peace and quiet."

"Oh Christ!" Josh moaned as he put his head in his hands "What if some nut head in a bar or a reporter sees him. Donna I want you to get David to come to the Oval Office now!

HS2 Pt 11.

The Oval Office 4:35 pm

"DONNA! Where the hell is David?" Josh bellowed from the Oval Office, where he was pacing up and down in front of his desk.

"Sir," Donna glanced at the grandfather clock ticking away, "It's been 5 minutes since you saw David and there are quite a few bars in Washington."

"I'm well aware of that, Donna, but there are also quite a few people who would gladly pay for a picture of Sam drunk in a bar. Get David, I want an update."

"Sir." David hovered on the fringes of Donna's Office.

"Thank god." Donna muttered, "I'll go and see to Jamie. I suppose you'd like me to take them to the pictures and for a meal?"

Josh turned round, "I think it'd be best Donna, when Sam gets back I don't want Jamie here. Well, David? Hang on a minute." Josh instructed as he hurried after his senior secretary. "Donna wait!" He rummaged in his pockets, "Let me...damn, I was gonna pay for you all but..."

"You don't carry money, sir." Donna reminded him gently.

"You'll do the usual then?" Josh grinned sheepishly at Donna.

"Yes sir." Donna smiled back.

When she'd gone, Josh turned back to David. "So, what do you have to tell me?"

"Sir…hang on." David listened in to his earpiece then spoke into the microphone in his sleeve. "John, where are you?"

"David, where the hell are they?" Josh said as he stopped his pacing and stared at the head of secret service as he leant against Donna's desk.

"On your way back? Good, John, what's that noise in the background? Oh Princeton's singing," David replied in deadpan tones. "Err, John, who's singing with him? Oh Jesus! Chris is not drunk as well?"

David stared at his boss aware that his dumbfounded expression matched his own.

"Oh good grief, two of them drunk!" Josh exclaimed as he sat down at Donna's desk and banged his head. "Oh god!"

"Is Chris drunk as well...ah no but Princeton wants him to join in with the singing. Ah. John, how drunk is Princeton? You're at the gate? Ok. Mr President"

"Take him to the Residence." Josh instructed already making his way from the room "Thank you, David," he added turning briefly at his Head of Security.

"All in a days work, Sir" David muttered as he headed out of Donna's Office. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Residence.

"Helloooo Josh." Sam rocked backwards and forwards on his heels, his gaze unfocused. "No……….need..." Sam let out a burp and screwed up his face up concentration "what was I…."

"How long have you been drinking for!" Josh thundered as he strode out of the bathroom with a cold towel.

"Can't remember." Sam smacked his lips "Oh…darling, can you stand still, there's about four of you."

"I am not surprised." Josh grumbled as he guided his partner towards the bed. "Here sit down and put this to your forehead. I'll get you some strong coffee and Advil."

"Actually I am quite hungry." Sam announced, the beer soaked eyes staring hopefully at Josh as he tried to put the cold towel to his forehead and it landed on the floor.

"Samuel, I don't think you'd be capable of keeping any thing down, do you?" Josh replied as he went over to the wardrobe and pulled out some clean boxer shorts and a sweat shirt. "Here put these on…" Josh handed them to his lover "and I'll get you into bed."

"Bed" Sam's eyes gleamed as he began to pull Josh towards him.

"No, Sam.!" Josh tried to extract himself from Sam's embrace and found himself on the bed beside his partner; his blue eyes gleaming hopefully. Josh sat up "Sam, how many hands am I holding up?" Sam blinked," three? Oh I don't know, Josh. Man, you look strange!"

"Sam!" Josh took his partner by the shoulder and shook him gently. "You didn't take any thing else in that bar. Did you?"

"Hmm," Sam's head flopped on his partner's shoulder. "Dunno. No, just feel very free, that's all. You know, I couldn't do it?"

"Do what, Sam?" Josh asked as he crossed the room to take the tray of coffee from the steward.

"I am…..not….like my father." Sam pronounced "You see Dad." He shouted at the ceiling, "I couldn't even follow in your footsteps, could I!"

"Jesus, Sam, what the hell are you talking about?" Josh muttered as put the coffee on the bedside table and hastily ushered the steward of the room.

"You don't…" Sam stabbed Josh's chest as he tried to help his partner off with his polo necked jumper. "You don't know how close I came to…no…she wasn't…oh…" Sam gave a sigh "I can't even remember what she was."

"Ok. Look you're rambling now." Josh gently lifted Sam's head from his shoulder and his heart dived like a lift going freefall as he stared into a mixture of contrition, love and loss that was his partner's expression.

"Sam, I promise you we'll talk tomorrow. They've forgotten the iced water - if you take your shoes and socks off, I'll help you into bed."

Josh picked up the phone and placed an order, turning round in surprise as he heard his partner crying softly; tears dropping off the long eyelashes on to his tee-shirt.

"Oh sweetheart!" Josh's voice softened "I promise you we'll get through this! Whatever this thing is," Josh soothed as he scooped his partner's head against his chest.

"No…" Came a muffled reply and then a wail so like Jamie's, "I can't get my shoes off!"

The shared laughter broke the atmosphere of hurt and regret that had simmered in the Residence for the past few days.

"Here." Josh knelt down to take his lover's shoes "Sam!" He stood up as his partner lurched sideways and flopped down against the pillows. "Ready to sleep now." His eyes fluttered shut, "night night."

Gentle snores told Josh his partner was out cold. He bent down and kissed Sam's forehead and placed the damp cloth over it.

"It's afternoon, sweetheart." Josh whispered "But I'll be there in the morning to wake you up."

He pulled the curtains and quietly shut the door to the bed room behind him. Four hours later as Josh and Jamie sat in the sitting watching TV and munching potato chips, the door burst open and a wild eyed Sam, his hair sticking up in all directions, burst into the room.

"Josh, why the hell didn't you wake me up!"

Josh stood up trying hard not to laugh at the site of his normally immaculate partner in such a dishevelled state.

"Sam…" He began.

"No it's 9 o'clock and I promised I'd be up early to take Jamie swimming."

"No, daddy, that's tomorrow and it's not swimming, it's bowling."

"Huh!" Sam stared blankly at his family.

"Sweetheart." Josh took his partner's arm and guided him into the hallway, "its 9pm and its still Saturday."

"Ok. Does Jamie forgive me?" Sam mumbled.

Josh looked back as Jamie stared at the TV happily feeding his Labrador Sherlock potato chips.

"I think he accepted my explanation of why you're in such a state."

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him the Australian Prime Minister wanted to apologise one more time over a beer at Blair House." Josh laughed at Sam's puzzled expression "Well, Australian beer is very strong and it's the only explanation I could give for you being drunk at four in the afternoon."

"Joshua, seriously, what if questions are asked in the press? What do we say then?"

Josh helped Sam back into bed.

"Well, let's say the barman is a friend of Alex's and I don't think you were in much of a state to notice but apart from you and Chris and John it was empty."

"You take care of everything, don't you?"

"Sam, I am a strategist. But you have a lot of friends, sweetheart. When you arrived at the bar, the manager tipped off Alex and every one was persuaded to leave."

"What were they promised….I am...so… " Sam mumbled his eyes sliding shut.

"A free beer on the next visit, oh yes and you're going for a very public visit soon. So he can add your picture to a large collection of celebrities on…" Josh smiled at his partner began to snore.

Josh hurried back to Jamie and sat down with a triumphant smirk on his face.

"I promised you I'd bring him back, Jamie."

"Yea but I don't buy that story about Daddy with the Australian Prime Minister, JJ. Daddy doesn't get drunk on three beers."

"Oh yes he has, Jamie, but please work with me on this and go along with my story; please don't say any thing near the press."

"Ok," Jamie replied as he rummaged through the remains of the potato chips. "But shall I tell him about crying because he couldn't take his shoes off."

Josh grinned.

"Yep. I think that will be part of family folklore for some time to come!"

Adoptive father and son clinked a beer and lemonade bottle together and settled down to watch TV.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday Evening/Tuesday Night.

"So you enjoyed tonight?" Josh asked, trying not to look surprised as his partner slipped an arm around him as they strolled back to the Residence.

"Yea." Sam laughed. "You know how much I like Poker. Shame I lost out to Toby, he'll be gloating for days."

"I don't know why we've never had games before. We used to during the campaign, do you remember the late night bus rides and nights in hotels when we were too strung out to sleep?"

Sam nodded.

"But I was thinking of other times…"

"With President Bartlet?" Josh finished as he pushed the door to lift to the Residence, "I was thinking that too. Alex and Toby were working on late and news got back to me so I thought…well you've been so listless these days."

"Josh, we do need to talk." Sam took his partner's hand and led him out of the lift and in to the study. "But sex isn't going to be the answer this time and you have that look on your face."

"No!" Josh pulled Sam away from the study door and back towards their bedroom "I am gonna show you we can sit down and talk about what ever's eating you without sex."

Josh sat down on the bed and began to take off his shoes and looked up at the bemused look on his partner's face.

"C'mon, get undressed." Josh commanded "We'll sit in bed and have a talk like we used to do in the campaign when my back was bad from a long coach ride and talking ourselves to sleep was better than any sedative."

"You keep mentioning about the campaign tonight, Josh?" Sam replied as he followed his partners example and began to remove his shoes and after divesting him self of his clothes, neatly putting them away in his wardrobe.

"It was one of the times we were at our happiest, Sam," Josh reminded him as he removed his shirt and aimed it in the direction of his chair. "I am gonna take you back there tonight to bring you back from whatever downward spiral you've got in into."

"I thought we were happy in the…" Sam stopped talking. The town house was connected with memories of Alison, her perfume and warm sunshine of her garden.

"Yes they were," Sam began again as he kept his head buried in the wardrobe trying to sound normal. "I felt like a political operative again but with mom and Jamie with us we were a family." Sam turned to see Josh's enquiring brown eyes staring at him from across the bedroom. "Just gonna have a pee, clean my teeth." Sam heard his voice forced and bright and in the bathroom placed two hands on the sink.

"C'mon, Seaborn, it wasn't the big deal you are making it out to be. If it was you'd be having a different sort of….

"Sam." His lover's voice gentle in its concern; Josh right behind him staring at his taut face in the mirror. "Babe, what is it?"

"You haven't called me that since our very early days together." Sam said in surprised tones.

"Perhaps I should have done more often." Josh replied remorsefully, I wouldn't be in a situation where I am expecting you to say you're leaving me."

"No!" Sam exclaimed "What ever made you think that!" He bent over the sink and washed his face.

"Well." Josh perched himself on the rim of the bath as Sam cleaned his teeth. "Ever since Florida and Dr Carter you've been pissed as hell with me. Donna says I wasn't to worry about her."

"Josh." Sam put his electric tooth bush away in the cabinet and turned to face his partner. "Dr Carter is a friend, nothing more." He tried to sound firm but the wavering on the word friend brought a frightened expression to his partner's face.

"Sam?"

"Oh Christ!" Sam thumped his hand down on the bathroom sink. "What do you want me to say? Yes, I was attracted to her." He shuddered as his lover began to sag emotionally, "I don't know what I exactly felt. I do know that between your illness; the shooting, my episodes, I don't know what I am any more and she listened and I was flattered. There, I've said it."

"Did you fall in love with her?" Josh almost stuttered the words out.

"You know, Josh. I honestly can't say but the more I think about it the more crazy it gets so I just want to forget the last few months." Sam replied dully as he went to steady himself against the sink. "All I do know she wasn't Geena."

"Ok." Josh walked over to his partner and took his arm. Sam looked at him in surprise but unbeknown to him three words "she wasn't Geena." said it all to Josh. This he could deal with.

"We are going to bed and then we'll talk until either one of us falls asleep like we used to do in the campaign. It can be whatever you want as long as it's not heavy stuff."

"Ok." It was all Sam could say he felt drained emotionally and physically.

Ten minutes later Sam allowed himself to be wrapped in familiar embrace of his partner. As the minutes of their respective alarm clocks ticked away and they lay in silence; Sam reminded himself of the family life he had and would be a fool to throw away for a fleeting physical attraction.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two Days Later – The Oval Office. 4:30pm

"Yes. I'll make a point of it next time I am in Raleigh." Josh shook hands with the last of the delegation from the North Carolina Democratic Party and sat down wearily behind his desk.

The communicating door between his and his private secretary's room opened and Donna entered with a smile on her face.

"Why are you grinning like that?" Josh rubbed his forehead and leaned back in his chair.

"You can do it, Mr President!"

"Do what? Remind me? Is there any chance of getting some coffee?"

"The break with Sam; I've been on the phone with the Office of Charles Wentworth the third."

"How?" Josh face brightened at the thought of getting some time away and gave a beaming smile at Julia who entered with a mug of coffee. He gestured to Donna to sit down on a sofa and joined her.

"Sir, I know you've preferred to stay at Camp David for your summer break but there are many rich members of the party who've offered you the loan of their summer homes. Charles Wentworth's family has made a fortune in steel and iron and he's offered the use of his house of the Hampton's."

Donna pulled out some aerial shots of the house from a blue folder. Josh whistled as he looked through the shots of formal gardens with gazebos, fountains, indoor swimming pool, tennis court and a path that led down to a private beach

"It's got its own boat house so Sam can do some sailing and I've spoken to Francesca and she'll have Jamie for a week. She realises what with the thing with Italy and France you can't stay with her."

"A week!" Josh spluttered his coffee, "How did you manage that? I thought that my schedule was pretty tight."

"Well, there are some things that are unavoidable. You may have to meet some local delegates whilst you are there. Also you may have to do a video or phone conferencing but you'll be alone for most of the time. Well as alone as you can be."

"You'll arrange it with his Office? I'll do a photo opportunity and if I like the man invite him to Camp David. God, "Josh muttered as he stared at the photos, "How some people live."

"Sir, you live pretty well."

"Donna, this is not my house, it's the people's house. I just occupy it for what length of time they want to put up with me." Josh drained his mug. "Besides I am not like other President's, I don't have a family dynasty to back me, no family home on Cape Cod or in Manchester. How I got here was by years of experience and calling in every political favour I could think of."

Josh stood up and put his hands in his pockets and gazed appreciatively around the room and strode towards the door.

"Oh yes and I owe Sam a big debt as he sank a lot of his own private fortune into the campaign and his business. This is why need to do these little things for him," Josh added as he sauntered out of the Oval Office and towards his partner's Office in the East Wing, nodding and smiling at staff that passed him by in the corridor.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

4PM – Dr Carter's Washington House.

Alison Carter turned on the television in the den as she selected a couple of books from the shelves around the room lined with medical and physiology texts and a liberal selection of best sellers and the classics. She rarely watched television in the afternoon despising the staple diet of soap operas but over the past few days the temptation to tune in to C-Span or CNN and catch the afternoon press briefing from The White House had become a secret compulsion.

Alison sat down on the newly re-upholstered antique Victorian couch she'd brought from a second hand shop which always caught the last of the last of the afternoon sunshine; which her stray tabby cat Arthur appreciated.

"Budge up, Arthur." Alison moved the cat that slunk over to the other couch, washed himself and settled down to sleep.

Alex Kingston's youthful but increasingly careworn face appeared on C-Span as he finished with a long list of Presidential engagements.

"Will the President be going to France or Italy to discuss the crisis with its leaders?" Mike King fromWTKN asked thrusting holding his Dictaphone up towards the podium.

"Mike. The President feels this is an internal matter between both countries. Staff from the State Department are involved in the meetings between French and Italian diplomats and are hopeful or a resolution to the political difficulties between the two countries soon."

Alison tuned out a lot of what was said about cabinet appointments, the President's tour of the Southern states and sat up stiff at Alex's next announcement.

"You will be aware that last month Mr Seaborn began a tour of the states as part of the President's Educational Bill to assess its impact in our schools. Mr Seaborn will continue with this programme but will return to a more active involvement in his law firm Seaborn & Associates and will take on a handful of public cases starting with the Williams trail month."

A barrage of hands went up about security and the educational programme.

"Alex, in the light of the recent shooting at Mr Seaborn's car isn't the President concerned that if the First Gentleman takes on a public case, threats to the first family could increase?." Sandy King asked.

Alison felt a sudden sharp intake of breath as the camera turned to the back of the room and The President and Sam stood side by side.

"Of course both the President and Mr Seaborn are conscious of this but Mr Seaborn is a lawyer and has always held this completely separate from his role as the President's partner. There will naturally be increased security surrounding such trials."

"But didn't Mr Seaborn leave his law firm to pursue a more active role as a first gentleman?" Sandy King pressed on as the camera swung back to Alex's composed features.

"Sandy, Mr Seaborn feels that he can pursue both roles equally. He did take on less work from the firm while he was undergoing recent medical tests but now that is over he is ready and eager to get back to his normal schedule in all of his duties."

"John," Mike pointed to John Masters of the Washington Times.

"Mike."

"The office of Charles Wentworth the third have issued a public statement saying they are delighted the President has taken up an offer to stay at his house in the Hampton's next week, can you comment?"

"The President and Mr Seaborn would have preferred their plans to remain private." Alex rustled his notes, always a sign that he was irritated. "They will be away for a week and before you all ask Jamie will be staying with Mrs Seaborn. As usual the President will be in contact with his staff at regular intervals. Ok that's all, its full lid."

Alison watched as the cameras swung round yet again to the President and Sam. He seemed relaxed and happy from the brief shot as he smiled warmly at something the President said and laid a hand on his partner's arm. The screen misted a bit in front of her eyes and Arthur found his sleep rudely interrupted as his mistress picked him up.

"Oh Arthur I think this is going to be harder than I thought," Alison whispered in to the silver grey fur of the cat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The White House – Same Time.

"I am pretty pissed at Charles Wentworth." Josh commented as he walked Sam back to his Office in the East Wing. "I'd hoped our holiday would remain private."

"I think some one might have leaked it out any way. So don't beat yourself up over it." Sam replied as he slipped his hand in into his partner's. "I just needa know one thing?"

"What?" Josh squeezed the hand warmly. The little physical touches were returning before he'd sat up and discussed all night with Sam about returning to his legal practice practically full time. This didn't stop a tiny part of him feeling hurt that it took the announcement in the Press Office to heal imagined hurts and slights but…

"Hello, Josh, where were you?"

Josh found himself staring in into his partner's enquiring blue eyes.

"Yea. Sorry Sam?" Josh rubbed his eyes. "What where you saying?"

Sam went to speak - he could have asked if his partner was happy with the new situation but one look at the furrowed brow, the tired expression and he knew to say nothing was more prudent. Best to accept the extra protection whilst he'd be conducting public trails in court. And he'd come so near to betraying…well best not to dwell on that. Instead, as Suzi was in the Roosevelt room beginning a round of preliminary interviews for Sam's assistant in the East Wing for when she transferred back to Seaborn and Associates, Sam found himself taking his partner in his arms and kicking his door shut, always a signal he was not to be disturbed.

THE END

Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page