Title: It's Too Darn Hot
Rating: PG 13 to R Some adult situations but nothing too graphic.
Spoilers: General spoilers for seasons 1-4
Summary: AU Post Bartlet Administration.
Author's Notes #1: For those who follow the timeline of our stories this one comes in between Handling Sam 2 and Your Still the One.
Author's Notes #2: As ever, to Vicki for letting me use her universe, but this is dedicated as a birthday present to my good friend Mrs Josh Lyman. She wanted a story with Chris injured and Sam being nice to him. Thank you to Vicki for checking this story if any one spots other typo's, please forgive a dyslexic writer.
Disclaimer: The West Wing and its characters belong to Aaron Sorkin and NBC. Anyone else belongs to us.
Archive: Our website http://www.angelfire.com/ok5/samnjosh. You can find the previous stories there too. *
Feedback: Please! We would love to know what you think, good or bad as long as it is constructive. Our addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
It's Too Darn Hot by mellyjane40
Office of Seaborn & Associates 2pm.
"It's too darn hot." John muttered as he stared regretfully at his empty plastic cup, and stretched his legs out on the sofa, "I can't be bothered to move."
Chris Rawlins looked up from his newspaper with a sympathetic air and loosened his tie and grinned at his colleagues tut tut expression. "I know! But the First Gentleman's here until 4pm and unless he doesn't decide to visit her, why don't you get some shut eye?" John chuckled to himself. "What?!" Chris threw his paper to one side in exasperation.
"You don't like her much do you?" John needled his colleague as he stretched his legs out and placed his hands around the back of his neck.
"I don't really think that much about her?" Chris replied trying to sound nonchalant.
"I saw your face that day he visited her and she flaked out and…" John sat up in triumph scenting blood, "that day she sobbed all over him in the restaurant!"
"Well I just think she plays up to him that's all." Chris picked up the newspaper and buried his head in it "When Jan was expecting Molly or Andrew she didn't act the helpless female!"
"I don't think Dr Carter is either, she's tough on the inside but she's…well I'm a Southern gentleman and she makes me feel all protective." John closed his eyes and stretched out.
"You said we shouldn't do this any how." Chris said as he walked over to the water cooler and filled two plastic cups of water.
"Do what?" John mumbled.
"Talk about the First Family, speculate on their private lives or their friends."
"Did I?" John replied with a yawn, "I can't remember. Besides I like to wind you up you're so transparent sometimes."
"Go to sleep!" Chris sat back down and picked up the paper "If the First Gentleman calls I'll go up." Anything to shut you up! Chris mused as he turned his section to the sports page of the Times. A few moments later and Chris heard a panicked Suzie on the other end of the line.
"Thank god! You've got to stop him Chris!" Chris sat up and kicked his partner's foot to wake him and listened to what Suzie had to say then put the phone down.
"What is it?" John asked blinking and sipping the water.
"It's ok. You go back to your 40 winks, Princeton's got it into his head that he wants the window open."
"Jeesh he knows the rules!" John closed his eyes "I'll let you go as you're the teachers pet." He smirked as Chris got to his feet and hurried towards the elevator.
As Chris entered Suzie's office the petite secretary dressed in a navy blue linen maternity pant suit which skimmed over a slight bulge, turned as he knocked on the door to Sam's office. The First Gentleman was in a light blue linen short sleeved shirt, his darker blue silk tie and jacket lay on his sofa. Three large fans were on full speed but just served to blow the stale warm air around and Sam was tugging at the window trying to wrench it open. He turned at the sound of Suzie's voice and smiled warmly at Chris.
"Chris can you come and help me here! I know I'm from California but it's too darn hot! I'd go back to the Residence but what passes for air-conditioning has broken down there!"
"Mr Seaborn! You know you can't have the window open we don't know what marksman could be sitting in an office across the street!" Chris crossed the room till he was standing beside Sam.
"Ok! Ok! I'll go and work in the basement if I have to! Here can you help me?" Sam began to try and close the window. "I think there's something wrong with the catch…this…Jesus!"
Blind instinct took over Chris as the window began to fall like the guillotine axe he'd seen in movies and history books about the French Revolution. He elbowed Sam out of the way with undue force; but a sickening crunch and a scream told him someone was too late.
"Chris!" The First Gentleman's voice sounded panicked. "Suzie get Alan up here at once! Call, John!"
"I'll…go…"Chris began then realising the explosion of pain came from his arm he stared at his hand caught between the window and the frame.
"It's Ok Chris! Mark! Quick help!"
"What the fuck!" Mark Wyatt, Sam's best friend and co-partner exclaimed as he ran across the room to help Sam. Together they lifted the window sill and supported his arm around Chris who stared blankly at his hand. "Let's get you sitting down….shit he's…."
Chris began to feel woozy then hot and cold as the pain and shock began to take over almost his whole body and he began to shiver. "Jan's gonna kill me!" was his last coherent thought. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Through the receding blackness the pain returned and Chris gasped as he opened his eyes and found Sam's jacket covering the upper half of his body. A young man in his mid twenties knelt beside him checking his pulse.
"Ah!" The young man turned towards the doorway towards Suzie's office. "Mr Seaborn, our patient has returned to the land of the living."
"Great! Alan, can you see to Suzie for a moment? She's a bit freaked by all of this and…" Chris managed to catch the words "IVF, final attempt." as his eyelids began to close,
"Hello!" Chris opened his eyes and to his surprise found the First Gentleman had pulled a chair beside him and the blue eyes stared compassionately at him. "I'm trying to decide if you were foolhardy or brave pushing me out of the way like that!" Sam's tone was gently teasing but its undertone of sincerity and admiration, which brought Chris in his weakened state brought close to tears.
"Hey!" Sam gently moved his jacket further up Chris's body, "you're still in shock so let's keep you warm. Alan's managed to immobilize your arm whilst you were unconscious, just lie still as an ambulance is on its way."
Chris tried to raise his head to look at his arm that was in a sling but gave up as he felt sick and dizzy at the same time.
"Jan!" He managed to gasp as he gritted his teeth against another wave of pain.
"We've called her Chris and she'll meet us at the hospital." John said as he entered the room.
"Angry?" Chris tried again but the throbbing in his arm and spreading all over his body was too much and he closed his eyes.
"Well she had the First Gentleman on the phone explaining the situation so she doesn't know to be angry or proud." John joked. "How you doing?"
Chris tried to retort "what do you think" but John instead was met with a weakened glare.
At the moment the phone rang on Sam's desk.
"That's the Presidents line." Sam sprung to his feet and hurried over to the desk to pick the phone up. "How did the news get back to the White House…ah…? John told David." Sam glanced over at John who nodded.
"Hello, yes, no… not me Joshua! Chris! Who told you it was me? Oh you naturally assumed. I'm not klutzy! Look this room is pretty crowded so I'm not going further with this tone…I'm going to the hospital with Chris." There was a pause and Sam rolled his eyes "Yes John will be coming…Because he's my agent and both men are my friends." Sam affirmed.
Chris wasn't sure if he heard the final words, or if he was dreaming because his head felt heavy and his eyelids began to drop with the exhaustion and shock. He let himself sink in to a comforting doze, its darkness, its comfort, blanketing him from the pain.
"Chris stay with us! Just for a little while longer!" Chris's eyes snapped open at the sound of Alan's voice and the gentle squeeze of his good arm.
Chris tried to give what was encouraging smile but his head was so heavy it was so easy to drift off. The smell of aftershave from the First Gentleman's jacket a fresh tangy smell, mingled with body scent, a memory of a shower room and a younger leaner body but a face which seemed to merge between David. Chris opened his eyes again at the sound of paramedics and vaguely heard Alan giving details of what had happened. Then there were some reassuring words from a paramedic and Chris a hiss of an injection in his arm.
What ever the paramedic had given him was making him feel drowsy but comfortable and as Chris was wheeled out of Sam's office; the staff that gathered to see leave, merged into the white ceiling and spot light's. A blast of fresh air revived him temporarily and turning his head he saw the First Gentleman clamber in the ambulance beside him.
"John I'll be perfectly safe in an ambulance!"
Chris stared in surprise as the First Gentleman settled on the opposite seat. Chris was sure that he mumbled thank you and as he let himself succumb to sleep the last words he heard from the First Gentleman were.
"Well you didn't think I was going to let you travel alone did you? Jan would kill me!"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Two Days later 2pm
Its funny Chris reflected what perks being a secret service agent could bring. He watched as one of the orderlies took away his tray and he washed down steak, chips and peas with the remains of his iced sparkling water. After nearly three years he still got a secret thrill of riding in a motorcade with sirens blaring or seeing famous people face to face. By now he'd have been processed through the ER, seen by a tired, harassed resident, working well over his prescribed hours, and then sent home to recover. But on the First Gentleman's instance he was in a private ward, with a TV and private bathroom and waiting to see the doctor so he could be released.
"You'll soon get used to the plaster, Mr Rawlins." A pretty redheaded nurse with nurse Stevens on her badge, who'd helped him cut his steak up, commented. She expertly smoothed down his bed covers and propped the pillows up around his head. "There why don't you have a sleep now? Dr Edwards won't be around till 4pm." Nurse Steven's suggested.
"I might." Chris replied, the dinner was filling and making him sleepy and he was sure the stuff they'd given him to sleep at night, lingered in his bloodstream. He felt slightly lethargic, he'd just close his eyes and get some sleep then he could tell Dr Edwards about an itch and a rash on his chest that was….
"Oh I'm sorry I'll come back later."
The sound of the First Gentleman's voice filtered through layers of sleep. Chris shifted in his dream where a younger leaner body stared inquisitively at him was invaded by a different David. The smell was wrong not the locker room but expensive and spicy and the dream of a school football pitch faded but a friendly smile remained.
"No he's not you, go, away…."
"Chris wake up! The First Gentleman's here and ohh…" The pretty redhead squealed as she peered down the corridor "He's brought Jamie and the President with him."
"Well I don't know what you were dreaming about Chris!" Sam was standing by the bed in a black jacket, white open necked shirt and black pants with a teasing smile and an inquisitive look in the blue eyes. "You were tossing and turning there. How are you?"
"He had a bit of a restless night didn't you?" Nurse Stevens answered for Chris as she helped him to sit up. Chris lay still gathering together is chaotic thoughts and silently blessed Jan for bringing his new cotton blue cotton pyjamas. A new darker blue dressing gown was draped over his chair.
"Hi Chris!" Jamie entered the room and Chris heard the voice of the President in the corridor as he chatted to a patient in the corridor. "Oops! Someone's cornered JJ so I think he's going to be there for a while! Serves him right for wanting to tag along."
Jamie was dressed in a smart pair of black pants and his concession to the latest fashion was a navy blue tee-shirt. Chris saw his former charge on an every day basis but it suddenly struck him how Jamie was growing up. Now nearly thirteen and shooting up in height, he had the same mop of hair, enquiring blue eyes, so like his fathers, framed with long lashes, but his energy was more self- contained. The Jamie of three years ago would have bounded on to the bed or chatted away.
"How are you?" Jamie perched himself on the end of the bed. "Dad told me what happened how you pushed him out of the way! Is that your plaster can I sign it?"
Chris smiled, perhaps he was wrong there, Jamie was still in essentials the same inquisitive, chatter box, and he'd always been.
"Sorry to wake you Chris!" Sam gave his agent a warm handshake of his good hand. "The President wanted to come along and you're lucky to see him as he usually doesn't do hospitals." Sam gave Jamie a mischievous grin "does he Tiger?"
"Mr Seaborn you…." Chris began.
"Chris don't you start the, we shouldn't have come to see you business. Of course we should!" Sam smiled at Jamie who had shot of the bed and came back in to the room with a gift bag tied with a blue ribbon.
"Presents!" Jamie waved the bag triumphantly in the air. "Something from me! JJ and Dad."
"You've all been so kind and generous already." Chris settled back against the pillows and glanced around his room, dying to scratch his chest as the rash looked a deeper red and he felt flushed. His room was filled with flowers from extravagant bouquets to simple arrangements. On the window sill was an assortment of cards, funny, or a simple Get Well message. A simple elegant bouquet of Roses and Lilley of the Valley and the message read "sorry to hear about your accident, best wishes for a speedy recovery. Alison Carter."
One balloon which was tied to Chris's bedstead and fluttered in the breeze was red with silver lettering said "Get well Chris! Love from Jamie!"
"You like my balloon Chris." Jamie asked as he thrust the bag under Chris's nose. "I see Molly sent you one. Mines bi…."
"Jamie!" Sam warned as he saw a smaller but lively multi-coloured balloon with the words "I love you daddy!"
"Jamie that's really kind of you!" Chris exclaimed as he opened the latest James Grisham thriller in hardback. "How did you…" Agent and his charge exchanged grins."
"That's a really kind gesture Jamie. Did JJ or Nana give you the money? Don't tell me you raided your piggy bank." Sam teased as he ruffled Jamie's hair.
"I'm too old for a piggy bank I have a savings account!" Jamie announced puffing his chest out.
Sam smiled at Chris.
"Chris you're honoured normally any money Jamie gets is squirreled away, there again you're spoiled enough as it is."
"Shall I open Daddy and JJ's present!" Jamie urged getting out a large flattish parcel in blue and silver circles and without waiting for a response tore the wrapping paper open. Chris stared at a large glossy book called The Secret Service A Century of Guarding the President & His Family. "Dad you got it and it's the revised edition!"
"Jamie! Chris has broken one arm he's not completely helpless!" Sam rebuked then noticing Chris was trying hard not to laugh, "The President and I thought you'd like it if your gonna be laid up for a while."
"Ahh! I see Jamie's the same as he is at Christmas!" Josh sauntered in to the room and came to stand by his partner. He was dressed in a smart pair of beige pants, a cream polo necked shirt and a leather jacket was draped over his arm.
"Why didn't you come and rescue me!" He said to Sam as he shook Chris's good hand. "How are you Chris?"
"Hey I can't be there to rescue you every time you get close with the public. You say you want to get out be in touch with the voters."
"Do you like the book Chris?" Jamie decided to scramble up the bed so he was sitting so he could peer over Chris's shoulder. "You're on page 112 with me!"
"It's a lovely book thank you!" Chris replied sincerely.
All I did was what I'm paid for!
Chris met the compassionate gaze of the First Gentleman.
"You do more than protect us Chris. I was reading this book and it say's that many agents became friends of the family's they protected and…" Sam stopped and peered at his agent. "Are you alright?"
Jamie followed his fathers gaze at a rash that was turning a darker shade of red and Chris followed their gaze and let out an expletive.
"I'm sorry Mr President!" He immediately apologised.
"Chris I think we better call the doctor, you're looking …Jamie get a trash can!"
"I feel sick…" Chris began he'd noticed that before his meal the room had seemed warm he'd put a queasy feeling to eating all the steak. Now the room was doing summersaults in front of his eyes and he deposited the dinner in the trashcan Jamie held in front of him.
"Dad. Chris had steak and… "
"I don't think we need to know that Jamie! Oh Christ Josh can't I take you on any hospital visits at all!"
"JJ's alright when it's you dad. What's all that noise?"
Nurse Stevens and her colleague charged into the room and Jamie stood to one side as a harassed doctor in a white coat, fair hair, came to the other side of Chris's bed and opened his chest.
"This is Chris Rawlins he's in with a…." The nurses voice faded away for a moment then came back slightly stronger "Chris do have you have low blood pressure?" A male doctor gently laid Chris on to his side, "Ok he's going in to shock a reaction. Mr Seaborn, if I could ask you and your son to wait outside?"
"Did Andrew and Kevin help JJ out he turned a….."
Jamie's voice became caught up in the pain and discomfort Chris felt as if his body was on fire. For the second time in the space of two days, Chris found himself being lifted on to the gurney, but this time the anxious faces of the First Family watched as he was wheeled down the corridor towards the operating theatre.
"Good luck Chris."
Jamie called out which Chris heard as the swing doors closed behind him.
Chris stared in surprise as he was wheeled into his room, still groggy he tried to fix a bewildered gaze on the First Gentleman. Sam sat in the leather chair with a copy of the Washington Post lay across his lap and he sipped a coffee from a plastic cup.
"This is good coffee and I should know I drink enough of it!"
"Sir, I…." Chris yawned, what ever they'd given him was making him feel spaced out He didn't even feel his body being lifted from the gurney on to the bed.
"Chris it's ok." Sam stood up and came to stand by his side and Chris tried to get his foggy brain into gear. "I phoned Jan and said I'd stay with you till you'd come back from theatre."
"I sent him and the President back to the White House." Sam stood back as one of the nurses fixed Chris up to an IV whilst casting sideways glances at the distinguished visitor. "The President went all wobbly on me. I wasn't going to let you be on your own when you came back from surgery, they understood and…"
"Mr Seaborn!" The doctor with a badge name that said D J Edwards stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the VIP standing by his patient. "I didn't know you were still here!"
"Dr Edwards, thank you for what you've done for Chris…."
Chris let the conversation ebb away as he felt his eye lids close.
Chris opened his eyes and blinked and tried to concentrate on what the doctor was saying.
"I'll let you sleep in a moment but let me explain what happened earlier on. Some people are very sensitive when exposed to a foreign substance. It seems you fall into this category and a reaction is marked by itching, flushing, a raised rash, respiratory distress, and blood pressure collapse may occur."
"Ok." Chris mumbled his gaze had fallen towards the window and a balloon had escaped from a neighbouring private room and gently floating high into the cloudless blue sky. If only he could escape like that he felt light-headed enough with a little bit of concentration he'd be able to…
"Allergic reactions may occur after insect, bee, and wasp stings, after taking certain drugs, or eating foods. Contact with certain plants, marine wildlife, and latex can also trigger allergic reactions…" The doctor continued to intone as he studied his notes and broke Chris's dreamlike state.
"Oh why don't you shut up?" Chris's tired brain screamed and he caught a sympathetic gaze from Sam who behind the doctor rolled his eyes heaven's ward. "These symptoms of an allergic reaction may occur immediately or be delayed in onset by several hours. In your case I see you have low blood pressure Mr Rawlins which in some cases causes a person to pass out or hyperventilate. This is what happened before we wheeled you down to theatre."
"Welcome to the club!" Sam mouthed at Chris but seeing his state of extreme exhaustion and shock stepped forward. "Dr Edwards has fitted you with a fibre-optic cast Chris. The plaster of Paris in the cast caused an allergic reaction which is why the rash developed on her chest. Dr Edwards will fill you in further later on." Sam took the doctors arm and Chris watched as he guided the doctor towards the door.
"Now can you tell me how long Chris will be out of action? I'd like to make sure…" Chris heard no more but allowed the effects of the anaesthetic to take over. He didn't notice that Sam after conferring with the doctor resumed his place in the chair and calmly turned his attention to the Washington Post.
2 Days later: 11am
"I've just had the strangest of phone calls!" Jan Rawlins announced as she entered the study come play room where Chris lay sprawled out over a battered sofa, watching baseball on a 17inch TV and casting a glance over the Washington Post. Chris looked up from his newspaper as he allowed his wife to plump the cushions behind him.
"Who was it?" Chris asked as he tried to reach for his mug of coffee and winced in sudden discomfort.
"Honey, I'd wished you let me help you!" Jan a tall pretty brunette with a slim figure boyish figure constantly covered in jogging suites as she coped with the school run with her five year old daughter and two month son.
"I want to get used to this cast, the sooner I can go back to work. David said I can have a desk job till my arm heals.
"I can't see what the rush is!" His wife protested as she handed her husband his mug and perched herself on the coffee table. "We have medical insurance and mom has sent us a generous cheque."
"Jan you didn't ask her did you!" Chris protested.
Jan shook her head and returned her husband's enquiring stare, with folded arms and a slight flush on her face.
"No I didn't!" She protested hotly. "But you know what mom is like rattling around in the big house of hers! She's always saying she doesn't know what do with the money Dad left her."
"Ok." Chris muttered as Jan got to her feet and tided up a pile of magazines on the coffee table. "Hey! You didn't say who the call was from?"
"Dr Carter! She said she rang the First Gentleman's office at the White House to enquire about you and would like to come and visit you!"
"Oh?" Chris struggled to keep the hostility out of his tone of voice, "I don't know why, I hardly know her."
"Chris! You've sat in her house and helped her that day she was ill and I told you about the flowers and a lovely note. I'd love to meet her, so I said 4.30pm should be ok as I'll just have got Molly back from school."
"Well I can't very well say no then can I!" Chris protested as he turned his attention to the newspaper.
"No you can't. I'll have time to vacuum the carpet, give the formal living room a polish and ohh I'll get some flowers whilst I'm out."
"Darling she's not royalty!" Chris protested as he his wife hurried out of the room muttering to herself about flowers and tea and biscuits and her mom's best china.
This was a first, Chris reflected as his daughter five year old Molly sat next to him on the sofa chatting about her day at school. Normally his daughter, it was true to say the apple of his eye, was dressed in dungarees a tee-shirt and her auburn hair was all over the place. Today Jan had got her in a blue summer's dress and managed to get Molly to stand still so she could brush her hair.
"She'll be here in a moment," Jan muttered giving her husband an approving glance at his blue denim shirt and beige chino's. "Good you've put on the blue shirt I brought you."
"Who are we dressed for and why is mom vacuuming the carpet again Dad?" Molly asked as her mother lifted Molly's feet and vacuumed under them.
"Mom told you about Dr Carter didn't she sweet pea?"
"Yeah, you've mentioned her before, but why do we have to be all dressed up? Molly cuddled next to her father, "I wanna go out and play soon."
"Let's just humour your mom on this occasion." Chris gave Molly a hug with his good arm. "She likes to entertain and…" Chris kissed his daughter's forehead, "she's so proud of you and what you've been doing at school."
Chris's attention was drawn to the news channel on the large widescreen TV, complete with a brand new recordable DVD player and speakers. He watched as they showed Sam coming down the steps on to the tarmac and showed Josh gave his partner a warm smile.
"The President and his partner Sam Seaborn were welcomed on their two day whistle stop tour of Missouri and where greeted by Congressman Patterson and Mayor Ford." The President and his partner shrugged aside questions from the Press about the state of their relationship and Mr Seaborn's close friendship with Dr Alison Carter, the…"
"Chris turn that off she's here!" Jan hissed as Molly watched with fascination as a silver-grey BMW drew out side their driveway.
"Dr Carter it's lovely to meet you at last." Jan almost gushed as she greeted her visitor and ushered her in to the formal living room. Dr Carter was dressed in a flowing lightweight multi raspberry toned top, cut beneath the chest, over cotton stretch black trousers and comfortable black pumps. Chris and Molly exchanged amused glances. "I'm sure she'd curtsey if she could!" Chris whispered and Molly began to giggle.
"Well it's good of you to let me intrude on your precious time Mrs Rawlins." Dr Carter enthused as she followed Jan into the formal living room. "What a lovely specious room and I love the conservatory!"
Chris watched as Dr Carter glanced appreciatively round the room. Angela, with the help of her mother had spent a fortune in Laura Ashley to create a "New England" style living room which reminded her of her native state. Together mother and daughter had created a sense of seaside living with nautical stripes and bold fresh floral prints in scarlet and denim, with cream linen sofas and oak furniture.
Chris went to stand to greet Dr Carter but was gently but firmly pushed back on to the sofa.
"No Chris! I was told by the First Gentleman you had firm instructions to stay off your feet for a week or so."
"He's been marvellous Dr Carter…"
"Please Mrs Rawlins call me Alison and I can call you Angela?" Chris watched his wife blush with pleasure.
"Of course! Now I have tea or coffee, sandwiches and cake. Thanks poppet." Jan beamed at Molly who'd after a sideways glance from her mother carefully wheeled in a trolley. Chris's eyes widened with something he'd not seen since his courting day's afternoon tea. Not just a few sandwiches, but two types of cake, sponge and fruit cake and toasted tea cakes.
Once Jan had detected that Dr Carter was pregnant by the slight bulge, both women were off, on the subject of maternity clothes, morning sickness. After about twenty minutes Molly stared at her father with a bored expression, Jan stood up. "Well Molly, lets leave Chris and Dr Carter to talk for a while shall we?"
"But I haven't spoken to Molly." Dr Carter turned with a warm smile at the little girl who gave her a curious stare. "What school do you go to?"
Chris noticed that his normal cheeky daughter seemed to creep closer to him and it puzzled him when Dr Carter got the briefest of replies about school, homework and clothes.
"I'm sorry Dr Carter she's usually a chatter-box." Jan began apologetically.
"My daddy doesn't like you." Molly said in a low voice as she shrank in to the sofa aware of what she'd said and her face screwing up in misery.
Jan and Chris watched in surprise as Dr Carter got to her feet and went to sit down beside Molly.
"It's ok." She said in gentle tones, "I bet you've over heard things? Perhaps daddy has said something and didn't see you where nearby is that it?" The little girl nodded miserably.
"But you are pretty." She offered casting a wary glance at her mother.
"We'll talk about it later Molly." Jan reproached her daughter, "You can take the trolley outside whilst…"
"Actually," Dr Carter broke in, "I'd like to speak to Chris on my own if I may. Perhaps if you'll let me…" Alison drew out a $5 dollar note from her handbag. "Molly would like to spend some money on candies or perhaps a colouring book, pens whatever she'd like and perhaps give me a hug to show we're friends."
"Well I think you're being far to kind with her Dr Carter, but…" Jan smiled as Molly allowed herself to be hugged and scrambled off the sofa. "I'll take these things outside and perhaps take Molly out for a while."
Chris watched as his wife and Alison exchanged airy type Washington style kisses and Dr Carter promised to pay another visit to meet Andrew. Alison sat down on the sofa and as with encounters with the First Family; Chris found himself swept up in the "charm offensive" which his consciousness had mocked in the November he'd met the First Family for the first time.
"So Chris," Alison sat back against the sofa and crossed her legs. "I imagine your wondering why I wanted to see you."
"Well ma'am I was wondering why." Chris admitted he'd always been brought up to be open and honest, but sometimes it could be a curse and he longed to be cunning and deceptive.
"You can call me Alison. I hate all this formality."
"I'm sorry Dr Carter. But I'm trained to deal with all the friends of the First Family on a formal basis so it's best if we keep it on that level. Don't you?" Ah huh! That unnerved her, round one to you Chris!
"Ok Chris but I'm going to call you Chris if that's ok?"
Chris nodded as the British redhead laid crossed her legs and settled back in the sofa. "You don't like me much do you Chris?"
The question was direct and hit straight at the heart of the target like an imagery scene from the world of Ally McBeal, Chris had caught Jan watching on DVD. Jan loved all of the programmes that where long since in syndication, Sex and the City any thing with a glamour's lifestyle or the type of job Jan felt would have been hers if she'd not married Chris.
"I don't know what you mean?" Chris managed to appear non-plussed by her remark. "I'm trained simply to protect the First Family and not to form opinions on them or their friends."
"Ah yes that old safety curtain to hide behind." Alison murmured to herself. "But you see Chris I've watched you and I'd say you rather than John have the greater affinity with him."
"Dr Carter we've had very little contact. You've made me feel very comfortable in your home but we've barely spoken except for me to say hello, thank you and goodbye."
"Yes." Dr Carter agreed settling her self back against the sofa. "But I'm a doctor in psychology I'm trained to notice body language, facial expressions, mannerisms and I've been watching you Chris."
"You understand him the best Chris in the way you anticipate his every move."
"John does as well." Chris retorted feeling slightly uncomfortable under her enquiring gaze. "It's our job."
"Chris! Chris!" Chris stared down at the cool, perfumed, elegant hand patting his good arm and the soft chiding tones, almost hypnotic.
"Relax. I know you do your job and you do it well. That's why I need you."
Chris tried to turn from the honest yet direct gaze; part of him could see why the First Gentleman was drawn to her but whilst some men found it soothing, Chris found it vaguely unsettling.
"I don't know how I can be of help ma'am'." Chris replied shuffling towards the other end of the sofa.
"Chris you heard that I'm pregnant. My husband, Richard, has been offered a teaching post in Chicago for a three year period so we'll be shuttling backwards and forwards between Chicago and Washington." Alison studied her long red fingernails. "So perhaps all the gossip that surrounds the First Gentleman and I can die down."
"I'm pleased for you Dr Carter but I still can't see what…"
Alison edged closer. "Look after him Chris." Her voice was low and pleading, "Haven't you ever had a friend, a friend a school perhaps who you knew could be your best friend if only he'd see sense?"
Yikes! That was too close to comfort how did she know! Chris felt the palm of his good hand sweating and he put his hand on Jan's new upholstered sofa and wiped it. "You're a good guy Chris!" The voice of many years ago not yet broken but already had a maturity above its years. "It's a pity dad's such a snobbish prig! I'd have you to stay, but he wants me to go away before I start at Harvard. I guess we won't see each other after this."
"I knew it!" Dr Carter's voice was triumphant. "I saw it in the subtle glances that give him. I remember that day in my hallway when you all looked after me. John was the chummy one, the gallant gentleman but you….ah I see it all now."
"I don't know what you mean." Chris stared stonily ahead at the blank TV screen. "You where perfectly charming but I saw the way your eyes where on the First Gentleman seeking his approval." Chris met the steady gaze of the enigmatic Doctor and he felt a faint blush spread across his cheeks. "You won't say any thing." He almost whispered.
"No I won't. But I know there are things you've longed to say to me about my friendship with him. Go on we might as well be honest with each other."
Chris stood up and began to pace up and down the room which he felt was closing in on him. "Well ma'am I think it will be the best thing for both of you. You haven't seen The First Couple together…"
"I have at official functions." Alison broke in hotly.
"Yes, but I've seen them together, moments of intimacy when no one is looking. I've heard odd snippets of conversation where the President is jealous and upset and it's over you!" Chris stopped pacing. "I'm not meant to disclose of any this, I could lose my job if any one knew." Chris looked in surprise as Alison stood up and laid a hand on his arm.
"Dr Carter I'm sure you have honourable intentions about your relationship with the First Gentleman. You are a clever woman but surely that if you continue the intensity of the relationship with him, the gossip and innuendo can only hurt the Presidency."
"I know Chris." Alison's voice was soft and close to tears. "I needed to hear what you said. It's easy to dismiss what my close fiends advise, but some how from you who know him best and I know he considers you a friend, it's some how more palatable." Alison crossed over to the sofa and picked up her handbag and Chris found himself being kissed gently on the cheek. Chris found a burgeoning respect for the Doctor as she held her self erect and in the hallway allowed Chris to help her on with her coat.
"Good bye and good luck Dr Carter."
"Oh there's no need to sound so pompous Chris." Alison responded brightly but with brittle undertones as she stepped out to the driveway. "And don't worry I won't say a word of what you said to any one." She added turning with a smile. "Just remember what I said."
"I will Dr…Alison." Chris stood watching as the Jaguar pulled away and Jan came to stand beside him and waved.
"You didn't tell me she was leaving. I wanted to say goodbye." Jan sighed "Oh well I'll she said she'd like to meet up again."
"I don't think so. She's going to Chicago and won't be back for sometime." Chris fought down the childish urge to dance up and down the hallway.
"You don't like her do you!"
"No I don't and Jan I've explained why. My duty is to the First Family." Chris drew himself to his full height as he followed his wife into the kitchen. "I have to admit she is a true lady." He muttered as with his good arm he began to help his wife with the washing up.
2 Months Later
A small ornamental clock gently chimed 3am as Chris finished his third tour of the hallway that housed the bedrooms of the First Family. With a quick glance up and down the corridor he sat down on one of the chairs and stretched out his legs and rubbed his right arm that decided to ache now and again.
He'd returned to work over a week ago and closed his eyes in memory of the conversation with David on his first day back.
"Welcome back Chris." David looked up at a soft knock on his door, "Take a seat. How are Jan and the kids?"
"They're ok Sir. Thank you."
David studied a brown manila folder on his desk shut it and stood up.
"Well your doctor says you're fit to resume work and the President and First Gentleman both want you back on their detail."
"Sir I was…" Chris began and took a deep breath and his words came out in a rush. "Do they still want me?"
David's untidy eye-brows shot up in surprise. Yes why?"
"Well wasn't any thing reported? I mean…Dr Carter?" Chris finished off lamely.
"You saw a Dr Edwards at the hospital." David replied then realisation dawned on his face. "Oh are you talking about the…Ah I see."
Chris nodded his heart sinking, his boss would read the report further and see her complaint and he'd be off guarding some has been senator.
"No she hasn't been in contact why should she be?"
Chris sank back in his chair dumbfounded. So she hadn't said anything after all, she'd had every right, but there was no demand for resignation and he could go back to his job.
"Ok Mr Seaborn is in the Residence and wants to see you? So it's time to get you back in the game. CHRIS!" Chris jumped at the sound of David's raised tone.
"I swear you've grown soft during your leave. He wants to see you now so jump to it!"
"Thank you Sir!"
The First Gentleman said nothing about Dr Carter's visit to his house though Chris was certain they must have discussed it. But, as he couldn't innate a conversation with any members of the First Family, the matter lay largely unresolved. Sam's response to Chris in his detail was a "Good to see you back Chris!" with no further attempt at conversation; as Chris became swept up with the President's staff in a joint trip to Maryland to look at potential properties for after his term in office.
"I know its tempting fate Sam…" Chris heard the President say as they climbed into the Official car "But it's something we've got to think of."
At the sound of the bedroom door being opened Chris leapt to his feet to find Sam in his slippers and dressing gown staring at him in surprise.
"I didn't know you'd drawn the short straw tonight?" Sam said as he tied his dressing gown belt.
"Jan is away with the kids so I volunteered as John wanted to take his family away to Disney world." Chris explained, "Do you need any thing?"
"Chris it's not your job to fetch and carry remember?" Sam reminded him. "I can easily call one of the stewards, but I didn't want to wake the President. But did you know the Residence has its own kitchen? Come and keep me company. I'm gonna raid the fridge or make some hot milk."
"I'm sorry Sir." Chris replied as he followed Sam and found himself just off the second floor in a smallish kitchen which was big enough for a table and chairs.
"Do you know when the kitchen was installed?" Sam asked as he opened one of the kitchen cupboards and took a mug, and then rummaged around in a lower cabinet for a small saucepan.
"No Sir I don't. Jan has one of those fancy guide books on the White House, I'll ask her."
"Well, despite several years here I'm still not good about talking about the history of the place. If Jan would like a tour of the White House I'll arrange it." Sam replied as he as he turned the kettle on. "I sometimes get up and work when I can't sleep or if the President is…" Sam stopped himself just in time as he poured the milk in to one mug. "Shouldn't be saying that!" He muttered as both men stared in to the inky darkness, a few lights punctuated the darkness of the Washington Skyline.
"If I can't sleep Jan has some herbal tea which works." Chris offered as Sam let the milk come to the boil and made the coffee and carried the mugs over to the table.
This was surreal, sitting in the kitchen of the White House with the First Gentleman at 3am . He'd seen the First Family in private situations but this was some how different. He'd never seen Sam with tousled hair, the long eyelashes dropping slightly and slight stubble around the determined chin. For a moment both men sipped their drinks and Sam sat back with a sigh.
"You know when I was Deputy Communications Director, I thought I had some idea of how the President lived but I never fully understood until now." Sam took another sip of his hot milk. "I guess what I'm saying is that after nearly 3 years it's hard to get used to our moves being tracked within the White House. I hadn't appreciated that you and the ushers, stewards are alerted by signal when we enter a room. They just used to appear whenever President Bartlet was around. But now I've got to noticing that doors magically open and close for us. Taken me all this time there again I'm not a visually observant person."
"It took me a time to get used to the signal." Chris admitted. "For the first couple of weeks I used to jump!"
"Do you like your job Chris?"
That simple question and the friendliness of the drowsy blue eyes that stared openly at Chris startled him and he heard himself fumble for a response. "Yes Sir I do. It's a sense of duty… I can't explain it."
Sam gave a wistful smile. "You sound like someone I used to know…No I'm not gonna go down memory lane tonight." Sam muttered as he took a long drink of his milk.
Chris suddenly had the impression that for all the trappings and grandeur of the surroundings, the First Gentleman was lonely. "Look after him Chris." For a moment both men stared awkwardly down at the kitchen table, Chris unable to start a conversation first felt the most awkward.
"Chris I can see you're uncomfortable as I' am." Sam smiled at a memory, "I know the feeling it's like the old days working for the President. Can't speak or sit before he does. Did you know once President Bartlet had the President sitting up till 3am talking about National Parks?" Sam smiled fondly at the memory then sobered. "I can't stop going down memory lane tonight."
"I'm used to it Sir." Chris admitted as he sipped his tea "it all comes with the training package." He added with a smile.
"You don't get training manual for being the First Family." Sam replied reflectively. "Oh we had some idea obviously but its long range lenses trained on you ready to catch you out. Press as you step off planes and helicopters. I had a quiet life once…" Sam let out a yawn. "This milk is working."
"I'll let you get back to bed." Chris rose to his feet.
"No stay. I'm not that sleepy yet and I need well it's…the anniversary…my wife, our wedding anniversary." Sam drained his milk. "Sometimes these things are in the past where they belong; sometimes I get a glimpse of my old life and it's like a dull ache. I shouldn't be talking to you like this but as I said it's the camera lenses, any one I go to visit; the press put two and two together and come up with five.
"Sir shouldn't you…" Sam shook his head.
"No I can't talk to the President and I know I'm putting you in an embarrassing situation talking like this."
"You know I'm honoured bound not to say any thing Sir and I've never dream of repeating any conversation we have."
"I know." Sam said softly. "I do know that Dr Carter went to see you whilst you were off sick. That is one person I can talk to but that friendship is misconstrued by the press even by my family." Sam finished his milk his blue eyes pleading.
"I know I can trust you Chris. Alison told me that I could and I know you weren't afraid to tell her a few home truths."
Jesus! Where was this conversation going to Chris mused he kept a neutral gaze at his charge but jigged his feet up and down under the table.
Chris found himself blushing at the warm and sincere tones of Sam.
"Thank you." Sam said softly.
Chris returned his knowing glance.
"Yes I know what you said and I think at first she was shocked but mature enough to listen to what you said."
"Sir I said too much and she's been so kind. I was mortified that I said what I did."
"No, don't be Chris. You see Toby Zeigler and I once had an argument about a speech," Sam paused reflectively staring into space. "It was a speech to the Global Defence Counsel and friends being honest with each other. I got pretty wound up at the time, but I was young then perhaps a little bit more idealistic then."
"I don't know Dr Carter well Sir, she's just a friend." Chris replied in puzzled tones wondering again where the conversation was going.
Sam smiled and patted Chris's hand.
"You see Chris. There you go answering the question at its face value, you're so like me!" Sam leant back in the seat. "What I'm trying to say as a friend of mine your where not afraid to tell Dr Carter the truth. She's a dear friend Chris but she's also a realist. I think she knew that sometime a break was needed to let the gossip die down but she needed a gentle push. But she's pregnant and I didn't want to upset her." Sam gave a sigh, "pregnant women Chris."
"My wife becomes…err very emotional when she's expecting." Chris admitted.
"My late wife Geena did." Sam confided. "She had the oddest of cravings, pickles and mayonnaise, sent me out once at midnight as she'd been raiding the fridge and it was empty."
Both men sat quietly for a few moments of male bonding of sympathy for shared experiences. Sam picked up both mugs and took them over to the sink.
"You see Chris, you understand me. When the window fell you where straight in there, oh I would have no doubt John would have been, but there's something about you. John would do his duty with a `well that's my job attitude' but I think you really care. You, where not afraid to let the window fall on your arm or to tell Dr Carter a few home truths. That's why I count you not just as my agent but as a friend." Sam finished his long speech with a sigh and placed the mugs on the draining board.
Both men turned to see Josh standing in the doorway in his navy blue dressing gown staring in surprise at the domestic scene in front of him. Chris got up and with a "good morning Mr President," scurried out in to the corridor. In a mirror across the hallway he could see the reflection of the two lovers'. He heard murmured voices as Sam put the mugs in the cupboard and laid the tea-towel neatly on the drainer.
Both men then stood arms around each other watching the sun rise against the Washington skyline.
"You should have woken me." Josh pouted.
"Don't pout. You've just done a stint of nearly two days without sleeping over the crime bill. You nag me enough when I've gone a day without sleep."
Chris saw a gentle kiss exchanged.
"Yeah you're right," Josh kissed his partner's head and hand in hand they walked into the corridor. "So what did you and Chris talk about?"
Chris stiffened at the sound of his name.
"Oh this and that." Sam replied in a casual tone as he turned with a lets keep our discussion to ourselves look at Chris. "Let's get into bed. Thank god it's Saturday tomorrow, we can both have a lie in."
"You, coffee and bagels in bed…" Josh's voice faded away as he shut the door with a parting "good morning" at Chris.
A few moments later the lift opened and Milo who was usually on Jamie's watch appeared.
"Ok Chris, time to go. Has it been a quiet night? No late night emergencies?" Chris shook his head and exercised his right arm.
"Nah. The usual just a quiet night."
It was though, Chris reflected as he waited for the lift to arrive and made his way to the staff car park, hands in pocket deep in thought. Much more, the First Gentleman was his friend and he wanted to shout it from the roof tops. But he could picture the aside glances from John and an embarrassed scene with David and a lecture about the dangerous of becoming too attached to a client. He looked up at the sky at the sound of a distant rumble of thunder and shivered at the thought of the end of rides in a motorcade and shared confidences.
Chris climbed into his car and as he placed a CD in the player he smiled as a Shania Twain song started to play. "No One Needs to Know." The secret smile of satisfaction stayed on his face as he waved to the security man in his sentry box and drove out in to the main road.
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