Title: Handling Sam 3
Author: mellyjane40 (with a major contribution from Vicki).
Rating: Under the new rating system late teen to adult.
Spoilers: General spoilers for seasons 1-4
Pairing: Sam/Josh
Summary: AU ­ Post Bartlet Administration. Are Sam & Josh in love again?
Author's Notes #1: A Lyman Administration story. Its set a few weeks after A Perfect Swoon and before It's Too Darn Hot. Unfortunately I've mucked up with the timeline so I'm gonna have to be vague and say this story is set in 2017.
Author's Notes #2: To Abigale, Jen, Coup, Niles P, Vicki and Mrs J Lyman and all my other good friends who encouraged me through some rough patches in my life to finish this story.
Author's Notes #3: Thanks as ever to Vicki for checking my suspect punctuation and any mistakes are mine and 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 v.aldridge@virgin.net and melanie.rigden@ntlworld.com or mellyjane40@hotmail.com

Handling Sam 3 by mellyjane40

2017

Office of Seaborn & Associates Monday 2-30pm.

"We're gonna need an expert witness on this issue Sam." Mark Wyatt tugged at his collar as he and Sam ambled back through the corridors of their law firm to their respective offices. "If Judge Walberg is gonna make a big deal out of Williams's heart condition…"

"Yea there is no way Judge Walberg will let there be a further continuance." Sam agreed they reached his Office and he smiled warmly at Suzi who handed him telephone messages. "I've not raised too many objections as all the time the trail is delayed it gives us more time to make our case watertight but now…" Sam put his file down on the desk and flopped on to his sofa his hands resting behind his head. "Were ready and I think…" a speculative look crossed his face "I have an expert witness who can be called upon."

Mark who'd made himself comfortable in a leather chair and was glancing at his notes looked up sharply at his friend.

"No! You're not thinking of…"

"Richard Carter." Sam replied smoothly "Mark I can't see the problem in that! I know his wife that's all."

"Yea," Mark replied unconvinced "but doesn't the President get a little irrational when certain doctor or should I say Mrs Carter is mentioned? I've seen the rather tight lines round his mouth when her name is brought up in the conversation."

"Josh is learning to accept that the sun and moon does not always revolve around him. In the past I've had a number of friends who are women and I enjoy Alison's company. You've met her Mark don't you she's witty and intelligent…"

"And she's got long legs; red hair and a way of looking at you which makes you feel kinda…" Mark rose to his feet "you're the most important person in the room. Yes I can see how it's very cosy to sit with her for an hour or two."

"Yea." Sam replied in a distracted manner as he glanced down at his briefing notes trying to present a nonchalant air as possible. Marks word's had hit home at the reason for Alison's visit but he really did hope that after their last meeting he could form a friendship and…

"Well." Mark cleared his throat to get his friend and partner's attention "have you thought that the opposition would jump at the chance to bring your friendship with Richard Carter's wife. I'd think twice about it." Mark cautioned as he crossed the room towards the door to Suzi's office and with a backward glance at Sam's thoughtful expression left relived that his words of advice had been acknowledged.

Sam pondered on Mark's remarks as Suzi brought him in lunch and gave a sheepish grin when she tapped at her watch to remind him he'd skipped lunch. He let her run through his list of engagements for the afternoon and remind him that it was black tie reception with Josh at 7:30pm and heaved a sigh of relief when she left him to eat in peace and quiet.

Sam finished his coffee and sandwiches and settled down in the twenty minutes spare time he had to ruminate about his friendship with the enigmatic red head. How could he move the flirtation in to a genuine friendship? She'd aroused masculine protective influences he'd experienced with Geena. Sam fiddled with his coffee cup; not that he didn't love his partner but as his Josh had an ego the size of Montana and exerting any dominance in the relationship was turning it in to a constant battle of wills.

Sam consulted his list of engagements for the week that Suzi had printed on to an index card which he transferred to his electronic diary. For a change he could take her out to lunch; some where nice and secluded in Washington. After all they were just friends and since the State Dinner he and Josh in very public displays of affection proved they very much a couple. Sam gave a secret smile of satisfaction and sat back in his chair; his attempts to assert some authority the heightened sense of masculinity and perhaps a fissions of guilt that he was unintentionally hurting Josh did wonders for their sex life. Sam smiled at reports that had filtered back to him of the President strutting around the West Wing with a secret smile of satisfaction and general smug air.

Sam studied his calendar tomorrow was the only day they had left before Judge Walberg's patience finally ran out he order commencement of the trail. He picked up his phone and asked Suzi to ring Alison resolving to speak to Suzi for her unusual lack of professionalism when Dr Carter's name was mentioned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Dr Carter's House ­ Georgetown. Tuesday Morning 11: am

Alison Carter emerged from the wash room of her hall-way and smiled wanly at her friend and sister-in-law Jenny who was perched at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.

"That's the second time in two days Jen. I've just called my doctor and he can see me straight away. Thank god for private health care. " Alison sat down weakly on the opposite stool and her sleek auburn hair dropped down as she laid her head her head in her elegant hands. She raised pale features and gave her sister-in-law a wane smile.

"What ever Richard gave me for a stomach bug just isn't working."

"Are you gonna cancel your appointment with the First Gentleman?" Jenny asked as she stepped down picked up her handbag.

"Yes...No…" Alison replied weakly. "Oh I don't know! I'd like to see him it's been 4 weeks…" Alison met her sister-in-law warning glance. "Stop looking at me like that! Of course I'll cancel it it's just that…"

"Alison what did I say a few weeks ago." Jenny gave an exasperated sigh "Well it's up to you. I've gotta go to my meagre cheese sandwich. I'll call you later tonight to see how are you are."

The phone rang and Alison went to pick it up trying hard to ignore her sister in laws warning glance as she swept out of the room.

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

Tuesday Afternoon 12:30 PM.

"Right guys are you sure your ok with this?" Sam asked as his car drew outside the Tabard Inn, although it was only a short distance from the White House, there was no question of him walking.

Chris turned round in his seat.

"Yes we've done two security checks this morning and we have a table so we can keep an eye on you and Dr Carter. I do wish…"

"Chris." Sam broke in impatiently as he climbed out of the car. "We've been through this and I've spoken to David, Andrew Steve are only to be present when I' am in court."

"Yes but the trail is about to get under way and there are the increased hate letters and…" Chris's voice trailed off as he climbed out of the car and met the determined gaze of Sam.

Sam briefly clapped his hand on Chris's shoulder.

"Yes I know about them, but the recent shooting and other incidents have proved if I let them affect me I'd never step outside the White House or my Office. The secret service got Jamie back for me and you've… well you know how grateful I am."

John shot Chris an impatient look for keeping Sam on the pavement and Chris took his position behind Sam as John went forward to open the door to the restaurant.

"I've provided some lunch for your agents Mr Seaborn and it's on the house." The manager said as he shook Sam's hand. "We have ensured your total privacy for you and your guest." The manager assured him.

Sam glanced appreciatively around the hall way. In all the years he'd worked in Washington he'd passed by this restaurant and never ventured inside. Alison will like this he told him self as he glanced around at the red walls, black and white marbled floor, the heavy stained glass of the door way which sent sunlight flooding in to the hallway. Antique prints on the wall and a tasteful mixture of furniture added to the old world charm of the restaurant.

"Mr Seaborn, as we requested we have seated your agents near to you as possible and following their visit yesterday they are familiar with all the exits from this restaurant." The manager replied with a general air of politeness but not to obsequious manner.

"Thank you," Sam consulted his Rolex watch "Dr Carter should be arriving any moment now."

"Well we have reserved this place for you out side in our walled garden." The manager ushered Sam in the restaurant and out into a walled garden filled with a mingling of masonry, trees, vines and flowers. The sounds of clattering of knives and forks and conversations of deals to be held in the Senate and business ventures stopped as Sam and his agents where ushered to their table.

Sam found himself seated under a green and white striped umbrella on black wrote iron table and chairs. An attentive waiter placed the menu on the table and as Sam was about to ask for the wine list he looked up and smiled warmly as he saw Alison being guided by the manager to his table.

"Alison!" Sam stood up and crossed over to kiss her warmly on both cheeks and as he led her to her seat was aware of the eyes trained on both of them.

Dr Carter was elegantly attired in an oatmeal trouser site with a cream lace vest underneath. A shell rose pendant and matching earrings and beige strappy sandals completed the outfit. However, her translucent complexion and a slightly distracted air as she glanced around the garden had Sam instantly worried.

"Alison is something wrong?" He asked as the waiter picking up the signal that he should come back later bid a hasty retreat.

"I am sorry…this is the second time and I…" She broke off as Sam scooted round and knelt down by her chair.

"Alison last time I saw you you'd had bad news, what's happened now if there's any thing I can do, you know you only have to ask."

"No…it's not bad news Sam," Alison replied as fiddled with one of the miniature roses in the glass vase on the table. "I feel…" she took a deep breath "a little sick."

Sam took one of one of hands and squeezed it gently.

"Your hands are like ice! Alison you haven't been in an accident!" Sam's voice rose in his anxiety. The guest's looked round and tried hard not to stare to long at the First Gentleman on his knees in front of the attractive physiatrist.

"Sam I really don't feel well…shock…I…do need…can…actually I could do with a brandy." Alison finished with a weak laugh as she sat back in her seat and tried not notice the curious stare of fellow dinners.

Sam noticing her distress and mentally chiding himself for not having ordered a private room called the waiter over and asked to speak to the manager.

"Com'on lets get you somewhere away from the prying eyes. This was a mistake to sit out here. I don't know what I was thinking of."

Alison with Sam's hand resting on her back found herself ushered into a private dinning room and seated on an comfortable upholstered sofa.

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

"I am sorry Sam." Alison said as the waiter brought in a glass of sparkling mineral water with ice and a small glass of brandy. She sipped the water gratefully and sat back against the sofa. "You must wonder where your cool calm collected Dr Carter has gone."

Sam shook his head.

"I always liked that Dr Carter but we've moved from there." Sam replied as he put the glass of brandy into Alison's shaking hands and helped guide it to her cinnamon lipstick coloured lips.

"So.rrrry." Alison's teeth chattered as Sam took the glass from her and laid it on the floor, "feel. a bit…light-headed. God I thought when…I got…this news…I'd..."

"What news!" Sam took his friends cold hands and rubbed them gently "Alison is it Richard? Your business! What ever it is I can help." He urged keeping the trembling hands in his.

"I am….pregnant Sam…with child… enceinte as the French say."

"Alison!" Sam's face lit up as he gathered his friend into a warm embrace. "That's wonderful…is it mine?"

"Oh!!! You!" Alison extracted her self from his embrace and smiled at his teasing tone. "I don't see how you can joke…" She took another sip of the brandy and wrinkled her nose. "It's making me feel sick."

"Ok." Sam took the glass out of her hand and put it to one side. "Have some of the iced water. Now when did you get the news?"

Alison leaned back against the sofa.

"I got the call this lunch time. I'd been feeling sick for the last day and was about to cancel our appointment."

"I thought chances were very slim which is why you were so upset when we last met." Sam asked as he persuaded Alison to another sip of the brandy he handed her.

"My obstetrician did to and I'm about one to two months pregnant probably when you came round the day I'd been to see him. He's calling it a miracle and I thought at 41 I was too old for them!"

"I thought I'd never get a second at happiness…" Sam brought himself sharply to the present "Have you told Richard?"

"Richard is in theatre most of today and when I heard the news, I needed some air and in a haze found myself here." Alison gave a sigh, "I just needed to speak to someone!"

Sam smiled at a memory of a whirlwind Geena in pale lemon outfit bursting in to his law firm in California at the news of her pregnancy.

"I kinda understand." He replied sympathetically "But Alison what did I say about being beholden to me! I am flattered that I am the first to know but it should be Richard. You should not have been charging across Washington, remember what happened last time when you were in such a state?"

"Sam don't worry I don't think I `am going to be one those women in old movies who gracefully collapse when they either learn or are bout to that they are pregnant." Alison paused thoughtfully. "I would like a cup of tea though!" she added hopefully.

"Alison you are so wonderfully British!" Sam stood up and crossed over to the door, "Now you know why you've been sick a light lunch will perk you up and stop you looking as if you'll fade away."

Alison burst in to tears partly in relief at having unburdened herself and fumbled for her handkerchief.

"I hope I am not spending this pregnancy being so helpless." She sniffed dabbing her eyes "I so want to be one of those mums who sail through pregnancy looking radiant. I read of one mum who went of safari with her husband and…ohhh there's so much I have to think of!"

Sam smiled.

"Alison do you see your self as the safari type." He gently teased as he went to call for the waiter. He then guided his friend to a chair and gently helped her to sit down as he placed a cushion behind her back.

"Sam! I am only a one month pregnant not six months!"

"Geena's was cosseted from day one when carrying Jamie and why don't you take your shoes off and relax. Actually I think she liked to have her feet rubbed. I can…"

"No!" Alison squeaked mindful of her attempts to maintain some resemblance of a polite but friendly distance in the presence of the First Gentleman.

"No thank you," She tried again in a calmer manner "I am sorry…"

"Alison." Sam warned "what did I say…"

"In the last few weeks I've gone from hope to despair to happiness. I am all over the place emotionally and if you want to walk out of that door I'll understand."

Sam crossed over to the door and shut it behind him. Alison kicked the side of the chair in frustration and went to stand. As she did Sam entered with the waiter and calmly sat down in his sat and arched an eyebrow.

"Where are you going?"

Alison sat down in her seat and with a flourish opened her napkin and spread it over her lap to calm her impulse to flounce out of the room.

"Dr Carter isn't feeling well today, do you think you have something light but filling for her? I'll have the steak well done with new potatoes and vegetables." Sam gave the instructions calmly and the waiter a middle aged man cast an expert eye over the beautiful doctor.

"I'll get chef to prepare something special for Dr Carter." The waiter promised as he refilled Alison's glass with mineral water and left the room.

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

"Well that was lovely." Alison pushed her plate to one side and daintily wiped remains of hot cinnamon toast from her lips. "That omelette was so light it melted in my mouth."

"The chef swears that ginger tea is also calming for the odd spell of sickness and he's got a small packet waiting for you downstairs." Sam glanced at his watch "Its 1:30 and I don't have to be back at the Office till three so I can drop you off at your house."

"I can easily get another taxi. My car is in the garage and won't be ready till Friday." Alison protested as she sat back in her chair secretly hoping he'd protest.

"God this is so like married life!" Sam muttered "Alison you're so like Josh and Geena why do you have to fight with me!"

Alison threw up her hands.

"Ok you win!" She replied trying hard not to sound relived and she allowed him to take her hand and lead her back to the couch.

"Ok I am gonna order a coffee and tea for you, then I `am afraid we'll have to discuss the initial reason for this lunch."

The two friends sat and discussed the possibilities of finding a creditable witness over coffee and tea as Alison in her usual efficient manner took notes down in a leather bound notebook.

"Right I'll speak to Richard tonight about this, but I'll have to give him time to recover from my news." Alison said as she put her notebook in her handbag.

"You don't know how much I appreciate this, especially as your have the baby to think about." Sam replied in heartfelt tones as he helped Alison to stand. "But I do need and answer within the next couple of days. You'll sure he'll be ok with this?"

The sea-green eyes met the anxious deep blue gaze and she smiled reassuringly.

"Yes. Richard voted for the President during the election and he's not as irritated with our relationship as he was a couple of months ago."

"I wish it was the same with Josh." Sam gave a sigh "I've always enjoyed having lady friends, they bring out the gallant side of me and you have a different perspective on things that's really refreshing." Sam drew Alison towards him and kissed her softly on the cheek. "I just wish Josh could see it differently."

Alison, whilst enjoying the smell of the distinctive aftershave Sam wore, no longer felt the need to linger within its aroma; besides it was making her feel slightly nauseous and she'd enjoyed her omelette.

"Give him time Sam; you yourself have said that he can be insecure especially in relationships." Alison advised a she let Sam usher her to the door. She turned with him with a sincere expression on her dainty features. "I love your gallant side. I've said before, Richard bless him, is tied up with his work at the hospital, you make me feel special."

"You gave me back my dignity…" Sam broke off and gave a laugh "this is dangerously close to becoming sappy!"

"Sappy?" Alison queried as they began to walk down the stairs.

"It's an Americanism." Sam replied as he went to get his Platinum American Express card out to pay for the meal.

Alison stood by and Sam noticed that her air was changing from apprehension to an air of smugness and burgeoning delight at her news.

"Why is after I've been with you I feel I have to consult an American dictionary." She retorted with a gentle thwack on Sam's arm as he went to open the door for her.

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

As Sam went to open the door he turned at the sound of his name being bellowed across the lobby of the restaurant. Alison turned round in surprise as a tall, thin man with greying hair and sharp angular features crossed the lobby and her heart gave a thump as Chris and John moved protectively either side of her and Sam.

"I can't belive you have the courage to show your face in public Seaborn! Defending a philander like Williams!"

The gentleman if he could be considered that, Alison found herself musing, was as near as he could get to them. A slight air of unsteadiness on his feet and glazed eyes and the reek of brandy betrayed the fact he was drunk.

"John." Sam found himself within parameter of Chris and John's protection. "I don't think this is the time or place for a public brawl and besides you know I can't discuss a case in public."

The gentleman turned an unfocused gaze towards Alison.

"No, but I see you have time to lunch with your lady friend!"

Sam's eye's narrowed and darkened in anger.

"Hey! I don't care what you call me, but you're referring to a lady!"

Afterwards Alison reflected that every thing happened in a blur as there was a scuffle and as this "Simon." realising the agent's weren't going to allow him to get into a fight with Sam; went to barge his way past Sam and through the door. In the scuffle she found herself pushed roughly to one side and as she lost her balance with a little cry she found her self toppling forward.

"I've got you Dr Carter!" John assured her.

Alison shook her head as John went to virtually carry her towards the car; with surprising determination, marched up to the man who was now being held by two burly restaurant security guards. He stared in surprise at the indignant, elegant doctor who stood in front of him, shaking from head to foot, her eyes alive with anger. She gave him a scathing look.

"You know you know the way I am feeling you today you should be glad I wasn't sick over your shoes." She commented dryly "but unlike you I pride myself on having manners." Alison took a sharp intake of breath "but I do pity you because the First Gentleman…well he's ready to punch your lights out!" She finished scathingly.

Alison heard gasps of amazement from Sam as he stood by the safety of his car and watched proudly as she walked head held high towards him.

"Well!" Alison said hanging on to the last shreds of dignity and sank gracefully into the limousine "At least I've proved I have the British Bulldog spirit in me!"

There was a roar of laughter from John and Sam as Chris stayed behind to deal with the restaurant manager and the offending diner.

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

4pm

Sam he settled himself in the back of the limousine and found himself lost in thought as it purred through the streets from his office to the White House. The incident with Simon Greenberg was irritating but served to inflate his ego, if Chris and John hadn't been with him he'd have busted Greenberg. He'd admired the way Alison had dealt with the situation but she'd leaned on his arm as he saw her safely inside.

As Sam entered the White House it was almost as if he was walking on, what was the expression he frowned to himself? "On air." He felt capable of other heroic acts and failed to notice the curious stares of White House staff as he sauntered through the building, hands in pockets with a smug look on his face.

"Hey Sam!" Donna's voice as he entered interrupted his pleasant thoughts. "He's gone up to the residence as the meeting with the far eastern advisers is cancelled. There are no more engagements till the reception and…" she consulted her note pad, "Jamie has gone to Mark's, apparently you agreed to letting stay the night there?"

"That's right." Sam replied in a distracted air his mind still caught up in the events of earlier on.

Donna stared at her friend normally Sam would stop and have a chat but he seemed to be in his own world. She'd rarely seen such a relaxed, contented look since he'd come to live in the White House and was caught up in the euphoria of the inaugural celebrations.

"What's happened? When I left you this morning you were ok!" Sam exclaimed as he turned at the sound of his partner as he cursed and limped into the room. "I thought you were in the Residence."

Josh limped over to a chair and sank down and took off his shoes.

"I forgot a file and Donna keeps nagging me about braking new shoes in, you know the ones mom brought me. "What is about my mom and shoes?"

"I think the precedent was set after my mom brought you clothes when Jamie was little as she thinks your style is not all Presidential." Sam replied leaning against Donna's desk unaware that he still wore a satisfied look on his face.

"I go to Sacks and by a suite for $5000. I am not like you, a walking advert for Armani and why are you looking so pleased with your self!"

"Huh," Sam stared blankly at his partner and came back to the present. "Sorry just thinking about the case?"

"It went well today then?" Josh asked taking his shoes off and rubbing his feet.

"Yea you could say that." Sam went over to his partner who had taken off his shoes and to the amusement of his staff was about to take off his socks. "Look why don't we go up stairs and I'll get a steward to bring up some hot water and Epson salts. We can soak your feet and there's some plaster and anthestepic cream in the bathroom."

"It hurts when I walk." Josh pouted.

"Why is it when I try and be helpful every one has to fight to me?" Sam grumbled as he took his partner's arm hauled him from the chair. "You can walk in your socks to the Residence." Sam turned to Donna and with a "see you at the reception" guided his partner out of her door on to the patio and towards the residence.

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

"Your feet are a real mess darlin." Sam commented as the steward removed the bowl of water and Epsom salts and Sam picked up one of Josh's feet and began to caresses it. Not the soft feminine feet of Geena or Alison, feet worn with the endless tramping on the campaign trail; Sam almost dropped his partner's foot at his thoughts; if images he sought to repress continued to haunt him he'd have to seek counselling.

Josh sat back in his seat and closed his eyes oblivious to his partner's startled expression. His partner's tongue explored in between the arch of his foot; his toes and he let his body go slack as the rhythmic sensations washed over his body, creating delightful stirrings in his lower regions

"Sweetheart if this is your idea of foreplay I am all for it!"

Sam gave his partner a knowing glance; it was easy to slip back in to the role of a loving partner; but for how long his consciousness mocked.

"It could be if you want it." Sam heard himself saying "We have a few hours. How about a nice relaxing bath together first?"

"Hmm…I don't think I want to get up!" Josh replied as he made himself more comfortable and lessened his pants as they grew more uncomfortable as Sam's hand began to wander to familiar places.

"What made you think of the foot massage?" Josh said in between kisses as Sam stared to lower his pants. "You've never done that before."

"Oh just something…." Sam stopped as his lips met his partners.

He could tell Josh about his meeting with Alison; the incident at the restaurant; he'd asked David to give him time to tell his partner what had happened. There would be hell to pay as the insecurities that Josh harboured about his friendship with Alison would surface once he'd heard the news. There'd be trouble when Josh also learnt that he'd been with out the extra agents. But for now feeling as he did, his ego inflated, he pulled his lover in to his arms. The kiss was just deep enough for a low moan to escape Josh's lips.

"Oh it was nothing darlin…now why don't'cha make your self more comfortable."

Sam replied smugly as he pushed Josh aback the sofa.

Three Weeks Later. 12 Midnight Runway Dulles International Airprot.

"Mr Seaborn is there anything I can get you?" The air stewardess, used to dealing with VIP's was calm and acting as it was an almost every day occurrence to have the President's partner and two secret service agents in the first class cabin.

Sam settled himself in a Skysuite which were like chairs within miniature cubicles upholstered in Connolly leather and trimmed with Burrwood.

"This seat Sir can recline at any angle and becomes a fully flat bed. If you let me know what time you'd like to sleep I'll ensure your bed is made with fresh linen and a down-filled duvet. You'll be provided with a Givens-designed pyjama suit, soft eye-shades and sockets."

"This is better than Air force One!" Sam joked as he stretched his legs out in the reclining chair. "I'm fine for now. Thank you. You'll see to it that my agents are made comfortable? I don't think they've travelled this well before!"

The stewardess gave Sam a doubtful look whether the first class facilities were better than Air Force One. She threw an admiring glance at Sam at the almost immaculate appearance at midnight. A clean blue pressed shirt, darker blue tie and a coat she took from him that she was sure was pure cashmere.

"Yes Sir. I'll have the menu brought to you shortly, you can eat at any time you wish and the Captain is aware of your presence on board and would like to stop by and welcome you aboard."

"Mr Seaborn." Chris stepped forward with a furrowed brow. "I've just spoken to David and he's none to pleased about the arrangements. Air Force Two would have been ready tomorrow and he'd happier if you were to disembark, a limousine is waiting and we can get you back to the White House."

"Chris. I'll be perfectly safe no one has leaked the news to the press and I'm not holding up the rest of the passenger's journey by disembarking now. I pulled enough strings to get on this flight. I just don't want to…" Sam took Chris's arms and led him to one side. "Aren't there times when you know you've just got to act on impulse? I mean haven't you done so with Jan?"

"I usually just say it with flowers Sir." Chris replied dryly.

"Your office is saying you can't make the visit to Venice."

Josh's angry voice rang in Sam's ears.

"Yeah but this is important Chris," Sam crossed back to his seat and as he buckled up and half paid attention to the emergency procedure as the aeroplane taxied down the runway the rest of the row played out in front of the darkness of the window and the lights of the runway.

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

"I can't." Sam had sat back in his office chair. "I could ask Mark to take over as first chair but it's not gonna look good if I abandon my client simply because my partner is off to Rome."

"But Sam," Josh voice was angry and petulant at the same time. "I need you in Venice. All Presidents' partners have accompanied their spouses on these state trips it's gonna be four days of meetings tours and I need you. What's it gonna look like when I step off the plane and you're not behind me?"

"Josh," Sam had tried to sound patient. "Let us not forget that the partners of President's have been wives and no matter how much they had a "role" to play in the White House they didn't hold down a full time job."

"Yes but in the past you've been there for the state trips, remember London? Jesus Sam why is everything such a struggle these days."

"Difficult?" Sam sat upright in his chair, "I don't see every thing as being difficult I thought every thing was ok between us. I thought our sex…no I'm not gonna discuss that area of our marital life on the Oval Office. We'll talk tonight…"

"Is it because you'd rather play nursemaid to her that you don't want to go?" Josh snapped. "I heard about your lunch, a nice cosy affair and she cried all over you…"

"That's enough Josh." Sam's voice was dangerously quiet, "I saw Dr Carter because her husband is an expert witness in this case…" He looked up as his second chair as he close friend Mark had stood in the doorway tapping his watch. "Look we'll speak tonight. I should be home straight after the trial. Bye."

Sam winced at the memory of Josh slamming down the phone at him and glanced around at Chris and John who in their own separate beds conversed in hushed tones over their cubicles agreeing that despite the lure of designer pyjamas, it was best if they took turns to stay on watch.

"I wonder if they'll let us keep them and the over night bag." Chris commented in awe. "Jesus John have you seen the menu!"

Sam smiled at his agent's enthusiasm as he settled him self further in to the seat and study the menu and extensive wine list.

12 Midnight.

Sam felt pleasantly full as the stewardess took away his tray with the remains of a meal of roast rack of lamb with roasted vegetables and garlic mash. The coffee he kept savouring its rich aromatic smell. He stood up and peered over at his agents who by the look on their faces had enjoyed the meal as much as he'd done.

"Don't worry fellas; I'll sort this out with David when I get back. Do you both want to get some shut eye?

"We're going to be taking turns to be on watch Sir." John explained as Chris pressed a button and smiled like a kid as his seat reclined backwards.

"Ok. I'll see if you can keep the overnight bags and when we get to Venice I'll be with the Presidents detail some of the time. I'll see if you can get some time out to explore the city perhaps bring Jan and Angela a souvenir?"

"Thank you Sir."

"Goodnight." Sam settled himself back in his seat and pressed the recliner. One glass of wine with his meal and he felt drowsy. He let his mind wander back to the events of the past two days.

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

"Why are you here Sam?" Alison emerged down the stairs. "I'm just about to get ready as Richard has a function"

"I…god I've never seen you like that before!" Sam stared in astonishment as she led him in to sitting room and he flopped down on a cream suede sofa.

"Sam you should have rung before hand to see if I was busy!" Alison glanced at her watch. "I don't suddenly burst in on you do I? And stop pouting like that!"

Sam had the grace to smile and look sheepish.

"You look lovely as ever today Dr Carter," Sam tried to appease her.

Alison glanced down at her faded pair of grey sweatpants and a Pink Panther tee-shirt and her hair swept up in a white cotton towel.

"This is my lounging suit it's nice to slob out once and a while." She looked up at the little boy lost expression of her friend and sat back in her chair.

"Slob what does slob mean?"

"Relax; chill out as you American's would say. Now this function doesn't start till 8 so I'll give you half an hour."

Alison listened intently as Sam poured out his dilemma and when he'd finished she leaned back in her chair with a considered look.

"Ok I see that there could be problems with leaving for Italy mid trial, but don't you have a dedicated team of lawyers on the case."

"Yes." Sam reluctantly admitted.

"Then what harm would it do to have Mark as First Chair and someone else as second?" She gave Sam a searching look. "Is this an issue of vanity? Or are you still trying to get the upper-hand?"

"Sorry?" Sam frowned.

"Sam if you love him you'd have cleared your decks months ago because you've often told me these state trips are planned months in advance."

"Yes but I decided to take on the Williams case and…"

"Why did you?"

Sam stared thoughtfully in to space for a few moments.

"You know I sometimes wonder?" He replied almost to himself. "You know Alison, things are all…oh I don't know…we've discussed all of this before."

"Look," Alison got up walked up to a sideboard and pulled out a business card and came to sit down beside Sam. She patted his hand. "We're too close…"

"Alison I…"

"No Sam listen. We are friend's very good friends but let's not pretend we're still a little bit too close so I want you to see this lady."

Sam stared at the card.

"Janet is highly regarded in her area and I think she'll get straight what ever it is that is eating you up these days."

"What if it's you?" Sam whispered turning the card in his hand. "But it's funny you've been so good for our sex life. Josh he's never been happier but I know he's feeling insecure."

Searching his friends face he saw a flicker of surprise at his statement and then the shutters almost came down.

"Please." She breathed, "We said...I thought we were making good progress especially after last visit here and at the restaurant."

Sam stood up and glanced at his watch.

"Well I've taken up too much of your time." He pouted.

Alison stood up and took his arm.

"Now come on there's no need to get huffy with me! I'll always be your friend and I think we now know each other well enough to be frank with each other."

Sam laughed as she guided him to the door and into the hallway and straightened his tie in to a neat knot.

"Sorry I'm being an idiot." He muttered.

"No you're not!" Alison reassured him as she called up the stairs for Chris and John. "It's been an unsettling few months you and the President and one weekend in the Hampton's doesn't cure a rocky patch. Now I've got this thing to prepare for."

Sam kissed her forehead.

"Well as long as it isn't that Pink Panther sweatshirt you'll knock them dead as usual."

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

The sound of Chris getting up to go to the toilet broke into Sam's thoughts and after a brief conversation with the stewardess; the bed was made and after a quick wash and brush of the teeth Sam in his tee-shirt and boxer shorts felt almost cocooned within the darkness and warmth of is cubicle. The hum of the aeroplane lulled him to sleep and the pleasant but ordinary features of Janet Thompson entered his thoughts.

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

"Did Suzie get you tea coffee, juice, Danish?" Sam guided her in to his gigantic office with a mixture of modern and antique furniture. He'd deliberately dressed to impress in a charcoal grey suit, white shirt and pale blue tie.

"Yes your secretary is seeing to it." Janet took out a notebook from her briefcase as Suzie entered and served the coffee then discretely left the room.

"So," Janet began. "Firstly let me reiterate what I said on the phone that every thing we discuss today will be treated in the strictest of confidence."

"Thank you." Sam replied as he sat down opposite her in a leather chair. "You may think this strange me asking to see you like this. But I heard from someone that you are the best in your field of work."

Janet smiled warmly.

"That wouldn't be Dr Carter would it?" She asked innocently glancing down at her note book then at Sam's flustered expression.

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

Sam shifted under the blanket at the memory and stuffed his pillow in his face but the memory returned.

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

"It is." Sam admitted hoping he wasn't blushing there was something about the mention of Alison's name which made him feel like a shy teenager with raging hormones again.

"Ok well, we'll get to Dr Carter but first of all I'd like you to tell me about your past relationships with women and if I may your relationship with the President." Janet asked opening her note book and she began in her neat short to take down notes as Sam began rather shyly at first to recount his previous relationships with women.

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

"Is the First Gentleman ok?" The stewardess's voice interrupted Sam's thoughts but his eyelids were too heavy and full of sleep and Chris's voice faded away as the voice of Janet and his dream returned.

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

"So now we come to Dr Carter." Sam had shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Sam…" As Janet leant forward; Sam sat further back in his seat then stood up and with his hands in his pockets started out of the window.

"I am sorry…I…she's a very tactile person and…" Sam began.

"She got a little too close to you?" Janet prompted.

"Yes!" Sam replied in heartfelt tones.

"Why don't you tell me about your first meeting?" Janet coaxed.

Sam with an apologetic smile sat down and explained what happened in Florida their meetings up to the State Dinner.

"So," Janet began thoughtfully as she finished taking some notes, "You felt some sort of attraction to her and as you've indicated it was because of similarities to your late wife and the way she'd helped you." Janet stared up at a photo of Geena holding a baby Jamie. "I've never met Dr Carter; I've heard of her but we work in different fields of treatment."

"She has an air of Geena," Sam answered thoughtfully "but there was something more, she offered me peace and calm at a time when my life was upside down. Just to step in that cool hallway and sit and have her fix on me as if…" Sam blushed "It sounds a bit egoistical doesn't it."

Janet shook her head.

"No, we all need a little attention, flattery now and again and as you said earlier you had doubts about your own self-esteem." She said briskly. "What happened after the state dinner?"

"I asked her to come and see me the morning after the function and we talked. We agreed that the kiss was brief flirtation nothing more and that we wanted to be friends."

"Did you think you both could? Knowing your attraction to each other?"

"Yes! Despite the fact I'd just passed out at our first meeting, the way she looked at me I'd felt I'd known her forever. I've always had women friends. Donna Moss," Sam ticked them off with his fingers. "CJ, Ainsley Hayes, Mallory O'Brien Laurie and well best to forget my ex-finance Lisa!"

"But Sam, we've already discussed them and you said that with Mallory and Laurie they were failed relationships from the start. With Ainsley, well the President was on the scene at that time. Even with Geena you said there were problems because you still kept in contact with CJ who kept you up to date with what he was doing."

"I see what you're getting at…" Sam smiled at Suzie who'd brought in sandwiches and mineral water and waited till she'd departed. "I really did think Alison and I could be friends. She's intelligent, witty, a good conversationalist and I feel I can be myself with her. CJ and Donna I can't open up entirely to them as they owe first loyalty to Josh."

"Right, so you went back to see Dr Carter?" Janet began to take notes again. "How soon was it after the state dinner?"

"About three months afterwards. You read about the weekend the President and I had at the Hampton's?"

Janet nodded.

"Well our relationship was fragile but we returned from holiday if not as in completely in tune with each other as we usually are but on the right road and…" Sam gave a smile of remembrance "the sex was good."

"So, you felt that your relationship with the President back on track it was safe to see Dr Carter again but something's wrong or you wouldn't have called me."

"Yes there was, but before I tell you what I need to tell you something about…" Sam stared down at his shoes.

"What turns you on?" Janet prompted gently.

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

Sam sat up at the pleasant ache in his groin. "Slim legs and stilettos," he said with out realising he'd spoken out loud.

"Dr Carter I suppose you could say from a man's point of you has attractive legs?" Janet's voice rang in his head.

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

"Mr Seaborn" John's voice brought him fully to reality and although Sam was hidden behind his partition he hastily placed the blanket over his by now large erection. "Are you ok?"

"Yes I'm fine." Sam coughed and lay back down on the bed. "I must have called out in my sleep. Sorry."

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

"She's bewitching, she's cool calm funny, but has a fragility, vulnerability and what with a cute old fashioned yet classic way of dressing and oh Christ I know this sounds but a glimpse of those long legs and I'm kind of fifteen again having wet dreams in the middle of the night.."

"So why didn't you stay away from her after the State Dinner?" Janet asked scribbling in her note book. "You obviously felt some attraction so why did you see her a couple of weeks later?"

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

Sam smiled and moved further down underneath the blanket it had been good to talk to this pleasant woman, who presented no sexual threat. Janet was fair haired, a nice cute face with some freckles, but nothing arresting about her.

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

"I wanted to see her as I was used to her, cool, calm and professional image not floating around in some ball gown. I still wanted us to be friends so I had to establish the boundaries in my mind." Sam explained as Janet finished her sandwich. "This may sound funny but I had to re-establish…"

"How do you mean Sam?" Janet gently prompted as Sam was once again lost in his own world. A slight smile played around his lips.

"You know when the President and I…when we…well lets say we have our own fantasies and I have to get dressed up in my suit…he likes me to be the lawyer he's seen in court when I am arguing a case. He says it turns him on…I…well that involves…food or him in a pirates uniform something. Err... let's say swashbuckling hero…because no one swaggers like my Josh."

"My Josh?" Janet prompted looking up from her notes. "That's the first time I've heard you call the President by his first name."

"Sometimes I call him Mr President when…" Sam gave Janet a knowing glance "well you get my drift. He's the President when I am speaking in public or socially but amongst close friends he's Josh and I'm his Sam but everything got muddled again."

Sam threw the blanket to one side and sat up, put his head in his hands at the sound of Janet's measured tones; "oh why don't you shut up!" His mind screamed but he lay down and let the hum of the engine lull him back to sleep he was back in his office.

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

"Sam there's no need. Your paying me remember? You said at the begging of the conversation you needed to work with your feelings. Just take your time."

"Do you want some more coffee or Danish?" Sam stood up "I can get Suzie…"

"Sam sit down. I've been well looked after and I've eaten enough. Tell me what happened, you make it sound as if you slept with Dr Carter."

Sam's blue eyes opened wide in shock as Janet caught the look of utter surprise and horror that he would do such a thing.

"No! I didn't. I'm married." Sam replied in shocked tones fiddling with his wedding ring. "What gets me is that life was so uncomplicated before her and sometimes I wish I'd never met her."

"No you don't." Janet affirmed "You just think you do, but from what you've told me I think you've worked out in your mind what's been happening. I just need you to finish telling me what happened on that visit."

"Ok." Sam replied sounding lost and young "If you have an answer I'd love to know cos I am so confused."

"Sam!"

"It's all very weird when I look back on it. Something to do with… petticoats…no I'm not going down that route."

"Petticoats?"

"And a frying pan. As I said it's very strange." Sam smiled apologetically, "and we could be here all afternoon."

"Ok then give me a brief resume of what happened."

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

"Are you happy now?" Sam found himself muttering in the darkness and staring at his illuminated watch which read 1am.

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

"Ok. I think we're getting somewhere." Janet looked up at Sam's totally far away expression, "I need to ask you one last question have you seen Dr Carter again?"

Sam nodded and explained his last meeting at the restaurant skipping over the mention that Alison was pregnant and what happened when he'd arrived back at the White House.

"It's gonna be a battle of wills between me and the President but I think he secretly enjoyed it when I took control. He has so many big issues to deal with so in private I'm the one who makes the family decisions, but as I've explained he's quite happy to interfere in my work and has firm ideas about my role as First Gentleman."

"Yes and I think you've said it's not the first time you've had areas o conflict in this area, but on this occasion I think your inner need to play the hero has come into force. Your relationship with Dr Carter came about because of the situation you'd met."

Sam stared at Janet open mouthed.

"Let me explain. When you met her you'd undergone periods of vaso- vagal incidents which were brought on by stress. Nothing wrong in that but understandably you went to see Dr Carter because of your position and the fear of being in an embarrassing situation if you fainted in public. Have you ever dreamt about your episodes, relived the embarrassment?"

Sam nodded.

"Well fainting in dreams suggests that we are unable to consciously confront the issues or the topic that is being raised by the unconscious. In daily life, we faint when we are ill or when we are overcome by environmental forces. In dreams, internal forces, images or emotions that may be to powerful for us to process may have an overwhelming effect on the dream ego and fainting occurs. The fainting dream may be the first step in a process of becoming more aware of a particular area of your life. The unconscious will continue to send up messages and eventually you may be able to experience the unconscious psychic event that currently results in fainting." Janet finished with a sigh. "There that's the psycho babble out of the way, but do you get my meaning?"

"Yes, are you suggesting that my spells initially caused by stress where symptoms of a deeper need to come to terms with other issues in my life?"

"Yes but they became mixed up with sexually and masculinity. You like to see you're self as a dominant partner, and Alison Carter fulfilled all your masculine needs that were not being satisfied by the President."

"I haven't had an episode for months now and it's weird the urgent need to see Alison so frequently is diminishing. There's times the thought of her and I am a teenager again but she's proved she doesn't need me so often and so I've been floundering trying to look for other outlets to feel masculine."

"That's right. I think from what you've said both you and the President are both bisexual but he's is quite happy once he's found a partner. You told me that after you left the White House his relationship with Amy fizzled and he had a series of casual relationships till he met you again."

"And what about me?" Sam asked.

"You're a bit of an egotist aren't you?" Janet teased. "I was just coming to you."

"I've been told it's one of my less endearing traits." Sam bristled then laughed "I suppose it's best to have that bubble burst now and again.

"Well with you I think you're always looking for something more and because you've been married you're more susceptible to women and it took one who was on the same wave length as your acting like a teenage again, sexually aroused by the site of what attracted you to women. But when your attraction becomes mixed up with issues about your role and your health issues, it became a heady cocktail."

"No wonder I've been at sixes and sevens." Sam mused he stood up and Janet got to her feet and put her note book in her brief case.

"Thank you!" Sam patted her hand "Do you think I'll need to see you again?"

Janet shook her head.

"No I think you just needed to talk to someone who is not emotionally involved with you. I'll keep your notes on file and as I said they will remain confidential."

"Thank you. If you can send the bill to Suzie?"

"Sure," Janet replied as Sam guided her to the door, "Just one thing Sam next time you meet a woman you like, don't send flowers, a book on Victorian etiquette and a frying pan, it's enough to turn a woman's head! Goodbye."

Sam looked at Suzie's puzzled expressed as Janet said a friendly goodbye to her and sailed out of her office.

"Sam that wasn't a client was it?"

"No it wasn't, but can you ring Donna and tell her I'm leaving for the White House now and I'd like to see a copy of the President's schedule in Venice so I can ring him tonight."

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

"Is Mr Seaborn awake?"

The stewardess's voice broke in to what turned in to a dream of bursting in to the hotel in Venice and surprising Josh. The first time in ages a cool crisp scent and cool hands on his forehead did not invade his dream. Sam sat up rubbed his eyes and for a moment gazed in boyish wonder at the Austrian Alps below him.

Half an hour later he was enjoying a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and butter and coffee which he usually indulged in after a night of sex with his partner.

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

As the plane landed in the runway and Sam was being met by an excited Donna in the VIP lounge of Venice airport; in a small cramped office in downtown Washington two men where pouring over a number of posters.

"I knew you'd be pleased." A tall wiry dark haired man in a grey shiny business suit paced about and down the room. "I've read about Seaborn's previous encounters with photographers in the past.

"Yes…" a man seated at the desk in a slightly more expensive suite tie lose and with a bold shiny forehead and heavy lidded eyes replied. "But that was years ago and this Dr Carter isn't a prostitute.

"I know but there's evidence he's seeing her! Look!" Gentleman number 1 stabbed his finger on the picture of Sam kneeling in front of Dr Carter in the restaurant.

Gentleman number 2 sighed.

"Yes but they're not kissing or touching. Our society needs something concrete and we can't afford a third failure. We failed with the kid because the operation was bungled; Mason should have waited for a more opportune moment than approaching Seaborn at a fundraiser and look where he is now! This organisation is plagued by idiots!"

Gentleman number 1 stared in puzzlement.

"Oh I forget you're new to all of this and don't know the ins and outs of our activities. You'd better get in contact with…" Gentleman 1 took out a small business card and scribbled a number and gentleman two took it and smiled.

"I thought you'd virtually been driven underground." He answered in aware.

"Yes." A smile of satisfaction appeared on the small man's face. "But as you can see it's easy to get new recruits who are not happy at the prospect of a second term with the President and his wife." He spat out the last word.

"You think you can succeed this time?" Gentleman 1 replied as he walked towards the door and picked his grey rain coat from a coat hook.

"Oh yes. I believe the stakes are too high and we simply cannot fail."

The Grand Hotel Dei Dogi Venice.

The next day - 9:30am

"You know I shouldn't have let you do this alone!" Sam commented as he shut the door that connected the Presidential sitting room to the bedroom.

Josh dressed in a brown pair of pants and a beige shirt unusually he was alone, looking rather dwarfed by the grandeur of the eighteenth century surroundings. At the sound of his partner's voice he swung round as Sam opened his arms wide and within two strides his partner was encircled in his embrace.

"I've been away far too long." Sam murmured in to the chest of his lover.

Josh released and his partner and keeping of his arms stared at him intently. Sam standing a walking advert for GQ magazine, in black pants and a pale blue shirt, looking relaxed and with that smile a lazy smile that made his heart flip.

"This is you, I mean I' am not gonna wake up and find I am grabbing on to one of my staff?"

Sam laughed and pulled Josh back into is arms.

"No it's me and before you ask Mom has Jamie…" Sam stopped and it was his turn to stare back at his lover. "Holy hell Josh you look like shit!"

Staring back at him was a pair of hollow eyes, dark rings around them and the hands he held in his trembled slightly.

"Oh you know what these things are like sweetheart," Josh tried to sound nonchalant "one meeting after an other, then last night we had a thing at the American ambassadors residence which went on till 3am."

"Right, Ok," Sam muttered putting his arm around his partner and guiding him into the bedroom. "What's the schedule for the day?"

"Meetings between 10 and 12 noon then it's a formal lunch at the Doge's Palace. I'm meant to be having staff time but CJ and Donna where in cahoots and when I saw you!" Josh pulled his lover back into his arms.

Sam broke away from his partner and pushed him gently on the bed.

"Ok strip!"

The regretful brown eyes stared back at him.

"Sweetheart, I am really too knackered for…." Josh began.

"No you idiot." Sam kissed his partner on the forehead and turned with a nod to the private butler who indicated that the porter could bring in Sam's suite case. After they left; Sam opened the suitcase and pulled out his full evening jacket with tails and white tie and shirt. He held it up with a grin. "You see I am fully prepared for tonight. Now go and have a nice relaxing bath. You've got two hours before the meeting so I'll get you relaxed." Sam gave a wicked grin as he picked up the bedside extension and spoke in halting Italian.

"Sam what have you…?" Josh began but was silenced with a kiss.

"Hmmmm." Sam trailed his fingers along his partner's lips, "I think your gonna like it." He gave Josh another light kiss and gave him a little push towards the bathroom.

"Now be out within half an hour and your surprise will be waiting." He instructed as he began to take out his clothes and lay them on the bed's silk comforter. "I'll be right here."

"Sam I…."

"Shush." Sam kissed him and hurried to welcome the personal masseur into the Presidential Suite. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

6:30 pm. The Hotel Suite.

Once again clad in his Eyore boxer shorts and a crisp white tee- shirt, Josh wrapped his arms around his partner, who stood equally divested in a silk pair of black boxer shorts and white tee-shirt.

"Hmm, you smell of Imperial Leather talc." Sam turned round in his partner's arms, "and you're wearing the boxer shorts I brought just before the inaugural."

"I' am just your partner in these, not POTUS, just Joshua Lyman- Seaborn; oh you've brought the highlights of the game!"

"I know I risk repeating myself, but I swear I am the wife of this partnership. Every hotel suite we've been in has it's on TV, satellite, so if you can't sleep we can relax and watch the game with a beer."

"You know I kinda like the idea of you being the husband of this partnership, because I can do all the swaggering I like as POTU's you…" Josh let out another yawn, "I want to say something incredibly romantic but my brains like mush."

Both men looked appreciatively around at the glass chandelier, glistening marble floor with antique rugs and on the fresco's on the ceiling of gods and goddesses, and ancient tapestries on the wall.

"This hotel tops every thing I've stayed in. This suite has its own sitting room, dinning room, and a sunken marble bath…" Josh nibbled his partner's ear

"We'll try that later but we have two and half hours alone and I saw your eyelids drooping at the luncheon. Your gonna get some shut eye." Sam instructed as he strolled around the suite trying all the channels of the TV, exploring the refrigerator and mini bar stacked with every conceivable drink and snacks. He'd poured himself a coke and ice and as he passed Josh's briefcase ling open saw an inhaler.

"Josh?" He began trying to keep his voice calm. "What's this?"

"I've…well…we can talk about it later." Josh hastily shut his briefcase and closed his eyes at the memory of himself sprawled over the floor and his secret service rushing in at the sound of a thud on the floor. "Mr President! Please let us call Mr Seaborn he should be told." Julia had begged as his secret service agents had helped him to his bed. "No! I won't have Sam worried I just caught my breath and couldn't stop coughing, felt a bit dizzy that's all." He'd replied wheezy reply as Admiral Nelson on duty during the visit in calm efficient manner administered air from an oxygen tank. A startled CJ had charged up to the Presidential suite in her blue silk dressing gown.

As he opened his eyes he found him self staring at the gaze of his partner's hurt expression at his we'll talk about this later expression. Josh sighed laid his head back down on the soft duck feather and down pillow and allowed himself to temporally drift off in to a light snooze.

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

The Hotel ­ 11pm

"Hey!"

Sam turned round from admiring the view from the terrace across the lagoon a, enjoying the sounds of the lapping water and the distant church bell's striking on the hour, half and quarter to the hour.

"I wondered where you got to, CJ wanted me to sign some papers and I went along to her suite as she was on a conference call with the Secretary of Labour."

"I was just enjoying one of these!" Sam held up his cigar "and this!" as he sipped from his glass of Jack Daniels.

"Well I'm joining you in a drink sweetheart." Josh held up his glass of whiskey.

Josh strolled towards him as his agents Kevin and Andrew together with Chris and John took up advantage points at the four corners of the garden.

"I wanted some air." Sam replied as he stubbed out his cigar and placed it on one of the wrote iron tables together with his drink. "Com' here," he gestured to his partner to come closer. Sam took the glass from his hand and placed it on the tale. Josh found his white bow tie undone and gave a sigh of relief.

"Ohhhh I so wanted to do that, but I got distracted by CJ and the phone call." He gave his lover a sexy appraising look, "I see you've undone yours and it looks so sexy just hanging there and…" Josh moved closer to enjoy his partner's body scent. He broke away from Sam a few moments later licking his lips. "You taste of whiskey and cigar it's a very heady mix sweetheart, do you wanna go upstairs and…"

Sam took his partner's arm and sat him down on a bench.

"No not just yet, let's enjoy the view darlin'." He paused reflectively, "it reminds me when we watched Brideshead Revisited on PBS and Charles & Sebastian go to Venice. I'd just like to enjoy the sights and sounds of Venice for a little while."

"So which one of us is Charles or Sebastian," Josh teased "if you think I am carrying around a freakin teddy bear or riding in a gondolier…"

Sam leaned and kissed his partner softly on the lips.

"Don't worry I am not gonna have you being sick all over me. Remember that time we took Jamie sailing?"

"Yea, I spent most of the time chucking over the side, you know they tried to get me in one for this trip!"

"Did they?" Sam took a sip of his whiskey "what else did they get you doing." He replied determined to find out how punishing his partner's trip had been.

Josh outlined his schedule that made Sam's facial expression tighten in anger. He stared in the soft light from the lamps scattered around the garden at the exhausted features of Josh. He surprised his partner by jumping to his feet and stomping off towards the hotel, the agents jumped into action as Josh ran to catch up with his lover.

"Sweetheart." He panted laying a hand on Sam's arm to stop him. Sam's eyes darkened into narrow slits as he watched Josh slightly wheezing trying to catch his breath. "Wh..a..t do…you…" Josh gave up and sat heavily down on a seat the agents crowding around him.

"Guys!" Sam crouched down by Josh and looked up at the anxious faces. "Can you give the President some room to breath; he'll be ok just give us some air will you?"

The agents watch as Sam lovingly coxed his lover through his breathing exercises and then satisfied Josh's breathing was at a steady pace sat down beside him and took his hand.

"I was gonna to find out who ever organised your schedule a rock up their ass!" Sam's voice rose in anger "and when were you going to tell me about last night? I saw the inhaler and spoke to Admiral Nelson whilst you were in conference with CJ."

Sam's china blue eyes widened in shock as a look from Josh told him he'd preferred if the incident was kept a secret.

"Jesus! darlin! If it was me! God! My head spins at the thought at the reaming you'd give me. But oh with you it's ok for me to be in the dark!"

"Sam, I…" Josh put his head in his hand. "I don't know what I was thinking. We haven't been on the same wavelength recently and I got it into my head that…" Josh broke off as Sam knelt down in front of Josh and prized his hands away from his face.

"That I was thinking of leaving you!" Sam spluttered, "Listen, I have never ever considered it darlin, you me and Jamie we're family!"

"So what have the last few months been about sweetheart, please tell me? Because I've said it before without you," Josh waved a hand around the garden "this means nothing."

"It's about me being a jackass!" Sam affirmed as he helped his partner to his feet "But as I said when you woke up we'll talk later I promise."

"Ok!" Josh wrapped his arm around Sam and they began to walk slowly towards the entrance to the hotel. "So what do we do until then?"

"I take care of you as you have taken care of me in the past and we make the most of Venice." Sam stopped by the door and let two of the agent's pass into the hotel. "After all, this is the most romantic city in the world!"

Two visitors in the hotel smiled in recognition as the President and the First Gentleman gave them a warm smile as they crossed the marbled floor and hallways of the lobby to the lifts.

"I think they are from the Danish Prime Minister's team." Josh whispered as they entered the lift to the Penthouse suite and he started to laugh, "The look on your face at the reception when you discovered his partner is a he!"

Sam laughed.

"I don't feel so conspicuous now!"

"He's rather fit looking!"

"Joshua!" The surprised faces of the delegates turned round at the First Gentleman's exclamation and exchanged amused glances as the doors shut and the lift ascended to the top floor.

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

The Next day - 8:45 AM

Sam sat the dinning room of the Presidential suite of rooms scrutinising Josh's schedule. At the sound of a discreet knock on the door and his come in CJ, elegant in a navy pant suite with a white vest entered the room. She took a seat opposite Sam and accepted his offer of coffee and to join him in the continental breakfast, served in the hotel's crested china.

"I am sorry Sam I joined the trip at the last moment, when I saw his schedule Kelly had prepared I freaked." CJ said as she spread butter on her croissant. "How is he this morning?"

Sam took a sip of his coffee.

"He's better this morning, but I gave Julia strict instructions that he's not to be woken till 9:30 at the latest."

"Admiral Nelson gave me a full report after the thing. It's just exhaustion isn't it there's nothing else we should worry about?"

Sam nodded.

"Yes, its just exhaustion but, Christ CJ you've been with him the last 3 day's didn't you see this coming? He had a serious health scare last year and he tries to be Superman buts it's been a low recovery." Sam banged his coffee cup in the saucer in frustration, "I should have been here at the outset."

"Sam no one is blaming you." CJ reassured him deftly taking the cup and saucer away from his hand.

"No!" Sam shot back "If I hadn't been so caught in my ridiculous notions of how I' am valued as his partner, he'd never got into such a state."

"Yes but it's not been the easiest couple of years for you Sam, your illness and well…the kidnap…" CJ's voice trailed off.

"My illness!" Sam snorted "A simple medical condition that affects a large number of the American population; it's not potentially life threatening, just a little bit inconvienent on public occasions."

"Ok, Ok if your gonna beat your self up over this, I can't stop you!"

Sam gave a rye smile.

"No," He replied ruefully "I' am over beatin myself up, so I've come out here with a plan."

"Oh" CJ asked finishing her croissant and settling back in her chair.

"The first step is to get him better, CJ if he's gonna run for a second term, I've got to get him into better shape and convince the American he's fit for another term in office." Sam picked up the schedule, "I've been looking to see if there are a few two weeks and they're straight after the conference today."

Sam only needed to glance up at his friend and she smiled back at him.

"It's ok Sam, where do you plan on taking him?"

"Mom's villa, we've been there before for holidays, the secret service are familiar with its layout. It will give us the privacy we'll need."

"Well the Italian Prime minister couldn't make this conference so as long as The President pays a curtsey call on him or the American Ambassador in Rome relationships with Italy should remain stable."

"I'll make sure of it and we have a state of the art telecommunications centre set up in mom's old summer house, staff de- camp in surrounding houses and hotels so we're covered."

"Ok but we better get Alex to prepare a statement to the press." CJ commented "I've had words with Kelly and in future I'll make sure that his schedule is seen by Toby and signed by myself before it even goes on his desk."

After planning a rough plan of a speech Alex could give to the press Sam looked at his watch and got to his feet.

"It's nearly 9:30 I'll go and wake him up and get him ready for the 10:30 briefing."

"I'll go and brief Alex and Sam I suspect you don't want to see Kelly's face for the rest of this trip?" CJ replied as she crossed over to the door. A look from Sam said it all as he disappeared into the bedroom.

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

"Josh," Sam called softly as he opened the blue silk curtains and let the Venetian sunlight stream into the bedroom.

No reply came from his partner in his white tee-shirt and Eyore boxer shorts, who simply grunted and moved further down the bed. Sam smiled fondly and crossed over and bent over his partner and whispered "Mr President" in his ear. A wild haired Josh, brown eyes alert sprung up and blinked up as his partner smiled down at him.

"I thought you were gonna sleep forever" Sam said with a smile as he helped his partner up against the gold silk padded headboard.

"I had a good sleep, this bed so damn big. I thought I'd lost you in the night!"

"I was here," Sam reassured his partner as he went to take the breakfast from a hotel staffer who hovered in the sitting room. "Now," Sam after exchanging some Italian pleasantries with the steward brought the tray over to Josh and placed it on his lap. "You have fresh piping hot bagels, with butter, and jam, hot coffee and you're to eat it all, otherwise…" Sam kissed his partner's forehead, "I am keeping you prisoner in this bed."

Josh attacked the bagel and coffee and Sam perched himself on the edge of the bed by Josh, studying his partner's schedule for the day.

"Ok you have a meeting with staff at 10:30, a trip to St Mark's Cathedral at 11:30 am," Sam leaned forward and kissed his lover on the forehead, "I'll be with you for that, then there's lunch with the British Ambassador at 1pm. Then a final meeting with the heads of state between 3-5pm and…" Sam popped a piece of bagel in Josh's mouth "then which I've insisted on, rest time and a light supper with me before 7:30pm and death and shrieking that is Italian opera."

"Ok right oh hi Alex!" Josh looked up and called out at the fresh eager faced Press Secretary who hovered in the Presidential sitting room. "Com'on in" Josh waved him into bedroom.

"Good morning Mr President, Mr…Sam." Alex finished at Sam's raised eyebrow.

Alex, the youngest one of the Lyman staff was the most personable and the most innocent, when he entered a hotel suite during the campaign and found Sam & Josh wrapped in a large towel kissing, he'd turned crimson with embarrassment and fled out of the room.

"Sam I have the press statement you and CJ prepared and I'll brief the press…"

"Wait up!" Josh put the breakfast to one side. "What press statement?"

"It's about your holiday in Mrs Seaborn's villa for two weeks." Alex replied shuffling his feet at the realisation that the President was in the dark. "Hasn't Sam…ah" His voice trailed off in awkwardness.

"Can I read it?" Josh asked holding his hand out.

Alex gave him the schedule and nervously perched himself on an ornate chair.

"Josh I…" Sam began.

Josh held his hand up for silence and read the statement.

"Well Sam this has your finger prints all over it but I'll say this you've done a good case of getting over to the public why I need another holiday in the space of two months." Josh commented handing Alex back the statement and with a nod of approval dismissed his Press Secretary.

"You ok with it?" Sam asked half an hour later as Josh showed and hair in a more presentable state walked with his partner out of the bedroom and into their sitting room. "Because you just gave me a look and went into the shower."

"Yea I am ok with it but will the American people, this is like my second holiday in 3 months."

"Ah well." Sam gave his partner a crafty look as he straightened Josh's tie. "If there is any comment I have statistics and facts to roll out that will make you look like Ebenezer Scrooge in comparison to other President's."

"My geekish Sam!" Josh replied kissing him a chaste kiss, "always ready with facts and figures." He looked at his schedule, "the staff will be in now, what are you doing till 11:30?"

"Oh Kurt and I are gonna check out the sports facilities here perhaps do a few laps of the pool." Sam replied blithely holding up his sports bag. "You know when ever we are away I like to keep fit!"

"Kurt." Josh pouted "so the Danish PM's significant other is Kurt now!"

"Yea, I am just being friends with the poor guy." Sam gave Josh a knowing wink as he walked towards the door of the sitting room and exchange smiles with the staff as they trooped in. Josh noticed that Sam and Kelly avoided eye contact with each other and he made a mental note to have words with CJ.

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

La Scalar Opera House. 8pm.

"So what is it were watching?" Josh started down at the programme and stretched out his legs in the Presidential Box. Both he and Sam were dressed in tuxedos and glanced around at other heads of states that could not be accommodated in the box so were scattered around the Opera House in private boxes.

"Hmm," Sam glanced down at his programme, "Tosca."

"Yes I think I know it but I am quite whacked out I could quiet happily sleep through it. Who are you smiling at?" Josh sat up bolt right in his chair as Sam exchanged a smile with the Danish Prime Minster's partner. The young man, blond hair with startling blue eyes, looked slightly uncomfortable at his surroundings and gave a relived smile at Sam.

"Kurt." Sam whispered as the lights went down and he politely clapped as the conductor appeared.

"You seem to be getting along with Kurt I hope it's not gonna be another of your special friendships. I …" Josh began as the orchestra began the overture.

Sam gave him well'l talk about this later look as the curtains of the stage parted to reveal the Church of San Angelo in Rome. He took his partner's hand and squeezed it and whispered.

"If you want to sleep I'll read the plot so you can appear intelligent in the intervals.

Josh nodded and kept his hand in Sam's just shut up Lyman, he told himself, he's here, you can smell, touch him, with those thoughts he tried to concentrate on the opera and not let his mind wander off to matters of state.

~~~Presidential Hotel Suite ­ 11:30 pm

"Oh come on! No way was that the right decision!" Josh shouted at the TV, swinging his beer bottle dangerously close to what Sam was sure was a highly priced antique table.

"Josh, it's only a game!" Sam pointed out but secretly he was pleased to see Josh animated enough to enjoy the time they were spending together without worrying about the next day's activities or briefing memos. Sam took the bottle from him and sat it next to his own before taking Josh's face in his hands and kissing him soundly on the lips.

When Sam moved away Josh stared at him, "Uh, what was that for?"

"I just thought it was a good way to relax." Sam replied, wrapping an arm around Josh's shoulders. "Watch the game darlin'," Sam looked up at his partner's hand slid down his thigh. Josh sat back against the sofa pouting, making Sam smile when there was a knock at the door. "I don't believe this," Sam muttered as he got up to answer it, "Is it too much to ask, to have one night…not even that, to ourselves." As he spoke Sam swung the door open ready to rip into whoever stood on the other side. CJ stood in the hotel hallway, looking surprised at Sam's expression. "What do you want CJ?"

"Uh…I need a quick word with the President."

"It's gone eleven CJ, is it a crisis or something that can wait until tomorrow?" Sam asked impatiently, making no attempt to move and let her in.

"No it's not a crisis and no it can't really wait until tomorrow. I have Toby waiting in DC for an answer."

"Fine," Sam moved aside before stalking back to the sofa.

"CJ what is it?" Josh reached for this dressing gown draped over the bed as Sam gave a stony glance at the TV.

"Sam Listen I know what we discussed this morning but..." CJ began; she turned to Josh "Mr President...."

"Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like this." Sam said, without moving his gaze from the TV screen. Josh looked at him surprised at his tone.

CJ shifted slightly but carried on, "Sir, we've been trying to reschedule your few appointments for the next week or two for your time away and all have been moved except one."

"Which one CJ?" Josh asked, wearily.

"The bill signing on Thursday Sir, followed by a trip to a number of schools on Friday where you make a speech about the Education Bill. There are just too many people to reschedule and its so high profile and it's been said it won't play well in the press if we cancel at such short notice for the President to go on holiday."

"Says who?" Sam spoke up, dragging his gaze from the television.

"The staff feels it will send the wrong message." CJ said, staring at Sam, trying to show him she understood. "Putting off a bill signing for a holiday isn't exactly good public relations."

"Neither is the President ending up in hospital with exhaustion! CJ we talked about this!"

"Sam I know that but the staff…" She began but was interrupted by Sam holding up his hand.

"Which staff members? There's only you, Alex and Kelly on the trip… those same staff members wouldn't be responsible for this schedule would they?"

"Sam we're all agreed on this…it's bad however we handle it. How about we all go home for the bill signing then you and the President can have your vacation? It'll just mean delaying for a couple of days."

Josh looked at Sam whose eyes were sparking with anger, and took his hand. "Sweetheart, two days won't be much…CJ's right. You know that."

"Yeah…fine, ok, whatever. CJ we'll go home." Sam told her and as she went to leave, "Is Kelly in her room do you know?"

"I think so, why?" At Sam's look, CJ shook her head. "Sam is that a good idea, there's press all around the hotel you know."

"Do you think I'll make a scene? She and I have a few things to sort out that's all. There's no time like the present." CJ nodded reluctantly and looked at Josh who shrugged before she left. Sam turned to Josh as he heard the door click. "Are you ok watching the game darlin'?"

Josh nodded but took Sam's arm. "Sam, Kelly's just keen you know."

"No Josh, she's not keen, she's over keen…anyone with an ounce of common sense could have seen that this schedule was too much for you after the last few months and she needs to understand I won't sit by and let it happen." Sam shrugged Josh's arm away and stood up.

"I get that sweetheart but don't go in all guns blazing…why don't you wait a day and then talk to her. You do it now you'll say something you'll regret later." At Sam's snort he continued. "You will Sam, I know you. Also, I don't think you should be seen going into my Deputy Communications Director's hotel room late at night, dressed only in boxer shorts and a t-shirt." Sam looked down, having forgotten his attire that both he and Josh had stripped down to on returning from the opera. He looked back up and smiled.

"I guess not…ok, I'll sleep on it but she's been asking for this for a while Josh, you know she has."

"I know that," Josh agreed as he led Sam back to the sofa, "but just sleep on it…"

"Sleep on it, yeah whatever." Sam muttered to himself as turned his attention to the game.

Josh turned his attention back to the game wondering as he'd done ever since he hired Kelly why and she and Sam didn't get on. They where like two tigers confined in a cage snarling around each other waiting for the other to make the first attack. He couldn't understand it Kelly was a bight ambitious woman who'd turned the opportunity of working a prodigious public relations company because she wanted to have a chance of serving her country. Josh moved at such a passionate declaration had immediately offered this Democratic version of Ainsley Hayes a post in his campaign team. He'd get the situation with Sam & Kelly resolved once they where back home; for now he settled himself back on the sofa and divert Sam from the game by slowly undoing the cord in his dressing gown and leaning forward for a kiss.

10.30pm ­ Francesca Seaborn's Private Beach

"What're you thinking about?" Sam asked Josh who seemed lost in his thoughts. He gently squeezed his partner's hand, "or was the double helping of Lasagne too much."

The two of them were strolling slowly along the water's edge, ignoring the water lapping at their feet, hand in hand, with Chris and Andrew following at a discreet distance.

"Hmmm, oh sorry sweetheart I was thinking." Josh who'd taken the opportunity to wear jeans and tee-shirt with his leather jacket took a stone and skimmed it into the water. "I think this is better than the Hampton's. Don't get me wrong the sex was good but we're like the Sam and Josh of the old days a real partnership."

"I've been a real ass haven't I?" Sam kicked at the water as it flowed in and out, and left debris of seaweed and shells and other sea life.

"Sam…" Josh turned to face him to reply but Sam stopped him with a gentle tug of his partner's arm.

"No I have, I know that…I should explain, I owe you that."

"Sam you've said that enough times already, but yes you do owe me an explanation, the last few months haven't been easy!"

"I would never have left you, you must believe that. I still love you as much as ever, I never stopped but…oh I don't know Josh…I figured it out while you were away in Venice."

Sam sat down on a near by rock and started to skim stones in to the sea.

"I needed to feel wanted. You didn't need my advice; I couldn't give it even if you did, because I'm not involved anymore. Jamie's growing up and the firm is running smoothly without me. I get my teeth in to a case it becomes so…all America wants to have their say! So I wonder what exactly I'm doing!" Sam finished savagely.

"Sam! Why on earth didn't you say anything?" Josh sat down by his partner and laid his head on Sam's cashmere blue jumper.

"Do you remember, a few months ago? You came looking for some report or other and I was reading it?" Josh's eyebrows frowned in concentration, "I was about to offer an opinion and you said that, it had nothing to do with me…how do you think that made me feel?" Josh didn't reply.

"I'm actually asking you Josh. I need you to understand what I was feeling. I don't want to sound whinny or beg."

"I…Sam you should know me by now…I don't always think before I open my mouth."

"I know that, I was there with the whole secret inflation plan remember, but you hurt me Josh. You made me feel like I was exactly what the press and half your staff expected me to feel." Josh looked at him quizzically as Sam stood up and began to pace. "A square peg in a round hall; oh what shall we do with Sam oh well he's got his law firm let him concentrate on that. It will shut him up!"

Sam grimaced and watched as the sun began to slowly sink below the horizon casting a reddish, pinkish glow. Josh chewed his lip; he knew his Sam and it was best just to let him talk. So he sat and waited patiently but as Sam silently fumed memories came flooding back.

"That was just before the incident with the Australian PM…" A look of recognition spread across Josh's face. "Jesus, I remember Donna laying into me about it. Sam you should still know that you and I are a partnership."

"I know that now. Josh you have to remember how I felt then. I still had the fallout to deal with of Peter's diagnosis and I was all over the place but I couldn't fall apart not after California." Sam walked past his partner almost muttering to himself.

"Sam…" Josh started and as his lover passed him a second time held out his hand and pulled Sam to sit beside him, keeping their hands entwined.

"Let me finish. There's so much you don't know that I need to tell you if we can go back to a more equal footing."

"Ok but just tell me something, after I hurt you that day, where did you go?"

"To Alison's. I needed to go somewhere where I could be myself and not have to put on an act in case someone saw me." Sam broke off, feeling Josh's hand leave his own.

"It all comes back to her doesn't it?" Josh hissed.

"No Josh, it all comes back to me. Alison is a friend, she helped me, in the beginning she did…then it just got more complicated."

"Go on," Josh's voice was still defensive.

Sam continued as he looked out at the sea. "I'm not going to deny I was attracted to her, I think you already know that but that's all it was Josh…an attraction to someone who helped me when I needed it."

"When you went out and got drunk that night, you were babbling about not being like your Dad. I never understood what you meant." Josh let the statement hang in the air as he followed Sam's gaze to the ocean.

"I couldn't cheat…couldn't hurt you like he hurt Mom…it was a mistake…shouldn't have happened." Sam spoke quietly.

"Being friends with someone is hardly a mistake." Josh told him, sensing there was more to come in the conversation.

"The kiss…it was a mistake."

Josh stared at his partner, mouth open at his seemingly unintentional confession.

"What kiss?" He replied through gritted teeth.

"I never told you about that. That night after the poker game when we talked you didn't press me further on the subject."

"You could have volunteered the information Sam!"

"Well I don't want you freaking out on me." Sam replied with a weak attempt at humour.

"What, you expect me to gloss over this?"

"No and I am not going to sugar coat it for you either." Sam retorted

"Good! You drop this bombshell on me, and then expect me not to freak out!" Josh exclaimed.

"No Josh," Sam began patiently, "I expect you to listen and then we'll talk about it like two adults, but I guess I forgot who I was talking to." Sam got up from the rock he was sat on and walked away angrily.

"Sam!" Josh called, "Why is it I always end up the bad guy?" He muttered as he strode after his lover, "Aww Sam com'on!" Josh grabbed his arm as he caught up to him. "For Gods sake, you can't expect me not to be angry! Just put yourself in my shoes for a second. If I came to you and said I'd kissed…I don't know…Donna, what would you do?"

"For one I'd know Donna better and two, we both know exactly what I'd do. I'd run away, just like I always do!" Sam stared at the sand.

"Sam? What are you talking about? The Sam I know doesn't run away." Sam snorted. "Ok tell me, when have you run away from anything?"

"Where do I start…oh yes, Amy, my job, you numerous times…don't worry I know I do it Josh you don't have to try and make it all better."

"Oh enough with the self pity Sam! Nobody except you blamed you for leaving after the whole Amy thing, not even me. As for the other times, you were going through hell, and needed space! Compare that to the times when you've stayed around and fought for things."

"Like what?" Sam asked in a small voice and Josh sensed he needed the reassurance before they could go any further with the conversation.

"Laurie, you didn't back down and stop seeing her despite what we all told you, Jed's MS disclosure. I know you'll say they were a long time ago but more recently, you wouldn't let me resign when Jamie was taken, you insisted I stayed to fight on, Senator Mason," Sam looked up, "Suzie told me about the call where he made her cry. You've never left me, despite a number of occasions when I've been a jackass. Sam when you're fighting for someone or something you believe in you never back down. It's one of the many things I love about you."

"Josh…Let me tell you about the kiss, and then we'll see if you think I run away or not."

"Ok, go on. I promise I'll listen and then we can discuss it like adults." He smirked; glad he could bring a smile to Sam's face. Sam leant and pecked him on the cheek before starting to walk slowly along the water's edge again. Josh followed, waiting for Sam to gather his thoughts.

"It was the night of the state dinner," Josh looked at him, obviously remembering. "I was still mad at you for what you said about the report and angry about the remarks from the Australian PM. We'd almost kissed that day of the photo opportunity but my phone interrupted us. You remember when Alison and I disappeared after dancing?"

Josh nodded.

"I wanted to show her the White House and we ended up in the Blue Room…we could hear the music from the ballroom so I asked her to dance again…a slow dance. Josh it was the moment, the music, her perfume, the way her gown rustled as she walked. She looked so beautiful and all I could think about was the difference between you and her, how nice it felt to be and to feel masculine compared to her. Not that I don't with you but it was different…" Sam broke off.

"It's ok, go on." Josh assured him.

"For a moment it was an evening with Geena, I got kinda confused all the memories and I was caught between real time and a flashback and I found myself kissing her. She felt so good, so like Geena, I couldn't help myself. The way she died it still..." Sam stopped, as if he'd run out of steam.

"What made you stop?"

"You!"

"Me?"

Sam nodded.

"Remember when we first came out here after we got back together and we got drunk? We stumbled around like two gawky teenagers to Frank Sinatra."

"God we had a hangover after that night." Josh replied with a grin. Sam laughed and they walked a while in silence until they came to a small cove in the cliffs. He pulled Sam into the shadows of the cove, out of sight of their agents, "Tell me sweetheart, how did you kiss her? Was it like this?" He bent his head and pressed his lips to Sam's gently pulling at his lower lip.

Before Sam could react he pulled away. "Or more like this…" Pulling Sam right close to him Josh pushed his tongue into Sam's mouth, running it along the roof, making Sam shiver in his arms. Pausing for breath he said, "No?" Sam shook his head slightly, "Well how about this?" Walking Sam over to the flattest part of the cove wall he pushed him against it, pressing his hips to Sam's as he press their lips together once again. As Sam's hands came up to run through Josh's hair, Josh grabbed them and held them against the rough rock behind Sam. "It's my turn."

"Huh?" Sam's eyes were slightly glazed as he tried to stop his partner from ripping off his polo-necked shirt.

"You're the one who usually takes charge when we have sex and I like that, you know that but it's my turn now. If I let go are you going to keep your hands to yourself?"

Josh lowered his voice and Sam looked at him for a moment before nodding.

"I've always wanted to do it on the beach," Josh smirked in the dim light, before dipping his head to nip at Sam's neck.

"Joshua," Sam gasped, "if you think I'm playing Deborah Kerr to your Burt Lancaster you can think again!"

"I was thinking more of just Josh and Sam back together again." Josh murmured.

"Sounds like heaven but not out here…we're not on Mom's beach anymore, anyone could come past."

"It's getting late Sam and the agents are outside." Josh reasoned, running his hands inside Sam's leather jacket to caress his back through his shirt.

"If you're that desperate, you'd better hurry back up to the house where we can be completely alone." Sam whispered in his ear, all the time arching his spine to Josh.

A quiet cough made them move apart slightly and turn to look at Kevin, one of Josh's agents. "Sorry sir, Mr Seaborn but it's too dark out here and we are way past the boundaries of Mrs Seaborn's estate, we'd be more comfortable back at the villa."

Sam smiled as Josh wrapped his arm tighter around him, "It's ok, and we were just going to head back." Keeping his arm around Sam's waist they walked slowly back to the house.

"About the kiss with Alison I went and got therapy and…"

"Sam lets not discuss it again shall we."

"But we haven't finished and I….."

"Oh Christ Sam!" Josh broke impatiently stopping his partner with his hand. "We can talk till we'll blue in the face about the thing.

"Josh we can't leave things like that I need to know how you feel about the thing!"

Josh shook his head.

"No I don't want a further in depth discussion! If I think any thing more about it I'll go mad! It happened you've explained why and you came to Rome to be with me! End of story."

One look at his partner's furrowed brow told Sam it was wise for the moment to keep quiet. After all he reflected as hand in hand they made their way up the steps that led to the villa, what was the point of raking over the past?

"You're the one who's quiet now" Josh's gentler tone of voice broke in to his thoughts as they climbed the steps.

"I am just thinking on…" Sam stopped as they approached the villa the sounds of muffled laughter and splashing came from the pool. "What the!" Sam turned to Josh as Jamie emerged from the pool with his friend Michael, "Jamie it's nearly midnight!"

"Hi there Dad!" Jamie swiped some of his hair from his forehead. " JJ!"

"Does Nana know you're up this late!?"

"Um..." Jamie caught sight of his grandmother coming along the path from the house in her robe. "Err, now she does."

"Jamie! Michael!" Francesca thundered. "To bed at once!"

"Yes Nana." Jamie replied pouting furiously as he climbed out of the pool. Francesca turned to Sam and Josh and saw where their glances were directed.

"If you're thinking of a moonlight dip think on!"

The lovers burst into laughter at it took a simple bedroom gaze from Sam to let a potential row evaporate as they followed Francesca Jamie and Mike back into the villa.

The Following Morning 11.AM

"Josh," Sam hissed as they both reclined on a sun lounge's by the pool.

"Mmm," Josh mumbled sleepily. He and Sam were both dressed only in shorts and were enjoying the peace and quiet that reigned; now Francesca had taken the boys out for the morning.

"We're meant to be spending the morning together."

"We are." Josh replied adjusting his sunglasses, still not moving.

"I had in mind that we'd talk not that you'd sleep all the time." Sam reached out and ran his fingers along Josh's arm.

"You keep saying I need more rest." Josh sighed and turned to face his partner.

"You mean last night wasn't restful," Sam grinned.

"Not the word I'd have chosen no." Seeing Sam wasn't going to let him rest Josh sat up a bit more. "What'd you have in mind for this afternoon then?"

"Well, you said you need to catch up with some paper work, make some calls. I'm gonna spend some time with Jamie, then maybe a walk before a siesta." Sam said as he stood up before diving into the pool splashing water all over Josh making him jump.

"I'll get you for that Seaborn!" Josh laughed as he walked to the edge of the pool himself.

"You should know by now that I play dirty." Sam swam away laughing as Josh followed him into the water. Catching up to him Josh wrapped his arms around Sam and kissed him fiercely before sprayed a good deal of water over him.

As Sam vowed revenge, the agents posted around the grounds were quietly relieved that things seemed to be back to normal with the First Couple.

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

4pm.

"Francesca come and see this!" Josh called from the sitting room of the villa. He loved this room it was decorated in warm terracotta colours with cream and gold furnishing's and antique furniture. Josh stood by a large window that opened on to a balcony which over looked the swimming pool and across to a private beach.

"What is it Josh?" Francesca got up from her chair she was dressed in a long flowing navy linen dress. "I must get some tea…oh they've run him ragged!"

The scene that Josh gazed fondly at Sam stretched out on a deck chair on the patio, his glasses slipping off his nose as he enjoyed some late after afternoon sun.

"I think Jamie has run him ragged!" Francesca said fondly. "You go and wake him and I'll see about some tea. Do you think your agents would like any thing?"

Josh nodded as in an affectionate gesture he casually draped his arms around Francesca's shoulder as they made they way into the hallway.

"They are about to change shifts in a moment so I think they should." Josh stopped in his tracks as Jamie thundered upstairs dripping wet and swiping locks of dripping wet hair from his eyes. His friend Mark, a fresh faced cheeky boy, stood behind him.

"Hey! JJ Nana! Tea ready yet"

"Jamie you had dinner about 3 hours ago and I saw you swipe an apple from the fruit bowl." Francesca admonished.

"I am a growing boy!" Jamie pouted.

"Ok well…" Francesca looked down at her wet floor "It's a good job this house doesn't have any carpets! The both of you go and get changed. Tea will be in an hour."

Jamie went to thunder up another flight of stairs then stopped.

"Oh JJ you better wake Dad! He's dead to the world and Nana doesn't like him sleeping in the sun without any shade."

"Well why didn't you wake him then?" Josh asked as she began to make his way downstairs.

"I tried to JJ but he mumbled something about wired about Burt Lancaster so I left him to you. Com'on Mike."

Franscea laughed as she and Josh made their way on to the ground floor which led to the formal dinning room, kitchen and lounge.

"He's knows you both so well. Go and see to Sam I know he boosts he's from California and can take the heat but I still worry."

"MR PRESIDENT!"

Josh jumped at the sound of Kevin's urgent voice.

"Shit!" Josh let an expletive and charged towards the patio. He stopped in his tracks at the site of a Sam being helped back on to his chair by Kevin as Andrew moved Jamie's skate board out of harms way.

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

The pain from his toe throbbed and Sam allowed himself to be perched on the edge of the seat. Sam stared up at two silhouettes against the afternoon sunlight and closed his eyes. He could hear voices slightly fuzzy like a badly tuned radio and a stabbing pain from his toe.

"We are out of lemonade…" Josh voice and his unique smell taking the other arm and guiding him to a chair. "J…o..s..h" Sam panted and gave up trying to keep a grip on the waves of nausea that swept over him. He sat on the edge and tried to put his head down between his knees but the effort seemed too much.

"I'll get some water." His mom's voice sounded calm and distant.

Francesca headed back towards the house as Sam slowly opened his eyes and blinked as black and red spots punctuated the warm air.

"You klutz." Josh whispered lovingly but in a far away voice. "Jamie tried to wake you earlier. Jamie's drunk…SAM!"."

"Will you stop yelling I am trying to concentrate on not flaking out! Jamie's drunk!!!!…" Sam's voice was drowned out by a rushing sound in his ears.

Josh stared in amazement as his partner immediately dropped his head between his knees then after a few moments lat back against the sunbed taking deep breaths. After a few moments pale and trembling he look up and Josh was rewarded with a huge grin.

"Well you look pleased with yourself, like the cat that swallowed the canary!"

"Can, I have…water?" Sam panted.

"Here, darling." Fransceca handed Sam a glass filled with water and ice and smiled as Sam gulped it down. Mother-hen like she swiped some hair back from his moist forehead. "Mom!" Sam protested looking at the security guards that hovered on the edges.

"You sound like Jamie." Fransceca stood up and smiled. "Feel up to walking?" Sam nodded, "I think you must have had a bit too much sun! Yes I know you're a California boy, but remember the day built Jamie's house will you never learn?" Francesca tutted. "Ah thank you Kevin. Josh?"

Sam went to sit down but a lingering dizziness sent the patio tilting and he smiled apologetically, I'm still getting used to this therapy thing." He joked. "I'll tell you in doors."

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

11:30 pm

"We should be making a move!" Josh drained his scotch and smiled at his partner as they sat on the patio watching the last rays of the sun sink slowly into the horizon.

"No" Sam said softly and he laid a hand on Josh's arm. "Let's let this holiday linger for just a little while longer. Besides I didn't tell you about…well lets say I've been having the whole package of getting in touch with myself."

Josh took a sip of his scotch and settled back in his recliner.

"You crashed out on the sofa and went out for the light. But I had an interesting conversation with your mom."

"Oh!" Sam raised an eyebrow.

Josh smiled to himself.

"Well you know your mom! It was a very full and frank discussion. I didn't come out of it unscathed so I think this holiday has been a rediscovery process for both of us."

"What did she say?"

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

"You know I spoke to Sam before he flew out to Rome." Francesca began.

Josh nodded.

"Well he seems now finally to be adjusting to the upheaval of the last few years and it's been a long haul. But…" Francesca stretched out her hand and squeezed Josh's hand. "I want you to do something for me Joshua."

"Any thing I can Francesca you know that." He frowned "Are you sick cos' you sound serious."

"No Josh I'm perfectly fit but I'm serious because if you take my advice your marriage should remain on track."

"Ok but what…."

"I don't care what the American public say but I want to see more affection between you in public. No more trying to have a semblance of normal family life, what ever that is by having Jamie in official shots or interviews. I want to see you together holding hands, kissing hugging; I want to see you refer directly to him in speeches."

"Francesca my staff have done research and…"

"Bugger your research!" Francesca brought a well manicured hand down on the table.

Josh's coffee mug nearly went flying across the kitchen table.

"Francesca! I've never heard you use such language!"

"I'm angry Josh, the American public can elect a couple in a homosexual relationship so they can learn to accept that it's a new first family, if they don't like it then they can shut up and vote for another guy when your term's up."

"Yes but…"

"Joshua just think about it. Sam will respond as any affection shown by you in public will show how important he is to you. I think part of the time although he agreed that it was best to keep the affection low key he wanted you to say to hell with them all. You know what my son is like he'll fester for months about something, dropping hints until he'll explode."

Josh smiled.

"Yes." He said softly "that's my Sam!"

Francesca stood up and kissed his forehead.

"Ok Joshua. I know I can trust you but just remember although I'm a long distance I'll be keeping a weather eye on you both."

"How? I bet its Donna or Suzi they seem to be devoted fans!" Josh said as he stood up at the sound of the boiling kettle and crossed over to the sink.

"No its Joan." Francesca stood beside Josh and hugged him, "she and I have become good friends over the last few years. So don't let us down will you? You are a great team."

"I promise. I can't answer for Sam but I'll try."

"Oh Joshua you will!"

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

"Wow Sam you're blushing," Josh finished his story with a glance at the slight pinkish glow to his partners face.

"Well just sometimes I get kinda overwhelmed…" Sam sloshed the ice cubes in his glass of water and cleared his throat.

"Why don't tell you about your therapy Sam." Josh prompted taking a sip of his scotch. "Your mom told me not to say anything. But sometimes I still after nine years I can still be an asshole."

"Well… I think we've had enough of the heavy emotion stuff for the weekend." Sam "I thought I'm not afraid of needles and Peter suggested that acupuncture can help to reduce the vaso-vagal episodes. So whilst you where in one conference meeting in Venice I booked a session with a English therapist whose settled in the city…" Sam smiled to himself. "Except I'd forgotten what with my low blood pressure, one needle was inserted and I flaked out."

"So what were all those breathing exercises back there?" Josh asked.

"The therapist asked me about my medical history and I told her every thing and we went through breathing exercises I could do if I felt wired. I just didn't think so soon."

"So what about the future?"

"Oh lets just take one day at a time." Sam let out a yawn.

"Sweetheart we have a 10am flight and despite your long sleep this afternoon…" Josh stood up bent and kissed his partner's forehead "You look beat."

"We can both sleep on the plane." Sam sighed reluctantly as Josh hauled him out of the reclining chair and held on to him for a few moments.

"Thank-you for coming to get me." He breathed in his partner's ear. "I love you." Josh carried on in between nibbling his partner's ear and his light feathery kisses.

"We could easily go down to the cove again!" Sam suggested as he sank down on the chair and pulled his partner on top of him.

"No!" Josh pushed him self off the sun bed and grinned down at Sam. "You've got one bruise from your accident today and I am not risking another."

"Bed then?" Sam cocked his eyebrow in the direction of the villa and he ran a hand over his partner's purple polo necked shirt smoothing it down.

"Bed and sleep I think…though what's got you in this mood sweetheart?" Josh pulled Sam in the circle of his arms. "Not that I mind it!"

"It's strange." Sam admitted as he kept his arm his partner as they ambled back towards the villa. "I've been thinking of the day I built Jamie's play-house."

"I remember Francesca was with us that day too." Josh reflected.

"I remember telling Alison…" Sam looked anxiously at Josh who kept a neutral expression "that day I felt at peace and today it was the same today. You were worrying as usual and mom was her usual efficient self and I thought we're a family again."

"We are a family Sam remember? When I last said that just before the inauguration? We have our ups and downs like any family and we work through them."

"Yes." Sam agreed "But before we get back to the world of deadlines, functions, snatched moments together…."

"No snatched moments I gonna make sure we have designated times together and…" Josh was silenced by a kiss on the lips.

"No, darlin, no promises you cant keep." Sam declared "What I am trying to say is that I've done arguing, trying to reach some idea of what I saw as perfect role for me in the White House. It's tearing both of us apart and its upset mom, Jamie and made you ill."

"Sam you need to do whatever you're comfortable doing. I know my staff have tried and failed to find a role for you but you know you're limited with working as well. I don't know what to do to change that."