Title: 'Death by Doughnut'
Author: Anna Rousseau <annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk>
Genre: Humour
Category: JL/SS/DM/AH
Rating: PG
Set: S3
Spoilers: S1 & S2 (minor)
Last Episode Seen: The Stackhouse Filibuster
Archive: Please, just tell me where
Shameless Plug:
:~: the steam pipe trunk distribution venue :~: - west wing fanfiction by anna rousseau

Summary: Ainsley, a doughnut, the White House Bowling alley, Sam's pilgrim detective TV series, Ewan McGregor and Lord Marbury. Could you ask for anything more?

Disclaimer: I don't own the West Wing, I don't own Ewan McGregor- dammit.

Note: My first, first person fic, if you get what I'm saying. I'm just giving it a spin, so don't shout if it goes completely flat. : o)

This was a challenge set to me by a friend. This fic had to include:

:~: Doughnuts
:~: Ainsley
:~: Josh POV
:~: The White House bowling alley
:~: Sam gets a haircut
:~: Sam's pilgrim detective TV series (from 'Shibboleth')
:~: Ewan McGregor
:~: Lord Marbury
:~: People going missing

So now you know what to expect from....


"Josh, I think I killed Ainsley!"

Okay. I'm going to play it to you straight. Today hadn't been the best of days. It hadn't necessarily been the worst day of my life either, I'm just saying that if someone asked me to rank my All-Time Top Ten Days of Joshua Lyman's Life for some sort of Biography Channel five-minute featurette, today wouldn't top the list.

First of all, I had about a million reports on the threat of Foot and Mouth disease being brought into the US from Britain to read. And somewhere along the process of trawling through these mind-bogglingly boring documents written by some poor soul who probably slaved for years to get a PhD just so they could churn out statistics on agricultural problems, I had started to contemplate that there were millions of these things that I had to read. Then I had begun to think about the fact that one million in the United States was not the same as one million in the United Kingdom- and, well, that had phased me slightly. Seriously, it's pretty freaky if you think about it.

Okay, I can see you're looking at me like I've just sprouted about twenty extra limbs, but this is where your mind starts to wonder after being phenomenally bored for hours on end. Trust me, these things start to turn around in your head.

As I was saying, I was trying to read these damned reports, and to top it all off Donna- oh God, Donna- had been on my nerves even more than usual. She had been to see Moulin Rouge for the third time (the third time) the night before, and I swear to holy God that she had such a good memory that she knew every word from every song from watching the movie, or that she had gone out, bought the soundtrack and had learnt everything just to annoy me.

Okay, I don't have anything against the movie. Sam and I went to see it when it came out (actually Sam went, and I sat there feeling grumpy because I, a grown male, was paying to watch people singing and dancing in ridiculous costumes), and it was pretty good... but I'm sure that if Nicole Kidman hadn't had been in it, the film would have been dire.

So, as a result of this bizarre Moulin Rouge obsession, Donna had been walking (or dancing) around the West Wing for the past few weeks humming bits of 'Your Song' and occasionally bursting out a full excruciating chorus of 'Diamond's Are a Girl's Best Friend'.

As you can imagine, this was very disturbing. Even more disturbing was the fact that Sam had gone to see the movie with Donna for the second and third time, and the most disturbing thing was I don't think he had the ulterior motive of wanting to see Nicole Kidman's legs, he was there for the music.

Though, you have to remember that this guy had been the Recording Secretary for the Princeton Gilbert & Sullivan Society. For two years, none the less. Something like that has to do something to a guy.

I'm getting off track, aren't I, I'm gonna blame it on those mind-numbing reports I spent all day reading.

So. Donna.

This new all-singing, all-dancing Donna was bearable. She was even quite bearable when she found out on Tuesday that Lord John Marbury, the ever dashingly drunk British Ambassador, was to have dinner the President and the Staff today with a few of the UN Goodwill Ambassadors - Geri Halliwell, Angelina Jolie, y'know, people like that. I was quite looking forward to Angelina Jolie, I mean, she may be pretty scary and all that, but which male with a pulse wouldn't look forward to meeting her, eh?

All-singing, all-dancing all-in-love-with-Lord-Marbury Donna was bearable- hey, I'm a savvy political operative, I can take this- until yesterday.

Why would Thursday make Donna unbearable, I can hear you asking. Now that is a perfectly reasonable question. But, you've got to see; Thursday (in Donna World) wasn't any ordinary Thursday. Thursday was a Donna Oh-Mi-God-This-Is-The-Best-Day-Ever-Day.

Okay, this is kinda how Donna's Oh-Mi-God-This-Is-The-Best-Day-Ever-Day went as far as I was concerned:

* * *
Donna: [enters office, stage left] JOSH!

Me: DONNA! [Equally unrequired loudness for sardonical effect, go me]

Donna: [ready to swoon] He's coming here.

Me: He? Give me a clue, Donna, when you say he it only narrows down the people you could be talking about to about a billion men. [Good, good, Josh. Very smooth. Go me, again]

Donna: Just about the dishiest guy ever [her eyes are starry, I can guess what this is about]

Me: [rolling eyes with further exasperation, still cool and savvy] I don't want to hear about that crazy British loon, Donna. Though it may seem impossible to believe, I'm not in the least bit interested in this schoolgirl obsession you have going-on.

Donna: [not affected in the least by Josh's Sarky-Remark-Stun-Gun] Not Lord Marbury, Josh. Ewan McGregor- he's coming to the dinner on Friday.

Me: [can't believe my luck] For bringing me that piece of bad news, I'm gonna fire you.

Donna: [being her irritating self] Impervious.

[End flash back]
* * *

So, you see, it was a Donna Oh-Mi-God-This-Is-The-Best-Day-Ever-Day, not any other ordinary Thursday, because in 24 hours time she'd be meeting her screen idol. Okay, in all fairness she had already met her screen idol, but I could compete with David Hasselhoff- I could take him. But this was Ewan McGregor, for God's sake. I hadn't got a chance in hell.

I can hear you asking me why Ewan McGregor is going to be there tonight. Truth is, I don't have the faintest idea. It's something about a British charity he does work for and something to do with Lord Marbury being a benefactor of that charity and them meeting, and him being invited by that drunken womanising nut to the White House.

What's more is that Donna has been in a dream-like, but panicked, state all day, agonising over what dress to wear even though I've told her that Ewan McGregor is already married. She hasn't taken in what I said, I can tell. All Donna's been thinking about is what the guy looks like in a kilt.

I'm not jealous, or anything (God, who wouldn't be jealous of the guy- he got to be Obi-Wan Kenobi for Christ's sake!)... I can just see that my Donna (ouch, must not use possessive pronouns out loud, sounds a bit crazed) will slowly slip away into a fantasy world where I am no longer King of the Land.

Stop. Rewind. Erase. That came out completely the wrong way- I'm really not that controlling, seriously.

Okay, let's have a little recap here:

1) Friday is not a good day.
2) I had to read loads of boring reports I couldn't care a shit-diddle about.
3) Donna is sporadically bursting into song, for no reason whatsoever.
4) Lord Marbury is going to turn up in the White House in the next hour.
5) My assistant has spent the last day obsessing about what to wear for the dinner tonight because Ewan McGregor is coming to the White House.
6) I cannot compete with Ewan McGregor. My assistant will be lost to me.
7) I'm sitting in my office, wearing a tux I'm pretty sharp in, but trying to hide from any incoming British lunatics.
8) Sam has just burst through my door, and said...

"Josh, I think I killed Ainsley!"

As I said, today had not been the best of days.

This was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

I look up from the TV where I'm watching some vote go through Congress on C-Span to see Sam Seaborn, looking like he's just been dragged through a hedge backwards, draped against my doorstop.

*Draped*? Okay, wrong verb there. He was collapsing against my doorway. That's better.

Anyway. There's something different about him, not the tux. Well, the tux is different (but I don't really think it's strange, because this is the stuff we have to wear to White House dinners, statesman and all that), but there's something else... something apart from the fact he looks extremely dishevelled.

"Did you get a haircut?" Stupid question, but it has to be asked, nevertheless.

"What?" Sam pants. Okay, so why is he so out of breath? Of course, I forgot, he just murdered Ainsley Hayes. I knew Sam hated Republicans, but I didn't know he had it in him to kill one.

"Seriously, your hair looks shorter." I'm killing time, I don't want to have to face Lord John Marbury just at this moment and be subjected to a full family history of the British Royal family.

"Josh!" Sam exclaimed, smoothing his hair down self-conscientiously. "How can you be flippant at a time like this?"

"Easily," I reply flippantly with a flippant kind of smile. I see that he doesn't think this is funny. I try not to smile, really I do. "So, was it the candlestick in the ballroom, or the lead piping in the Oval Office?"

"Can't you be serious for once, Josh?"

Geez, he must have done something really bad. "Sam, what happened?" I ask plainly.

This is the moment Donna chooses to edge into the room, dressed in the beautiful red dress I made her buy that day I kept her late at the office so she couldn't go out with the guy... y'know, one of her gomers. She places a folder on my desk, still in her Oh-Mi-God-Ewan-McGregor's-In-The-Building trance.

"I killed Ainsley, Josh," Sam repeated, collapsing limply into a chair next to my desk. "She was stealing my doughnuts and I was plain sick of it, so I thought I'd catch her out, put some paprika on them-"

Donna squealed. Yeah, that's right, she squealed.

I turn around and stare at Donna. Yup, she's definitely come out of her Oh-Mi-God-Ewan-McGregor's-In-The-Building zombie-like state.

"Ainsley's allergic to paprika," Donna shouts, waving her hands frantically.

"I know that now!" Sam shouts back, his head thrown back in exasperation.

I then ask the question which is begging to be asked. "Where's the body?"

Sam stares at me for a second. "What?"

Do I have to spell things out all the time? "If she's dead, where's the body?"

"She disappeared," Sam replies hoarsely.

"So you don't know if she's dead," I state plainly, trying to get all this hysteria sorted out in my head. Silently I'm congratulating Sam on his act of attempted murder, because, this way, I'm saving myself from having a good-old manly chat with Lord Marbury about pigeon shooting or fox hunts... well something equally British and sporting as shooting and hunts.

"No," Sam admits in a defeatist tone. "But she's probably somewhere in the White House, choking, going into anapalectic shock or something. She's not in her office, she's not in the State Dining Room... she's not in the Rose Garden."

I raise my eyebrows; Sam was getting pretty desperate. "Why would she be in the Rose Garden?"

"How am I supposed to know," Sam retorts angrily. This guy needs an anger management course. He may seem cool and collected most of the time, but there's a hotbed of fury waiting to be unleashed as soon as something happens to get Sam panicked.

Donna's staring at Sam, at his head in particular. "Sam, your hair's kinda... spiky."

Sam glares at Donna and pats his head protectively. "Would you two concentrate please! I've killed a Republican, and all you two can think about is my hair."

"That's because your hair is slightly more interesting and I don't really care that you killed Ainsley because that's one less vote I have to canvas come re-election."

Donna stares at me and I realise that I had just said something that wasn't at all funny and was quite offensive and nearly as bad as my bigoted Mississippi jokes.

Luckily, I'm saved when there's a knock at my door. My sigh of relief is very audible as it comprises of a 'thank God' and a grunt. Very subtle.

It's Charlie.

What's Charlie doing here?

"What are you doing here?" I ask. Wow, that was pretty imaginative.

Charlie's looking more nervous than usual, the poor kid. He probably heard Sam confess to killing Ainsley and now he's worried that the Deputy Communications Director is going to turn psycho on him too. Cautiously, I shove my stapler and letter-opener into a drawer seriously thinking that maybe Sam would go mental on us for some reason.

"I've kinda misplaced Lord Marbury," Charlie says quietly.

"How could you misplace that guy, Charlie?" I ask, really quite perplexed as to how you could lose the British Ambassador.

"Uh, I don't know," Charlie replies truthfully. "But he's missing and he was with Mr. McGregor at the time-"

In a blink of an eye I see Donna rush over to Charlie, grab him by his lapels and hoist him into the air. Okay, hoist isn't the right word. But hey, it's just semantics.

"How could you lose Ewan McGregor?" Donna sounds very, very threatening.

Briefly, I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her on a dark night. But this is something I already know.

Charlie looks even more scared than he look when he entered my office, which I'm getting a new plaque for that will read: DANGER WILL ROBINSON! YOU ARE ENTERING THE TWILIGHT ZONE! or something to that effect.

I leap out of my chair, looking not wholly unlike Action Man (except, perhaps Action Man on a bad hair day) and I got to Charlie's rescue. It takes a while to calm Donna, her teeth are gritted and she looks as if, possibly, she may be fuming at the ears. But, I'm pretty tired, so that might just be a trompe d'oeil.

Donna backs off and instead runs out into the bullpen, as if by looking up and down the corridor, she might, by magic, find the missing English Lord and Scottish actor.

Charlie straightens his bow tie. "I was hoping that you guys could find them, I mean, the President was kinda hoping for them to be at the dinner."

"Don't we employ someone to do that for us," I ask, feeling put out by having to look for two people I didn't especially want to meet.

"Of course," Charlie replied, "but the Presidential Seeker of Lost Ambassadors and A-List Celebrities is having their night off, so Mr. McGarry asked you and Sam to fill the position for a while and have them in the Mural Room in no less than half and hour."

I give him a smug smile, "Well, as long as Mr. McGarry's gonna pay me overtime, I don't see why I can't waste my evening looking for two people I'd rather not meet." I thought that this needed to be said, just so I didn't look easy, because next time there's a celebrity/nobility hunt on, I don't want to be called up on the grounds of previous experience.

Charlie gives me a thankful clap on the back, which, for some reason, sends me tumbling into Sam who is frantically pacing the width of my office. I clear my throat loudly and Sam looks up at me, his cheeks red and flushed the same wild look in his eyes.
"Josh," he croaks. "What am I going to do?"

"Well, for a start, I think I'd stop spiking pastries with potentially lethal spices."

Sam doesn't laugh at my quick and completely witty remark. Not even a smile, his lips don't even curve slightly. Okay, I'm giving up comedy; I'm totally unappreciated.

I start again, on a slightly more serious not. "Okay, we have a Southern Belle, a member of the British nobility and a Scot to find. That's a plot for a cheap murder mystery novel if I ever heard one."

Sam looks up at me nervously and then darts out of the room muttering something about a map.

I'm left in my office looking blankly into thin air.

What does he need a map for? We know every single inch of this building and he needs a map. The other conclusion I start to draw is that he's actually looking for a way out of the country before the FBI tracks him down for murdering innocent blonde Republican sex kittens with paprika and doughnuts.

I'm halfway from drawing this profound conclusion when Donna pokes her head through my door. She looks pretty impatient.

"Josh! Are you coming or what?"

In any other circumstances I would have taken the second option, the 'or what'. But tonight was different; I got caught up with Donna's enthusiasm for going on a celebrity/nobility hunt around The White House and for some inexplicable reason I followed her down the corridor as she scuttled along on her high heels (and I'll come back to the pointless reason why women wear those contraptions at a later date; it's something I need Sam to explain to you).

So, we're on a covert seek-and-rescue mission, darting down hallways and trying to avoid the West Wing staff all dressed to the nines that are helping the President and the First Lady entertain VIPs. The string quartet is in full flow and the rocking melodies of Johann Sebastian Bach are drifting out of the Mural Room where, without a doubt, the champagne is already starting to flow. Our objective, I'm pretty certain, is to get to wherever Donna thinks she'll find the two men of her heart's desire without getting spotted by someone who wants to talk to me because, let's face it, who wouldn't want to talk to Josh Lyman, White House Deputy Chief of Staff.

And that didn't sound egotistical in the least, did it?

So, I and my elegantly dressed assistant extrodinaire (or the Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff, as she likes to be known) are creeping into the lobby, trying to look inconspicuous as more very famous people are being subjected to the meet-and-greet routine which CJ is overseeing this year.

Then I see her.

Yup, you guessed it. It's Angelina Jolie.

I start to drift off into a little reverie, but (luckily for me) Donna does quite a wonderful job of elbowing me in the ribs and jolting me back into the here and now.

OK, there are some things I will never forgive Donna for, and this is one thing that will top the list. But I don't have any paper, or a pen, more to the point, at the moment so I settle for a piercing glare in her direction.

She doesn't detect my death stare, and that is probably for the best, because Donna's are more lethal than mine are and I'm sure that if she caught on to my evil looks she'd gladly reciprocate them.

You're probably wondering where we're going. Well, that's what I'm wondering too. Donna seems to know where she's going, so I stupidly (or maybe wisely) rely on blind faith because, for all I know, she might have some biological nobility/celebrity detector which only comes from being born and raised in Wisconsin.

Just when I'm about to open my mouth and complain about being led around like a dog following a biscuit, we start to go down some steps.

"Why are we going to the basement?"

"I have a, y'know, feeling." Donna is as coherent and expressive as she usually is.

"A feeling?" I ask sceptically. "What sort of feeling?"

She's carefully bounding down the stairs, two at a time, even though she's wearing those high-heels I was telling you about. "A sorta gut-instinct kinda thing."

"Oh, a 'sorta gut-instinct kinda thing'?"

"Yeah." Now she's taken me into the Mess. Why the Mess?

"You bathe me with confidence," I quip. "Why are we in the Mess?"

She looks at me as she peers around the darkened room. "Do you really want to know?"

I look back at her. "You're right."

We're barely in there for ten seconds before there's the screech of men's dress shoes on polished wood.

Donna and I turn around and Sam's standing there, just about keeping his balance, and he's looking even more mentally unstable than he did only five minutes ago.

"It's gone," he tells us, as if that would explain everything.

"It?" I ask, trying to get a bit more clarification to what this 'it' could be.

He looks slightly embarrassed. "That script I wrote for 'Pilgrim PD'."

I should look slightly embarrassed if I had penned something called 'Pilgrim PD'. "What the hell is that?"

"Y'know, pilgrim detectives, practise their own religion freely by day, solve crime by night," he replies as if it needs no explanation.

"Catchy," is all Donna can say. There's a hint of very un-Donna-like sarcasm in her voice. Actually, she's starting to sound freakishly like me.

"Someone stole that?" I ask wondering who is so obsessed with Sam's writing that they'd steal a script for a TV programme about pilgrim detectives.

"Yeah," Sam replies seriously. "I bet they know about me killing Ainsley, and they're going to use the script as blackmail material and make me turn myself over to the police-"

He's talking really quickly, and his words are tripping into each other, and I can tell he's going to have a heart attack if someone doesn't stop him, so Donna does something.


Sam gingerly touches his jaw and regains his balance. Donna lets her outstretched hand fall to her waist and steps backwards. My assistant just slapped my best friend. Anything can happen tonight, I guess. Celebrities and lords can disappear into thin air, my best friend can murder a Republican for not apparent reason and my assistant can go around slapping people across the face.

Donna's looking impatient, and she's staring at something gripped in Sam's hand. "What's that?"

"Map of the White House," Sam replies cautiously, not sure whether Donna's going to girl-slap him again.

I run a hand through my hair and look around the Mess. "Well, I already guessed that this is the Mess, Sam. What else can you tell us?"

Sam spreads the flimsy newsprint map across one of the Formica-topped tables and points to a corridor on the plan. "The other day, Toby and I were in a meeting about Anglo-American policy with Lord Marbury and he mentioned something about being interested in some offices in the basement where apparently the tapes that record all the conversations that take place in the Oval Office are kept."

"So, you're saying that a British lord is going to kidnap a film star, slip away from a reception without being noticed, get past a Secret Service guard and steal these tapes, which I may hasten to add, must be excruciatingly boring, with the ulterior motive of - what? Selling tapes of really uninteresting conversations to British tabloids. Donna, let's give Sam a taste of what these dramatic and scandalous recordings will sound like," I turn to Donna.

Donna looks at Sam, clears her throat and announces: "I'm going to be CJ. 'Hey, Josh. Did you hear about the thing?' "

" 'What thing?' "

" 'The thing on the Hill.' "

" 'The thing about the thing to do with that Congressman?' "

" 'No, you doik, the thing about the thing to do with the thing we sorted with the people the other day. Y'know.' "

"Hey," I interrupt and spin Donna around so she's facing me. "'Doik', who called me a 'doik'?"

"Just me," Donna replies smugly.

Sam coughs, his cheeks are slightly red. "Do you have a better idea, then?"

I think. I think hard.

The truth of the matter is I have no experience in this area. But I know who does. I know a person who is very good at finding things, people and facts, give her twenty minutes and she can find out which Irish politician sneezed at an EU summit a week last Tuesday. I know a person who could possibly be our saviour, a person who could possibly stop us from being hung, drawn and quartered by the most powerful man in the world (if he has those sorts of powers). A woman lumbered with the Curse of Bast.

* * *

"CJ!" I hiss for the tenth time.

I can see her looking around, trying to see who just called her name. This is quite amusing, so make my voice slightly creepier. You can't blame me, can you? Good thing I left Donna and Sam back in the Mess, otherwise I'd receive one of Donna's patented Death-Stares-of-Doom.

"Cee Ja-ay!"

She looks around again; I try to hold back a laugh, but it escapes my mouth before I can do anything about it.

"Where the hell have you been, Joshua!" CJ asks as she spots my hiding place behind the last column on the right in the lobby.

"Devising a strategy in my office for avoiding crazy British nuts," I admit truthfully. I can see the look of disdain that crosses CJ's face.

"Hiding, that's what you've being doing! And I suppose Sam, Donna and Ainsley are with you too," she guesses, nearly spot on in her suspicions. "Leaving me to do all the work. Thanks for nothing, guys."

"The Curse of Bast got you," I reply, as if that will explain all the mysteries of life, the universe and everything.

CJ rolls her eyes. I just give her a Josh-Lyman Most-Promising-Young-Political-Operative smile. She gives in, "What do you want?"


"Psychiatric or press-related?" she shoots back with her legendary dryness.

"Neither," I reply, ignoring the last comment (which I really didn't deserve). "Lord Marbury and Ewan McGregor went missing and Leo wants us to find them in 15 minutes."

Her jaw drops. "You lost they guy who calls me 'principessa'?"

I nod. "Yeah, and for exactly that reason."

"Well," she continues, giving me a patronising smile for the last comment, "I, unlike some people, am doing something at the moment, so you're on your own mi amor."

This isn't going to plan. CJ's supposed to give in and offer her assistance within a second of me giving her a charming smile. I knew I should have brought Sam along, he would have worked the charm better than I could ever do.

Then I look around the lobby. It's nearly clear; everyone who's going to arrive has already done so.

I look at her, a smile pulling on my lips. "Exactly what are you doing CJ?"

She looks around the room blankly; I win, victory is mine. "Uh..."

Grabbing her by the arm, I can feel her resistance faltering so I easily manage to lead her towards the basement.

"You owe me one, Lyman."

* * *

Donna is glad to have some over member of the female sex to obsess with over the lost Lord she loves so dearly. Immediately CJ takes charge; for some reason I object to this. Don't ask me why, I just do.

"Why do you get to be in charge?" I ask, but, somehow, it comes out extremely whiney.

CJ gives me one of her big wide-eyed looks, "Because, from the looks of it, you lot haven't been too successful under your leadership."

I hold up a hand. "Whoa. Leo assigned the job to me, and I'm still in charge, okay. I asked for your help, not your leadership skills. And, what's more, I totally outrank you."

CJ's big wide-eyed look doesn't disappear. "Yeah, Josh, you do outrank me, in the League of Biggest Ass-holes."


"Josh and Sam, you check out the basement and then go upstairs and do a sweep search of the West Wing," CJ said in an autocratic voice. "Donna, you can come with me and we'll check out the East Wing and the state rooms in the main part of the House."

For some reason, I had lost any will to live, or quibble with CJ over who got to go with whom, so I resigned myself to the fact that Sam and I would be spending 'quality time' together. As you can probably guess, I jump at the chance of being left alone with a psychotic, doughnut-wielding Republican-killer.

But the mad, wild, rabid-dog look has left Sam's eyes and he looks, vaguely, sane. He even says:

"Righty-ho, let's get cracking."

Okay, that might not be a sign of sanity after all.

* * *

Update for those of you who blanked out with boredom during our complete search of the White House's extensive basement.

We have not found Ainsley.

We have not found Ainsley's corpse.

We have not found Lord Marbury (or his corpse, which would, in my opinion, be the best thing I could stumble across today).

We have not found Ewan McGregor.

We haven't even found the room where they keep all the conversations recorded in the Oval Office.

The good news is that Sam, bit by bit, is returning to his version of normal. He's slightly less chipper than normal, but hey, he murdered a Republican, that's to be expected. Though, I must confess that if I had bumped off Ainsley Hayes, I'd be jumping for joy. Don't look at me like I'm evil, I know I shout at innocent cats, but I really am a good guy. Honest.

"I have an idea," Sam says, all of a sudden, his voice booming in the silent corridors of the basement.

At this precise moment, I'm open to all suggestions. E-mail them to me at jlyman@whitehouse.gov.

"Yeah?" I reply, pulling off the bow tie I spent around thirty whole minutes perfecting only a few hours ago. It's hot down here; we're near where the boiler must be.

Sam points to some steps that lead down even further into the basement. There are no lights, not a solitary beam of light being emitted by an angle-poise lamp in some serf's (I mean government employee's) office. "Let's try there."

I clap a hand to my face in total despair. "No, please don't tell me the White House has a multi-story basement that I have, after four years of working here, absolutely no knowledge of."

He's smiling at me. Why, I ask. Why is he smiling? I'm sure he has totally cracked. The men in white coats should be called out to get him.

"Ainsley's office is down there, maybe if we check it out, see if there's any clues," Sam's already halfway down the flight of stairs before I can protest, like he's in an Agatha Christie novel.

Sighing, I run down into the dark after him. But I didn't count on colliding with Sam and tumbling down the stairs like a human snowball.









We have stopped moving and we're lying on the floor in a tangle of limbs. Well, at least I'm lying on the floor. Sam is on top of me, and I can tell you that the guy is pretty heavy.

"Sam!" I call into the dark, my chest crushed by his weight.

"Yeah," he answers, seemingly oblivious to the fact he weighs as much as a small elephant.

"As much as I am loving this intimacy, you've got to get off me before I suffocate."

I'm bringing the funny, you see. Lightening up the mood. Not to say there's any underlying homoerotic tension going on between the two of us. Sam and I are way too straight for that. Erase that thought, Josh: it's way too icky to contemplate.

"Right," Sam replies in a dazed manner. He sounds like he hit his head on the way down, and knowing him that's a pretty safe bet.

We try and get into a more dignified position, i.e. not on top of each other, but as I help Sam to get up, the wall I'm leaning on gives way under my weight.

Okay. I've leant against a lot of walls in my time, but this has never happened to me, and I think you'll agree with me when I say you've never leant against a normal wall only to have it evaporate under your touch.

So, the disappearance of this seemingly normal, solid, brick wall sends me flying backwards, and so Sam, who's still holding my hand, is dragged along with me.

I land on a sprung wooden floor in a dazzlingly brightly-lit room, and as you can probably predict, Sam lands on top of me for a second time.

I close my eyes and let my head drop back onto the floor. I am defeated. I am smited... rather, I have been smote. Anyway, let's just say that victory is not mine. It isn't a great day, actually a bad day has turned into the worst day. I'm tired, cranky, aching all over and Sam is lying on top of me. So, I say the first thing that comes to me.

"Sam, we have to stop meeting like this."

He groans and rubs his head before looking around the room. "Uh, Josh?"

"Yeah?" I open my eyes fully.

Sam rolls off me and onto the floor by my side. "Is this..."

I survey the room, in awe. "It can't be."

"We've searched so long..."

"Toby told us it wasn't true..."

"We were deceived. Deceived and made fun of."

"We were mocked."


Okay, for those of you at home who haven't got the visuals, let me just tell you that what I have stumbled across (because I through the wall that makes me the founder) a large, wood floored room, brightly lit and very long.

It's the White House bowling alley.

Honest to God, it's like the one I used to waste hours of my youth in back home in Connecticut. Except this one is sparkling clean, void of fat bowling-junkies quaffing beer and clear of any scuff marks on the polished floor.

When I said there weren't any fat bowling-junkies in here, I was right. But there is a fair amount of drinking going on because...


"Lord Marbury," I smile as I pick myself off the floor and spring as nimbly as possible to my feet without falling over in the process. Lord Marbury is standing in front of me, arms held out to the side jovially and a glass belonging to the White House crystal cabinet held in one hand, nearly drained of the Scottish import whiskey which the Bartlets are serving tonight; the stuff I tried to 'borrow' the other day, unsuccessfully.

However, today of all days is the day that I have chosen to wear those new shoes my mom sent me. Y'know, the ones with the slippery soles which caused me to fall over in the middle of the corridor last time I went up to the Hill.

What happens next is highly predictable. As Lord Marbury extends his hand to me to, I dunno, shake it or something, or grapple me into a death-lock... I take a step backwards (to escape) and the sole of my wonderfully never embarrassing shoes slips from underneath me, and the next thing I know is I'm lying on the floor again, for the third time in as many minutes, wondering what else in hell could go wrong today.

I shouldn't have thought about that, I really shouldn't, because who else is standing over me when I open my eyes but the one and only, the 'swoonworthy' (as my impervious assistant informs me), the Oscar-nominated...

"I don't believe we've met."

The voice has an accent, a Scottish one. And the accent has a face. I sit bolt upright and scramble off the floor, trying to retain that air of suave sophistication and political power which naturally exudes from my every pore. Clutching at every last shred of dignity I have left.

I straighten my bow tie and try not to be starstruck. I try ever so hard. I try to remember that I've met George Bush (okay, very bad example)... Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher (and my God was she scary)... David Hasselhoff and other really important people.

"Josh Lyman, White House Deputy Chief of Staff," I extend my hand to my arch-nemesis, the man I want to be as repulsive as the rest of the gomers Donna has things for, but somehow, he's smile is too broad and impossible not to like him.

"I missed you at that party in LA a year or so back," he shakes my hand firmly (Ewan McGregor's shaking my hand! He probably held a light-sabre in this hand – WOW!) with an even bigger smile, "Mr. Lyman, pleased to meet you. And this is?"

"Oh it's just Josh," I reply in daze (did I say 'just Josh'... what, am I in Will & Grace land or something?) and I motion towards Sam. "This is my friend- I mean, the Deputy Communications Director, Sam... Sam Seaborn."

But Sam isn't there.

Sam isn't anywhere near us.

Sam is over by the plush leather chairs that stand at the end of one of the lanes and he's talking to a blonde woman who isn't Donna. It's a Republican, it's Ainsley.

So she's not dead after all, she's been hiding down here with Lord Marbury and Ewan McGregor for the past hour or so, creating a whole lot of confusion, heart ache and backache for me and my fellow search team.

I'm suddenly very, very angry and so I excuse myself from the present of the Lord and the Celebrity and make my way over to the two 'real' lawyers.

"What the hell?" I ask, as if it is the most appropriate question to ask at this time of insanity.

Ainsley Hayes is holding a pile of yellow legal pad papers just out of Sam's reach. He's trying to grasp at them, but fails miserably and ends up grabbing chunks of air.

Sam sighs and swipes at the papers again whilst Ainsley moves them further away from him at a great speed, with agility and stealth I usually only associate with the manner with which Cathy steals pastries from San's desk.

"Ainsley's got my script," Sam explains, grabbing Ainsley's arm and holding it still whilst he wrestles the documents from her other hand.
Sam doesn't bet on Ainsley biting his arm, which she does.

"AHHHH!" squeals Sam in a truly feminine fashion. I wince for him; his dignity is in more of a tattered state than mine could ever be.

Ainsley grabs the script back and pushes Sam onto the ground before sitting on him, looking totally out of place, dressed as she is in a green satin cocktail gown.

"Help, Josh!" Sam wheezes, his arms flailing around, their movement restricted by the amount of fabric from Ainsley's skirt that has tumbled over his body.

I look around and see the bemused and totally puzzled looks on Lord Marbury and Ewan McGregor's face. Actually, the former seems to be leering at the Blond Republican Sex Kitten as she slaps one of Sam's hands away from the papers she's still holding out of his reach.

Ewan McGregor takes a few steps forward in order to get a better view of the evening's entertainment. "Now I know what you mean when you say the bi-partisan relations in this country are tense."

I nod, "Lucky for you that Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair don't wrestle in the middle of the House of Commons."

He chuckles and tilts his head as he watches Ainsley jab Sam in the ribs with her elbow, "No, but I'd pay good money to see that."

Lord Marbury takes this opportunity to join in. "What I'd most like to see is the Queen Mother and Prince Philip with only corgies for weapons in a fight to the death."

"You've just given me an idea for a great film," Ewan McGregor laughs. "As long as I can play the Queen Mum."

"I do a pretty good impression of a corgi if you're interested," I add, not sure where these corgi-impersionation skill came from, or if they even exist.

"Are you gonna do something?" Sam yells, rudely interrupting our conversation, as Ainsley waves the papers in front of his eyes, just out of arms' reach.

"Ainsley, why are you sitting on Sam?" I ask, enjoying the sound of Sam's muffled cries of pain as he tries to crawl from underneath Ainsley.

She stares at me as if what she is doing is the most normal thing in the world (well, it may be socially acceptable in the South, I have no idea). Her Carolinian accent is so thick that she sounds absurdly like a guest on Jerry Springer, it doesn't help that she replies with: "Josh, he tried to murder me with paprika! I'm using this piece of second-rate so-called drama for all it's worth, and so sue me if I'm doing something which you guys have an amendment about."

I cock my head to one side, "By 'you guys' I guess you mean 'those who don't advocate the concealment of a deadly weapon on their person'... and sorry, but I'm sure there is something in the Constitution which prohibits bribery and corruption. You should know that, being a lawyer and all."

"And there's also a law against murder," Ainsley retorts, her hair starting to fall from the knot it has been painstakingly pulled into.

"I fweee-fwent fwoe fwat - "

I can't understand a word of what Sam is saying.


Sam pushes Ainsley off of him and onto the floor. She falls with a thud to the ground next to him with a dazed expression on her face.

"I didn't know you were allergic Ainsley," Sam replied, panting. He stands up and holds out his hand. "Now let me help you up and put all of this behind us."

Ainsley's staring at the Super-Scot who's standing next to me. He's shaking his head and mouthing 'don't do it' at her.

She winks at him, looks up at Sam and smiles at the speechwriter brightly. "Thank you, Sam. What a gentlemen."

Sam smiles blankly at her and before he knows it, she has pulled him to the ground and is sitting on top of him again, the papers are poised in her hands and she opens her mouth as if to start reading.

Sam gasps. "You wouldn't!"

Ainsley raises her eyebrows, "Oh yeah?"

"You wouldn't!"

"Oh, Sammy boy!" Ainsley laughs. "After I've finished with you, and told the whole of the States about the Democrats new technique of killing Republicans to stay in power, you're gonna wish that you gave me the damned doughnuts in the first place."

"As much as I'd like to see Sam being humiliated by a Republican, for a second time, I have to tell you that the President's making his toast and he wants to know where the hell you lot are."

I turn around. CJ's standing in the doorway, wearing an expression of totally exasperation. She looks how I feel, except I perhaps look giddier because I've met the guy who played Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Then I notice the woman standing next to her. The woman who looks like she's going to faint. That woman is Donna Moss and she's staring at Ewan McGregor as if this is the first time she has seen a man. Actually, her eyes are fixed on his legs.

I follow the direction of her gaze. He's wearing a kilt. Oh God, how am I supposed to compete with a good-looking Scottish guy who wears kilts and is actually nice. I don't know if that question has an answer, but I am now giving up the will to live.

And so has Donna by the looks of it. She has just collapsed on the floor in a swoon-induced faint at the feet of the actor she adores the most.

I rub my hands together gleefully.

Donna has just provided me with all the ammunition I need to snark her for the rest of the year. Christmas has come early for me, and I'm gonna start celebrating the moment she comes too. The humiliation will last right until she does something more stupid than fainting in front of Ewan McGregor.

Maybe I should feel sorry for her.

Why am I kidding myself, she'll never live this down. I can make fun of Donna, and Sam's now an easier target than he's ever been before. Nobody is safe from Josh's Snarkatron, not now, not ever.

Maybe this hasn't been the worst day after all. It wouldn't make Josh Lyman's Top Five Greatest Ever list for a biography channel five-minute featurette... but it wouldn't go in the Top Five Worst Days Ever either.

There's a smirk on my face; life has to be good.





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