OK... here's the first installment of my new story. It's my first time really creating a completely new character, so feedback is really important to me on this one. If you all don't like this or find it boring I'll just do this one story. If you like it I'll try to stretch this out, maybe into a series. Who knows.

Warning: This deals with Irish politics, and for realism's sake I've not been the most politically correct here. So pardon me, no offence intended to anyone. And especially not to President Mary McAleese, who is real. I've ascribed views to her for purposes of this story - I don't believe they are her own. Again, no offence or slight intended.

Disclaimers: All characters except the Irish ambassador (and President McAleese) belong to Aaron Sorkin and the rest of his minions. I'm just borrowing them, not for profit, not from any desire to flaunt copyright infringement on anybody. This is just for fun. Title from a Loreena McKennitt song.
Spoilers: None that I'm aware of.
Feedback: Please, oh please? (samwest5@hotmail.com)
Pardon the long notes. Let's begin! ~C

"The Highwayman"

Donna literally bounced into the office on that morning in August. "Jo-osh ..." Her tone was teasing. "Do you know what's in three days?"

Josh looked up from his report, so tempted to be annoyed, but finding it impossible. "Yes, Donna, I'm aware that the Irish state dinner is coming up." He smiled at her with the politician's version of a kid waiting for Christmas. "I can't believe President McAleese is finally coming to visit President Bartlet."

"Yeah." Donna left off and began to ponder. "Hey, Josh, what do you call a female President?"

Josh shrugged. "Madame President, I guess."

"I guess."

Silence fell. Josh tried to concentrate on his report, but the sight of Donna sitting perched on the edge of his desk reminded him of what he had to do. "Hey, Donna," he said, trying to sound casual, "I was wondering... I know it's a bit late ... but do you have a date to the state dinner?"

Donna looked at him, rolling her eyes. "Joshua Lyman, you wait until three days before the state dinner to ask me? And you don't think I'll have a date already?"

"Okay, okay." Josh tried to look away.

She kept haranguing, though, and didn't miss a beat. "It's not like I'm so desperate and poor that I'm sitting around waiting for you to call. So of course I'll go to the dinner with you, I'd love it."

Before Josh could respond, she walked out and Sam walked in. "Hey, Josh, what's up?"

Josh shook his head. "I think I just got a date to the state dinner. But I'm not sure."

" 'Kay." Sam had long since learned not to be surprised by anything Josh said. "By the way, did you hear that we probably won't be able to get any Guinness for the state dinner?"

Josh's jaw dropped. "No Guinness for an Irish state dinner? Why?"

"Because the workers at the plant in Dundalk are on strike."

"That's godawful." Josh shook his head in mock sorrow. "We'll have to drink Kilkenny instead."

The two men laughed. "Hey, don't forget," Sam said, "the President's swearing in the new Irish ambassador this week too."

"Yeah." Josh laughed. "Just watch; he'll be another Marbury."

"I don't think Leo could handle it." Sam smiled.

"Yeah. Hey, you got a date for the state dinner yet?" Josh asked. Ainsley had been strutting around the office for the past few days – she'd been invited to the state dinner by a high-ranking Republican senator. But it sort of put a damper on Sam's plans to ask her out.

"No, I haven't asked anyone yet." Sam shrugged. "I'll figure something out."

" 'Kay." Josh turned back to his report. "Did you hear that the Real IRA bombed another spot in London?"

"No, I didn't." Sam sighed. "Figures."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know." Sam sat down. "It just seems that everywhere we look some Irish rebel group is carrying out another bombing. And the English aren't much better. Look at 'em. Masters of exploitation."

"Maybe," Josh said guardedly.

"It's true!" Sam insisted. "They've kept Northern Ireland under their yoke for centuries. It's only fair – it's only *right* - that the Irish would want it back."


"But violence should be a last resort, not a first." Sam looked dark. "It'll just get worse and worse until something really catastrophic happens."

"First off, violence shouldn't *be* a resort," Josh said. "What made you such a prophet of doom this morning?"

Sam snorted. "Watching Ainsley."

Just then the two heard a groan emanate from an office down the hall, followed by charging footsteps. A moment later Leo McGarry barged into Josh's office. "Josh, you and Sam are coming to the ambassadorial reception."

His dogmatic tone brooked no argument, but Josh had to ask. "Why, Leo?"

Leo looked his deputy square in the face and spoke softly. "Cause I don't wanna be the one with the temptation of killing Marbury."

It was enough to send the two deputies into smothered gales of laughter. "Lord John Marbury's the British ambassador again." Sam couldn't hide the smile, no matter how hard he tried.

"Yeah, but don't laugh so soon." Leo sighed. "I want you two yahoos at the reception for reinforcements, but it won't be a picnic."

"What's the deal?" Sam asked.

"We'll meet both of the ambassadors there – the new Irish ambassador's coming too – and she and Marbury will be at each others' throats."

Josh pounced on the last part of that. " 'She?' "

"Yeah, the new Irish ambassador's a woman. Evidently McAleese and this woman are tight."

Sam sighed. "Great."

Leo shot a hard glare at Sam. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, Leo." Sam tried to walk back what he'd said... but only a little. "It's just that I don't want to sit down with an Irishwoman who's sure to be reliving 1916 every step of the way."

"But you'd agree with her." Josh still had a small smile playing on his lips.

"Yeah, well. She and President McAleese are tight, so they're sure to hold the same views." Sam sat down. "And I don't like Ireland's stance that the IRA's violence is necessary."

Leo continued to glare at the younger man. "Well, whatever happens, don't let her kill Marbury."

"Yeah," Josh cracked, "you want that pleasure for yourself, right?"

"Right." Leo didn't crack a smile, but Josh knew his boss was grinning inside. "Get your calendars cleared for tonight!" he called over his shoulder as he left the office, as hurriedly as he'd arrived.

"Fine." Sam got to his feet. "I gotta go find Cathy and tell her to rearrange everything."

"Okay." Josh couldn't resist a question for his friend, though, as the younger man left. "Hey, Sam, I was wondering."


"Why're you so tied up over Irish politics?" Josh laughed a little as he spoke. "I mean, this sounds almost personal to you."

"It isn't really," Sam explained. "It's just that my ancestors were from Ireland. And I like the place."

"You've been there?"

"To Dublin. I thought it was cool."

"Whatever." Josh waved a hand as Sam exited the office.


The Highwayman - 2




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