Synopsis: Sarah's past comes back to haunt her; Mallory pays her dad back; Leo gets a new "guy"; and the West Wing is haunted by leprechauns.
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Disclaimer: I'm just a stowaway on the USS Sorkin; please don't throw me overboard. Sarah can't swim.
CJ finished the afternoon briefing and left the Press Room to see Sarah sitting in the bullpen with something in her lap, something small and teardrop-shaped, in a plastic bag. They waved at one another and CJ beckoned to the older woman to come into the office.
"Sarah, I have hardly seen you since Leo's housewarming, how are you?"
"I'm great," she answered. After a silent moment she shook her head. "No, I'm lying, I'm not great at all. CJ, I need your help."
The Press Secretary put her briefing notes down on her desk and went to sit on the sofa. "You look as if this is really serious. What's up?"
"CJ, I may have screwed the pooch but good, and I'm afraid it's going to hurt Leo somehow. Please, help me keep that from happening." Sarah moved over to the sofa and sat next to her.
"You know how much Leo means to me, Sarah. What can I do?"
Sarah took a deep breath and began. "Thirty years ago when I was in college... .". She told CJ what she had done and why, then continued. "Frankly, I had almost forgotten about it. Yesterday morning at five AM Vice President Hoynes called me into his office to ask me about it, because Mark Macmillan said somebody was threatening him with it. At this point, I'm waiting to see what's going to happen.
"I met with Sam and Josh to talk about the ramifications and, although Sam thinks I'm safe from prosecution, they were talking about a Congressional investigation!
"CJ, I'm terrified. I don't know what's going to happen to me, but that's not so important; I'm scared somebody is going to use _my_ history to try to hurt _him_. You know the press, and whether this can hurt _anybody_ ultimately depends on them. Is there any real danger?"
CJ smiled and took Sarah's hand. "If somebody is trying to use your history to spook Hoynes, the _threat_ of exposure is the only weapon they have. There's a lot of rhetoric floating around here about the appearance of wrongdoing, but in the final analysis it's the _people_ who define what that means, and I think we have had ample demonstration that the people don't give a _damn_ who's sleeping with whom in Washington as long as it doesn't affect them directly.
"But I know that's probably not much comfort, so if you want, I'll ask around and see if there actually is any buzz about it anywhere except in Mark Macmillan's brain."
Sarah leaned over to hug CJ. "Thanks. You have no idea what a load off my mind this is." Heaving a small sigh, she pointed at the plastic bag she had been holding before. "Now, I need one more small favor. Have a look at what's in that bag."
CJ reached for the bag and pulled out a foot-high stuffed leprechaun that looked a _great_ deal like the President's Chief of Staff, complete with bright green suspenders and double-breasted jacket. "You?" she laughed. "You're the one?"
Sarah nodded. "I need for you to put him somewhere appropriately conspicuous."
"And where might that be, do you think?" the younger woman asked with a conspiratorial smile.
"Well, isn't there a Christmas tree around here someplace that could use a friend?"
"Definitely," CJ responded. "I know right where one is."
* * * * *
Before leaving her office for the day, Sarah called Leo's private extension.
"Yeah," he answered.
"Hey," she said,
"Hey yourself, toots. I just called Mallory, I'm not going to make it. How are you doing?"
She sighed. "I'm OK. I miss you."
"Listen," he said, "barring war in the Middle East or an approaching asteroid, how about we go somewhere and get lost this weekend? The President is going up to Camp David, we could just hang a 'Closed' sign on the White House and escape."
"I thought you'd never ask," she responded.
"Where you wanna go?"
"Surprise me." Sarah smiled with anticipation.
"I will," he said, with a smile of his own.
"Talk to you tomorrow."
"OK." He hesitated, then added, "Sarah..."
"I know," she replied before he could finish. "G'nite."
Sarah hung up the phone, collected her things, and set off for Mallory's for dinner. By the time she arrived, Sam was there.
"Get out of my kitchen!" Mallory exclaimed. "Out!"
"She loves me," Sam said to Sarah, giving her a hug. "How you doing, Mom?"
"OK, considering," she responded. "And when are you finally going to make an honest woman out of her, anyway?" Sarah saw, out of the corner of her eye, Mallory's head pop out from around the corner of the kitchen.
"That's _your_ generation, Sarah!" She called to them. "I should be asking you that question!"
"Actually, Mallory, that's not true. More than half of the couples living together without benefit of matrimony are Social Security recipients preserving their non-marital benefit levels..."
"Shut up, Sam," the two women responded in unison.
"I'm shutting up now. Well, actually, I'm not. When's Leo getting here?"
"He can't make it," Sarah said.
Mallory poked her head out again. "I'm glad you could."
"Thanks, sweetie. What can I do to help?" Sarah rolled into the kitchen and rolled up her sleeves.
"Well," Sam said to nobody in particular, "I guess I'll have to strip down to my t-shirt, grab a beer, and go find a sporting event."
After dinner, Mallory went into the den to work on her paper and Sam and Sarah played Scrabble. Sarah was losing badly when Mallory appeared over her shoulder with a printout from a web site; it was in Hebrew.
"Help?" she said to Sarah, who looked the page over and said, "It's from a bunch of loonies called Third Temple because they want to build one."
"Isn't the site... occupied?" Sam asked.
Sarah nodded. "Yeah, a little shack called the Dome of the Rock. Third holiest site in Islam. But these guys won't let that get in the way."
Mallory's eyes widened. "They want to blow up the Dome of the Rock?"
Well," Sarah responded, "they want to clear the site. The fact that they'd get to demolish the Dome and piss off millions of Muslims is just icing on the cake." She put six tiles down on the scrabble board. "What's this for?"
"Grad school. I'm doing a course on the relationship between religion and politics in the Middle East. You might be interested in some of the stuff I've collected."
Mallory returned to her den, then came back with a pile of papers and memos. Sarah thumbed through them until her eyes fell on the paper about the current Israeli arms deal.
"Right up to the minute, I see," she said, beginning to read. After twenty minutes of complete silence, she slapped the memo down on the coffee table and sighed. "I knew this was gonna happen. I just knew it."
"What?" Sam asked.
"Your someday father-in-law is showing his true colors at last. He wants to retaliate for this morning's shenanigans by demolishing the State of Israel."
"What? Of course he doesn't. Let me see that." Sam picked up the memo and glanced across it. "This is op-"
"Sam!" Mallory called from the den. "Help!"
Seaborn rushed into the den to find Mallory hale, hearty, and in no apparent danger. "Shhhhhh!" she whispered.
"Mallory," he murmured in reply, "that memo is opposition... prep..." A smile broke over his face as he got what Mallory was doing.
She grabbed Sam's tie and pulled him down for a kiss. "Payback," she remarked, "as they say, is a bitch."
* * * * *