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P: Syringa Vulgaris

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Penultimate". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Two people meet at the funeral of a president. First story in the Penultimate series

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > West Wing > Non-BtVS/AtS StoriesNorwegianneFR1311,199014,06228 Feb 0428 Feb 04Yes
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to the characters of the television show “The West Wing”

Timeline: After the Season 1 finale.

A/N: The first story in the Penultimate verse. I hope you enjoy. This has been re-upoloaded because of slight editing.

I was also in doubt on which title to use for Lord Marbury, though it is set after the season 1 finale I chose to use the title he himself used in Dead Irish Writers.

*@*

June, 2000
Donna stood in the outskirts of the congregation. She would probably have seen it all better had she stayed at home and watched the whole thing on television, and then she could have napped right afterwards. But she had wanted to pay her respects, and now she was one of the many mourners in black who had found their way to Arlington on the warm summer day.

It was the burial of an assassinated president.

She saw Mrs. Bartlet and the three girls standing by the coffin. A young girl she assumed was Annie stood between Elizabeth and her husband.

The ceremony in the cathedral had been poignant and beautiful, and now it was time to say a final farewell to Josiah Bartlet, president of the United States of America.

She could have been standing with the other White House staff; there were quite a few of them present. Almost all of the senior staff, most of the senior assistants, and Mrs. Landingham.

She wasn’t ready to face up to their questions of Josh.

Josh, who had also been hit, but survived this long at least.

Josh, who at the moment were in a coma in a hospital bed, with Mrs. Lyman sitting by his side reading to him.

Maybe they were watching the funeral on television? Maybe Mrs. Lyman was commenting on everything in her nice soothing voice. The voice that refused to loose hope that her son would survive.

Donna had been with Josh since the day Toby told her he had been shot.

She had waited for news about him in the waiting room, with the rest of the staff, and the First Family.

She had been waiting for him when the First Lady received the news and had to be sedated.

She had been with him when his mother couldn’t get to Washington.

She had been with him while the rest of them were planning the funeral of a president, a friend, a father and a husband.

The days had gone by, without much difference at all. Until Mrs. Lyman had showed up with Donna’s good black suit this morning and kicked her into action.

Donna had gathered her wits enough to enter a florist on the way over.

She gripped the sturdy flower tighter in her hands, as the Archbishop’s speech came to an end. The president himself had told her a couple of weeks earlier, oh, how quickly time passed, that the flower was strong-willed and could take almost everything – like the citizens of its state.

Except they couldn’t take bullets, now, could they?

She should do what she had come to do. She could have watched the funeral on television, but it felt more right to be here, in person.

She made her way through the crowd, to the coffin and lay the purple flower onto it. She wanted to go and say something to Mrs. Bartlet, but other well-meaning friends and family surrounded the First Family.

*@*

John, Lord Marbury, Earl of Croy, Marquess of Needham and Dolby, Baronet of Brycey, was having a particular bad day.

He was sober.

He hadn’t even imbibed on the evening before, as he was under strict orders to be absolutely clear-headed during this event.

He hated how the realities of life seemed so much harsher when he didn’t have alcohol to soften the blow.

He also hated attending funerals of people he’d respected and thought of as friends.

There was nothing good about this day.

“John,” and especially not having to face Abigail Bartlet, the widow whose breasts he had admired on more than one occasion. “It’s so good to see you.”

She had lost weight; he could see it just by looking at her face. He also thought it was a testament to his friendship with Josiah Bartlet that he managed to avoid dropping his glance. Or maybe it was a proof of how he behaved when he was not inebriated?

“Abigail, my dear. I’m so very sorry for what has happened. I was also to pass along a letter with her Majesty’s condolences to you, but I think I’ve… oh… here it is.”

“Thank you. John, could I ask you for a favor?”

“Anything for you, my dear.” He thought quickly of it and amended the statement. “Well, almost anything.”

“You know Joshua Lyman?”

“I believe we’ve met,” he replied. “How is he?”

“Last bulletin I got he was doing better, but he’s still in a coma. Do you see that young woman over there?”

“Yes, the one with the red hair?”

“No, the tall one with the long blond hair. She, who just put a flower on Jed’s coffin.”

“Ah, the one who looks as though she’ll break any moment?”

“That’s the one,” Abigail said. “She’s been spending all her time in the hospital lately, and she took the time to find a flower that would be special to my husband.”

“Which flower would that be?”

“The state flower of New Hampshire. But what I was really going to ask of you, John, would it be possible for you to go down and invite Donna out somewhere to give her a decent meal?”

Abigail worried about these things, he realized, because it stopped her from going too deep into her own sorrow. He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“I’ll go talk to her,” he said. “You just take care of yourself, and yours.”

“John,” she called out at him as he turned around to walk over to Donna. “Thanks for showing up sober.”

“Please, don’t mention it, really. I mean that.”

*@*

Donna was about to leave when he stopped her. The British lunatic, as both Josh and Leo enjoyed calling him.

“Excuse me?”

“Yes?”

“My name is John Marbury, and I was wondering if you wanted to have lunch with me, or dinner, or maybe a cup of coffee, today, or tomorrow or at your earliest possible convenience.” He rambled on, and would have rambled further hadn’t Donna put out her hand and stopped him.

“It’s very nice of you to ask, but I really ought to…”

“Partake in something nourishing with me at your earliest possible convenience?”

“Did the First Lady put you up to this?” Donna asked him sceptically.

“Dear Abbey? What makes you think she’d think of something like that at a moment like this?”

“I don’t know. Look, I really want to get back to the hospital.”

“Surely you can grab something with me? We’ll go somewhere quiet, and get some food or something in you. I feel like I can, how was the tale again, blow you apart with just one breath.”

“You know the three little pigs and the big bad wolf?”

“I’ll huff and I’ll puff,” he said theatrically and enjoyed watching her giggle.

“All right, but I do need to be at the hospital soon.”

“Just a quick snack,” he promised as he began to lead her out of Arlington National Cemetery.

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