Better Buffy Fiction Archive Entry


Donna: the Vampire Slayer

by Nomad

Sep 2001

Spoilers: We're heading completely AU after Buffy 5.22 "The Gift", and West Wing season two.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns Buffy. Aaron Sorkin owns The West Wing. I own a word processor and an overactive imagination.
Author's Note: The by-now infamous beginning of the DtVS saga, and my first foray into writing the West Wing characters. Given a long overdue re-edit September 2003. Once more, with less typos...

1: Of Tomes and Tape Measures



A beautiful young woman with honey-blonde hair. A young girl, face screwed up in determination. An older man in glasses, firm-jawed. A boy with a leather jacket and bleached hair. Some sort of creature, not quite human, its face distorted and lumpy. A whirl of images, faster and faster, all spinning away into a vortex, a rip in the air.

A gravestone. BUFFY ANNE SUMMERS.*

Donna jerked awake in bed. Momentarily disoriented, she glanced at the alarm; 5:57. Minutes away from her usual morning wake up call.

Growling over those precious lost seconds of sleep, she sat up in bed and shook her head to clear away the last vestiges of her strange, vivid dreams. "Joshua Lyman, that is the last time I let you talk me into ordering pizza when we're working late," she said to the empty room.

* * *


Four seconds. A new Josh Lyman record. *My boss has been in his office a grand total of four seconds before needing me to help him out.*

Normally, Donna found Josh's utter helplessness in the face of everyday tasks endearing. Today, though, she was cranky. *You and your pizza lost me three minutes of sleep, Lyman. For this, you will pay.*

She breezed through his office door and demanded without preamble "Josh, do you have a tape-measure?"

He blinked at her. Big, slow, dopey Josh Lyman blink. "A what?"

"Tape-measure. So-called because they are tapes, used for measuring."

"I know what a tape-measure is, Donna."

"And yet you ask me for a definition."

"Did not! I merely made an entirely warranted request for clarification. I thought perhaps that I had woken up in a parallel reality, where instead of being a vitally important member of the President's staff I was a carpenter whose assistant had nothing better to do than ask me if I have a tape-measure."

"In no parallel reality would you ever be a carpenter, Josh."

"Says who?"

"People who understand the concept of furniture don't hit their desks with letter openers and demand that they unstick their drawers immediately or face the consequences."

"I could so have been a carpenter. I got the sharp eyes, I got the delicate touch, I got the rugged good looks..."

"And yet no tape-measure."

"Why would I want a tape-measure, Donna?"

"To measure the distance to my desk."

"I'm putting in a red carpet for you now?"

"It wouldn't be a bad idea."

"I get you a red carpet, will you bring me coffee like a good assistant should?"

"Good assistants never bring their bosses coffee. They teach them the virtues of self-reliance and independance by making them get their own."

"See, now you're mixing it up with 'good parents'."

"With you, Josh, the difference is minimal at best."

Finally, curiosity won out. "Donna - tell me why I need a tape-measure."

"To measure the distance to my desk."

Josh winced. "This, we've already established. Donna - why do I need to know the distance to your desk?"

"Comprehension of spatial relationships, Josh, is an invaluable life-skill."

"Donna, I have comprehension of spatial relationships. I am da man at comprehending spatial relationships."

"And yet you feel compelled to yell my name at the top of your voice when my desk is three feet from your door?"

"If you know how far away it is, why do we need that measure?"

"Josh, I have always known how far it is. You, however, have yet to show any limited grasp of basic three-dimensial geometry."

"I need geometry now?"

"Only because you don't have a tape-measure."

"Why would I need one, when I have an assistant to pace it out for me? Pace over to your desk and tell me how far it is. And when you've done that, pace over to the filing cabinet and pull out the Andrews file for me."

Triumphant victor of yet another round of verbal sparring, Donna left the office and made her way over to the filing cabinet. Knowing where to find the files by instinct born of an excellent memory, she didn't even bother to look inside... until her fingertips touched something unfamiliar.

Reaching inside, she pulled out an ancient looking, leather-bound book. Emblasoned across the front was a single word that sent chills down her spine.


* * *

2: Breaking Strain


Donna stared at the ancient book in her hands, baffled. Who would take the trouble of sneaking into her office in the dead of night to deposit a book that hadn't been read for hundreds of years, full of trivial information on a subject so bizarre its relevance to modern living was non-existent?

When you put it like that, there was only one possible culprit. "Somebody needs to get President Bartlet a hobby," she announced, shaking her head.

"What's that?" asked Josh, as she brought him in the files he had requested.

"I said, the President needs a hobby."

"Yeah, 'cuz, you know, that whole running the country thing doesn't keep him nearly busy enough."

"I'm serious, Josh. Would you believe he snuck into my office in the middle of the night to leave a book in my filing cabinet?"

"You're sure it was the President? It couldn't have been, you know, the Barnes & Noble infiltration squad?"

"Josh, this book is like four hundred years old. Does anyone else around here have an ancient trivia fetish?"

"You're accusing the President of being a fetishist now?"


"'Cuz I gotta tell you, that won't look good on my staff evaluation."

"Since when did you write staff evalutions, Joshua?"

"Since my staff started getting paranoid enough to accuse the President of the United States of sneaking around in their filing cabinets."

"This isn't paranoia, Josh."

"Of course not." He offered her a big cheesy grin and moved ridiculously slowly, making a big show of 'no threatening movements'. "Now you're going to tell me about the calorie count in the muffins, right?"

"Margaret has a point, Josh."

"Margaret has numerous points, Donna. Points of insanity, points of paranoid delusion, points of hysteria..."


"I'm telling you Donna, she's a bad influence on you."

"Oh, and you're such a good one?"

"I am the best! I am *da man*." He smiled smugly, slumping back into his chair. The end of his tie ended up in his coffee cup.

Donna gazed at him just long enough to make him self-consciously flick it out. "You da man," she agreed wryly, and swept out before he could make any reply.

* * *

Cathy and Ginger were both clustered around the coffee machine when Donna went to get a refill. She wasn't really that much in the mood for coffee, but every time she went and got herself a cup was a time she didn't get Josh a cup - and he always made a big fuss over it.

Not that she got any kick out of arguing with him, or anything.

The other two fell nervously silent as she approached. Great. Secrets.

"What's up?" she asked, pouring out a steaming cup. More silence, as they both looked guilty. *These people work for the White House senior staff, and they're this bad at doing 'poker-face'? "What?"*

They shared a glance, and Cathy got volunteered to be the giver of bad news. "Sam and Toby decided they needed to call in a polling expert on those numbers they got yesterday..."

"So?" she demanded, heaping in sugar. She had an inkling of who it was going to be... but of course, she didn't care.

"Sam suggested they get Joey Lucas," said Cathy, in the tone she might have used if Sam had suggested they bring in a convicted mass murderer.

"So?" she repeated, stirring her coffee a little too vigorously. Joey Lucas? So what. *Not caring. Joey Lucas, gatherer of rosebuds, back in town? Not caring. *

They both shot her glances that were irritatingly pitying. "We know you don't like it when Joey Lucas..." Ginger began cautiously.

"I have no problem with Joey Lucas," she interrupted quickly. *Damn. Over-defensive there, Donna.*

"I mean, it's completely understandable," Cathy babbled on rapidly. "I mean, obviously it's awkward what with Josh-"

"I have no problem with this thing with Josh and Joey Lucas!" *Oops. Shouting there, Donna*. Thank God Josh was always too lazy to slope over to the coffee machine himself. "I have no problem at all," she said at a more reasonable volume. "Why should I care who Josh chooses to moon over? Why should I care if my boss has the complete lack of sense to make puppy dog eyes at a woman who came on to him *while she was sleeping with Al Kiefer-*"

She slammed the metal teaspoon down on the worktop. It snapped in half and the bowl of the spoon flew off and skittered into the sink.

All three of them looked at the broken spoon for a long moment. The other two quickly picked up their coffees and wheeled away. "Just thought you ought to know," Cathy said over her shoulder as they scuttled rapidly away.

Donna went over to the sink and picked out the other half of the spoon. The metal had snapped as cleanly and easily as if it had been only plastic.

She absently fitted the pieces back together in her hand. "Stupid cheap slave-labour made kitchenware," she muttered a little unsteadily.

* * *

3: Transylvanians and Transexuals

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- --

Donna returned to her desk with her coffee, feeling a little shaken. Since when had she possessed the strength to start snapping stainless steel cutlery? She wasn't *that* stressed about Joey Lucas being back in town.

For once, she was glad when she glanced back into the office behind her and found Josh gone. Provided he wasn't off talking to people about how his assistant had started snapping metal spoons as soon as she heard Joey Lucas was coming back.

Of course, being Josh, he was just clueless enough to hear that story and draw no conclusions.

Not that there were any conclusions to be drawn, of course. Her tension was related to entirely different things... like finding an ancient book slipped into her filing cabinet.

Without thinking about it, she took the book out and sat it on her lap. VAMPYR... surely it couldn't really be about vampires? That seemed a little out there even for President Bartlet.

But who else could have dumped it there? Sam wasn't weird enough, CJ had better things to do with her time, the White House assistants were far too busy to read ancient books, and she would only lay fifty-fifty odds on Josh even understanding how a filing cabinet operated. With a smirk, she recalled that day last week when she'd caught him threatening his desk with a letter-opener.

He still wasn't back. There were no meetings on his schedule; perhaps he'd found a Republican in the corridors to shout abuse at. Or maybe Joey Lucas had arrived...

Since, of course, she wasn't the least bit interested in whether a certain polling expert was here or not, and since she certainly didn't feel any need to seek out her boss whenever he went missing for a few minutes, she took a sip of her coffee and opened the book.

It wasn't even printed, but written in complicated caligraphy that was hard to make any sense of. Her certainty grew; nobody she knew apart from President Bartlet ever read books like this.

But why give it to her? Maybe it had been meant for Josh. After all, the President could probably be forgiven for failing to realise the third most powerful man in the country didn't know how to open file drawers.

She struggled to make out a the first few words.

*Into each generation a Slayer is born; one girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the strength and the skill to hunt the vampires... *

She was abruptly snapped out of it by the return of the incredible wandering boss.

"Reading on the job, Donna?"

"Reading isn't a required skill in this position?"

"Not books about-" He leaned over to tilt back the cover and read it. "Vampires?" he asked incredulously.

"Vampire Slayers, actually." It wasn't even her book, and ordinarily she would have agreed with his tone of voice - yet somehow, whenever Josh started to ridicule something she found herself taking the other side of the argument.

"Expecting to meet Van Helsing wandering the corridors White House? 'Cuz, hey, some of those Republicans look pretty darn bloodless..."

"It says here they're all girls, actually."


"Vampire Slayers."

"Planning on a career change, Donna?"

"If you don't give me a raise."

"You'd rather hunt vampires?"

"The hours are more civilised."

"Midnight 'til dawn?"

"Like I never do that here?"

"Are you sure you're not a vampire already? That pale skin, that determination to keep things orderly... and garlic! You ran out here pretty quick when I brought in that garlic bread Wednesday."

"Everybody with even a vestigal sense of smell left pretty quickly when you brought in that garlic bread, Josh."

"I'm not convinced. Maybe this book is a clever cover-up to hide your true nature. Maybe you're researching how to defeat vampire hunters for the moment when my brilliant deductive abilities point me to the truth."

"Your brilliant deductive abilities have yet to point you to the conclusion that you don't need to shout when I'm three feet from your door."

"I don't shout; you just think I do because of your hyper-senstive vampire hearing. Maybe I should start making stakes."

"You can't open a desk drawer without injuring yourself, Josh. I hold out little hope for your ability to apply a carving knife to wood."

"I can use a pencil sharpener. All the benefits of staking, plus a healthy dose of lead-poisoning. Hah! I bet whoever wrote your book didn't think of that. I am da man. I am... da vampire slayer."

"You feel the need to be declared an honorary woman? Should I alert the rest of the office?"


"Would you like to change your name? I could give you some suggestions."

"I'm supposed to take naming advice from somebody whose parents called her Donnatella?"

"Left to your own devices, you'd no doubt end up calling yourself Joshina."


"Lucinda is a good name. Or Jessica, if you don't want to change your initials. Jessica Lyman? It's got a certain ring to it."

"Donna, get back to that desk and start filing."

"How about Jessie? That could work both ways, if you're suffering from a bit of gender ambiguity."

"Donnatella Moss, I am *not* suffering from gender ambiguity."

"Whatever you say... Jessica."

* * *

4: Toby's Psychopath Expression

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- --

"Hi, Donna. Is Josh inside?"

Sam offered her a sweet smile, and she returned it. Next to of course Josh, and the bond of sisterhood she shared with CJ, Sam was Donna's favourite person about the office.

"Yes, he's there... but he's calling himself 'Jessica' now."

Donna grinned as an outraged "*Don-na!*" floated out of the open office door.

"Jessica?" asked Sam, eyebrows high.

"He's having gender ambiguity problems," she elaborated, going back to her typing.

"Am not!" Josh appeared in the doorway of his office and shot her a scowl. "Ignore her, Sam," he advised. "She's got this whole weird idea that only girls can slay vampires..."

"Vampires?" asked Sam, looking more confused about it.

"-But obviously, she's only saying that because I know her secret."

"Donna has a secret?"

Josh leaned in conspiratorially close, and whispered "I think she's a vampire."

Sam, by this point, was looking decidedly unnerved. He edged away from Josh a little and said "Tell you what, I'll come back, how about that?"

Josh took him by the arm and led him inside. "Come in, Sam. What was it you wanted?" As Josh pulled him inside, he sent Donna a pleading glance. She responded with a friendly little wave as the door slammed.

She typed the next few sentences on auto-pilot, smiling to herself. There was something so fun about the way she and Josh had conversations no one else could make head nor tail of. It felt like they had something special of their own that no one could pry into, like having their own secret-

*No, Donna.* She shut that thought down sharpish. Nothing remotely secret going on between her and Josh, no sir.

She looked back over what she had typed, and found that into a page of figures she had inserted the words "into each generation is born a Slayer". She backspaced hurriedly, cursing that old book for preying on her mind like that.

Just in time- Sam emerged from Josh's office. "Something up, Sam?" she asked as he headed away. Ever since the President's secret had emerged, she'd been a little concerned - paranoid, Josh would say - about meetings behind closed doors.

"What? Oh, no. Nothing to worry about," he reassured her with a smile. "Just giving him the heads up on a meeting this afternoon. Joey Lucas is gonna be here."

And he breezed away, utterly oblivious to the fact that Donna might perhaps be less than delighted with this news. Not that she was the slightest bit concerned. But if she'd been a little less professional, then maybe she might have been.

*Joey Lucas. Grr.* She stabbed a biro down into her pencil pot. It snapped in half.

* * *

"J-Josh." Donna stuttered slightly as she briefly called her boss out of his afternoon meeting. The stutter was not in fact to do with her irritation over the way he was leaning far closer than necessary to Joey Lucas as he made his point, but because she had spotted Toby and Leo were in the room and reluctantly decided not to call him Jessica. CJ, had she been there, would probably have been amused, and it couldn't do any harm to give Joey something more to tease him over. But Leo had little patience for private jokes like the 'Joey Lucas suit' exchange (Josh hadn't had enough warning to dig that out for today, sadly), and Toby... you could never tell with Toby.

For instance, now, as she briefed Josh on the latest national crisis and determinedly ignored the way his gaze kept wandering back to Joey, she was quite convinced Toby was staring at her. It was what Bonnie and Ginger referred to as his 'psychopath' stare, the completely unreadable one. Or so they claimed; to Donna, all Toby's expressions were unreadable.

She knew that under the gruff exterior was an interior that was... well, also gruff, but somewhat warmer. However, there were times when that was easy to forget. Despite Josh's pathetically obvious eagerness to get back to Joey, Donna was glad to finally slink away. Being stared at by Toby was an unnerving experience.

Returning to her desk, she briefly spotted the President. Since losing the irreplaceable Mrs. Landingham, he'd taken to roaming the building with a slightly hunted expression - no temporary secretary was half the pro at fielding timewasters that she had been.

Donna briefly considered wasting a little of his time herself, asking him if he had left the book in her file cabinet, but decided against it. What if he said no? The trouble with her - as Josh had pointed out - excessively pale skin was that when she blushed with embarrassment, *everybody* knew about it.

The rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully - she managed to get both Sam and CJ calling Josh 'Jessica', much to his annoyance - and at the end she swept the book into her bag to take home with her. Maybe if she read a little more she would figure out who had sent it to her, and why.

She was just leaving the building - incredibly late, as usual - when Bonnie stopped her. "What is it, Bonnie?"

"I just remembered. Toby asked, can you see him in his office first thing tomorrow?"

Donna walked away with a chill in her heart. Toby wanted to see her?

The last time Toby had wanted to see her, it was to tell her the President had a deep, dark secret.

* * *

5: Slayers and Stalkers


"Dammit!" Donna twisted her key in the ignition in one final effort. The car coughed and groaned like an elderly marathon runner, and refused to start. She sat back in her seat and rapidly ran through every dirty name she knew - a list that somehow finished up at 'Conservative Republican'.

*Joshua Lyman, you're a bad influence on me.*

She got out of the car, and gave the door a kick for good measure. "Car trouble?" called one of the junior staffers from across the parking lot.

Donna resisted the urge to make the kind of sarcastic retort she would have made to Josh, and said "Yeah."

"Bummer," commiserated the junior staffer, continuing to load papers into his trunk.

*So much for the generous spirit of the American people.*

She briefly entertained thoughts of going back into the warm and calling for a cab, but decided she couldn't face the wait. She was nervous about running into Toby, in case he decided that whatever bit of dark news he wanted to impart couldn't wait until tomorrow after all.

It wasn't really that great a distance to her home; a little further than she would normally want to walk, but for tonight for some reason she had the urge to be on the move. Besides, the cool air was refreshing after a day of mysterious books appearing, Toby staring, and Josh making eyes at Joey Lucas.

Not that she in any way cared who Josh made eyes at.

Donna found to her surprise that she was almost bursting with energy. Normally, working at the White House filled her with pep whilst she was there, but the second she left the building she was like a balloon that had been burst and it was all she could do to crawl into bed. Today, though it was as late as ever - after nine - she felt like a walk was exactly what she needed. Or even a run.

Now that was a weird thought. She hadn't done any running since she was in High School, and she hadn't liked it much back then.

Walking at night, though; that she had always loved. But she'd had it drummed into her by numerous relatives, boyfriends and Josh that walking at night was something not safe to do when you were a alabaster-skinned blonde in the big city.

Unfortunately, she didn't have anyone to share the stars with. She worked far too long hours to meet anybody outside politics, and there was nobody at work suitable. With extra emphasis on the unsuitability of her boss. Donna tried to mentally run through all the men that she would most like to be walking under these stars with, but somehow her brain seemed to have got stuck on Josh.

*Help! I've been working for him so long I've forgotten other men exist. *

She briefly considered whether she could get away with claiming compensation for that, but decided it wasn't nearly worth the smug expression Josh would get if she confessed to being obsessed with him.

No, not obsessed. Bad word. *Makes me sound like a stalker.*

Talking of... She suddenly realised that she could hear footsteps behind her. Was she being followed?

*Paranoid, Donna. Paranoid.* Hearing someone else on the street, and automatically assuming they were out to attack her. Why, if Josh were here, he would...

Yell at her for being crazy enough to go out at night on her own, and then go all sweet and overprotective on her. A healthy dose of overprotective Josh was sounding quite good about now.

As she made it to the entrance of the next side-street, she half-turned, looking over her shoulder. *Casual. Keep it casual.* There were three men walking together a short distance behind her. *So what? They're just walking. Keep it together, Donna.*

And then, even as she glanced backwards...

Without warning, the faces of the men *changed*. She didn't even have the words for it. All of a sudden, ordinary human features swelled and shifted, becoming lumpy, distorted masks. Their eyes glowed yellow in the darkness, slitted like a cat's.

*Like my dream, just like in my dream- *

Donna let out an uncontrollable gasp of fear and shock. She shrank back against the mouth of the alley, scrabbling for a weapon, anything... Something to defend herself with. Her hand closed about a length of wood, and she held it out in front of her like a sword. Some instinct she hadn't even known she had guided her actions, told her how to stand and what to do.

The largest of the three... they weren't even men, anymore. The largest of the... creatures... was first to reach her. This close, she could see his mouth was filled with deadly, razor-sharp teeth.

"Slayer..." he hissed triumphantly.

Not even knowing what she was about to do, Donna lashed out with the length of wood, knocking him backwards. There were three of them and only one of her, and yet suddenly she felt... strong, confident. She swiped again, causing them to draw back, and waved the wood menacingly.

Suddenly, there was a flare of headlights, and a car came screeching up towards them. The three creatures leapt out of the road to avoid it, scattering.

The passenger door flew open a few feet away from her. "Donna, get in!" It was Josh.

Donna dashed gratefully for the safe haven of his car, but the nearest of her attackers made a grab for her and caught her coat. "Let go of her!" Josh demanded furiously.

Thinking only of getting away, Donna made a stabbing motion with the length of wood - and it sank straight into the chest of her attacker. She took a staggering step away, utterly shocked... and the creature exploded into a shower of dust.

She stood staring, open-mouthed. Josh, in the car behind her, stared just as speechlessly. Josh Lyman, speechless? In her tangled state of mind, that seemed almost more incredible than what she'd just seen happen.

Suddenly she realised there were two more of the creatures, and they were coming towards her. Her paralysis broke, and she jumped into the car. "Get us out of here, Josh!"

He revved up the engine and did as she asked.

* * *

6: Risking the Wrath of CJ


Josh suddenly slammed the brakes on, bringing the car to a halt at the side of some quiet residential road. Donna didn't know where they were - she doubted Josh knew, either. They'd just been driving, at a speed that could have got the White House Deputy Chief of Staff in a whole lot of trouble had he been stopped. Right then, speeding tickets were the furthest thing from either of their minds.

Josh turned those incredibly expressive eyes on her, and they were filled with... fear, mainly. Not that he could have been hurt himself, she doubted that thought had ever crossed his mind, but a terrible haunted look that said he was going over in his mind again and again what might have been if he had arrived as little as thirty seconds later. Never mind what they had just seen or not seen - the only thought there was room for in Josh Lyman's mind was guilt over what had nearly happened to her.

Not that Donna was especially clear in her own mind what had been about to happen to her - or even what actually *had*. And had it been anybody else but Josh, she would have been mystified as to how he could possibly twist it around in his mind to make it his fault... but Josh had his ways. Other people might see that side of him as arrogance, but Donna knew better. The same instinct that drove him to loudly declare his brilliance for all the world to see had a horrific downside - the shouldering of more guilt than a human being had any right to bear.

She saw that he was actually physically trembling, more distressed than she herself even felt. It could have been almost amusing, if it wasn't for the expression on his face; that terrible haunted look, the one that he had worn so often last Christmas. The look that said that whatever was going on outside, inside Josh Lyman was torturing himself.

And, as always, there fell upon Donnatella Moss the God-given mission to lift him from that internal torture, whatever it took.

She reached out and gripped his upper arm. It was a pathetically small gesture, really - but within the tight confines of the invisible lines they drew for themselves, small gestures were all there were. Wherever her mind might go the rest of the time, in crunch moments like this it was impossible to deny it.

Obsessed? The word didn't come close. Joshua Lyman was her life. Her entire life.

And with the look on his face that gradually filtered in to replace the guilt and fear, it was all too easy to believe that somewhere in there, he felt the same. This was one of those moments - one of those moments where all that was silently understood was on the verge of being spoken.

So, as ever, they broke eye contact and silently agreed to pretend they hadn't noticed.

Josh spoke first. "What the hell just happened back there?"

Donna could only shrug. For once, Josh too seemed to have difficulty finding the words he was looking for. "Those guys... those *things*... what were they?"

"I think..." She couldn't believe she was actually going to say this out loud. "I think they might have been... vampires."

She and Josh looked at each other; both wanting to say how crazy that was... both remembering the creature exploding into dust as she stabbed it. *A stake through the heart...*

She hugged her bag close to her chest, suddenly feeling far more vulnerable than she had during the attack itself. "I want to go home, Josh."

He drove her back to her apartment, and when he walked her to the door he somehow ended up coming inside. Visions of CJ screaming in disbelief at their stupidity briefly danced through her head, but she was too shaken to pay them much attention.

"Where's your roommate?" Josh asked nervously, looking around as if he expected her cats to be waiting to leap out at him. Josh was not a cat person.

"She and her cats have headed out for greener pastures."

"Didn't get on with your working hours?"

"Didn't get on with my drunken boss turning up at two o'clock in the morning and shouting at her cats."

"I was *not* drunk! I merely felt a sudden compulsion to make an entirely social visit, a friendly gesture for which you should be overwhelming me with gratitude..."

"Also a sudden compulsion to start singing the theme from 'Shaft'?"

Josh gasped, horrorstruck. "I did *not*."

Donna just smirked. "Whatever you say, Josh."

She stepped into the main room, carefully hung up her coat... and was suddenly overwhelmed by a fit of the shakes so bad she had to sit down abruptly on the arm of the sofa.

Quite how Josh managed to in a tiny fraction of a second get himself seated on the sofa beside her so she could lean back against him, she wasn't sure, but right then the relief of having strong arms fold about her far outweighed such questions, or even visions of the wrath of CJ.

Josh stroked her hair, suddenly giving out warmth and calmness in waves. "It's okay now, Donna. It's all gonna be okay."

Donna thought of ancient books and vampires, and wondered if he was right.

* * *

7: The Slinky Red Dress Offensive


Donna slowly drifted awake from a blessedly nightmare-free sleep. Her alarm was sounding, but it seemed oddly far away. Why was that?

Because, she realised, laying pleasantly half-asleep, it was in the other room. Her bedroom. She wasn't in her bedroom because... she was on the sofa.

With Josh.

She jolted the rest of the way awake with a start. "Are you insane?" she screeched. Josh jerked upright and awake in the same motion, with a completely befuddled expression that would have been adorable in other circumstances.

Actually, it was pretty damn adorable right now. But this was not a good time to dwell on that.

"What?" He blinked, shook his head a few times to find some more words, and settled for "What?"

*Note to self: Josh Lyman, not a morning person.* Not that she hadn't suspected that. And not that it was of any interest to her how Josh was when he woke up in the morning.

However, in their current, somewhat compromised position, the whole denial thing was a little bit harder to buy into than usual. In an effort to regain a bit of decorum, Donna hurriedly disentangled herself and shuffled over to the other side of the sofa.

She wasn't sure whether to be amused or chagrined by the way Josh quickly shuffled after her. He was invading her personal space, and worse, pulling the closest he could get to an innocent expression. "Why am I insane, Donna?" he asked, in that little boy voice that was calculated to make her want to give him a cuddle and agree with anything he said.

*Don't think you can charm me, Lyman. I am not charmed. I am... uncharmable. *

Even so, she softened her tone a little. "Josh, CJ's gonna kill you."

"What for?" he asked, not losing the 'who, me?' expression. With Josh, it was always hard to tell if he was putting it on or genuinely that clueless.

"Josh, has it occurred to you yet that you spent the whole of last night in my apartment?"


"So, CJ's gonna kill you."

"I really think that, under the circumstances, you should be saying 'CJ's gonna kill *us*'."

"Not us. Just you. You spent the night in *my* apartment, not me in yours. Also, it's your car that's been parked outside my front door all night. Also, you're my boss. And CJ likes me better than you."

"She does not."

"Does too."

"Donna, CJ isn't gonna kill anybody."

"Joshua Lyman, for someone who is allegedly one of the most talented politicians in the country you are woefully nave."

"CJ isn't gonna kill anybody, Donna, because I had perfectly good reasons for staying with you last night. And what do you mean, 'allegedly'?"

"Can you say 'Mary Marsh'? Can you say 'secret plan to fight inflation?' Can you say-"

"I'm a politician, not a diplomat. And if CJ hadn't had the lack of common courtesy to have dental treatment immediately before a press briefing-"

"She's gonna need it again by the time she's finished grinding her teeth at you, Joshua."

"Donna, should CJ by some incredibly remote chance come to learn of this - and she won't - we will simply tell her the truth..."

"That I was attacked by vampires?"

That one halted even Josh for a moment, but he quickly recovered. "-That you were attacked, and that you ask me to stay because you were distressed and shaken."

"I don't recall asking you any such thing."

"I don't recall you demanding I leave, either."

"Joshua Lyman, you regard lack of an outright negative answer to be the same as a positive response? Suddenly your need to call in polling experts to interpret simplistic results is explained."

"As I said, I don't recall you exactly making an effort to kick me out, and you *were* distressed, so how could CJ argue?"

"And if CJ demands to know why you didn't call her to come and act as chaperone?"

"We'll tell her that you were so hysterical you wouldn't let me far enough from your side to use the telephone."

"We will *not*."

"Then we'll just have to tell her I'm thoughtless and shortsighted."

"Now *that* she'll believe."

"Then that's settled. Come on, let's get to work."

"Josh! I need to change my clothes." She frowned, taking in his even-more-rumpled-than-usual appearance. "And so do you."

"Thanks, but I don't think any of your things will fit me."

"And yet you'd look so good in that slinky red number... Jessica." Donna couldn't help beginning to grin. "That could be our new strategy."

"Dressing me up in your clothes?"

"Exactly. CJ will be laughing so hard she won't have time to be mad."

"I think I preferred the original plan. We'll stop by my apartment on the way, and still get to work in time for my seven-thirty meeting."

"-Which," Donna suddenly recalled, panic-stricken, "has been moved up to seven o'clock!"

They stared at each other in alarm for a few seconds, then rushed to get ready in record time.

* * *

8: Death Threats and Excuses


CJ jumped them before they were even halfway through the door. "Joshua Lyman, I swear to Bast and any other deities that might be listening that I will *murder* you with my own two hands!"

Donna turned a variation of his own 'told you so' look on him. "What did I say?"

"CJ-" he began, but CJ was in diatribe mode.

"Is it *enough* that you can turn the simplest of meetings into an all-out political war? Is it *enough* that every time we let you out in front of the press you somehow manage to snatch disaster from the jaws of opportunity? Is it *enough* that in the last two years we have yet to go one month, *one month* without a political catastrophy of your making? No! You decide to move into whole new realms of making my life miserable."


"I tried to phone you last night, Josh. Were you home? No, you were not."


"That, in and of itself, proved nothing. But when I saw Donna's car out here in the parking lot all by itself, a horrible suspicion began to grow in my mind."


"I tried to tell myself that I was imagining things. I tried to tell myself that my years as press secretary to a staff of kamikaze politicians had finally made me a gibbering, paranoid wreck. And then, this morning, I find you strolling in late - *with Donna* - in *the same clothes you were wearing yesterday-*"

"CJ, can I speak now?"

She glared at him malevolently. "Josh, there is very little you can say right now that will dissuade me from using my height advantage to devastating effect and wrenching your head round a hundred and eighty degrees." She took a breath. "Good morning, Donna," she added, as an afterthought.

"CJ, Donna's car broke down last night, and she was attacked on her way home."

"Attacked?" CJ's anger melted into instant concern as if it had never been. "Donna, are you-"

"I'm fine, CJ," Donna hastened to assure her. "Josh scared them off."

"I noticed her car was still here, and found out from one of those-" he bit off an obscenity with obvious effort - "-junior staffers that her car had broken down and he'd just let her go walking off into the night."

"Donna, are you *insane*?" CJ demanded.

"I know," she said in a small voice. "I guess I just never thought-"

"I gave her a ride home," Josh said, laying a comforting hand on her arm. Donna thought of that startlingly intimate moment they had shared in the car that night, and hoped she wasn't blushing.

"I was pretty shaken up," she added hastily. "I didn't really want to be alone, so Josh spent the night on my sofa."

She didn't see any need to mention to CJ that she herself had also spent the night there.

"Oh, you poor, poor thing." CJ hugged her briefly, and then did the same to Josh. "You're a good man, Joshua Lyman," she said, pulling back to look him in the eye. "But if you ever pull something like this without calling me again, I will carry out everything I just threatened - and more. Clear?"

"Clear," he agreed, with a smile.

* * *

It wasn't until she'd got inside and settled at her desk that Donna remembered she'd been supposed to go and talk to Toby first thing. "Damn!" The last thing she needed right now was a grumpy Toby.

"Is he there?" she asked Ginger, hovering outside the door to his office nervously. "And more importantly - has he had coffee?" Ginger smiled at her.

"He's his usual sweet and smiling self," she said. Somehow, Donna was less than reassured.

She knocked gingerly, and said softly "Toby?" When he looked up, his expression was unreadable as ever, but she thought he seemed even tenser than usual.

*Dear God, not more bad news. Just please, don't let it be another bombshell. *

Toby's silence had its usual effect on her - babble time. With Josh, Sam, CJ, she bantered; with Toby, she always turned into a nervous wreck and chattered on about anything her brain could latch onto. Which made her sure Toby must think she was as nutty as Margaret, which made her even more nervous... "Sorry I'm late, I got to work late. I had car trouble, and then I was attacked on the way home-"

"Attacked?" interjected Toby quickly. "By what- who?" he corrected himself.

She opened her mouth to reply - and hesitated. Toby, corrected himself? Toby Ziegler, using the wrong word? Anybody else, no matter how intelligent or eloquent, and she'd chalk it up to a simple verbal mis-step... but Toby?

'What', he'd said. As if he'd already known it hadn't been a human being...

She hesitated for a moment longer, then reached for her shoulder bag and pulled out the ancient book from where it had lain, forgotten, all night.

"Toby," she said, showing it to him slowly, "do you know something about this?"

* * *

9: Swords and Super-Powers


"Donna," said Toby slowly, "have you heard of a group called the Watchers?"

Donna ran through her detailed mental list of political, social and religious organisations - otherwise known as 'sections of society Josh will at some stage probably offend'. She drew a blank, and shook her head.

"We're an organisation of academics who keep an eye on world events, waiting for... certain indications."

This was not sounding good. "'We'- Toby, are you a member? Did you write that down on a form anywhere? 'Cause, you know, I'm fairly sure you ought to declare-"

"We're a highly unofficial group. We prefer to keep our mission away from the eyes of the general public."

"Your 'mission'?" This was *definitely* not sounding good.

"We're dedicated to the eradication of certain evils from the world."

"'Kay, Toby? Now you're starting to sound like a terrorist organisation. And who's we?"

"There are about twenty thousand of us altogether; mostly British based."

"Twenty-" Donna choked on that a little. "Twenty thousand? And what do you actually all *do*?"

"Keep watch. For vampire slayers."

Donna opened her mouth to make the obvious objections - and closed it again. In her mind, she saw glowing eyes and a body dissolving into dust.

"Did you read the book?" Toby asked. Donna shook her head, and he rolled his eyes impatiently. "Okay, in brief. Vampires, demons, magic, et cetera... all real. Vampires are everywhere, but mostly they keep out of sight of everyone except their prey. We, the Watchers, and various others, fight them where we find them, but they have superhuman strength and speed." He glared at her, as if daring her to interupt his speech. She wouldn't have had the courage even if she hadn't had the horrible sinking feeling in her stomach that it was all true.

"Since the beginning of time, there's been a force at work; what we call the Slayer. Always female, a Slayer is Called at any age from her mid-teens to early twenties. Previously a normal girl, she develops superhuman powers of her own. If a Slayer is killed, the Calling instantly passes on to another, and that can be anywhere else in the world. The job of the Watchers is to locate the Slayers as soon as they appear, and instruct them in their art."

"And you think... you've located me?" Donna was trying to sound disbelieving, but somehow it came out more like 'strangled'.

"You've been having the nightmares." Her first instinct was to demand to know how the hell Toby knew what was going on in her head, but she was almost afraid to ask. She nodded mutely.

"When a Slayer is Called, she usually suffers dreams of the fate of her predecessor. The last one was killed about a week ago, in a small California town called Sunnydale that happens to be sited on a convergence of mystical energies. Her name was-"

"-Buffy Anne Summers," Donna finished for him. There was an odd, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. This was all completely crazy... and, some part of her knew, all completely true. "And now... I'm a vampire Slayer?"

Toby nodded gravely. "It's your destiny." Such a tacky, fortune-teller phrase sounded strange coming from him. "You need to be trained. You have the skills, but not the focus, and the vampires will be coming for you."

"They already are," she admitted. And then she added "Trained? Toby, I'm assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States, and you're the President's chief speechwriter. I don't have time to have a life, let alone train. And you don't have time to train me."

Toby nodded. "We'll have to work something out with the lunch hours."

Donna nearly laughed at the almost casual way he said it. *Ever since the beginning of time?* She wondered if all the other 'Chosen Ones' had been forced to put up with these kind of scheduling problems.

"Josh'll have to know," she pointed out. "Josh *does* know," she corrected. "He saw me stake a vampire last night."

Toby's expression went unreadable again. "You staked a vampire? In front of Josh?"

She shrank under his gaze. "It seemed like a good idea at the time..."

Toby gave her a few more seconds of the psychopath stare, and then nodded curtly. "Fine. Tell Josh. You should go now." He reached for a long flat cardboard box on the floor behind his desk. "Before you go, take this."

Donna took the box, realised it was incredibly heavy, and realised at the same time that the weight didn't bother her in the slightest. She could hold it with one hand. *Hey, this Slayer thing could have its plus points,* she thought, thinking of the way she'd struggled to rearrange her apartment after her roomie moved out.

She lifted the end flap and drew out a sword. It was about three feet long, and it seemed to fit her hand perfectly. She made a few experimental slashes, nearly skewering Toby in the process. "You should watch that," he advised, taking cover behind his desk.

"You're the Watcher," she reminded him. She swung it again, admiringly, and a thought struck her. "Toby... do I even want to know how you got this thing past security?"

Toby just gave her one of his 'I am not in the mood for comedy, and incidentally quite possibly homicidal' looks. "Go. Now."

Sam was lurking outside the office when she emerged. "Whatcha got in the box, Donnatella?" he asked curiously.

"Sword," she answered shortly. Sam threw up his hands defensively.

"Hey, I was only asking!"

* * *

10: Gallivanting About


As usual, Josh's psychic assistant detector seemed to warn him the very instant she got within shouting distance. "Donnatella Moss!"

"Joshua Lyman?" she replied, poking her head through his office door.

"I come back to the office from my meeting, Donna, and what do I find?"

"Scrambled heaps of paperwork dating back to 1982?"

"I find, Donnatella, that my dedicated assistant is nowhere in sight. Thinking, perhaps, that she is busy on some urgent matter of state, retrieving files - or else fetching coffee for her kind, thoughful, sensitive boss - I patiently wait for her to return and appraise me of my schedule for the rest of the day. And I wait. And wait."

"First of all, Joshua, someone with a purported seven-sixty verbal ought to be able to puzzle out his own schedule from the neatly typed sheet headed 'Schedule'. Second of all, I was indeed busy on an urgent matter - I was talking to Toby. And third of all, even had I been here, I would not have been getting you coffee, as delivery of hot beverages is not part of my dedicated assistant job description."

"You know, we're really going to have to do something about this insubordination problem of yours."

"Is that any way to speak to the woman you just spent the night with?"

"*Donna*!" Eyebrows shooting up to meet his hairline, he quickly yanked her inside and slammed the door. "I can't believe you just said that!"

"Oh, no one was listening," she shrugged, enjoying the blush rapidly spreading across his features.

"What if one of the other assistants overheard you saying something like that? You were the one worrying about CJ murdering the pair of us!"

"Josh, the people out there are my friends. If they heard me say something like that, they'd just assume I was joking."

"Would they?" said Josh softly, and for a moment she was caught short by the expression on his face. Then, as always, he quickly broke the moment. "You talked to Toby? What about?"

"Oh, you know. He told me that vampires were real and it was my destiny to slay them. Gave me a sword." She waved the cardboard box she was holding at him.

"A sword?" Josh reached inside and drew it out, looking at the blade with some amazement. "A sword," he agreed. Donna was amused to see it took him both hands to hold it upright, and he couldn't keep it steady.

"*My* sword," she agreed. "Kind of a 'good luck with your new destiny' present." She took it from him and casually hefted it one-handed.

Side-tracked by the sword, Josh was only just catching up with the conversation. "Wait, Toby told you it's your destiny to be a vampire Slayer?"

"Yup. Apparently it's his job to watch out for potential Slayers, and make sure they know what to do. He's gonna train me in my lunch hours and everything."

"Wait - Toby's gonna teach you how to slay vampires?" Then a more pressing thought struck him. "Wait - he's gonna steal you away from me in your lunch hours?"

"You know, technically, Josh, those lunch hours are my own free time to do with as I see fit."

"Again with the insubordination."

"Josh, I've gotta train sometime. And since both Toby and I are very busy people-"

"So am I! I need my assistant."

"Remember those words, Josh, when next we broach the subject of my well-deserved and long overdue pay raise."

"Technically, if you're going to be gallivanting about with Toby for an hour every day, that should be a pay *cut*."

"'Gallivanting about'?"

"And *more* insubordination! Mocking your superior's vocabulary."

"I seldom think of you as my superior, Josh."

"I would remind you that I hold your future job security in my hands."

"True. However, in *my* hands I hold a three-foot-long edged weapon. I can't help feeling that the balance of power in this relationship has shifted."

There was knock on the office door. "Shouldn't you be out there working instead of in here, giving me lip?" Josh demanded.

"'Giving you lip'? And you're the one who's worried about people overhearing things?"

Josh went an extremely satisfactory shade of bright red. Smirking, Donna stuffed the sword back in the box and carried it outside.

It was Sam. As she returned to her desk and shoved the box underneath it, he said plaintively "C'mon, Donna, what's *really* in the box?"

"A sword," she and Josh said in perfect chorus.

* * *

11: Lions at the Coffee Machine


"C'mon, Donna. Spill."

Headed for the coffee machine, Donna suddenly felt uncomfortably like an animal at the waterhole who's just discovered the lions have been lying in wait. The assistants were gathered; Bonnie, Ginger, Cathy, Margaret. Unlike last time, when they'd nervously broken the news of Joey Lucas' impending return, they were... smirking.

*Oh God, what is it? What have I done? What do they know? *

"Spill what?" she asked, pouring her coffee very carefully. *No snapping cutlery, this time, please,* she prayed to nobody in particular.

Ginger looked disbelieving. "Oh, come on. Last night, Donna? You, Josh? What happened?"

A thrill of alarm ran through her. *God, does* everybody *know I'm a vampire Slayer?* "What makes you think something happened last night?" she hedged, buying time.

"We overheard CJ beating up on Josh," Cathy elaborated. "Something about him being at your apartment last night?" She leaned closer, eagerly. "So what's the story?"

"Oh! That." Donna half-giggled in relief, and wished she hadn't. She pulled her face into a mask of professionalism. "That was nothing. Really. Nothing," she insisted. Nobody looked fooled.

"Donna, we're not senior staff. You can tell us."

"Seriously, there's nothing to tell." She wondered if putting on a disappointed face might help convince them, and decided that it might come out *too* convincing. "See, my car broke down last night, and I sort of... nearly got mugged." Funny how something that was terrifying at the time could make you just feel sheepish a day later.

It was amazing how quickly you could get sick of people gasping in dismay and fussing over you. "I'm fine. I'm *fine*," she insisted, shooing Margaret away before she could go into mother-hen mode. "Anyway, there were these guys, but Josh showed up with his car and scared them off."

"Kind of like a knight in shining armour," giggled Cathy. Donna was getting a little worried about the level of vicarious satisfaction the office support staff seemed to get out of observing her and Josh. *Dammit, what are we, Niles and Daphne?*

"There's nothing shiny about anything Josh wears, unless it's so old it's wearing out at the elbows," she said. She was momentarily distracted by the image of Josh in his office, holding up her sword, and tried not to giggle again. This was *so* not the right time to be giggly and happy.

"So he drove you home... and then what happened?" demanded Bonnie.

"Well, he came in," she began, and everyone leaned closer, "-and *nothing* happened," she insisted firmly. "I was a bit shaken up, so he slept on my sofa to keep me company."

Despite the complete and obvious innocence of such an arrangement, (or at least the mildly edited version she was giving them) they were all grinning like Cheshire cats.

"Does he talk about you in his sleep?" Ginger demanded eagerly.

"*No!*" Donna denied hotly, feeling a flush escape to her cheeks despite herself.

"Oh, so you were close enough to tell?"

There was no escaping from it - she was blushing furiously. *Damn alabaster skin!* She couldn't believe it would be possible for anyone to have an office affair when their co-workers put them under as much scrutiny as they did her and Josh.

*Oops. 'Office affair' and Josh in the same sentence. Bad Donna.* Bad *Donna.*

Still, at least it was only the support staff gossiping behind their backs. CJ already knew, Sam was a pussycat, and Toby apparently had other things to think about. She couldn't imagine the President having any reaction other than an avuncular arm around the shoulders and a few obscure quotes. Which left only one real danger point...

She turned to Margaret, and pleaded "Don't let Leo know about this. *Please*. Even if I *did* nearly get mugged, he'll eat Josh for breakfast." He would, too. Whatever he might personally feel about anything that was going on, with Leo the job came first.

"Your secret is safe with me," said Margaret with a firm nod, and Donna let out a silent sigh of relief. Margaret was a good friend - but as Donna's was to Josh, her first loyalty was to Leo.

However, Donna's mind somehow rebelled at trying to picture Leo giving Margaret a hug and sleeping on her sofa after coming to her rescue. Or Margaret deliberately making double-entendres to make him blush.

*Maybe it's time to reconsider this whole 'absolutely definitely nothing going on between Josh and me' line. *

Still, you didn't see Josh spending the night on a sofa with Joey Lucas, now did you?

Donna couldn't help smiling just a little as she turned back towards her desk.

* * *

12: Off-Colour Remarks


Of course, today of all days Joshua I'm-Apparently-Incapable-of-Understanding-How-Coffee-Machines-Work Lyman had to be heading towards the machine with coffee cup in hand. As the other assistants scattered, Donna briefly considered ducking away in a different direction on the pretence of having urgent business elsewhere. Unfortunately, that defence was a little hard to pull off when the person you wanted to hide from was your boss.

"What was all that about?" he asked, brow wrinkling. Josh had a deep paranoia - born of his planet-sized ego, no doubt - that any group of women gathered together outside of his earshot must be talking about him.

Of course, technically they had been, but that was nothing more than random chance.

She played dumb. "What was what about?"

"That-" he waved a hand around in search of the right word, "-gaggle."

"'Gaggle'?" she repeated, eyebrows arched.

"Gaggle. Collective noun for personal assistants. Like geese. What did they want?"

"Oh, nothing really. Just to ask if it was true that I was having sex with my boss."

"*Don-na*!" She really was getting quite good at making him go beet red.

Josh grabbed her arm, thought better of it, and put his hand against her back instead to hustle her back into the office. "They *know*?" he demanded in a horrified voice.

"'Know'? No, Joshua, they do not know that we are having sex. In fact, neither did I. We're having sex now?"

The red was most definitely not going away. *I have finally found a way to render Josh completely speechless.*

Of course, not even the conversational equivalent of a nuclear bomb could keep him quiet for very long. "Will you stop saying that?" he hissed.

"Who can hear, when we're talking quietly? A concept that one would perhaps be forgiven for expecting the White House Press Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States to be more clear on."


"I am informed that the sound of her bawling you out earlier this morning resounded through the halls. This is all your fault."

"Wait, CJ shouts loud enough to alert the world's media and somehow it's my fault?"

"No doubt you said something phenomenally stupid to deserve the aforementioned bawling out."

"Me? Am I the one who keeps making... off-colour remarks at every available opportunity?"

"'Off-colour' remarks?" Donna echoed, amused.

"Donna, this isn't funny! People know I spent the night on your sofa? Who?"

"Well, you, me and CJ, obviously."


"Plus Cathy - which means Sam will know by this afternoon - Bonnie and Ginger - but that doesn't matter because Toby already knows what really happened and anyway really couldn't care less. Fortunately I was able to persuade Margaret to keep this a secret from Leo-"


"Leo McGarry? Your boss? Sandy hair, glasses? Pissed-off expression whenever he hears you say something stupid, which means just about any time he's in your presence?"

"You think *Leo* might get involved in this?"

"'Cause gee, it's so hard to believe that he might have something to say about his deputy sleeping with his personal assistant?"

"I am *not* sleeping with my personal assistant!"

"Believe it or not, Josh, I *had* noticed."

Unbelievably, his 'I am *da man*!' grin was beginning to spread over his face. "Oh you had, had you?"

"You consider the fact that a girl is aware of not having slept with you to be a sign of romantic interest? Suddenly the reason for your track record with dating becomes clearer."

"'Cuz it's such a mystery when you know a guy as great as me ought to have women leaping all over him?"

"Ones trying to stamp you to death don't count, Josh."

"Talking of... slayed any vampires lately?"

"In the twelve second gap between me getting up from my desk and you following me to the coffee machine?"

"I was not following you!"

"Joshua, in the last two years have you *ever* gone to get coffee from the machine? Do you even know how it works?"

"If I had a real assistant, I wouldn't need to get my own."

"You don't consider me a real assistant? I have to warn you, that won't come across well at the sexual harrasment inquiry."

"I'm harrassing you now?"

"I think the dictionary definition probably covers stalking, yes."

"I would have thought that big strong vampire slayers could defend themselves."

"Don't tempt me to insert a stake somewhere you won't like, Josh."

Josh hurriedly changed the subject. "So when's this training session of yours with Toby?"

"In my lunch hour, Josh. I'm not surprised you haven't heard of it - it's part of an outlandish concept called 'free time' that other people's assistants subscribe to."

"If you're sneaking off to learn how to kill vampires, I'm coming with you."

"The government can't afford to lose me for an hour, but it can afford to lose you? I feel this says a lot about the inefficiency of the current hierarchy."

"You know I can't do any work when you're not here."

"I want that in writing."

"I want coffee brought to my office every morning and afternoon, and do I get that?"

Dancing through the verbal warfare of an old familiar argument, they headed off together towards Toby's office.

* * *

13: Sigmund Freud and the CIA


They arrived in Toby's office, and he gave Josh an intense look. "You're involving yourself in this?" he said brusquely.

"Of course. Donna's my assistant!"

Donna couldn't help thinking that involving himself in vampire slaying was stretching the employer-employee contract more than a little, but she was grateful for the support anyway. It was all very well to be suddenly landed with super-strength and high-powered reflexes, but she didn't *feel* like a vampire slayer.

Toby nodded, as if whether Josh decided to be in or out was just about the least important detail he could think of. The ever-expanding Lyman ego cut no ice with Toby Ziegler.

"Come with me," he said shortly.

As he led them through the bullpen, Josh looked around and said "Shouldn't we alert Bonnie or Ginger or someone?"

"They're at lunch," snapped Toby impatiently.

Donna elbowed Josh in the side. "See? Other people's assistants get lunch breaks."

"You're getting one now, aren't you?"

"My first in two years - and I'm taking my boss along."

"It doesn't qualify as a break if I'm there?"

"Not when you're the thing I'm trying to take a break from."

"You don't like my company? What's not to like?"

"Give me until tomorrow, and I'll type you a fully comprehensive list."

"You can't tell me now?"

"I'm on a break."

Toby drove them to a small storage unit across town, a kind of mini warehouse. Josh, like the schoolboy in adult's clothing he was, had to be first inside. He let out a low whistle. "Toby, does the IRS know about this little setup of yours?"

Donna carefully squeezed through the cobweb lined door to get a look inside, and her jaw dropped. Fully a half of the unit was taken up by shelves, piled with ancient-looking books and bizarre artefacts. The other half... was completely full of weapons. Swords and knives of all shapes and lengths, axes, crossbows...

"Toby, not to pry, but... where did you get all these weapons from?" she asked dazedly. "I mean, is there some kind of mail-order service, or do you, um, black your face up and go raiding museums of a weekend?"

Josh of course, had to immediately start picking things up and playing with them. He headed straight for the biggest sword there, managed to get it off its wall mountings, and promptly dropped it with a resounding clang.

With her all-new Slayer-strength, Donna casually picked it up and replaced it. "I can't help thinking Freud would have something to say about this, Joshua."

"So would the CIA. Toby, how the hell did you get hold of all this stuff?"

"The Watcher's Council has its resources." Toby was looking pissed at their antics. "Do you people want to learn about vampires and demons, or do you want to drive me crazy?"

"We want to-" Donna decided to give Josh another quick elbow, just in case. He looked at her with a wounded expression, rubbing his side. "I was gonna say the right one," he insisted innocently.

Toby rolled his eyes, but obviously decided the only way to get anywhere at all was to carry on regardless. "Vampires," he said pointedly. Josh put on his 'good student' expression.

"Right, yes. Vampires. Big teeth. Turn into bats. Have a strange obsession with girls in silk underwear who sleep with their windows open."

"Okay. Firstly; they don't turn into bats. They can't fly, and they can't turn into mist. They rarely come in through windows, since they need an invitation to enter someone's home, although not for a public building. And they don't just attack women, but anybody they can find - although given a choice they will prey on the young and the beautiful."

Josh crinkled his brow and muttered to Donna "Guess that's us in trouble, huh?" Donna's exasperation at the size of his ego fought it out with a strangely warm feeling at the compliment, however offhand.

Toby had quick realised that ignoring Josh was the way to go. "Vampires are essentially dead humans, possessed by demonic entities. They can appear completely human until they choose to reveal their vampire face." Donna thought of sudden terrifying change in the faces of the men who'd attacked her, and shuddered. Josh must have noticed, for he softly touched the back of her hand and gave her a gentle smile.

Toby continued in clipped tones, as if he was reciting dry facts in some routine meeting. "Vampires kill humans by drinking their blood. If the human is fed some of the vampire's blood in turn, then they will rise after death and become another vampire. Vampires can be killed by a wooden stake to the heart, decapitation or direct sunlight. They are also wounded by holy water."

"And crosses?" asked Donna.

Toby scowled. "Certain religious artefacts," he corrected. "The stories have simply been 'reinterpreted' by the Christian church, in much the way that they absorbed minor gods and spirits of other religions and reinvented them as saints."

"You said 'demons', earlier. They're real?" asked Josh.

"Yes. In addition to vampires, the Slayer is called upon to battle all manner of other dark creatures."

Donna raised a hand. "Um, Toby? Not to make waves, but I already have a full time job."

"Yes, but you have to make time to train. Now that you're the Slayer, you're a target, and you could be attacked at any-"

Abruptly, the door exploded inwards. Completely filling the frame was a creature Donna had never even *imagined* before, eight feet tall with leathery green-grey skin and great spiralling horns like a ram. It roared angrily, and began to storm towards them.

"-moment," finished Toby.

* * *

14: Duelling Demons


"What is it?" yelled Josh as the creature stamped towards them. He seemed conflicted, as if he half wanted to dive for cover and half wanted to protect Donna.

"Taskan demon!" said Toby, scrabbling for a weapon. "Donna, silver!"

"What?" she yelled back, hopelessly confused.

"Something silver! It's the only way to kill it."

Donna's eyes flicked across the rows of weapons helplessly. None of them looked like they were made of silver... there! "Josh! Get me that knife!"

Josh saw it and grabbed for it. Before he could close his hand around the hilt, the creature had reached them, and it casually backhanded Josh into a bookcase.

Donna saw red. Without even thinking of what she was going to do, she laid into the demon, kicking and punching until it fell back under the onslaught. It leapt a bookshelf, headed for Toby, who was trying desperately to load up a crossbow.

Donna snapped her hand back, yanked the silver knife from the wall, and threw it in one motion. It thudded solidly into the centre of the creature's chest.

For a moment, all was frozen. Then the demon toppled like a tree, hitting the concrete floor with a terrific smack. Almost hypnotised by disbelief, Donna took a few steps closer to it. "Is it dead?" she heard herself ask distantly, as she leaned over.

The demon's eyes suddenly snapped open, and she hopped backwards in alarm. "Slayer," it said in a distorted parody of a human voice. It was obviously greviously wounded. Trying to sit up and failing, it gasped out the words "You may... have won... but you are no match for the last one. You... will never survive." And then it lay still.

Toby and Josh came over to join her. Josh was limping noticably, and she said worriedly "Josh, are you okay?"

He shrugged painfully. "Humiliated, mostly. So much for the mighty warrior, protecting his- his assistant." Donna was left wondering what the word had been that he had stopped himself from saying. *His girl? His family? His loved one?*

Toby had no time for coddling either Josh's wounds or his ego. He bent down to study the creature, announced "It's dead," and produced a book of matches.

"What are you going to-" Josh began, as he set fire to the body. "Oh, that's gross! That's foul!" They all retreated from the horrific stench as the corpse began to burn.

"Do this a lot, do you?" asked Josh weakly, as the three of them watched the flickering flames of the makeshift funeral pyre, mesmerised.

Toby just looked at him. "What would you suggest I do with the body?" he asked, eyebrows cocked.

Donna supposed he had a point. She felt faintly light-headed, both from the horrific smell of the smoke and the realisation of what she had just done. *Hey, hello? I've changed my mind. I don't want to be a vampire slayer anymore. Make it stop now. Please?*

Josh was obviously thinking about the demon's last words. "He said 'you are no match for the last one'. The last Slayer? What happened to her? 'You'll never survive'. How long do vampire slayers usually last?"

Toby looked... well, if it had been anybody else but Toby, Donna would have thought he looked guilty, almost ashamed of himself. Toby glanced at his watch and said quickly "We should be getting out of here. I have a meeting at ten past."

Josh narrowed his eyes, but let the change of subject go without comment. Donna, though, was thinking of the girl she'd seen in her nightmares. She'd looked young. Very, very young.

The demon had pretty much finished smouldering. Donna guessed Toby had known what he was doing, because it had burned down to nothing but ashes. In a way, that made her feel better. If there had been bones, she would have felt as if she'd murdered a living thing. But this was like the vampire, exploding into dust - too alien to make her feel like a killer.

They passed the drive back to the White House in silence. Donna found it impossible to believe that they were all really going to go back to work and do ordinary, government-running things.

*We killed a demon! People, we just killed a demon? Why hasn't the normal world stopped running?*

But when they got back, somehow they were all managing to put one foot in front of the other and look like their normal selves. Well, perhaps not quite. Anybody who knew anything about Josh and Donna would find the silence between them extremely strange. Josh and Donna, not bantering? She could almost *feel* the rumour mill beginning to start up.

It wasn't as if there weren't enough rumours flying around about them already.

The office should have been a safe haven where they could have retreated for a few minutes, but Sam was lying in wait. "Where were you two?" he asked. "I was waiting."

"We went out to lunch," Donna said, and was startled by how normal her voice sounded. *Listen to me. Good ol' normal Donna.*

Sam's eyebrows shot up. "Oh yes?" he said carefully.

*Dammit. He's been talking to Cathy.*

Josh must have realised the same, because he added quickly "With Toby." Nobody worked quite so well in the role of chaperone as Toby Ziegler - except perhaps for Leo.

Sam stopped looking knowing and started looking amazed. "Toby? Toby Ziegler?"

"The same," agreed Josh.

"Went out to lunch. With you."


"Toby Lunch-Without-a-Political-Agenda-is-a-Criminal-Waste-of-Food Ziegler?"

"And yet," said Josh with a shrug. "What did you want, Sam?"

They consulted for a few moments over a trade bill, and then Sam headed back to his own office - pausing to shoot them a puzzled and slightly hurt look over his shoulder. Donna watched him go.

"Sam suspects us," she said uneasily.

"Sam suspects *something*. I very much doubt he suspects that you're the Chosen One and the three of us spent our lunch hour fighting a Taskan demon."


Even so, Sam's expression had been unmistakeable. He knew there was a secret here, and it was hurting him that he wasn't part of it. Sam was occasionally nave, but also very smart and extremely tenacious. If they weren't careful, they could be in trouble.

* * *

15: In Denial Denial


It was an insane week - but since when was that anything to write home about? There were no more demon attacks, but several more training sessions with Toby. Josh, despite Donna's misgivings, had fallen in love with the idea of learning to use a crossbow.

"You *know* you're only going to shoot yourself in the kneecaps, Josh. And how would I explain it to CJ? Or Leo? Or the press? I can see the headlines now."

"I'm not gonna shoot myself, Donna. Anyone with the slightest bit of sense can- ow!"

"Of course, for those crossbow users who can't even get it loaded there's always the mildly less painful but no less humiliating option of twanging themselves with a broken string."

"Ow. That hurt!"


But Donna's biggest worry was much more mundane than the fear of finding her boss pinned to the wall by a self-inflicted crossbow bolt. It went by the name of Sam Seaborn.

She and Josh half-heartedly discussed how to throw him off the scent when he started investigating - neither of them much liked the idea of lying to Sam. But both of them were so used to Josh's devious machinations that they failed to anticipate the Sam Seaborn approach.

"Okay, this is it. Josh? Donna? What the hell is going on?"

"Nothing." *Great. Guilty denials in stereo.*

Donna had come up against many great political expressions in her time - Leo's stony look, CJ's raised eyebrows, and of course Toby's patented psychopath stare. All three were designed to reduce the recipient to a blurting nervous wreck, and usually worked. But now she discovered there was one even worse expression to stare down - Sam Seaborn looking wounded.

*Dammit! He looks like a kicked puppy. I, Donnatella Moss, am a kicker of puppies. My mother warned me this would happen if I went into politics.*

She couldn't bear to let Sam walk away with that bewildered 'why are you lying to me?' look on his face, but at the same time honesty was hardly a practical alternative.

A devious strategy occurred.

"There is absolutely nothing going on," she repeated. "Especially not anything you might have heard from Cathy."

As she'd expected, Sam's face slowly brightened up into a knowing grin. "Oh yes?"

"Yes. I don't know what she told you, but it's not true."

"How do you know it's not true, if you don't know what she told me?"

"'Cuz I know Cathy. And Bonnie and Ginger. The slightest little - entirely innocent - incident, and they blow it up into, into-" She managed to pull of an impression of a completely flustered person very well, she thought.

Sam was grinning extremely widely, by this point, but Josh looked bewildered. "Wait; Cathy's saying stuff about us? What's she saying?"

Sam patted him lightly on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Josh. It hardly matters, since as the two of you keep saying, there's *absolutely nothing going on*."

God help her, for a second Donna had thought he was actually going to wink at them. For the first time she stopped to consider whether it was particularly smart to trade the reality of learning to slay vampires for the appearance of having an affair with Josh.


Still, the explanation, or lack of it, seemed to satisfy Sam. He turned away; then paused. "But why have you been going off with Toby at lunchtimes?"

Donna thought quickly. "You heard about what happened Monday? How I nearly got mugged?"

Instantly, Sam was in protective big brother mode. Well, not quite. Sam was probably ten years older than her, but he'd always struck her as more of a little brother figure. It was something to do with that streak of innocence that ran through him, making him at times nave but at other times quite adorable. "Yes, I heard. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she answered; a little shortly, but she was getting very tired of that question. Then she remembered she was playing the role of helpless female. "But anyway, I got a little- shook up, I guess. And Toby said I should get self-defence lessons, but I can't afford to get professional ones, so-"

"*Toby* is teaching you self-defence?" Sam exploded in disbelief.

*Well, technically it's* almost *true.*

"You know how he is. He hates to admit to caring about anybody, but really..." She didn't have to finish. She could see the wheels turning in Sam's brain, as he added things up. "Don't say anything to Toby," she added as an afterthought. "He'd probably blow his top if he knew I'd told anybody."

Sam nodded, and went off to get back to work. As he walked away, they heard him mutter faintly "Toby!" and chuckle to himself.

"He'll say something to Toby," Josh observed.

"Toby's smart, Joshua. He'll recognise a cover story when he hears one. Unlike some people."

That reminded Josh of the earlier half of their conversation. "What the hell were you doing back there? Now Sam thinks that we're-" It was almost comical how much he lowered his voice "-we're having an affair or something."

"No, Josh. Sam just thinks we're in denial."

"Denial? We're not in denial."

"I never said we were, Josh. Just that Sam thinks we are."

"Good. 'Cuz there's no denial going on around here."


"None at all."

"Of course not."

"Right then."

"Right then."

They hurriedly split up and went back to their work.

* * *

16: The Wrath of Josh


The explosion started, as Josh's worst explosions did, deceptively quietly. It was late enough that sane people would have long since gone home, but the White House was still bustling.

Josh was whiling away the time waiting for a report to come back by flicking through a couple of Watcher diaries. Something obviously snapped into place, and a familiar yell resounded through the bullpen.


Donna appeared in the doorway. "Yes, master?" she demanded cheerfully, with a mocking bow. There had been no more vampire attacks, and the whole Slayer-training thing was already starting to seem like just another part of the normal routine.

The look on her boss's face killed her good mood, however. "Come and look at this, Donna," he said quietly. The tone gave her a chill; calm, gentle and measured. All the things that Josh was famed for being not.

She hurriedly crossed over to his side, meticulously planned 'I Dream of Jeannie' themed banter forgotten. "What is it, Josh?"

He pushed a piece of paper to her. 'This' was not a report or a memo, but a sheet of Josh's own untidy scrawl. It took her a moment to realise what she was looking at.

It was a carefully compiled list of Slayers, together with the age they had been Called - and the age at which they had died. The first column of numbers gave her a chill; *God! So* young*!* But that was nothing on the second column.

*Two years,* she thought, with a sick feeling beginning to take hold somewhere down in her stomach. *Most of them didn't even last two years.* The final name on the list, Buffy Summers, showed a five year period as Slayer. It was the longest on the list - by a considerable margin.

Somehow, Josh was suddenly standing with his arms around her. Hadn't he been sitting at his desk when he came in? Wasn't she supposed to be the one with super-speed?

But that didn't seem to matter. She was a vampire slayer. She considered herself an enlightened, strong, independent modern woman. But there was definitely something to be said for a nice comforting pair of - surprisingly muscular - arms wrapped around you...

Of course, CJ had to walk in.

This wasn't the first time Donna had observed the Press Secretary go from zero to apocalyptic in nought point four seconds - but this was the first time she realised quite how scary it could be when you were the focus. CJ stepped inside, and gently closed the door. She cracked her knuckles, and said dangerously softly; "Joshua. Donna."

"CJ?" said Josh meekly. Even he could recognise this was not the point to make a flip comment.

CJ was still using that deadly quiet tone. "Tell me, Joshua, just what you are doing?"

"Giving Donna a comforting brotherly hug?" he said very cautiously, rapidly disentangling himself.

Well, five-sixths of that was true.

"Hmm." CJ rapped her fingertips on the desktop thoughtfully, and continued in the same vein "Tell me, Joshua, Donna, can either of you kids remember anything about this particular week which *might* make that... a little ill-advised?"

"Sorry, CJ," Donna interrupted hurriedly, before Josh could get hostile and sign both their death-warrants. "I got the shakes."

"We were going over a document on crime statistics," chipped in Josh.

"I just started thinking about, you know, what nearly happened..." *And what still might.*

Once again, CJ's anger turned to sympathy, but her voice took on a pleading tone. "Guys, I'm serious. I understand you've had a hell of a shock, Donna, but you *can't* risk this kind of thing. You just can't. Neither of you would survive it."

Enter hostile-Josh, stage left.

"CJ, there's nothing going on."

"Josh, that's-"

"There is nothing going on."

"Okay, ever make denials to the press in that tone of voice, and you can kiss both your careers goodbye."

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

CJ regarded him for a long moment from under arched brows. Then she shook her head and sighed. "Joshua Lyman, I do believe you are the most clueless man alive," she said, and swept out.

Josh turned bewildered eyes on Donna. "What?" he said confusedly.

Donna decided an innocent shrug was the safest way to go with this one.

* * *

There were many of people in the White House Donna considered frightening. Toby. Leo. Lionel Tribbey. And, in light of recent experience, CJ. But she would never have expected to add Josh to that list.

Joshua Lyman was many things. Egotistical. Arrogant. Swaggering. Boastful.

Sweet. Caring. Gentle. Other things best not fully thought out, even in the privacy of her own head.

But never could she have ever have imagined the controlled, icy fury that had invested his normally smooth movements with a tension so strong he looked ready to snap under its pressure. She was glad that the rest of the support staff had long since gone home, for Josh threw Toby's office door open so hard it bounced off its hinges.

Toby jerked forwards in his seat, looking as close to shocked as Donna had ever seen him. She took the opportunity to hurriedly shut the door as Josh advanced on him.

"Josh-" she began, in a tone calculated to cool him off a little.

If it worked, she didn't even want to think about what he'd been *planning* to do. He leaned right across Toby's desk, and literally yanked him out of his seat by his collar.

"You've got some explaining to do," he said, in a tone of voice that put Leo's worst icy voice to shame.

* * *

17: Nervous Stress


"Josh!" Donna hurriedly pried him off Toby and pushed him back a bit. "Back off a little?" she suggested nervously.

No longer being held by the throat, Toby had recovered a little of his equilibrium. "Okay, you're gonna have to fill in a few blanks for me..." he suggested dryly.

"I'm talking," said Josh tightly, "about this." He still had gripped in his hand the screwed up list of prior Slayers - and their oh-so-short times in office.

Toby glanced at it and looked - well, as close as Donna had ever seen him to distressed. "Oh. The facts and figures."

"The facts and figures," Josh echoed dangerously.

"Josh... it's gonna be *different*, this time. We're right here in the White House, it's more protected, more secure... it's not like being on the Hellmouth. If we can just get Donna more prepared-"

"Don't drop that kind of crap on me, Toby!" Josh yelled. Donna wondered uneasily about the level of soundproofing on Toby's door. "Dammit, Toby, you're a professional policitician! You know better than to disregard the stats for wishful thinking!"

Much to the surprise of both of them, Toby got up and started yelling right back. "Dammit Josh, *I* didn't make this happen! I never expected Donna to get Called! I thought she was old enough to be out of the danger zone!"

The complete shock of being shouted at by Toby was enough to deflate some of Josh's anger, or at least redirect it. "This sucks, Toby," he fumed. "This really *sucks*." Donna thought that was putting it mildly, to say the least.

Toby calmed slightly. "Josh, nobody's arguing with you. It *does* suck. And we're trying to fix it. We're trying to change this. Last time, we damn near succeeded. And this time around, we're going to," he said firmly.

Donna began to feel a little better as Toby spoke - although she guessed that the fact he wrote speeches for a living ought to make her more sceptical. Toby got *paid* to make people believe what he said.

Josh was still angry. "'This time around?' Toby, this isn't a *game*. You don't try, try again until it works. Donna could *die*!"

Donna had a feeling she ought to be taking part in this conversation herself, but she really couldn't think of a thing to say. She wanted to tell Josh it wasn't Toby's fault. She wanted to scream and throw things. She wanted to pick the both of them up by their collars and give them a good shake.

The realisation that she could now actually physically *do* that now helped make her feel better.

Toby sighed heavily, and said "Josh, you know I care about Donna as much as you do."

Donna nearly swallowed her tongue at the amazement of hearing Toby actually admit such a thing out loud, but Josh was still bitter. "You couldn't possibly," he spat.

"Well, maybe not as much as you, but that still covers a *hell* of a lot of ground."

This appeared to be the day for saying things that had never been put into words before. Josh was completely thrown off his argument, looking like he'd been hit with a baseball bat. Donna felt much the same.

*Does it show? Does it really show* that much*?*

Toby took advantage of the abrupt silence to make calming gestures. "Okay. Everybody calm down. We're gonna find a way around this. We will do that. But no more screaming. It's giving me a headache."

Josh hesitated, and finally said "We should go home."

"Yeah," said Donna shortly. She took a deep breath, and shakily opened the door.

CJ and Sam were both standing in the entrance of Sam's office, staring at the three of them and looking very white. Josh and Toby both stomped past without saying a word, and Donna made a kind of 'don't ask, and I really have to go' expression and chased after them.

It didn't work, because CJ snagged her arm. "What's wrong?" she asked nervously.

"Is Josh okay?" asked Sam worriedly.

"Huh? Why wouldn't he-" Suddenly it clicked. Christmas. She could barely remember that dark time in Josh's life, and by extension, hers, without shuddering.

*There are worse things to go through than finding you're a vampire slayer. Much, much worse. *

"Oh! Oh, no, he's fine. Just a little... stressed," she finished lamely.

"A little?" asked CJ disbelievingly. Sam still looked very wide-eyed.

"Was that Toby shouting?" he asked. Toby being pissed off was far from rare. Toby losing it was scary.

Donna thought fast. *Close to the truth. Just stick close to the truth.*

"Um... Josh is kind of losing it about crime figures. And he and Toby are shouting at each other because they're both really pissed about it and there's nothing anybody can do."

"Crime figures?" asked Sam doubtfully, but having seen her and Josh this morning, CJ was quicker at filling in the gaps.

"This is about you nearly getting mugged, isn't it?"

"Josh was more upset than I was, CJ. You know how he is for feeling guilty."

"But, I mean, he saved you," Sam said, puzzled.

If only Josh could be that logical. "That doesn't stop him feeling guilty, Sam. He'll be upset about how he didn't psychically detect my car was going to break down, or how he didn't give me a raise to buy a new car, or obsessing over what would have happened if he'd been five minutes later..."

CJ was nodding. "Yes, that's Josh."

They were wandering towards the car park on the trail of Josh and Toby when there was a loud crash from outside. They looked at each other, and ran for the door.

Along the way, CJ pushed her hands into something approximating a prayer-position. "Hi, God. Claudia Jean. I know I don't call as often as I should. But please, please, could you arrange to not let that noise be the Deputy Chief of Staff and Toby Ziegler scrapping in the White House parking lot?"

Donna's new super-speed put her well in the lead as they burst out. Josh and Toby were indeed fighting. But not each other.

* * *

18: Scrapping in the White House Parking Lot


Donna heard CJ gasp something that would have shocked the press corps. "What the hell-?" burst Sam.

She quickly took in the situation. A pair of vampires, maybe the survivors from the gang that had jumped her the other night, had pinned Josh and Toby against the far wall. Toby's car door was still open where he'd dumped in his laptop.

She ran for the open door, and reached under the seat. Her hand touched wood, and she dragged out a stake and Toby's crossbow. "Toby!" She tossed it to him with perfect accuracy, but the vampire knocked it out of his hand before he had a chance to even aim.

The one menacing Josh turned at her shout, and recognised her with a growl. "Slayer!" He started towards her.

*Good. Come after me, not Josh. Nobody beats up on my boss! *

With the ease of movement she'd soon learned in her sessions with Toby, she ran to take on the vampire. He lunged for her, but she parried his blows easily, flipping the stake she carried into a better fighting grip.

*Watch for the first opening. First opening... *

It came, and Donna slammed the stake directly into the centre of the creature's chest. Instant dust explosion. *Whoa.* Even when she knew it was coming, it was something to see.

But there was no time for sight-seeing; there was another vamp to take care of. She turned to locate it, and heard the sudden *zing* of a high-velocity bolt. The vampire looked momentarily surprised, and then blew into a cloud of dust like its partner.

Donna looked across to Josh, and saw him holding Toby's crossbow with an expression of frozen surprise. "I *got* one," he said in amazement.

Only then did she think to glance across to Sam and CJ, who were not surprisingly sporting rather wild expressions. Toby and Josh came to stand beside her, dusting themselves off. There was an awkward silence, and Josh muttered "Hey, you wanna take this one, Toby?"

CJ said slowly "What. The hell. Was that?"

"Do you want the long version or the short version?" asked Josh wryly.

"Any version would be good."

"Okay. Well, Donna's a vampire slayer..."

* * *

"Donna's really a vampire slayer?"


"And that was *really* a sword in that box?"


"And Toby's her, what did you call it, her Watcher?"

"Yes. Sam, we've been through this before."

"And yet." The five of them had retreated to a small coffee shop a few streets away. It was quite often a haunt for discussing government business, and the staff gave them enough privacy to talk.

CJ looked dazed. "So all this time we thought you were learning self-defence... Toby was teaching you to fight vampires?"

Donna nodded. "Uh-huh."

"And those 'muggers'-"

"-were vampires, yes."

CJ shook her head wonderingly. "And I thought *Nixon's* press secretary had it hard."

"CJ, this isn't going to get out to the press," said Toby. "There have been Slayers for thousands of years-"

"None of them ever worked in the White House before," CJ pointed out.

"CJ, think for a minute. White House Staffer is Vampire Slayer? Even the *National Enquirer* wouldn't touch that one."

"Oh, they would," interjected Josh.

"He's got a point, CJ," said Donna, ignoring Josh. "Nobody's gonna believe it if they hear it. I mean, you saw with your own eyes, and-"

"So vampires and demons and magic and everything are real?"

"Yes, Sam!" snapped all four of them, loud enough to startle the waitress.

"Then doesn't the American public have a right to know?"

"Do you want to be the one to try to tell them?" asked Toby. Sam subsided.

"Fair point."

"Listen, Donna can't be the Slayer," CJ interjected. "It just isn't workable. Isn't there a way to, I don't know, un-Call her?"

Donna looked to Toby hopefully, but he just sighed. "One Slayer dies, another is Called. That's the way it's always been."

"Okay, killing me is not an option," Donna joked. Nobody laughed.

"This last Slayer, this Buffy Summers," Josh put in. "She lasted the longest out of all of them. What happened to her?"

Toby shrugged. "Nobody's quite sure. She lived on the Hellmouth - a convergence of mystical energies. It could have been anything."

"Where is this Hellmouth?"

"California," Toby supplied.

*Home of the Hellmouth, and Joey Lucas. That is* so *not my favourite state.*

"Figures," snorted Josh. "Would there be people there who knew what happened?"

"Almost certainly. She had quite an extensive support network going there - that's how she survived for so long." Donna wasn't sure you could really call five years 'long'.

"We need to get there," Josh decided. "We need to speak to those people."

"How are we going to get out to California, Josh?"

CJ had the answer. "I hear there's another Hollywood fundraiser in the works..."

And 'Operation Hellmouth' got under way.

* * *

19: Operation Hellmouth


"So where are we going, again?"


"Somebody actually named a town Sunnydale?"

"Toby told us all this already, Josh. It's called Sunnydale, it's in California, and it's the mouth of Hell."

"With a name like that, who's surprised?"

"Shut up, Josh."

* * *

Planning Donna's little side trip to the Hellmouth was as devious a bit of scheming as ever went on in the White House. She was, naturally, completely unable to dissuade Josh from coming with her, but she and the rest of the unofficial Slayer Committee were forced to veto anybody else joining them. Multiple senior staff going missing would attract too much attention.

As it was, it took enough planning to get Josh and Donna out of the picture. With the precision of a military campaign, CJ and Toby laid out the plan.

As before, CJ, Sam and Josh would be at the fundraiser. Nobody would raise an eyebrow at Josh bringing Donna, even given the friendly nudge-nudge gossip still flying about - people would have been far more curious if he left her behind.

Josh would - despite his protests over this portion of the plan - make a big show of ordering ridiculously unsuitable food during the day, plus have too much to drink, and bow out of the big event due to 'food poisoning'. His faithful assistant would naturally make the supreme sacrifice of staying by his side rather than taking the opportunity to hobnob with the stars.

"I would point out, Josh, that most employers would consider it far above and beyond the call of duty to spend my one evening in LA clearing up your imaginary vomit."

"If you bring me coffee too, you can have an imaginary raise."

"Josh, I wouldn't even bring you imaginary coffee."

There was one slight snag at the planning stage. Joey Lucas.

"Josh, you can't possibly talk to Joey Lucas. She'll cling to you like a leech and you'll never escape."

"A leech?" Josh seemed amused.


"You consider Joey Lucas to be a form of blood-sucking parasite?"

"I would remind you, Joshua, that last time we attended one of these functions, she clung to you most of the night before moving on to the Al Kiefer portion of the evening."

Josh looked momentarily wounded, but quickly recovered. "And I would remind *you* that last time we attended one of these functions, there was much talk of gathering rosebuds."

*My God, did I really say that?* "Yes, Josh. In hindsight, I think my biggest mistake was in assuming you were capable of conducting some level of romantic assignation without expert assistance. Obviously, this is not so."

*Was that too harsh?* Fortunately, Josh chose to start grinning smugly. "So what you're telling me, Donnatella, is that I'm such a great catch it's completely beyond your comprehension why Joey Lucas failed to... gather her rosebuds."

*You betcha, baby.* Donna wondered how he'd take it if she actually said that out loud. Best not to try it, now CJ knew where Toby kept his crossbow.

"Joshua, once again you display that knack for gross reinterpretation of the facts that gets you in so much trouble with the media."

"'Gross reinterpretion'?" he smirked. "Okay. Then tell me, Donnatella, how do you intend to defend my virtue from Joey Lucas before the event?"

"We'll go somewhere Joey Lucas would never go... a movie. We'll go and see a movie. Lots of movies in LA."

"Donnatella Moss, are you asking me out on a date?"

*I should be so lucky.*

"Joshua Lyman, do you have nothing better to do than make stupid comments?"

"You consider the idea of us going out on a date to be 'stupid'?"

"Phenomenally." Josh looked so hurt for a moment that she was forced to add "Have you forgotten that since what happened out in the car park, a significant percentage of the senior staff have been trained in the use of deadly weapons?"

"True." Toby's 'self-defence classes' were gaining in popularity. CJ refused to be left out if 'the boys' got to play with crossbows, and Sam took the same childish delight as Josh in Toby's warehouse full of weaponry. It had become impractical to keep sneaking away during their lunch hours, so they were working to clear times when a few of them could get together. Donna was fairly sure there were points in the day when Leo or the President wandered the halls wondering where the hell their senior staff had got to.

"Josh, how long're we gonna be able to keep this a secret from Leo?" she asked, entirely coincidentally steering the conversation away from the topic of what she thought of going on a date with Josh.

"You think we should tell Leo?"

Donna attempted to imagine how that conversation might go. She found that a little... difficult.

"Alternatively, we could wait until vampires invade the White House, and let him find out for himself."

"Good plan."

* * *

20: The Non-Date


"You're going *where* with Josh?"

Donna shrank under CJ's irate gaze. "A movie?" she said in a small voice.

CJ started to pace back and forth. "Donna, I understand that given your current situation you and Josh should get... certain considerations. I am even willing to overlook a little comforting hugging or handholding - provided it's well out of view of *anybody*. But this-"

"It's not a date, CJ," Donna protested.

"You. Josh. Darkened movie theatre. This has 'date' written all over it from where I'm standing."

"CJ, it's just more diversionary tactics."

CJ looked unimpressed. "Explain."

"We're hiding from Joey Lucas. If Josh hangs about the hotel working like she'd expect him to, she'll find him, and she'll be hard to ditch. Also, movie theatres are good places to pick up lots of unsuitable food."

She was defending this because it's a good idea. A good, smart, non-date-like idea.

CJ looked uncertain. "Well, okay," she said dubiously. "Mind you load him up with all sorts of disgusting food. Spicy stuff. And garlic. Plenty of garlic. I want his breath stinking of the stuff before you even arrive at that movie."

"To keep the vampires off him?"

"Them too."

* * *

*This is not a date. This is not a date.

What the hell am I gonna wear?

God, this is stupid. Donna, you see the man every day at work. When has he ever cared about what you wear?

He liked the infamous Todd dress.

Donnatella Moss, you are not wearing anything like* that. *This is* not *a date.*

*What the hell am I gonna wear?*

In the end, she went for smart-casual. Blue jeans, and a neat sweater; every inch the professional assistant taking a little down-time.

*And, completely coincidentally, totally hot.*

Much the same could be said for Josh's outfit. She wondered if he'd spent as much time as she had considering what to wear. The thought of Josh Lyman scratching his head over his wardrobe made her smile.

He arrived at the door of her hotel room looking as nervous as a high school boy ready for the prom, and pushed a hot cup in her hands.

"What's this?"

"Coffee." He cracked a cautious smile, and said "Figured CJ might execute me on the spot if I brought flowers."

*Non-date, non-date, non-date.*

Josh was looking very suave and sophisticated in dark jeans and a silk shirt. Which she of course noticed in an entirely platonic way due to his usual general scruffiness.

*Wouldja look at that? The boy dressed up for me.*

The slight flush that might have crossed her cheeks as they left her room and headed down to the lobby could almost certainly be blamed on shoddy air-conditioning.

"This is weird," said Josh softly, as they strolled along. They weren't doing anything so date-like as holding hands - and yet this felt different to when they were in the office. Strolling with Josh. That was new.

"What's weird?"

"It's eleven a.m. and I'm not in the office. I'm walking down a sunny street to watch a movie with- you," he finished, somewhat abruptly.

Her psychic Josh-reader must be malfunctioning. It was trying to tell her he'd been about to say 'a beautiful girl'. *Josh Lyman, smooth romantic?*


"It's called a life, Josh. People who don't work in the White House sometimes have them."

"I like it," he said, with a smile that brought back that flush.

*Damn LA weather. A girl could get all hot and flustered.*

This kind of peaceful, quiet harmony with Josh was a new thing. She liked it too. Of course, it all fell apart when they got to the movie theatre.

"Since this is not a date, may I suggest the Arnold Schwarzenegger picture?"

Donna's hot favourite was a romantic comedy. Non-date or not, she wasn't about to sit through some brain-dead action movie. "Josh!"


"I don't want to watch some stupid spy movie."

"*I* don't want to watch some soppy girly picture."

"My movie has wit, humour, heart and snappy banter."

"My movie has exploding cars."

"Your movie is completely mindless."

"*Your movie is boring. And, I say again, girly."

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican."

"Let's go watch the soppy girly picture."

Despite Josh's insistences to the contrary, the movie was neither girly nor boring. It was sweet, warm and funny, and Donna loved it.

Josh claimed to be bored out of his mind. But he sounded suspiciously choked partway through, and he somehow felt compelled to delay his bathroom break until *after* the big emotional scene between the hero and heroine.

When he came back, he somehow ended up sitting with his arm around Donna's shoulders.

* * *

21: Driving Miss Donna


Donna did her best to avoid being seen by CJ when they got back to the hotel. Sam, and any of the others, had they been there, would have been utterly oblivious to the pleasant glow she was currently inhabiting, but CJ would see it straight away. And get the wrong idea about their entirely innocent trip to the movies.

Of course, telling CJ that she was wearing a look like a love-struck twelve-year-old simply because Josh had briefly slipped an arm around her would probably not look good either.

So, to avoid CJ, she concentrated on their cover story - which involved stuffing Josh full of all sorts of disgusting foods. It was a duty she rather enjoyed.

"Okay, now you should have the chilli. And a drink. Something fizzy."

Josh groaned, and looked ill. "Donna, I have to ask, are you clear on the concept of 'cover story'? As in 'fake it'?"

"Yes, Josh. And the most basic tenet is 'lots of evidence'."

"Oh, stuff one more of those horrible spicy things down my throat, and you'll have your evidence. Lots of evidence."

He really did look a little green. "Okay, maybe you should stop now. We'll get you back to the hotel."

Nobody looking at Mr. Joshua Lyman on the way back to his hotel room would fail to believe that he was feeling extremely poorly. CJ and Sam smirked at the sight of him.

"Enjoying yourself, Joshua?" asked CJ evilly. "Tell me, did you have a good lunch? What did you have? The garlic bread, or was it the curry? Have you tried that spicy Mexican sauce they do-?"

Josh got up hurriedly, and dashed for the en-suite bathroom with an expression of dismay. The others shared grins. "Phase one complete," crowed CJ.

Joey Lucas dropped in shortly afterwards, to find a pale-faced Josh lying on the sofa and groaning softly. She seemed to find the whole thing nearly as amusing as CJ and Donna.

"I think Josh might not make it to this thing tonight," Donna told Joey, the model of the professional assistant discussing her boss's schedule.

"Tell him that's okay," relayed Kenny. "I'll be back in the White House fairly soon, and I look forward to talking with him then."

Donna had a lot of trouble deciding which one of them she should aim her evil look at.

* * *

"I can't believe we got away that easily."

"You were expecting the Secret Service to leap out and stop us from sneaking out of a fundraiser?"

"It's just... that guy at the car hire place didn't even recognise me!"

Donna rolled her eyes. "The ego has landed."

"I'm just saying. What kind of country is it, that these people don't even recognise the key figures in their own government?"

"They probably recognise the President, Josh."

"They should recognise *me*! I keep this administration going."

"Whatever, Josh."

* * *

"Where are we now?"

"You're supposed to be navigating."

"And if you actually followed my directions, I would know where we were."

"'Up that way' is not a direction, Donna."

"I pointed."

"I was driving!"

"You should have seen me out of the corner of your eye. You're supposed to be observing what's going on around you, Josh."

"You're on the passenger side!"

"And if I'd stepped out into the road, you'd've run me over."

"Donna, you're inside the car with me."

"Exactly. If you can't see *me*, what chance have the poor pedestrians got?"

"What pedestrians? Donna, there hasn't been so much as a house for miles."

"Again I say, if you actually followed my directions..."

* * *

"I still say you should have let me drive."

"Not if your driving's as bad as your navigating."

"My navigating is excellent, thank you very much. I kept you well posted. Look, there's a sign!"

"You did not. You completely failed to point out any signs to me, which would have been a helpful thing to do given your complete failure to navigate responsibly-"

"No, I mean, 'look, there's a sign'!"

Josh screeched to a halt. "So there is," he admitted.

"Again with the lack of observation."

Josh leaned across her to read it. "Welcome to Sunnydale. Once more, I have to ask; who calls a town 'Sunnydale'?"

"I think it's cheerful. Upbeat."

"Donna, it's the mouth of Hell."

"Is that any reason to be a downer?"

"I'm thinking yeah."

"You're just sulking 'cuz that guy at the car hire didn't recognise you."

"I'm not sulking! I do not sulk."

"Whatever you say, Josh."

* * *

22: Mulder, Spock and Designer Fruit Juice


"Um... Donnatella?"


"I don't suppose you'd care to update me on the latest methods of locating friends of ex-vampire slayers?"

"I didn't bring that file, Josh."

"Call yourself a personal assistant?"

"No, I call myself a vampire slayer. And since this qualifies as slayer-duty, I do believe you are *my* assistant."

"Are you gonna make me bring you coffee?"

"It seems only reasonable."

"Yet you never bring me any."

"Josh, the most deadly opponent I've seen you locked in mortal combat with was your own desk drawer, and despite being armed with a letter-opener and it being, you know, an inanimate object, you still lost."

"Was there a point buried in there somewhere?"

"Yes. There will shortly be one buried in the centre of your chest if you don't do something more useful." She hefted her stake threateningly.

"Well, people who fight vampires will be where the vampires are, right?"

"Your ability to grasp the most elementary of principles never ceases to amaze me, Joshua."

"So where do we find vampires?"


"Who has crypts in this day and age?"

Donna glanced to her left, and saw that they were walking past a graveyard - not the first, actually, since they had driven into town and parked. "The good people of Sunnydale, apparently."

"Never trust a town that sounds like a brand of designer fruit juice."

They stood and regarded the churchyard for a few moments. Even for a graveyard at night, it looked more gloomy than it should be.

"We should go in," Josh said finally.

"Yes, we should." Neither of them moved.

Eventually, Josh raised his crossbow. "I should go first," he said.

"To defend little old me from the big bad evil creatures?"

"Um..." To his credit, even Josh had clicked to the fact that he'd made a tactical error.

"I'm supposed to take protection from a man who can't combat his own furniture? A man who fails to comprehend the basic relationship between human being and file cabinet? A man who, I will repeat, attempts to threaten inanimate objects with physical violence? I ask you Josh, is that logical?"

"Who are you now, Mr. Spock?"

"Do you want me to drop you with my Vulcan nerve-grip?"

As they climbed over the four-foot-high stone wall, Josh making an amusing hash of it, Josh observed "We should've brought some of those Mulder and Scully flashlights."

"Joshua Lyman, you are no Fox Mulder."

"On the contrary, Donnatella, I have a great deal in common with Mr. Mulder. We are both work for the US government; we are both exceptionally bright, witty, charming, physically attractive-"

"You consider David Duchovny physically attractive?"


"'Cuz I have to say, coupled with all that stuff about wanting to change your name to Jessica..."

"Donnatella Moss, I never wanted to change my name to Jessica!"

"No? You have another preference? Josephine? Jacqueline? Janine? Joanna?" She was abruptly cut short by spasm of pain that flickered across his face. "Josh?" she said uncertainly.

"I think you'll find that's already my name, Donna," he said weakly.

"No, I mean..." She wasn't sure what she meant. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," he said brusquely, pulling away.

*What did I say?* Donna stared after him, baffled and a little frightened. She'd just been light-heartedly teasing him, and suddenly- *What did I say?*

Prising any information about Josh's private agonies out of him was near-impossible, as she had learned to her dismay over the years. Even so, she would have been ready to try it - except for the fact that they were suddenly leapt by a trio of vampires.

These weren't like the gang that had come after them in DC, young street toughs who could have passed for human until their faces shifted. These were more animal, primitive - and she saw, to her confusion, that each one of them was wearing a ragged, dirty suit.

Enlightenment suddenly dawned. *Oh my God. The clothes they were* buried *in.*

A small, panicked squeak escaped her, as the truth of it finally struck home. *These are dead people. They're not just monsters - they are actual dead people.*

Donna stood frozen, as beside her Josh - poor, protective Josh with his misplaced bravery - fought with the release on his crossbow. He'd never get it readied in time to save himself.

Abruptly, the paralysis lifted. Fear was replaced with a kind of brutal anger. *How dare they? How dare they invade these bodies, steal these peoples' rest? How* dare *they?*

She moved to intercept the one closest to Josh, flipping him over the top of a grave marker and unceremoniously staking him. But while she was distracted, another one leapt onto her back.

She squealed and went down, but before she could free herself he was being tugged away and thrown off her. *Josh?* she thought disbelievingly.

But no, it wasn't her boss who had come to her rescue. He was struggling manfully to fight off the third vampire, as another figure in a long black coat fought hand-to-hand the one that had jumped her.

She quickly dealt with the one Josh was parrying, and he gave her a sheepish smile of acknowledgement. They both turned to look at their saviour.

Even in the heat of the moment, Donna couldn't fail to notice that he was quite possibly the most classically gorgeous person she'd ever seen - beating even Sam Seaborn hollow in terms of male beauty. Sculpted cheekbones, hair bleached bone-white and fine eyebrows raised in an expression of cool curiosity... it was a face you couldn't possibly forget.

A face she'd seen in her dreams...

* * *

23: Bad Jobs and Englishmen


The newcomer scowled at them, and said bluntly "Who the hell are you?" His accent was English, but not the polished tones of Lord John Marbury and his fellow diplomats - it was a hard-edged London voice.

Josh immediately scowled back - though whether it was the tone or the lack of recognition that bothered him, Donna couldn't tell. "Who are you, first?"

The stranger casually lit up a cigarette and took a drag. "I'm Spike."

Donna surreptitiously elbowed Josh to stop him snorting or making smart remarks. There were two types of people that wore names like Spike, and she didn't trust him to be able to tell the difference between the ones you could mock and the ones you shouldn't.

She took charge. "I'm Donna. This is Josh." She decided not to reveal their true identities, although she somehow doubted this surly stranger bothered to keep up with the political news.

"Yeah?" Spike took in the stake in her hands and Josh's crossbow. "And what're you doing on our turf?"

"I'm sorry, do we need a licence?" Josh asked sarcastically.

*Warning. Testosterone in action. Protective clothing should be worn.*

The bleach-haired young man remained unconcerned. "Vampire hunting's a dangerous game," he said softly.

"Not when you're a vampire slayer," snapped back Josh.

Something unreadable flashed across Spike's face, and then he gave Donna a second, more appraising look. "You're the new Slayer?"

Donna could only nod mutely. Spike shrugged, and said "I suppose the bloody slayerettes'll want to meet you. Follow me."

'Slayerettes?' mouthed Josh as they followed the leather-jacketed figure across the graveyard. Donna shrugged. It was as good a name as any for those who aided a Slayer, she supposed. She suppressed a sudden nervous giggle as the image of Josh, Sam, Toby and CJ singing behind her like a backing group popped into her head.

To her relief, their disinterested guide led them out of the cemetery, and towards a row of shops. It was late enough that most were closed, but he walked straight up to one with a sign that said 'Magic Box' and pushed inside.

Sharing shrugs, Josh and Donna followed him. It looked as if the shop's stock was being packaged up and put away, as if the owner was moving out.

"Hey!" Spike called. "Can we get some service here?"

There was a clatter and a muffled curse from behind a stack of boxes, and another face from Donna's dream emerged. He was a tall man, perhaps half a dozen years older than Josh with a striking face that looked weary but not old. He was immaculately dressed, and wore silver-rimmed glasses.

*Watcher*, she guessed immediately.

When he spoke, it was also with an English accent - but one considerably more refined than that of their guide. "Spike, what are you-" he cut off as he spotted the two newcomers. "Who are these?"

Spike seemed to experience a discomfort that was at odds with what they'd seen of him so far. "Looks like we've got another Slayer on our hands," he said a little awkwardly.

The older man stiffened, took his glasses off to polish them, and regarded Donna closely. "You're a Slayer?"

"I... guess," she said a little nervously. "I'm Donna." She felt awkward being here, with these people who had known and cared about her previous number. *I only got to be what I am because* she *died.*

Fortunately, they didn't seem to hold it against her. "I'm surprised- How did you know how to find us?"

Things seemed to be going too fast. "I... one of the guys I work with is a Watcher. He figured out that I'd been, um, Called, and he told me about the Hellmouth and everything."

"And he sent you here to act as our new Slayer?"

"Uh, no," she admitted hurriedly. "I mean, I can't! My job-" She didn't even know how to finish. Should she try to explain who they were?

The Englishman turned his attention to Josh. "Are you her Watcher?"

"Um, no, I'm her-" Josh hesitated, and then finished "-her boss. We were both attacked by vampires shortly after she was, er, Called."

The man was regarding Josh with a faintly puzzled expression. "I'm sure I've-" he was beginning, when the door flew open.

"Giles! I-" A red-headed girl in a colourful sweater burst inside and then froze as she saw the crowd. "Oh! People." She looked confusedly to Giles.

"This is Donna," he explained. "She's just come here from..."

"DC," Josh supplied.

"She's the new Slayer," Giles continued with a nod of acknowledgement.

"Oh." The girl looked momentarily taken aback, then said "I mean, um, hi. I'm Willow."

Donna shook hands with her with a smile. There was something about her that reminded her a little of Zoey Bartlet, although she also saw a hint of something brittle under the cheery exterior. These people were still very much doing their grieving, at least on the inside.

"Hi." She gestured to Josh. "This is-"

But as Willow's gaze fixed on the final member of their little gathering, her jaw dropped. "I know you!" she gasped. "You're Joshua Lyman!"

* * *

24: Meet the Slayerettes


Giles looked startled. "Willow, you know this man from somewhere?"

"Uh, yeah!" she said, as if amazed no one else had recognised him. *Note to self: keep eye on Josh's ego level.* "He's Joshua Lyman! The Deputy Chief of Staff for the White House."

Giles was momentarily shocked, and even Spike's eyebrows flickered upwards for a moment, before he took another casual drag of his cigarette. "Of course," Giles said finally. "I knew I'd seen you somewhere. You were all over the news last May."

Josh actually looked a little embarrased. *My God, that's got to be a first.* "I kind of got shot," he said awkwardly.

That was the first moment when Donna really registered what these 'slayerettes' were used to. There was none of the usual shock horror reaction to such a statement, just sober nods. Young as the girl Willow looked, she had quite possibly spent the last five years in a total war zone.

"I begin to see the problem with Slaying and your job," Giles observed dryly.

Having identified Josh, Willow turned a closer eye on Donna. "So you're Donnatella Moss," she realised. "Mr. Lyman's personal assistant?"

Donna was startled enough that she almost blushed. Josh getting recognised - however much she joked about it, that was quite normal. But *her* getting recognised? That was new.

Fortunately, her boss jumped into the conversation, saving her the embarrassment of finding a reply. "Call me Josh," he insisted. Willow beamed at him, lighting up her whole face into something truly beautiful.

*Back off, girl. I don't care if you're a teenage slayerette and you just recognised me. You can't have Josh. *

Giles had obviously been thinking. "Then your colleague who's a Watcher...?"

Willow's eyes went very wide. "Not the President?" she squeaked.

Josh laughed. "No. Although I wouldn't be a bit surprised," he added, sharing a smile with Donna. "Toby Ziegler," he explained. "He's the President's main speechwriter."

"Who else knows about Donna being the Slayer?" asked Giles.

"CJ. And Sam."

"The Press Secretary and the Deputy Communications Director," Donna supplied.

Willow and Giles looked a little shell-shocked by the names being casually dropped at them. Spike had taken a seat on a box and appeared to be ignoring them. "Does the President-?" Giles began.

"He doesn't know. Nor Leo-"

"The Chief of Staff," Donna added. *See the incredible Donnatella Moss, human subtitle machine.*

"They've got enough problems of their own," Josh said, a little darkly. Things had been pretty heavy following the President's little revelation.

"I'm surprised you got away to come here."

Josh shot Donna a smile. "We kind of snuck out," he confessed, grinning boyishly. "We're supposed to be at a fund-raiser."

"Josh has very severe food poisoning," Donna supplied.

There was a moment's silence, then Willow said "Should I call the others?"

A number of other young people trickled in over the next quarter-hour. None of them, Donna was dismayed to see, looked much older than Willow herself. Some of them she recognised from vague glimpses in her dreams. There was a gangly dark-haired boy called Xander, and his girlfriend Anya, who spoke in a slightly stilted way that reminded her somewhat of Ainsley Hayes.

Shortly after they arrived came a very shy girl. "This is Tara," Willow introduced, before suddenly blurting in a mixture of awkwardness and pride "She's my girlfriend."

"Good for you," said Josh, smiling warmly at them both.

*Josh Lyman, have I told you lately you're a wonderful man?*

Hardest to meet was a girl who couldn't have been more than fifteen. She was introduced as Dawn Summers... Buffy's younger sister. Donna felt chilled to the bone as she awkwardly nodded to her, but Dawn managed a weak smile for them both.

Donna noticed now that although they were a tightly-knit group, one of their members didn't quite fit. Spike had been fading further and further into the background, and the only one who seemed to have any warmth for him was Dawn. He half-moved towards her when she came in, then seemed to think better of it and hung back.

There was a slight tension in the air. Donna was relieved that at least no one seemed to actively resent her for being the new Slayer, but there was a definite awkwardness.

Giles seemed to be put in charge by unspoken consensus. Josh normally butted horns with anybody trying to push him out, but he seemed to instinctively defer to the Englishman the way he would to the President or Leo.

"It seems we have a serious situation on our hands," he said, and in that measured English voice the understatement didn't seem half so ridiculous as it should.

"Donna can't be the Slayer," said Josh. "I know she has to, but... she just can't."

"As an American citizen with the democratic right to vote, I feel my government should be spending its time governing, not fighting vampires," spoke up Anya.

"Yeah, uh, we don't really want to get the President eaten," agreed her boyfriend.

"We don't really want to let the President know this stuff exists at all," added Josh. "Trust me, you don't want to give that man another source of arcane trivia." He mock-shuddered.

"There has to be some way to fix this," Donna said despairingly.

It was up to Dawn to say what everyone was thinking. "If only Buffy was still here."

* * *

25: Desperate Measures


Suddenly Willow spoke up. "There might be a way!"

"A way to do what?" asked Xander.

"Bring Buffy back!" Donna was startled; half the room jumped, but Giles looked anguished.


"No, no. There's a spell... I didn't think it would work before, but with another Slayer-"

Giles was shaking his head. "Willow, you know how dangerous-"

"I can do it!" she insisted vehemently. "I can do it," she repeated pleadingly. "Giles, I really think I can. I didn't think I could before, but with somebody to take the Slayer powers from, and Dawn as her own flesh and blood, and the robot as a vessel..."

"The what?" asked Josh.

Slightly embarrassed gazes passed around - centring, for some reason, on Spike. "There's this... robot," Willow said awkwardly. "Um, this guy Warren made it. It's kind of a copy of Buffy. It looks just like her, but it's a robot. We've been kind of using it to scare the vampires into thinking she's still around."

This was all getting too crazy for Donna's brain to deal with. "You think you've got a way of bringing your friend back from the dead?" she asked Willow. It sounded a little blunt, but... how *were* you supposed to phrase that question?

Ignoring a look of dismay from her girlfriend, Willow nodded eagerly. "I- I- I really think so. It's a special spell, not like all the others - because Buffy didn't die a natural death."

Giles suddenly stiffened. "Because she was sucked into the vortex?"

"Exactly!" said Willow. Everyone leaned in, suddenly starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, this was really possible. "I don't think she really *died* - I mean, she died, but her soul didn't go away properly... we can do it, Giles. We can!"

Giles was obviously torn. Donna could see the emotions at war within him, the way she could sometimes see them in Leo, or even in Josh. This was a man who understood the true cost of leadership, and wore responsibility heavily. He wanted Buffy back, wanted it as desperately as any of these others... but he didn't want to stir false hope, and he didn't want to risk causing some terrible damage.

Suddenly Spike spoke up from the back "I vote we try."

"So do I," said Dawn shakily.

Xander nodded, and Anya looked to him and then did the same. They all looked at Tara. "This kind of spell is wr-wrong," she said nervously, "b-b-but..." She didn't finish.

The slayerettes looked across at Josh and Donna, but Josh was shaking his head. "We don't have any place in this decision," he said softly. "This is your call, not ours."

Donna reached out and gripped his arm gently. She wondered if the warm feelings of love and trust she was having towards him were strong enough to radiate out towards him.

All eyes were on Giles. He looked monumentally uncertain. "Perhaps..." he said softly. They waited, and he shook his head suddenly, in a gesture that reminded her of Josh. "I want to believe it, but..."

"We can try, Giles," said Willow softly. "Maybe it won't work, but we owe it to Buffy to try."

Slowly, very slowly he nodded.

"Okay. Scooby Gang research party?" spoke up Xander, a little shakily.

It was the word 'party' that sparked Donna off. "Josh! The fundraiser! We've got to get back."

Josh looked at his watch and swore. "If we're not there before the plane takes off-"

"Leo will be pissed," Donna finished.

"As will CJ. And Toby. And Sam. They're covering our asses on this."

"Joey Lucas might have gone looking for you," Donna said nervously. "What if she finds out you weren't in your room after all? And neither was I? If people find out that we both disappeared during the fundraiser..."

Josh suddenly started to grin. "They'll think we've eloped," he smirked.

"As if you'd ever be brave enough to ask me."

"If I asked you to marry me, would you bring me coffee?"

"Would I get that raise?"

"Not if we ran away together."

"We could go to Hawaii."

"I could buy you that DVD player."

Donna was suddenly aware of gently amused eyes on her. In the ring of young faces around them, she was uncomfortably aware that there seemed to be a lot more knowledge than in older, supposedly wiser heads. *They all see right through us,* she realised. Had something in their harsh lives made them more perceptive than your average man in the street to unspoken feelings?

Or are we just getting really, really obvious?

"We'll research this spell," Willow said. "But we'll need you, Donna, to finish it."

She looked at Josh in dismay. "Will we be able to get away again?" For some reason, she wasn't even contemplating the idea of doing this without Josh.

"Um, we could come to you," suggested Tara shyly.

"Yeah, um, that would work," agreed Xander. He looked around at the cluttered magic shop. "It's not like we're, you know, running the country here."

"Okay, you come to us," agreed Josh. He smiled wryly. "You can't miss it; it's the big white place on Pennsylvania Avenue."

* * *

26: Honeymooning in Hawaii


"Whoa," said Josh softly, after several minutes of driving in uncharacteristic silence.

"Whoa is right," agreed Donna.

"These kids... these kids have been fighting vampires since before we were in office."

"I don't think they're kids anymore, Josh."

He shook his head wonderingly. "All this... kinda puts what we do in the shade, you know?"

She reached out and lightly touched his arm. "Nothing could put what you do in the shade, Josh. You fight different demons than they do... but it's no less heroic."

In the glow of the look he shot her then, it was very difficult to hold onto the memory that she was *not* in any way in love with Josh Lyman.

In an effort to bring things back to their customary lighter tone, she said playfully "So; are you really gonna take me to Hawaii?"

"For our honeymoon?"

"I haven't heard a proposal yet."

"I haven't seen a coffee cup yet, either."

"It's the middle of Nowhere, California, Josh. Where am I gonna get coffee?"

"Service station?" He shot her an unreadable look. "You mean you'd bring me some?"

"Throw in the DVD player as well?"

Josh pretended to deliberate. "Dunno... seems like being married to me ought to be more than enough to sweeten the pot."

*I'll say.*

"Joshua, was that a deliberate coffee-based metaphor?"

"Excuse me?"

"You're trying to brainwash me, aren't you? Drop subtle little references to coffee in the conversation all the time until my brain turns to cheese and I bring you some."

"I'm fairly sure 'bring me coffee and I'll marry you' doesn't qualify as subtle, Donna."

"This is true. You are clearly not a romantic."

"Oh, Hawaii isn't romantic enough for you?"

"Does Leo know you're trying to bribe your assistant into an illicit liason with holidays and consumer goods?"

"Marriage is an illicit liason now?"

"Like you'd go through with it. You're too chicken. This is just a way to trick me into bringing you coffee."

"If we were married, you could make me coffee every day."

"And why on earth would I be masochistic enough to do that, Joshua?"

"I could make you breakfast in bed. And whisk you off to Hawaii every summer."

"And who would look after the kids?"

"Sam could babysit."

"You'd trust Sam Seaborn with the wellbeing of your future children?"

"Well, Toby would be scary. And you'd've hit me if I'd said CJ."

"Yes. That would've been totally sexist." And she lightly reached out to whap him across the back of the head.

"Ow! I said Sam!"

"Yes. That wasn't sexist, it was just stupid."

"You wouldn't trust Sam with our kids?"

"I wouldn't trust either of you. We are talking about the two men who nearly burned down the White House because they were a little chilly."

"I would be a great father. I would be da man at fatherhood. I could impress them with my worldly wisdom."

"And your secret plan to fight inflation?"

"Again with the insubordination. How can I marry anyone who mocks me like that?"

"This goes a long way to explaining why you're still single."

Josh, being Josh, took this light-hearted moment and suddenly flipped it on its head into something serious. "Maybe I was just waiting for the right girl..." he said softly.

There was a moment of surprisingly comfortable silence as they looked at each other, then... "Josh?"


"Watch the road."

They drove on for a few moments in silence, and then Josh said thoughtfully "So, they can make robots that are exact replicas of people, huh?"

Donna punched him in the arm.

"Ow! Donna, what was that for?"

"We're talking about your lack of success with women, then suddenly we're talking about robot replicants? I'm not liking this chain of thought."

"First, when were talking about this mythical 'lack of success'? Secondly, euw. I was thinking no such thing. And thirdly, 'replicants'? Have you been watching *Blade Runner*?"

"Not recently, on account of you not buying me that DVD player I so obviously deserve. And what *were* you thinking of, then?"

"I was thinking I could track down this Warren guy and have him build me a Josh-bot."

"A 'Josh-bot'?" Donna sniggered.

Josh endeavoured to look indignant, and failed miserably. "What d'you think? We could build a robot that looks exactly like me, and send it to meetings in my place..."

"Program it to grumble incoherently, yell 'Donna!' every three minutes and demand coffee, and who'd know the difference?"

"Well, it's comments like that which let you know this engagement has no future."

"Call this an engagement? I haven't seen a ring yet."

"And I haven't seen my coffee..."

They drove on into the night.

* * *

27: The Waiting Game


They were met back at the hotel by a near-apoplectic CJ. "Do you know what time it is?" she demanded furiously.

"Sorry. Josh's driving," Donna explained.

"Donna's navigating," Josh immediately countered. The press secretary gave them a long-suffering glance.

"Okay, I really don't have time for the tiff twins right now. Just get to the plane. And look sick!" she ordered Josh.

"'Tiff twins'?" he muttered to Donna, eyebrows raised in amusement. Not quietly enough.

"I am harrassed, Joshua Lyman," CJ snapped. "Who could be the cause of this harrassment? Hmm, let me think. Now shut up, and get back to that plane, and for God's sake *look* like a man with a severe stomach complaint."

"See, this is why I need one of those replica robots," he whispered to Donna as they left the hotel grounds.

Toby and Sam were waiting for them aboard the plane. Sam was almost bouncing in his seat like a five-year-old at Christmas, and Toby was alternating between typing on his laptop and glaring at his deputy.

"Well?" demanded CJ, as soon as they were airborne.

"We met the slayerettes," said Donna.


"That's what they call themselves," Josh explained. "That and the Scooby Gang."

Toby clucked disapprovingly, and Sam said "Kind of childish, isn't it?"

"That's probably because they're kids," said Josh softly.

"Kids?" said CJ.

"There's a whole gang of them; the friends of Buffy Summers. They're all Zoey's age. So was she." He closed his eyes, and looked pained. "And then there was Dawn."

"Dawn?" asked Sam hesitantly.

Josh didn't seem able to answer, so Donna said softly "Buffy's little sister. She was about fourteen. I think Buffy was the only family she had."

For a moment, none of them had anything to say. Then, as he remembered, Josh's dark mood started to lift slightly. "There might be... Willow said there might be a way we can fix this."

"Who's Willow?" asked CJ.

"One of the girls. I think she was kind of their leader; her and the Watcher, Giles. She said there might be a spell that could... bring Buffy back."

All of them looked to Toby. "Toby, is there-"

Toby looked grave. "There are spells... but they're never cheap, and they never give you what you want. Sure, they might be able to bring *something* back, but Buffy Summers...?"

"That's what they said," Donna interjected hurriedly. "But she said this might be different; because Buffy didn't die naturally, she was killed by some kind of... magic portal thingie." She could see it in her mind, the image that swallowed the end of each one of her nightmares. "And there might be a way to bring her back, because they've got Dawn who's her flesh and blood, and me with her Slayer powers, and this robot replica..."

"Robot?" interrupted Sam disbelievingly. Josh rolled his eyes at him.

"We've done vampires. We've done demons. We've done magic. Why is a simple little thing like a robot giving you trouble?"

"Well, when you put it like that..."

"Maybe," said Toby suddenly, bringing the conversation to a halt.

"It might work?" demanded Josh eagerly.

"No promises," said Toby, but there was a sudden light in his eyes that Donna normally only saw when he'd thought of a new way to out-argue Republicans. "But maybe..."

"What can we do now?" asked CJ.

"I can look at my books," said Toby. "Link up with the Watcher's Council, find out all I can about this kind of ritual."

"And us?" said Josh.

"And you, nothing. Donna's still the Slayer. You're still the Deputy Chief of Staff. There's nothing any of you can do but get on with your lives and play the waiting game."

Josh shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "The waiting game. Great. My favourite."

* * *

It was far into the early hours of the morning when they touched down back in DC. Despite her supposed super-strength, Donna was stumbling along half asleep. Josh was hardly better. Halfway through driving her home, he abruptly pulled off the main road and parked.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm in severe danger of driving into a tree."

"We're in the inner city, Josh; you'd probably have to go up the sidewalk, over a fence and into someone's back yard to find one to hit."

"I'm tired enough to actually do that. C'mon, let's go get coffee."

Donna remembered their conversation on the drive back from Sunnydale, and smirked. "Joshua Lyman, are you propositioning me?"

He laughed, and suddenly threw his arm around her shoulders as they walked. She smiled to herself and snuggled into his shoulder as they went in search of coffee.

* * *

28: Late Night at the Oasis


Eventually they stumbled across a pleasant little late night coffee joint, the *Coffee Oasis*. Donna looked around at the palm fronds and bright photographs adorning the walls with some delight.

"And you say I never take you anywhere tropical," smiled Josh. He slipped his jacket over the back of the nearest chair. "Listen, I've gotta just hit the men's room, if you want to go order-"

"Nice try, Joshua."


"You're not tricking me into bringing you coffee, Josh. Order it yourself."

"Hang on. You won't even get coffee that you didn't have to make, somebody else will bring to our table, and I'm going to pay for?"

"It's the principle of the thing, Josh."

Josh ordered them both coffees, and the friendly if tired-looking waitress didn't show the slightest sign of recognising him as she took their order. For once, Josh didn't seem at all put out by that. Donna also felt more relaxed than she had in days.

*Here we are. For once, we're not the Deputy Chief of Staff and his assistant. We're just Josh and Donna, drinking coffee.*

There seemed to be a whole lot more 'Josh and Donna' time now that she was a vampire slayer. She met Josh's eyes across the table, and they shared a smile. Silent smiling; when had they started doing that? She had always loved bantering with Josh more than anything else... but these new comfortable silences were even better.

They talked about everything, and nothing in particular. For once there was no mention of Republicans, or meetings or reporters or votes or national emergencies. They just chatted, with all the quirkiness of their usual banter but a more relaxed, mellow atmosphere. Josh ordered a slice of cheesecake and they shared it with two forks. At one point her heart almost stopped beating as he casually reached across to wipe a smudge of it from her cheek.

Apparently their waitress hadn't missed the aura of warmth that had settled over the two of them as they sat sipping coffee together. "You guys look pretty cosy; big date tonight?" she asked as she rang up their bill.

"We're on our honeymoon," said Josh, and they both giggled.

* * *

Josh arrived at her house the following morning to give her a lift to work. Her car was still behaving erratically, and for some reason she just couldn't make herself care about getting it fixed.

CJ fixed them both with a stern gaze as they arrived together. "You two were out late last night," she said in a very neutral tone.

"Josh got tired from all the driving. We stopped for coffee," Donna explained.

From the knowing look CJ gave her, she wondered if the significance of coffee was maybe not such a private joke as she'd once thought.

She was almost not surprised when the assistant brigade cornered her at the coffee machine. It was becoming a regular fix for them. *Tune in now for the latest installment of the Josh and Donna show!*

"What now?" she asked breezily as she found her favourite mug.

"What d'you mean?" asked Cathy fake-innocently.

"Oh, come on, you've all got the look. So 'fess up. What little bit of hot gossip am I starring in this week?"

"My, *somebody's* cheerful this morning," smirked Ginger. "Got anything to do with, I don't know, a certain trip to LA? I hear a certain somebody took you to see a movie." They leaned in close to get her reply.

*Good God, do these people know* everything*?* Somebody on the senior staff had to be keeping them informed. Her money was on Sam.

"Actually, I took *him*," she said smugly. "I wasn't about to spend my one day in LA going over the latest tax figures."

"And I *still* didn't get to go," grumbled Margaret good-naturedly. They were all too busy gleefully digging for details to get jealous.

"I heard you went to see that new romantic comedy. You know, the one about the restaurant owners," prompted Bonnie. Donna was startled. How could anyone have known which movie they saw, unless...?

*Josh has been talking to Sam.* She tried, unsuccessfully, to hide a smile. *Josh has been telling Sam all about that 'sappy girly movie' he didn't want to watch with me.*

"We did. It was good." She tried to school her face into a more professional expression. "Josh complained because there were no exploding cars."

Nobody was fooled. "It all sounds so ro-*man*-tic," drawled Cathy. Donna shrugged nonchalantly.

"Would have been even better on DVD," she said enigmatically, and swept away.

* * *

29: Clandestine Meetings


"Joshua Lyman's office?"

There was a brief silence at the other end of the phone, and then a

hesistant voice said "Donna?"

"Hello?" she asked, puzzled. Who would be calling her at work?

"Um, hi. It's me, Willow. From Sunnydale?"

"Oh! Of course. Are you - wait, how did you get this number?" She was pretty damn sure a direct line to the top of the White House hierarchy wasn't something you could pick out of a phone book.

There was another brief silence, then Willow said a little sheepishly "Um, I kinda hacked it..."

"Okay." Donna decided the less she knew about the details of that, the better. "Have you got something about the spell?" she asked, feeling a knot of tension begin to build in her stomach.

"Maybe. I mean yes, yes, I think so. Um... if we come up to DC, is there somewhere we can meet?"

Donna thought for a moment. She could hardly invite an eclectic group of teenagers into the heart of the White House. Most of their habitual meeting-places were out, for the same reason. The senior staff might get away with talking about vampires in the corner of a quiet cafe-bar, but add half a dozen decidedly non political types to the mix, and people would sit up and take notice.

Suddenly she remembered the little place she and Josh had stopped for coffee last night. The group of them would be a crowd in there, but it was out-of-the-way enough to avoid reporters and curious politicians.

She gave Willow directions. "How soon can you be here?"

"Um; we're driving there - Spike can't get on a plane. Plus, you know, we're all broke. We're currently in the middle of - well, we'll find out when Xander stops sitting on the map. I guess we'll be there sometime late tomorrow... can you meet us then?"

Donna glanced at Josh's schedule. It couldn't be called 'light' by any stretch of the imagination, but it was no worse than usual. "Well, it's a Saturday, so I guess we could be out by nine or ten - if we're lucky."

"Wow, you do even worse hours than slayerette duty," Willow observed.

"Tell me about it."

* * *

"I feel like I'm plotting to overthrow the government," Josh complained, as they drove towards the coffee shop. The five of them had split into four separate cars for the occasion, and were taking roundabout routes in hope of avoiding undue attention. Two or three of them might hop out together for drinks, but when five high-level staffers gathered in secret, reporters and Republicans both started sniffing.

"Josh, you are the government."

"Yeah, but I'm playing both sides against the middle."

"Who's in the middle?"

"I'm not sure. Hopefully, Republicans."

When they arrived, there were two unfamiliar cars parked outside; a flashy red sports car and a Jeep. They entered to find the place crowded with slayerettes.

The dark-haired boy, Xander, was sitting with his back to the door and saying "-I think they're not coming. I think they've chickened out and they're not gonna come and help us. And I think..." - the sudden silence must have registered - "...they're standing right behind me," he finished.

"Good call," agreed Josh, dropping casually into the nearest chair.

"You're kinda late," spoke up Dawn faintly accusingly.

"I had to go kick some senators about school vouchers," Josh explained with a shrug. "We've all been pretty busy. The rest of the US government will be here shortly."

Sam was the first to arrive; Donna was amused to see how all the girls' eyes lit up at the sight of him. Both Tara and Xander got suddenly possessive of their girlfriends, whilst Sam was, as usual, oblivious.

"Hey, everybody, I'm Sam Seaborn and- ooh, hey, what's that?" He got immediately sidetracked by the ridiculously over-the-top ice-cream sundaes Xander and Dawn were eating.

"It's a choco-mint-fudge-banana-whip-sundae," Xander told him.

"I want one!" he said immediately, and made a beeline for the nearest waitress. Josh smirked.

"You'll have to excuse him. He didn't have time for a life when he was at law school."

CJ came in next. Unlike behind-the-scene workers like Sam and Josh, she was a more immediately recognisable face. "Hey, you're the White House TV lady!" said Xander.

"The Press Secretary, Xander," Willow supplied.

"Yeah, that too."

Giles, old-fashioned English gentleman that he was, stood up to shake hands with her. "Rupert Giles. Very pleased to meet you."

"Likewise," said CJ, perhaps a little more enthusiastically than normal. For a change, he was actually a good few inches taller than her; and, Donna couldn't help noticing, extremely handsome in a distinguished sort of a way.

She had barely sat down when Toby followed her in. He grabbed a chair impatiently and sat down. "Right. What have you got for us?"

* * *

30: Resurrecting the Dead in the Oval Office


Josh took it upon himself to do the introductions. "Okay. Donna and me you've already met. CJ here, as you know, is the White House Press secretary. Sam Seaborn is the Deputy Communications Director, and the short grumpy one is Toby Ziegler, his boss and Donna's Watcher."

The slayerettes seemed a little intimidated by the high company they'd fallen in with, but only for a moment. Xander stood up. "Okay, I'm Xander Harris. This is my girlfriend Anya; she's eleven hundred years old, and she used to be a kickass revenge demon." Anya grinned sweetly at him, as if he'd just paid her a huge compliment. "The G-man here is a Watcher. Dawn is Buffy's little sister; she used to be the Key to destroying the universe, but she's not that any more. Willow and Tara are both witches, and Spiky here is a vampire with a microchip that stops him killing humans and a severe attitude problem."

They all focused on Spike, who shrugged at them and casually lit a cigarette.

"Okay," said Sam quietly, eyebrows raised, which just about summed it up.

Toby seemed unfazed. "Very interesting. What about this spell?"

Willow and Giles both started talking at once. It was a complicated babble of words Donna didn't understand, occasionally slipping into Latin or other, stranger languages. Toby seemed to take it all in perfectly, and Tara would occasionally shyly chip in. Everyone else, she was relieved to see, looked just as lost as she did. Except Spike, who just looked bored.

Josh leaned over to speak quietly. "Ever get the feeling you're kind of extraneous?"

"With you? Frequently."

Josh looked momentarily hurt. "Are you saying I don't listen to you?"

"Well, you know what they say, Joshua; three's a crowd."


"You, me, and your ego."

He smirked. "You don't like to share me with my own ego?"

She considered. "Yeah, I guess that is stupid. After all, your ego's more than big enough for the both of us."

Toby shot them both an icy look. "Quite finished at the back there?"

"What are we, back in third grade?" Josh demanded.

"That's probably a good place for you."

"As opposed to these paragons of maturity over here?" Sam and Xander both jerked up guiltily from the unofficial speed-sundae-eating contest that had developed on their side of the table.

"No offense, but if you guys are bringing the magickal mojo whammy we're not exactly high up on the input chain, are we?" said Xander. Toby blinked at him for a moment.

"Was that English?" he said eventually.

Xander flushed. "Hey, there's more to life than a verbal SATs, you know."

"Josh doesn't think so," Donna piped up. "'Seven-sixty verbal, baby'," she mimicked. CJ had reported this little amusing little outburst of his, and they'd had fun teasing him over it ever since.

"I still can't believe I only got seven-forty," moaned Willow. "I'm such a failure."

Xander rolled his eyes, and patted her shoulder. "Sure, Will. It's not as if it resembles, say, my entire combined score or anything."

"Has anybody here heard of focus?" demanded Toby irritably.

"Isn't that the new cable channel?" spoke up Xander.

"Yes, well, getting back to the point-" said Giles sharply.

Xander rolled his eyes and slumped back in his chair. "Watchers," he remarked to Sam, shaking his head. Donna was amused at the level of buddy bonding that seemed to be going on there.

Willow took over before things dissolved back into chaos. "If the spell works, it works," she said firmly. "But it needs to be done, and it needs to be done at high noon tomorrow."

"High noon?" demanded Josh, jerking upright in his seat. The West Wing staffers exchanged troubled glances.

"It's the time it has greatest chance of success." Giles grimaced. "I'd say on this one, we need all the help we can get."

"When you're saying 'high noon', you're not actually meaning... well, noon, are you?" blanched Donna.

"The moment between eleven fifty-nine and twelve-oh-one, that's when we usually arrange to have noon," Willow answered, slightly bemused.

"And that's the only time we can do it?" said Sam worriedly.

"The only time," she confirmed solemly.

Josh turned to stare at his coworkers. "You know what this means?" It was CJ who answered him, in the form of an imagined newspaper headline.

"Yeah. 'White House Staff Resurrect Dead in Oval Office'."

* * *

31: Office Space


"I can't believe we're doing this," moaned Sam.

"And yet," said Josh shortly.

"No, I'm serious. We are insane. We have actually literally gone insane."

"Who'd notice?" bitched Josh. Donna made a sympathetic face at Sam. Both men were in the itchy mood that usually settled on them just before something big. Normally that meant an upcoming vote or a difficult bill that needed to be pushed through. Today, it meant they were preparing to perform an arcane magical ritual in possibly the busiest, best guarded building in the civilised world.

They had behind them several of the most devious minds in the country; but in opposition stood two others; Leo and President Bartlet. If either of them caught so much as a sniff of something odd going on...

CJ and Toby had concocted a semi-cover story the night before. The slayerettes would come in as a party from UC Sunnydale, with Giles as their teacher. Any attempt to enquire what they were here about would be met with seeming attempts to foist the group off on the curious onlooker - with the desired result of making them 'remember' a prior engagement and scurry away.

They might be able to sneak the group in under false pretences - but how would they smuggle in the necessary components of the spell, and worse, how and where could they actually perform the ritual? All it needed was one national emergency or one illegible memo, and somebody would come busting in on their little magical party.

"Josh, we are so screwed," she said as Sam departed to repeat his complaints to an unsympathetic Toby.

"Interesting choice of words, Donnatella." He nodded towards the bullpen. "Remember, even the assistants have ears."

"Josh, right now I'm more worried about being caught fooling around with magic and dead bodies than fooling around with my boss."

He smirked. "You're planning on being caught 'fooling around' with me?"

*Not the 'being caught' part, no.*

"I wouldn't be caught dead, Josh. But I'm a little worried that Buffy Summers will be. Caught dead, I mean."

He paled considerable. "You think they'll have to, uh, bring the body with them? 'Cuz that's, uh... unhygenic," he finished uneasily.

"Also icky."


Much to everyone's relief, the Scoobies didn't turn up with a corpse in tow. They did, however, bring something that gave Donna a hell of a shock. She yelped in alarm as the group turned up in company with... Buffy Summers.

"What's wrong, Donna?" Josh asked worriedly. She could only point in disbelief.

'Buffy' gave them an oddly plasticky smile. "Hello! Today is a good day for killing evil things!" she said perkily.

"Dammit!" Willow tugged the over-cheerful Slayer into an empty office and to Donna's amazement, flipped up a panel in the small of her back to reveal a mess of wiring. "Somebody get me a screwdriver."

"*That's* the robot?" asked Josh. Being told there was a replica human out there was one thing - actually seeing it face to face was another.

Willow fiddled with something, and then the robot slumped into lifelessness. It didn't look like a deactivated robot - it looked like a dead human. Donna thought it was seriously creepy.

The rest of the Scoobies scurried inside; Spike, despite the hot weather, was huddled up in a thick black overcoat. A few security types were eyeing him warily, but Josh waved them away. The vampire scuttled past them into the office and yanked off the coat, beating at his gently smouldering flesh with a string of curses.

"...bloody sodding magic bloody noon bloody rituals..."

"Are we prepared?" Toby slipped silently into the room, making them all jump. Donna's heart lurched in her chest. *God, what if it had been Leo?*

Moments later, CJ turned up with Sam in tow. "We've got the room," he announced, indecently cheerfully. *Sam is* way *too optimistic for his own good.*

She stifled a snort as it occurred to her who he suddenly reminded her of - the Buffy-robot. Josh, knowing her best, was the only one to pick it up; he looked at her curiously. "Tell you later - if we're still alive," she told him.

He turned back to Sam. "Where is this room? Sam, if you've put us anywhere *near* the Oval Office..."

"It's miles away. Eric's old office."

"Who?" Josh frowned.

Sam grinned delightedly. "Exactly!"

Donna frowned. "Wait, this Eric guy nobody's ever heard of gets an office? I don't get an office." She looked at Josh accusingly.

"Donnatella Moss, I am not in charge of allocating office space."

"You're the Deputy Chief of Staff. You could pull strings. And I say again, if you'd bothered to get up on time on the day we moved in..."

"There's nothing wrong with my office. I like my office. And you like my office too. You must do, the amount of time you spend in there when you should be outside working."

"Could this be something to do with the way that everytime I get to sit down at my desk, you're yelling my name in a panicked voice?"

"Panicked? Donnatella Moss, when have you ever heard me panic?"

"If you guys don't stop bickering and start moving, we're all about to hear you squeal like a frightened pig," threatened CJ. "People. *Move.*" Even Spike didn't hesitate to do her bidding when she slipped into her 'don't mess with me' tone.

As they headed towards office of the possibly entirely mythical 'Eric', Donna turned back to Josh. "You should put in a desk for me."

"In my office?"


"What for?"

"So when you shout my name from three feet away, I can just throw files at you instead of having to come in."

"Donna, you want to put another desk in my office? Shall I just go and ask the president for permission to build an extension?"

"You could sit on the floor."

Donna and Josh were so wrapped up in their usual banter that they didn't see danger coming until it was too late.

"Josh. Toby. CJ. Sam. Is there any particular reason why *four* of my senior staff have taken it into their heads to throw off their duties and play tour guide?"

It was Leo.

*We are so screwed.*

* * *

32: Robots and Turtles


Leo was staring at them with the patented Leo McGarry stare, the one that said 'nothing you say will be enough to impress me, but I'm gonna glare until you speak anyway'.

They all shifted nervously. Sam looked like he was about to crack, so Josh jumped in first. "C'mon Leo, it's kind of a slow day. That trade bill is killing us. We figured we could all do with a break."

"These are smart kids, Leo," jumped in CJ.

"We're being educational," added Sam.

Leo looked sceptical. Of course, that was how he always looked. Then he rolled his eyes. "They're smart? Maybe I should give them your jobs."

"Can I be Press Secretary?" piped up Xander. Willow thumped him in the arm.

"You'd have us at war with China in about three seconds," she warned

Donna and the rest of the senior staff looked automatically to Josh. He shrugged defensively. "Hey, I never declared war on anybody!"

"No, just on inflation," said CJ. That broke the tension. Leo looked momentarily amused, then sighed.

"Okay, fine. But I want you-"

At that moment, Donna spotted Margaret hovering in the background. With their secret assistant facial-expression-code - a lifesaver if ever their was one - she signalled 'rescue us, please!'

"Leo, could you come and deal with the thing?"

*Margaret, you are* so *my biggest buddy right now.*

"The thing?"

"You know, that thing with the guy from the place who wants to talk to you about the other thing."

Leo looked helpless, as only Margaret could make him look. Donna nudged Josh before he could be dumb enough to look amused. Their boss turned and trailed after his assistant. "You kids; welcome to the White House. Everybody else - get back to work!" he ordered.

"S-somebody important?" guessed Tara nervously as they scuttled on to their destination.

"Second most powerful man in the free world," Josh supplied.

"What about the Vice President?" asked Willow.

"We like to pretend he doesn't exist in this part of the building."

"So he's your boss?" Xander asked Donna.

"He's everybody's boss," she explained, puzzled.

The dark-haired boy nodded slowly. "Right. Just one question."


"If you're Donnatella and your boss is Leo, where are the rest of the turtles?"

Josh and Sam, naturally, found that highly amusing. Toby rolled his eyes. "High school boys. I work with high school boys." He and Giles exchanged long-suffering glances.

Donna noted with amusement the way CJ was surreptitiously moving in on the handsome Englishman. "So, uh; how did you end up in the Watcher business?"

"It's a, um, a family thing. D-destiny and all that." He had quite an adorable tendency to get flustered and stutter. She might have taken a fancy to himself, under different circumstances.

'Different circumstances' having to do with vampires and CJ getting there first, and not in any way involving Josh.

Giles might have charm, but Spike was pure eye-candy. Most of the Scoobies might be wary around him, but young Dawn was obviously *seriously* smitten. Donna couldn't help eyeing him occasionally herself - she thought maybe Josh had noticed, since he was glowering noticeably in the vampire's direction.

*Which I do not in any way find cute.*

She wondered how a vampire had ever ended up working with the forces of good; the ones she'd met hadn't seemed particularly inclined to stop and chat. Even with whatever behaviour-modification thing had been done to him, there had to be something a little different about Spike.

She noticed curiously that he seemed deeply uncomfortable around the Buffy-robot (temporarily reactivated since even hyper-perk attracted less attention than dragging a deactivated android). She wondered at the strange tie he must have had with the real Buffy.

They arrived at the office of the mysterious 'Eric' with no further scares. It was even more out-of-the-way than Ainsley Hayes' place, but not so small. There was no lock on the door, but Toby propped it shut with a chair.

"What if someone wants to come in?" asked Donna nervously. She couldn't believe they were really going to do this in the White House.

"Down here? On a Sunday?" pointed out Josh. Toby shot them a sharp glance.

"I think perhaps it's better that people find they can't get in than, you know, actually get in."

It was hot and claustrophobic with so many people in the room. Spike seemed to like it, though. "At last. No more bloody windows."

"I bet this is just home away from home for you, isn't it?" sniped Xander.

Spike looked around at the lacklustre decorating job and sniffed. "My crypt has more style."

"Yeah, if you go for the whole 'cobwebs and corpses' theme."

"Can we, I don't know, shut up?" suggested Toby darkly. "What time is it?"

Donna jumped in before Josh's sucky watch could make an appearance. "I have quarter to."

Fifteen minutes.

* * *

33: Fighting Spirit


"Explain to me again how this is supposed to work?"

Even Donna was fighting an urge to strangle Sam by this stage. His insatiable curiosity coupled with a geekish desire to have things down to the smallest detail was a deadly combination. No wonder Toby had perfected a psychopath expression.

Equally unfortunately, Willow seemed to share the president's desire to impart knowledge. "Okay, this is a tripartite spell - it comes in three parts," she explained.

Josh rolled his eyes. "Okay, we of the White House contingent got that."

Donna grinned at him, and whispered "Seven-sixty verbal, baby," in his ear.

"The, um, the robot represents the body; the vessel. Dawn is the essence - Buffy's flesh and blood." The younger girl hugged herself nervously; Spike lightly touched her shoulder in support for a moment. Willow turned towards Donna. "And Donna carries the part of Buffy that was the Slayer; her fighting spirit, if you like."

"You're the spirit, Donna," Josh murmured softly. Donna wondered why everybody hadn't been blinded by her face suddenly blazing red.

*God, it's really warm down here.*

Not to mention cramped. She was pressed up so close to Josh she could practically...

*Okay, stop right there, gal. There is no safe way out of *that *sentence.* Composing herself, she surreptitiously shuffled a little further away. Josh came with her.

Sam was still talking. "So those three things... you're trying to tell me that's all it takes to make a person?"

"To bring back one who's not supposed to be dead," Willow corrected quickly. "And no, even together those three don't make a life. It takes a soul to bind them together."

"That's how this could work when in all other circumstances it wouldn't," Giles explained. "Because Buffy is not truly dead... her soul is in limbo, and there is a chance it can be retrieved."

Donna noticed how his stutter abruptly disappeared as soon as he started to talk about his area of expertise. He seemed to have realms of information about the supernatural at his disposal.

*You know, add President Bartlet to the mix and I do believe we'd have the biggest collection of trivia freaks the world has ever seen.*

"We'll have to summon Buffy's soul from the ether," Willow continued. "That's something nearly all the other rituals-" she exchanged a glance with Dawn, for some reason - "fail to touch on. Without a soul you'd have..." She gestured helplessly.

"A walking corpse?" suggested Spike dryly.

Willow nodded, and confessed "This ritual is... kinda stitched together. I had to borrow from the spell we used on Angel."

The unfamiliar name caused an interesting ripple through parts of the Sunnydale delegation. Xander scowled, Spike looked disgusted, and Giles noticeably flinched.

*Bad history, there.* Donna exchanged glances with CJ and Josh, who had picked up on the same. Sam piped up obliviously "Who's Angel?"

"Don't even go there," Xander said darkly.

"Seconded," agreed Spike. They exchanged an odd look - enemies momentarily united by a stronger dislike. Donna wondered at Sam's cluelessness, remembering the way he had blithely blurted out the reason why she was mad about Josh's flowers to Ainsley.

*How can someone who's* paid *to stir emotions be so completely oblivious to subtext?*

Josh was more interested in results than group dynamics. "You've done something like this before?"

Willow looked uncertain. "Almost... Except that was really kind of restoring an enchantment that was there already... but this will work!" she insisted determinedly.

Donna only hoped she was right. It wasn't even her own dark situation she was worried about now; looking around at the expressions on the faces of Dawn, Spike, Giles... Tense, nervous, but beyond that showing the signs of a hope that had once been buried.

If this didn't work, it could tear them apart.

The Buffy-robot was laid out, corpse-like, in the middle of the floor. Giles and Tara had been drawing out a complicated chalk design around it as they talked. Willow was fiddling with herbs and candles, and everybody else was pressed back against the walls trying to keep out of the way.

Looking down at the blank face of the robot, Donna found it hard to believe that it had ever been walking and talking robot-fashion, let alone that they could somehow transform it into a living, breathing young woman.

It was only now that she really took the time to think about Buffy Summers herself. Would she thank them for bringing her back into this world? Was she really trapped in limbo, or had she moved onto some better place?

But then there was no time for further doubts, because Willow was beckoning her forward. "Donna? Dawn? Time to begin."

* * *

34: Charged Atmosphere


The air felt hot and muggy. The words of the spell were a meaningless blur. Perhaps President Bartlet would have been able to decipher them, but to Donna they were nothing more than nonsense syllables.

She and Dawn were kneeling to either side of the prone robot. Their hands were linked, and she could feel the young girl's arms trembling, and the slickness of sweat that might have come from one or both of them.

The others in the room, even the chanting Willow, seemed impossibly far away. She couldn't even see them; there was nothing in the universe but her, Dawn and the robot, and that chanting voice.

Maybe there was a glow in the air; maybe it was only in her own eyes. She was shaking too, now, shuddering violently, and she couldn't tell if it was magic or just tension. She felt as if she might explode into pieces at any second.

Donna felt a sudden warm pressure on her shoulder, and she didn't have to look round to know it was Josh. In the highly-charged atmosphere she imagined she could almost feel the emotion coming off of him in waves. It flowed into her, giving her the strength she needed.

Willow's voice was reaching a crescendo, and now it didn't sound like a teenage girl at all, or even very human. The room was spinning far too fast to try and make sense of, and her brain was exploding...

* * *

*Donna... Donna...*

"Donna?" She came awake with a start, looking up into the eyes of a very concerned Josh. She realised she was laying practically in his lap, with his strong arms supporting her.

*Okay, as ways to wake up go...*

She pushed away the untimely thought... but not Josh's arms. She allowed herself the brief luxury of clinging to him for a minute before stopping to look around.

She could only have blacked out for a matter of seconds. Dawn too was looking a little shaky, being supported by Willow and Tara.

All eyes were on the still form of the robot - if it was still a robot. It wasn't moving. Donna tried to see if it was breathing, and couldn't. No one looked prepared to touch it. It was as if by not doing so, they could preserve for longer the not-knowing. Not knowing if this was now a flesh-and-blood girl lying at their feet, or still the cold dead form of a robot.

Finally it was down to Dawn to make the first move. She knelt cautiously by the form of her big sister and reached out to touch her bare arm. "B-Buffy?"

Abruptly, the figure jolted upright and sucked in a gasp of breath. Everybody jumped a mile, even Toby. Spike made a slightly strangled little squeaking sound.

Even without having known the real Buffy, Donna could tell this was no robot. Her eyes stared, unseeing, but even so there was something in them that hadn't been there before. They'd brought her back... but had they brought her back right?

Josh's arms tightened around her, almost painfully. Everyone watched breathlessly as Dawn nervously moved forward again to take her arm. "Buffy?"

Buffy's eyes slid blankly over her... and then they slid back, and seemed to focus. "D-Dawn?" she said wonderingly. Dawn gasped, and then enveloped her in a huge hug. The Sunnydale contingent suddenly piled in to give hugs of their own - even a surprised Spike was pulled in.

Sam hugged CJ, and then CJ hugged Toby... then Sam hugged Toby, which was less well received, but Sam didn't seem to care. Josh pulled Donna close to him, and suddenly kissed her cheek. She looked up at him, startled, and basked in the glow of his smile.

Buffy received all the hugs gratefully, but when they finally pulled back she still looked confused and disoriented. "I... how... where am I?"

"Um... that's a story that's even stranger than you'd expect," said Xander.

Buffy looked up to Giles, who pulled her to her feet and hugged her again. She stood against him for a moment, then looked up into his eyes. "Giles, I want to go home," she said, in the voice of a small child.

He squeezed her again, and said "We'll take you there right away." He looked around at the White House staffers, unable to contain the joy that lit up his face as it did the faces of the others. "We should be going," he said warmly.

Donna looked at her watch, and yelped when she saw that noon was long gone. "Josh! We've been down here more than an hour!"

Josh looked panicked. "Leo's gonna kill us!"

They made a strange procession coming up out of the basement. Giles was still supporting Buffy, Dawn looked near-ready to burst into tears with the force of repressed emotions, and everybody else was still suffering from a need to hug each other every couple of seconds.

"If we can just get everybody out before Leo spots us..." began Sam. He didn't get to finish.

"What's this little party going on here, then?" a jovial voice demanded.

It was the president.

* * *

35: Lacrosse, Beijing, and Presidential Geekhood


The eyes of the assembled slayerettes went very wide. The president seemed oblivious to the reactions his presence drew - or maybe he was just used to it. "Ah, Josh. Did you know the game of lacrosse was derived from a game played by the Iroquois indians?"

"Well, I do now, sir."

"It is, in fact, derived from a Haudenosaunee game of great antiquity called Ga-lahs. The Iroquois regarded it not just a form of entertainment and physical conditioning, but also as a religious celebration in itself. It's considered to be pleasing to the Creator, but also a rite sacred to the Thunders. Do you know who the Thunders are, Josh?"

"Women's softball been taken off again, sir?"

President Bartlet started to reply, then apparently noticed the assembled crowd and the way Buffy was leaning against Giles' shoulder. "Are you all right there, young lady?"

"I was beginning to think so, but unless you really are President Bartlet I'm more out of it than I thought." Donna was relieved to see signs of animation beginning to return to the Slayer, although this was hardly the way to make her less confused.

Bartlet looked amused, but it quickly transformed to concern. "Yes, I really am. You should sit down. I'll get you some water. Charlie!"

Buffy protested almost automatically, but the president ignored her, handing her the glass of water Charlie brought himself.

"Now, what happened?" he asked.

CJ, undisputed queen of half-truths, leapt in before Josh, Sam or possibly Xander could open mouth and insert foot. "Buffy was feeling a little faint, Mr. President. She hasn't been well lately."

*Official understatement of the year.*

"Has she seen a doctor? You should see a doctor. I'll call Abbey."

"Mr. President, the First Lady's in Beijing," Charlie reminded him quietly.

The president was momentarily distracted. "Beijing?"

"Yes sir."

"My wife's in Beijing?"

"Yes sir."

"Do we know what she's doing there?"

"We all assumed you knew, sir."

The president shook his head and shrugged. "Okay. We'd probably better leave her to it." He turned back to Buffy. "But you *should* see a doctor."

The Slayer was regaining more and more of her strength, and with it a bit of willpower. She started to object, but Giles gently overruled her. "Buffy, I think maybe you should. You've been though a lot." Dawn nodded fervently, and gave her big sister yet another hug.

President Bartlet smiled warmly at the pair of them. "You two are sisters?"

Donna didn't quite understand the nuances of the look that passed between them, but they both nodded emphatically.

The president looked around at the assortment of teenagers again. "And you would be-"

"-from UC Sunnydale, Mr. President," provided Josh smartly.

"Ah yes, the Sunnydale party," he smiled knowingly.

"You don't have a clue, do you, Mr. President?" said Josh.

"No, but I was doing a damn fine job of faking it until you spoiled it." He smiled again, and moved across to shake hands with Giles. "Nice to meet you, sir." He did the same with the rest of the slayerettes. "Always a pleasure to meet young people who are taking an interest in their country's government."

"Mr. President?" Charlie prompted.

"What's that, Charlie? Urgent matters of government for me to attend to?"

"Yes, sir. The pizza guy's just arrived."

* * *

The Sunnydale contingent were all a little shaken by their brief encounter with America's greatest. "Wow," Willow kept saying, and Tara had retreated so fully into her shell she wouldn't say a word. Spike affected to be unimpressed, all his attention focused on Buffy.

"Will she be okay?" CJ asked Giles worriedly as they hustled everybody out of the building before they could bump into anybody else.

Giles hesitated, and then sighed. "I can't say for sure... but I think so. I really think so." He broke into a sudden beam that lit up his entire face.

Spike wrapped himself up, and the slayerettes made for the exit. Giles paused on the threshold, and returned to shake hands with all the White House staff. "I never expected to say this to a group of American politicians," he smiled, "but it's been an honour meeting you."

He turned to follow Buffy and Dawn, and CJ hustled after him. "CJ? Where are you going?" asked a bemused Sam.

She grinned devilishly. "Oh, this guy's not getting away without giving me his phone number."

Xander was the last of the slayerettes to leave. He paused, and then turned back to Josh. "Just one thing I've gotta ask..."


"Why the hell was the President of the United States muttering to you about lacrosse?"

Josh grinned infectiously. "Because, my friend, the president's a geek."

Xander hesitated, and then suddenly grinned back. "You know, that makes me feel a whole lot better about this country."

They left.

* * *

36: Intimate Moments


Donna sat at her desk, marvelling over how normal her life had suddenly become. Willow had phoned her again from the hospital; apparently Buffy was fine. Physically, at least. The mental effects of returning to life would be less easy to deal with. Donna remembered with a shudder how badly Josh had taken his recovery from the shooting, and prayed that Buffy would have a less traumatic time of it.

It had been a scary and nerve-wracking time being the Slayer... but she wasn't sure she would have wanted to miss out on it. After all, it had its compensations... She caught herself staring at Josh's office door like a giddy schoolgirl, and stopped herself immediately.

*None of that, girl. It's all back to business now.*

An incredibly depressing thought. Still, at least she had the memory of that all-too-brief kiss on the cheek to tide her over...

Much to her embarrassment, Josh's office door sprang open just as her gaze had drifted dreamily over to it again. "Josh, do you want those notes on the Markham thing?" she said quickly.

*Businesslike. Professional. Impassive.*

Josh rather stepped on her professionalism groove by coming right over to invade her personal space. He gave her a slow, warm smile. The one with the dimples.

*Must. Control. Blush. Impulse.*

"How're you doing?" he asked gently.

Her response should have been to make some witty, banter-sparking comment, but somehow she felt tongue-tied. "I'm okay."

"Does it feel weird? You know, not being the Slayer anymore?"

Donna shrugged. "I don't know. I don't really feel any different... but I guess I'm normal old non-vampire-slaying Donna." Supposedly her newly-gained Slayer powers had been transferred back into Buffy, but she didn't feel like she'd lost anything. Then again, she hadn't felt it when they'd first arrived.

Josh smiled even more warmly, and gently brushed a lock of hair from her cheek. "Then I guess we can look forward to many more years in the company of Donnatella Moss," he said tenderly.

*The bullpen is empty. Toby and Sam are over in communications. CJ is still on the phone to Giles. Leo and the President are meeting in the Oval Office.

Screw appearances. Screw office policy. Screw the wrath of CJ. I'm gonna kiss him.*

Of course, Josh had to pick that very moment to straighten up and walk away.

*Joshua Lyman, I swear I am gonna *murder *you.*

"Josh, where are you going?" she said out loud, struggling to bring her breathing and her flushed cheeks back to normal.

"I have to go get something," he said, smiling enigmatically. And then he just left.

"Damn!" Donna said loudly to the empty bullpen. Finally, *finally*, one of those intimate moments had come and she had decided to seize it and say screw the consequences. And the big jerk had chosen that very instant to break the moment and walk off.

Idiot man.

Well, if he thought she was ever going to give in to that kind of impulse again...

Suddenly she felt like she'd regressed back to the days of capital-D Denial and Gathering Rosebuds with Joey Lucas. Feeling grumpy, she stomped into Josh's office, dropped her work into a desk drawer where he'd never be able to get at it, and slammed it shut.

It flew home with an audible crunch, and the wood splintered.

Donna stared at it for a long moment. She had helped bring back Buffy, shared her power with the previous Slayer... but had she actually given it away?

*She's the Slayer now... but who's to say I have to be back to normal?*

But she didn't have much time to consider further, because Josh had returned. He stood in the office doorway with his hands behind his back, grinning slyly.

He was expecting her to ask, no doubt, but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction. She was still too mad at him. *Idiot man, can't even recognise a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you hit him over the head with it...*

He let her curiosity grow for a few moments... then smilingly produced a steaming mug and held it out to her.


*The End*