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."
"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.