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Ten Thousand Miles

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Despite Donna's loud and lengthy protests (which earned her nothing but a visit from Molly Morello), she remained in the hospital for five full days. By the fifth day she was climbing the walls, would've been doing so literally if her ankle weren't still messed up. Slayers were not built for long periods of convalescence. The bruises liberally covering her face and body had lingered for days as her healing had other priorities, but even those were mostly faded by the time an exasperated nurse wheeled Donna to the front door of the hospital and gave her a pair of crutches. Donna cheerfully ignored the advice to take it easy or she'd break her neck and swung her way into Steph's waiting car. Her ankle was still sore and iffy but her arms were just fine; she could easily have run home if she'd wanted to (except again for the Mrs. Morello thing.) After that she spent several more days at home, where her mom was so busy fussing over her that she forgot to give the usual lecture series on the many errors in judgment Donna had made with her life thus far. That was kind of nice, actually.

Getting back to the campaign was a more complicated proposition. Although the bones in her ankle were knitting nicely, she was confined to a boot cast for a whole week more, which meant no driving. She'd either have to wait till she was completely better or find a driver to take her and her car all the way back to New Hampshire. That was a bit of a tough sell, seeing as how Manchester was not exactly high on most Slayers' list of exotic destinations for fun and demon-hunting. Eventually Steph drove her to Chicago, where she was able to hook up with two young minis heading to Cleveland for more training. Letting a sixteen-year-old Slayer drive her car was faintly terrifying, but the incident with the dragon had recalibrated Donna's meter of what was scary in cars and they got by all right. In Cleveland, Faith took it upon herself to drive the next leg of the trip since she was heading back to the New York Slayer House anyway. Donna quickly realized that maybe her meter had not been recalibrated quite as much as she thought.

The last time Donna had driven cross-country to New Hampshire, the trip from Cleveland to Manchester had taken just over ten hours. With Faith behind the wheel, they arrived in just over seven. It wasn't until somewhere during the fourth hour, cruising down the interstate at a hundred miles per hour, that Donna finally let herself relax. She trusted that Faith’s reflexes would keep them from crashing, and Faith claimed to have several foolproof methods to avoid speeding tickets. Because they'd left early in the morning (Foolproof Method Number One was that public servants were far more sluggish before breakfast), they reached BFA Headquarters by midafternoon. From the frantic rush visible behind the wide glass windows, the campaign was in town today. She wasn't sure how she felt about that. Part of her would've liked another day to try and worm her way back in before seeing Josh again, but it was probably better to just bite the bullet.

She got out of the car and sorted out the situation with her crutches, something that was still a little awkward. It would've been easier to go without, but she didn't trust that they weren't hexed to inform Mrs. Morello if they weren’t being used. “Thanks so much for driving me,” she told Faith. “I really owe you one. Sasha's going to be picking you up here, right?”

“Yeah,” Faith agreed, glancing idly at her phone. “She was up in Boston seeing her boytoy. Says she'll be here in about an hour, she totally wasn't ready for my efficient travel strategies.” She shoved the phone in her pocket and grinned. “So I got some time. Let's go meet your friends.”

Donna's mouth dropped open a little as Faith blithely headed off towards campaign headquarters. “What?” She swung across the street with wide sweeps of her crutches, only modulating them when she remembered she wasn't supposed to have that much upper arm strength here. She caught up with Faith at the door, but only because the older Slayer allowed her to. “You don't need to come in, I'm sure you'll think it's really boring...”

“What, and miss out on the chance to meet a guy who could be president?” Faith asked with mock astonishment. “Or the dreamboat Dawn still won't stop mooning after? Nah, it'll be great. Besides, gotta make sure the situation's safe here, what with you still on the injured list and all.” She pulled the door open and held it for Donna, a shit-eating grin covering her whole face. “You're not ashamed of me are you, Dragonslayer?”

“Oh my god.” Donna could feel how red her face was, but there was nothing to do at this point but walk through the door and let Faith follow her. It was a little bit like those dreams she had of walking into school completely naked, except here everyone was so busy that people barely had time to notice the crutches or the unapologetically badass woman in the leather jacket behind her. This could be okay, Donna decided. All she had to do was maneuver Faith through the bullpen and back to Josh's closet of an office, maybe let her terrorize Sam a tiny bit, and steer her out the back before-

“Donna!” came a very hearty, very familiar voice from the other end of the bullpen. Donna froze in her tracks, a smile that felt like a grimace affixing itself to her face. Governor Bartlet was crossing the bullpen from the conference room, CJ and Toby at his heels. They were all wearing coats, which probably meant that they were already late for something, but that very rarely bothered the Governor. Given the way he felt about most campaign events, he was probably looking for any momentary reprieve he could get.

Sure enough, he stopped right in front of Donna and Faith. “It's nice to see you back! I hope you enjoyed your vacation back home, but you're not allowed to leave anymore. That curly haired guy has been lost without you,” and Donna honestly couldn't tell if that was a joke or if he really didn't remember Josh's name. It could've easily gone either way. And I've also been reading some extremely interesting facts about the history of gardening that nobody else seems to appreciate. Did you know that the tomato-”

“Sir,” CJ broke in, sounding incredibly pained, “we needed to be in the cars five minutes ago. The fundraiser-”

“The fundraiser includes a champagne cocktail mixer to loosen the donors up before I even begin begging them for their money,” the Governor reminded her. “I think both they and I will be happier if they have an extra twenty minutes of that instead of hearing me speak.” Faith laughed at that, which of course drew his attention. “And is this young woman your sister?” he guessed in Donna's direction.

“My sister?” Donna squeaked. There was not even the faintest sort of familial resemblance there, surely? “No, this is, this is...”

“I'm Faith,” Faith cut in smoothly, offering her hand. “Donna's my cousin. Second cousin, maybe, our moms are related in some weird way. But since Donna's not driving lately, I gave her a ride back here and she told me I should come in and meet everybody.”

“That was very kind of you.” Governor Bartlet said approvingly, giving Faith’s hand a practiced politician shake. Donna knew that Faith had a handshake that could crush fingers if she wanted, but she was behaving herself impeccably for the moment. It made Donna nervous. “It’s tremendously heartening to see young people getting involved in the political process. It’s the young people who will inherit the world we create, and you should have a voice in how it’s made! Are you looking for an internship as well? I’m sure we could find something, maybe Toby’s office…”

“That’s a real flattering offer,” Faith replied, pretending to give it due consideration. At least Donna hoped she was pretending. Toby was giving Faith an appraising look, taking in the leather jacket and pants, the swagger that she could never quite hide. He looked ready to say something til CJ stepped on his foot. “I’ve already got a full-time gig down in New York,” Faith finally said, “but maybe I’ll knock on some doors for you guys when you get down that way. Little cuz here has been getting everybody at home all excited about politics.”

“Governor, the cars?” CJ broke in again. She was definitely Donna’s new favorite. “It’s great to see you again Donna, Josh has been down in Nashua but he’ll be back soon. We really do have to be going, though.” She herded the governor and Toby out through the front door, deft as a border collie with a couple of recalcitrant sheep, leaving Donna and Faith standing in the bullpen.

“I like him,” Faith decided. “If I weren’t a felon and all, I’d probably vote for him. Where’s the hottie?”

Resigned now, Donna took Faith to the back offices and introduced her to Sam, who was still grounded from any fundraiser involving alcohol after hitting on a state senator from Vermont in January. She had to admit it was a little amusing to watch how quickly Faith could reduce a confident, Ivy League-trained speechwriter to a blushing mess, but she did still have to work with these people. Eventually she hauled Faith away, to Sam’s mixed chagrin and relief, and steered her down the hall to Josh’s tiny office.

“Holy shit,” Faith said, looking around. “This place looks like Andrew’s office the day after they cancelled Deep Space Nine. You really work here?”

“It doesn’t look like this when I’m working here,” Donna pointed out, though she was cringing a little herself. It didn’t look like a single piece of paper had been filed in the entire time she’d been gone, and the desk and floor were littered with empty coffee cups and candy wrappers. “He’s obviously been… busy.”

“You sure you don’t want to come on down to New York?” Faith offered magnanimously. “Room of your own, three squares a day and all the vampires you can-”

“Shhh!” Donna interrupted, looking around. “Ixnay on the… you know!” Shoving her crutches aside, she clumped over to the desk and began picking up cups and wrappers. “This is perfect, actually. If I can get some of this mess cleared away before he comes back, he’ll remember why he wanted an assistant in the first place. Then maybe he’ll forget that I quit, and we can just go back to things being normal without all the awkward questions or me having to explain-”

“Uh, Donna,” Faith interrupted, but Donna was on a roll.

“I’m serious, give me an hour and I can get most of the way through the mess on the floor and the chairs.” The garbage can was empty, hidden under its own pile of manila folders, so she quickly began filling it, reorganizing files into every spot of clear space she opened. “Get rid of the garbage first obviously, then call somebody to bring in some file boxes and maybe a shredder and a vacuum cleaner, then there’s the huge pile-”

“Donna!” Some part of Donna was hardwired to respond to that tone of voice from Faith, but by then it was already too late. She looked up to see Faith snickering, but her attention was immediately drawn to Josh, standing in the doorway and looking like someone had whacked him unexpectedly with a pillow. She couldn’t read the expression on his face, whether he was happy or mad or indifferent, he just looked startled.

“Oh, hey Josh,” Donna began with an awkward smile, ready to brazen her way through whatever he’d throw at her. “So, I’m back.”

He stared at her for a minute with that inscrutable face, till finally a hint of smile broke through. “Thank god,” he told her. “There’s a pile of stuff on the desk.” He waved a hand vaguely towards the area that was probably the desk.

“And how,” Faith muttered under her breath.

“You want me to get to work?” Donna asked hopefully.

“Yes!” he said quickly, his voice suddenly rising in both tone and pitch before he modulated it. “Yes, yeah, yes, that would be good. You get started on that, and I’m just gonna go talk to Sam about the, the thing. You get to work.” He was gone then, his shoes clattering on the old wood floors as he hustled down the hallway.

Faith put her tongue in her cheek. “So, he seems nice.”

Donna was still staring at the doorway, but she shook herself out of it to respond to Faith. “Yeah, oh, sorry, I should’ve introduced you. That was Josh, my boss. I kind of thought that was going to be harder,” she admitted.

“Look where he ended up without you,” Faith pointed out. “Guy obviously needs you, just don’t let him run you over, okay?” She pushed away from the wall she’d been leaning against. “Sasha’ll be here soon, so I’m gonna shove off. Take care, okay?”

“I will,” Donna promised with a smile. “You too, and say hi to everybody for me. And thanks.”

“No problem, Dragonslayer!” Faith called back as she walked out, loudly enough for the people in the hallway to hear. “See you at Christmas!”

Donna had just enough time to sigh and sit down before Margaret stuck her head in the door. “Dragonslayer?” she asked curiously.

“Long story.” Donna laughed ruefully and scratched the back of her neck. “Sort of a family thing. I’m just glad to be back.”