Title: Degrees of Freedom

Author: Marissa

Genre: J/D UST

Rating: G

Summary: Joey Lucas' rhetoric becomes reality.

Joey Lucas: "If you polled a hundred Donnas and asked

them if they think we should go out, you'd get a high

positive response. But the poll wouldn't tell you it's

because she likes you and she knows it's beginning to

show and she needs to cover herself with

misdirection."

Josh: "Believe me when I tell you, that's not true."

I had a dream last night.

In my dream, I searched through the multiverse, the

infinite number of universes. I was floating above

them all, searching. I was looking for one hundred

universes that were close enough to mine to be

statistically significant. I was looking for one

hundred Donnas.

It was difficult enough to find one hundred universes

where there was life on Earth, let alone one hundred

in which there existed one Donnatella Moss. And then,

of course, I had to make sure that in each universe,

she was working for me.

I was careful to avoid my own universe.

Finally, I found the one hundred. With one deft

movement, I plucked each Donna away from her own world

and placed her in a row with all her doppelgangers.

When I was finished, I had one hundred Donnas lined up

between the stars. They were silent, which unnerved me

more than I would have thought.

I cleared my throat. "I suppose you're wondering why

you're all here."

In an instant, they began to speak.

"What are we doing here?"

"Where are we?"

"Joshua Lyman, explain yourself this instant!"

I waited for the hundred protests to die down, then

spoke. "I need your help. I need you all to just

answer one question for me, and then I'll return you

all."

"What's the question?" they chorused.

"What are your romantic feelings for Josh Lyman, if

such feelings exist, on a scale of one to ten, one

being 'nonexistent' and ten being 'desire for

marriage'?" I said, as seriously as I could.

All one hundred Donnas stared at me.

"I'll come to each of you, and you can give me your

number. Don't worry about offending me please; I need

hard data."

So I went to each of them, and each shakily said a

number. In a few minutes, I had polled one hundred

Donnas. I swiftly returned each to her own universe.

Then I sat down to assess the data.

I whipped out a graphing calculator and entered the

data. It spat out the mean (7.6), median (7), and the

standard deviation (1.1). I realized then that Joey

Lucas was right; Donna did have feelings for me, and I

couldn't deny that I felt the same way.

But it was possible that my data were flawed, I

reminded myself. I decided to use a t-table to find my

95% confidence interval. "Let's see," I mused aloud,

desperately trying to recall my two semesters of

statistics, "x-bar is 7.6, s is 1.1. Well, n is 100,

so I have 99 degrees of freedom. So the 95% confidence

interval is 7.6 plus or minus 1.99 times 1.1 divided

by 10. That's... 7.38 to 7.82."

I stared at the screen of my calculator, then hit

CLEAR. The situation couldn't be any more lucid.

I heard Joey Lucas' voice (somehow, her diction was

perfect -- it was a dream, after all) echo in my head:

"If you polled a hundred Donnas... ."

But then I heard, louder and gentler, "Josh? What are

you doing?"

"Donna?" I heard her voice, but she was nowhere to be

seen. Her voice surrounded me, enveloped me. "I'm . .

. doing math."

"Why?"

"To see... to see how you feel."

I heard her laugh, and my heart skipped a beat.

"Joshua. Don't you already know? And if you don't, why

don't you just ask?"

Then, like a plug being yanked from a socket, the

dream ended and I woke up, breathing quickly and

heavily.

I was sure then: she cares about me in a way that I

had only hoped she did. And I am in love with her.

It is the next morning. I awake early, and the sun has

not yet risen. I take in a long breath of air, then

exhale slowly. Today. Today I will test all

ninety-nine degrees of freedom I have with Donnatella

Moss.

I climb out of my one bed in my one universe, and

begin to prepare for the day. I can't remember the

last time I was this happy.