Epilogue: The Evidence of Things Not Seen
Author’s Note: Yes, epilogue. But don’t worry. I have a sequel idea all mapped out which I am going to get to immediately. To those people waiting for my sequel to the Veronica Mars fic “Death Becomes Him,” I apologize profusely, but this sequel’s burning a hole in my pocket, so to speak.
This chapter takes place on May 3, 2001. The sequel will begin a couple of days later.
Author’s Note: The Buffy characters are Joss’; the Daria characters are Glenn’s; and everyone else is mine.
X X X X X
21 days later, Mrs. Krueger -- the name she insisted everyone at Wolfram & Hart call her, even if the higher-ups knew her real one -- still hadn’t been cleared of all charges. And, under the circumstances, Wolfram & Hart was even reluctant to use her on any outside missions.
Which left her training, studying, and generally in an all-around bad mood. The police had ransacked her house looking for the proof of who she was -- her husband, alertly, had run out to the mailbox and mailed all of the incriminating documents he could find to a post office box elsewhere in the city. So when they’d searched the place, they’d found nothing more than some trace evidence and, unfortunately, her cell phone.
They’d tried to trace the Watcher’s Council representative, Dunwitty, but hadn’t had any luck. In one of the few bursts of intelligence the man had ever shown, as soon as he heard that Mrs. Krueger had been arrested, he’d beaten landspeed records getting to the airport. Apparently he’d taken the first international flight available, which was to Perth, Australia. By the time the LA Police had gotten around to contacting their Perth equivalents, the man had left Perth and had had plenty of time to get himself good and lost. The authorities in England said they’d look out for him, but weren’t making any promises.
Still, while that was good news, that still left the attempted murder charges, which Wolfram & Hart had not been able to quash. In the meantime, cut off from most of their funds -- they didn’t dare go to the Post Office Box until everything was settled -- they had to fall back and actually rely on their paychecks.
She wasn’t used to living within her means. She hated it, for herself and for her kids, who didn’t understand why they weren’t getting everything they used to.
So she took it out on her training partners. Today, to her delight, she was fighting the woman who’d managed to delay her attack on Faith Lehane aka Daria Morgendorffer for the precious few seconds it had taken for her intended victim to figure out how to fight back -- a shapeshifter named Cameron Kim.
X X X X X
21 days later, Cameron Kim was getting her clock cleaned by a very angry former assassin.
Why, she had no clue. It had just been a job to her; a job she hadn’t done as well as she should have, but a job nonetheless. Yet for some reason, now that they were in one of Wolfram & Hart’s practice gymnasiums, working on their combat techniques, the woman was acting as though Cameron had personally ruined her life.
While almost anything went in one of these combat sessions, it was supposed to stop short of lethality. Yet Mrs. Krueger was coming at her as though she fully intended the battle to end up with Cameron bleeding out on the gymnasium floor.
So far, whether she’d become a snake, a deer, or a leopard, she hadn’t been able to connect more than once. If Mrs. Krueger had stayed still long enough to try to strangle Cameron, the way she had back in Morgendorffer’s prison cell, then it would have been simpler; but a few weeks of combat training at Wolfram & Hart had taught even someone as experienced as Mrs. Krueger that she could learn a few new tricks.
She was popping in, hitting Cameron with her metal fist, and popping back out again. The only time Cameron had made contact had been a lucky blow.
So Cameron changed the rules of the game. She shifted into her orangutan form and scrambled up a rope to the ceiling.
Mrs. Krueger couldn’t hit what she couldn’t touch -- and she hadn’t, yet, learned to fly.
Still, it was a somewhat ignominious ending to the day.
Five minutes later, with Mrs. Krueger still glaring at her from the gym floor, a messenger demon came in and told Cameron that training was over and that Lilah Morgan had a job for her to do.
Cameron was so profoundly grateful that she wouldn’t have cared if the job involved impersonating the Pope. She almost knocked the emissary down in her haste to get to Ms. Morgan’s office.
X X X X X
21 days later, Lilah Morgan was in a reasonably good mood, despite the presence of a new attorney in the office, Gavin Park, who seemed to think that he could succeed with Angel where others had failed.
Daria Morgendorffer was due to get out of prison today. A remarkably speedy turnaround, one might think, given how slowly the wheels of justice normally turned, but a little prodding from Wolfram & Hart in the right places, once they’d gained access to Dr. David Simonson’s private notes, had gotten them turning as quickly as they needed to.
Faith Lehane was gone. And while Simonson had had some reservations about Daria Morgendorffer’s attitude towards her aunt, Amy Barksdale, for having had her declared mentally incompetent, a little bit of persuasion -- in his case, bribery -- had gotten him to make the declaration that Daria Morgendorffer was free of Lehane’s personality and once again competent to handle her own affairs.
Cameron Kim came racing into Lilah’s office as though all the demons of hell were after her. Which, with this firm, was a very real possibility. “Youhaveanassignmentforme?” she asked. Yes, like that.
“Slow down, Kim,” she said. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Today was Mrs. Krueger’s day to train against me. She hates me for some reason.”
Lilah shook her head. The woman had been told not to let personal grudges interfere with her work. She’d have to have a talk with her.
Beyond that -- “I’ll take care of that,” Lilah said. “Now. I’ve got a long-term assignment for you. More tracking than anything.”
“I want you to keep an eye on Daria Morgendorffer for a couple of weeks. Make sure she hasn’t been fooling everyone for the last month.”
“And if she has?”
Lilah shook her head. Cameron had skills and was quick-thinking, but she really wasn’t very bright. “Kill her. Of course.”
And Cameron Kim laughed. “Kill her? Ms. Morgan, Mrs. Krueger couldn’t kill her. How the hell am I supposed to do it?”
Lilah’s grin was completely devoid of any warmth. “Find a way,” she said, and dismissed the shapeshifter.
Then she looked down at her paperwork, which had to do, primarily, with Angel.
Angel had been harassing them for the last three weeks on the assumption that they had tried to kill Daria. It had taken it that long to get it through the vampire’s thick skull that they were better served by keeping her alive.
She still wasn’t entirely sure they’d convinced him.
X X X X X
21 days later, Angel still wasn’t completely convinced that Wolfram & Hart hadn’t been behind the attack on Daria. For one thing, while keeping their office under surveillance, he’d seen women who matched the description of the two women who’d invaded the prison. (Kate Lockley had managed to track down a photo of one and a description of the other from her sources at the police department -- the last favor she’d done Angel before she’d finally left LA a couple of weeks back.)
Now, apparently, from all he’d been able to gather, the redheaded assassin, who used the alias “Mrs. Krueger” but whose real name, apparently, was Rebecca Barnstein, had only been seen coming and going from the Wolfram & Hart main offices since one of their attorneys had mysteriously surprised her and everyone else while she was being booked. The reason he knew that it wasn’t to discuss her case was because she was seen showing up early in the morning and not leaving until late afternoon. So it was possible they were telling the truth.
Certainly, the doctor thought so. While she’d needed a week or so to get up to speed on the workings of Wolfram & Hart and the Watcher’s Council, once she had she’d spent a lot of time carefully analyzing them both. “If this were court,” She’d said, “This wouldn’t be enough, of course. But it’s not. Everything Wolfram & Hart does seems to be geared towards satisfying their most powerful clients while simultaneously making things run as smoothly for themselves as possible-- and they’re willing to do anything to make that happen. Faith living for the next fifty years as an inexperienced Daria would seem to fit.”
“That would mean that Lilah’s been telling me the truth,” Angel had said.
“Right,” the doctor had replied. “So?”
“So I wouldn’t believe them if they told me two plus two equaled four.”
The doctor had smiled. “Don’t let them manipulate you like that. The best liar isn’t the person who lies all the time. It’s the person who mixes their lies with the truth to best serve their own ends. I’ve seen enough sociopaths and pathological liars to know that.”
“So you’re comparing Wolfram & Hart to a sociopath.”
“In the sum total of their actions, yes. Individuals can vary, of course. But when you know you’re dealing with a sociopath you examine everything they say, but you don’t automatically assume they’re lying every time they open their mouth. Wolfram & Hart is perfectly capable of telling us the truth, when it suits them. Don’t let your instinctual mistrust deafen you to the possibility.”
Angel, on balance, was inclined to agree with her -- but he couldn’t completely leave his mistrust behind. (Nor, to be fair to the doctor, was she advising him to do so.) So, while their efforts at the moment were geared more towards investigating the Watchers’ Council -- and if they turned out to be the ones who’d set Mrs. Krueger on Daria, then Angel Investigations would need help -- they were still keeping a close eye on the law firm.
Their next step was going to be tracking down Mrs. Krueger and interrogating her. The devil, there, was in the logistics. Catching her was one thing; keeping her was quite another.
While they were working that out, there was something more immediate to deal with.
Daria was getting out today.
Which meant, although no one but he and Dr. Vaughn knew it, that Faith was getting out today.
Daria’s aunt Amy was meeting her outside the prison. From there, somehow, Daria would make her way to the Hyperion, where Angel would be waiting to give her the trigger phrases necessary to bring Faith back.
That was, of course, assuming Amy Barksdale didn’t have other ideas.
X X X X X
21 days later, Amy Barksdale stood outside the LA County Women’s Prison and waited for her niece to emerge. The three weeks had passed by very slowly. On the other hand, so she’d been told, having Daria out of prison in anything less than three months was a miracle of modern bureaucracy. But apparently Dr. Simonson had tried every trick he knew, every line of investigation, and had found no evidence that Faith was present in Daria any more, at all.
This had been enough for Judge Knott, who, ignoring the outcries of some victim’s rights groups -- who really hadn’t gotten a whole lot of support from the country, except from a handful of conservative talk show hosts and people such as Dr. Alexander Pulaski who were willing to latch onto any public topic to gain their pet cause some attention -- had decreed that Daria be released today.
Amy was not alone outside the prison; a dozen or so reporters were there as well. This was a far cry from the hundreds who’d been covering the story a few weeks back, but still more than she, and likely Daria, wanted. Any discussion between aunt and niece would have to take place either in the car or at the destination, wherever that turned out to be.
There she was. Amy had provided a duplicate of the outfit Daria had been wearing when she disappeared -- a black skirt, Doc Marten boots, an orange shirt -- but Daria had insisted on a leather jacket to cover it up. Her niece looked at Amy, then at the mob of reporters, and walked directly up to Amy, saying, “I guess you’re the lesser of two evils” as the reporters ran up.
She opened the door to Amy’s rental, but before she got in, Daria said to the reporters, “I’m glad to be out. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life beyond getting a GED and seeing if, somehow, I can go on to college. And I’m grateful to my aunts for giving me the opportunity. Thank you.”
One of the reporters, a trifle faster than the rest, asked, “What are you going to do right now?”
“Right now?” Daria said. “Find some pizza.”
“Pizza?” Amy said as they drove away from the prison.
“Pizza,” Daria confirmed. “And there’s somewhere else I have to go afterwards.”
They drove to a nearby shopping center, where there was a pizza joint called Rosario’s. They ordered a large pizza with pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms, and a couple of sodas. Afterwards, while they sat at a booth and waited, Amy said, “So, I see you don’t hate me.”
Daria sighed. “I never hated you. It would be pointless to hate you.”
“But you don’t like me very much.” Amy didn’t phrase it like a question.
“No. Not that I’m not, in a sense, grateful for everything you tried to do. Without you, I’d still be in jail. Still --”
“Still.” There was no need for Daria to go any further, and thankfully, she didn’t. “I hope you’ll forgive me some day,” Amy added.
“You’re already forgiven, to some extent. Just remember that forgive and forget are not the same thing. Still, you and Aunt Rita are basically the only family I have left. I’m not going to cut you out of my lives. Even for what you did.”
Amy thought she saw where Daria was going. “But for the moment you’d rather us not be so close by.”
“If you’ll let me, yes,” Daria said. “Not all the time, at any rate.” Amy had been afraid of something like this; on the other hand, Daria could have told her and Rita to go take a flying leap into the Pacific Ocean, and she hadn’t done that, either.
So Amy had made arrangements. “So I’m guessing you’d prefer to stay in Los Angeles?”
“Yes. In fact, that has something to do with where we’re going next. I’ve made arrangements with a friend of Faith’s -- Angel, I think you met him --” Amy admitted she had -- “And he said he’d let me stay at his hotel until I was able to figure out where I wanted to go next.” Amy wasn’t entirely sure she liked that; but she had to prove that she trusted Daria, so she didn’t raise any objections.
Instead, she said, “If you’d prefer not to, you don’t have to stay there long. I’ve made arrangements for you to have access to the reward money I had set up for anyone who provided proof that you were still alive. If you want it, that is . . .” Amy trailed off, noticing the confused look on Daria’s face. When she didn’t say anything for a minute or so, Amy added, “No obligations. I swear.”
Daria said, “Then I’ll take it.” Amy, surprised at the abruptness of her decision, simply handed over a debit card in her name, a checkbook, and a register. “There’s over $54,000 in here,” Daria said.
“A $50,000 reward with interest,” Amy said. “And it was far less than you were worth.”
For once, Daria was speechless.
X X X X X
21 days later, Daria Morgendorffer ate a slice of pizza -- absolutely delicious -- and looked at her aunt. The $54,000 revelation hadn’t changed her desire to be on her own for a while, but it did cement her opinion of her aunt as someone who had been willing to do anything to get her back, and get her out of jail, no matter whose toes she had to step on along the way, including Daria’s own.
Aunt Amy had clearly loved her very much. Just as clearly, she hadn’t known Daria at all, or she wouldn’t have behaved as she had.
Daria was still angry; she probably always would be. She also knew that letting the anger consume her was a bad idea. Amy and Rita were the only family she had left. The events of April 10, 1997 had seen to that -- and had shown her how much, ultimately, she’d loved Jake, Helen, and Quinn.
In the meantime, there were other things to do, not the least of which was get to the Hyperion hotel. She also wanted to meet the real Buffy and see if she was anything like her echo, who’d kept training her for the last few weeks. Yes, Daria’s intellect and confidence made her sure she could handle the job, but she wasn’t dumb enough to believe there was nothing she had left to learn.
She also wanted to meet Angel, who’d been supportive. To her surprise, he’d called her, making clear that he didn’t blame her for what had happened to Faith, and offering her any help she needed when she got out.
Little did he know about Faith, of course, though Daria was uncertain as to the source of her own certainty. If the Inferno dream she had had had been a prophetic one, it had been “a majorly freaky one,” at least according to the echo, who was the nearest thing to an expert she had. Still, she was certain. She suspected this was akin to religious faith -- no pun intended -- which she still did not possess. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Pun, in this case, very much intended.
Anyway, she’d asked Angel if, if Aunt Amy didn’t mandate otherwise -- and the woman seemed to be burdened enough with guilt that she had absolutely no desire to do that -- if he minded if Daria stayed there for a bit until she figured out what she was going to do next. Given how highly Faith had thought of him, Daria was fairly sure she could trust him.
She and Aunt Amy talked about the practical aspects of what she was about to do, and how to deal with reporters, if they bothered her -- and autograph seekers, for that matter. Aunt Amy also gave her the family contact information and all of her vital documents -- among other things, a duplicate birth certificate and a state-issued picture ID, which she’d managed to get Daria a brief, escorted furlough to get a week or so back.
They finished off the pizza -- delicious, wonderful pizza, the closest thing on this earth to proof that there was, in fact, a God -- and Aunt Amy drove her to the Hyperion.
A good-looking man dressed in black waited for them in the lobby. Not what Daria had pictured when she heard “private investigator.” Not that she was thinking Sam Spade; she was thinking fat, bald guy peering through hotel room keyholes. “Ms. Barksdale,” he said coolly.
“Angel,” her aunt said in a similar tone.
“I can just feel the love overflowing in this room,” Daria said dryly. Then she walked up to Angel and stood there. “I realize this must be very weird for you. For which, I apologize. Still, it’s nice to meet you.”
Angel gave a minimal bow. “Nice to meet you as well, Daria.” After a brief pause, he said, “If I didn’t know that you and Faith were the same person, I never would have guessed. You walk differently, you talk differently, you act differently.”
“I am differently,” Daria said. “It’s weird. I told you.”
“It is. But I can handle it.”
Daria nodded and turned to her aunt. “How much longer are you going to be in Los Angeles?”
“Another few days,” Aunt Amy said.
“I’ll call you before you leave,” Daria said.
“I’m being dismissed,” Aunt Amy said, frowning slightly.
“Only for the moment,” Daria said. “I promise.” She walked up to her aunt and said, “Don’t make me have to hug you to prove my sincerity.” Daria was not one for overt physical affection.
“I know better than to tempt the apocalypse,” Aunt Amy said. “I’m counting on that call.”
“You’ll get it.” They said their goodbyes, and Aunt Amy, somewhat reluctantly, left.
Daria turned back to Angel. “My aunt gave me over $50,000. So I may not have to stay here for that long.”
Angel’s eyebrows rose. “So she took my suggestion, Good?”
“More like an offhand remark. Your aunt offered to pay Maggie Silber for her efforts on your behalf; when I declined, I said maybe she might want to save it for you. I’m glad she did so.”
“So am I,” Daria said. “Still, for a few days at least, I am going to stay here.” She picked up a small bundle containing all of Faith’s worldly possessions and said, “I’d like to dump this off. Could you point me to my room?”
“In a second. First, there’s something I have to say to you.”
“I never knew you had so much rage in you.”
Daria said the response without thinking. “What can I say? I’m the world’s best actress.”
Smiling slightly, Angel said, “Second best.”
And, once again, Daria remembered.
X X X X X
21 days later, Dr. Lynette Vaughn waited, out of sight, in Angel’s office, until Amy Barksdale left, and until Angel spoke the trigger phrases. She wanted to avoid any unpleasant confrontations.
Once she heard Angel say, “Second best,” she counted off five seconds and then walked out into the Hyperion lobby.
Daria saw her first. “I remember everything,” she said. “Faith’s still here inside me. I knew it.”
“You knew it?” Angel and Lynette asked at the same time.
“Weird dream. Don’t ask.”
Lynette said. “Well, the dream was right. She is there.”
“Well then, say the magic words and let her out again.”
“I can’t. But you can.”
“You. Think about it. There’s no point in having someone else have to trigger your changes. Other people aren’t always going to be around -- especially if you need to make a quick change so Faith can go kill a vampire.”
Daria stared at her, then at Angel. “She knows,” Angel said.
“I figured that out when she mentioned slaying and vampires,” Daria said. “I was just startled. So, what are the phrases?”
Angel said, “Listen carefully. I’m going to tell you both of them before I want you to say them.” Daria nodded. “The one to turn Faith into you is ‘uranium in the drinking water.’”
“Uranium in the drinking water?” When Angel confirmed this, Daria smiled and said, “Appropriate.”
“You thought so when you came up with it,” Lynette said.
“And the one to turn you into Faith is ‘Give us a kiss.’”
Daria nodded, memorizing the phrase, and then said deliberately, “Give us a kiss.”
X X X X X
24 days later, she came to in the lobby of a hotel. She saw Angel, saw the Doc, and then, grinning widely, Faith said, “It’s about damn time.”
Angel and the Doc both smiled as well. “Good to have you back,” Angel said.
“Oh, believe you me, it ain’t half as good as it is bein’ back,” Faith said. “And, even more importantly, out. Unless DM had enough of that place and escaped.”
“She didn’t. You’re free and legal.”
“Hot damn.” Then she looked down at her outfit. “Who the hell dressed me?”
“Daria did,” the Doc said. “And I think you’re going to have some things to hash out the next time you talk in your dreams. I doubt she’s going to want to dress in the style to which you’ve become accustomed.”
“Well, she does have this somewhat kickin’ leather jacket,” Faith said. “We can deal.”
“Now Angel had a couple of phrases to teach you,” the Doc said, and Angel went on to tell her the words that would let her turn back into Daria, and the ones that would make Daria become her. “And I’m going to have to ask you to turn back into Daria for a few minutes. I know you just got out, but --”
Faith interrupted. “Relax, Doc. I’m back now. You and Angel and DM went through all that shit, you ain’t gonna give me five minutes of freedom and then lock me back away forever. Uranium in the drinking water.”
X X X X X
“And so I’m back,” Daria said.
“Yes,” Dr. Vaughn said. “I figured you’d want to give Faith some time, but there was something I wanted to go over with the both of you. First is that -- if you’d let me -- I’d like to keep trying to help you. Not to integrate you -- just to be there if you need someone.”
“I think you’ve amply proven you can be trusted,” Daria said.
“Thank you, Daria,” Dr. Vaughn said. “I don’t know what I can do beyond provide counseling --”
“You’ve already done it,” Daria said.
“I think you’ve done a lot more for yourself,” Angel said.
“I think so,” Daria said thoughtfully.
“You seem different from who you were when I first brought you back,” Dr. Vaughn said.
“What can I say?” Daria said. “Now, I have Faith.”