Disclaimer: This is it. Maybe there’ll be another adventure for Daria, Lynette Vaughn and Cameron Kim at some point, but for the moment I’m going to be concentrating on Martian Manhunter.
Thanks to everyone who’s reviewed, all the feedback, everything.
Disclaimer: Joss owns all of the Buffy and Angel characters. Glenn Eichler created the Daria characters. I created Lynette and Will Vaughn and Cameron Kim.
X X X X X
In California, the first thing both Lynette Vaughn and Buffy Summers did was make a beeline to Lynette’s home on Palladium Lane. For somewhat differing reasons, of course. Buffy wanted to be reunited with her sister, to tell her that yes, Glory was dead, and no, you won’t have to worry about being bled any longer. While Dawn Summers’ welfare was definitely of concern to Lynette, she also wanted to see her husband. They’d been apart before, and they’d be apart again, but never under circumstances like these.
Everyone else, except for Daria, was heading back for Sunnydale. Almost all of them just wanted to rest, mentally and physically, to put the events of the last week or so in perspective. Tara MacLay, for instance, was dealing with the long gash down on her arm that, just as Lynette had thought, would always be visible. A minor disfigurement, and not one that seemed to faze the young witch or her lover. But still.
Xander and Anya were dealing with their relationship. The night before they left Lawndale to come back to Los Angeles, the two of them had gone into the Lane backyard, sat in a gazebo, and discussed the ramifications of Anya’s killing of Ben.
Lynette knew this because she saw them talk, but didn’t listen in and enlisted Buffy and Daria in making sure no one else did, either.
They all had been privy to the result. Xander and the ex-demon left the gazebo holding hands, once again. The young man had said, “Love may not conquer all, but I’m damn sure going to give it its best shot at victory.”
At which point Buffy had looked at Daria and said, “So does this mean we don’t get to kick his ass?”
“Darn,” Daria had said. “And I was so looking forward to the opportunity to spindle, fold and mutilate someone. I guess I’ll just have to work out my psychotic tendencies elsewhere.”
Spike was the only one who wasn’t in the mood for immediate R&R. He announced plans to spend a couple of nights working his way around Sunnydale looking for any minions Glory might have left behind and, in his words, “Tellin’ them what we did to their god and maybe beating the piss out of any of ‘em who don’t like it.”
“Which should be most of them,” Tara had pointed out.
“Most likely.” Lynette was reasonably sure this translated to killing as many minions as he could get his hands on, but given how recently they’d been trying to kill her, she honestly didn’t care.
“Just stay alert,” Buffy had said. “It’s going to take me a little longer to get back down there and, on the off chance someone decides to take this opportunity for a little impromptu rampage through Sunnydale, I want you keeping an eye out.”
“You do?” Spike had said, startled. “You trust me that much?”
“It may be a crooked game,” Daria had said. “But it’s the only game in town.”
Spike had glared at her, but Buffy’s simultaneous “Yes” had taken some of the sting out of the glare.
Lynette left the Summers sisters to their reunion while she went to talk to Will. Buffy and the rest of them had given her leave to tell him as much or as little as she thought was necessary to explain what had happened over the last few days. She was hesitant to tell him everything. Not because she didn’t trust him; Will Vaughn was one of the most honest and honorable people she’d ever met. The question was whether he could handle the secret -- or, to be honest, whether he might think it was a really cool idea for his next show.)
For the moment she decided to take the safe route. “Hey, baby,” Will said. “Good to see you back.”
“You got the Jill of the Forest finale written and ready?”
“Oh yeah. And -- guess what?”
“Already picked up for a second season.”
This was terrific. “When?”
“Got the news earlier today. The second season’s going to air in January. Still, after I get the last two episodes shot we should have a couple of months before I have to do anything major.”
“Good,” she said.
“So. How much you gonna tell me about the last few days?”
She sat down next to him. “How much do you want to know?”
“Nothing that’ll get you arrested,” he said. “I know you can’t tell me much. Doctor-patient privilege. Still, you usually don’t go chasing across the country. And that’s not even getting into why you left Dawn Summers here.”
“Well,” she said, “The situation once Daria and I got down to Sunnydale was strange. We were going down to see this girl Buffy Summers -- the one Faith felt she needed forgiveness from. Turns out, there were these two cults down in Sunnydale --”
“The Knights of Byzantium. Jesus, baby, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m telling you now,” she said. “Anyway, they were after Buffy Summers’ younger sister . . .”
When she was done, he said, “That sounds like the plot of a show.” Before Lynette could roll her eyes at her husband’s predictability, he said, “A bad one. I try running that on Jill of the Forest and the audience’d laugh their asses off before they changed the channel to a Law & Order rerun.”
“It’s the truth,” she said.
“Oh, I know. You wouldn’t lie to me.” She just had, of course; but even with the express consent of Buffy and Daria, she still didn’t feel like these were her secrets to give.
Maybe later, she’d tell him everything.
X X X X X
By the time she got to California, Cameron Kim was already healed. She fixed her arm the second the Wolfram & Hart representatives got her onto the plane, and did her best to repair the damage to her internal organs.
The doctors they brought along for the plane ride confirmed that she’d done a pretty good job, but that she’d have to stay off active duty for a while.
Well, of course she would. Wolfram & Hart just didn’t know how long a while would be, yet.
Lilah, of course, wasn’t on the plane. The doctors cleared out of the “hospital room” they had set up for the plane ride back to LA, and Cameron called Lilah back in LA. “Don’t turn your cell phones on in flight” didn’t apply to custom-built, magical Wolfram & Hart phones.
Unless, of course, Wolfram & Hart wanted the person on board to die in a flaming wreck. It had only happened once so far. The hazards of trusting Wolfram & Hart tech too far.
Speaking of which: She’d have to hand in her ring when she got back, and remember that from here on out to shapechange naked -- either that, or to get an unlimited charge account at Macy’s. Hmmm. Could be fun either way.
Anyway. Lilah. “So I take it you have the general idea and just want me to fill in a few details?” Cameron said.
“Yes,” Lilah said. “That Glorificus is now dead seems painfully obvious. That she’s now dead is also what turns this mission from a disaster into, possibly, a success. Tell me what happened.”
So Cameron told her everything she could, starting with Lilah’s intuition having been right about the Key being Dawn Summers, and ending when she got thrown into the tree. She started to describe the rest of the fight, but Lilah interrupted with, “This DeMartino saw you change?”
“Yes. But he apparently already knew about magic and doesn’t want to go to any insane asylums,” Cameron said. “He’s not going to say anything.”
“Okay. Low priority, anyway. The only ones he could expose are the Slayers and you. Don’t bother with the rest of the fight; the important thing there is that you woke up to a dead hellgod. As for your first assignment --” Everything hinged on how Lilah phrased this next question -- “You were in close contact with Daria Morgendorffer and quite possibly everyone on the planet who would know if Faith, the Slayer, still exists. So. Does she?”
Cameron relaxed. “No. She doesn’t. Any signs of Slayer abilities can be chalked up to the muscle memory. Not that she’s an incompetent fighter herself. But Daria Morgendorffer is not Faith Lehane.”
Lilah said, “Good. Money we didn’t waste, then. Let’s make sure we encourage her to have a nice, long, peaceful life. It doesn’t bother us if she reacts to a few people screaming for help now and again. As long as she doesn’t interfere with her plans.”
“As far as I know, she has no plans to do so.”
“Good. As far as Dawn Summers being the Key, I blew that as much as you did, and it’s too late to hide my mistake there from the Senior Partners. Or blame it all on you.”
“If you want to do that,” Cameron said, “It wouldn’t bother me.”
Lilah laughed. “One of the first times I’ve ever heard someone here actually volunteer to take more blame than they deserve -- at least, without having their family being held hostage, or something. You really are too honorable for words, aren’t you, Kim? How the hell did you get mixed up with us?”
“I signed a contract,” Cameron said.
“Right. Well, the doctors say you’re on light duty for a few days until they’re sure your internal injuries have healed; and since pretty much everything you do counts as not light duty, after you come by and give your detailed report in person I’m putting you on leave.”
“Good,” she said. “I could use the time off.”
And then Cameron came back to LA, made her final report, and went home.
X X X X X
In California, Buffy was reunited with Dawn.
As a tearful, joyous reunion it left something to be desired. They sniped at each other for a few minutes -- mostly playfully -- until Buffy finally said, “Look, are you glad to be alive?”
“Then I think the matter’s settled.”
Dawn said, “Probably. But don’t think I’m not going to hold this over you for the rest of my life.”
“Me hold it over you?” Dawn nodded. Buffy shook her head and said, “Only you could take the fact that this plan saved your life and somehow turn it into something that I owe you.”
“That’s what little sisters are for,” Dawn said.
“I think I saw that in the dictionary somewhere. Right next to the phrase pain in the ass.”
Dawn said, “You read a dictionary?”
“I’m not completely intellectually deficient,” Buffy said.
“Let me rephrase that. You read?”
Dawn’s voice got serious. “Buffy?”
“You do realize I don’t mean any of these things I’m saying, right? You do realize that I missed you and I’m glad you’re all alive and all of that, right?”
Buffy came over and gave her a hug. When she pulled free, she said, “Of course I do. Glory’s dead. Everyone survived. And, probably the most important thing of all, Xander and Anya made up.”
“Good. Because he was being a real jackass.”
“I don’t know,” Buffy said. “It kind of startled me, too.”
“Yeah, but I’m betting it stopped bothering you long before it stopped bothering Xander.”
Buffy sighed. “Don’t get me wrong. Someone had to do it. It was, unfortunately, the only way to stop Glory. Even after Daria and Spike and Willow beat the living hell out of her she didn’t die; she just became Ben again. But I don’t like that we had to. I accept that we had to, but there’s a difference. I will never like that. And I hope like hell none of us ever has to do something like it again.” She paused, then added, “I just don’t want it to ever be easy. For any of us.”
“You don’t get to control what the rest of us do,” Dawn said. The tone made it not a challenge or a shot, but a simple reminder. Buffy took it that way.
“Well, you’re wrong about that,” Buffy said. “I get to control what you do.”
Dawn started laughing.
Buffy said, “Well, I get to try.” She looked around. “Not a bad place to hole up for a few days, if you have to hole up.”
“It wasn’t complete torture,” Dawn said. “Mr. Vaughn was nice, though I really don’t think he interacts with kids much. Basically I watched TV and read a lot. Including that book Daria’s aunt wrote about her.”
“Yeah. I think even you might like it.”
“You forget. I don’t read.”
“Right. Well, the first thing to do is teach you what letters are. This,” she said, pointing to the cover of the book, “Is an A.”
“Hold on,” Buffy said. “You’re going too fast.” Then, another smile. “I did miss you, too, you know. Cameron might have looked like you and did her best to act like you, but she wasn’t you.”
“Back atcha.” Then, after a second, “So, where do we go from here, and how do we get there? ‘cause if you’re driving, I’m so walking.”
“Relax,” Dr. Vaughn’s voice came from the other room. “I remember the rule: Buffy doesn’t drive even if the world’s about to come to an end. We’re going over to visit Cameron Kim, and then to drop in on Daria.”
“Where is Daria?”
“Making arrangements,” Buffy said.
X X X X X
In California, Daria Morgendorffer --
Check that. Daria Faith Morgendorffer --
Waited in the lobby of the Hyperion. If Angel and his crew took much longer, they might have to go looking for them.
And Daria would go. Angel was one of the few people who’d stuck by her, in either incarnation.
While she waited, she read, and she thought.
Thought back to her decision.
“Thanks,” she’d told Willow. “But I think I’m going to stay as I am.”
Xander’d said, “You sure about that? Magic effect in the head not always the wacky fun time it sounds like.”
“I’m sure,” Daria’d said.
“Hold on,” Willow had said. “Xander’s got a point. Do you trust me to do a quick check of your head?”
Daria had told her to go ahead. Willow had muttered a couple of words, closed her eyes, and concentrated.
“I don’t see anything.”
“Old joke,” Daria said.
“I couldn’t resist.”
“Next time, try harder. I assume you mean you saw nothing wrong?”
“Exactly. Magic might have caused your integration, but your brain right now is stable. As stable as it ever was, anyway.”
“So, just to be clear, anyone who wants to tamper ain’t going to have it any easier because of Glory’s interference. Am I right?”
Willow had nodded. “You’re right.”
“Good. Then I have a question for you: When you stuck your hands inside the hellbitch’s head and drained her, how much did you get?”
“We, we didn’t measure,” Tara had said. “It’s, you know, not exactly the kind of thing they sell at Target.”
“Probably wouldn’t make much money if they did,” Jane had said. The two of them would still try to stay friends -- even if that meant Jane had to get to know the new Daria all over again. But they’d give it a shot.
“Do you have a rough idea?” Daria had said. “Shit, I’m not looking for precise measurements anyway.”
“Probably enough for two people,” came Willow’s response. “Maybe three.”
“Well, then, go cure a few.”
Jane had said, “Could you have Mack be one of them? Even though he was a member of this little cult, I always kind of liked the guy. He was one of the few reasonably sane people around Lawndale.”
B’d echoed it. “Yeah, put my vote in there as well.”
Willow said, “Shouldn’t be a problem. Anyone else you want? There’s a list of the mad in the morning paper.”
“A list of the mad?” Daria had said. “Wouldn’t that be longer than the newspaper? And by newspaper I mean the New York Times. The Sunday edition. And the Manhattan phone directory.”
“Okay, fine. A list of the recently insane.”
“I think my point holds.”
Jane, meanwhile, had been looking at the paper. “Good heavens, no. All that’s on here is a bunch of people from the school. Most of them would probably function better as deranged lunatics.” After a pause, she added, “Certainly, the school’s going to function better.”
“Almost makes you wish you could go back there to find out, huh?” Daria had asked.
Jane’s eyes had widened. “I’m not the one who needs their sanity restored around here, amiga.”
And then they’d come home. She had Jane’s phone number. She actually had the damn thing memorized. Oh, she didn’t need anyone, but it was kind of nice having a few people she could actually rely on. Jane. Doc Vaughn, Buffy, probably, even if that was more a Slayery-bonding-type thing than a genuine connection. And Angel.
“Assuming,” she muttered to herself, “That he ever actually shows up again!”
And right then, of course, is when the double front doors to the Hyperion opened. Angel entered, followed by Wesley, Cordelia, and two people Daria hadn’t seen before, one a good-looking black guy with a shaved head, the other a woman who looked like she needed a change of clothes and a bath.
“There’s no place like . . . “ He stopped when he saw Daria standing there. “Daria?”
“What’s going on?” Cordelia said.
“This note should explain everything,” Daria said. “Or it would have if you’d been here to read the damn thing.”
Angel took the note and read it, then passed it to Cordelia. The bald black guy told the unfamiliar woman, “C’mon, Fred. Let’s get you upstairs. I’m sure Angel’ll tell us what’s going on later.” The tone implied that Angel had fucking well better explain it.
After Wesley read the note, he said, “All this note says is, ‘Pick up Dawn from the home of Will Vaughn as soon as you can.” That’s hardly an explanation.”
“Hey, I said it should explain everything, not that it actually dead. So sue me if Buffy’s note-writing skills ain’t what they should be.”
“First off,” Angel said, “Is everyone okay?”
“Give or take the odd concussion or gash, yes,” Daria said.
“Gash?” Cordelia said.
“Willow’s girl Tara got herself a long, nasty cut down her arm.”
“How?” Wesley said.
“Long story,” Daria said.
“Before you tell it, can I ask a question?”
“Absolutely,” Daria said.
“Who the hell are you? You look and sound like Daria and Faith combined.”
“Which is why I referred to the tale of my recent adventures as a ‘long story’ and not a ‘short story,’ “ Daria said.
“I think ours can beat yours,” Cordelia said.
“I doubt it. We traveled across the country.”
“We traveled to an alternate dimension.”
“I found someone I’m hoping will be a friend.”
“I found a really hot guy who loves me.”
“We fought minions.”
“We killed evil priests.”
“We killed a god.”
Cordelia threw her hands in the air, “Fine, you win.” Daria smiled slightly.
“So, what happened?” Angel said.
Daria told them the whole story. The other guy -- turned out his name was Gunn -- came down, but apart from saying, “Fred’s asleep,” didn’t say anything while Daria was telling her story.
“So you’re really both Daria and Faith?” Angel said.
“Got it in one,” Daria said. “Call me Daria Faith Morgendorffer. Now, anyone else need me to repeat that? I do realize it’s a concept that might not lend itself readily to immediate apprehension. Even for someone with as big a brain as yours, Wes.”
Wesley said, “No, I believe I got it the first time. Now. As for Ms. Kim: We really won’t be able to offer her much money.”
“Obviously you didn’t get it, Wes,” Angel said. “The important thing there isn’t how much we pay her; it’s that she’s bound by contract to us. For life.”
“Fair enough,” Wesley said. “I shall have one drawn up tomorrow morning.”
“I do realize that you all just got back from an adventure of your own and probably want to wind down,” Daria said. “But is there any chance you might be able to at least come up with a preliminary contract earlier?”
“Like, say, now?”
More people had just entered the Hyperion:
B, Dawn, Doc Vaughn . . . and Cameron Kim. B had been the one who’d just spoken. “Good to see you in one piece,” Daria said.
“Thanks,” Cameron said. Then she turned to Wesley. “The reason I might need the contract now is that I just called Wolfram & Hart and announced my resignation. Since I’m guessing they’re not too happy, having another official contract would help. It would help me, at any rate.”
Wesley said, “Come into the back room. We can negotiate.”
As they left, Cordelia said to Buffy, “Did you really do everything Daria said you did?”
Looking at Daria, B said, “Depends. What did she say I did?”
Daria smiled. “You’re learning, grasshopper.”
“I’m sorry we weren’t here,” Angel said.
“Right,” B said. “You’re none of you allowed to have your own lives.”
As Cordelia snorted, Angel said. “Okay, so the apology’s not necessary.”
“And just because we weren’t killing a god doesn’t mean we weren’t actually busy,” Cordelia said.
“No one said otherwise,” Daria said. “Look. I got money from my aunt, I’m going to want to get my GED and go on to college, but once I’m done training with Buffy over here I’m thinking I might want to give you guys a hand, too.”
Angel said, “Sure. Um, are you going to want a contract too?”
“Naah,” Daria said. “I think I’m good. I have a place to stay --” she nodded at Doc Vaughn -- “And I have enough money to last me a while. Besides, I’m a Slayer. Charging for saving someone from a vampire seems to miss the point.” A pause, then: “Although it would be amusing, running alongside someone and saying, ‘Really? Your life is only worth $500?’ I wouldn’t do it.” Another beat. “Unless it was really funny.”
Doc Vaughn said, “Daria . . .” with a slight air of reprimand.
“I did say unless it was funny.”
B said, “Hold on. You still need to train?”
Daria said, “Of course. Even with the Slayer instinct now fully installed, I’m still much weaker at most weapons than you are. I might be better than you are with knives, but I think you could probably beat me with pretty much everything else.”
“She could kick you from here to next Tuesday,” Dawn said.
“I’m not so sure,” B murmured. “I think I’d win more often than not, but I think you’re better than you think.”
“Hey. I have low self-esteem on most things. My ability to kick your ass in a fight isn’t one of them.”
“Isn’t this where we came in?” B said.
“More or less,” Daria said. “So,” then she raised her voice slightly, “How’s it going in there, Wes?”
“We have a preliminary contract written and signed,” Wesley said.
Right then, a group of demons burst through the front door of the Hyperion. “Where’s Cameron Kim?” the one in the lead said.
“Right here,” Cameron said, walking out from whatever back room she’d been in. Pulling a rung from her finger, she threw it to the lead demon. “I think this belongs to you.”
“So do you,” the demon said.
“Not any more,” Cameron said.
“You’re in violation of your contract,” the demon said.
“Actually, her contract is with us, now,” Wesley said, emerging from the back room. “Her contract with you expired the minute she died. I believe this was all explained to Ms. Morgan.”
“It was,” Cameron said.
“And as for being in violation,” Angel said, “You’re on my property without my permission. I give you five seconds to leave. If Wolfram & Hart wants to discuss this, they can do it during normal business hours.”
“You think you can take us?” the demons said.
“Let’s see,” Daria said. “Ten of you, and one, two, three four, five, six, seven, eight, nine of us. So I believe the answer to that question is an unqualified ‘yes.’”
The demons shrugged and attacked.
Even though Dawn and Doc Vaughn hung back, and Cordelia stayed on the periphery, the battle was over in minutes. Cameron pressed the ring into the hands of the surviving demon and said, “Tell her I have a new contract.”
The demon nodded twice, backed up, turned and ran.
“I noticed a little mistake there before the fight,” B said. “You said there were nine of us.”
“Yeah, I believe I did.”
B ticked off on her fingers. “Me, you, Dawn, Cameron, Dr. Vaughn, Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia.”
Daria smiled. “I count twice.”