Author’s Note: Welcome to the sequel. There will be seven viewpoint characters. You meet five of them in this part. Two guesses who the other two are.
Disclaimer: Daria belongs to Glenn Eichler. Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon. Lynette Vaughn and Cameron Kim belong to me.
X X X X X
"Are you quite certain about this, Buffy?" Giles asked. "With everything else going on right now?"
"Yeah, I am," Buffy said, "And even if I wasn't, it would be too late to do anything about it now. Unless we turn off all the lights and pretend we're not here. But somehow I don't think that would work."
"I suspect not," Giles said.
"Yeah," Buffy said, "I'm dropping out of college tomorrow, yeah, there's always Glory to deal with, and that's kind of my top priority. But taking a look at the person who used to be Faith isn't exactly like killing time watching old Law & Order reruns."
"However," Buffy said as she turned around to glare at everyone else in the store, "I don't recall asking for an audience."
"You don't have to ask," Willow said. "We're happy to help." When Buffy didn't stop glaring, Willow said, more seriously, "And anyway, I figured you might need my magic around if things get hairy."
"Okay, you make sense. And the rest of you?"
"I came with Willow," Tara said.
"I'm just curious," Xander said.
"Me too!" Dawn piped up.
"I work here," Anya said.
"Since when?" Giles asked wryly.
"Uh-huh. That's what I thought. You, you, and you -- out." With ill grace, Xander and Dawn left. As Tara walked out, she flashed Buffy a small smile, showing that she, at least, wasn't offended. Turning to Anya, she said, “You. Go do inventory.”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do,” Anya said.
“I do,” Giles said. “Go do inventory.”
Surlily, Anya stalked off into the basement, muttering under her breath how she wouldn’t have been treated like this when she was a vengeance demon, and how they all would have suffered horribly, yada yada yada.
“I must say,” Giles said after Anya was out of earshot, “I’m surprised that she’s coming down here so soon after being released from prison.”
“Part of it, she said, is that she wanted to meet me -- she is, after all, a Slayer, even if she doesn’t have a whole lot of experience at it -- part of it is wanting to get away from LA and all the publicity, and part of it has to do with an echo.”
“An echo,” Buffy said. “When I asked what she meant, she said she’d explain it when she saw me.”
“Which would be now,” came a voice from the door.
X X X X X
The three people in the room all turned to look at Daria. Buffy, of course, she recognized immediately. The other two she wasn’t completely sure of, though Faith had provided thorough descriptions the last time they’d talked. It was still annoying that the only way they could communicate was in notes or dreams, but Dr. Vaughn was reluctant to tinker with the wall between them. “She set it up for a reason,” she’d said. “I couldn’t tell you what it is, but I’m not going to tear it down. If it comes down, it’ll come down on its own.”
Daria continued with what she’d been saying. “That is,” she said, “Assuming I’m the she you’re talking about.”
“That’s a big yes,” Buffy said. “Daria . . . Morgendoffer, I presume?”
“Almost,” Daria said, not taking offense. “Morgendorffer. And you’re Buffy Summers, of course.”
“Of course,” Buffy said, a trifle uneasily. “But how did you know?”
“The echo,” Daria said. “But I’ll get to that later. My guess, then, is that you are Rupert Giles -- and you are Willow Rosenberg.” At their equally puzzled expressions, Daria said, “Faith described you.”
“She . . . described us?” Willow asked.
“In my dreams. The only time we ever talked.” In the meantime, Giles -- Faith called him that, so Daria felt comfortable doing it as well -- had moved around from behind the counter. He walked over to Daria circled slowly around her. When it felt to Daria like she was taking too long, she said, “Go ahead. Kick the tires. Take her out for a test drive. See how she handles.”
Looking a bit sheepish, Giles took a step back and said, “Um, yes. Sorry about that. It’s just that --”
“Let me guess. If you didn’t know I was Faith, you never would have figured it out.”
Giles said, “Quite frankly, yes. I might have noted a resemblance, but apart from the leather jacket the two of you come across entirely differently.”
“I’ve gotten that before. The accent, the clothes, the way I carry myself, the tone of my voice.”
“Once again, I apologi--”
“Don’t bother,” Daria said. “I understand your reasons. But you can see why I’d be a little tired of being treated like I was on display at an art museum.”
“I would have known,” Willow said.
“Really?” Daria asked. “Magically, or do I just have an unmistakable air of Faithness about me? And I was so sure about that deodorant, too.”
“You know what they say about leopards and spots,” Willow said coldly.
“That they have them?”
“You can see why we’d be suspicious,” Willow said.
“Being suspicious is fine,” Daria said. “Just don’t act like I’m not here while you’re doing it.”
“Believe me,” Willow said, “I wasn’t planning to.” Okay. The attitudes had been well-defined. Willow was openly hostile, Giles was more curious than anything else, and Buffy was guarded, but willing to be civil, at least. That was a reasonably good start.
She walked up to Buffy and said, “Let’s get this off to a more formal start. Daria Morgendorffer. Nice to meet you.”
A bit bemused, Buffy said, “Buffy Summers. Likewise. And you were right -- that’s Rupert Giles, and that’s Willow Rosenberg.”
Daria bowed slightly to each of them in turn. Giles returned the bow. Willow, pointedly, did not.
Buffy said, “So, pretty much all we know about you is the few things Angel’s told us and what we’ve read in the paper. Care to give us the details?”
“I prefer to remain a woman of mystery,” Daria said, deadpan. Then she smiled slightly and said, “But it’s only fair, I suppose. So far, you seem like you’re off to a good tart, so why don’t I open the floor up for questions?” Willow stood up, and Daria said, “Yes? The annoyed redhead standing behind the table?”
Willow glared at her for a second, then said, “Why should I trust you?”
Daria shrugged. “I never said you had to. Whether you do or not is entirely up to you. I cam here to meet Buffy and discuss this Slaying job that seems to have fallen into my lap. That’s it. I have no plans to hurt any of you. But those may change at a moment’s notice. Depending on how irritated I get.” She’d moved forward as she said it, until, at the end, she was staring directly into Willow’s eyes from maybe three feet away. Willow returned her gaze with equal intensity.
“Whoa, back off, both of you,” Buffy said, placing her arms between them and gently moving them aside. “Now. Daria. Do you think you can handle being a Slayer?”
“The way I understand it, it’s not as though I really have a choice,” Daria said. “The forces arranged against us are willing to pay assassins to come after me in prison, so it’s pretty obvious there’s nowhere to hide.”
“Someone sent an assassin after you?” Daria explained what had happened -- Mrs. Krueger’s attack, the Korean shapeshifter’s intervention, and how she’d managed to defeat her.
“Not bad,” Buffy said. “Listening like that. Very clever.”
“I don’t seem to have the instinct that you and Faith do -- did,” Daria said. “I have to make up for it by thinking quickly and well.”
“Especially good for someone with no training.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say no training,” Daria said. “I did have the echo.”
“Yes,” Giles said. “About this echo . . .”
“Oh, good,” said a voice from the door. “I finally get to hear about this. She’s been putting off telling me for days.”
“And you would be?” Buffy asked.
“You didn’t mention me? Daria. I’m hurt.”
“Forgive me,” Daria said. “Buffy Summers, Rupert Giles . . . Willow Rosenberg, this is my friend, sounding board, and occasional keeper, Dr. Lynette Vaughn.”
X X X X X
It had taken Lynette Vaughn over five minutes after she dropped Daria off to find a parking spot and walk back to the store called the Magic Box. Once she got there, she had to shoulder her way through two young adults standing by the front door, trying desperately to look like they weren’t eavesdropping.
Eventually, she said, “Excuse me,” and they moved slightly, just enough to let her in, and she walked into the store just in time to hear Daria mention the echo. She spoke up, which led to introductions all the way around -- there was visible hostility between Daria and Willow Rosenberg.
“So,” Lynette said after the introductions, “About that echo . . .”
“Right,” Daria said. “This is kind of unusual --”
“Around here,” Buffy said, “The unusual isn’t unusual. Spill.”
“Remember when I said it wasn’t that I’d had no training? I got it in my dreams. For a while, it was Faith. Then, when she went away, I thought I’d be alone in that apartment --”
“Apartment?” Buffy asked.
“She said it was a place she went to a lot, in her dreams,” Daria said.
“I’ve been there a couple of times myself,” Buffy said.
“In any event, the next time I dreamed is when the echo showed up and told me that it was her turn to train me. The echo isn’t my name for her; it’s what she called herself.”
Apparently interested despite her barely masked enmity towards Daria, Willow Rosenberg asked, “An echo of what?”
“Of Buffy,” Daria said.
“That’s how I recognized you,” Daria said. “According to her, at least, she’s a combination of Faith’s perceptions of you and a small part of your consciousness left behind when you switched bodies, at one point.”
“That is fascinating,” Rupert Giles said.
“And convenient,” Willow said.
“You’re absolutely right,” Daria said. “It is convenient. While I have Faith’s muscle memory, that might not be enough. So the existence of the echo allowed me to at least undergo some form of training. I’m not saying I’m ready to take on a horde of slavering vampires, but I think I can handle one or two.”
“That sounds like a challenge to me,” Buffy said calmly. Lynette was finding it hard to get a read on Buffy Summers; while she didn’t come across as overtly hostile, she didn’t seem to have accepted Daria yet, either.
Which meant, barring a major emergency, that it would be a while before they could reveal Faith’s continued existence to these people.
“It wasn’t intended to come across that way,” Daria said. “I’m not overflowing with a sense of how wonderful I am. Really. Still, I’m not surprised you’d want to test me. Would you prefer I just take a swing at you, or were you thinking of something a bit more formal?”
Buffy said, “More formal. That’s what we have the training room for.”
And with that, the front door slammed open and the two people she’d had to force her way past to get inside the shop came in, and the young man said, “If you think we’re missing this, you’re nuts.”
“Me too,” a voice from somewhere ahead said, as a young woman with brown hair came up a set of stairs ahead of them. Willow Rosenberg was looking around, but apparently whoever she was looking for wasn’t showing up.
“Let me see if I can guess,” Daria said. “You’re Xander, and you’re Dawn, and you . . . I don’t think Faith knew you.”
“Anya,” the young woman said as the other two nodded. Daria briefly introduced herself and Lynette.
Irritably, Buffy said, “I thought I told you to--”
“And since when do we ever do what you say?” Dawn asked.
“Giles,” Buffy said pleadingly.
“I prefer to think of this as ‘payment in kind,’” Rupert Giles said.
Lynette, of course, couldn’t get a reading on Xander, Dawn or Anya yet. Their prime emotion at the moment appeared to be nosiness, but then they hadn’t really had a real chance to interact with either her or Daria. Not that Lynette was concerned with what they felt about her. But she would have to keep monitoring everyone to see if Willow Rosenberg’s hostility was shared by anyone else.
In the meantime, apparently, there was going to be a sparring contest.
X X X X X
It had taken Cameron Kim ten minutes or so to locate the car belonging to Dr. Lynette Vaughn then another three to find her own parking spot. For the moment, at least, she was 5’9”, white, and thin, with blonde hair and green eyes. She wasn’t overly gorgeous or overly ugly. She wanted to blend, not stand out.
She’d been keeping track of Daria Morgendorffer for three days, and until this morning she hadn’t done anything even remotely suspicious. Mostly, she’d stayed in the hotel belong to Wolfram & Hart enemy Angel, with occasional trips out for books, clothes, and pizza. (The girl never seemed to eat anything except pizza.)
This morning, though, she and Dr. Vaughn had abruptly gotten in the psychiatrist’s car and started driving. Cameron had nearly let them slip out of sight before she managed to catch up, and had trailed them at a non-suspicious distance all the way to Sunnydale.
She knew what was in Sunnydale, so she’d called Lilah Morgan. The attorney had said, “Hmmm. That’s not exactly what we wanted to hear. See what she does. If she kills any vampires for any reason other than self-defense, call me back and we’ll go from there.”
Cameron had said she understood, and hung up.
Which left her where she was now, approaching the front of the store called The Magic Box. Unfortunately, there were two people huddled around the door, and Cameron, for the moment at least, didn’t want to draw attention to herself. So she kept walking and went into the alley behind the store, where she found an open service door and, altering her ears to give herself better hearing, stopped to listen.
All she picked up was a conversation about a sparring match, then, a minute or so, a few sounds of combat.
Before she could hear anything else, she was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat and saying, “Pardon me, but you’re in my spot.”
Turning around, Cameron saw a pale-skinned creature who looked like a deformed Cardassian. “I don’t see your name on it,” she said.
“I was hoping not to have to resort to violence,” the Cardassian said, pulling out a knife. “But if you force me to --”
“I was hoping the same thing,” she said, who wasn’t really all that fond of fighting but who was perfectly able to do it if she had to. “But I don’t see any reason why we both can’t listen in.”
“If it was my choice, I would agree in a second. But the divine Glorificus told me to listen privately, and what the divine one wants, she gets.”
“Who the hell is Glorificus?” Cameron asked.
The Cardassian couldn’t have looked more offended if he’d tried. “Her magnificence is the most of mighty of powers! Do not interfere with her plan to return to her home dimension or it will go quite badly for you.”
She said, “I work for Wolfram & Hart. Your ‘mighty power’ doesn’t scare me.”
The Cardassian simply came at her with the knife. The expression on his face when Cameron turned into the leopard was hilarious.
X X X X X
Speaking of the divine Glorificus, she was in her apartment, tapping her foot and feeling angry, yes, very angry indeed. “Send a minion out to do one simple job,” she said. “Eavesdrop on the Slayer. Find out who the Key is. Kidnap them for me. Really. Is this asking too much?”
“No, divine --”
“It was a rhetorical question, dumbass,” Glory said. “It looks like I’m just going to have to do this the hard way. Tomorrow, I think I’ll start with that blonde witch. She seems new.”
“And if it’s not her, magnificence?”
The minions were loyal, but very stupid. “Then I’ll drain her brain and move on to someone else. Do I have to spell everything out for you people?”