Willow and Tara's grips tightened around Not Buffy's arms, and Not Buffy stopped struggling.
"Xander, what are you talking about?" Not Buffy asked. "I'm not super strong. And I've told you a thousand times not to call me—"
"He's right," said Tara. "This isn't Buffy. Something about her feels wrong."
"What?" Not Buffy exclaimed.
"What are you, really?" Xander asked, leaning in closer and trying to look as intimidating as possible. "What are you trying to pull? Because I can tell you right now — whatever you're pulling, we're not pulling it."
"I'm just trying to save the world like I always do!" Not Buffy shouted. "What's wrong with you people?"
"It could be some sort of sorcery or witchcraft," Giles proposed. "Some creature from the underworld, perhaps, trying to take on Buffy's form."
"I'm not anything from the underworld!" Not Buffy snapped. "I'm just—"
"Hello!" came the cheerful voice of the Buffy-bot, as she strode over to them. Her eyes landed on Not Buffy. "Oh, hello," said the Buffy-bot. "You're me."
"You're Warren's robot, right?" Not Buffy asked.
"Yes, Warren designed me," the Buffy-bot confirmed, with a plastic smile. "I like Warren. He's very nice."
"Okay," said Not Buffy. "Then in that case, initiate emergency sequence 0-Alpha-7-9."
The Buffy-bot froze. Then, in a weird, stilted voice, she said, "DNA scan proceeding." The Buffy-bot's eyes scanned Not Buffy up and down, slowly. Then, the eyes shut, and the bot reached forwards, and pricked the tip of Not Buffy's finger. Then it whirred again, and went still. "Scan complete. DNA direct match to Buffy Anne Summers."
"I'm not called — oh, never mind," said Not Buffy. She looked over at Willow. "Believe me, now?"
"I didn't know the Buffy-bot could do that," said Willow.
"It worked last time," said Not Buffy. "With Warren's other robot. April. Remember? When I tinkered around inside and convinced her that…" She trailed off, as she noticed the blank faces around her. "You don't remember that?" She took a deep breath, then glanced over at Willow. "Willow. When we first met, I asked you for help in school, and you were all shy around boys so I told you to seize the day, and later that evening you nearly got eaten alive and I had to rescue you. Please tell me you remember that."
Willow hesitated. "You… could have just heard that."
"Okay, well, what about… when you first told me about you and Tara?" said Not Buffy. "We were in the dorm, and you were hugging that big stuffed dog of yours, and I thought Tara was in love with Oz, but then I had one of those 'world shifting 180 degrees' moments, and started calling you 'Will' over and over again, and you got mad. Remember?" She looked into Willow's eyes. "Remember… ziti and the rented scooter with John Cusack?"
Willow's grip loosened around Maybe Buffy's arm. "Buffy?"
"Will, please, I told you not to call me that," said Maybe Buffy.
Willow looked blankly at her. "What… should I call you?"
"Elizabeth," said Elizabeth. "Come on, Will. You've got to remember me! I'm your best friend."
"But… but…" Willow sputtered. She looked over at Giles. "Buffy's real name isn't Elizabeth. I thought we checked that out when we made the gravestone."
"I think the more important issue," said Giles, "is that this Elizabeth, whoever she may be, seems to know all of us — well, with the exception of myself and Anya — but we don't seem to know her."
Elizabeth looked around at them. "I… huh?"
"It's clear you're not Buffy," said Giles. "But you do seem to share many of her memories."
"Maybe it's kind of like Dawn," said Willow. "Except, you know, with Buffy. Someone made a replacement Buffy, and gave her all the right memories, except… they forgot a few."
"Oh, no," said Xander. "Not that again. I'm Hell-goddessed out. For life."
Tara released her hold on Elizabeth's arm. "Do you know anything about this?" she asked Elizabeth.
"I'm still hoping you'll all shout, 'ha-ha, just kidding,' and go back to normal," Elizabeth told her.
"You're me, except you're old," the Buffy-bot reported to Elizabeth, a smile still plastered across her face. "Why are you so old?"
"You know what?" said Elizabeth, with a sigh. "That's really not helping."
"What precisely does that mean?" Giles asked the Buffy-bot. He glanced over at Anya. "This wouldn't imply that Elizabeth used to be some sort of demon or—"
"Buffy is 20 years old," chirped the Buffy-bot. She turned to Elizabeth. "Your DNA says you're 22."
"Yeah," Elizabeth said. "Believe me, I know."
"So you're, like, Buffy's older sister?" Willow asked.
"I'm not — look, legally speaking, I am Buffy Anne Summers!" Elizabeth said. "I don't like to be called that. I don't respond to that. But, if you want to be technical, that's my name. I may be a little older, but I'm still just the same as I was before I left."
"Wait, what if this is Buffy," said Willow, "but that portal took her to some Hell dimension or something, and she's spent the last two years in Hell?"
Elizabeth gave a dry laugh. "More like four," she muttered.
"Not even a Hell dimension would be able to strip Buffy of her Slayer abilities," said Giles. "And this Buffy is a completely ordinary human girl. No super strength, no quick reflexes, none of it."
"Are you blind?" Spike said. "She's obviously faking it. This isn't Buffy. It's an evil demon taking Buffy's form."
Elizabeth lunged for Anya's stake. "That's it," she said. "I'm going to kill him."
Willow and Tara pulled her back.
"Hate to point out the obvious," said Xander. "But… she did
just save the world. And she put her own life in danger to save Anya, without knowing who Anya was. I'm pretty sure evil demons don't do stuff like that."
"But if she's not an evil demon," said Willow, letting Elizabeth go, "and she's not Buffy, then who is she?"
The Scoobies all looked over to Giles. Giles was musing the situation over, thinking it through. "Well, there's one very obvious explanation," he said. "The portal Glory opened nearly merged every reality together. I suppose this… Elizabeth… might be Buffy from another world. One in which myself and Anya, apparently, never played an active role."
"Portal?" asked Elizabeth. She twirled her finger in the air, miming the portal. "Big? Blue? Circley? Lots of crackling energy stuff? Opened up right over…." Her eyes flicked upwards, and she saw the scaffolding that Glory had erected, and her hand dropped. "That's weird. That wasn't there a few minutes ago."
"So this is like that time when Anya did the temporal fold!" Willow said to Giles. "You know, when evil vampire me showed up? This is Buffy, but it's not Buffy."
"Would that make Elizabeth the evil Buffy?" Tara asked.
"I'm not evil," Elizabeth said, crossing her arms.
"Not necessarily," said Giles. "Although… I suppose given the number of Hell dimensions out there, it is likely that—"
"My major hobby is saving the world!" Elizabeth snapped. "On a weekly basis. I'm the one fighting off the forces of darkness, here! Not helping them." She reflected, a small smile crawling up her face. "Huh. 'Fighting off the forces of darkness.' That's kind of catchy."
"Well, she's not a vampire," said Spike. "I can hear her blood pumping."
Elizabeth turned on Spike. "Don't think I've forgotten about you," she warned. She put herself between Spike and the others. "They may not be letting me kill you, now, but I swear. If you touch one hair on my friends' heads, I'll find a way to put a stake through your heart."
"And that's very Buffy," said Xander.
"So you're saying this is Buffy," said Tara. "Actual Buffy. Looking like Buffy, acting like Buffy, completely identical to Buffy in every way. Except she's from another world. One where she's named Elizabeth."
"And one in which she never got Called," Giles said.
"And one where she's still alive," Xander added.
"And one where I don't exist," Anya volunteered. She glanced over at Giles. "Along with… some other people."
"Yeah, about that. Who are you, exactly?" Elizabeth asked Anya. "And why don't I know you?"
"I'm Anya," said Anya. "Xander's—"
"Girlfriend," Xander cut in. "And you probably wouldn't know her, because — in this world, at least — she spent 1100 years as a vengeance demon. Except she's not a vengeance demon anymore, she's just a normal person."
Elizabeth thought about this for a moment. Then shrugged. "Okay," she said.
Tara and Willow looked at each other. "You're not… freaked out by the whole alive for 1100 years thing?" asked Tara.
"I've dated older," said Elizabeth. "Or, at least, he said he was. Although, he did lie. A lot."
"Who?" Anya asked. "Do I know them?"
"What I want to know," said Elizabeth, ignoring Anya, "is why a demon would even come to Sunnydale in the first place. I mean, until last year, with the portal and the crazy number of evil creatures that kept randomly appearing on our doorstep, nothing ever happened here. It was, like, dullsville USA."
Everyone gawked at Elizabeth.
"You… you mean you don't know about the Hellmouth?" Giles asked her.
"The what-mouth?" asked Elizabeth.
"The Hellmouth," said Xander. "It's sort of… well, it's the entrance to Hell. And it's in Sunnydale."
"You've got an open doorway to Hell where you live?" Elizabeth asked.
"Not open, actually," said Giles. "It's closed, but even when it's closed, it still bleeds mystical energy. That attracts all sorts of rather nasty creatures. In this world, at least, demons and vampires are a regular occurrence in Sunnydale."
"Wow," said Elizabeth. She gave a small laugh. "Sunnydale as a permanent demon central depot. Who would have thought?" She stopped laughing, and her face went pale. "If this is another world… my mom. Is she…?"
No one said anything, but they didn't have to. Elizabeth just nodded, and looked down at her feet.
Willow looked over at Anya. "If this is one of those other timeline things, can't we, you know, do what we did last time? With the temporal fold? We could get her back to where she came from."
Elizabeth's head popped up. "You're going to send me back?"
Willow looked over at Elizabeth. "Well, I just thought, I mean, this isn't your world, and we aren't really your friends, and you might want to get back to…" She trailed off, as she caught the sad look in Elizabeth's eyes. "Or… not."
"No, I mean, if you want me to go… I can go," said Elizabeth, scuffing her shoes against the ground. "I'm not trying to… you know. But if this is another world, and stuff, I thought maybe I could…." She shrugged.
"You want to stay here?" Giles asked.
"Well, yeah. I mean, since your Buffy died," said Elizabeth, "and you're so desperate to get her back that you're using a robot, I thought, you know… maybe I could help out."
"This world's different from yours," said Anya. "You wouldn't fit in."
"You mean because of the evil monsters and the danger and the crazy villains trying to destroy the world?" asked Elizabeth. She gave a small laugh. "I think I can handle it."
"It's not as simple as you might think," said Giles. "There's nothing trivial about fighting the forces of darkness. And especially because you aren't the Slayer—"
"Don't call me slayer," Elizabeth hissed through her teeth.
"—you're coming at it from an extreme disadvantage," Giles continued. "You won't have super strength, or quick reflexes, you'll have had no training—"
"You know," said Xander. "She did manage to fry a vampire, and get rid of these two drippy things. Really easily. With some freaky gold-light thing."
"You weren't supposed to tell anyone!" Elizabeth scolded Xander. She sighed. "I'd better go and get that Snadazanker back, before anyone notices."
She turned, and zipped back towards the lamppost.
"You guys," said Willow, in a hushed voice. "Are you really sure this is a good idea? I mean, we don't know anything about her! Even if she is Buffy, you know, with DNA and stuff, maybe she's not all that Buffy-like on the inside?"
"You got to admit," said Xander, "she does act like Buffy. She saves the world. She fights evil monsters. She sasses Spike."
"She does do that," said Spike.
"Tara, you're able to detect these sorts of things," Giles said. "What do you get from her?"
"She's not Buffy," said Tara. "But, I mean, we sort of knew that. Buffy gives off this… Slayer thing, when you're around her, and Elizabeth doesn't. But that doesn't mean she's bad. As Xander said, she did save the world."
"Why does she even want to stay here, anyways?" asked Anya. "I've flipped people into the wrong timeline hundreds of times, and most of the time, they just want to go home." She paused. "Except…."
Xander made a motion for her to go on.
"…except when they lose someone they're close to who's alive in the other timeline," said Anya. "Like, a mother, or a daughter, or something. Then they want to stay."
"It's not her mother," said Giles. "It appears that's the same in both worlds."
"Elizabeth said she saw the portal, too, remember?" said Willow. "Maybe, in her world, Dawn was the one who jumped."
"She didn't ask about Dawn," said Tara. "She asked about her mom. And if she didn't have vengeance demons in her world, I'm pretty sure Hell Goddesses didn't come up, either."
"Okay, creepy thought, here," said Xander. "The only people she knows, for sure, are alive in this world are us. So, what if she wants to stay here because she lost one of us
Everyone looked at everyone else. Willow opened her mouth to say something, but that was when Elizabeth came back, the Snadazanker in her hand.
"Sorry," she said. "I'm sort of not supposed to have this thing. I kind of borrowed it a while back, and it's been really useful, so I… didn't bother returning it." She stuffed it into her pocket. "Um. Yeah. So. You were saying. About monsters, right?"
"Yes, monsters," said Giles, with a smile that was only slightly forced. "We have many in Sunnydale. Vampires, especially."
Elizabeth nodded. "Okay. I can handle those. In fact, I got the most infamous one in history, so go me."
"Really?" asked Willow. "Which one?"
Elizabeth looked up at Spike, a dark expression on her face. "He knows. He was there."
"I have no clue who you mean, love," said Spike, lighting up a cigarette.
Elizabeth snatched the cigarette out of his hands, and stubbed it out beneath her foot. "Yeah, did I mention? I didn't like you in the past. And I still don't like you, in the present. So if you want some advice from me? Don't piss me off!"
Spike's face twisted into a vampiric snarl, and he tried to strike out at her, but the chip activated, and he clutched his head in pain. Elizabeth gave a vague grin of amusement at this.
Xander looked over at Willow. It was clear they were both thinking the same thing. Whoever this 'Elizabeth' was, Spike couldn't hit her. Which meant… she wasn't evil. She wasn't a demon.
She looked like Buffy. She acted like Buffy. She spoke like Buffy. Her DNA matched Buffy's. She saved the world like Buffy did. She had a number of Buffy's memories. And she wasn't a shape-shifter or a demon trying to fool them. Which meant…
Elizabeth was Buffy. She really was Buffy.
They had finally gotten Buffy back.
"But it's not just vampires. We also have demons," Anya chimed in, oblivious to the non-verbal communication around her. "Like Polgara demons — they have this little skewer thing in their arms. And Mok'tagar demons — they like to suck out your soul. And—"
"All I want to know," Elizabeth cut in, "is if there's an English-sounding guy wandering around with shoulder length, wavy hair, wearing a green frock coat that looks like it's straight out of Victorian England?"
Everyone looked at everyone else. "No," they all agreed.
Elizabeth smiled. "Then I'll be able to handle anything this world throws at me."
"Who's the guy in the frock coat?" asked Anya.
Elizabeth's eyes went dark. "A monster," she said. Then, it passed, and she went back to normal, as if nothing had happened. "So… um…" She gave a sheepish smile. "Can I stay?"
"We should probably ask Dawn about it," said Tara.
Elizabeth frowned. "Who's Dawn?" she asked. "Is this another… her-type thing?" She pointed at Anya.
"Oh, no!" Anya said. "I was a vengeance demon. Dawn was just a big green glowing ball of energy."
"Oh," said Elizabeth. She shrugged. "Okay."
"You're not… weirded out by any of this?" Willow asked.
"Trust me," said Elizabeth, with a grin. "I've seen way weirder."