Title: Echoes of Faith
Chapter 1: Parameters of Engagement
Characters/Pairing: Buffy/“Faith”, Echo
Rating: PG so far…more later
Warnings: None for this chapter.
Summary: Just when Adelle thinks she’s heard everything…
A/N: My first crossover fic and my first Dollhouse fic. The rest is familiar territory.
A/N2: Back to unbeta’d for this one (seeing as I’ve only got the one and I don’t want to overwork her). Hopefully you readerly types can get past my atrocious habits and enjoy the fic anyway.
“Eggs and flour,” Adelle mused sardonically to her empty office, having shut the double doors behind the most recent client, “just when I think I’ve heard everything.”
She crossed to her liquor table and surveyed the bottles there. Of course the scotch was nearly empty. With a sigh, she poured the last of it: not even enough to fill a shot glass. She savored the swallow and set the glass down with an emphatic ‘thunk’ before returning to her desk.
“Judith,” she spoke commandingly as she pressed down the call button on her intercom, “have another bottle of scotch sent from the kitchens and don’t disturb me until my three o’clock gets here.”
“You’re three o’clock is here, Miss DeWitt,” Judith’s timid voice replied through the intercom.
“What?” Adelle’s finger left the call button as she glanced up at her clock.
“Damn,” she muttered angrily. She took a deep breath and pressed the button again. “Very well, send her in,” she ordered in level, clipped tones. “And I want that scotch when we’re done.”
“Very well, ma’am.”
Adelle turned to face the doors as they opened and a petite blonde woman stepped in. She was slightly shorter than Adelle, with her hair tied back and a weary look that gave a certain gravity to her young face. She dressed fashionably, though her brown coat was starting to fray at the sleeves and looked like it had been torn in one place: not what one typically expected from the visitors that walked through the doors of 23 Flower. Of course, Adelle doubted that this woman was here for anything that could be classed as typical. Rumors of this woman and her band of warriors were common in Los Angeles, especially to a woman as well-connected as Adelle Dewitt.
“Miss Summers,” Adelle greeted her with bravado as she extended a hand, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise, I’m sure,” though Buffy Summers sounded skeptical as she and Adelle shook hands.
“Do come and have a seat,” said Adelle graciously, gesturing toward the sofa and coffee table. “Can I get you a drink? Tea or – something stronger?”
“No thanks,” Buffy dismissed casually as she sat down. “Nothing personal, just – years of pent up paranoia.”
“Yes, I’m sure that can happen in your line of work,” Adelle noted with a nod, seating herself in the chair on the opposite side of the table.
“And what would you know about my line of work,” Buffy challenged with narrowed eyes.
“You don’t go unnoticed, Miss Summers,” Adelle answered, meeting Buffy’s eyes boldly. “There are all sorts of colorful rumors about you and your army. Particularly here, what, with your exes cavorting about the place.”
“I actually did business with one of them,” Adelle continued, unperturbed. “Tall fellow, black coat, furrowed brow.”
“Angel came here?” asked Buffy in disbelief.
“Oh, not as a client,” Adelle corrected the impression quickly. “No, he was running a law firm at the time. We had gotten into a spot of legal trouble regarding an incarcerated active.”
“And you’re telling me this – why?” Buffy prompted.
“To demonstrate how blurred the lines are,” Adelle explained. “The world is not as comfortably black and white as you and yours might prefer it to be. So if you’re here as part of some misguided attempt to bring us down or-”
“What?” Buffy interrupted blankly, half-chuckling as she spoke. “Miss DeWitt – that’s not why I’m here at all.”
“It’s not?” Adelle seemed to be momentarily put off her stride.
“No,” Buffy assured her calmly. “I’m here,” she reached into her coat pocket as she spoke, “to ask about,” she extracted two photographs, “her.” Pushing one photograph across the table, she waited quietly for a moment as Adelle examined it. “She’s one of yours, right?” Buffy pressed. “An active?”
“I’m afraid I still don’t understand-”
“This,” Buffy pushed the second photograph forward, “is a – friend of mine.”
Adelle’s eyes widened as she surveyed the second picture.
“Ah,” she nodded to herself. “Well, that makes things a great deal more clear. However, I can assure you that Miss Farrell elected to come here of her own free will and-”
“Who?” Buffy cut her off again.
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you not here for Caroline Farrell?” asked Adelle, confused once again.
“Who’s Caroline Farrell?”
“She is.” Adelle pointed impatiently at the second photograph.
“Oh – no,” Buffy corrected. “These are two different girls, Miss DeWitt.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“This one,” she gestured to the first picture, “is your active and this one is named Faith.”
“You’re sure you didn’t just meet her while she was on an engagement?” Adelle verified.
“I’ve known her for years,” said Buffy flatly.
“Well, that’s very interesting,” Adelle conceded. “A few things might have made more sense if Caroline were one of your girls, but no matter. I’m still not sure why you’re here.”
“I want an active,” Buffy explained. “Her. For an engagement.”
“Oh,” said Adelle shortly. “So you’re – actually here as a client then?”
“You should know that our engagements come with a pretty steep price tag,” Adelle cautioned. “I wasn’t aware that your organization was particularly wealthy.”
“We have access to money,” said Buffy simply. “And I’ve got – a lot – in a private account.”
“I’ve known a lot of people who believed they were wealthy and walked through these doors only to discover that they were, in fact, very small fish and the pond was bigger than they had imagined.” She raised her eyebrows pointedly as she finished.
“I can afford it,” Buffy repeated, fighting the urge to roll her eyes at the metaphor.
“Well, that’s fine then,” Adelle announced, smiling genuinely for the first time since Buffy had entered the room. “May I ask what your intentions are?”
“My intentions?” Buffy repeated.
“For the engagement,” Adelle clarified.
“The, uh, girl – Judith,” Buffy mumbled, gesturing vaguely toward the office doors, “she said I didn’t have to tell anyone the details.”
“Well, of course not,” said Adelle quickly. “I was only being curious. If you prefer not to tell me that is entirely at your discretion. Our computers do calculate possible risks to our actives, however. The fee would increase if the engagement involved any dangerous activity.”
“Oh – well, I don’t have anything dangerous planned,” said Buffy reassuringly.
“You should know that, while our imprints do extend to muscle memory and would give her the skills, she wouldn’t have the strength of one of your – Slayers.” Buffy blinked once in reaction to Adelle’s use of the term.
“If I needed Slayer strength, I’d get a Slayer,” said Buffy simply. “Your active won’t be in any danger.”
“Very well, I suppose,” Adelle conceded. “Though I must admit I’m still quite curious,” she leaned forward as she spoke. “You command a very powerful army and yet somehow your needs have brought you here.” For Echo, no less, and that was a coincidence Adelle could not easily overlook. “Why do you need her specifically?” Adelle questioned. “Any of our actives could be programmed just as easily as her. So it’s not the skill set you need…”
“I really wish you’d stop trying to guess this,” said Buffy pointedly.
“You’ll forgive me if I’m suspicious, but it’s all a bit too simple,” Adelle countered. “You being here is more than enough cause for concern.”
“I’ve told you, your active will be returned safely.”
“Has your friend passed on?” Adelle inquired. “Is that why you need someone who looks like her?”
“No, she’s fine,” Buffy insisted, “she just – look, it doesn’t matter, okay.”
“Is it a decoy you’re after?” Adelle guessed again. “I heard about the one you had in Rome.”
“This isn’t Slayer-related!” Buffy fumed, frustration finally hitting its peak. “This is just for me – something I need. I told you she’ll be safe, now you can either believe me or not.” She took a breath to calm herself. “So, can we do this?”
“Well,” said Adelle thoughtfully, “we are the experts at giving people what they need.”
“Good. We have a deal, right?”
“Yes, very well,” said Adelle with a sigh. “Though if you fail to return our active safely, there will be consequences.”
“As intriguing as it sounds,” Buffy began, “I’m really not interested in a war with the Dollhouse. You’re out of my jurisdiction.”
“Yes, fine,” said Adelle impatiently. “Come along,” she ordered as she stood. “You can enter the specific details into the confessional.”
“Actually,” Buffy stood as well, reaching for an inside pocket of her coat as she did so, “I brought this.” From inside her coat she procured a hard drive, which she handed over to Adelle.
“Is this what I think it is?” questioned Adelle, eyes widening again.
“All the data from a brain scan,” said Buffy plainly.
“How on earth did you know you would need this?”
“Does it matter?”
“I rather think it does,” said Adelle shortly.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Am I to understand that you want the active who looks like your friend to be imprinted as your friend?”
“Is that a problem?” Buffy challenged.
“We can do it,” said Adelle dismissively. “Do you want a straight brain dump or will you be making alterations?”
“A few things,” Buffy hedged.
“Then we’ll still need the confessional.”
“And what exactly is-”
“The computer where you input the details of your engagement,” Adelle explained.
“May I ask,” Adelle interrupted as Buffy started off toward the double doors, “does your friend know you’re altering her personality?”
“Does it matter?” Buffy repeated defensively.
“So, how did you get her brain scan without her knowledge of it?”
“Unconventionally,” Buffy snapped. “Now will you please drop this?”
“I suppose I could,” Adelle allowed. “Though I’m fairly sure I understand it now.”
“I wish you wouldn’t,” mumbled Buffy as they crossed to the doors.
“Now, now,” Adelle persisted, “there’s no judging in the Dollhouse.”
“Oh God,” Buffy groaned uncomfortably.