"Omigod, this tastes so good," DG moaned, biting into a warm, gooey slice of pizza.
Dawn grinned at the delighted look on their unexpected guest's face. "My friend Willow, the one I called earlier, met a girl named Fred once who'd been stuck in another dimension for like five years. The only thing she'd eat for ages after they brought her back was tacos, tacos, and more tacos."
"I'm not quite that fond of pizza," DG mumbled around her slice, then took a long drink of soda. "Okay, so maybe I am; but I would kill for a stack of pancakes for breakfast. With real maple syrup. And orange juice. Half the fruit in the OZ, I don't even know how to pronounce."
"Unfortunately, none of the restaurants around here have pancake delivery," Dawn replied wryly, "but Buffy should be able to pick up some clothes for you by morning; how's Denny's sound?"
"Heavenly." DG shifted a little in her chair, masses of frilly Enchanted-style skirt rustling as she moved, then picked up another slice. "I can pay her back for the clothes if I can get access to my bank account in Kansas-- I don't know what happened to it after I went missing last year. I hope it's all there; I want to pick up at least five extra pairs of jeans before I go back. They have these trouser things in the Zone, but it's kind of taboo for women to wear them, especially women at Court, and Mom's seamstresses totally destroyed the pair I was wearing when I crossed over. They said they were going to use them as a pattern, but I haven't seen them since."
"But you're a princess there, right?" Dawn asked, a little bit jealous. Why couldn't Dawn's secret origin have been as another dimension's royalty, instead of a crazy demonic deity's magical lockpick? Some girls got all the luck. "Don't they have to follow your orders?"
DG glanced ruefully toward the tiara she'd torn out of her artfully arranged dark hair as soon as she'd commandeered the sofa; it sparkled back at her from a crooked perch on the coffee table. "Except for the part where I don't have a clue what I'm doing," she said mournfully, between bites of her second slice. "I've been there six months now and I still know less about my job than your average Central City school kid. My sister Azkadellia should be the one having to go to all these stupid diplomatic events, but because of that whole temporarily evil thing my mother's councilors had her removed from the line of succession. Which is completely dumb. She grew up with all the rules, and it's not like she doesn't know what not to do now, you know? I'd enjoy it there a lot more if I could just be a girl."
She'd have to get Buffy to talk to her later, Dawn thought sympathetically. If there was one thing her big sister totally owned the market on, it was living with a destiny she'd rather have got rid of. What Dawn said aloud, though, was: "What do you mean, temporarily evil? What happened to her?"
She knew a good story when she heard one, and besides, every bit of intel Dawn could get out of their visiting royalty would come in handy when Willow arrived. The bewildered twentyish girl who'd magically appeared in a park downtown via flashy green magic seemed authentic to both Dawn and the baby Slayers who'd escorted the girl to HQ, but Dawn knew better than to trust in first impressions. Cute and authentic got the unwary Slayer eaten or kidnapped seven times out of ten, according to Andrew.
DG went suddenly mournful at the question, all wide blue eyes and wounded expression. As a practiced wielder of the puppy dog eyes herself, Dawn recognized the tactic when someone else used it, but DG didn't have the arch air of someone doing it intentionally, so, point in her favor.
"I was five or six years old, I don't really remember," the princess began, "when my sister and I got into more trouble than we could handle. Az was always telling me that nothing could hurt us if we stayed together-- we have this magical defense that gets stronger when we're holding hands-- but after we found this girl crying in a cave and she turned into an ugly witch, I got scared and let go of her. I ran to our mother, and by the time Az caught up with me, she was different. No one realized just how different, though, until she came in my bedroom and killed me a few nights later."
"Wow, that's harsh," Dawn said, taken aback. Destiny and early death; her dimension really had it in for her. "Since you're not still dead, I take it someone else did something to fix it?"
DG nodded, nibbling at a third slice of pizza. "Our mother used her magic to bring me back, but it took almost everything she had to do it. She was scared Az would kill me again, and she didn't know what else to do to stop her, so she staged a funeral and sent me over to this side with a pair of nurture units for parents. Kind of like robots, but programmed to make me happy and tell me stories about the OZ so I'd have some idea what to do when the prophecy kicked in fifteen annuals later."
Of course there was a prophecy involved, Dawn thought, suppressing the urge to roll her eyes. If DG had gone to school in Sunnydale instead of B.F.E., Kansas, she'd have fit right in with the Scoobies. "And did the stories actually help?" she asked, skeptically.
DG laughed. "Kinda. I thought I was crazy for a while, and then I was really confused, but I was lucky enough to find some help right away, and I remembered enough pointers to keep us moving in the right direction. Eventually I found the--" she made a whistling sound and a vague gesture in the air, "--magical artefact that was supposed to stop my sister, but that's where the plan kind of broke down. She took it away from me, so then we had to break into her tower and shut down her doomsday machine ourselves, and we almost didn't make it in time. I had to play bait. Fortunately, I was able to talk her into taking my hand, and the Witch had to leave her body with both of our magic working against her."
Dawn shuddered at the implications, remembering some of the Scoobies' own experiences with parasitic entities. "So she was possessed all that time? How awful."
"I know," DG sighed. "It was more my fault than hers, but of course she still feels guilty, and it doesn't help that no one except my family really believes she was innocent. It's like they think she's faking it or something; they're trying to ban her from ever using her magic, or even reading about magic, ever again."
"That's gotta suck," Dawn winced. "Talk about negative reinforcement. There was this girl Amy who tried out for the cheerleading squad with Buffy their sophomore year in high school, and she kept going around cursing all the other contestants to make them fail. When Buffy caught her, though, we found out it wasn't Amy's fault after all; her evil witch mom had swapped bodies with her. Except of course Amy could still do magic after they switched back, and nobody thought to make sure she got a better mentor. She ended up learning all these dark spells, and visiting the wrong kinds of warlocks, and dragging other witches down with her."
"When I was mad at my parents, all I did was rack up speeding tickets and plan to run away to Australia, but I didn't have my magic at the time. If I had..." DG shook her head. "Teenagers are dumb. Teenagers with power are even worse... except for maybe Jeb." She chuckled, looking fond. "He makes the rest of us look bad."
Dawn accepted the change of subject with a sigh. "And who's this Jeb?" she teased, clued in immediately by the fond way the princess' mouth curved when she spoke of him. "Your knight in shining armor? A foreign prince or something?"
DG burst into laughter at that. "No, nothing like that. Just the head of my bodyguard. Who used to be the leader of the resistance against my sister...."
"And what does your mom have to say about it?"
"Nothing," DG grinned. "She doesn't have a leg to stand on, and she knows it; she married a balloonist from Omaha, after all."
Dawn snorted. "Has she actually said anything to you about it? Because if not, I wouldn't count on it. It sure doesn't stop my sister from bitching about my non-human boyfriends, and she and her friends totally wrote the book on the subject."
"Non-human?" DG's eyebrows flew up at that. "D'you mean like the Viewers and the Cyborgs? Or the Papay? They mostly seem human to me, just a little... different."
Dawn didn't know what Viewers or Papay were, but she doubted they were fancy otherdimensional words for demons, and the less said about cyborgs the better. "No, non-human as in vampires, werewolves, yadda yadda."
DG gaped at her. "You have vampires here? I mean, I knew you had magic, it was kind of hard not to notice the way you and your friends reacted when I showed up. Like the only surprise was when and where it happened, not that it happened at all. But vampires? Are you sure this is the dimension I grew up in?"
"Pretty sure," Dawn replied. "When I called Willow she found an article about the tornado that took out your house in like, five seconds. Don't feel bad for not knowing, though. I mean, when we lived in Sunnydale people died almost every night because of vampires and demons, and everyone pretended it was just wild dogs, or gangs on PCP, or a gas explosion, or any other excuse they could think of. People just don't want to know."
"I guess so," DG said, wonderingly. "When I dropped the Emerald and it threw me here, the first thing that went through my mind was, how the heck am I going to convince anyone to believe me?"
"Lucky it was us there," Dawn agreed. Or not so lucky after all? "Is the Emerald some kind of magic book, or dimensional crossing machine? Willow will need to know if she's going to send you back."
DG winced at that. "Wow, you're easy to talk to. I wasn't supposed to mention that, it's kind of a state secret. Look, it's not anything you can use here; it's just this tiny little crystal about yea big--" she measured off a careful space with her fingers, "--that amplifies magic in the OZ. Az, when she was the Sorceress, meant to use it to bring permanent darkness to the Zone; I'm not sure why it brought me here, but I have been feeling a little homesick lately, so..." She trailed off.
Green. Potent. Embodied in a tiny object. Dawn shivered. If DG's dimension really was a mirrored 'other side' to theirs, she thought she had a pretty good idea why it sent her here. But that was even more of a 'state secret' than the one DG had just spilled.
"I don't blame you for feeling homesick," she said carefully. "Don't worry, we'll load you up with goodies and send you back before that bodyguard of yours frets himself to pieces."
DG smiled fondly into her fourth slice of pizza, mood lightened again.
"So, does he really call you DG when you're, you know?" Dawn continued. "Or does he get to use your real name...?"
Their combined laughter greeted Willow, moments later, as she came in the door.