Buffy looked up as the bell above the Magic Box’s front door rang. The woman who stood by the door seemed agitated. She looked around the shop, her eyes appearing to take in everything and nothing at the same time. She jumped as Anya spoke to her, and mumbled something to the ex-demon before moving further into the shop. Buffy surreptitiously studied her. She was stunningly beautiful. Long chestnut curls cascaded down her back to her waist. Sharp, high cheekbones highlighted her regal bearing. Brilliant blue eyes that seemed to invite you in and hold you at bay in the same instant. Oddly, she seemed to be wearing pajamas.
“This is ridiculous. I’m either dreaming, I’m crazy, or I’ve somehow been transported to my own personal episode of the Twilight Zone!” the woman cried out in frustration. Her accent, a strange variation of the British accent; flattered her somehow.
Tara and Giles both moved slowly towards the clearly upset female “It’ll be alright. Come on, why don’t you join us at the table and tell us what’s wrong.” Tara smiled sweetly at the woman and held her hand out to the table, indicating the direction she wanted the woman to move. Giles smiled gently at the beautiful woman, also indicating the table.
Before the woman could move, the front door of the shop opened again and a voice rang out “There you are. I’ve been lookin’ all over town for you, doll face. I see you found the whitehats, but I’m guessin’ you’d be up for some information about now.”
“Whistler,” Buffy hissed.
Holding his hands up, Whistler attempted to placate Buffy. “Whoa Slayer, I’m not here to give you bad news. The big bosses were worried about the way things were going down here and decided to send you some help. They thought you all needed to get back on the path, find some focus if you will.”
“What the hell does that mean? Are you saying the Powers sent her here? Can she fight the super strong demon that’s running around town? Can she fix whatever’s wrong with my mom? What path? And I’ve got focus; I’ve got plenty of focus!” Buffy snarled at the demon.
“I guess it didn’t occur to anyone to ask me if I wanted to be a part of this. Perhaps ask if it interfered with what’s going on in my actual life. Perhaps warn me, before the fact, so I don’t go on thinking I’m insane.” The woman added her ire at the demon with Buffy’s.
“Okay, okay, I get that you’re angry. I’m sorry it had to be done this way, but we really didn’t have a choice.” Whistler spoke softly to both women. Turning his full attention to the stranger, he added, “I really am sorry you had to find out this way, doll, but I’ll try to give you the low down now.” He paused, as if to gather his thoughts. “I’ll leave it to you to share your fields of expertise with these guys, but you have to know that it was that expertise that got the attention of the Powers.
When you went to bed last night, an electrical fire broke out and you would have died if the Powers hadn’t stepped in. They figured, rather than let your knowledge and insight go to waste; they’d just move you to this dimension, where you could help the good guys.”
“So…I’m dead?” The shocked woman, eyes brimming with tears, collapsed into one of the chairs.
“Not in this dimension,” Whistler answered her.
“Then why is it that no one can bloody well touch me?!” the woman fumed.
“What?” Buffy, Tara, Willow, Anya and Giles all cried out in unison. Giles discovered that poking his hand through her shoulder earned him a furious glare that had him backing up rather quickly.
“It’s only temporary,” Whistler assured her. “The Powers thought you wouldn’t mind pretending to be the Key, this way Glory can’t get her hands on you and it’ll keep her distracted from the real Key. The power used in generating a fully corporeal body can be redirected in a non-corporeal one. You can’t be touched, but you can throw one hell of a punch. After Glory’s window of opportunity closes, you’ll become fully corporeal.”
“Wait…she knows about the Key and the demon woman?” Buffy asked, excited.
“Who is Glory?” Giles requested, more sedately.
“What’s the what with the Key?” Willow looked at Tara in confusion.
“Look, let me just get Penny here straight, then I’ll be out of your hair,” Whistler said to the group. Turning back to Penny, he handed her a large envelope “In here is all your new legal documents, the ownership papers on your new place and its address, bank details and so on. That should keep you out of trouble. And this,” he placed his hands on either side of her head, causing a brief flash of light to radiate, “should give you all the stuff you didn’t get in your dimension.” He smirked at the slack-jawed woman and was gone before anyone even registered he was leaving.
“Ah…what just happened?” Tara asked, hesitantly.
“Whistler!” Buffy and Penny replied in unison.
Buffy took a critical look at the woman sitting across the table from her; she looked tired, distraught, and really lost. “Um…why don’t we get something to eat, drink, maybe get a change of clothing…give us all a chance to…you know…process or something…then I guess we’ve got lots to talk about.”
“Look, if you want me to do the big talk, I’m only going to do it once. You’re going to need to get all the others here, too,” Penny said tiredly.
“Others?” Willow cautiously inquired.
“Wounded by your own stake?” Penny asked bluntly, looking critically at Buffy.
“What does that…how do you…?” Buffy’s eyes widened.
“Xander, Riley, and Spike,” Penny interrupted Buffy decisively and answered Willow’s previous question. “They need to be here for this.”
“Spike! Why on earth does he need to be here?” Giles blustered, angrily.
“Guess you’ll find out later.” Penny smiled cheekily, a mischievous sparkle briefly lighting her eyes.
“What are you doing here, Spike? We’ve got an important meeting going on here; we don’t need you distracting us and getting in the way,” Riley belligerently addressed the vampire. Arms crossed, features stern, poised, and ready to attack.
“I was invited, you gormless nit. It’s not like I’d choose to spend time in your laughable company,” Spike snapped back at the ex-soldier.
“Don’t lie, Spike. Who’d invite you?” Riley spat back derisively.
“I did,” Penny stated with finality as she entered the main showroom through the training room door.
Both Xander and Riley stared at Penny, stunned speechless by the beautiful woman. Spike cocked his head to the side and studied her curiously. She reminded him of someone, but he couldn’t place who.
Waiting for everyone to get seated, Penny took her time to look over the group. She inwardly sighed; she knew them all so well. This was not going to be easy.
“For those of you that weren’t here when I arrived, my name is Penny and I’m from another dimension. When I went to bed last night, I was in my own bed in my own home which happens to be in Melbourne, Australia. I woke up, in my pajamas, on a bus pulling into the Sunnydale Bus Depot. You can pretty much guess my reaction.” She smiled.
“I’m guessin’ a ten on the wigginess scale!” Xander offered.
“And yet, not the freakiest part of my day!” Penny grinned at him. “I discovered that I can touch but can not be touched in return…please don’t poke me, Agent Finn,” she rebuked Riley as he tried to pinch her shoulder thoughtlessly. “Again, not the freakiest thing. Oh no, the freakiest thing was that I was in Sunnydale.”
“Okay…not understanding the freakiness factor.” Willow’s confusion was clearly shared by the others in the room.
“Where I come from…Sunnydale is a fictional town, in a prime time television program called ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.”