See Chapter One for Disclaimer
--I can't believe you're doing this. You lied to me!--
Faith's body gave a weary sigh.
"Get over it, little girl. We both know that lying is something that's okay to do, if you want something bad enough." She laughed. "And I want this like you wouldn't believe." She paced along the roof's edge, peering over the side at the street far below. The view seemed to hold a particular fascination for her. "I'm just sorry I had to be the last in a long line of people who've screwed you over; It's not fun, I know."
From deep in the recesses of her own mind, Faith glared out at the person who'd taken away everything she was. She felt some fear, but her imminent death didn't seem real, yet. Most of what she was feeling was anger, both at her double, and at herself, for being so gullible. She'd known that betrayal was a fact of life, when dealing with people; she'd KNOWN it! But her future self had seemed so cool, so friendly and wise and strong.... Faith had fallen into the trap like a trusting child, and now she was well and truly screwed.
It pissed her off beyond all reason.
--All of this was a lie? From the very beginning?--
Her body nodded.
"Yeah. I would have grabbed you the second I got here, but I was wasted from the trip, and you were too strong, anyway. I had to wear you down, somehow. And if I could get you to let me inside you by your own choice; well, that made things a lot easier." She smiled gently, her gaze turned inward to her younger self. "So when you mentioned that test thing, I went along with it."
Faith was having trouble believing this was happening; despite the ample proof.
--You made all that up as you went along?--
"Hey, I can bullshit people with the best of them; something else I've gotten better at, this last year or so."
--Those people, the things inside them?--
Her body made a depreciating gesture.
"Those were real; this is Sunnydale, and Halloween. Shit like that happens here all the time. You really did save that first guy, you killed that bastard and saved his family's lives. You did some good tonight, if that makes you feel any better."
--The only thing that would make me feel better would be for you to get your ass outta my body!--
She was snarling, but it didn't have the same effect when it came in a tinny little mental squeak. Her older self didn't think so, either.
"Listen, that's just not going to happen, so forget it." Even so, Faith could feel the guilt coming from her twin. Unfortunately, it wasn't strong enough to counter her other self's desire to stay right where she was.
A few feet away, Buffy gave a groan, stirring weakly. Faith's body turned to look, watching silently as the blonde Slayer struggled to sit upright. She walked slowly over to stand over the smaller girl, and when Buffy raised her head she stared into those green eyes.
It came in a whisper, and her swollen and bleeding lips caused her to slur it a little, too. It still broke Faith's heart. Her twin had a very different reaction.
She stressed the word, making it a mocking question.
"Did Buffy fall down? Did she hurt her wittle self?" A cruel smile curved her lips. "Buffy has no fucking idea what it's like to really fall and hurt herself. I think I'll introduce her to the concept."
The older girl didn't seem to be fully conscious. She stared as Faith crouched next to her, her green eyes flicking over the larger girl's face.
"I... I see two of you?"
Faith's body blinked, and Faith herself was also startled out of her growing fear and despair. Buffy could perceive what was happening inside her body? Even in a dim way? Well, she was a Slayer. Still, that didn't seem amazingly helpful at the moment. Her twin ran a hand gently over the blonde girl's cheek; then snapped the back of her fist into that already bloodied face. Buffy collapsed, unconscious, and Faith cried out; or at least she tried to.
--Come on! What are you doing to her?--
Her body scooped up the smaller Slayer effortlessly, turning to carry her across the roof.
"Everything that went wrong for me in this town is her fault. I'm not going to take a chance that she'll do it again." She lay the other girl down gently on the low wall that surrounded the roof, crossing the limp arms across Buffy's stomach. She was lying there helpless, just inches from a five story drop. Faith's twin examined the sheath's strapped to the older girl's forearms. Slowly she drew forth the remaining knife. It gleamed softly silver, and when she tested it, it proved to be very sharp. She nodded.
"If we're going to do things right, then it only makes sense to go the whole nine yards. Whatever that means." She used the point of the blade to trace a line down Buffy's side, then across her waist. Somewhere just a bit to one side of her navel, she poised the knife and tensed her arm.
Inside her prison, Faith was going berserk.
--Stop it you crazy bitch! I fought like hell to save her, and you helped me! Now you're going to kill her?!--
Her other self pressed her lips into a thin line.
"You don't know; you weren't there. You think what I've done to you is bad? Well what she did to me was twice as bad." She took a shuddering breath, her eyes still locked on Buffy's face. "She took away everything I had; everything I was. It was betrayal like I didn't know existed, like no nightmare I could have imagined." She gripped the knife firmly, her eyes flicking to the drop that yawned just beyond the helpless girl. "This is where things get evened up."
--I don't care about any of that! It didn't happen here yet, it probably won't ever happen, now!-- She resumed her struggle to escape, not caring that it seemed hopeless. She'd met hopeless before, and kicked the shit out of it. She could do it again. Her older self paused, watching sadly as the younger Faith fought.
"Let it go, please. I don't want to have to watch you kick and scream all the way down. You're just not strong enough. Nobody who hasn't gone through what I have could ever be strong enough." She paused, considering the girl lying before her. "If it bothers you so much, I'll wait till you're gone before I do her. I can give you that much, at least."
--Well, thanks a shitload!--
She was in a frenzy, now.
The barriers that boxed her in were too strong to break, but there might be a way around them. She narrowed herself down, forcing all her will against her bonds, over and over. Nothing else mattered, nothing. If she didn't fight, she would die.
Buffy would die.
What she was doing to herself hurt, some, but she felt several tiny gaps in her cage, and she flung herself at them with all her might.
Her body swayed, and her twin frowned as she was forced to devote her full attention to what was happening inside her.
"That's not going to get you anywhere, either."
Faith felt the passage ahead of her being closed off, so she backed away and hurled herself down another. That one was promptly closed, too, and she turned to another, and then another. She squirmed and fought, desperate to find escape.
"You're harder to hold onto than a hamster on speed, you know that?" She lowered her head slightly, her voice going soft. "Remember 'Rat'? She was a good little critter. Until dad got drunk and stomped on her, just to show us what a big man he was."
It wasn't working, as soon as she found a path, the other girl closed it tight. She was too fast, too good an this mental stuff that Faith had never even knew existed before now. She was still trapped, and all the energy she'd burned was making her feel a little strange. Cut off from her body as she was, she didn't seem to be getting anything back. Any strength she used was gone for good, and when it was all gone, so was she. She settled down, at a loss for what to do next. Her other self gave a sigh.
"Good. Now, what do you want to talk about, while we're waiting?"
She opened their eyes, glancing down at Buffy.
Those green eyes were open, gazing up at them both. Faith felt those eyes looking right at her, and she trembled even as she floated in darkness.
--'Sometimes nothing you can do alone is enough. Everybody needs help sometimes'--
Buffy lifted one hand and touched Faith's body on the arm; not an attack, just a touch.
Faith's twin shrieked like she was dying.
Pure golden force surged into her body from Buffy's hand, and the younger Slayer burst her bonds, expanding rapidly as her friend channeled healing energy into her. The older girl was inside with her, and together they faced the future Faith.
"I knew I should have killed you the second I had the chance, you backstabbing little--!"
--There are two of you?--
Buffy's mental voice was confused.
--Faith, why are there two of you? Am I dreaming?--
The younger Slayer smiled.
--No B, you're awake, and it's a long story. Just keep helping me here, okay? I'll explain later. For now,-- She gave a mental laugh. --You're just going to have to trust me--
Her older self was there, radiating hate and fear both.
"You're not going to beat me, you're not!"
An explosion of gold and crimson split the dark apart, and the Slayers were flung back. Another attack came, and then a third, battering at the fragile souls that were Faith and Buffy. There was only one way they could win against the more experienced girl, and that was to hold nothing back. Not from the battle, and not from each other.
It was hard, especially coming so soon after the most recent betrayal, but this was her friend. Whatever coolness had started to settle between them in the last week or two, she knew that Buffy cared for her. Buffy cared for everyone; that's what defined her. Faith reached out to the other girl, and even half-dazed, Buffy reached back. Their energies merged, a back and forth sharing that strengthened them far more than just adding their power.
Together they faced the other Faith, and began forcing her back.
She fought like a wild thing, and with all the skill that her trials had given her, but they forced her back.
She was strong, but together, they were stronger.
She fought with passion born of desperation, but their passion was born of Faith's desire to reclaim her body, and her life, and Buffy's bone-deep instinct to fight for her friends, no matter the cost.
Buffy and Faith trusted in each other; supported each other.
Faith's older self didn't know how.
So she lost.
Faith opened her eyes and stared up at the stars. Everything hurt, but that was a wonderful feeling, considering the alternative. She sat up, looking around the rooftop. Buffy was still lying on her precarious perch, and the dark-haired girl struggled to her feet, moving as quickly as she was able to take the other Slayer into her arms. Buffy stirred, looking around anxiously.
"Where'd she go? Is she gone?"
Faith sat her down, nodding in reassurance.
"It's okay, everything's okay now."
Buffy gave a sigh of relief, laying her head on Faith's shoulder.
"That's good." She closed her eyes, resting. "You saved me from the cheerleader; I remember you coming to save me."
Faith nodded her cheek against the smaller girl's hair.
"Yeah, I saved you. And you saved me back, so we're even."
She could almost feel the strength flowing back into Buffy as they sat there; but she could feel something else, too. She shook her friend gently.
"Buffy? I hate to, but could I ask you for a favor?"
Those wide eyes met hers.
The younger slayer nodded towards the ladder exit from the rooftop.
"You think you could make it down, and wait for me somewhere? Like, your house?"
Buffy nodded, standing up with only the faintest hint of a wobble.
"Absolutely. I'm Buffy, I can do anything I put my mind to." She turned and walked across the roof. "'Sides, it's Halloween, and nothing every happens on Halloween, just ask Giles. I wonder where he heard that, anyway...." As she began descending the ladder her voice trailed off, and Faith turned her head to look into the shadows.
"So, now what?"
Her twin stepped into view, her expression unreadable.
* * * * *
"You've killed me, you know."
Her voice was so desolate that Faith had to look away.
"Tough. I wasn't going to roll over and let you kill her. Or me, either."
Her twin didn't seem to have a response to that. She walked over to the wall where she'd laid Buffy just a short while earlier. Leaning her elbows on it, she leaned over, looking out at the town. It was well after midnight, now, and things were growing quiet. Faith stared at the other girl's back.
"So... are you going to try and jump inside me again?"
Her twin ducked her head slightly.
"No," She glanced over her shoulder at Faith, and her face was drawn and weary. "I'm tapped out. You don't have to worry about me, not anymore."
The Slayer wasn't going to just take the other girl's word on it, but her extra senses told her that this was no lie. The spirit form before her was barely registering in her mind. It must be taking everything her twin had just to maintain a solid body. She was no longer a threat, and Faith looked at her curiously.
"What's going to happen now?"
The older Faith snorted.
"Now? I get to walk around like this until dawn, and then it's over. The gate closes, I'm pulled back to my own time, my own body. And there I'll stay. Until I die, probably."
Faith stood up, then walked over until she was beside the other girl.
"What... happened to you? What's wrong with you that you had to come here and try to steal my life?"
Her twin kept her eyes on the lights of the town, and her voice was soft.
Faith turned her back to the view, perching one hip on the wall, looking at her other self.
"Are you afraid I won't like it? That I'll know that you got what was coming to you there, too?"
That got her a look, and there was a brief spark of anger visible in those dark eyes. It faded quickly though, and the older girl looked away again.
"It's not what I did, or what happened. It's what's happening to me now." She tried to pound her fist on the stone ledge in frustration, but her arm passed through it when she tried. "I can't wake up! I'm not dead, but I'm not really alive, either! Somebody is drugging me, either the Counsel or that bastard Giles! I'm healed up from what Buffy did, but they won't let me wake up!" She spun to face her younger self, and her eyes were wild. "Can you imagine what that's like? It's like a nightmare that I can't wake up from! The only time I can be free of it is when I go out of body, like this, and they've taken that away from me too!" She laughed, and there was a note of hysteria in it. "The first time I managed it, I thought I was home free. I could just cruise around until I found somebody I could talk into busting my body out of there. But nobody could see me!" She paced away from Faith, then turned again. She was suddenly calm, and the bitterness in her face and voice gave the Slayer a chill. "Then I made the mistake of going to check up on Buffy." She gave her younger self a bleak smile. "She could see me, oh yeah. And the next day she told somebody, either Giles or Willow. The next time I tried to go out, I made it as far as the wall of my room. There were wards there, walling me inside. I was trapped again, and this time there was no way out. At least, that's what I thought. A couple of weeks ago, there was a weakening. Not in the wards, but in the stuff that was... well, sort of 'underneath' the real world. I kept pushing at it, and it kept getting weaker. And tonight was the night, Samhain, the night the spirits get to play. I got out, but I didn't go to my Sunnydale; I ended up taking the long trip here. Which still could have worked out fine...." She lowered her forehead to the stone of the wall, her hair spilling forward to hide her face.
"But I blew it. And if somebody back there noticed, and I know they did, then I'm going to be mummified in magical crap by this time tomorrow. I'll never get out this way twice."
Silence, then. Faith looked at her other self, then out at Sunnydale. A long time passed, and she tried to come up with something to say, to ease the other girl's pain. She was tired, though. Incredibly, numbingly tired. There was only one thing she could find, that might help.
"Be strong, Faith. You're a Slayer; there's nothing stronger than that."
Her twin raised her head, shaking back her long, straight hair so that she could look at the younger girl.
"Bullshit. I've already given it everything I have." She leaned forward and stared straight down at the street. "I'm not strong enough. I never have been."
Faith shifted uncomfortably, but pressed on.
"Passion, then. Passion can be more powerful than strength."
That got her a faint grin.
"I can't believe you're spouting this back at me." She rubbed at her face, and the mirth vanished without a trace. "I've done all this. Whatever I had, whatever fire was in me, I used it up to get this far." She looked away. "Maybe if I'd had more left, I wouldn't be on the outside looking in, right now."
That was quite a concept, wasn't it?
"You said they're keeping you under. Maybe they'll change their minds. Maybe you scared them, with whatever shit you pulled, and they just need time go get over it."
Her other self shrugged.
"Maybe, but I doubt it. It wasn't the kind of thing you can forget."
Faith leaned over and waited until her twin glanced her way.
"You've got to trust somebody."
The other girl stared at her, stunned.
"After what I did to you, you can believe that?"
Faith nodded, holding her twin's gaze with her own.
"Faith; what you did to me tonight, and what happened after.... That proved to me that I can believe that."
The other girl stood there for a while, her eyes looking inwards. Finally she shook her head sadly.
"No. Never happen." She looked out into the darkness. "It would be Buffy's call, and she'll never forgive what I did."
Faith smiled softly.
"You're wrong. It's Buffy, and that's what she does. She forgives people. She takes care of the people who need her."
Her twin stared at her for a while, her dark eyes difficult to make out in the shadows. Finally, she slid down to sit with her back to the low wall, staring off across the rooftop. She reached out to touch Faith lightly on the leg.
"I'm just gonna wait here, for awhile. Would you stay with me?"
The Slayer nodded.
She sat down next to the other girl. After a few minutes of awkward silence, the older Faith began to speak. She talked about places she'd been, things she'd seen, in the year Faith had not yet seen. There were points where she stopped abruptly, obviously deciding not to speak of what she'd been doing in those places, or who exactly had sent her there. Faith didn't mind, and that reassured her twin. It seemed to be enough that for a few hours, someone could see her, and hear her. That someone knew she was there, and cared.
Eventually, the hills beyond the city slowly became visible, silhouetted by streaks of pink and royal blue in the sky. Dawn was coming. The older Faith's voice ran down, and she stared into the east, dread filling her eyes. She turned to look at her younger self, and cleared her throat.
The Slayer blinked, then yawned. It was hard to focus; as hard as she had been trying, she'd nearly fallen asleep.
Her twin licked her lips nervously.
"Could I, uh, touch... you?" She caught the look her younger self shot her, and hurried on. "No, no, nothing like that. I just wanted to... touch, something. Someone. While I still could."
Faith regarded her for a few seconds, and then reached out. She gathered her twin into her arms, and held her. The older girl hugged her so tightly that it hurt, but Faith was the Slayer, and she endured it. The other girl cried into Faith's shoulder, though her tears faded into insubstantial mist as they fell from her face. Sobs racked that body, the one that Faith had admired for its grace and strength and beauty.
Her older, darker self cried tears that had been building for a long, desperate year, and Faith did the only thing she could do, and held her.
Then the rim of the sun slid into view over the hills to the east, and her other self faded away in the space of a dozen heartbeats, vanishing in a gentle wash of golden light. Faith folded her empty arms across her chest, and watched the sun rise over Sunnydale.
* * * * *