Faith, Buffy, and the surrounding universe were created by Joss Whedon and his happy dancing minions. None of them are mine.
Author's Note: This story does not
fit into the continuity of my overarcing 'Faithverse' storyline. It's a slightly alternate 'verse, so don't try to fit these events in with my other work.
October 31, 1998
Faith sat on the grassy bank at the edge of the park, watching as the children in their costumes ran laughing down the street. It was nearly sunset, and she still didn't know if she wanted to go to that stupid party. Buffy was sure that nothing slay-worthy was supposed to be around tonight, it being Halloween and everything, but still.... She had invited Faith to the costume party at the Bronze; all of her friends would be there.
Maybe that was the point.
All of Buffy's friends would be there; but the dark-haired Slayer was starting to get the feeling that she didn't have any friends in Sunnydale. There was Buffy, sure. But the relationship between the two of them had become a little tense, now that the novelty had worn off. Ever since the older Slayer had turned down Faith's offer to hang with her at the Homecoming thing a couple of weeks earlier, she had been wondering where she and Buffy stood. They might be friends, maybe, but there were other currents there that Faith was still trying to figure out. Until she did, the old habit of keeping her distance seemed to be the best course.
Besides, she knew she'd look really stupid in any kind of costume. She didn't do stupid. So she contented herself with sitting, and watching the kids. She smiled, watching them. They had it good; better than they knew. She'd grown up in a very different way than these children, in a family that didn't have room for laughter. Only for fear.
The rim of the sun slipped below the horizon, and Faith stood up, dusting off her hands. Maybe she'd walk by the Bronze and peek inside, just to see what was going on. Anything was better than going back to that motel room. She took a step, and screamed as a burning lance of pain pierced her heart. Every muscle she had turned to jelly and she fell straight down onto the ground, writhing in agony. She'd never, Never felt anything like this! Every inch of her skin was on fire, every vein felt like it was full of ice. She gasped for air, struggling keep from crying out again. She could still hear children's voices, and the sounds of passing cars. No one had noticed her collapse. Long moments went by, and though the pain didn't go away, it slowly transformed into something else. Pressure. She felt like some incredible force was slowly seeping into her through every pore, pushing more and more of itself into her body. She pressed her hands against the sides of her head, hard. It felt like her skull would explode if she let go, even for an instant. Something inside her chest was expanding, pushing outwards. Her arms, her legs, every finger and toe felt like it was about to rupture. A whimper escaped her lips before she could clamp down on it; and she wondered if this was how she would die.
Abruptly, a slender column of golden light thrust out of her chest. It hung there for a moment, and even in her pain and confusion she stared at it in wonder. Slowly, another one reached out of her, and then a thicker one, to which the smaller two were joined.
Faith lay on her back, staring up at the thing that was climbing up out of her, and she realized that it was a person. The outline of head was visible now, and the arms that had been the first things she had seen. The glowing form pulled itself up, raising its torso and legs free of her body. As it did, the searing pain, and crushing sense of pressure, slowly faded. It stood over her, and she lay there, overcome by the sudden cessation of pain.
The figure was made of shimmering gold light, with swirls of crimson and ebony threaded through it like nerves, or veins. It turned slowly, seeming to look around. Without a visible face, it was hard to tell exactly where it was looking, if it could see at all. Faith felt her strength returning, and she gathered herself; Buffy had been wrong about Halloween night, looked like. She managed a faint grin; if this thing thought it could hurt her like that and not get some hurt in return, then it was about to get a big surprise.
The thing suddenly rippled, and began to change. She stared up at it, thoughts of attack forgotten. The glow faded even as it seemed to come into focus, resolving itself into the form of a human being. Pale skin, black hair and tank top, red leather pants. Faith lay there, frozen, as the girl standing over her turned and looked down with dark brown eyes that she knew as well as her own.
Because they were her own. Faith stared up into her own face, and the other gave her a lopsided smile.
* * * * *
Faith sat up, staring at the image of herself that stood there, looking back at her.
"What the fuck is this?" Her voice was barely more than a whisper, not nearly as firm as she'd been trying for. Her double was looking down at herself, running her hands over her body like she expected part of it to be missing. She raised her top and ran her fingers across her flat belly, giving a soft sigh of relief. Faith found herself growing impatient.
"I said; what is going on? Who are you?"
The other girl looked up, blinking in surprise.
"Sorry. Rough trip, my first time doing this kinda thing." She extended a hand. "Hi Faith, I'm Faith, the Slayer." Her eyes were sparkling with wicked humor. "How the hell are you?"
Faith scrambled back a few feet before getting to her feet. This girl looked just like her all right, but there were differences. She had a tank top like the one her double was wearing, but she didn't have any pants like those. The hair was straight, not curly, and it was way too long, reaching halfway down the other girl's back. Still... in every other way, it was herself she was looking at.
"Is this some kind of dumbass demon trick? Did I fall asleep next to a pod, or something?" The other had turned her head to watch the trick or treaters across the street. There was the strangest expression on her face.... She looked back at Faith.
"No, no trick. I'm me, and I'm you, too." She took in Faith's expression and grinned. "I know, believe me I know. I'm not trying to bullshit you, here. It's just...." She shrugged. "Well, I'm from your future."
Faith stared at her for a full minute, trying to work that one out. Finally, she spoke.
"No fucking way."
All that got was another grin.
"Think it through. Where are we, again?" She spread her arms wide. "Sunnydale, remember? And what night is this?" She tilted her head back, staring up at the sky. Low, dark clouds were being pushed quickly past, driven by winds that never touched them where they stood. The last light of the vanished sun splashed across their undersides, giving them an eerie, unreal appearance. The other Faith went on in a whisper. "Samhain, when the veil between worlds grows thin. Spirits can travel back from the other side, they can speak to us, and we to them." She lowered her gaze back to Faith. "Is it so much different for me to be able to slip past the borders between what is, and what was?" She paused for a second, and then gave a laugh. "Listen to me; I sound like a freakin' Watcher."
Faith looked at the other, watching how she stood, how she moved and spoke. Without taking her eyes away, she lowered herself back down to sit on the grass.
"You're really me, aren't you?"
The dark-haired girl looked back, her face serious now. She nodded.
"Yeah, I'm you. Sure, there's that 'First Evil' thing. It could probably do something that looked like this, and maybe convince you of anything it wanted." Seeing Faith's uncomprehending expression, the other girl waved a hand. "Buffy hasn't met that yet, and I'm not it, anyway. Forget I said anything." She sat down opposite Faith, so close that their knees almost touched. "I'm you, one year from now. I did some Astral Projection stuff to get here."
"Okay then, why? Why come back?"
The seemingly-solid apparition sat there, with her legs folded under her, and stared back.
"Why do you think?"
She blinked. Huh? Why not just tell her why? It wasn't like it was a trick question, or anything. The future version of herself just sat there, looking at her, seeming like she could wait all night, if that's what it took. Was it that she had to guess, or her other self wouldn't tell her? Wait. That was it.
Faith looked at her other self, her eyes wide.
"This is it, isn't it?"
No answer, just that patient look.
"She told me, back in Boston, right before.... She told me that there would be a test, someday. Is this it?"
The other Faith nodded slowly.
"Yes. This is the test. They sent me back to lead you through it, to make sure you're good enough to be their soldier-girl."
Faith was a bit surprised at the bitterness in her older-self's voice. Sure, she herself was not a huge fan of the stuffy British crowd, but they were the bosses, after all. The other girl was playing with her hair, twisting the long, straight strands into coils, then letting them spin loose. She seemed fascinated with her fingers, too. She was running her hands over the grass where she sat, but she seemed to have no substance. The green blades remained undisturbed, and she stopped trying to touch them. When she looked up, there was a haunted look in her eyes; a sort of sad emptiness. Faith looked away, hoping that this didn't mean that she was going to get all flaky at some point in the next year.
"Uh, okay then. What do I do?"
The other was silent for a long moment, then gave a quick nod.
"Okay. First thing; follow me."
She stood with an easy grace that Faith duplicated with her flesh and blood body. The older Faith started off through the park, and the younger one followed after.
* * * * *