i. personal pronoun, lacking antecedent and tense
She is just like her, and everything she is not. Light and dark, vision and ignorance, like and unlike.
But she could touch her. Push her down into grass gone silver and bowed with dew, push her down and taste her. Clutch at her waist and hair, hold her like no one ever has, make her whimper and gasp. Split her open and drown in their need.
Their need, swelling up and over, spilling, erasing the distance between them. Taste her, and she would be caramel golden honey dark amber whiskey, everything she wants and is and never can be.
ii. 'be ahead of all parting, as if it were/behind you'
Buffy's back on top of the bus. Rest-stop break, girls sucking down soda, and Faith climbed up here a while ago; she's just sitting next to Buffy, twisting the cuff around her wrist, silent.
"What do you want from me?" Buffy asks. That's the question, the last and only one. The one thing they're never going to answer, never going to agree on.
Faith could smirk and shake out her match. Kick her boot against the bus and cock her eyebrow. "Nothing," she could say. Tersely, dismissively, make Buffy feel like a coddled virgin girl all over again. "Nothing. But, hey. Points to you for making it all about you. As usual."
They both knows the wrong answer. Friends, family, watcher. Love.
Faith doesn't sneer this time. She just lifts a thin lock of hair out of Buffy's eyes and blinks against the sun. Her fingertips are a little rough, her nails cut down to the quick. Ragged cuticles, hands of a fighter. Brawler and prisoner.
"What'd Giles say? Something about don't look back, he comes and goes, Orpheus. Something," Faith says. Later. "Past death or whatever."
As they drove, the dust of Sunnydale blooming behind them, Giles had muttered in German. Faith perked up when she heard 'Orpheus'. Robin tried to explain it was classical, not the shit she'd shot herself full of to save Angel, and Buffy looked away.
"Death's my gift, yeah," Buffy says now. "That's me. Santa Death. Jolly St. Dead."
"Oh, Christ. You met her, too?" Faith shakes her head and knocks her hand against Buffy's shoulder. "Freakass Rasta bitch, hits like a sledgehammer, talks about as clear as Brando?"
"Yeah," Buffy says. "Her, us."
iii. abjuring the world of men (1)
"So that's really working for you?" Faith swiped the sweat from her face, then her mouth, before throwing back her head and tugging the knots out of her hair. "Staying all G-rated, all the time?"
"Sure. It's not like --" Buffy bit her lip. Faith was always asking questions. So many questions -- who are you? Why do you get this -- mom, friends, boyfriend? Why aren't you like me? How come I'm not the slayer? -- and Buffy didn't have questions. "Yeah, it's working."
It wasn't working. She kissed Angel goodnight, every night, until her lips were bruised. She followed his tai chi poses, aped his movements and bent as close to him as she dared, and it wasn't working, it was never enough.
Faith eyed her, starting to grin. "Man, I don't know how you do it. Different strokes, I guess." She grinned fully and punched Buffy's shoulder. "Or, in your case, no strokes."
iv. 'a restless voice kept harrying his woman'
"Pillar of salt." Buffy smiles. Adds, "But actually, I'm lying down."
Now she is tired. She's beaten-down, and victory is dust in her mouth. Salt, marble, eroding stone. Sand everywhere.
Grit and wear, and she is exhausted. Faith can see that, Faith always could.
"So that mindwalk --" Buffy starts to say. She stops; she doesn't care anymore.
Faith travels like air. She inhabits bodies and minds, sees and hears what Buffy never can.
She wonders if Faith can still feel the remnants of their body-switch. Residue like salt, like stars in the sky invisible in the day. Buffy does, sometimes, or thinks she does. Maybe she just wants to, the tingle inside her skin, an extra layer, empty and atomic, between muscle and bone, the memory of someone else there.
Faith's gone deeper inside her than anyone. Their nerves are intertwined, vines on a shared trellis; their memories, too, and their dreams.
All Slayers are, she supposes. Especially now, the dreams are everywhere, rooting into countless minds.
It is different with Faith, though. Earlier, and deeper, and always different.
v. abjuring the world of men (2)
"Always has to be a peeing contest with you," Buffy says.
"Pissing. Word's pissing."
"Tougher than anyone, that's all I meant."
"Nah," Faith says, grinning, her eyes closing. "Just tougher than you, is all."
They're not alone any more. There are more girls, more than anyone's ever going to be able to count, like them.
vi. 'her glass drinks light, she darkles down behind'
Fought her forever, until the bruises coated her body, wrapped her in a neon-glow red blanket of pain, fought until she couldn't see out of one eye, and kept fighting.
They fought to break it down. They needed to fight and fought to need.
They fought to break into each other, to break the other and stand alone, and they fought to hold on. They fought harder and sweatier than any fuck.
She shoved the knife into Faith's gut, thrust it in.
Then Faith fell, took the joy away. Buffy didn't come until later, beneath Angel, her blood running out, but this was a threeway, Angel just a substitute.
It was only later, so much later, when she was naked, bruised, gasping in front of Spike, that Buffy understood what had happened. She finally got it.
Fuck-hate-love-fear: it all comes from the same place, deeper than anything, yowling and coiling and animal. She loved Angel but she fought Faith, she hated Spike but she fucked him, she loved and needed and there was no one left.
vii. 'my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: my flesh also'
They're lying here on top of the bus, somewhere out in the country, sharp hills and sand. Dreamscape, and Tara could float by, hand in hand with Kendra, but they're here, not dreaming.
"Question, actually, is what do you want from me?" Faith sits up, leaning back on one hand, tilting her head against her shoulder. "'cause I think we both know what I want."
"I want --" Buffy is tired, dazed by the sun. Not even three yet, it's still early. The words aren't coming.
She looks at Faith, taut and small and hot, hair blowing back, tank riding up on her stomach. The scar on her belly is pale, fishbelly-silver and soft to the touch.
"Think I want to dance with you," Buffy says.
She was real, dancing. No boundary between them, silver glint of reflection, nothing like that. Not when they slayed and never when they danced; fighting, fucking, dancing, it's all in the body, it's all in the motion.
Buffy sits up and takes Faith's hand and they jump off the roof of the bus, landing easily, simultaneously. She's not afraid any more. Not here in the sun, not with Faith's hand in hers. Not now, after everything.