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Part 6

Buffy stared into her own face. She blinked, and her reflection blinked too, eyes wide with horror. "What...?" She couldn't finish the question. It was all too clear. Magic. Faith had lulled her into a false sense of security. Amnesia? Yeah, right. She should have known better than to think Faith would ever get over her hatred. Faith had always been jealous. She was still trying to steal Buffy's life. This time, literally.

Buffy yanked her hand back. It was the little device of the Mayor's that had done it. She grabbed Faith's wrist – that now looked exactly like her wrist – not bothering to hide her Slayer strength. She ripped the gadget off Faith's hand. She wanted to crush it out of existence. Just when she thought she could trust Faith again – just when she was almost ready to start over again – just when she had felt that there might be something between them...

"What the hell did you do to me?"

Buffy glanced up, startled. Even the voice was hers. How much damage had the spell done? Faith's face – her face – was white with shock. She looked terrified. She backed up a step, then another, as if Buffy was the monster here.

"I didn't do anything, Faith. Maybe next time you should read the instructions before you try to kill me!" Buffy clapped a hand over her mouth. Where the hell had that voice come from? Deep, husky, rough...almost a growl. She stared at her hand squeezing Faith's wrist. The skin was pale but still darker than it should be. Thin blue lines of veins showed beneath not enough flesh. The fingers were too long, gripping Faith's wrist tight enough to turn the knuckles white. Buffy could feel the hand, but it wasn't hers. She dropped Faith's arm like it was on fire.

"Oh, no. No. Tell me you didn't –" Buffy stopped talking in the voice that wasn't hers and settled for shaking her head mutely. She turned and ran for the bathroom. She slammed the door open and flicked on the light.

Faith gaped at her from the mirror. Her jaw hung open, anger and denial written on her features, her eyes dangerous and dark. Her mouth was forming the word "No" over and over again, but not making a sound. Buffy lifted her hands to touch her face...and the mirror-Faith copied her exactly. It was her reflection. Faith had switched their bodies.

Buffy started when her own face appeared in the mirror behind her. She whirled around, hands automatically curling into fists. "Undo it, Faith!"

Faith stared at her, then over her shoulder to the mirror. "You have got to be shitting me."

Buffy flinched away from hearing Faith's words in her voice. What had Faith done? How could she? And would they ever be able to undo it? Buffy pushed the fear down. "Whatever you did –" She held up the little twist of metal and crystal. She shoved it into Faith's chest, letting it drop between them. " – it's not going to work. Giles will figure it out – or Willow –" Buffy could hear her voice getting even rougher, desperation creeping into her tone, but she just pushed forward, shouldering Faith out of the bathroom. "I beat you once, and I'll do it again, I swear, if you don't fix this –"

Faith's eyes were getting wider and wider. Cords stood out in her neck. Muscles knotted in her shoulders, where her tank top left them bare. She coiled like a spring. When Buffy ran out of words to throw in her face, Faith exploded.

"Fuck you!" She launched herself at Buffy, slamming her face with an elbow and kicking her legs out from under her. Buffy felt her breath whoosh out of her as she hit the floor. Pain cracked the back of her head, flaring red and black across her vision. Buffy didn't even have time to gasp. Faith threw herself down on top of her. "Don't tell me what I did, don't fucking tell me what I'm like, I don't know, don't you fucking get it? I – don't – know!"

Buffy tried to get her knee between her body and Faith's. Faith fought like a wildcat. She wrestled Buffy to the ground. She didn't fight like the Slayer. There was nothing calculated or controlled in her assault. She punched randomly, not using the strength Buffy knew she had. She lashed out without a thought or a plan. Her face twisted. She looked crazy – psycho –

Seeing that look on her own face frightened Buffy more than the useless attack. She knew it was Faith, but those were her eyes, green and wide, her blonde hair streaming over her shoulders, her body struggling to pin Buffy down. Faith was crying like she didn't even know it was happening. Angry tears streamed down her face. She fought to control Buffy's arms, slapping them aside and trying to grip her wrists.

"Don't tell me, you bitch, you don't tell me anything..."

Buffy froze. Faith's words finally penetrated her anger. She could hear Faith's confusion, her desperation. Faith didn't know what was going on any more than Buffy did. She wasn't fighting for the sake of their grudges, but because Buffy had pushed her too hard – demanded too much. Buffy felt a lump settle in her throat, hard and painful. She'd let her suspicion take over and jumped to conclusions. No wonder Faith had attacked her. Buffy was lucky it hadn't happened sooner. With all the evasions and half-truths she'd tried to feed Faith, what could she expect?

Buffy had to turn this fight around. She twisted her arms inside Faith's and grabbed her forearms. Faith reared back. She wasn't fighting like a Slayer. She didn't really know what she was doing. Buffy did. With a sudden roll, she was on top, controlling Faith's kicks by wrapping their legs together. She panted, suddenly realizing how close their bodies were twined around each other. She could hardly tell which limbs were hers and which belonged to Faith.

"Stop...Faith...listen..." Buffy tried to sound reassuring, but Faith's voice just wasn't built for it. The words came out sounding almost seductive, both rough and soft, like broken velvet.

Faith stiffened in Buffy's hold. Buffy relaxed a fraction. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." Buffy whispered the apology, over and over. It felt incredibly good to say. She'd been holding the words back for so long that she'd been ready to explode if she didn't let them out. The truth, finally, the truth. "It's not your fault, I'm sorry..."

"What are you doing to me?" Faith's question was an incredulous murmur that Buffy only caught because of her Slayer hearing. Did she really sound like that? Was her voice so...whining, almost pleading? Or was that just Faith?

Faith had never sounded that way before, she was sure.

But this could no longer be about what Faith had been before.

"I'm going to let you up," she said. In Faith's voice, it sounded like a threat. "Please, Faith. Just...I'll explain. I promise."

Buffy backed off. It hurt to let Faith go. She hadn't allowed herself to feel their mutual Slayer tinglies at first. She couldn't trust herself to accept the warmth of them. Faith had called her on it in the hospital, and later, there had been the casual touches that came from living near each other. Buffy wouldn't let herself feel them. Not after last night. In the shower...Oh, God, she couldn't let Faith know what she did to her. Laying on top of Faith, Buffy felt the pleasure rush over her in a sudden wave. She had missed this...well, not this, but...training with Faith. Being able to touch her. In sparring sessions, and that sort of thing. Not like... Buffy shook her head to shut up her internal babble. She released Faith, hoping that she could control the face that wasn't hers. She had to hide what she felt.

She kept hold of Faith's hand, holding the Mayor's toy in the other. How could that bastard still cause so much trouble even after she'd blown him to boot leather? She'd have to keep the device to see if Willow or Giles could use it to reverse the spell. She wasn't about to go experimenting. Willow's accidental run-in with her vamp-twin had taught her that much.

Faith stood up slowly and glared at her. She shook her hand free, rejecting whatever Buffy had been offering her...not that Buffy knew what that was, herself. Comfort? Support? Something. Buffy wanted to cringe. Faith's expression on her face was so cold. The green eyes were like ice. No wonder people gave way before Buffy's anger. She never knew she could look so...forbidding.

"So? Spill." Faith crossed her arms, an eerily familiar gesture.

Buffy bit her lip. How was she supposed to start? The truth was way more difficult than it seemed at first, more complicated. She and Faith had always had an instinctive understanding. Even when they were enemies, they knew what the other one intended more often than not. It was what had made them such an amazing team. It was what had made that last fight on the rooftop so surprising. Buffy never would have thought Faith would jump...she never thought she could have stabbed Faith.

"In every generation a Slayer is born," she said. The words sounded wrong in Faith's voice, full of sarcasm. But maybe Giles' way was the best, after all.

"I know that much," Faith said, rolling her eyes. "So what the hell does it mean?"

"It means – what do you mean, you know?" Buffy frowned at her.

"I listened to you talking to Joyce and Giles. I followed you last night...the guy that got away from you called me that. And the ugly dude who gave me that thing." Faith waved at the gadget Buffy was holding.

Buffy stared at her. "That vampire came after you?"

Faith raised an eyebrow. "Vampire? What are you –"

"You must have slayed him, since you're...well, alive." Buffy's heart constricted at the thought of Faith facing a vamp without even knowing what he was. Faith was staring at her in disbelief. Buffy realized she'd have to explain. "You shoved a stake in his heart and he turned to dust, right?" she asked.

"Yeah," Faith said softly. "I killed him. So there you go. I just can't seem to shake the evil thing." She glanced up at Buffy, green eyes glimmering through the sooty fall of eyelashes. "I am a murderer."

"No! Faith, that's not...you're not evil." Buffy took a step towards her, but Faith flinched back. It was so weird, seeing fear on her own face...seeing how small and vulnerable her own body looked. And how did she look to Faith? The body she wore was overpowering at the best of times, brash and confident. She didn't know how to be herself in it. She shied away from Faith, trying not to overwhelm her. "He was a vampire. Like, fangs and bloodsucking and demony. Vampires are real. We are vampire slayers. We protect people. We're not evil. We're the heroes."

"Yeah. Right." Faith looked away. "I thought you were gonna be straight with me, B. For once."

Buffy tamped down her anger. Why couldn't Faith believe her, trust her?

Well, all the lying she'd done might be a clue.

"Listen, Faith, I know you've felt it," she said. She rubbed her hands together and started pacing, staring down at her arms, her legs...her chest. She blushed and tried to focus on the conversation. "Your hearing, your eyesight...all our senses are enhanced. And you're stronger than you know. And if you dusted that vampire, you must remember how to fight. It's an instinct, you can't not slay, I know. I didn't want to, for years, but even when I ran away from it I couldn't stop...it's too –"

"Good," Faith finished, when Buffy stopped. "It feels right."

Buffy tried to laugh, smoothing down the tiny hairs on her arms that stood up at attention when she talked about the slaying. Faith's body was so responsive. Did she feel this much all the time? No wonder she'd always needed one night stands to calm down. "It's destiny," she said, in that dark-as-smoke voice that made everything sound like a come-on.

"And this?" Faith waved at the two of them. "I swear I didn't know –"

"I know. I just thought...never mind." Buffy frowned. "Magic's real too, and that's what I think this is. A body switching spell."

"I barely got used to that body, and now we're stuck like this?" Faith asked. She flicked her fingers as if she didn't expect them to move the way she wanted. "No offense. I mean, you're hot and all, but I just think I'd rather be me...even a me I don't remember."

"You think I'm hot?"

Faith smirked at her, then down at the body she wore, grinning.

Buffy closed her eyes and cursed herself for blurting out that particular question. Especially after last night with Riley. Back up, don't think about it, that is so not the point of this conversation.

Fortunately, Faith wasn't making an issue of it. Still staring down at herself, she asked, "Are we gonna be able to switch back?"

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know anything about it. Except the Mayor had something to do with it."

Faith glanced at the television. "He was my guardian. He was proud of me."

Buffy nodded. "He...he was evil, Faith. He was a demon."

"Fuck." Faith slid down to sit on the couch, staring at the dark screen. "That's what I did, isn't it? I helped him. I was evil."

Buffy circled the couch and sat beside her. Holding her breath, she dared to place a hand on Faith's back, staring at the cornsilk hair that should be hers. "You made a mistake."

Faith shrugged – not to push Buffy's hand away, but as if to say that there was no real difference.

"You saved me, in the end, when I had to fight him," Buffy said, stroking her hand down Faith's back. "I never got to thank you for that."

Faith leaned back, trapping Buffy's hand between her back and the couch. "Is that how I really got hurt? Because I know it was no car accident."

Buffy felt her blood turn to ice. "No," she said, surprised that she was able to get the word out without choking. Automatically, she glanced at Faith's stomach. Of course the scar wasn't there. It was on her body now. She slid her free hand under her t-shirt, over her flat stomach, feeling the rough ridge of tissue running in a ragged line just below her ribs. She shuddered as her body interpreted the touch way differently than she'd meant it. God, she couldn't control herself. She wanted to feel so much more. The Slayer connection wasn't confused by the body switch. She could feel it through her hand on Faith's back, and where their thighs were pressed together. Buffy bit back a sigh.

"I have this dream..." Faith said slowly, watching Buffy carefully. "Where I'm being hunted. Where I'm killed. It's the same knife, every time, except I can't see who's holding it." Faith's eyes dropped to Buffy's hand. Buffy jerked it away from the scar. "It was you, wasn't it."

It wasn't a question. Buffy stood up. She yanked free of Faith. If only her confusion could be shaken away that easily. This body reminded her too much of her past mistakes. She couldn't act right, couldn't think right, couldn't even look at herself or at Faith. There was so much that was wrong with the whole situation. Faith was being way too calm, for one. Buffy thought as soon as Faith knew that she was the reason Faith had lost eight months of her life, that she'd attack, go crazy, whatever. How could Faith just look at her like that? Sitting there, studying her, and using her expressions to do it with!

Buffy felt like she'd lost herself. Like there was nothing left to hang on to in her life, no place for her to stand and be herself.

This must be what it's like for Faith, she thought, not remembering anything. God, how selfish can you get? She's way worse off than you right now.

But she couldn't force herself to go back to the couch. Why did Faith have to come back? Things were good now. Faith only brought back emotions Buffy thought she'd forgotten. "We have to find a way to switch back," she said. She ignored Faith's accusation. They both knew it was true. She was more eager to get her body back than to dig into that history.

"No kidding. And you have a plan to do that how?" Faith tipped her head back on the couch, pouting.

Buffy smiled at the sight. Faith used to tease her endlessly about that pout. Seeing her do it made it...cuter.

Faith cocked an eyebrow at her, and Buffy realized she'd been staring. She ducked her head to hide her blush. "God, this is such a wig," she said. "Seeing you like that."

"Feeling's mutual." Faith held her hands out, staring at them. "What the hell do we do now? Just say abracadabra and hope something works?"

"Willow," Buffy said.

"You wanna go to her party tonight like this?" Faith asked. "Kinky."

"No – Willow's a witch. We have to tell her what happened. We'll give her the thingy to look at." Buffy winced. "She isn't going to be too happy about this. But Giles would be worse. When he's mad he makes this clicky sound in his throat..." She sighed and checked her watch, then realized it was on Faith's wrist now, not hers. She leaned over the couch and took Faith's arm. Faith raised her eyebrows and Buffy stepped back quickly, embarrassed. "We can go now. We might be early."

"What, like this?"

Buffy frowned at Faith. "What do you mean?"

Faith was starting to grin. It was a strange expression on Buffy's face – it looked almost as dangerous as when she had her own body. "You're telling me that magic is real. Your best friend's a magician –"


"Whatever. And you...we are, like...hot chicks with superpowers. We can't go like this!" Faith waved at their clothes. "Come on, B, find the fun a little. After Willow waves her wand, you're never gonna get a chance like this again...to be someone else for a while, right?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Barring other freaky spells? I really hope not."

"So let's do this right." Faith grabbed her bags of new clothes. She started up the stairs to Buffy's bedroom. She turned back when Buffy didn't follow her. She waggled her eyebrows, leering a little. "Don't tell me you don't want to find out what my body is capable of."

Heat washed through Buffy at Faith's words. She fought to keep control of her breathing. This was not happening. "You are not going to test drive my body, Faith!"

"We'll see about that," Faith said. "I'm gonna make you look so sexy..." She disappeared up the stairs.

Buffy glanced down at Faith's body. She'd never been so...that is, there was so much...Oh, hell. She ran her hands down her sides, over the soft cotton of the t-shirt. She shivered. Lightly, she trailed her fingers over the skin of her sides. Her stomach dipped in, the muscles quivering under her hands. She stroked her thighs, feeling the taut strength of her legs beneath the denim. She slid her hands upwards, ignoring her brain screaming that this was so very, very wrong. She palmed her breasts, feeling the soft, heavy weight of them. God, that was good. Her nipples hardened, and she wondered what they looked like beneath the shirt. Darker than hers, she imagined, and a bit larger, and...fuck. Faith was right. She did want to know exactly what this body could do.

But she wanted to find out while she was herself. This was just...weird.

And that thought was even weirder. She wanted...Faith. She wanted to – to touch her, like this, to give Faith the pleasure she was feeling now.

No. No. She couldn't be thinking that. Faith would regain her memories soon...already she was acting more and more like her old self. "Find the fun"? Not a good idea, not now. When Faith remembered – for real – she wasn't going to want to hang around Sunnydale longer than it took to get her revenge. Buffy couldn't want Faith...because all Faith would want was to run.

And what about Riley? Buffy jerked her mind away from the thought of him. Things hadn't been going well with him in a long time. It took Faith's awakening to remind her of why. He couldn't even get her off last night. Right now, looking at Faith's body in her own hands, she was closer than she'd been then...

Shit. She had to stop this.

What was Willow going to think when they showed up at the Bronze like this? Buffy had agreed to meet Tara. Showing up in Faith's body, and dragging Faith along in hers, was not the way the evening was supposed to go. Poor Willow. Every time Buffy tried to have best-friend time with her, something Hellmouthy had to happen to wreck it. Would Willow even be willing to help them fix this?

Would she even know how? Buffy bit her lip and forced herself not to think about what her life would be like if she was stuck like this forever. It couldn't happen. There had to be a reversal spell. Focus on that.

Oh, right. It was just that simple. And what was Faith doing with her body right now? If her own actions were anything to judge by, then Buffy really didn't want to be dwelling on that question either.

Buffy heard the sudden spray of water from the bathroom.

Question answered.

"Faith!" She ran for the stairs. "Get my body out of that shower!"



Part 7

There were times when, no matter how much you shook your head and said "What the fuck?", the situation still stubbornly refused to make sense.

Faith figured this was one of those times. She'd ignored Buffy's knock on the door and showered anyway. She half expected that she'd be able to rinse away Buffy's tawny-gold tan along with the soap, and get out of the shower wearing her own body again. This was freakier than waking up in the hospital. At least then she didn't know what she was supposed to look like. Two showers in two days and each time she'd discovered a new body.

Faith wrapped herself in a towel. Over her shoulder, she caught sight of herself in the half-steamed mirror. It was like a stranger had walked in on her in the bathroom. She glared at her reflection. She closed one eye, then the other. She squinted. Grimaced. Stuck her tongue out. She turned away, then whirled back, trying to catch her reflection not paying attention.

It wasn't fooled. Of course.

Faith tilted her head, to one side, then the other. She met her own eyes. Except they weren't hers. They were Buffy's.

Buffy really was beautiful. Her skin glowed, washed clean, like spring time. The heart-shaped face stared solemnly at Faith, lips a little pouty, eyes a little hurt, a little worried. Her body looked so fragile, but Faith knew there was steel in the wiry muscles over the slender bones. She was strong. She was –

A freak.

Some kind of superhero? Like, wearing spandex and living in the bat cave? That was worse than the spy idea Faith had imagined at first.

One part of her brain flatly refused to believe it. That sort of stuff wasn't real, for fuck's sake. It was another lie, some stupid attempt to mess with her head. The whole body-switch thing was pretty convincing, though, unless she and Buffy were somehow sharing a hallucination.

Besides, another part of her understood that what Buffy had told her was all there was. The truth. What she lived for. Destiny.

Slaying that...vampire...last night. The hot rush of yeah baby this is it, do it, yes...

This is it.

This is all you have left.

Faith dropped her eyes. The image in the mirror seemed to know too much. Faith opened the door. Buffy was leaning against the wall outside the bathroom, waiting. She rolled her eyes at Faith's towel.

"This isn't a game, Faith," she said, exasperation turning husky in her throat. "This is serious. This is –"

"Oh, whatever. I left you some hot water."


Faith held her towel closed with one hand and slowly pointed from Buffy to the bathroom with the other. "You. Shower. Gettin' all wet and hot and, quite possibly, soapy –"

"Okay, okay, enough." Buffy was turning an interesting shade of red. "I don't want to – I mean, I'm not going to –"

"Uh-huh." Faith didn't stay to hear the denials. "I'm gonna check out the wardrobe sitch."

She headed for Buffy's room, and grinned when she heard the bathroom door click shut quietly. The water started running a second later. Faith picked through Buffy's closet. She wasn't sure what she was looking for, but the red leather pants seemed to almost leap into her hands. Faith held them up to her waist, an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. There was a clingy black top that went with them. She didn't know how she knew that. She pulled them on. She couldn't stop running her hands over the cool smoothness of the leather, watching the way her body moved.

Her dream images flashed in her mind. This time, she knew the hand on the knife was Buffy's.

Buffy, wearing these clothes.

A memory.

Just a quick impression, of heat and the pressure of another body against hers, like when Buffy had rolled on top of her in the hallway. Then, cold, and air rushing past her, and the ozone scent of lightning. Raindrops flung against her skin until she was chilled and soaked through, and unable to move. She was broken.

Faith shook her head. She remembered.

It wasn't enough. She still had no idea why. Buffy was willing to give her answers now. Faith had to know the rest of the story, to know what it meant.

The water cut off in the bathroom. Faith couldn't help but smile. Buffy had taken the world's fastest shower. Faith didn't know which of them Buffy was trying to convince that she wasn't at all interested in Faith's body, but it sure as hell wasn't working.

That was another part of her memory Faith desperately wanted to regain. What had she felt for Buffy, before? Right now, she had so many different feelings, she didn't know what to think. While they were shopping this afternoon, Buffy had been friendly, open, bright, sparkling. It was a far cry from the cold anger when she'd first seen Faith in the hospital, or the furious joy of her fight against the vampires last night. There was something fascinating about every mood, every side of her. And the fact that Buffy couldn't keep her eyes off her...er...herself, now...well, that was pretty flattering.

Of course, there was the boyfriend, Whatshisname. On the other hand, Buffy hadn't mentioned him all day. So maybe it wasn't serious...

Faith ran a hand through her half-dry hair. She was not going start something with Buffy. How dumb would that be? She didn't even know how Buffy really felt about her, beyond getting that low-down tickle out of seeing her. Faith didn't even know how she really felt, for that matter. What if she hated Buffy for some reason she couldn't remember right now?

"Okay. I'm ready." Buffy appeared at the door, dressed in Faith's new clothes, tight black jeans and a cleavage-baring blouse, the most daring thing Faith had chosen at the store. She froze when she saw Faith, dark eyes going wide.

Faith ignored her look. "Yeah. Me too. Let's go meet your buds."

Buffy made an effort and smiled. "Right." She took one last look at Faith's outfit and turned away.

Faith followed her downstairs. They grabbed their jackets and headed out of the house. Buffy locked the door and then, with a pained look, took a sharpened bit of wood out of her pocket and handed it to Faith.

Faith stared at it – it looked like it might've once been a table leg – and then eyed Buffy. "What's this?"

"A stake." Buffy took another one out of her pocket and jabbed it at the air in front of her, demonstrating. "You're a Slayer. And Sunnydale's dangerous at night. It's built on the mouth of Hell."

"Oh. I shoulda figured." Faith curled her fingers around the stake, as naturally as breathing. Oh yeah. This was right. Another bone-deep memory that surfaced as soon as she felt the smooth-whittled wood against her palm. She squeezed the stake, then, with a reluctant sigh, tucked it into her jacket's inner pocket. "So, you figure Willow's going to be mad about this?"

"I wouldn't blame her." Buffy kicked at a rock in the road, sending it flying. They both winced when there was a sound of glass breaking from halfway down the block. Buffy glanced over her shoulder, meeting Faith's eyes. "I'm supposed to be meeting her girlfriend. It's a big."

Faith raised an eyebrow. "Willow has a girlfriend?"

"Tara. Another witch, I guess." Buffy hugged herself briefly, and Faith found herself thinking about wrapping her arms around her to keep her warm. Not gonna happen.

"How do you feel about that?" she asked instead, watching the passing houses. How did Buffy feel about girls having girlfriends in general?

Buffy shrugged. Out of the corner of her eye, Faith tried to see how Buffy felt wearing a different body than she was used to. Curvier. Taller, by an inch or three, and even more with the thick, chunky boots she wore. Buffy wasn't giving anything away, but she was trying to hide herself, as if she could somehow escape notice. It didn't work. Faith's body had...presence. Look at me. Here I am. Yet, somehow, Buffy wasn't awkward with it. She had enough pride to carry it off.

"Willow's been so upset since Oz left," she said. "And...this is new. I don't know. I'm sure Tara's wonderful, I mean...it's just different."

Faith nodded. They were walking through Sunnydale's main drag, heading for the run-down buildings nearer the docks. It didn't take long to get anywhere in a place as small as this. Buffy led the way past a few warehouses and down a crowded back alley to the doors of the Bronze. Faith followed her past the short line, into the club.

Buffy spotted Willow sitting on the couches in the back. She grinned and headed over. Willow looked up as she approached. The soft smile she'd been directing at Tara fell away. She narrowed her eyes at Buffy.

Buffy didn't notice the sudden change. She took a seat opposite the two witches. "Will, hey!"

Willow ignored her. She made a 'you brought her?' face at Faith and said, "Buffy, can I talk to you for a second?" Pause. Glare at Buffy. "Alone?" She grabbed Faith's elbow and wheeled her around, guiding her towards the bar. "We'll get drinks!" she called over her shoulder.

Over her shoulder, Faith saw Buffy's cheerfulness turned to stunned hurt. She heard the beginning of Buffy's explanation to Tara, then Willow dragged her far enough away that she couldn't hear what they were saying over the music and shouted conversations. Faith opened her mouth, but didn't know what to say. "Willow –" she started, but Willow interrupted.

"Buffy, how could you?" Willow was staring over her shoulder at Tara and Buffy. "Okay, that's all I wanted to say, like, this is a bad idea, but I shouldn't leave them alone. Do you think Faith will say something stupid? She'll probably hurt Tara's feelings. I'm going back over there."

"Jeez, Willow, you don't have much confidence in me, do ya?" Faith rolled her eyes. "I'm not gonna insult your girl. I have these 'Pot, meet Kettle,' issues about it."

Willow whirled around, shocked. "But – Buffy –"

Faith sighed. "I'm not Buffy. I'm Faith. It was an accident. Magical fuckup, body switch...it's not a pretty story."

Willow's mouth dropped open. "You know?"

"About the slayer thing? The cat kinda clawed its way out of the bag after the shiny lights decided I should take a vacation in Buffy's body." Faith crossed her arms at Willow's utter bewilderment. "Didn't exactly mean to tell you like this. Sorry."

"Sorry? You're sorry?" Willow sputtered for a second, then got her glare under control again. "You're trying to – well, I don't know what your evil, skanky plan is this time, but I know you aren't going to get away with it."

"Yeah, yeah, I know, you hate my guts, and of course it's all my fault." Faith headed for the bar. "You might want to go explain to B why you gave her the cold shoulder there. Talk about saying something stupid." She shook her head. "I'll get drinks."

Faith didn't wait to see what Willow's answer would be. She ordered four Cokes from the bartender and paid with her leftover lunch money. She didn't really want to go back to the couches. She watched the dancefloor. They did have some pretty good music here. It would be great to stop thinking for a while and just move to the beat. When the bartender handed her the Cokes and her change, though, she headed back. Fresh start, and all that. Whatever.

Buffy and Willow were staring at each other in silence. Tara looked like she wished she could disappear. She was hunched over as much as possible, hiding behind the veil of her hair.

Faith put the glasses down on the table, then deliberately sat right next to Tara. "Hi," she said, in Buffy's bubbly, enthusiastic voice. "I'm Faith. I guess I used to be evil and kill things, but I don't remember any of that – now I hear I'm supposed to kill things, but only the undead kind. If I seem confused, it's 'cause I'm not really myself today."

Tara gave the tiniest nod and a crooked half-smile. "I-I'm T-tara."

"You and Willow been going out long?"

Tara turned a delicate shade of pink. "N-not that long."

Willow looked like she was about to explode. Buffy was pouting at all of them, refusing to get involved. Faith nodded airily. "That's great. You look cute together."

"Th-thanks." Tara uncurled a bit, and brushed her hair back. Her smile was gentle and warm, silently grateful that Faith was going to shove conversation at them whether they wanted it or not.

There was another pause. Faith took a swig of her Coke. No one else had touched theirs. She caught Buffy watching her, but Buffy looked away as soon as their eyes met. Faith clenched her teeth and turned back to Tara.

"So, you're a witch? That's amazing. I didn't even know magic existed until...well, this whole thing." She pointed at Buffy and herself.

"Um, yeah. My – my mom taught me a lot. And, practicing with Willow. Sh-she's very p-powerful." Tara's smile turned warm and loving. Willow couldn't keep up her glare. She smiled back at Tara, like a lovesick puppy.

Faith shifted uncomfortably. It didn't look likely that she'd ever have anything so obviously right, so sweet. "Yeah? Willow's got the big mojo? But if you've been learning since you were a kid..."

"Oh, I do d-different things." Tara's stutter faded as she got involved in her subject. She had some confidence, it was just buried beneath the shyness. Willow's hand, clasped in hers on her lap, seemed to help, too.

"She's wonderful," Willow said, thawing a bit as long as they were discussing her girlfriend. "She's incredibly intuitive, she can read auras, all sorts of stuff." She smiled as Tara blushed and ducked her head again. "And she's modest."

"I-I'm n-not that –"

"Aw, sweetie. Trust me. You're amazing." Willow dipped forward and kissed Tara, a quick peck on the lips.

"Cool." Faith glanced at Buffy again. Buffy was trying not to stare at Willow and Tara acting all cutesy. She had a weird look on her face, sort of surprised, but curious at the same time. "So could you read my aura?"

"It's not like you're an open book, Faith," Buffy said. "Maybe it takes more than just looking at you."

Faith shrugged. "Yeah, but I'm into learning more about myself." She eyed Buffy. "Can't think why that'd be."

Buffy snorted and stared sulkily at the dancefloor.

"I might be able to see something," Tara offered.

"All right." Faith sat up straight and held her breath. "What do I do?"

Tara laughed softly. "Relax."

Faith nodded. "Simple as that?" she joked.

"Hmm," Tara agreed. She turned to face Faith fully. Her blue eyes unfocused slightly. For a moment, she didn't move, and then she tilted her head and frowned. She peered more closely, while Faith tensed under her stare.

"What is it?" Buffy asked, leaning forward, wavy dark hair falling around her shoulders.

"I-I'm n-not sure." Tara shook her head and sat back. Willow caught her hand again, urging Tara to lean into her shoulder. "It's like you have this fractured energy...like something's been, uh, pushed in where it doesn't belong."

"You mean, like, because she's in my body?" Buffy asked. "Do I have the same thing?"

Tara frowned in concentration. She focused on Buffy for a long moment, then sighed and relaxed. "No. I can see the...fault lines...where your soul and Faith's are...mingled. But it's not b-broken, like hers is."

"Broken?" Buffy asked, just as Faith said, "That doesn't sound good."

"It's not," Tara said quietly. "I don't know what caused it."

"This is just great." Faith crumpled her empty plastic cup and threw it on the table. She tried not to show the fear Tara's words sparked. Broken? Like dreams of knives and rain and dying... She shook her head. "Like I didn't have enough problems."

"Maybe not," Willow said. "I mean, not like I want you to have more problems, but, they could all be connected. The coma, and the amnesia...No one ever asked what caused it, did they? You should have healed way faster than eight months, you're a slayer. So maybe it was something else...like, the same thing that's messing with your aura." She smiled triumphantly. "See?"

Tara nodded, and smiled sweetly at Willow. "You're so smart."

Buffy got up and started pacing. "But that doesn't tell us how to fix it," she said. "And, I'd really like to get back to my body, too. Can you guys help with that?"

Willow grimaced. "Maybe. Research is my middle name."

"Your parents have a weird sense of humor, then," Faith said, grinning. At least there was a chance that this could get better. The thought got her charged up, ready for action. She'd gotten used to the feeling, sort of. She was beginning to recognize it as a slayer thing.

Willow tensed. "Faith..."

Faith forced herself not to get too defensive. Would Willow never get over whatever their history was? "What?"

"I'm still not sure about you, you know. You did try to kill me." Willow sighed. "But, you haven't done anything evil recently, so I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt."

Faith's heart stopped. She stared at Buffy. Buffy looked back, eyes dark and sad. "Faith –"

Faith cut her off with a gesture. "I tried to kill you?" she asked Willow. No wonder, she thought, no wonder they hate me.

Willow blinked at her. "Yeah...I thought Buffy told you."

"No..." Faith backed up, holding her hands up defensively. "I thought...I mean, I know I was on the wrong side..." She shook her head. Buffy reached out a hand to her and Faith slapped it aside. "You promised you were telling the truth."

"I did! Just...not all of it...yet." Buffy's muscles were taut. She held her hands open with an effort. "Faith, I didn't want you to feel –"

"You didn't want me to feel what? Like a murderer? I know you called me that. How many people did I kill – real people, not your stupid vampires?"

Buffy shared a glance with Willow. She slumped a bit, her shoulders dropping. "Two," she said. "But one was an accident..."

"Right. An accident. Well, that's okay then, no problem, I'll just forget all about it...oh, wait, I already did!" Faith knew she was ranting, but she couldn't stop. Tara was watching her with eyes as old as the world, and Faith couldn't take the understanding she saw there. It was too much like pity. "Some superhero," she said, and pushed past them, heading for the door.

"Faith!" Buffy called after her, but Faith didn't stop.

She headed out into the back alley, brushing past the bouncer and the gang of muscle-bound college types waiting in line.

"Buffy!" called a voice behind her. Faith kept going, not wanting to run into any of Buffy's little friends while she looked like this. Footsteps ran after her, and Faith resisted the urge to turn around fighting.

"Buffy!" A hand on her shoulder turned her around. "Didn't you hear me?"

Faith shrugged angrily. Storming out dramatically was difficult when people followed you. This guy was half-familiar. Tall, all-American, open farmboy face – oh, yeah, Buffy's boyfriend. Whatshisname. Riley, that was it.

"What's wrong, Buffy?" He gave her a concerned frown. Behind him were two other dudes from the line outside the Bronze, all of them looking like athletic models, with the ramrod-straight posture of soldier-boys.

"Nothing," she muttered, easily pulling out of his grasp. He was the last person she wanted to explain the whole body switch thing to. She wanted to get away from people for a while. She could deal with this if she could just get some time to herself. Then she'd go back, say sorry to Buffy for wigging. She'd known she was evil. That had been clear from the first. It was just...two people. Dead because of her.

Murderer. Psychotic.

Faith was so busy hating herself, she didn't notice Riley leaning in. He was kissing her before she had a clue, meaty tongue thrusting between her lips, beefcake arms holding her gently.

"Fuck off!" Faith shoved back, using more strength than she'd meant to. Riley went flying back into his friends' arms, and nearly knocked them all down like bowling pins. The shorter, compact one checked to make sure Riley was okay, while the taller black guy stepped forward threateningly.

"Forrest! Back off," Riley said, his voice cracking out the command sharply. "Go on without me."

"Riley –" The second guy was staring at him, blank-faced, jaw clenched.

"Go on, Graham, get out of here." Riley waved them away. He turned back to Faith before his two buddies followed his orders and headed for the Bronze. "What the hell was that?" he barked.

"I'm not your girlfriend," Faith spat.

Riley went white. "What...?"


They both looked up the alley. Buffy was running towards them. Faith couldn't help but notice that she looked really good running.

Riley looked back and forth between the two of them. "Buffy, what is going on?"

"It's a mistake," Buffy said. Riley frowned at her and looked to Faith for the explanation. Buffy laid a hand on his arm. "Riley. It's me. We got caught by a body-switching spell."

"She did this?" Riley asked.

Faith threw her head back, giving a frustrated groan. "I didn't do it."

"It was really more of a we thing," Buffy said.

"When did this happen?" Riley demanded, eyeing Buffy as if he was trying to find some trace of her inside Faith's body.

"This afternoon," Faith said, when Buffy seemed at a loss for words.

Riley glared at her, then, taking Buffy's arm, turned her away from Faith slightly, as if that would stop her from hearing every word. "You could have phoned me, Buffy. I wouldn't have made an ass of myself in front of Forrest and Graham."

"Doubt that," Faith said, just softly enough that Riley could pretend he hadn't heard.

He didn't pretend. "Are you sure this is the best idea? The Initiative could –"

"Riley, I'm not letting the Initiative get their hands on a Slayer. Or have you forgotten that they created Adam?" Buffy jerked her elbow away from his hand. "Look, we're researching the problem, and we'll fix it. Until then –"

"I thought you said Faith was a murderer, and dangerous," Riley said, not bothering to lower his voice any more. "That she was your responsibility. And here you are treating her to a night at the Bronze? In your body?"

Anger boiled up inside Faith. Buffy clamped a hand down on her wrist, as if she knew that Faith was about to explode. She probably did. Faith could feel Buffy's anger, like a raging fire, beneath the surface of her skin.

"This isn't your concern, Riley," she said, the rough voice turning a simple statement into sarcasm.

"I think it is. I think you owe me an explanation."

Buffy's eyes snapped black and deep. Anger flushed her cheeks red, bringing out the dark beauty of Faith's body. "I don't owe you anything, Riley. Not now, not ever. You don't own me."

"Buffy, that's not –"

"Later," Buffy said, obviously trying to reign in her temper. "We'll talk later. I'm... We have to patrol."

"You're taking her –"

Buffy gave him one last glare. "She's a slayer, Riley. She can keep up."

Buffy stomped away, and Faith turned hesitantly after her. The last view of Riley she had before they turned a corner was his mouth hanging open in shock, and the jealous fury in his eyes.



Part 8

"Buffy, wait up!" Faith sprinted down the alley after Buffy, not knowing what else to do. Buffy's longer legs carried her faster, but Faith pulled on the strength she knew she had and caught up with her.

Buffy stopped and turned around so fast Faith nearly smacked into her. "I can't believe I said that!" She kicked a dumpster, the clang echoing in the empty alley, leaving a dent the size of her boot.

Faith glared at her. That was what Buffy was worried about? "Well, you did."

Buffy rolled her eyes in disgust and twisted on her heel. She crossed her arms and resumed walking down the alley. Faith glanced back towards the Bronze. Looked like Riley wasn't the only one who was going to get his evening ruined. So why the hell should she follow Buffy?

Just because Buffy defended her to Riley. Just because Buffy's excuse for lying was that she didn't want to hurt her with the truth.

Not good enough.

But she went after Buffy anyway. She couldn't keep away. It was a familiar feeling, like so much about Buffy; as if some part of her brain remembered this half-painful attraction. It was the sort of thing Faith couldn't think about, couldn't reduce to reason. Where Buffy led, she followed. She slipped a hand to cover her hidden stake, touching the grain of the wood with a fingertip, and felt better. The night felt warm and soft on her skin. There was a tingle in the pit of her stomach. It was different from her connection with Buffy. She couldn't have said how, except that the twinge felt dangerous, and Buffy was safe.

"This is your fault," Buffy said, staring at the ground in front of her feet.

"My fault?" Faith asked, and almost smiled. She wondered why she wasn't more upset.

"Your body's fault. Hormonal much? I've never been so angry." Buffy cracked her knuckles. "I shouldn't have said that, about him keeping up. The last thing I need is Riley acting all pouty and manly-wounded."

Faith gave a snort of laughter. So Buffy was better at keeping her temper, which explained why this was a lot funnier than it should be. "He's used to you stroking his...ahem...ego?" she asked, smirking a bit.

Buffy's shoulders knotted but she didn't look up. "Shut up."

"Yeah, tell me to fuck off, that's what you want to do, right?" Faith danced around in front of Buffy, where she couldn't ignore her. Buffy tried to step around her, but Faith stayed in her way. "Go on. Get angry."

"I'm not mad." Buffy gritted out each word separately between clenched teeth.

"Then you're doing a great impression of it. You practically have steam coming out of your ears." Faith prodded Buffy with one finger, just above her collarbone. "Told you my body would be fun," she teased.

Buffy didn't laugh. She held onto her control, but barely. "It's my fault. I wasn't fair to Riley –"

"Oh, yeah, 'cause I'm sure he was being fair to you." Faith stepped forward, into Buffy's space. "You're right. You don't owe him shit. Boyfriend is too good a word for him."

Buffy pushed her back, hard enough to put her off balance, but Faith was expecting it. She stayed on her feet. Stepped forward again. Buffy's hands twitched, inches from violence. Faith wondered if this was how she'd fallen into evil – just because her body needed action, and fury was too close to the surface.

"What do you care?" Buffy asked, bitter, not meeting Faith's eyes.

That question Faith didn't want to know the answer to. I don't. About him. She stepped forward again, just because it was good to see Buffy step back. "Farmboy like that, I'm surprised you didn't just use him and lose him," she said. Provoking Buffy. Why? Some almost-memory warned it was a stupid thing to do, as if she couldn't tell that for herself.

Buffy didn't explode, like Faith expected. Even in Faith's body, it was Buffy's mind, Buffy's anger. She was dark and dangerous with it. "You haven't changed," she said, dryly, like it was just some observation, some careless fact.

Faith forced herself to stay still, not to give ground. The words hit her like a sucker-punch to the gut. She reached for anger, but all she found was hurt. Something prodded her to carry it further. Buffy had to lose. The thought came to her, knife-edged and depthless. Faith wanted to ask Why do we do this to each other? Every time, it's the same, every time. How she knew that she didn't know, but it was true. They circled and fought and tried their damnedest to find the weapon that would do the most damage. It was the same now as it always had been. Anger on top of safety. Fear and hurt where there should have been caring. Faith felt the slow burn of rage simmer in Buffy's body, sharp and hopeless. She ignored Buffy's barb and threw one of her own. "I would've dumped him like yesterday's meatloaf," she said. "He kisses like a fish."

Buffy's eyes narrowed. Faith could see echoes of her own evil there. That was a face that could have murdered. That was a body capable of killing. "Going for the boyfriend," Buffy said, vicious and tight. "That strategy's getting old."

Faith had time to think I went for her boyfriend before? and then the meaning of Buffy's words penetrated. "I didn't go for him!" she yelled, and the echoes murmured off the close-set brick walls around them. For a moment Faith was aware of how closed in they were, how high and steep the walls, how there was an overhanging barb wire fence at the far end of the alley. The twinge in her stomach returned. It fueled her anger, made her stronger. "What do you think, I want your macho pig soldier boy? You really think I'd do that? That I'd do that to you?"

It was Buffy's turn to advance, shoving Faith back. Mirroring so many feelings. How many fights? How many times before had they done this? "You kissed him," Buffy said, like she was right, like of course she always had to be right, just because she was Buffy.

Faith flung her arms out and shouted, "He kissed me!"

"Like that makes a difference!" Buffy shouted back at her.

"There's a huge difference," Faith yelled, hating the way Buffy's voice made her sound like a little kid.

Buffy got in her face. "Yeah, like what?" she asked, low and menacing, voice like dark chocolate.

"Like this," Faith whispered, and kissed her, hard.

Heat flared between them instantly. Faith reached out blindly and grabbed the front of Buffy's coat. She tipped her head back and pulled Buffy down. She'd caught Buffy's mouth half-open, ready with a comeback, and their mouths met in a tangle of tongues and lips. Buffy gasped. Satisfaction surged through Faith, and she pressed her advantage. Buffy's hair, loose and dark, swayed around their faces, hiding them from the world. Faith stroked Buffy's tongue with hers. Pleasure coiled low down in her stomach, the tingles of their contact spraying like hissing fireworks across every inch of her skin. God, she wanted this, needed this. There was nothing to compare it to, no memory of other women or other men, but Faith knew it was the best she'd ever had. She didn't need to remember to know that.

Buffy groaned, harsh and low, and Faith fought to keep the kiss going. She sucked on Buffy's tongue, licking every sensitive part she could reach in Buffy's mouth, kissed her until she felt she would fall apart. She'd meant this to be a lesson, to show Buffy that it was a violation to be kissed without wanting it. But Buffy wanted as much as she did, and she was kissing Faith back.

Faith maneuvered nearer, shoving her arms inside Buffy's jacket to wrap around her waist. Every inch of contact was like a starburst of tingling awareness, a flood of this is Buffy, this is good, this is safe, she is like me, she is mine. Faith pressed herself into Buffy as if they could melt together. Buffy had one hand curving over her collarbone, just below her shoulder, the other reaching up to cup Faith's head. Faith didn't know whether Buffy was about to push her away or yank her closer, deeper.

It didn't matter. They were kissing, and that should have been familiar, too, like all that Buffy was; but Faith knew she'd never felt the bone-deep heat of Buffy's mouth. Buffy was new, like this, twisting in her grip, lips burning and desperate. Faith was dizzy and breathless, her body syrup-slow and sweet with the pleasure of the kiss. She felt Buffy's gasp, the twitch of her hips against hers. Faith backed off, enough to breathe, and then with an incredulous moan, leaned forward again. Mouth on Buffy's jaw, wet, exploring, skin soft and tasting of soap and salt.

Buffy made tiny sounds in the back of her throat, rough surprised syllables, like she didn't know that kisses could turn you molten and leave you broken. "Ah, y-yeah, oh – oh God..."

Faith listened to each breathless husk from the voice that should be hers, and wondered how wrong this was. She was kissing herself, sort of, but it wasn't her, it was Buffy, and that was wrong too. They were enemies and this had started as a way to hurt her. Faith would wind up the one hurt. When she learned whatever truth was left, she was going to realize this was probably the worst idea she'd ever had.

But it felt so good, and Buffy wasn't fighting her. Buffy slipped her hand lower and it pressed against Faith's breast now. Even through coat and shirt and bra, Faith felt it like a brand. Her nipple tightened, fire sliding along her nerves. Her body tautened, like a wire, and she paused in her kiss just to pant against Buffy's skin. "More," she whispered, into the smooth line of Buffy's neck. Buffy's voice didn't sound right on her, too pleading. Wrong. Wrong. This was not going to end well.

Fuck that. Fuck endings. Faith didn't even have beginnings now, no past, and this would be whatever they made it. Faith kissed Buffy's neck again, an apology for them being like this right now. She let her tongue draw shivering lines up to Buffy's mouth, and kissed her again. Buffy let her, and her hand was circling Faith's breast now, avoiding the hard peak of her nipple. Faith drew in a shaky breath. She was wet, pulsing, and Buffy hadn't even touched her yet. God, so close. Buffy was teasing her, taking a slow hot delight in making Faith squirm. Faith crashed their mouths together. Buffy's tongue twined easily with hers, and her hips thrust forward, pushing into Faith's.

Faith gave a high-pitched whimper, wrong sound, wrong voice, but oh, fuck, Buffy was pressing into her thigh, each time like little tiny bolts of lightning. Faith lowered her hands, cupping Buffy's tight, high ass, rough denim under her fingers, and pulled with Buffy's rhythm. Pull, pull, Buffy riding her, each time sensation rising higher, Buffy's fingers brushing her nipple now, waves of wanting pulsing over her. Faith wanted to scream, but Buffy's tongue was in her mouth, licking, nipping, tasting, and what came out was more squeal than scream. Buffy was caught up with her body's lust. Hormonal much? she'd said, and this is what she'd meant, desire rising to the surface, body almost too ready. Faith broke free, breath sobbing in her throat, feeling like the world was falling away under her feet. "Buffy," she gasped, and wanted to say something about their fight, about the alley being dirty and trashy and wrong wrong wrong.

She didn't have time to say any of it. The danger-twinge she'd felt before suddenly surged upwards. Fear spiked through her, sharp and immediate. Buffy jerked back from her. "Vampires," she growled. She looked like a part of the night, witch-dark hair and wild eyes. Faith didn't see her grab her stake, but one second she was empty-handed and the next she was holding it, the pale, pointed wood showing up against the dark grime of the alley.

Faith glanced around at the rusty bins and scraps of garbage. She didn't see them, but she felt the inner clamor that said they were nearby. It was like last night, except now she wasn't watching. She was a Slayer. Here was destiny, handed to her on a plate. Just freaking wonderful. She raised an eyebrow at Buffy's tense, watchful stance, and pulled out her own stake. She fell into a defensive posture as if she'd been doing it all her life. Maybe she had.

Buffy nodded towards the fence at the end of the alley. Faith started to protest, then stopped. Buffy leapt up and caught a bit of rebar extending from one building. She swung her body around it. Her flip carried her over the barbed tips of the chain link. She landed neatly on the other side. For a minute, Faith thought she was getting left behind. Then, Buffy turned back and raised an eyebrow at her. Faith met her eyes through the metal diamonds.

"You can do it, you know," Buffy said. "Slayer's honor."

Faith looked up at the rusty steel bar. There was a hungry chuckle behind her in the alley, and the almost-soundless step of feet. The vampires were close. Now or never, superhero.

Faith didn't let herself think. This was a physical thing, something known more in her body than in her head. She jumped up. The bar slapped cold and solid into her hand. Wind rushed past her. She landed on the balls of her feet as easily as a cat, bending her knees to take the impact. She let out a relieved sigh, only half joking. Grinning at Buffy, she bounced a bit on her toes. "Now what?"

Buffy started to smile back at her. Then, as if she'd just let herself focus on Faith's features, her face went sullen and cold. She didn't say a word, just jogged up the alley, expecting Faith to follow her.

"What? Come on!" Faith checked back over her shoulder as they ran. Shadows shifted near the fence. They were being followed. "Buffy!"

Buffy led the way through a maze of backstreets, then vaulted over a stone wall. A smooth lawn stretched ahead of them. Faith could hardly tell if this was the same cemetery as last night, or a different one.

Faith walked backwards, holding up her stake. Excitement pounded through her, adrenaline and the slinking pleasure from before. She'd kissed Buffy. She'd sworn she wouldn't start anything, and – well –

No wonder Buffy had gone all stiff. She'd finally acknowledged whose tongue was in her mouth – whose body she was feeling up. Faith let the tingles slide through her, enjoying it. The vampires creeping up on them just made the sensation more intense.

"So what the hell do I do?" she asked.

"Don't die," Buffy answered shortly. She kept her back turned to Faith and hid them behind a mausoleum, where they could get a drop on their hunters.

"I kissed you," Faith said, because obviously Buffy trying her damnedest to pretend it hadn't happened. As if she could turn the Slayer on and off like a tap. Fight vampires now. Think about what the kiss meant later – if at all. Faith could see the wrinkly-foreheaded dudes heading for them, ten or so, all with big fangy grins.

"Don't sound like that," Buffy said. She rammed her stake into the first vampire who passed their ambush, pulling it out quickly as he dusted.

"Like what?" Faith asked. Her voice squealed indignantly. There was no use being quiet. The vampires had seen them.

Buffy attacked the biggest one. "Like you're some innocent schoolgirl with a crush!" she yelled between punches, weaving under the clumsy grabs of the vampire.

"It's your voice!" Faith hurled herself onto one of the vampires. Her heart was slamming against her ribs. Don't die. Wonderful advice. She took a punch that stunned her, then ducked the next one without thinking. She blinked, and when she looked again, there was dust in front of her and another vampire charging.

"That's not the point!" Buffy emphasized her last word with another stake to a heart.

"You liked it," Faith said, sweeping her leg out to catch a girl vamp under her knees. Two of them went down when she shoved, like dominoes. She jumped on top of the pile and got a knee in her stomach for her trouble. "Oof!"

"Faith –"

"I'm fine," Faith forced herself to say. Beneath her, the girl vamp's yellow glaring eyes erupted into dust and vanished. Faith had landed on her chest, stake down. Luck. Or destiny.

Buffy hauled her to her feet by the scruff of her neck. "I said don't die!"

"I heard." Faith shook off Buffy's hand. "You're freaked because we did it in each other's bodies."

"I'm freaked because it's you!"

Faith tackled Buffy out of the way of a vampire's lunge. The vamp stumbled and Buffy drove her stake up into his chest as he fell.

"So you're not freaked that we're both girls?" Faith flipped from her back to her feet without thinking how she'd done it.

Buffy's face flushed and she stopped pounding the vamp in front of her. "That's – I mean –" The vamp caught her with a kick that sent her sprawling. He followed up by jumping on her, but Buffy got her legs up and kicked him off. He flew past Faith, breaking a headstone with his landing. "I'm with Riley!" Buffy yelled. With a vicious grunt, she staked the vamp.

"Stupidest excuse I ever heard, you don't even like him!" Another vampire launched himself onto Faith with a growl and she turned her hip and tossed him right into a low, jutting tree branch. Poof. Awesome. She didn't even know she'd been aiming him there. She paused to admire it.

Buffy grabbed her upper arm and swung her around, throwing her back into the fight. "God, you have the attention span of a gnat," she said.

Faith avoided a crescent kick and weaved around a series of obvious, flailing punches. "You're the one changing the subject."

"This isn't about Riley."

"Finally, we agree."

"It's not – Faith, I'm not –"

"And I'm supposed to know whether I am? Was I before?" Faith grabbed her vampire's shirt collar and used him as a wrecking ball on the nearest tomb wall.

Buffy glared at her. "You think I would know?" A roundhouse kick crunched the face of her opponent.

"You might." Faith doubled the vampire over with a knee. "You're –" Kick. " – the only –" Jab. " – one I know! You, I remember –" Left hook. "Only you. But when I kissed you –" Right uppercut. Punch. Punch. Punch. "It. Was. Right." Stake. Dust. Panting.

Empty cemetery.

Heart racing. Body trembling. Heat rushing between her legs.

Buffy staring at her.

"Are we –" Faith stopped, licked her lips. Buffy was looking at her like a hunting owl eying a mouse. Faith watched her eyes, her mouth. It had to be wrong to be so turned on by her own body. It was Buffy she wanted, Buffy's lust behind those dark eyes. "Are we always this honest when we fight?"

Buffy opened her mouth, then dropped her gaze. "Each other, maybe."

"We did that a lot, huh." It was a statement, not a question. Faith rolled a kink out of her shoulder and surveyed the graveyard. Nothing. No vampires. There was no question of believing in them anymore. If the body-switch hadn't convinced her, then the fight had. She shivered, not from cold, but from reaction. She took a deep breath, trying to hide how it shuddered in her throat. The tingle of Buffy's nearness cut through any thought she tried to form. Kissing her had been so good. Faith wanted to kiss her again. She moved forward before she knew what she was doing.

Buffy shrugged away from her. "We've got to get home," she said curtly. She flinched away from Faith when Faith started walking beside her.

"You hurt?"

"No." Buffy held herself rigid. Faith shot her a look, half worry and half angry disbelief. Buffy didn't stay to answer it. She headed for home in quick tense strides that jarred her body with every step. All the panther grace of the fight was erased.

Faith rolled her eyes and followed. "So tell me you didn't get off on it."

Buffy sucked in a breath. Faith glanced at her sideways, saw her flushed cheeks and fever-bright eyes, the quick, light breaths.

"You're turned on right now thinkin' about it."



Buffy stopped. "Listen. It's just a Slayer thing, a reaction, okay? It doesn't mean anything."

"It was a Slayer thing in the alley before the vampires showed up?" Faith taunted. She stepped close to Buffy again, pushing into her space. This time, Buffy's eyes went down her body, and instead of the horniness Faith knew she felt, there was only disgust. Faith watched her face. Buffy's lips lush and warm from kissing, a hickey red against the paleness of her neck. "You want to kiss me again?"

"I don't, I –"

"Because it's like kissing yourself," Faith said. "That's all."

Buffy stared at her. At the body Faith wore. "I can't."

"It's easy," Faith whispered, in her soft Buffy-voice that was more reassurance than sex. "Close your eyes."

Buffy swallowed. She let her eyes drift shut.

Faith drifted nearer. "When Willow fixes us..."

"Don't. Don't say anything."

"When I remember." Faith brushed her lips against Buffy's. The tiny touch felt like a gunshot, exploding throughout her body. Faith shook, her breath coming faster. "Then –" she whispered. "Then it'll be okay." She kissed Buffy, slowly, her tongue darting out to taste her. Buffy's breasts pressed into hers with each uneven hitch of breath. Faith ran her hands down Buffy's arm, catching her wrists loosely.

Buffy leaned forward, into the slow, sensual kiss, warm with promise. Buffy kept her eyes closed, even as she sank deeply into the kiss. Her stiffness bled away. Faith felt her heart thrumming through their clothes, fast and light. She had forgotten. Faith moaned silently, aching for the touch of Buffy's lips all over, everywhere, now. The slaying had killed Buffy's inhibitions, maybe, trapped as she was with Faith's hormones, Faith's needs. The rest was all them, the two of them, finding each other at last.

"Let's go home," Buffy said, in her slow rough drawl. "I don't know, I don't know if I can..."

"Don't look," Faith said. "Don't look and you won't know it's not me."

Buffy nodded. "Please, Faith. I need it to be you."

Before I remember, Faith thought. She needs me before we're enemies again.



Part 9

Want, take, have. Buffy closed her mind to any other thought. Want, take, have. The mantra was set on replay inside her head, pounding like a drumbeat. Her body – not her body – was flushed, shaky, uncontrollable with a desire she'd always managed to hide before. She was crazy, certifiably insane. Taking Faith home? Letting Faith kiss her? Oh God, oh God, she kissed me, she –

Faith kissed her. Even the memory burned her, the urgent intensity of skin, lips, tongue, want.

Buffy forced herself not to run. She wanted to contain this body of Faith's. Impose limits. She wasn't Faith. She wasn't going to be railroaded by her eager body, taken hostage by the slamming avalanche of sensation. Buffy walked, as if she was paying attention to her patrol, and took the shortest route home. She didn't look at Faith.

That didn't mean Buffy was unaware of her. Faith walked beside her, far enough away that anyone would think they were ignoring each other completely and just happened to be going in the same direction. But Buffy felt her nearness like a caress. Faith's attention was like a laser, a bright flare of heat focused tightly on her.

What the hell was she getting into?

Close your eyes. This was weird in a whole new universe of weird. If she looked at Faith – if she saw that expression of naked lust on her own face – she'd wig. Start thinking, all those thoughts that said she couldn't do this. Thoughts like "What about Riley?" and "Is it cheating if I'm fucking my own body?"

Don't think. Close your eyes. Just feel. Her body was begging for more, for the long, lingering kisses that touched her soul, for Faith to take her places she'd only been in her imagination, in dreams. But it wasn't fair to Faith – none of it was. Buffy was taking advantage of so much; of Faith's amnesia, of her post-Slay hornies, of the subtle familiarity Faith felt for her. She shouldn't be going this far with Faith. She shouldn't be doing this at all. There were so many reasons not to; maybe only one to go through with it.

Buffy jumped and gasped when Faith took her hand. "Where are you going?" Faith asked, school-girl sweet on the surface, upset underneath.

Buffy shrugged, but didn't pull her hand away. Don't look and you won't know. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm right here."

"Then stop beating yourself up."

"I'm not...it's just, Faith, you don't know – what you really feel. You're..."

"Don't tell me what I know. I fucking want this, Buffy. I want you." Faith squeezed her hand, forgetting her strength for a moment. Their hands looked like they should: her small tan hand with coral-pink nails, twined together with Faith's long, delicate fingers. Buffy shivered, a small involuntary thrill, wishing that it could have been like this before. Before every complication in the world had come to stand between them. Faith's awakening had brought all the old desire to the surface. She was finished denying it to herself.

"I want you too," she whispered. She'd never been so turned on, not after the hardest slays, not with Angel... Part of it, maybe, was Faith's body. Her muscles trembled, aching to move, to act, to grab Faith and kiss her senseless. Buffy wanted to discover all the things she'd never let herself think about too closely before. Even more, she wanted Faith to regain her memory. She wanted everything to have a fairy tale ending – for Faith to forgive her, for Faith to want to stay. That was too much to hope for. Enough that she had Faith now, tonight.

They turned on to her street and headed for the house. The windows were dark. Buffy had left a note for her mom saying that they'd be late. She hoped they wouldn't have to explain the body switch to her. And, thank God, her mom slept like a log. Awkward questions were the last thing Buffy needed.

"B..." Faith tugged on her hand, pulling her closer. Buffy let herself be drawn in, wrapping her arms around Faith, the tiny waist, the amazing strength in the small-boned frame. Her body. She flushed and looked down the street, anywhere but at those sea-green eyes that had no business looking at her from anywhere but a mirror. Faith tensed. Buffy knew she'd hurt her by refusing to meet her eyes. It didn't matter how understanding Faith was about the body-switch. Buffy skewered her every time she turned away.

Faith dragged a hand through Buffy's hair and jerked her close. Buffy gasped at the pain in her scalp, but it was easily overwhelmed by the violent hunger of Faith's kiss. Buffy felt her body surge into control. The fierce longing that had been building in her since the alley returned in a flash. She moaned into Faith's mouth, seeking Faith's tongue, exploring her mouth as if she'd never get enough. She suspected she never would. One night was not enough to tire of this endless passion.

Faith pressed both her thumbs over Buffy's closed eyelids until Buffy saw stars. Buffy wrestled Faith's tongue with hers, as if she could kiss her hard enough to make it all better. Light-headed and panting, Buffy kissed blindly, loving the short soft breaths that escaped Faith when she whimpered.

Faith pulled back for a moment. "It's me," she said. "Don't you get that? It's me." She kissed Buffy again, a vicious, frustrated twining of lips and tongues. Her teeth closed on Buffy's lower lip, biting sharply.

Pain flared through Buffy's body, swift and piercing as pleasure. She'd never felt so aroused, her nipples tight beads pushing against her shirt, her clit throbbing. "Faith...Faith..." She chanted her name between kisses. She couldn't think, only react, and maybe that was better.

It seemed to take forever for them to stumble their way into the house and up the stairs to Buffy's room. Buffy pretended she couldn't see in the dark. She wasn't going to destroy this second chance. Faith was someone new. Without memory, without her own face, this was a first time for Faith as well as her. Buffy wanted to make it perfect – better, somehow, than all their history. If Faith had lost their past, then Buffy would too: she could forget Riley, Angel, and the night eight months ago on the roof of Faith's apartment building when she'd shoved a blade into Faith's stomach and felt the spurt of her blood.

Buffy shoved her hands beneath Faith's shirt, feeling the warm whisper of heated skin underneath. No scar. Smooth skin, tanned, dipping at the waist. Buffy searched Faith's body with her hands. She'd never felt so aggressive during sex. She was wanton, almost joyfully savage. Buffy yanked Faith's jacket down off her shoulders until it trapped her arms. She felt wild, like a predator, finding a smug satisfaction in Faith's gasp. Faith didn't wait to be freed. With an enormous yank, she ripped her arms free of the material.

Buffy gave a half-breathless laugh. Oh yes. This was Faith, not some doppelganger. Not herself. She abandoned logic and let her body pull her forward. She pounced on Faith and kissed her again. They went tumbling backwards on to the bed. Their kisses were quick and messy, one following another too fast for them to catch their breath between. Faith's fingers worked feverishly at her clothes, undoing her jeans fly and pushing her shirt over her head. Buffy grunted and let Faith's lips go for long enough to lose the shirt.

"Buffy...fuck..." Faith reached for her, her hands brushing up her sides, over her ribs. Buffy flinched when Faith's fingers ghosted over the rough ridge of scar tissue. It was instinctive, some body-memory deeper than her mind went. Buffy shook her head. She didn't want her brain to be in control now. She took Faith's hands and moved them up.

She lost her breath in a deep, shuddering sigh when Faith cupped her breasts, tweaking her nipples between her knuckles. "Oh, oh God...Faith..." She sat back, open-mouthed, moaning as Faith pinched and rolled her nipples. Excitement spurted through her, centering deep in her stomach. Buffy rolled her hips forward, thrusting against Faith's stomach. "Yes, yes, yes..."

Faith's hand moved up behind her neck and pulled her down again. "Stay with me," she said. "Be patient..."

"You've – got – to be kidding me," Buffy panted, sucking and nipping at Faith's neck, writhing on top of her. "I can't believe...I'm like this..." Sweat sheened Faith's skin, in the hollow of her throat, on the line between her breasts. "You...Faith, you're making me so hot..." Buffy followed it with her tongue, tasting salt and her own flesh. She sighed and closed her eyes, moving her mouth over Faith's breast, finding her nipple hard and straining toward her. Buffy took it gently between her teeth and stroked her tongue over the tip.

Faith sucked in a sudden breath, her body tensing. "Oh fucking God, oh Buffy –"

Buffy licked her nipple over and over, drawing out Faith's cries. She slid a hand down to cup Faith's pussy, pressing against her clit with the heel of her hand. Faith writhed beneath her as if this was new. Buffy wondered for a brief second if Faith's body remembered more about making love to a woman than she ever knew. Her hands knew just how to touch, her fingers sinking between the lips of Faith's pussy so softly, so easily, that it felt like she'd done this a thousand times before. Buffy released Faith's nipple and nibbled her way to her other breast, long tongue strokes that left Faith humming. Buffy slid her fingers deeper into Faith's pussy, rubbing back and forth softly enough to be teasing.

"Buffy...please, fuck me..."

Hearing the insistent tone in her own voice broke through Buffy's concentration, her persistent denial to herself that this was way too freaky. "I've never...I mean...when it was me..." She kept up a steady, circular rhythm, now hard and slow, now soft and fast.

"Just – like that..." Faith's eyes squeezed shut, her thighs parting to give Buffy better access. She gripped the sheets until her knuckles were white. "Ah, oh yeah, just – just harder, please, B..."

Buffy concentrated on kissing the side of Faith's neck, long, open-mouthed kisses. She couldn't believe how wet she was. God, Faith's body was going to kill her. Arousal poured through her with every gasp and moan that Faith let slip. Buffy hurt with need, her pulse racing, her skin prickling with the flaring tingle of Faith's touch. She glowed with sweat, her breathing ragged, her hands trembling as she stroked Faith's clit. She pressed her fingers down, exploring. "Always wanted this," she muttered into the hot skin beneath her lips. "Always wanted you."

Slowly, Buffy slid a finger into Faith's entrance, feeling the tight ring of muscle contracting around her. Faith arched off the bed. "Mmmm...yes! Ahh –"

Buffy focused on the sound of Faith's breathing, her pleas and moans. She thrust her finger deep inside, keeping her palm on Faith's swollen clit. God, what it was to be with Faith...she remembered fantasizing, way back when, even while she was with Angel, but it was nothing compared to the reality. She kissed Faith, taking in her breath and her words, and joined her first finger with a second. Faith tensed, then jarred her hips forward. She was close to coming, her hips jerking erratically, surging forward into Buffy's hand. Buffy closed her eyes and tried to remember every trick that ever sent her over the edge, tracing desire on Faith's flesh, kissing her desperately.

Faith threw back her head and called out when she came. Buffy felt the backlash through their connection. The sensation ripped through her, shattering her. Ecstasy scalded her. Buffy worked her fingers back and forth, drawing it out, squirming against Faith as she felt her orgasm reflected. Heat and pleasure rolled through her. Slowly, Buffy drew her fingers out.

She dropped kisses along Faith's jaw, just behind her ear, at the corner of her mouth. She couldn't stop touching her. Her body – the body she wore – was restless and aching, shivering with need. Yet she couldn't open her eyes. Shame was coming flooding back. Buffy didn't want to see what her face looked like, sated and languorous. So she kept up the small kisses, now Faith's collarbone, now the inside of her elbow.

"Turn over." Faith's lips touched the point of her shoulder. She sat up, rolling over Buffy until her front was pressed against Buffy's back. "Like this...you can't see me...I can feel all of you..." She kissed Buffy's shoulder again, then moved her mouth sensuously across the back of Buffy's neck, her hands gathering the fall of dark hair and lifting it away. Buffy sighed and let her head fall forward. She was quaking, melting, feeling the moisture of Faith's pussy driven against her ass. She moved her hips, nudging backwards.

"Don't, not yet," Faith murmured, running a hand down to Buffy's hip to hold her still. "I want you so bad, all of you...fuck, Buffy, so good..."

Buffy moaned. Faith's fingers were drawing through the moisture that slicked the inside of her thighs, moving upwards. Buffy's breath was harsh in her throat. She couldn't get enough oxygen. She was too busy feeling Faith's fingers trailing their way upwards, Faith's lips moving against her back and neck. Buffy couldn't even speak. Lust stormed through her. Faith's hands reached their goal. Buffy cried out as Faith buried three fingers in her hole, filling her, expanding her until she thought she would die from the wonderful sensation. She had never felt so complete, as if Faith were a part of her she'd been missing.

"You're so wet. Oh yeah. Perfect..." Faith pulled her fingers away, Buffy moaning at their loss, and then drove them forward again. Buffy caught her rhythm, the bed shaking beneath them as Faith worked Buffy's pussy.

Fire surged through Buffy's veins. She was going to come harder than she ever had, and faster. Faith's touch was like lightning, electrifying her, centering around her clit and the incredible feel of Faith's fingers reaching deeper and finding her g spot. Buffy screamed when Faith massaged the soft spot inside her. She drove her hips back, making Faith gasp and push harder. The wet clicking sounds of her cunt filled the room, emphasized by their panting breaths. Sweat slid between them, and Buffy could feel the peaks of Faith's nipples against her back each time they swayed together.

With a sudden move, Faith looped an arm around Buffy's waist and caught Buffy's clit between two fingers, squeezing and releasing, rolling the hard, swollen nub. Buffy froze as her climax exploded inside her. Frenzied excitement took control of her. She couldn't think, couldn't move. White light gripped her and sent her flying. Faith's fingers never stopping their insistent thrusts, her other hand pressing tight against Buffy's clit. Buffy called out her name, over and over, until, ragged and exhausted, she collapsed. Faith's weight was warm and welcome against her back.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"Hmm," Faith said, sleepy-voiced. There was one last touch of lips against her skin. "Amazing."

Buffy felt tiredness stealing over her. Faith's body was worn out by all the brief, storming rages of its emotions. God, Buffy could never get used to it. Not that she'd have to...Willow and Tara had seemed optimistic that they could do something, find a way to reverse the spell. But maybe there was something to be said for Faith's kind of living. Quick to anger, quick to passion, with no checks against speaking out or doing something crazy. Maybe this was what Faith meant when she talked about finding the fun. Grab life and shake it till it gives.

Faith snuggled closer behind her. Buffy sighed and let herself relax into her arms. Who could imagine Faith a snuggler? Was it Buffy's body that did it, or the lack of memories? Faith seemed like the same person. More and more as time passed, Faith's familiar phrases and mannerisms were creeping back. She was remembering, if only slowly.

But what was the deal with Faith's fractured soul? Buffy shifted closer to Faith, reassuring herself that she was still there, still solid, still warm. Tomorrow she'd ask Tara to look again. Maybe there was some clue in Faith's aura that she'd missed. There had to be a place to start looking for answers.

It all came down to whether they wanted answers. If Faith regained her memory...Buffy knew she would leave. She'd known that all along. Faith was a criminal, even if the police weren't looking for her. They were still enemies...weren't they? Tonight couldn't change a year's worth of jealousy and fighting. And besides, Faith wasn't the loyal type. Get some, get gone. It was only a matter of time until she remembered that motto.

Buffy's eyes felt hot, her throat tight. Silent tears leaked down to soak her pillow.

Faith would leave. And maybe that was for the best. Buffy was with Riley. Just last night...

Just last night she'd used him to get off while thinking about Faith. Sign of a healthy relationship, it wasn't.

Why did she have to realize this all now?

Suddenly restless, Buffy shifted away from Faith's grip and slid out of her bed. Faith mumbled, but she didn't wake up. Buffy wiped her eyes. She needed to get out, to escape. Faith was going to leave her. It would hurt less if she left first. Buffy walked to the door. Turning, she could still see Faith clearly. Darkness didn't matter to a Slayer's sight.

She finally looked at her own face. Faith lay sprawled across the bed, her fingers still reaching for Buffy. She was small and slim, and her golden hair spread across the pillow. Buffy opened the door and slipped halfway out.

God, was this what Angel saw when he left her, the night they'd made love? Her sleeping face looked so peaceful, so young. Had Angel laughed as his demon rose up? Watching her sleep, knowing how vulnerable she'd be in the morning when he wasn't there?

Faith had been abandoned so many times in her life. She'd always refused to talk about it with Buffy, but that didn't mean she didn't know. Her mom was dead. Her dad had dumped her as soon as he could. Her Watcher, killed by Kakistos. And then, Sunnydale...everyone here had left her in one way or another. Maybe Buffy most of all.

Buffy clutched the doorknob in one hand, the metal creaking beneath her strength. Tears choked her. Faith had given her something tonight, something even greater than making love. Faith had finally trusted her. Even without memory, even knowing that they had problems, Faith had chosen to be with her.

Could she really walk away from that? What if there was a chance that Faith would forgive her – that they could start over?

Buffy shivered. Away from the bed and Faith's warmth, the night was colder than it had any right to be. She was restless...she wanted to run.

Faith's body wanted to run.

Buffy held herself in place, balanced on a knife-edge. Who was in charge, her body or her mind? Faith had an ingrained habit of running, of not sleeping with whoever she dragged back to her bed. Buffy...Buffy wanted to lie down beside Faith, to wrap her arms around her and not care what her face looked like in the morning. The face was temporary. What she felt – what she might feel – that would last longer. Oh, please, it had to last longer.

Buffy glanced out into the hall. Then, with an act of will, she went back to Faith's side. She sat on the bed, stroking the blonde hair off Faith's heart-shaped face. Faith hummed and rolled over, leaving room for Buffy to slide back into her place at her side.

Buffy drew the covers up and lay down beside Faith. Facing her, she gently maneuvered to twine their legs together, to wrap her arms as tightly as she could around Faith without waking her up.

This would mean dumping Riley. This would mean coming out to her mom and her friends.

Willow had done it. Tara seemed like a wonderful person. And Willow's parents were far stricter. That was bravery.

This would mean finally letting Faith have the chance she deserved. Whether she took it or not...maybe it didn't matter. Buffy needed to give her the opportunity. Finally, she was ready to forgive Faith, once and for all.

Buffy settled her head on the pillow, angling herself so that she would wake up to Faith's eyes looking into hers.




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