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Tru Faith

by Queen Zulu


Time Line:
BtVS, post-Chosen; Tru Calling, prior to Jack's arrival.
Summary: Tru meets a vacationing Slayer.

"So he slaps his cards down, aces over eights, and they all look at me to see what I'm holding, and I'm like, oh, shit, and then--"

Tru looked up from her shredded napkin when Harrison's story stopped mid-sentence. He was leaning back in the booth, his boots stuck out in the aisle, grinning towards the front of the diner. Grinning his 'ooh, a hottie' grin. It was never good news, especially when it was strong enough to knock him out of talking about himself. Tru prodded his shin under the table. "Yeah, and?" she asked. Because even hearing about whatever last-minute daring had saved Harri from his loan shark this week was better than watching him ogle girls.

"She's comin' this way," he said instead, and gave a low whistle through his teeth, his eyebrows locked permenantly at Leer.

Tru rolled her eyes and turned to look over her shoulder. The girl in question was blonde, short, and looked like she could use three square meals a day for a month or two. Probably a model or a character actress.she kinda reminded Tru of some makeup ads from a few years ago. "Give it up, Harri," she said. "What about Lindsey?"

"Uh, yeah, about that," Harrison said. "Last night she threw a drink in my face and called me a pig. I think I'm a free man again."

Tru snorted. "And tomorrow you'll be searching the pawnshops for gifts," she said. "I think roses are in season, if you were wondering."

"It's all one big circle of life," Harrison answered easily, flashing his rakish grin at her. "If we go a week without breaking up, maybe it'll be time to worry."

"Uh-huh." Tru glanced at her watch. It was more than habit these days--she never knew when she was going to need to remember exactly where she was at a given time each day. "Well, I'll leave you to it, then. I'm going to catch some sack time. Another midnight shift tonight."

"Right, Davis works you like a slave," Harrison muttered, still stealing looks at the girl, who'd settled at the counter.

"The sympathy act is coming along great, you should do fine when you apologize to Lindsey," Tru said, standing up and punching him lightly on the shoulder.

Harrison nodded absently. "Better wall than a window, Tru," he said.

Tru rolled her eyes. Was the girl really that good looking? Probably five minutes after she left the diner, Harrison would be sliding into the seat next to her and pulling lines like "What's your sign?" out of his handy collection of cliches.

"Fine. I'll see you around," she said, and headed for the door. She raised an eyebrow at the girl as she passed, wondering if she should warn her about a certain young charmer who was about to hit on her, but then figured it was none of her business. Somehow the girl looked like she could take care of herself.

As she brushed past, the girl suddenly spun around on the stool and grabbed her by the wrist. "Do you not understand the concept of vacation?" she asked.

Tru blinked at the random question from the stranger, but the grip on her arm was tight enough that she couldn't just keep walking. "Um, not that I've had one recently, but I think so. Time off work? Sometimes involving travel? See the sights, relax?"

"Exactly," the girl snapped. "One week, that's all I asked. No locator spells! No Scoobies! Not even you."

"Me?" she asked. Spells? she thought.

"Yes, you. Are you really so hard up that you'd follow me to Canada?"

Green eyes, Tru thought randomly, and then shook her head as the meaning of the words penetrated. "Excuse me? Who the hell do you think I am?"

The girl's eyes narrowed and her hand tightened on Tru's wrist until she felt the bones creak. Trying to ignore the pain, she started reciting their names in her head--hammate, pisiform, scaphate.

She'd done five of eight when Harrison slipped onto the stool next to her. "Ladies?" he asked, practically leaking charm. "Is there a problem here?"

"This is the best you could do?" the girl asked. "Your standards have dropped alarmingly. I guess that's what prison will do--" She stopped and looked guilty.

"Prison!" Harrison said. "My good sis, my role model, Miss High and Mighty Example, you never told me. Was it juvie? Or was it, like, a do-over day? The world needs to know. That would make a nice round one hundred percent of the Davies kids in the slammer at one time or another." He turned to the girl and wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Name's Harrison," he said.

The girl let go of Tru's arm and allowed herself to shake hands. "Buffy Summers," she said. She looked him up and down dismissively. "You're her brother?" Then, to Tru: "You have.family?"

"Hey!" Harrison exclaimed. "Does she have family? Come on, we're, like, everything to each other. My big sis! She rescues people, you know. I help."

"Help?" Tru asked faintly. It was news to her. He'd barely begun to believe her.

"I know," Buffy said.

"You know?" Tru asked.

"You told her?" Harrison echoed. "Why does she rate? You haven't even told Lindsey."

"I didn't tell her!" Tru said.

"It's kind of obvious," Buffy added. "I've seen her."

"You've seen her?" Harrison asked.

Buffy stared at them both like they were freaks. "Is there something in the water in this town that makes everyone all repeaty?" she asked. "Of course I've seen her. Who's Lindsey?"

"My best friend since about grade school," Tru said, wondering why she was still answering questions, since Buffy had let go of her arm. It still ached. The girl certainly had a grip on her.

"Oh." Buffy pouted. "I thought--well, other than that whole psychotic hatred thing--but, so not the point. I didn't tell you I was coming to Vancouver, so.but your family lives here? What about Boston?"

"What about it?" Tru asked.

"Great strip clubs," Harrison offered. "Or.so I've heard. A friend.an aeromiles plan.way too many beers."

"Looks like that much runs in the family," Buffy said acidly.

Tru tried to defend herself. "I don't--"

Buffy interrupted. "And you've changed your wardrobe. What, no leather?" Again, Tru thought she saw a flash of disappointment. She looked down at her clothes--jeans, a blouse, a jacket--and then realized how dumb it was to be worried about the fashion judgement of a girl who obviously thought she was someone else.

"Listen, I don't know who you think I am, but we've never met," she said. "I'm Tru Davies."

"Davies," Buffy said. "You have a last name? And it's Davies?" She shook her head. "Wait.Tru?"

Part 2

One B.C. driver's license in the name of Tru Marie Davies. One Social Insurance Number, 763 328 392, made out to same. One UBC student card, one Vancouver Municipal Library card, on Blockbuster Rewards card, all with her signature.

They were spread across the table in the diner. Buffy Summers moved them around on the table cloth, lining them up, comparing the photos and the handwriting. She picked up the driver's license, read out the birthdate, stared back and forth between the picture and Tru.

"You need a magnifying glass or something?" Harrison asked. He was having the time of his life, sprawled in the corner seat, his arm resting behind Tru, his feet crowding Buffy's under the table. Tru glared at him, but he was too busy smirking at Buffy to notice. Even if he did, she doubted she could get him to shut up. In his book, this was way too much fun...and he probably thought he could still get a phone number out of it.

Why he'd want it was beyond Tru. Buffy was--was something. Either annoying as hell or far too interesting. Tru was supposed to be sleeping right now, and instead she was getting the third degree from this girl. Any sane person would have given up by now, would have been embarrassed, would have said, "Oops, guess I made a mistake, sorry," and gone on with her life.

Not Buffy Summers.




Buffy snapped the driver's license back down on the table and narrowed her eyes at Tru. "Arm wrestle me."

Harrison shot up straight in his seat. "Yeah!" His grin was so wide it was a wonder his face hadn't cracked in half.

Tru drove an elbow into his gut. Harrison gave her an exaggerated "Oof!" and a puppy-eyed pout. "You wound me."



Buffy thumped her elbow down on the table.

Harrison waggled his eyebrows and rubbed his hands together. "Oh, man, the Big Guy upstairs is listening. Chick fight. This is awesome."

"Shut up, Harrison." Tru tried to size Buffy up. Those green eyes were as deep as the Pacific, and about as cold, focusing intently on her. She was slim--a little too thin, Tru thought, noticing the pointy collarbones under her loose tank top--and she really didn't show much muscle. But the way Buffy had grabbed her before--Tru could still feel the strength of her grip. Even so, Tru knew that she was no lightweight herself. Four years on the UBC track team hadn't just taught her to run fast. She'd been doing weight training since she'd first gotten into sports.

She plunked her elbow down next to Buffy's. She hesitated a moment longer--recently, crazy out-of-the-blue things happening to her wasn't unexpected, but weirdness in her life usually came from dead people talking to her. This was different. It wasn't that Buffy didn't believe her--she didn't; she'd muttered something about "bramble magic" when Tru opened her purse and shoved ID at her--it was that, almost, Buffy wanted her to be someone else.


Buffy made an impatient noise and clasped their hands together. She frowned at their joined hands, as if she expected some sort of magic to happen just from their touching. Tru flexed her fingers and tightened her grip. Buffy's palm was amazingly hard, all callused, as if she was used to physical labour, yet her fingernails were painted a girly pink and the skin on the back of her hand was soft.

"Ready?" Tru asked, flexing her biceps.

Buffy met her eyes. Searching for something. Like she was waiting for more of a challenge, for different words. Finally, she said, "Yes," and looked back at their hands.

"All right, ladies, on my mark," Harrison said. "And don't hold back on my account, let me just say, I know a place where there are vats of lime jelly if you need to settle this some other way--"

"Shut up, Harrison." Buffy said it, this time.

Harrison was completely unfazed. "And, for the record, I'm completely impartial here--my sister against a beautiful stranger, hard to pick sides, am I right?"

"On three," Buffy said. "One...two..."

Tru threw her whole strength against Buffy's hand the instant her lips formed the word "three". The trick was to get an early advantage, hopefully surprising the other person and winning quickly, before stamina became the deciding issue. It was the way she ran the four-forty, it was why she'd been the anchor of her relay team, it was how she arm wrestled, and it always worked. As her shelves full of trophies showed.

This time, it didn't work.

Buffy tilted her head and gazed at her curiously as Tru felt sweat popping out on her forehead. Buffy hadn't moved, or even tried to move, but Tru felt like she could be pushing against a brick wall for all the effect she was having. Harrison was practically drooling as Tru strained and Buffy...sat there. Looking disappointed.

Finally, with no more effort than she'd use to pass the salt, Buffy sighed and pressed Tru's arm down to the table. They both stared for a moment at their linked hands. Tru was still sweating, even though the contest was over. Buffy's skin was so warm...not the tight heat of a fever, more like her metabolism was just naturally high, like a hummingbird's.

Harrison started singing "Bow chicka bow bow," under his breath.

Tru snatched her hand back and massaged her wrist, feeling her face burn. Sometimes she could swear Harri flirted as hard with her as he did with any girl he picked up. He'd probably cream his jeans if she and Buffy actually--did anything. Tru stared at the table top, blushing harder than ever.

"Fine," Buffy said. "You're Tru Davies." She pushed all of Tru's ID back across the table.

"The one and only, Harrison said. "So, Buffy...how long are you in town for? Need a tour guide?"

Buffy leaned back in her seat, drawing idle patters on the tablecloth in a bit of spilled salt. "I might be interested in having a native show me the sights," she said. Tru looked up quickly and saw that Buffy was staring straight at her.

Like she was seeing a ghost.

"Then you are in luck, my friend," Harrison said. "I happen to know this city like the back of my hand. I know everything there is to know about places off the beaten path."

"Do you have any cemeteries?" Buffy asked.

Tru frowned. "There are a few. Why?"

"I--I'm a big fan of cemeteries." Buffy shrugged and looked away. "I mean--no reason. I'm on vacation."

"Tru here works at the morgue," Harrison boasted, swinging his arm around Tru's shoulder. "If it's cemeteries you want, we can hook you up, right, Tru?"

"The morgue, huh?" Buffy asked. She didn't seem shocked. In fact, she was probably the first person who'd ever learned about Tru's job and not immediately started asking why --why she worked there, why she didn't look for something better, why a girl like her would want to work with the corpses. Buffy, instead, nodded and stared down at her salt doodle. Admitting Tru wasn't who she thought--whoever that was--seemed to have drained all her enthusiasm away.

"Freaky stuff," Harrison said, grinning. "I could hold your hand if you got scared."

Buffy gave him a fake smile. "Uh-huh." She stood up. "Well, uh, anyway. Sorry I bothered you. It was nice meeting you...and...well...I gotta go." She gave Tru one last, searching glance, shook her head, and walked out of the diner.

Part 3

Buffy crossed her arms and headed down the street, hugging herself slightly against the cool, damp wind. She was watching her feet and not where she was going, so when the familiar voice shouted, "Buffy! Wait!" she spun around so fast she nearly walked into a sign post.

Faith, she thought, and almost said it out loud. Except it wasn't. Except it was. She looked exactly like Faith, and she looked nothing like her. Put the two of them side by side in a police lineup and nobody would have been able to tell one from the other.

But there were differences that Buffy could see. The long, wavy dark hair was too light--almost chestnut rather than black. Her face was beautiful, had always been beautiful, but where Faith's entire expression screamed sex-on-a-stick, this girl was softer. Her look was completely different, too. Those gold hoops in her ears were more Buffy's style than Faith's, and the comfortable clothes and lumpy, well-used handbag would have been right at home on a college campus, not a seedy bar.

Plus, there was the way she talked. No biting sarcasm, no lips that looked as comfortable around a cigarette as they did around a curse. Maybe she had her own ghosts, but Tru Davies had never known pain as Faith had.

And...when she'd held Tru's hand--

No slayer-tingles. Cool skin, not Faith's raging heat. Just human. Nothing special. Probably everyone had a doppelganger somewhere in the world. Six billion people on the planet, so probably odds were that you looked like one other individual. Very logical. Just a passing resemblance.

So why did Buffy want nothing more than to believe her eyes?

Buffy waited for Tru to catch up with her and wondered why in hell everything had to happen to her. Not everything--just everything weird and supernatural that could stuff itself into her life somehow managed it.

Vacation. Was there nothing simple about that? Go to Canada. Nice people who speak English, mostly. Beautiful cities. Luxurious hotels. Educational attractions. And, in the summer, really long hours of daylight. What more could one out-sourced Slayer ask for?

Certainly not this. Not Faith.

She wasn't Faith.

Faith was off on a hey-let's-try-settling-down tour of Cleveland, hand in hand with Principal Robin Fucking Wood.

Like that's going to last, Buffy thought, and then felt guilty for hoping it wouldn't.

Everybody had found love on the Hellmouth except her. What she got was a stalker-turned-lover-turned-bonfire and a really messed up sense of metaphor.

Was that fair?

Tru jogged up to her. "Hey." She shoved her hands in her pockets.

Nervous, Buffy thought--something Faith would never let you see.

"So were you serious before?" Tru asked. "About--needing a guide?"

"Is your brother selling maps to stars' homes?" Buffy asked lightly. "Because I gotta say, I'm not too keen on getting lost in a foreign country. I have this fear of customs officials."

Tru smiled. "Nah. Harrison's okay, mostly. You have a kid brother?"

"Little sister," Buffy answered. "I guess it's probably more about clothes and boys, and less about tag football. Or poker." Why is talking to her so easy? You met her five minutes ago. You don't know her. She's not Faith.

Tru nodded. "Yeah, I've got a sister, too. Older." She shuffled a bit, scuffing her feet on the sidewalk. "Anyway, what I meant was, I have some time today. Before work."

"At the morgue." Buffy couldn't help but smile. That was one thing they had in common--they both worked with dead people.

"Right. I want to get into med school, you see--" Tru gave a half-shrug, like she'd given that explanation way too many times before. She glanced down, her grin becoming a bit self-conscious. Dimples flashed.

"Makes sense," Buffy said, hardly aware of what words she was using. This was too spooky--a Faith who was open and carefree and talkative. And still gorgeous. Not that that had anything to do with the price of eggs, but-- "A guide. Yeah. If you wanted, I mean, as long as you have the time, and...I'm on my own, I don't know what's worth seeing, but, I thought, hey, first time out of the country, not that it's incredibly adventurous coming to Canada. Not that there's anything wrong with Canada, it's very--north. I mean, nice."

Tru was smiling sideways at her. "Do you always do that?"

"Babble?" Buffy nodded. "It's a medical condition, I'm sure. I've heard there are ways to stop it--" She cut herself off before she could explain to this stranger exactly what techniques Oz had used to stop Willow's babbling. "But. Um. If you don't mind me asking--why?"

Tru raised her eyebrows. "I don't know...to apologize for my brother's advances?"

"Trust me, I've seen worse come-ons." Buffy grimmaced at the reminder of Spike. Guys who just couldn't take no for an answer. "And again, I have to ask--why?"

"Don't believe me?" Tru looked at her, all high cheekbones, dusky skin, lips made for kissing--shut up, brain, not helping here--they were Faith's features. But not Faith's eyes. There was no spark of mischief there, no lusty teasing.

"I--" Buffy smiled ruefully. "I guess not. I mean, you must think I'm crazy. Maybe not axe-murderer crazy, but at least up there with old ladies who have a lot of cats named Myrtle."

Tru laughed. "Why would you name all your cats Myrtle?"

"I meant the old lady's name was Myrtle...or maybe Ruth. But there's a continuum of crazy, that's the point." Buffy spread her hands apart, as though she was telling a "how big was the fish?" story. "See, this is sane, and then this is me. So, no, I don't know why you'd volunteer."

"I guess..." Tru tilted her head. "I'm curious."

"About me?"

"About...whoever you thought I was. About why you wanted to arm wrestle me." Tru paused, as though considering. "And about you."

Buffy nodded. "I'm glad I was in there somewhere."

"So...what's she like?"

Buffy turned and started walking down the sidewalk. "So...where are we going, Guide o'Mine?"

Tru caught up with her easily. "You ever heard of Stanley Park?"

"Nope. But if you say it's worth visiting, I trust you." Buffy stopped and turned. Tru nearly ran into her, then quickly took a step back. There was no stupid innuendo-laden comment at their brief contact, not even a second glance. But then, what did she expect? She's not Faith. She's not like that. Buffy sighed. "This is weird, isn't it?"

"Believe me, weirder things have happened to me," Tru said, nearly rolling her eyes.

Just like Faith.

Before she knew what she was doing, Buffy lifted a hand and cupped Tru's cheek, waiting to feel the slayer-tingle that didn't come. Tru's skin was soft--this was a girl who used creams and lotions and exfoliators. Her dark eyes were wide, just a little surprised, her mouth half-open as if to say something.

She didn't say it, whatever it was. Didn't back off. Didn't move. Buffy touched her thumb to the tiny, perfect cleft in her bottom lip. Not Faith. Really not. Faith had left her on the front steps of the Hyperion, had swung that bus door closed and said, "Hey, catch ya later, B, don't go getting skewered again anytime soon, for me, hunh?" She'd winked, grinned that shit-eating grin, and disappeared down the street with half a dozen newly-minted slayers and a side of tall, dark, and handsome as her saving-the-world reward.

And that was it.

Buffy had Giles, Buffy had Dawn, Buffy had a suddenly-CEO Angel. She had Willow and Xander and yes, even Kennedy.

None of them were enough.

Vacation was supposed to make that better. Forget everything Hellmouthy, that was the plan. Faith had a whole lot of Hellmouth associated with her, so it was best to start the forgetting there. Staring at her own hand, looking pale and small against Tru's cheek, Buffy kinda figured that the plan wasn't going according to itself. She traced the side of Tru's face, then realized, finally, what she was doing, and pulled her hand away.

"Sorry," she muttered, looking at her feet. Blushing like a high school kid. God, what was her problem? Assaulting a stranger in a diner and then--this?

"I've had weirder things happen to me," Tru repeated. "So...tell me more about her."

Part 4

"Mixed signals." Buffy threw a handful of popcorn on the ground in front of a gaggle of Canadian geese. There was a flutter and a honking mass descended on the treat. "I could never be sure if she was serious, you know?"

Tru nodded, hands shoved deep into her jacket pockets, as they walked along the path near the river, leading to the sea wall. "Maybe it's none of my business, but did you want her to be serious?"

Buffy shrugged. "You ever feel like your work is taking over your life, whether you like it or not?"

Tru smiled to herself. "Strangely enough, all the time."

Buffy glanced up at Tru through her eyelashes, giving her a wry look. "Why do I get the feeling that you're not just talking about the morgue?"

"What does your work have to do with those mixed signals?" Tru shot back easily. Weeks of giving Luc excuses had really honed her answer-a-question-with-a-question skills.

"We worked together." Buffy grabbed another handful of popcorn for the geese, then offered the bag to Tru. She shook her head. If this was the way Buffy snacked, no wonder she was still so thin. Buffy sighed and continued. "Office romances...Once was too many times for that, but I didn't learn. Oh, no. Instead I let it happen again, and it was worse. So, I don't know if it was serious, because I didn't have the time or the energy to find out, and there was another battle every day..."

"Battle?" Tru asked. This, and Buffy's mutterings about 'magic' and 'spells', was really making her more interested in the life the other girl had led than in her supposed doppelganger.

Buffy's eyes widened guiltily. "Yes. Battle. Um, a battle of words...and policies...there was a lot of diverging opinions, very vicious stuff, I think there was an epidemic of papercuts, at one point there was a very nasty incident involving a stapler..."

"What is it that you do?" Tru asked, laughing.

"School...guidance...counsellor?" Buffy asked hopefully, as though she knew she weren't going to be believed.

"Right." Tru smiled. Well, Buffy could have her secrets if she wanted. Tru wasn't about to tell her everything about her life, either.

"So if you work in the morgue," Buffy asked, "then why did Harrison say you save people? Isn't it a little late by the time they get to you?"

Although it wouldn't be easy.

"Oh, I--I help the families," Tru said. "You know, when they come to identify the bodies."

"And Harrison helps?" Buffy asked skeptically. "He...doesn't really seem like the sympathetic type."

"Yeah...he's not. But he's getting better." Tru ran her hand over the stone wall beside the path, then leaned over it, looking down to where the waves were crashing into the beach. "It can be really tough. People...I mean, you'd never realize how many people die before their time. Too young. Too suddenly. Violently, sometimes."

Buffy leaned back against the parapet, and suddenly she looked incredibly sad. She crossed her arms like she was trying to protect herself from something, one hand holding her stomach. "I know," she said softly.

Tru believed her. Even Davis, working with cadavers every day for the last twelve years, didn't really understand death. He saw bodies that had stopped functioning, and he found out the reasons why. They weren't people by the time they got to him. When Tru needed his help, he speechified and got all metaphysical...what Fate wanted and what it didn't want, who was meant to go and who to stay...but he still didn't understand death the way she did. He'd never seen someone die, right in front of him.

Buffy had. Tru could see it in her eyes, suddenly bright with tears that she refused to cry. The day was colder, the wind sharper now, clouds floating down from the mountains surrounding the city. The quick change in the weather matched Buffy's expression, which was older and far away.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Tru offered quietly.

"Ah, my...my mom," Buffy said. "I...haven't really thought about her for a while...I haven't had the time. But I just realised...um, there was, a, um...an earthquake, in my hometown, and now...I mean, the whole place is rubble. And, I won't be able to visit her anymore, or bring f-flowers..." Buffy turned around so that she and Tru were both facing the ocean. The wind had whipped her long blonde hair out of its clips, and now it hid her face.

Tru watched her for a moment before moving closer, wondering if it was the right thing to do, remembering the incredible warmth of Buffy's hand on her cheek. She put her arm around Buffy's shoulder. Buffy turned to her and wrapped her in a fierce hug. Tru returned it, but she couldn't help but wonder if Buffy wasn't, somehow, hugging that other girl...Faith. That was her name.

"My mom died too," she said, almost to herself--she didn't want to intrude on Buffy's grief with her own past, but it felt like something needed to be said to fill the silence. She didn't know if she was speaking loud enough for Buffy to hear, because the wind was picking up, but Buffy nodded against her chest, and she went on. "Ten years ago," she said. "Sometimes it still hurts...and it always feels like it wasn't supposed to happen. But mostly I remember the good things..."

"Like waffles from scratch," Buffy mumbled into her jacket. "They didn't have any calories if she made them."

"Yeah..." Tru smiled. "Or when she'd come to my track meets and cheer me on even if I was losing..."

Another nod, and Buffy's shoulders shook a little more, her hug tightening briefly before she seemed to remember Tru wasn't strong enough for her whole strength.

Tru sighed, and looked down to see that she was stroking Buffy's hair. When had that happened? It was soft...

The wind was carrying rain now, and when Buffy felt it she backed away, wiping the tears off her face. "Thanks," she said, giving Tru a soft smile. "I, uh...I haven't done that in a while..."

"I guess everybody needs to," Tru said. "Sometimes." In the arms of a stranger.

Buffy's smile widened. "Yeah. Well. Maybe we should get out of the rain?"


They went back to the path and Tru led the way to a small teashop she knew of near the edge of the park. Buffy was holding her hand, and it was nice, and again, Tru didn't know when that had started.

Looked like this Faith person wasn't the only one who knew how to give off mixed signals.

Part 5

The rain slackened off around nightfall, and Tru and Buffy were still in the teashop, four empty glasses of bubble tea in front of them. Tru glanced at her watch and saw that she still had a few hours to kill before work. It looked like sleep was not going to be an option, though she would probably doze in Davis' office if there were no bodies brought in.

"So, um...would you like to go for dinner?" Buffy was staring out the window at nothing, pretending to be casual, but Tru could tell she was worried about being shot down. Was she talking about a date, or just a meal?

"Sure," Tru said. "Chinese? I know a place..."

Buffy looked back at her and smiled, a real, genuine, thousand-watt grin. "Chinese. Yeah. That would be great."

Tru smiled back--she couldn't help but answer that look of happiness on Buffy's face. So maybe it was a date. But she'd been enjoying herself this far. So who cared?

They took a cab to Chinatown, and Tru led the way to a small, out of the way restaurant that she'd discovered during her second year at UBC. They were seated quickly, and Buffy ordered enough food to feed an army. Tru had no idea how the two of them were going to finish it all.

While they waited, Buffy picked up a chopstick and started twirling it between her fingers, making intricate patterns and never once dropping it. Tru raised her eyebrows, impressed. "Where did you learn to do that?" she asked.

"Hmm?" Buffy looked at her, the chopstick still whirling madly in her hand. She followed Tru's gaze and stopped immediately. "Oh...high school. I was on the cheerleading squad. Baton, you know."

"You cheerlead?" Tru took a moment to imagine Buffy in a skimpy cheerleading outfit. It wasn't horrible. "Is that where all the upper body strength comes from?"

Buffy shrugged, then leaned back as the waitress placed their dishes in front of them. "I work out a lot...tae kwon doe, kickboxing, that sort of thing." She started shoveling huge quantities of food onto her rice.

"Wow," Tru said, and didn't know whether she meant the sports or the pace at which Buffy devoured her food. Obviously her slender build came more from athletics and metabolism than from undereating.

As they continued the meal, Tru was trying harder and harder to figure out if she was on a date. And, if she was, whether that's what she wanted. And, if it was, then whether Buffy really liked her, or just the face of her friend in Cleveland. They were nearly finished eating, and Tru was trying to decide if she should panic about what came next, when her cell phone started ringing.

"Sorry," she said to Buffy, then dug through her bag and pulled it out. "Hello?"

"Tru, I-I think you'd better come in early tonight." Davis' voice stuttered on the other end of the line.

Tru glanced at Buffy, who raised an eyebrow at her, then looked back at her food as if to give her some privacy. "Davis--" Tru suppressed the whiny three-year-old part of her that wanted to whine and throw a tantrum. "I'm on a--" She stopped before the word date slipped out; she knew Buffy was listening, no matter how hard she was staring at her szechuan noodles, and really, Tru had no clue if this was even supposed to be a romantic dinner or just a "Hey! Vacation! Chinatown!" thing. "I'm on at midnight," she finished lamely.

"Gardan's got multiple pickups to make, all from the same area..." Davis said, then whispered, "Tru, I think they might need your help."

Tru frowned. She could just picture Davis, hunched over the phone in the empty morgue, whispering because it was dramatic, or because even when he was alone with the corpses he feared giving away her secret. She wasn't sure whether it was creepy or endearing that when Davis had dead people around, he was never alone. "They'll still be dead when I get there," she said. "If anyone needs me, they can ask then."

"We don't know that," Davis said. "There could be a window of opportunity...a threshold, after which there is truly no return..."

"Davis." Tru stopped him. Once he started into philosophy, it took a while to calm him down. "I thought you said fate was immutable?"

"Is it that good a date?" Davis asked wistfully.

"It's not--I mean, we're...I'm just in the middle of dinner," she said.

Davis heaved a sigh on the other end of the phone. "I thought you and Luc were on a break?"

"Are you going to keep asking questions until I agree to come down there?"

"Do you think it'll work?"

Tru rolled her eyes. "Goodbye, Davis." She snapped her phone shut and returned it to her bag.

"Let me guess--work?" Buffy said. She fiddled with her Seven Precious Jewels, separating all the cashews from the rest of the dish.

"Yeah, I'm really sorry...it looks like I'm going to have to run out on you." Tru wanted to punch something. If this was a date, it was the best one she'd had since her first night at the morgue...and, really, for quite a while before then, too. All things considered, it was a minor miracle that the day had gone this far without the jangle of her cell phone calling her away. "Let me get the cheque--"

"No, it's okay, look, I'm on vacation. Extravagant meals are part of the package. I'm feeling a bit of a tingle, it's about the first time in three years that I'm able to get all splurgy." Buffy pushed her dish away.

"If you're not finished--"

Buffy shook her head. "Actually..." She trailed off.

Tru signaled the waitress. "Actually, what?"

"Well, I...had a really good time today. Um." Buffy smiled at the tablecloth. "Okay, this is going to sound weird."

Tru waited.

"Can I come to the morgue with you?" It came out really fast, all one big word.

"You're kidding."

Buffy looked up. "Nope. Trust me, dead people don't bother me, if you're worried. And, I--uh, mostly, I don't want to lose my guide. Big town, small Buffy. You know?"

"I guess I do," Tru said. She wants to go to the morgue because of me. Best date ever...if it is a date. At least if I had run out on her it wouldn't matter if it was a date or not, but now...I'll be at work, she'll have to do the leaving, so what will she say? She's in town for a week...maybe I can get her phone number. Oh, God, I'm turning into Harri. "Okay, if you're sure."

"Yeah." Buffy picked up the cheque and gave her the first choice of fortune cookies.

The slip of paper inside her cookie said, "Strangers entering your life make for interesting bedfellows."

It was probably a date.

Part 6

Buffy followed Tru, a little cautiously, as they stepped off the elevator into a long, shadowy hallway. Everything was green and white tiled and stank of cherry-scented disinfectant. The smell of hospitals everywhere. Buffy wrinkled her nose. Hospitals were not her friends. They were places where bad things happened. Cecilia's illness, Willow's injuries after Angelus attacked her, Faith's coma, Mom's operations, Tara's encounter with Glory...

It was very clear. Buffy and hospitals were unmixy things.

And yet.

Here she was, stepping into a small office off the main hallway. Tru pulled her bag off her shoulder and dumped it with her coat on the ragged sofa in the corner, indicating Buffy should do the same. She took a white lab coat off a hook and put it on over her street clothes, pulling her hair clear of the collar and fluffing it around her shoulders.

"If they let people into medical school on looks, I think you'd make it," Buffy blurted, then closed her eyes at how that had sounded. "I mean--you look very doctory. Professional."

"Thanks," Tru said, smirking slightly.

Looking almost like Faith, for a moment.

Stop thinking about Faith.

"No problem." Buffy waved Tru's words away. "After a big meal like that, it's a wonder I can still find room for my foot."

"You sure you want to come in?" Tru asked. "You were looking a little green there, for a minute."

"No, it's okay. Hospitals don't have many feel-good memories for me, that's all." Buffy clicked the blinds open on the window between the office and the next room. "I'm actually interested, which takes some doing...college didn't agree with me."

"Really?" Tru sat down at the desk and poked at the computer for a moment. "And I was going on the assumption that I was speaking to a certified guidance counselor."

"Would you believe they only hired me because of my amazing superpowers?" That had hurt to find out. Buffy shook her head, resigned. "They had to pay me because I saved the world. A lot."

"Well, if it was a lot," Tru teased, still reading the computer screen, "then I guess I believe you."

The door on the far side of the room opened and a bearded man breezed through, his smock and gloves covered in blood. "Tru, you're here, good, I need you to--" He stopped, blinked at Buffy, then turned back to Tru. "Take standards, weight and height, external exams."

"How many?" Tru asked.

"Four, and Gardez's still out collecting," he said, twitching slightly as he stared at Buffy.

Tru got up from the computer and pushed him towards her. "Davis, this is Buffy Summers."

"Oh," Davis said. "Is this really the best--" Tru kicked his shin. "I mean, hello."

"Hi." Buffy shifted a bit, looking at Tru for guidance. The guy was still giving her a weird stare.

"Buffy, this is Davis, my boss. He does this." Tru's wave indicated the morgue, and seemed to imply whatever spasm had now taken over Davis' blinking reflex.

"Nice to meet you. So, what killed them?" Buffy asked brightly.

"Oh, from a primary analysis, exsanguination from a series of median cervical traumatic injuries," Davis said easily. He flashed her a nervous grin, then looked away. More than anything, he reminded her of Willow when they'd first met--going non-verbal and spazzing in the presence of the opposite sex.

"Somebody cut their throats?" Tru sounded pretty shocked for someone who worked in the morgue full time. Or maybe, not shocked...more like indignant, as if these people, whoever they were, deserved a happier death. As if that was possible.

"Or bit them?" Buffy offered. She sighed, trying to remember that she was supposed to be on vacation.

"Yes." Davis narrowed his eyes at her. "You know Tru?"

"We just met today," Buffy said. "You don't mind if I take a look, do you? I've always thought that there was something...fascinating...about coroners..." She gave him her best sexy look, trying to keep a straight face as Tru broke into silent laughter behind him.

"I'm just a medical examiner," Davis mumbled. "Uh, if Tru is sure it's okay." He gave her a meaningful glare, this time reminding Buffy of Giles at his most British.

"You're the boss, Davis," Tru said, slapping his shoulder, and smiling widely at Buffy. Dimples. Really, it was unfair how attractive they were. "If you're sure you won't throw up or anything, you can come and see."

"No problem." Buffy walked after Tru down another hallway and through a pair of swinging doors. They were in a large, dim room with four gurneys draped in sheets. Sheets with tell-tale bloodstains right near the heads. Buffy tried to push down the itch that was her urge to slay. Even in Canada. Weren't the vamps here too polite to go on killing sprees?

"This is the standards room," Tru explained absently. "I have to measure the bodies, take fingerprints, DNA samples, that sort of thing."

Buffy nodded. "So, I'll get out of your way." She already knew what the cause of death was, even if it wasn't what would appear on the death certificates. She also knew that Tru was safe working with the bodies--none of them had been turned.

"You can sit there and watch, if you're not squeamish."

"Okay." Buffy hopped up on an unused table and watched while Tru pulled out a prepared tray of sterile instruments and clicked on the overhead microphone.

By the time Tru was finished with the first body, Buffy was staring in awe.

"That's amazing," she said.

Tru looked up in confusion. "What?"

"You--you know stuff. Lots of really big words. And expertise. There was that, too." Buffy hopped down. "I didn't know you did so much. You morgue people, that is. I never thought about it." By the time she met the undead, all that work had gone to waste.

"Yeah, well, for me it's just a summer job," Tru said. "The internship I really wanted fell through." She stared at the dead girl, almost like she expected her to wake up at any second.

"Still, wow. Knowledge girl, is what you are." Buffy moved closer to the gurney and inspected the puncture wounds in the girl's neck up close. Definitely vampire. "What cemetery did they find the bodies near?" she asked.

"Memorial Gardens," Tru said, flipping through the chart. "Wait--how did you know they were found near a cemetery?"

"Um--I guessed?" Buffy tried. "With the neck-biting, and the blood being...gone?"

"You think some freak out there thinks he's a vampire?" Tru asked. "Now that's weird." She stared at the girl on the table for a moment longer.

"Waiting for something?" Buffy asked, after following Tru's gaze and not seeing anything noteworthy.

"Hmm?" Tru shut the chart. "No, of course not." She sighed. "Just--nine murders, all at once like this. You think you're used to it, and then--no reason, just a whole bunch of people who aren't going to get up tomorrow."

"Yeah, well, we're lucky for that much," Buffy said under her breath. "Nine?" she asked aloud. "That is a lot." Would one nest do that much all at once? Hello, I'm on vacation, what does it matter? It matters to Tru...and probably if they're this bold, they won't stop at nine.

"Work," she muttered, disgusted.


Buffy grimaced. "I just remembered this work thing, that, um, it can't wait."

"School guidance counseling during the summer?" Tru asked skeptically.

"It's a, a paperwork thing. With the signing, and the notary public...that I forgot to send. I'd better go and do--that. Now."

"It's eleven-thirty at night," Tru said. "Nothing's open."

"Oh..." Buffy started backing away from the room. "Faxes, you know. Modern age. Nothing's ever really shut down. It's a disease, on our society, very...sickening."

Tru started after her. "If you're going to hurl, you could just say so."

"No, no hurling." Buffy stopped, one hand on the door. "I really did have a good time. Maybe we could...do it again? Tomorrow?"

"If I have one," Tru said, glancing over her shoulder at the shrouded bodies.

Buffy nodded. "I think I can take that as a yes. And, I promise. Tomorrow, I will be totally on vacation."

"Okay," Tru said. "I know an excuse when I hear one, trust me."

"I'm sorry," Buffy said. "Just--with the work--if it weren't for that, I'd, um--oh, hell."

"You'd what?" Tru leaned forward, her eyes dark and eager.

Buffy blushed, tilted her head, and said, "I'd probably kiss you."

Then she took off running down the hall before she could hear what Tru thought of that plan.

Those vampires were in for a world of pain.

Part 7

Tru slid the last of the nine bodies into its drawer in the crypt and wandered back into the office, where Davis was pecking at the computer. He looked up as she entered the room.

"Nothing?" he asked.

She shrugged. "I'm still here, it's not yesterday."

He paused to consider that. "Oh. Right." He stared blankly at the computer for a moment. "I was pretty sure...nine people, all with the same cause of death, all discovered in the same area..."

"I guess you can't second-guess Fate," Tru said. "Next time, I think I'll wait for my shift to start before rushing in." She plopped down on the sofa, noticing that Buffy had left her bag. Did that mean she was coming back? Tru felt her cheeks warm at the thought.

"I wonder what happened," Davis mused. "Gardez says the police think it might have been some sort of cult activity, due to the similarties in their deaths."

"Mmm-hmm." Tru tuned him out. Buffy had said they should get together tomorrow--and, at this point, it seemed likely that they could, since no body had asked for her help. She thought about Buffy's last words, wondered what it would be like to kiss her. A little late for college experimentation, but--

But what?

She'd never felt that way about a girl before.

The way Buffy looked at her--

The only problem was, she didn't know if Buffy was really looking at her.

Faith. The crass, vulgar, sarcastic friend, who flirted as hard as she could, as long as she could. The leather-wearing friend. The friend who'd gone off to Cleveland with Buffy's old boss. The one, the only one, who called Buffy 'B' and got away with it.

Tru had heard enough about her, in the middle of all of Buffy's stories, that afternoon at the teashop and at dinner.

And Tru? What did Buffy think of her? There had been an instant when Buffy had really seen her--Tru, as herself. When she was doing the exams, Buffy had been impressed.

But was that moment enough to let her distinguish between Tru and Faith? Maybe Buffy only wanted an acceptable substitute. Or, worse, Buffy might think she was over Faith, and not even know that she was using Tru as a stop-gap replacement.

A hand, gently shaking her shoulder, woke Tru from her doze. Davis was standing over her, rubbing his eyes. "Gardez's got another pickup," he said. "Same area as before. He's on his way."

Tru rubbed her eyes and sat up. Davis handed her a cup of coffee.

"It's a Jane Doe, no identification found on the body. Apparently people driving by heard the commotion. They thought it was a gang war." Davis sighed. "Sorry to wake you."

Tru shook her head. "I should have gotten some sleep earlier. My fault."

Davis went out to meet Gardez while Tru prepared the standards room, getting out her implements and pulling on a fresh pair of latex gloves. When Davis returned, he stared at her like the first day they'd met, his wide brown eyes solemn, his mouth sad.

"Tru--" Davis stopped, shook his head. "I-I think, um, you shouldn't--it's, uh--maybe you should sit down."

She felt her heart stop, like her blood had frozen over. "What?"

"It's--it's your friend, Tru. Buffy."

Tru shook her head. "No--she had some work...she had a hotel. She was going to meet me tomorrow--"

"I'm so sorry..." Davis spread his hands, a that's-life gesture, a what-can-you-do gesture, and Tru shoved past him, into the hall. Gardez was waiting there with the gurney, covered in a sheet that was splotched with blood.

"No--" Tru started forward, but Davis grabbed her arm and held her back.

"Tru, Gardez and I will do this. You don't want to see." Davis stepped between her and the gurney, but Tru pushed him aside.

"I have to see her."

Gardez looked at Davis; Davis shrugged. Gardez pulled the sheet back.

It couldn't be her. This body was torn apart, like she'd been mauled by a wild animal. Her green eyes, wide and staring, were filmed over with dirt. Blood and mud smeared her clothes, her skin, her hair.

It was her. It was Buffy. Tru reached out and closed her eyes. She couldn't help noticing that the time of death must be very recent, because Buffy's eyelids stayed down.

Tru turned on her heel and ran back to Davis' office, grabbing up Buffy's bag and spilling out its contents. She tossed aside makeup and gum, a hairbrush, Kleenex, bits of trash, a--a stake? Tru stared at the sharpened bit of wood for a second, then went back to her search. She seized Buffy's passport and wallet, and any other papers that looked important. Sitting at Davis' desk, she went through them, slowly, committing everything to memory. Phone numbers and photographs. A business card for a law firm in Los Angeles.

She mumbled the phone numbers to herself over and over again, not realizing that her hands were shaking, her vision blurred by tears.

One day. That was all. But she had to ask for help, she had to...

Tru swept through the last of the papers...a Visa receipt for their dinner...Buffy's fortune. She crumpled it in her hand.

Davis hovered in the doorway. "Tru...I sent Gardez home. If--if she hasn't asked you yet..."

"She will." Tru went past Davis without a glance and headed back to the crypt. Buffy's body was white and still, cold, empty.


Tru opened the fortune. It said, "In life, as in luck, the third time is the charm."

Buffy's head swiveled towards her and her eyes shot open. "Tru...save me."

Buffy turns and looks up at me, recognition and challenge in her eyes.

Buffy's hand grasps mine and I feel its warmth, its hardness, its strength.

Geese flock over pieces of thrown popcorn. Buffy leans next to me against the sea wall, her expression bittersweet, remembering. She hugs me and I want to wipe away her tears.

Buffy sits in the morgue and watches me take samples, cut hair, do dental impressions. She is wide-eyed, interested, impressed.

Buffy stands half-way out the door, asks me to meet her again, tells me she wants to kiss me.

I want to scream at her to be careful, to stay safe.

I can only watch her leave.

And the world dissolved.

Part 8

Tru woke up, thrashed out from under the covers, and reached for the phone, all in one motion. She silently recited the number she'd memorized right before Buffy had asked for her help, and forced herself to dial slowly so that she wouldn't make mistakes.

"Hello?" The voice at the other end sounded sleepy.

Tru took a deep breath. "Hi. Is this Willow?"

There was a pause, then: "Faith?"

Even her voice was the same as Faith's. This was just getting creepy. But it made everything a lot easier--people were less likely to try to have you committed if they knew you. At least, so she hoped. "I think Buffy's in trouble, Willow," she said.

Sheets rustled, and there was a murmur of someone else's voice in the background. "Is this a Slayer connection thing?" Willow asked.

Okay, the plan was now officially in trouble. Slayer connection thing? Tru crossed her fingers and took a chance that this was some sort of rhetorical question. "Yeah, uh, that's it," she said. "I--I'm worried about her."

Willow sighed. "Well, she's not here," she said. "She's taking a trip, and she asked us not to contact her while she's gone. I think she's earned that much, with all the world-saveage, don't you think? Anyway, she's a big Slayer, she can take care of herself."

Tru buried her face in her hands. The plan, once so simple, was busy dying a horrible death. What the hell was Buffy's friend going on about? How was she supposed to convince Willow to get Buffy out of town if she couldn't even understand the conversation?


Tru didn't say anything for a moment, then remembered that for the purposes of this phone call, she was Faith. "Uh, yeah?"

"You aren't doing this because of Robin, are you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Look, I'm not saying that I approve, but after Car Ride Confessional '03, I get it, you know?" Willow sighed. "And, hey, gay for a while now. I do understand where you're coming from. But you made your choice. You chose Cleveland. You can't just jump back. Jumpiness is of the bad, because what if next week you decide, hey, time to jump again, maybe I want to drive stick for a while, and then Buffy gets hurt? This is how accidents happen, when you don't know if your vehicle is automatic or standard, and you start changing horses in midstream."

Tru felt like banging her head against a wall. She had no idea what Willow was referring to. Was coherent English too much to ask for? "Listen, all I'm calling to say is, I think Buffy's in danger. I--I have a bad feeling. You need to get in touch with her, tell her to watch out, maybe even come back to L.A. She can have a vacation some other time. But right now, today, she needs to know, okay?"

There was a long pause. Then Willow said with a sort of surprise, "You really are worried."

"Of course I'm worried!" Tru burst out. "She--I..." How could she say it so that it didn't sound crazy? Although, maybe crazy would work. Willow certainly didn't seem to be playing with a full deck. "It was a dream," she said, inspired. "I dreamed that Buffy was killed, okay? She was..." Tru tried to decide how much of the truth to tell. "She was in a cemetery, and she was ripped apart. It--" She stopped and took a breath. "It was really realistic, Willow."

"You mean, a Slayer dream? Prophetic?" Willow was starting to sound anxious, now. "Why didn't you say so? I'll do a locator spell right away."

Buffy had said something about locator spells yesterday. And apparently, whatever a Slayer was, both Buffy and Faith were part of it. Maybe that's what Buffy had meant when she said they worked together. Somehow it was more plausible than that guidance counselor story. And did this explain why Buffy had thought vampires had killed those people?

Right, and if she believed that, then Willow wasn't the only crazy person involved in this phone call.

Well, but who would believe that she could relive days and talk to dead people?

Yeah, but vampires?

Buffy's strength. Her high metabolism.

The wooden stake Tru had found in her bag.

Would you believe they only hired me because of my supernatural powers? I save the world. A lot.

"Listen, Willow, I'm a Slayer, right?" Tru asked quickly.

"Um, yes, Faith," Willow said, like she was talking to a two-year-old. "You're a Slayer."

"And I'm--really strong, and I kill vampires, and I help save the world?"

"Should I be worried about the long-term effects of comas on your memory, Faith?"

Tru ignored the sarcasm. This was why Buffy had run out of the morgue last night. There had been vampire attacks. Buffy was a Slayer, who killed vampires. That was the work she was referring to. But obviously there had been too many for her--she'd been all alone. She'd needed back-up. "Do you think I could help Buffy?" Tru asked. If Faith could save her--

Willow's voice came back faintly. It sounded like she had put the speaker phone on, and was walking around the room, shifting furniture and thumping things around. "You mean, you want me to send you to her, when I find out where that is?"

"Yes! If you could get plane tickets, she could be here on time..." Tru closed her eyes and did a quick calculation. "Cleveland's only a few hours away..." she muttered.

"Plane tickets?" Willow asked. "Or, you know, I could send you through the ether. There's no more scary dark bad magic here, Faith."

"Magic, right." Tru shook her head. Vampires, she thought she could handle--human psychopaths with porphyria and xeroderma pigmentosa were what had started the legend in the first place, so scientifically it was possible. But on the other hand, what did she call the force that caused her days to rewind? Maybe Willow wasn't certifiable after all.

It was time for stage two of the plan. "Okay, well...I'll get ready. Um--can you call me back when you know where Buffy is?"

"All right, I have your number. But it really won't take that long..."

"Okay, great, talk to you in a bit. Thanks, Willow." Tru hung up. When Willow called Faith, there would probably be a lot of confusion about what was going on. Tru thought that if they were both worried enough about Buffy's welfare, they'd act first and leave accusations about which of them was insane until later.

But, in case that didn't work, she had to get to the diner before Buffy--and, most definitely, before Harrison.

And she had some shopping to do first.

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