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
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
"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
"I know," Buffy said.
"You know?" Tru asked.
"You told her?" Harrison echoed. "Why does she rate? You haven't even told
"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?"
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
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
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,
"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
--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
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.
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
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.
"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
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
"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
"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...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,
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
"Sorry," she said to Buffy, then dug through her bag and pulled it out.
"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
"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."
"Can I come to the morgue with you?" It came out really fast, all one big
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
"Yeah." Buffy picked up the cheque and gave her the first choice of fortune
The slip of paper inside her cookie said, "Strangers entering your life
make for interesting bedfellows."
It was probably a date.
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.
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
"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
"Oh," Davis said. "Is this really the best--" Tru kicked his shin. "I mean,
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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.
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
"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--
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
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
"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,
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.