The sound of feet scurrying towards her caught Buffy’s attention as she strolled around the dusty warehouse soon to be full of art.
“Miss Summers, could you please tell your sister that the painting she’s poking at is a very expensive piece of art? She doesn’t seem to hear me when I ask her not to do it, and your mother is busy on the phone,” a small man in a bright yellow shirt asked as he gripped tightly to his clipboard.
Buffy sighed and nodded, turning her attention to Dawn who was smirking as she leaned next to the wall by the painting in question. She made her way over to her and grabbed her by the arm, paying no attention to Dawn’s little squeal.
“Dawn, if I have to kick your butt in public it’s gonna look really stupid,” Buffy said. “Do you want to look really stupid?”
Dawn shook her head and pulled her arm free from Buffy’s grip.
“I’m bored,” Dawn whined. “Isn’t mom done yet?”
“No, she’s not, so grow up,” Buffy replied. “I’m sick of babysitting you.”
They’d all taken the trip to Los Angeles as a family in order to show support for Joyce. She’d been given a prestigious art exhibition to set up, and needed to be there for at least a week. Buffy was due to catch the bus back after only a night there, but Joyce and Dawn were going to stay on in the hotel until the exhibition was over. That was the plan anyway. Buffy was happy to come along overnight, but she wanted to get back to Sunnydale as fast as possible.
Buffy wasn’t much of a fan of LA, especially these days. Her last visit hadn’t been a pleasant one as she’d fought with the man she once believed she’d love forever, and witnessed the dark shell that had once been her fellow slayer Faith. The memories were harsh, and ones she tried not to think about too often. It was too hard believing Angel could denounce her so easily, and far too painful remembering the hollow look in Faith’s eyes and the way she had told Faith that she never wanted to hear her apology.
That had been wrong; Buffy knew it. She felt it. Buffy realised now that she should have listened, even if she could never forgive Faith or understand her reasons. It was too late now. Faith was in jail; her charges not as harsh as they probably should have been due to lack of evidence, but she was looking at over a year in custody. Buffy wouldn’t visit. She had no plans to visit the past. That part of her life was over and Faith was gone from it.
She wanted to get home, back to the relative safety of her friends and her boyfriend Riley. It was bad enough she had to share a hotel room with Dawn that night; she didn’t particularly want to spend all day with her too. But she was stuck babysitting as her mom took phone calls and delegated, and did what she had to do. It was the least she could do for her mom considering how busy she’d been lately at work. Buffy at least had the prospect of some time alone, without babysitting duties, when she got back. There was quality time to be had with Riley. In fact, if there wasn’t any quality time Buffy suspected the relationship wouldn’t last the week.
Riley had expressed concern that they were drifting apart. It’s something Buffy could see herself, but hadn’t felt completely compelled to fix. Maybe it was just time for them to part. She didn’t know. There were reasons she liked him and wanted to stay with him, but there were also reasons to allow the drift to happen.
Buffy felt like her life was taking a new turn. She couldn’t pinpoint why, but things felt different. She was doing well at college, finally finding her groove there. Her friends were all growing into interesting people and she wanted to be part of that. Buffy didn’t want to be defined by being a slayer, even if she did feel more attached to that part of herself than ever before.
It felt like something had to change, or give, or break. Buffy just wasn’t sure what it was.
“Buffy, would you mind going out to pick up some lunch for us? I just haven’t got time,” Joyce called from the far end of the room.
Buffy nodded, then narrowed her eyes at Dawn when it looked like she was about to join her.
“I’ll go alone, thanks,” Buffy pointed out. “I’m sure mom could use your help. . .yunno, moving stuff around.”
“Do I look like a person that moves things?” Dawn griped, her arms being flung in the air as Buffy turned and left. “That’s so not fair. . .you’re the one with freaky biceps, not me.”
Buffy heard the little stomp as she left the building and smiled up into the bright blue sky. She had money in her pocket to get lunch, and the day was warm and clear. If only she could feel better about being in the city she vowed never to come back to. It was only one day though, and she had no plans to bump into Angel or any of his followers. She had briefly considered dropping in on Cordelia just to say hi, but the moment had passed. Too much water. Too much bridge. Some things were best left lying where they’d landed for a while. For a long while.
Buffy took a positive breath and looked both ways up and down the street, hoping to spy someplace nearby that she could get lunch. It was a fairly busy area. There were shops and coffee bars and people going about their business. The new gallery Joyce was currently in charge of was practically right in the middle of it all, leaving Buffy with no option but to pick left or right and hope for the best. She turned left, about to wander that way, but then stopped abruptly and changed direction. She’d learned to always follow her instincts, and they were definitely telling her right was the best way to go. The fact she could smell food that way was also a factor.
Before long Buffy found herself outside a delicatessen with a range of lunch type foods. It smelled pretty good, so she decided to go in and take a look at what was on offer.
It didn’t take her long to place an order comprising of everything she liked, and pretty much everything that Dawn hated. As her order was going to take a little while to process she decided to take advantage of the time alone by taking a seat at one of the tables outside, a cool glass of coke in hand.
Buffy had never been much of a people watcher. She’d always felt too rushed; too caught up in her own little world to wonder about anybody else’s. Trying it out for size, she relaxed into a brightly colored chair under the shade of an umbrella that stuck high out of the middle of the table, and sipped at her coke while trying not to judge people for wearing the wrong shoes, or for having silly hair or weird looking children.
As she was finally unwinding, a mouth full of deliciously cold coke, she spotted a waitress leaving the deli to clear tables not too far from her. Sputtering and coughing - trying to swallow her coke and not spit it out for the amusement of the few other customers - Buffy swiped at her eyes. She couldn’t quite believe what she was seeing.
The waitress was Faith.
Her hair was slightly lighter and bouncier, and she looked like she weighed a little more, but the face, the walk, her dimples as she smiled; it had to be her. But it couldn’t be, she was in jail. She was a psycho and not waiting tables at a quaint little deli just where Buffy happened to be picking up lunch. Surely.
Buffy studied her, every movement as she wiped at the tables and smiled cheerily at the customers. She watched the long brown hair be pulled up over a small ear as she bent to pick up something from the floor; her body moving in such a familiar way. Buffy could feel her insides twisting in knots and she wanted to throw herself across the tables and grab Faith and shake her; ask her what she thought she was doing. She wanted to get up and walk away, pretend that she’d never even seen her. She wanted to do a hundred different things, but she couldn’t seem to move.
She was stuck to her chair - just looking - her hand gripping the chilled glass in front of her almost hard enough to smash it into pieces; no more than a few feet between her and Faith.
Holding her breath, feeling stupid for not knowing how she should be reacting, Buffy tried to catch Faith’s eye, hoping to leave the reacting to her. When Faith eventually looked her way, her dark eyes meeting Buffy’s briefly, Buffy saw no sign of recognition. There was nothing in Faith’s eyes that said she knew Buffy. All she did was smile slightly, then make her way back into the deli. If it was Faith, then something strange was going on.
Buffy looked around, wondering if she could follow her and not be noticed. She knew Faith would probably run, and that would cause a scene. There was also the possibility she was going crazy and hadn’t seen Faith at all, and that kept Buffy firmly seated in the plastic chair. She needed confirmation that she was still in charge of all her faculties.
Digging into her pocket, Buffy pulled out her cell phone. She flipped it open and hit speed dial, direct to Willow’s dorm she shared with Tara. As soon as Willow said hello, Buffy thought twice about telling her who she’d just seen. Buffy didn’t want to worry Willow in any way, but she was her only hope right now to find out what was going on.
“Hey, Will,” Buffy said, as cheerily as she could. “You still know computers don’t you?”
Willow chuckled and answered, “Yep, I’m pretty sure I still know what a computer is. Unless they changed them, or made them transparent to girls who like other girls.”
“Funny,” Buffy said sarcastically. “I meant. . .do you still know all that hacking stuff, and could you possibly, maybe find something out for me?”
Buffy crossed her fingers and kept her gaze fixed on the entrance to the deli.
“I could possibly, maybe yes,” Willow replied, shuffling around on the other end of the line. “Let me just blow the cobwebs off my laptop while you tell me what’s going on.”
“Nothing,” Buffy said sharply. “Nothing’s going on, I just. . .there’s just. . .”
“Ok, now I’m worried. You don’t normally talk like that unless. . .well, it’s something worrying,” Willow pointed out. “Should I be calling Giles? I could get Riley. Should I get Riley?”
“No, and definitely no,” Buffy responded, shaking her head even though Willow couldn’t see. “I just need you to tell me where Faith is. I mean, tell me she’s in jail, all safely locked up and tied down. No, not tied down. . .don’t tell me that, just let me know where she is.”
Buffy tried to calm her breathing down, unsure why she was spazzing out. Maybe it was the fact Faith hadn’t even flickered when she’d caught her eye. It was as if Faith didn’t know who she was, or that maybe Buffy just wasn’t memorable enough, or it could be magic. Magic always had a hand in it somewhere. Well, maybe not always, but in Buffy’s life it often lingered around, making things happen that just shouldn’t.
“So, you want me to hack into the prison records and find out where she is? We already know where she is, Buffy,” Willow noted, little tapping noises emanating from her laptop.
“I know we know,” Buffy assured, feeling kind of uncomfortable talking so freely about Faith and where she was. “Just let me know again. Tell me exactly where she is right now.”
Willow went silent for a few moments, her fingers still tapping as she ummed and ahhed.
“You want to know where she is right this minute? I guess she could be having lunch, or maybe she’s on one of those walk-around-the-yard things, or she could be in the shower. . .dropping the soap,” Willow said with a chuckle, sounding far too relaxed considering it was Faith they were talking about.
“Ok, I so didn’t need the image of Faith in the shower dropping the soap,” Buffy groaned, trying to shake the image from her mind, finding it more difficult than perhaps she should. “I just need to know she’s still there.”
“Well, it was pretty tight security – which I guess makes sense ‘cause it’s a prison – but I got in to the files,” Willow told Buffy. “She’s definitely still in there, safely locked behind bars and bullet proof glass.”
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief, but then instantly felt uneasy again as she spotted flowing brown hair through the window of the deli as ‘Faith’ breezed by inside. If Faith was in prison, then how the hell was she also there. . .waiting tables in downtown LA?
“Do we know for sure?” Buffy asked, hoping she didn’t sound as nuts as she was beginning to feel. Hallucinations never seemed much like fun; there was too much potential for big hairy spiders to appear.
“Yep,” Willow replied, “she had a meeting with the governor just yesterday. The report’s right here. . .and it says she’s being the model prisoner. In a good way, not in a bad head-of-a-gang kinda way.”
“Faith being good?” Buffy quipped. “Are you sure you’re telling me the truth?”
“Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” Willow asked.
“No reason, I think I’m just going insane.” Buffy gulped down the last of her coke, the shock of cold giving her a pain in her temple, causing her to rub at it as she attempted to figure out what was going on.
“Are you ok?”
“Huh?” Buffy asked, realizing right away it wasn’t Willow who had asked her.
It was Faith. . .or at least the very Faith-like waitress.
“I’ve got some Advil if you need,” she said, her voice almost as husky as Faith’s. Almost as chilling.
“I’ll call you back, Will,” Buffy said down the line, flipping the cell phone closed as she turned her attention to the waitress. “I’m fine. . .but thanks,” she told her curtly, looking into her dark eyes.
The waitress placed Buffy’s lunch order down on the table and looked at her with a slightly puzzled expression. Buffy looked just as puzzled back. She couldn’t believe it wasn’t Faith. She had the same expression, the same eyes, the same nose, lips. It was like looking at Faith from a whole new angle, however. It was unnerving to say the least, on many levels. Levels Buffy didn’t even know existed.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said quickly when it looked like the waitress was about to move away. “I didn’t mean to be rude, I just. . .I’m feeling a little weird.”
“I know the feeling,” the waitress answered, smiling and showing off her dimples.
Buffy’s heart thudded loudly in her ears, the sound of blood making her dizzy. The fact she was looking at a girl who was the exact copy of one that had hurt her, burned her, tempted her and stomped on her, causing her to feel like she was swaying on unsteady ground. Her mind raced through all the possibilities, ranging from Faith somehow managing to escape from jail and get a job over the course of just a day, to it being some kind of clone, to the possibility she was actually conversing with a demon wearing a Faith disguise. There were no demon-tingles, however.
“I haven’t seen you here before,” the waitress commented, taking a seat opposite Buffy. “New or just passing through?”
Buffy blinked, trying to compose herself. She couldn’t take her eyes off the girl, studying her, remembering moments she’d shared with Faith. Bad and good. It hadn’t always been bad. . .they’d almost been friends at one point. They could have been good friends in fact, but life was never that simple for a slayer.
“No. . .yes,” Buffy replied, shaking her head and chuckling to herself as the waitress raised an eyebrow. “I’m just here for the day, I live in Sunnydale. I’m Buffy,” she told her, gauging her reaction. Hoping for some sign; some clue as to who or what the girl was.
“I’m Tru,” the waitress said, smiling, offering her hand for Buffy to shake. “Tru Davies, a lifelong resident of LA.”
Buffy took her hand and shook softly, a faint shudder running through her at the contact. It was just too surreal. She was so much like Faith, but apparently she wasn’t.
“I might need my hand back,” Tru said with a giggle. “I wouldn’t be much of a waitress without it.”
Buffy shook herself out of her self induced daze and slowly let go of Tru’s hand, their fingers sliding from each other hesitantly.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said, feeling suitably embarrassed. “Honestly, I’m not normally this weird.”
She smiled at Tru, furrowing her brow as she realised it was one of her cute flirty smiles. She made a vow to try not to smile again.
“If it’s any consolation, it’s kinda cute,” Tru told her, her dark eyes sparkling in the sun as she openly admired Buffy.
It made Buffy blush a little, her cheeks feeling flushed but her brain feeling utterly confused. Faith had always confused her too, but Faith always seemed to go out of her way to do it, to catch Buffy out or get the upper hand with her overt sexuality or brazen charm. Tru didn’t seem like she was trying to fluster Buffy for the hell of it. Buffy didn’t know how she could tell, and she wasn’t sure exactly why she wasn’t feeling more uneasy or even angry.
Looking away, trying to avoid the eyes that reminded her so much of Faith, Buffy realised she should be getting back to the gallery with lunch. She didn’t feel like rushing away, and she still needed to know for sure who Tru was. The similarity was too close, too exact for Tru to just be a lookalike or a fluke. If she’d been a little more attitude-y and slightly less girly there would be practically no telling her apart from Faith, and that was most definitely a reason to worry.
“Is there any chance I could get a coke to go?” Buffy asked, gazing down at her empty glass.
“Sure,” Tru replied, sounding a little perplexed.
It wasn’t as if Buffy hadn’t noticed the fact Tru seemed to be flirting with her, she just wasn’t ready to acknowledge it, despite her own flirty little smile that kept creeping out. Buffy felt weird. The situation was weird. . .and she was lost in the middle of it.
“Thanks,” she called after Tru as she disappeared to get her drink.
She flipped open her cell phone again and called Willow. It rang only once before Willow was asking what was happening. She’d probably been sat by the phone, waiting for Buffy to call for backup, or weapons. It wasn’t like they’d talked much about Faith in the past without the mention of pointy weapons.
“Will, calm down, everything’s ok. . .or at least I hope it is,” Buffy said. “I need you to check something out for me, though.”
“Ok,” Willow replied. “The dust is well and truly off my hacking fingers so fire away.”
“Find out who Tru Davies is, and do it quick,” she told Willow, glancing over to the shop entrance to make sure Tru wasn’t on her way back.
“You’re in luck, I’m a whiz at finding info on people,” Willow assured. “And I have to say, it’s nice to be asked to find info on a normal person for once instead of this demon or that demon, or whatever bad guy we’re. . .”
“Will, I really do need you to do this quick,” Buffy said firmly. “Just give me the basics for now, like. . .are they real, and do I need to wear protective clothing in case they break out of the fake skin and bouncy hair.”
“Right, quick. I can do quick,” Willow mumbled, once again tapping away at her keyboard. “I found a Tru Davies in LA, is that who you’re looking for?”
“Yeah, I think, what’s it say?” Buffy asked.
“Well, she’s real, so no protective clothing necessary,” Willow pointed out. “She has a driver’s licence, went to college, is registered as an actress, 19 years old, and was. . .” she struck the keys quickly as she searched “born in Boston.”
“Born in Boston?” Buffy said, furrowing her brow. “She said she’d lived here in LA all her life.”
“Wait. . .there’s more here. It’s really well hidden and I’ll have to dig deeper, but it looks like she was adopted. She was taken to LA as a baby I think,” Willow explained.
Buffy tried to fit the pieces together in her head, but it was all still a blurry mess. At least she knew – or was fairly certain now – that Tru wasn’t Faith in disguise, or a demon, or some kind of magical clone. Willow was an expert at finding information on the internet, and she knew a scam or false info if she came across it. Tru had to be a real person in her own right. All they had to find out now was why she was Faith’s identical. . .
“One coke to go,” Tru said as she placed the large coke in front of Buffy.
Her smile had faded somewhat compared to the one she’d given Buffy before she’d been so rude. Buffy couldn’t blame her; there they were kind of flirting. . .then Buffy’d asked for a coke. Not the best way to impress. Not that she wanted to impress another girl. Especially one that looked like Faith.
“Thank you,” Buffy said, letting her eyes fall into Tru’s once again as she snapped her cell phone shut on Willow. She’d have to apologise profusely later. “Umm. . .I’m probably gonna sound even weirder than you already think I am, but hell, I’m here for just one night and not really looking forward to spending it with my spawn-of-evil little sister, so wondered if you maybe wanna – if you’re not busy – show me around a little later?” Buffy said in a rush, trying to come up with some way not to lose track of Tru before they found out her possible connection to Faith.
The excuse was flimsy at best, but she really did feel the need to find out more about Tru. It wasn’t everyday you bumped into an arch enemy’s double.
“You’re asking me to ask you out?” Tru said with a chuckle. “Never been asked on a date quite like that before.” She smiled broadly, flashing her teeth as Buffy fumbled with her big bag of lunch.
Buffy hadn’t quite meant it as a date. She wasn’t into girls, and most definitely wasn’t into dating a Faith lookalike, even if she was very pretty and had great teeth. Not that teeth were important, but it’s all Buffy could seem to focus on as she gazed up at Tru. For reasons she couldn’t come up with yet, Buffy didn’t want to just walk away from Tru without talking to her some more. She waited for Tru to ask her out, her best flirty expression set in place.
“Ok, you’ve got yourself a date,” Tru told her. “I’m rehearsing right after work but can pick you up around 9 if that’s ok?”
“Sounds perfect,” Buffy responded more confidently than she felt, as she stood to leave. “I’ll give you my number and the hotel I’m staying at.”
Tru handed Buffy her pad and pencil, grinning as she wrote the info down. It was almost an exact copy of Faith’s grin, but not quite. It was less animalistic and more playful. Buffy saw the subtle difference and wasn’t sure which she preferred. Of course, she had to remind herself that she in no way, ever, at any time liked Faith’s grin to begin with, and that she in no way thought Tru’s was cute. If she didn’t remind herself, she’d be in danger of losing her mind completely.
“See you at 9,” Tru said as she waved Buffy goodbye.
It took Buffy a few backwards steps to turn around and walk away as she was too busy just staring at Tru. Really, the similarities were incredible. . .but the subtle differences made all the difference. It wasn’t Faith. Buffy could see that now. Tru was less hard around the edges; she was just as hot, but softer. Like Faith but in soft focus.
She shook her head and forced herself to walk back to the gallery without looking behind her. Buffy felt on edge, unhinged slightly. She jumped when her cell phone chirped in her pocket.
“Hey, Will,” she answered. “Sorry about hanging up. . .lunch was ready, kinda.”
“Nope, I don’t believe you. I wanna hear it all, Missy. Tell me what’s happening or I’ll be forced to curse you, all magically an’ stuff,” Willow told her, clearly wearing her resolve face. “I found something out about that Tru person, and you’re seriously not going to believe me, so what’s going on? How did you meet her?”
Buffy slowed her walk so she didn’t reach the gallery too soon, eager to find out what Willow was talking about and to halt the barrage of questions.
“I bumped into her while I was getting lunch,” Buffy explained. “It was weird, and just got weirder. . .but before I tell you more, what is it you found out?”
She stopped outside the gallery and waited for Willow to either put her mind at ease or make it more of a minefield of confusion. She already knew Tru wasn’t Faith, and that Faith was safely tucked away in prison. Tru wasn’t a demon either, as there were no slayer-tingles, and demons rarely had the contacts to be able to forge an entire history for themselves. Hopefully Willow had the answers.
Willow seemed to hush her voice as she spoke, as if the information she was about to give was top secret. . .or maybe it just wigged her out. “Well, I dunno if you noticed or not – ‘cause I haven’t seen a picture of her and don’t know what she looks like – but Tru is Faith’s. . .”
“Twin sister?” Buffy finished for her, suddenly realising the obvious possibility.
“Yep,” Willow confirmed. “As in, separated at birth, sent across the country and never heard from again twin sister. And as far as I can tell, Faith has no idea she exists.”
Buffy nodded to herself and looked back down the street towards the delicatessen. She couldn’t see Tru but she kept staring anyway, the little voice in her head telling her things couldn’t be that simple. There had to be more to it. Maybe Faith was in contact with Tru and had sent her to. . .take her on a date. Yeah, it definitely sounded strange.
“How sure are you?” Buffy asked.
“Pretty much completely,” Willow answered. “I had to do some serious interloping to find this stuff out. I can tell you all of Tru’s grades from kindergarten to college, and lemme tell ya, she’s smart. I know what her parents do. I know what her shoe size is, and I even know when she had her last doctor’s appointment and what for. I’m the da Vinci of hacking.”
“You paint pictures on your laptop?”
“No, I’m a genius, silly,” Willow corrected. “Anyway, I’m as sure as I can be that Tru is Faith’s twin.”
Buffy could practically hear the decisive nod on the other end of the phone.
“And I thought twins were meant to share the attributes between them,” Buffy mumbled.
“I thought one sister was meant to get the charm and the other the looks,” she explained. “Faith and Tru are pretty much identical. Identical twins, not just twins.”
“Oh,” Willow responded. “Wait. . .you’re saying you think Tru is charming and attractive?” She paused for a second, but continued before Buffy could cover herself or prevent the approaching comment. “So you must have thought Faith was charming and attractive. Buffy, I don’t think even my brain can handle that much psychoanalysing.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Buffy agreed, feeling her own head beginning to throb. “That’s not even the half of it; I’m going on a date with Tru tonight.”
The response was complete silence filled with the occasional sharp intake of breath.
“Jesus, Buffy. . .we’re starving to death, did you fall down a pothole and get lost?” Dawn yelled as she pushed open the door Buffy was standing beside.
She grabbed the bag of food from her hands and gave Buffy an accusing look before striding off in a huff.
“I’d better go, Will,” Buffy said, hoping Willow hadn’t passed out with shock. “I promise I’ll call you later. I’m not even sure I’ll go on the ‘date’ now I know who she is, but I’ll let you know what happens.”
Buffy flipped the phone shut and followed Dawn. She knew she’d go with Tru; she was too intrigued not to.
Intrigued didn’t quite cover it, but Buffy wasn’t ready to look much deeper. Faith was a whole collection of unanswerable questions in her mind and always had been. The more she’d thought about her feelings towards her, the more she’d ran screaming from her own head. It was crazy to even contemplate seeing Tru again, but Buffy couldn’t resist. Maybe it was some kind of masochistic tendency filtering to the surface, making Buffy want to face her demons. Making her want to face what Faith had always instilled in her.
She couldn’t hide any longer. Whatever the reason was for wanting to see Tru again, Buffy couldn’t really deny it; she was drawn to her, just like she had been to Faith.