A/N: I've had to bend the plot in the comics a bit. Buffy slept with Satsu but the scythe was never stolen and none of the following Japan plot happened. Things in Scotland went on as usual with Buffy trying to ignore the Satsu situation while trying to deal with her guilt over Faith. Clear as mud? Great!
Buffy landed with a thud in the middle of a darkened room and instantly scrambled to her hands and knees. She frantically crawled with one hand out until she reached a wall and proceeded to empty the remaining contents of her stomach.
If Willow was one thing, it was accurate.
Adjusting her eyes to see better in the room lit only by a small digital alarm clock, she picked out what was possibly a light switch on the wall. Walking over with her hands outstretched to stop her bumping into anything along the way, she was surprised when her hand came into contact with something warm and soft. Suddenly the light flicked on and she found Faith standing directly in front of her, her hand on one of Faith's round breasts.
She quickly pulled her hand back and waited for the flirty innuendos to start but they never came. Instead Faith narrowed her eyes and looked at her with anger written across her face.
"Fuckin lying sack of . . . Giles said no one in or out for twenty-four hours. How the hell did you get in here?"
"Willow. Her magic is the uber kind."
"Yeah, well now we're uber stuck together for a whole fucking day. Didn't . . . fuck, can't you see that I don't wanna be around ya, B? Have I not made that perfectly clear?"
Faith took a step away and turned around, walking through the small house and randomly flicking on lights as she explored. Buffy followed tentatively behind her, always a few steps back.
"Crystal clear, actually. And I get it, really I do. I don't know that I'd want to talk to me either, but I promise I'll get out of your hair once I talk to you about New York."
"Not in here. No way am I gonna sit through a Buffy lecture when I ain't got a way to escape. Listen, call Red. She put you in here and she can get you out. I'll call you when I'm out and I'll listen, got my word on that. I just can't do this in here."
Faith turned and faced Buffy then, her eyes pleading with her to just cooperate.
Buffy saw so much in those deep brown eyes then that she knew she couldn't press the matter any further. Nodding solemnly, she opened her cell phone and dialed, holding the phone up to her ear. She waited and waited but the line didn't connect. Finally the phone beeped and she looked down at the ominous symbol on the screen.
"No signal," she said aloud. "This phone is supposed to work like everywhere on the planet. Where are we?"
"Shit, I shoulda thought about that," Faith said as she pulled out her own cell phone and pressed a few buttons only to the get the same result. "We're between dimensions, safest place to hide from any baddies chasing ya. Regular cell phones won't work but Giles had Marina magic-up that earpiece. Here, give it to me." She held out her hand expectantly, waiting for Buffy to hand over the small gizmo.
Buffy could only bite her lip nervously as she looked up at Faith's face.
"I don't have it."
"Course ya do, I saw ya using it. Hand it over, I know how to work it and I can have Giles call Red . . ."
"It's in the alley somewhere. I . . . I threw it away after Giles helped you portal hop."
Faith clenched her jaw shut tightly, biting back all of the things she wanted to yell at Buffy just then. Doing her best to keep her cool, she said through her clenched teeth, "Invisible line: my side of the house, your side of the house. Just gotta make it one day. Still got my word, we'll talk when we're outta here. Just gimme space."
She turned on her heel and walked into the room just to her side, closing the door behind her.
Buffy stood there for a few minutes taking everything in when a new sense of resolve kicked in. She needed to tell Faith that she had some kind of weird clone walking around New York city and she wasn't going to wait until Faith had the opportunity to run away from her again. The old cat and mouse game was getting really tired.
Taking a deep breath and steeling herself, Buffy put her hand on the door knob and turned it, freely allowing herself into the room. Faith, who was sitting on the bed taking off her boots, looked up with an incredulous look upon her face. She watched as Buffy pulled a chair over and put it up against the door, sitting on it so that they were effectively blocked in.
"Have you lost your mind?" asked Faith.
"Probably. My mother once told me never to corner a wild animal but I . . ."
"That what I am to you? A wild animal?" She stood up from the bed, looking more menacing than ever.
Buffy sighed and rubbed her temples, trying hard not to let the situation get out of control.
"Stop interrupting me and I will get to the point and get out of your hair. I'm tired of playing this game, Faith. You hate me and I get that, not even gonna try to make up for it because you're being so damned stubborn, but you will listen to me for two minutes."
"Is this the part where I fall in line? Let little old Buffy Summers get her way?" At Buffy's glare, Faith held up her hands and gestured for Buffy to get on with it already.
"When I was in New York, I thought I saw you. I followed you - or who I thought was you - to some top secret building and Willow got me in with a fake appointment. It's not some kind of normal business place; they train people like puppets, Faith. To be and do whatever they're needed for."
"Sounds like a fancy version of an escort service." She ignored the way Buffy's eyes widened slightly and continued. "So what does this have to do with me?"
"Just listen, I'm getting to it."
"Can ya hurry? Not exactly the most patient person if ya haven't figured that out already."
"Ugh, Faith!" Buffy yelled, annoyed. "Stop interrupting!"
"Or what?" Faith asked, a hint of challenge in her voice.
"Or I'll have the less stubborn Faith kick your ass!" Buffy blurted out. Seeing Faith's confused look, she sighed again and tried to clarify. "I'll save you the boring details: she's you, or a clone of you or something like that. We . . . we haven't worked out all of the details yet."
Faith stared at Buffy, tilting her head to the side a bit as she studied her face. She certainly wasn't expecting to hear that. She'd been threatened lots in her life, but never had someone threatened to have her kick her own ass.
"Think Andy's been making you watch too many of those sci-fi movies."
"I've made it a habit to not watch TV with him. That's what we do to the slayers that miss slay-training."
"Punishment by nerd. Harsh."
Buffy shrugged, "We do what we have to do."
"Well, I think ya hit your head or something. It was probably just someone that looked like me. Lotsa hot brunettes in the world," Faith said and flopped down on the bed, seemingly unaffected and not all that concerned.
"She did look like you. Exactly like you, in fact. Faith, she is you. Willow told me to get as close as I could and I did. I posed as a client and they arranged for me to meet with Echo - your look-alike."
"What do you mean 'arranged for you to meet?'" Faith interrupted. "Was it like, a date?"
"No," Buffy said all too eagerly. "They arranged a casual encounter out on the street and let the meeting go from there. And true to form, we went for something to eat. She tucked away her meal and most of mine, just like the good old days."
Buffy remembered the few times they'd patrolled together in Sunnydale and the way that Faith would always drag her out for something to eat afterwards. If there was one thing Faith was good at, it was eating more than she should be able to and never letting it physically show.
Faith wasn't sharing the same fond stroll down memory lane though. Something instantly struck her as odd. She played Buffy's words back over again in her mind and it finally dawned on her.
"You're tellin me this Echo chick - lame name,by the way - is exactly like me too? Well if she's a clone or something, how would she know how to act?"
Buffy looked away from Faith's questioning eyes then, a sudden feeling of anxiety coming over her. If the questioning continued the way it was, Faith was going to find out about what happened. The worst part was that Buffy couldn't lie about it. She could hide it, but not outright lie. She and Faith had hurt each other enough over the years; lies would only add to that hurt.
"They program the actives there depending on their mission. She knew how to act because she was programmed to be like you," she said quietly, playing with the hem of her shirt.
"And how did they get the 411 on me?" Faith asked, her voice low and ominous.
"I gave it to them," Buffy answered after hesitating for a moment. She finally looked up, a worried look upon her face.
Faith's eyes instantly narrowed, her jaw clenching tightly as she regarded Buffy. She stood up from the bed again and began to take slow steps towards the girl, a dangerous air around her.
"Sounds to me like you found the perfect replacement for me, B. You tell them to make her follow your every order? Never to doubt you or to call your bullshit? Cos that's all you want, B: a nice complacent Faith-doll for you to mold exactly as you like and do exactly what you say."
"That's not true," Buffy said, tears filling her eyes but not falling. This was not how this was supposed to be going!
"Bullshit," Faith said evenly, still approaching her.
"It's not. I thought she was you at first; I was convinced that Giles was doing something top-secret with you and I had to find out what."
"Because you always need to be in charge," Faith said matter-of-factly, accusingly.
Buffy shook her head, "No, because . . ." she took a deep breath and stood up, ". . . after what Giles put you up to with Genevieve, I couldn't put it past him to have you doing something else equally horrible."
"And I'd do it cos I'm nothing better than a second-rate slayer and a cold-blooded killer, right?" Faith asked, still slowly approaching Buffy.
"No," Buffy answered, shaking her head again. "You changed. You went to prison and changed who you were and Giles threw you headlong into that situation without thinking how it could screw everything up that you worked so hard to right."
"Giles needed a job done and he knew he could count on me to do it," Faith defended. "Where the hell were you? Out robbing banks and pretending to be the hero?"
"He used you, Faith."
"And I knew it, was fine with it. I knew the sitch and I went along with it, which is probably more than you can say about your new pal Faith Number Two."
It was Buffy's turn to be angry now. Faith was completely getting everything wrong and she wasn't listening to anything she was trying to tell her. Now she was starting to wish she'd listened to Faith's request that they not discuss this here because she was feeling more trapped then ever.
"She's not my pal. Until we figure out what we need to do with AFH and the people there, I'll have nothing to do with her, and once we take care of it, I'll never see her again."
"And that just kills you, doesn't it, B? Your new and compliant Faith gone with the wind, and all you're left with is me who is sick and tired of your fucking hypocrisy and done dealing with you."
"You know what, Faith?" Buffy began, standing up from the chair and swiping angrily away at a few tears that had escaped her in her frustration. "I'm done too. Done trying to apologize, done trying to deal. I guess it was too much to hope for friendship; you know, the kind of friendship where people screw up and forgive each other because they're friends."
"Fuck off with that shit, Buffy. You couldn't offer that to me years ago so why should we try it now?"
"Umm, because we're older, wiser, more mature?" Buffy threw out.
"How about cos the shoe's on the other foot and you can't stand being the one that screwed up?"
And that hit a chord within Buffy, rung true even though she was trying so hard to believe her own words. What it also made her realize, though, was that maybe this was how it had to be. She and Faith were oil and water, or maybe more accurately, fire and gasoline. They couldn't be around one another for too long without igniting.
It was always a state of emergency when it came to the two of them. Maybe it was time to call it what it was and move on.
Sighing deeply, completely resigned to the fact now that they weren't destined to be friends or anything more, Buffy turned around and moved the chair from in front of the door. Hand on the door handle, she was about to walk out of the room when Faith's words stopped her dead in her tracks.
"What was it like, fucking her? Did you close your eyes and pretend it was me? Pretend that it was my lips, my fingers, my tongue?"
Buffy didn't move, couldn't think, completely frozen in her spot at the door. How had Faith . . . was it that obvious?
"Did she whisper sweet nothings in your ear, B?" Faith continued. "Tell you everything you wanted to hear just so that you'd spread those pristine thighs?"
"It wasn't about that," Buffy whispered, her voice thick with tears. "I just wanted you to listen to me; to let your walls down for two minutes. And she did, and it was so easy . . ."
"What?" Faith asked, confused. "What are ya . . . what does Satsu have to do with me?"
Buffy's eyes immediately widened. Faith was talking about Satsu, not Echo, but Buffy had given it away. Maybe Faith hadn't noticed the slip up. Maybe she'd . . .
" . . . you've gotta be fucking kidding me," Faith said after a moment, fully aware of Buffy's slip-up. "You fucked her. Me. What the fuck, Buffy! Is our relationship not already fucked up enough? Now you're running around having someone program my supposed clone to fuck you? Is that what it was all about?"
Buffy quickly spun around, coming face to face with an angry and confused Faith.
"No, I told them to make her love me!"
Giles dialed Faith's number once again but got the same result as the previous twenty times: "The number you are calling is temporarily out of service. Please try your call again later." He sighed and hung up, ready to call again, when Marina's voice interrupted him.
"You know as well as I do that her cell phone won't work in there."
"Yes, I know," he said, finally conceding defeat as he sat down in the large leather office chair. "It was just a shot in the dark."
"Without the earpiece she's completely out of contact for twenty-four hours, Giles, just as you had me arrange. Not even my magic is strong enough to break the spell I used."
"But mine is," came a voice from across the room. Giles and Marina looked up to find Willow standing there with a guilty smile on her face. "Before you ask, I can't get Faith out of there. That's a spell that can't be done. I was, however, able to send Buffy to her via their slayer connection."
Giles regarded her for a moment, seemingly unsurprised to see her there before him.
"As a seasoned Wicca . . . no, as a seasoned veteran of the tumultuous Buffy and Faith show, are you sure that was a wise decision?"
"They needed to talk, Giles. And dare I say it was a bit hasty for you to side so easily with Faith when you hadn't even heard Buffy out?"
"I believe that Buffy has enough support on her side these days, Willow. I only did what Faith asked because I trust her to make the right decisions when it comes to her life," he explained, unwavering in his support of Faith.
"And that's great, Giles, it is. Yay team Faith! But if you'd given Buffy thirty seconds to explain, you'd know that we have a bit of a situation on our hands. Well, not so much on our hands as on Faith's hands, but we're - well, Buffy's - a bit more involved now too."
"As much as I appreciate you coming to tell me all of this, you're more aware than I am that your team has been able to surmount all slaying obstacles you've encountered since relocating to Scotland. What help do you think that Faith and I could offer after all of this time?"
And honestly, Giles was clueless to that effect. Buffy and her team had devised ways to fund their operation and had even forged an alliance with a local coven that could help support Willow's magical needs. Meanwhile Giles and Faith were living in former Council housing that survived the First and his minions and banking on the help of Marina, an old friend of his from his council days.
What use did they have for an outcast slayer and outdated Watcher?
"You're right; we've handled the slaying issues without much ado. This is different though. This isn't about slaying; this is about Faith. We still haven't gotten it all figured out yet but I've been putting together small pieces of the big twisted puzzle since Buffy went to New York. Giles," Willow took a deep breath before continuing, "we think someone in the Council was involved in some non-Council extracurriculars that may have led to Faith - and possibly several other potential slayers - being . . ."
The sound of a loud knock at the door interrupted Willow. All eyes in the room went to the large wooden door that creaked loudly under the pressure of the knock.
"Don't get that," Willow said, her breath hitching in her throat as she tried to read the energies on the other side of the door.
"Whoever it is, they don't mean us any harm," Marina said, her hand outstretched toward the door. Her fingertips twitched as she focused her powers, once again confirming that what she said was true.
Giles looked back and forth between the two women and then stood, hesitantly making his way towards the door. Sparing one more glance back at an anxious Willow, he twisted the doorknob and pulled the door open, his eyes immediately widening as he took a step back.
"Hello, Rupert," Quentin said with a pleased smirk on his face.
Giles flinched as a hand shot out suddenly and hit Quentin between his shoulder and neck, instantly rendering the man unconscious. What appeared to be Faith stepped forward and caught Quentin before he could hit the ground, lifting him easily in her arms as she finally met Giles' alarmed eyes.
Giles looked back at Marina who telepathically told him that Faith was still in the safe house, then back to the girl before him. Suddenly another girl stepped forward, taking position behind the girl. Satsu? It couldn't be.
"You know who I am?" The first girl asked and instantly Giles knew that it wasn't Faith's voice he was hearing.
"Yes," he said, his voice barely a whisper.
"Then let us in, we don't have much time."
He hesitated for a moment before stepping to the side, letting the two girls and unconscious and inexplicably alive Quentin Travers into the house. Suddenly he was thinking that he should've let Buffy do her explaining.
Buffy waited for some kind of reaction from Faith, her tears falling freely now, but the girl could only manage to stare at her looking confused, hurt, and angry all at the same time. After dealing with the awkward silence for what felt like forever, Buffy continued.
"I was sick and tired of all of your walls and bullshit drama, Faith. You've never been able to just be fucking honest with me except for when you came back to Sunnydale and we had that talk in my bedroom. God, it's always this state of emergency with us, isn't it? Kiss or kill. Too bad you've never been able to just let down your walls and be straight with me though, huh Faith? Maybe I should've made them program her to hate me, then it would've been just like the real deal; the real you."
Faith just stared at her, angry tears filling her own eyes but never falling. She was having a hard time believing all of this was happening, from the fact that she had a clone out there somewhere to the fact that Buffy had slept with her. More pressing for her though, was the fact that Buffy thought she hated her.
"You think I hate you?"
"Then you're even more fuckin clueless than I thought."
"Faith, you couldn't make it any more obvious if you tried."
"I don't hate you, Buffy; I hate myself when I'm around you!" Faith nearly screamed, her eyes wild as she stared into Buffy's. "You think I like being the bad guy? The one nobody can even bear to be around so they haul ass to Scotland while I stay in the States on my own? I hate myself, Buffy. Always been willing to put my life on the line cos I didn't care 'bout it. Giles saw that and yunno what he did? He gave me some purpose."
"He turned you into a killer again!"
"Maybe he did, but how many slayers are alive because Gigi is dead? Ten? A hundred? A thousand?"
"Did he coach you into saying that, Faith?" Buffy asked bitterly.
"No, I did. It let me deal with it, made me feel like maybe I could like the person I was becoming, that people were alive cos of something I did. And then you came around and I was back to hating myself. I don't need to hate you, B, cos I'm the perfect scapegoat; I can hate myself enough for the both of us."
They stared at one another for what felt like forever. Buffy's tears continued to fall, running silently down her cheeks as she wished that she could take it all back. She couldn't though; she was left in the here and now with Faith and all of the old wounds they'd re-opened to get here. How could they deal with this?
"Doesn't matter now, does it?" Buffy asked. "You can't be around me because I make you hate yourself, and I can't be around you knowing that. We've made our choices, haven't we?"
"Seems like it, right?" Said so nonchalantly even though Faith was feeling anything but.
"Yeah," Buffy said sadly, hanging her head. She turned and began to walk out of the room but stopped. After a moment she turned and walked back in, closing the door behind her. "I just have one more thing to say."
Before she could explain, before Faith could stop her, Buffy hooked her fingers through Faith's belt loops and pulled her forward, their mouths crashing together in a heated kiss as their bodies melded together. It only took a few seconds for Faith to pull back and look at her accusingly, her eyes wide.
Faith began to say something but Buffy cut her off with another kiss, this one much longer and deeper than the first. Buffy suddenly felt her back up against a wall and Faith pressing intimately against her, but then Faith's mouth was gone and she felt hands on her shoulders keeping her there.
"What the hell did you go and do that for?" Faith asked, breathing hard.
"Why did you do it back? Twice?" Buffy asked, her hands trying to pull Faith back to her as the girl resisted.
Faith couldn't resist too sincerely though and let herself be pulled forward again, her lips meeting Buffy's again in yet another intense kiss, their lips hungry and needy. After several long moments she pulled back just enough to rest her forehead against Buffy's, doing her best to resist whatever was going on between them.
"Ya gotta stop doing that," she breathed out, her body urging her to step forward and step back at the same time. How could she be so utterly conflicted over what she wanted?
"Then stop doing it back," Buffy breathed out harshly, her hands still grasping needily at Faith. "Ball's in your court this time. Kiss or kill, Faith. What are you gonna choose this time around?"
Faith closed her eyes and took a step back, taking a few deep breaths before opening them and drowning in a sea of pleading emerald green. She stared deeply into Buffy's eyes for just a moment, two moments, three moments more, and she knew then that her decision was made.
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