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It’s some dark-haired chick, pale as death, skinny as a chicken bone, eyes like—

Well. Eyes. They look right into Faith’s, and the girl hums, a drawn-out sound like it’s meant to be a tune, but it’s just one or two notes, skying and scooping like that one choir teacher in fifth grade was always yelling at them not to do.

“I’ve been looking for you,” the girl says, in some old-country accent. She strokes Faith’s cheek, brushes a strand of hair aside. She pouts, lips pursed, and Faith doesn’t go in for weird chicks but she’d kiss those lips. She’d lean in right now if this freaking corset weren’t holding her so stiff. “But you’re not finished yet.”

“I’m finished,” Faith says, instead of When did I start? Her frilly sleeves itch. Those eyes—

“Not yet,” the girl says. She holds one wax-white finger to her lips: shhh.

--

There’s vampires this time, fangs dropped, circling. Faith has a stake, but she’s also still in that dress, the corset and the sleeves and the—are those freaking bloomers bunched up between her thighs?

A vampire hisses, and she drives the stake into his heart. Vampire dust has gotta be a bitch to get out of clothes like these, she thinks, but then the next vamp is clawing at her neck. She falls over her skirts. Of course she does – what idiot goes patrolling in clothes like these? The vampire looming over her implodes, a fall of dust and grit and ashes that stings her eyes.

When she’s blinked away the worst of it, that girl is back. The white one with the dark hair, the dress like Faith’s, the eyes—

They’re golden, and that should mean something. They’re so pretty, though, so warm. If Faith could drink them in they’d be like the hot buttered rum Buffy’s mom had fixed that one Christmas night.

“Not yet,” the girl says. She smiles, sways like something Faith can’t remember. Kisses Faith’s lips, but so fast Faith can’t catch her, can’t return it.

--

This dress is a fucking bitch, pardon her French. Faith can’t breathe in it anymore – maybe she never could. What’s she wearing it for, anyway? She sits down on a park bench, kicks off the shoes, though they weren’t so bad, really.

It’s the corset that’s killing her. It ties up in the back, right? Her sleeves barely let her reach, and even when her fingers do find ribbon and tug, it doesn’t loosen that vise around her lungs.

“Let me,” the girl says. She’s pale as the moonlight. Faith didn’t even notice it was night, but now everything’s in shades of white like the girl’s arms and black like her hair, except her eyes, still glinting gold.

“Let you what?” Faith asks. It comes out in a croak. Let you what?

The girl circles behind the bench. Kneels. Her fingers pluck at the ribbon Faith had given up on, pulls it loose. “You have to hold out your arms, silly,” the girl says, and Faith couldn’t tell you what makes her so obedient, but she obeys, and then part of her dress slips off her shoulders, down her itchy arms, gone.

“Oh,” Faith says, looking down. “Oh, shit.” There’s blood on the corset – not hers, but someone’s. It glistens in the moonlight. Suddenly Faith remembers, “This is Buffy’s. She’ll be pissed.” That’s why it was so tight. Who needs a stick up their ass when they’ve got all that whalebone holding them in, all those damned scruples?

“All shall be well,” the girl says, sing-song, “and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Up, now!”

She does something at Faith’s back, and then the skirt is loose, too, and the girl lifts it over Faith’s head. Another skirt, thin and filmy-white. Her fingers are plucking again behind Faith, quick and nimble, and then a tug at the corset, and then, finally, Faith can begin to breathe. The corset unhooks in the front, and suddenly, Faith is standing there in a couple of layers of nightgown in the middle of this graveyard – right, it’s a graveyard, where else would she fucking be. A chill blows over her bare shoulders, and she shivers.

“Almost time,” the girl says. She twirls in the moonlight like a speeding second hand. Faith can hear the steady click of gears: almost time. The girl spins in front of Faith and grips Faith’s hands hard enough to hurt. “You wouldn’t say no to mummy now, would you?”

Mommies aren’t Faith’s kink, but her legs walk backwards like the girl wants them to, and she sits on the park bench with the girl’s pressure on her hips. The girl smiles at Faith, all teeth, and ducks beneath Faith’s skirt, between her thighs.

When the girl presses her mouth to Faith, it’s skin on skin. Her tongue is cold. Faith grips the edges of the bench so hard they start to crack, swallows her groans and gasps – don’t want some local vamp to hear. The girl doesn’t ever pause, never comes up for air. Faith is close, trembling on the edge, it’s almost—

--

Faith wakes. She blinks against stabbing overhead light. There’s a sting in her arm, and the walls are dark and grimy, and the girl stands by Faith’s bed. She’s wearing her real face now. Her eyes aren’t so much golden as yellow, like warning lights: danger.

“Ooooh, you’re awake!” The vampire claps in delight, and then she offers Faith her hand, as elegant as any old-timey lady. “We’re going to have such fun, you and I.”

Faith’s in a hospital gown, drafty as hell, but at least she’s ditched the corset. And the vampire—well, Buffy’s got a vampire, doesn’t she? It’s only fair. “Yeah,” Faith says, with her first breath in years. Cracks her first smile, takes the girl’s hand. “Yeah, we sure are.”

[end]