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She hears voices.

At first, it's just whispers. Few days later though, after she stakes that pathetic excuse of a man, it grows louder. Then, Faith's convinced she's going crazy.

She knows she's not. She's isn't, she's not, and she can't be.

But she still hears them.

Her Mom says it's fate.

Ain't nothing like fate, she used to say. Believe in what the damned's told your life to go. Else you're ending up with nothin' but a painted bull's eye on your back and a fractured vase to hold, 'cause you decided to defy sainted fate 'ereself.

Her Mom says it's fate. That she's destined a drunkard. She says it's fate when she beats her to a bloody pulp, that fate told her that she ain't gonna live a good life with old 'lil Faithy clinging on, that it's fate that she dies and that she's all, all alone.

She doesn't know if her Mom's talking about her shitty life or herself. Maybe both.

Her name's Faith. She doesn't know if it's a twisted play on words; fate and faith, all intertwined, dying if the other's dead, stuff that she just can't let go— like her Mom's own damned faith in fate.

It hurts her brain to think about it. Faith 'n fate, two words like a damned homonym, mixed and stringed together like some sort of sing-song rhyme her Mom'll sing to her at bedtime.

She wonders what it'll feel like to hear a lullaby.

She's at Sunnydale.

Faith comes, not because she wants to meet the infamous Buffy, but because Kakistos killed her Watcher, and she's hellbent on making sure it's dead.

She likes the gang, kinda, at first. They like her and her tall tales. But then, soon after they've gotten used to the second Slayer, everything reverts back to Buffy this and Buffy that, and Faith knows she can't handle it.

Hell she can't handle it. Even if she's the Chosen One, she'll always be the second to come. Second-in-command. Second-best. Second Slayer.

B's the top dog, B's the loved one, B's the best of them all, and Faith hates that with whatever soul she has left.

B wants revenge.

B wants revenge, and ain't that revenge obvious. Faith knows, when B stalks into her room with a stake in hand, steam blowing off her like she's a freight train, and Faith lets herself a scoff at the thought of B's dead-and-dying boyfriend, shot through the heart like all the vamps she's staked before.

And it's then, when Faith cocks her head and smiles at the dying, broken, dead Slayer, hellbent on vengeance: ''Give us a kiss.''

B's not hearing the voices; not yet. But they're definitely whispering now, 'specially when her vamp boytoy's good as dead.

There's a fight, there's a flurry of blades, and then B's blade's in her stomach, twisting in droplets of crimson as the blade's silver face reflected in her shock like a wicked taunt.

B's surprised like she is. But the voices are not.

Faith meets her fate, the lullabies sings, and she lets herself a bitter smile.

''You did it, B,'' she mutters, the grin still shining. ''You did it.''

And outwards she fell; to a place no closer than home.

She's been in a coma for eight months.

Dimly, she wonders why the Council hasn't torn out her tubes and shut down the breathing machines and left her to die yet. But then, she realizes that the Scooby Gang's probably protecting her, and Faith's thoughts turn to Buffy.

Buffy. Fucking Buffy Summers. Buffy and her righteous ass, stabbing her in the gut and killing the only other Slayer in the world to heal her beloved Angel.

She growls, and ripping the tubes from her arm herself, hauls herself down the window and leaves for Buffy's home— all pretty and dainty and normal like it was before, as if nothing was wrong, and the very thought grates on her nerves.

The device's throbbing in her hand, craving to be used like a pulsing heartbeat. She remembers the Mayor's words, on how she's all alone with her voices now, on how nobody ever loved her—at least not anymore, and on how everyone from the Council to the vamps to the Scoobies were gonna hunt her down.

The device's whispering in her head, tellin' her that it's the only way out, that if she doesn't strap it on her palm she'd have to live a miserable existence till death, and the Mayor's there too, asking her whether if she wants to be just Faith… or better.

She doesn't believe in fate.

And while Faith and Buffy fight, she holds the device to her hand, and curses fate for all it's got.

There's a pulsing blast when their hands connect. They switch, and Buffy's Faith and Faith's Buffy, and just like that the weight of the world's lifted from her shoulders, and Faith's finally free.

Buffy doesn't hear voices.

Buffy doesn't hear whispers.

She's Buffy now. Buffy doesn't hear her voices.

Buffy doesn't hear her whispers.

There's no way in hell Faith's gonna take her own body back.

They switch.

They switch, and Buffy's Buffy and Faith's Faith again. She's screaming, cursing her murderous name as she sees Buffy, no longer herself, punching Faith out to her heart's content 'cause she's high-and-mighty Buffy again.

She's sprawled on the Church floor among the dust when B leaves and she sure as hell ain't coming back.

Faith doesn't want this. She's disgusted, revolted at this mess of a body, ragged worn with scars and stupid memories and a life that was a bloody patchwork of a mistake in itself.

She doesn't want to hear the voices again.

Too bad they don't care.

The voices come back; at full force, full momentum like they've never left, and they taunt and smile and welcome her back again.

Faith curls into the corner of the Church and sobs, long after Buffy's left, but the voices don't go away.

The voices' are in her brain.

The voices are in her brain, and it won't get out, not unless she slits the skin out with a pair of surgical knives and twist it round the damn knife and rip that thing out like a multiplying cancer cell.

The voices are in her brain, but it wasn't there, when she left her body and became Buffy.

Buffy, the perfect Slayer. Buffy, the Chosen One. Buffy, the blonde with no worries and all the friends and family and boys for her picking.

Buffy, the Slayer with no voices in her head.

She needs Buffy to liberate her from the voices. Damn Faith. Damn herself, she needs Buffy's body and brain and life alone for the voices to go away.

She knows it ain't what fate wants. She knows fate wants her to pay for her crimes; to pay for her murders; to pay for her sins. She knows fate ain't giving her an easy life, not with all she's gotten away with. She just needs to ask the voices in her head, and they'll string her a damn lullaby for all they wanted.

But damn her if she can't try cheating outta it.

But if her voices are in her brain; and her brain's in Buffy's when they switched bodies; why didn't she hear the accursed voices in her head?

Two Slayers. Two upbringings. One ain't loved while the other surrounds herself in friends.

The voices' still in her head. Taunting like there was no end. Laughing at her godforsaken fate. Saying they'll be there forever.

Why was it different then?