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From the dark street, the music that came out of the club was only a muffled sound. Two young women left it laughing and jesting, and quickly strode away.

The brunette abruptly stopped in an adjacent deserted street, which was sunk into darkness. Her smile suddenly set in a worrying way. She fixed the other girl with her harsh and keen stare. A flash of madness went through her brown eyes and the blonde mistook it for lust. They drew nearer to each other in the obscurity. Seizing the other girl by her hair, the brunette made her kneel before her. The blonde ceased to ask herself questions: the leather trousers that had seduced her so much came down to the ground, and she plunged her face into the warmness that was waiting for her. Alcohol had already altered the senses of the brunette, who arched her back, showing the whites of her eyes, leaving the pleasure rising inside her. The blonde looked at her from time to time, and the brunette suddenly saw through her another face, a different face, a smile, green eyes, those eyes which slightly darkened in pleasure, a shade she was the only one to notice, an imperceptible tension in the corners of her lips, a subtle pressure of her jaw, which betrayed desire. And these tiny signs were completely absent from the anonymous face that was giving pleasure to her.

So she closed her eyes. And when she finally surrendered to the ultimate ectasy, she turned her stare inside, towards those eyes which haunted and pursued her, those eyes which had captured her weakness just one time, and in which she had eventually drowned. Almost willingly.

When she opened her eyes again she saw the blonde looking hard at her, with an unbearable smile. That unknown blonde. Who was not her. Who had never been her. Like all the others, all these insipid copies she had desperately fucked every night since her departure. She had done it in the most sordid and dirty places she could find, so as to finish herself off, to curse herself, to punish herself, to destroy herself, to get soiled, to vomit herself. So as to forget herself but not forget what she had become, what she had fled, what she had lost, what she did not deserve. She was nothing. She had nothing left.

The blonde rose and hugged her. She pushed her away roughly, her face closed again.

"Get lost!"

"What? But I..."

"I told you to get lost!"

The once so charming and sultry voice of the strange brunette who had fascinated her, had suddenly become hoarse and threatening. The hands that had pushed her away showed a strength, a strength that she did not possess. Beyond her frustration and her incomprehension, the blonde felt fear invading her. She briefly looked at the other woman; her clenched fists, her knuckles becoming white, her head bent, her face hidden by her long hair hanging down. That woman had already forgotten her, was already elsewhere. So, she ran away.

 After a long time Faith unclenched her fists and wiped away her tears. She saw blood from where her nails had torn the palms of her hands. The sight of it raised a desire for violence, an urge for killing. It was time for hunting. It was Slayer time.

 


 

Faith knew she would not have to search much. She had been in Los Angeles for just two weeks, but she had quickly located the favorite hangouts of the demons. She used them as outlets for her hatred, for her despair. They paid for her own failures. And sometimes they had money. She had slept outside once or twice then she had resigned herself to steal, at best from the monsters she killed, and at worst from the women she fucked. That did not matter any longer. Nothing mattered any more.

The vampire was hidden in shadow. That lonely and oblivious young woman was a real godsend. For a few days, a rumor had been spreading around the filthy and dangerous districts of L.A. in which all the undead and demons multiplied: the Slayer would have left Sunnydale and would cause havoc among them. The Slayer was like a terrible bogeyman, the painful reminder of their vulnerability, and if he had never met her, the very idea of her presence here had terrified him so much that he had gone to earth for three days. He was starving and this new victim seemed to be very appetizing. He could hear her blood pulsing, he could smell it, warm, salted, tempting...

He attacked her, his hands like claws clutching at her shoulders, a wincing grin on his game face. His smile disappeared as the defenseless girl turned around and shot him a crushing punch which broke his jaw. He fell backwards then got up and rushed at her. She easily avoided him and gave him a roundhouse kick, which threw him against the wall. Only then did he understand who the girl was. Faith was sitting on him, and kept him firmly down with an iron grip. She was about to get her stake out to finish him off when he stuttered incredulously:

"The... The... Slayer... Bu... Buffy?"

Faith looked at him as if he had stabbed her, she hesitated then yelled out.

"No! You bastard! No!"

A shower of blows fell on the petrified vampire's face, sharp and heavy blows, accentuated by rage and despair, blows which were turning him into a bloody pulp, blows which did not even stop when he passed out. Faith kept on striking him, punctuating each punch with a scream, letting the murderous madness overwhelm her again like before, letting the taste of murder flirt with the limits of a morbid pleasure.

Suddenly a voice called her, dragged her out of the internal dimension made of violence and grief in which she was wrapped in again.

"Faith!!!"

A veil had just torn in her mind. She ceased to hit the vampire and loosened her grip. The marks of her fingers were imprinted onto his neck, the dark marks of hands which would have suffocated him if he could have breathed.

"Faith," the voice said again more softly.

She stared at her bloodstained hands, then at what remained of the vampire's face. She had beaten it into a piece of shapeless and bloody meat and some shreds of flesh were peeling off the broken bones. That view became unbearable. Only an animal could have done that. An enraged animal. She was just an animal. She abruptly pulled out her stake and drove it into the vampire's heart as hard as she could, while avoiding looking at his face. The macabre picture disappeared into dust.

"Faith."

She finally turned to the voice. A big dark shape, a big black coat but still with his puppy dog eyes.

"Angel..."

They sized up each other silently for a while. Angel could see the madness, emptiness, in Faith's tortured gaze. He had thought that things would be sorted out. He had done everything to help her and she had wanted to make amends for all the evil things she had done. She had tried. She had helped them in L.A. and had gone to Sunnydale to try to redeem herself. Giles had told him that the gang had gradually accepted her again, that even Buffy had seemed to have forgiven her. Then Giles had phoned him two weeks ago to tell him that Buffy and Faith had disappeared. If the sudden disappearance of Faith did not surprise him, Buffy's actions worried him because it was not like her to leave the way she had. She had simply left a note to her mother saying she went to L.A. and that she needed to be alone. Giles suspected that Buffy's abrupt departure was somehow bound to Faith. He did what he could to prevent Riley, who was in an extreme state of distress, and the others from rushing to search her.

So Angel had followed Faith's track. Once he understood that the ravaged and skinned demons were the dark Slayer's work, he quickly found her. He had stayed in the shadows, watching her behavior and not wanting to intervene in the slow reconstruction of her life. But tonight he knew she had crossed the red line again.

Faith had stood up and had recovered her composure. She wore her mask of impassiveness and harshness. But Angel was not fooled.

"What happened, Faith?"

"Huh? Well, you can see, I kicked his ass!"

"No. In Sunnydale."

She stared at him silently, as if that name evoked nothing to her.

"What happened with Buffy?"

A glimmer of pain went through Faith's eyes. A minute instant. But Angel perceived it. He knew too well what it meant.

"What did she tell you, Faith? She forgave you, I know it. Why did you leave?"

"I don't think that's any of your business..."

Faith saw she had hurt him. After everything he had done for her it was obviously unfair.

"Look, broody boy: I had nothing else to do there, OK? There's already a Slayer in Sunnydale, I'll be more useful here. We met, she forgave me, I left, that's all, end of story. And everything's all right, thanks. Five by five."

He digested her last sentence with a small smile in the corner of his lips.

"Yes, you're right, Faith. Everything's right. Everything's all right. Besides that's why you get drunk every night before finding a girl you're gonna humiliate and throw away like a worn hankie 'cause she'd never give you what you're looking for. That's why you get high before letting off steam on a vampire you're gonna tear to pieces as if he was responsible for your own nothingness. That's why you have tears in your eyes every time you come down to earth."

Faith's façade was cracking. Indifference and arrogance gave way to anxiety and suffering. How could he know? How could he read her so easily?

"You're destroying yourself, Faith. One day you'll be so high or so drunk that you'll be beaten by a clever vamp because you won't be able to block his blows. And I won't be always there to save you."

"Who d'you think you are? I don't need you! And I've never asked you anything!"

"Actually you have."

Faith remembered when she had cracked up collapsing in his arms, asking him to help her after having begged him to kill her so as to put an end to her torments, to the inhuman horror she had become. He had helped her, whereas she had tried to kill him several times. Buffy had forgiven her despite everything that she had inflicted on her. She would have killed her but Buffy had forgiven her. What could they see in her to deserve their pardon? What worth was her miserable and despisable life compared to theirs? What could she offer to them apart from violence and pain?

"So, I don't want your help anymore, Angel. Forget me. The two of you."

She turned on her heels not giving the vampire a chance to answer or to reach her with his cursed words which pierced her heart. She ran away.

"Again...", Angel thought while watching her going away.

 


 

Buffy had been wandering in the streets of L.A. for two weeks searching for the other Slayer. Vainly. She had interrogated a few demons though, but she had gotten nothing conclusive, only the fact that there was a Slayer in town who terrorized them. She began to despair wondering if Faith had left. But deep down she knew she had not, she could feel her. All her Slayer's instincts screamed Faith's presence in every street corner. Reluctantly she finally decided to ask Angel's help because she knew her absence was going to cause trouble. She did not want to see Riley turning up with his delicacy of pachyderm. However, the idea of asking help to her former boyfriend disturbed her. She knew it would not take him long to guess her feelings for Faith, even though she had needed years to acknowledge them... And nobody knew about it. As usual, but in a different way this time, Faith had rushed like a hurricane into her life that she had rebuilt slowly and with difficulty, and had turned everything upside down; her beliefs, her feelings, her habits. Then she had left as quickly as she had come, she had run away leaving a devastated landscape behind her. A grenade waiting for a few revelations to explode, to destroy all efforts.

But this time Buffy had followed. She had taken a risk, one that could make her lose everything; her friends, her boyfriend, her mother. All for her. Because she was unique. Because they were alike. Because she understood her. Because she was the only one. Because she loved her. She had seen it in her eyes, but Faith had fled from that obvious fact.

 


 

Buffy stormed into Angel's office nearly pulling the door from its hinges.

"Where is she?"

Cordelia, who was doing her nails, started up suddenly from her chair.

"Hi, Buffy! It's a pleasure to see you again! I'm fine and you?", the ex-cheerleader asked ironically.

Buffy realized her entrance had been a little rude and she softened slightly.

"Er... Excuse me, hi... Where is she?"

"I assume you're speaking about our ex-lag, ex-psychopath who's still dressed like a -"

"Why d'you want to see her?", Angel's voice cut her short behind Buffy.

Buffy slowly turned round and considered the question of the vampire. She watched him as he looked at her sternly, leaning against the door frame with his arms folded.

"I've got things to settle with her.", she said quietly while enduring Angel's prying stare.

"I thought you had forgiven her, all of you... What happened, Buffy?"

"That's not the point. It's just between her and me... There are... things... that have to be solved... I must find her."

"Who says I know where she is? And why do you want to see her, for revenge?"

Buffy watched her former boyfriend for a while. He visibly knew where Faith was and tried to protect her.

"You don't understand, Angel. I'm not gonna hurt her. I've forgotten revenge. I've forgiven."

"I know."

Angel paused then went on.

"But I'm not sure she wants to see you again... And I'm not sure you want to see her again like that..."

Buffy looked at him, suddenly worrying.

"What's up?"

"I fear she's sinking again... And she doesn't want to talk to me."

"And you're surprised? She should never have been released... Psychopaths can't be cured...", Cordelia said behind her desk.

The killing glances she got made her quickly retreat behind a heap of unpaid bills.

"Where is she, Angel?"

"You don't want to explain what happened with you two?"

"No. Later... Just tell me where I can find her."

Angel sighed resignedly and scrawled some addresses on a piece of paper.

"You can search among the dregs... Sometimes in this motel when she's got money... This club too..."

Buffy took the adresses and made for the door.

"Buffy!"

Her hand froze on the handle.

"You love her, don't you?"

Angel's face suddenly showed that he understood what had happened between the two Slayers. Buffy held his gaze but did not answer. Words were useless. He knew.

She opened the door and left.

 


 

Buffy headed for the motel. She had just successively called Riley, Giles and her mother so as to reassure them. She knew that she should have phoned them earlier but she had feared they might have succeeded in reasoning with her, in making her flinch and come back, in making her give up a quest they could not understand. Riley, obviously, had wanted to join her. She had had the utmost difficulty in convincing him that everything was all right, that she did not need him and that she wanted to be left alone. None of them understood that she wanted to find Faith. None of them knew the true nature of her feelings for the dark Slayer. She still could not decide what to tell them. Not until she had found her, until she had been sure of Faith and of herself. Everything was new, difficult, frightening. She did not dare to contemplate the consequences of her acts, of her desires. Faith had brought out in her the savagery and the instinct of the original Slayer. In front of her, of her sensuality, of the challenge and the danger she embodied, she completely lost control. And that was what she hated above all, to lose control of her life. Only Faith managed to produce such an effect in her. Only Faith managed to unsettle her, to make her feel insecure. And what she had previously taken for a weakness, revealed itself as being a strength today. She would not let her lose herself in her abyss of violence. Or else she would do it too.

 


 

Faith opened the door of her motel's room and threw her leather jacket on the bed. She picked up the bottle of whisky standing beside it and took a gulp of the liquid, which burned her throat. The other woman slowly entered and waited immobile in the middle of the room. Faith turned round and cast a sadistic look at her, a small threatening smile planted on her lips. She slowly approached and brutally took her jacket off which landed in the far end of the room.

The slap which followed was so violent that the blonde girl lost her balance and fell on her knees. Faith seized her by her hair and slightly held her head up. A thin trickle of blood was running down her chin. Faith gently followed the scarlet dribble with her finger. Her eyes were empty. Suddenly, with only one hand she grabbed the girl by her neck and literally lifted her up before pinning her against the wall with a muffled noise. The girl moaned, surprised by the strength of her new mistress, and anticipating with delectation the next salvo. It was not the intensity of the blows which worried her but the strange blank stare which was fixing her. She had the impression of plunging into a bottomless pit, that those eyes went through her without seeing her.

 


 

Buffy stopped before Faith's room. She heard a cry and she nearly rushed in. She drew nearer to the window and peered at the room sunk into semi-darkness. Anyone else but her could have seen nothing, but her acute Slayer senses allowed her a bigger keeness of sight, in blackness.

 Faith was tying the hands of a blonde girl and was fastening the other extremity to the pipes which spread along the ceiling. The unknown girl was strangely dressed, a little like... Faith. She was wearing black leather pants, dark and exaggerated make-up, but above all a nailed harness which concealed nothing of her pierced breasts. This detail revived memories in Buffy who discerned the rings beneath the other Slayer's tank top. A thrill of desire went through her body. She knew that she was witness to something forbidden to her and that she should intervene but she could not take her eyes off the scene.

Faith violently pinched the blonde's nipples who weakly struggled in her bonds. Another slap finally tested their resistance. Faith took another gulp of whisky and lit a cigarette. In other times, and if alcohol had not weakened her senses, she would have perceived the presence of the other Slayer, fascinated, behind the window. She slowly blew the smoke in the face of her consenting victim who inhaled it like a present. She brought the end of her cigarette near to her chest and burned the fragile skin. The girl stifled her cry between her clenched teeth. But Faith began to get bored. She wanted to hear her scream. She ordered her to turn round. Her voice was altered by alcohol and rage. She took the harness off to reveal her back and unfastened the belt from her leather pants.

Buffy was shocked when the first blow of the belt fell with such a force that the poor girl's legs gave under her. She howled, sending a chill down Buffy's spine. Faith curiously considered the mark she had printed on the girl's back as if she doubted that she could have been the creator of it.

Then a shower of blows crashed down at such a rate that the blonde no longer had the time to cry out. She barely managed a breath between two of Faith's strokes and struggled to remain conscious. She realized she had made a mistake with this woman, she had underestimated her. Or she had overestimated her own capacity to take. If in the beginning the pleasure had come with the blows, now there was nothing but pain and suffering. She would not be able to hold on much longer.

Faith was far beyond the stage of understanding, of consciousness. She no longer controlled something, nor her blows, nor her strength, nor her urge for violence, nor the intense emptiness inside her which had sucked her and was now leading her arm to strike relentlessly. In her deafening madness she did not hear the blonde who shouted at her to stop as her back was nothing but a bloody wound. She did not see the door open brutally either.

"Faith!"

Through her disconnected mind she vaguely perceived a familiar voice calling her but nothing could restrain her hand that hit once again, making a shower of blood spurt on the dirty wall. And then a hand grabbed her wrist, snatched the belt which fell onto the ground, and she felt herself being pushed backwards.

Buffy released the girl and, keeping an eye on Faith, she estimated the severity of the injuries. She persuaded her to go to hospital and the blonde fled on her shaking legs, forever keeping in mind the image of the blank stare of this terrifying brunette she had submitted to of her own will.

Faith looked at the wall splattered with blood as if she discovered it for the first time.

"Faith?"

She gazed at her hands, hands which had tortured, strangled, struck, killed and murdered.

"Faith?"

But hands which had given pleasure too.

"Buffy?"

Faith looked up with tears in her eyes. She had only become aware of the other Slayer's presence. The woman she had left because she could not deal with her feelings, the woman she had searched everywhere, through all these anonymous faces, these unknown bodies, all these women who were not her. And she had despised these women because they would never be the one she loved. They were pale copies that she had humiliated to try to forget that one day she had been weak enough to love their inaccessible model. They were mediocre fakes she had used to try to recreate the unprecedented carnal sensations that she had once experienced with the blonde Slayer. But all in this was vain and only contributed to her sinking deeper into the vacuity of her life, into the spiral of failures and suffering in which she had finally delighted.

When Buffy finally pulled her into her arms, she did not resist. Instead she collapsed into them, lowering her guard at last and letting out all the accumulated and carefully repressed pain through her tears.

 


 

Faith had eventually fallen asleep, exhausted, emptied. Buffy had been watching her sleep for an hour, following the lines of her enticing muscular body with her eyes. She was amazed by the innocence and peace expressed on her face. It was all so far from the tortured thoughts which had overwhelmed her mind all these years. She had not been able to be there for her. It had never been the right time. She had never made the effort to really listen to what Faith had tried to tell her. She had never tried to look through this apparent jealousy, through all her boasts, this continual self-assurance, this underlying and stupid competitiveness. She had seen nothing. She had never understood, only paying attention to appearances, so convenient, so reassuring. She had been blind and selfish. Their dualism, their rivalry were easier to accept than their similarities. Accentuating their differences had pleased everybody: the nice Slayer, the only one, the Chosen one, against the bad Slayer, the rogue, the stand-in, the substitute, the psycho. The Scoobies and herself had used her when they had needed it, when it had been very useful to have a second Slayer. They had never really offered their friendship to her, they had never really integrated her into their group. Because actually they were scared of her. As she had been. Of her unpredictability, of her strength, of her representing the unknown, potential danger, competition. Of her animal magnetism. Because Faith was her double, because she was what she could have become if she had yielded to the evil's call, to easiness. But Buffy knew that she was the only one responsible for that mess. They had negated Faith, they had ignored her as everyone had done during her whole life and she had finally turned to the only being who had ever considered her. The only one who had given her some importance, some power, some quality. The only person who had given her some substance, an independent existence. And it did not matter much to Faith whether this being was seen as evil. She existed in someone's eyes at last. Buffy had finally understood all this. She had finally admitted it, even if it was too late.

"B?"

"I'm here..."

Faith sat up straight in the bed. She looked at Buffy then at the blood stains on the wall. Her eyes darkened.

"Why are you here?"

"You left your stake at my house."

Faith silently stared at Buffy as if she did not understand then she finally smiled.

"Very funny..."

After a moment of reflection she resumed:

"Why are you here, Buffy? Why are you and Angel trying so hard to help me out? Why are you trying to turn me into someone I can't be, someone that isn't me?"

"'Cause we believe in you."

"But I don't believe in me… I'm evil, it's what I am, it's all I've ever known."

"No! That's only what you're trying so hard to believe, because it's easier to destroy than to build, easier to hate than to love. I know, I've been through it too..."

Faith gazed at Buffy for a while considering the implications of her last sentence.

"What do you mean, B.?"

"I... I hated you, Faith... I hated you like I've never hated anyone. I hated you for everything that you did, for wanting to kill the people I love, to steal my life... But above all I hated you for having turned up in my life and having destroyed everything... my certainties... my self-confidence... I hated you for having revealed a side of my personality that I thought I'd buried... I hated you for having made a victim of me. You disclosed my weaknesses, my attraction to you... I hated you because I refused to admit that I loved you, 'cause it was unthinkable..."

Buffy paused and wiped away the tears which began to roll down her cheeks.

"But now I know... and I can say it... I love you, Faith."

Faith watched her for an instant then turned her head away. She rose and stood by the window. Now that her deepest desire was fulfilled, she could not face it. She had never learned to love. And she did not deserve to be loved. She could only do harm, only make the person she really loved suffer. Everything always ended like that.

"I don't."

Her cold tone surprised Buffy. But she knew that Faith was lying, she remembered her stare just before she had run away from Sunnydale.

"Ok then. Why did you come back to Sunnydale? Why did you try to seduce me?"

Faith turned towards her, a small smile on her lips.

"Well, B. You know me. I only came to finish what I had started. I came to prove to you that we weren't that much different, that the perfect little Buffy - sorry - Saint Buffy, ogled my ass as much as the whole of Sunnydale boys... That she only waited for one thing, that is, to be fucked up against a wall by me, so she could forget how bored she was with her fucking stupid Neanderthal soldier!"

Faith had nearly spat her last words in front of the stunned and hurt blonde Slayer. But things were changing and Buffy understood Faith: her aggressiveness was only a way to defend herself against what she could not control, against what she was afraid of.

"Don't play this game with me, Faith. It doesn't work."

Faith turned her gaze, once more, to the streets, contemplating her words. After a long moment, she asked:

"Have you said it to him?"

"No... Not yet... Nobody knows..."

"Who's playing here? You say you love me but nobody knows about us. You want me to show up and tell him: 'Hey, G.I. Joe, I fucked your girlfriend, she loves me, so get lost!'? How long do you think you'd last with someone like me, B.? Hey, I am the seductress, remember? I'm not faithful, I get bored quickly. What makes you think that I'm not gonna jump on the first boy or girl as soon as your back is turned?"

"Who are you trying to convince in this room, Faith?", Buffy asked quietly.

Faith fixed her stare on the resigned and determined green eyes of the only woman who had ever succeeded in confusing her. She had not expected such a reaction. She sighed and turned to the window.

"What do you want from me?", she asked without turning her gaze away from the street.

"I want you to stay with me, to stop fleeing, running. Away from me."

"You don't realize... I can't promise anything..."

"I'm not asking you to."

 


 

Giles opened the door and discovered two anxious looking Slayers. Faith was staring elsewhere, some dark rings under her eyes reinforcing their ghostly appearance.

"Ah! Buffy! We were beginning to worry... Come in!"

Buffy gave him a small reassuring smile and walked into the hall before being stopped in her tracks by two strong male arms which nearly choked her.

"Buffy! You're here at last!" exclaimed Riley who was hugging the petite blonde. "I was so afraid that something happened to you, that she hurt you again, that she..."

The end of his sentence stayed in his throat as he finally saw the object of his resentment. Faith's pupils, suddenly dilated by anger, gave shape to his worst fears. Buffy finally noticed the worrying change in Faith's stare. She brutally got free from Riley's hug and drew near Faith who was still on the threshold.

"Faith... Come in..." she whispered while touching her arm.

Faith abruptly removed her arm then she relaxed when she realized it was just Buffy. A glimmer of distress showed through her eyes when she looked at the blonde, who understood that they may have just escaped from a fit of murderous madness. Riley and Giles glanced knowingly at each other.

Buffy dragged Faith to the living-room where the eminent members of the Scooby Gang were gathered. A look of relief went through their faces when they saw the two young women.

"Hey!!! The Slayers' return! Episode two!" exclaimed Xander who was sitting on the couch with Anya. "Well then, Faith, are the vampires better dressed in Los Angeles?", he went on while laughing.

"Not worse than Cordelia...", she forced herself to answer while staying in the background behind Buffy.

Giles and Riley, ready to intervene, were carefully watching the dark Slayer's every move.

"Everything's okay, Buffy?" asked Willow who suddenly had the impression that Buffy and Faith had aged terribly.

"Yes, don't worry. We're just... tired. I'm gonna take Faith to Angel's old mansion until she finds another place to stay."

"I'll come with you!" proposed Riley more in order to watch for Faith than to be charitable.

"No, Riley, it's okay. I'm coming back afterwards."

As a good soldier, Riley obeyed reluctantly. After all, Buffy was the one who had gone to look for her and she had come back alive. Faith seemed to be somewhere else again. Buffy smiled at everyone, took Faith by her arm and left.

 


 

One week went by. Faith stayed in Angel's mansion and was gradually brought back to life thanks to Buffy's presence. She wolfed food, she cast a few well chosen acid retorts and she trained with the other Slayer again. But their talks were limited to banalities: they did not approach any personal issues. This was a great relief to Buffy who had not said anything to anybody, and especially not to Riley who pestered her with questions.

Their relationship was suspended: neither had made the least ambiguous gesture since they had come back and Buffy did not want to force anything. She felt that Faith was still unstable, she knew that she had not cast out all her demons yet. They were just asleep, waiting, ready to rush out at the slightest opening, at the slightest weakness. Buffy likened Faith's anguish to Angel's. Two beings tortured by the wicked acts they had committed, by their longing for redemption but sometimes also by their desire for destruction. They had wanted to destroy themselves. Angel had been strong enough to repress this morbid urge but would Faith be able to? And would she herself be strong enough to help her to overcome it? She suddenly felt so tired. Was all this worthwhile? Should she really leave a kind, reassuring, faithful and balanced man for an unstable and tormented woman who could lose her temper without warning and turn against her? For a woman who had promised her nothing, who had never shown her that she loved her? She even began to doubt what she had seen in her eyes. How long could she trust her? How long was she going to be anxious, every time she left her in the mansion, wondering if she would be still there the next day?

And as Riley stirred in his sleep, Buffy asked herself another question: how long could she turn down the desire of the man who was sleeping beside her, without arousing his suspicion?

 


 

Faith had been in the mansion for a week. She felt ill at ease in this place because it evoked Angel too much. It reminded her of the time when Buffy and him were together. And when she was alone. Powerless witness to their exclusive and boundless love. Eternal and unnatural love for which Buffy had wanted her to die by her hand, with Faith's own knife. Signing the bloody and brilliant evidence of the non-existence of the second Slayer, of her futility, of her unsubstantiality. Of her vacuity.

She paced the rooms of this anachronistic mansion all day long smoking cigarette after cigarette, turning her darkest thoughts over in her mind, until Buffy deigned to show up and she forgot herself for a while in the reassuring gestures of fighting, in the heat of effort.

She heard the entrance door open. Buffy was radiant. Or was it the sun which was reflecting in her blonde hair? Faith suddenly felt the urge to destroy this smile, to break this idyllic image. She rushed at her and struck her with her strongest blows. Buffy blocked and struck back, surprised by Faith's strength. She was not training any longer, she was fighting. They were battling each other again so as not to confront the matter they no more dared to take up, so as not to face their feelings, their desires.

Faith's mind threatened to explode, to yield to rage again. She pushed Buffy back banging her head against the wall. It only caused some seconds of dizziness, some seconds of respite. Faith watched the haze fading away in Buffy's eyes, her mouth opening to form a word. She threw herself at these lips to make them shut, nearly ripping them, the blood mixing in the eagerness of their tongues. They clung together, their arms suffocating each other, their nails scratching the bare wet skin, their legs mingling and looking for desire.

Faith tore herself away from Buffy's hug and threw her on the table behind them. The few objects that laid there crashed to the floor unnoticed. Faith lay down on Buffy, leaning with all her weight to prevent her from standing up, her wrists pinned by starved hands. A small bloody line dripped from the blonde's cut lip. Buffy was waiting, always watching the switching and frightening stare which lay heavy on her and that weighed heavier than the body she felt vibrating on hers.

Faith leaned and gently licked the metallic tasting liquid on Buffy's cheek, on her lip, wondering if Angel had felt the same nausea, the same urge of possession, when he had plunged his teeth, when he had explored the vital depths of the one he loved. Was Buffy thinking the same at this instant? It did not matter. She was not Angel, she would never be and she did not want to be.

A triumphant smile suddenly appeared on her face. Buffy might not love her as she had loved the broody vampire but she, the insignificant Slayer, could make love to her. And in the ecstasy she had seen several times in those green eyes, Faith had finally taken shape and substance. Buffy could not deny her anymore, as she could not deny the intense desire that Faith aroused in her every time they met.

Her smile disappeared as she leaned to kiss the injured lips, seizing her tongue, sinking into the inner heat. Faith felt legs surrounding her hips, pulling her even closer against the body lying beneath her. She tried to free herself, releasing one of the hands she held, but Buffy forced her back, grabbing her shoulders and pressing her mouth so hard on hers that the cut enlarged, making up the two women with an indecent red.

Faith let go of the second hand and roughly pulled off Buffy's blouse. Her hands slid down the skin, arousing thrills and moans which slightly loosened the hug of the kiss that had not ceased.

 Buffy's hands lost themselves in the long dark hair that brushed her face. It withdrew and then she felt a tongue running down her neck, filling the hollows, underlining the angles. She felt it drawing wet circles on one of her breasts, stopping on the nipple while teeth were nibbling her and warm hands were discovering her body again. Buffy arched her back slightly on the table as she did not want to lose contact with this warmth which was leaving her.

Faith stood up. Immobile against the table, where a half-naked Slayer was lying on her back, she smiled again. She had that feeling that she had finally found her real desire again, that same desire she had searched vainly through all the other women and that she now had before her, and also raging inside her.

She leaned down, lifted Buffy's skirt to her hips and tore it away with one hand. Her eyes plunged into Buffy's as her fingers sank into her.

Buffy closed her eyes and let herself being carried by the speed of the fingers inside her, finding again what she had missed, beyond sex: the connection between them, the link reinforced each time they made love, similarity, understanding. Symbiosis.

Faith accelerated her movements, guided by the exciting moans which were growing and which meant something to her now, and she herself, let out a groan of pleasure as Buffy's leg slipped between hers.

The table creaked more and more in an obscene way and threatened to yield under their weight, under the violence of their movements. Their breathing sped up, Faith thrusting her hand even more deeply into Buffy's body, Buffy increasing the pressure of her leg against Faith.

Buffy surrendered first: she arched again in Faith's arms with her head falling back and gave a long and almost painful cry, soon joined by the hoarse voice of the dark Slayer who collapsed exhausted on her chest.

 


 

While going back to Riley's place that night, Buffy knew that she had to make a decision quickly. She could not go on lying to Riley, pretending everything was all right between them, that nothing had changed. But how would she tell him that she had been cheating on him for about a month? How would she tell him that she still loved him but that their love was meaningless? How would she explain that she was in love with a woman who had wanted to kill her, a woman whose chaotic and unpredictable mind could explode at any time? A woman who could disappear again without trace?

Nobody could understand such a choice. Neither him nor the others. They would never understand what she felt in Faith's presence. She herself had just realized that the danger she embodied, and which had scared her so much before, was finally what attracted her.

A Slayer's life was short and Faith represented this ephemeral passage of time. It was her tragic and inevitable destiny. She understood at last that it was impossible for her to consider a peaceful and normal life with Riley, to have a family. It was forbidden to her. Her daily acts fed on the implacable and ever present shadow of the fragility of her life. Every day she nearly got killed, every day she struggled for extra time.

Only Faith had accepted such fatality. Only Faith understood what another Slayer could feel, faced with this terrible and ineluctable fate. Buffy had always carefully ignored this danger, she had always tried to integrate herself, to be a normal girl like the others, to have a normal life.

It could also have been this which had prevented her from becoming crazy, from being out her depth like Faith. Maybe she did have to die for a few moments for Faith to exist, for another Slayer, so different yet so similar, to help her go through this terrible path to the end. They were the oldest Slayers the Council had registered so far. They were probably the best ones. But how long until their luck change?

Even if he was a soldier and knew the risks, there was no room for Riley in this distressing life. She could never give him what he needed from her. She had made up her mind at last. Though, when she opened the door and found Riley who was sleeping peacefully with a little boy smile on his lips, she could not wake him up to tell him that she left him. She lay down next to him and felt asleep.

 


 

Buffy had seemed to be elsewhere since she had come back from Los Angeles. Distant with her friends, anxious, unusually mute. Willow could not bear her silence any longer: she had the impression again that Buffy was casting her aside, for Faith. Even if she spent a lot of time with Tara, she did not forget her best friend and she would have liked for Buffy to confide in her, to share her thoughts. She could feel that Buffy was not alright, that something disturbed her, and she was quite sure that Faith's presence was involved in all this. Faith had always been a troublemaker among them. She did not really believe that Faith could have changed after falling so far. She was scared for Buffy because the blonde Slayer had always felt responsible for Faith. She still wondered why. This story of a link between Slayers was amply exaggerated. And absolutely not proven.

Willow had decided to organize a party at Giles' flat. It would be the occasion to gather the whole gang and to chat like before. The anticipating smile that appeared on her lips immediately vanished. Buffy would certainly want to invite Faith. And she did not see what excuse she could invent to keep her from coming. Grumbling, Willow hurried to get back so as to prepare the party, not without having imagined a few disabling spells and potions which would have made the terrible Slayer bedridden, and if possible with some beautiful blisters.

 


 

When Faith found herself near to the former Watcher's flat, she almost turned back. She felt out of place here. And no one would be happy to see her. She would only see false smiles, sidelong glances and knowing gestures. Nevertheless, she could not bear them any grudge for distrusting her. She was herself, not very sure of what she was able to do. But Buffy had made her promise to come, in the middle of a passionate kiss during which she would have promised anything. Even to find Riley intelligent.

She breathed deeply, clasped the bottle of whisky she had brought, and walked the few steps which still separated her from the door.

Giles opened it.

"Hey Faith! We were just waiting for you!"

"Really?", she asked ironically while holding out the bottle to him.

Giles wisely decided to refrain from answering, and ushered her to the living-room. A sudden silence accompanied her arrival.

"You didn't need to stop talking, I left my crossbow in the mansion...", she said with a fake smile.

"It's good to see you.", said Tara with a quasi-inaudible voice.

All the gazes turned to the blonde witch who, forgetting for a while her pathological shyness, stood up and offered her seat to Faith. The Slayer refused it, in view of the hostile look of Willow, who seemed ready to bite. She sat down on the floor clinging to Buffy's reassuring stare and pretending to ignore that Riley was hugging her tenderly.

"Well, there's nothing to drink here?"

Xander threw himself upon the question, with relief, and while he was enumerating the various available drinks which would contribute to make her inebriated, the talking gradually resumed and the laughter resonated again.

Time went by, mostly due to the speed of Xander's inexhaustible funny stories and of Riley's epic and military narratives. Faith had eventually drowned her growing boredom in the bottle of whisky. However she was not given the opportunity to finish her tenth drink, which emptied on her tank top as a result of an unfortunate gesture of Xander who energetically mimed the outcome of his favorite joke. Faith rose with difficulty and made for the bathroom.

She closed the door, deadening the noises and the bursts of voices coming from the living-room. She took off her top and cleaned it the best she could. Then she studied herself in the mirror for a long time, her hands leant on the edge of the washbasin. She wondered who she was, what she had become, what she wished.

She looked at her own eyes which had gone so far, too far. Those eyes haunted by death and remorse, obsessed by lust and madness. She tore herself away from her unbearable reflection and sprayed water over her face.

When she stood up, another face was watching her through the mirror. She had not heard her enter. Buffy drew nearer and slipped her arms around Faith's waist. She put her chin on the bare shoulder and never left Faith's gaze in the mirror. The two lovers silently observed the image of their doubles, idyllic reflections of their twin-like union, mute witnesses of their fusion. Then, after a long moment, Faith broke the spell.

"You haven't said it to him yet."

It was more a reproach than a question.

"I don't know how to tell him..."

"So we're gonna make him understand...", she said lasciviously, taking the hands which surrounded her waist and putting them on her breasts.

Buffy caressed them gently warming the frozen steel rings. Faith was still staring at her through the mirror and she rubbed herself against Buffy's body arousing in her an irrepressible desire. Faith led the hands lower, stroking her belly then pressing them against the leather of her crotch. The provocative gaze defied her to resist, to remove her hands. Buffy could feel the heat against her hands and she would have wanted to take off all the clothes that still hindered the contact of their skins.

"Faith... It's not the right time... The others..."

As an answer, Faith threw her head back on Buffy's shoulder and let out a noisy sigh, her hands clinging to the other woman's and stroking herself harder and harder through the leather. Faith's moans increased, threatening to alert everyone. Buffy was torn between the fear of seeing someone come in and the desire to yield to her lust. Reason against passion. Faith always forced her to make this choice, to go beyond her reasonable nature.

"Faith... We can't..."

Faith crushed Buffy's hands to silence her and without letting go of them, she unfastened her pants making enough space for their skin to touch at last. Feeling the contact, Faith nearly came, and she swallowed her cry in her throat. She released Buffy's hands and put hers behind the blonde's neck so as to bring their bodies closer together. She felt Buffy's hesitation.

"Don't stop, please, don't stop...", she whispered between sighs of pleasure.

Against her bare back, Faith could feel Buffy's nipples hardening. The movement sped up in time with the dark Slayer's moans, who could no longer hold them in. And when Buffy sensed Faith's imminent climax, she placed one of her hands over her mouth making her head fall back on her shoulder again and stifling partly the long hoarse cry she felt vibrating in their two bodies.

They stayed like this for a while, Faith getting her breath back and Buffy watching in the mirror the movements of her chest which was slowing down to a normal rate. Then Faith turned back, a bead of sweat rolling down her forehead. She stared the other woman with a smile, her eyes darkened by lust.

"No...", tried Buffy.

"Yes..."

Buffy took a step back. Faith drew nearer.

"We have to go back to the living-room or..."

Faith went on smiling then threw herself upon her, flattening her brutally against the wall and pressing her own body against Buffy's back. The blonde Slayer knocked her face but it did not matter. Faith's violence had become intoxicating: she understood it now, she wanted it. Her violence was her essence, her strength. It proved to them that they were still alive.

Her hands flat on the wall, she let herself get stripped without a word. She felt a kiss on her neck turning into a delicious bite which sent sparks of pleasure into her. She felt fingers travelling down her body, pulling her hair, slipping down her arms, surrounding her waist, warming her belly, stroking her buttocks, until she opened her legs offering herself to the dark Slayer's lust. The fingers she felt thrusting into her made her forget that she should not cry out. As Faith pressed against her back and leaned on her shoulder so as to go even deeper inside her, she gave way to her sensations, moaning loudly each time her face touched the wall, each time she was pushed forward by a powerful hand.

Wrapped up in their own world, lost in the concentration on their pleasure, the two Slayers did not hear the steps in the corridor. They did not see the door open suddenly and the horrified and shocked faces of the two persons who had just come in.

"Oh my god!" exclaimed Willow, her eyes riveted on Faith's hand.

"Bu... Buffy!" stammered Riley who understood, with horror, the real nature of the strange noises which had finally reached the living-room.

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place in his head. Disappointment, despair then anger went through his mind. Rage rose inside him. He grabbed Faith by her hair and threw her with all his strength against the mirror which broke loudly into pieces cutting her face in multiple places. The fingers which left her were like an unbearable tearing for Buffy, an intolerable separation which made her come back to reality. She saw the broken mirror. She saw the blood on Faith's face. She saw Riley who had seized Faith by her arm and who struck her so hard on her temple that she collapsed on the floor, half-unconscious. Before he could go on hitting her, Buffy rushed at Riley and pushed him away from Faith while screaming him to stop. The noise had drawn the others who came in, worried and frightened. Faith had regained consciousness and wiped away the blood which was trickling in her eyes and blinding her. She stood up, faced the stares looking hard at her and fled out the window before disappearing like a flashing shadow.

Buffy suddenly remembered that she was half-naked and she quickly took her clothes on.

"How could you?... Since when, Buffy? How..."

His sentence choked in a sob. Riley's tears broke her heart. She had not meant to hurt him. He did not deserve it.

"I wanted to say it to you... I..."

"Since she came back, that's right? Since she came back to Sunnydale to try to make us believe she had changed... She has bewitched you, Buffy, you're not yourself anymore! It can't be true, it can't be you... She's capable of anything, the others told me that, she has always had an influence on you. She has forced you... Please, tell me she has forced you..."

The pity he now saw in Buffy's eyes drove him mad with grief.

"No... She has never forced me... I love her... I've always loved her..."

Riley did not understand. He did not understand how the things could have come to that, he did not understand when everything could have turned upside down, what he had done, or what he had not done. What she could find in this crazy woman who had ruined his life. Their life. Their love. The others did not say a word. The truth revealed had made them mute.

He abruptly ran away jostling everyone on his way.

 


 

Faith closed the mansion's door after her and tried to get her breath back. The blood went on dripping down her face and chest. She went to the bedroom, rummaged in the cupboard and slipped into a white tank top. She did not know what to do: should she flee again and abandon the woman she loved, the only thing that mattered in her chaotic life?

When she returned towards the entrance, she felt a presence. And heard a clicking sound. The clicking sound of a safety catch flicking off. She slowly turned back and saw the barrel of a gun directed towards her. That Riley was aiming at her with a shaking hand. She ducked as he fired and jumped over the table catching the crossbow that lay there. She rose and pointed it at Riley. The two opponents were aiming their weapons at each other a few meters apart, immobile, waiting. Their gazes were locked defying each other, the impression of emptiness that was going through them making even more palpable the despairing madness that had seized them. Sweat was running down their brows.

"You're evil... You've destroyed everything..."

"Come on, Riley... Go on... Squeeze the trigger... And you'll be like me... You won't be better than me... You'll know what it's like to go to the other side..."

Riley clenched his teeth, his finger was trembling, tears preventing him from aiming well at this smiling face. This face which was mocking him, which had always mocked him. He hated this smile. He shut his eyes. And shot.

Then Buffy arrived. And in a split second she saw, as if in slow motion, a crossbow arrow sticking into the soldier's skull, a silvery bullet penetrating the dark Slayer's heart. Two bodies falling down with a distant and muffled noise. Buffy at last made the choice she could not have resolved to do before. She ran to the woman she loved, took her in her arms ignoring the blood which was spilling onto the floor and staining her hands. Faith was smiling faintly.

"It's not important, B.... I knew... You'd killed me before... I was already dead..."

 Through her tears Buffy saw in the dying eyes, the three words she had waited for, she had hoped for, for such a long time. They were there inside her, like an obvious fact, in that gaze which was fading away almost in peace. But nothing mattered anymore. It was too late.

So Buffy howled. She howled and broke down as the pieces of her world were crumbling around her like the many splinters of a broken mirror.