Something Elemental

Something Elemental

By Lunabee34

Rating: NC-17
Summary: This takes place in early season four, while Faith is still in a coma.
Pairing: Buffy/Faith

***

At night when the oil of sleep
rejects its own slick crossing over . . .

Buffy dreams of Faith, or rather Buffy drifts inside Faith’s dreams. The vision she had in the hospital, weak from blood loss and sweating into stiff cotton sheets, that dream wasn’t Faith’s. It was of Faith, but not from her; words all twisted in a puzzle by something inhabiting Faith’s form—a higher power or her own desires, perhaps. Buffy doesn’t know. But that vision unfastened something elemental, the bone-deep connection between Slayers opening up like a flower, green tendrils snaking a road between them.

These dreams she dreams now belong to Faith. Buffy rests her cheek on a cool pillow and knows she will soon breathe in tandem with her. At first the dreams are merely sensation—the heavy press of air against her chest and the deep itch of wounds knitting together. Underneath these things, anger twitches restlessly, the prickle-pain of a limb too long unused. Buffy wakes crying and tells no one. She has carried many burdens, and Faith’s dreams are no heavier than the others.

Each morning at breakfast, Buffy’s mother glances at her over the thick lip of a coffee mug, silently examining her eyes for traces of tears. She leaves psychiatric pamphlets on Buffy’s dresser and in the bathroom under the toothpaste. Buffy ignores these gestures. She replaces the PTSD checklists with brochures on dorm life and campus maps. When her mother helps her pack her clothes, she only mentions that University Counseling Services are free for students once.

***

. . . take any offer of arms or legs
or heavy downpour where water
is taught to heap and heap
upon itself all that rest requires . . .

Later, Faith’s dreams begin to solidify around her, amorphous shapes that coalesce and take partial form. Colors swirl in the ether and become a lily, a stake, a handful of dust that makes prisms as it falls. Buffy can hear snippets of sound—a harsh grind of guitar that fades into the solid clap of flesh on flesh. Sometimes she hears voices talking, but the words they speak are out of order, nonsensical. Other times she feels damp earth beneath her fingers or the familiar burn of muscles stretched past their limits.

Buffy still cannot move. She is separated from Faith’s dreamscape by a transparent membrane. Buffy pushes against it; like wet cotton, it clings to her, shrouds her. At night in the dark, she can only watch the shapes Faith fashions from the emptiness. Buffy begins to understand the weariness she sometimes sees on Giles’s face and the occasional bitter resignation in the tone of his voice.

Three mornings a week, Buffy meets Willow on the lawn outside the dorm. They eat breakfast together in the Commons and arrive at their first class, Psychology 101, early. Buffy listens closely to the professor, Dr. Walsh, as she lectures on the history of the discipline. Dr. Walsh skims over Freud and his obsession with the dreams of his patients, but Buffy takes detailed notes on what little she does say. In the computer lab, Buffy googles dreams and their various interpretations, taking copious notes in her rounded script. After all, these dreams are now hers, too. Willow congratulates Buffy on her initiative.

The first concrete, fixed object Buffy sees in Faith’s dreams is herself. Her double is wearing black, and her skin is coldly pale in contrast. Her mouth is a harsh, red line that curves cruelly. Even her hair seems severe, the ends jagged and sharp in the moonlight that illuminates the balcony outside Faith’s apartment. When they fight, Faith’s closed fist slides down the other Buffy’s arm like a caress, and their legs press together at the thighs. Buffy feels the warm electricity of desire on her skin, and after a time, she cannot be certain whether that desire is Faith’s or her own.

***

Most of the body exists
as liquid—casting its own red wash
into the faith of muscle
where atoms are mostly empty
space . . .

Sometimes Faith dreams of blood. She presses her hands to the flat of her stomach and lifts them for that other Buffy to see. Her palms are never the bright crayola of movie blood, but dark and smeared with clots. When Faith falls backward over the ledge, Buffy cannot turn away from her descent—she seems to hang for a long moment in the air before she smashes into the bed of a truck. As Faith sprawls there, her limbs twisted under her body at unnatural angles, time seems to slow. The truck passes through the alley like a stone through water, and Faith looks up at the balcony. The other Buffy smiles; she grips the hilt of Faith’s dagger loosely in one hand and drags her fingertips along the edge of the blade. She does not bleed.

Occasionally, Buffy watches her doppelganger kill the Mayor. In Faith’s dreams, he is taller than Buffy remembers, and he smells faintly of peppermint. He is always hugging Faith, and Buffy can feel the faint pressure of his arms around her as well. When the Mayor is dying, his head cradled in Faith’s lap and her hands pushing futilely against the wound in his gut, Buffy can feel his blood squishing through her fingers.

More often Faith is running. Just running. These dreams are disjointed and fragmented. The settings change abruptly, and Faith frequently loses her balance. She never looks behind her, just runs, her lungs heaving and her calves aching. Behind Faith, Buffy can see another version of herself coming, relentless and calm.

After one of these dreams, Buffy wakes curled up around the telephone. In her sleep, she has dislodged the receiver from the cradle. She is unreasonably afraid that Parker has tried to call her while she slept.

***

. . . Too soon you snap and fracture with sound,
heavy with morning’s idea:
first steam, then straw, then weight . . .

Once Faith dreams of soup, a thick chowder that she spoons into her mouth between bites of crusty bread. She is sitting in a diner, and the sun through the blinds makes grill marks on the formica table. Faith is hungry, but the good kind of hungry, not the kind that coils deep in the belly and clamps down on itself. A waitress refills her Coke, and she smiles—not a smirk or a sneer, but a quick grin that warms her eyes. Buffy thinks the expression makes Faith look very young.

From where she stands, Buffy can see the sky darkening in the window behind Faith. She knows this is important, that she must warn Faith about the night. But she is still suspended, a fly caught in amber. When Faith finally slides across the red cushioned booth to leave, the sidewalk outside the diner is a black stretch punctuated with blue-white florescence. In the shadows between streetlights, a tall woman holds a leather bound book and waits for Faith to find her.

***

. . . On the verge of yourself,
you settle, become straight, acquire bones.
Intent on speech, you breathe our vowels
with friction, then speak in language
that everyone understands.

At the end, Buffy waits in stasis by the mouth of an open grave. It looks bottomless in the darkness, a black void that unfolds endlessly. Her doppelganger, that version of herself that Buffy has come to despise, follows Faith through the cemetery. As before, her steps are measured, and she gains ground on Faith while appearing to move very slowly.

Near the grave, Faith stumbles. Her arms pinwheel as she falls, snagging Buffy and pulling her through the skin of her dreams. They land, intertwined, in the soft earth at the bottom of the grave.

“Always come out on top, don’t ya, B?”

“I’m not . . . I mean, I didn’t . . .” Buffy doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t know how to tell Faith she has seen down into her blood and knows they are the same. She doesn’t know how to tell Faith that she has watched her all these months; no, not just watched her—felt her, tasted her, shared her body. The pull between them, that faint draw Buffy once found so easy to ignore, is now a physical presence even when she is awake.

Buffy cannot say these things. Instead she brushes a leaf from Faith’s hair and smiles uncertainly. Faith just looks at her, barely even blinking, until she finally smiles, the same genuine expression from the diner.

“Maybe this is a good dream after all,” she says before she kisses Buffy.

In the moment before their lips touch, Buffy has time to wonder where her doppelganger has gone, and then she thinks of nothing but Faith’s body beneath her own. Faith’s muscles are hard and lean, but her hips and her breasts are soft under Buffy’s hands. Buffy gasps when she feels Faith tugging down her zipper and reaching inside. She knows this should seem too swift, straight to the finish and skipping all the steps, but when she is coming, Faith’s fingers curled deep inside her as if they are two parts of the same person, Buffy cannot imagine why. She reaches for the waistband of Faith’s jeans, but Faith stops her.

“We’re five by five, B. I’ll get myself off.”

Buffy shakes her head no and fumbles with the buttons on Faith’s jeans. She leans in for another kiss, and as she does, she feels a sudden pain and the scrape of a blade against bone. She pauses, Faith’s breath warm on her cheek, and looks down at the knife that pierces her abdomen just below the ribcage. Buffy presses her hands to her belly and they come away wet with blood, hot and slick as Faith’s hand still between her thighs.

She wakes abruptly. In her sleep, Buffy has rolled away from Riley, and she is cold. The End.

Speaking of Sleep

At night when the oil of sleep
rejects its own slick crossing over,
take any offer of arms or legs
or heavy downpour where water
is taught to heap and heap
upon itself all that rest requires.

Most of the body exists
as liquid—casting its own red wash
into the faith of muscle
where atoms are mostly empty
space . . .

Too soon you snap and fracture with sound,
heavy with morning’s idea:
first steam, then straw, then weight.
On the verge of yourself,
you settle, become straight, acquire bones.
Intent on speech, you breathe our vowels
with friction, then speak in language
that everyone understands.

Patricia Spencer Phi Kappa Phi Forum Vol. 85 No. 3 Pg 42

The End

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