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Heaven Can Wait (The Chain Will Keep Us Together Remix)

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You know what I saw when I died, B? Nothing. I mean, it’s not like I bought into that pearly gates, choirs of angels crock of shit, but still, you’d think there’d be something.

I didn’t see anything. But I looked for you.

***

Kendra is sitting in the passenger seat of Mr. Giles’s car, trying to remember that her body is a weapon and she is difficult to kill. Still, she keeps a white-knuckled hold on the door and on the console; Faith’s driving terrifies her. Kendra doesn’t have a driver’s license because she never learned to drive, and Faith technically shows a basic knowledge of the principles of operating a motor vehicle, but she probably doesn’t have a license, either. That would be the worst part of this, Kendra thinks, because they are supposed to be inconspicuous and two unlicensed teenage girls imprisoned for unlawful driving will certainly derail their mission to retrieve the Gem of Amara. Would be the worst of it, Kendra thinks, except for if Faith drives them to a fiery death of twisted metal, and then there will be no one to wrest the Gem of Amara from William the Bloody.

At least not for a while. There will always be others. There will always be a Slayer.

Kendra wonders: If they both die in Faith’s crash, will it call one Slayer, or two? Probably just one; Faith already died, and that called Buffy. The Slayer between them.

And that is all Kendra knows about that, which is not very much. She found Buffy’s name in a file in Mr. Giles’s office, but when she asks questions about her, she’s met with frosty silence from Mr. Giles and Faith both, and the last time Kendra said something about it, Faith went so far as to hit her, smacking Kendra across her mouth before she’d even finished saying the girl’s name, so now Kendra doesn’t ask questions.

***

One day, Mr. Zabuto came into Kendra’s room, slung a suitcase at her, and told her to pack. He didn’t tell her why—no one ever seems to tell her why—but four hours later, she was on a plane to America.

Mr. Giles met her at the airport, and Kendra understands without ever being told that she lives in California now and that a Slayer is dead.

***

When they finally leave the interstate, they check into a bad motel. Faith lays out their weapons on the bed, regarding them like a rich woman at a jewelry counter. Kendra sits on the other bed with her copy of the Slayer Handbook in her lap. She’s been through it so many times that the pages are soft; even the cover is soft. Besides Mr. Pointy, it’s the possession that gives her the most comfort.

Faith slides stakes and knives and crosses and little vials of holy water into pockets and hidden holsters. She also smoothes her raven hair in the scuffed bathroom mirror, and reapplies her lipstick, the color of dried blood. She comes back to Kendra grinning, her movements loose-limbed and excited, one eyebrow arched as she invites Kendra into the night.

***

Searching for information on William the Bloody and the Gem of Amara, they infiltrate a bar known to cater to demons. Kendra thinks covert missions should be—well, covert—but Faith doesn’t see it that way. She lines up shots at the bar, squeezed between two vamps sucking blood out of Old Fashioned glasses. Faith upends three shots in a row into her crimson mouth, laughing but not flinching, the tips of her fingers slick with spilled tequila.

There is a fourth shot waiting on the bar, and Faith holds her arm out until Kendra tucks herself into the space against the bar.

This is work, Kendra thinks, and neither the time nor the place. But Faith is grinning at her, and Faith’s arm is sliding around Kendra’s hip, and so Kendra drinks.

She is flushed before the alcohol hits her tongue.

***

Kendra’s head swims. Faith drags her to the center of the dance floor; the speakers are on the floor, and Kendra can feel the bass throb beneath her feet, like everything is alive. Faith dances like a music box ballerina—like she is only alive because of the music, like her entire purpose is held up in the notes. (Kendra knows this is not true. Despite dying once, Faith is the most alive person Kendra has ever known.) It’s like an exorcism, and the apprehension Kendra has for disregarding protocol and putting her duties, if even for a moment, on the backburner is far outshouted by Faith’s spirit. Faith has her hands on Kendra’s waist, and she is rolling her hips as she dances, pushing her pelvis against Kendra’s. Kendra feels like her whole body is blooming, like the world is dilating and she can see and taste and feel things she’s never before been able to touch. She doesn’t know what she’s thinking—she’s not thinking—but she tangles her hands in Faith’s hair and kisses her. Faith’s mouth is hot and slick and tastes like tequila and salt, and she kisses her back.

***

They leave without a single lead. The Gem of Amara could be anywhere. Everything is a blur of rhythm and sensation and Faith—Faith, her hands on Kendra’s body and her mouth on Kendra’s mouth—and Kendra doesn’t know how they got back to the motel, but it’s like she wakes up as Faith pushes her onto the bed. The door isn’t closed all the way, and they are only half undressed; Kendra pulls Faith’s hair and Faith scratches her nails down Kendra’s back so hard it raises welts. Faith bites at the pulse point against Kendra’s jaw, hard, and rips her shirt—her only shirt—baring her breasts. Faith’s hands and her hot mouth are on Kendra’s breasts, and Kendra is unbuckling Faith’s belt and scraping her knuckles on the zippers of Faith’s jeans as her fingers search for Faith’s sex. She’s warm and slick and grinds against Kendra’s fingers; Kendra feels a desperate pull between her own legs, and angles herself so she can rut against Faith’s knee. Faith is flushing and moaning, tossing her head like an unbridled mustang, and somehow that’s the best thing, even better than when Kendra comes herself, her vision pulsing like she’s taken a blow to the face.

It’s fast and dirty, and it’s perfect.

They lay for a moment entwined and panting, their breath on each other’s skin. And then they do it again. The door is still opened and William the Bloody is still out there, but right now there’s nothing else in the world.

***

The welts Faith left are already closed up, but there’s blood on the bedspread. They lie together on their backs on the bed, shoulder to shoulder, the cold night air coming in through the open door perking up their naked flesh.

Kendra is looking at Faith, but Faith is looking at the ceiling. She twirls a ringlet of Kendra’s hair around her finger, absently. Faith wets her lips, pale as the rest of her skin; the blood-colored lipstick is gone, smeared all over Kendra’s body. Like this, bare and unbound, Faith isn’t shock and awe; she is a blade pulled from the embers—forged from fire, indefatigable.

“Let me tell you something, K,” Faith says. “Something I should have told you a long time ago.”

That’s the thing about steel, though, Kendra thinks: Even if a weapon breaks, it can be melted down and forged again. She knows what’s coming, and she listens.

“Her name was Buffy,” Faith says.

***

So, that heaven shit’s a lie, I guess, unless you see something I don’t. But I guess that one girl in all the world thing’s a lie, too, because here we are, you and me and Kendra—a chain.

There’s that song they play on the oldies station, the one by that band where everyone was sleeping with everyone else. If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again; I can still hear you say you would never break the chain. Maybe that’s what we have in common, more than being chosen, more than this fight fate stole us for before we were even born. Back when we were all in the black place where heaven should be.

I looked for you, B. Mostly I hope that I just got some dud afterlife, and that you’re somewhere better, but if you’re not—well, I just hope you’re looking for me, too. For us.