Persely's head lifted. There were tears standing in her eyes, though not yet falling, and she sniffed, frowning in confusion.
"Why am I a murderer? Because I murdered her…I murdered my mama," she said, a little more calmly now. "Weren't you even listening to me?"
"No," Faith shook her head, her head tilting down unconsciously, matching the angle of Persely's. "Why did you try to kill your dad? You weren't trying to kill her…why did you try to kill him?"
Persely's eyes dimmed, lowering briefly, and when she looked up again, she was touching her throat unconsciously, her eyes not meeting Faith's, but looking past her, her voice soft and almost childlike.
"Every guy's a monster. Some just ain't as good at hiding behind being a man."
The fingers at her throat, the hunching of her shoulders, the soft voice and unfocused eyes….and men, all of them monsters…beasts. This too, Faith knew, recognized, and she breathed in slowly, gathering words, gathering knowledge no one had ever told her, knowledge she had learned slowly, over time, with as much difficulty as she could throw into her own path. Knowledge that even now, she was still trying to learn, still trying to accept to be true.
She turned her face to Persely's, catching and holding her gaze, and attempted for the first time to voice this aloud.
"You're not a murderer, Persely. You're a killer."
Persely's forehead creased, and she frowned, her head straightening as she maintained eye contact.
"What? That's the same thing."
"No, it's not," Faith countered, shaking her head, her tone still quiet, serious. "I'm both. Might be the same results- someone dies, and you gotta deal with what happens because of it- but it doesn't mean the same thing, for you. You feel the same, yeah, because either way, someone's dead and it's your fault. But being a killer, and being a murderer…there's a difference in what it makes you inside."
Persely stared at her, clearly not following, and Faith exhaled, her eyes sliding away briefly before focusing back on Persely's.
"You murder someone, you did it knowing the whole time exactly what you were doing and what it was gonna mean. You murder someone, and you're thinking about it and then actually doing it, just because you want someone else to die. You murder someone, and you just crossed a huge line you didn't know was there, not just in rules, but in YOU," Faith said emphatically, gesturing towards her own chest. "But you kill someone, that's not the same. You kill someone, it's an accident, or it's self-defense, or whatever- not something you wanted. Not something you meant. Still changes you…still crossing a line. Still gotta deal and pay for it. But it's different. It makes it different for YOU…because it's not what you wanted."
Faith paused, inhaling slowly again, then looked Persely straight in the eyes, her voice dropping slightly.
"Like I said, I'm both. I know what they both mean, and what it means for me. You're not a murderer, Persely. You're a killer. Doesn't sound like it makes a difference…but really, one day you're gonna see it makes all the difference in the world."
She could see Persely's eyes shimmering, the tears more prominent, more difficult for her to contain. The younger girl turned her head, blinking, her lips thinning, and the hand on her throat moved to press against her mouth. Faith let her eyes drift away, giving her space from her gaze.
"I was almost a murder," Persely whispered, her voice strained, and Faith smiled slightly.
"Yeah, well, almost just counts in horseshoes. Or so I hear, anyway, never played that boring-ass game myself before."
Persely didn't smile. Faith could hear her breaths, shuddering, uneven, and when she turned her face towards her, there was nothing in her face but need…need, and a trust that shook Faith to her core. For anyone to look at her like that…for anyone to think she could know all the answers, be the one to change their life…it was insane. But wasn't that what she was doing now, every day that she woke up and went to train all the new Slayers, to shape them into the warriors they needed to be? Didn't they trust her to be able to do it…didn't everyone?
Thinking of this now, something she had never fully realized, Faith was so startled, even amazed, that she barely caught Persely's question in time to tune in.
"What am I supposed to do then…how am I supposed to be?"
Looking at the younger girl before her, a girl who was still watching her with hope in her eyes, even mingled with her pain, Faith answered slowly, almost for herself as much as for Persely.
"You can't take back what you did. You can't change it…all you can change is you. And then, you use it…try to change others too, or at least get them to see where they need to."
"How'm I gonna do that?" Persely asked, shaking her head. The tears were mostly gone from her voice, but still balancing dangerously in her eyes. "I got every cop in the country after me, everyone except you knows my name, and every guy in town wants to take me down one way or another. How am I gonna change when no one gives me a half a second to try?"
For several moments Faith regarded her, her mind working. Persely Snow might not be a Slayer…but it looked like the Headquarters were about to get a new recruit anyway. The details she'd work out later, or let someone else…but now? Now was the first step, the only step. There was no question in her mind of what to do.
"Come with me," she told her, dark eyes meeting pale, half extending her hand in a beckoning gesture. "You come. And you'll see."
There was perhaps ten seconds where Persely made no move, simply holding Faith's gaze, indecision dancing across her eyes. Then, with one sudden motion and a sharp exhalation, she stepped forward. She didn't take Faith's hand, but when Faith began to walk, she stayed very close to her side.
Author note: I read The Absence of Nectar recently; it is an excellent book, and Persely Snow reminded me so much of third season Faith in her behaviors, past, and mannerisms that I couldn't resist having them meet somehow.