After what seemed like almost no time at all, Buffy woke up to the sounds of her mother getting ready for work. She looked over at her alarm clock and noticed it wasn't even eight in the morning.
She was exhausted and she could only imagine what Faith felt like. She looked over at the other slayer sleeping next to her, almost half on her really, and a small smile escaped her lips. Whenever Faith was asleep she looked young and innocent, even peaceful. It was something she never looked when she was awake. The only thing that looked off was that there was some swelling around her eyes and a healing cut on her lip from the nightmare.
Buffy wanted to talk to her mother and to Giles without Faith hearing and figured that while she was sleeping might be the best time. It was light out and she didn't think Faith had ever had a nightmare in the morning so she carefully detached Faith from her body and got out of bed. She looked back quickly, making her she hadn't disturbed her sleep at all, before making her way out of the room.
When she got to the kitchen she found her mother eating a piece of toast and the worried expression she'd worn the night before appeared once she noticed her. "Buffy, please tell me what is going on. I woke up and passed Faith's room to find blood on the mattress and the sheets. This is not normal and I'm really scared for her. Please don't tell me it's a slayer thing."
"The blood on the mattress is from her scar," Buffy said quietly. "It . . . opened last night. It stopped when I woke her up and I think it's fine now."
"Fine?" Joyce asked, panic evident in her voice. "None of this is fine. Was it always this bad?"
Buffy shook her head. "No, and I think that's why Giles thought it was just Faith's subconscious or whatever reminding her of what she's done. That can't be what's happening now."
Her mother looked thoughtful. "Has Faith told you what she sees?"
"It's all a little vague," Buffy answered. "I think she's kind of embarrassed that it's happening. Everything's changing though. I've never seen her like that."
"Maybe I should stay home from the gallery today."
"No," Buffy said quickly, shaking her head. "I can handle it but I think the house might end up being research central though. If Faith gets worse, I want her to stay close. I'm going to call Giles and tell him we need to start seriously researching what's wrong. Someone's causing this."
"Okay," she agreed. "I'll stop at the store on my way home. We'll need to have the kitchen stocked if everyone will be researching here. Just have Faith take it easy today, okay?"
"Sure thing, Mom."
Her mother smiled sadly and gave her a hug before walking back upstairs to finish getting ready for work. Buffy waited until she was out of hearing range before walking over to the phone and dialing Giles' number. He picked up after the first ring, almost like he was expecting the call.
"Giles, it's me."
"Buffy, did something happen during patrol last night? I expected both you and Faith to come over this morning to discuss how it went."
"Change of plans. Faith and I won't be coming over today."
"Buffy, you know we need to stick to a strict schedule since Faith is patrolling now. I know it might seem like Faith has turned a corner but . . ."
"I don't think that," Buffy interrupted. "I think it's getting worse and it's not Faith's fault. I think something is definitely trying to hurt her."
Buffy began to describe what happened the night before, now Faith looked, her eyes and that she had actual physical injuries. She made sure to point out her hands were clean, hoping to prove to her watcher that the wounds were not self-inflicted.
When she got to what happened after the dream she found it was hard to even get the words out. Someone who she was getting closer to by the day had thought the only way to end the nightmares was to kill herself. That wasn't something Buffy could deal with easily and she could tell Giles was having a problem with it as well.
"Giles, this isn't a case of Faith doing this to herself," Buffy finished. "Someone or something is causing it."
"I believe you're right," Giles admitted, "though I don't know where we would begin on trying to figure out who is responsible."
"They're bordering on hallucinations now and I don't ever want a repeat of last night." Buffy paused and sighed. "I think she's always awake for the last few minutes of them." When Giles didn't say anything else she continued. "It's time to research, Giles."
"Yes, I will look through some books today but I have to say unless we know who's trying to make Faith suffer like this it will be hard to figure out what's happening and how to stop it."
"Do whatever you need to do," Buffy said, her voice more emotional than she wanted. "Have the gang help, bring the books here . . . hell, call Angel and ask him."
"I will try to do all of that," Giles assured her. "Get some rest this morning and we will try to come over there this afternoon. I would like Faith to tell me exactly what's happening."
"Okay," was all Buffy said before she hung up the phone. She turned to go upstairs again, running into her mother as she headed toward the front door.
"I checked on Faith and she's still sleeping," she said. "I'll be back in a few hours to clean up the room."
"Thanks, Mom." Buffy gave her a hug. "Giles is going to start researching and we're going to meet up this afternoon."
Her mother gave her another hug for good measure and said goodbye. Buffy watched her car pull out of the driveway before walking upstairs and to her room. She found that her mother had been right. Faith looked to be sleeping soundly. She hadn't broken out into a sweat and no wounds had appeared on her body that she could see. Even her face looked peaceful.
Buffy could feel how tired she was, too. The stress of wanting and trying to keep Faith safe was exhausting and not knowing who she needed protection from was even worse. She had to be suspicious of everyone Faith wronged but she didn't even know how many people that was. It was part of the reason she wanted Giles to ask Angel for help. She had never really talked to Faith about what happened in LA prior to her tracking her down at Angel's apartment.
She easily moved under the covers and instantly relaxed. It had been such a long night and Buffy knew if she needed to research later in the day she needed more sleep than what she had gotten so far. Research was the part of slaying she hated most.
As soon as she was comfortable Faith shifted closer to her, placing an arm over her stomach. Buffy had to smile at that. It seemed like they were getting used to being this close since Buffy had needed to start protecting her in this way. It was almost second nature.
Feelings began to creep into Buffy's head that she didn't want to think about and she tried to push them away. At the moment she only wanted to concentrate on Faith, on making sure she could get through whatever was happening, and not of what was going on between them. In a normal situation, they probably wouldn't even be officially friends yet. It was still so early but as Buffy had learned nothing was ever normal in Sunnydale.
The bottom line was that Faith needed to get better. Now that she wasn't in jail and had a real chance to turn her life around she couldn't be sidetracked by all the nightmares and whatever else was going on. She knew that the other girl needed to tell them everything once they saw Giles, even if it meant trying to force it out of her. That was the only way to find out who was responsible.
Buffy needed sleep first though. After that, then she could try to help Faith.
It was ten in the morning when Buffy woke up again and she thought she probably only did because the space next to her was empty again. Faith wasn't in the room.
Buffy waited a minute before getting out of bed and walking out of the room. She checked Faith's room first and then the bathroom but Faith wasn't in either place. Then she heard something coming from downstairs and walked toward the noise. She found Faith in the kitchen, rummaging under the sink.
"Faith, what are you doing?"
Faith looked up from her crouched position, still dressed in the shorts and tank top she'd slept in. "I have to clean up that room."
"No, you don't," Buffy said quietly as she leaned against the counter. "My mom said she'd work on it when she got home."
The pained look on Faith's face made Buffy wanted to close the distance between them, kneel down and hug her. "She shouldn't have to do that, B. This is all my fault."
"It's not." Buffy gently pulled her into a standing position. "You have to stop thinking that."
"It is because I can't stop it," Faith whispered.
Buffy sighed quietly and took Faith's hand, leading her to the table so they could sit down. She noticed Faith still looked tired and wished she could get more sleep before they met with Giles. "That's where all of us come in. I talked to Giles this morning and he's going to start researching but he needs more info. You have to tell us everything that's going on in there." She reached out and touched the side of Faith's head with her hand.
Faith leaned into her for a second and Buffy could tell she was struggling. "I don't want to. It's too much."
"I don't think you have a choice in this one, Faith," Buffy said calmly. "We need this to stop and we need to find whoever wants to hurt you this much."
"Probably a long line," Faith mumbled.
Buffy didn't know how to respond to what she said for a minute but knew she couldn't sugarcoat anything. They were past that point. "Yeah, there probably is and that's why everyone's going to look."
"What do you mean by everyone?"
"Giles is talking to everyone and we're going to research but we have to know more about what's going on." Buffy tried to look into Faith's eyes, wanting her to see her sincerity, but the other slayer's eyes were focused on the floor. "We need to know if they're memories, alternate realities or something, if you're being hurt in them, if you're made to do things . . . all of it, Faith."
Faith looked into her eyes then and Buffy could see the fear. "I don't want to tell everyone."
Buffy knew what she was saying without her needing to elaborate. She didn't want to have to sit in a room with the entire Scooby gang present and describe all the things she was going through. That scenario hadn't even crossed her mind though.
She took her hand again and this time walked to the living room, hoping it would be more comfortable for Faith to start confessing. They sat on the couch and Buffy pulled Faith close to her. Something about the action made Faith visibly relax and it wasn't the first time it happened so Buffy knew it was what she needed to do.
"You just need to tell Giles and me," Buffy said quietly. "Not the gang, not my mom . . . not anyone in LA."
"What do you mean by that?"
"You kind of pissed off a lot of people in LA, too. I asked Giles to ask Angel to do some looking around. From how we left LA, it's easy to see he wants to help you, too."
Faith didn't respond to what she said and they sat in silence for a few minutes. Buffy knew Faith would say something eventually but they didn't have much time to wait all day. She could allow the few minutes but that was all.
"It didn't start as much," she said quietly, staring out into space. "I mean, I didn't think it was a big deal. I'd close my eyes and I'd see Allan. I'd see that professor. But then I'd remember what Angel said, that redemption hurts, so I thought that was part of the deal. I had to hurt."
Buffy knew part of that was true. Getting over the demons Faith had would hurt but they shouldn't physically be able to do that. The kind of demons Faith was supposed to be dealing with shouldn't result in cuts and bruises.
"Then it would turn until what could've happened. What would've happen if I would've just killed you and how many people I could've killed if I hadn't been in a coma. It would switch over to LA and I saw what I did to Wesley except Angel didn't get there in time. I saw myself enjoying every second of it."
She paused for a minute and Buffy took the opportunity to hold her a little tighter. Saying anything might cause Faith to not say anything else and Buffy didn't want to take that chance. She knew she needed to let Faith do all the talking at the moment and that meant only prodding when she absolutely needed to. Nothing more than that was needed.
"Then I started hearing the voices and sometimes whatever was happening wouldn't leave me when I tried to wake up. The last few nights everything started changing. I'd get into fights but I'd be losing and hits would just keep coming and coming. I would try to block them but it would be like I couldn't find my hands. I couldn't feel them."
Another couple minutes went away without Faith saying anything else so Buffy decided to coax her along. "Could you see who was hitting you?"
Faith shook her head. "It's all fuzzy. It's like they don't want me to see."
"What about . . . your scar?"
"I got stabbed last night," Faith mumbled.
Buffy didn't know what to say. It was obvious they needed help from Giles now that she knew what was happening but nothing that Faith had said had given her any clues on who might be behind everything. The enemy still felt invisible to her.
Faith moved until her head was in Buffy's lap and she closed her eyes. "Whenever you're near me it changes. Everything fades to the point it's either gone or small enough for me to ignore it. It's weird."
"Wait a second," Buffy said as she placed a hand on her head, lightly running her fingers through her hair. "How does that happen?"
"Being around you used to make everything just fade away, like a fog was lifted or something." Buffy couldn't see Faith's eyes but she guessed they were still closed. "But now that the nightmares are getting worse they don't disappear completely."
"Is that why last night . . ." Buffy couldn't finish the question. What had happened was too painful for her to think about and she was sure it was even more for Faith.
"Yeah," Faith said. "I could still hear it but I could block it out for awhile. I woke up 'cause my wrists were itching, like I had a rash or something. Then I saw what was on them."
Buffy only nodded and stayed silent for a minute. She kept her hands gently moving over Faith, only using soft, delicate touches. "We should eat something and then you should rest. Once we hear from Giles he'll have a lot more questions and you have to answer him."
Faith didn't answer her and when Buffy looked down, she saw Faith was asleep.
"Let's go through this one more time."
Buffy sighed and she saw Faith cringe a little. Giles had arrived at the house about an hour ago and had been questioning Faith ever since. Buffy knew that her mother would be home soon and she had to believe that everyone would probably be there somewhat after that so she hoped their watcher would wrap up the questions soon. They had started the conversation with Faith saying she didn't want to talk about what she was going through in front of everyone.
"Giles, I think Faith's told you everything."
He gave her a look that told her he wanted her to be quiet. "The more Faith talks about what is happening to her the more information we have to aid in our research."
"Just as long as we can stop once other people get here."
Giles nodded as he stood and paced. "When you were reliving memories or seeing alternate realities or results were you seeing more Sunnydale instances or LA?"
Faith looked down and Buffy knew she was trying hard to give Giles the answers he wanted. "I don't think so. Guess I really didn't keep track and lately it's been me trying to get away from whoever's trying to hurt me."
"Shouldn't we also try to find out why I have an effect on what's going on?" Buffy asked. She realized her arm was around Faith, keeping her close, but Giles had yet to comment on it or even give her a look. She wondered if she'd hear about it later or if he would choose to ignore the closeness.
"Yes, I must admit that is curious," he said. "It could have something to do with the mental strength you possess as a slayer but we would need to know more about what's happening to know for sure. Faith, when did you realize Buffy was having an effect on your nightmares?"
"Not right away," she answered quietly. "The first night I thought it was just me thinking about everything I'd done wrong. I just start crying 'cause it hurt but when Buffy came into the room it started to fade. I thought that it was 'cause I was scared about what she'd say or something. I didn't expect her to stay with me."
"And after that?"
Faith shrugged. "It wasn't until after about a week that I realized but I didn't want to say anything. I wanted to try and get through it on my own."
"Hmm," Giles mumbled as he looked toward the ground, "we never properly studied the connection two slayers would have. It could be that whatever is happening with Faith is weakening her slayer strength but when you're near, Buffy, your strength helps where Faith's cannot."
Buffy looked at Faith and could tell the other girl was just as confused as she was. "That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, Giles."
"Not a lot of what we do makes sense."
Giles looked at both of them with a serious expression. "I'll try to make some more calls and I have some books in the car. Once Willow arrives I'll have her do some searching on her computer as well."
The two slayers shared a look and Buffy knew what Faith was thinking. "A lot of this stays between us, right, Giles?"
"As much as possible, yes," he assured. "I fear we need to act quickly though. It seems like whomever or whatever is responsible is gaining strength. You've already said that being together doesn't have the same effect it used to."
Faith shook her head. "It doesn't."
"Do you feel all the hits when you're sleeping? Does it wake you up?"
"No, and I want to wake up, G," Faith said. Buffy wanted to pull her a little close since Faith looked distressed but still didn't want as close as she wanted to while their watcher was present. "I just can't."
"And the . . . markings on your wrists?"
Faith's eyed the floor and Buffy leaned in. "It's okay, you know. It's not your fault."
"She's right, Faith," Giles said as he moved to sit in front of her, "but we need to know. Now you said your wrists were itching before you woke up, correct?"
"Yeah," Faith affirmed. "It was somewhere between an itch and a burning. When I woke up I freaked out because I thought it was a tattoo, that it'd stay there. Once I moved away from B, I could start hearing voices again and it just got worse."
"Did it stop?"
"Not until B showed up and got real close."
"But this happens only at night?"
"Yeah," Faith said again. "Right now there hasn't been anything during the day. It gives me a chance to sleep if I can."
Giles nodded but motioned for Buffy to follow him into the kitchen. Buffy only looked at Faith and gave her a little hug before following him. "What's going on?"
"I think whoever is attacking Faith is using very powerful magicks," Giles said in a hushed tone. "It takes incredible strength to do what Faith is describing. I think a lesser person would have already broken."
"Did you ask Angel about it?" Buffy asked. "We probably need to have everything covered."
"Yes, I spoke with him and he has agreed to look into if Faith crossed paths with anything that would be vengeful."
"That's probably a long list."
Neither of them said anything for a few seconds and Buffy knew Giles wanted to ask her about what was going on with Faith. The way he wasn't quite looking in her eyes told her as much. "Just ask me, Giles."
"You and Faith . . ."
"I can't explain it," Buffy said quietly. "All the feelings I had when she showed up again are still there but seeing her in so much pain . . . I just couldn't watch it. But nothing's really happened."
Giles let out a breath. "You will have to stay close to her until we figure this out. We might be able to find a spell to block whatever is hurting her this way but it will only be a temporary fix. You will be the only one who can help if we can't find something before we find the cause."
"I understand," Buffy said as she looked back to the living room. Faith had moved so she was lying down and her eyes were closed. "Let's get started."
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Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven || Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen
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