by Hayley

Chapter Eleven

The first night of researching was a bust and the gang left Buffy's house disappointed and Buffy was discouraged. She couldn't get too down though because she knew she needed to be strong for Faith. There was no hope for the other slayer to see the bright side of anything right now so Buffy knew it was up to her to keep her in good spirits.

They probably could have researched late into the night but as soon as it started to get dark Buffy could tell Faith had started to become a little uneasy. The gang was only told a very short and vague version of what was happening with Faith, only enough to know what they should be looking for, so they didn't fully understand why the other slayer would be so nervous. They also didn't understand why Buffy stopped and kicked them out so early.

Giles did understand though so he backed Buffy's decision and everyone agreed to meet back at the house in the morning. The promise of donuts from Giles and perhaps bacon and pancakes from Joyce Summers was enough to get everyone agreeing to come back bright and early.

After that it was only Buffy having to try to convince Faith that it was okay to sleep. The other girl was understandably nervous but after taking her to her bedroom and convincing her to lie down she held her in her arms the entire night. She knew Faith fought off sleeping for a few hours but finally she gave in and slept.

The entire time all Buffy did was hold her, trying to make sure she felt safe. She didn't talk to her or say any soothing words since she thought silence might be better. She just kept her in a tight embrace, hoping that the closeness was enough for the voices and nightmares to stay far away from Faith. It was a little unsettling that Faith had said she was able to hear them when she was sleeping right next to her.

When morning came it was Faith who woke her with a couple of light kisses. It brought a smile to her face but she also realized that Faith had broken out into a cold sweat during the night and she still looked exhausted.

That gave Buffy a sense of urgency so after breakfast she left to try and find a break somewhere in Sunnydale. She knew Faith had some unsavory acquaintances when she was working for the Mayor so she decided she would try and find out some information without having to look at an old book.

She only wished Xander hadn't insisted he go with. Or brought Anya with him.

"You really didn't have to come with," she said as they walked toward the seedier areas of Sunnydale. "I mean, hello? Slayer? Pretty sure I'll be fine. I just wanted Faith to stay back and rest."

"Well, I didn't want to research anymore," Xander said.

"And I was bored."

Buffy looked at the pair and tried not to roll her eyes. "That's not what I need right now, okay? I need something to slay that makes Faith's nightmares go away."

"No offense, Buff, but what does it matter?" Xander asked, a nervous look on his face. "Faith did a lot of bad stuff. Maybe Giles' first assumption was right and she's doing it to herself. She does deserve . . ."

"Just stop, okay?" Buffy said quickly, stopping what she knew he was going to say. "I don't care what Giles originally thought because he was wrong. I don't care what you think about Faith either because in the end, she's here to stay. She's a slayer and if she shows she wants to change then she belongs here."

Xander looked at her with an expression that could only show his disbelief. "I don't get it. Why do you care so much about this?"

"Because she wants Faith to get better so she can give her orgasms."

Both Buffy and Xander looked at Anya with their mouths open. "What are you talking about, Ahn?"

"Don't you know anything about body language? It's obvious," Anya said in a manner-of-fact tone. "The way they look at each other, how Buffy needs to be close to Faith . . . orgasms."

Xander looked over at Buffy quickly. "That's not true, right?"

Buffy didn't know how to respond, if she should deny it. The problem was that everyone would find out about what was happening between her and Faith eventually. Her feelings weren't going to go away once they defeated whoever was hurting Faith. She knew they were more than that.

"Well . . ."

"You've got to be kidding." Xander shook his head. "Buffy, she tried to kill us! More than once!"

"And we're trying to get past that!" Buffy yelled. "We've had this talk before, Xander. Everything else is between me and Faith."

They stared at each other, more of a glare on Buffy's part, until Anya broke the silence. "This doesn't help anything right now. Can we please just get on with this?"

"Right, let's keep going," Buffy said and started walking again. She heard Xander grumble behind her and then a sound which could only mean Anya poked him to keep him quiet.

Since it was during the day the activity was down but Buffy figured that there would be some undesirables at Willy's so that's where they ended up. When she opened the front door it was just like she imagined: Willy was behind the counter cleaning a glass and there were a handful of vampires and demons sitting in the dark corners.

"Slayer," Willy said my way of greeting, "what brings you here?"

"Need some information," Buffy said calmly as she leaned against the bar. "We've had some weird stuff going on."

"Weird stuff happens all the time in Sunnydale."

Buffy narrowed her eyes. "You know the other slayer, right?"

He nodded. "She'd been in here a couple of times."

"She crossed the wrong person," Buffy said simply. "You hear of anyone with a grudge against her?"

Willy looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "I don't think anyone who comes in here likes slayers. Well, except when your friends tag along," he said, a little smirk on his face.

Buffy didn't have time for banter so she reached over and pulled Willy forward by the collar. "Look, I don't have time for games. Someone's using magic or some sort of power to mess with Faith's head and I want to know who. Now."

"Hey, wait a second," Willy said quickly as he struggled with the grip Buffy had on his shirt. "I don't know anything, okay? No one tells me anything about what they plan to do. I'm just the bartender."

"That's bullshit and we both know it." Buffy leaned in, staring him down. "When someone talks, you listen so what I'm asking you is if you've heard anything. I won't be nice the next time I ask."

His eyes pleaded with Buffy to let him down. "I really don't know anything. If someone's messing with the other slayer they haven't come in here to brag."

Buffy looked at him hard before releasing her grip on him. She knew he wasn't the best liar so he would've spilled by now if he knew anything. Usually she just needed to act like she was going to hurt him for him to spill what he knew. She started to turn away from him when she heard a snicker coming from one of the tables in the corner.

"I hope she dies."

She rushed to the vampire, immediately grabbing him and pushing him against the wall as he laughed. "You look too stupid to try anything but if you know something I'd say it now."

He laughed. "That slayer's a bitch. She'll get what she deserves and I'll be the first to shake the hand of whoever's responsible. Then I hope they go after you."

Buffy didn't even care enough to listen to anything else. It was obvious to her he didn't know any more than Willy did. With one swift motion she grabbed the stake that Xander had instinctively tossed her way and staked him without a second thought.

"Slayer, you know you can't do that in here. It's bad for business."

She looked to Willy with a shrug. "You need to warn your patrons not to try anything with me then."

"Look, no one who comes in here knows anything," he said in the strongest voice he probably had but his eyes were pleading with her to leave. She could always tell what Willy really meant by his eyes. "You need to go."

"Fine," Buffy said quickly, walking toward the door where Xander and Anya had stationed themselves, "but if I find out you knew . . ."

"You won't," Willy insisted.

Buffy left without saying another word, squinting as the sun hit her eyes once she was outside. She didn't even look back as she started walking, hearing the footsteps of Xander and Anya a few paces behind her. The thought of her idea being for nothing put a frown on her face, the hope that maybe she could get some answers without endless reading all gone for now.

"Well, that was pointless."

"Shut up, Anya," Buffy said between gritted teeth.

"She's not wrong, Buffy," Xander put in. "We didn't find anyone or anything that knows what's going on."

"No." Buffy stopped and turned back to them. "We know that no one who passes through Willy's is responsible for this. That's something."

Anya shrugged. "If you say so."

Buffy didn't say anything else, only began walking again. Her mind wandered to what was going on at the house and hoped they had found something while she was gone.

The rest of the day was spent reading through books in Buffy's living room. It was Saturday so Joyce was around the house, making sure everyone was fed and had whatever they needed while they looked through every book Giles had available. She didn't help with the research though. Buffy still wanted her mother to be somewhat protected from her slaying life. There wasn't any chance she would let her read about all the sorts of demon that she had to deal with.

What was surprising to Buffy, a good surprise, was that everyone was helping so freely now. Even with the comment here and there from Xander everyone was staying on task and looking through whatever they could to find to get a lead on what was happening. She knew that part of the reason was Faith hadn't fully healed by the time everyone had shown up that first morning. That meant they saw her cut lip and the bruises on her arms that she had wanted to hide earlier before they showed up.

Faith had finally fully admitted how little she'd actually been sleeping since she had arrived in Sunnydale. In reality, if she wasn't around Buffy she wasn't sleeping or she was trying not to. That was at night, anyway. During the day she could sleep without nightmares but she rarely had the opportunity to do so.

Buffy had a feeling Faith was becoming too scared to sleep in the day either. Both of them knew that whatever that was behind the nightmares was getting stronger and it wasn't a stretch that she might start having them in the day soon. That was another reason that she wanted an answer sooner than later.

Giles found it fascinating that Buffy's presence was causing everything to fade away and allow Faith the rest she seemed to desperately need. Most of the time when everyone was looking through books, or searching the internet in Willow's case, he was looking through watcher's journals in hopes of finding out more on slayer powers. He wanted to test them out, too, but Buffy stopped that from happening.

The only way they could study what was happening was for Faith to have another nightmare and Buffy wanted to keep that from happening at all costs. That's why she was pushing so hard to find a cause. She didn't want Faith to suffer through another one. They seemed to affect Faith is such a way that all the positive work they were doing to get her back on track was erased.

Aside from a short break to eat, all they did was read. Buffy tried hard to concentrate on the book that was in front of her but kept getting distracted by Faith. The other slayer was trying her best to help but she kept dozing off or zoning out. It was almost as though whatever was causing the nightmares was also draining all her energy.

Since everyone knew how little she was sleeping no one bothered to wake Faith whenever she fell asleep. They knew she needed it so after awhile Faith simply remained next to Buffy, eyes closed with her head on her shoulder.

There were a few questioning looks from Willow and Tara when Faith all but snuggled up against Buffy at one point but she only shrugged them off. Letting them in on what was going on between them would need to be put on the back burner for now. She had to keep on track and she wanted Faith to be as comfortable as possible.

Everyone was quiet save for the mumbling of Giles and Joyce cleaning some dishes in the kitchen so the phone sounded extra loud when it rang. Faith jumped at the sound, startling herself awake and looking around the room quickly. Buffy placed a hand on her knee and gave her a reassuring smile to let her know she was okay before standing and walking to the phone, answering it cautiously.

"Buffy, it's Angel."

"Did you find something?"

"I think so." He let out a sigh and she thought she could hear Wesley say something in the background. "We think it's Wolfram and Hart."

"Wolfram and Hart?" Buffy repeated and turned to look at Faith, who was suddenly very interested in the conversation.

"It's a law firm I've had some . . . issues with. They're the ones who hired Faith to kill me when they found out she was in town." He paused. "They really didn't check out the whole history there."

"What makes you think they're the ones doing this?"

"I almost got one of them to admit they were up to something."

Buffy sighed. "They could be messing with you."

"I thought so, too," Angel said. "That's why we kept looking in that direction and Wesley thinks he's found something. We need Faith here for it though." He paused again and Buffy thought he sounded a little uncomfortable. "Uh, my place was kind of blown up so . . ."

"What?" Buffy exclaimed, interrupting him. "Is everyone okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine," he said and Buffy could hear Cordelia disputing the fact in the background, "but can we meet at Cordelia's for this?"

"Oh, no need to give directions, Angel. Faith knows where it is," Cordelia yelled out sarcastically, making Buffy think Angel was calling from her apartment.

Buffy looked over at Faith again, who was paying attention but looked like she knew where the conversation could be heading. It made her look both nervous and uncomfortable. "Just give me the directions in case. Should we leave right away?"

"No, try and get some rest first," he said. "Faith will need it. Leave in the morning."

She agreed and took down Cordelia's address before hanging up the phone. Now more than ever she was thankful college was finished for the summer so she wouldn't have to think about that as well as everything else. She had no idea how she managed to keep it together last time she was in LA. The thought left her when Giles cleared his throat, making her look at the group.

"Did Angel find out what was happening?"

"He thinks some law firm, Wolfram and Hart, are behind it." Buffy looked to Faith. "They had hired Faith to kill Angel . . ."

"And instead I end up crashing at his place," Faith finished. "I embarrassed them."

"By doing the right thing though," Tara added helpfully. It seemed obvious that the mood in the room had immediately changed. "That's something."

Buffy gave her a half smile and nodded. "He said Faith needs to go to LA in order to stop this. We're leaving in the morning."

Giles nodded. "I'll drive."

"Shouldn't we all go?" Willow asked. "What if you need help?"

Buffy looked to Giles before looking to her best friend. "Angel wasn't specific on if everyone or anyone else is needed. If you want to you can, I guess."

"We're only going to do what's necessary," Giles added.

Everyone in the room nodded and Buffy spoke up when no one said anything else. "I guess we don't need to research anymore. We should try to get some sleep before we leave in the morning."

Her watcher and friends agreed and quietly said their goodbyes. Joyce watched the scene and stood at the edge of the room, waiting for everyone to leave to say something. "How dangerous are these people?"

Buffy looked to Faith to answer but all she did was look down and that didn't look good. "I'm guessing they're dangerous in that they'll go to whatever lengths are needs to get what they want. Right, Faith?"

"Yeah, I guess," Faith mumbled, still not looking at either of them.

"I know you don't want me to go with," Joyce started and kept going even though Buffy tried to interrupt her, "and I'll agree that I wouldn't know the first thing about helping when you get there. But I want you to call me with updates. Before and after you do anything."

"Deal," Buffy said, a small smile on her face.

"Okay," her mother said, smiling back, "I'll see you in the morning before you leave."

She gave Buffy a hug then walked over to Faith to do the same before walking upstairs, leaving the two slayers alone. Buffy moved over to the couch and sat down next to Faith, noticing the exhaustion immediately. "I think we could both use some sleep tonight, especially if we have to deal with an evil law firm in the morning."

Faith smiled even though it was easy to see she was in some pain. She couldn't tell if it was physical or emotional. "Who would've thought after all the vamps and demons you had to face in the last few weeks that the next big bad would be a law firm?"

"It's a bunch of lawyers, Faith," Buffy said as she walked over to her. "Gotta be evil somewhere in their offices."

They laughed quietly as Buffy helped Faith off the couch. "Whatever they're doing is really zapping your strength, isn't it?"

"Kinda," Faith answered as they walked toward the stairs. "It's like I'm being slowly stripped of my slayer strength. Maybe that's why the injuries they try to give me are actually showing now. Maybe they got rid of all the slayer strength. Maybe they're trying to make me normal."

Buffy didn't want to worry her so she didn't say anything in response to the theory but she had been wondering the same thing. She was worried that whatever was being done to her were stripping her of her slayer powers for good. She could only hope that wasn't the case though because she was beginning to realize how much she wanted Faith fighting with her. The lack of slayer strength just needed to be a side effect of the torture being inflicted as she slept.

Once they got to her room they sat down on the bed and Buffy looked her over. Through all the tiredness she could tell Faith was a little scared as well and she placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "We're gonna work this out."

"You don't know that."

"It's what we do, Faith." Buffy didn't like the fact that Faith's eyes were directed at the floor. "We're going to find a way out of this."

Faith looked at her then and Buffy could see her skepticism. "You don't know that, B. These people are different. They're human."

"Doesn't mean they can't be defeated."

"And then what happens after?" Faith asked, looking away. "What happens with us?"

Buffy opened her mouth to respond but didn't say anything right away. She wasn't sure she knew the correct answer to the question and didn't want to say the wrong thing. "I don't know . . . but wouldn't be nice to figure that out when you're able to sleep through the night?"

Faith let out a quiet chuckle. "Yeah, I guess so." She turned her body more toward Buffy, her eyes looking into hers. "I kinda always had a thing for you, B."

Before Buffy could respond to what Faith said she was receiving the softest, gentlest kiss she could ever remember getting. It was light but strong at the same time and she couldn't help but move closer to her. She felt Faith's arms move carefully around, so tentatively that she wasn't even sure she meant to do it. Faith's nervousness was coming off her in waves.

They broke apart for a moment and Buffy only needed to look into Faith's eyes before leaning in and kissing her again. She knew Faith, who was never a good liar, was telling her the truth. The only response she could give was to kiss her.

After a minute of light kisses Buffy broke away and pressed a hand against Faith's cheek before placing a soft kiss on her forehead. "Think you'll be okay for a minute? I could really use a shower, especially after that trip to Willy's earlier."

Faith laughed. "Yeah, I think so. I'm not tired anyway."

Buffy knew that was a lie but didn't comment on it. She only gave her one more smile before leaving her, grabbing a clean pair of tank top and shorts and going into the bathroom. She desperately wanted to wash the grime and the stress of the day away. The decision to separate from Faith was one she wasn't exactly confident in but she figured it would only be for a few minutes. Just long enough to relax before hopefully one last night of worrying.

It was hard to relax even if that was the point of the shower. Her nerves were on high alert, especially with the possibility of having to deal with a type of enemy she had never had to face before. Demons and vamps in Sunnydale didn't have lawyers to defend them.

When she relaxed as much as she thought she could given the circumstances she changed into her clean clothes and walked back into her room. As soon as she was near the door she heard an odd sound, almost like a gurgle, and suddenly felt something was very wrong.

Buffy immediately went for Faith, who looked to have fallen asleep as she was now in a horizontal position on the bed. The problem was her eyes were open and completely white. There were new bruises on her body, her arms were covered in them, and the gurgling sound she'd heard was due to blood that was coming out of her mouth. She also looked to have gotten another black eye.

"Faith!" she exclaimed and grabbed her, pulling her into an upright position. Buffy had no idea what to do so she attempted to shake her awake. After that she tried to look into her eyes to see if she was even aware of her surroundings but then those brown eyes she expected to see slowly returned.

Faith's expressions changed rapidly and Buffy quickly moved to get her wastebasket, moving Faith towards it as well just as the other girl vomited up blood and whatever else was in her stomach. She held back her hair and waited silently for Faith to finish, still not knowing what had happened.

"I didn't fall asleep," Faith choked out as she lifted her head up. "I swear."

"We need to get you cleaned up," Buffy said quietly as she helped Faith stand. She tried to keep her mind on only one thing and that was making sure Faith was okay. Everything else needed to wait. "I think your scar opened again."

Both of them looked down at the blood stain on Faith's shirt but didn't say anything else to each other as they walked to the bathroom. Faith sat on the edge of the bathtub as Buffy grabbed a damp washcloth and gently wiped the blood off her skin. Thankfully, there wasn't much of it outside of what she'd thrown up.

"Is anything broken?"

"Don't think so," Faith said as she looked over her own body. "I can move everything and my ribs feel okay and from what I remember that's what they went for this time." She paused. "Did notice I got a shiner though. Now that's attractive."

Buffy tried to smile, knowing Faith was attempting to lighten the mood, but couldn't get over that everything was getting worse. It was the spell or whatever was being used against Faith was being strengthened fast. "What do you mean you didn't fall asleep?"

"I didn't. When you went into the bathroom I was sitting up, tossing around Mr. Gordo. I was relaxed, I didn't feel tired. Then all of a sudden I was somewhere else getting beat on." Faith looked at Buffy with a worried expression, a look Buffy would normally consider very unlike her but these were far from normal circumstances. "You think they can get to me when I'm awake now?"

That was something Buffy had hoped would never happen but since whatever was happening to Faith was escalating it seemed like a real possibility. It was something she knew she couldn't let happen. They needed to stop what was happening before it became too powerful to stop.

"We need to call Giles . . . and Angel," Buffy said. "We can't wait. We need to go to LA now."

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