Buffy sat on Giles' couch surrounded by people she considered to be family and felt outnumbered. She wondered how she could get them to see her side since the last five minutes had been a painful experience.
"Guys, I'm serious. I think there's a real threat here."
Willow and Tara looked almost sympathetic to what she was saying as she told them she thought Faith's nightmares weren't self-inflicted. Xander and Anya looked skeptical and Giles looked like he didn't believe one word of it. He had been the one who said consistently that it was all in Faith's head even though Buffy thought the bruises that appeared on the other slayer's body was proof enough. Then again, even Faith had admitted she could've been giving herself the bruises while she was having nightmares.
She was a little happy Faith wasn't there to hear the doubt. Her mother had mentioned that she needed some help at the gallery when they were eating breakfast that morning and Buffy had volunteered Faith to go help. Faith had almost objected to that but Joyce seemed to be thrilled and Buffy had insisted that Giles would be okay with it. It was just supposed to be for the morning anyway.
"Buffy," Giles started and she knew he was going to disagree, "I understand that you do not want to think Faith would be causing this herself but we don't know of anyone who would see Faith as an immediate threat."
"You know, Faith did some terrible things to all of us," Xander said carefully. "If she's as remorseful as you and her say then maybe she is doing this to herself. Maybe she's punishing herself. It's not a stretch."
"Yes, it is," Buffy said strongly. "She looks like she's in pain. Like serious, real pain."
Everyone shared a look and Buffy didn't like it at all. She didn't like having people who should have her back not believing her. The plan was to at least get her friends on her side and then they could work on Giles together. Right now, they were trying to get her to see it their way instead.
"Just because she's looks like she's in pain doesn't mean she's not doing it," Willow put in. "Like Xander said, this could be her way of being remorseful."
"I'm not buying it."
Tara looked at her sadly. "Have you ever watched Faith as she's having one of those nightmares?"
Buffy thought for a second. "I'm not sure. I guess I've found her a couple times where she was trying to get over one. You know, she's been shaking, maybe even crying a little, and she's always broken out in a cold sweat."
"But she's never in the middle of one when you're there?"
"I don't think so," Buffy said, a frown on her face. "When I asked her about it a few days ago she said that she never has them when I'm there. She says I keep them away."
Giles stopped the pacing he had been doing as the rest of them sat and gave Buffy a quizzical look. "Faith says you keep her from having nightmares?"
"Yeah, I guess." Buffy shrugged. "That's why she's waited for me a couple times when I've on patrol. She said she tried to sleep but couldn't."
"That is interesting." Giles looked like he might start to see things her way but Buffy wasn't about to celebrate a win. "It would be nice to ask Faith about this."
"She's helping my mom this morning. I didn't think she would help at trying to convince you someone else is causing this. I think she thinks she deserves whatever is happening to her." Buffy observed the looks on her friends' faces and didn't like them. "She may deserve some things but she doesn't deserve this."
"Well . . ."
"Xander, don't start." Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. "You haven't seen them."
He held his hand up to drop it but Willow spoke up. "But you just said you really haven't either and it sounds like Faith hasn't told you much about them. It could be something she needs to work out for herself."
"I don't even understand why we're discussing this," Anya said before Buffy had a chance to respond to what Willow said. "Anyone who wanted Faith to suffer could've wished this and from what I've been hearing that would be a lot of people."
"Are you saying a vengeance demon could have done this?"
She looked at Giles like he was an idiot for making her repeat herself. "Of course one could. I'm sure a spell could do the same thing."
Everyone looked at Willow and Tara and Willow immediately looked shocked. "I-I wouldn't know the first thing about doing that and Tara would never let me anyways."
Tara nodded. "That's true."
"We're not saying you would do such a thing, Willow," Giles said, trying to calm her. "We're just saying that if Faith isn't the one responsible for these intense nightmares, and I'm still not convinced that she isn't, then there are several people who may look into seeking revenge." He turned to Buffy. "She hasn't said anything in detail about them?"
Buffy shook her head. "I think she's ashamed. The last time I tried she begged for me to drop it and she didn't want me to tell you. She's afraid you'll say she shouldn't patrol."
"Knowing all this I think Faith not patrolling would be a wise decision."
"No," Buffy stated strongly, "that would be the wrong decision. One of the few times Faith has a smile on her face is when she's patrolling. That can't stop now, not with everything else that's happening."
"You need to watch her closely then. I don't want this problem to put either of you in danger."
Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "Only if you will look into what's happening to Faith. I can feel it, Giles. Someone is doing this to her."
Giles looked thoughtful for a moment then sighed. "I suppose I can look through some texts for spells that would cause the type of nightmares Faith's been having. You still need to keep in mind that she may be doing this to herself."
Knowing that he wouldn't drop it, Buffy only nodded. She thought the meeting had a good outcome since everyone had at least listened to her side of what was happening with Faith and now there was some dialogue about what could be happening to her. Whether it was a spell or a wish Buffy didn't care though. She only wanted it to stop.
"We can help Giles look, Buffy," Tara offered quietly. "Maybe we'll find something faster."
All Buffy could do was smile at the offer. Finally, something was starting to go the way she wanted.
Buffy was jolted awake by a scream.
It was by no means a normal scream either. It wasn't one that was full of surprise or excitement or even the type heard in movie theaters during a horror movie. None of those were ever truly real, not like the one that was echoing through Buffy's house at the moment. This one was so full of terror and anguish it made her blood turn cold.
She jumped to her feet and all but sprinted to Faith's room, barely realizing her mother wasn't far behind her in getting to the room. When she opened the door she that the other girl had kicked all the covers off the bed and was soaked in sweat. Her mother turned on the light in the hallway and it was then that they could see blood coming from Faith's lip and nose.
"Oh, Buffy, what . . ."
"Can you get a washcloth and maybe a towel, Mom?" Buffy asked as she watched Faith move on the bed and mumble. It looked like she was in pain and Buffy hated it.
She didn't look to make sure her mother was doing what she had asked, only moved to the bed so she could get Faith to stop moving and wake up. Her fear was that Faith would hurt herself with how she was moving. Her arms and legs were moving like she was trying to run from something and they could easily hit something in the room.
"Faith, wake up." Buffy sat in the bed and grabbed at her upper arms, attempting to get her to sit up. "Faith!"
Faith seemed to let her pull her up but she didn't wake up or stop her consistent mumbling. Buffy could make out a series of "no", "not me" and "not anymore" but that was it. Everything else sounded more like whimpers and sobs. Buffy placed a hand under her chin and tried not to gasp when Faith opened her eyes to reveal they were completely white.
"Damn it, Faith," Buffy said sternly, trying to control her voice so she didn't show how freaked out she was about the other slayer's eyes. She didn't want her mother to see them. "Snap out of it."
She shook her lightly a couple times and Faith blinked, causing her eyes to return to their normal dark brown color. The other girl still wasn't registering anything though and began to violently shiver in Buffy's arms. Her mother came back in them with a damp washcloth, handing it to Buffy with a concerned look on her face.
Neither of them said anything for a minute as Buffy cleaned the blood off Faith's face. She looked down at Faith's hands and was frightened when she saw that they were clean of blood. She hadn't hit herself during the night to cause the injuries when meant that something else had. Even though Giles still hadn't believe there was anything sinister happening when it was discussed at the meeting earlier she didn't think there was a way he could disagree now. Between the blood and the bruises she could now see all over Faith's body there was something besides Faith's subconscious causing the nightmares.
"Buffy, what should we do?"
She looked at her mother sadly. "I don't think anything needs stitches and anything else where we'd need to take her to the hospital. I'll get her cleaned up and stay with her the rest of the night." She sighed. "Giles is wrong about all this, Mom."
"I think so, too, honey." Joyce looked like her heart was breaking for Faith.
They watched as Faith stopped shivering and finally realized Buffy was holding her. She looked at her with huge, frightened eyes. "It hurts," she whispered.
"It'll be okay, Faith," Buffy said into her ear quietly before softly kissing the top of her head. She looked to her mother and nodded, trying to signal to her that everything was fine.
Everything wasn't fine though and they both knew it but Buffy wanted all of them to get some sleep so she waited patiently for her mother to close the door and go back to bed before looking over Faith more closely. She turned on the lamp by the bed, something Faith didn't seem to even notice as Buffy began to examine her arms and legs better. There were bruises everywhere and a few cuts but since she was a slayer they were slowly many of them were already beginning to fade.
She was almost ready to have Faith lie down again when she noticed a stain on the sheet under Faith. It only took a few seconds for her to realize it was blood and that it couldn't have been from the other girl's nose or lip. It wasn't in the right spot.
Faith was still out of it so Buffy only rested her head back against her pillow then slowly lifted up her shirt where her scar was supposed to be. Her jaw dropped when she saw it had essentially split open during the night. It was still oozing and looked like it may even be infected but it was also beginning to heal up again like the rest of her injuries. She took the cloth from the nightstand and wiped the drying blood off her skin, thankful it wasn't bleeding as much as it could.
She turned her head to Buffy and slowly opened her eyes. "Yeah, B?"
"Can you get up? We need to get you changed and you're staying with me in my room the rest of the night."
Faith nodded and Buffy helped her to her feet. She grabbed a clean pair of shorts and a tank top before standing in front of Faith. It felt a little awkward but the other slayer looked so weak at the moment that she decided to help her change.
She motioned for her to lift up her arms and she slowly pulled off her bloody tank top. Once it was tossed to the side Buffy looked over her body closely, holding back tears as she saw the injuries. She tentatively placed her hands on her abdomen and moved her hands over her skin. After a few seconds Buffy knelt down and placed a light kiss near where her scar was. She moved back up, lightly kissing her shoulder and then her forehead before helping her get the clean tank top on.
There was nothing sexual about the kisses and Buffy was trying only to be comforting, to make Faith feel safe again. Since the two were beginning to become closer seeing Faith naked like this should've made Buffy feel at least a little nervous but it didn't. She was too concerned with Faith's physical and mental condition.
The shorts were the next to go but that was a quick change then Buffy turned to the bed. She knew the sheets needed to be cleaned due to the blood and she noticed blood on the pillows for the first time, too. Buffy quickly stripped the bed of them and made a mental note to wash them in the morning. It was something she knew she could probably do right away but she didn't want to leave Faith alone.
"I did that?"
Buffy turned to look at Faith and shook her head. "Not your fault," she whispered. "Something's going on. Someone's doing this to you. It can't all be in your head."
Faith didn't say anything back and it was easy to notice the hurt look on her face. She knew there was a part of her that at one time wouldn't have cared of the other slayer was hurting like she was now but that part didn't exist anymore. There wasn't any part of her that wanted this kind of payback and what was going on couldn't be described as that anyway. It was bordering on torture.
Without saying anything else Buffy helped Faith back to her room. The other girl seemed to have zero fight left in her, all her energy gone, and it made Buffy wonder if she had lost more blood than she thought or if whatever nightmare she had had knocked her head around a little. It was definitely not normal for her to be this disoriented after a nightmare.
Once she got Faith to her room she shut the door and helped her get into bed. She really hoped that there wouldn't be a repeat performance of what had just happened now that she was there. Faith had said that she never had any when she was near her but that wasn't a lasting solution as far as she was concerned. She also wanted to know why she didn't seem to have them every night. It was strange and she knew would have to ask her about that in the morning. Maybe Faith was suffering on her own some nights.
She settled in with Faith almost as though it was second nature now, although that was because it was a semi-regular occurrence. Buffy had to admit she wasn't bothered by that either. It felt good that she was able to protect Faith. After all, she was the only other person who knew what she went through as a slayer.
Buffy kept a protective arm around Faith as she began to relax and fall asleep next to her. She hoped she would be able to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep as well as there would be a lot of questions in the morning.
It hadn't been more than an hour before Buffy opened her eyes again. She was beyond tired and she groaned at the thought that she was awake yet again before she realized why she wasn't sleeping.
Faith wasn't with her.
Her first instinct was to call out for her but she stopped herself. She didn't want to wake her mother and scare her again. It was easy to see Joyce Summers was scared at what was happening and Buffy didn't want to add to that.
After looking around her room quickly just to make sure Faith wasn't huddled in a corner, Buffy got up and slowly walked out of her room and into the hallway. There wasn't a single light on in the hallway or in any of the rooms upstairs that Buffy could see. Her mother seemed to have gone back to sleep and Faith's room and the bathroom was empty.
Buffy looked down the stairs and saw a dim light coming from what she thought was the kitchen. Faith hadn't eaten much for dinner, something that wasn't like her at all, so it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for her to be searching for food. If that was the case, Buffy thought maybe she should just keep her company until it was time so try and get some sleep again.
She silently walked down the stairs and toward the kitchen where she could partially see Faith sitting at the kitchen table. What was puzzling to her was that from her point of view it looked like the table was empty. At least, it was empty of food because once everything came into full view she could see there was something on the table.
The only thing on the table was the biggest, sharpest knife that Buffy knew was in the kitchen.
Faith hadn't even noticed that Buffy was standing at the entrance of the kitchen. She seemed to be in a staring contest with the knife on the table. Buffy was sure she hadn't even seen her blink since she'd been watching her.
The other slayer looked up at her and it was only then that Buffy fully realized the state Faith was in. It looked like she had been crying and that she was really struggling. It looked like she might snap at any minute but Buffy didn't think she was in any danger. That wasn't what the knife was for.
"I can't do this, Buffy."
Buffy cautiously took a couple steps into the room. "What do you mean?"
"My head," Faith just said, looking back to the knife. "Everything. They're telling me that this is the way out. It'll stop then."
"Faith, what are you talking about?"
Faith turned up her wrists so show outlines. Simple little marks on where to cut. "I woke up with them."
Buffy was horrified at the sight and for a moment she couldn't think of what to say. She was so sure that sleeping next to Faith was stopping the nightmares and whatever else was happening while Faith attempted to sleep. Even though it looked like Faith hadn't suffered any further injury, someone was still able to mess with her head.
"Who's telling you this? Do you see them, Faith?"
"Not really," Faith admitted. "I hear voices as everything happens. This one has been the strongest."
"You have to fight this, Faith."
It only took a few seconds for tears to begin to fall, causing Faith to look away. She looked at the knife again but didn't make a move to lift it. When she looked back at her the tears continued to fall and she made no move to wipe them away.
"Just let me do it, B. I can make it stop then. Everything will stop." She let out a sob she was trying to hold back. "Please, B. It has to stop. I just . . . I can't."
Buffy quickly moved to her and knelt down in front of her. She took hold of one of her hands and looked at the marks. It looked like just having her hands near them were causing the marks to begin to fade. "Faith, we can figure this out."
She shook her head a little. "No, B. We can't."
"That's not true," Buffy said and tried to compose herself as best she could. What Faith wanted to do wasn't something she has much experience with. She didn't know the best thing to say. "What do you think I'm doing here? I'm here to help you through all this and I'm not the only one."
Faith rocked in her chair a little and looked toward the knife again. "No, no. That's not how it works. The only way to make all this stop is to kill myself or . . ."
"Start killing," Faith whispered out. "I can't do that, B. I-I can't. I need to do this instead. Just let me do this. I need to die."
"No, this isn't the way," Buffy said, trying to keep it together. "This isn't what a slayer does, Faith. Think about that."
Faith squeezed her eyes shut like she was in pain and started to cry. "I can't, I can't, I can't." She kept repeating it over and over again.
Buffy moved up enough so she could put a hand against Faith's cheek and kept it there even though Faith winced at the touch. "Faith, please look at me." She leaned in and gave her the softest, lightest kiss she could. "Faith, look at me."
It took a minute but Faith opened her eyes and Buffy took the opportunity to kiss her again. She looked into her eyes and could tell Faith was at her breaking point. It scared her to the point she thought for a moment that she should call Giles but realized what time it was and hoped she could handle everything until the morning. She just needed to make sure Faith calmed down and if that meant staying up and holding her the entire night while she slept Buffy knew she was willing to make that sacrifice.
"Do you want to hurt me? Hurt my mom?" Faith shook her head and that made her continue. "You doing this will hurt us more than you know. My mom has started to really care about you and I . . . I do, too. I don't want anything to happen to you."
Buffy started to put her arms around her and Faith seemed to just collapse into them. She started to sob quietly and Buffy could only hold her for a minute, kissing the top of her head every once and awhile. After that she tried to whisper soothing things into her ear, attempting to get her to calm down before they went upstairs. She didn't want her mother to wake up again.
When Faith calmed down Buffy pulled away enough and wiped the tears off her cheeks. "I'm going to put the knife away, okay?"
Faith only nodded and Buffy let her go so she could pick up the knife and put in back in the drawer. She looked back at Faith and tried to give her a reassuring smile but the other girl wasn't looking at her. Instead, she only mumbled something so quiet not even Buffy's slayer hearing could pick it up.
"Sorry," she mumbled a little louder.
"It's okay," Buffy said quietly and kissed her again. She was happy that she felt Faith kiss her back. "You have nothing to apologize for. We both need to get some sleep and then we can figure all this out together."
"Okay, B," Faith said quietly. "I trust you."
Buffy let Faith lean against her as they walked out of the kitchen and then up the stairs. Once they got to Buffy's room Faith moved away from Buffy, crawling under the covers as she shut the door. They looked at each other for a moment before Buffy joined and in the moment time seemed to stop. Underneath all the pain and torment in Faith's eyes there was so much more. Her eyes had always been expressive but now they were showing so much more.
Buffy could see love in them and it made her heart stop. It was a small amount, all of Faith problems taking over the majority of her emotions, but it was unmistakable. It wasn't the time to comment on it though so she only got into bed with her and pulled her into her arms.
They kissed softly before Faith rested her head on Buffy's shoulder. Both of them finally let their bodies relax and Buffy hoped the next time she woke up it would be morning.
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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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