Chapter Five

The walk back to Buffy's house understandably took a bit longer with Faith's dead weight slowing her down. It was nearly dark out which she was grateful for because she had no idea how she'd explain away what she was doing to anyone who saw her carrying an unconscious teenager around.

She'd debated again and again where to go, unable to find anywhere that was completely safe. The Council knew where Giles lived and worked, so both his house and the library were out of the question. Willow and Xander's houses were out of the question because; well . . . no way did she trust that Faith would be all hunky-dory when she woke up.

No, the safest place was at her own home where she could watch over the girl through the night and not have to worry about her mother wondering where she was all night long. Joyce knew about their falling out and would more than likely support any of Buffy's attempts to make things right with Faith, especially if it meant saving Faith's life in the process.

When she finally reached her house, she was surprised to find it dark. Her muscles were aching terribly and when she'd shifted Faith over her shoulder, she was pretty sure the girl started drooling down her back.

"Oh, that's attractive," she grumbled as she walked up the front porch steps, grimacing when she felt the wet patch on her shirt clinging to her skin.

She dug around in her pocket with her spare hand and produced her keys which jingled this way and that until she found the right key. Just as she got the key in the door, she heard a small noise from the street. She turned and saw her neighbor and his dog standing there, out for a walk and looking at her like she was crazy.

"Darn kids these days," she quickly covered. "All that drinking and partying. So discouraging!" She shook her head in mock disappointment and quickly let herself into the house before he could reply in any way.

Safely inside, she went to lean back against the door and stopped only when she heard the thud Faith's head made when it collided with the hard wood.

"Oops!" she said and quickly turned, banging Faith's head into the coat rack as she spun around and toppling it to the ground.

A still unconscious Faith groaned in her slumber and Buffy stayed completely still, waiting until she knew for sure that Faith was still sleeping until she started moving again. She walked into the living room and plopped Faith down on the couch, then stood up straight and cracked her back loudly.

She started off toward the kitchen, sighing with relief that she was finally able to walk normally without the added weight of Faith. Heading straight for the refrigerator where she and Joyce often left notes for one another, she wasn't surprised to see a hastily scribbled note waiting for her.

Dinner's in the fridge. I'll be home by 10:00. Try to squeeze some studying in, final exams are coming up.
Love, Mom

Buffy smiled and pulled the note down, crumbling it up with one hand while opening the freezer with the other. She bypassed dinner altogether and went straight for a grape Popsicle which she easily unwrapped and slid into her mouth. Still unsure of what she was going to do with Faith, she picked up the phone and dialed an all-too-familiar phone number. The line rang three times before Giles picked up.

"Giles, it's me. I have her."

"Did she come without a fight?"

Buffy snuck her head around the wall and took a peek at the still unconscious girl.

"In a word," she said vaguely. At Giles' continued silence, she finished, "Kind of hard to struggle while unconscious."

"Are you both unharmed?"

"For now, but I'm willing to bet she's gonna try to cause some serious carnage when she wakes up."

"Perhaps it would be best if I were to join you. Together we might be able to . . ."

"I don't think so, Giles. Not that I don't appreciate it, but the less people I have to worry about, the better. I'm gonna keep her here tonight and when she wakes, I'll see how cooperative she is."

"If you decide to move her, it would be best done during the day. They believe they're lawless but even the Council won't pull anything in broad daylight."

"We'll see about that," Buffy said forlornly. She wouldn't quite put anything past the Council these days. They knew better than to come to her house after she'd parted ways with them after the cruciamentum, but she knew that wouldn't stop them from following her around in her travels. "I'll talk to you soon."

"Yes, call when she wakes. And Buffy? Please, take care."

Buffy nodded even though she knew he couldn't see it and set the phone back on the receiver. She gave the Popsicle a couple of licks to collect the melting juice and then made her way back to the living room through the dining room.

The coat rack was still on the floor so she bent to pick it up, placing the Popsicle in her mouth so that she could use both hands. Just as it was standing straight and the coats were hanging safely back on it, Buffy nearly inhaled the Popsicle when she saw someone standing up in the living room out of the corner of her eyes. She froze, waiting for Faith to lash out, but the attack never came. Taking a few tentative steps toward the living room, she flicked on the light to find Faith standing but still completely asleep.

"You're a sleepwalker now?" Buffy asked aloud, frowning when she got no answer in response. Not that she'd actually expected an answer, but she wouldn't have put it past Faith to answer just to freak her out.

She grumbled to herself and leaned over in front of Faith, putting her shoulder into Faith's abdomen so that she could hoist her up and carry her up the stairs. If she could just get the girl up in her room before her mom came home, she'd have time to explain things and try to get Joyce on her side.

The walk up the stairs was slow and a bit unsteady but Buffy did it like a champ, even managing to continue eating her Popsicle along the way. She sighed with relief when she reached the top of the stairs and turned into her room, opting not to turn on the light. Her bed was neatly made and she gently laid Faith down on top of the blankets, not yet sure on how to handle the situation.

Tranquilizers worked on slayers but not like they did on regular humans. She had no idea when or how Faith would wake up, but she knew she had to come up with some kind of a plan for when she did. She stood there and watched the sleeping slayer for a few minutes more, finishing the Popsicle while going over things in her head.

The plan she came up with was a simple one: wait until Faith woke up, try to talk to her, reason with her, and then tranq her again if needed.

Satisfied with her bad plan, she hung her jacket on the back of her bedroom door and was about to sit down at the chair in front of her vanity when she realized her hands were sticky from the Popsicle. As much as she didn't want to leave Faith unattended, the bathroom was just down the hall and she had a clear view down the hallway if Faith tried to escape. Not that she thought the girl would wake up anytime soon; she was still snoring away like a baby.

Or like a grown man. Whatever.

Taking one last glimpse at the girl, she headed down the hall to the bathroom, leaving her bedroom door wide open as she walked out. She turned the faucet on and waited for the water to run warm before putting her hands under it and rubbing them gingerly together. The handsoap smelled nice and felt great on her skin, lathering nicely until it looked like she was wearing a pair of bubble gloves. The thought made her smile and she laughed quietly to herself, pretending that she was a boxer and taking a few jabs at her reflection in the mirror.

She laughed and shook her head as she rinsed the soap off. How old was she, ten? When she turned to wipe her hands on the towel, she nearly fell over when she saw Faith standing there, watching her with a scowl.

"You shot me," Faith said through clenched teeth.

"Weren't you just sleeping?" Buffy asked, trying to take a peek around Faith. What she was looking for, she had no idea, but it was better than looking at Faith's terrifying face right that moment.

"You SHOT me," Faith said again, taking a step closer.

Buffy instinctively took a step back, then mentally kicked herself at the way she so easily relented to Faith's menacing posture.

"It was for your own good. I needed to get you someplace safe because you seemed so determined to take on three men with guns head on."

"How the fuck do you know what's good for me, B? Honestly, I'd love to know. Enlighten me."

Faith's voice was low and menacing and she continued to step forward, backing Buffy further and further into the bathroom.

"Well, I generally like to think that anything that doesn't involve you getting yourself killed is good for you."

"You stopped caring what happened to me the second something bad happened between us."

"No I didn't," Buffy said with as much sincerity as possible.

"Yes you fucking did!" Faith shouted, suddenly right up in her face as Buffy found her back against a wall.

"I was mad but I never stopped caring!" Buffy finally yelled back, regaining some of the upper hand as she took a step forward and Faith took a step back. "We got into trouble - together - and we could've made it right, but you needed it to be a dark dirty secret. And then when things got rough, you pawned it off on me. Normal people don't do that, Faith!"

"And we're not normal people, Buffy!" Faith screamed back.

Maybe they were screaming, but at least they were communicating. Maybe this was the way slayers communicated; loudly and with threatening gestures.

"I was alone, B!" Faith yelled, her eyes wild. "You had the friends and the caring Watcher and I had the weenie that turned me in first chance he got. You wanna talk about self-preservation? The Council was gonna get rid of me then so I took the fuck off."

"Yeah? Well the Council is coming after you again Faith, and here I am, offering to help you and go through this with you. All you have to do is fucking take my hand and we will go through this. Together."

"You're forgetting that I'm not alone anymore," Faith said, the evil grin on her face almost scaring Buffy. "I've got people on my side now."

"People that have you do their dirty work, Faith."

"And what's slaying? A nice, clean job? Different side of the same coin, B. I just go where I'm wanted."

Buffy wanted to scream and punch some walls, and maybe punch Faith a little too if she was being perfectly honest with herself. She wouldn't do that though. Not now. Not when she had a chance of getting through to Faith.

"Slayers don't kill indiscriminately. We kill the bad guys and keep people safe. You can't do that when you're playing for the wrong team."

Faith offered her a sickeningly sweet smile then that literally made her stomach turn. Whatever came out of her mouth next wasn't going to be fun, that much was certain.

"Sounds to me like you're tryin to lure me back from the dark side. Make me see my wrongs and all the good stuff I'm missin'. Is that it? Huh?" When Buffy didn't say anything, Faith pressed on. "Gonna have to sweeten up the offer. C'mon, B. What can you offer me that the boss hasn't? Some cookies? A Scooby Welcome Back party? Hmm?"

Buffy knew that she shouldn't take Faith's bait but at this point, she needed to do anything she could to keep Faith right where she was. The Council assassins would be there by morning and she needed to keep her safe and off of their radar. Taking a deep breath, Buffy's shoulders slumped just enough for Faith to notice.

"What do you want to hear, Faith? That I want you back on our side? Then yes. I want you back, fighting for us rather than against us. You want a party? A place to stay? A puppy? I'll make it happen. Anything you want."

"Anything I want, hmm?" Faith said, approaching Buffy and making the girl step backward again. "Oh B, you know what I want."

Faith's hands were suddenly on Buffy's hips and Buffy's gaze flickered down before looking back up into her suddenly dark eyes. She hadn't been counting on that. Faith had always been a flirt but . . . this was too much. She couldn't give her that!

Could she?

She went to speak but was cut off by a pair of soft lips kissing her hard. It took her by surprise and she knew that it wasn't going to be that easy but she decided to go along with it just to see how far Faith was really going to go with this. She opened her mouth and kissed Faith back with everything she had, fighting back a whimper when Faith's tongue caressed hers. Faith seemed a bit surprised but pushed on, not fighting the way Buffy was trying to make the kiss less hard. Less forced.

Neither girl was sure who whimpered but suddenly Faith jumped back and was almost half way across the bathroom when Buffy finally managed to open her eyes.

"Sure are a good actor, B. Almost had me going for a minute there."

"What? Faith, I . . ."

Faith quickly moved and Buffy stopped speaking when she heard something whiz softly across the room. She looked down at her stomach and at the tranquilizer dart that was embedded in it, then up at Faith who was still standing with the tranq gun in her hands.

"Wait . . . Faith, don't . . ."

Another soft whiz sounded and Buffy felt a sharp sting in her shoulder. She sluggishly pulled the darts from her body and when she looked up, Faith's form was nothing but a blurry lump.

"E for Effort, Buff, but it's gonna take more than that."

Then Faith was gone and Buffy felt the cold ceramic tiles of the bathroom floor against her face before she drifted off into unconsciousness.

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