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FIC (B/F): Chutes & Ladders (16/19)

A/N: *Please do not distribute or post this story anywhere without my permission.* Thanks to cookiesarefood for her betaing skills.

Previously in Chutes...

Buffy nodded, leaning against her girlfriend when she pulled her close. She didn’t know what the hell that demon was, but she knew it couldn’t be anything good. And it hadn’t been working alone. This added up to one vague, but definitely scary picture. She just hoped Giles would have the answers she needed.



Part 4, Chapter 2

Buffy watched Faith from the corner of her eye. Giles and Wesley had been researching the demon that had attacked Faith since the previous night, but they had no answers yet. Buffy trusted their ability to get to the bottom of it, but it still bothered her, not knowing what had been done to Faith. She supposed this was just one of the cons of dating a vampire slayer. In the pro column, there was the awesome sex. In the cons, the unfortunate habit her girlfriend had of constantly getting into life threatening situations.

“You keep watching me, some vamp’s gonna catch you by surprise,” Faith told her in a teasing voice. She’d noticed the blonde’s attempts at nonchalance. 

“Well, did you have to wear the leather pants on patrol?” Buffy asked, trying to hide the real reason she’d been staring.

Faith laughed. “B, as nice as I know my ass is, that’s not why you’re watching me.”

Darn. Faith always saw right through her attempts at subterfuge… not that she made many. That was probably the problem, actually. She just wasn’t practicing her stealthiness enough. “I’m just worried they haven’t figured this out yet,” Buffy admitted. She sidled closer to Faith, ducking under her arm so she could snuggle against her side.

The pair were walking through downtown Sunnydale, wrapping up after patrol. The streets were empty and dark, leaving Faith with a sense of foreboding she just couldn’t shake. She eagerly curled her arm around Buffy, enjoying the warmth and comfort of having her girlfriend close. She opened her mouth to respond to Buffy, planning to tell her it was probably nothing to worry about, when a new thought came to her mind. Giles doesn’t care about you. He’s probably not even researching. He’d be glad to have you out of the way. The brunette blinked, considering it. It did make a certain kind of sense... “I’m sure Giles isn’t searching too hard,” she muttered finally.

Buffy was taken by surprise. She knew Faith wasn’t Giles’s biggest fan, with good reason, but she’d thought the brunette was starting to move past her issues with him. “He was up half the night researching,” she protested. “You should have seen him this morning in the library. His shirttail was actually showing. For Giles, that’s like showing up with your shirt on inside out and backwards.”

“Whatever,” Faith dismissed. He’d betrayed her once before. She had no reason to think Giles was on her side whatsoever.

“Are you okay?” Buffy’s voice was filled with concern, and she reached out for her girlfriend’s arm. Concerned, she stopped walking. She moved from under Faith’s arm, to stand in front of her. Faith seemed a little off kilter. Was she sick? They had no idea what effect that demon had had on her. She might be dying a slow death by demonic poisoning at this very moment.

“Sure,” the older girl said, “I’m five by five.” Suddenly, her head whipped in the direction of a sound.

Buffy placed a gentle hand on her arm, waiting for Faith to look back at her. “That’s a cat,” she pointed out, exasperated. “You’re not five by five. You’re really jumpy, what’s up?”

“Dunno,” Faith admitted, “I’m just amped up. Maybe it’s not knowing what that demon was after.” Suddenly feeling very anxious to get home, she took Buffy’s hand and began walking down the street again.

“Maybe,” Buffy said doubtfully, as Faith powerwalked them down the block. “I hope they tell us something soon. You’re starting to get me amped up too.”

The brunette cocked a mischievous eyebrow at her. “Wanna go back to my place and work off some of that tension?”

Buffy was momentarily caught up in the sheer attractiveness that was her leering girlfriend. Faith’s cheeks were flushed from the chill and slaying, and her hair was its usual wild, beautiful mane. She caught herself, and said dryly, “Well, when you put it so romantically, how can I say no?”

Faith bumped against her side, stopping for a moment. She wrapped an arm around Buffy’s waist. “Let me try again.” She lowered her chin, looking at Buffy through her eyelashes. “Baby,” she began in a sultry tone, and the blonde could feel her heartbeat speeding up, “how would you feel about bumpin’ some uglies?”

Slapping her arm, Buffy broke free from her hold. “Faith!” She quickly resumed walking down the street.

“Okay, okay,” the brunette called, reaching out after her.

Buffy allowed herself to be pulled to a stop and snuggled under Faith’s arm, although she did give a mean pout.

Kissing the pout away, Faith stroked her palm up and down Buffy’s back. “Seriously, can you stay over tonight? We don’t have to do anything; I was just playing.”

“Sure,” Buffy agreed, instantly dropping her pout. She was a little taken aback by this request. Faith didn’t usually ask her to stay over on school nights. If anything, she stayed at the blonde’s house with her. “I’ll just call my mom. I can probably stay.”

“Good,” Faith said quietly. Her eyes were cast down, and her arms remained holding on to her girlfriend.

Buffy looked at her in concern. Faith sounded so down. She pulled the brunette into a tight hug. “You’re really worried, huh?” She asked into the tangled strands of Faith’s hair.

The brunette just shrugged, not wanting to talk about it.

Buffy pulled back enough to look the other slayer in the face. Her hands moved up to cup Faith’s cheeks. “We’re gonna figure it out, okay?” She gently kissed Faith’s lips.

“I know,” Faith replied, but she still seemed unsure.

“Let’s go home,” Buffy said, taking her hand and starting them moving once more. She just hoped they got good news soon.

XXXXX

“Hey,” Faith said, as she walked into her bedroom. “Get everything squared away with Mrs. S?” She rubbed moisturizer up and down her arms as she spoke, preparing to climb in bed.

“Yep,” Buffy replied, already under the covers and hogging all of them. Faith had grown accustomed to Buffy’s complete inability to share the bedding, so the sight came as no surprise. The blonde patted the covers beside her invitingly, eager to get Faith into bed and curled up with her.

“Do you think she suspects something after the other night?” Faith asked, suddenly worried about it. Joyce knows about you. Knows you’re sleeping with her daughter. She’s going to stop Buffy from seeing you. You’re worthless, who would want their daughter with you?

“I thought you said there was no way she would?” Buffy felt herself panicking a little bit now. Her mom had seemed perfectly oblivious on the phone… “No, I think it’s fine.”

“Okay,” the brunette said uncertainly, as she got in to bed. Immediately, she pressed herself against Buffy’s side, pulling the blonde into her arms.

It was obvious that getting home had not eased any of Faith’s anxiety. Buffy held her tightly, rubbing her back in soothing circles. “Are you okay?” She asked gently. Her worry for Faith was making her own chest feel tight.

Face buried against her shoulder, Faith shook her head. She trembled within Buffy’s arms. It doesn’t matter if Joyce knows or not. Buffy’s not gonna stick with you for long…

“What is it, Faith?” The blonde kept rubbing her back, trying to calm her down. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” the other girl replied, voice shaking. She really didn’t know. She just suddenly felt so afraid that Buffy might leave her. Her life prior to Sunnydale had been one of loneliness and neglect, and she was so afraid to lose what she’d gained here. Buffy, her calling, her watcher… they all seemed so precarious, as if they could disappear at a moment’s notice. You’ll lose everything. You don’t deserve it anyway. You’re worthless. “B,” she said suddenly, her voice high and thin, “don’t leave me.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” the blonde assured her, feeling more frightened by the moment. “I’m right here with you.” Her heart broke at Faith’s words. She cared so deeply for the other slayer; how could Faith not get that?

A quiet sniffle was her answer, and Faith held on tighter to her waist.

Buffy held on just as firmly, feeling helpless. She stroked Faith’s long hair, trying to soothe the other girl. “I’m right here,” she repeated quietly. “I’m not going anywhere. We’ll figure this out together.” Whatever was happening to the brunette, Buffy could tell she was seriously afraid. And Faith wasn’t the only one who was scared.

XXXXX

The sun was shining when Faith woke up alone, her hand searching the empty side of her bed. Her eyes snapped open as she sat up. “Buffy?” She called, hating the waver she could hear in her voice. Suddenly, she felt certain that the other slayer had decided she didn’t want to date her anymore, and had escaped while she was sleeping. Why wouldn’t she?

A blonde head poked through the doorway, toothbrush dangling from her mouth. “Getting ready,” she managed to say around the dental instrument. Buffy was already dressed for the day, in her marginally clean jeans from the night before and one of Faith’s shirts.

Buffy’s continued presence in the apartment should have assuaged Faith’s concerns, but it didn’t really. Her stomach tightened painfully when the blonde disappeared back to the bathroom. She couldn’t shake the feeling that their relationship was about to come to an end. Buffy cares about me, she tried to tell herself. She wants to help me. Everything will be okay.

“You wanna come with me to school?” The blonde asked, as she came back into the room. “We can check in with Giles, see what they’ve found.”

There won’t be anything. Giles will make sure of that. Can’t trust him… “Okay,” Faith agreed, swinging her legs out of bed. She didn’t trust Giles in the slightest, but at least it would give her more time with Buffy.

The smaller girl walked toward her, wrapping her arms around the still seated Faith. Brushing some tangled hair away from her face, she asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” Faith lied. Buffy was probably looking for reasons to get out anyway; she wasn’t going to hand them to her.

“You sure?” The blonde studied her critically. Faith had been so out of sorts last night. Buffy didn’t believe for a moment that the other slayer was really fine. Something serious was going on.

“Yeah.” Faith leaned forward, planting a loud kiss on Buffy’s stomach.

Giggling, Buffy slid back out of her reach.

The moment of levity over, Faith got up to get dressed. She had a feeling they weren’t in for good news at the library.

XXXXX

In the library, the gang was gathered, musty tomes and a box of donuts spread before them on the table. Once the slayers were seated, Giles wasted no time in getting down to business. He placed a heavy book in front of Faith and pointed to an entry. “Althesia demon,” he said without ceremony.

Across the table, Wesley nodded in agreement, barely looking up from the notes he was making.

“What does it do?” Buffy asked, snagging a donut from the box Xander had offered them. Faith hadn’t helped herself to one, another sure sign that something was wrong.

“It feeds on a person’s fears,” Wesley replied, looking up from his notepad at last. “It elevates them to a hyper paranoid state.”

“That does not sound of the good,” Buffy remarked with a frown. Paranoia certainly explained some of Faith’s behavior from the night before. “What happens to the person being fed on?”

The two watchers exchanged furtive glances. Giles tried to skirt the subject. “We’ve found the antidote and—”

“Giles?” The blonde interrupted. “You’re scaring me. Why are you avoiding the question?”

It was Wesley who admitted, “Historically, victims have killed themselves when it becomes too much.” He cast a concerned look in Faith’s direction.

All eyes at the table now turned to Faith, as if she were about to commit suicide at any moment. Buffy was particularly horrified. This demon was going to make Faith kill herself? Not on her watch! She was going to find that demon, dismember it, and make it regret the day it had made the mistake of attacking Buffy Summers’s girlfriend.

“Faith,” Giles addressed the quiet slayer, “you’ve probably already been feeling some effects. Any thoughts or feelings you’ve had that might seem… out of the ordinary?”

“No,” the slayer replied. All of her thoughts seemed quite ordinary to her. She didn’t trust Giles, but what else is new? Buffy was probably going to dump her, but that seemed fairly grounded in reality too.

Buffy looked at the brunette in dismay. Faith was definitely not acting normally. Couldn’t she tell? Turning to their watchers, she volunteered, “She was really jumpy on patrol last night.” She thought of Faith’s clinginess the night before, but decided it was too personal to share.

Faith shot back an accusing look. “I wasn’t that jumpy. We’re risking our lives, don’t I have a reason to be nervous?” See how she sides with them? Buffy doesn’t care about you.

“Of course,” Wesley cut in smoothly. In reality, he knew his slayer was the type to fight first, think later. Nervousness was not usually on the menu for her patrols. Clearly, she was already being affected by this demon.

“How do we fix this?” Buffy asked anxiously.

“There’s a potion,” the younger watcher gestured to the book he was holding. “We have most of the ingredients we need. Willow is assisting me with it.”

The redhead beamed with pride. “We’ll have it done this afternoon, but it needs to sit for a couple hours before it’ll be ready.”

“Will Faith be okay until then?” Buffy asked, unconvinced. The others hadn’t seen the changes in Faith like she had. Who knew how the brunette would be by later?

“I’m fine, B,” the brunette protested. She thinks something’s wrong with you. She doesn’t believe you. She’s just looking for an excuse to get rid of you.

Giles shrugged helplessly. “I hope so. All the same, maybe Faith, you should skip patrol tonight. If your mind is being influenced, you won’t be at top form.” Why doesn’t he want you on patrol? He’s up to something.

Wesley tried to sound more reassuring. “Everything will be fine, Faith. I’ll come by this evening when the potion is complete.”

Suddenly, terrifyingly, she knew that Wesley was planning to do something horrible to her. The council isn’t happy you survived the cruciamentum. This is the second chance they’ve been waiting for… His betrayal stung much more than she had expected. She’d trusted him, believed he cared about her. But now she knew he had been plotting against her all this time. How could she have been so stupid?

“Are you alright?” Her watcher asked. The slayer had gone a little pale.

“Five by five,” she assured him, getting control of herself. Wesley would not be getting the best of her. Definitely not. When he came over later, she’d be ready for him.

XXXXX

Faith paced the length of her living room, waiting for Wesley to make an appearance. Her weapons collection was spread across her coffee table. She had been cleaning it, but she had ulterior motives as well. She had to be prepared for whatever Wesley would attempt tonight. He won’t be working alone. Giles will be with him. Probably backup from the council. Yes, that sounded right. They were obviously planning to hit her hard and fast. She wasn’t as stupid as they thought she was. She’d be ready.

Anxiety gnawed at the pit of her stomach, and she found herself chewing at her cuticles. She wondered where Buffy was and how patrol was going. Maybe Buffy’s in on this too. Faith paused her pacing. Could that be? Would Buffy do that to her? No, she decided. Buffy was a hero. A really good person. She wouldn’t be plotting against Faith this way. Then she must be in danger too.

Faith’s forehead beaded with sweat. That’s why Giles didn’t want you on patrol! He’s planning to attack Buffy! Faith’s hands shook at her sides. Buffy! How had she been so stupid? The other slayer was out on patrol, alone and vulnerable to the council’s attack. Racing to the table, she gathered several weapons. She’d find Buffy. They’d take on the council together. You’re probably too late already. Faith shook her head violently. She had to try. Charging from her apartment, she barely managed to slam the door behind her before disappearing down the hall.

XXXXX

Buffy staked the vampire in front of her without any of her usual fanfare. She was too worried to spend time quipping. Pocketing her stake, she turned back to her friends.

“You okay?” Willow asked, her eyes wide and sympathetic.

The slayer shook her head sadly. “I’m just worried about Faith. She practically begged me not to go on patrol tonight.”

“She’s really scared, huh?”

“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, leading the way towards the cemetery exit.

Xander tried to reassure her. “It’s gonna be okay, Buff. Will’s potion will be done tonight and then Faith’ll be back to her usual self.”

“I hope so.” Buffy couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something was wrong. She couldn’t stop dwelling on her earlier conversation with Faith. She’d walked the brunette home, promising to check in after patrol. Faith had been paranoid and wanted her to skip it all together. She’d managed to extract herself from the other slayer’s grip and get out of the apartment, but now she wasn’t so sure she’d done the right thing. Faith was alone and obviously paranoid. She could be in trouble.

Willow placed a comforting arm around her shoulder. “Why don’t we go home early and you can call her? We can go to her place so you’ll be there when she takes the potion.”

“Thanks, Will,” Buffy smiled gratefully. “That’s a good idea.”

The trio entered the street, starting on the path to Buffy’s house.

“Does Giles have any idea who this demon was working with?” Xander asked.

“Not yet.”

“I hate when they work together like this,” Willow complained.

“Why are vampires even working with demons now?” Xander asked. “Don’t they have any dignity?”

The redhead tacked on, “Vampires these days, sheesh. No integrity at all.”

“Remember the good old days when they just wanted to escape mystical imprisonment and turn Sunnydale into an all you can eat buffet?”

“Those were the days,” Buffy agreed wistfully.

As they neared her home, the slayer’s skull started to tingle in a familiar way. “Faith’s here,” she said, surprised.

The friends exchanged a nervous glance. Faith had been expressly told to stay in her apartment. And from what Buffy had said, she’d been behaving erratically. The slayer charged up the walkway, her friends close at her heels.

As Buffy entered the front door, the sound of shouting drew her to the living room. Joyce sat cowering on the couch. In front of her, Faith bobbed and weaved, a gleaming knife in her hand.

“I just need to know where she is,” she was telling Joyce, frantically. “They’re going to kill her. Gotta save her.”

“I told you,” Joyce tried to remain calm. “She’s patrolling.”

“She’s not,” Faith screamed, as Buffy’s mother tried to sink even further into the couch. The slayer seemed to make a conscious effort to get a hold of herself, and lowered her voice. “She’s not. I couldn’t find her anywhere.”

“Faith,” the frightened woman’s voice cracked. “Please…”

The slayer stepped very close to Joyce. Her voice was low, as she considered the woman. “Did you know they were going to do something to her?”

“No!” Joyce cried, just as Buffy stepped into the doorway and said, “Faith? What’s going on?”

“B!” The dark slayer turned toward her, launching herself across the room. She threw herself heavily into Buffy’s arms. Immediately, she pressed her mouth against the other girl’s, kissing her desperately.

Acutely aware that her mother was watching this whole scene, Buffy pulled back gently. She wrapped her arms around the shaking slayer. Over Faith’s shoulder, Buffy met her mother’s shocked gaze. ‘It’s okay,’ she mouthed, as her cheeks flushed. They were in for a serious conversation later.

Faith’s fingers dug into the blonde’s arms as she began babbling. “The council’s coming, B. They’re coming for both of us. They’ll kill us for sure this time. Gonna finish the job. I came to get you; gotta protect you.”

Buffy nodded, trying to keep up with Faith’s panicked ranting. “Okay,” Buffy stroked her back reassuringly. “You found me. We’re both okay.”

Shaking her head wildly, Faith protested, “We have to go. We gotta run before they get here.”

“It’s okay, Faith. We’re safe here,” the blonde tried to tell her. She kept her hands on Faith, hoping she’d be able to stop any attempt at running.

Willow and Xander stepped into the room, moving closer to Joyce. Buffy noticed Willow had placed their cordless phone down on the table. She shot her a questioning look. Had the redhead called their watchers? Willow gave her an exaggerated nod, sitting down beside Joyce.

“Let’s sit down for a minute, okay?” Buffy asked gently, trying to maneuver Faith’s clinging form toward the loveseat.

“No!” Faith cried. “We have to go now!” She stepped out of the blonde’s hold, suddenly looking at her suspiciously. “You don’t want to go with me, do you?”

“Yes,” Buffy replied immediately. “Of course I want to go with you.”

“No,” the older girl shook her head, tears rapidly filling her eyes. “You don’t.” Buffy doesn’t want you. You already knew it. Just leave; you’re making a fool of yourself.

“I do, Faith,” the younger girl said sincerely. She reached for Faith, wanting to wipe the tears from her cheeks.

She’s lying. “You’re lying,” the brunette said, slapping her hands away.

“I’m not,” Buffy insisted. She desperately tried to remain calm, wondering what she could do to convince Faith, short of leaving the house.

Tears trickled down Faith’s face, as she shook her head rapidly. She took another step away from the blonde. “You’re lying. You don’t want me anymore! I know it.”

If Buffy was mortified to be having this conversation in front of her mother, she managed not to show it. “Faith,” she said quietly, stepping closer and placing her hands on either side of the brunette’s face. “I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anything.” She looked deeply into Faith’s eyes, willing the other girl to believe her.

The dark slayer didn’t know what to trust. Her mind was finding these words hard to accept. She’s lying. Why is she trying to get you to stay here? This is a trap! But somehow… she found herself questioning her own mind.

“Faith, look at me,” Buffy commanded. She sensed the confusion and turmoil in the other slayer and knew it was the demon working on her.

Faith made eye contact.

“We’re going to leave, okay?” Buffy’s hands slid down her neck to cup her shoulders, squeezing them soothingly.

“Okay,” Faith said uncertainly.

“I need to talk to my mom for a few minutes,” Buffy told her. “Can you go up to my room and pack a couple things for me?”

Relief flooded Faith’s body. They were leaving, together. She nodded her agreement.

“Thank you,” the blonde said quietly, releasing her girlfriend. “I’ll be up in a minute.”

Faith all but ran upstairs to get started, and Buffy sagged slightly against the armchair.

“Wow,” Xander commented in a whisper.

“Buffy,” Joyce began, in a quiet, controlled voice, “what the hell is going on?”

Flushing, Buffy met her mother’s eyes. “Faith was infected by a demon that’s making her paranoid. She’s not herself right now.” She knew that didn’t even begin to answer her mother’s questions, but she didn’t have time for more. “We can talk about the rest later,” Buffy promised. “Right now, we don’t have time to waste.” She looked to Willow. “What did Wesley say?”

“He’s on his way,” the redhead assured her.

Trying to think of how to stall Faith until he got there, Buffy nodded. “Okay, I’m going up with her.”

“Can you hold her until he gets here?” Xander asked.

“I have to,” Buffy replied. “I just hope he gets here fast.”

Leaving the living room, the slayer headed upstairs. Her bedroom door stood open. Inside, Faith frantically packed clothing and weapons. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her packing. Swords were thrown in with dresses. Mr. Gordo shared an oversized purse with one of Buffy’s smaller axes. “All good with your mom?” Faith asked.

“She’s upset,” Buffy replied noncommittally. Stepping into the room, she moved toward Faith and drew her into a hug.

The brunette squeezed back. “You okay?”

“Why would you think I don’t want you?” Buffy asked, rather than replying. It was really hard to process what was happening to Faith. She felt so sturdy in Buffy’s arms. The blonde could tell the person she loved was still there; there was no denying the tenderness in Faith’s touch. But she was behaving erratically and obviously fighting a losing battle with the paranoia in her own mind.

“B,” Faith sighed, “we don’t have time to talk about this right now.”

“Well, you need to make time,” the smaller slayer insisted.

Faith knew there was no time. The council would be there any minute to cart them both off. Or worse. “I don’t know,” she replied, hoping Buffy would let it go.

“I don’t accept that.” She’d been trying to stall Faith, but found her words were actually true. It hurt, seeing Faith doubt her and doubt them as a couple.

“I’ve just been thinking it lately,” Faith admitted. “Please, B,” she added desperately, “we can talk about this later.”

“Faith,” Buffy didn’t think reasoning would work, but she had to try. “That’s the demon making you think that.”

The dark slayer paused, considering it. “No,” she said finally. “It’s not. I don’t even think anything happened to me.”

“What?” Buffy asked, incredulously. Faith didn’t think she’d even been attacked by a demon? Downstairs, she heard the very faint sound of the front door opening.

Being less familiar with the house, Faith hadn’t noticed the brief sound. “I think they were lying about that demon. They might even have sent it to the cemetery for me. It’s all part of a plan they’ve got.”

She sounded totally crazy, but Buffy pretended to agree. Knowing she didn’t need to stall anymore, she said, “Maybe you’re right.”

Relief was obvious on Faith’s face. “So can we get out of here? We don’t have much time.”

“Let’s go,” Buffy said, picking up the bag Faith had packed for her.

The brunette led the way downstairs, planning to head right out the door. As she stepped into the foyer, she detected motion in her peripheral vision.

Buffy barely had time to catch the potion as it slid from Wesley’s fingers. Faith had thrown the watcher against the wall, pinning him there with her forearm against his throat. Wesley gasped for air.

“How many of you are there?” She demanded.

“Faith, let him go,” Buffy ordered, tugging on the brunette’s arm. Faith was out of control now, hurting Wesley. As much as she didn’t want to believe it, she knew the other slayer could easily kill him if she felt threatened.

“He’s here to kill us!” Faith shouted. Why didn’t Buffy understand that? Faith was only trying to keep them both safe!

Buffy squeezed her arm, trying to calm her down. “He’s here because Willow called him,” she corrected.

Shooting a betrayed look in Buffy’s direction, Faith asked, “What?” She was never on your side! She’s working with them!

“He brought this,” Buffy shook the potion in her hand, “for you.”

“Poison!” The taller girl spat, her arm pressing harder into Wesley’s throat.

“It’s not,” Buffy reassured her earnestly. Her worried gaze swept over Wesley’s face. His skin was flushed, beginning to purple. He couldn’t breathe.

Don’t trust her. She called him here. She’s helping them!

“Please, baby,” Buffy pressed in closer to Faith, insinuating herself in front of the watcher. Faith was forced to ease the pressure of her arm or risk hurting Buffy. “Please trust me.” If she couldn’t get through to Faith, plan B would be to knock her out. She really didn’t want to hit her girlfriend.

Faith shook her head, struggling to understand what was happening. Buffy wanted her to drink the potion. Maybe it wasn’t what she thought. No! It’s poison! They’re trying to kill you!

Buffy kept talking, looking into Faith’s eyes. “I only want to help you.” She held the potion up for Faith to see. “This is going to make it better, I promise.” Please let her believe me, she wished fervently.

“No,” Faith protested, taking a step back now. Free, Wesley slumped down the wall, sucking in air. Willow, Xander, and Joyce stood in the doorway to the living room, watching the interaction between the slayers with concern.

Buffy stepped after the other slayer. “Just drink it, and everything will be okay.”

“No,” Faith protested again, starting to cry. She was so confused. Part of her mind was screaming at her to run, get the hell out of this house and away from the people who wanted to hurt her. But another part was speaking up, telling her to trust Buffy.

The blonde reached out tentatively, touching Faith’s waist with her empty hand. “I promise. Everything will be fine.”

Faith shook her head.

Buffy crowded into the brunette’s space, slipping her arms around her. She ran her palm over Faith’s hair, kissing her wet cheek gently. “I would never do anything to hurt you,” she promised fiercely. “I love you.”

Faith froze. Buffy had never said that before. She looked into the blonde’s eyes, searching for any sign of deception there.

Buffy stared back at her with frightened, but clearly sincere, eyes.

Don’t trust her! Run! You have to run! The voice in her head’s screams became increasingly louder. Faith hesitated.

“Please,” Buffy repeated, seeing that she was losing Faith. Her voice wavered.

Taking the bottle from Buffy, Faith uncorked it and lifted it to her lips. Over the sounds of screaming in her mind, she drank.

XXXXX

Thanks for reading. :) Please let me know what you thought!