Slaying inner demons (thanks for title Lupo  )

Chapter 3

Buffy didn't' say anything for a while as she continued to tow Faith along as quickly as was possible while half dragging, half carrying her. But she could not shake off her strong feelings, could not shift her thinking elsewhere. How could she be so flippant about this- and how could she not take care of herself any better than that?! Yeah, it had been a long, hard, hurtful day, but there was no excuse for that- there was no-

Her thoughts built up faster and faster in her mind, and before she knew it Buffy was snapping at her again, without having intended to. She looked down at her despite the awkward angle it required as she continued to take her back towards her motel.

"Faith, you can't drink like that! It's dangerous! They could've slipped something in your drink- did you leave it alone?! It's DANGEROUS! If you don't watch it, you're really going to get hurt some day doing that, by a vampire, if not a person! Do you think they'd care if it was a fair fight, if you were alert and sober or not? NO! NO, they just see, 'oooh, Slayer, kill her!' If humans can get to you like that, a vampire definitely could! Faith, you've got to think! Next time you're in a situation like that, someone might not be around to bail you out!"

Buffy felt Faith's loose muscles tense against her before she ever spoke, and she knew her response was going to be far from submissive and agreeable. Faith's words were still uneven, slightly fuzzy, but the bitter anger behind them was clear.

"You don't have to fuckin' tell me, B, I KNOW…I know...I fucked up! I'm a fuck up… I know that…can't do nothing right! My fault…everything's my fault….look at Faith the Fuck Up, it's her fault. Keep telling me, 'cause I don't KNOW that, B…"

Buffy knew then that she had gone too far. Yes, she was upset, yes, she was angry…but Faith wasn't ready to be reasoned with, to be lectured. Now was not the time… no matter how stupidly she had acted or how frustrating she was behaving now, she didn't need to be railed at now.

"Faith," she said more quietly, trying to see her eyes again as she kept moving with her, taking her down the darkened street. "It's not your fault they wanted to hurt you. It was your fault you drank enough that they'd be able to… but it wasn't your fault that they wanted to. You understand that, don't you?"

She paused, trying to read Faith's expression and getting nowhere with that- the other Slayer's eyes had glassed over in a way that looked to Buffy as if it was deliberate. Could she really do that at will- had she been doing that earlier, with the men? Was she not nearly as drunk as she seemed?

"Faith…" Buffy tried again, trying to speak gently. "You don't have to do that, you know… you don't have to get that drunk. You don't have to-"

"Yeah I do, B," Faith interrupted, and what struck Buffy was not her words, but how suddenly serious she sounded saying them…how sober. "I really fuckin' do."

Buffy had no idea how to respond to that, what to say. It was obvious that Faith believed what she was saying…

And now the guilt was kicking in even stronger, along with her worry. Was all this over what had happened with Gwendolyn Post… what had happened between them? Or was there more to it… was that just a small part of what had made Faith feel the need to behave so self-destructively?

She didn't know…and now, she wasn't sure she even wanted to. Not saying anything back to Faith, she just continued to lead her away, not knowing what else to do, even as her mind sput with her uneasy, still vivid thoughts.

By the time they reached her motel, Faith was leaning on her more heavily than ever, her eyes starting to droop closed once more, her muscles relaxing again. Buffy continued to support her in one arm as she opened the door, using the key she had dug out of Faith's tight pocket (way too tight for Buffy's comfort), and helped her inside, setting her gently on the bed. Faith slouched hover where Buffy set her, lowering her head slightly and letting her arms lie limply in her lap. She had been quiet the rest of the way back, and after Buffy made a call to her mother, explaining with rather vague wording that she was going to stay the night with Faith, she looked over at her with a little frown of concern. The brunette didn't look well, on so many levels…

"Faith? Are you okay?" she asked, going to stand before her. "You're not going to throw up, are you… or pass out or something…"

God, Buffy hoped not. Not only because that would be bad for Faith, which it was, of course, she told herself hurriedly, but because she wouldn't know how to handle it. Well, okay, she'd know what to do. Clean up the puke, and she'd seen Giles unconscious enough by now to know what to do about that…but she wouldn't know how to DEAL with it…

To her relief, Faith shook her head faintly, her eyes half closed in a way that made her look about ten seconds away from belying her own claim.

"No…need to sleep," she muttered. "Need sleep…"

Still watching her with a little frown, Buffy regarded her for a few more moments before going into Faith's small, not exactly luxurious bathroom. It took her a few minutes, but she finally scrounged up a cup and some aspirin. Filling the cup with water, she took four pills and carried them in the bedroom to Faith, who had already lay down, her eyes closed. Buffy shook her shoulder gently, and her heart squeezed strangely when Faith's eyes opened in little slits, not seeming too pleased.

"Sit up a second, Faith, take these… you're going to feel horrible in the morning, maybe these will help a little."

When Faith didn't respond, Buffy sat her up herself, handing them to her and waiting until she took them. After she had, Faith lay back down, curling into a ball as she closed her eyes once more. Buffy sat down beside her, just looking at her… she wanted to be annoyed with her, to be angry, but she couldn't be. Looking at Faith scrunched up in a near fetal position, her eyes closed as tightly as she could make them, Buffy just wanted to hug her… and again, she wasn't sure why.

Inching a little closer to her, Buffy leaned toward her face. She wasn't quite touching her, not even her body, but she was hovering near her almost nervously. She felt a need to talk to Faith, to try and nail down where they stood with each other… or at least begin to.

They needed to deal…both of them, they needed to deal with what had happened. Look at what not dealing had gotten them…when Buffy walked away from Faith, and Faith refused to hear her out…

And however she might try, Buffy really couldn't lay much blame on Faith. Yes, she could blame her for drinking…but everything else? It had been Buffy who had lied and snuck around about Angel, however good her reasons. It had been Buffy who had not made Faith understand before exchanging blows with her what was really going on. Buffy too had been fooled by Mrs. Post…and it had been Buffy who left Faith alone in her hotel room, because her pride would allow her to do nothing else…

As all these reluctant admittances of her own fault in the matter began to run through her mind, Buffy made up her mind quickly. Maybe Faith wasn't in the mood or mind frame to hear this now, but she still had to say it. She still had to try…

She reached to lay a gentle but solid hand on Faith's shoulder; when Faith didn't react, she kept it there, speaking to her quietly, but loud enough for her to hear.

"Faith…I wanted to apologize to you…about all that Gwendolyn Post stuff… I'm sorry it went like it did."

Faith didn't say anything, showed no overt signs of having heard her…but Buffy saw a muscle in her face tighten and knew that she had. Sighing slowly, she tried again, not altering her tone, not trying to either touch her or move her any closer.

"Faith…are you listening to me?"

No response…but Buffy could tell from the speed of her breathing that she was not asleep. Whether drunk or not- and she was definitely still drunk- Faith was also awake, and listening…

Knowing that this was probably not the least time or place to talk to her, and also that Faith would most likely not say a word in response, Buffy nevertheless tried again to speak to her.

"Faith…I really am sorry about everything," she said slowly, sincerely. "I'm sorry for fighting with you…I didn't want to. I didn't want to hurt you…and I'm sorry about Mrs. Post. What she did…she didn't just fool you, you know…"

She paused, still watching Faith's face carefully; the other girl was holding herself way too still to not be suspicious about it.

"I know she hurt you," Buffy said softly. "But what she did…you know she would have done it to anybody, don't you? It wasn't anything to do with you personally… it was just because you didn't have a Watcher. If I'd been the one without a Watcher, she would have done the same thing to me."

She paused again, then said gently, realizing suddenly what had made Faith recoil the most at that time, "Faith…what she said to you, about you being an idiot…you know it's not true, don't you? She said that to hurt you…but you know it's not true…"

She looked at her closely again, trying to see if there had been any change in her expression. "Faith? Faith…are you listening to me?"

As she regarded her, Faith's features tensed slightly, even as her eyes remained shut…and then what looked like a shiver passed over her expression, and there were tears leaking slowly from under her tightly closed eyelids…

She didn't make a sound, didn't try to move away…she just lay there, eyes closed, as soundless tears made their way down her face. Looking at her, Buffy almost started to cry herself. She had never seen Faith cry before, and she suspected that only her intoxicated state was giving her the dubious honor today.

Well maybe it would allow for other things that were usually strictly out of the question too… maybe…

Slowly, carefully, Buffy moved to the other side of the bed, climbing to be on the other side of Faith, the side that was her back. For a few more moments she just gazed down at her, indecisive, anxiety and empathy stirring strongly within her…

And then she lay down slowly, her front facing Faith's back. She didn't try to speak to her, or hug her…that, she figured, would be way to familiar and forward even in Faith's current state. Instead, she rested a hand on Faith's back, directly between her shoulder blades. She didn't try to rub her or pat her too much…she just kept her hand there, a solid physical reminder of her presence, and closed her own eyes, still concentrating on holding back her own strong emotions.

As time passed, Buffy could hear Faith's breathing slow and knew she had fallen asleep. She continued to lie there, still touching her back… and though she was not drunk, she had a feeling that if she ever did go to sleep, that she too would wake up feeling hung over…


Author notes: again, not too satisfied with this story, but it was in my head so I scribbled it down.