For someone who seems so casual about who shares her bed, Buffy Summers thought wryly, looking down at her sleeping fellow Slayer, Faith sure seemed put off by the idea of me staying the night with her. Of course, she definitely seems over it now…
The two girls were lying together under the thin, slightly scratchy sheet and blanket of Faith's rather uncomfortable motel bed; it had been several hours since the two had dusted Kakistos, the ancient vampire who had murdered Faith's Watcher, and his lackeys. After a binge at Taco Bell, the place to go to get the maximum amount of food for your money's worth, the two Slayers had ended up back at Faith's motel room. After their initial jabs back and forth at each other, and their initial relief and adrenaline surge from the slaying had fizzled out, they were left with a heavy awkwardness as both dropped their gaze, seeming to have run out of more trivial topics to talk about.
Buffy had known that they should be talking about what had just happened. They should be talking about Kakistos, about Faith's Watcher and other past happenings. They should be calling Giles. They should be talking about how the younger girl had finally faced her fears, began to deal with the demons of her past, both literal and figurative. They should be settling down for one long, heavy talk about too many issues.
But they didn't… and to be honest, Buffy was reluctant to even attempt to. She didn't know how to bring it up, what she should do or say. She still hardly knew Faith- she didn't even know the other Slayer's last name, so how was she supposed to start probing into her thoughts and emotions?
And of course, Faith herself was another factor. Even in the short time Buffy had known her, she knew that Faith would be resistant to opening up to her. Even if the other girl wanted to talk about what had happened, needed to, Buffy knew that she would never do so. Never, without a lot of prodding and pushing, something that, at this stage, Buffy was not ready to do.
Still, she had felt obligated to show that she cared, to let Faith know that she was there if the other girl did decide she wanted to talk, or even if she just wanted someone nearby. Buffy knew that, in Faith's shoes, whether or not she could bring herself to say it, she wouldn't want to sleep alone the day she killed the vampire that had haunted her memories. Especially she wouldn't want to sleep in the room that he had broken into and tried to choke her in.
She had asked Faith to stay with her at her house, at least for one night, but the other girl had refused, insisting that she was fine. Or, as she had put it, "five by five." Buffy had seen the gritty determination in her face and knew that Faith would not tolerate pity or sympathy. She needed to prove to herself as well as to Buffy that Kakistos had not broken her strength and courage, and to do that would mean sleeping in the place he had violated with his presence.
Still, Buffy had not wanted to let Faith be alone that particular night. She knew the other girl was strong, both emotionally and physically, and that she was trying to prove that, both to Buffy and to herself. She knew that Faith was probably embarrassed enough that Buffy had seen her tough façade crack, seen the fear and vulnerability concealed behind it, and that she didn't want to slip in such a way again. Buffy could understand that. Still, she also understood that Faith probably secretly wanted- and needed- to have someone with her as she continued in what she needed to do to finish banishing her fears and apprehension.
So with this in mind, Buffy had then announced to Faith that since she wanted to stay at the motel, then she, Buffy, was staying with her. She'd made some lame cracks about slumber parties that neither had fell for. Faith had protested, but without her usual zest, and she had given in quickly- much more quickly and easily than Buffy had expected. That more than anything told Buffy how badly Faith must have really wanted someone to stay with her.
Now the dark-haired Slayer lay fast asleep in short shorts and a tank top beside her, her face slackened, seeming softer, younger in her unconscious state. She had fallen asleep nearly immediately, whereas Buffy, clad in an oversized borrowed t-shirt, lay awake and alert even several hours later. Her mind was on overdrive, too many thoughts zipping through her head for her to be able to settle down enough to drift off.
Of course, Faith and her final sleeping position wasn't exactly helping matters either. She had started out, when they first climbed into bed, a good distance apart from Buffy physically. Each girl had her own pillow, her own clearly defined personal space. But it had been over two hours since they first lay down, and in her sleep, Faith had gradually moved and rolled her way over onto Buffy's side of the bed. She had ended up right against Buffy, almost cuddling, hugging up against her side. Her forehead was pressed against Buffy's shoulder, dark hair strands across Buffy's arm, and her bare right leg was lying against Buffy's, her right arm flung limply across Buffy's chest and torso.
Buffy had been uncomfortable at first, of course. Hey, she liked a snuggle as much as the next girl, but Faith was a girl, a half-dressed girl, and one she barely knew at that. She had tried to gently roll her over at first, then to at least move Faith's arm, but Faith had barely budged, and within a few minutes her arm had drifted back just as heavily as before. Buffy, suspecting then that Faith was not asleep and just enjoying making her squirm, had reached to turn the lamp on, annoyed. But she had seen right away how Faith didn't' stir at the sudden dim light, how her eyes moved slightly under her lids, her breathing slow and slightly raspy. She knew the other girl really was asleep.
She must be really tired, Buffy had thought, even the light doesn't faze her.
She had turned the light back off with a sigh, resigning herself to no sleep and the extreme proximity of the other Slayer. She didn't have the heart to awaken Faith. If she started groping Buffy or something though, that would be a different story.
But as it was now, it really wasn't so bad to be so close to the younger girl. It was even kind of nice, in a weird way. It had been a long time since Buffy had shared a bed with anyone, even Willow. She kind of liked the tickle of Faith's hair against her arm, the warmth of her body so close, the sound of her steady breathing…
As she lay there, absently listening to Faith's respiration, she realized gradually that it was changing, becoming faster, more labored and shuddery. Buffy looked down at the younger girl, frowning, as Faith suddenly stiffened against her. It was clear that she was beginning to have a nightmare.
Buffy held herself still, not sure what to do as she watched the other Slayer. Somehow she felt almost guilty for her presence. It was like she was seeing something too private and personal for her to know about- something Faith would hate for her to witness.
Faith began to murmur, low, unintelligible at first, then more clearly, her voice getting higher, afraid.
"No… no, please, no… stop…"
Her breathing was getting faster, and her face wrinkled, as anguished as though she were on the verge of tears. She looked as though she were reliving something terrible beyond words, and Buffy supposed that in all actuality she was. This had to be about today, or maybe her Watcher. Or maybe something else… there was a lot Buffy didn't know about Faith's past.
"No…" Faith almost whimpered, sounding very young, helpless. Buffy hated to hear her, hated to see her so obviously upset. But what was she supposed to do about it?
"Hey," she said softly, hesitantly, not wanting to wake Faith up, but rather to soothe her subconscious into a calmer dream if possible. "Hey, Faith… it's okay."
Awkwardly she slipped an arm under the girl's rigid shoulders, reaching with her other hand to stroke Faith's arm reassuringly.
"It's okay, Faith, it's just a dream. It's just a dream, it's okay…"
But her words didn't seem to be breaking through to the younger girl. Even with an arm around her Faith seemed unaware of anything but the images of her dream, still mumbling protests in choked whispers. She was beginning to tremble, so hard that it alarmed Buffy, and she knew she couldn't watch the other girl's struggle anymore. She was going to have to wake her up.
Taking her arm out from under Faith and sitting up, pulling away from her slowly, she shook her gently, then more insistently when Faith didn't respond.
"Faith- Faith, wake up, you're dreaming. Faith!"
It was nearly five minutes before Faith's eyes finally opened, and she still stared somewhat blankly, eyes unfocused, shadowed and bruised in appearance. She was still breathing unevenly, still trembling slightly, and as Buffy reached to turn on the lamp, she realized that the girl was blinking rapidly, eyes bright with fiercely blinked-away tears. Even as Buffy frowned in concern, one slipped down Faith's cheek, and she made no move to wipe it away. The brunette seemed temporarily unable to move at all.
"Hey," Buffy said softly, reaching to wipe the slowly trickling tear from her cheek. "Hey, it's okay, Faith. It's just a dream. You're all right, you're okay."
She felt a wave of compassion and pity for the younger girl flood through her, filling her chest in a strange ache. She wanted to comfort Faith, to take the pain from her hunched posture and dark expression, but she didn't know how, didn't know what to do.
"I- I'm sorry, B," Faith was muttering, her voice faltering. "God, I'm a fucking mess. I'm such an asshole. I'm sorry-"
"Hey, no, it's okay," Buffy interrupted her quickly, slipping an arm around her shoulders in a brief but caring squeeze. "I get it. Don't worry, okay? And don't beat yourself up like that, or I'll kick your ass. We five by five on that? Is that how you use it or what, anyway?"
A ghost of her former smirk twitched her lips, and Faith gave a little snort.
"You'll never be able to kick my ass, B."
"Dream on, F," Buffy rejoined, smiling a little, before gently pushing at the other Slayer's shoulders. "Come on, lay down. Try to go back to sleep. I'll leave the light on, okay? And I'm not going anywhere, I'm right here."
Faith looked at her with a furrowed brow, no doubt not liking or understanding why Buffy would treat her so nicely. Had no one ever done so? Buffy found herself thinking with some sadness. Had no one ever looked out for this girl, shown her any sign of caring or concern?
Faith looked like she was thinking of spouting sarcasms or arguing, but after a few moments she just nodded, her eyes drooping briefly. She was too tired, too drained to fight now. Tomorrow would be a different story, Buffy knew.
The younger girl lay down, once more curling almost fetally against Buffy's side, leaning her head against her. As Buffy listened to the brunette's breathing beginning to slow, she slid an arm around carefully once more, rubbing a lock of her hair between two fingers.
It was strange, but as she held Faith against her side, she almost felt as though the girl she had once sarcastically referred to as her "new bestest little sister" was beginning to become exactly that. And as the minutes passed, and Buffy finally found that her eyelids were drooping, limbs growing heavy, the two sister slayers drifted off, finding temporary rest and refuge in each other's warmth and nearness.