Author Notes: One-shot, takes place third season pre-Bad Girls.

"God, Faith, aren't you hot in that?"

Faith glanced over at her blonde sister Slayer in the cemetery grounds, grinning automatically at Buffy's carelessly chosen words. The older girl was leaned against a particularly tall, elaborately designed grave marking, fanning herself with one hand, her face pulled into an almost pained expression from the night's temperature. There had been a heat wave stronger than usual going through Sunnydale over the past few days, and Buffy, apparently, was still not used to it.

That didn't mean she wasn't dressed for it, however. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a messy-yet-cute-and-girly hairdo that left her neck exposed to Faith's not-uninterested view, and she was wearing a short little skirt and a white sleeveless top that showed not only a lot of collar bone, but also the outline of Buffy's bra. Both, again, details that Faith found very much worth looking at.

It always amused her to see Buffy flitting around cemeteries in some totally girly-girl outfit- flowers, hearts, mini-skirts of whatever crossed her mind as attractive Buffy-wear- and then, at the sight of a vampire or some other monster, suddenly morphing into a kick-ass, bad-guy-pummeling fierce fighter, her shapely little legs not impeded at all by the short skirts Faith would have been tripping in and splitting down the middle trying to fight things in. It amused Faith to see such a dramatic shift in action, but it was definitely something she enjoyed watching. There was always the hope for a flash of Buffy's panties in the back of her mind… okay, so that was a lie. The hope was up front and center… not of course that she would ever let Buffy know she seriously thought this.

No, that would definitely not be the way to go. Because then there would be weirdness and awkwardness, leading up to total avoidance… and of course, an abrupt change in Buffy's choice of outfits. Which would be the worst part, obviously- how could Faith go slaying with Buffy if she couldn't even look at her legs or ass or boobs? Okay, small boobs, but pretty damn attractive ones in Faith's eyes still…

Oh, who the hell was she kidding. It had not thing to do with Buffy's clothes, keeping her real thoughts and feelings about her carefully shoved from Buffy's awareness. Well, maybe a little bit… but mostly it had to do with how horribly, completely lost and lonely Faith knew she would feel without her now. Buffy was so different from Faith and what she was used to… but that was half the attraction. She was Faith's reflection, her sister Slayer, the other half of the Chosen Two…

Plus, she was wicked hot.

Faith smirked over at where Buffy was still standing, fanning herself, her eyes traveling up Faith's jean-clad legs and black, fake leather jacket. Obviously, Buffy's comment about her being hot was way too good an opportunity to let go with the comebacks.

"Well, you got eyes, B," she replied coyly, waggling her eyebrows playfully. "Isn't the answer obvious?"

Buffy scowled back at her, but Faith could see that she was trying not to smile. "Alright, Miss Conceited, you know what I meant… aren't you hot, as in, roasting alive, sweltering, sweating? I mean, you're wearing leather…" she said, waving her hand towards Faith and her attire. "How can you stand it?"

Faith shrugged nonchalantly; she was a little warm, in more ways than one, but that wasn't going to stop her from wearing the jacket. She loved the thing, as cheap and thin as it was, providing her little warmth- a good thing, lately, the way the weather had been. She was proud of it in a way, because it had been one of the first things she bought after becoming a Slayer… read 'bought' rather than 'borrowed', or more accurately, 'stolen'. That had been probably the first and last time she'd had a little money in her life, back when she was living with her Watcher… and though she could've afforded a better jacket back then, if she'd wanted to, she hadn't. Somehow this one had just seemed to fit.

It was more to her than a jacket now… it was almost a symbol of a kind, a daily gentle reminder of what she'd had, and what she might could have again now, if she tried. Faith wore it nearly every day, regardless of the temperature… without it, she almost felt naked.

Looking at Buffy, she grinned again, replying to her comment casually, "Hey, I'm ALWAYS hot, B… the clothes can't change that."

Buffy rolled her eyes, leaning even more heavily against the statue behind her as she continued to scrutinize Faith almost critically.

"And your hair's down too- how can you stand it against your back and neck like that when it's hot? Hey, actually, you NEVER put your hair up, Faith- how come?"

"Well, aren't you concerned with my comfort today," Faith remarked slyly, not answering… mainly because there was no way she was going to admit to Buffy that she didn't like the shape of her ears. "Got somethin' you want to share, B?"

"What?" Buffy blurted, but she was flushing, knowing exactly what Faith was implying. As Faith stepped closer to her, her dimples beginning to show themselves as she smiled, Buffy's eyes widened suddenly, and she gestured hurriedly over Faith's shoulder.

"Faith, look out!"

Faith spun around, stake in hand in less than a second, only to see a vampire right behind her. One quick kick and a thrust of her stake and he was dust. But she could see more coming now, as if they'd just been waiting for her to turn… six or seven, then more…

Turning hurriedly, Faith met two of them head-on, hitting, kicking, and stabbing out at them with her stake. She could hear Buffy on the other side of the cemetery doing the same, but she didn't' spare time to glance over at her. Faith knew that Buffy was holding her own… and if she wasn't, Faith would have felt it.

It took a while, several minutes, but finally, after an extended chase with one vamp that had apparently been a member of a track team in life, Faith's vampires were history in more ways than one. Her heartbeat elevated, body pulsing excitedly with adrenaline, she started back into the cemetery grounds, looking for Buffy. It was very quiet… almost too quiet, as she approached…

And then, just as she was approaching the cemetery gate again, Faith saw it. A large, scaly-looking monster or demon of some kind, towering over Buffy, his eyes glowing ice blue. As Faith watched in shock, he bent over her, where she was lying, struggling to pick herself up off of the ground. His clawed hands gripping her by the shoulders, holding her to the ground, the creature breathed out into Buffy's face. A pale blue cloud exactly matching the color of his eyes emerged from his mouth, and as it appeared, seeping into Buffy's mouth, nose, and eyes, her eyes went huge with a combination of panic, fear, and pain.

The creature abruptly dropped Buffy to the floor, and as she hit hard, her head barely missed hitting a gravestone. But she didn't seem to notice… her eyes still wide, largely unblinking, her entire body began to shake, convulsing so hard it looked like she was having a seizure.

The moment Faith had seen the creature and what it was doing to Buffy, she had taken off, fury rising in her along with fierce intent to kill it. Hearing her run toward him, having dropped Buffy to the ground, the creature turned to face Faith, letting out a strange hissing, clicking noise in its throat. As it moved toward her, almost gliding, Faith saw its strange pale eyes begin to glow…

Her anger rising even more strongly, Faith leapt at it impulsively, stabbing out with her stake and catching it directly in one eye. As the creature tried to rear away from her in pain, howling in a strange hiss, Faith yanked her stake out, driving it into its other eye with all her strength. The creature screeched again, and then, to Faith's complete astonishment, suddenly dissipated into a cloud of the blue vapor she had seen it put into Buffy's face. The vapor vanished quickly without attempting to go into her own face. As the stake that had been just sticking out of the thing's eye clattered to the floor, Faith had time to think to herself that maybe there was something to be said for impulse after all…

But when Faith looked down at Buffy again, her rush of victorious energy from the kill faded instantly, and fear once more squeezed her heart. The blonde Slayer was still lying on the ground, seeming unable to control her movements or get back to her feet. She was still shaking horribly, her entire body shuddering harshly as she tried and failed to curl herself into a fetal position. Her eyes were so large and frantic that they were almost bulging, and loud, shivery gasps came from her throat, as if she could not draw a breath. Though it was a very warm evening, as Buffy herself had pointed out earlier, she was breathing out visible breaths, as if she were very cold.

Faith hurried to kneel beside her, quickly taking hold of Buffy's shoulders and trying to keep her still, to hold her steady under her hands. It wasn't working very well… she could still feel Buffy's body quivering beneath hers, could feel her icy breath on her cheek as she leaned close to Buffy, anxiously searching her eyes. The feel of Buffy's bare skin when Faith took hold of her shocked her, actually made her gasp out loud… for her skin was icy cold.

Buffy must be in shock… she thought to herself with increasing anxiety as she quickly put more effort into holding her steady, frantically scanning her eyes up and down the older girl's body for injuries. I don't' see any wounds, but there has to be, or she wouldn't be in shock, she wouldn't be so cold…

And then Faith realized that Buffy wasn't convulsing, wasn't injured as far as she could tell… she was SHIVERING. She was so cold that her face had gone pale, waxy, and her eyes began to close as her breath came in little gasps, freezing puffs on Faith's face that made her shudder herself at the sensation. The smaller girl's teeth were chattering madly, and she seemed so cold that it was hard for her to breathe.

Oh shit, oh holy shit… Faith thought anxiously as she stared down at Buffy helplessly for a second, this is bad. This is so fuckin' bad… it must have been that stuff he breathed on her, it must have…

She didn't spend any more time after that trying to think of what might have caused this… all she could focus on was trying to make it better, trying to warm Buffy up.

"B- B, hang on, it's gonna be ok… hold on, I'm gonna help you…" she said to her, and straddling Buffy's waist, sitting on her to try to keep her still, Faith hurriedly took off her jacket, lifting Buffy's quivering back a little to wrap it around her shoulders. It didn't seem to help her very much, and for the first time since buying it nearly two years ago, Faith cursed it, namely its cheapness and thinness.

"F-F-Faith…wh-wh-what…" Buffy tried to say, but her teeth were chattering so much that Faith was afraid she'd bite off her tongue trying to speak. Putting a gentle finger to Buffy's lips and wanting to pull her hand back from their coldness, Faith tried to reassure her even as her heart continued to race too quickly in her chest.

"Shhh, B, don't try to talk… I'm gonna take you to my motel, okay, it's closest, and then we'll call Giles, we'll fix this, okay? It's gonna be okay… you're gonna be okay…"

Getting off of Buffy, she made sure her jacket was wrapped around her as tightly as it could be, which wasn't very much since Buffy was shaking so badly it kept wanting to slide off her shoulders. Putting one arm under Buffy's knees and the other around her shoulders, Faith lifted her into her arms. Moving Buffy's arm so that it was around her neck, both to help support herself and to keep her closer to her, sharing in her body heat, Faith began to run as quickly as she dared to while carrying Buffy in her arms.

Even through layers of both her and Buffy's clothing, Faith could feel the terrible coldness of Buffy's skin, could feel her shivering so violently that it was hard to keep a firm grip on her, to hold her tightly against her chest. Buffy's breaths rattled through her spastically, and her grip around Faith's neck held surprisingly strongly. She had her face buried in Faith's upper chest, which was left bare by her cleavage-baring top, her nearly frozen features buried against Faith's warm skin, instinctively, desperately seeking to soak up her heat. In any other circumstances, Faith would have been stunned, barely able to process how very close Buffy was to her-willingly, voluntarily pressing her body as hard against hers as she could. But now all Faith could think about was getting to her motel, getting Giles on the phone… and how very afraid she was growing of how deathly cold was Buffy's body…

Faith was a fast runner even under ideal circumstances, but that evening, handicapped with a still-quivering Buffy in her arms, she still managed to outrun even her fastest time. In less than five minutes she was back at her motel, fumbling in her jacket pocket, still wrapped partly around Buffy, for her key. Shoving it open, she carried Buffy quickly to her rumpled, unmade bed, wrapping the blanket around her and cursing aloud when she realized that it, too, was ridiculously thin and inadequate.

"B, it's gonna be okay…B, hang on.." she muttered helplessly as she clumsily reached for the phone on her scarred night table, casting an anxious glance at Buffy again as she dialed Giles's number. The other girl looked very small and helpless, very afraid, from where she lay in her bed… Faith had imagined her lying in it enough times before, definitely, but never under these circumstances… never under anything close to these circumstances.

Buffy was beginning to develop a bluish tinge around her lips that alarmed Faith as she waited for Giles to pick up the phone, and she reached to rub at her icy cheeks, trying to warm them. When Giles answered the phone, Faith's stress level was obvious in her tone.

"Dammit, Giles, what the hell took so long?!"

"I answered on the third ring, Faith… and I must say that I rather don't care for your tone," Giles replied, a little peeved. "What is it that you so urgently wish to share with me, Faith?"

"Look, Giles, Buffy's hurt, something's goin' on with her, and I don't know what to do, I don't' know how to help her!" Faith burst out with, and this time her fear, even anguish, came out much more strongly than her frustration. "She's shaking- she's so cold, and I can't get her warm, it's fuckin' 95 degrees out there, and she's shaking like it's a blizzard! I don't-"

"All right, Faith, calm down," Giles interrupted, his voice immediately shifting into a concerned, paternal-yet-alert tone. "Take a deep breath and explain what has happened."

Faith started to snap back at him, then stopped herself, doing as he said. Whether she liked it or not, he was right… she needed to stay calm, if she was going to help Buffy. She needed to keep it together and let him know how it had all gone down, so he'd know what to do…

"Okay… we were patrolling, and there were a bunch of vampires, and we got separated. When I doubled back to B there was this scaly lizard-like monster guy holdin' her down, and he was 

breathin' this blue stuff in her face. After that she just started shaking, she was freezing… she's still freezing! I don't know how to help her, she's so fuckin' pale…"

"He breathed in her face, and it made her chilled?" Giles interrupted, his tone sharp, alert. "Did the creature happen to have blue eyes, Faith, and a very rough, scaly exterior, perhaps eight feet in its height?"

"What?" Faith blinked, glancing over anxiously at Buffy again. "I mean, yeah, yeah, I guess…"

"Where is this creature?" Giles cut her off urgently. "Did it escape you?"

"What? No, no, I staked it in the eyes, and it kinda disappeared… why, do you know what it is? Do you know how to fix her?" Faith asked, her heart leaping hopefully.

"Yes, yes, Faith, I believe I do… thank God you killed it, and exactly in the right manner as well… well done," he said, and there was some respectful approval for her in his anxious tone as well, something Faith would normally have enjoyed, whatever she pretended, but now barely noticed. "I believe this creature you encountered was a Skilada demon. They freeze their victims from the outside in… if you had not finished him off as you did, Buffy would be frozen alive by now. I believe that your killing it so quickly has halted the effects of the harm he intended to place upon her, given it minimal strength, if you would. It affects her outwardly but will not spread. This does not mean it isn't dangerous, of course… she could get hypothermia, or frostbite-"

"Well what the hell am I supposed to do?!"Faith cried, her hand balling into a fist and slamming against her thigh in frustration. "If you know how to fix her, then get the hell over here!"

"Well, yes, of course, Faith, I'm on my way… you are at your motel room, correct? In the mean time, just do all you can to keep her warm…"

His voice softened, and he spoke to her gently then. "Faith… try to stay calm. I'm sure Buffy needs that now as much as anything else."

He hung up then, and Faith just stared at the phone for a few moments, feeling completely lost. She didn't know what to do, how she could help… her mind was a blank, and she couldn't seem to get it back in working order again.

When she glanced over at Buffy, however, she saw how badly she was still shivering, her teeth clicking audibly, lips still blue tinged in color, and Faith snapped out of it. Warm… she had to keep Buffy warm until Giles was here.

She hurried back to her side and wrapped the blanket and her sheet more snugly around the little blonde, trying to wrap her in a cocoon-like bundle. Her mind was running through everything in her room, but she had no spare blankets… she couldn't make the heat come on in summer, it was a cheap piece of shit anyway and rarely kicked on when she tried to use it in winter. Faith didn't' have any other coats with her… this was Sunnydale, after all. When would she really need to wear a jacket heavier than the one currently wrapped around Buffy?

Buffy was still shivering, seeming completely unaffected by Faith's attempt to warm her with the blankets. Sitting helplessly beside her, once more rubbing her hands over Buffy's icy cheeks and forehead, Faith awkwardly muttered verbal assurances to her that carried no assurance of her own. She felt entirely useless… how the hell could she stand to sit here and watch Buffy die, watch her FREEZE to death, in the middle of the summer?!

It occurred to her that she could put Buffy in her shower stall, turn on the hot water… but surely Buffy wouldn't be able to stand now, and the hot water would never last more than two minutes in this shitty place. Plus having to undress Buffy would take away more of her heat than she was likely to gain from it…

It was a sign of how deeply worried Faith was that seeing Buffy naked, touching and holding her while she was naked and highly unlikely to protest, didn't even enter her mind as part of the equation. All she could think of was what would be best for Buffy, what might help her the most…

And then it occurred to her. The blanket wasn't all she had to offer… she had herself. Herself, and her body heat… she had more than enough to share.

Abruptly unwrapping Buffy from out of the tangle of blanket and sheet and thin jacket as quickly as she could, Faith lay down beside her, pulling Buffy into her arms as tightly as she could. Immediately she could feel Buffy clutching at her instinctively, trying to burrow into her and her warmth. She pressed her limbs into Faith's, her frozen face pushing against the warm place where Faith's neck joined her shoulder.

Faith gritted her teeth at the feel of the horrible clammy coldness of Buffy's body, willing away the shudders it wanted to give her, and held Buffy as hard against her as she could with one arm as she used the other to once more wrap the blankets and sheets snugly around them. She could feel how rapidly her heart was beating, even more rapidly than Buffy's, and she took a deep breath, hating how fiercely Buffy's body shook against her, how terrified it made her feel…

And yet, deep down, there was also a little thrill, a spark of pleasure that was present, even if muted by all her worry.

This was Buffy in her arms, as she had so often imagined before… Buffy with her hands clutching her back, arms around her waist, Buffy's face pressed into her neck. It was Buffy in her bed with her, needing her, wanting her to touch her… even if it was only for survival, and because Faith was the only one there…

After that- after taking Buffy into her arms and doing what she could to give Buffy her own warmth, everything else seemed a blur up to a certain point. Faith remembered Giles, knocking on her apartment door, and Faith, too scared to let go of Buffy and take her source of heat away, shouted for him to break the flimsy lock. She remembered vaguely the startled look in Giles's eyes when he took in their position, a look that quickly turned to deep concern as he leaned over Buffy, not bothering to ask Faith to move aside. She dimly recalled how he had taken a liquid from his overcoat pocket, dabbing some of it on Buffy's eyes, nose, and mouth…

It wasn't until Faith could feel Buffy's body relaxing against her, her muscles loosening, her shivering stop, that everything seemed more clear to her. As she felt the warmth seeping slowly back into Buffy's body, felt her breaths against her neck grow slower, more even, Faith's own heartbeat began to slow with her immense relief, even as she continued to hold Buffy to her tightly. She was okay… Buffy was okay…

When Giles finally broke the silence to ask Buffy how she was feeling, everyone immediately began to move themselves with an awkwardness that was obvious. Buffy started to pull away from Faith, a startled, slightly weirded out expression on her face, as if she had just realized and was discomfited by how physically close she had been to the other girl. And yet she moved slowly, something briefly flickering in her gaze that Faith thought looked suspiciously like reluctance. But of course it wasn't… there was no way Buffy actually wanted to be close to her, now. No way.

"I'm… I'm okay," Buffy said slowly, her tone surprised, as she began to slowly unwrap herself from out of the blanket, from out of Faith. "God… that was…"

"Kinda freaky, huh, B?" Faith cut her off, keeping her tone deliberately casual, as if what happened hadn't terrified her… as if she didn't feel Buffy's pulling away as if her own flesh had been ripped from her bones. "Lucky you had me to make with the snugglefest, eh?"

She kept her tone light, even as she felt anything but, waiting to hear Buffy's response. But it was Giles who answered her.

"Yes, yes, she was rather fortunate to have you close by to tend to her, Faith… you acted quickly and with a level head, and you did as you should have," he said in a slightly pompous but also kindly voice, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder briefly. "You did very well, Faith."

Faith didn't look at him; she wanted to squirm away from his touch, not because it made her uncomfortable-although it did- but because his touch, his praise and approval, was not what she wanted. Or rather… it wasn't from the person she wanted.

Looking away from them both quickly, shrugging and muttering that it was no big deal, Faith suddenly realized with some horror what her room must look like to them. Her trashcan was overflowing, a tampon and a used condom right on top, a few cheap bras and thongs were scattered at the foot of her bed, and the room reeked of smoke. The sheets she had wrapped Buffy so tightly in were not clean…

God… they were probably looking at her now with disgust, maybe even pity, wondering how the hell she could live like this… an answer Faith had long ago known. Because there was no other option for her… because she was not sure she'd have the courage to reach for it if there was.

She was so busy furtively eyeing her room, cursing it, that she was stunned when Buffy hugged her. She barely had time to register the feel of Buffy's arms around her, the way her warmth now was stronger than Faith's own, before the older girl was already pulling away, giving her a soft smile of gratitude.

"Thank you, Faith…for taking care of me…"

Faith nodded stiffly, even as her heart twisted painfully.

"Yeah, B, no prob… gotta do what you gotta do."

But as Giles and Buffy stood, readying themselves to leave, and Giles continued to question Buffy, Faith was not listening. She could only stare down at her hands, fiercely willing herself not to cry.

For when she had held Buffy to her, she had been terrified, the act completely unsexy, uncalculated… she had only thought to help her, to keep her warm. But now… now that it was over, and Buffy was safe… some horrible, hated part of her wished that she was still shivering in Faith's arms, just so she could hold her close again…