Title(Tenative): Chutes & Ladders
Fandom: BtVS
Character/Pairing: Buffy/Faith
Genre: Angst, Romance, Friendship
Rating: PG-13 at the moment, probably eventually R
Disclaimer: This work of fiction is written by me, but the characters belong to the masterminds behind BtVS. I'm not profiting from this so I hope no one will sue me.
Summary: According to Go Ask Malice (which I didn't actually read and will probably butcher), Faith's birthday is December 14, 1980. This story builds from that premise and takes a few other liberties with the Season 3 canon, which will become clear soon...

Rupert Giles clutched the cordless phone tightly to his ear while pacing back and forth through his office. "I don't believe it's necessary." He paused abruptly to listen to the voice on the phone. His fingers tightened reflexively around the plastic as if he could strangle the caller through the line. "Because it's barbaric!" He insisted.

"Giles!" Buffy and her friends could be heard entering the library, Xander's laugh louder than his two female companions. Giles covered the receiver with his palm. "Just a moment!" He called toward the kids, and quickly closed his office door. Uncovering the phone he tried again, "The cruciamentum is absolutely--" Interrupted again, he stopped, his brow furrowing in frustration. He listened for several long moments without speaking. Finally he sighed regretfully. "Very well." He could see Willow and Xander sitting at the table now, the former pulling textbooks from inside her purple backpack. "Yes, I understand." He clicked off the phone with a sigh and opened his door. Sliding his glasses from his nose, he began to polish them as he left the office. Trying to clear his face of his troubled thoughts, he smiled slightly and joined them in the main library.

Xander was leaning toward Willow, trying to see what she was looking for in the bag. The redhead coughed lightly, her face turning pink. "Uh, Xander,"

"Right!" He rapidly aligned his back with the stiff wooden chair. "Keeping a friendly distance. A distance that friends keep!"

Buffy smiled tiredly at the two of them from across the table. "It's okay, Xand. I don't think Cordelia and Oz are lurking in the stacks trying to catch you."

Giles leaned casually against the counter, not really paying attention to their discussion, but instead worrying over the conversation he had just finished.

Willow was still pink but trying to steer the conversation away from her and Xander. "Any sign of Angel, Buffy?"

The slayer shook her head, dropping her eyes to her hands. "No," She sighed. "As far as I can tell he made good on his promise to leave town."

"Good!" Xander chimed enthusiastically. Off their dirty looks, "I mean, err, good. For Buffy!" He fumbled. "Because… you said you didn't want to see him anymore!" He finished triumphantly, pointing one finger in the air in a "Eureka!" pose.

Willow gaped at him disapprovingly for a moment before turning sympathetic eyes to her friend. "Are you doing okay?" She brightened. "Because if you're not, we could have a girls' night!"

"Girls' night?" Faith's gravely voice interrupted them as she sauntered into the library. Hopping up on the counter in one quick movement, she landed next to Giles.

The librarian startled and stood up straighter. "Faith. Hello."

She smirked at him. "G." Glancing at the three friends, "B. Guys." Her gaze turned lazily toward Willow. "Girls' night?"

The hacker flushed again, her fingers twisting nervously in her lap. "Yeah, to ease the post breakup sadness."

"Will there be pillow fights?" Xander asked hopefully. "And nighties that get tangled and removed during the pillow fights?"

Buffy stifled a smile. "Girls' night, Xander."

"Yeah, no boy cooties allowed!" Willow reaffirmed.

Faith jumped from the counter and moved to drop herself into the chair beside Buffy. "Never figured you were that into girl cooties, Red, but hey, I'm down if you're down."

Willow sputtered, her eyes widening in horror at having walked into the sexual innuendo. Buffy's eyes rolled and she gave Faith a long suffering smile. "Do you want to come or not?"

"Will there be pillow fights?" Faith asked, imitating Xander's hopeful voice.

"No!" Cried Willow vehemently. "Just ice cream, and boy talk, and movies, and maybe crying." Her cheeks started returning to their normal color.

"There won't be any crying." The blonde slayer replied patiently, with a pointed look to Willow. "I'm fine, Will, really." She tried to smile brightly and was semi-successful. She looked toward the other slayer expectantly, "So?"

"Eh," Faith replied noncommittally, casually picking up a book from the table and leafing through it with disinterest. She gazed at Buffy from the corner of her eye, trying to gauge whether the other slayer was actually sincere in the invitation. Things between the two of them had been tense ever since Faith had found out the blonde slayer was hiding her recently returned from hell vampire boyfriend. And then there was the Gwendolyn Post thing. Buffy had come by the motel room later that night and their conversation had been replaying in Faith's mind ever since. The blonde slayer wanted Faith to trust her. "I'm on your side." She'd said with what seemed like sincerity. Faith had almost believed her, even called out her name to draw her back. She'd stalled, freaking herself out as she thought of the words to respond to Buffy. Even if the other slayer was lying when she said Faith could count on her, lying was more effort than most people had made with her. But looking at Buffy's expectant face, she couldn't force herself to say anything. If she did, she'd be letting Buffy in. And Faith had learned, was still learning after this shit with Mrs. Post, that vulnerability never helped anything. "Nothing," She'd replied, and ignored the way her stomach clenched when she watched Buffy pad lightly down the stairs and disappear up the street.

The blonde cocked a challenging eyebrow. "You got something better to do?"

Faith felt herself bristling. Bitch. Did she think Faith couldn't have something better to do? She gave Buffy a dismissive eye roll and leaned back in her chair, propping her feet on the smooth library table. Ignoring Giles's disapproving cluck, she replied, "Anything I do would be better than that, B."

Willow looked relieved, but tried hard not to show it. Buffy, on the other hand, appraised her counterpart for a long moment and then tried to switch tactics. "Come on," She wheedled. "It could be fun." Turning to Willow, "Right, Will?"

"Yeah, super fun." Willow responded, without a hint of enthusiasm. It was clear she'd just been expecting this girls' evening to include her and Buffy.

Off Faith's skeptical look, Buffy dipped her head so their eyes met. "I want you to come." She said firmly.

Faith was surprised, but she covered it well. Forcing down the sudden urge to smile, she found herself nodding. "Alright. I'll be there."

Buffy nodded affirmatively. "Good." She turned to her friends. "Lunch now? Growing slayers need their…" She gestured loosely.

"Meatloaf?" Xander asked, with a sympathetic wince as he climbed to his feet.

The blonde frowned and sighed. She looked to Giles dramatically. "If only I had a watcher who understood my dietary needs and would write me a pass to leave school grounds for lunch."

Giles seemed lost in thought as the four teens all shuffled to their feet and prepared to leave.

"Giles?" Buffy waved her hand helpfully in front of him.

"Hmm?" He glanced up surprised. "Yes, Buffy, quite right."

Her expression was exasperated. "You weren't even listening to anything we've been saying."

"Of course I was!" He insisted, and then looked at them in alarm. "You're leaving?"

Xander patted his arm carefully as he passed by. "Should we be concerned about how many times he's hit his head?"

Ignoring the boy, Giles cleared his throat. "Err, Faith, if you would, I'd like to speak with you a few minutes."

Buffy and Faith both looked surprised. The blonde slayer waved confusedly to her counterpart. "I'll meet you tonight then? Early patrol and then girls' night at my place?"

"Sure, B." The brunette responded and watched longingly as the other Scoobs made their escape from the library.

"Well," Said Giles, reaching under the library counter once the doors had swung shut behind the others. "I've been meaning to talk with you about meditation. I have some crystals here that might be useful…"

Faith sagged dramatically against the counter, wishing she'd stayed out of Sunnydale longer.


Buffy walked gracefully through the cemetery, her black boots making barely a whisper on the deteriorating grass underfoot. Faith was a few yards behind her, making quite a bit more noise as she scanned the horizons for any threats. Things had gone this way for most of the evening, with each girl lost in her own thoughts.

Most of Buffy's thoughts centered around Angel. The blonde would not have categorized them as thoughts per se, but more like an intrusive squeal of pain that she could not shake no matter how she tried to will herself to think of something else. True, she had told Angel they couldn't see each other anymore. But somehow she still felt hurt that he'd decide to move on from Sunnydale and see where else he might do some good.

And then there was this tension going on with Giles. Buffy could understand why he was angry that she'd kept Angel's return from them. She'd just been unsure what to do, and she hadn't wanted to upset the gang and have them jump to conclusions like she knew they would. Of course they did anyway, and Xander and Faith had—Wait. Where was Faith?

Glancing behind her, Buffy noticed her slaying partner was moving a little slower than usual. "You okay, Faith?" She called back.

Faith shrugged nonchalantly and picked up her pace. "Five by five, B."

"You just look a little tired or something."

For Buffy to notice, Faith must have looked a lot worse than that. Buffy hardly even seemed to notice Faith was there, let alone look at her for long enough to notice something was wrong. Faith wasn't sure what she'd been expecting when she'd been on her way to meet the other slayer. But whatever it was, it hadn't happened. The infamous Buffy Summers was actually pretty self absorbed when you thought about it. Far from being happy to have another slayer around, Buffy at worst seemed resentful of her presence and at best indifferent. True there were times when Faith thought she saw a spark of something more in Buffy's eyes, like after a particularly hard kill when they'd gaze at each other for a moment, huge grins plastered on both their faces. Or dancing in the Bronze when Buffy'd flip her hair back and look up at Faith through her eyelashes. And Faith would think, Finally. Here it is. And she'd feel her lungs lung tighten in her chest as she smiled back. But then Buffy would glance away and her eyes would wall over like Faith went back to not existing. Faith looked at her back now, curiously. "Little run down tonight." She admitted.

Buffy stopped walking and glanced at her, concerned. "Maybe you should go to a doctor? Slayers don't usually get sick." She paused. "Well, I don't."

Faith's eye roll displayed her irritation. "Yeah, B, you're just about perfect, aren't you?"

The blonde slayer started walking again, biting back her snide response. She tried again, "Just wanna make sure you're okay, F." She smiled as she spotted three vampires ahead of them, moving through the graveyard. "I don't wanna lose my other half."

Faith glanced at her quickly, her face startled but pleased. But Buffy was already picking up her pace, her hand reaching in her jacket to clutch her stake. "Giles'll kill me if you get eaten on patrol."

The dark slayer scowled, pulling out her own stake. "Don't worry, B." She replied, forcing her tired muscles to move faster than Buffy's. "Not plannin' on getting eaten til later."

Buffy's mouth fell open as the other slayer darted in front of her, running at full speed toward the vampires ahead of them. "Do you ever NOT think about sex?"

"Nope," Faith replied. She had reached the surprised vampires and was sailing through the air. Her left foot connected solidly with the closest demon's chest, sending him tumbling to the ground. Buffy barreled in behind her, making quick work of the first vampire and focusing her energy on the third member of the trio.

"So when are you planning on doing that?" Buffy called in Faith's general direction, trading blows with the vampire in front of her.

"Doin' what?" Faith inquired, just before catching a hard cross to her cheekbone. She stumbled slightly before righting herself and throwing out a kick that should have shattered his knee. But it hardly seemed to slow him down, and Faith quickly threw out a flurry of punches to his chest.

"Getting eaten." Buffy yelled back, embarrassed that she was following this conversation anywhere. "You're not getting out of girls' night!"

The vampire hissed and reached for Buffy's throat as she was waiting for Faith's response. "Slayer," He growled. "I can't wait to taste your bl--"

"Do you mind?" Buffy cried, stopping his speech with an accompanying punch to his solar plexus. "We're having a private conversation here."

Several feet away Faith evaded an ill planned dive from her vampire, and watched as he stumbled to the ground. "Well, B, I've seen movies. I know all about these girls' nights." She grinned over to Buffy as her demon climbed unsteadily to his feet and prepared to relaunch himself at her. "Thought you and me'd wait for Red to pass out. Work out some of the post slay jitters." Her eyebrows waggled.

Buffy cleanly staked her vampire and smiled as his shocked face disintegrated. "I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you."

As she looked up, Faith stepped through the dust of her own vampire and stopped inches from Buffy's face. "Oh I won't, B." She purred. "I'm sure you smell, and taste, just fine."

Buffy flushed a horrified red, her mouth hanging open.

Faith sheathed her stake in the pocket of her tight black jeans. "Gonna take your silence as a 'yes'." She smirked.

Shaking her head indignantly, Buffy found her voice. "Well, then you're gonna be a little disappointed tonight, Faith."

Shrugging, Faith started to walk toward the cemetery's open gates. "We'll see about that." Once Buffy was behind her, Faith let her shoulders sag forward. She was tired. That fight had taken more out of her than it should have. She flexed her fingers experimentally. Even her hands felt kind of worn out. Suddenly, she stumbled on the pathway and reached out her hands reflexively to catch her fall. Strong hands with freshly chipped pink nail polish caught her under her elbows and righted her into a vertical position.

"Are you okay?" Buffy's brow was creased in concern. One hand dropped but the other remained on Faith's right arm as if afraid she would fall over without the assistance.

"Fine, B." The brunette slayer glanced pointedly at Buffy's hand on her arm. "If you couldn't wait til we got back to the house, why didn't you just say so?"

Buffy rolled her eyes, but otherwise ignored Faith's statement. "I think we should get you checked out Faith, you don't seem yourself."

Irritably, the dark slayer tried to shake off Buffy's lingering grip. "Told you, B. I'm five by five. Now let's get back to your place. Red's probably waiting for us."

Buffy frowned but obligingly released Faith's arm. The brunette slayer started walking again in the general direction of Revello Drive.

"Faith?" Buffy's hand was warm as she reached out to grab Faith's fingers.

"B?" Faith gave her an exasperated look.

"Can we at least mention it to Giles?" Buffy smiled at her cajolingly. "You did say you were a little tired."

"Fine, B. Whatever. Can we get moving now?"

"Sure." Buffy said, happy to have gotten her way. She didn't immediately release Faith's hand, which the brunette slayer found odd.

"I know the way," She said pointedly, lifting their joined hands and then allowing them to drop back between them.

"I know," Buffy replied, walking beside her now. She gave Faith's hand a gentle squeeze. "I just—I meant what I said the other day, Faith." She looked at the other slayer carefully. "About being on your side." When Faith didn't reply, she sighed and loosened her grip. "I just want to make sure you're okay."

Now Faith was the one not letting go of Buffy's hand. She squeezed it for a moment, hesitantly, looking down at where their fingers knotted together. Buffy's little pink nails looked so innocent next to Faith's jagged blood red ones. "Okay." She said simply. The two walked in companionable silence for a few minutes and then, "I am feelin' a little hungry, B. How about that late night snack we talked about?"

Buffy laughed and pulled her hand free to smack Faith's arm. The brunette grinned back, and their laughter echoed quietly down the sleeping street.


Quite a bit later, the two slayers sat with Willow on the couch in Buffy's living room. The credits had begun rolling on the romantic comedy playing on television, but no one was paying much attention. Buffy and Willow sat on one half of the couch, the latter smooshed comfortably into the former's side, the two of them wrapped in a blanket. Faith was slumped on the other end of the couch, snoring softly with her head resting against the arm of the sofa. Her thick-soled boots jerked against the coffee table top as she dreamt. Willow snaked her hand into the popcorn bucket sitting on Buffy's lap. "Should we wake her up?" She whispered loudly before tossing the handful of popcorn in her mouth.

"I guess so." Buffy replied uncertainly. The two girls stared at the sleeping slayer. Faith's mouth gaped open slightly and her face was free of lines or tension. Only her eyes moved, shifting rapidly under her closed lids.

"She looks so… normal."

Buffy glanced back at her. "I know. I've never seen her so--" She was interrupted by a mumbled moan coming from Faith's mouth. The brunette's lips perked in a wistful smile.

They both flushed, afraid Faith was waking up. When she didn't stir for another moment, Willow offered, "Relaxed?"

"Yeah," The slayer agreed. "Relaxed."

"Maybe we should leave her here."

Buffy hesitated. "She'd probably be more comfortable in my room."

Willow frowned despondently. "Why is she so tired anyway? She doesn't do anything all day, except probably sleep."

"I don't know, Will." The redhead didn't miss the look of concern on her friend's face. "She said she's been feeling tired, and she seemed a little off. I told her we should talk to Giles. It's not normal for a slayer to get sick. Or at least I don't think it is."

Willow didn't reply and the two girls continued watching the slumbering slayer for several more minutes. "I guess we should clean up." Buffy said finally, kicking the blanket off her legs and standing up. She reached out a hand to Willow and hauled her off the couch as well. Faith didn't stir as the two girls began filling their arms with glasses and empty bowls. Buffy padded quietly into the kitchen, with Willow following behind her. "So," she asked, as they settled their dishes into the sink. "Any change on the Oz sitch?"

Willow's redhead shook back and forth. "No. He says he needs space."

"Well, that's probably good." Buffy started the tap running and set about to rinsing their dishes. "Space can be good when it leads to… Less space."

"What if he doesn't ever want to talk to me again?" Willow slumped sadly against the breakfast bar, dropping herself despondently onto a stool. "I mean, he shouldn't talk to me again. I'm bad. I'm a, a…" She paused. "I'm a shameless hussy!" She finished guiltily.

Buffy glanced back at Willow as she continued moving the dishes into the dishwasher next to her. "Oh Will, that's not true. You made a mistake that's all."

"Yeah." The other girl huffed. "A mistake that got Cordelia impaled and hurt Oz and now mine and Xander's friendship is even weird."

"Well, as mistakes go, it wasn't the smallest one." Buffy smiled supportively to take the sting out of her words. "But it wasn't the biggest one either. Oz loves you and he'll want to talk to you again. He just needs a little time."

"Maybe." Willow replied, unconvinced. Trying to change the subject she studied Buffy's back. "How are you doing? With the whole Angel thing?"

Buffy's shoulders stiffened but she answered her friend in a bright voice. "I'm okay. I mean, I told him we couldn't see each other anymore and now we won't." She finished quietly, "He only gave me what I asked for."

"Yeah," Willow said gently. "But was it really what you wanted?"

"I don't know, Will." Turning the sink off, Buffy wiped her hands on her jeans and turned toward her friend. "I think it's for the best either way."

Willow nodded enthusiastically, eager to support Buffy in her seeming calm. "Maybe sometime later, when everything isn't so fresh." She smiled gently. "I know Angel loves you, Buffy."

The slayer nodded sadly, not meeting her friend's eyes. Footfall could be heard approaching the kitchen and then Faith appeared in the doorway, blinking groggily. "What'd I miss?" She asked.

"Well, most of the movie." Buffy teased.

The brunette rubbed her eyes tiredly. "Sorry. Was it any good?"

"Not really." Buffy said at the same time as Willow replied, "It was okay." Buffy shrugged. "Yeah, it was okay. Nothing to write home about."

"Good." Faith nodded. "So what now, we braid each other's hair or some girly crap?"

Willow looked vaguely horrified at the idea of touching Faith or having the dark slayer touch her. Buffy chuckled. "I'm actually pretty tired." She glanced at her friend. "Unless you wanna stay up Will?" She cocked her head slightly in Faith's direction, widening her eyes at the pale girl.

"Well, I--" Willow paused, catching the hint. "Have never been so tired in my life!" She finished dramatically, awkwardly pulling off a fake yawn. "Yep, that movie, wow, it really took a lot out of me."

Faith looked at her weirdly before nodding. "Yeah, okay, I'm kind of tired, too."

Buffy pushed off the counter and led the way up the stairs to her bedroom. Entering, she flicked on the light and walked to her dresser. Willow entered behind her and started rifling through her overnight bag for her pajamas. Pulling them out, she grabbed her toothbrush and headed down the hall to the bathroom. Buffy pulled out her favorite pajamas and turned back to face Faith. The other slayer was standing next to Buffy's bed, shimmying out of her jeans. Once they were on the floor she quickly stepped out of them and peeled off her socks. "Uh, Faith?"

The dark slayer looked up, standing in a tank top and skimpy black panties. "What?"

"Didn't you pack pajamas?" Buffy asked, flustered and staring at the ground.

The other slayer shrugged. "Don't have pajamas, B." She grinned at Buffy's obvious discomfort.

"Oh, uh…" Buffy tossed her pajamas in Faith's general direction. They landed with a soft thud at the slayer's feet. "You can borrow these."

She looked up as Faith bent to retrieve them. The dark slayer wrinkled her nose. "You want me to wear these? They have dancing bananas on them."

Buffy folded her arms defensively across her chest. "So?"

"So they ain't really me."

"Just wear them." The blonde barked, turning back to her dresser to find pajamas for herself. She heard Faith's low chuckle and the sounds of fabric sliding on. Once she thought it was reasonably safe, Buffy turned back to face her counterpart, clutching another set of pajamas to her chest. Faith glared at her from the other side of the room, now clad in cotton pajama bottoms and a tank top with dancing bananas on it. Buffy smiled at her, somehow resisting the urge to laugh.

"Well, let's see how much better that pair is." Faith gestured toward the pair Buffy held.

The blonde slayer glanced helplessly toward the door, but Willow had not returned yet. Not wanting to appear embarrassed she set her bundle down on the bed and unbuttoned her jeans. Glancing up, she noticed that Faith was watching her, an interested look apparent on her face. Blushing, Buffy forced herself to lower the zipper and slide the jeans down her legs. Faith's eyes moved slowly from Buffy's face down over her torso to caress her uncovered hips and thighs. The slow smirk on her face let the other slayer know she was enjoying what she was seeing. Buffy quickly picked up her pajama pants and all but jumped into them.

Faith swallowed hard and then forced a salacious grin. "Pink panties, B. I'm not surprised." She cocked an eyebrow at the other slayer. "Got a matchin' bra?"

Determined now not to let Faith get the best of her, Buffy peeled off her long sleeved white t-shirt, and then the tank top underneath it. She was indeed wearing a pink bra, although this undergarment had white polka dots on it. Faith chortled to herself, moving now to settle on the sleeping bag laid out on Buffy's bedroom floor. She gazed up at Buffy, watching the blonde slayer's cheeks flush redder.

Buffy pulled her pajama top on, finally feeling more comfortable now that she was fully clothed again. Willow returned to the room, looking surprised to see the two slayers both changed in her absence. She placed her neatly folded clothing on top of her overnight bag and sat down cross legged on Buffy's bed. Buffy pulled her hair into a messy ponytail. "I'll just go brush my teeth." She said, and made a quick escape into the hallway. She stalked toward the bathroom feeling jittery. Faith's sexual innuendos were one thing, but the way she sometimes looked at Buffy made it seem, well, a little too real. The blonde slayer felt wound up, irritated and uncomfortable. But also confused. Was Faith playing her usual games or did she actually, kind of, maybe find Buffy attractive? Shaking her head as if to clear it, Buffy pulled her pink toothbrush from the stand on the sink and squirted some toothpaste on. As she was finishing brushing and leaning over to spit, she felt someone enter the room behind her. She looked up abruptly, catching Faith's gaze in the mirror when she felt the other slayer place her hands on her hips and brush against her from behind. Faith let go as she moved past Buffy, settling herself next to her at the sink.

"Forgot my toothbrush." She shrugged innocently.

Wordlessly, Buffy rinsed out her mouth and then opened the cabinet. There was a new toothbrush still in the package sitting on the shelf, and she grabbed it for Faith. "Here you go."

"Thanks," Faith seemed genuinely surprised, as if she had been expecting Buffy to order her to use her finger. Buffy nodded in response and left the bathroom.

Back in the bedroom, Willow was propped against the headboard of Buffy's bed, her hands folded neatly in her lap. "Everything okay?" She asked curiously.

Buffy beamed at her. "Fine, Will." Walking to her dresser, she pulled her ponytail holder out and quickly ran a brush through her long hair.

Faith returned as she was finishing, and dropped herself unceremoniously to the floor, atop the sleeping bag.

"Why don't you sleep in my bed?" Buffy offered generously, forgetting her irritation at Faith's wandering eyes. The other slayer had looked pretty exhausted after patrol, and Buffy was concerned that something might seriously be wrong with her.

Faith again looked surprised, but she climbed to her feet anyway. "Thanks, B." She muttered, climbing onto the bed next to Willow.

The redhead flushed and looked uncomfortable. "Uh, Buffy," She said, standing up quickly. "I can sleep on the floor."

Buffy smiled. "Don't be silly, Will. You're a guest."

"Oh no," Willow shook her head vehemently. "You know my mom always says you're only a guest the first time you come over and after that you're just, umm, not. A guest, that is." Off Buffy's confused look, "And plus! I'm sure you're tired. I mean patrolling right? Whew. I bet that was something!" She smiled nervously at Buffy, glancing toward the bed where Faith was watching her with a smirk in place.

"Okay, Will." Buffy replied slowly. "Thanks I guess." She settled herself into Willow's recently vacated spot, reaching onto the bedside table to flick off the light. "Goodnight guys."

The room was quiet for a long time, and during that time, Buffy could hear Willow's heart beat slow down and her breathing deepen. On the other hand, she could feel Faith was still awake. The brunette slayer lay unmoving beside her, but Buffy could hear that her breathing was too regulated to be genuine. As she was thinking about asking whether the other girl was alright, Buffy felt a warm hand skate onto her hip. She startled, but didn't say anything. The hand remained largely in the same place, although she gradually became aware that two of Faith's fingers were under her shirt, touching her side lightly. Slowly, Faith's hand meandered fully under Buffy's top and onto her stomach. The blonde whipped her head around to face Faith in the darkness.

The other girl grinned. "I'm feelin' a little hungry, B, how 'bout you?" She shifted closer to Buffy, bringing their faces within a few inches from each other.

"Faith." Buffy whispered back dangerously. "If you want to use that hand ever again, you'll get it off me."

Faith laughed quietly, but she removed her hand. Her fingertips trailed across Buffy's tensed stomach until she dropped her hand at her side. "Night, B." She said, exhaling comfortably, back on her own side.

"Night." Buffy replied, closing her eyes and thinking about what a long night this would be.


Buffy woke up early the next morning. The light coming through her window was bright, and she cautiously opened her eyes. Soft snoring came from the floor, where Willow's red hair was spread out over her pillow, shining in the sun beams. Faith lay beside her, curled on her side towards Buffy. Her knees were curled upward, resting against Buffy's thigh. Her left arm disappeared underneath Buffy's pillow, her right palm resting on her upper arm. Buffy smiled slightly to herself. Faith looked better than she had the night before. The bags under her eyes had all but disappeared, and the brunette looked quite peaceful. "Faith," Buffy whispered, turning on her side to face the other slayer.

The dark slayer's eyes snapped open abruptly, and her right fist was suddenly flying toward Buffy's face. The blonde reacted on instinct, reaching up to catch Faith's fist in her hand. They stared at each other for a moment. Faith looked surprised that she had tried to clean Buffy's clock, but the blonde had already forgotten about that and was surprised at how easily she'd stopped Faith's hand from connecting with her face. "Sorry, B." Faith said sheepishly, trying to pull her hand back from Buffy's grip. Buffy didn't immediately let go and Faith frowned, pulling harder. "What the hell?" She demanded, suddenly sitting upright, although her hand was still immobilized.

Buffy sat up too, as did a dazed Willow, whose sleepy eyes appeared over the side of the bed. "You can't get your hand back?" Buffy asked gently.

Faith pulled hard but she wasn't able to disentangle herself. "What the hell, B?" She repeated, struggling angrily.

Buffy released her fingers, and the dark slayer nearly tumbled off the bed as her struggling paid off. Catching the bedspread, she dragged herself into a sitting position. Buffy gnawed her lip worriedly. "Something's wrong." She said, looking at the other slayer in concern.

"What're you talking about? What's going on?"

"Hit me." Buffy ordered.

"What?" Willow cried from the floor, but Faith was just looking at the blonde slayer incredulously.

"Seriously," Buffy offered. "Hit me, as hard as you can."

Faith shrugged, not about to pass up a chance to display her skill, even if Buffy was acting strangely. She cocked her right fist and aimed for Buffy's shoulder. Her hand nearly sailed by, but managed to clip the edge of Buffy's shoulder, although the slayer wasn't moved in the slightest.

Faith grimaced in pain, pulling her hand back against her body. Buffy watched her, wide eyed. "Something's wrong." She repeated. "We have to talk to Giles. Now."