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

FLOWERS FOR A GHOST

Satisfied that she had resolved some of the tension, Faith made a beeline for Buffy. "You okay?" She asked, quietly enough that no one else could hear.

Buffy nodded, knowing that the other slayer understood why she was upset. "Yeah," she said. "You?"

Faith considered lying, but in the end, she gave a small shake of her head.

Behind the island, where no one else could see, Buffy reached out and squeezed Faith's hand.

Chapter 6

"Serious question," Buffy said, in between sharp punches to Giles's padded hands.

"All right," he agreed, wincing with each contact between her fists and his palms.

"Could switching dimensions be causing changes to my," she paused, glancing around as if someone could be watching them, and then blurted out the rest of her sentence, "sexual orientation?"

"Excuse me?" Giles asked, utterly taken aback. He unconsciously dropped his hands, causing Buffy's fist to meet empty air.

Flushing with embarrassment, Buffy muttered, "Could trading places with my wacky identical twin from another dimension make me gay?"

Abandoning training for the time being, her watcher tried to answer the question with a straight face. "I don't think that's possible."

"Are you sure?" Buffy asked, unsure whether she was hoping for him to say yes or no. Yes meant that dimension hopping wasn't having an weird effects on her, but it also meant that some new issues popping up were all coming from her.

"Well, no," Giles admitted, "but I really don't think your dimension hopping would alter your, err, sexual preferences." He looked as though it pained him to use the word 'sexual' in a sentence. "If I am gay here, I would most certainly be gay in any other dimension I were transported to."

"You're gay, too?" The blonde asked, in shock. "See, Giles, this is what I'm saying! This is the gay dimension. Faith's gay; you're gay; I'm turning gay! Everyone's gay here except Willow, and she's supposed to be gay!"

"Wait," Giles held up a hand. "Your Willow is gay?"

"Giles! Focus!"

"Right, of course." Giles shook his head, trying to stay on task. "I'm not gay, Buffy. I was merely making a point, which is that I don't see how moving in to this reality would have any effect on your orientation." He studied her troubled face, hoping she would provide more information on what had caused her to ask this question. When she didn't offer any, he prodded, "Do you want to tell me what's got you thinking like this?"

His question prompted her to think of a scene from the patrol she and Faith had done several nights before. Faith dove off the gravestone she was standing on, directly at the vampire Buffy was fighting. The blonde's stake hit home and the vamp disintegrated, leaving Faith falling through empty air. She collided with Buffy, sending the pair tumbling to the ground.

"Ow," Buffy mumbled feebly, from her spot underneath Faith.

"Shit," Faith muttered, pulling herself into a sitting position atop Buffy. "Are you okay?" Her hands reached down to feel for possible head wounds.

Buffy didn't hear the question. Faith's knees were on either side of her thighs, her dark hair brushing against Buffy's jacket as she leaned in closer. It looked for a moment like Faith would kiss her, and Buffy found her chin tilting up, ready and waiting.

"Buffy?" Faith asked, becoming concerned by her lack of response.

Buffy snapped out of it. "What? No? I'm okay."

The slayer shook her head, trying to focus on the conversation. "That would be a no, topped with extra no," she answered unhappily, "but I guess I let the cat out of the rainbow bag so…"

"So," Giles prompted once more. He stripped the pads from his hands, sensing that their training had wrapped up.

"It's, well, it's Faith." And her incredibly soft looking mouth. And her breasts that were always on the verge of heaving from whatever tank top she'd clothed them with. And the way they always seemed to end up touching more than was necessary. Buffy and Faith. Not the boobs.

"Stop!"

Faith's order was promptly ignored by Buffy, who continued to fling pieces of popcorn at her. The brunette's choice in movies left a lot to be desired. Dawn was snoring softly on the loveseat, and Buffy had had to turn to other amusements.

"I'm warning you," Faith growled, as another kernel hit her squarely on the nose.

"I'm so scared," Buffy said, in a mock trembling voice, just before sending another kernel flying.

"That's it!" Faith told her, leaping across the couch and landing ungracefully in Buffy's lap. The popcorn bowl tumbled to the ground, followed quickly by the two grappling slayers.

"Ow!" Buffy whined immediately, attempting to trick Faith into releasing her.

Not falling for it, the younger woman pinned her wrists to the floor. "You're fine, you big baby."

The blonde thrashed futilely, her chest pressing up against Faith's as she attempted to squirm free. "Let me go!"

Faith looked down at her speculatively. "What are you gonna give me if I do?" She asked, her voice sounding throaty.

Buffy stopped struggling, her mind quickly filling with pictures of things she could give Faith, most of them at least R-rated.

"You know you two are ridiculous, right?" Dawn asked, having been awoken by the pair crashing to the floor. "And people say I'm immature?"

Faith quickly rolled off Buffy, brushing her pants off as she got to her feet. "She started it," she declared.

Buffy took a moment to calm her racing heartbeat before she got up too.

Giles seemed to be waiting for her to elaborate.

Keeping her gaze anywhere but on the watcher, Buffy continued, "My Faith—I mean, not my Faith, but the Faith in my world, umm, she was pretty big with the innuendos and the touchy feely. Faith here, not totally unlike Faith there, but the difference is me."

"How so?"

"I'm doing it back," Buffy squeaked. Having this conversation with Giles was so weird.

"I don't mean to! It just happens. Hence, gay dimension."

"Buffy," Giles said, stifling a smile, "I'm quite certain that this isn't supernatural."

"How do you explain my sudden attraction to leather and monosyllabic conversation then?" There had to be a supernatural explanation; she knew it!

Giles considered how to tactfully phrase his words. "The simplest explanation is just that being around Faith is allowing these feelings to come out now."

Buffy considered this, gnawing on her bottom lip. She'd never felt even a hint of attraction toward another woman before, and that included Faith. Even as she thought this, a little voice in her head was pointing out the night she and the other slayer had gone off the rails, the night Allan Finch was killed. It had been fun, before the unthinkable had happened. It had felt good to lose control, to be a little bad. She thought of the two of them in the Bronze, Faith's sweaty palm sliding down her forearm, her other hand tucking in to the back pocket of Buffy's pants. They'd been dancing close together, and at the time Buffy hadn't thought a thing about it. Looking back… she flushed. Maybe things hadn't been as clear-cut as she'd imagined.

Giles looked at her in concern. Buffy's mind was clearly spinning. "Does Faith know about this?" He asked.

"I don't know," she answered, with a wrinkle of confusion in her brow. "She's not blind, so…"

"Right." Giles considered all this information. He didn't find it very surprising that Buffy had developed an attraction to Faith. The two Buffys were quite similar in most ways, and something like sexual orientation was a basic part of one's personality. It also didn't surprise him to hear that Faith seemed to reciprocate these feelings, whether she was ready to admit that or not.

"Giles," Buffy began, but was interrupted by the door to the training room opening.

"Buffy," Anya said, "Faith called. She says you have to get home as soon as possible."

"Did she say why?" The slayer asked, alarmed.

Anya shook her head. "No, but she sounded worried."

Buffy glanced around the messy training room.

"Go," her watcher told her. "I'll clean up."

"Thanks," she called, hurrying out the door.

XXXXX

Buffy's mind was racing with horrific possibilities by the time her Jeep squealed to a halt in front of the Summers' house. Demons, vampires, the other Buffy back from who knew where… any crisis was possible. Practically flying up the stairs to the porch, the slayer opened the door while calling, "Faith?"

"In here," the other slayer shouted from the kitchen.

Buffy went in that direction, noticing that the house looked curiously neater than when she had left that morning. She found Faith frantically scrubbing down the kitchen counters.

"What's going on?" Buffy demanded, alarmed.

Faith threw her sponge in the sink, already looking around the kitchen for anything else in need of cleaning. "Dawn's social worker called. She's coming by."

"Tonight?"

"Yeah," Faith said, picking up the broom and starting to sweep. "She wants to check in, with school starting and everything."

"Okay." The blonde was relieved. Compared to the possibilities she'd been imagining, a visit from Social Services sounded like a walk in the park. "I'll go straighten up upstairs."

"There's a problem," Faith told her, before she could leave the kitchen.

Buffy glanced at her inquisitively.

"This isn't our first visit," the brunette said. "Mrs. Hudson was here right after Mrs. S passed."

"Let me guess," Buffy said, dread filling her voice, "it didn't go well?"

"Actually, it was fine. She thought B and me were doing a real good job taking care of Dawn."

"Oh." Buffy was beginning to see the issue.

Faith paused in her sweeping. "Yeah."

"So she thinks that we're…"

"Yeah."

"Faith, it's fine. We can handle this."

"You think she's really gonna buy that we're," Faith gestured in the air between them, as if the very idea were ludicrous, "a couple?"

Buffy blanched. "We could be a couple."

Faith rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. We're toast."

Swallowing some hurt she didn't want to analyze, Buffy put steel in her voice. "Look, this is for Dawn. She's the most important thing to both of us. We can pull this off."

The doorbell rang.

"Oh, God," Faith groaned. She quickly stowed the broom away.

Dawn darted in to the kitchen, nervousness in her eyes. "She's here."

After calmly instructing her sister to open the door, Buffy turned to Faith. "We can do this," she repeated.

Faith nodded, seeming more convinced. In the foyer, Dawn was greeting the social worker. With Faith in the lead, the slayers left the kitchen to join the pair.

"Mrs. Hudson," Faith greeted, holding out her hand. "How are you?"

"Doing well," the social worker replied, shaking Faith's hand. "And how is everything here?" Her gaze moved to Buffy as she asked.

"Uh, you know, same as always." She tried to sound airy. "It's a little hectic right now with school starting."

Beside her, Faith winced.

Mrs. Hudson's shrewd gaze lingered on the blonde. "I hope it's not quite the same old story, Buffy. Dawn did miss an awful lot of school last year."

"Right," Faith cut in. "I think what Buffy's trying to say is that we've gotten in to a groove over the summer. Things are going pretty smoothly, and Dawn's not going to have those kinds of problems this year." She glanced at Buffy pointedly. "Right, B?"

"Right," Buffy agreed, with a smile that she hoped didn't look as fake as it felt. "That's exactly what I meant."

"Why don't we have a seat in the living room," Faith suggested, ushering their guest forward. "Mrs. Hudson, can we get you something to drink?"

The older woman seated herself on the couch. "No, thank you."

Dawn disappeared upstairs to finish straightening her room before the social worker would come and talk to her. Buffy quickly sat on the loveseat opposite her. Faith sat down next to her, closer than she normally would have. Her arm draped casually behind Buffy's waist. The blonde's cheeks felt warm. She deliberately leaned closer to Faith's side, trying to appear comfortable with their closeness.

Smiling at them, Mrs. Hudson pulled a notebook from her bag. "So," she began, "tell me more about how things have been going since our last visit."

"Good," Faith supplied immediately, taking the lead in the conversation. As she spoke, Buffy focused on trying to relax. Faith seemed totally at ease, talking animatedly. Her fingers pressed gently against Buffy's side, and she looked to the blonde frequently as if checking for her agreement. Faith looked every bit the doting girlfriend, and Buffy hoped she looked the part as well.

Faith explained their summer activities, which were largely being fabricated at this moment. In truth, their summer had had a very rocky start, but they couldn't very well explain that, due to an inter-dimensional portal, Dawn was now being parented by her sister's doppelganger and her real sister's ex-girlfriend. Some parts were true though, like the family dinners they were having more often, and the improvements in the relationship between Buffy and Dawn.

Looking to Buffy, Mrs. Hudson asked, "Would you agree with that, Buffy? I know there was some tension between you and Dawn the last time I was here."

There was? Buffy glanced at Faith, in surprise. The way Dawn had talked about it, her sister was a saint and the Buffy she was now saddled with was a poor substitute. Faith's fingers pressed a little harder into her hip, prompting her to speak. "Um," Buffy said, struggling to say the right thing, "yeah, I would agree." Mrs. Hudson seemed to be waiting for more, so Buffy just kept talking, not really sure where she was going. "I just never expected that I would be raising my sister. It's like I'm this whole new person to her now, you know? And it's… honestly, it's really hard. I don't always know what I'm doing," she confessed. "But Dawn is the most important person in the world to me. I'm trying my best, and I think she knows that. I think things are getting better every day." She laid her hand gently on Faith's knee. "And of course I have Faith here to help me. I think that's good for Dawn too. Having two of us here taking care of her, I mean." Buffy trailed off, realizing she was rambling.

"Buffy does most of the work," Faith said, passing the credit back to her fellow slayer. She smiled affectionately at Buffy.

The social worker nodded sympathetically. "No one knows what they're doing all of the time," she assured them. "Considering what you've been through, I think you're doing an excellent job here."

"Thank you," Faith said quietly, moving her hand to rest on top of Buffy's. Buffy was just relieved her musing had made sense and seemed to resonate with the social worker.

"And how are the two of you doing?" Mrs. Hudson asked. "I hate to pry… but the loss of a loved one, inheriting responsibility for a partner's minor sibling, this kind of thing can really strain a relationship."

The two slayers looked at one another.

Faith spoke first. "It hasn't all been a walk in the park, but we're a team. I think our relationship is even stronger now." She looked at Buffy, forcing what she hoped was a bright smile.

Buffy nodded along, smiling right back at her. "Yeah, I mean, we have our good days and our bad days. There have been a lot of changes, but, like Faith said, we're a team. I can't imagine doing this without her."

Faith blinked in surprise, but quickly covered it with a grin in Mrs. Hudson's direction. "Now she's just trying to butter me up so I'll clean up after dinner tonight."

The social worker laughed. "If only my husband would butter me up once in a while!"

Buffy laughed, relieved that the focus was off them for the moment.

"Well," Mrs. Hudson said, still smiling. "I just need to speak with Dawn for a few minutes, and then I'll be out of your hair."

"Sure." Faith quickly stood up. "Let me take you up to her room."

As the pair left the living room, Buffy sagged back against the couch. She hoped their performance had been convincing.

XXXXX

After leaving Mrs. Hudson with Dawn, Faith quickly ducked inside her bedroom and closed the door behind her. She rested her head back against the wood, taking a deep breath. She thought they'd put on a pretty believable show. It was almost a little too believable for Faith's taste. Holding Buffy's hand, seeing the blonde pretend to love her… it made Faith's heart ache. She hoped this was the last visit they'd be getting for quite a while, because she wasn't sure how much more she could take of pretending to be dating Buffy.

It didn't help matters that touching the blonde made her pulse race. She didn't want to be attracted to Buffy, but it was almost impossible not to be. She was gorgeous of course, but she also had all these annoyingly cute things she did. The way she wrinkled her nose whenever it was her turn to wash the dishes. The fact that her puns were somehow even cornier than B's had been. The way she liked to tease Faith about winning their sparring. She was tougher than B had been, and more sarcastic, because she'd been carrying the weight of the world on her own for the last few years. The more time she spent with Buffy, the more subtle differences between the two she noticed, but somehow the attraction didn't lessen.

It felt wrong, really wrong, on two different fronts. On one hand, it felt bad to be attracted to the similarities between the two blondes—like she was minimizing the loss of her girlfriend. It also felt wrong to be attracted to the qualities about this Buffy that were all her own. That felt suspiciously like moving on to someone else, and Faith was not about to do that. No matter how many times she found herself somehow landing on top of Buffy on patrol.

Knowing she needed to get back downstairs to finish out the visit, Faith quickly strode to her dresser. She checked herself in the mirror, fixing her hair and trying to will herself not to look stressed out. Satisfied with her reflection, she strode to the door and opened it.

Mrs. Hudson stood in the hallway, just leaving Dawn's room. She looked questioningly at Faith, noticing the clearly lived in room behind her. "Do you have a houseguest?" She asked, surprised.

"No," Faith answered, without thinking about it, "that's my stuff."

The social worker's eyebrows rose.

Catching herself, she hurriedly added, "Mine and Buffy's, I mean. We decided to move in to the bigger bedroom." She quickly closed the door behind her, gesturing for Mrs. Hudson to walk toward the stairs with her. "It seemed silly to waste the space."

The older woman nodded in agreement. "Well," she said, as they reached the foyer, "thank you for letting me stop by."

Coming from the living room, Buffy quickly joined them, standing close to Faith.

Faith brought her hand up to touch Buffy's back. "So, your talk with Dawn went well?" She asked the social worker.

"I don't see any cause for alarm," Mrs. Hudson said, with a wide smile. "It seems like you're doing a fine job with Dawn."

The slayers both smiled in relief, murmuring their thanks.

"I'll be in touch if we have any follow-up questions." Their visitor stepped toward the door, giving them a kind smile before she took her leave.

With the door safely closed behind her, Faith dropped her hand from Buffy's back.

They stood in silence for a few seconds, processing the visit. "I think it went well," Buffy finally decided.

"Yeah." Faith raked a hand through her unruly hair, trying to calm her still ragged nerves. "She saw my stuff in Mrs. S's room, but I said we were moving in there. I think she bought it."

Before Buffy could reply, Dawn was hurrying down the stairs. "What did she say? Was it okay?"

"She said everything was fine," Faith assured her.

The younger girl grinned in relief. "Yay! Group hug!" She threw her arms around both slayers, dragging them all together.

Buffy laughed, surprised and pleased by Dawn's reaction.

Faith wrapped the two sisters in her arms and squeezed, laughing too.

"Okay," Dawn wheezed from the inside both their arms, "breathing is becoming an issue."

They stepped apart, all smiling. "So," Faith said, "ice cream to celebrate?"

XXXXX

Willow listened to Buffy's recounting of the social worker's visit with great concentration. It sounded like everything had gone well. Buffy told the story in great detail, although most of her detail seemed to focus on the parts of the story where Faith was touching her. The actual words of the social worker were reviewed quickly. "Wow," the redhead said, as Buffy's story drew to a close, "so you guys really pulled it off."

"Yeah," Buffy agreed, sipping on her mocha happily, "we did. Faith was great. She really took the lead."

Willow considered this for a moment. She wanted to say something, but wasn't sure Buffy was ready to hear it. Finally, she decided to just plow ahead. "I bet you didn't hate that."

A tiny crease appeared between the slayer's eyebrows. "Huh?"

"Buffy," Willow began, with a gentle look, "we're not blind. Everybody knows something's going on with you and Faith." Ignoring the fact that Buffy's mouth was now opening and closing like a trout's, Willow amended her statement. "Well, everyone except you and Faith."

"I say again, huh?" The slayer was dumbfounded. There was nothing going on with her and Faith! She rushed to defend herself. "Okay, so maybe there's a little bit of flirting! But that's all Faith! She's flirty!"

"And you're flirty back!"

Buffy opened her mouth to deny it, but quickly crumpled in the face of Willow's resolve face. "Okay, I'm flirty. But it's some inter-dimensional gay thing! I was straight before I came here!"

Laughing, Willow reached across to pat her friend's hand. "Buffy, it's okay."

The blonde looked utterly miserable. "No, it's not."

"Why not?"

"I'm supposed to be straight. And Faith's totally hung up on the other Buffy anyway. I don't want to be flirty with her."

"Forget about what you're supposed to feel like, or what you think Faith feels, what do you actually feel, Buffy?"

Looking confused, Buffy shrugged. "I'm not sure."

Not willing to give up, Willow persisted. "Yes, you are. Are you still convinced she's evil and going to turn on you at any second?"

"No," Buffy denied immediately. She hadn't worried about that for a very long time. She'd accepted that Faith in this reality was different than the one in hers.

"Then how do you feel about her?" Willow repeated.

"Well, I trust her now," Buffy hedged.

Giving her an exasperated look, the redhead persisted. "That's not an answer! Come on, Buffy, don't think about it, just say it, how do you feel?"

Toying with the lid of her coffee cup, the slayer took a moment to process. She knew what she was feeling, but wasn't sure she was ready to admit it out loud. Out loud seemed scary. It was all audible and stuff. Taking a deep breath, she met Willow's eyes. "There's definitely something there. I don't want there to be; I don't think Faith wants there to be. But there's definitely something." Out loud was definitely scary, but she figured she might as well finish her thought now. "There is so much more to her than I ever would have imagined, you know? And I think about what the two of them had together, and honestly, it makes me jealous."

"Jealous?"

"That I didn't get to have that," Buffy clarified. She looked down at her hands and then added, in a small voice, "That I won't get to."

Far from feeling satisfied that she'd gotten the slayer to admit her feelings toward Faith, Willow felt bad when she saw the obvious upset on her friend's face. "Oh, Buffy, I'm sorry."

Buffy shrugged, trying to pull herself together. "It's okay, Will." She glanced at her watch and said, "I should probably be going. I told Dawn I'd be her sous chef tonight."

Willow nodded unhappily. She felt horrible for making Buffy so sad. She didn't know how to fix it, but she tried anyway. "Okay, but for what it's worth?"

Buffy looked at her.

"I've seen how Faith looks at you. It's not exactly platonic."

"That's because I look like her," Buffy pointed out, as she slid from her stool.

Willow stood too, still trying to convince Buffy. "That's not all it is."

Buffy paused, feeling a tiny spark of hope at her best friend's words. "Do you really think she could…" she trailed off, unsure what she wanted to ask.

Willow seemed to get the point anyway, and she nodded enthusiastically. "She could."

Buffy managed a small smile for her friend, and the two walked out of the coffee shop together. Their conversation had given her a lot to think about.

XXXXX

No ideas had really presented themselves by the following week. At least not any that seemed worthwhile. There was, however, something else on Buffy's mind. "Will," Buffy asked, as the two friends sat at the kitchen table together, "if I wanted you to do something illegal, would you be up for it?"

Willow stopped her fastidious combing through the course catalog for the upcoming semester, and raised her eyebrows nervously. "How illegal?"

"Hacking in to the school's student database?"

Willow's face broke in to a relieved smile. "Buffy, I got us through the Initiative's systems. I think I can handle UC Sunnydale."

Buffy grinned back, relieved. Willow wasn't as skilled with magic in this dimension, but obviously her computer skills hadn't suffered a bit.

"What are we looking for?"

"A student," Buffy replied. "I think she left sometime last year."

Willow waited for further information, puzzled at the lack of supernatural explanation.

Trying to be as vague as possible, Buffy continued, "Her name is Tara. She's a friend, in my world."

"A friend," the redhead repeated skeptically, sensing something weird in Buffy's tone. "Wait, Tara?" Willow wracked her brain, trying to remember where she'd heard the name. "Have you mentioned her before?"

She had, and she sincerely hoped that Willow wouldn't remember the context. "I don't think so," Buffy said evasively. "She's a friend. Well, she's more like family actually. She just… she means a lot to all of us, uh, in my world."

The front door opened and they could hear footsteps stomping rhythmically against the porch mat. "Anybody home?" Faith called through the door.

"In here!" Buffy shouted back. Looking again at her friend, she asked, "So will you help me? I just need her address. I have a feeling something bad's happening to her here."

"Sure, Buffy," Willow agreed without hesitation. "I'll help."

Faith strode into the kitchen, having divested herself of her work boots. "Help with what?" She asked, on her way to the refrigerator.

"I asked Will to hack into the school's database and look up an address for a friend who used to go there."

"Who?" Faith asked curiously, plucking a bottled water from the fridge. She unscrewed the cap and brought the bottle to her lips, leaning her back against the countertop so she was facing the pair.

"No one you know, I don't think," Buffy replied. "Her name is Tara Maclay."

Faith's eyebrows scrunched together as she wracked her brain. "Doesn't ring any bells."

"Well," Willow picked up on the earlier thread of conversation, "I can get you the address. But if you guys don't know each other in this world, what are you going to say to her?"

"I'll think of something on the ride there."

"Is it far?"

"Uh, yeah," Buffy realized. "I hadn't totally thought it out, but it's probably gonna require a road trip."

Willow smiled. "Faith, are you gonna go with her? I don't think we can trust Buffy to drive herself more than 20 miles."

Faith snorted.

"What about Dawn?" Buffy asked, trying to think of a reason Faith couldn't go with her. She had detected the evil glint in Willow's eye, and already knew the reason for it. Spending all that time alone in a confined space with Faith… it sounded like torture. Not that she didn't like being with the other slayer—it was actually quite the opposite. Buffy thought it was appalling how much of a pervert she'd become since realizing her not quite heterosexual feelings toward Faith. Her eyes were constantly traveling to the other woman's legs, her biceps, the exposed flash of back that was on display between her tank top and shorts. She found she was letting herself be pinned more easily during sparring, using her flirty voice unintentionally, smiling too goofily at Faith's antics. If she wasn't careful, Faith would catch on that she was basically drooling over her.

"I can hang out here with her," Willow offered. "Actually, the band has a gig in LA this weekend, and I can't go because I have some psych reading I need to finish before classes start. It'll be perfect. Dawnie and I can do girl's weekend."

"What psych reading?" Buffy asked suspiciously. She didn't recall any of the courses they had looked at requiring summer reading.

"Oh, umm, it's an honors class I'm going to take," Willow told them. "So much reading. You'd hate it."

"An honors psych class," Buffy repeated, now clearly not believing a word her friend was saying.

"I love psych!" Willow exclaimed, only half-facetiously. "So, go on, you gals should hit the open road, take a break from the slaying, feel the wind in your hair!"

Faith wasn't buying Willow's sudden enthusiasm for babysitting (or psychology) any more than Buffy was, but the idea of a road trip did sound appealing. "I'm in," she said.

"Oh," Buffy murmured, suddenly flustered. "You're in."

"Unless you wanted to do your own thing?" Faith asked. "I wouldn't wanna cramp your style."

"No," Buffy answered sincerely. "You wouldn't be."

"Okay," Faith said agreeably, before shooting her empty bottle overhead into the recycling container. "Sounds like a plan." She left the kitchen, heading upstairs to shower.

It did not sound like a particularly sane plan, sitting in a small car with Faith for at least a few days, sharing small hotel rooms, with perhaps only one bed. And perhaps it was a very small bed. And in the middle of the night it would get very warm…

"Buffy?" Willow asked, concerned by the glazed look that had taken up residence on Buffy's face.

Snapping out of it, Buffy turned her best scowly face toward Willow.

Hopping quickly to her feet, Willow gathered her stuff. "Oh, will you look at the time? I'm late to meet Oz." She shoved her notebook and course catalog frantically into her knapsack, and snatched her keys from the table. "I'll get the address for you tonight!"

"Willow," Buffy almost growled.

"Bye, Buffy!" Willow called, as she hurried out the door. Alone at the table, Buffy slumped over, putting her head in her hands. This weekend had the potential to go very, very wrong.

XXXXX

Thoughts? ;)