Chapter Thirteen

As the group settled down from the small disruption, Buffy saw her chance to finally get a handle on things. She stood up from the arm of the couch, removing her hand from Faith's shoulder, and walked to the center of the room.

She looked each and every person in the eye to make sure she had their attention before speaking.

"Okay then. So we have a tentative plan. Just like Faith said: We find out what's going on with her, we fight, we win, we deal. It's as easy as that."

Giles, who had been silent through this point, decided to interrupt.

"I assume by your little 'we' speech that you intend this to be a group endeavor. Have you decided who shall do what, and when?"

"Well," Buffy paused, "I hadn't exactly thought it out that far. I know that Willow's gonna do the mind-walk dealy with Faith tomorrow and that Tara's gonna be her anchor. They need to save up their energy, so that's all that I'm assigning them for now." She directed her attention to the two witches sitting across the room. "You guys can head up to bed if you want. I'll talk with you in the morning to get things set up."

Both Willow and Tara nodded and stood up, hand-in-hand. They whispered a quick goodnight to Faith and the rest of the gang before heading up the stairs.

Buffy spoke again.

"As for the rest of you, I know you're not gonna like it, but you're all part of the research crew. Hit the books, hit the streets, hit up any contacts that might have information. We don't have to start tonight because we don't even have a starting point to go from yet. I suggest you get some rest, 'cause once we find out where to start, we're not stopping until we finish this. Thoughts?"

Buffy looked around the room, almost daring someone to go against her.

"Umm, Buffy?" Dawn said quietly. "Where is everyone gonna sleep? I don't think we have enough beds. Or blankets, for that matter."

Suddenly, Buffy looked a little defeated. She hadn't even thought about sleeping arrangements, and here she had a house full of guests.

Angel sensed her discomfort, and immediately spoke up. "Don't worry about Cordy, Wes, and I. We'll stay at the mansion. I've had it kept up since I left. I'll patrol tonight so you can focus your attention on what's going on here."

The three stood to leave, and Buffy put a hand on Angel's arm to stop him.

"Listen, Angel. I know you're not gonna like it, but I think you should stop at Spike's and get him to help with tonight's patrol."

"You can't be serious," Angel replied, sounding a bit annoyed.

"Yeah, I am. I know he can be a pain in the ass, but he's a good fighter. You'll get the patrol done quicker, and then maybe you can check into some of your old contacts and see if any of them know what's going on with Faith."

Angel grumbled under his breath, but finally gave in.

"Fine. We'll be back before first light. Let me know if anything happens between now and then."

"Will do," she replied with a gentle smile.

Before walking out the door, Angel walked back to the couch and bent down in front of Faith.

"You okay?" He asked, his voice full of sincerity.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry 'bout me. I think you're leaving me in some pretty capable hands. I'll deal."

He leaned in and gave her a kiss on the forehead before standing up and leaving with Cordy and Wes.

As they walked outside, Cordelia could be heard whining, "I can't believe you're making me sleep in that crusty old mansion! Come on, you're a vampire for Christ's sake. Let's go to a hotel and scare them into giving us a room." After hearing nothing in return from Angel, she continued, "Ugh, fine, but if I wake up with any kind of bites or a rash, I am so quitting."

Back inside, Buffy was trying to tie things up so they could all call it a night.

"Okay, so Giles, you can sleep on the couch. I hope you don't mind, but the bed space is kind of limited."

"That's quite alright, Buffy. I'll likely be up most of the night reading through some prophecies and journals anyway. I have far too much to look into to be able to sleep at this point." He turned his gaze to Faith. "We're not going to fail you this time," he said to her before walking out of the room and into the kitchen.

Faith smiled. She still couldn't believe how things were turning out.

Without a word, Dawn got up off of the floor and headed up the stairs, calling down from the top of the stairs, "There's no way you're giving away my room!" before closing her bedroom door behind her.

Suddenly, the realization hit Faith that she was now alone in the room with Buffy. She visibly tensed up, keeping her head lowered while fidgeting a bit.

"Faith . . . are you okay?" Buffy asked, sounding concerned.

"Yeah, B. I'm fine. Just a little tired, I guess."

"Well, come on then. We'll go up to bed," Buffy replied very nonchalantly.

Faith looked up at her with a puzzled look on her face. Was Buffy actually suggesting that she stay in her room?

She stood up and tried to walk to the stairs but she was having a hard time. Still, she was determined to prove that she wasn't totally incapable.

After a moment or two, she finally reached the bottom of the stairs. She looked up to the top of the stairs which were suddenly starting to resemble Mt. Everest and let out a defeated sigh. Looking over to Buffy, who was watching her with an amused look on her face, she uttered the words that she had never been able to before.

"Buffy . . . will you help me?"

Smiling, Buffy walked over to her and slid underneath Faith's arm while wrapping her free arm around her waist. As they slowly began ascending the stairs, Buffy finally answered.

"I thought you'd never ask."

After a short trip to the bathroom so that Faith could wash up and get ready for bed, the two slayers found their way to Buffy's bedroom. Faith sat down on the chair in front of the make-up mirror while Buffy ran back downstairs to grab her bags.

Faith was definitely feeling awkward. She was tired and could probably use a good night's rest, but she was still afraid to sleep. Afraid that another dream could really hurt her, if not kill her. To add to that, now she was presumably kicking Buffy out of her own bed.

She made up her mind. When Buffy came back in the room, she was going to tell her that she didn't have to sleep on the floor or in Dawnie's room. She could have her own bed. Faith was going to go sit on the back porch and watch the stars 'til the sun came up.

It was a good plan. Now all she had to do was convince Buffy to go along with it.

Buffy chose that moment to walk into the room, Faiths bags in tow.

"Hey," Buffy said, then looked at Faith questioningly. "How come you aren't in bed? Did you need my help?"

"Ummm . . . yunno what, B? I'm kinda riled up a bit. I'm thinkin 'bout spending some quality time with your back porch . . . yunno, get some air, watch the stars. Besides, this way you don't have to crash with Dawnie or take the floor."

Buffy gave her a bewildered look, then shook her head and smiled a bit.

"Yeahhhh . . . you didn't really think I was gonna go for that, did you?"

"Nope. Nope, I didn't." Faith answered a little too quickly. "Listen, truth be told? I've kinda got the willies about going to sleep. Never know what's gonna happen. If you don't mind, I'd rather stay awake, at least while I can."

Buffy pondered Faith's request for a moment. She knew that Faith was exhausted; she looked like she was ready to crash any moment. She didn't want to let her out of her sight, so that ruled out any possibility of getting any sleep herself. She decided to play along, at least for now.

"Okay, Faith. I can't make you sleep, so you can stay awake if you want. But, for your information, that means I can't sleep either. I'm here to watch over you and I can't do that if you're off running around while I'm catching a few Z's. Of course . . . I don't see you doing much running or jumping in the near future . . ." she trailed off.

"You're not gonna make me feel guilty, are ya? Cos I think you are," Faith said with a little whine.

Buffy put on her best innocent face.

"Nope, I wouldn't do that to you, being all fragile-like and repent-y. Forget about it. Hey, I don't need sleep. I'm sure that being well-rested would just make tomorrow too easy to deal with, and we all know how I love a challenge . . ."

". . . Blah, blah, blah. Geez, you're almost as bad as Angel, trying to guilt me into doing things with the whole innocent routine. Fine, you win, Summers. I'll stay up here, but I'm not sleeping."

She yawned, but tried to cover it up.

Buffy, knowing that she won, put on a big grin. She walked over to her bed and started pulling down the covers, her lips still curling up into a grin.

Faith just looked on and chuckled to herself. Noticing that Buffy seemed intent on sleeping in the bed, she stood up and grabbed the sleeping bag that Angel had packed with her stuff. She slowly walked to the foot of Buffy's bed and began to lay the bag on the floor so that she would at least be comfortable on the floor for the night.

"Faith? What are you doing?" Buffy interrupted, noticing what the other girl was doing.

"Oh . . . well, I was just putting this down so my back isn't sore in the morning." Faith indicated the sleeping bag in her hand and continued trying to get it even on the floor.

Buffy calmly walked over, grabbed the sleeping bag, and threw it by Faith's bags.

"Listen, we're both adults here and I have a Queen-size bed. We'll draw an imaginary line down the middle and keep to our respective sides. Can you handle that?"

Faith fidgeted a bit, nervous at the very thought of sharing a bed with Buffy-fricken-Summers.

"B . . . I know we're not okay yet, so . . ."

Buffy interrupted.

" . . . No, we're not okay yet. Kinda far from it, I'd say. We have a lot to talk about. Tons. But we'll deal with that when this whole thing is over. Until then, I'm gonna do what I can to help you and that's a promise. Sharing a bed with you? Not at the top of our list of problems right now. Got it?"

She held the covers up for Faith, indicating that she should hop in.

Faith simply nodded and crawled into the bed, perfectly content for the moment.

She watched as Buffy grabbed some clothing from a dresser drawer and left the room, presumably to get dressed for bed. She couldn't help the relaxed feeling that came over her as she laid there in Buffy's bed, all snuggled up and content.

Without even realizing it, she drifted off to sleep.

A few minutes later, Buffy entered her bedroom and closed the door behind her. She was definitely feeling tired and couldn't wait to crash for the night. She was about to ask Faith if she needed anything else when she noticed that the other girl was sleeping.

A small smile crept up on her face. It wasn't because Faith looked kinda cute laying there on her bed all wrapped up like a little cocoon. It was because Buffy knew that she was right when she said that Faith was going to crash any moment, and now she had.

If there was one thing that Buffy loved, it was being right.

She turned out the light and was just about to hop into her side of the bed when she heard something.

It was Faith. She had let out a small whimper. As Buffy got closer, she realized that Faith was breathing rather heavily for a person who was supposed to be sleeping. She pulled the covers back from up around Faith's head and noticed that she was covered in a fine coating of sweat.

Buffy quickly put her hands on Faith's shoulders and began to shake her gently, knowing fully well that she had to wake her up. She didn't know what would happen to the girl if she suffered another nightmare.

"Faith, come on, wake up. It's time to wake up Faith. Come on, Slayer! Faith!!"

Suddenly Faith's eyes flickered open and she looked up at Buffy.

"Shit! I can't believe I fuckin fell asleep! I was only out for a couple of minutes, right?"

Buffy nodded.

"Yeah, I just changed and washed up and came right back. Are you okay?"

Faith knitted her eyebrows together while pondering Buffy's question. She realized that something was different. Her reaction to her dream -- which she couldn't even remember, right now -- was not as severe as it had been other times. Her breathing was a little rough and she was sweating, but there was no pain.

Oh, and no catatonia. Bonus.

"Uh, yeah, I'm fine. Thank god you woke me up when you did. I mean . . . this is wicked weird; I don't have the normal pain part of the side effects. Which, yunno . . . totally not complaining here. It's just weird. Maybe it's got something to do with you, cos you're near me. Maybe the Slayer-connection stops the magic from getting that close to me, cos the Slayer-connection is stronger than anything else, magic or not."

"I don't know Faith. That's what we're going to find out tomorrow. In the meanwhile, do you want to go back to sleep . . . I mean . . . now that I'm here? Like you said, maybe it won't be that bad if I'm here next to you."

Faith thought about it for a minute.

"I don't know, B. It's kinda scary. Big-time scary."

"Well, I'll be right here next to you. If I think something's going on, I'll jump in and save the day. It's kinda what I do. Birthright and all."

With that, Buffy crawled onto her side of the bed and settled in. She laid on her side so that she was facing Faith. She immediately closed her eyes and relaxed, trying to let sleep take over her.

Faith, on the other hand, had rolled onto her back and lay awake, staring at the ceiling. Her feet started dancing back and forth, part of a nervous habit she picked up years ago. She hadn't even realized that she was doing it until she heard Buffy let out an annoyed sigh.

"Hey, Fred Astaire? Are you planning on keeping up the midnight mambo all night over there, or were you going to try and sleep?" Buffy asked, not opening her eyes.

"Sorry," Faith replied, "nervous habit. Just scared to sleep, I guess."

Buffy sighed. With her eyes still closed, she began to speak again.

"What I'm about to do does not signify that things are okay between us. I just want to get some sleep, and I know that you definitely need it too. Understood?"

Faith glanced over at Buffy with an unsure look on her face.

"Umm, yeah, I guess."

"Alright then," Buffy replied. She opened her eyes only long enough to scoot closer to Faith, pull the girl closer to her, push her on her side, and drape an arm over her midsection.

Was it possible? Was she being spooned by Buffy Summers? Faith looked down at their position. Yep, she was being spooned by Buffy Summers.

"Not a word of this to anyone, Faith. Got it?" Buffy said with her eyes closed yet again.

"Yeah, I got it, B," Faith answered with a small grin on her face.

She relaxed into Buffy's embrace and slowly drifted off to sleep, a content smile playing on her lips.

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