A Whole New Life: Exceptionally Strong
by Surugan
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I'm not Joss Whedon, Aimee Mann or anyone else of any importance. And I'm not making money with this.
Author's Notes: Hugs to you all, especially to the Americans. Read the stuff about the two slashes and the characters from the 'notes' section of the two previous chapters. Please, somebody, send me feedback. I will *probably* write more chapters...

"'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day......' Oh God, I couldn't... she's much more beautiful than merely a day..."

"Buffy, you really should consider telling her." Willow stated. The two witches and the blonde vampire slayer were on a picnic at a park. It was a *perfect* summerday, just three weeks after their lessons at the college had ended. Faith had moved into the mansion for the summer, since Angel had refused to pay her if she came to LA. The wiccans had rented an apartment from Sunnydale.

"How could I? Like, even when I picture it in my head, it doesn't end well. I go to her and tell her and she never believes me.. and she always brings up the stabbing incident... Once, I had seen it in my sleep, I woke up and saw Faith and I acted really hurt. And she didn't know why... She was so cute, trying to apologize for something she didn't do... I felt like I could have kissed her right then and there...."

"You've already told that story today. And yesterday, and the day before. And last week." Willow replied.

"But you had a new story three days ago, remember?" Tara added.

"Yeah, but I can't stop telling that one, she was so cute...."

"Don't." Tara said.

"You're hopeless." Willow stated. Buffy looked embarrassed.

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to repeat myself."

"It's OK." Willow answered. "You're just hopeless. But please, do try to avoid those two stories..."

"OK... Did I tell you about yesterday, when I went to the mansion and she was reading Shakespeare? Like, she was there with all her books and she blushed furiously when she didn't have time to hide them and then she explained that they were only for college, but we're on a vacation... And there was e.e. cummings and others, and she said they were from the library, but there was a book open, it was Shakespeare, and she had underlined it like a hundred times or more.... all about love and misery and death... And the book wouldn't close properly, 'cause it had been read so many times - she was so cute when she tried to be angry with someone for destroying public property." Buffy explained, very fast.

"Yeah you did. You called after slaying, when I was already asleep..."

"You should have told me you were sleeping!"

"How could I have known that you'd call us only to talk about Faith?"

"What else would I have called to you about?"

"I'd have thought that you knew that others sleep at four am... So I didn't expect you to call at all."

"Hey let's not fight, ok?" Tara said.

"I agree." Buffy said.

"Yeah." Willow agreed and gave her lover a peck on the cheek.

"You used to spend less time with us." Tara said, to prevent an uncomfortable silence that could have only ended in Buffy explaining about how cute or wonderful or intelligent Faith was.

"I know, but you're the only ones who could possibly understand this."

"I'm sure you're not the only one hopelessly in love." Willow replied.

"No, but Xander would go nuts and Anya isn't really the sentimental type."

"What do you mean with 'this'?" Tara asked.

"This. The whole thing - being hopelessly... I don't know... in love with someone who won't even look at you in that way."

"You don't know that for sure." Tara said.

"I do. You have seen the looks she shoots at me."

"What looks?" Willow asked, now interested.

"Like - dislike and stuff."

"Yet still she cares for your opinion enough to be embarrassed when caught reading poetry... or apologizing you when she doesn't know what you're blaming her for?"

"W- well.. y-yeah." Buffy stuttered, feeling very uncertain. "You know Red, you're not helping at all... you're giving me hope and that's not what I need, she won't even look at me and I know that, but still you're doing a damn good job making me hope for the best, and I don't wanna do that 'cause I tried to get her attention and she didn't even react, and now I really don't wanna feel this way, 'cause she doesn't even like me, she still blames me and she should and I know she'll never forgive me and she'll never love me -"

"BUFFY!" Willow yelled.

"What did I do wrong? Why are you so angry?"

"You're babbling." Tara explained.

"Oh." Buffy looked at her feet, and then scanned the park around them "I think I should go... It's almost nightfall already."

"It's 4 pm. It won't be nightfall for hours... and anyway, didn't she say she forgave you?"

"Yeah she did, but she hasn't said that since... that night."

"When did you ask her?"

"Last week..."

"And she said?"

"'You've done nothing that I'd need to forgive you for, B.' But that's not the issue - I know she still blames me."

"She doesn't. Believe us, she too is our friend. She called us right after and said you've been behaving strangely."

"Really?"

"Yeah, we told you... and she's right - you've started babbling and calling me Red whenever you're thinking of her..."

"I wouldn't be surprised if you started writing poetry...." Tara said.

"I wouldn't write poetry even if my life depended on it! I'm not good at that."

"Yeah, well sometimes people do anything to get their message through... just to tell someone about it."

Buffy did not look at the witches. Her eye had been caught by a foot and the neck of a guitar. The foot was clad in leather, and the hand that was playing the guitar behind the tree, was very muscular. Now that she concentrated on it, she could also see, very clearly, the left side of a girl's back, who was dressed in a blood-red tank top.

"Buffy? Buffy? Are you there?" Willow asked, annoyed.

"Huh?"

"Did you hear me at all?"

"What? Sorry, I got side-tracked."

"What's so interesting about that direction?"

"Faith." Buffy said, now sure of it.

"If you're gonna start talking about her again - " Willow started.

"I'm not gonna start talking 'bout her. She's here."

"Oh." Willow turned to look there as well "Well, let's go see her."

"That's a good -" Tara agreed, but was silenced by Buffy, who almost shouted:

"No!"

"Why not?" Willow said.

"'Cause I'm not in the mood."

"How so?"

"I might say something to her... about our conversation."

"Let's just go talk to her." Tara said, got up and started gathering their picnic 'stuff'. Willow followed her lover's example, and soon the wiccans were halfway to Faith //Oh this is stupid... if they go there and mention me, she's gonna think I have a reason to avoid her. And she's gonna wonder what is that reason.// Buffy thought //It would be fun to see her apologizing... not!// She got up and quickly ran to the witches. They could hear her sing before she knew they were there. Buffy halted for a moment, not wanting to disturb her. //That must be the most - - -// She couldn't finish her thought. She just felt good, now that she was close to Faith. And she thought that Faith was singing very beautifully. She didn't even realise that the song was a Dolly Parton classic, 'Jolene', and that the song itself was horrible.

The singing stopped, and Buffy was awoken from her reverie. //Stupid girl, what's the matter with you?// The wiccans had, luckily perhaps, halted when she did. //Thanks Will, Tara, thanks...// Her slayer hearing picked nothing but wind and the sound of breathing. //Please don't turn to look...// Soon, Faith began another song. Originally performed and written by Tori Amos, "Winter" sounded rather good when sung by the dark slayer. //If I've got an audience, might as well give them a *good* show... And they already heard me screaming 'Jolene' at the top of my voice...// She thought. She knew that Buffy, Tara and Willow were there. She'd recognize those footsteps anywhere.

They listened until Faith had sung the first refrain and started the second verse. Buffy's feet took her to sit by her fellow slayer, and the wiccans followed, throwing a look at each other. When they sat down beside Faith, the witches had already forgotten that they had company. Only when Faith stopped playing, and singing, did they notice that there were others.

"Go on.." Buffy said, hoping that she could just look and listen to the girl next to her. "It was very beautiful."

"I don't think I will." Faith said, placing her guitar into a hardshell case she had gotten from Angel for Christmas. "And good afternoon to you too.."

"Hi." Buffy replied.

"Hi." The witches echoed.

"So why are you three here?"

"Oh, we were just at Will's and Tara's and thought that we'd go for a picnic."

"And anyway Buffy kept talking about -" Willow started but couldn't finish her sentence before Tara kissed her. They kept kissing, and Faith turned to look at Buffy, feeling a bit uncomfortable. Both of them tried hard to ignore the witches.

"What were you talking 'bout, B?"

"Ahh.. nothing special.. I've been just very frustrated because of the monsterless period... I guess I've been really annoying, talking about slaying and so..."

"Yeah.. it's really bothering when you can't burn all this energy, makes you do and think funny stuff, like the other day, I was thinking about writing a novel, 'cause the slaying had been so boring and all, and then and then and - am I actually *babbling*?"

Buffy smiled at her. She had completely forgotten about the wiccans, who were still trying to annoy her by kissing. She had been smiling stupidly, looking at and listening to her love-interest.

"Yeah you are, but it's OK, I think it was really cu... cool. You know, not in any special way, but like - it's funny how Red affects the people around her, like you've picked that habit of babbling while panicking and so have I and everybody, hell I even thought I heard Xander babble one day -"

"Slayers, shut up. Both of you." Willow said. "It's my trademark cute babbling - you shouldn't do it just because you see two women kissing and start thinking about Christmas Eve or whatever you're thinking about." Both slayers blushed so deep a shade of red that one could have sworn that their faces were bleeding.

"Y-y-you told them?" Faith managed finally.

"O-of course I told them. Red's my best friend, remember?"

"B-b-but..."

"Oh come on Faith, you're not cute when stuttering like Tara." Willow stated.

"Yes she is!" Buffy said before she thought twice about it. "I mean..." she was blushing, if possible, even more deeply.

"Now *this* is getting weird..." Faith said, flushed.

"I meant that you're not any cuter than Tara, see I don't think it's cute when she stutters, so you're equally as cute as she when stuttering, you know what I mean..."

"Yeah I do." Faith said, reaching for her hardshell case, her hand shaking. She took her guitar and placed it in her arms, trying desperately think of a good song for the situation. Tara whispered something into Willow's ear. The redhead grinned wickedly.

"I - I don't know about you, but I don't l - like Red's expression too m-much..." Faith said, almost managing not to stutter.

"No, Will, please, don't.." Buffy, who had not been thinking about a song, but listened to Tara, was praying to every God(dess) she knew to prevent Willow from asking it.

"Slayers, tell us - " Willow started "you know, I think you have to tell us, what were the results of your little... 'test'." Both slayers avoided each other's gazes, and Buffy even tried moving an inch further away from the other slayer. They were very silent, and flushed.

"I haven't heard an answer yet." The redhead said, after three *long* minutes of silence. Buffy thought that all life on earth had just died. And that her heart had stopped beating. "Really, if that's so important to you, then..."

"It isn't!" The slayers yelled quickly, but not very convincingly.

"I think we should just drop this matter." Tara said, smiling "Faith, can you play 'I don't know how to tell you that I love you'?"

"N-n-no... I've never heard of that song... who wrote it?"

"Oh come on... you played it to us just two weeks ago!" Willow said. "Just after you had written it. Or was that a line in the refrain?"

"You aren't really very good friends, you know... you're sharing other people's secrets with us."

"I didn't know that you write songs..." Buffy said, amazed and positively surprised.

"Exactly what I meant.. they're sharing our secrets with us..."

"And what exactly do you mean with 'us', when you're talking about 'our' secrets?" Everybody was silent for a moment, and then Faith realized what the blonde wiccan was talking about. And she didn't like to be teased about something that wasn't going on.

"Oh come on, Blondie, you know perfectly well that me and Beeuffy are *just friends*!" Faith squeaked quickly and angrily, without glancing at Buffy. If she had looked at the blonde right at that moment, she would have known exactly what Buffy wanted. And she would have been heart-broken if she had seen the look of sadness and the moment that all hope died inside the blonde.

"Beeuffy?" Buffy managed to ask, smiling mockingly at the other slayer. No emotion found its way into her eyes.

"Sorry about that, Buffy, I meant to call you 'B', but Tara was so annoying that I wanted to be serious... and you know what happens when you start by saying 'B' and then continue to say 'uffy'..."

Willow was looking at Buffy. //This has definitely gone too far... I didn't want that to happen.//

"I think I'm gonna go and see Giles. Will you come with me, Buffy?" She said, looking at Tara. Tara glanced at Buffy, who had a distant, miserable look in her eyes. Faith hadn't even glanced at her fellow slayer after answering Tara.

"Yeah... I think I will," Buffy said. "I need to talk to him about a vacation..."

"See you later, then. Patrol tonight?" Faith said, smiling.

"No, I think I'm gonna be busy.."

"Oh... well, I'll see you tomorrow, right?"

"Huh?"

"Training?"

"Oh, yeah..."

"I'll take all this stuff home, and then join you, Buffy and Wills, OK?" Tara said. //I didn't mean to cause this.. I really didn't.//

Buffy and Willow got up to leave. Buffy wasn't thinking at all. Even Faith could see that Buffy wasn't really here - in any other than physical way.

"Buffy, is something wrong?" She asked, worried.

"What? Oh, no." The redhead dragged her away.

*****

"Buffy? Are you here?"

"Huh?"

"You know, you can't be sure she meant that."

"Oh yes I can. You heard her angry voice when she yelled that."

"She squeaked."

"That's because she was embarrassed by the thought."

"Oh, you're being *so* stupid! Do you really think she would have admitted that she could fall in love with you right then and there? You can't assume that if she's gonna tell you about something like that she'd tell it in front of me and Tara! I'd think that she'd talk to you while slaying, or at least I think you'd do so, but never in public with friends around, 'cause you know, it was very hard to get to know her at all, and she doesn't talk about her feelings very openly, and why should she when you're never saying anything about your feelings and I don't know if you've really done anything that would make her think about you in that way, and I think that you really should get a grip of yourself and kiss her or do something, so she'd start thinking about you -"

"STOP STOP STOP! Wills, for God's sake! STOP BABBLING!" Buffy yelled. They both went silent. She could have ignored Tara.

"But that could have made you think, if you hadn't thought about it by yourself, that she might have thought of you as a woman that she might fall in love with... or something."

"But she didn't have to say exactly that."

"So she hasn't thought about you in a sexual way. But that doesn't mean she wouldn't. And she might start to, now that she was teased about it, since she, obviously, hadn't thought of it before." The blonde thought about this for a while.

"You know, Wills....."

"What?" Willow said quickly.

"That actually makes sense."

"OF COURSE IT MAKES SENSE!"

"Why are you yelling? You never yell." Now it was the redhead's turn to think.

"I guess I'm frustrated and all. You know, with nothing to do and, and then I didn't get much sleep last night, 'cause you woke me and Tara and -" The redhead drifted off, and ended up smiling stupidly.

"Oh come on! You're annoying."

"Huh?"

"You've got that stupid look on your face again, and you stopped talking and ignored me."

"You're not exactly in a position to critisize me, remember, *B*?"

"I'm sure I don't smile like that..."

"You should have seen yourself when Faith was babbling."

"Assuming that you looked at me at all, you were too busy kissing your girlfriend...."

*****

Two days after, Faith was slaying alone again. //Most wisely,// she thought //Buffy's been avoiding me.. ever since the picnic in the park.// They had met twice after that. At both times, Faith had been embarrassed because of Willow's question and had only glanced at the blonde once. She had been very aware of her fellow slayer, however, and noticed that she too was avoiding looking at Faith. 'The question' had been brought up, for the first time since the slayers had sat down and watched porn on Christmas Eve. And it had to be answered, or it might cause them more trouble than it was worth. Tara's comment had been bothering Faith as well. The night before, she had sneaked a glance at the other slayer, and thought about her. Had Buffy thought about her... in *that* way? What had she thought? What had made Tara ask such a question? //It must have been the babbling and stuttering. They were annoyed by us being annoyed by them....// Did Buffy think of her like that? //NO. Girl, now you're not thinking straight.// Straight?

Her phone started ringing. She didn't notice it at first. She got into thinking - Had B ever thought about a woman as a potential girlfriend? //This is absurd. She's the straightest woman I've ever met.// She then noticed that her cellphone was ringing.

"Yeah?" She asked.

"Hi." It was Buffy.

"Hi."

"Listen, I was thinking that I'd take Restfield tonight..." Buffy went on, talking about what cemeteries they'd slay in.

"Shut up!"

"What?"

"Come here. We're slaying together again." She listened to her counterpart, who thought about this for a moment.

"OK. See ya in a minute."

"Yeah. Bye."

"Bye."

Neither of them pressed the 'no' button.

"You know, why don't we just talk now." Buffy finally said, thinking //Then you won't see me blushing.//

"Huh?"

"You want to talk, that's why you want to slay with me, right?"

"Er... well I was also thinking that you'd be fun to slay with. I've missed you." //That sounded wrong.//

"What?!"

"I mean, I've missed your slaying abilities. Like, the joking and quick kills. I get to go home much earlier and therefore get to eat earlier. You know how slaying makes you feel, hungry and-"

"Oh. I get it. I'll come over there." Buffy said before Faith finished her sentence.

"OK. Bye."

"Bye."

*****

//Just this one, and then we're gone.// Buffy thought. She was having trouble with killing her last vamp, but Faith had already finished hers. She was looking at her colleague, who was fighting skillfully, and would eventually win. Her mind wandered back to where it was before Buffy called her. The slayers were already at the last cemetery. They hadn't spoken much, and neither of them had dared to look at each other. It was almost like they had done something wrong together, and now both were feeling uncomfortable around each other, 'cause the other had been there to witness their wrongdoing. She looked at Buffy, in the eyes. Had the blonde thought of her? Assuming that she had, what had she thought? //Of course she has, I wasn't the only one present when Tara decided to introduce that idea.//

The blonde was in trouble, for somehow the vamp had gotten her stake away from her, and succesfully tied her onto the ground. And Faith wasn't helping at all. She was staring at her counterpart.

"FAITH! Help!"

Faith realised what was going on. She ran to kick the vamp away, but it was leaning over Buffy, trying to get a bite. It was really strong, and didn't even react, when Faith kicked it thrice, trying to get it off her friend. Faith looked for a stake, but didn't find one. //Oh, God, no.// The vamp was going to kill Buffy. Soon.

Then she saw it. On the ground, about ten feet away from the vamp, was lying Buffy's stake. She dove for it and then, very fast, jumped onto the huge vampire, piercing its torso from its left side, driving the stake through its heart. Two seconds, and the vamp was dust and Faith was lying on top of Buffy, her left hand with the stake roughly pressing against Buffy's breast, and her lips only an inch away from Buffy's.

"Uh.. sorry." She said as soon as she realised where she was. She rolled off, blushing slightly, and then got up. Buffy was still in shock. She didn't realize what was going on. And she didn't get up. "Er... Buffy?" Faith asked. A teardrop fell down the blonde's cheek. She didn't know Faith was there - she was sure she was going to die, very soon. She was still living the moment, when the vamp was on her, its fangs pressing against her neck. //Not now, not this way, not before I get to tell Faith I love her...// was her only thought.

Faith panicked.

"Hey, Buffy, don't cry, don't cry, it's OK. It's OK, you're safe... Don't cry. I didn't mean to react so slow.. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... You're safe. You're safe now." Faith whispered as she helped Buffy up, holding the blonde and hugging her. "It's OK. You're safe.. Please forgive me.. Say something.."

The blonde was shivering. She had almost died for the third time now. She was scared, really scared. She didn't want to be resurrected again. She was shivering and crying silently. Faith had started crying as well, hugging Buffy and holding her like she was afraid that the other slayer was going to disappear right then and there.

Finally Buffy seemed to realize the position they were in. She remembered, and now also understood, what had happened ten minutes ago. The brunette was holding her close, using slayer strength. She could almost hear her ribs breaking. She couldn't breathe well, and she realised that she was crying. And so was the raven-haired woman. "I'm so sorry.." Faith was repeating. Buffy felt calm again. She hugged her fellow slayer back, and started shooing her. "I'm sorry... I almost killed you.. I almost let you die.. You almost died..." Faith was saying.

"I'm here. I'm alive." Buffy whispered. They comforted each other, and forgot to feel embarrassed or awkward when holding onto each other for so long.

*****

//Who cares if I was feeling horny half a year ago? Who cares if Faith knows? Why should it be such a taboo? Oh God, how have we been overreacting... Like five-year-olds. So shy... Who cares?// Buffy was thinking. Everything was alright. She was alive, and Faith had saved her. She had saved Faith before, but now she also knew that Faith had done the same decision. And she had seen and heard Faith. She knew exactly how sorry the slayer had been.

//Who cares? Why should something that happened half a year ago bother us? Why was it such a taboo?// Faith thought. She was walking to the witches' apartment, and was going to tell them what had happened. She was sure that she and Buffy were best buddies again. And she was happy with that, though she kept wondering //If B were bi-sexual, would she find me attractive? If I was bi-sexual, how would I feel about her?// Those were stupid questions, she thought. Why should I care? But it was intriguing, and therefore, Faith decided to get a good look at Buffy - and try to think of her as something else as a friend. //I'll see if I could...// And then, more questions occurred to her: //Why do I wanna know? And why do I even assume that B could be bi-sexual?//

She rang the doorbell, and waited at least for ten minutes. She could hear music playing inside. //Oh come on... where are you? It's way after noon already.//

"Faith!" Buffy called from behind her. She turned around, and saw Buffy walking towards her.

"Hi."

"Hi."

"You rang the doorbell already?"

"Yeah.. ten minutes ago, in fact."

"Oh. And nobody came to answer?"

"Er... no? I wouldn't be standing here if they had."

"Are you sure they're home?"

"Yeah.. I called them an hour ago, said that I'll come over at one pm."

"It's half past noon."

"Yeah... so I'm early - but I'm sure they're home. Even you can hear that music." Buffy listened for a while.

"Let's take a walk." She then suggested.

"Why?"

"'Cause they won't hear the doorbell, and I don't want to break and enter."

"Oh.. ok."

They walked in comfortable silence, both lost in their own thoughts about each other. Faith thought //There's no time like the present// and tried to think of Buffy in a... guy way. //This isn't working.. She doesn't look manly or anything..// She then tried to think like a guy. That didn't work, either. And it was hard to stare at somebody without letting the other know that you're staring at her. //I guess I'm too used to my good friend B that I can't imagine Buffy with anybody - including any guy or me... Hell, we got to keep a sleep-over after slaying someday... Maybe then. I wonder if 'me-the-friend' would feel jealous about my friends if they started dating someone?// That had happened once.... she was sure about it, though she couldn't place it. //It must have been years now.... and I was just a kid...://

Buffy's thoughts were much like //I'm so glad we got over it.// And //I'm so glad she saved me// or //You look like, a perfect fit, for a girl in need, of a tourniquet.... was that a line in a song?// and //She's looking at me, oh God, she's finally looking at me. I wonder what she's thinking?// They reached the place where Buffy, Willow and Tara had picnicked the other day.

"You know, I don't really understand why neither of us answered Red's question when she asked it?" Buffy stated.

"I guess I was shy."

"Yeah... me too, I think. Don't know.. didn't think I could trust you - and I don't know why it bothered me in the first place.."

"What?"

"That, well, you know, when we watched it... I started feeling like.. after slaying. And then I sweated all the time, and -"

"Me too. It was funny, really, when you pretended you had fallen asleep.."

"Yeah."

"I was relieved that you did, in fact, I was really nervous that you had smelled my sweat. But I guess we were both too preoccupied to notice it..."

"I don't know why should we be bothered by something that happened *months* ago."

"I agree...." They both went silent again.

"You know Buffy - - - nah..." Faith started.

"What?" Buffy asked bluntly. Faith thought for a second.

"Don't get me wrong, but I was just wondering ...after Tara suggested that we could have a... relationship with each other, I was wondering.... You see... I was trying to - "

"You were wondering if I have ever thought of you like *that*?"

"Yes."

"Yeah, I have, once." Buffy replied, adding //and ever since that// in her mind "How 'bout you?"

"I tried, but you know, it's hard to stare at someone without the other noticing."

"So you don't really care about the personality at all?"

"No! I didn't mean that. It's just... I guess it's easier to think about someone if you can actually see her. Or him."

They were silent again. They had come to the tree behind which Faith had been playing guitar just three days ago. Buffy sat down, but Faith stayed up, looking at the sky.

"What did you think?" the raven-haired slayer asked.

"Huh?"

"When you looked at me? In *that* way."

Buffy considered this for a while. For a moment she thought she'd tell Faith everything, but knowing that it would probably only scare the other slayer, she tried to find an answer that wasn't too far from the truth, and wouldn't be too true.

"Know what, I don't remember it very clearly - see, it was Christmas Day... but I remember that you kept staring at the TV." Buffy thought she'd stop there - it wasn't true, but it wasn't a lie, either. "But if you want to know, we could.. nah..."

"You mean we could do it right now and then tell each other the ... er... results?"

"Er... yeah?"

"You need to stand up, so I can see you well."

Buffy did as she was told, and found herself wondering why she felt like her internal organs had disappeared completely. Soon they were both staring at each other very concentratedly. Neither of them said anything for five minutes, of which they both spent the last minute wondering what the other had felt or thought.

"So, what do you think?" Buffy asked, thereby seizing the opportunity to not to say the truth about what she had felt, if Faith's answer did not please her.

"Well... Don't get me wrong, Buffy - " //Ohmigod, here it comes// Buffy thought. //Don't get scared// Faith thought //I'll tell you the truth, 'cause real good friends have no secrets// "I thought that..." //Just say it already!// the blonde thought. "You're really beautiful, petite and all... And.. and you're everything that a girl could wish for... and... and I guess there's no other word for it, and I did think about your personality as well -" Buffy held her breath, as Faith tried to find words for what she thought "in every way I know you... you are ... you are *hot*. Like, if I was a guy or something, I'd probably want to marry you, or at least be with you for the rest of my life."

That was what Faith managed to say. //I guess I never was too good with putting my thoughts in words.// She thought, although she had just said exactly what she had thought. Buffy was glad - if Faith thought like that about her, then she could tell the truth as well - or, more likely, something really close to the truth.

"Your turn." Faith reminded her. Buffy locked her eyes with Faith's.

"I think..." She began, but realised her mistake, and said: "I thought that you must be the sexiest woman on earth." She kept a pause, enjoying Faith's reaction, which was an unsure smile. She wasn't used to women who called her sexy. Buffy, however, was familiar with her feelings - she had been almost-drooling on Faith for the last five months already. And she knew exactly how to say it aloud. Yet, now that she was actually telling Faith something about the way that the beautiful brunette made her feel, her stomach felt like it was filled with air, she felt choked and her hands were shivering. In fact, she was shivering all over, although she tried to hide it. "You've got a wonderful personality. You're intelligent and you've got a wonderful sense of humor. You've gotten through a lot, and you've survived." This is where Buffy kept another pause - she didn't know if she should continue or not //Hell, if I'm gonna praise her, then I'd better do it well// she thought, and then continued "You've got a voice that even God should envy - and you use it well. Your body - your body is just, simply *perfect*. You've got a lovely face, beautiful hair and perfect skin. But that's not the best part about your looks.... - You've got eyes that could tear worlds apart." She kept another pause //Cool down, cool down// she thought, very aware of the fact that she felt heat rising up on her cheeks. "And finally, I thought, that if I was a guy or something," Buffy smiled inwardly //More like, I think that -// "knowing you, and knowing how you do the things you do - I'd be surprised if I wasn't hopelessly in love with you."

Faith was surprised, and happy, and felt a bit awkward. She had never been praised like this. And Buffy was the last person whom she'd have expected to praise her. She had never heard that kind of a speech before, and certainly had not been ready to hear it. It was like receiving a proposal from someone who you didn't know that had ever even met you. So there she was, the "little raven-haired girl", trying to understand how anyone could think so highly of her. She didn't even realize that she had tears in her eyes.

"What's wrong?" Buffy asked and stepped closer to the dumbfounded slayer, who was staring at her. "Why are you crying?"

"I - I - I've never been... no one's ever.. no-one's e-ever said a-anything like that a-about me... b-before... no one."

"Well, they should have."

Faith hugged her blonde counterpart.

"Thank y-you" she whispered, letting the tears fall freely. Buffy held her and tried to comfort her as best as she could.

*****

It was at half past one that the wiccans started to get worried - Faith was supposed to be there already, she had said that she'd come at one pm. And nowadays Faith rarely was late from anywhere, unless for a good reason - like mortal peril or slaying duties. But the sun hadn't set yet, and there had been already two weeks of silence on the monster-front. And there was another thing that bothered the witches, perhaps even more - they had asked Buffy for lunch, at one as well, but she hadn't shown up. Their food was getting cold.

"Something must have happened, they wouldn't be late if something bad hadn't happened."

"You don't know that - they might as well have thought that they prefer to be alone - you know, like you and me."

"Like that would happen - you know that they're just friends."

"Dawn said Buffy left an hour and ten minutes ago?"

"Yeah - she would have been here at... half past noon, I'd say, but we wouldn't have heard her."

"Yeah... so let's assume that Buffy came here around half past noon, and Faith followed shortly after. We wouldn't open the door and so they've got to keep each other company. They left for a while, probably for a walk -"

"But they forgot to come back. I'll call Faith's cell*phone* again."

Just as Willow had taken her phone and dialed Faith's number, the doorbell rang.

The slayers spent two minutes trying to apologize for being late, but the witches were just glad they were still alive. What caught Tara's all-seeing eye, however, was Faith's puffy eyes and the general cheeryness that the slayers seemed to radiate. Something had *definitely* happened.

After eating, and being satiated, the slayers and the witches decided to go for a walk. The redhead and the blonde slayer started talking about something that had happened years ago - when neither Tara or Faith had been present - and Tara had heard it all. So she slowed down and tapped Faith on the shoulder. The two best friends before them didn't even notice that their most beloved ones weren't by their side anymore - they still felt their presence and heard their footsteps.

"So what happened?" Tara asked as soon as she was sure that only Faith was listening to her - or capable of hearing her.

"We took a walk in the park and had a heart-to-heart."

"So you're talking in rhymes now?"

"Huh?"

"Never mind. May I ask what you were talking about?"

"We talked about.... things. See, after I saved B's life last night, I kinda got into thinking about how childish we've been. And then we praised each other, and after Buffy had said what she had to say, I was crying.. And then I - I just let it all out and cried my eyes out.... and, you know what? Everything's OK between me and B now."

"So everything's good now?"

"Yeah... in fact, I'd say that's an understatement - everything's just great right *now*."

"That's good." Tara said, smiling. //I wonder what Buffy has to say about this...//

*****

Five weeks passed. If the wiccans had been complaining about Buffy spending too much time with them, they now had no reason to do so. They hadn't even caught a glimpse of the slayers ever since the afternoon they had dined with the two of them. At first, the slayers had decided to train twice as much as before, because of the lack of action during the still-continuing monsterless period. Soon, probably because they wanted to spend more time with each other, they had doubled their daily training time again. After two weeks of hard training and sleeping at each others' places, the slayer duo had decided to take a vacation to LA, to help Angel Investigations as the city of angels wasn't exactly in a lack of monsters to be killed. Dawn had been more than willing to go with them. A week later, the witches were told, the three returned to Sunnydale - but did not feel it necessary to come and see their friends. At this point, the wiccans weren't hurt - yet. They kept contact by telephones, but the witches never saw them face-to-face. But when two weeks more of this had passed, they were hurt - they had heard that only Xander and Anya had seen the slayers - when the duo had been on their way to the airport, in order to travel to New York. This time Dawn had agreed to stay with Giles - the trip to LA had been dangerous and interesting at times, but had consisted mostly of exhausting researching.

*****

It was definitely not a good day for Willow. She hadn't heard of the slayers in two days - and when she had heard of them, they had been in Sacramento, and Faith had spent twenty minutes explaining about a demon she had slain, which had thrown up on Buffy. But she hadn't said anything else - Buffy had finished showering and entered the room, and heard Faith laugh and mention 'puking'. This had seemed to start a major argument.

The redhead knew, however, through sms's, that the slayers' relationship was still pretty much the same. Buffy loved Faith even more than before, and Faith didn't have a clue.

That morning, the two witches had had an argument. It had been a misunderstanding, at first, but when you add one misunderstanding and many unconsidered words that were misunderstood - well, it hadn't ended well. By now, both, the redhead and the blonde, had regretted the argument. It was merely a matter of making up.

Just as the witches were sitting on the sofa, having said what they felt - "I'm sorry" and "I love you", and were about to tear each other's clothes off - the doorbell rang. This was not only very bad timing, but also surprising - neither Xander or Anya normally visited them, and Giles - well, Giles was working right now. And the witches were always the ones to visit him. Five weeks and two days ago they would have assumed that whoever was knocking on their door was a slayer - but they hadn't seen the slayers ever since that.

So it was quite an emotional riot which Willow felt, when her two favorite slayers were behind the door. Before she could really say anything, she was being hugged by two *exceptionally* strong women, who were both, apparently, very glad for seeing their favourite witches. At least that's what Willow thought it meant, as she weren't sure if her ribs could take it.

After about ten minutes of hugging each other, the wiccans and the slayers were sat on two separate couches. The witches were cuddling on theirs and the slayers were lying in both ends of their sofa. Faith's *smelly* socks and feet were working as Buffy's pillow, as she lay half-on-top of Faith and half on the couch. This had become a usual position for them - they had lain like that, watching TV, many times after training or slaying, until they had fallen asleep. Sometimes they didn't - but that was only if they were talking about something. Lately, they had been talking a lot and slept much less.

"So -" Willow began, not sure of how to feel or think "Where have you been for the last almost-two weeks?"

"Slaying." Was the answer that she got, from both the slayers.

"Yeah, well I supposed you had been - since that last phone call was all about some ugly monster throwing up on Buffy... but where?"

"Aa-" Faith said, and then glanced at Buffy, who was smiling at her.

"First, we went to NYC for a day and a night" the blonde said.

"And then Boston, where we stayed for three days -" Faith added.

"Then we went to Tallahassee, but flew from there to Oklahoma City on the very same day -" Buffy continued.

"On the seventh day, we travelled to Billings, you know, in the state of Montana?" Faith said.

"And two days later it was time for LA Investigations -"

"And after the Soulboy's City it was time for Some Sacramento Slayage - "

"And then, we thought, we want to see our favorite wiccan witch-couple."

"And the sex-craving ex-demon and her little pet X-man." Faith said, finishing the slayers' speech, which had only proven to the witches that the duo had spent too much time together lately. They were silent.

"What, nothing more you want to know?"

"I think that was... scary." Willow managed.

"Y-yeah.."

"Who are you people and what -" Willow started.

"Have you done to our friends?" Tara finished.

"You are right, Red...." Faith said.

"That was *definitely* scary...." The other slayer added.

The rest of their hours awake that day were spent talking about things that had happened during the last five weeks. Buffy, who hadn't slept at all last night, due to their 'early' 10 am flight and *too long* conversation which had begun after slaying, fell asleep at six pm. Faith, who hadn't slept either, explained this to the wiccans, who suggested that the duo would sleep there. In less than five minutes, Faith was fast asleep.

The wiccans stared at their friends, who were now, apparently very comfortably, asleep with their feet in each others arms. The witches were still cuddling on the sofa.

"Don't they look cute?" Tara whispered to Willow.

"Yeah... and very tired."

"No wonder - I wouldn't probably be alive if I had been travelling that much - and they went for a slay-trip."

"Slay-trip?" Willow asked, smiling at Tara.

"Yeah... like a.. road-trip." Tara whispered so quietly that the slayers, even if they had been awake, wouldn't have heard her.

That caused them both to giggle like little girls - and they were 22 already... After that they went back to the comfortable silence and staring at the sleeping slayers.

"You know what?" Willow asked her lover.

"What?"

"I think they're gonna be lovers" whispered Willow.

"How so?"

"Just look at them - how could Faith not realise what she could have?"

Tara looked at the slayers.

"You are probably right... let's hope so..."

"They'd be really cute..."

"Yeah... It's a shame they both think that the other is hundred percent straight..."

"What?"

"I didn't tell you, 'cause Faith asked me not to... And I didn't tell her 'cause Buffy asked us not to..."

"But what?"

"D'you remember that day - was it - five weeks and two days ago?"

"Yeah.. that's when they were late from lunch... that was actually the last day I talked to them face-to-face."

"They had been talking and Faith had been crying.."

"What had they been talking about?"

"They had... eh... well, basically Buffy had told Faith that she thinks Faith looks... *hot*. And why she loves Faith - though Faith still doesn't know that that's what Buffy told her... And then Faith had 'looked' at Buffy and thought about it - and she told Buffy that Buffy's everything that anyone could ask for."

"Really?"

"Yeah... but that's not all.." Tara whispered, lowering her voice even more, if possible "see - three weeks ago, when they were going to LA, Faith stopped by to visit us, but you weren't here - you were helping Giles at the Magic Box..."

"And?"

"She said that she had been wondering if Buffy could be bi-sexual... and then we speculated her possible reasons for being interested in that info at all - and, well, she said" Tara now glanced at the slayers, who were fast asleep - only, Faith had started snoring "she said that she hasn't got a crush on 'B' - at least yet - but she had been wondering 'if' - and thought that, maybe if Buffy was interested, something might happen."

"So what you're saying is that... it's just a matter of making the first move?"

"Yeah... I guess...."

"And you let them go alone around the country without doing anything?"

"Well, honestly, do you think I should have betrayed their trust in me and you when trying to play the match-maker?"

"Yeah. Think of what a wonderful three weeks they could have spent!"

"Yeah - trying to decide what clothes they should wear for training and then calling to you and me before going to dates, etcetera... I think now that they're already so intimate, they won't have trouble with proceeding on to the next stage..."

"You're talking like a scientist.."

"But scientists do experiments."

"Do you want to go for one right now?" Willow asked, smiling wickedly at the love-of-her-life.

"So you're volunteering for some serious experimenting?" Tara whispered, and the wiccans left the sleeping slayers dream alone.

*****

Four hours later, at ten pm, the wiccans were sitting on the sofa again. They were trying to make as little noise as they could, knowing that sleep was what the slayers needed. So they were just sitting there, drinking tea, burning candles and looking at their two friends.

Willow's cellphone rang - she answered it very quickly, praising every deity she knew for not waking the slayers up.

"Yeah?"

"Hi, it's me, Xander."

"What's wrong?"

"I heard our favorite slayers are back."

"How did you -"

"Angel called Giles, and knew that they're here."

"Why did Angel call Giles?"

"Cordelia got another vision, I'd guess... Giles wouldn't tell me yet."

"I see."

"Angel Investigations are coming here. Could you, Tara, Buffy and Faith be here in - say, 20 minutes?"

"No."

"What?"

"They haven't slept at all last night."

"Why not?"

"They've been talking... if I understood right, they've been talking much lately.."

"So they're asleep now?"

"Yeah."

"Where?"

"Here."

Xander thought about this for a while.

"We'll come over there as soon as the LA crew arrives."

*****

Faith was slaying in her nightmare. She and Buffy were fighting side by side, trying to kill the monsters and vampires. But there was a long shadow over them, and every time they managed to kill one demon, two more came from around the corner.

*****

Buffy was slaying in her nightmare. People were dying all around her, and she couldn't protect them. Faith was there but they were losing their battle. She felt no connection at all - no knowledge of the other's presence was known to her, only her eyes seemed to say that it was Faith.

*****

It was an hour and half later when a silent crowd arrived to the wiccans' house. Willow had called Giles and warned them about waking the slayers up - they'd do all they could without waking the slayers first.

Angel sat down to the couch where the witches had been sitting on. Cordelia sat next to him. Wesley, who had a black eye, sat on a chair. Gunn was not present. The whole LA crowd was very grave.

When the Scoobies, the LA crew and Giles were all seated, they found themselves looking at the slayers.

"Are they" Cordelia asked "like... a couple or something?" Xander's eyes widened at the question - he stared at the slayers even more intensely now.

"No." Tara said, adding //At least not yet// in her mind, and glancing at Willow, who smiled back to her.

"Do we need to wake them up yet?" Willow asked.

"I think we should make some coffee first - and drink some. So let's give them ten minutes." Angel said, looking at the slayers.

"I'll go make some for us all." Anya said and left for the kitchen. After fifteen minutes, they were all back in the living room, having drunk their coffees and ready for what the LA crew had to say. Willow had made lots of coffee for Buffy and Faith, and brought it to them to the living room table.

"Buffy." Willow said quite loudly. Both slayers muttered something in their sleep. "You've got to wake up." Now Buffy screamed something.

*****

Buffy was sure that it wasn't Faith. She was sure that the Faith-look-alike was the one who was killing the people around her. But she couldn't stop it - she couldn't kill Faith again. And then something told her to wake up, that this was Faith. She screamed "NO!" Just then, she felt and saw the 'real' Faith, appearing somewhere behind the ranks of the innocent - attacking the other dark-haired slayer, and killing her. The last thing she knew was that they were winning the battle again.

*****

Buffy woke up with a start. She opened her eyes but didn't care for what she saw - she could still feel Faith, who was writhing beneath her. She didn't care what the others thought - she sat up, pulled Faith up and hugged her like there was no tomorrow, saying: "You're here. We're gonna win" so low that nobody else could hear her but Faith.

*****

Faith was sure they couldn't win. Buffy wasn't fighting with all her strength - it was like she was hiding some secret weapon that she couldn't pull out. There were demons everywhere. Just then, she heard Buffy say "You're here. We're gonna win" and she knew that was true. It seemed like Buffy's belief in that was enough to make them both fight harder. She felt that they were victorious - again - although the demons were still multiplying faster than they could beat them. And somehow she felt safe again.

*****

"Faith. Wake up!" Willow said, very loud. She was sure that Buffy wouldn't react to anything but Faith's awakening right now. It had been a peculiar night - and it surely seemed like the slayers had had peculiar dreams.

*****

Faith woke up but didn't open her eyes. Instead, she put her hands around Buffy and hugged her. Buffy stopped chanting her two sentences.

"I had a nightmare." Buffy said, so silently that only the other slayer heard her. The others could still see her lips moving.

"I know." Faith responded, as quietly as Buffy. Wesley started hoping that he'd know how to read from their lips.

"Did you have one again?"

"Yeah. Was it the same?"

"Yeah. Except, this time, somehow, we won."

"Really?" Faith said, so loud that the others could hear her.

"Yeah. How 'bout you?"

"I felt victorious, although they were stronger than us. There were more of them. But I felt safe, this time." Faith whispered, again.

"That's strange." Buffy said, so that the others heard her as well.

"Could somebody please tell me what's going on between you two?" Cordelia said very loudly. The slayers realised the position they were in - hugging each other like - like lovers, comforting each other. They parted, looked at each other and sat to the other ends of their sofa. Willow gave them both their cups of coffee, smiling like she knew something better than they did. Faith caught Tara's eye and Buffy locked hers with Angel's. Tara smiled like Willow did. The slayers busied themselves with coffee-drinking. They both had a feeling that it was going to be a long night.

"Why is the seer always ignored? I mean, in conversations." Cordelia asked.

"Huh?"

"I said, why is the seer always ignored? And before that I asked what's going on between you two - like, when did you two become a couple?"

"We're not a couple!" The slayers said.

"Yeah, Cordy, they're not a couple - only, we haven't seem them at all for five weeks, 'cause they've spent all their time slaying and training." Tara said.

"And didn't they just make a two-week slay-trip?" Willow said.

Now everybody was looking at the slayers. Even the slayers were looking at each other.

"But we were so - frustrated." Buffy said. "We needed to go and save people. There're monsters everywhere, but here there were none - so we couldn't do our jobs..."

"And no, we're still not a couple." Faith added, meeting everyone's eyes but Buffy's.

"Yeah, we're not."

The Scoobies were smiling. The slayers were defending themselves, although everyone believed them. Angel, Wesley and Giles were an exception: they were not smiling at all. In fact, none of the three had smiled even once during the evening.

"So why are you here?" Buffy asked as soon as she had finished her second cup of coffee.

"Gunn is dead." Angel replied. Everyone stopped smiling. Everybody looked at Faith, who couldn't stop herself - her expression was very painful, and tears flooded her eyes. She swallowed hard. Buffy reached for her counterpart's hand. She had been there, just three days ago, when Gunn had said to Faith: 'I must say that you're OK. I mean, I'm glad that I'm allowed to call you my friend.' And Buffy knew that his friendship meant a lot to the dark-haired slayer.

Faith squeezed Buffy's hand. If the blonde had not been a slayer (or a vampire), her bones would have been broken. Her left hand shivering, Faith reached for a cup of coffee, trying hard not to cry. After swallowing twice, she managed to say something:

"H-how?"

"He was turned... he's dust now."

"N-no." Faith managed to whisper, but only Angel and Buffy heard her. Buffy hugged Faith, who couldn't control her tears anymore - she couldn't take it, she couldn't understand why all the important people in her life had to die or be in danger of dying, all the time.

Cordelia, who had been trying to act cheery, felt tears coming up to her eyes. Wesley was stonefaced, but he hugged the ex-cheerleader. The Scoobies didn't know what to do.

"When did this happen?" Buffy asked, still hugging Faith.

"Last night - we were fighting this demon who had allied himself with vampires, who were working as his minions. We couldn't stop it, we were trying to save Cordy." Angel explained. He took Cordelia's hand, as he knew that the seer was feeling really quilty about being the one to survive. //If Gunn hadn't wanted to save me, he'd still be alive... Why he, not me?// was the thought that bothered her mind. She had been thinking about it all day long. And it didn't help that Angel and Wesley had said that he had died a hero's death. Nothing helped. He was dead, because he had tried to save her. It was going to take years before she could forget her guilt for being alive.

*****

Faith couldn't sleep that night. She was 'sleeping' over at Buffy's, but as soon as they were alone in Buffy's room, she cracked. She started crying hysterically. Buffy had a long night comforting her.

*****

College started again. The wiccans moved into a dorm room and so did Faith. Things went back to 'pretty normal'. Monsters did horrendous things and the slayers were busy trying to stop them. Faith didn't sleep much anymore. She was tormented by fear - she was really afraid that someone important would die, soon. And if she had to spend the night alone, she couldn't stop crying. She was glad that she was friends with Buffy, and avoided sleeping without her in the house. That way, she wouldn't be alone and wouldn't be so afraid. And she wouldn't stay awake all night long.

The relationship of the slayers stayed 'in the same level', as neither of them was going to make the first move, although the witches were racking their brains trying to think of something to make the two to do something about their relationship. So far, they had come up with nothing.

*****

It was the end of October. Faith was lying on her bed, after slaying, playing guitar. It was soothing. That night, she had saved Buffy again, and Xander had almost died. It had been a big, bad demon with vampire minions. It had reminded her of what the LA crew had said, and what had happened to Gunn. Tears ran down her face, and she couldn't sing properly, as she felt choked. She hadn't known Gunn *very* well, but he had said she was his friend. And she had considered him a friend.

What if Xander had died? She couldn't have handled it. She would have blamed herself, she knew, for saving Buffy. On the other hand, if Buffy had died, she'd have blamed herself for not protecting her counterpart. If even one of the Scoobies died, she was sure it would be the end of her friendship with the others. She'd blame herself again.

So she wasn't feeling really cheery, and as her cellphone rang, she was lazy to answer. She was glad that the number on the screen was Buffy's.

"Yeah?"

"Hi."

"Hi."

"You know, I'm feeling a bit down. Can I come over?"

"So you want to brood with me?"

"Yeah.."

"I'd like that - I mean, brooding's never fun, but it's more fun with a friend...."

"Yes. I'll be there in three minutes."

"Three minutes?"

"I went for an extra slay to think and stop thinking."

"Think and stop thinking?"

"Yes, you know... no, you're right, even I don't know what I mean..."

"See you soon."

"Yeah.. see you soon."

Faith got up and pulled a mattress from under her bed. She had spent so many nights at Buffy's place (and vice versa) that they had agreed to bring one to her dorm. She was glad she didn't have a roomie - although the president of the UC Sunnydale had agreed to take her in as a student, he hadn't trusted her enough to let her sleep in the same room with someone else. And if she'd have had a roomie, many of the nights the slayers spent together would have been much less noisier. They tried to have fun.

She fixed Buffy's 'bed' and put some music on. When she was depressed, she didn't listen to music to cheer herself up. She listened to it to feel like she wasn't the only one depressed. //When did I change into a brooding little-miss-next-door?// She asked herself //I guess it's called growing old.//

There was a knock on the door and Faith went to open it. Buffy came in, and they both nodded their greetings. It seemed like both of them had cried. Buffy sat on a chair, looking at Faith. They were both extremely sad. Faith walked to sit opposite Buffy, on the bed.

"You've been crying." Buffy stated.

"So have you." Faith said.

"Because of Gunn and me and Xander?" Buffy asked. Faith merely nodded. Both of them listened to the music for a while. "I'm alive. Xander's alive."

"I know. But Gunn is not."

"Yeah." Buffy said quietly. They were silent again, until Buffy decided to say something. "If it wasn't for you, I'd have died already. And so would have Xander."

"I'd just want this to end." Faith replied "I can't understand why's there so much evil in the world. And why nobody's ever safe, and why there's always something that wants you dead. Even though you'd never have done anything wrong."

"I know."

There was comfortable silence. The song changed and both of them listened. Faith lay back on her bed. Buffy went to lie on the mattress.

After the album had played, both of them were still awake. Neither of them had said anything for an hour. Faith took her guitar and played some chords. Buffy listened.

"Play 'Zombie'."

"I'm not in the mood."

"How 'bout 'You could make a killing'?"

"Really funny."

"Play something you've written."

"Not in the mood."

"Teach me."

"Huh?"

"Teach me chords. You've promised to, remember?"

"Uh... ok."

Buffy got up and sat next to Faith. Faith handed the guitar to her, and she placed it in her arms. After two hours, Buffy knew four chords - which was enough for at least four songs Faith knew.

*****

It was five am. Both of them were very tired, only their thoughts kept them awake. They both lay on Faith's bed, and had changed into pajamas half an hour ago, and were just hoping to get some sleep.

"How long have you had your guitar?"

"Since my twenty-first birthday."

Buffy looked at her.

"I still don't know when your birthday is."

"I don't celebrate it. And I won't tell you when."

Faith was still definitely down. Buffy gave her back the guitar, and she started playing silently again. Soon she put the guitar away and they both stared at the ceiling. Faith was still thinking about Gunn and Buffy was thinking about Faith.

"We've got to cheer up." Buffy started.

"Mmm." Faith replied.

"You know, it's not gonna help at all if you remain that uncommunicative."

"Mmm."

"I want to kiss you."

"Mmm."

There was a brief moment of silence.

"What?!" Faith asked, her intonation rising high.

"I wasn't sure you were listening."

"Oh..."

They both sank back into silence. In less than seven minutes, Buffy was asleep. Faith looked at the blonde.

"Good night." She said and snuggled closer to the other slayer, placing her arms around the blonde. Unconsciously, Buffy wrapped her arms around Faith as well.

*****

Willow was sure that something had happened. Neither of the slayers was ever absent from lectures, unless for a good reason. So, after calling their cellphones and finding out that apparently they had both turned them off, she and Tara headed for Faith's dorm. She knocked on the door, but there was no answer. No noise of any kind came from inside. She searched for her 'emergency' spare key, which she had gotten from Faith, and opened the door. What the witches saw made them both smile and feel relieved. The slayers were still fast asleep, apparently after a long night, snuggled together like they hadn't slept in a different position for a long time.

"Know what, Tara?" Willow whispered, beckoning her lover to follow in her to the dorm room.

"What?" Tara whispered back as she closed the door behind her.

"I bet Faith's got a camera here somewhere.." The redhead replied, grinning. The shy blonde smiled at the other witch. It was time to play the role of a 'matchmaker'...

*****

Buffy woke up as she heard the alarm ring. She was surprised to find herself, for the first time in her life, in the arms of the raven-haired slayer. Normally, if they had fallen asleep on the same bed or couch, she'd have found Faith's feet from her arms. She pressed the 'alarm off' button and looked at the clock on the wall. It was noon - which meant that they both had been absent from all their morning lectures. Somehow, she didn't care. What annoyed her was the camera and the piece of paper that had appeared onto Faith's night-table. She was sure they hadn't been there before.

Faith was sound asleep. Buffy didn't want to wake her, but knew that the slayer wanted to study. But if that was the case, why had the alarm rang five hours late? She took the note from the table. It said:

"We were worried about you and came in...
but you looked so cute that we didn't want
to wake you yet.
And BTW - we took some photos, and the negs with us...

Have a nice day.
'You-KNOW-who'"

"Oh God..." Buffy said aloud. She tried to get up, but Faith was holding her tight. //Well, I guess this is worth it// she thought and decided to skip a day //She really hasn't been sleeping much lately...// Ten minutes later, she fell asleep again.

*****

Faith woke up at three pm, snuggled with Buffy, who had a note in her hand. She glanced at the clock and reached for Buffy's hand, only succeeding in taking the blonde's hand. Unconsciously, the blonde snuggled closer to her, pressing her head against Faith's torso. //This isn't very uncomfortable.// Faith thought, but tried to get the note. Finally, she succeeded, and brought the note close to her face, so she could read it.

After reading the note, Faith was blushing. She didn't want to know what they had looked like while sleeping. It was enough that she knew what position she was in when she woke up. Apparently Buffy hadn't wanted to wake her, or get away from her... OR the witches might have put the note in her hand. Faith wanted to know which of the possibilities was true.

She looked at the blonde, who was sleeping soundly. In all the time that the slayers had been best buddies, Faith had rarely seen the other slayer sleep so calm. It seemed like she wasn't having nightmares, which was really surprising. Then again, Faith didn't recall having seen many nightmares while sleeping either. //Strange......// And she had slept long. //Really strange... who'd have thought that all that is needed is someone to sleep next to... maybe we can do this again sometime...//

Feeling her empty stomach growl, Faith decided that it was time for some breakfast. She hugged Buffy tighter, and said aloud:

"Time to wake up, sleepyhead."

The blonde muttered something in response.

"Get up, Buffy." Faith tried, a bit louder.

"No...." The other slayer replied, still sleeping. Faith tried to push Buffy's hands away from around her. It didn't work. She pinched the blonde, and the blonde's eyes shot open.

"Good afternoon..." Faith said, smiling to her counterpart.

"Er... hi." Buffy said, pulling away from Faith, feeling a bit uncomfortable.

"So, did you read the note?"

"What note?" Buffy asked, not realizing what Faith was talking about.

"Never mind. Red and Tara had decided to come here and take some photos and stick a note into your hand..."

"Oh, that note.... It was on the table, and I read it."

"But didn't wake me up?"

"Well, you haven't actually slept much lately... And I was tired - and anyway, I had missed most of my classes already."

"Oh.."

They both looked at each other for a while.

"I don't really want to see the photos." Buffy said.

"Right now all I want is a meal."

*****

It was at five pm, when the slayers reported to the Magic Box to train. Giles handed Buffy an envelope, which Willow had left to him to be given to her.

As soon as they had trained, they sat down to the training room's floor. Buffy took the photos out of the envelope and handed them to Faith, who had taken the first twenty of them. They were photos mostly of Buffy, Scoobies and the LA Crew. Some were from the summer, and one even had Gunn in it, covered in something green.

Then followed a few photos of the slayers, and another note from Willow:

"We took copies of all these pictures. And a
magnification of you two sleeping.....
Really, have you ever seen a cuter 'not-a-couple'
couple? In the same bed? All cuddled up?

Your friends
W&T"

Neither of the slayers said anything, but looked at each other.

"I think they're trying to play matchmakers..." Buffy said, adding //And I know why...// in her head.

"Yeah, I agree...." Faith said, adding //And I'm not sure I know why....// in her head.

*****

The wiccans suggested, that because tomorrow was Saturday, they'd watch movies and keep a Scooby sleepover at Buffy's. The slayers agreed, but Xander and Anya said they were busy. Buffy told Willow to use the spare key she had and go to her house beforehand. As soon as the slayers went to get the videos, the wiccans took their overnight bags and spell-ingredients. Until now, they had agreed not to use magic. But maybe if the slayers shared a dream.....

*****

Dawn was glad to see Willow and Tara - she hadn't spent much time with Buffy's friends ever since college had begun again. She had been planning on going Bronzing, but when she heard that there was a possibility of watching a movie with two witches and slayers, she was happy to stay. She even agreed to help the two witches to make food, and just before the slayers arrived and brought the movies that had been decided beforehand - 'Heavenly Creatures' which had been suggested by Tara and 'Once Were Warriors' which had been suggested by the chosen two - the food was ready and served. And Tara had drawn magical runes under the slayers' beds. And placed the right herbs at their right places.

After eating and watching movies, the slayers left for quick patrol. The wiccans prepared a lot of food for them, knowing the two certain consequences of slaying.

After eating again, nobody was ready to go to sleep. They talked until 2 am, and then went to sleep. Well, at least the slayers and Dawn went to sleep. The wiccans started chanting, sitting in their own circle, which they had drawn to the room in which they were supposed to sleep. At three am, they were finished. The slayers would sleep together until they'd choose to do otherwise.

*****

Buffy was in her nightmare, as usual, when something beckoned her to follow. She wanted to get out, and was therefore willing to go. The somehow-familiar-something pulled her away from the dream, into the living room of her home. She was alone, but a voice told her: "This dream will end when you both want it to. And you will forget it if you want to." //You both?//

*****

Faith wasn't safe, this time. Buffy was pulling out her secret weapon - and pointing it at Faith. Just then, a familiar presence asked her to follow. More than willing to go elsewhere, the slayer followed - and found herself lying on the couch of Buffy's house. And she wasn't alone.

*****

"B?" Faith asked, getting up.

"Faith?"

"What is this?"

"Didn't she tell you?"

"No."

"This is a dream."

"That was obvious."

"This will end when we both want it to, and we'll forget it if we want to."

"Which means, that.... this has something to do with Willow and Tara."

"You're probably right."

"Damn! I should have known they had some reason to spend the night in the same house with us..." Faith said, smiling.

"Yeah..."

Just then, they saw Willow and Tara walking downstairs and going to the kitchen. But the wiccans didn't see them. And they couldn't hear the wiccans, who were talking. In less than three minutes, the witches were in the living room, walked through Faith, and sat down on the couch, cuddling. With them, they had a bottle of wine and two glasses.

"I'd really like to know what they're celebrating."

"Yeah... but let's go elsewhere. I want to see if Dawn's sleeping soundly."

"You think we're in the house, in this dream, in reality?"

"I guess..."

"Let's go see if we're sleeping somewhere."

"A good idea."

They ran upstairs, and saw a circle of runes drawn to the ground. Buffy went to see if Dawn was sleeping. She was. As soon as they came in to Buffy's room, they were amazed. They were there - and their bodies were sleeping calmly.

"Let's not bother us."

"Why not?"

"Let's just not. I think my mother's room is free - since Willow and Tara are downstairs..."

They walked to the bedroom where Joyce Summers had once slept. Buffy had moved her mother's bed in to her room, so that Faith could sleep on it. The witches had apparently been aware of how things would be in the dream, and had brought two chairs to the room. Their mattresses were side by side on the floor.

The slayers sat down. Neither of them said anything for at least full four minutes.

"You know, I think that they wanted us to talk... about our relationship." Faith started.

"That's obvious. The wannabe-matchmakers that they are." Buffy replied.

"So we can talk, and if it should make us feel uncomfortable, we can forget it - and think of this as a dream?"

"Yeah. That's how I understood it."

"OK. Well, let's not waste their efforts."

"Have you got anything to say - at all?"

"Promise me you'll forget this - if you should feel uncomfortable..."

"Go on..."

"I meant what I said. You are everything what a girl could ask for."

"And?"

"I've been thinking... is there any chance that - ... you wouldn't happen to be..."

"What?"

"Bi-sexual?"

"What makes you think that?" Buffy asked, blushing.

"I guess I was hoping... But let's just forget it, OK?" Faith said, regretting that she had asked at all. She looked at her feet.

"If you want to... but there's something... you know... er... yes.." Buffy managed, staring at the ceiling.

"Huh?"

"I... think I am. But that's only because, for the last nine months... you know..."

"What?"

"I - I've.. I've lo-liked you." Buffy said, hoping that they could just forget about this conversation. //We'll forget about this.. so what the hell is wrong with me?// She looked at Faith, who was looking at her disbelievingly. "Forget this if you don't feel the same way. I think I love you. More than anything else."

Faith was, needless to say, dumbfounded. She didn't want this to end. She wanted to remember this for the rest of her life. She wanted to jump up and go kill vampires. She wanted to do something. //Anything.//

And so, the kick-ass dark-haired vampire-slayer-girl, leaned forward, her hands shaking, and reached to touch Buffy's face. Just staring at her counterpart, she wanted to say something about her feelings. It came out through the lyrics of a song.

"I want to be loved by you." She said. "Just you, nobody else but you.... But let's take it 'slow' - 'cause I'm not used to stay."

Buffy had tears in her eyes.

Soon, they found themselves cuddling on the witches' mattresses. Neither of them spoke anything - they didn't want this to end yet, and they didn't want to forget this. They were completely safe.

After three hours of this, Buffy spoke aloud.

"We've slept at least four hours now. How about we go to our beds, sleep in this dream and then wake up to see if this was true?"

"A great idea."

Neither of them moved. It felt good to be there.

"I have a better one." Buffy said.

"What?"

"We stay this way, for now, and both say that we want to remember this and to wake up right now?"

"It's worth a try."

"I want to wake up and remember this." Buffy said.

"I want to wake up and remember this." Faith replied dutifully.

They both drifted away into dreamless sleep - but didn't realise it.

*****

At 8 am Buffy woke up, remembering all. She glanced out, and saw that it was morning. Only, the night had felt short.

Then it hit her. She was in Faith's arms, on the witches' mattresess - and Faith was holding her close. And she knew, that for now, everything was going to be all right.

...continued in Disbelief...

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