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Summer Loved

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Since the fall of Sunnydale and subsequent move to England, Faith's been sitting back, watching the rest of the gang try to find themselves. Easier for some than others. Dawn's doing better than Faith would have guessed, finding a happy medium between conventional university and helping design the new Slayer study course, while Xander's periods of malaise are growing fewer and further between as he comes to terms with losing Anya all over again. Giles of course is back in his element, not to mention his native land, and Faith was pretty sure she'd sussed out this Olivia chick even before Willow let their history slip. As for Red herself, she and Kennedy are somehow making it work in the face of daily clashes, as well as in defiance of yet another one of Faith's growing list of failed predictions. Maybe she's not as up on the finer points of human nature as she likes to believe.

She turns away from the window, only to find the one person who can still sneak up on her climbing through the trapdoor in the floor. The new Watchers HQ is more than a mansion, it's a sprawling estate that most American visitors instantly describe as being Potteresque. Upshot being that Faith's room is the uppermost garret of the attic, by her own choice: It's quiet, has a great view from both sides of the building, and an actual cupola on top for a handy alternate escape route in case of emergency. She was just going to have a mattress on the floor, but Buffy had insisted on getting her a real bed.

"Hey."

"Speak of the she-devil." Faith smiles to ease the sting. Still, a girl's got to keep up appearances. "Sup, B?"

"Rather a lot, really." Buffy wipes a fleeting grimace from her face. "Sorry."

"Aren't they done with those yet?" Andrew didn't have to twist Xander's arm in order to corral his fellow Y-chromosomer into a rewatch of the complete Monty Python, starting with Holy Grail in honor of the fallen. Apparently the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog was a critical element of the grieving process.

Buffy snorts her least delicate snort. "As if. They weren't even halfway through when Giles came in and demanded they start over from the beginning, so he could explain everything their uncultured American minds were missing."

Faith winces in sympathy even as she stoops to her own jab. "Notice I don't have a lot of company for the classic SNL."

"Please." Buffy's distaste is apparent but quickly disappears, replaced with her B expression. Faith has come to think of the A expression as Maybe not everything is cool but I'm dealing with it pretty okay, and the B as something like Don't even ask about the trouble I've seen.

"So what's up?" At least so far in their post-prison relationship, Faith is finding the direct approach works best. "You know I'm here for you."

It doesn't even sound all that cheesy to her own ears. Still, she can feel a tiny blush rising in her cheeks. Luckily Buffy is looking away, moving to the window she just vacated, surveying the expansive countryside.

"You really like it up here?" Buffy's tone isn't too overly emo, and Faith smiles.

"One of the perks of seniority." The smile flickers, a momentary sour twinge. "I don't share well with others."

"Huh." Buffy doesn't take the bait. Just continues to gaze out the window, until Faith can feel her facade of Zen begin to crumble.

"Okay, at least tell me if it's another apocalypse."

"Huh?" Buffy turns, confusion and surprise becoming comprehension. "Oh, no. Not unless --"

Faith cocks an eyebrow as she strives for patience.

"I was gonna say -- unless Willow and Xander were right, and our, you know, love lives -- are doomed. Although Kennedy might be the one to break the streak for --"

"B!" With a monumental effort, Faith composes herself into something approaching a rational human being. "Just spill already! I'm not gettin' any younger over here --"

"I --" Buffy clears her throat, her gaze dropping to the floor. "I got another bodyswap spell."

For what is undoubtedly a shorter time than it feels like, Faith stands there like the world's biggest dummy. Until Buffy looks up again, eyes at half-mast, shyness at eleven as she asks:

"You want to?"

"Huh." Still utterly frozen, Faith can hear the joyful roar inside, the soul's equivalent of WELL FUCK YEAH even as she finds herself unable to quite return that searing hot gaze.

The squeaky floor echoes under the pad of sensible but stylish athletic shoes. Faith can feel herself trembling as Buffy finds her hand, squeezes and softly says:

"Me too."




It feels more like a date than Faith is comfortable with, which is hardly unexpected since they did schedule the date in advance. While the forces of evil do tend to be peskily inconvenient in their timing, she'd prefer to have the notoriously neurotic Buffy as relaxed as possible under the circumstances. Then she spends longer than ever before in the upstairs bathroom, scrubbing every last inch of herself until it squeaks. Then actual body lotion -- Willow's favorite all-natural brand, surprisingly delicate yet robust -- and another hour doing her nails, trimming and shaving the pits and bits, feeling herself tight and moist at the thought of Buffy doing the same.

"Guaranteed to last until sunrise?"

"That's the idea." Buffy uncorks the tiny ivory stopper from the bottle, wrinkling her nose in suspicion. "I was hoping it wouldn't be too skunky."

Faith gives a cautious sniff as Buffy fills her shotglass, and shrugs. "I've had worse in Southie dives."

She meets Buffy's eyes as the Slayer raises the bottle, the tinny clink of metal on glass.

"Cheers."




The whirling in her stomach keeps going for a minute after the room stops, making Faith grateful for having skipped lunch that day. Everything looks different, smells feels is different and yet it's like coming home, slipping into that perfect pair of shoes you thought you'd lost forever. She lifts herself up on wobbly arms, regaining strength by the second as Buffy looks up wearing her eyes.

She almost freezes at the sight. Instead she draws Buffy over to the mirror, an enormous antique from a downstairs set of dresser drawers she'd pulled loose and carted upstairs just for this. Where again, to her surprise, she ends up not looking in it all that much; instead she's encouraging Buffy to look and see, watching her own face with Buffy's soul inside seeing it all unfold before her: Buffy witnessing her own self kneeling before her dark sister Slayer, murmuring faint apologies in between every worshipful kiss and gaze, Faith staring into her eyes as she explores herself from the outside in, inside out and back again.

The whole night, in fact, is spent exploring themselves and each other from all sorts of new and interesting angles, and by the time dawn rolls around they're actually still awake, if laying draped across each other in a pleasant and less than half-conscious state. But the shiver and tingle of the spell unfolding and fading, the gentle sliding sensation of returning to their respective bodies, brings them once more fully awake.

"Um." Buffy is the first to speak. Faith gazes back, wearing a tiny smile, patiently waiting.

"So...do you want to do that again?" Buffy's cheeks pinken. "Without the swapping?"

"I dunno, B." Faith affects a calculated squint, mulling the matter over. "You might have spoiled me for anyone else."

Buffy's blush intensifies even as she leans over to plant a kiss between Faith's shoulder blades.

"That's a yes, then."