Disclaimer: see chapter 1
Buffy was smiling wryly as she helped Faith step down into the skate floor, still holding the girl’s warm, slightly larger hand in hers and steadying her by the shoulder before stepping down beside her.
“You’ll want to stick close the walls at first until you get the hang of it,” she began. “Now look- watch my feet, Faith-“
But Faith had pulled away from Buffy’s anchoring hands, and was attempting to go forward a distance by herself. She had not been moving very fast, but she had started forward jerkily, and the momentum generated was enough to make the skates slide forward too roughly. Faith threw her arms out, attempting to balance herself, but it was too late. The dark-haired Slayer fell, landing on her backside, hard.
“Oh god!” Buffy gasped, her eyes wide- the fall had sounded painful. “Faith, are you okay?”
The younger girl’s eyes had gone round, huge with the shock of the impact, but as Buffy skated the short distance over to her, her face creased in concern, and quite unmistakable I-told-you-so thoughts, Faith glared fiercely at the older blonde standing over her.
“Five by five, B,” she said with thick sarcasm. “Just showing you my moves. You impressed?”
Buffy tried not to grin or laugh at the other girl, knowing how Faith would hate it, but she couldn’t help it. It was just too much, seeing her flat on her butt, glowering evilly as little kids and preteens zoomed by her easily. From the looks Faith gave them as they passed her, she was sending evil thoughts and curses their way.
“Sorry, Faith,” Buffy snorted through helpless, teary-eyed laughter as she reached the other Slayer’s side, putting down a hand to help her up. “I just wish I had a camera. Your expression- it’s priceless. There's no price for that look.”
“Yeah, I’m a freakin’ prodigy at this, huh?” Faith sneered, accepting Buffy’s hand and wrapping strong fingers firmly around it. “But don’t worry, B, I’m a generous girl- I’ll show you how to join me!”
With that, she gave a hard yank, pulling Buffy down to the floor along with her. Completely unprepared, Buffy gasped as she fell heavily on top of the younger Slayer, hard enough to have knocked the breath out of a less strong girl, or a less prepared one. But Faith was laughing, dark eyes shining, dimples popping even as Buffy’s elbow landed squarely in her chest, her heavy skate shoes knocking into Faith’s leg.
“Damn, floor’s rather slick, isn’t it, B?” Faith called gleefully, pinning Buffy down against her with her arms, apparently not ready to let her jump up without first receiving the maximum embarrassment that Faith could wring from her.
But Buffy wasn’t embarrassed. Startled, yes, but she felt none of the anger, humiliation, or even annoyance that she knew Faith had been trying to elicit from her. In fact, she was amused, having a hard time keeping herself from grinning as widely as Faith was. The brunette Slayer’s smile, when genuine, and not deliberately put on or twisted in a smirk, was contagious, and Buffy loved to see it.
She and Faith were both clad in jeans and tank tops, and she could feel the other girl’s body all too vividly beneath hers, warm, soft, and yet firm and toned, slender, yet curvy… Buffy’s skin tingled more pleasantly than ever, a strange buzzing rush of sensation, and she was very aware of her own breathing and heartbeat, as well as Faith’s. For a few moments she was tempted to just lay her head down on Faith’s chest and not get up.
What the heck are you thinking, Buffy?
Shaking herself mentally, Buffy began to make the obligatory protests and struggles to get up that she knew Faith expected, as the other girl’s arms tightened around her for a few more moments, pinning her down against her. She seemed completely oblivious to the looks she was getting as people skated past them, but it didn’t bother Buffy either. She couldn’t understand it. When she first met Faith, the girl making such a scene would have mortified her. When had Buffy changed? And what was it about Faith that made her change, made her no longer care?
Should she really be dwelling on that?
Just as Buffy was quickly changing her line of thought, or attempting to, rather, Faith finally released her, still grinning, her eyes dancing. As Buffy got to her feet, pulling at her tank top, she extended a hand to help Faith up for the second time, giving her a stern warning look.
“Pull me down again and you’ll lay there all night,” she deadpanned. “I’d like you see you try to get up on your own, Miss Rebel Roller.”
“Rebel Roller- is that the best you can do, B?” Faith teased as she gripped the older girl’s hand, getting unsteadily to her feet. “Try hell on wheels.”
“Hey, you said it,” Buffy smiled, still holding Faith’s hand as she also took hold of her arm. “Now we’re going to go slowly at first, all right? Slowly, Faith. I’ll help, all right?”
Faith shot another amused look, one that was clearly intended to convey to Buffy that she could handle it, despite her recent backfires. But there was apprehension in her eyes and the sudden tautness Buffy could see in the muscles of her mostly bare back, and she had tightened her grip on Buffy’s fingers. Buffy knew the other girl was more nervous than she let on.
Still supporting her partly, Buffy began to skate as slowly as she could, exaggerating the movements of her feet so Faith could better observe and imitate. Faith’s eyes were glued to Buffy’s feet, but they had barely gone five paces before her own feet collided into each other. She grabbed Buffy at the waist and shoulder, wrapping her arms around her as she tried to catch her balance.
“Dammit!” she cried, and Buffy heard the frustration in her husky voice. She tried not to smile, despite her amused satisfaction at seeing Faith, who usually moved with such confidence and strength, looking so clumsy and awkward. Feeling a surge of affection and strange protectiveness for the dark-haired Slayer, she wrapped an arm around her waist, giving her another quick squeeze as she held her upright.
“Hey, I’ve got you. It’s okay, I won’t let you fall,” Buffy told her, and her tone was gentler than she would ever usually speak to her. She could almost feel the girl’s tension… and yet the more anxious Faith seemed to be, the looser and more relaxed Buffy felt. It was almost as if she were feeding off the other girl’s need for her… almost as if it gave her a strength, a strength she neither wanted nor could obtain when by herself.
God, what was she thinking now?
“Faith, I can’t move with you holding onto me that tight,” Buffy said abruptly, gently attempting to loosen the brunette’s hold on her. “It’s okay, I’ll help you- just relax a little, okay?”
“Hey, I’m relaxed. I’m freakin’ Valium girl here,” Faith shot back, but she did loosen her hold a little. Keeping an arm loosely around Faith’s slim waist, allowing her to keep a hand braced on her slightly lower shoulder, Buffy began to try once more to skate with her.
“In and on… like this,” Buffy told her, as Faith clumsily imitated her. “Good, you’re doing fine. I’ve got you, you’re doing fine. There you go…”
It took over five minutes for them to complete their first lap, and Faith’s feet kept stumbling, knocking into each other and Buffy. But within another fifteen minutes, something, perhaps muscle memory, seemed to kick in, and Faith was skating more smoothly, with more confidence. Buffy grinned at her, her heart squeezing with a rush of happiness and enjoyment.
“You’ve got it, Faithy, look at you go now!”
Faith beamed at her, not even seeming to notice Buffy’s slip of the disliked nickname. The two girls began to pick up the pace slightly, and now they were skating nearly as equals, their steps in perfect synchrony. It was almost as they were at times when they slayed together, each movement fluid and graceful, yet powerful, perfectly reflecting and complementing each other’s.
Buffy undid her arm carefully from around Faith’s waist, instead taking her hand and intertwining her fingers with the other Slayer’s. Faith glanced at their hands in surprise, a strange hesitance and startlement in her expression, and then she laughed a little, smiling uncertainly, then more fully, and squeezed back.
Everything for Buffy seemed to be amplified then, her senses sharp, and making everything that much more vivid. The disco and blacklights, swirling colors moving around the floor and walls, seemed much brighter than they had when she had first arrived. The music playing- Crazy town’s “Butterfly”- seemed to surround her from all sides, bouncing gently off her skin and causing it to buzz slightly. The physical sensation of her legs moving in and out, her hair softly swinging against her bare shoulders, and Faith’s warm, slightly sweaty hand in hers, made Buffy feel almost light-headed. She could feel the adrenaline coursing through her… and she could not remember the last time she had felt so happy, so free.
Faith was clearly enjoying herself as well; her face was softer and more relaxed than Buffy had seen before, the darkness and defensiveness usually seeming to be lurking deep in her gaze replaced with a joyful shining and a wide, childlike smile. Seeing her so clearly letting down her guard for a while, Buffy felt a sudden urge to hug the other girl. Instead, she squeezed her hand again, and was surprised when Faith squeezed it back, still grinning.
“You’re really smiling, B,” she commented, having to lean close to Buffy’s ear and half shout to be heard over the music. “You look happy!”
“I’ am happy,” Buffy called back.
“Why, some guy caught your eye?” Faith jabbed. “Cuz you see anyone, you know, I’d probably be willing to share…”
Buffy knuckled Faith in the shoulder, not hard enough to make her lose balance, then took her hand in hers again, squeezing once more.
“Nope, no guy, Faithy,” she jabbed back. The more she said the nickname, the more it grew on her. “Just having fun. Just happy to be here with you.” She squeezed the other girl’s hand again, for the fifth or sixth time. Watching Faith, she saw the other girl’s face soften further, seeming pleased… almost shy. As if she were an awkward preteen receiving a compliment. When Faith finally smiled back at her, Buffy’s heart twisted pleasantly.
She looks so cute with her dimples when she smiles like that, Buffy found herself thinking almost dreamily. Almost sweet. She really is a beautiful girl…. Sexy.
Sexy?! Where the hell did that come from?
Her eyes had drifted from Faith’s face to her cleavage, and Buffy snapped them back up again, almost stumbling. Faith grabbed her arm, stopping her from falling further.
“Watch it, B,” she called, “can’t have two klutzes out here, you know.”
“I’m fine,” Buffy told her, shaking off the other girl’s hands abruptly and trying to talk down her racing heart. “You’re probably just trying to cover for tripping me, huh?”
“B, if I wanted to trip you, you’d be on the floor,” Faith shot back as they began to skate again… this time, without touching. Buffy saw Faith glance at her hand a few times, as if waiting for Buffy to take hold of it again. But she didn’t… she couldn’t. Somehow, she instinctively felt that she couldn’t do it, that it would somehow be-
Dangerous? Why would it be dangerous?
Okay, stop. Now. Direct thoughts away. Thoughts away, thoughts away…
“Hey, B?” Faith yelled over the music- Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in the bottle”- having to lean closer again to be heard. “Where’s the bathroom?”
“Over there,” Buffy pointed, grateful for the diversion. “Come on, I’ll go with you.”
They skated to the side of the skate floor, and Buffy took Faith’s hand again briefly, helping her step up and then steady herself on the carpeted floor. Faith started to make her way with a little more trouble than on the skate floor, but Buffy took hold of her elbow, pulling her to a stop.
“We should take our skates off, Faith. Slick, wet tile floors, mirrors, and shoes with wheels are a concussion waiting to happen.”
“Hey, I’ve got a hard head,” Faith quipped, but she followed Buffy to sit at a bench, quickly untying her laces but having more trouble with her straps.
“Here, I’ll do it for you,” Buffy told her, kneeling before her and briefly putting her hands over the younger girl’s to stop them. As she began to undo Faith’s straps, she was suddenly all too aware of how close they were physically. Faith’s legs and knees and feet were right near her face. She found herself flushing, her skin feeling too warm, too alive with funny prickling sensations running up and down her spine, swirling in her chest. What was wrong with her? She hoped Faith couldn’t tell, didn’t see her expression.
But when she dared to glance up, the other girl was looking at her intently. Something about her creased forehead, the wary indecisiveness in her eyes, made Buffy sure that the other Slayer could tell what she was thinking- or at least had a general idea. Faith looked… Buffy wanted to say afraid. And yet there was none of her usual hardness in her features… only a gentleness, an uncertainty.