Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. I will just manipulate them with my own plot a while, and then put them back where they belong.

Author Notes: This takes place sometime in the third season- after Faith Hope and Trick, before Amends. Angel has not come back yet, Faith and Buffy are getting to be good friends… and you'll see how that goes. Warning, all- this is a slow build up into a femslash scene, so if you don't like, don't read.

Chapter 1

Buffy Summers shook her head as she stepped up to the Sunnydale Roller-Rama's lobby counter, digging out the $10 it would take for both her and Faith to rent skates from her tight jeans pocket.

"I still can't believe you've never gone roller-skating before, Faith," she said with an incredulous smile. "How is that possible? Do they not have skating rinks in Boston? Seriously, I thought every kid has been to at least one birthday party thrown at one of these places. I made Mom have mine here from the time I was eight to the time I was eleven- it came right after my ice-skating Dorothy Hamill phase."

"Out of all the details of Faith's deprived, sucky childhood, this is the one that shocks you the most?" the dark-haired Slayer smirked, rolling her eyes. "For a Slayer, B, you've lived a sheltered little life, haven't you?"

Faith was smiling, her usual flippant, nothing-bothers-me expression spread across her features, evident in her confident swaggering posture. But Buffy had seen something else flicker over the other girl's eyes, a darker sentiment that she had quickly banished, replacing with her usual impish grin.

Maybe I shouldn't have gone on about her not ever going skating so much, Buffy thought a little guiltily. Maybe the whole no-skating thing had brought up some kind of bad memory for her, either a specific one, or just thoughts of her childhood in general.

Buffy didn't know much about the younger girl's past, other than the few too-casually-thrown-out comments Faith had made- none which had painted a picture of a loving, healthy home life. Buffy had tried tentatively to get Faith to talk about herself and her life a few times, having received a subtle but nagging impression that the other girl wanted to do so, but was reluctant or unsure of how to bring it up. Her mother, her father, or rather her lack of one, the neglect and/or abuse she had hinted at, the details of her watcher's death… in her own ways, Buffy had gently tried to ease into talking about the subjects with her. But so far, Faith had told Buffy only what Faith wanted her to know- which, so far, was not very much.

"Hey," Buffy said lightly as she handed the bored, slack-faced employee her money and pocketed the ticket stubs she was handed in exchange, "what can I say? I was spoiled. Only child and all that."

"Yeah, B, so was I," Faith said diffidently, but even as she shrugged, Buffy saw the flicker she had noticed in her eyes pass through once more, more obviously this time. "Only in my case, that meant scapegoat, not princess."

Buffy winced inwardly, hating that once more she had managed to say the wrong thing- something that, whether Faith would ever say it or not, had somehow affected her, maybe even hurt her. Turning more serious, she looked at the dark-haired girl and said in a less flippant tone, "Faith- look, I'm sorry if-"

"Hey, no pity act, B, you hear?" Faith interrupted, cocking an eyebrow and lifting her chin. She was still smiling, an eyebrow cocked in seeming amusement, but Buffy saw the set of her jaw muscles. The younger girl clearly meant what she said, was bristling at Buffy's awkward attempts at concern. "It's no big deal or nothin'. No one took me skating as a kid, so what? I'm going now, right?"

"Right," Buffy agreed quickly. "You'll pick it up quick, I bet. You're the athletic type."

"Bad enough I'm letting you pay my way," Faith went on teasingly, giving Buffy a tap on the shoulder with her knuckle as they moved through the lobby door into the main skating area. "Not my usual kind of date. Usually it's feed me and fuck me- and the food part, that's if I'm lucky. If he's a real gentleman, you know? Then again, you're not my usual type of date either, B," she needled, poking the older girl's shoulder once again as they got in line to get their skates.

Buffy wanted to wince once more at Faith's words- for she had no doubt they were true. She had only known the other girl for a couple of weeks over a month, but she had heard and occasionally witnessed more of Faith's casual attitude toward sex and dating than she felt comfortable with. She knew the younger girl professed to care nothing about the guys she had been with, claimed that she enjoyed sex simply for the sake of sex, but Buffy wasn't so sure she believed her. Sometimes she almost thought that Faith behaved so promiscuously just to shock people, or to have some kind of control over guys. Almost like she was trying to prove something to everyone- maybe even herself. And some of her stories… well, they sounded so outrageous that Buffy suspected they had been made up entirely. At least, she hoped they were.

She hated to think why Faith might feel the need to constantly have sexual power over guys, to "prove" how much she liked sex. The girl had never said a word about being sexually abused as a child or young teen… but between her scattered depictions of her poor background, alcoholic mother, and the parade of her mom's boyfriends in her life, Buffy could put everything together enough to form a strong suspicion. One that made her stomach squeeze and her heart twist in discomfort.

"Well, sorry if you're disappointed, Faithy, but this date's gonna be different," Buffy said lightly, briefly slipping an arm around the tank-topped-clad girl's bare shoulder and giving her a quick squeeze. Faith gave her a wrinkled-nose scowl.

"Did you just call me FAITHY?"

"It kinda slipped out," Buffy said innocently, taking her arm back to her side. "What, you call me B!"

"Call me that again, and my FIST might slip, B," Faith threatened, but Buffy could see the smile in her eyes, her usual mischievous gleam.

"Yeah, like you'd really be able to catch me, your first time on wheels-"

"Oh, you think? You just try me, B!"

The two Slayers bantered back and forth for a few more minutes as they waited in line, and as irritated as she pretended to be, Buffy could feel herself smiling, her posture loosening. She loved how just being with Faith, sniping back and forth with her, had this effect on her.

Ever since Buffy had sent Angel to hell, she had had such a difficult time being able to just let go of herself at times. It had seemed impossible for her to stop remembering, to be okay for five minutes, let alone to smile and have fun with her friends. They had meant well, of course, and they had tried to help her, tried to be there for her- but it somehow had only made her feel worse. It had made her feel guilty for not being able to be a good friend to them anymore, to be able to snap out of it and be the fun, funny Buffy for them that she had always been before.

But then Faith had come along, and with her, it had been different. With Faith, moping and feeling sorry for herself just didn't seem an option. For one thing, the other Slayer would have had no patience for it. And for another, around Faith, Buffy just didn't seem to remember her misery, let alone feel like she was drowning in it.

In just a few weeks, Buffy had come to care for Faith more than she would have predicted at first. Whether because they were sister Slayers or not, the girls had a strange, nearly tangible connection, a kind of sparkage that both could not really explain to others. Buffy did not yet know Faith well, but already she felt close to her.

Today, by some miracle, Joyce Summers had agreed to let Buffy borrow her car- but only under the condition that Faith, and not her daughter, would be driving it. Buffy wasn't really sure that Faith even had a license, but she hadn't questioned her. She also hadn't known whether to be relieved that her mother had allowed her to take the car, or insulted that she would trust someone as clearly reckless and impulsive as Faith over Buffy when it came to her car and driving skills. Whatever the case, she was glad to just be doing something with the other girl. Something other than slaying- something that should be purely fun. Of course, they had gone dancing together at the Bronze, but never just the two of them. And Faith had been a much more confident dancer than Buffy. Buffy was looking forward to seeing the younger girl try out something that would have to finally shake up her cocky self-confidence a little.

The girls handed the staff member their ticket stubs and were handed their bulky rental roller blades. They walked over to sit at one of the rink's several benches, and as Buffy quickly began to lace up her shoes, then pull the straps tight, she began to give Faith tips.

"Rollerblades are actually easier than rollerskates, Faith. You have to get a rhythm with your feet going is all. In and out. But don't let your ankles collapse inward, that'll give you soreness later. Just-"

"I think I'll be able to figure it out, B," Faith cut her off with another of her all-too-abundant smirks. "I mean, I kick serious ass slaying whatever evil thing wants to rear its big ugly head every day. How hard could it be to walk on wheels a little? Look at all the little kids out there- how freakin' hard could it be?" she asked, gesturing at three or four elementary kids who had just took off past them.

Buffy just smiled wryly; she knew from personal experience how "easy" it was for most at first, and she hoped Faith was about to find out as well, if only to wipe some of that cockiness off her face a while. She wondered if the other girl knew how to ride a bike. Maybe she should teach her that next. It wouldn't hurt her to take her down a peg or two occasionally.

"Faith, you're going to need to pull your straps really tight," she instructed. "If they're not tight enough, your ankles will cave in, and you'll be more likely to fall."

"I've got it, B," Faith insisted as she finished tying her second shoe. "Let's get this party started."

She started to stand with her usual speed, apparently under the mistaken impression that it was no harder to stand in rollerblades than on her own feet. The brunette wobbled badly, one of her feet sliding backward, and she thrust out her arms quickly, balancing herself. Buffy laughed, more from the startled wideness of the other girl's eyes than from her near fall. She noticed wryly that, as she had warned her, Faith's ankles were already turning in.

"Oh, you really got it, huh?" she snickered. "Just like all the little kids out there, right?"

"Shut up, blondie," Faith glowered, but she couldn't make her eyes match her words, and the dimples in her cheeks threatened to show themselves. "Give me a few minutes and I'll be racin' laps around your scrawny ass."

"Faith, let me do your shoes better," Buffy said again. "Keep them like that and I promise no victory laps will be had."

"All right, all right, MOM," Faith muttered, but she sat down, albeit a bit more of a dramatic flopping than an obedient perching. Buffy knelt before the younger Slayer's feet, undoing and then redoing her straps and pulling them tight, then retying her laces as well.

"There, that should be better," she muttered, straightening.

"Yeah, now that you've cut all circulation from my feet," Faith rejoined, wiggling her toes for emphasis. "Is that all part of your master plan? You really hate to lose, don't you, B?"

"There's no danger of that, Faithy," Buffy shot back, grinning to herself at the other girl's narrow-eyed glare. "Come on, it's time you showed me some of those impressive skills."

She took Faith's hand, pulling her firmly but carefully to her feet. The other girl wobbled again, her easy smirk slipping as her hand tightened on Buffy's, and she grabbed the blonde's shoulder with her other hand. Her hand felt very warm against Buffy's mostly bare shoulder, and for some reason, the older Slayer nearly shivered.

"In and out, Faith," Buffy told her again, demonstrating. "It's a little harder on the carpet- you'll see when we get over to the actual skate floor part."

"Whose idea was it to make shoes with wheels?" Faith muttered, her earlier confident attitude already having made a U-turn as she gripped Buffy tightly, awkwardly attempting to walk in the rollerblades without moving her legs the way Buffy was trying to show her. "Someone had a penchant for freakin' humiliation. Or did he just put them on other people as some twisted form of amusement? What made YOU so into these things anyway?"

"Hey, don't' give up on them already," Buffy laughed as she led the other girl to the skating floor edge, her skin tingling strangely under Faith's hands. "What happened to Faith the future roller rink queen?"

"A certain blondie did her shoes up too tight for her to be able to stand," Faith retorted, but as they drew up even with the skating floor, Buffy could see her deliberately straightening her shoulders, taking a breath, eyes narrowing in determination. It almost looked like the other Slayer was giving herself a mental pep talk, telling herself that she was going to learn to skate- and skate well- if only to show Buffy that she could.

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