Author Notes: Takes place third season, before Faith is bad, before Revelations probably.

Losing inhibitions

"Betcha can't get up this high, B!"

Buffy shook her head ruefully, smiling in spite of herself as she watched her sister Slayer pumping her legs energetically on the playground swing, her long dark hair flying back and forth with the quite heavy breeze she was creating. Every time she pushed forward, a thick mass of it fell over her face. Faith hardly seemed to notice; she was beaming, her heavily made-up face a startling contrast to the childish glee lighting her eyes, the unusually wide smile that was putting her usually-hidden dimples out for display.

God, Buffy thought with some startlement from where she stood slightly apart from her, her hair fluttering slightly from the breeze of Faith's swinging. I don't think I've EVER seen her look so thrilled about anything before… except when she's slaying…

It was a strange feeling, to realize that the girl who, minutes before, had grinned manically after beating the stuffing out, then staking, five vampires, seemed to be getting the same level of exhilaration from playing on an elementary school playground.

But then, that was Faith for you… never quite what you expected.

Buffy and Faith had gone out slaying about two and a half hours ago, and between the two of them, had already had a pretty decent night's work. They had been headed for the Bronze to work off a little post-slayage energy, and Faith, as usual after a good slaying, had been in a loose, 

talky mood, bantering and messing with Buffy in her usually heavily sexual manner… a manner Buffy had thought before bordered on flirting or hitting on her.

But that was silly; Faith wasn't flirting with her. Faith was just being… Faith. Which meant going heavy on the sexual innuendos. Not because she was attracted to Buffy or anything- Faith was as straight as they came. Very straight. Straighter than Buffy, even- and Buffy was very, very straight. The only reason Faith might be flirting- just a little, just a tiny bit- was because she was horny and Buffy was there. Either that, or she just wanted to watch her turn red.

Still… as Faith chuckled hoarsely at her own comments, loping along easily beside Buffy with an arm all-too-casually around her waist, Buffy couldn't help but feel the familiar thrill that she couldn't quite accustom herself to run through her with the physical contact of Faith's touching her. She could hardly even admit it to herself, but it was the after-slaying that she looked forward to even more than the slaying. The feel of Faith close to her, touching her, listening to her husky voice tease her, making her blush… somehow just those few utterly ordinary moments with Faith on their way home seemed more exciting at times than killing twenty vampires.

Just because you're revved up after the slaying, Buffy had told herself over and over. Just because you want to get home and shower…

But deep down she knew that was not the reason at all… for she was always disappointed to pull away from Faith, to tell her good night and head their separate ways. For the first few seconds after drawing back from physical contact with her, it always felt like a piece of her own flesh had been pulled away.

They had taken a different slaying route than usual today, and ended up passing by the Sunnydale Elementary School. To Buffy's surprise, upon seeing the school's playground, Faith's whole face had lit up like a child during her first visit to a toy store. Calling out something indecipherable to Buffy, she had darted onto the playground so rapidly that Buffy had been startled, thinking at first that Faith must have spotted another vampire or demon.

But when Buffy had followed her hurriedly, her eyes darting about for whatever it was that had so excited Faith, it was quickly obvious that there was no undead thing to be found. It was just Faith, swinging herself across the monkey bars with her knees bent up, nearly touching the ground.

"Faith!" Buffy had called out to her, almost stunned at this unexpected, very strange behavior from her. "What are you doing?!"

"Come on, B, find the fun a little!" Faith had called out to her, swinging gracefully back to the ground and just barely missing knocking herself upside the head on the too-short bars. "Come play with me!"

And what had completely floored Buffy in that moment was that her words had been utterly serious, with not a hint of sarcasm or sexual innuendo.

She had watched, incredulous at first, then quickly growing amused, as she watched Faith walk up, then down a teeter-totter, climb and leap off of a jungle gym, and slide headfirst down the biggest slide. All of this done with exuberant, childlike glee, and frequent laughter, as if Faith were six or seven rather than… what? Sixteen, seventeen? Buffy realized with some shock that she really wasn't sure.

In a way it fascinated, even touched her in a manner she couldn't really explain to see Faith seem so happy over such a simple, childish thing. Watching her run around made her imagine what Faith must have been like as a child, something Buffy had previously found hard to imagine her cynical, very sexual sister Slayer as ever having been. Both girls had been forced to grow up fast… Faith, Buffy suspected, even more so than she. But watching her now, Faith looked almost innocent again, young and sweet… if in the way of an overgrown, rather hyperactive kid rather than an attractive teen with super powers.

What did Faith's being attractive have to do with anything?

"Watch out, B!"

Buffy jerked her head up just in time to see Faith's body flying out of her perilously high swing, obviously having just jumped out. She backed away quickly just as Faith landed on her feet a good twenty feet in front of the swing set. Staggering slightly, she turned to Buffy with a breathless grin, starting over towards her.

"Come on, B, your turn- let me push you."

"Nah, I'm good over here… I'll just watch you," Buffy said with a hint of a smirk. "Looks like you're having enough fun for the both of us, Faithy."

"Oh, come on, B, don't' be like that!" Faith griped at her, coming over and taking her by the arm casually, carelessly and beginning to lead her to the swing she'd just been sitting in. Buffy felt heat rise through her torso at Faith's touch, and her stomach squished strangely as Faith's cool fingers slid down her arm to entwine with hers.

"No one's watchin' if that's what you're worried about… no one's gonna spread it around town that Buffy Summers was playin' on the kiddy playground," Faith added with a definitely amused grin. "Like you should even care, B. You save their asses every day and they don't even know it."

She waggled her eyebrows at her, giving her hand a little tug as she gestured at the swing before them.

"Come on, B… you know you want to…"

And the thing was, Buffy suddenly did want to. She wanted to play on the swing, to be temporarily transported back to the simple thrills of her childhood… but moreover, she wanted to do it with Faith. She wanted to have Faith push her in the swing, to feel her hands on her back 

as she sent her flying weightless into the air. She wanted to please Faith, to see her show once again the light-hearted delight she had rarely witnessed before tonight… a joy that in a strange way was almost sexy.

SEXY?! What are you going ON about, Buffy?! Seeing Faith run around on a playground like a nut is SEXY?! Obviously the slaying got you a little more excited than you thought..

"You'll try to push me out," Buffy said, but her words were half-hearted at best.

"No I won't, B. Honest," Faith replied, lifting her hands for emphasis. "I'll do the whole gentle girly push thing if you want… so come on, sit your ass down."

Buffy made a show of doing so slowly and reluctantly, all the while smiling inwardly. The seat was still warm from Faith, and she almost shivered with the sudden pleasure that shot through her in an odd tingle at the feel of it. As Faith began to push her, keeping her word and making her touch gentle, yet firm, Buffy closed her eyes, not bothering to pump her legs in rhythm.

A few minutes went by, and Buffy savored it all; the coolness of the breeze caressing her, her hair hitting her face as she went forward, the soft sound the chains made as she swung back and forth… but mainly she savored the sensation of Faith's strong hands on her back, almost stroking her with each push.

Buffy wanted it to last forever… and that realization was exactly what shook her.

Without even realizing that she was thinking of doing so, on Faith's next push, Buffy found herself letting go of the chains, flying through the air- not nearly as high as Faith had, of course. Shocked to find herself falling, despite having jumped, Buffy didn't land quite with the skill that the other Slayer had; in fact, she ended up on her hands and knees, receiving grass stains she knew would never wash out.

"Ow!" she complained, genuinely stunned, as Faith stared, startled.

"B… damn… I didn't think I pushed you that hard! Are you okay?" she asked, starting toward her quickly.

"Can't get through a single patrol without ruining at least one article of clothing," Buffy muttered, inspecting her hands gingerly before wiping them off on her pants.

When Faith squatted down beside her, her forehead furrowed with concern and apprehensive expectation of Buffy's anger with her, Buffy gave her a quick, almost forced smile to reassure her.

"I'm okay, Fai, I jumped," she told her, and asked herself silently, the question is, WHY did you jump?

"Oh," Faith said, looking relieved, but quickly arching an eyebrow. "What happened to Miss Do-It-Gentle-Faith, Miss Don't-Push-Me-Faith?"

"Changed my mind," Buffy replied easily, but she could feel her cheeks flush. "No reason YOU should have all the fun, Faithy…"

She stretched out on her stomach on the grass as casually as she could manage, despite her sudden speeding heart rate and the way her back was still tingling, as if begging for Faith to return her hand to it again. Deliberately not looking at the younger girl, holding her muscles contracted in an effort to stop the stupid, senseless tingling of her back from spreading any further, Buffy said to Faith nonchalantly, "Don't see what all the fuss over the jumping out part was for… if you ask me, there are better ways to stop the ride. Ways that don't involve staining a perfectly good pair of pants."

"Well, actually landin' on your feet improves the experience, B," Faith snorted. "And you're just bitter 'cause you couldn't clear where I landed, you ain' foolin' me."

She flopped down on her stomach beside Buffy, seemingly thoughtlessly, her shoulder bumping Buffy's, her hip brushing against hers… but Buffy saw the quick look she shot her and knew with sudden realization that it had been no accident. Faith WANTED to be up close to her… but she didn't want Buffy to know that she did.

Was it… could it really be possible that Faith… that Faith was…

Was what, Buffy, was what?

Buffy shook her head inwardly, trying to force back that line of thinking. Not going there- for one thing, it was wrong, she- they weren't like that, they didn't want that. She wasn't thinking like that… even though she was. Right now. But she WASN'T! Buffy Summers WASN'T, she was NOT-

"See, B, I knew you could find the fun if you wanted to," Faith said unexpectedly, and Buffy glanced over at her, surprised. She saw her hair brush over Faith's bare shoulder when she turned her head; they were that close together…

"Not so bad to lighten up now and then, huh?"Faith persisted, nudging her slightly with her shoulder, and Buffy felt the contact shock through her with such intensity that she barely stifled a gasp.

"No…" she managed, and her voice sounded strange even to her own ears, almost hoarse. "No, it isn't…"

It was silent between them for a few more moments; Buffy was vividly aware of Faith's proximity, of every slight brush of their bodies beside each other. She heard her heartbeat and 

was alarmed by its loudness, the rapidness of her breathing, certain that Faith must hear them too.

She had to concentrate fiercely not to look at her, not to… to…

To what, Buffy… to what?

She heard herself speaking slowly, tentatively, the same oddly husky quality to her tone…


"Yeah?" Faith responded, and her tone was nearly identical to Buffy's.

Buffy found herself turning to look at her, her mouth dry, heart twisting with something she couldn't understand, couldn't explain.. she looked into Faith's eyes and saw the sudden solemnity they held, the seriousness along with what Buffy was now understanding to be desire. Desire… and fear.

And then suddenly they were kissing, arched up off their stomachs at an odd, uncomfortable angle that they barely felt in the exhilaration of this first meeting of mouths and tongues, this intensified connection of bodies and souls. As Buffy lost herself to the shocking, wholly thrilling sensation of Faith in her arms, Faith on her lips, she felt herself let go of the last remnants of her inhibitions, to let herself feel the glowing, childlike joy she had not quite realized would feel so good and right…