Chapter Fourteen

Faith awoke to first light of morning. The house was still silent, except for the sound of the front door that had been opened and closed just a moment ago. She couldn't believe that she'd gotten through an entire night without having any of the dreams.

Feeling well-rested, she began to stretch, preparing to get up out of bed. However, she cut her stretch short when she realized that Buffy was still pressed tightly against her.

A big smile appeared on her face. She couldn't believe that Buffy had actually shared a bed with her, let alone cuddled up against her just so that they could both get a good night's rest. It all seemed too surreal for her to handle.

She pondered lying there in the bed for awhile, just to listen to the smaller girl breath and to feel the warmth of her body. But Faith thought that it would be too awkward for Buffy to wake up that way. She didn't want her to have any regrets.

So, carefully as not to wake Buffy up, Faith slid over and stepped off of the bed. She crept around the room to her bags, quietly rummaging through them to get a fresh pair of clothes. When she found some, she opened the bedroom door and headed to the bathroom to shower and get changed.

When she passed the staircase, she looked down to see Angel, Cordy, Giles and Wes sitting in the living room, patiently waiting for the rest of the household to wake up.

Angel glanced up at her and gave her a wink, trying not to alert the others to her presence. She waved at him and indicated that she was headed to shower. She smiled at him before walking off towards the bathroom.

Neither he nor Faith had noticed or paid attention to the fact that she was walking around unaided and without a struggle.

Faith stood with her eyes closed underneath the hot spray of the shower, enjoying every moment of it. The showers in prison had been a bad experience. When they weren't spurting out lukewarm water at a rate of just more than a trickle, they were the meeting place of the bad crowd of the prison. She had to defend herself in the showers on more than one occasion, so she had never enjoyed her showering experiences while there.

She'd been in the shower for some time now and was sure that either Willow or Dawn would be banging on the door at any minute, so she reluctantly turned off the water and stepped out of the shower.

After getting dressed and drying her hair, she grabbed the rest of her stuff and headed back to Buffy's bedroom.

When she got there, she was surprised to see Buffy lying awake in her bed. As she walked through the door, Buffy looked up to meet her gaze.

"Shower," Faith said.

"I kind of figured," Buffy replied.

Silence filled the air. Faith stood next to the now closed door, waiting for Buffy to say something. Or maybe it was her turn to say something? Shit. This was why she never did the talking thing; she was just no good at it.

"So, umm . . . thanks for last night. I was kind of a mess, but I guess that sleep did me some good, so . . . yeah. Thanks."

Buffy just looked at her, a somewhat confused look on her face. Then a realization hit her.

"Ahh . . . I see you're back to the walking and jumping and whatnot. I must have some sort of healing powers in my cuddling. Oh! I love it . . . the all-healing Slayer-cuddle, --sure to cure your ailment. I should market that," Buffy joked.

"Yeah, well, maybe you should," Faith said. "I don't know what you did, but whatever it was, it worked. A nightmare-free night and a pert and semi-lively me in the morning? I could definitely get used to somethin' like that."

Faith's eyes got big as she realized what she had just said. She'd basically admitted to enjoying the cuddles and getting used to the idea of having some more of them. Had Buffy noticed?

She looked to Buffy who had a slight blush on her face.

Yep, definitely picked up on it. She decided to change the subject.

"So, you gonna get up and get ready anytime soon, blondie? Angel is here with Queen C and Wes, and Giles is up too. Guess they're all pretty eager to get on with this thing."

"Yeah, I'm getting up now. I was just waiting for you to come back is all."

Buffy sat up and got out of bed. She was considering taking a shower when she heard the water running.

"Crap. Willow or Tara must be in the shower. Guess I'll have to wait 'til later. I'll just get changed so we can go downstairs."

She walked over to her closet and opened the door, stepping behind it as she began to undress.

Faith couldn't help but catch a glimpse out of the corner of her eye. She saw that Buffy had stripped down to her panties and t-shirt and that she was reaching up in her closet to grab something on the top shelf.

Then, Faith saw something that definitely caught her eye. As Buffy was reaching, her t-shirt had lifted up a little, the skin just above her panties That's where she saw the smallest hint of a tattoo.

She gasped quietly as she recalled the circumstances behind the tattoo.

It had been her little gift to Buffy during the whole body-swap incident. Knowing that there was a chance that Buffy might get her body back, Faith wanted to make sure that the other girl had a permanent reminder of the incident. Just before she was about to head to the airport, she stopped at a local tattoo parlor. She picked out a semi-large heart with a stake going through it. The real kicker was that she had 'Faith' written smack-dab in the middle of the heart, this way she would always be a part of Buffy, whether the other girl liked it or not.

She couldn't believe that she'd forgotten about it. But she didn't have much time to think about it because Buffy had heard her gasp and turned to look at her.

"Admiring your handiwork, Faith?" Buffy asked, trying to sound angry but was unable to keep the smile she was trying to hide off of her face.

"Yeah, B . . . about that . . ." Faith trailed off.

"About that . . ." Buffy mocked. "Can you imagine having to explain it to my mother and friends? And Riley? It was definitely not fun, but a good joke on your part. I guess you got the last laugh in that little bit. Touché," Buffy said while trying to get a glimpse of the tattoo in the mirror on her closet door.

Faith laughed softly.

"Well, B . . . I guess that since you were always tellin' me that I was such a pain in your ass, I made it a little more literal."

Buffy and Faith laughed as they finished getting ready.

When they finally stepped out of the bedroom, they discovered that Tara had showered and that Willow was just about to hop in. She told them that she would be down in about an hour.

Having a little bit of time to spare, Faith decided that she wanted to go do some Tai-chi in the basement, wanting to take advantage of her newly regained strength while she was able to.

"Hey, B, I hope you don't think I'm skippin' out on the little party downstairs, but I think I'm gonna head to the basement to do some Tai-chi. That a problem?"

Buffy considered her question,and finally replied, "Nope, I don't . . . as long as you don't mind if I join you. I could definitely use a little more balance and peace today."

Faith gave Buffy a warm smile.

"Of course I don't mind. But . . . I do things a little unconventionally. Think you'll be able to deal?"

"Lead the way," Buffy replied with a smile.

Before the girls headed to the basement, Faith ran back into Buffy's room and grabbed one of her bags. She met Buffy back in the hallway and the two girls made their way to the basement, saying polite good mornings as they passed people throughout the house.

When they finally reached the basement, Faith knelt down beside her bag and pulled out a small CD-Player and some CD's.

Buffy looked on doubtfully.

"So is this what you mean by unconventional? Playing the healing music? Faith, I've done that before, too. Hello, that stuff plays the whole time on my 'Tai-Chi for Dummies' DVD. I can handle it. In fact, I prefer it over the silence," Buffy stated very matter-of-factly.

Faith gave her a sly grin.

"I don't think this is the kinda music you're used to, B," Faith said as she handed the other girl a CD case.

Buffy looked at it and a funny look came over her face.

"Hmm . . . Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Nirvana . . . Faith, I really don't think you can do Tai-Chi to these. They're far too fast and hard, and just . . . noisy," Buffy said as she screwed up her face while handing the case back to her.

"You just have to go with me on this one, B. Trust me, you'll like it."

Buffy gave her a look, and then just shrugged her shoulders.

"Fine, whatever you say. Please, continue."

Faith put the CD in and pressed play. The girls had just enough time to get into position before the first song started. It was "The Fragile" by Nine Inch Nails.

Faith closed her eyes as the music started and began to take in several deep breaths. She had a look of total concentration on her face.

Buffy looked on questioningly but decided to just give in. She closed her eyes and began to steady her breathing as well, relaxing to the surprisingly mellow sound of the song playing. She had expected something much more loud and hard. It wasn't exactly her type of music but she could deal with it.

As the beat of the music began to pick up, both girls began their Tai-chi exercises. They still had their eyes closed but they had somehow managed to start at the same moment and remain perfectly in sync with one another. Their movements were slow and fluid in nature, and even their breathing patterns matched one another's.

They had continued through their routing for at least thirty minutes without any disruptions. The rest of the gang had gathered upstairs and began going over the game plan. When they noticed that neither Buffy nor Faith had resurfaced from the basement, they'd asked Tara to go and get the two slayers.

Slowly, Tara made her way to the basement and quietly crept down the first few stairs. What she saw before her nearly took her breath away. She watched as Buffy and Faith worked through their Tai-chi movements, moving in perfect synchronicity. She actually had to sit down at the top of the steps to catch her breath. Still, she ducked her head down so that she could continue watching.

Hoping to remain unnoticed, she watched as their auras emanated around them into the surrounding air. She couldn't tell whose was whose, because they matched perfectly. The mellow-blue color shimmered around the two slayers, growing more and more intense as the minutes passed.

Of course, your average person wouldn't have been able to see the blue shimmer around the two girls. But Tara, being a born witch, could see it and feel it as if it were corporeal. She could feel the sense of tranquility and harmony emitting from the two girls and she was taken back by the beauty of it all. Fortunately for her, the two slayers had been so completely engulfed in their movements that they hadn't detected her presence yet.

She knew that the gang upstairs was probably beginning to grow impatient now, but she didn't want to interrupt the sight in front of her.

When she heard Dawn complaining and offer to barge in on the little slayer-fest, as she called it, Tara finally decided to interrupt the girls. She stood up and coughed a little, announcing her presence as she walked to the bottom of the stairs.

Both girls instantly turned their heads towards the direction of the disturbance. They smiled as they saw a timid-looking Tara standing there.

"I'm s-sorry to disturb you guys, but the whole gang is upstairs w-waiting to get started."

Faith bent down to turn off the music and then turned to Tara and flashed her a winning smile.

"Nahh, it's no problem TT. Just wanted to make sure I was good and ready for today. Guess my battery recharged a little last night cos I woke up this mornin' feelin' better than I have in a hella-long time."

Tara smiled.

"I can definitely t-tell. Last night your aura was really murky and dark with lots of pent-up t-tension and fear. Now, it's really light and calm. The Tai-chi really must have helped."

Faith nodded.

"Yeah, that and Buffy. I think our Slayer-connection may be playin' a role in my unexpected but highly-appreciated recuperation."

"I definitely agree," Tara stated. "Whey you guys w-were doing your movements, you were perfectly in sync even though your eyes were closed. Even your auras were perfectly matched. Must be a pretty strong connection. It was really beautiful."

Faith smiled, blushing a little.

"C'mon TT, you gotta stop with the 'beautiful' talk. Look!" She pointed at her blushing face. "You're makin' me blush. Bad-asses aren't supposed to blush," she joked.

Tara laughed at Faith's comment.

"Well, I'm going to head back upstairs and see if Willow needs anything else before she does the spell with you. I'll see you guys in a few?"

"Count on it," Buffy stated with her business face on.

The two slayers watched as Tara walked up the stairs and closed the door behind her. Buffy walked over to a table and picked up the bottled water that she had placed there earlier. She took a long drink, then looked to Faith who was busy getting her stuff together.

"That was amazing," she said, looking to Faith for some sort of response.

"Yeah, it was," was all that Faith replied.

"And the music? Not so bad. Think I could get used to it," Buffy fished a little.

"Yeah, I like it too," Faith said without looking up.

Buffy could tell that the other girl had something on her mind. She had her eyebrows knitted together and she was chewing on her bottom lip.

"Okay, there's obviously something on your mind. Spill," Buffy ordered as she put on her resolve face.

Faith looked up at her and pondered whether or not to even bring up what she was thinking about. When Buffy raised her eyebrows expectantly and pointed at her resolve face, Faith finally gave in.

"It . . . it's kinda stupid, but I've kinda been thinkin' about it for awhile."

"So? Just tell me Faith. I think we're past the whole shy point," Buffy said. To make it a little easier for the other girl, she put an understanding smile on her face.

Faith thought about it for a moment, choosing her words carefully. She threw caution to the wind and decided to just jump right in.

"Okay. Well, uh, when I was in prison, Drake said that he felt energies around me, that's how he found out that there was something dark around me. But he said that he also felt a non-threatening energy. He said it was you tryin' to feel me with the slayer-connection. So, I was kinda wonderin' . . . yunno, why?"

She immediately lowered her head, trying to avoid Buffy's gaze.

Buffy remained quiet for a minute, kind of shocked by the revelation. She never thought that anyone would find out about that, but there was no use lying about it now.

"Yeah, that was me. At first, I was doing it because I wanted to make sure that you were still I jail. You know, safety precautions."

Faith nodded as if she understood.

"But then," Buffy continued, "I kept doing it, even after I was sure that you were staying put. I really don't know how to explain it, but I'll try."

Faith looked at her and gave a small nod, encouraging her. Buffy smiled nervously and continued.

"So, you and I: the two Slayers. Two. There's only supposed to be one. I guess that makes us an anomaly or something. Anyways, there's only one person in the entire world who is like me, and who can understand my life. That person is you. Like it or not, we have a bond that no one else can come close to comprehending. I guess that I just kind of missed that bond. I missed feeling . . . well, you. In the strictly non-physical sense, of course," she quickly covered.

Faith, who sat patiently and listened to the other girl talk, tried to hide her amazement at hearing the words coming out of her mouth. In a roundabout way, Buffy was saying that she'd missed her. That she'd missed feeling her.

Faith smirked and interrupted the other girl.

"Well B, you don't have to worry about missing feelin' me anymore, cos I'm here now. And if you're a nice girl, I'll let you do all the feelin' that you want."

She winked at Buffy who blushed a little.

Buffy tried to continue as if Faith hadn't said anything, shooting her an annoyed glare before she spoke again.

"So, I reached out to you in the only way that I knew how. I wasn't about to come and visit, mostly because I was still really angry with you. But I think we're past all that right now, right?"

Faith nodded, turning her smirk into an agreeing smile.

"Yeah, I think we are, B. At least I hope so. We'll find out today what's been goin' on in my noggin, then we'll go from there. I can't wait to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. But before we do that . . ." she paused dramatically, " . . . can we get back to the feelin' part?"

She gave Buffy a naughty smile.

"Ughh. Faith, you're incorrigible. Let's go."

She grabbed Faith by the elbow and pulled her up the stairs, giggling at the pouty face that she received from the supposedly bad-ass slayer dragging her feet behind her.

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