Chapter Eleven - Epilogue
6 months on
Faith strolled casually along the wooden planks of the dock, wishing she'd opted for more sensible pants as the sun beat down on her leather-clad legs.
As she neared the end of the dock, still entirely clueless as to why she was here, her eyes fell on a large yacht, bobbing slightly in the water, a familiar blonde lounging on the flybridge, complete with red bikini and movie-star shades.
Faith reached up, tilting her own shades down slightly and peering over the top with raised eyebrows at the sunbathing girl, who beamed at the Slayer before bouncing to her feet and appearing at the base of the steps, holding out a hand.
"B," Faith grinned, stepping smoothly over the small gap and onto the deck, wrapping the blonde in a tight hug, before pulling back, raking her eyes appreciatively over the barely-clothed Buffy.
"Jesus, B how much do they-"
When air became an issue they pulled back slightly, Buffy resting her head on the brunette's shoulder and placing a flutter of kisses against her neck.
"You were saying?"
Faith took a moment to remember, a quick scan of the lavish yacht refreshing her memory.
"Where the hell did ya get this from? They really payin' you that much?"
"Mmm," Buffy mumbled, placing a few more kisses on the brunette's warm skin before pulling away. "It's Adelle's, she owes me a favour."
"Didn't think DeWitt was one for doin' favours," Faith laughed, following the blonde and trying in vain to keep her eyes from wondering as she slid open the glass doors to the saloon.
"Faith, eyes," Buffy chastised with a smile as she glanced back over her shoulder, receiving a grin and shrug of mock-innocence in reply.
Eyes averted, Faith took in the interior of the yacht, impressed, as the blonde disappeared momentarily down the stairs at the far side, reappearing with a small bundle.
"And she owes me," she finished explained, "I haven't seen you for nearly a month."
Faith's eyes snapped quickly back to the girl, her awe at the lavish interior forgotten for the time being as she frowned at the blonde sadly.
"Shit, B how-"
"Engagements, unavoidable stuff," Buffy explained, eyes cast downwards for a moment before her smile reappeared. "But you're here now," she concluded, handing over the pile in her hands.
"Sure am," Faith nodded, feeling more than a little guilty and casting her eyes down to examine the items she not held in her arms- black bikini top and shorts, and a loose white shirt.
"Thank fuck," she grinned, "feelin' kinda over-dressed."
"You are," Buffy agreed with a playful smile. "There's some other things downstairs if you want something else."
Faith was already tugging her white tank over her head and Buffy allowed herself a moments indulgence before giving the brunette a final chaste kiss and heading back outside.
Alone, Faith ignored the stairs and jumping down the narrow stairway, exploring the lower deck a little, stashing her clothes safely in the master cabin and checking on the small package in the pocket of her pants before taking the stairs two at a time and emerging out into the sun.
Arriving on the flybridge, Faith gaped slightly as she took in the bar and sleek leather couches.
"You gotta be shittin' me," she gaped, eyes now transfixed on the hot-tub. "This is DeWitt's?"
"Cross my heart," Buffy answered, slipping a drink into Faith's hand..
Faith let herself be pulled gently across the deck, shoved playfully onto the seat while Buffy lounged sideways next to her, legs draped across her lap.
They sat in comfortable silence for a while, watching the activity on the docks and each basking in the other's company, Faith absently stroking her thumb along the soft skin of Buffy's legs as they sipped the icy drinks.
"So B," Faith finally spoke up, grinning at the other girl over the top of her shades. "I hate to break it to ya, but this very fine ride ain't goin' anywhere on its own, an' I'm guessin' you didn't go get it just to sit in the harbour."
"Nope," Buffy replied, smiling cryptically.
"So, who's drivin'?"
The blonde swung her legs down, bouncing to her feet and holding out her hand. "Come on."
Brow furrowed in confusion, Faith took the offered hand, allowing herself to be led back through the saloon and to the helm, where yet more leather adorned the two large seats in front of the various controls.
"I-" she cut herself off, head tilted slightly as she regarded the area inquisitively.
"Just go take a look," the blonde smiled, urging Faith into a seat.
The Slayer-Active slipped off her glasses and reached out, running her fingers over the panel, and realizing that somewhere in the recesses of her brain, she knew this.
"How do-?" She turned with the question to a pleased-looking Buffy, gaze dropping without subtlety to where the other girls shades were hooked on her bikini.
"I'm up here, " she teased again, reaching to tilt the Bostonian's face up to meet her eye. "Topher," she explained, "he...actually, he didn't owe me anything, he's just...scared of me," the blonde shrugged, ensconcing herself on the seat next to Faith.
"I asked nicely and," she gestured in Faith's direction by way of completion. "Shall we?"
Faith grinned, hands moving expertly about the controls as if she'd done it all her life. "Can you go," she inclined her head in the direction of the docks, "untie us or whatever?"
Buffy happily complied, returning a moment later and cuddling in against the brunette's side, feet tucked up on the seat as she watched the ocean open out in front of them.
"Wanna have a go?"
"Faith, you know how long it took me to get anyone to ride in a car with me, are you actually serious?"
"Sure, no bother, look."
She scooted back in her seat, pulling the blonde to sit between her legs, reconsidering the wisdom of that plan as she desperately tried to ignore the way Buffy's scantily-clad rear pushed against her.
"Uh," Faith choked out. She cleared her throat, reaching around the other Slayer to the wheel, "Jus' keep your hands here, keep it straight," she explained, voice even huskier than usual.
Buffy twisted slightly, the movement pressing her harder against Faith and sending another wave of pleasure through the tortured Slayer.
"Eyes on the water, yeah?"
Turning back, Buffy shifted position slightly as she gripped the wheel, devious smile unseen by the brunette who squirmed behind her.
They drifted for a few moments, Faith's breath coming shallow and steady as she maintained her composure as best she could, snaking her arms slowly around the blonde in front of her, hands coming to rest on Buffy's upper-thighs.
"Faith," she laughed, taking one hand from the wheel to swat at the the brunette, who's thumbs were stroking distractingly over tanned skin.
"Hey, ain't my fault if you look all kindsa- Holy fucking shit B!"
The profanity-spouting Slayer moved her hands quickly from their ministrations to grab the wheel, pulling around in time to avoid the vessel on their other side.
"One other boat, with the whole damn ocean around ya," the Bostonian laughed, panic abated as they coasted smoothly away.
"Well it was your fault," Buffy defended, twisting around to poke the other girl in the ribs, "it was your fingers being all...distracting."
Avoiding a reply, Faith leant in to place a quick kiss on the other girl, who's scowl melted away as she leant down, lips a breath away from Faith's pulse-point and trailing tiny kisses along her neck, tongue sneaking out every now and again to taste the other Slayer.
"Guess here is good as anywhere," Faith shrugged, "don't wanna end up too far out, jus' makes the trip back longer."
She turned her attention back to the blonde in her lap.
"An' I don't wanna waste the day," she grinned.
"Oh, didn't I tell you?"
The blonde's grin widened as she leant in and placed a quick kiss on the other girl. "We're not going back today."
"You're yankin' my chain," Faith gaped disbelievingly.
Faith's dimples appeared as she smiled a wide, genuine smile, leaving them drifting and scooping up the blonde, carrying her smoothly back out into the sun and onto the deck. With a wicked grin, she deposited her none-too-gracefully onto the long leather couch, sticking out the tip of her tongue playfully as Buffy frowned up at her.
As the Chosen One adjusted her position to lounge languidly on the seat, Faith easily located the small bar, yanking open the doors and appreciatively taking in the array of bottles.
"I take it back- definitely DeWitt's," she laughed, depositing bottles on the counter-top.
Buffy tilted her head to the sun and closed her eyes, smiling as she soaked up the warmth and basked in her day.
"What are you doing?"
"Drinks," Faith replied, peeking over the top of her shades as she skilfully poured some unknown substances into glasses.
"Well," the Bostonian grinned as she sat two shot glasses on the table, followed by something white and full of ice.
Her smirk widened as she dropped down to sit beside the other girl, handing her a shot.
"Thought we could start with a slippery nipple," she smirked, downing hers, "an' then," she leant in close, liquor-scented breath tickling over the shell of Buffy's ear and eliciting the desired shiver, "a screamin' orgasm."
Buffy was caught somewhere between laughing, rolling her eyes, and pouncing on Faith, who's half-naked form and husky voice were driving her crazy. Instead, she eyed the shot glass in her hand with caution before throwing it back, grimacing as it hit her throat.
"Aw c'mon, s'not that bad."
With a silent scowl, the Chosen One reached across for her glass, taking a smaller sip.
"Well this is nice, so I'll let you off with that first...thing."
Faith draped one arm over the back of their seat, eyes drifting out onto the open water with a quiet smile as she sipped her drink.
"Don't think I ever saw anythin' so calm."
Buff nodded silently in agreement, allowing her own vision to stray from the girl beside her to the small waves breaking the otherwise smooth surface.
After a few more quiet moments, Buffy broke the silence.
"Want to go for a swim?"
"Uh, sure," the brunette replied uncertainly.
"What do you want to do?"
With a sly grin, Faith leant forwards a little, gaze slowly and deliberately trailing over the girl beside her, finally meeting her eye and quirking an eyebrow.
"Ain't it obvious?"
"I wanna spar," she finished, pulling back and giving Buffy a wink.
Knocking back the rest of her drink, Faith abandoned the glass on the small table and eyed the large, open deck space on the level below them.
"Think you can take it?" she challenged the blond teasingly, before placing one hand on the front rail to vault casually down, landing surely on the cushions below.
Leaving her own glass beside its partner, Buffy leant over the railing to the cockily grinning Slayer below.
Faith's grin widened by way of reply, Buffy smiling back as she placed both hands on the rail and effortlessly flipped over to land beside her girlfriend.
"I'll give you not bad," Buffy provoked, taking a few steps back as her body took up the fighting stance that came so naturally while Faith mirrored her actions.
The pair began to circle slowly, neither making the first move as they eyed the other, each wearing a similar smile, poised, muscles tense under tanned skin.
"Think you're ready for this B?"
"I live for this, F."
It was true; there were few things either enjoyed more. The challenge, the fight they could only truly have with one another.
Almost in unison the two moved forwards, Buffy's uppercut narrowly avoided by the brunette as she ducked back, all the while twisting into a roundhouse kick which failed to land, leg caught as her other was swept from under her.
Faith grinned up from the deck for a second, flipping to her feet to meet Buffy's sure smile.
"On your back already? I've barely even broken a sweat."
"Oh I'm jus' getting' warmed up princess. Maybe we should call it, don't wanna hurt ya, y'know?"
"Not a chance."
The teasing gave way to a flurry of new blows, few hitting home while the others were expertly deflected, bodies moving in a blur of inhuman speed for how long, neither couldn't tell.
And Buffy, Faith had to note as she felt herself being pushed ever closer to the front rail, was in damn good shape. Legs hitting the cool metal behind her, she braced one foot against it, using the leverage to flip up and over the other Slayer's head to land smoothly behind her, moving quickly in to pin her against the rail, hands trapping the blonde's on either side of her body.
Leaning a little towards the water below, Buffy could feel the rapid heartbeat of the other Slayer against her back, the searing heat of smooth skin against her own.
"Wanna go for a swim B?" Faith rasped, breath tickling over the Chosen Ones ear and sending a shiver through her body.
Letting her eyes drift closed, the blond moved her body slightly against her captor, delighting in the low moan that escaped the brunette's lips.
"Y'know that's cheatin', right?"
"Cheating? Wouldn't dream of it," Buffy protested innocently, accentuating her words with another slow grind, another moan falling from the lips of the girl still pinning her.
She smiled to herself as she felt Faith's hands leave their position atop hers to trail the length of her arms, continuing smoothly down her back before snaking around her waist, the tips of Faith's fingers settling just below the waistband of her bikini.
"You always fight so dirty B?"
"Me? You're the one who's hands are-" She stopped short, breath catching in her throat as Faith's hands slid lower, one finger dipping further down to sweep slowly over her center.
"You were sayin'?"
"Nothing," Buffy breathed out, eyes drifting closed one again as she tilted her head back to rest on the shoulder behind her.
The brunette continued her ministrations for a moment, before turning the blond in her arms, hands sliding under her ass to lift her slightly, Buffy's legs wrapping around her waist as Faith leant in to kiss her deeply.
With ragged breaths Faith moved them, biceps tensing slightly as she lay Buffy down and hovered above, eyes roaming over the Slayer beneath her, who gazed back with the same emotion she always directed her way, more than Faith had ever seen, before wrapping one hand behind her lovers neck and pulling her closer.
As Faith's lips and tongue began to explore, the Chosen Two gave in as they truly pushed one another to their limits.
"Faith..." she ventured, tilting her head slightly to look up at the other girl, blinking a few times in an attempt to merge the two girl's in her line of vision.
"Hmm?" the brunette mumbled, eyes shut and face calm as she swayed slightly- whether from the gently bobbing boat or intoxication Buffy wasn't entirely sure.
With a shrug, Faith stood shakily, taking a moment to regain her balance.
"B, y'wantanotherdrink?" she rushed, blinking as the increase in altitude made her alcohol-clouded head spin.
The Chosen One shook her head no, turning for a moment to a sound from inside the cabin.
"Faith, what was-" she broke off at another odd noise and turned back to an empty space, the dark girl no longer beside her. She frowned in drunken confusion as she looked around herself, startled a second later when a dark head burst from the surface of the water, coughing and spluttering.
Buffy stared for a moment, before a grin broke across her face and she doubled over, body wracked with laughter.
"Faith? What're you doing?" she managed between howls.
"Goin' for a fuckin' swim B," she choked out, attempting to shake the damp fronds of hair from her face.
"It's kinda late for-"
"I coulda drowned," Faith insisted, attempting to cross her arms in defiance, quickly realizing that they were the only thing keeping her afloat as she ducked beneath the surface.
"Nuh uh, I've drowned," Buffy sniggered, "way less funny."
"And what's so funny 'bout it blondie?" Faith scowled, splashing the laughing Slayer as she made her way back to the boat, hands on the deck as she prepared to push herself up..
"You just-" a deep breath by Buffy before she cracked up once more, "just you."
A silent nod, face screwed up in hilarity before eyes opened wide in sudden shock as a hand firmly grasped her dangling ankle and Buffy too joined the water.
This time it was Faith's turn to fall about laughing as the other Slayer resurfaced in a choir of coughs and gasps, swatting at Faith and blinking the water from her eyes with as serious a frown as she could muster consider the wet, blond strands partly obscuring her face.
"What did you do that for?!"
The bedraggled blonde splashed a little closer to her counterpart, poking her sharply in the shoulder.
"Faith there could be sharks in here! Big ones!" Buffy exclaimed with wide eyes.
Faith's grin vanished, her expression suddenly serious.
The blonde gave no reply, eyes now fixed on a point somewhere over Faith's shoulder.
"Wha' is it"
"Shit B what the hell is it?" the increasingly-agitated brunette asked, turning small circles in the water as she ineptly tried to find the other girl's focus.
Without warning, she felt Buffy's arms wrap tightly around her waist from behind.
"Faith I think it's a shark," she blonde rushed in a loud whisper.
Faith's eyes scanned rapidly over the water's surface, finally falling on a slow-moving dark shape not far away.
"We should just...get back on the boat, reeeeeally slowly," Buffy whispered, gently pushing herself backwards through the water.
They each watched as the shape surged towards them on a passing wave and, all plans and elegance forgotten, they began to paddle frantically to the boat, wet hands struggling for purchase on the surface.
Faith made it up first, reaching out to hoist Buffy from the water, both collapsing back in a tangle of bodies, scrabbling away from the edge as the shape drew closer.
"Think it saw us?" Faith muttered, squinting as she tried to bring focus to her slightly-blurred vision.
"Ohmygod, I so didn't survive the end of the world to get eaten by a shark!"
The duo fell silent, rapidly sobering, their eyes transfixed on the approaching shape.
Buffy titled her head to the side as she regarded it, vision clearer now, and inched closer to the edge, a strong grip on her shoulder holding her back.
"Faith I think-"
The pair scooted a little closer to the edge on their hands and knees, peering out as the shape finally came fully into their view and they each felt the other de-tense beside them as the large chuck of driftwood came into their line of vision.
It floated past, the Slayer's gaze following it out of sight and finally finding each other, staring for a moment before simultaneously collapsing in hysterical laughter.
"God, oh fuck," Faith laughed out, hands clutching at her sides as she let herself fall back onto the deck, Buffy beside her leaning back on the steps also dissolving in mirth
After several minutes, their hearty laughs had settled into occasional chuckles, and Faith shook her head and pulled herself upright.
Sauntering over to the blonde perched on the edge of the step, droplets of water running from still-damp hair, she reached out a hand to pull Buffy to her feet and into her, arms snaking around the lithe body of the other girl.
"Wanna take it downstairs?" she enquired, voice low and eyes twinkling as she rested her forehead against Buffy's.
The Chosen One pulled back, shaking her head and tugging on Faith's hand as she ascended the steps to the upper deck, footsteps sure and smooth as the effect of the liquor diminished.
Reversing their positions as they reached the couch, she gently pushed Faith backwards onto the seat, resisting as the grinning Slayer attempted to pull her down to join her, and disappeared behind the counter for a moment, a bundle sailing over the end and onto Faith's head with expert precision a second later.
Faith chuckled quietly and adjusted herself lengthways on the couch while Buffy reappeared and shook out the bundle, pulling the blanket over them as she scooted into position between Faith's legs, leaning back against her chest.
Wrapping her arms tightly around the girl in front of her, Faith smiled to herself, leaning forward to place a soft kiss atop the blond's head before resting back and closing her eyes. This was not a moment they were accustomed to sharing, the current situation not lending itself to overnight visits particularly frequently, and each took a moment to enjoy the feeling.
"Love ya B."
"Mhm, love you too."
They fell into comfortable silence, before Faith grinned playfully.
The Chosen One mumbled sleepily in reply.
"I get crapped on by some bird? I'm totally blamin' you."
Buffy stayed silent, allowing a small smile to creep onto her lips as she contemplated the girl behind her and all the things about her that, quite honestly, she wouldn't change.
Faith blinked a few times against the harsh sun that was streaming down on her from every angle, giving a frown before squeezing her eyes shut again in a futile attempt to block out the rays.
Grumbling quietly to herself, she shifted her focus to the cramp along her leg which, by the feel of it, she'd been lying on for hours, although at what time the pair had shifted to their current positions, she wasn't entirely sure.
Biting her lip absently in quiet concentration, she attempted to ease her left arm from its place wrapped tightly around the still-sleeping Slayer, hindered slightly by the blond's own arm which lay across it. Pushing herself up, she scooted quietly to the end of the makeshift bed, finally getting to her feet and stretching her legs appreciatively, eyes taking in their peaceful surroundings.
"You know," came the sleep-laden voice of the blond behind her, "you're not as covert as you think."
Faith turned, her retort silenced momentarily as she watched Buffy stretch along the couch, allowing her eyes to wonder over the Slayer's body.
"Definitely getting clumsy in your old age," Buffy teased, getting to her feet and walking over to wrap her arms around the other girl's neck as arms snaked around her waist.
"Can still take you."
"Is that so?" Buffy asked, her eyebrow raised and smile barely concealed.
Pretending to ponder the question, Faith chewed her lip, looking thoughtful before answering.
"Yep, you're all kindsa out of practise, probably couldn't even take down one vamp. Me? I'm in wicked shape."
"Well, I'm going to argue with that," Buffy smirked, leaning in for a lingering kiss before pulling back with a laugh as Faith's stomach growled loudly.
Faith followed her gratefully down the set of steps and into the small kitchen area, leaning on the counter-top as Buffy began to rummage through the fridge.
"You, shower. I'll make breakfast."
Smirking, Faith gave a look of mock-concern. "Hey, I don't wanna end up drownin' 'cause you've burnt down our very fine ride."
"Shut up and go," Buffy insisted, smacking her on the arm for emphasis.
Rubbing the sore spot, Faith grinned and backed away towards the stairs, ducking the strawberry that flew at her head and disappearing to the lower deck, yelling back up as she went.
"No need to get violent B!"
As she ducked into the master cabin, Faith checked quickly over her shoulder before rummaging through her small heap of clothing, reaffirming the safety of the object in her pocket before smiling to herself and yanking a towel from the cupboard nearby.
The large en suite was every inch as lavish as the rest of the yacht, with gleaming surfaces and a spacious shower.
Stripping down quickly, she stepped under the steaming spray, tilting her head back and letting the water run over her face for a few minutes as her thoughts drifted again to the object sitting in the other room, and the woman on the deck above.
If she were hoenst, the situation still blew her mind, though she wasn't totally sure which shocked her most; that to her mind it had now been a number of weeks, or that in reality it had been months, since the Chosen One had re-entered her life.
And still, the decision she'd come to hadn't been difficult to reach, had come to her unbidden one evening on their drive back to the House. Even despite the way her shoulders had tensed for that moment, the way her heart had raced as she'd chewed on her lip and stared at the darkening sky out the drivers window, she'd known that taking the time to over-think, to worry, to talk herself in circles, wasn't an option.
So when she'd given Buffy that day's goodbye, reclined in the chair and watched her girl smile through the same sad sigh she always gave, she knew there would be no going back on her decision.
And she hadn't.
That had been...well to her, it had been only a few days ago. For Buffy...
She ran her hands through her soapy hair and tried to wash away the guilty feeling that came so often when she thought about the way things were for the other Slayer.
Of course Buffy insisted that although it wasn't perfect, it was ok; that she'd rather have Faith in her life like this than not at all. And, she thought as she watched the last of the soap bubbles swim away down the drain, she had to believe that.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs outside broke her from her thoughts, and she sped out of the shower at Slayer-speed, throwing her towel haphazardly around her middle to cut Buffy off in the doorway.
Looking perplexed, Buffy gestured back up the stairs behind her, eyeing the brunette suspiciously.
"To tell you that breakfast's ready."
Faith relaxed her posture as best she could under Buffy's narrowed, scrutinizing glare, attempting to lessen the suspicion.
"What were you doing?"
Faith, who was rarely lost for words, struggled for an adequate replay in the face of her inquisitive girlfriend, wracking her brain for anything to cover her tracks.
"I was just, y'know...showering" she tried, shrugging, and hoping that her attempt at an explanation would keep the Slayer happy.
Thankfully, Buffy's look of suspicion faded a second later and she grinned slyly as she wrapped her arms around the other girl's waist.
"Faith," she began again, more slowly, "what were you doing?"
Relaxing into Buffy's arms, Faith's relief was almost palpable.
"Well wouldn't ya like to know?" she replied casually, complete with suggestive eyebrow wiggle.
"I dunno, think ya do a pretty good job'."
"Is that a fact?"
"Maybe we should just forget abut breakfast and I'll join you?"
Faith bit down on her bottom lip, holding back the moan of frustration and pleasure that tried to escape as desire battled with her need to keep her secret.
Another loud growl from her stomach saved her from the task of having to decline, Buffy leaning in to gently kiss the side of her neck.
"Count on it."
Breathing a sigh of relieve as Buffy's form disappeared above the deck, she turned back to the room, scowling at the bundle on the bed before stashing it properly in one of the bedside lockers and hurrying back to the shower, wet footprints in her wake.
Five minutes later she bounded up the steps to the flybridge two at a time, loose tee billowing in the slight breeze.
"See, nothing burnt," Buffy smirked as she appeared.
Faith gave a snort of laughter as she took in the array of fresh fruit on the table, dropping onto the seat beside the other girl.
A firm hand on her chest pushed her back as she sat forward, her objection silenced by a strawberry pressed against her lips and a leg shifted over her as Buffy came to straddle her hips, resting in her lap. Grin back in place, she took a bite, watching as the Slayer in her lap took the other half before reaching back for another.
"Not that I'm complainin', but ain't it s'posed to be me bein' all sweet t'you?" Faith enquired,eyebrow raised.
"Sweet?" the blond asked, feigning confusion before a teasing smile. "I just didn't want you to make a huge damn mess."
"Hmm, if it wasn't for the fact that you're half naked and feedin' me? I'd be all kindsa hurt."
"Awww," Buffy teased with a pout, "I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you."
Buffy laughed lightly, leaving the whisper of a kiss on Faith's lips before moving from her lap.
"Knock yourself out baby, I'm going to take a shower."
"Good idea B, ya stink."
Faith's speed didn't quite get her out of the way of the flying grape which thwacked off her head in reply, hand shooting up to rub the spot, the retreating form of the other girl drawing her attention away from the shocking injury as she tilted her head slightly to watch.
Alone, Faith sighed contentedly, grabbing a few pieces of fruit from the table and strolling down the steps and around the deck, leaning on the railing at the front to stare out on the calm water.
Popping the last piece into her mouth, she stripped down to her bikini, stepping up onto the guard rail and lingering with expert balance for a moment, stretching out before smoothly diving into the clear blue below her, body like a knife as she cut through the water.
She let herself rise slowly to the surface, flicking stray strands of hair from her face as she trod water for a moment, before pushing off firmly from the side of the boat and slicing through the water with strong strokes, almost able to feel her thoughts and anxiety being swept from her mind with every inch, head blissfully quiet as she swam.
She repeated the journey back and forth until her eyes found the blond figure leaning on the rail watching, at which she circled around and pushed herself up to sit on the rear deck, beads of water running from her hair down bronzed skin.
"No sharks?" came a smiling voice as Buffy emerged around the corner and dropped to sit with the other Slayer.
"Scared em all away."
She watched the subtle change in Buffy's eyes as they slowly showed a sadness she couldn't quite suppress, and Faith knew, without a word.
These days were what Buffy lived for, what made it all seem not so bad. And even though they tried so hard to make each one more special than the last, they all came to an end just the same.
"Guess we gotta get movin' soon, huh?"
Buffy nodded silently, sighing deeply and shifting a little closer, head coming to rest on Faith's shoulder.
The brunette chewed absently on her bottom lip, contemplating, before finally drawing a deep breath, noticing with irritation how it shuddered slightly.
Glancing down at the movement on her shoulder, she watched Buffy raise her head to scrutinize her face, and did her best to feign innocence.
Faith cut her off with a kiss, hand reaching behind to cup the other girl's head and pull her closer, tongue snaking in to seek out its partner as the blonde let out a contented moan.
And as Buffy moved closer, swinging one leg over to sit astride her lover's hips, Faith was sure she felt her mind just...stop, entirely, body taking over where her thoughts didn't know how as she pulled away, untangling her fingers from Buffy's hair and gently pushing her back to sit alongside her.
"Wait here," she breathed out, already at the door and giving the confused Slayer behind her a smile.
"Do as you're told, yeah?"
She darted through the saloon to the narrow stairwell, and with legs hooked over the rail on either side, she slid smoothly down, landing gracefully on the bottom deck and hurrying to the master cabin.
Crouching by the locker she retrieved her safely stored item and flipped it open with an approving smile and nod, checking on its contents.
Sucking in another deep breath, she nodded again to herself, taking the steps two at a time to the empty space where Buffy had sat. She paused for a moment, before turning left and wondering around to the bow, where the Chosen One stood leaning on the side, staring out at nothing in particular, turning to the approaching brunette.
"So, what's the big surprise?"
Faith could feel the nerves creep back in as she fiddled with the small box behind her back.
"Uh..." she paused, clearing her throat and closing her eyes for a second.
The gentle touch to her arm forced her eyes open,.
"It's just me," the blonde soothed, "whatever it is..."
At that, Faith couldn't help but smile; not a smirk, a leer, or even a grin, but the honest smile of someone who, in that moment, was simply happy as she brought her hand from behind her back, opening her fist.
Buffy's focus shifted to the small box in the brunette's hand, frowning slightly in confusion.
"Gonna stand there lookin' at it all day?" Faith joked after a moment.
She watched Buffy reach out, hand not quite steady as she took the black box and slowly flipped it open, eyes widening a little, filling with unmistakable tears.
"It's not...I mean...fuck," she broke off, running a hand through her dark hair. "Ya like it?"
"It's beautiful," she assured, eyes shining, rising to meet the other girl's gaze.
"It's not...I mean, you don't hafta marry me or anythin'," Faith rushed, "not that...aw hell."
"Faith," Buffy ventured with a small laugh, "shut up."
The brunette smiled gratefully.
"It's...it's a promise, that even though I'm not always me, I'm..." she paused, shrugging, "I'm always yours. I guess I wanted ya t'have somethin' so...I'm there, even when I'm not," she finished.
"I love it."
"Yeah," the blonde nodded, slipping the ring on before reaching up to pull Faith to her, lips meeting softly.
"Bet ya never thought I could be so corny, huh?" the brunette grinned, forehead resting against the other Slayer's.
"Nope," Buffy conceded, smiling back, "guess you're full of surprises."
Continue to Worlds Collide 2: Cataclysm