Footing Changes
by Scy

It was odd how one came to expect sunshine. With distance and access to a library that she could get lost in, Dawn had come to the conclusion that all those sunny days on the Hellmouth were probably the result of a spell.

In typical Sunnydale fashion, it would have been cast by a gardener who garbled the incantation and cast something the opposite of what they wanted. 'Only rain enough to avoid a drought.' With all the other craziness, that made sense.

What that led to was her inexperience with a deluge. And that wasn't even factoring in the scenery.

A woman, face turned up as though rain was both a comfort and a pleasure/

Faith, her clothes outlining her body in a way that was. Distracting.

She had to be aware of just how visible she was.

On the side of some back road, enjoying a sudden downpour like someone else might an expense glass of bubbles.

"Hey, do you mind? Some of us would like to get going." How she'd gotten in a position to be partnered with an escaped convict who also happened to be the cause of familial grief was an excellent question.

Too bad her cell phone was mocking her with its 'out of service' message. Not that she'd call Buffy to complain about something so small. They had 'strategies and objectives' now, on a scale that would have been impossible a few years back.

The little details were delegated to other people.

For instance, the idea of letting the younger sister get some field experience' had been the subject of much discussion. One of the problems with a structured system of decision-making was that they took so long to do something. When at last they did decide that she could 'get out for a bit,' there were conditions.

Of course they couldn't let her go out alone. Never mind that she grew up in Sunnydale, there was a big, scary world out there. So they assigned a Slayer to her.

It was probably a good sign; Buffy trusted Faith enough to give her such responsibility, and Faith was invested in their cause and wouldn't run off. But that left Dawn sitting in the passenger seat, yelling at her 'escort' to 'get moving.'

Faith turned around, pushing her hair out of her eyes and grinned. "C'mon Dawnie, loosen up a little, it's only rain."

The smile made her remember what it had been like to see her that first time. Someone wild and unashamed of how she looked to others.

Before Faith had been 'the Bad Slayer,' Dawn had wondered why her sister couldn't relax a little. Break a few rules, make other people listen to her. Then she had, and in all the excitement of freedom, something bad had happened. Slayers played harder than anyone else, and there were reasons why they had to be more careful.

Mom stopped referring to her as 'that poor girl', though she'd phrased it more kindly, and started frowning a little bit when the two Slayers patrolled together.

After that, all the lectures that Giles or Buffy had given her about rebellion had included some form of reference to Faith. What would happen if she was like that. Everyone had made the vaguest points when it came to how exactly she wasn't supposed to screw people over. It wasn't until they considered her 'old enough' that she found out about switching lives and lovers as pawns between girls.

She and Faith didn't talk about Buffy. While the subject would have generated some rousing arguments, the aftermath would have been too costly. She and Faith had a working understanding - Dawn didn't forgive her for hurting Buffy, and Faith didn't expect her to.

Past times of crisis had found her huddled on the stairs. Her impression had been that Mom and Buffy were protecting her. Now she knew that she had been inserted in a way that wouldn't jar the minds of those chosen to take care of her.

Those days it had been easy to know what she was supposed to do. The little sister acted out, got taken prisoner, and screamed.

Now she had to approve retrieval missions and give summaries of Slayer history. She wouldn't have wanted to sit through most of the material and now she had to fight for students' attention.

There was nothing glamorous about research and administration. And she'd gotten tired of telling confused girls how important they were. Explaining over and over that she wasn't like everyone else either, and why they should listen to what their blood was telling them.

Some jumped right into the life of a Slayer. Others couldn't understand why they shouldn't do whatever they wanted. Fewer still wanted to listen to someone who wasn't strong enough to make them stay still enough to listen to their destiny.

She didn't try to make friends with the new girls. A house full of whining girls had been enough, she didn't need to hear any more about how unsure they were about their new lives.

They didn't get a choice about it, and they were lucky to be what they were. That much she didn't waste time in telling them.

"Just c'mere, Dawn. I promise you're not going to get swept away."

Stomping her feet and pouting would have been acceptable for 'the nuisance,' but not who she was expected to be now.

With a sigh, she climbed out of the car and into the downpour.

Faith looked at her and grinned.

"Little sister's all punked out."

Dawn ran her fingers through short hair that was even messier when wet. "I got bored with it."

"Really bored," Faith observed.

Hanging around a vampire during a rebellious phases had been a good way to learn slang and some colorful gestures. One in particular seemed appropriate, and she used it.

A smirk was all she got in response, and it was edged enough to remind of her of bedtime stories with gore at the end.

Raindrops glittered like stolen reflections on Faith's cheeks, and she swayed like any damsel that ever needed rescuing. The impression lasted long enough for Dawn to step forward, and then Faith swept one boot through a puddle, splashing her.

"What the-"

Another splash, and really, it wasn't as though she wasn't already soaked, but there had to be retaliation.

Spinning to avoid the next slap of cold, she got another on her backside. The road had turned to mud, and everything had a use.

Dawn slid, and hurled her own handful before going down.

Practicing against the new recruits kept her awake. Though they had to pull their punches, she didn't. >From her perspective on the ground she had to reflect that between being 'coddled' and bruised, she would choose the latter. Even if the sight of Faith, muddy, still on her feet, was infuriating.

"Did you have a psychotic lapse, Faith? Is this a 'get in touch with nature' moment?" She scrambled to her feet and swore as she took in the damage. "And did I have to get mud everywhere?"

Her outrage only made Faith laugh. "You look like-"

Dawn gave up trying to scrape mud off. "Don't say that I look 'adorable,' or like 'a drowned kitten'."

"But you look the part, Dawnie."

"And don't call me that."

"Then stop pouting."

"Well, you started it."

"You've just been so tense." Faith put up her hands. "No more mud balls, though that first one was just perfect."

Dawn had always though Faith's laugh sounded like something barely on the safe side of experience.

"You surprised me."

"Yeah, and wasn't it even a little bit fun?"

"Maybe." It was hard to stay angry with someone who was bouncing on her toes like that. Openly happy in a way that was too uncommon. Not many people saw Faith so pleased with herself. Mostly there were undertones of stuff that couldn't be changed or entirely forgiven.

One of those too-fast-not-fair moves put Faith inside her space, and Dawn let her chin be cupped in a grimy palm. She met the Slayer's eyes and wrinkled her nose. "I guess."

"That's 'a girl."

She expected an arm around her shoulder, some anecdote of outrageous proportions that she could roll her eyes over.

The kiss was more of a shock than ice water.

She used to have a plan for what she would do if she got kissed by certain people. There were scenarios where she stepped back and those where closer was the only way to move. There hadn't been a 'what if' for dangerous older girls with lips that tasted like clean water and mangoes.

Still, she could go with more until something more concrete came to mind.

More was always good.


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