"You're sure you know what you're doing, man?"
Matty didn't know how to answer Taylor's question. He wasn't sure. He had no idea why he was doing this. It was so unlike him. Maybe that was why.
Both men took sips off their beers while Buffy, Dawn, and Xander swam in the pool. Matty didn't use the pool much. He supposed he might start if Buffy took to using it as much as she had since her sister arrived.
"She's got high maintenance written all over her."
"I think you're wrong."
"You don't know women, Matty."
"Maybe you don't know them."
"Listen to you. A blonde wraps you around her little finger and suddenly you have the answers."
"She doesn't have me wrapped around anything. At least I'm out here doing something with myself. How are those video games working out for you?"
"That's what I thought."
Matty took another sip of his beer, turning his attentions to his lifelong friend for a moment.
"Maybe it bugs you that I actually got out. I've got a real life, away from being Benny's son."
"Why should that bug me?"
"Because I was always the one picked least likely to amount to anything."
"So, what? You need to marry the first bimbo that flashes you her goodies to prove you've made it?"
"She's not the first."
"I'll lay one hundered-to-one odds she's the first since you've been out here."
"Does it matter?"
Taylor shrugged. Matty had to admit his friend looked ridiculous sitting in the chair. It wasn't designed for someone built like him. They didn't make much designed for people like him, though.
"I guess not. As long as you're sure. And you're being careful."
"If anything, she's being more careful than I am."
"Then you need to stop that. Take that as a warning. Man. Where does she even come from? Who is she? What woman gets into the bodyguard business? Have you checked into her at all?"
"Barry requests her whenever he uses her company."
"Boom Boom does? Really?"
Matty knew that would give Taylor pause. Barry "Boom Boom" Bartucci was known as being particular about everything he did. He wouldn't request someone specifically if he wasn't confident they'd take that bullet for him. And clean up his messes. He knew from what Buffy had said from their night together in Vegas she'd done just that. The fact that the media didn't know anything about his dark side proved Topline did their job well.
"Can't you just relax? I invited you out here because she wanted a Thanksgiving. More for her sister than her I think. I knew you, like me, didn't get that at home. And, hey, who doesn't like a break from New York November?"
"Yeah, you're right there. I just." He shook his head. "I hate the idea of you being taken."
"So you say. Hey, at least she knows how to bake. You won't starve at least."
"Do you know something I don't know?"
"No," Taylor offered with a laugh. "Just saying. You know, if the world collapses around your ears at least you won't starve."
"Dad couldn't get me into this house fast enough, I don't think I have to worry about that. I'd like to let them all go, but Benny wouldn't hear of it."
"Of course not, they've been loyal to him. You don't let people like that go."
"Send them to New York then. I don't want them."
"You don't seem to mind Maria or Jim."
"No," Matty said with a smile. "I like those two. I'd keep them. The rest can go."
"Your house would look like a dump. Someone needs to keep all those rooms clean and those things dusted."
Matty chuckled at that. He had a point. Of course, really, he would trade it all in for just a normal house, a normal life. He liked having Maria, because he was too busy to think about cooking. Without Maria he probably wouldn't take the time. Because of her, he at least got a decent breakfast and dinner every day. Lunch, he was on his own.
He watched Buffy as she swam from one end of the pool to the other. She was something to watch. He glanced at Taylor, caught him looking, too. So, he wasn't immune to her after all. When he'd caught them talking in the kitchen earlier he felt like he'd been socked in the gut. Until he'd heard the tone of the conversation.
"I guess if you've got to be married it pays to be to someone who's at least nice to watch do stuff."
Despite the sexist tone of the comment, Matty couldn't help but agree. He knew Taylor's opinions on marriage. He didn't believe in it. There were too many women out there for guys like Chris and Taylor to sample for them to settle down. At least at their age. They were the type they'd end up settling down with someone in their forties that was in her late twenties or thirties and start having kids.
There was more to Buffy than just how she looked, though. Matty still hadn't figured it out, and he hoped he got longer than a year to do it. He was curious about her choice in jobs. She'd mentioned she didn't know how to do anything else. Why not? There were so many questions he wanted answers to. Hopefully, once their guests left after the weekend he could set about answering them.
He liked having people in the house. It made him feel less isolated, but now that he had Buffy in his house. He wanted her to himself. He wanted to get to know her. He didn't want to waste a minute of his time with her worrying about other people. And, God but it bothered him Taylor would see her go to a bedroom other than his tonight. It at least made him feel less like an idiot for Taylor to think they were getting naked together at night.
That would come. He was confident he would see this through and at the end of the year she'd stay. He didn't know how he'd accomplish it. It was a strange situation to be in. He'd really never envisioned himself married. Maybe that was why he wouldn't let her go. She'd gotten him to do something he'd never even thought about until that night.
Marriage was permanent. In his eyes. So, why had he run off on a fluke and married her? As he watched her swim he didn't know for sure. It was just her that had made him do it. She was beautiful, graceful, and despite the fact he knew she was nervous about living in his house she fit in here. He had no doubt once they got through this year and made good on their marriage that she'd do nothing to embarrass him. Or his father.
"The pie was great."
She nestled against Matty, which surprised him. He tried not to show it. She'd played along with him in the kitchen earlier in the day. This was a little more than that, though. Or so he thought. His knowledge of how women worked was pretty minimal.
"You sure you don't want to play pool or something?"
"No. I'm fine. Do you?"
"No. I've got a pretty woman snuggling up against me. I think I'd rather stay right here, but I thought I'd ask."
She smiled at that he noticed. She had a nice smile. There were times he sensed she hadn't been able to smile a whole lot in her life. It was a strange thing to think, but it was just a feeling he got when he looked at her. He didn't think of himself as someone overly versed in reading people or anything.
"Well, the pretty woman thinks dinner went pretty well."
"I think so, too."
"Good. I'm sorry Taylor doesn't care for me."
"That's just the way he is. It's nothing personal."
"He's just looking out for his friend who he thinks is going to get taken to the cleaners."
"That, too," he said, smoothing his hand along her hair. Her hair was always so pretty. He remembered what it felt like their night together in Las Vegas. He was able to get his fingers through it.
"What would you have done today if we weren't here?"
He shrugged. "Probably work at my office here. I'm sure Maria would have made me eat something. Watch football."
"Is this better?"
"What would you be doing?"
"I would have been with Dawn. Somehow. She's all I've got."
"Well, we were talking if we weren't here."
"It'll take a while to get used to that anyway. I'm not used to having anyone else. Not since my mom died anyway. It's been pretty much Dawn and me."
She grew quiet after that and he let her, enjoyed just sitting with her.
"Isn't this cozy," Taylor said a while later. Matty had drifted off, judging by Buffy's breathing she had, too. "Are we keeping you awake?"
Matty chuckled. "Apparently not."
Buffy shifted on the couch, settling closer against him. His hand found her hair again, almost automatically.
"What are you guys doing?"
"We were playing some pool, but I started feeling sorry for them. So, I left. Good thing we weren't playing for money. I'd have wiped them out by now. I came to see if you wanted to play some cards, but I guess not."
"Go ahead, Matty," Buffy whispered. "I'll go play pool with Xander and Dawn ‘til you're ready to go to bed."
His hand stilled at her hair. Had she just said that? He tried to think of how many glasses of wine she'd had with dinner. He didn't think she'd even finished the first one. So, she wasn't drunk. Maybe it wasn't meant to mean anything.
Sleeping the past couple of nights had been difficult for him. And for the first time in over a year it wasn't because he was replaying the few minutes before he'd pulled the trigger in his head. Endlessly searching for something he could have done different. He never found it, though. No, that wasn't what was making him lose sleep the past few nights.
It was because Buffy was in the room right next to his. All he had to do was walk through their bathroom and he'd be there with her. He remembered what she felt like in his arms their one night together. He wanted that again. He didn't care if it made him seem weak. His father would probably be ashamed that he could want something like that.
It wasn't about sex, even if he did feel like he'd been walking around with a hard-on twenty-five hours a day. Even his concentration at work was slightly off. For that one night he'd felt there was someone.
She stretched. He had to stifle a groan as she pressed against him as she did. She dropped a light kiss on his lips before walking toward the other end of the room where the pool table was.
Matty turned his head and watched as she made her way to Dawn and Xander. She had a nice walk. It went with the nice everything. He kind of wished now he'd taken more advantage of her being naked that night in Vegas. He'd glanced. Hell, he was human, but he hadn't gotten nearly enough of a look.
"Hey, if you want to forego the card game I'd completely understand."
"No, no," Matty said, standing from the couch. "It's been a while since I've played cards."
"Should we ask Xander?"
Matty shrugged. "Hey, Xander, Taylor and I are playing some cards. You want in?"
"Uh, no thanks, guys. I'll stick to pool with the babes. You go on and have your guy fun, though."
Matty chuckled softly. He didn't know Xander real well, they hadn't gotten much of a chance to talk to him. He seemed like a good guy, though. Despite having lost an eye, recently from the way Buffy clammed up when he'd asked her about it, he seemed in good spirits.
"I guess it's just us," Taylor said.
"I can't say he's making the dumb choice."
"Me neither, but when both babes are claimed, not much fun for us outsiders."
"The sister isn't."
"Are you shitting me?"
"I thought for sure they were an item."
"I think Buffy wants them to be, but no."
"Huh," Taylor said. Matty noticed his eyes took on a whole new glean to them as he assessed the younger Dawn Summers with a different type of appreciation this time.
Matty slapped his rock-hard abdomen with the back of his hand. "She's not eighteen."
"Damn," Taylor muttered.
"Yeah, right, cards. Definitely the safer choice."
Matty laughed lightly at that. He'd never known Taylor to take the safer route very often in their lives. Today wouldn't be the first time, but it was one of the few times.
Matty couldn't remember a longer night in recent memory. His mind wasn't on the cards and he ended up losing fifty bucks to Taylor.
"You've got your mind on other things. I tell ya, when a woman distracts you from the basics in life it's not a good sign."
Matty said nothing, merely took a pull from his beer and watched the three friends. And there was no question despite Buffy and Dawn being sisters that they were friends as well. They were close, a bond forged he imagined when their mom died and Buffy had to step in and be the adult even though she herself was barely over being a kid herself.
Buffy caught him looking at her and gave him a smile with a small wave. He waved back.
"Oh man, you're so gone," Taylor said with a laugh, spotting the gesture.
Matty couldn't argue with him so he once again remained silent. Buffy made her way to them. She walked like a dancer. He wondered if she danced. He should know those things. He'd learn them. Just not tonight.
"Hi," she said, taking a seat in one of the spare chairs at the poker table. "You guys done?"
"Looks that way. I was on the verge of losing my shirt, so Taylor went light on me."
"You were, huh? I see you're still wearing it, though."
"Oh, right, yeah. He takes his payment in money. Not clothes."
"That's too bad."
It was a good thing he hadn't taken the sip of his beer he'd meant to or he would have choked on it. It was the first thing she'd said that indicated she was attracted to him. Or thought he was nice to look at. They weren't overly complimentary in that way toward one another. That probably went with the territory of not knowing exactly what they were doing yet.
Buffy reached for his beer and took a sip before giving it back to him, bringing him out of his thoughts.
"I think we're about done for the night, too. Dawn and Xander said something about watching a movie, but I'm not really in the mood to be up for two more hours. I guess I'm getting old, except Xander's my age."
"You're not old, Buffy."
"So, Buff, are you and hubby dearest whimping out on us or what?"
"I don't know. I haven't asked him yet. Do you want to stay up and watch a movie?"
"I, uh." Was he in an alternate universe? "It's up to you?"
"Well, I'm kind of ready for bed."
She stood then, sliding her hand into his. All Matty could do was stare at it. Even when she tugged on his hand a little he just sat there, staring.
"Uh, yeah. I should," he glanced at the table. The cards were still out, a few empty beer bottles were still there.
"Matty. You do have people to do that for you," Taylor mumbled.
"Matty, come on, man, don't be an idiot."
He left the room with her, Taylor wasn't too far behind. He expected her to keep walking when he made it to his room as her door was further down the hall. She stopped with him, though.
"Good night, Taylor." She said it so naturally that he almost wondered if he wasn't dreaming.
"Uh, yeah, good night. Thanks for the pie."
Matty opened the door, letting her pass through first.
"It suits you," she said simply.
"Your room. It's nice. Very guy-like. It's not like the other rooms. It's you."
"Yeah, I got rid of most of the stuff Pop had in here."
He watched as she took a seat on the edge of the bed and kicked off her shoes. She ran her hand along the comforter.
"Listen, if I gave you the impression that I expected."
"No, you didn't. I get what you were doing and I'm willing to go along with it while he's here. He's going to go back to New York, probably see your father, your friends. And you want him to go back and say that this is a good thing we're doing."
"Kind of. Okay, yeah."
"So, I'm in."
"No buts. Is anyone going to tell him different?"
"I'm not sure I could go back to you sleeping in the other room."
"Well, I guess he won't know if I sleep in that room, will he? I'll just be sure to leave and come in through your door."
"I'm not sure he even knows the rooms connect."
"Well then. It's up to you."
"Christ, Buffy, you're not giving me much of a choice. I want you in here, I won't deny that. I want you in here for good, though. Not just the weekend."
"Why did you have to go to work today?"
"You heard me."
"Uh, well, one of my clients was having second thoughts about a commercial he shot that was to debut today during one of the football games."
"Did you get it resolved?"
"Yeah. The commercial ran as scheduled. I recorded the game, we can watch it later if you want to. The commercial I mean."
"Good. Yeah, I'd like that."
"Why do you ask?"
She shrugged and stretched out on his bed. Her head was at the foot of the bed, resting on her hand while she watched him. He probably looked like an idiot just standing there.
"I just realized that I haven't asked you about your day or anything. I don't pretend to know much about sports, but I know enough about work in general to know that having to go in to an office job on a holiday is rare."
Did she expect him to be coherent just now? She was laying there on his bed and he wanted to join her. Badly. He wondered what she'd do if he did. "Ah, yes, you're right."
"I couldn't really ask before, because I should have known that sort of thing. Right?"
He made his way to the bed. She didn't back away or cower from him. Both good things. "I suppose."
"I mean, if you got called in and I was in here with you I would have known."
"Your bed is way more comfortable than mine. That's not very fair."
"I don't know what to tell you there. I've never slept in that bed."
"There are a lot of things you haven't done in your own house."
He coughed. "Uh, well, I guess I still think of it as my father's place."
"But it's yours now. Right?"
"Yup. It was my birthday present."
"Yeah. I guess it was his way of saying he was glad I was doing okay." It was also his reward for getting rid of the man who had betrayed him and set Matty up to get away with it.
"We need to talk more."
"We've been so busy this week. Me moving in, company coming, Thanksgiving. We haven't gotten to know one another very well."
"I thought of that earlier, too."
She smiled. "Once Dawn's gone we'll have plenty of time, but I'm glad we got to talk now."
She stood from the bed and walked to the bathroom, closing the door behind her. She'd open the door again when she was done. That was their arrangement. She'd been kind of put out at first that she was set up in the room adjoining his. Jim had done it intentionally Matty supposed. Figuring things would happen eventually. Matty sure hoped Jim was right. He liked knowing she was right there. Maybe that was part of the reason the dreams hadn't bothered him since she'd moved in. It wasn't so much that she was physically there next to him, just that he knew he was no longer alone.
He changed out of his clothes into the gym shorts and shirt he wore to bed. He put his things away from the day. Jim would do it for him tomorrow, but Matty didn't like to be a slob. It was why he'd started to protest about leaving things in the game room. It just wasn't his style. He supposed once or twice wasn't a complete breach of his feelings on that.
The bathroom door opened, which timed perfectly with his needing to finish getting ready for bed. He was surprised when he turned around to see her standing in the doorway. She was wearing pajamas. Something satiny, but pajamas for sure. It was a shirt and pants deal and looked nice on her. Hell, it looked hotter than hell on her. Skimpy nighties that gave everything away were way overrated as far as Matty was concerned.
"Is something wrong?"
"All right." Was he being dense? He wasn't sure. Taylor or Chris would have something smooth and witty to say about now. Matty was fresh out of those things. "Good night."
He waited, expecting her to go through the bathroom to her room, but she didn't. She went to his bed instead.
"Do you prefer the right side?"
"When I woke up that morning you were to my left."
"Uh, sure, whatever." He blinked as she drew the comforter down. "Uh, Buffy, you do remember what I said a few minutes ago."
About what? He shook his head. "I don't think I can go back to having you in a separate room if you sleep with me now."
"As long as you can agree to just sleep, we'll be fine."
He wasn't sure what to say to that. "You realize that's asking a lot of me."
"I know it is."
"Why what?" She asked with a pout.
She had the most adorable pout. He could just imagine what she could do with that mouth, those lips. Move your thoughts to somewhere more neutral, Matty.
"Never mind," he said with a wave of his hand. He decided to let it go. He wasn't sure why she was doing this, but he was not stupid enough to question her to the point she went back to her room. She was an adult, capable of making a decision. She wasn't drunk.
He finished in the bathroom in record time. At least it felt that way to him. When he stepped into his room, he was confident he had been hallucinating earlier. She was there, though, in his bed. He stifled a soft groan at the sight of her. She was expecting him to behave?
He went to his side of the bed, or the side she had designated for him anyway. He'd never had to worry about which side of the bed he slept on before now. He slid under the covers, reached to turn off the bedside lamp, and slid his hands under his head as he stared at the ceiling. He was pretty sure sleep would not come easy tonight. For entirely different reasons than he was accustomed.
"Buffy," he whispered, it was really more of a hiss, when he felt her inch closer.
"I just wanted to say good night."
As if she hadn't surprised enough already tonight she raised her head, lowering it to kiss him. It wasn't a shake-the-earth's-foundation kiss, but it was nice. Definitely a good first good night kiss.
"You're sure about this?"
"Good night, Matty."
"I'm not an idiot, I won't ask again." He just hoped he didn't do something stupid while he was sleeping. Or embarrassing.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com