Buffy woke when Graham did. That wasn't entirely unusual. She was used to hearing him during the night. The fact that she woke up because of him leaving her bed was the unusual part. She stretched, glancing at the clock by her bed when she heard the doorbell. It was barely seven o'clock in the morning. Had Xander and Dawn stayed out all night? That was possible. The likelihood they'd both forgotten their keys to get inside was not, though. She didn't have to worry about Willow because she could just pop in. No keys necessary for the witch. So, that left Giles, and Giles wouldn't come here this early unless there was a crisis of some sort.
Unsure where Graham was, she slipped the shirt he'd been wearing last night on and made her way into the main part of the house. If Dawn had come home last night, she must have come into the bedroom they'd been sharing for the past month and gotten an eyeful. Graham had admitted his experience even before losing his leg was minimal, and while it wasn't perfect it had definitely been enjoyable. They had a lot to learn, she just hoped he could keep a sense of humor about it when one thing or another didn't work.
She got to the entryway about the same time Graham did, a few seconds after actually. So, he was the one who answered the door.
"You are here, I was beginning to think Sam had copied the wrong address when I saw it was a house."
Buffy winced at the voice. Graham was shirtless and here she was in his, probably looking as disheveled as Graham did. A night of exploring did that to you. And they had explored. There was absolutely nothing that wasn't in working order on Graham Miller.
"Uh, Riley, what are you doing here?"
Good question. It was the one Buffy would have asked right up front. Good to know they were on the same wavelength.
"Well, I called your mom the other day to check on you," Riley said, pushing his way into the house. His eyes went from Graham to Buffy who too late put a hand around her neck. She knew there was at least one love bite there. She didn't miss the fact he noticed the shirt. She hoped it wasn't dreadfully obvious she wasn't wearing anything underneath, but he knew what she looked like anyway.
"She was worried about you. Thought a friend and commanding officer could talk some sense into you."
She gave him points for continuing on with his spiel as if nothing was odd about the situation. Riley was standing in her living room. There was no Sam, she noticed. He wasn't anticipating seeing Buffy so he left her back at their hotel most likely. That gave her some comfort, to think he'd brought Sam with him to Sunnydale because he didn't want to face her alone.
"Well, you're not my commanding officer anymore. I was honorably discharged months ago now."
"I'm still your friend."
"I'll put on some coffee," Buffy said, for lack of anything else to say at the moment. She needed something to do.
"Who's at the door?"
It was Dawn. She looked about as exhausted as Buffy felt. Buffy's eyes got wide when she noticed her little sister was wearing one of Xander's shirts. They obviously had something in common and needed to have a talk later. Dawn's questioning gaze slid from Buffy to Graham and Buffy knew the instant she saw Riley by the audible gasp.
"Hi Riley," Dawn said. No use trying to cover the gasp. They'd all heard it.
"It's just Dawn now."
"I suppose it is, sorry. Old habits."
"I was about to make coffee. Want some, Dawn?"
"Uh, sure, I'll help you, because it's way too uncomfortable out here."
"Just who's shirt are you wearing anyway?"
"Uh, well, we got home and you were," Dawn glanced at Graham. "I didn't have access to my stuff."
"Ah," Buffy said, leading Dawn into the kitchen.
"I thought your location is supposed to be a secret."
"He's not here for me, Dawn."
"Oh," she said. Both Buffy and Dawn glanced at the two men one last time before stepping out of view.
"Okay. I'm thoroughly confused," Riley said. Graham didn't miss the fact Riley's gaze hadn't left the kitchen yet. "Are you living with Buffy?"
"Yeah, for the past month or so."
"How? I mean, I didn't even know where she was."
"You didn't even know where she was? You make it sound as if you two share information."
"Well, no, but, I have access to intel."
"Speaking of which. You can't tell them she's here."
"No, Riley, you can't. You came here looking for me, not her. It's a fluke you found her. You can't go back and tell them you found her."
"What in the hell are you doing?"
"Moving on with my life. That's what you recommended I do, isn't it?"
"Yeah, but of all the women in the world."
"Trust me, Riley, I know."
"Are you sleeping with her?"
"How is that your business?"
Graham felt the weight of Riley's stare as his one-time friend gave him the once over. He knew what he was looking for. What he saw. Buffy was right, the scars weren't terrible, but they were there. With his shirt off more of them were visible. The doctor at the Council had mentioned the possibility of skin grafts, but Graham was focusing on his leg first.
"What do you want, Riley?" Graham finally posed the question that was on his mind when it became obvious Riley couldn't come up with an answer to Graham's previous question.
"Your mother was worried about you. So was I. We had no idea you knew anyone in London. She thought you were homeless or something."
"Christ. I gave her the address and phone number."
"She wanted me to be sure. Sam and I were flying overseas anyway, so it kind of worked. A little out of our way, but that's what friends do for one another."
Again with the friend bit. Was he trying to make Graham feel guilty? Or was it just Graham making himself feel guilty? He had nothing to feel guilty for. They'd been over for years. Riley had moved on, married someone else, and the last Graham knew was trying like hell to get that someone else pregnant.
Any doubt he'd had about taking his budding relationship with Buffy to the next level were swept aside last night. She'd been incredibly patient, loving, gentle, and even laughed a time or two when it was either that or cry. It was definitely something he looked forward to working out the nuances of with her again and again. In the end, he'd fallen asleep with her in his arms. Just that much had given him something he never believed he'd get.
"You can tell Mom I'm fine and the next time she's worried about me she can ask me herself. I don't need you checking up on me. I'm done with the government, Riley, and you don't have the right to come in here."
"I told you, I'm here as your friend."
Buffy and Dawn appeared, giving them each a cup of coffee. He didn't miss the fact Buffy seemed to remember how Riley took his coffee. He doubted that was something you ever totally forgot when you spent so much time with someone.
"Why don't you two sit down or something? You're going to get tired."
"I'm fine," he said curtly. He saw the look of hurt in her eyes and Dawn's, too. "I can stand for a few minutes."
She threw her hands up. "Fine. Forgive me for worrying about you. I just don't want to see you undo all the progress you've made. Come on, Dawn."
He'd screwed up. Her bed was barely cold from their night together and he'd already pissed her off. He so sucked at this. There was a reason he'd stayed away from women and out of relationships. He'd seen what they did to people like Riley. They messed with their heads, interfered somehow with their normal way of thinking. Made a normally sane, rational man act like an idiot.
Dawn hadn't followed Buffy back toward the bedroom. She stood there glaring at him, looking pretty formidable at the moment. Riley took a sip of his coffee as if he could care less what Graham did. The way he saw it, he had two choices. His past was right here with Riley. He could hear Riley out. Maybe there was something he could still do as a civilian for the government. It was what he knew.
In the back bedroom was something, someone, that could potentially be his future. He'd seen enough to know that Buffy was right. Experimenting rather than just killing the monsters they were out to destroy was wrong. It didn't take him very long to make up his mind, it only seemed like forever.
"I'll be right back."
"That took you longer than I figured it would."
"Uh, yeah, we're okay?"
Riley shrugged. "Maybe you can be to her what I couldn't. If she's going to choose someone I know, you'd be my first choice."
"I'll be here. I'll catch up with Dawn."
"What about Dawn?" Xander said, joining the group. His hair was wet so he'd obviously just come from the shower. "Oh, hey, it's Riley. What's Riley doing here?"
"He's here to see Graham," Dawn offered.
"I see," Xander said. "Need a knife anyone? The tension needs to be cut I think."
Graham didn't say anything else, just walked toward Buffy's room. He stood at the door, not sure if he should knock. He decided against it and pushed the door open. She'd left it ajar, so she must have assumed he'd come after her eventually.
He could hear Dawn, Xander, and Riley talking. He imagined it was a shock for all three of them to see one another. The last person he'd expected to see in London was Riley. She was busy making the bed. The bed they had slept in, made love in, and talked about nothing in particular in.
"I'm an ass."
"Yes, you are."
He smirked at that. "You didn't have to agree quite so quickly."
She looked up at him then. Glared might have been a more accurate term. Wow, okay. He remembered Riley had mentioned she had a temper on her a time or two.
"Or maybe you did. Thank you for looking out for me."
"A lot of good it did me."
"I shot you down in front of him. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that, but you saying that made me feel weak."
He saw her wince, knew she hadn't thought of that. She'd been too busy working up her anger at him. She sat on the edge of the bed then, facing him, grasping a pillow in her lap.
"You're right. I'm sorry. I just, you were both standing there like you were going to draw guns any minute. I just didn't want you to forget."
He laughed then. She always did that, made him laugh. It was something a few months ago he'd never envisioned himself doing again. Laughing, making pillow talk, caressing a woman's soft skin. And, lord, was hers soft. The softest. Not that he had a vast amount of previous experiences to compare her to.
"Believe me, honey, I won't be forgetting anytime soon."
"I suppose you won't."
He walked to her then, cupped her cheek with his hand.
"I'm sorry, Buffy. I wasn't expecting him to be here, to be faced with this situation. It's uncomfortable. The military is competitive, everyone wants to get ahead, to get the next rank. He's my friend, but there's still that drive. And I just wished I could have told him in my own way that we're together."
"You don't think so?"
"You think I'd let you see me, all of me, if I thought otherwise?"
"I guess not."
"You've done more for me, all of you have but especially you, in the past month than most anything else has. Until I came here I was depressed, lost hope, couldn't picture my life being remotely normal."
"Maybe it's good he came here now."
"Uh, well, I could have done without him finding us like this."
"True," he said, moving to sit beside her on the bed. It wasn't very smooth, but he didn't feel like he had to put on pretenses so much anymore. She knew better than he did sometimes when his leg was bothering him. She shifted so she faced him, one hand resting on his thigh.
"I just meant, I realized with him here. I don't know if he'd have something to offer me, but even if he did I don't want it. I don't know what's going to happen, it's only been a month. We may grow apart. I want to find out, though. I know what that life is and I know I wouldn't be happy in it again. They'd give me some job they created for me, and I'd hate that."
"And we won't do the same thing?"
"You want me, that's the difference. They'd do it out of some sense of obligation or guilt that they didn't rescue me before it was too late. Or fear that I'll go public."
"Go talk to him."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, he came here to see you. He flew all this way, he's obviously concerned. Go. Spend the day with him if you want. You can play the tour guide for a change."
He chuckled, tugging her toward him. He kissed her, lightly at first. He was surprised how easily it was to get sucked in, though, deepen it and want more.
"You're sexy as hell wearing my shirt."
"I was hoping you wouldn't mind, I didn't have anything else handy. My first thought was that it was Giles at the door with bad news."
"Don't mind at all. In fact," he murmured, kissing her lower lip.
"You have the day off, right?"
"Hmm, two things come to mind. One is the more appealing."
"Let's start with the least appealing one."
"Come with us."
"And the most appealing one?"
"Stay here, wait for me, get rid of Xander and Dawn again and let me come home to you dressed just like you are."
She chuckled, rubbing her face against his. "Hmm. Those both have potential. I think I'll choose the staying here, waiting for you. I'm not in the mood to play nice with my ex right now. Not to mention, I need to have a talk with Dawn and Xander."
"Yeah, I noticed she was wearing something similar to what you've got on."
"Me, too," she quipped.
"Something tells me you're not too happy about it."
"Well, it's not that. I just don't want them to get hurt. Either of them."
"So, can I take a shower in this scenario or do I have to stay grubby all day?"
"A shower would be acceptable."
"All right." He stood then, using the bed post for leverage. "I'll talk Riley into letting me pick up some dinner on the way back. I figure it's the least he can do for making me alter my plans."
She stood, sliding an arm around him. She did it in part to support him, but it wasn't just that.
"And what plans were those?"
"They didn't involve you wearing my shirt."
He noticed while she blushed she smiled real nice. He grazed one of the marks on her neck with his finger.
"I'd apologize for that, it's very high school but I kind of like seeing them there."
"Them? How many are there?"
She opened the door and started to walk out with him. "No, no, nothing to be sorry for. Maybe you can work on leaving them in less obvious places next time."
"Have you looked at yourself yet this morning?"
He leaned into her then. "I already did work on leaving them elsewhere, honey."
"Hmm, seems I'll have to take a peak in the mirror."
"You might need one for a couple, yeah."
"Stop," she said, hitting his shoulder.
Riley, Dawn, and Xander were in the living room. Dawn and Xander were sitting next to one another, holding hands. They made no effort to move apart when they entered the room. It was probably smart of them not to, Graham realized. That would make it look like they were guilty of something. Graham didn't get the impression the couple was much past the stage of hand holding. Then again, they would have said that about Buffy and him up until last night, too. A lot could change in a night. Hell, his life the past year or so had been full of change. Only the last month or so had been pleasant.
Riley stood when he saw them. He didn't look all that comfortable, but Graham gathered Xander and Dawn hadn't been hurling insults at him.
"Listen, I can go. I just came here out of the blue. It's not like we're neighbors or anything. I'm not trying to invade your life, Graham. Your mom wanted me to be sure you're all right. I can go back and report to her that you are."
"No, it's fine. Want me to show you around London for a bit?"
"Are you up for it?"
"Sure. Just let me get dressed."
"Maybe we can all have dinner later. Dawn and Xander, too. The six of us. Or seven of us. Is Willow here?"
"No, she's not, but I'll tell her you thought of her."
"I'll be back in a few minutes," Graham said, excusing himself. He noticed as Buffy walked to the couch that while she hadn't taken off his shirt she had put some shorts on.
"Take your time."
"So," Buffy said. She had to fight back the instinct to place herself in between Dawn and Xander. It wasn't that it bothered her. She'd seen signs over the past couple of months that things were evolving. She just didn't want the fact they were under the same roof speed things along that wouldn't ordinarily go faster.
"I'm sorry to just barge in. I didn't realize."
She lifted her hand to stop him. He'd ramble on all apologizing until sundown if she let him.
"I get that you didn't know I was here."
"Graham's asked me not to tell anyone you're here."
"And?" This was the pinnacle moment, right here. Was he the rule following soldier? Was he Graham's friend and her ex? The line was a little blurred when so much was involved.
"As far as anyone's concerned, Graham's in London that's all I know."
"Are you all right?"
She shrugged. "As all right as can be. You take out an entire town and people – both good and bad – notice. Suddenly, I've got a target on my back. The good guys and the bad guys both don't seem too happy with what I did. Never mind we saved the world."
"Well, Graham has a way to contact me. If you ever need help. My help. I don't care what anyone says, Buffy, I know you didn't set out to hurt anyone."
"I'm glad someone on your end believes in me."
"That was never up for debate as far as I was concerned."
"Listen, about dinner. I mean it. You didn't see Graham when he first got rescued. His recovery. He's almost normal again. I mean, personality wise."
"He is normal, Riley. There's nothing abnormal about any part of him."
"You would know."
She shook her head, clearing the scathing retort from her mind before she put her foot in her mouth. "That's not fair, and that's not what I meant. I just meant, he is who he is. It's that type of attitude that upsets him. Can we not argue about this please? You have no say over who I date."
"You're right, it's just a shock. I mean, it's Graham, I can't say that I even knew he noticed you much."
"No, I just mean," he shrugged. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. If you two are happy, then great. Come to dinner. Sam would enjoy seeing him this way, too. That's why she didn't come along this morning I think. She feels bad. Her and I kind of stand for the things he didn't think he'd have a shot at now. He was obviously wrong."
"He just underestimated people."
"People. I didn't get him the leg. I haven't put him through therapy or anything. I just put the wheels in motion. I couldn't turn him away, you know that. Anyway, we'd be happy to have dinner with you and Sam. Dawn? Xander? You in?"
"Sure, why not. Free food that we don't cook. And, hey, I saw evidence that you had food last night."
"Mm, yes, good food, too."
"Are the leftovers open to bidding?"
"You can have them."
"Great," Xander said, rubbing his hands together. Buffy couldn't help but laugh. "Oh, hey, Graham, I suppose I should ask you since you're the one who cooked."
"How do you know I didn't cook it?"
Xander's arched eyebrow was his only response, and the only necessary one. Buffy wasn't a culinary goddess. Anything beyond your standard fare escaped her.
"Help yourself. Call it my contribution since you all put up with me."
"Yes, it's a real pain, too. All that racket you make dancing all hours of the night."
Graham chuckled. "I'll work on calming down."
"You do that."
Dawn stood then. "Well, I have to go get ready. Xander and I were going to a movie. Want to come, Buffy?"
"No, thanks. I think I might actually stay and enjoy some quiet time. With five people living here, I don't get it that often. Maybe I'll even take a bubble bath. Have fun playing tour guide. You can take my cell if you think you might get lost."
"Yeah, that'd be a good idea."
She stood and walked to the entryway where her cell phone was and handed it to Graham, giving him a kiss. "I guess we'll have to take a rain check on you coming home to finding me in just your shirt."
"I'll make it up to you I promise. In fact, I'll try and come up with something better than your shirt that I can actually wear in public."
"And you want me to go now, thinking about that?"
"Mm, yes, anticipation. I hear it's pretty exciting." She kissed his ear. "Have fun."
Graham turned to look at Riley and Xander who were busily looking anywhere but where Graham was. "Are mere words supposed to have that type of effect on you?"
Both men looked at him as if he'd grown a second head. Okay, he supposed that was the point. If the person you were with couldn't excite you by planting an image in your head you probably had a problem. No problems were evident as far as Graham was concerned.
"Okay, stupid question. Forget I asked. Let's go, Riley. Later, Xander, have fun at the movies."
"Good seeing you again, Xander."
"Yeah, you, too, Riley."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com