Riley woke with a start to someone pounding on his dorm room door. He cursed as he threw back the covers, glancing at his alarm clock as he shouted "I'm coming." He drew on a pair of sweats that rode low on his hips and padded to the door.
"Forrest?" he said groggily, running his fingers through his hair.
"You planning on joining us any time soon, Sleeping Beauty?" Riley glanced behind him to the alarm clock on his nightstand and scowled with a shake of his head. It was not eight o'clock in the morning. It was not possible no matter how soundly he had been sleeping. Getting up at the crack of dawn while in Boot Camp got him out of the habit of depending on an alarm clock, but it was getting beyond ridiculous when he was not awake by seven o'clock in the morning on his own merit.
"I, yeah, give me a minute to get dressed."
"Okay," Riley's friend and military comrade said with the sound of disbelief in his voice.
Riley shut the door and dressed in a hurry. It was a good thing he had showered the night before. They had a rather messy evening on patrol the night before, making a shower before bed a necessity not a luxury. He placed an Iowa Cubs ball cap over his head to hide any signs of the fact he had quite literally just rolled out of bed and grabbed his book bag before he dashed out the door to join Forrest and Graham.
"Professor Walsh is going to have your head for breakfast if she finds out you overslept again, Riley." Graham was not telling Riley anything he did not already know. "Especially with a hostile on the loose."
"Well, the hostile isn't going anywhere in the daylight, so she just won't find out today," Riley said gruffly not at all happy with this turn of events in his life. He lived for the structure of the military. He was one hundred percent behind The Initiative's plan and was proud to be a part of something that would end up making the world a much safer place for everyone. He had plans for a long-term, successful military career and starting with something as cutting edge as this project bade well for his potential at achieving those goals he thought.
"Another night of dreaming, buddy?" Forrest asked.
"Any recollection today?"
Riley shook his head. He had been struggling with this for weeks now. He was having dreams that built on one another, not a recurring dream but dreams that actually seemed to build on each previous one. That much he knew. He never had an idea when he woke up after the deep sleep that was indicative of these dreams what the dream had been about. "No, none. It's the oddest thing. I mean, it's there but it's like my mind isn't letting me see it or something."
"Sounds like maybe you need to talk to Professor Walsh one-on-one."
"I don't need a shrink, Forrest. Everyone has dreams."
"If you say so," Forrest said, though he did not sound convinced.
Riley had to wonder if he was going crazy. He never recalled his dreams, so that in itself was not unusual. The fact that he remembered having the dreams and was always sleeping so soundly the nights that he had these dreams was what was unusual.
The three men entered the cafeteria line for breakfast. "I really need to go to a store and invest in some Pop-Tarts or cereal or something so I don't have to come down here and stand in line every morning for dry eggs and stale toast."
"You'd miss out on the scenery, though, dude," Forrest said as his gaze followed a freshman girl's ass as she walked.
"I'm not interested in that, you know that." Just as Riley said that he spotted a girl from Professor Walsh's Psychology class, Buffy Summers. He had not talked to her more than a handful of times but Professor Walsh seemed impressed with her and there was something different about her. She had stood up to Professor Walsh, told her off, something Riley did not think anyone had done before.
The girls in Southern California did not hold much interest for Riley. He was used to Midwest girls and the values that went with that type of upbringing. Buffy did not seem like the other girls he had met on campus, despite what Parker said. He believed Parker about as far as he could throw him. The guy was a snake and deserved to be punched out for talking about any girl the way he had, but especially Buffy.
"Go talk to her, man, or you're going to pout all day."
"I don't pout," Riley said as he watched Buffy sit at a table alone. "And I'm in too big a hurry to talk to her this morning," he said as the cafeteria worker placed a spoonful of eggs, some extra crispy bacon and some rather raw looking hash browns on a plate for him.
"She's alone and from what I hear, she's available. A girl like that, though, she's not going to stay single for long if you know what I mean."
"I wish I didn't," Riley said distastefully.
"At least say hi to her on your way out."
"I'll see her in Psych class."
"Just what every girl dreams of, her TA saying hi to her in front of everyone in the class."
"I'll take care of it, thank you. I didn't hear me asking for your advice."
"But if I don't give it to you, Finn, you'll spend all year pining over her and never make any headway. It's obvious you like her, she doesn't seem put off by you from what I can tell. Just go for it and put yourself, and us, out of your misery."
"I said I'll take care of it."
Graham laughed as the three of them took a seat at a table near where Buffy was sitting. "Hi," Graham said to Buffy, offering her a smile Riley had seen bring girls to their knees.
"Hi," Buffy said with a smile, her gaze moving away from Graham to him. She gave him a genuine smile, a glimmer of something he could only describe as recognition flashed in her eyes confusing him. She had not forgotten who he was already. He had not been heavy with the move making on her but she saw him pretty regularly.
"You can eat with us if you want," Graham offered politely. "Unless a pretty girl like you would rather eat alone."
Buffy blushed and Riley found it endearing. She tucked some hair behind her ear and glanced from her tray to their table. "Sure, why not. If none of you mind."
"Feel free," Forrest said.
"Hi Buffy," Riley said, inwardly chastising himself for saying such a moronic thing.
"Hi Riley. I'm glad I ran into you actually," Buffy said as she sat between him and Graham since that's where the empty seat was at the round table.
"Yeah. If you have time today after class could we get together?"
"I, sure," he said with a glance in Forrest's direction. If he had put her up to this he would wring his neck when they got back to their dorm.
"Great," she said with a smile as she bit into her bagel with cream cheese. "Were you in a fight or something?" she asked them.
"Yeah," she said with a tilt of her head. "You've all got bruises."
"Nah, it was football," Riley said. He had not realized their bruises from the night before were that obvious, of course he had not bothered to look in a mirror before he left his room that morning.
"Oh," Buffy said without saying anything else. Riley looked at the other two guys at the table and they all exchanged a look of relief that she had bought the lie. It was not uncommon for a group of guys to assemble for an impromptu game of football or softball or whatever so the lie was not off the wall.
Buffy finished her bagel, having gotten a bit of a head start on the three of them. "Well, I'm off to class. I'll see you later then, Riley. Bye," she said with a wave as she took her tray to the conveyer and left the cafeteria.
"That was close," Graham said with a low whistle.
"There's something said for staying single when we've got a job like we do," Riley said.
"Get out," Forrest said. "We're human, Finn, not robots, and like any human have needs."
"What if I put her in danger?"
"That's getting a little ahead of yourself, don't you think?"
"Well, it's something to consider."
"Consider my ass, Riley my man. The girl's hot, you can get involved with the girl and not bring her into our world. Though you can't deny if she were to find out she'd probably tremble with fear right into your arms."
"Yeah," Riley said in agreement, though he was not convinced that was true. There was something different about Buffy. He felt alive around her like never before yet he was strangely so shy around her. His experience with girls was not all that impressive and he suspected she had experience even if he discounted what Parker said about her. "I wonder what she wants."
"You, buddy," Forrest said as he stood from the table. "It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. She wants to talk to you alone, outside of class."
"She didn't say outside of class."
"Think what you want, but this isn't Iowa anymore. The pretty girl is not going to sit back and wait for you to make the first move."
"Things aren't that backward in Iowa, Forrest."
"Uh huh," was his reply. "We've got to get a move on."
The three men left the cafeteria, Riley unable to stop thinking about what Buffy could have to talk to him about.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com